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Originally conceived and implemented in the late 19th century, the machine gun is an automatic weapon capable of sustained fire. From submachine guns to heavy automatic weapons, the caliber of ammunition rapid fired and the size of the gun bore determine the designation of the gun. Reflecting the birth of industrialized warfare and used in mass quantities during World War I, machine guns have inflicted millions of casualties and subsequently changed the nature of warfare. They remain a permanent fixture on the contemporary battlefield. This entry discusses the development of machine guns and types of machine guns in use today.

Historical Development

Despite their widespread military appeal, the impetus for adopting machine guns began in the private sector. During the 19th century, newly formed corporate entities ...

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