The Browning M2 heavy machine gun is one of the longest serving firearms in US military service, and still going strong. Let’s take this one out to the range and find out why!
The Browning M2 heavy machine gun is one of the longest serving firearms in US military service, and still going strong. Let’s take this one out to the range and find out why!
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Was that a primer I saw ejected in the slow motion segment (about 9:11)?
nice vid. brings back memory’s, thank you
but. don’t EVER draw the charching handle without the back-plate installed.
it wil eventualy jump out with such a force it pierces your liver.
and remove the barrel carry handle before shooting 😉
That’s what it looked like to me too!
So, how much is each shell? Are you shooting dollar bills? Very nice video.
Stay Safe and stay sane.
Funny you say that, because I was just (before watching this video or reading the comments) reminiscing fondly about the days when .50BMG was the only ammo that cost a dollar a round.
Today that’s the STARTING price for common centerfire hunting ammunition. At Midway USA (a retailer respected for not jacking up its prices in response to the current shortage), .270 lists for $1-$3.15 a round. .50BMG is $3.50-$7.20!
I am not American, can you people here voice your opinion on reasons for the current ammo prices (in the US).
My current impression (from maybe 10 minutes of searching) is that ammo is produced in high numbers despite the epidemic, at least by American manufacturers (I am not sure about imports of Wolf, Prvi and the like, but surely they weren’t responsible for that large segment of a market?). But demand is very high, both in numbers (how many people want to purchase) and in desirability (Joe Shmoe may want to purchase only a hundred or two hundred rounds like he did last year, but is willing to pay significantly higher today), so everyone from producers to resellers know they can make higher profit and so raise the prices.
Leaving reasons for that rise in demand aside am I mostly correct in my perception of the market effects, or I am missing something?
I would say this breakdown of 4 reasons probably sums it up:
50% – People are hoarding common ammunition calibers – 5.56/.223, 7.62×39 & all handgun calibers. Factories have taken production lines away from lower demand rounds in favor of high demand ones. The fact that shotgun loading machines can’t be set up for 9mm means shotgun ammo is still plentiful, while .270, 7mm Mag, .243 etc are less/not available.
25% – Scalpers are scooping up this ammo to sell at gun shows for ridiculous prices. I still see 500 round boxes of .22’s on tables for $75+ left over from the last ammo shortage. You see these people in front of sporting good stores at 6:00 AM to get ammo as soon as it comes off the truck.
15% – New gun owners. There have been millions of new, first-time gun owners this year, and while they’re probably not regular shooters, they need ammo to test their gun & have some for “just in case”.
10% – Law enforcement agencies are upping their contracts and using and/or stockpiling more ammo.
This is a rough generalization, but from people I’ve talked to – active competitors, casual gun owners, first timers, people in the gun industry, cops, etc., this seems to be what I’m hearing.
When my dad was at Infantry ROTC Camp at Camp Bullis TX in 1941, his platoon was told that each 50 cal round cost a dollar. This at a time when “Another day, another dollar” reflected a private’s pay of #30.00 a month
Yep, this thing conveys sense of authority. I like sound of ejected empties, it reminds me of Thin Red Line. Thanks Ian.
Guy must have Alzheimer’s if he forgot about the M2
You guys made me do it. I went out and dug up the references, and the cavalier manner in which they show how to adjust the timing is emphatically NOT in accordance with the manual, or sane and safe operation of this gun.
NEVER, EVER DRAW THE BOLT TO THE REAR WITHOUT THE BACKPLATE IN PLACE.
You may do it once, twice, or a dozen times, but you will eventually wind up with that spring and guide rod shooting out the back of the receiver and penetrating what’s behind it. One of my soldiers in Iraq pulled that trick, and literally broke the damn plate he was wearing. Had he not been wearing it, then he would have had that thing go through his abdomen.
That backplate only comes off if the bolt is forward, and there’s no tension on that recoil spring. Period. Do anything else, and you will eventually pay for it.
“(…)adjust the timing(…)”
Hmm… now I am wondering why developing version which do not require timing adjusting ritual (M2A1) had take over half-century and that is now prone to improperly installation of barrel, which also has potential for wounding unlucky soldier
There have been multiple versions of a fixed-headspace M2, dating back to the 1960s and even earlier. FN had one, Manroy in the UK had one, SACO-Maremont had one, and none of them got the slightest bit of attention from the authorities in the US Army. Hell, I even made a submission to the Army Suggestion Program about the issue, and the reply I got was something to the effect that the M2 was a “legacy system”, and that no further developmental money would be expended on it, as it was scheduled to be replaced.
As usual, said replacement never happened.
I’m not fully familiar with the process by which they made the M2A1 type-standardized, but my cynical nature and experience with the procurement system tells me that they rejected all the existing variations on a theme of conversion kit, developed their own proprietary version, and there are reasons we’re now seeing the system having issues like the ones in the notice you link to. The powers-that-be in the Army are like that… Natick labs once came out to my unit at Fort Lewis, soliciting ideas. One of our medics had rigged up a drinking bladder out of a wine-box bladder and some of the IV stuff he was issued, which he submitted. The Natick geniuses rejected it on the spot, said it was entirely unnecessary and unworkable. This was about five-six years before I saw my first commercial CamelBak product on the market for bicyclists…
Not too long after, Natick was having to pay royalty fees to CamelBak for use of their idea, in order to include drinking bladders with the MOLLE system.
Most of procurement in the US military is crooked as hell; you really do not want to follow the details of how they screwed over an awful lot of innovators in the nylon tactical gear market. There were things like Army officers taking Gregory backpacks off to Eagle and saying “Hey, we want this, but in OD green…”, and then the Ranger Regiment taking the Tactical Tailor MAV concept and shopping it out to various other manufacturers, one of whom contacted Logan Coffey to let him know that they were shopping his gear around to copy, without even bothering to remove the Tactical Tailor labels.
You do business with the US government at your peril; they’re crooks and thieves, with no regard whatsoever for what you might have spent developing your idea. Only rarely do the inventors get credit, let alone paid.
Maybe we should privatize the entire procurement system just to keep the bureaucrats out of it. You want something? Show that it works well against the competition. Lobbyists with fat wallets and lawyers not welcome.
You’d still have corruption. The idea that you can outwit the corrupt by creating a new system, or changing the old one is a grand fallacy. It has never, ever worked. You don’t fix corruption except by eliminating the corrupt, and in a gratuitously visible manner, so as to discourage others from that path.
Any “solution” that leaves the corrupt alive and able to serve as an example of successfully profiting from public office is not a solution. Doesn’t matter what “system” you put in place, that kind of sub-human profiteer/politician will always find a way to subvert it. If, however, they wind up impaled somewhere along the Mall, preferably with the bark still on as a means of slowing things down, then they will serve as the best example possible–A bad one.
I can’t express my disgust at these creatures masquerading as human beings enough. They sent good men off to die with shoddy weapons and equipment, and they stole the fruit of other, better men’s labors in order to get ahead in their little bureaucratic games. It’s not all of them, by any means, but enough of them infest the procurement system so as to make it essentially dysfunctional–There is no reason that they couldn’t have fielded a fixed-headspace quick-change barrel system for the M2HB as far back as the late 1950s, when I believe FN first offered theirs up. The fact that it took until the 2000s before they even considered the idea seriously? Criminal.
Same group of self-satisfied dumbasses are the ones that failed to either fix or replace the M60 until the line units did an end-run around them and glommed onto the M240 as a solution, one that never should have been due to its weight and general unwieldly nature. There’s no reason at all that we couldn’t have developed our own version of the PK, the SS-77, or the Negev. And, if the general incompetents running small arms procurement hadn’t been asleep at the switch, they’d have done proper testing and fielding of the M240, which would have revealed its manifest deficiencies in the dismount role–Which were well known to every other user of that system around the world.
Doesn’t surprise me a bit that the M2A1 has issues, given the crew of general incompetents that were behind procuring it.
“(…)we should privatize the entire procurement system just to keep the bureaucrats out of it(…)”
According to https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken
there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.
@Kirk: That must be this american exceptionalism at work. Or rather ignorance of the world in general. FN MAG has been in use by what? 50 countries? 60? when it was a adopted as a stopgap, because M(forgot the number) new fancy .30 coaxial machine guns were so obviously bad, that they had to do something and not have M60 tanks w/o machine guns. Then the US Army had many in arsenals stacked and the USMC saw them, called FN for ground mount kits and snagged them from the ARmy in good old USMc tradition of raiding US Army supplies. Hence the M240 G. Only then US Army officers noticed, that there are better machine guns than the M60 and bought their own M240B. And as you say, they added their own stuff like that barrel shroud, because Army infantrymen are too dumb to not burn their paws on a hot barrel I guess. And of course reused that horrible tripod, that was already outdated in concept in WW1. And never bothered to ask the British Army, the Canadians, Belgians, the Dutch, the Bruneisians, the Kangaroos or Kiwis, the Swedes (I think the first cutomers actually)… the list of users is long. Very long. But no, as with any other procurement they are in their own little ivory tower into which rarely reality breaks in. If the Us Army has good guns it is rather by happenstance and not planning me thinks. Sure every other military procurement in the world aslo FUBARs from time to time, but the US Army is really the master of it. Well, it would be up to POPTUS and US Congress to put rules and checks & balances in place to control the corruption. But they obviously do not.
and any other .gov programme is probably just as badly managed, but with less budget than the Pentagon.
Wish I could argue with you, but other than quibbling details, I can’t. American small arms procurement is like Russian history: You can sum the whole thing up in one sentence fragment–“And, then it got worse…”.
Wish that weren’t so, but there you are. And, the worst thing about it is that it’s not really even the venal sort of corruption, wherein people are enriching themselves with little pecuniary fiddles; it’s mostly due to careerism, insularity, and a self-satisfied “I’m the expert, and there’s nothing else to know…” mentality.
Give you a couple of examples… One, you’re kinda-sorta correct on how we got to the M240B, but a couple of details are off. What actually went down was that the Army Ranger Regiment and the Marines were looking for new machine guns, mostly because they were tired of the BS their armorers were having to go through to keep the existing M60 fleets up and running. I knew a couple of the civilian armorers over at 2/75 Ranger Battalion there at Fort Lewis, and you’d be horrified at the lengths they had to go through to keep their guns up and running. This was at a time when I, as a line unit arms room overwatch guy (nothing official; I just kept my hand in because I like to be able to rely on my weapons…) had difficulty in keeping more than three or four guns out of the nine normally issued a company-size element up and serviceable at any one time. The root of the problem was lack of money to buy parts, and the incredibly insane Small Arms Repair Parts policies put in place during the Clinton administration. You were literally not allowed to have repair parts on hand in the arms rooms, and with the M60’s appetite for broken/lost parts…? LOL. If they’d have kept the readiness reporting policies in place from the first years I was in the Army, I doubt that any units anywhere in the Army would have ever managed to attain full combat readiness ratings, because “M60”. It was that bad–If you wanted to run a qualification range, you were lucky to be able to muster 2-3 guns per company. The rest would be down due to “broke”, missing parts, or some other idiotic issue like being unable to get them gauged for their annual headspace checks on the barrels. Or, some idiot would have lost the barrel tags linking the barrels to a specific receiver/bolt combination. With the M60, it was always something…
In any event, the Rangers and the Marines were tired of the BS, and they wanted something else. Inquiries with the folks at Big Army procurement, who ran the whole cluster-fark of a program, resulted in “What, replace the M60? Nobody wants that…”. Which was more-or-less correct; nobody in “Big Army” thought the machine gun was an issue, and hadn’t earmarked any funding for a replacement program. Nor had they even discussed it, despite the fact that the M60 was pretty much due for a total fleet replacement by this point…
This was also the era of the great “Peace Dividend”, when they were downsizing. Marines and Rangers both were kinda bothered by the whole “lack of interest” thing going on with the M60 upgrade/replacement thing, so they fell back on the usual “Well, what else can we do…?” thing, and someone in the Marines realized that “Hey, they’re downsizing all these armored divisions, and there are all those war stock M240C guns… Why don’t we buy that cool ground-mount kit that FN was trying to sell us awhile back for ours, and…”. Bang. That’s what happened. The Rangers and Marines went to FN, got the kits, and started testing. I believe the first guns came out of the M1 Abrams that the Marines had declared excess to needs, and which were returned to DOD stocks stripped of every part but the hulls, ‘cos that’s how they roll. Or, so the rumor went, later…
In any event, I knew a couple of the Rangers who were involved in the testing, and was ecstatic every time I talked to them about the issue, mostly because that meant I would no longer have to fight the Ranger Bat armorers for parts and precedence over at Third Shop, where they had priority over everyone else on post. At that time, because the Rangers were SOCOM, they were the 800lb gorilla in terms of priority. I even had some of my guns that were turned in for maintenance repair stripped down to bare receivers over there while they were in repair so that the Third Shop guys could get Ranger guns up and running for some operation or exercise…
In any event, all that to get here: The officers who were overseeing this whole ugly process of end-running the procurement process were astonishingly ignorant, in terms of the whole thing. The two guys with commissions that I got to talk to about this were entirely unaware that the M240 was in use outside the US, or that the damn thing was actually a stock MAG-58. I don’t know what they thought the gun was, or where it came from, but they literally did not know that the MAG-58 and the M240 were the same damn gun, or that there was extensive historical usage outside the US that they should have looked at before settling on it as a solution. As we all know, everybody from the Israelis to the South Africans who’ve actually used the guns in the LMG light-infantry mode has come to regret that decision, and gone on to something else–Thus, the SS-77 and the Negev.
I don’t know about the Marines, for sure, but the Army officers from the Ranger Bat that I talked to were stone ignorant of these facts, that history, and were entirely uninterested in any of it. Stunningly so–I specifically asked the one that was a field-grade (Major) what they’d done to overcome the weight issues, and highlighted what the Israelis and South Africans thought of the guns via a Peter Kokalis article that I copied for him out of either Shotgun News or Soldier of Fortune. He was manifestly uninterested, and the comment he made was that the Israelis and South Africans must be wimps if they couldn’t handle carrying the M240…
Yeah. So, while I love the M240, I think it was a travesty and a crime that the gun got procured as the standard ground-mount MG the way it did, and I consider most of the people involved to be functional idiots. Anyone with a brain and an ability to read should have been able to predict the issues which arose in Afghanistan with regards to light infantry operations with the M240, but not US Army officers or, apparently, the Marines. Not sure what went on with them, other than the traditional need they have to childishly “one-up” the Army by robbing it blind, but, yeah… There you go: US MG programs, which demonstrate a stunning lack of emphasis and/or intelligence.
Although, given the general lack of interest on the part of the actual “responsible authorities” in Big Army, I can’t really see any other satisfactory result; they were getting ready to do a huge buy of more-of-the-same, in terms of refreshing the fleet. The machine gun, you see, is just not seen as an important weapon in any real sense, and since the dollar value of the program ain’t that high, there’s no glory to be had in even paying attention to it.
Like I said, the whole thing is tragicomic, and can be summed up as “And, then it got worse…”. A pox on all of their houses. We’d actually do a lot better by just outsourcing small arms procurement to a random selection of retired SF weapons sergeants. At least, then, the guns would be interesting… God only knows what we’d wind up with, however.
What is that?
An excellent machine gun.
Very accurate, reliable and durable.
And battering rams, capable of accidentally doing wrong even what can only be done on purpose, have always been and will be.
Nine out of ten normal people are idiots.
For example, manually insert the first cartridge directly into the barrel.
And then detonate it with the second cartridge fed from the belt.
We cannot isolate all the assholes, since there will not be enough remaining for all positions.
Instead, management schemes similar to those of the army are being developed. In which everyone can be in any position if he has passed the appropriate qualifications.
Or, there are simply no other candidates left…
It works in combat.
But in all other cases, this only leads to the occupation of most positions by incompetent personnel. At the same time, leaving behind those who have the necessary skills but do not have the necessary mark in the personal file.
From here comes the attitude to all people like crap. A consumable that can be replaced with the same shit at any time.
And we have shit…
Watching that muzzle jump around, you can see why tripod-mounted .50s are usually piled around with sandbags.
The T&E mechanism is way more critical to that; it would be my contention that a “free gun” M2HB is essentially good only for scaring the crap out of people within maybe a few hundred meters. Anything past that, you’re only gonna hit ’em by accident or sheer volume of fire.
The thing about most of Ian’s MG videos is this: Once you’re outside the LMG-on-a-bipod format, you really have to evaluate the damn things as a system, including the tripod and all the ancillary bits issued to the gun team, to include the leadership of it. No observation gear with a proper reticle pattern with which to correct the T&E settings? You have a really crappy system going, there, bub.
Good gun crew, properly accessorized with all the correct toys, is exponentially more effective than any six of the basic guns without trained and equipped crews–Especially if you have them all firing off the bipods, with GPMGs.
Should also add that shooting any MG off a stabilized tripod with the T&E is possibly one of the most boring activities possible. You literally just have to “dial it in”, and then watch while physics takes its course.
Once upon a time, I was the company armorer for a company that I’d made sure had an operational M2HB. It was the only one in the battalion; it was the end of fiscal year, and ohbytheway, the higher echelon to which were were attached had a superabundance of .50 caliber ammo on its books for that year, which hadn’t been fired, and which had to be expended before the end of fiscal year. We wound up being the only company with a gun that was up, and since I was the armorer and the only guy who knew how to really make the damn thing work (all out of the manuals, ‘cos there weren’t anyone who knew any more than I did, which was nothing…), well… Yeah. It was me, our M2HB, and most of a deuce-and-a-half full of ammo crates. And, anyone else I could rope into helping me, and you’d be astonished at how few there were.
You’d also be amazed at how boring such an exercise can become, after the first few thousand rounds. I eventually amused myself by picking out range hulks and shooting parts off of them about about 500-800m. If you’ve ever been an employee of a candy store or an ice-cream joint where they offer the employees “all they can eat” as a supposed perk, you’ll understand why I lost my appetite for MG fire that day. Took most of a full workday to expend all that crap, get back to the barracks, return all the borrowed barrels, and then clean the gun. Which was, I might add, entirely unfazed by the firing of a years worth of ammo for a brigade-size element in one day. Once you got all the lube off, and washed it down, it was as though it hadn’t gone to the range at all. Those old M2HB guns were rugged, and still are–I don’t know what the lifespan on a receiver is, but it has to be rated in the hundreds of thousands of rounds, at least.
When I was in short employment by one well known plant stateside, I befriended technician who specialised in M2HB rebuilding. I saw him doing his routines as he did, never complaining (I believe he was ex-armorer).
He’d replace some smaller parts such as feed pawl, but I never heard a mention or saw a visual testimony of defect on receiver. And those guns had lots of mileage at them.
More than once a WWII .50 has been cleaned up and run just fine after 50+ years buried in the shredded, twisted wreckage of a formerly big crashed airplane. So tough.
“…when I believe FN first offered theirs up.” (Kirk)
Yes they did, as a commercial venture. The idea came from an U.S.Army technician who became frustrated with non-responding procurement officials in his own country. He went the proven way, much like J.M.B. If he made a couple of bucks on side, good for him.
Since I did not see this mentioned yet – the Japanese Imperial Army Airforce used as a standard machinegun on their planes model Ho-103, which was inspired by BMG (basically a copy with different ammo)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ho-103_machine_gun
Its further development led to 20mm autocannon Ho-5
Also Italian Breda-SAFAT was of the same genre
Additional information on Ho-5
On paper it may sound like a smart design. I have seen in past interviews with several surviving Japanese pilots, but they were not happy with ballistics of that weapon. Its ammo had significant drop after first 300-400m.
They preferred 12.7mm machineguns instead, much like their American counterparts.
“(…)Japanese Imperial Army Airforce used as a standard machinegun on their planes model Ho-103(…)”
Not only they used design derived from Browning .50 machine gun during WW2. Flygvapnet used Akan m/39 (chambered for 13,2 mm cartridge), in 1930s Fabrique Nationale offered both aircraft and anti-aircraft (water-cooled) versions http://airwar.ru/weapon/guns/fn30.html and found some users – France planned to use them in theirs Curtiss P-36 but proved unable to do so until Fall Gelb unfolded. Romania do managed to actual mount them to theirs aeroplanes. Finland did created copies, which were supposed to be used as armament of their Humu aeroplanes
these aeroplanes proved disappointing in reality and main platform for these guns become Myrsky. They became well-worn during wartime usage and most were disposed of after war with machine gun salvaged and put into AA use in multiple mounts.
.50 inch Browning was also used as basis for Soviet 12,7-mm aviation machine gun ТКБ-138 (competed and lost against Berezin design, so I suppose it was chambered for 12,7×108 mm cartridge) and its upscalement 23-mm aviation autocannon СГ-23, see 1st photo from top:
it proved inferior reliability-wise to its competitors, namely МП-6 and ВЯ, latest would finally win.
Note that Italians are used domestically developed Scotti machine gun:
Why they did so? They did not like Breda-SAFAT?
I’m surprised Ian didn’t shoot it “Rambo style” (offhand). 🙂
It should be illegal to have that much fun shooting this gun without all of us having the change to do so also
I don’t suppose you could speak as to how the rate of fire was increased on the M3? I believe it increased to 1200 odd rounds per minute. A Big jump.
BTW Love you work
Here is my understanding of it: The WWII version of the M3 achieved its higher rate of fire via electrically boosted feed systems, and some minor tweaking to the buffer.
Modern M3s do not need that boosted feeding system, and accomplish their higher rate of fire via a completely different buffer system.
Only ever seen the M3 in the Avenger ADA system, and did not get to do much more than look at them. Never worked on one, never took one apart, never fired it–Everything I know came from hearsay talking to the Avenger crewfolk in passing. And, a little bit of research.
As far as I know, the WWII M3 is a different gun than the modern ones. I could be wrong.