The very first time I saw an M2 Browning, I was not impressed. On a sweltering south Georgia day at Fort Benning, a drill sergeant introduced us to the nearly century-old heavy machine gun.
Looking down at the weapon before me, I thought “wait, we’re expected to fight a war with this hunk of junk? The Taliban have newer weapons than this.”
Firing the gun erased any doubt I had. The rhythmic CHUK-CHUK-CHUK flung massive .50 BMG rounds downrange with unprecedented fury, shredding targets up to 1,000 meters away. Mounted on a tripod, the sheer weight of the M2 helped keep rounds on-point during the bursts. I was sold.
There’s a reason John Browning’s design withstands the test of time.
It’s a devastatingly simple machine. The gun is reliable and able to keep up sustained fire without any issues. And with a round as big and powerful as the .50 BMG, it can tear through vehicles, aircraft, and enemies like a hot knife through butter.
A single round through an engine block is often enough to deny the enemy transportation.
Although the gun admittedly looks like an ugly chunk of blackened metal, its inner beauty is what makes this crew-served weapon a marvel of engineering.
A cutaway view showcasing the function of the internals is making the rounds on Facebook, and it’s not hard to see why the video has racked up more than a million views so far.
Designed toward the end of World War I, the “ma deuce” was created to fill a heavy machine gun role in a world where armored targets were becoming increasingly normal.
Its first real-world test was a true trial by fire — World War II.
The number and variety of places the gun was installed is a testament to its versatility and power. The M2 was mounted on aircraft, vehicles, and ships, while still remaining an infantry favorite for emplaced positions.
By the time the U.S. became engaged in the Vietnam War, the gun was still a force to be reckoned with.
Carlos Hathcock, a Marine Corps sniper, famously used an M2 with a telescopic sight to shatter the record for longest confirmed sniper kill in 1967.
The record stood until 2002, when a Canadian sniper beat it.
The M2 is still seeing widespread use in the current war in Afghanistan, where it truly shines in the vast mountainous terrain.
For a nearly 100-year-old weapon, the M2 is a brilliant example of top-notch American engineering. It’s likely the machine gun will remain a military favorite for the foreseeable future thanks to an awesome blend of power, reliability, and versatility.
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