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France’s InterWar Aircraft Machine Gun: the 1926 Darne

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Darne was a French gunmaker best known for sporting shotguns, but they entered the military arms field during World War One. The Lewis Gun was one of the best Entente aircraft guns, and Darne put a licensed copy into production in 1915, making a bit more than 3,000 of them by the end of the war. During this time they also developed their own machine gun design, which was ordered by the French military, but cancelled with the Armistice in November 1918. After further refinement, Darne’s design was formally adopted by the French Air Force in the 1920s. About 11,000 were made in total, about half for France and the other half for a variety of foreign clients including Brazil, Turkey, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Spain.

Darne hoped to market its machine gun design as more than just an aircraft armament. In its catalog, the same basic mechanism was offered as a light infantry gun, fortification gun, heavy machine gun, dual-mount antiaircraft gun, and vehicular gun. While some countries tested these other configurations, it was only the aircraft pattern that we are looking at today which was actually purchased in substantial quantities by anyone. Darne was just a bit too late to make substantial sales during World War One, and their gun was being eclipsed by better designs (like Browning aircraft guns) by the European rearmament of the 1930s.

Thanks to the Cody Firearms Museum for allowing me access to film this rare and interesting machine gun! Check them out here:

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