Lahti - Saloranta L/S-26 light machine gun (Finland)


Caliber  7.62x54R
Weight 9.3 kg
Length 1180 mm
Barrel length 500 mm
Feed  Box magazine, 20 rounds
Rate of fire 450 – 550 rounds per minute


In a year of 1924 a regimental armourer, Aimo Lahti, who previously had submitted a prototype submachine gun for Finnish Army consideration, was assigned to the weapons department of the Finnish Ministry of Defence with the task of developing a light machine gun for the army. At about the same time, a special commission started a series of trials of foreign light machine gun designs, although the general preference was to adopt a domestic design. Lahti, who teamed with Lieutenant Arvo Saloranta for this development, submitted the first prototype of a light machine gun in July 1925. It was tested alongside foreign designs such as the Swiss Furrer Lmg 25, American Browning BAR M1918, British Vickers-Berthier and French Hotchkiss. After a year of trials the domestic design was considered to be the best overall, and subsequently adopted as the “Pikakivääri m/26”, although it is most often referred to as the L/S-26, after its inventors Lahti and Saloranta. Production of the new machine gun commenced in 1930 at the newly built government arms factory Valtion Kivääritehdas or VKT. Production of the L/S-26 machine guns was relatively slow, mostly for domestic market. The only one significant export order, that came in mid-1930s from China for 30,000 guns in 7.92 Mauser caliber, was fullfilled only partially (about 1,200 guns produced and shipped to China) due to the diplomatic pressure from Japan.

In 1939 the Soviet Leader Josef Stalin, seeking to move the state borders further from Leningrad, started a war against Finland, generally known as the “Winter War”. The war, which was ultimately successful for the Soviet Union (the goal of moving the borders was achieved), turned out to be a failure in terms of tactics. The losses of the Red Army were heavy, despite the much smaller size of the Finnish Army. This can be attributed in part to the poor tactics of Red Army commanders and in part to fierce resistance from the people of Finland. As a result of this war, Finnish army stocks were significantly upgraded with captured Soviet weaponry, including Maxim and Degtyarov machine guns. Also, western countries provided military aid to Finland, supplying it with a variety of small arms, but only a few machine guns were provided. Seeking to recover the lost territories, in 1941 Finland joined Germany in the war against Soviet Union; in Finland this war is generally known as the “Continuation war”. By 1942 there were many ex-Soviet DP-27 light machine guns in service with the Finnish army, so it was decided to stop the slow and expensive production of L/S-26 guns, and instead to start the manufacture of spares and accessories for Degtyarov guns.

The Lahti-Saloranta L/S-26 light machine gun is a short-recoil operated, air-cooled, magazine fed weapon which fires from an open bolt. The locking system uses a vertically-tilting locking lever which is located in the barrel extension above the bolt. Its movement is controlled by the cams machined in the top of the receiver. The system is somewhat unusual as it fires when the barrel and bolt group are already moving forward; this system, borrowed from the Swiss Furrer Lmg 25, significantly reduces the peak recoil blow, because the recoil first has to overcome the significant inertia of the moving barrel / bolt group. This system, also known as “differential recoil”, requires a separate barrel catch which holds the barrel back in the recoiled position. This catch is released only when the bolt is in its forward position after loading the fresh cartridge. The release of the barrel catch permits the entire barrel / barrel extension / bolt group to move forward. During this final movement, a locking lever locks the bolt to the barrel extension, and then the firing pin is released by another lever to discharge the loaded round. The barrel is removable, although it is removed along with the massive barrel extension and bolt. To do so, the operator has to unlock and fold down the rear part of the receiver, which contains the trigger unit and buttstock. The trigger unit is of rather complicated design; until the start of the Winter War in 1940, its disassembly was permitted only by trained armourers; ordinary gunners were not allowed to disassemble this unit. Other than the trigger, there is a separate safety lever at the front of the trigger guard, and a fire selector lever, located on the bottom of receiver between trigger guard and magazine. Feed is from magazines only. Original L/S-26 guns use 20-round double stack magazines with a single feed, inserted into aperture in receiver from below. Standard furniture included wooden buttstock and pistol grip; a folding bipod was attached to the perforated barrel jacket.

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