The M2 Browning is an American .50-caliber heavy machine gun designed by John M Browning and manufactured since 1921. This heavy machine gun has been used in several roles, such as an infantry support weapon, a secondary weapon mounted on a tank or any other armored vehicle, and as the primary weapon in a military aircraft (P-47 Thunderbolt, P-51 Mustang, B-17 Flying Fortress, etc.). Ever since the first M2 Browning .50 (12.7mm) heavy machine gun was produced in 1921, the type has been one of the most fearsome anti-personnel weapons likely to be encountered. The projectile fired by the type is a prodigious man-stopper, and the machine-gun can also be used as an armor-defeating weapon, especially when firing armor-piercing rounds. From the original Browning Model 1921 heavy machine gun evolved a whole string of versions based on what was to become known as the M2. On all these variants the gun mechanism remained the same, being very similar to that used on the smaller M1917 machine gun. Where the variants differed from each other was in the type of barrel fitted and the fixtures used for mounting the gun.
One of the most numerous of the M2 Browning machine gun has been the M2 HB (Heavy Barrel). The HB version can be used in all manner of installations and in the past has been employed as an infantry gun, as an anti-aircraft gun and even as a fixed or trainable aircraft gun. For infantry use the M2 HB is usually mounted on a heavy tripod, but it can also be used mounted on vehicle pintles, ring mountings and pivots. Other M2 types include versions with water-cooled barrels, which were usually used as anti-aircraft weapons, especially on US Navy vessels where, during World War II, they were often fixed in multiple mountings for use against low-flying attack aircraft. Single water-cooled mountings were often used to provide anti-aircraft defense for shore installations. The main change between ground-based and aircraft versions was that the aircraft model had a barrel 914mm (36 in) long whereas the ground version had a barrel 1143 mm (45 in) long. Apart from the barrel and some mounting fixtures, any part of the M1921 and M2 machine-guns can be interchanged.
More .50 (12.7mm) Browning machine guns have been produced in the United States than any other design. To date the figures run into millions and the production run is still not complete, for during the late 1970s two American companies found it worthwhile to put the type back into production, and the same applied to the Belgian FN concern. Many more companies throughout the world find it profitable to provide spares and other such backing for the M2 series, and almost every year another ammunition producer introduces yet another type of cartridge for use with the weapon. Many dealers find it profitable just to sell or purchase such weapons alone, so there is no sign yet that demand for the gun is weakening in any way. The M2 has been around for many decades as it has been used in many armed conflicts around the world, and there is no sign of any replacement. It ranks as one of the most, if not the most, successful heavy machine gun ever produced.
Specifications (M2 HB)
Type: heavy machine gun
Country of origin: USA
Caliber: .50 (12.7 mm)
Barrel length: 1143 mm (45.0 in)
Weight: 38.1 kg (84 lb)
Muzzle velocity: 884 m (2,900 ft) per second
Rate of fire (cyclic): 450-575 rpm
Effective range: 1,500 m (1,650 yards)
Feed: 110-round metal-link belt