Project Lightening: C&Rsenal & Forgotten Weapons’ WW1 Light Machine Gun Extravaganza

    Project Lightening

    Ian, Othais & Mae behind some history

    If you love history and old firearms there are a few YouTube channels you probably follow. For many, two of those will definitely be Forgotten Weapons and C&Rsenal. Ian, Othais and Mae have come together to put seven original World War One vintage light machine guns and automatic rifles through their paces to see how they might have performed 100 years ago.

    Project Lightening tests the Madsen Light Machine Gun, the Lewis Gun, the BAR, the Hotchkiss MkI* Portative, the hefty Maxim MG08/15 and both the 8mm Lebel and .30-06 Chauchat automatic rifles. Never before have all of these guns been brought together on camera making Lightening truly unique.

    Here’s Project Lightening’s teaser trailer:

    Othais was kind enough to talk to us about the project and what it was like to get the chance to compare seven pieces of history.

    Project Lightening was clearly a huge undertaking, when did you get the idea to bring together all of WWI’s light machine guns and put them through their paces?

    The project actually came about because we had 4 of the guns scheduled to be in Charleston at the same time for filming and or repair, due to our relationship with Anvil.  I knew of at least one other we could borrow, and Ian had yet another.  I asked him if he’d like to take the opportunity and if he had a friend with a Hotchkiss, which he did and so we got to work fairly quickly.  I believe the project was begun in October if memory serves.  That’s an extremely fast turn around for this sort of idea from scratch.
    The logistics of getting these old guns to run, the right ammo to field them, wrangling the whole team and finding time in the C&Rsenal team’s and Ian’s schedule must have been a challenge?

    We kept up our usual episodic production, and onboarded Mae full time during this same production window.  So I had extra help in some ways, but it was still a huge effort.  Mae and I both averaged about 60-70 hours a week for the past several months getting things even this ready.  Mark, over at Anvil, also had a massive push to get these guns serviced and ready and deserves a ton of credit.  For my part, a lot of it came down to tuning, which actually started to walk out by the last day of filming as the guns loosened up from their infrequent use becoming more frequent.

    Can you tell us a little about how you came up with the project and how you decided on how to actually test the guns? 

    The tests were planned to account for a sort of traditional trench combat usage, as we usually envision the Western Front.  The 100-yard burst, reload, and field strip tests are pretty straight forward and would be expected of any gun.  We also have a total damage test using smaller clay targets to show the real difficulty of selecting and hitting spread out infantry at distance with automatic fire.  One other test was planned but sadly could not be performed because we had underestimated just how long it would take to film what we did get.  This would have been a “dash and drop” test where we ran 50 yards and then dropped, made ready, and fired a burst on target.

    Here’s part one of the project:

    Not many people have the chance to fire all these guns comparatively at the same time, which was your favourite from all of the guns you tested? 

    The show has a clear winner, but I will say if I was going to own one: the BAR requires the least attention, is easiest to pack for the range, and generally runs well with available 30-06 ammo.  An “easy” machine gun to own and care for.

    The project seems to be a combination of both C&Rsenal & Forgotten Weapons’ approaches. How was it working with Ian? 
    Working with Ian was a breeze.  The #1 thing I’ve noticed working with both him and IV8888 is that we all have shared a work-first mentality.  These guys are willing to burn 16 hours of labor and filming at a time, stopping for maybe 20 minutes to wolf down a snack and then getting back to work.  I know it looks easy when the editing is done, casual even, but a LOT goes into getting a good story.  The product, the thing the audience takes home, that gets first priority with all of us.

    How are you & Ian sharing the project?

    The project is being split across both channels, each getting either even or odd episodes.  The whole thing can be bought at once on C&Rsenal as well.  This money is first directed at the debts accrued, which were actually fairly significant for a project like this.  After that we share the net.  C&Rsenal did the editing but Ian brought a larger audience, so it washes out pretty evenly and keeps the math simple.  I also want to clearly point out: Brownells JUMPED to help make this possible, eating up about 1/3rd of total expenses in order to sponsor the show.  We are happy with this partnership as we love the guys over there!  It is EXTREMELY rare to see a modern, commercial business put money into gun history.  Even the storied names like Colt and Winchester never seem to reach out when history is so much a part of their brand!  Brownells is also very handy with new media, which is critical to keeping the gun community fresh and relevant to new participants entering adulthood.

    Here’s part two, putting the LMGs through a 100 yard test:

    My thanks to Othais for talking to us about the project. You can check out the first two installments of the Project Lightening series over on YouTube now, and you can download the whole documentary here.

    Matthew Moss

    Matthew Moss – Assistant Editor.

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written for a variety of publications in both the US and UK he also runs www.historicalfirearms.info, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of www.armourersbench.com, a new video series on historically significant small arms.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]


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