Tag Archives: madsen machine gun

The Danes Making Ready

Denmark had a very brief baptism of fire during WWII. On 9 April 1940, the German Army swept across the unfortified border while simultaneously landing paratroops (the first use of such in combat) and conducting seaborne landings as well.

The Danish government, which had been controlled by socialists in the 1920s and 30s, had gutted the military and, while the rest of Europe was girding for the next war, the Danes were laying off career officers, disbanding regiments and basically burning the bridge before they even crossed it.

This made the German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen.

That doesn’t mean isolated Danish units didn’t bloody the Germans up a bit. In fact, they inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own. (More on that in detail here)

Five Danish soldiers with a 37mm anti-tank gun outside Hertug Hansgades Hospital in Haderslev on the morning of 9 April 1940

The head of the Royal Bodyguard, Colonel Mads Rahbek, in his function of Commandant in Copenhagen, installed a wreath in remembrance at the Vestre Kirkegård to the April 9 invasion on Friday. The large traditional ceremony was canceled due to COVID concerns.

To further commemorate the event, the Danish Ministry of Defense just released the two circa 1939 training films “Angrebet” (Attack) and “Forsvaret” (Defense) by Danish filmmakers Theodor Christensen and Ingolf Boisen. A total of 80 minutes in length, they detail field camouflage as well as basic small unit infantry tactics, and the like all while showing lots of really neat Danish military gear including Krag rifles and Madsen machine guns.

The films were reportedly also used extensively during the 1941-45 occupation era to train direct action cells in the Danish Resistance, a group that emerged strong and ready in April 1945.

Danish resistance fighters note the mix of arms to include an SOE-supplied BREN, several Danish Army Nagant revolvers, and a couple of very Darth Vaderish Royal Danish army helmets, the latter no doubt squirreled away in 1940 no doubt. 

You never know what is in those Danish cookie tins

When I was a little kid, my Nana, who hailed from Central Europe and never really gave up the accent among other things, used to have a love of Danish cookies. The kind that come in the little tin. Well, whenever I visited I would love to run across one of these said tins and pluck out a tasty morsel.

– Only to find they were, more often than not, filled with knickknacks, sewing supplies, or other odds and ends of grandmadom.

Well, in Denmark, it seems that you never really knew what was in gran’s attic, closet, or basement. Maybe gran’s family was in the Resistance back in the day…and kept some of the goodies just in case.

The South Jutland Police posted images to social media last week of some 25 weapons and 100 grenades turned in as part of a reprieve for those with illegal or unregistered arms, many of which may have a connection to Danish history.

Occupied by Germany during World War II, Denmark was home to a well-organized network of underground resistance units, often equipped by the Allies through the OSS and SOE. Among the weapons brought down from attics and up from under floorboards last month were STEN submachine guns, an anti-tank rocket launcher, a BREN light machine gun, and various bolt-action rifles including German Mausers.

What a cookie assortment!

Check out more in my column at Guns.com.

And don’t get too exited on that next tin of cookies.

Related: Freddie Oversteegen was 14 years old when a gentleman visited her family home in the Netherlands to ask her mother if she’d allow her daughters to join the resistance.



Civilize em with the Krag (and Madsen)

Battle scene from a Danish movie, April 9th, about the German invasion of Denmark 9April 1940. Pretty correct and interesting use of Danish uniforms including “Vader” helmets and shoulder boards, Krag-Jørgensen rifles and the very Bren-like, but Martini action (!) Madsen machine gun. The first light machine in the world. Patented in 1901 and mass produced from 1903-1955. Also, it looks like it would have sucked to be a German scout car machine gunner.

For those who don’t know, the plucky Danes in their brief morning of fighting against Hitler’s battle-tried forces inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own.

Atomic Age bolt-gun: the Madsen M47

Just after World War II, with the world awash in new semi-auto and select-fire rifles and submachine guns, one European company decided it was a good idea to attempt to sell a dated, but excellent, bolt-action infantry rifle.

Who was Madsen?

In the 1890s one Captain Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen, (who later became the Danish Minister of War) founded the Dansk Rekyl Riffel Syndikat A/S, or Danish Royal Rifle Company in Herlev near Copenhagen, which more commonly carried his name, Madsen. The company’s signature product was the M1896/03/21/50 Madsen light machine gun, which still sees use around the (third) world today.

We've talked about this bad boy before...

We’ve talked about this bad boy before…

On top of this, the company made a line of Schouboe pistols in numerous calibers– some of which in .45ACP even competed against the Colt M1911 in the U.S. Army pistol trials. Speaking of which, Madsen even submitted a novel .30-06 recoil operated infantry rifle to the U.S. Army for testing in 1903, though the five prototypes, still in Springfield Armory’s museum, were prone to jam with the big aught-six.

Then came the more successful 20 mm AA Machine Cannon M/38– which zapped a number of hapless German Panzers in the country’s one-morning’s combat against the Nazi invaders in 1940 and then was captured and used by the Germans themselves on the Eastern Front.

These big truck-mounted 20mm guns were among the first "Technicals" and caught the Germans by surprise.

These big truck-mounted 20mm guns were among the first “Technicals” and caught the Germans by surprise.

Although the good Mr. Madsen passed on in 1917, his company survived through both World Wars in 1946, rising from the ashes of German occupation, attempted to rechristen their line with an updated version of their famous light machine gun (which was bought in small numbers by Portugal) as well as three new weapons.

The first of these was the 9mm M/45 submachine gun. This open-bolt burp gun ripped out 9mm at 850 rounds per minute. Using the same standard 50-round magazine as the Finnish Suomi, they were not successful.

madsen 45
Then came the simpler M46/50/53 series of 9mm submachine guns that garnered a number of international sales across Central America and Southeast Asia and is still produced under license as the INA Model 953 in Brazil.

madsen Madsen M-50 INA Model 953
While the first two new entries were forward thinking, the third gun was something of a throwback to an earlier time.

Enter the M47…

madsen m47 m1958

Read more in my column at Firearms Talk

Weird but functional enough for 100+ years of service

Ian from Forgotten Weapons takes a look at the curious inner workings of a Danish Madsen light machine gun. Its an oddball falling block action that originates from the gas lamp era. Oh, and the neat thing, is the gun he is looking at is was made in 1950. Yup, even with such designs as the MG42 and Browning M1919 out there, the Madsen was still in production that late.

More on the Madsen from an earlier article I wrote: 

Designed in 1896 in Denmark, the Madsen Light Machinegun has served dozens of countries in more than a hundred years of warfare from 1904 to the present day.

The Madsen Light Machinegun was developed in 1896 in Denmark by Captain W. O. Madsen of the Danish artillery and adopted by the Danish Marines in 1897. Originally a sort of assault rifle it was perfected into the final design as a light machine gun in 1902.

1932 madsen

It served with the Danish military for more than fifty years, only retiring in 1955. When Hitler’s Germany invaded the country on April 9, 1940 they fired to preserve Denmark’s honor in the Danish military’s hopeless one-day defense of their country. Ordered turned over to the Nazis these same weapons served Hitler throughout the Second World War. The odyssey of the Madsen Light Machine Gun however, is even more complex that this one chapter.

The Madsen Company early on won a large foreign contract to Denmark’s Baltic neighbor, Russia. Imperial Russia, rich with gold due to being a huge exporter of grain, but poor in industry, was forced to buy many of its most sophisticated weapons overseas. The Tsar, Nicholas II, was a son of a Danish princess, bought several items, including naval vessels (his own yacht, the Standart— officially an auxiliary cruiser– was Danish built) and small arms from non-aligned Denmark.

Bought in numbers by the Tsar for the military buildup in the Russian Far East, Madsen machine guns were used in 7.62x54r caliber by Cossack light cavalry in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Russian Madsens continued in active service and were seen often in World War One and in the subsequent Russian Civil War by dozens of end users.

The guns made an early appearance in Mexico's series of civil wars, shown here in 1913

The guns made an early appearance in Mexico’s series of civil wars, shown here in 1913 in the hands of military school cadets

Kaiser Wilhelm’s Imperial Germany also bought a number of Madsens from Denmark, chambered in 8mm Mauser. These weapons served alongside overly complicated Mexican Monodragon rifles in early German scout planes and balloons in the aerial war in World War One. Germany also created the first light machine gun units, called Musketen Battalions, based on the Madsen in 1915.

German soldiers with Madsen machine guns 1915

German soldiers with Madsen machine guns 1915

The Musketen Battalions carried as many as 150 of the weapons which provided an amazing suppressive fire capability. Latin America was a huge customer of the Madsen.

Soldiers, possibly Czechoslovak Legion, using a Madsen machine gun note french adrian helmets

Soldiers, possibly Czechoslovak Legion, using a Madsen machine gun note french Adrian helmets

The new countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Poland, and Estonia, who emerged from the wreckage of that war, used captured stocks of those old Tsarist weapons into the opening stages of WWII against both German and Soviet invaders.

Countries as diverse as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Ecuador bought the light machine gun in a multitude of calibers. They saw combat in the Chaco War (1932-1935) between Paraguay and Bolivia, and untold coups, insurgent operations and civil wars.

short barreled Madsen light machine gun, a Danish manufactured weapon used in the 1930’s and 40’s in the Dutch West India Colonies

Short barreled Madsen light machine gun, a Danish manufactured weapon used in the 1930’s and 40’s in the Dutch West India Colonies

Portugal used the weapon in their wars in their African colonies of Mozambique and Angola and left enough behind there to ensure that they pop up all over the continent.

Two members of the 4th special hunter company manning a Madsen machine gun. By then somewhat of an antique, in 1970s Angola

Two members of the 4th special hunter company manning a Madsen machine gun. By then somewhat of an antique, in 1970s Angola. Observe how the little pooch is completely unconcerned with the development.

When Denmark was liberated after World War II they began exporting the Madsen again and continued production of the slightly modified weapon as late as 1957. Dansk Industri Syndikat A.S. produced weapons as late as the 1970s. Their wares included the ubiquitous Madsen Light Machine gun, the Madsen model 50 submachine gun which was also very popular in Latin America and Africa, and a number of bolt action rifles that also saw service in such countries as Colombia and Bolivia.

They are still to be encountered in trouble spots around the world. The fact that no spare parts have been made for these weapons in over fifty years attests to the machine gun’s reliability. The Madsen was recently pictured in use with the Brazilian military police during battles with drug gangs in 2013.

Madsen still giving a strong showing with Brazilian special police in 2013

Madsen still giving a strong showing with Brazilian special police in 2013