Military Review

Volley Mitraleza

Volley Mitraleza

Mitraleza Refffie also known as “Canon à Balles”

Mitraleza (canister, tracing paper from French mitraille - “canister, shrapnel”) is a type of salvo cannon with a multitude of rifle-caliber barrels that can shoot either with several bullets simultaneously or with several bullets in quick succession. The very first "true" mitraleza was invented in 1851 by captain of the Belgian army Fafshamps, 10 years before the appearance of the Gatling machine gun (gun). In 1863, it was followed by Mithralene Montigny. Later in the year 1866, under the strictest secrecy, the French 25-barrel "Canon à Balles" was adopted, better known as mitraleza Refffi. She became the first rapid-fire weaponswhich the regular army deployed in a major conflict as its standard weapon. This happened during the Franco-Prussian 1870 – 1871 war. A steel block with twenty-five 13-mm (.51 caliber) central-combat cartridges was locked with a breech before a shot. When the 25 crank was turned, the cartridges were shot in quick succession. The steady pace of Mitralefrey Refffy was 100 rounds per minute. The real range of Mitraleza Refffi increased to about 2000 yards, this distance was outside the range of the Dreize needle rifle. The artillery batteries of this type of armament consisted of six mitraille Refffies and serviced by artillery crews. Mitralezes were more of a special artillery than an infantry support weapon.

Mitraleza Refffy was an innovative weapon system with good ballistic characteristics at the time, but its use as tactical weapons was unsuccessful, because its basic concept and combat use were erroneous. In addition, at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, the French army had only 210 mitraleus Refffy. The French army almost completely removed them from service after the 1871 year. For comparison, the Gatling machine gun was widely distributed, became successful and its power-driven versions survived to our days, but are quite rare. After the Gatling machine gun was replaced in the army with newer weapons operating on the principle of using the force of recoil and gas exhaust energy, weapons with multi-barrel rotating barrels and an external power drive fell into disuse for several decades. However, in the period between the two wars, several copies were developed, but they existed only in the form of prototypes or were rarely used. This concept was revived after World War II, when the machine gun M61 Vulcan was born. The word mitraleza, however, has become a household word and in French means a machine gun, although mitraleza was operated from a manual drive. In modern French, the word mitraleza means any machine gun, including fully automatic weapons.


The first Mitraleza was a 50-barreled handgun developed in Belgium in 1851 by the Belgian captain Faufamps, who made a rough prototype according to his own designs. The system was then refined in the 80 – s of the 19 century by Louis Christoph and the Belgian engineer Joseph Montigny, who in 1863 produced the 37-trunnion Mithignale Montigny. Starting in 1859, Joseph Montigny proposed his project to Napoleon III, which ultimately led to the development of the French mitralese Refphy. It was created by Jean-Baptiste Refffy in collaboration with Montigny and was adopted by the French army in 1865. Initially, the new weapon was kept in the strictest confidence, but it became widely known after participating in battles during the Franco-Prussian war (1870 – 71). In the later stages of this conflict, the French government bought small quantities and other systems, including the Gatling machine gun. The Refffy model was originally manufactured in small quantities and in the strictest confidence, at the beginning of the war there were about 200 barrels available. The unfortunate use of mitralese undermined the prestige of the French field artillery in the eyes of Emperor Napoleon III and contributed to the defeat of the French army in this war.


Several variants of mitraleza were developed and they all had some common elements. They differ in the number of rifled barrels grouped together and in installation either on a conventional artillery gun carriage or (in the case of one of the models) on a tripod. Ammunition was fixed in a single unit and placed in the breech immediately behind the open ends of the barrels. All trunks were charged at the same time due to a manual locking lever or a large horizontal screw. For consistent firing of the trunks, it was necessary to work quickly with the second lever (or in some models to rotate the crank handle). From here came the French nickname of mitraleza - moulin à café (coffee grinder). (A very similar name was given in America during the Civil War to the "coffee grinder gun" with a rotating barrel, with a manual drive and mechanical loading.)

A plate or a block with bullets (removable breech) had to be removed manually before the next charged plate was inserted. Unlike the machine gun and the later high-speed automatic weapons, the whole process of loading and firing was manual. The main innovation of mitralieza was that it significantly increased the speed of these processes in comparison with standard infantry guns.

Different versions of the concept of mitralieza mainly differed in the number of trunks and caliber.

Most variants of mitralieza were installed on an artillery gun carriage. This made them heavy and cumbersome on the battlefield, as the mass of the machine gun and the gun carriage reached 900 kg (2000 pounds).

Breech of mitraleza refi

Ammunition and rate of fire

The dependence of mitralieza on manual loading meant that the rate of fire is more dependent on the skill of the operators. Competently serviced Mitraleza Refffi could maintain four firing rate (100 bullets per minute) during normal firing and increase the firing rate to five volleys (125 bullets) per minute in case of emergency. The discharge rate of each individual volley (25 bullets) was controlled by the shooter due to the rotation of a small crank handle on the right side of the breech. In other words, 25 gun barrels were discharged not all at once, but in quick succession. Because of its large mass (1500 pounds) of Mitraleus Refi, it did not roll back during the shooting and, thus, there was no need to retarget it after each volley. The absence of recoil when shooting inventor Refffy put forward as a significant advantage over traditional field artillery. Each regular battery of mitralalez refi lined up in a line of six cannons that fired more or less simultaneously.

In mitraliese refi, an 13-mm cartridge (.512 in.) Of central combat, created by the inventor of the Gopilla, was used. This cartridge was fairly typical in design and reflected at that time the current state of affairs in the field of ammunition. It looked like an elongated modern shotgun cartridge: central ignition with a brass flange and a dark blue hardened cardboard case. Accelerating an 13-mm (0,512 inch) bullet into a 770 gran (50 grams) paper tube with 185 grains (12 grams) of compressed black powder. The initial speed was 1560 ft / s (480 m / s), which was three and a half times more than the bullets for Shaspo or Draize rifles. Undoubtedly, at that time it was the most powerful cartridge rifle caliber. For obvious reasons, Mitraleza Refi was never intended to shoot the much smaller 11-mm Shaspo cartridge with a burning paper sleeve.

13-mm Mitraleza Refffi cartridges were charged into interchangeable steel bolt blocks (exchangeable bureaucrats) (unlike the Montigny mitralieza, whose ammunition was held in the plates at the base of the cartridge). When shooting from mitralieza, it was necessary to have three shutter blocks in constant readiness: from one shot, from the second with an extractor, liners were removed, and the third was charged from one pre-packed box with 25 cartridges.

The barrel could move from side to side, and with the help of a rotating handle it was possible to conduct a scattering fire. However, turning the barrel from side to side was not enough (that is, the firing sector was rather small) for effective dispersing fire at close distances. The gunfire sector was so small that several bullets hit the Prussian soldiers at once. During the first battle of the Franco-Prussian War 6 in August 1870, the Prussian general was immediately hit by 4 bullets. Although, according to the regimental records of the enemy, these 4 bullets from mitralieza were shot from a distance of 600 meters! In order to solve the problem of near-point defense, the French gunners attempted to develop a special ammunition capable of releasing three bullets from one shell at a time.

Thus, in contrast to modern machine guns, the Mitralelos Refffy has rarely been used for a scattering fire at close range. The batteries of the six mitralles were intended for firing targets at ranges not attainable for Shaspo infantry rifles or artillery shrapnel. For complex artillery missions, mitraleses were often deployed with older “Napoleon” muzzle-loading field guns (“canon obusier de 12” - 12 caliber gun-howitzer) used by the French army during the Franco-Prussian war.


Mitraleza is best known for her service in the French army, but in fact for the first time she entered the business in Belgium in the 50-s of the 19 century as a stationary installation for the defense of serfs. This needle-type 50-barrel gun with a paper cartridge was created by Captain T. Fafshamps. Later, after 1863, the gun was modified. It was left 37 barrels, introduced 11 × 70mmR cartridge central combat, and the mitraleza itself was installed on a wheeled artillery gun carriage. These improvements were made at the factory of Christophe and Joseph Montigny near Brussels, who had the desire to sell new weapons to the rest of Europe.

In 1863, the French military became interested in Christophe and Montigny's mitralea, and the artillery committee began studying the possible adaptation of this Belgian weaponry. However, it was decided to act differently and create their own mitraleza, relying only on the French industry. In May, 1864, General Edmond Lyabeuf, presented Napoleon III with a preliminary report entitled “Note sur le Canon à balles”. In September, 1865, in complete secrecy under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Verschera de Raffi (1821 – 1880), began the full-scale production of the new mitralieza. The assembly and part of the production was carried out in the workshops in Medon, but many parts were supplied by private manufacturers. New weapons passed advanced tests in 1868, at the shooting range near Versailles in complete secrecy. Fearing spies, experienced guns were hiding in tents during firing at remote targets. Mechanical loading and shooting Mitraleza showed remarkable characteristics and expected much from it.

By July, 1870 had produced a total of X-NUMX mitralias and five million rounds of ammunition for them, but by the time the war with Prussia began, only 215 of them were in working order and were able to go into service.

Operational doctrine

The use of mitraleza on the battlefield as an artillery mount was an erroneous concept, with grave consequences. In order to avoid the fire of the Draise rifle rifle, mitraliez batteries were constantly deployed at distances over 1400 m (1500 yards) from Prussian lines. Although the maximum range of mitraleses was 3400 m (3700 yards), the distances at which they usually opened fire rarely exceeded 2000 meters (2100 yards), which was less than the range of the French field artillery. However, accurate fire on 1500 yards was very difficult to achieve, since the mitraleses had open (mechanical) sights. For example, it was impossible to see bullets from mitraleses on the ground at long distances until the enemy ranks “broke” when these bullets hit. It can be noted that modern machine guns, as a rule, are used at distances much shorter than their maximum range. The M60 machine gun, for example, was commonly used at actual 1100 meters (1200 yards) as compared to its maximum 3725 yards (4074 yards). Mitraleza, on the other hand, was often used at the outer edge of its range and, moreover, without the advantages of using optical distance measuring systems. These flaws in the operational use of mitraleza refi have a fatal effect on the outcome of the Franco-Prussian war.

Application on the battlefield
Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 71)

This war began on July 15 of the year 1870 with the somewhat chaotic mobilization of the French army. Mitralale batteries were at the time in the face of acute problems. Although on paper they were all organized into the appropriate batteries, at the beginning of the war these weapons were stored in warehouses in Medon and in the forts of Montrouge, Issy and Mont-Valerien. Calculations for them were assigned, but not collected together. Many of the calculations were not sufficiently trained in the treatment of mitraliases, and sometimes they did not have any combat training at all, and they also had no idea about the sighting or range-measuring characteristics. Detailed manuals were printed in January 1870, but were distributed to the calculations only with the start of hostilities. Regarding this weapon, such secrecy was such that few artillery commanders knew how to deploy them to battle, and many did not even know about the existence of mitrals.

Mitralese participated in many hostilities of this war, but a small number of them severely limited their effectiveness. Their incorrect use also created major problems on the battlefield. While mitraleses were inherently accurate weapons in the ballistic sense, they could not quickly lead to normal combat at long distances. Each 25-bullet volley was grouped too tightly and did not have sufficient lateral dispersion. The situation was worsened by the presence of a complex trigger mechanism, which in the hands of inexperienced calculations was vulnerable to damage. More than once reports were received that the combustion of black powder (powder soot) during prolonged shooting created difficulties in closing the breech.

But there were also examples when the mitraleses Refffie inflicted significant damage to the enemy. The battery mitralia under the command of Captain Barb in the battle of Gravelotte, quickly determining the distance to the target, several times broke the massive attacks of the Prussian infantry. The Prussians suffered huge losses in that battle. However, after the Franco-Prussian War, it was concluded that the Shaspo rifle had inflicted more damage on the Prussian troops than on mitralez Refff. Although during the war there were about 100 000 Shaspo rifles, while Mitrales Refff was less than 200 pieces.

Conclusions were drawn about the uselessness of rapid-fire weapons, since they did not have a sufficient effect on the course of hostilities. The United States Army General, William Hazen, who was in charge of monitoring the course of hostilities, remarked that: “French mitralese did not meet the expectations placed on it. The Germans treated her with great contempt, and it is unlikely to become a permanent weapon of the military. " Strictly speaking, the manual-guided salvo armament, to which Mitraleza Refffy belongs, was a technological dead end, and was soon replaced by fully automatic machine guns.

However, the production of mitralia and ammunition was resumed under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Refffy in the city of Nantes in western France, 122 mitrallases were also manufactured in place of almost 200 mitrales, which were destroyed or seized by the enemy.

After the war

After the conclusion of an armistice with Prussia in May 1871, the last recorded use of mitraleus refi was the execution of communards after the suppression of the Paris Commune.

Quite a large number of mitralesee refi of the French army (total 268) survived the Franco-Prussian war. Another 122 Mitralese Refie, captured in hostilities, were sold by Germany back to France. The last surviving Mithralelae Refi were removed from the forts of eastern France in 1908. This type of mitralia is often confused with other manual-loading volley guns, for example, the Belgian mitralea Montigny or even the Gatling machine gun.

Impact on the further development of weapons systems

Immediately after the end of the war, the French abandoned all their forces to improve field artillery. The failures of the French artillery in the last war served as a strong motivation in the development of the field guns de Banges (1877) and, ultimately, the well-known field gun Canon de 75 modèle 1897. The normal rate of fire of the gun was 15 shots per minute, one 75-mm gun in one minute could deliver 4350 lethal balls to a distance of 6 km. With their 75 bullets per minute and a distance of 2 km, the Mithraliases Refffy here were much inferior. History showed that over the next thirty years, the effectiveness of weapons systems has increased hundreds of times.

Between the 1871 of the year and the end of the 19 century, many European armies adopted many new light machine guns of European and American origin. A large number of Gatling machine guns, widely used in the colonial wars in Africa, India and Asia, were purchased.

In 90, the European armies began replacing their light machine guns with automatic ones, for example, Maxim's machine gun, Colt-Browning's machine gun M1895, and in 1897 Hotchkis machine gun. During World War I, which began in the 1914 year, this weaponry became universal and widespread.

The modern use of the term mitralia

In French, the machine gun is called Mitralese. This word has become a household name after the adoption of Mitraleza Hotchkis in 1897 year. For example, the name 5,56-mm machine gun of NATO FN Minimi comes from the term Mini-Mitrailleuse - “small machine gun”.

Derivatives of the French word "mitrailleuse" are used in the Dutch and Norwegian languages. Related words for the designation of machine guns are in Portuguese, Turkish, Italian and some other languages.

Middle plans mitraliez different designs

Materials used:
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  1. inkass_98
    inkass_98 April 22 2014 08: 51
    The twist was the way to the modern machine gun, a monumental thing. On the other hand, the same "Maxim" was originally a serf tool and, according to the Russian charter, was serviced by a crew of eight, and then somehow the crew was gradually reduced to a normal two.
    1. copper49
      copper49 April 24 2014 21: 43
      In the manual on the "maxim" machine gun, even the post-war edition, his calculation was all 7 people. There are the carriers of the ribbons and those who equip them. In a real war, yes, two people had to do everything.
  2. Boudallino
    Boudallino April 22 2014 13: 10
    It would be interesting to hear her at work belay
  3. Robert Nevsky
    Robert Nevsky April 22 2014 13: 56
    Thanks to the author for sathya!
    In the Bulgarian language we call a machine gun - a “card case”, but I heard that the Serbs call it “mitraleza”.
  4. bazilio
    bazilio April 22 2014 14: 02
    The idea as a whole is logical, consistent and not new. Having a single-shot weapon and wanting to increase the rate of fire, the first thing that comes to mind is an increase in the number of trunks.
    But still, the material is interesting. Thanks to the author.
  5. anomalocaris
    anomalocaris April 22 2014 16: 13
    The initial speed was 1560 ft / s (480 m / s), which was three and a half times greater than the bullets for Shaspo or Draise rifles.

    To be honest, more than funny. The child who was translating the article clearly does not understand what it is about.
    1. copper49
      copper49 April 24 2014 21: 41
      Here it seems to mean the difference in muzzle energies, not bullet speeds.
      1. anomalocaris
        anomalocaris April 25 2014 16: 03
        No, it’s said quite specifically. Yes, even in muzzle energy, with smoke powder, the caliber will be definitely greater. You see, gunpowder, even smoky, even smokeless, has a finite gas velocity. For smoky, even the most perfect, gunpowder, this value is about 1000 m / s. This is the theoretical limit to which the projectile can be dispersed.
        So, really, and this was recorded in many sources, in the trunk length of 800 mm, the initial speed of over 550 m / s could not be obtained. Accordingly, an increase in muzzle energy can be obtained only due to the mass of the projectile, and, accordingly, due to the caliber.
  6. Fenia04
    Fenia04 13 May 2014 00: 59
    It turns out that it is a beast, for the first time with this ancestress of a machine gun came across in an adventure book about Australia. Only there the device was not described in much detail. True, it was described there how Mitraleuza was used from a carriage by savages almost right up to the imagination to take such a fantasy.
  7. vanyux04
    vanyux04 5 July 2014 09: 20
    Interesting gun!