Madsen: Danish Weapons Manufacturer

The Madsen LAR (light automatic rifle) was an attempt by the main Danish arms manufacturer to get into the military rifle market after World War Two (they also released a bolt action rifle around the same time, the Model 47). The first version of the LAR was chambered for 7.62x39mm and submitted to Finnish testing, where it lost out to the Valmet-made Rk-62. Madsen then scaled up the working parts of the rifle and offered it in 7.62mm NATO for testing by the rest of the international military community. Unfortunately for the company, there were no takers, and the rifle was never put into serial production.

At its mechanical heart, the Madsen LAR is a Kalashnikov system, sharing the long stroke gas piston and the exact same style of rotating bolt and bolt carrier as the AK. It uses an aluminum alloy lower receiver with steel front trunnion, and a more complex (and much more closely fitted) receiver cover. It probably would have been a quite serviceable rifle in the field, but it was both a bit too late to market and failed to offer any substantial advantage over rifles like the G3 and FAL.

Development of the weapon that would eventually become the very successful 1902 Madsen light machine gun began many years earlier, in 1883. Two Danes, Madsen and Rasmussen, began working on a recoil-operated self loading rifle design that year, with Madsen developing the idea and Rasmussen fabricating the actual pieces. The project was made difficult by the black powder cartridges available at that time (black powder fouled intricate mechanics quickly, and also created a relatively poor recoil impulse compared to later smokeless powders), but by 1887 they had a workable gun completed. This rifle, designated the M1888 Forsøgsrekylgevær, was entered into Danish military testing, and went so far as to have 50 rifles field-tested by a battalion of troops. The conclusion was that the design wasn’t good enough for infantry use (although it was considered for fortress use, which would presumably be a cleaner environment that being in the hands of field infantry units), and the Krag-Jørgensen was selected instead for general issue.

Note the very small bayonet, typical of recoil-operated rifles in which too heavy a bayonet will cause the rifle to malfunction by increasing the weight of the reciprocating barrel assembly (the M1941 Johnson rifle was also recoil operated and used a similar style bayonet). As testing progressed, stacking swivels were added to the guns.

After losing out in the 1888 trials, Madsen and Rasmussen continued to refine their rifle. They reduced the overall length and weight, and replaced the feeding clip with a more modern enclosed magazine (although it was still gravity fed, without a spring or follower). The mechanism was refined for more reliable functioning, including changing it to more positively control the position of cartridges as they were fed. The Martini-like rear charging lever was replaced with a more modern rotary handle on the right side of the receiver. Still, the basic mechanism remained the same.

This 1896 Madsen-Rasmussen rifle was again considered by the Danish Military, and deemed reliable enough to limited use. A total of 60 rifles were purchased and issued by the Danish Navy for use in defending coastal fortifications. They were never used in anger, but remained in the Danish inventory until 1932.

With the success of the 1896 model’s sale to the Danish Navy, it was time to expand sales internationally. A company was formed in 1898, which would soon become known as the Danish Recoil Rifle Syndicate, and Madsen and Rasmussen sold their patent rights to it in exchange for royalties on future production. By 1899 the company manager was Lieutenant Jens Schouboe, and it is his name found on the subsequent Madsen LMG patents. For this reason, the Madsen is sometimes referred to as the Schouboe rifle.

In 1903, the US military tested one of the 1896 model rifles (which they identified as a Schouboe) chambered for the new US .30-03 cartridge. This appears to have proved too powerful for the rifle as it was built at the time, although further tests were conducted on the gun in 1905, 1906, 1909, and 1911. The final 1911 report on the rifle listed a number of faults. The arm lacked strenght and durability the report concluded: “It is inferior to our service rifle in accuracy, serviceability, and in rapidity, the competition had become very much keener and each invention showed the results of accumulated experience.”

I am looking for the full text of any of the testing reports, but have not yet found them. It appears that the US testing board saw better things being developed (they were quite fond of the Bang design, which was in its first tests in 1911) and lost interest in trying to perfect the Madsen rifle.

The Madsen LMG is of particular interest to me because it is both a very mechanically unusual design and also a very early successful design. Madsen light machine guns were first used in combat in the Russo-Japanese War, saw use in both World Wars, and continued to be used by various forces (the Brazilian police being a notable example) until quite recently. Mechanically, the Madsen is a falling block type of action, which allows it to use a very short receiver (since there is no need for space for a bolt to travel forward and backward). Today I figured we would spend time pulling apart a live registered Madsen (a dealer sample, unfortunately) to examine its working parts.

We have looked at a couple different Madsen light machine guns previously, but until today I have not had the chance to do any shooting with a fully automatic example of one. So I am taking this 1924 Bulgarian contract example out to the range wth some ammo!

The Madsen is a really interesting gun for several reasons, both historically and mechanically. It was the first light machine gun actually put into real combat use, seeing service in the Russo-Japanese War. It would go on to be used in World War One, World War Two, and too many smaller conflicts to count, right through to staying in service with Brazilian police units into the 1990s if not 2000s. A service life that long would be impressive for any machine gun, but particularly so for such an early an unusual design.

Mechanically, the Madsen is best described as a short recoil falling block action. It uses a top-mounted magazine which is offset to the left, and which has no feed lips (they are machined into the receiver instead). Cartridges are pushed laterally into the action by a rotary block below the magazine, and then rammed into the chamber by a long swinging arm (definitely take a look at my previous video on the Madsen disassembly to see how this works in detail). The breechblock pivots at the rear and drops down to lock behind the cartridge when firing. It does fire from an open bolt, although the semiautomatic conversions available in th eUS are converted to closed-bolt operation.

Firing the Madsen, it is clear that one is working with an early design. The grip is not nearly as comfortable and intuitive as later guns, and the trigger pull is rather heavy. It remains a durable and effective weapon, however, with its unique eccentricities standing in for the polish that would come with later guns like the ZB-26.

Madsen machine gun with magazine.jpg
The Madsen was a light machine gun that Julius A. Rasmussen and Theodor Schoubue designed and proposed for adoption by Colonel Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen, the Danish Minister of War, and that the Danish Army adopted in 1902. It was the world’s first true light machine gun produced in quantity. Consequently, Madsen was able to sell it in 12 different calibres to over 34 different countries worldwide, where it saw extensive combat for over 100 years. The Madsen was produced by Compagnie Madsen A/S (later operating as Dansk Rekyl Riffel Syndikat A/S and then Dansk Industri Syndikat A/S).

Design details 

Operating cycle of the Madsen

The design dates to 1880s with the Danish Forsøgsrekylgevær (Self Loading rifle M.1888), meaning “trial recoil rifle”, being a precursor design. In 1883 Captain Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen (a Danish artillery officer), and Rustmester Rasmussen (a weapons technician at the Danish Arsenal), began working on a recoil-operated self-loading rifle; Madsen developed the idea and Rasmussen fabricated the actual weapons. The rifle used a non-removable stripper clip that used gravity to feed rounds to the action; when the gun was not in use one could fold the clip down to cover the opening. The rifle used the 8×58RD cartridge, first in black-powder and then in a much more powerful smokeless powder version. The design was not successful. An improved design in 1896 gave the rifle an enclosed, but still gravity-fed, magazine. This version saw some 50–60 rifles being produced, but they were only issued to the Danish navy for use by coastal fortifications troops.

Investors formed a company (the Dansk Riffel Syndikat; DRS), in 1898 to commercialise the rifle, and bought the patent rights from Madsen and Rasmussen in exchange for royalties on future production. By this time Madsen had left the project to become Minister of Defence in Denmark. In 1899 Lieutenant Jens Schouboe became the manager for the DRS, and a number of subsequent patents bear his name. Consequently, the Madsen rifle is sometimes referred to as the Schouboe rifle. In 1901 he patented the design for the Madsen machine gun. The original Madsen machine guns used black-powder cartridges that quickly jammed the action. However, once the design was tried with 6.5mm smokeless powder rounds it worked well.

The Madsen has a rather sophisticated and unique operating cycle. The machine gun uses a mixed recoil-operated locking system with a hinged bolt that is patterned after the lever-action Peabody Martini breechblock. The recoil operation is part short and part long recoil. After firing a round to start the open bolt firing cycle, the initial recoil impulse drives the barrel, barrel extension, and bolt to the rear. A pin on the right side of the bolt moves backward in grooves in an operating cam plate mounted to the right side of the receiver. After 12.7 mm (0.5 in) of travel, the bolt is cammed upward, away from the breech (the “short” portion of the recoil system). The barrel and barrel extension continue to move rearward to a point slightly exceeding the combined overall length of the cartridge case and projectile (the long portion of the recoil system, responsible for the weapon’s low rate of fire).

After the breech is exposed, an odd lever-type extractor/ejector, mounted under the barrel, pivots to the rear, extracts the empty case, and ejects it through the bottom of the receiver. The bolt’s operating cam then forces the bolt face to pivot downward, aligning a cartridge feed groove in the left side of the bolt with the chamber. While the bolt and barrel are returning forward, a cartridge-rammer lever, mounted on the barrel extension, pivots forward, loading a fresh cartridge.

Operational use 

Up to and including World War I 

The Madsen was considered expensive to produce, but was known for its reliability. Thirty-four countries bought the gun, in a dozen different calibres, before and after World War I. They were used by all sides in the Mexican Revolution.

The Imperial Russian Army bought 1,250 Madsens for the cavalry and deployed them during the Russo-Japanese War. The Imperial Russian Air Service used Madsens to equip their Morane-Saulnier G and Morane-Saulnier L monoplanes, mounting the gun to fire over the propeller. The German Army deployed the Madsen in 7.92 mm calibre in 1914, arming infantry companies, mountain troops and later storm troopers.

Inter-war era 

Norwegian soldiers in 1928, one carrying a Madsen machine gun.

Among the fighting forces with the Madsen in their arsenals in the immediate aftermath of World War I were the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia, fighting the Bolsheviks in Siberia. The Madsen also saw service in China during the Warlord era.

Paraguay bought the Madsen in the 1920s and early 1930s as that country quietly girded for war with Bolivia over mutual claims to the Gran Chaco region, and it served in the Paraguayan army in the Chaco War (1932–1935). Almost 400 were on hand when the war began, and the Paraguayans bought more as the war progressed. Bolivia also fielded Madsens of the same calibre as Paraguay (7.65×53 Mauser) during the conflict.

The Argentine Army detachment that protected neutrality along the border with Paraguay and Bolivia during the Chaco War used the Madsen in combat operations at least once in 1933 in the course of an engagement on the southern bank of the Pilcomayo river against members of the Maká tribe commanded by deserters who had looted a farm in Argentine soil, killing some of its inhabitants. When Brazil acquired some 23 CV-35 tankettes from Italy in the late 1930s, it armed a majority of the vehicles with twin-mounted 7 mm Madsens. 

It was standard equipment (in 6.5 mm) with the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) during the inter-war period. The Imperial Japanese Army used some after capturing them during the Dutch East Indies Campaign.

World War II 

Madsen machine guns were still in use in April–June 1940 as the Norwegian Army‘s standard light machine gun in the Norwegian Campaign, 3,500 M/22s in 6.5×55 Krag being available for the defence of Norway. By 1940 each Norwegian infantry squad had one Madsen machine gun, the Norwegians having previously grouped their Madsens in separate machine gun squads. Each Norwegian infantry battalion had a standard complement of 36 Madsens, in addition to nine M/29 heavy machine guns. However, many Norwegian soldiers did not like the Madsen as it had a tendency to jam after only a few rounds in this calibre, leading to it gaining the nickname Jomfru Madsen (English: Virgin Madsen). The Germans used captured Madsens for second line units throughout the war, and Danish production continued for the German armed forces in the 8×54mm Jørgensen calibre until 1942. The Danish Army did not retire their last Madsens until 1955.


Ireland had a total of 24 Madsen machine guns, all in .303 calibre. They armed the Irish army’s Landsverk L60 light tanks, Leyland Armoured Cars, Landsverk L180 armoured cars, and Dodge Armoured Cars. In the 1950s .30 Browning machine guns replaced the Madsens still in Irish service.

Portuguese Colonial War 

The Portuguese Army used Madsen machine guns during the Portuguese Colonial War of the 1960s and 1970s. Madsens served as temporary armament for Auto-Metralhadora-Daimler 4 × 4 Mod.F/64 armoured cars, which were Daimler Dingos modified with the addition of a turret-like structure. 

Continued use in Brazil 

The Brazilian Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State used Madsens into the 21st Century. Although some of the Brazilian guns were captured from drug traffickers and pressed into service (mostly old weapons originating from the Argentine Army, as well as some stolen from museums), the majority of the Brazilian police Madsens came from the Brazilian Army; these guns were originally 7x57mm Spanish Mauser weapons re-chambered to fit 7.62 mm NATO. Official sources state that the Brazilian army retired the Madsen machine gun in 1996. It was reported that the last Madsen guns were finally retired in April 2008 as the police transitioned to more modern guns with faster rates of fire. 


Madsen machine gun.jpg

DISA is a company founded in Denmark (with the name Compagnie Madsen A/S) which since 1900 has produced metal casting products.

In 1936 it changed name from Dansk Rekyl Riffel Syndikat A/S to Dansk Industri Syndikat A/S and was a defence manufacturer most notable for producing the Madsen machine gun and Madsen M-50.


20 mm Madsen.jpg

Armamento - Museo de Armas de la Nación 31.JPG

The Madsen M-50 or M/50 is a submachine gun introduced in 1950. It was produced by the Danish company Dansk Industri Syndikat of Copenhagen, Denmark. The company was otherwise known as Madsen after its founder Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen.


This firearm was a modified variation of the M/46. The only major improvement was the simplified retracting handle. Introduction of the M/50 occurred on November 7, 1950 at Mosede, Denmark, until 1953. 

The M/50 is made of stamped sheet metal. It is an open bolt design which means it fires when the bolt is in the locked back open position with a fixed firing pin. The M/46-M/50 share a unique design: the firearm is stamped from 2 pieces of sheet metal which are shaped with an integral rear pistol grip and magazine housing. The two pieces fit together like a clam shell with the hinge at the rear of the pistol grip. The firearm is held together with a barrel locking nut which is threaded onto the fore section of the two receiver halves. The pistol grip is hollow, providing storage space for a magazine loading tool. 

The folding stock is made of tubular steel covered with leather and folds onto the right side of the firearm. The M/50 fires in full-auto only features a safety lever unusually placed in front of the forward magazine housing. To fire the M/50 the operator must grip the magazine housing and hold down the safety lever.[2]


Non State Users

Billedresultat for Riffelsyndikatet på Østerbro

DISAMATIC is an automatic production line used for fast manufacturing of sand molds for sand casting. This process is commonly used to mass manufacture of metal castings for the automotive and machine industry.


In 1957, Vagn Aage Jeppesen, professor at the Technical University of Denmark, claimed a patent for a device producing flaskless molds of sand mixtures with vertical parting lines for casting metal parts. In 1960, the Danish company Dansk Industri Syndikat A/S (DISA) acquired the patent and started working on its implementation.

In 1962, a half scale prototype of a sand molding machine with flaskless and vertically parted molds under the name of DISAMATIC was ready to be disclosed. During the International Foundry Trade Fair (GIFA) in 1962 in Düsseldorf, the scale model was demonstrated on DISA’s stand. This resulted in sales of two first DISAMATICs to European foundries. The first automatic DISAMATIC molding lines could produce up to 240 complete sand molds per hour.



DISAMATIC consists of a molding machine and mold transporting conveyor. A molding sand mixture, usually green sand or bentonite, is blown into a rectangular steel chamber using compressed air. The molding sand is then squeezed between two patterns, which are on the two ends of the chamber. After squeezing, one of the chamber plates swings open and the opposite plate pushes the finished mold onto a conveyor. Finally, any cores are automatically set into the mold cavity while the next mold is being prepared. The cycle repeats until a chain of finished molds butt up to each other on the conveyor.

The molds are then filled with molten metal and placed on a cooling conveyor, which moves at the same pace as the fabrication conveyor. At the end of the conveyor the solidified castings are separated from the molds and processed further, while the sand is directed to the sand preparation plant for reconditioning and reuse in the next cycles of the DISAMATIC molding process.


The DISAMATIC sand molding process has several advantages comparing to other molding processes. It does not use flasks, which avoids a need of their transporting, storing, and maintaining. It is fully automatic and requires only one monitoring operator, which reduces labor costs. Molding sand consumption can be minimized due to variable mold thickness that can be adjusted to the necessary minimum.

A modern DISAMATIC molding line can mold at the rate of 550 sand molds per hour (one complete mold in 6.5 seconds). Maximum mismatch of two halves of the castings does not exceed 0.1 mm (0.0039 in). Total uptime exceeds 98%. Possible mold sizes range from 400 x 500 to 850 x 1200 millimeters. A DISAMATIC line can be completed with automatic casting and sand cooling drums, robotized devices for extracting castings from the molds and automatic casting cleaning and abrasive blasting machines placed inline. In such automatic production lines there is no need of any human manual labor until the castings are completely finished and ready for dispatch.

Tøjhusmuseet (Royal Danish Armory Museum)

Danish War Museum (Royal Danish Armory Museum)

The collections of weapons are some of the most extensive in the world, with more than 100,000 in their collection. More than 8000 swords, pistols, armours, machine guns and other weapons and military attributes are displayed in the museum’s Great Gallery and the Canon Galley boasts more than 300 canons dating from the 16th century to present days.

Arsenal Museum Copenhagen backend.jpg

National Museum of Denmark – a collection of museums all over the country

List of museums in and around CopenhagenBilledresultat for Riffelsyndikatet på Østerbro


Denmark’s collaboration with Germany, during World War II

Kastellet and the Fortification Ring, Copenhagen, Denmark

Fortifications of Copenhagen, Denmark



Holmen 1943


Related image

Read about WWII here

Schouboe Automatic Pistol



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