Lewis Gun

The Lewis gun (or Lewis automatic machine gun or Lewis automatic rifle) is a First World War-era light machine gun of US design that was perfected and mass-produced in the United Kingdom, and widely used by British and British Empire troops during the war. With its distinctive barrel cooling shroud and top mounted pan magazine, the Lewis saw service to the end of the Korean War. It was also widely used as an aircraft machine gun, almost always with the cooling shroud removed, during both world wars.

Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial. Lewis Gun[/caption]

This particular weapon is a highly significant relic of the Australian Imperial Force. In the hands of a known number of Australian soldiers it played a role in the complete service history of a highly decorated South Australian unit, the 27th Battalion, on the Western Front from 1916-1918.

Weighing in around 13 kilograms fully loaded with a distinctive round shaped magazine containing 47 rounds of ammunition, the Lewis Gun was one of the main weapons used by the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War.

The Lewis gun saw extensive service with British and Australian forces during the First World War as a ground and aerial machine gun. During the Second World War it was also used by on a much lesser scale by all three services (Navy, Army and Air Force) of the Australian Defence Force.

(Information courtesy of Wikipedia and Australian War Memorial, please see the links for more information).


DESIGNER Samuel McClean
Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis
The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited
MANUFACTURER The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited or BSA
Savage Arms Co.
PRODUCED 1913–1942
Aircraft Pattern
Anti-Aircraft configuration
Light Infantry Pattern
Savage M1917


WEIGHT 28 pounds (13 kg)
LENGTH 50.5 inches (1,280 mm)
BARREL LENGTH 26.5 inches (670 mm)
WIDTH 4.5 inches (110 mm)
CARTRIDGE .303 British
.30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
ACTION Gas-operated
RATE OF FIRE 500–600 rounds/min
MUZZLE VELOCITY 2,440 feet per second (740 m/s)
EFFECTIVE FIRING RANGE 880 yards (800 m)
MAXIMUM FIRING RANGE 3,500 yards (3,200 m)
FEED SYSTEM 47- or 97-round pan magazine
SIGHTS Blade and tangent leaf

Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial. Street and Menzies examine
Street and Menzies examine an Anti Aircraft Lewis Mk II at Puckapunyal (June 1940).

Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial. Unidentified Australian soldier with Lewis gun configured for anti-aircraft use. Image drom the collection of NX11895 Donald Cooper.

A soldier firing a Lewis gun over a parapet of sandbags at an enemy aircraft.

Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial. A machine gun company gun post on the lookout for enemy aeroplanes in the Ypres salient. One Australian is using binoculars whilst another mans a Lewis gun under the spotters directions. In the distance on the right is Bellewaarde Lake and in the background to the left is Chateau Wood. (September 1917)