You may have seen the post about Mark Serbu shooting a full auto MP5 out of a Cessna. While that is neat, here are the big boys. My friend Alexander V. took these pics at the Lyon Air Museum.

According to the Lyon Air Museum website, the B-17 “Flying Fortress” typically had a compliment of thirteen Browning M2 .50 cal machine guns.


That is some serious superiority of the air.


  • A.WChuck

    A B-24 nose photobombed the series. Or maybe a B-25…

    • Drew Amaral

      hah, good catch. B25

    • valorius

      Yep, B-25.

    • Blake

      Yeah, that’s a B-25J gunship nose; you can see the B-17 behind it.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Truly a work of art.

  • idahoguy101

    Will the Army and Marines ever exhaust the number of M2 Browning machine guns in storage since WW2?

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      If it aint broke dont fix it.

      • valorius

        They actually did fix it recently. The M2A1 is a pretty solid upgrade.

        • TheNotoriousIUD

          I just mean that just because it’s old doesn’t mean it don’t work.
          At my age I’m sensitive to such things.

      • Major Tom

        It’s the reason why the Deuce is still in service and the XM317 failed spectacularly. The Browning is already near-perfection, how could you improve on that? Mainly all you’d be adding is the shiny bells and whistles of modern guns, not the internals or barrels or whatnot.

        • Jay

          You are wrong. Even back in ww2 there were better heavy mgs. Heck, the belgians made better version of it even back then. Their 13.2Ă—99mm version was a pretty solid improvement in many respects. Lighter, more reliable, higher rate of fire and on top of that had a pretty decent high explosive round with 15 grams of high explosive.
          The Russian 12.7x108mm aircraft gun was almost half the weight of the m2.
          This days, most other heavy mgs out there are better in most respects.

    • Drew Coleman

      They might shoot through all the barrels but I doubt they’ll need new production for a long, long time.

      • Major Tom

        There’s new production going on. Eventually each Browning is going to fully wear out or be destroyed in accidents/enemy action or lost off the side of a ship or what have you…

    • valorius

      Didn’t the bombers use AN/M3 machine guns? I know the fighters did.

  • Wolfgar

    Beautiful restorations, when America was at it’s best.

  • valorius

    B-25J Solid, FTW. Including the upper turret, it had 10 forward firing .50 cal bmgs. Fun for the whole family!

  • valorius

    Just goes to show you how much the name of the plane counts for it’s fame. The B24 was a better design but it gets nowhere near the press that the B-17 ‘flying fortress’ does.

    • skidmark
    • Pete Sheppard

      The B-24 was better in several ways. It was faster, higher flying, longer ranged and could carry a bigger load, BUT it was harder to fly and could not take the damage the Fort could. Ultimately crews preferred the B-17, given a choice.

      • valorius

        I just watched a show (Dogfights, i think it was- the episode on Sonderkommando Elbe) where grievously a damaged B-24s that had been rammed by a Bf109 made it all the way back to friendly airspace so the crew could safely bail. The B24 is a mighty tough aircraft in it’s own right.

        • Pete Sheppard

          Absolutely! 🙂

  • valorius
    • Calavera

      Being my generation’s symbol of the “jet age,” the F-86 was my favorite war bird until the A-10 came along. Close in air support defined! “Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’!”

    • GLeader
    • Jay

      A version of Ju-88 carried a bloody 88mm anti tank gun. And a version of Hs-126 was packing a 75mm Pak40.
      Those are airborne guns.

      • valorius

        There was one prototype that had an 88mm, but it never resulted in anything.

    • RocketScientist

      Pshaw! AC-130… 25mm GAU-12 Equalizer “gatling” style rotary cannon, 40mm Bofors L/60 auto-cannon…. AND a 105mm M102 howitzer. Game, set, match.

      • valorius

        I’m a fan. 🙂

      • GLeader

        I s’pose the AC-130 is alright for all the NASCAR fans who can’t turn right.

        I like the option to both zig AND zag.

  • Cymond

    I’ve been up in Aluminum Overcast, a 1945 B-17G. I was surprised by the sophistication of the compensating​ sights on the guns. They took altitude and airspeed (input manually) into account, and seemed to compensate for the firing angle of the gun (taken from steel cables).

    • Grey Beard

      I am seriously green with envy over your flight. I got to tour her a few months ago but unfortunately due to some severe weather they had to cancel all their flight ops on the days I could get a hop in. She certainly is a gorgeous and majestic piece of history.

      • Cymond

        It was a magnificent experience, definitely worth the cost.

        I was reading about B-17s, and discovered the Liberty Bell was still flying. Within minutes, I found the news article of her destruction. Heart broken, I went searching for another flying B-17. When I found AO, I knew I had to do it.

  • jay

    That was serious bomber defense, but it wasn’t exactly “superiority of the air”.
    depending from what angle they got attacked, they were able to point no more than four five guns at an attacking fighter in the same time. Basically all German fighter they faced had more powerful weapons. The typical Bf109 had one or three 20mm cannons, plus two mgs, the FW190s carried four 20mm cannons and a pair of mgs, then came the heavy fighters, like Bf110, 410, and Ju88 that carried heavier weapons and rockets.
    The Mustang saved the daylight bomning, not the defensive guns.
    Sexy birds nonetheless.

    • pbla4024

      It was saved by Jugs before Mustangs arrived.

      • valorius

        P38 Lightnings were escorting US Heavy bomber daylight raids deep into Germany, far deeper than the P47 could fly, before the P-51 mustang ever even flew. Just sayin’

    • Pete Sheppard

      Massed formations could put out a hurricane of fire. I’ve read that the German fighter pilots were just as scared of making their deadly frontal passes at American bomber formations as the US crews were facing them.
      A bomber alone was pretty much a goner.

  • J.T.

    Actually, it’s a 75mm. The P-5 with the 88mm is not know to have ever have existed except on paper.

  • Diver6106

    Note that the B-17G, with chin turret, had a crew of 10 which was reduced to 9 late in 1944 to man more planes by eliminating one waist gunner. This meant there was a tail gunner with twin 50’s, two waist gunners each with a 50, Top turret with twin 50’s, ball turret with twin 50’s, bombardier who could operate the twin 50’s in the chin or either the left or right 50 forward with the navigator, and some had a single 50 after of the top turret at the radio operator’s position. So all 50’s could not be used simultaneously.