Hiram Maxim’s ‘Hun Stopper’ Was a Lethal Hose
The unwieldy weapon never got built
In late 1915 Sir Hiram Maxim, famed inventor of the machine gun, approached the British government with the offer of a “repeating gun firing buckshot for clearing out captured trenches.”
Memos from the U.K. Ministry of Munitions describe the gun as firing a cartridge containing eight buckshot and 200 birdshot at an estimated rate of one round per second. Like a hose.
The weapon became known at the “Hun Stopper.” It never entered service or, apparently, even got built.
History does not record exactly what the Hun Stopper looked like. It consisted of a steel tube “about ¾ inch diameter into which the cartridges fit tightly,” according to one memo. The gun featured a “trigger arrangement” near the muzzle.
Maxim apparently built two prototypes, one with a 50-inch barrel with a capacity of 38 shells and one with a 28-inch barrel holding probably 18 or 20 rounds.
Above and at top — diagrams of Maxim’s Hun Stopper. U.K. Ministry of Munitions records
Here’s how it must have worked. You pulled the trigger and all the shells detonated in order, emptying the barrel in just 30 seconds. This likely afforded the operator very little control over the weapon.
One memo explains that Maxim believed his weapon would be effective out to just 30 yards. The British government’s primary concern with the weapon, however, was how it might violate the Hague Convention of 1907, which placed limits on small projectiles.
In December 1915, Christopher Addison, then the minister of munitions, asked his advisor Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith if the weapon would infringe on the convention. Yes, Smith replied in February 1916. The Hun Stopper likely would be “illegal.”
Interestingly, Maxim noted that if the buckshot and birdshot were unacceptable, he could develop a substitute. But given the lack of control inherent in the design, it’s surprising the authorities gave the Hun Stopper serious consideration.
Maxim was undeterred. In April 1916, he received a patent for “An Improved Charge for Multi-Charge Guns.” The patent suggested that a version of the Hun Stopper might be “employed upon aircraft in operations against hostile aircraft.”
The patent describes the weapon’s projectiles as being “of the shrapnel or high-explosive type or a combination of both types.”