Marine Corps Systems Command has finally pushed .50 Caliber M2A1 Browning Heavy Machine Guns out to the Fleet and to Training Command throughout the Marine Corps. 3,600 M2A1s are within this fielding, primarily going to Infantry battalions in the Fleet and Reserves, Training Command, and “Infantry-like units”. Currently, SysCom is in the second phase of fielding, having already completed phase one, and then pushing out the third phase by FY18. We reported earlier on a new contract with General Dynamics and U.S. Ordnance to produce new M2A1s. This recent fielding might be SysCom taking part in that contract, or it might be something completely different.
Having a quick-change barrel improves Marines’ readiness by reducing the amount of time they are exposed to enemy fire and shortens the amount of time the weapon is out of operation. By spending less time manually adjusting headspace and timing settings, and having the ability to change the M2A1’s barrel quickly, Marines can respond faster and more efficiently to enemy fire.
The third major improvement is the flash hider at the end of the barrel, said Thompson. By significantly reducing muzzle flash, Marines can better mask their position in firefights. The flash hider also limits white-out conditions caused by the brilliance of the weapon firing, enabling Marines to use night vision devices more effectively.
“All in all, MCSC will be fielding around 3,600 M2A1s to Marines,” said Kelly Sullivan, a program analyst for General Purpose Weapons at MCSC. “We completed Phase I fielding in March 2017, which covered infantry units, the majority of infantry-like units and infantry Reserves. We’re currently starting Phase II, which should run through the end of May. The fielding process will be will be finished during FY18.”
The M2A1 is one of the many capabilities acquired and managed by MCSC’s Infantry Weapons Systems.
The M2A1 brings adjusting headspace and timing to an end within the 0331 community, in addition to adding a barrel changing handle, and a compensator to reduce up to a reported 95 percent decrease of muzzle signature at night. The headspace and timing issues with the M2s would be a century old by 2033 (adoption of air-cooled barrel variant 1933), and as right on time, the Marine Corps is adopting the M2A1 almost seven years after the U.S. Army adopted it in 2011. Although the headspace and time adjustments were mostly seen as standard operation instead of an actual problem with the machine gun most of the time (lazy machine gunners are prone to experience stoppages), not having to worry about this ability will make lives much easier for those machine gunners in battalion weapons companies or turret gunners throughout the Fleet.