M2A1 Among Greatest Army Inventions of 2011

The improved, “Enhanced 50″, version of the M2 Browning has been named one of the Army’s greatest inventions of 2011.

Army.mil reports

The M2A1 is an enhancement to the .50-calliber M2, including a modified barrel, barrel extension, barrel support, barrel handle, flash suppressor and a fixed headspace and timing configuration. The M2A1 is an automatic, recoil-operated, link-belt-fed, air-cooled, crew-served weapon; capable of firing single-shot and automatic; and capable of right- and left-hand feed. The enhancements increase durability and Soldier safety moving the headspace and timing adjustment task above the operator level, thereby minimizing malfunctions and injuries in the field.

[ Many thanks to Lance for emailing us 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.


  • Nadnerbus

    This is not a repeat from 1933. What an amazing piece of hardware, to be king of the heavy machine gun 80 years later.

    • greasyjohn

      Credit where it’s due, the M16 had an A1 after less than a decade. The 1911 just past that. It took almost a century to improve this design.

    • lolinski

      “I dont always use HMG’s but when I do, I use 14,5mm”

      • Big Daddy

        That’s a weapon the DOD should look at again, maybe in 15mm. The 50 cal is great but the next progression in the line is the 25mm. There is nothing really in-between since the 20mm was never successful in ground vehicles.

        The 14.5 would also be great for COIN aircraft and in certain choppers as a door gun.

        The Nexter 20mm is a well liked weapon and I think the 14.5mm probably has more destructive force even without HE. The 20mm HE round has very little explosive and I would think the kinetic energy from the 14.5mm would be more effective. As well as the armor piercing ability with it’s higher velocity.

        Just like the .338 General Dynamics GPMG should be adopted as a weapon to bridge the M240 to the M2A1 50 cal.

      • W

        Big Daddy, then you would really like the FN BRG15

        It fires a 15.5mm cartridge, which is fucking massive! talk about a BMP shredder.

      • bbmg

        It would be nice if this cartridge made it to series production: http://www.steyr-aug.com/amr.htm

        A smoothbore barrel would have a lot of benefits for an automatic weapon, and the greater calibre could allow for explosive projectiles with a useful load, something that resembled scaled down versions of the rounds available for 120mm tank smoothbores: http://www.inetres.com/gp/military/cv/weapon/M256.html

      • Big Daddy

        There have been a few attempts to make a viable weapon of that caliber but nobody seems interested.

        In lieu of that I would like to see the XM25 round in an automatic version similar to the Mk19, ATK makes one. Better yet the 30mmX113 that the chain guns use in the Apache. Most of the parts including ammo is inventoried already.

        They have a vehicle version that has low recoil. Mount that on a HUMVEE or whatever to supplement the 50 cals and MK19s. They even have a ground version mounted on tripods.

        It’s always about money, one fighter jet and the whole infantry forces that need them get them. Priorities are just wrong at the DOD. I cringe at the F35. Not the aircraft just the whole cost overruns and the concept itself. That one aircraft fits all NEVER works and always costs too much. They never live up to their press.

        I remember an attempt to make boots that a soldier can wear on either foot. To save money, I think that says a lot about the DOD.

        Like why doesn’t the regular Army infantry units have the M3 Carl Gustav? Great weapon and cheaper to shoot than a Javelin. Or another great cheap weapon the Marines M32. For the Army it’s about cutting edge tech not let’s get these weapons to our troops now, they work well. The Marines have the right idea and that’s one reason they are the better fighting force.

      • W

        “It’s always about money, one fighter jet and the whole infantry forces that need them get them. Priorities are just wrong at the DOD. I cringe at the F35. Not the aircraft just the whole cost overruns and the concept itself. That one aircraft fits all NEVER works and always costs too much. They never live up to their press.”

        Exactly. I cringe every time i see somebody jump on a soapbox in order to justify this. “wars are won by fighter jets and ships…not rifles”. That is true to a degree, but what these chuckleheads fail to grasp is that our CURRENT fleet of fighter jets and naval vessels can hopelessly destroy anything out there.

        The F35 is a disaster. Its a desperate attempt, rather half assed ill add, to try and cram the jobs of five different jet aircraft into a single platform and expect it to work well. It will indeed accomplish those jobs, but just like with anything “universal”, it will do those jobs mediocre instead of a specialized platform that does the job exceptionally well. That program should have been killed a long time ago.

        What really make me laugh is that F35 apologists have claimed “well this aircraft is so advanced in the OODA loop it doesn’t need to dogfight”, in order to justify its mediocre maneuverability. LOL. Aviation history buffs, when have we heard this before!?!?

        “I remember an attempt to make boots that a soldier can wear on either foot. To save money, I think that says a lot about the DOD.”

        I think whoever came up with that idea should be publicly beaten with a rubber hose. This reminds me of the “universal” army combat boot that could supposedly be worn for cold and hot weather. Sorry DOD pukes. Infantry concepts such as a soldier’s boot dont work that way.

        “Like why doesn’t the regular Army infantry units have the M3 Carl Gustav? Great weapon and cheaper to shoot than a Javelin. Or another great cheap weapon the Marines M32. For the Army it’s about cutting edge tech not let’s get these weapons to our troops now, they work well. The Marines have the right idea and that’s one reason they are the better fighting force.”

        The Carl Gustav is a amazing weapon system. I think the Army should focus on combat operations rather than bullshit garrison, feel good duties. God forbid you actually train for war without upsetting the bureaucrats that have utterly enveloped the armed forces.

  • mike

    I can see it now. “In the old Corps we used to headspace and time the 50 cals ourselves. It was part of being a machinegunner…”

    Seems like a decent idea considering how painful it is to watch non 0331s (especially pogs) attempt to run headspace and timing, never mind a third world military.


    • W

      both of those (POGs and TW militaries) are the reason why im now bald. When you rip your hair out enough, it stops growing back. I consider the ending of the H&T requirement to be a good thing, considering how its a extremely easy thing to do and everybody seems to fuck it up.

  • Zack991

    We had them in country and they were a pain in the ass. When the timing was wrong you would then have to find the right timing block and the tools to change it out and only if you were not just qualified as a armor but had to have additional training to do this. The Army took a simple task of timing for no good reason an then made it a bigger pain in the ass.

    • TCBA_Joe

      Lots of time on the M2A1. Frankly, it shouldn’t be that hard to deal with fixing the timing as it’s supposed to be taken care of in the rear.

      With the current quick change bbl it’s like using an M240 or M249. Once the barrels are headspaced to the gun, it’s basic pre and post mission PMCS. No dealing with headspace during mission.

      Basically, it keeps stuff like this from happening

    • W

      Ive dealt with the ma deuce in the Army since i was 18 years old.

      They can be a pain in the ass, but I found out the best thing to do is end up with a used gun. Refurbished ones are temperamental as hell. A overwhelming majority of the issues with unreliable 50s are associated with lack of lube. The 50 loves to run heavily lubricated. Synthetic motor oil works the best on this gun (send the CLP to the support staff).

  • Billy Bones

    The most important feature of the upgrade appears to be glossed over.

    M2 now has a quick change barrel.

  • Pepin the Short

    This is like making a remastered version of a song the best of the year, or giving a remake of a 90 year-old franchise the Oscar.

    • noob

      If it fills stadium concerts, sells tickets or kills people maybe it deserves it.

  • Lance

    Long live JM Browning’s greatest invention.

  • Bob Z Moose

    I’ve said it before, but the only thing that will replace the M2 is blaster weapons. The Army has been through a ton of different weapons systems, but think about this: the M2 was introduced when bolt actions were still the norm, biplanes were just being replaced as combat aircraft, bombs were very dumb, night missions had to be done based on the phase of the moon, and gas was around a cent a gallon. That’s staying power most technology wishes it had.

    • Esh325

      The amount of time the M2 and the .50 BMG have been used is no indication that nothing better exists or nothing better can be made.

      • Bob Z Moose

        Then what is it?

      • bbmg

        It shows that for all the advances in armour, light vehicles and personnel are still vulnerable to its bullets even at long ranges.

        In the air where it proved lacking against faster and better armoured opponents, it has been replaced with larger calibre cannon many decades ago.

        The familiar spring loaded mouse trap design is over a century old, the reason it is still relevant is that mice haven’t changed much. It doesn’t mean though that there aren’t better traps out there.

      • Kevin

        The Army has tried to replace or at least supplement the M2 before. It did not work. The .50 tri gatling, the M60 tanks’ cupola .50, the XM whatever light .50… all found wanting compared to the Ma Deuce. It will be replaced, just not yet.

      • W

        there are better guns that can exist in my opinion, though what would the cost/benefit advantages be?

        I think the Russian Kord is superior, being able to fulfill the “light/heavy machine gun” role. The XM806 was supposed to do the same thing, giving infantry more options with a lighter 50 cal that has abundant uses in confrontations like afghanistan. Oh the possibilities.

        But the Army wont do it. Even if it means two less F35 Sacred Cows…Ooops, i mean “Lightning IIs”.

      • Anonymoose

        Kevin, the GAU-19 is probably the most devastating small-caliber weapon on the planet, and it’s seeing much more use than any of the other guns you mentioned have. It’s strictly a vehicle-mounted weapon though.

    • John Doe

      The .50 BMG is a workhorse, and it’ll continue to be a top choice until freakin’ lasers. Even then, I’m sure the .50 will find a use. The Browning just works.

      • Anonymoose

        .50 cal lasers. 😉

    • Esh325

      To answer that, we have to look at other weapons out there. Look at the Kord machine gun, it can be carried by a single man. I don’t think you can do that with the M2. Or the the Rheinmetall RMG 50 for example.

      • W

        I agree.

        The Rheinmetall 50 though requires external power. Ive never agreed with the western fascination with electrically powered guns. the Russians had a better idea using gas operated systems.

      • Anonymoose

        The M2 can be carried by a single person. The tripod has to be carried by another person, but that’s usually the case with all machineguns.

      • Mech11B

        Yes and no. Fully assembled, the M2 weighs 84 pounds(drilled into my head as a young soldier by doing 84 overhead presses with it when I goofed) Anyways, the gun weighs in at 84, the tripod, I don’t even know to be honest, but I would have to guess from the few times I’ve used on that it weighs another 15-25+. So you’re looking at well over 100 pounds not counting ammo. 50 cal belts are HEAVY, easily another 5 pounds per 100 rounds. SOP for a machine gun is 600-1100 rounds. With a 240B(or 240G for you jarheads), you can carry the gun, tripod and T+E, and all your ammo and spare barrels with 2 guys. Yes, they’re sucking, but such is the nature of warfare. Dismounting the 50 and humping it? You’re tying up the squad at that point.

  • bbmg

    Given the advances in technology prevalent today that Browning could scarcely have imagined in his time, I suppose he would be thrilled and appalled in equal measures to see this honor bestowed on an update of his invention.

    • Anonymoose

      He’d probably be amazed at all the 1911s, HP clones, Glocks, SIGs, HKs, CZs, and post-WWII FNs, etc. that are all ultimately derived from his work on the M1911 series and Hi-Power, not to mention that the M1911A1, HP, and M2 are still in service in many places (various M1919s might still serve in some remote parts of the world, and the Japanese Sumitomo NTK-62 GPMG is based directly on the M1919), and the Auto-5 is still around in some form or another. His work is still the standard for most of Western small arms design to this very day.

      • bbmg

        I don’t want to claim to be able to speak for the man himself, but I would be horrified after checking out youtube and seeing this:


        WHAT?!? you can have a nano quadrotor carrying a couple of grams of high explosive attach itself to an enemy soldier’s face, and yet you’re still using pressure in a closed tube to fire a projectile?!?

        What I mean is that the longevity of his designs have both positive and negative implications regarding the progress of human invention.

      • W

        bbmg, what a mind fuck…


      • Anonymoose

        Speaking of Auto-5s, I just found out that Browning reintroduced it recently. 😀

      • Cymond

        They only reintroduced the Auto-5 name and general appearance. It is a new design internally.

      • Anonymoose

        Even so, Cymond, I still would love to have one. 😀

    • Esh325

      “It shows that for all the advances in armour, light vehicles and personnel are still vulnerable to its bullets even at long ranges.”

      The .50 BMG is not any good t for today’s tank armor, and it’s far too overpowered to be used on infantry.

      • Anonymoose

        If you’re in an open field mowing down advancing human-waves, then it might be considered “overpowered,” but in urban warfare where there is lots of cover it most certainly is not “overpowered” for an anti-infantry role.

      • Mech11B

        The 50 may be overkill, but it’s war. The best way to survive is to kill first, and kill more of them than you. That being said, a 7.62 may go through the wall and hit the hajj that’s popping shots at me, but the 50 is going through the wall, him, and then re aquire target and shoot up the truck his buddies are breaking contact in. The 50 is so effective as an anti personnel weapon simply put because it IS overkill, there’s just no place to hide from it. As far as armor goes, the 50 is capable of shooting through the armor on a BMP. The only thing I wouldn’t try to take on is an MBT. Even Ma Deuce can’t take a T 90, but she’d sure go out trying, because good luck making it jam

  • Is that picture photoshopped to appear as if it’s being fired?

  • John Doe

    I think the Browning M2 is one of the best inventions of the CENTURY.

    • Big Daddy

      You mean last century?

      • John Doe

        Dammit, I forgot we left the ’90s.

        At any rate, it could be argued that it’s one of the weapons of even the past millennia. Nothing gets things done like the Browning.

    • Big Daddy

      Sometimes I forget we left the 60s and 70s. I try to forget the 1980s, the 1990s where good years.

  • Mech11B

    Wasted money. It’s worked in it’s current configuration for almost a century, why change it? The answer is better training so that even a cherry or incompetent POG can properly headspace and time the M2.

  • El Duderino

    Took quite a while to get to an “A1” model of the M2. A testament to the design. The M2 is a pain to disassemble/assemble and it looks like the A1 addressed a lot of these issues.

    The .50 is not going anywhere. Almost every combat vehicle/aircraft of earth is judged on whether or not it can stop .50 BMG / 12.7x108mm Soviet. One reason the Army uses Bradleys and not reworked/modernized M113s — a 12.7mm cuts through a M113 like it’s not even there. Let’s not get started on the Strykers/LAVs…

    • W

      “a 12.7mm cuts through a M113 like it’s not even there”

      Yeah with a original 113 and A1. Certainly not a A3 with armor add on. The Bradley is not that much more protective either.

      Anytime you simply have more armor there is a tradeoff, which affects certain capabilities that are essential for a APC and IFV to begin with: being air droppable and amphibious.

      • I don’t know why you would think it’s a pain in the ass to take apart an M2 and reassemble it… I went to M2 .50 cal gun school in Dam Neck, Va when I was in the Navy. I learned to disassemble the weapon, reassemble, set the timing and head space, all while using only a .50 cal round as the only tool to push the pins out, load and cycle 12 dummy rounds through the gun, and did it in just 3 minutes and 30 seconds, just 10 seconds over the Fleet Record, back in 1988. Second best time….. I taught myself to do it in the dark, while everyone else was smokin and jokin on breaks…. Piece of cake… And just so you’ll know what this gun is capable of, You can mash down on that butterfly trigger and go through a 100 rd belt in less than 20 seconds without skippin a beat!!!!!!!

    • Anonymoose

      The Stryker is supposed to be resistant to all small arms fire up to and including 14.5x114mm.

      • bbmg

        20mm rifles aren’t exactly rare these days, I wonder how the Stryker and its ilk would fare against something like this: http://www.gd-ots.com/MCA_20mm_MK244.html

      • Anonymoose

        Rifles over 14.5mm are still very rare and very expensive, and are currently only produced in the US. 14.5mm is the most commonly encountered large-caliber weapon in warzones today. I highly doubt a bolt-action rifle would be of much use against a Stryker or other modern IFV equipped with a sniper-detection system and larger and more capable defenses and armaments than any ground-pounders, like 105mm cannons and 25mm chain guns. Also, General Dynamics is not going to sell ridiculously expensive state-of-the-art armor-piercing bullets to anti-US insurgent groups (even if they were able to afford the $10,000 guns needed to fire them) to use against GD-made Strykers- that’s way beyond the whole “playing both sides” thing and is absolutely absurd. If a Stryker brigade ever got attacked with weapons over 14.5mm it would probably be with RPGs, a ZU-23-2, or a ZSU-23-4 (which is also quite absurd as the ZU and ZSU are AA weapons), in which case they have other defenses for the rockets and jack-squat for the 23mm cannons (although the ZSU has inferior armor and ZU has NO armor).

      • bbmg

        “Rifles over 14.5mm are still very rare and very expensive, and are currently only produced in the US.”

        Not the case, there are a lot of non-US manufacturers of such rifles, the Denel NTW-20 and Truvelo 20mm rifles made in South Africa immediately spring to mind as examples. If we’re talking insurgent groups, there are all sorts of larger calibre historical weapons that could fall into their hands if the Stg.44s currently being used in Syria are anything to go by.

        Even in 14.5 and 12.7 calibers, subcaliber armor piercing ammunition is not the exclusive preserve of the US – http://russianammo.org/Russian_Ammunition_Page_145mm.html

        In any case, I wasn’t referring specifically to what threats US forces might face but rather in general.

      • W

        there’s no reason to use a 14.5mm weapon or higher caliber against a Stryker.

        All of the RPG derivatives and variants will do the job much more efficiently. Simple, cheaper, but exceptional in their effectiveness, they can easily make mincemeat out of a Stryker, M113, and a Bradley. Thats not even counting the Kornet and Milan missiles that have found their way into Hezbollah and other organizations’ hands.

        Yes there is the boomerang system designed to detect snipers and various forms of protection to include caged armor and other systems. These also increase the cost and weight of the vehicles, and the chassis is having enough problems as it is. A 4-6 million dollar striker is still extremely vulnerable to a devise that costs a sliver of that amount.

      • bbmg

        The problem with RPGs of course is that you have to get pretty close to guarantee a hit, though those who consider perishing in the attempt to be a virtue would not think of that being a drawback.

      • W

        That is definitely true and the same can be said for anti-materiel rifles or the 14.5mm

        In fact, that was one of the drawbacks of the PTRS and other anti-tank rifles during World War II: besides of the point of being rendered obsolete, the operator had to venture closer and closer as armor became more thick. If you want to crush armor at distances beyond 500 meters, you need a missile.

      • bbmg

        Agreed, though if you have the benefit of an accurate rifle and a competent shooter, you don’t necessarily have to go through the armor to neutralize the threat.

        Here’s an interesting article about HE fragmentation vs modern armour: http://sill-www.army.mil/famag/2002/NOV_DEC_2002/NOV_DEC_2002_PAGES_8_11.pdf

        Naturally you cannot compare the power of a 155mm artillery shell with an anti materiel rifle, but if you have the luxury of properly aiming your shots as opposed to showering an area with fragments, there are a lot of vulnerable parts on an armoured vehicle that can be touched.

        That being said, if I was faced with an advancing column of tanks and given the choice between a Barrett and a Javelin, I would pick up the latter in a heartbeat.

      • Anonymoose

        Oh yeah, I forgot about the NTW-20…it doesn’t fire 20mm Vulcan cartridges though; it uses 20×82, 14.5, or 20×110 (in which case it is only a single-shot weapon).

    • Mech11B

      yeah, on paper the Stryker will stop a 14.5mm. I’m currently in a Stryker brigade and let me say this, while the Stryker has a lot of good things going for it, I don’t see it stopping a 50 cal, much less a 14.5mm round. And a 20mm like some people are talking about? A 20 would cut through one like butter. The Stryker’s best “defense” lies in its mobility and optics more so than it’s armor. Even the slat armor upgrade can’t be counted on 100%. Yes, it will stop an RPG-7 anti personnel round, but if hajj has a more modern anti tank rocket, and yes, they are getting their hands on more and more of them, it’ll get through the slat armor and turn the inside into an inferno.

      • Mech11B

        also, not to nit pick or come off like a jerk, but the guy further up trying to talk tactics by bringing up “sniper detection systems” on the Stryker has literally everything wrong. First off, I have never seen a Stryker variant of any type(ICV, RV, MGS, etc) with a boomerang system mounted. They have a Duke system to counter remote det IEDs, which is a far bigger threat to the Stryker than small arms, save for the RPG of course. Secondly, while it may not be the most efficient way, a 20mm bolt action or even a well placed(not going to get into where) shot from say a Barrett or a Tac-50 would cause considerable damage to the vehicle. As far as using a ZSU against them, I’d say that’s efficiency at it’s finest. It’ll point low enough to engage targets on the ground, do you realize the damage you could do with a well emplaced AA gun looking down a road?It’s a quad barrel 20mm…an ICV will stop a 14.5mm(on paper). Think about it

  • I must say that I have a very limited experience with any firearm bigger than, say, a K-98. I will heap some praise on the John Moses, as well as his assistant, or for that matter, any person who designs a weapon that will keep someone else from killing me. I have a gun. I am an American. Go ‘figger. The fact that another person has one too, I’m good. I don’t want to kill another person.

  • YEEAH… nice….