Machine guns weren’t exactly new in WW1.
Machine guns, first known as Gatling guns, were first used in the American Civil War. These guns, invented in 1862, were the first fast firing guns but depended on the operator to make it fire quickly. In 1884 Hiram Maxim improved on the idea of the machine gun. Thinking he had created the new weapon of war, he took it to British leaders. However, they turned him down thinking machine guns did not belong in war. Maxim, not discouraged, went to German leaders. By the time the war had started Germany had produced 12,000 machine guns like Maxim’s. By the end of the war the would have 100,000 of maxims invention.
The other countries now rushed to produce machine guns to keep up with Germany. Before Maxim machine guns had to have the operator spin a crank, that rotated the barrel, causing it to fire. With Maxim’s gun, when you fired one round the recoil from that shot caused the next round to fire, and so on.
With this design machine guns could fire 400-600 rounds per minute. For the most part, machine guns were set on a fixed point in order to cover a route that attackers could take. Machine guns were very effective on the battlefield, but were very heavy, so people began putting them on vehicles. They put machine guns on tanks and battleships, but most importantly they were installed on planes. With planes getting more dangerous, machine guns began being used as anti-air weapons.
Machine guns were far more accurate and obviously a lot faster than rifles that were used previously, this made old war tactics extremely dangerous. The old tactic of running over No Mans Land to raid the other side’s trench became a suicide mission with machine guns around. Before the machine guns all soldiers had was a rifle that could for 6-15 round per minute. In some people’s opinion the machine gun meant as much to WWI as the Atomic Bomb meant to WWII.