Lahti’s Last Machine Gun: The L33/39 Antiaircraft Gun By: Ian McCollum


In response to a Finnish military need for a machine gun better than the old Maxim for aerial and anti-aircraft use, Aimo Lahti developed the L33 machine gun from the basis of the Lahti-Saloranta design. It was recoil operated, with the ubiquitous Lahti accelerator lever, and a quite high rate of fire. Total production was quite small, but several different versions of the gun were made for mounted AA use, aircraft wing mounting, and aerial observer mounts. This example is from the last pattern, the L33/39. Despite its designation, deliveries were not made until after the end of the Continuation War, as the manufacturer (VKT) had many higher priority projects during the fighting. The L33/39 is chambered for the standard Finnish 7.62×54 (53)mm cartridge, and uses a 75-round pan type magazine.

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We also take the Lahti L33/39 out at the range to try out. We have the gun on a naval-type cone mount, but it is not secured down to the ground. I was taken rather aback by the really high rate of fire, and the gun rocked back on its mount more than I expected! In addition, it was extremely difficult to load the magazines, as we didn’t have the original loading machine.