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Heavy machine gun


The M2 HMG is a remarkable weapon, that has seen service during countless wars

Caliber 12.7x99 mm (.50 BMG)
Weight (empty) 38 kg
Length 1 650 mm
Barrel length 1 140 mm
Muzzle velocity ~ 820 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 450-600 rpm
Practical rate of fire 80-100 rpm
Magazine capacity -
Sighting range ?
Range of effective fire 1 830 m


   The Browning heavy machine gun was designed towards the end of World War I. Development of a large-caliber machine gun in the USA was initiated at the direct request of General Pershing, the commander of US expeditionary corps in Europe. He requested a large-caliber machine gun, capable of destroying military aircraft and ground targets such as armored cars and tanks. The task of developing such a gun was passed to John Browning. The task of developing ammunition for this new weapon was passed to Winchester Arms company.

   This machine gun is similar to John Browning's earlier M1919 machine gun, that was chambered for a standard rifle cartridge. In around 1917 Browning started to redesign his weapon for a larger caliber. His new machine gun was chambered for much larger and much more powerful 12.7x99 mm (.50 caliber) cartridge, that was developed alongside this weapon by Wincherster. That's why sometimes this weapon is simply referred as Browning .50 caliber machine gun. After the John Browning's death in 1926, the design of this weapon was finalized by other designers.

   This machine gun entered service with the US armed forces in 1933 and was manufactured by Colt. Design of this weapon proved to be extremely successful. Since the 1930s it has been used extensively to the present day. This remarkable weapon has seen service during countless wars all over the world. Only during WWII nearly 2 million of these HMGs were produced. It has been in production longer than any other machine gun and its production still continues. Furthermore the M2 machine gun has been in use longer than any other small arm in the US armed forces inventory, except the M1911 pistol, that was also designed by John Browning. The M2 machine gun is currently manufactured by General Dynamics and US Ordnance companies. Since the 1930s this weapon is license-produced by FN Herstal of Belgium. Currently the M2 is used by about 100 countries all over the world. It is the primary heavy machine gun of NATO countries.

   The M2 is typically used as a vehicle weapon or helicopter armament. It can be also used from a tripod. This heavy machine gun is highly effective against infantry, unarmored or lightly armored vehicles, boats, light fortifications and helicopters. It is closer in power to a small cannon.

   This weapon is typically used with standard ball, tracer, armor-piercing, armor-piercing incendiary, or armor-piercing incendiary tracer rounds. There is also an M962 SLAP-T (Saboted Light Armor Penetrator) round, fitted with a tungsten penetrator.

   The M2 is fed from disintegrating belt. Spent cartridge cases are extracted down. It can be adapted to feed from the left or right side of the weapon by reinstalling some parts. This conversion takes two minutes. The charging handle can be also changed from right to left hand side.

   The M2 has slow and rapid firing modes. It can fire full-auto, as well as single shots. This weapon fires from a closed bolt.

   When used as a crew served weapon, the M2 is mounted on an M3 tripod. This tripod weights 20 kg. So the complete weight of the machine gun on tripod is 58 kg. When fired from the tripod this HMG has an effective range of 1 830 m. Maximum effective range is 2 000 m.

   The M2 comes with standard iron sights. However various types of telescopic and night sights can be installed using appropriate mountings.

   The original M2 had no manual safeties. However recent versions of this heavy machine gun are fitted with manual safety, located next to the trigger.

   Price of this machine gun is around $14 000.

   The basic M2 has many variants. This heavy machine gun was intentionally designed to operate in many configurations. The main infantry versions are outlined below.




   M2HB, a "Heavy Barrel" version. It is a basic infantry model, fitted with a thicker-wall barrel. It is also used on armored fighting vehicles and tanks. It is worth noting that the the first versions of the M2 was water cooled. The original air-cooled barrel was too light for sustained fire in ground applications. The M2HB entered service in the 1930s;

   M2A1 is a recently upgraded version. It features a quick-change barrel, new flash suppressor, and removable carrying handle. On the standard M2HB the barrel could not be replaced quickly, as the new barrel needed some adjustments. Otherwise the weapon may jam or fail to operate. On the M2A1 the barrel can be replaced in seconds. The M2A1 entered service with the US Army in 2010 and is produced by General Dynamics. In 2011 the US Army began upgrading M2HB machine guns to M2A1 standard. In 2012 it was announced that all 45 000 M2HBs in the US Army inventory will be upgraded to the M2A1 standard;

   M48 is a fixed turret-mounted version, used in armored vehicles. It is used on the M1, M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and as coaxial machine gun on various armored vehicles.


Video of the M2A1 heavy machine gun

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