Impressive machine guns in the history of the US military


Machine guns have changed the face of war. They industrialized the way wars were fought. They were among the most widely used weapons during WWI and WWII. With dozens of models and variations that the United States had made, it could be said that the United States was a fan. Here are some of the most impressive:

Browning M1917

Lieutenant Val Browning with a Browning .30 caliber machine gun.

Patented by John Moses Browning in the 1900s, his heavy machine gun (at that time) was used by the United States during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It was heavy enough for four people to take care of it. It could fire between 400 and 600 rounds per minute. You can also trust it because it has already been tested and it has fired 20,000 rounds without a miss. His ammunition box was initially made of wood until it was replaced by a non-reusable metal box during WWII. Most often it was mounted on vehicles such as a jeep. The first version had a water jacket around the barrel to keep it cool and maintain a high rate of fire. During WWII, the infantry tended to favor a wrapped gun as it was less of a beast to lug around but at a reduced rate of fire.

Browning automatic rifle

Sgt. Leonard Zajas, of 9106 Portland Ave., Detroit, Michigan, Ranger, cleans his Browning automatic rifle during the rest period after several days of heavy fighting in Germany. 8th Divn United States.

A popular rifle, Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), was designed to be worn by soldiers with a sling over the shoulder. This light machine gun fired rounds from 0.30 to 06 at nearly 2,700 feet per second. This capacity is sufficient to pierce a light tank during WWI. According to Britannica, “It can fire up to 650 rounds per minute, but can also fire single rounds or bursts of two or three to increase accuracy.” By the end of the war, there were around 52,000 BAR delivered. In 2015, a 94-year-old BAR was found by an American army, and guess what? It has always worked perfectly. In the infantry squads there was always a BAR man whose job was to extinguish fires and the BAR was actually ideal for the role. The impact of the shells was devastating for most covers and it was much more mobile than the German MG32 light machine gun.

M1 Thompson submachine gun

American M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, Fort Lewis Military Museum, Fort Lewis, Washington, USA. Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

Also known as Tommy Gun and Trench Broom, this pistol was designed for combat in the trenches during WWI. Tommy Gun was the first machine gun designed around a pistol caliber. Due to its high rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute, it was distributed more frequently to scouts, officers and non-commissioned officers and other soldiers tasked with carrying out raids. It was perfect for close-quarters street combat but was ineffective in dense jungle cover. It was also a beast to lug around. It weighed more than the M1 Garrand.

Minigun M134

7.62mm M134 miniguns on a US Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky, circa 1968. Fly-by-Owen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This six-barrel rotary machine gun could fire up to 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, depending on selection, and was used by several branches of the United States military. The weapon itself is not small as the “mini” suggests, but its NATO ammunition measures only 7.62 × 51mm. The M134 was typically mounted on combat helicopters or attack helicopters like the Bell AH-1 Cobra. What was unique about this gun was that it needed a source of electrical power.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 22, 2018) Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fire a .50 caliber machine gun during Exercise Joint Warrior 18-1 off the coast of the Scotland. Joint Warrior is a United Kingdom-led multinational exercise that is designed to exercise interoperability and cooperation in all applicable areas of warfare. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler / Released)

The Browning .50 caliber heavy machine gun.

Last, but not least, is the venerable Ma-Duce, the M2A. Developed by John Browning at the end of World War I, it was the machine gun to end all machine guns. And it was truly a wonder at the time.

Basically, it was a larger version of Browning’s .30 caliber machine gun with a cartridge based on a captured German anti-tank rifle that gave the cartridge a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second. Browning’s original design was quite limited in its use, so it was tested in an experimental role in the 1930s. After Browning’s death in 1926, a gun designer Colt looked at some of the issues limiting the weapon and reworked things a bit. This resulted in a unitary receiver design that could feed either from the left side or from the right side. It was very important in terms of mounting in planes, bombers or armored vehicles. This universal receiver also allowed up to eight different variations in guns and shrouds for different military applications. The Navy version of the pistol had a light barrel for mounting in airplanes. The army obtained a light water-cooled gun for fixed defensive positions and a heavy-barreled version for mounting on trucks, tanks and jeeps.

Over 3 million M2 have since been produced.

We tend to think of our army in terms of modern weaponry and this makes the Ma-Duce positively old, it has been in continuous service for almost 100 years now. The M2A1 now features a quick-change barrel that does not require any headroom or timing adjustment. This is the first major change to this weapon since the redesign in the 1930s. Recently an M2 receiver with a serial number of 389 was returned to the Aniston Army depot to be converted to the M2A1 type. It still appeared to be in near mint condition even though it dated from the 1930s. It still performed within specification. The military might be inclined to keep this one as a museum piece given its age rather than putting it back into service. Personally, I put it back in service to let the troops know how well the Ma-Duce was built.

Certainly, there are other machine guns not covered in this article, among the machine guns used in the US military, which is your favorite?

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