P-40E Kittyhawk .50cal Machine Gun Test Firing

WWII warbirds have always interested me since I was a kid, I used to build model kits of P-51 Mustangs, Mitsubishi Zeros, Spitfires etc. A while back I posted a pretty cool video of the Twilight Tear, a P-51 Mustang test firing her six .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns out to 75 yards at a specially built range.

I also posted about a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk test firing her guns but with blanks. I don’t believe these warbirds can actually fly with their guns in place in the United States, they’re usually taken out or replaced with replicas during flight. If anyone knows for sure correct me if I’m wrong. In that previous P-40 post there’s also a video of P-40s in New Zealand firing blanks out of their guns in flight at a show.┬áCheck out the video below of a P-40E Kittyhawk test firing her .50 cal Brownings at the Warbirds Over Wanaka air show in New Zealand.

The P-40 in all variants was the third most produced American fighter of WWII after the P-51 and P-47 and it was used throughout the war by the Allies. 13,738 in total were built. The P-40E model like the one in the video was armed with six .50 caliber machine guns.

Ray I.

Long time gun enthusiast, archery noob, Mazda fan, Sci-Fi nerd, Whiskey drinker, online marketer and blogger. My daily firearms musings can be found over at my gun blog ArmoryBlog.com and Instagram.

Shoot me an email at ray.i@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • ostiariusalpha

    Ah, yeah! I love those classic piston-engine fighters. I took my little girl and baby boy over to the Museum of Flight by Boeing Field just a couple of weeks ago.

    • Renato H M de Oliveira

      My dad loves WW2 planes. I’m more a Vietnam War (and later) planes fanboy.
      Actually, I like warplanes in general.

    • glenn cheney

      Robert M. “Bob” Robbins was a personal friend, the Boeing B-29, B-47, test pilot, and Sr. Project Eng. on the B-52.
      Been to many places with the Generals, seen many interesting things, have been granted much latitude in protocols.
      I am published, had an enlargement of FIFI over the Gulf of Mex. made, Bob signed one lower corner, Gen. Paul Tibets signed the other corner.
      One of a kind, the mural, the men.
      FYING ON FIFI a bucket list item at any age.
      They don’t make em like they used to.

  • Anonymoose

    Not sure about those camera angles. I would not want to be anywhere near the business end of those babies.

    • Secundius

      Especially after the Termination of Their Ballistic Trajectories…

  • Bucho4Prez

    I don’t think there is much point in them flying armed, but it’s an interesting academic question.

  • idahoguy101

    Great aircraft that served all through WW2 in different roles

  • Foma Klimov

    It was always interesting to me how the US armed their WW2 era (and early jets too) fighters with (typically) six .50 cal MGs, while the Germans and the Soviets typically had a 20 mm (or bigger) cannon and a couple.50 cal (equivalent) MGs. Must have required different tactics. Seems like the US was more concerned with dog fighting, while the Germans and Soviets, with intercepting big bombers. Makes sense, all things considered. During the Cold War, Soviet jets were still armed with lower rate-of-fire, but more powerful (and apparently accurate) cannons.

    • throwedoff

      “Dog fighting” was a tactic that brought about air superiority. American and British fighters decimated the Luftwaffe’s pilot corps. Even though the Germans were pretty much able to maintain an adequate production of fighter aircraft they couldn’t replace the skills and experience of the pilots lost. The same was happening in the Pacific with the Japanese. However, the Japanese not only were not able to replace experienced pilots they didn’t have the resources to match production of aircraft to loses.

    • Bill

      Might have had something to do with already having thousands of accurate and reliable Browning .50s and God knows how much ammo in inventory. Why reinvent the wheel?

    • Paul Labrador

      You are correct that the German and Soviet armament mix was due to the necessity to engage and knock down big bombers. They typically used .30 guns for dogfighting. But also remember that the Germans didn’t have a heavy caliber machine gun, so a medium machine gun and cannon mix worked well.

  • SGT Fish

    They can fly with them. Though I only know of one person that did. RIP Mike Dillon

    • SGT Fish

      And it’s also done by quite a few people on helicopters

  • Steven Guess

    I’d rather see the business end of a p47, .8 . 50s would be awesome.
    There was a reason that they named the A10 after the 47!

  • Steven L

    Lots of smoke. Wonder if they are black powder blanks?

  • glenn cheney

    Fighter planes guns were custom set by armorers to individual pilots preferances.
    Distance to convergence was one method, others preferred more distance rather than cone fire.
    AMMO was always a problem, having enough. Many of our warbirds did have cannon capabilities in some configs, the B-25 Mitchell, the P-38 and some others.
    Early on, B-29’s had a single barreled 20 mm tail “stinger” later replaced by two MA Deuces.
    After Lemay replaced Hansel, and took operations down to the deck, all turret armor mentioned was stripped out except for the tail guns. Weight was the issue, exchanged for 130 octane aviation fuel and or clusters of incindiaries.

  • jcitizen

    Actually, before GCA ’86 the easy way to avoid a lot of red tape by the BATF was to run a museum – not sure if the 86 law impacted that or not. So it is completely legal for ‘flying museums’ to operated planes with weapons points installed. However I would consider it very wise to take them out when not needed, as it would save a lot of weight, and make it easier to take avoidance procedures in case of a flight problem. Plus, at least you don’t lose the very expensive guns in a crash! Bad enough that an original war bird has to go away.

    For individuals owning a war bird with weapons points, and even the attachment points may be illegal by the old Omnibus crime bill of the GCA 1968. There may be approved demilitarization methods posted by the bureau in twix communications though – maybe having permanently attached blank guns that cannot be converted to fire live ammo would be approved. Probably same with bombs – having permanently attacked fake bombs to the devices would be okay as well. I don’t know how hard it it to remove original type weapons stations in such aircraft, but for the sake of field maintenance, it should be possible.

  • Paul Labrador

    Rate of fire seems a bit slow. M3 aerial guns had a rate of fire around 1200 a minute.

  • Leveller

    You mean M3 Machine Guns! M2 were to Slow…

  • Secundius

    Who was the “Lunatic” who came up with this “Brain Storm Idea”? Typical “Berm Height” Backstop of an Outside Shooting Range varies from 8 to 12-feet. With a P-40 sitting on it’s Tricycle Landing Gear, Machine Guns are Aimed at a Point in the Sky from 37 to 40 Plus Vertical Degrees. ANY Machine Gun Fire is going to Clear the Berm by Several Dozens of Meters 75-yards Distance…