M2 Machine Gun

The M2 machine gun, otherwise known as the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun, is an automatic, belt-fed, recoil-operated, air-cooled, crew-operated weapon. It has been used by United States armed forces in all the major conflicts since its production. A very flexible military weapon, it can be mounted on various vehicles and machinery. It can also be ground-mounted on a tripod.

A Brief History of the M2 Machine Gun

The M2 Machine Gun was developed by John Browning in 1919 and was originally named the M1919 Browning machine gun. It went through several improvements throughout the next decade and eventually became the water-cooled Browning .50 caliber machine gun that it most closely resembles today.

First produced as the M2 in 1933, this military weapon was out of production by the 1970s. However, a need for it again arose in the 1990s for use in the first Iraqi war. It is still being used in Afghanistan and the Iraqi conflict.

Features of the M2 Machine Gun

The M2 weighs 84 pounds; though it is routinely mounted upon a tripod, which adds another 44 pounds to the weight. The M2 has a 24-inch barrel, and the entire body of the machine gun is just over 61 inches long.

When mounted on a tripod, the M2 machine gun is effective up to a range of 2,000 meters. It has excellent long-range capabilities with a maximum range of 4.55 miles. This machine gun can fire 550 rounds per minute, though the sustained firing rate is more along the lines of 50 rounds per minute.

The M2 machine gun works on the single recoil system. It can be used as a single fire gun or as an automatic firing machine gun. Adding to its flexibility, it can also be fed ammunition from either the right side or the left side with only the repositioning of some component parts.

The ammunition used in the M2 machine gun is varied. For military operations, the most common ammunition is the M2 ball, which is used for personnel and lighter targets. Also frequently used is the M962 SLAP-T (Saboted Light Armor Penetrator with Tracer) against heavier armored targets.

The general cost of the M2 is about $14,000 and though originally produced by quite a few manufacturers, recent production of the machine gun has come from Saco Defense.

Uses of the M2 Machine Gun

The M2 machine gun is considered a medium infantry support military weapon. These types of machine guns are used mainly against personnel and light-armored vehicles, such as low and slow flying aircraft and small boats. As such, it has been a part of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

It can be mounted in the following ways:

  • on a ground tripod for use against either personnel or as an anti-aircraft military weapon. From this position, and using the bolt action single-fire option, it can be used as a sniper weapon for longer range targets
  • on aircraft. The Air Force mounted the M2 on the P-51 Mustang fighters and the B-17 Flying Fortress ‘s during WWII
  • on land vehicles, such as jeeps and tanks, again in use against personnel and low-flying aircraft
  • on patrol boats for use against small, lightly-armored boats.

Because of its size and lack of immediate portability, the M2 is not very effective in close combat situations.

The Browning M2 is also the most popular heavy machine gun used by NATO forces. This weapon, or slight variations of this weapon, is used by numerous nations as the primary or secondary weapon of various pieces of military equipment.