Marines Get M2A1 HMGs

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.

From SysCom-

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.


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • Gus Butts

    We’ve had M2HB QCBs (Quick Change Barrel) since 1987… Unfortunately we replaced them all with H&K C16 GMGs and the venerable .50 cal is now nowhere to be seen in Canadian units. The quick change barrels are amazing and make the proven and useful weapon even better. Adjusting the headspace at armourer-level for the QCBs is also very easy and fast.

    • Joshua

      The new M2A1 doesn’t need to be headspaced.

      • PK

        Yes it does, but not by the gunner.

        • Joshua

          I was thinking he was talking about during barrel swap. Since that was one of the biggest issues with the base M2.

          • Gus Butts

            Nope, I’m an armourer and we do it in the shop. We check it after every 1,000 rounds and sometimes have to put a thicker block in there to correct it. Well, we used to, they are now out of the system. 🙁

    • The_Champ

      Back in my reg. force days I went through a firepower demonstration at CFB Wainwright, everything from C7’s up to the 155mm guns. I remember watching the .50 cals simply shred through a multi-layered sand bag fortifications. Quite impressive.

      Oddly enough I also recall one of the Brigade officers mentioning how they were looking to replace the .50’s with grenade launchers, I didn’t realize that has now happened.

      Have you had much experience with that new kit? Has it been well received?

      • Gus Butts

        We’ve had the new H&K C16 GMGs since 2012 or so. We got them for their air-burst capability that we now cannot even use because of problems with the weapon system and the sight system. They are flimsy and everything on them breaks. Replacing Browning M2s with these was a gigantic mistake.

  • Major Tom

    ” what is an “Infantry-like Unit”?”

    POG’s, at least of the Combat Support variety. Ya know, artillerymen, radio guys, stuff like that.

    • USMC03Vet

      Have you seen weapons company or even weapons platoon patrol? It’s a correct description.

    • Haha, glad you found that sarcastic as well. Infantry-like… If my cat is black and walks around stealthly at night, does that make my cat infantry-like?

      • Major Tom

        I dunno, what’s his unit patch say? :3

      • GaryOlson

        Depends on whether the tattoo on your cat is a call sign or gang tag

  • Geoff Timm

    We are still using a hundred year old HMG, amazing we haven’t anything better by now.
    Who was a 45B in the days when a headspace and timing gauge was in every tool box.

    • Major Tom

      It’s because everything else that tried either failed something, wasn’t as good or like the XM312 got axed in budgeting. (Even the XM312 wasn’t very good)

    • PK

      Cheap, effective, it works, why bother changing it for no large increase in effect?

    • milesfortis

      Hail Brother Geoff! Hell, I remember people using gage sets as keychains.
      Another former 45B here. I went civil service and did it for Uncle as a DAC as well.

      There have been several attempts to replace Mother, but nothing’s ever come close to how reliable that you and I know a properly set up M2 can be.
      JMB may not have been God, but he was a gun design genius the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.

  • The Dude (Noveske Fan)

    This is good, more time for crayon eating.

  • Uniform223

    Larry Vickers covered this already.

  • Joshua

    Well I guess it’s about time they finally caught up.

  • Bierstadt54

    “New.” Hahaha. You go Marine acquisition guys!
    (M2’s – 💯+ and still the best.)


    ….man oh man…that is an IMPROVEMENT !!!

  • valorius

    The M2A1 is a fantastic upgrade. I wonder why no alloy receiver though. Humping a ma deuce receiver truly sucks balls.

    • Joshua

      Because of cost and the M2A1 isn’t a assault machine gun.

      • valorius

        Having had to move, hump or mount m2 components on numerous occasions, I can tell you an alloy receiver would be very welcome.

        • John

          Well, it’s not an assault machine gun –yet–. The M2A2 may very well fit the bill, with a polymer lower and QD sling attachments and M4-compatible pistol grips… 😉

    • John Bear Ross

      I would rather hump the receiver than two barrels, or the damn tripod, though. The receiver was just a brick on your back. The barrels were just floppy, and that damn tripod was a torture device of random pinch points.
      Of course, I was an M240G guy, so we all know Heavy Guns were just Hummer queens to begin with. 😉
      JBR, old, broke-down 0331

      • valorius

        An alloy tripod wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
        Regards- an old, broke down 11B