Machine guns. Most machine guns of World War 1 were based on Hiram Maxim’s 1884 design. They had a sustained fire of 450–600 rounds per minute, allowing defenders to cut down attacking waves of enemy troops like a scythe cutting wheat. There was some speculation that the machine gun would completely replace the rifle. Contrary to popular belief, machine guns were not the most lethal weapon of the Great War. That dubious distinction goes to the artillery.