The M2A1 .50 Machine Gun and Lightweight M240L

M2A1 Machine Gun

The Army was recently demoing the upgraded, and long-overdued, version of the M2 Browning machine gun. reports

The M2 A1 is an upgrade to the M2 machine gun. It provides a quick-change barrel and fixed head space and timing to reduce Soldier errors and associated safety risks, according to a report prepared by the Small Arms Branch. The Army is also working on a lightweight .50-caliber machine gun to augment the M2 A1, Henthorn said.

Also on demoed was the light-weight version of the M240, the M240L, which will be deployed next year …

One of the weapons showcased was the M240L medium machine gun, a lighter alternative to the M240B machine gun. The M240L weighs 21-and-a-half pounds, six pounds lighter than the M240B.

“Lightening Soldiers’ loads is a key element of what we want to do,” Henthorn said. “We are carrying a lot of weight downrange on missions because we want capability. Every pound we take off a guy is a pound he doesn’t have to carry up and down a hill.”

Along with reduced weight, the branch is shortening the barrel and providing a collapsible butt stock for the M240 L, said Troy Harris, deputy chief of the small arms branch.

Henthorn said Army-wide fielding could begin in 10 months.

[ Many thanks to Lance for emailing me the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • WIN! So that’s, what, 100lbs vs 106lbs the gunner carries around with him now?

    • Travis

      We can easily throw 4 or 5 of them over our shoulders now for a hike up Mt. Everest! 😛

  • Lance

    This is a BIG improvemnt on the M-2. My father was in tanks and the M-48 had a M-2 in the cupola on top. The Weapon was anoying to change barrels in practicse alone. In a tank it was horrible little lone in a fire fight. The M-2 was replaced in the mid 60s by the M-85 .50 cal MG which had no head spaceing when change barrels. the M-85 was used on the M-60A1 tank. In 1983 The M-1A1 tank was adopted and since the tank and the M-2 design was owned by General Dynamics the Army was forced to readopt the M-2 for armored tanks again. By the 80s and 90s bothe M-60 and M-1 tanks where useing M-2s. And of course solders where complaing about headspaceing issues in combat. In 2009 nearly 80 years of M-2 service, the Army finally goto getting ride of the M-2s only real bad feature.

    As for the M-240L the Army is finally adressing one flaw the 240 had which the M-60 didnt have which it was heavier and more bulky. This too is a long over due change.

    • Lance, very interesting, thanks for the comment.

  • Matt Groom

    The law of unintended consequences says that for every change, there is an unforeseen negative outcome that cannot be avoided. A lighter weight weapon will be easier to carry, but it will also have a higher cyclic rate, requiring the troops to carry more ammo, and .50 BMG is not light. That means that in order to compensate for the reduced weight, they will end up carrying more weight in the form of ammo! But at least it will be in different packages.

    • Brad

      Fortunately, that’s why no one “carries” the M2 or its ammo anymore. I have never, ever seen a .50 used in any way except vehicle mounted. At least not in a combat zone. They have occasionally been mounted in defensive positions on tripods, particularly in Afghanistan, but infantrymen no longer use them in any sort of dismounted, mobile way. The military realized the ridiculousness of that a long time ago. The biggest thing you’ll see dismounted is the 240. And I personally am quite thankful for the move to a lighter one of those. Hauling the “Beast” around is no joke. And there’s a reason we have different rates of fire. It’s so we don’t burn through ammo. A higher cyclic rate of fire will require only one thing. Training. That’s what we do.

  • SB_Pete

    Hmm, M2A1 seems like a no brainer. Not sure about the 240L though, seems like a belated response to the Mk48 which is still lighter and shorter (18.5lbs, 39.5″ OAL). The Mk48 also shares design, manual of arms, and parts with the SAW. It’d be interesting to see a comparison between the Mk48 and the M240L. Maybe it has some big advantages, but I just don’t see them.

  • Ken

    Glad to see the H&T issue is being handled. I personally have no issues setting it but it is a chore to do so. Ive always enjoyed the 50 and im glad to see its getting an upgrade.

  • Daniel

    Why does a lighter weapon have a higher cyclic rate of fire?

    • Daniel, assuming they make the bolt/carrier lighter, the cycle rate will increase (all other things remaining equal). Firearm designers sometimes cut weight from those parts (and then claim the higher rate of fire is a feature not a bug)

  • Matt Groom

    My guess (and mind you it’s only a guess) is that the barrel has been made thinner and shorter and the bolt carrier has had excess material removed. The receiver might incorporate thinner plates or Titanium or Aluminum construction, but I doubt it. That seems like the most obvious way to decrease weight, and that will definitely increase the rate of fire.

  • Clemente

    From what I’ve read about the Mk48 and the M240L is that the Mk48 has a shorter lifespan. The M240L’s bolt and receiver will last many thousands of rounds longer than the Mk48’s.

    Also, the M240L’s weight reduction came about by replacing much of the parts that were formally made out of steel with titanium. And as far as I know, they have not been able to fabricate parts such as bolts and barrels from titanium so I’m guessing the rate of fire should remain the same.

    Of course, I could be wrong about that last part.

  • Lance

    The experimental light .50 is lighter and was bult only for SOCOM in mind. Its ment for infantry foot solders. But its think barrel insure it can only fire short bursts before barrel change. It also hase alot of plastic on its side plates to make it lighter but way less durable than a M-2HB. The light .50 I read is not going over very well out side of Socom who uses it on ther FAVs.

    The SEALs never fully liked the Mk-48 its life span is short and is very bulky dure to its awkward size. Many SEALs still field M-60E3s.

  • Vitor

    What about the CIS .50 from Singapore? It’s is 17.5 pounds lighter than the M2 and has the same recoil tamer system of the Ultimax. The same Ultimax who was never given a proper chance in the IAR program…nevermind…

  • Carl

    Matt is absolutely right on unintended consequences.
    Even if the rate of fire stays the same there might be other problems with less weight. Stronger recoil might reduce the accuracy and/or the comfort level when shooting it.
    From what little I read about it the last time the 240/FN mag was up, the users seem to really like the existing version. There is always going to be someone calling for less weight, regardless of how much it weighs. That doesn’t mean it’s a problem that needs solving.

  • Meltron

    How did the above comment get in?

  • Meltron, Thanks, that was spam and has been deleted.

  • john feede

    YEAH guns are kickass!!!!!

  • Noah

    I want one for my carry weapon! Laugh!

  • Son of Pappy

    I’ve been working on military weapons since ’82. The M240 family has always been a fav of mine, the M249 not so much. The M240L will maintain the same rate of fire as the M240B, this is accomplished 2 ways, gas port regulator and hydraulic buffer. The weight savings is a win win for our Soldiers, no drawback. The weight savings comes from some titanium pieces and a shorter barrel. The jury is still out on the M2A1, in theory it sounds really good, but time will tell.
    To the comment on the M85? I for one was glad it was phased out, it was a maintenance nightmare, a fairly complicated system that wasnt as reliable as the M2. The M60s had a cupola mounted M85, an M240, and an M2 mounted topside.