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M2 - All you want to know

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I thought I'd post an additional write-up about the

M2HB (Model 2 Heavy Barrel) Heavy Machine gun .50 cal.



The weapon photographed is a registered Title II live

machine gun. As the days of 65 cents/shot surplus are

long gone, I find that the gun doesn't get the same

workout as it did in the past. I'm down to my last few

dozen cases of surplus Greek 12.7x99mm two-hundred-and-

seventy-some-odd linked belts. About 11 years ago,

surplus was plentiful and cheap.


Soldiers nicknamed the M2HB Ma Deuce (M-2). I call

it Ma Bell; you know just like the phone company.

I am reminded of their old television ads regarding

something about 'Long Distance' and 'Reaching out to

touch someone.' ;-)


Anyway, this pig is 88 lbs of misery to transport (almost

130 if you include the M3 tripod) Although the cyclical

rate of fire is 550 rounds/min, anything more than 40/min.

in a sustained burst will cause excess throat erosion in

a non-stellite lined barrel and will eventually cause

premature wear necessitating a barrel replacement. If

you're rich, like Uncle Sam, then no-biggie; however, if

you're a working schlub as I am, then that gets a bit

pricey as the days of $200 surplus BBLs are long gone.

A modern barrel will cost over a thousand bucks plus.


Maximum range on a tripod mounted weapon is a little over

4 1/2 miles (7.4 km); however, its effective range is

closer to 1 1/5 miles (1.8 km). The WWII era ground

guns could be fired in Semi-automatic and fully-automatic

modes. The rate of fire in full-auto is slow enough that

a skilled gunner could pop-off single shots in full-auto

without selecting the semi-auto feature.


During WWII there were four basic variants in service.

The M1921 Water Cooled .50 BMG saw service early in the

pacific campaigns. I'm sure everyone has seen the famous

film footage from Wake Is. of the M1921 on the Tora Tora

mount shooting at attacking aircraft. The M2HB was the

standard ground gun. The M2AC was an aircraft mounted

variant that had a higher rate of fire. The slip stream

of an aircraft at altitude enabled a lighter barrel

and a higher rate of fire. The M3 and AN-M2 .50 aircraft

variants had even higher rates of fire. A friend of mine

brought out an M3 to a Hernando, FL machine gun shoot

many years ago and fired it from an anti-aircraft extension

mounted on the M3 ground tripod. It was uncontrollable

and quickly taught us the meaning of fear. At a cyclical

rate of nearly 1,300 rounds/min. if was truly a terror

to fire even short bursts. He has since sold it.


If you're interested in seeing a few extra photos of the

weapon on the M63 Anti-Aircraft mount, then see the attached

link to that topic in this forum.




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In the photo, you can observe that the critical

screws mounting the bolt retracting assembly to

the receiver have been safety-wired into position.

This is to prevent the weapon from disassembling

itself from the vibration of its firing.


Although the T&E looks similar to that of its

diminutive M1919A4 cousin, they differ in size

and are not interchangeable. Most pintles are



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Located between the butterfly trigger is the bolt hold-open

mechanism. Barely visible in the photo is a small arm that

engages this mechanism and holds it in the down position.

While held in this position, the weapon will fire in fully

automatic mode; however, when released, the weapon fires

single shots.


When in automatic mode, cessation of firing results in a

closed bolt with a live cartridge in the barrel. In a hot

gun this can result in a cook-off. When in semi-automatic

mode, cessation of firing results in a live cartridge held

in the T-Slot of the bolt, but with the bolt retracted into

the rear of the receiver negating a potential cook-off.


You can see on the buffer assembly the letters AC. This

is for AC Sparkplug (Today know as AC Delco automotive

parts) which was one of many contractors during WWII.


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The M2HB is capable of bilateral firing. That is

to say that the belt can be fed from left to right,

or from right to left. Twin mounts on naval craft

(PT Boats) show two guns side-by-side each being

fed from its open side. Just a quick change of

parts in the feed tray and a quick rotation of that

center part will change the CAM path actuating the

top-cover to feed from the opposite direction.


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M2HB Spare Barrels.


Each barrel has its own carrying handle. This comes

in very hand for hot barrels. One is equipped with a

flash hider. In my opinion, the regular barrel

produces a minimal flash which looks like an orange

glow as opposed to the strobe light effect that an M4

carbine (M16 14" BBL) generates.


Each 24 rounds burns 1 pound of gunpowder. This is

a lot of heat. The mass of the barrel is used as a

heat sink and is capable of absorbing a great deal of

torture; however, it does so at the sacrifice of barrel

life. When you life is at steak, then you beat on it

like a rented mule and only stop firing when it glows

brighter than the element on your stove top when on

high. At the Knob Creek machine gun shoot, I've seen

quad fifties fired from glowing cherry to nearly yellow-

white. At this point the barrel steel (4130?) becomes

elastic and begins to sag. When you've blown a round

through the side of your barrel, you know you've made

an expensive mistake. (I've seen it.)


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Barrel inspection device.


This handy little device uses a mirror so

one can peer into the barrel from a 90 degree

observation position without lifting the barrel

and sticking it against one's eye. This

minimizes the ability of people to pull the old

charcoal / lipstick on the binocular eye cup

trick on you. ;-)


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These don't exist in this form in the military.


These are 900 grain spotter round projectiles

loaded into full length cases with reduced powder



A shortened .50 BMG case was used to mimic the

ballistic flight path of the 106mm recoilless

rifles. To spot whether the round would be

on target, the shooter would fire the spotter

rounds and look for the smoke and flash until he

was on target, then he'd let rip with the 106mm

and bring down hell from above.


The military surplussed TONS of spotter rounds for

destruction, but Talon (nasty story here) sold

the pulled components on the open market and even

reloaded pulled components. At the hands of Uncle

Sam and through a little mischief of their own

they are now out of business. But WOW! it was

a great party while things lasted. Uncle wised

up and now demands demilling by means of an

electric furnace. No more mana from heaven.


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The Browning M2HB is one of the few guns

capable of killing the shooter, as well as

the intended target. One doesn't operate

an M2HB without a set of timing and head space

gauges. Insufficient timing will result in

premature ignition; excess head space can

blow the top cover off, if you're lucky, or

peal the gun like a banana if you're not so

lucky. (I've seen that too.)


By the way, I've never been in the military.

All this asinine behavior I've observed is

from civilian owners getting complacent.


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A side-by-side comparison of the M3 tripod (M2HB) vs

the M2 tripod (M1919A4).


I don't recall the weight of either off the top of my

head, but the M3 tripod is a complete load for one man.






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I know two things:


1. I want one!


2. Semi-autos are $7,000 or more just for the gun. Tripod not included.

Collecting 3rd Armored Division items of all kinds from all eras, specializing in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment.

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