The Browning M2 has its roots in WWI. By the end of this war, both British and French militaries had large calibre machine guns and the Germans had been in the process of developing theirs. The need had come about with the introduction of armour in aircraft and vehicles that repelled most regular arms.
The early Browning designs were only half successful. There were water cooled variants but these were heavy and moves to make them air cooled followed quickly. With some effort and consideration, the design developed until one type of receiver could be used to make seven types of machine gun using different barrels, jackets and internal components. It could feed from the left and right which was important for its use in aircraft and it quickly replaced the .30 Browning, then in use for this role.
The M2 has been manufactured and in use since 1933 and the design has remained quite unchanged since. It served through WWII with Allied forces, notably by the Long Range Desert Group and the early SAS in North Africa where it was a popular choice for destroying aircraft on the ground in their signature hit and run raids.
It also served in Korea and Vietnam, where it was occasionally fitted with a scope and used as an over-sized sniper rifle. As a closed-bolt weapon it was very accurate by MG standards and it was during Vietnam that the longest kill recorded, at 2000 yards (1800m), was set and stood until 2002.
It has since served in nearly every war of note and many wars you won’t even have heard of. For Western militaries today, it is usually mounted in aircraft or on vehicle turrets, though it is sometimes to be found protecting bases in Afghanistan, where the exceptional range and accuracy is well-suited to the wide, open spaces.
I will be building a Browning M2 for a client, plus a turret mounting for the top of a Land Rover.
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