The M2 Browning Machine Gun
The M2 Machine Gun, Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun, is a heavy machine gun designed towards the end of World War I by John Browning. It is very similar in design to Browning’s earlier M1919 Browning machine gun, which was chambered for the .30-06 cartridge. The M2 uses the larger and more powerful .50 BMG cartridge, which was named for the gun itself (BMG standing for Browning Machine Gun).
The M2 has been referred to as “Ma Deuce”, or “the fifty” in reference to its caliber. The design has had many specific designations; the official designation for the current infantry type is Browning Machine Gun, Cal. .50, M2, HB, Flexible. It is effective against infantry, unarmored or lightly armored vehicles and boats, light fortifications and low-flying aircraft. The Browning .50 caliber machine gun has been used extensively as a vehicle weapon and for aircraft armament by the United States from the 1920s to the present.
It was heavily used during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century. It is the primary heavy machine gun of NATO countries, and has been used by many other countries. The M2 has been in use longer than any other small arm in U.S. inventory except the .45 ACP M1911 pistol, also designed by John Browning.
The M2HB is manufactured in the United States by General Dynamics and U.S. Ordnance for use by the United States government, and for US Foreign Allies via FMS sales. FN Herstal has manufactured the M2 machine gun since the 1930s. U.S. Ordnance developed their M2 Quick Change Barrel system after years of manufacturing machine guns for the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. allies.
The M2 machine gun has also been used as a long-range sniper rifle, when equipped with a telescopic sight. Soldiers during the Korean War used scoped M2s in the role of a sniper rifle, but the practice was most notably used by US Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock during the Vietnam War. Using an Unertl telescopic sight and a mounting bracket of his own design, Hathcock could quickly convert the M2 into a sniper rifle, using the traversing-and-elevating (T&E) mechanism attached to the tripod to assist in aiming at stationary targets. When firing semi-automatically, Hathcock hit man-size targets beyond 2000 yards—twice the range of a standard-caliber sniper rifle of the time (a .30-06 Winchester Model 70). In fact, Hathcock set the record for the longest confirmed kill at 2,460 yards or 1.3 miles (2,250 m), a record which stood until 2002.