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Vickers Gas Operated
Vickers K cockpit.jpg
Vickers K machine gun on a Fairey Battle bomber.
Type Machine gun
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
Used by  British Empire
Wars World War II
Production history
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs
Weight 29.5 lb (13.4 kg)
Length 37 in (0.93 m)

Cartridge .303 British
Calibre 0.303 in (7.7 mm)
Action gas
Rate of fire 950-1,200 round/min
Muzzle velocity 2,500 ft/s (762 m/s)
Feed system drum 60/100 rounds
Sights Iron

The Vickers K gun, known as the Vickers Gas Operated (VGO) in British service, was a rapid-firing machine gun developed and manufactured for use in aircraft by Vickers-Armstrongs. The high rate of fire was needed for the short window of opportunity when the gunner would be able to fire at an attacking aircraft.



The Vickers K was a development of the Vickers-Berthier (VB) light machine gun, adopted in 1932 by the Indian Army.[1] The VB, like the Bren gun, used a tilting locking breechblock. However, unlike the Bren, the VB locked its breech only at the last moment of forward travel, and this fact enabled the development of the Vickers K or VGO (Vickers Gas Operated).[2] With lighter moving parts and the VB locking design, the Vickers K had an adjustable rate of fire between 950 and 1,200 rounds per minute.[3] The weapon was adopted for British service as the Vickers Gas Operated (VGO). When the Browning Model 1919 machine gun was selected as the standard machine-gun armament for British aircraft, the VGO became redundant.

Combat use

The Vickers K was fitted to a number of two- and three-seater aircraft in British service such as the Fairey Swordfish, Fairey Battle and Handley Page Hampden. It was also used in gun turrets, such as the dorsal turret in the Bristol Blenheim, the nose turret in the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and the rear turret of the Fairey Battle (see photo at top).

SAS returning from a 1943 patrol in North Africa with their twin-mounted Vickers K machine guns.

As supplies of air-cooled .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns increased the Vickers VGO was phased out of use. These machine guns were then reallocated from RAF stocks to units of the British and Commonwealth armies.

The Long Range Desert Group was supplied with large numbers of the Vickers VGO for use on its vehicles. They were used in single or custom built twin mountings. The Special Air Service adopted it for their hit and run tactics, mounting it in pairs on their jeeps. Over the years, it was assumed by some that the latter services took the phased-out VGO because they could obtain no other suitable machine guns. But with its high rate of fire and low-friction locking design (which proved resistant to jams from sand contamination), the LRDG and SAS found the VGO markedly superior to either the .303 in (7.7 mm) water-cooled Vickers or the Bren gun.[4][5] In a similar manner, the Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron of the Reconnaissance Corps mounted the VGO on jeeps when they were attached to the 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market-Garden in September 1944. Royal Marine and Army Commandos used the VGO in an infantry support role/squad automatic weapon briefly around D-Day. In military terminology, it was known as Gun, Machine, Vickers G.O. .303-inch.


  1. ^ Weeks, John, World War II Small Arms, New York: Galahad Books (1979), ISBN 0883654032, p. 88-89
  2. ^ Weeks, John, World War II Small Arms, New York:Galahad Books (1979), ISBN 0883654032, p. 88-89
  3. ^ Weeks, John, World War II Small Arms, New York:Galahad Books (1979), ISBN 0883654032, p. 88-89
  4. ^ Weeks, John, World War II Small Arms, New York:Galahad Books (1979), ISBN 0883654032, p. 88-89
  5. ^ Dunlap, Roy F., Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), pp. 142-144


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