Niedermeier SG08 - Maxim PM M1910, a milestone in machine gun design now in a civilian version

The German gunsmith Niedermeier from Munich is known for its semi-automatic versions of historical interesting firearms like the MP 40, MP 38/44, MP 44, PPSh41 and Thompson M1A1. Semi-automatic firearms based on well-known machine guns like the Bren MKI and MKII or the MG 34 can also be purchased there. Niedermeier manufactures semi-automatic firearms from parts sets supplied by customers, too.

The Niedermeier SG 08 - Maxim PM M1910 disassembled: in the middle, the action with the crank charging handle. On the left side, the spring housing. On the right the barrel.

The gun: Niedermeier SG08 machine gun in 7.62x54 R

Klaus Niedermeier has succeeded in offering a civilian version of the legendary Maxim gun. The gun is largely made from original components. In contrast to the original, however, it is a semi-automatic self-loading firearm. As the name suggests, the gun with the exact designation Tula-Maxim PM M1910 is based on the well-known Maxim gun invented by Sir Hiram Maxim. But now first to the inventor himself, Sir Hiram Maxim.

Sir Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the first machine gun

The inventor Sir Hiram Maxim, born in the USA but working in England, at a portable machine gun he invented.

Hiram Stevens Maxim was born in the USA in 1840. The skilled coach builder and instrument maker moved to London in 1880. By this time Maxim was chief engineer at the First Electric Lighting Company, working on improvements to the incandescent lightbulb invented by Edison, and had already patented numerous inventions. He received his first gun patent in 1883 for the conversion of a Winchester M 1873 lever-action rifle, and in 1884 he founded the Maxim Gun Company in London to market his new invention. Already one year later he presented the prototype of a recoil-operated, fully automatic machine gun. All machine guns built up to that time – for example the Gatling Gun – had a very heavy construction. In addition, they had to be mechanically operated with hand cranks. Maxim's new invention worked as a recoil-operated automatic gun with a short recoil system and toggle lock. Thanks to the built-in water cooling system, a full auto rate of fire of up to 666 shots per minute could be reliably achieved.

The first delivery of 26 weapons was made to the Italian army in 1888. The following year the Austrian Navy ordered 160 of the recoil-operated guns. Also in the same year the weapon was introduced in the British Army. During tests in Switzerland, in Thun, in May 1889, a total of 4871 rounds were fired from a demonstration gun in 7.5x55 mm Swiss caliber without any significant interference. The Swiss Army then put the new weapon into service. Over the next 20 years the gun was widely used throughout the world. The Maxim was produced in modified versions not only in England, but also under license in Germany, Russia, USA, Switzerland, Finland, China and Australia. All renowned machine guns of that time were based on the Maxim's design: for example, the German MG 08, the Vickers Machine Gun, the Swiss MG 11 or the Russian PM M1910.

Practical test with a Sokolov wheel mount

For our practical test we mounted the Niedermeier SG08 on a Sokolov wheel mount. This mount with small wheels, named after its inventor, Colonel Alexander Sokolov, was made in Russia from 1908. The optionally available shield was not mounted by us. Even without the shield, the gun mount weighs over 78 lb/35 kg without the gun. The present mount is obviously a later version, as the frame is not made of steel but brass. The reason for this was that brass was easier to work and the production numbers had to be increased. The mount legs can be folded up for transport. After a rough windage alignment, the gun is adjusted with a screw. A fine elevation adjustment is made with a large knurled screw. On the mount frame there is a sheet metal box for a spare bolt.

The Sokolov type gun mount with folded legs for transport.

Niedermeier SG08: all data and prices at a glance


Tula-Maxim PM M1910 - Niedermeier Munich SG08

Prices:2500 euro (gun), 300 euro (gun mount)
Caliber:7.62 x 54 R
Feed:Belt-fed with belts of variable capacity
Length:43.3”/1100 mm
Barrel Length:28.46”/723 mm
Trigger Pull Weight:
76 oz/2.1 kg
Weight:456.3 lb/20.7 kg (gun); 78 lb/35.4 kg gun mount
Notes:Recoil-operated self loading gun

The technology of the Niedermeier SG08 test gun

Essentially, the gun is composed of 3 functional levels. The belt feed is located on the upper level. The first round is loaded into the cartridge chamber by the action in the middle level. When firing, the barrel and breech block – held together by a locking hook – are pushed back by recoil. After a few millimeters the barrel stops. The breech moves further back then the counter lever of the locking hook comes in contact with the block, causing the hook to rise and release the breech bolt. The spent case is transported down one level and ejected. The case ejector is located in the lower level directly under the barrel. At the same time, a new cartridge is pulled out of the belt from the upper level by the breech block movement and transported to the middle level into the cartridge chamber.

Reloading of the Niedermeier SG08: a cartridge in the belt at the top. In the middle a dummy cartridge is pulled out and in the next step ejected one level lower.
Breech of the Niedermeier SG 08 – Maxim PM M1910 with two dummy cartridges inserted. Behind them the belt feed.

The cartridge belt moves one cartridge over. As the belt does not move during the first manual loading process due to the lack of recoil, the shooter has to pull the belt one position further by hand and operate the crank handle again. The gun is now fully loaded and ready to fire.

The controls: the crank handle on the right side of the gun. The safety catch can be seen as a semicircle above the spade grip.

The crank (charging) handle is on the right side of the receiver. The spring housing is located on the left side of the receiver. By varying the spring tension, cycling speed can be changed within a certain range. The rear side of the housing features the double straight handles known as the spade grip. The trigger consists of a plate which can be pressed with the thumbs. The safety above it must first be lifted with the thumb of the other hand. In contrast to the fully automatic version, the semi-automatic test gun fires only one shot at a time when the trigger is pulled. For this purpose, the Niedermeier team installed in the receiver a in-house developed disconnector. A hinged, elevation-adjustable sight is enthroned on the receiver cover. After lifting the lid, the user can access the feed system. The belt feed assembly can be removed in one piece.

View into the receiver of the MG with the breech block inserted.

The breech enters the receiver with a twisting movement, but it must be tightened by hand before insertion. There is space on 3 levels for up to 3 cartridges, the rim helping hold the cartridges in position.  The barrel is supported at both ends in the cooling water jacket. In order to prevent the water from running out too quickly, the gun has been fitted with a groove at the barrel end into which oiled sealing o-rings made of asbestos have been inserted. The steam produced by the barrel heating can escape through the opening at the muzzle. The present Russian model has a larger tractor radiator cap on the cooling water jacket, which makes it easier to fill with snow.

Loading the Niedermeier SG 08 - Maxim PM M1910

The loading process step by step: to load the gun, insert the cartridge belt on the right and pull it to the left. Two dummy cartridges are inserted in the belt.
Push the crank handle forward. When the latch is open, pull the belt to the left. One cartridge is now in the upper level above the cartridge chamber.
Release the crank handle. The breech leads forward and grips the cartridge in the upper level. The breech is now closed. One cartridge is in the upper level of the breech. 
Move the crank handle forward again. The cartridge is pulled out of the belt. As soon as the crank handle is fully forward, the cartridge is transported to the middle level.
If there is no recoil, the belt is not automatically moved over. Therefore it must be pulled to the left manually. The next cartridge is visible in the upper level.
Release the crank handle again. The breech block transports a cartridge to the middle level in the chamber. The weapon is now fully loaded. On the upper level a cartridge in the belt has been gripped by the breech. One cartridge is in the chamber, fully loaded.

The Niedermeier SG 08 – Maxim PM M1910 in practice

The gun makes a valuable impression in spite of war production. There are only a few flaws in the original paint finish. With  456.3 lb/20.7 kg the weapon is not a light weight that you can put in your bag. The gun mount weighs an additional 78 lb/35.4 kg and is only slightly handier when folded. The total weight of the gun fitted on a mount is over 123.4 lb/56 kg.

Niedermeier SG08: lying position. Due to its high weight the gun is very comfortable to shoot. The drain plug hangs from a chain on the cooling water jacket.

The purchase of the gun includes extensive instruction in Niedermeier gunsmith's shop. This means that you already gain sufficient practical experience in operating the gun there. The gun comes with metal cartridge belts, which enable the gun to be loaded without any problems.

The technology of the 75-year-old gun is awe-inspiring. The sight picture satisfied the testers. Due to the weight of the gun and its mount mount, it shoots very softly, with no significant recoil. Relatively cheap cartridges from Prvi Partizan were used as ammunition. At a range of 100 meters, grouping circles of 3.1”/80 mm are possible without much practice. The best grouping was five rounds in 2.1”/55 mm. Shooting as well as handling of the gun is a pleasure. The sporting challenge is to find a suitable aiming position. If you are enthusiastic about weapons and technology, the Niedermeier conversion is a real gem and a milestone in the history of firearms. Considering the effort required for the manufacturing of the gun itself as well as the approval effort, the testers consider the selling price of 2500 euro to be quite reasonable.

PLEASE NOTE: according to German gun laws, the Niedermeier SG 08 - Maxim PM M1910 is classified as a semi-automatic rifle.  if you are interested in purchasing it from outside Germany, please check carefully the laws and regulations of your country.

Niedermeier SG 08 - Maxim PM M1910: wrap-up

Buying this gun you get a milestone in firearms history. There are less and less opportunities to acquire such a gun – unfortunately, the first series is already sold out. While writing this text some German MG08s were stored in Munich, which will be used to produce semi-auto guns in the future.

Niedermeier is always ready with solutions to problems. This also ensures the supply of spare parts. Shooting and handling the gun is interesting for anyone who has a feel for the history of technology. It is also fun. And it's clear that there is a purchase recommendation for it.

Text: Martin Schallmoser and Dario Nothnick

Further information about the Niedermeier SG 08 - Maxim PM M1910 can be found on the Niedermeier gunsmith's shop website.

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