General Dynamics, U.S. Ordnance to Produce M2s/M2A1s

One of General Dynamics’ subsidiaries in collaboration with U.S. Ordnance has been awarded a $221 Million contract to provide .50 Cal M2 and M2A1 heavy machine guns to the U.S. Army over the next six years. General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has a long history with manufacturing and providing M2s to the U.S. Military while U.S. Ordnance has less of a service history within the military despite the company’s significant time around the industry producing machine guns since 1997. The company developed the M60E6 as an attempt to bring the M60 back into service but unfortunately, it might have been a little too late. This appears to be U.S. Ordnance’s first significant small arms contract with the U.S. Government of a very large scale.

The Defense Department said Thursday that U.S. Ordnance and General Dynamics’ ordnance and tactical systems business will supply the military branch with M2 and M2A1 machine guns under the shared contract.

The contract was awarded through an online solicitation that received two bids and will run through March 30, 2023, DoD noted.

The Army Contracting Command will determine funds and performance locations upon the issuance of individual task orders.

How the contract is broken down between the two wasn’t made clear in the article. In regards to the manufacture of the older M2 design, the manufacturing might be going to General Dynamics because of existing contract experience while the newer M2A1 design might be going to U.S. Ordnance. However, both companies have improved M2 variants that specifically address the headspace and timing fixes that the M2A1’s operational requirements stipulated. Or the break-down could be something completely different.

The question begs to be asked of why the Army is continuing purchases of the older M2 design while a much more improved variant is also being fielded. The answer probably lies in budget concerns and providing support units with M2s while getting improved M2A1s out to infantry units where they are needed most. In addition, this contract comes after the Army announced an initiative to create a lighter weight M2 through the use of titanium. Although it might be completely unrelated, we could take a stab and say that the light weight M2 might be dead in the water and this is the Army’s way of introducing machine guns in what would have been its place.

One of the biggest crutches of the M2s design since its inception has been the dreaded headspace and timing being absolutely necessary for the successful operation of the weapon system. It wasn’t until the 1990s, almost a century after its adoption in the 1920s when solutions to this problem were being implemented.



Miles V

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the Middle East & North Africa, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, feel free to message me at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Judging from previous contracts, General Dynamics will likely make the M2A1 for US forces, while US Ordnance will make the legacy M2HB for Foreign Military Sales clients.

  • SGT Fish

    US ord isn’t new to military contracts. they have had at least one large foreign military contract for the M60E6. I wouldn’t say they were a little too late at all. I doubt they thought they were going to replace the M240

  • gunsandrockets

    A “lightweight” M2 is self-contradictory, isn’t it? I mean, yeah it’s great they are trying to reduce the weight of the .50 HMG. But considering the total weapon system weight it seems to me like a lot of wasted effort.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      Do we actually still use M2s carried by soldiers? I thought they were mounted only. I dont believe weight has any bearing whatsoever unless it is being carried.

      • CoastieGM

        They are still used by soldiers as a heavy infantry support weapon often carried by the heavy weapons platoons. Usually these are used to set up fixed fighting positions and that sort of thing.

    • randomswede

      I’m not sure if anyone uses M2s in door mounts on helicopters these days, but if they do I’m sure more rounds or fuel wouldn’t go amiss.

      • 2805662

        Not sure about M2s, but in terms of .50 cal, the M3M is used in US Navy service (probably a Mk whatever) on their MH-60S. Lighter barrel, higher rate of fire.

  • nova3930

    “The question begs to be asked of why the Army is continuing purchases of the older M2 design while a much more improved variant is also being fielded. ”

    Probably different colors of money. Not entirely certain but M2s can probably be purchased with money designated for spares/attrition replacements but M2A1s probably have to be new procurement money….

    • J-

      Every time the army tested a new design, it failed. The M2 keeps going because nobody can make a design that is different enough and better enough to justify a change.

      • Joshua

        Especially since the A1 come online and fixed the biggest issues the M2 had.

        • roguetechie

          Really? So the M2 doesn’t weigh more than double what several foreign guns that fire the more powerful 12.7×108 cartridge do?

          They also managed to reduce the peak recoil impulse by 50% or more so that you don’t have to sandbag the hell out of a tripod to keep the gun from being basically uncontrollable?

          They also drastically simplified the gun so it doesn’t require huge amounts of machining and make it ridiculously expensive?

          By ridiculously expensive I mean 433% more expensive than a much more capable, versatile, and able to be adapted to modern use cases gun as of the early 80’s when this other gun was developed and offered to the government.

          Said gun was also dual selectable feed allowing for twice the ready ammunition or two separate ammunition types to be loaded and toggled between with the flick of a thumb without taking your hands off the grips.

          There’s also several earlier gun designs which were better, lighter, cheaper, and had peak trunnion forces and receiver size more inline with that of 30 caliber Brownings…

          In other words, no they haven’t come close to solving the problems inherent to the M2.

          The M2 was a revolutionary gun for it’s era and nothing can take this away from it. I love the browning and am in total awe of the man responsible for it and so many other designs, but they were showing their age even in the early 40’s.

          • Joshua

            That’s a big rant to not give any examples.

          • roguetechie

            XM235/XM248
            The AAI Dover Devil
            Russell S. Robinson’s FOOB guns

            And to a lesser degree the Beardmore Farquhar Machine guns to include the .50 caliber model

      • roguetechie

        Ummn no,
        .I know of a design that definitely DID NOT fail…

        Unless you consider failure being able to drag and drop in a kit to fire 12.7×108 14.5kpv and 20mm Vulcan a failure…

        Or dual user selectable feed mechanisms a failure…

        Or a something like 64 pound gun weight a failure…

        Or being able to be manufactured for 20%-25% the price of a ma deuce a failure…

        Oh yeah and the stupid headspace thing was fixed too…

        If that’s what you consider a FAILED project I’ll take your failed projects all day, because they’re a hell of a lot better than the crap we’re buying now!

        • J-

          What Gun are you talking about. The only convertible machine gun like that I know is the XM307. It was supposed to convert between 50 BMG and a 25 mm low velocity grenade and replace the M2 and MK19. It never worked. It was supposed to be man portable light weight but was so light it came apart. The attenuated recoil system was never tuned and it was unreliable. Shooting from an open bolt was supposed to enhance cooling but made accuracy suck. It was scrapped in 2007. I know of no other weapon like the one you are describing. I used to do research for Rock Island Arsenal. If it existed I would have heard of it.

          • roguetechie

            It was a gun by AAI most commonly referred to as the dover devil.

            It was very much a working gun and was extremely durable to boot as can be clearly seen by it’s ability to successfully be converted to fire 20mm Vulcan which was based on an opened up .60 caliber machine gun case and 14.5 kpv which is a much more powerful round than 12.7×99.

            At the time the gun was developed a new M2 browning cost the government $13000, AAI could profitably sell the government dover devils for $3000 each if the gun was in full serial production.

            The gun is actually a direct descendant of, and designed by the same guys as the XM235/XM248 LMG which was admitted to be the best gun in the SAW competition. However this was in the aftermath of McNamara gutting the arsenal system and the selection committee was worried about whether that fiasco would screw up production of the gun even though Philco-Ford was brought in as the contractor responsible for the gun. Which they did a very good job of BTW.

            In truth the 248 could have also served in place of the 240 since a 7.62 kit was developed and tested for it.

            We’d have been much better off with the 248 too since it was lighter with a full belt box, sling, repair kit, and t&e mechanism / tripod mounting hardware on the gun than a 249 with no T&e no mount hardware no belt box or even belt box mounting bracket!

            We wouldn’t have the totally insane number of 240 variants most of which are not convertible between types either because the 248 was extraordinarily modular as was the dover devil!

            I won’t even get into the Robinson guns other than to point out that in the patent citations for the 338 Norma mag MG being touted as the hottest thing since sliced bread you will find that they cited Russ Robinson patents…

            Also of note, in Chinn’s seminal work WRT machine guns you will find in his foreword a note about classified and especially valuable information and research being purposely left out.

            I’m pretty certain that quite a bit of Robinson’s work during world war 2 and especially afterwards is still classified / the patents are still being withheld since there’s so few Robinson patents even out there as compared to his very prolific body of work!

            This is why I get outright hostile towards those who try to say small arms technology is mature / at the point of diminishing returns and this is why we’re not seeing WESTERN small arms technology really get any better.

            This simply isn’t the case since I know for a fact we’re still failing to exploit almost 80 year old advances in any real way!

            That isn’t even saying anything about how the PKM and pretty much every Russian machine gun development thereafter puts the lie to the maturity/diminishing returns hypothesis!

            Even if we didn’t have the Russian guns to show the lie for what it is there’s also the multiple Chinese HMG’S & AGL’s which also prove that it’s a lie. Oh yeah, and the Russian AGL’s too which are flat out better, lighter, and cheaper than our stuff too.

          • FYI: The Dover Devil was an in-house US Army design from Picatinny Arsenal…hence the nickname.

          • roguetechie

            Wow,

            That’s extremely weird that you haven’t heard of it since Rodman Labs is the origination point of the XM235/248 which was developed by the same guys who did the dover devil for AAI.

            I assure you the developments are real and the guns DID exist, though I have this really strong feeling that there’s likely no examples of any of these guns still in existence today.

            Lord knows that chasing down information on any of this stuff is extraordinarily difficult since almost no documentation seems to exist in government databases / collections!

            What little information there is available is available through the Small Arms Review Archive & forgotten weapons has a downloadable version of the XM248 technical manual on their site.

            It actually interests me very much that essentially no information still resides in the Rock Island archives.

            Really, that’s very saddening to hear since they were brilliant designs.

            The Robinson designs seem to have got the same treatment as well.

    • The legacy M2 are likely intended for foreign military sales.

  • FarmerB

    “One of the biggest crutches of the M2s design since its inception has been the dreaded headspace and timing being absolutely necessary for the successful operation of the weapon system. It wasn’t until the 1990s, almost a century after its adoption in the 1920s when solutions to this problem were being implemented.”

    If it was such a bad problem, you’d think they would have fixed it by then???

    • gjallewerk

      It doesn’t get trained at the infantry level much, but it only takes about a minute once it’s been set up. When we were issued the M2QD versions in afghanistan, they seemed much more cantankerous than the older ones, and were non-user-servicable. When the Depot came through to headspace all of our weapons, they screwed up the headspacing on our one organic M2QD, and then never came back to fix it.

      • CoastieGM

        I don’t think the problem is an issue of difficulty, I think it’s an issue of people not doing it. Being one of two Gunners Mate’s on my current patrol boat I check our heads pace and timing every time we get underway. However I have heard horror stories of people in the Marines or Army gowing out on convoy not checking the head space and timing before hand. When they went to shoot their weapons things like catastrophic out of battery discharges, failures to feed, failures to fire, and while slightly amusing also very bad one guy shot his barrel off he weapon because it wasn’t tightened down enough. Preheadspaced means it slaps in and is good to go.

      • imachinegunstuff

        It was taught to us in the Marine Corps and religiously enforced

  • Moonman45

    I for one look forward to the day when 9mm is the largest machine gun cartridge used by the armed forces, just think, ammo redundancy, easy of supply, soldiers will be forced to use ‘shot placement’ instead of relying on obsolete weapons, and just think of how many rounds you could carry!

    • Anonymoose

      Why not 5.7?

      • Moonman45

        because glock doesnt make a 5.7!

        • Anonymoose

          But they could!

    • int19h

      .22 LR would be a better fit, no?

  • BFN

    Who was the german General that said M2 .50 mgs give the victori in the air to America?
    i think M2 is good heavy mg and simply easy to use.

  • Idahoguy101

    They finally used up all the stored up M2/AN guns built in WW2?

  • J-

    When do they start making semi auto only versions for civilian sales. A semi auto M249 is kids stuff.

    • randomswede

      Not many people live a life where they can afford a semi M2 and the ammo to keep it feed. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen, it just means someone has to figure out how to make money on gun 1, 10 and 100.

      • J-

        I was being sarcastic. When FN released the M249 at $8,500, I thought that was ridiculous.

        • Agreed. That thing is way over priced. Slash that by about 4x and I’d be interested.

          • roguetechie

            The problem is that those guns genuinely are very expensive to manufacture.

            Same with hk21/23’s …

            The gun that was actually the best gun from the competition on the other could likely be realistically manufactured and sold with a complete 7.62 NATO conversion kit could be made and sold in semiautomatic only formats for $2500-$3000 dollars for a very complete kit.

            Especially considering it’s 50 caliber sibling could have been sold to the army in the early 80’s for $3000 each at a time when an M2 cost the government $13000 each.

          • J-

            For $8,500 you can get a transferable 9mm sub gun and afford to shoot it.

        • roguetechie

          If we had bought the gun we should have from that competition affordable 5.56&7.62 belt feds would actually be available.

    • roguetechie

      Just fyi, there are actually quite a few semiautomatic only M2’s kicking around out there.

      Though I don’t personally know of any with the QCB kits, that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist though.

  • Tim

    JMB lives!

    • Al Wise

      He already does in the M-240.

  • Adam D.

    Guys, I’m not familiar with the platform, could somebody explain what the above mentioned headspace problem was and the solution for it?

    • CommonSense23

      Basically the gun would have to be headspaced and timed when you changed barrels. Which one a lot of people struggled with. Two, you needed the gauges to do. And three takes time which could be a issue if the human wave attack is still going.

    • jono102

      Most other M2 user countries (Western Europe, Sth Pacific) changed to the QCB version some time back. They don’t require head spacing. Never had issues with the guns themselves its more the mounting/sighting systems and the user level that decide what you get out of them.

      • 2805662

        And mostly the FN QCB type, not the M2A1. They each (FN vs Picatinny) solve the QCB problem differently, do the barrels aren’t interchangeable.

    • Joshua

      My understanding of the mechanics is limited, but I will do my best.

      The M2 machine gun is based on the earlier M1917 machine gun. It operates based on a short recoil system, the bolt and barrel recoil together a short distance before unlocking, once unlocked the barrel hits and accelerator slide looking thing, which imparts enough energy on the bolt to cycle.

      The barrel is screwed into this assembly, which is how the head spacing comes in, because the bolt is locked to the barrel, if the barrel is not screwed in to the same place when changed the headspace is changed, which is not good on most guns.

      The timing is also becomes a problem as the barrel is not consistently installed, it may either not hit the accelerator, or hit it while the gun is still locked, resulting in not enough momentum, or a locked up gun.

      possibly entirely wrong, but that is my understanding from the people I’ve talked to

  • Scott Connors

    Now if we could only fix the government’s headspace and timing problem!

    • Joshua

      bu dun tish!

  • Al Wise

    Will go down in history as the longest serving firearm design in US history.

  • Sledgecrowbar

    I hope someday the M2 becomes the standard individual infantry rifle. It works well at what guns do. Ask anyone who has ever been on the wrong end.

    M2’s for everyone! But just on our side, I mean.

    • John

      That’ll happen when every soldier is issued power armor to go with it.

  • Peter Balzer

    Way to go, GD. Congrats to our brothers at OTS

  • roo_ster

    Never thought headspace & timing of the M2 was a big whoop. I kinda like user-serviceable bits.