Also called the “Ma Duece” the M2 Browning is the longest-produced machine gun in modern history. It has seen over 90 yrs of service. Therefore, M2 Browning is considered the most destructive machine gun the world’s arms market has ever seen. “Ma Deuce” is still manufactured and used not just by Indian armed forces but about 90+ nation’s military around the world to this day.
The M2 is crew transportable thanks to a backplate with a spade, trigger, grips, and latch release. Furthermore, the gun comes with a flash suppressor and spare barrel assembly making it a portable machine gun compared to other heavy weapons. The Machine Gun is almost 61.42 inches in length and weighs 84 pounds alone and 128 pounds with its tripod. Thus a crew is required to lift the heavy machine gun and its parts.
M2 Browning has an effective firing range of 1800 meters and a maximum range of 6800 meters. The fired bullet has a muzzle velocity of 809m/s.
M2 can be turned into a single shot or automatic firing, providing for suppressive firepower for both offense and defense.
A disintegrating metal link belt is used to feed ammunition into the weapon. By reconfiguring some component parts, the ammunition belt can be fed from either the left or the right side of the gun.
The machine gun is recoil-operated, air-cooled with a bolt latch release. It also features a leaf-type rear sight. A flash suppressor can be added to reduce muzzle flash by 95%. Thus, making the gun less detectable in darkness.
M2 can be mounted on ground mounts and most combat vehicles as an anti-personnel and anti-aircraft gun. The M3 Tripod mount is used for installing the gun. The mount can be used to modify M2 into either a ground gun or naval anti-aircraft gun to be installed on the deck of ships. While the M63 anti-aircraft mount is used to install the gun on different combat vehicles. The mounting increases the capabilities in countermeasures against enemy personnel, light armoured vehicles, low and slow-flying aircraft, and small boats. Furthermore, increasing the coverage of the gun, to maneuver in every direction.
To trace the origin of the “Ma Deuce” we need to travel back a century, during World War. Machine guns heavily featured in World War 1. At the time, larger rounds were required to penetrate the armours introduced for both air and ground battlefields. One such example of heavily armored aircraft was introduced by Germans in World War 1. This was Junker J.I. The armor used by the aircraft made machine guns using conventional ammunition such as 30.06mm ineffective. So, the U.S army asked for a larger caliber rounds machine gun. The army asked the Ordnance Corps Of USA to develop a machine gun with at least a caliber of .50 and a muzzle velocity of about 2700ft/sec.
For this task, John Moses Browning partnered with Winchester Arms Company to create such a weapon. Now various other guns were examined in order to create the required weapon. The French made 11mm incendiary armor-piercing ammunition round was studied. French were using ammunition of this caliber as part of their aircraft armament, inasmuch it could be used more effectively against dirigibles and kite balloons than the tracer incendiary ammunitions of smaller caliber. But the initial tests failed in 1918 and were deemed too inefficient. This was because the bullet velocity was too low and controlling the prototype weapon was difficult.
The German Foundation
Then, some German made Mauser 1917 T-Geweher anti–tank rifles and ammunition (13mm) were seized. The first anti-tank rifle, T-Gewehr was a single shot rifle firing a huge 13.2x92mm TuF (Tank & Aircraft) round. It was designed to take on the heavy hitting British tanks like the Mark 1.
The rifle was fitted with a pistol grip and a forward bipod to support barrel which was just under a metre long. There was no recoil pad or method of reducing the rifles massive recoil and gunners often added padding to the shoulders of their uniforms. The muzzle velocity of the German rounds was 2700 ft/sec. It could also penetrate an armor 1 inch tick at a range of 250 mtrs. Therefore, the creation of the new .50 round was based on the German round.
Fast forward the new, M2 Browning was 1st completed and manufactured in 1921. After a number of tests, the M2 entered service in 1923 as the M1921. It was a scaled-up version of an older Browning design, the M1917 .30 cal water-cooled machine gun. Like its predecessor, early variants of the M2 were also water-cooled. Over the years the “Ma Deuce” has seen several versions, each one better than the last one. The current M2HB is manufactured in the U.S by General Dynamics Ohio ordnance and U.S ordnance. Here the guns are manufactured for both U.S and its allies via foreign military sales.
What Makes The Gun So Popular?
Stability and Versatility
The M2 Browning mounted on the M3 Tripod provides for a stable firing platform. Together with its selective slow rate of fire, traversing and elevating mechanism, the M2 can be used (to a limited extent) as a sniper weapon, by installing a telescopic scope/sight. This was demonstrated by the U.S armed forces in the Vietnam war and Korean War.
The use of various scopes like the starlight night vision scopes. With this M2 can limit enemy movement within 1000m of the perimeter of the firebase, both in broad daylight and at night. Therefore, making it easy to protect an area even at night.
Flexibility To Use Various Rounds
For the ammunition part, there are several different choices of ammunition that can be used with the current version of the M2 i.e M2HB and AN Aircraft guns. These are all .50 caliber rounds with different usage:
Caliber .50, Incendiary, M1
Used by M2 and M85 machine guns. For incendiary effect, especially against aircraft. Upon impact with a hardened or armored target, the incendiary composition bursts into flame and will ignite any flammable material. Incendiary composition: 34 grains (2.2 g) IM 11. The cartridge is identified by a blue bullet tip.
Caliber, .50,Tracer, M1
Used by M2 and M85 machine guns. The tracer is intended to permit visible observation of the bullet’s in-flight path or trajectory to the point of impact. Limited to continental US for training purposes only. Trace range: 1,969 yards (1,800 m)Tracer: R256. The cartridge is identified by a red bullet tip.
, Caliber .50, Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), M903
Used by M2HB machine gun. The SLAP is used in combat against current and future light armored targets and Armored Attack Helicopters (AAHs). The M903 offers the capability to defeat these targets at ranges two to three times that of currently available ammunition. Therefore, making the gun more deadmrmor Penetration; 500 meters: 1.34 in (34 mm), 1,200 meters: 0.91 in (23 mm). Projectile diameter: 0.30 inches (7.7 mm).
Moreover the cartridge consists of a heavy metal (tungsten) penetrator that is sabot-launched at a much higher velocity than standard rounds.
The cartridge is identified by an amber sabot (Ultem 1000).
Used by M2 and M85 machine guns. The cartridge is for use against light-armored or unarmored targets, concrete shelters, and similar bullet-resisting targets. Armor Penetration ; 500 meters: 0.75 in (19 mm), 1,200 meters: 0.39 in (10 mm). The cartridge is identified by a black bullet tip.
Armor Piercing Incendiary
Used by M2 and M85 machine guns, and the M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle. The cartridge combines the functions of the M2 armor-piercing bullet and the incendiary bullet and is used against flammable targets and light-armored or unarmored targets, concrete shelters, and similar bullet-resisting targets. Armor Penetration; 500 meters: 0.63 in (16 mm), 1,200 meters: 0.32 in (8 mm). Incendiary composition: 15 grains (0.97 g) IM 11. The cartridge is identified by an aluminum bullet tip.
Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer
This cartridge is used in place of the armor-piercing round against armored, flammable targets, with a tracer element for observation purposes. This cartridge is effectively a variant of the M8 armor-piercing incendiary with the added tracer element. This bullet has a red tip with a ring of aluminum paint.
In all .50 caliber ammo designated “armor piercing” are tried and tested thoroughly. These can completely perforate .875 inches and .750 inches of hardened steel armor plate at a distance of 91 mtrs and 500 mtrs respectively.
While Indian armed forces use the M2HB version of M2 Browning, it is used in limited numbers near both the LOC and the LAC. The machine gun helps cover the long borders at LOC where ceasefire violation is normal. The “Ma Deuce” has been part of 24 official conflicts around the globe. The long list includes WW2, the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Invasion of Panama, the Somali War, the War in Afghanistan, etc. It is currently used by over 90+ countries, both NATO and non-NATO, in which India features as well.
This kind of automatic machine gun has been in action for over a century and could well be in service through to the 22nd century as well.