Type: Machine gun
Caliber: 6mm Lee (other calibers made for export and US Army)
Weight: 16 kg (35.3 lb)
Length: 1040 mm (41 in)
Barrel Length: 711 mm (28 in)
Developed by American firearms designer John Moses Browning, the Colt M1895 machine gun was one of the first gas-operated machine guns to be developed. The weapon used gas tapped from the fired cartridge to actuate a lever below the barrel in order to cycle the action. This unique system also lent the M1895 its name as the lever would violently dig into the ground if the weapon were fired too close to the ground, "digging for potatoes." The weapon was adopted by the US Navy and US Marine Corps in 6mm Lee, using it in combat during the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and the Boxer Rebellion. A small number of the M1895 were also used by soldiers in the US Army during the Spanish-American War, though these examples were export models chambered for the 7x57mm Mauser cartridge and were privately purchased rather than being provided by the US government. Though the US Army never formally adopted the Potato Digger, a number were purchased for testing purposes and later used as a training weapon. The Colt machine gun was also part of some of the darker parts of American history as it was used against striking miners in 1914 during the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado and again in 1921 during the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia.
The M1895 and its derivative, the M1895/14, also saw service with multiple nations during World War I. Examples chambered for the .303 British cartridge were field by the Canadians before being handed off to Belgian forces after the arrival of substantial numbers of Vickers machine guns. Others were also purchased by Italy (in 6.5x52mm Carcano) and Imperial Russia (in 7.62x54R). Many of these Russian guns would see extensive use during the Russian Civil War, including in the hands of the Czech Legion during their fight across Russia. The Colt M1895 would also see use during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 and during the Spanish Civil War. The type also saw limited use during World War II where it was fielded by the Belgians during the German invasion of Belgium, by the Italians as a second-line weapon for anti-aircraft purposes, and by the British as a weapon for the Home Guard.