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Building the Maxim Machine Gun

by Will Hayden   |  January 20th, 2012 15

Maxim machine gunThe Maxim machine gun has been No. 1 on my bucket list for years. Invented by Hiram Maxim in the late 1880s, it in essence made one fighting man as effective as 100. So, when my good friend Glenn Harrison brought a kit by, I just couldn’t wait to get into it.

It was the first true self-powered machine gun that really worked. There were a couple little trials that came before, but this SOB worked, and worked fantastically well. It worked so well it was picked up by both sides of World War I.

It also went out in a lot of configurations. They used it in everything from infantry to vehicles to aircraft. It was in tanks. It was onboard planes. And the precision and craftsmanship that went into it were just incredible.

I mean, you needed a magnifying glass to see where the rivets were that held the receiver together – it was that well done. You take all of that together, and I wanted this gun. I’ve been talking about putting one together for years, so when Glenn came across a kit, he thought of me first.

We were able to build up a receiver. It was a Finnish war capture during the Winter War, which to me added a lot of panache to it. We wanted it to look like what it looked like when it came out of that arsenal, so went to a local paint shop and had them laser match the original paint on it and did the bluing and a lot of handwork on it. I spent a lot of time myself filing on that receiver, sanding it, working it down. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful piece of machinery.

Now, for the Red Baron whole propeller set up. Glenn’s a good friend, and he’s really into living history and re-enactments. He wanted to be able to show the maxim in the way it would have worked in the cockpit during World World I, just a static display. We ended up having way too much fun playing with that damn thing. It was just one of those sheer joy projects, and I think that came through on the show.

That’s why the Maxim build was one of the more personal projects for me. The reason I got into the business was so I could make cool stuff. I just had to sell some of it to be able to finance my own projects.  I didn’t get into gun making because of my deep love of floral arrangements, you know?

That’s one thing the show’s really done: It’s  let me indulge myself a bit more, I suppose. I hadn’t previously been able to because, frankly, we didn’t have the  money.

Discovery is always here with the cameras and they got to catch the sheer joy of this project. It was truly something for us to just “Do” and enjoy, and that Maxim sits in the lobby of Red Jacket to this day. It’s a damn busy shop. There’s a hell of a workload, but every now and then, you’ve got to back up and do something just for Zen, and I guess our Zen normally involves and exceedingly high rate of fire.

  • Mikel Neeley

    This was a great episode and i really enjoyed it. Also I would like to thank you guys for putting on a great show Sons of Guns is to me the best show on TV right now.

    • Will_Hayden

      Thanks Mikel . Will

  • Mark Lewis

    hey they didnt use overprice Siaga parts for once

  • Rod Richardson

    @Mike – Second your comment.

  • Marshall

    Will Hayden, I don't think that i am alone when i say that i think you guys at Red Jacket should get some of your own cameras and start setting up youtube videos, i think a lot of your fans would like to see how stuff goes down in the shop told from your point of view and not the view of the producers. That said Love the show and can't wait for season 4!

    • Will_Hayden

      We hear that a lot Marshall but we're already doing 12 hour day's 6-7 day's a week . Just don't know when we could find the time

  • Vickie

    Will I admire your passion for all things related to guns. Love the show and watch every week. Keep up the good work!

    • M. James

      I agree, also the fact that everyone at the shop puts Safety as Job 1.

  • Good Reloads

    Mr. Hayden, I enjoyed this episode very much. But I'm left with a question: given the provenance of the gun, was it chambered for the 7.62x54R cartridge, using .311 dia. bullets, or did you guys re-chamber it for a round that used .308 bullets? The reason I ask is that most Finnish 91/30s use the .308 bullets, and it's information that I find enjoyable, being a dedicated ammo reloader.

    • Will_Hayden


  • oregon cowboy

    Mr. Hayden,
    I really enjoy your show and family of employees. Never had a daughter, just four sons, so don't understand all of the family dynamics, but you are doing well lad.
    Keep up the good work and God's blessings on you all.

    • Will_Hayden

      Thanks O.C. , Will

  • robert

    my sons and i love the show my 7 yr old is mad at your daughter he liked her , he has a birthday in a few weeks and wants a lever action rifle , i do . not know what to get him any suggestions

  • conor

    i have watched every show and the maxim was my favorite

  • gbaltil

    Kris Ford is the Gilligan of the show and Will is the captain.

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