Country of origin
12.7 x 99 mm (.50 BMG)
1 650 mm
Cyclic rate of fire
450 - 600 rpm
Practical rate of fire
80 - 100 rpm
Range of effective fire
1 830 m
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
M2 had no manual safeties. However recent versions of this heavy
machine gun are fitted with manual safety, located next to the
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
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
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
M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and as coaxial machine gun on
various armored vehicles.