It turns out, Ukrainian forces really like the old-school Maxim machine gun. Or at least the Imperial Russian and later Soviet version of it, the PM1910.

Although the Maxim machine gun was originally created way back in the 1880s, today’s war in Ukraine has surfaced a sometimes bizarre mix of weapons and tactics. There are modern drones and troops just as likely to carry tablets as rifles. Mid-century Cold War tanks and armored personnel carriers are taking the field alongside modern rocket systems. Satellite imagery is helping troops endure old-school trench warfare. And Ukrainian fighters have been busting out machine guns that are more than 100 years old.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news, entertainment, and gear in your inbox daily.

Take for instance this recent video of a fighter using an old Maxim, fitted with decidedly modern add-ons such as optics and a suppressor.

And if one Maxim isn’t enough, why not rig up four into one large anti-drone system? That’s what Ukrainian fighters recently did, creating a four-gun turret specifically meant to shoot down Russian drones. And even though the guns are old, it’s 2023, so the design was posted to TikTok set to a hip-hop song. 

Even with Russia’s equipment troubles, it has been steadily deploying weaponized aerial drones, including the Iranian-made Shahed 131. Russia has been using drones for targeted attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, but as with much of their offensive efforts, have not been able to integrate them and other weapons systems into a full combined-arms strategy. The drones are still lethal, hence the ingenuity here from the Ukrainian soldiers.

In 2020, our friends over at The War Zone noted Ukrainian fighters liked the Maxim in part because it’s reliable. It’s bulky and needs to be water-cooled to prevent overheating, yes, but outside of that it’s accurate, the recoil isn’t too intense and it uses the standard 7.62 ammunition still widely available in post-Soviet nations. The gun was kept in production through the end of World War II, even as the Soviet Union was manufacturing newer weapons, meaning it was fairly compatible with other weapons and ammunition feeds. And as the above videos show, it’s not too difficult to put modern attachments on. 

In fact, many of the modern, internet-enabled, or remote-controlled electronic weapons of war have been struggling in Ukraine. The war itself is highly anachronistic. Although not widespread, Ukrainian forces have access to jamming technology rendering many drones unreliable. Devastated landscapes have brought back trench warfare in places such as Bakhmut. The early lack of heavy armor saw fighters utilize the tried and true 20th-Century tactic of turning civilian cars into armed technicals. Given all that, it’s not entirely surprising that guns like the Maxim and the PM1910 are still popular despite their age. 

As the saying goes, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

The latest on Task & Purpose