Maxim machine gun m/09-21 with a cartwheel mount
Anti-aircraft training in Finland had to be started with infantry Maxim machine guns, as there were no anti-aircraft cannons in the country. The mounts were simple makeshift setups from wooden poles to cartwheels.
Production of the first official mounts started at the beginning of the 1930s. The numbers, however, remained small, so, with the war looming, the Finnish military once again was forced to resort to various makeshift solutions.
The efficacy of machine guns was greatly improved when in 1932 the fabric cartridge belt was replaced by a metal one. This allowed the rate of fire to be increased to 900 rounds per minute per weapon.
In 1931, Aimo Lahti (1896–1970) designed a double anti-aircraft machine gun m/31, which was based on the Maxim. It was subsequently upgraded to version m/31-40. Unlike the liquid-cooled Maxim, the weapon developed by Aimo Lahti was air-cooled. The 7.62 ItKk/31-40 is exhibited in the Helsinki Hall.
Both the m/09-21 Maxim and the above-mentioned double anti-aircraft machine gun remained in the Defence Forces’ reserve equipment inventory until the early 1990s, when they were replaced by weapons purchased from Treuhandanstalt, the company responsible for sales of arms of the former East German armed forces, and assault rifles purchased from the Chinese company Norinco.
Many countries around the world still operate the Maxim machine guns to this day. In the 2020s, Maxims have been spotted in Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and most recently in the Ukraine serving both the Ukrainian and Russian armies and regional militias. Some might still be in use among the North Korean armed forces.
References: Palokangas Markku, Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918–1988 I-III, Suomen Asehistoriallisen Seuran julkaisuja Nro. 1, Helsinki & Vammala 1991; Palmu Pentti, Yön yli päivään – Suomen ilmatorjunnan vaiheita 1925–1990, Ilmatorjuntaupseeriyhdistys Ry, Helsinki 1989