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Understandably most historical accounts of the First World War have tended to emphasise the defensive strengths of the machine gun. Throughout the war efforts were made to produce an infantry assault version, such as the , although these efforts were generally unsatisfactory.

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1880: Edward G. Parkhurst, patent No. 231,927 dated 7 September 1880 for a cartridge packing and feeding case. This relates to the pasteboard cases in which cartridges are packed and carried to be used in machine guns. The patent describes a device by which the cartridges can be held in their sockets in the case when held or turned in any direction without falling out until they are securely placed in the grooves of the machine gun’s feeder column.

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In the five days in which the company was in action it expierenced all forms of enemy fire, artillery, machine guns rifle and gas.

Water cooled machine guns would still overheat relatively quickly (sometimes within two minutes), with the consequence that large supplies of water would need to be on hand in the heat of a battle - and, when these ran out, it was not unknown for a machine gun crew to solve the problem by urinating into the jacket.

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By 1918 however one-man portable machine guns (including the formidable submachine gun) were put to some use (each weighing 9-14kg), although maintaining sufficient ammunition supplies remained a difficulty.

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As the war developed machine guns were adapted for use on on broken ground, particularly on the Western Front (where the majority of machine guns were deployed).

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Light machine guns were adopted too for incorporation into aircraft from 1915 onwards, for example the , particularly with the German adoption of , which enabled the pilot to fire the gun through the aircraft's propeller blades.

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Although the Navy made use of machine guns, the Army was opposed to their use. The British Government ordered a selection committee to examine all existing systems of machine guns for the purpose of military adoption, and it reported on 21 March 1881. The exhaustive trials of different machine guns found that the Gardner patent gun had been the preferred gun in 9 out of 10 points of comparison. It recommended that the 2-barrel Gardner gun be adopted by all branches of the service where a light weapon could be used and a limber or similar artillery transportation was not required.

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The reality however was that these early machine guns would rapidly overheat and become inoperative without the aid of cooling mechanisms; they were consequently fired in short rather than sustained bursts. Cooling generally took one of two forms: water cooled and, increasingly as the war developed, air cooled. Water jackets would provided for the former (which held around one gallon of liquid) and air vents would be built into the machine gun for the latter.