World War Two Weapons

Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun

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One of the most famous and longest-serving weapons of the U.S. Army, the .50 cal. (12.7mm) M2 (originally model No. M1923) was developed by John M. Browning at the end of World War I, and continues in use, essentially unchanged into the 21st Century.

After a series of early water-cooled, aircraft, and tank models were tested in the 1920s, an improved version was adopted in 1933 as the Browning M2 water-cooled machine gun. Subsequent models (.50 cal. M2 aircraft gun and M2 heavy barrel gun) using the same receiver, were adopted by the Army. During World War II, nearly two million M2 machine guns of all variations were produced. The M2 was manufactured until 1946, but toward the end of 1976, the U.S. Army took steps to begin new production and rebuild of the M2 to replace seriously depleted stocks. Many M2s had been demilitarized following World War II. Emergency supply of M2s to the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1973 Yom Kippur war was also a serious drain on supplies. The M2 machine gun was selected as the commander's weapon for use on the M1 series main battle tank. The continuing success of the M2 is a tribute to Browning's design genius.

The Browning M2 .50 cal. Machine Gun is an automatic, belt-fed, recoil operated, air-cooled, crew-operated machine gun. By repositioning some of the component parts, ammunition may be fed from either the left or right side. A disintegrating metallic link-belt is used to feed the ammunition into the weapon. This gun may be mounted on ground mounts and most vehicles as an anti-personnel and anti-aircraft weapon. The gun is capable of single-shot (ground M2), as well as automatic fire and was used to a very limited degree as a sniper weapon during the Vietnam war.

The M2 .50 cal. flexible version is used as a ground gun on the M3 tripod mount or various Naval mounts. The M2 .50 cal., M48 turret type, fixed type, and soft mount are installed on mounts of several different types of combat vehicles and ships. The weapon provides automatic weapon suppressive fire for offensive and defensive purposes. This weapon can be used effectively against personnel, light armored vehicles; low, slow flying aircraft; and small boats.

Information on this page courtesy of U.S. Army TACOM-Rock Island.

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