M1919 Browning machine gun

The M1919 Browning is a .30 caliber medium machine gun that was widely used during the 20th century, especially during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The M1919 saw service as a light infantry, coaxial, mounted, aircraft, and anti-aircraft machine gun by the U.S. and many other countries. Many M1919s were rechambered for the new 7.62×51mm NATO round and remain in service to this day.

Machine Gun, Caliber .30, Browning, M1919
TypeMedium machine gun
General-purpose machine gun (M1919A6)
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1919–present
Used bySee users
WarsBanana Wars
Warlord era
World War II
Indonesian National Revolution
Korean War
Hukbalahap Rebellion
First Indochina War[1]
Congo Crisis
Vietnam War
Algerian War[2]
Bangladesh Liberation War[3]
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Rhodesian Bush War
Six-Day War
The Troubles in Northern Ireland
Nigerian Civil War
Somali Civil War
Laotian Civil War
Salvadoran Civil War
Lebanese Civil War[4]
Cambodian Civil War
Kivu conflict[5]
First Libyan Civil War
Second Libyan Civil War
Syrian Civil War[6]
other conflicts
Production history
DesignerJohn M. Browning
ManufacturerBuffalo Arms Corporation
Rock Island Arsenal
Saginaw Steering Gear division of General Motors
No. built438,971[7]
VariantsA1; A2; A3; A4; A5; A6; M37 and AN/M2
Mass31 lb (14 kg) (M1919A4)
  • 37.94 in (964 mm) (M1919A4)
  • 53 in (1,346 mm) (M1919A6)
Barrel length24 in (610 mm)

ActionRecoil-operated/short-recoil operation
Rate of fire400–600 round/min (1200–1500 for AN/M2 variant)
Muzzle velocity2,800 ft/s (850 m/s)
Effective firing range1,500 yd (1,400 m) (maximum effective range)
Feed system250-round belt

The M1919 was an air-cooled development of the standard US machine gun of World War I, the John M. Browning-designed water-cooled M1917. The emergence of general-purpose machine guns in the 1950s pushed the M1919 into secondary roles in many cases, especially after the arrival of the M60 in US Army service. The United States Navy also converted many to 7.62mm NATO, and designated them Mk 21 Mod 0; they were commonly used on river craft in the 1960s and 1970s in Vietnam. Many NATO countries also converted their examples to 7.62, and these remained in service well into the 1990s, as well as up to the present day in some countries.

A similar conversion of the M1917 also produced the larger M2 Machine Gun, using the same basic operating principles and layout but firing the much more powerful .50 caliber (12.7mm) ammunition. The M1919 is distinguished by its smaller size and the use of a holed jacket around the barrel used on most versions.



The M1919 originally fired the .30 cal M1906 (30-06) ball cartridge, and later the .30 caliber M2 ball cartridge, contained in a woven cloth belt, feeding from left to right. A metal M1 link was later adopted, forming a "disintegrating" belt.

Loading was accomplished by inserting the pull tab on the ammunition belt from the left side of the gun - either metal links or metal tab on cloth belts - until the belt-holding pawl at the entrance of the feed way grabbed the belt and held it in place. The cocking handle was then pulled back with the palm of the hand facing up, and then released. This advanced the first round of the belt in front of the bolt for the extractor/ejector on the bolt to grab the first cartridge. The cocking handle was pulled and released a second time. This removed the first cartridge from the belt, advanced the next round into position to be grabbed and moved the first round down into the chamber of the barrel ready for firing.

As the bolt went into battery, the extractor grabbed the next round on the belt that was advanced and was resting in the feedway waiting to be loaded. Every time the gun fired a single shot, the gun performed the sequence of extracting and ejecting the spent round as the bolt came rearward, loading the next round to be fired into the barrel, advancing the belt, grabbing the next round in preparation for loading, then chambering it as the bolt came forward again under tension from the spring. If the trigger was held down, the gun would continue to fire in full automatic, repeating the sequence over and over until stopped.

The gun's original design was as a water-cooled machine gun (see the M1917 Browning machine gun). When it was decided to try to lighten the gun and make it air-cooled, its design as a closed bolt weapon created a potentially dangerous situation. If the gun was very hot from prolonged firing, the cartridge ready to be fired could be resting in a red-hot barrel, causing the propellant in the cartridge to heat up to the point that it would ignite and fire the cartridge on its own (a cook-off). With each further shot heating the barrel even more, the gun would continue to fire uncontrollably until the ammunition ran out, since depressing the trigger was not what was causing the gun to fire. Gunners were taught to cock the gun with the palm facing up, so that in the event of a cook-off, their thumb would not be dislocated by the charging handle. Gunners were trained to manage the barrel heat by firing in controlled bursts of three to five rounds, to delay heating. Most other machine gun designs were fired in the same way, even though most featured quick-change barrels and an open bolt, two features that make air-cooled machine guns capable of sustained fire, and features that the M1919 design lacked.


When the gun was ready to fire, a round would be in the chamber and the bolt and barrel group would be locked together, with the locking block at the rear of the bolt. When the rear of the trigger was pivoted upwards by the operator, the front of the trigger tipped downward, pulling the sear out of engagement with the spring-loaded firing pin, allowing it to move forward and strike the primer of the cartridge.

As the assembly of bolt, barrel and barrel extension recoiled to the rear of the gun upon firing, the locking block was drawn out of engagement by a cam in the bottom of the gun's receiver. The recoiling barrel extension struck the "accelerator" assembly, a half-moon shaped spring-loaded piece of metal pivoting from the receiver below the bolt and behind the barrel extension. The tips of the accelerator's two curving fingers engaged the bottom of the bolt and caused it to move rapidly to the rear. The extractor-ejector was a mechanism that pivoted over the front of the bolt, with a claw that gripped the base of the next round in the belt. A camming track in the left side of the receiver caused this to move down as the bolt moved back, lowering the next round down on top of the fired case, pushing it straight down out of the extraction grooves of the bolt face through the ejection port. A spring in the feed tray cover pushed the extractor-ejector down onto the next round, so if the feed tray cover was opened, the extractor-ejector would be pulled upwards if the belt needed to be removed.

The belt feed lever was connected to the belt feeding pawl at the front end, had a cam pin at the rear end which ran through a track in the top of the bolt, and a pin in the feed tray cover acted as the pivot between the two ends. The rearward movement of the bolt caused the rear end of the feed lever to pull to the right, causing the feeding pawl at the other end to move left over the belt. The pawl would pull the belt further to the right as the bolt came forward again, also sending the loose M1 link of the previous round to be taken out of the belt to fly out the right side of the receiver. A recoil buffer tube extended from the back of the receiver to make the cycle of the bolt smoother than previous designs, to absorb some of the recoil of the bolt, and formed a place for the pistol grip to be installed.

Except for the M1919A6, all other variants had to be mounted on a tripod or other type of mount to be used effectively. The tripod used by infantry allowed traverse and elevation. To aim the gun along its vertical axis, the adjustment screw needed to be operated. This allowed the gun to be pointed upwards or downwards, with free traverse to either side. The gun was aimed using iron sights, a small folding post at the front end of the receiver and a rear aperture sight on a sliding leaf with range graduations from 200 to 1,800 meters in 200 meter increments. When folded down, the aperture formed a notch that could be used to fire the gun immediately without flipping up the leaf. The rear sight also had windage adjustment with a dial on the right side.

Operational use


As a company support weapon, the M1919 required at least a two-man machine gun team. But, in practice, four men were normally involved: the gunner (who fired the gun and when advancing carried the tripod and box of ammunition), the assistant gunner (who helped feed the gun and carried it, and a box of spare parts and tools), and two ammunition carriers.[8] The original idea was to allow the gun to be more easily packed for transport, and featured a light barrel and bipod when first introduced as the M1919A1. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that the gun was too heavy to be easily moved, while at the same time too light for sustained fire. This led to the M1919A2, which included a heavier barrel and tripod, and could be continuously fired for longer periods.

The M1919A4 weighed about 31 pounds (14 kg), and was ordinarily mounted on a lightweight, low-slung tripod for infantry use. Fixed vehicle mounts were also employed. It saw wide use in World War II mounted on jeeps, armored personnel carriers, tanks, and amphibious vehicles. The M1919A4 played a key role in the firepower of the World War II U.S. Army. Each infantry company normally had a weapons platoon in addition to its other organic units. The presence of M1919A4 weapons in the weapons platoon gave company commanders additional automatic fire support at the company level, whether in the assault or on defense.[9]

The M1919A5 was an adaptation of the M1919A4 with a forward mounting point to allow it to be mounted in tanks and armored cars. This, along with the M37 and the Browning M2 machine gun, was the most common secondary armament during World War II for the Allies. The coaxial M37 variant had the ability to feed from either the left or the right of the weapon, and featured an extended charging handle similar to those on the M1919A4E1 and A5. A trial variant fitted with special sighting equipment was designated M37F.

Another version of the M1919A4, the M1919A6, was an attempt to make the weapon into a true light machine gun by attaching a bipod, buttstock, carrying handle, lighter barrel (4 lb (1.8 kg) instead of 7 lb (3.2 kg)), and flash suppressor. The M1919A6 was in fact heavier than the M1919A4 without its tripod, at 32 lb (15 kg), though its bipod made for faster deployment and enabled the machine gun team to dispense with one man (the tripod bearer).[10] The A6 version saw increasing service in the latter days of World War II and was used extensively in Korea. While the modifications were intended to make the weapon more useful as a squad light machine gun, it was a stopgap solution. Even though it was reliable, it proved somewhat impractical for its intended role. While the 31 lb M1919A4 had a crew of two or more to carry the gun and the 14 lb (6.4 kg) tripod, one M1919A6 gunner was expected to carry and deploy the 32.5 lb (14.7 kg) gun by himself.[11]

In the late 1950s, an M1919 designed for remote firing via a solenoid trigger was developed for use in the XM1/E1 armament subsystem was designated M37C. The US Navy later converted a number of M1919A4s to 7.62mm NATO chambering and designated them Mk 21 Mod 0; some of these weapons were employed in Vietnam in riverine warfare patrols.

From the 1960s until the 1990s, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used ground tripod and vehicle-mounted M1919A4 guns converted to 7.62 mm NATO on many of their armored vehicles and M3 personnel carriers. Israel developed a modified link for these guns due to feeding problems with the original US M1 link design. The improved Israeli link worked with .30 caliber, 7.62 mm NATO and 8×57 mm cartridges.


With assistance from firearms engineers at Fabrique Nationale de Herstal,[12] Belgium, the Model 1919 was completely re-engineered into the .30 caliber M2 AN (Army-Navy) aircraft machine gun. The .30 in M2 AN Browning was widely adopted as both a fixed (offensive) and flexible (defensive) weapon on aircraft. Aircraft machine guns required light weight, firepower, and reliability, and achieving all three goals proved a difficult challenge, with the mandate for a closed bolt firing cycle to enable the gun to be safely and properly synchronized for fixed-mount, forward-aimed guns firing through a spinning propeller, a necessity on many single-engined fighter aircraft designs through to nearly the end of World War II. The receiver walls and operating components of the M2 were made thinner and lighter, and with air cooling provided by the speed of the aircraft, designers were able to reduce the barrel's weight and profile. As a result, the M2 weighed two-thirds that of the 1919A4, and the lightened mechanism gave it a rate of fire approaching 1,200 rpm (some variants could achieve 1,500 rpm),[12] a necessity for engaging fast-moving aircraft. The M2's feed mechanism had to lift its own loaded belt out of the ammunition box and feed it into the gun, equivalent to a weight of 11 lb (5 kg).[13] In Ordnance circles, the .30 M2 AN Browning had the reputation of being the most difficult-to-repair weapon in the entire US small arms inventory.[13]

The M2 also appeared in a twin-mount version which paired two M2 guns with opposing feed chutes in one unit for operation by a single gunner, with a combined rate of fire of 2,400 rpm. All of the various .30 M2 models saw service in the early stages of World War II, but were phased out beginning in 1943, as hand-trained rifle-calibre defensive machine guns became obsolete for air warfare (the .50 in/12.7 mm M2 Browning and 20 mm Hispano HS.404 automatic cannon had replaced the .30 in as offensive air armament as well). The .30 in M2 aircraft gun was widely distributed to other US allies during and after World War II, and in British and Commonwealth service saw limited use as a vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft or anti-personnel machine gun.[14]

Other calibers

The same basic weapon was also chambered for the British .303 round, and was used as a basic fighter aircraft gun in fighters such as the Supermarine Spitfire until the widespread introduction of the larger caliber Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannon, and throughout the war in bombers. British night fighter Mosquitoes used quartets of .303 Brownings in the nose and Beaufighters used six in the wings, with both having four 20mm Hispano cannon in ventral fuselage mounts.

Similar versions for a variety of European calibers were delivered by the Belgian gun maker FN (Fabrique Nationale), notably German-standard 7.92×57mm Mauser which was widely used in Eastern Europe; and by Swedish gun maker Carl Gustaf SGF in 6.5×55mm and 8×63mm calibers.

Argentina used Colt-manufactured guns chambered for the standard Argentine 7.65×53mm cartridge.

On Lend-Lease British aircraft provided to the Soviets

The .303 variant equipped the Hawker Hurricanes delivered to Soviet Air Forces, during World War II. Soviet airmen compared them to their own, rapid-firing (at up to 1,800 rounds/min) ShKAS machine gun in terms of reliability: "But they often failed due to dust," recalled pilot Nikolai G. Golodnikov. "We tackled the problem gluing percale on all the machine-gun holes, and when you opened fire, bullets went right through. The machine guns became reliable then. They were of low efficiency when fired from distances of 150-300m."[15]


The M1919 was manufactured during World War II by three different companies in the United States; Buffalo Arms Corporation, Rock Island Arsenal, and the Saginaw Steering Gear division of General Motors. In the UK, production was chiefly by BSA. Originally unit priced at $667 each, mass production lowered the price to $141.44.

Variants and derivatives

M1919 variants

The original M1919 was designed for use with tanks.[16] The water-cooled M1917 was inappropriate due to weight and the vulnerability of the water jacket. Browning modified the M1917 to be air-cooled by making changes that included dropping the water jacket and using a heavier barrel.[16]

In total, there were six variants of the basic M1919 machine gun.

The M1919A1 featured a lighter barrel and a bipod. It was distinguished from the "M1919" because it also had sights, which the M1919 did not.
The M1919A2 was another lightweight development specifically for mounted cavalry units, utilizing a shorter 18-inch barrel and a special tripod, though it could be fitted to either the M1917 or M2 tripods. This weapon was designed to allow greater mobility to cavalry units over the existing M1917 machine gun. The M1919A2 was introduced in 1922, and was used for a short period between World War I and World War II after the cavalry had converted from horses to wheeled and tracked vehicles.
The M1919E1, commonly known as the M1919A3, was introduced in 1931 as an improved version of the M1919A2 for the infantry.[17]
However, by and large the most common variant of the series was the M1919A4. Production blueprints of the new variant were complete in late 1936, and slow-scale production soon followed.[17] The driving force behind the development of this variant was the suffering reliability of the 18-inch barrel of previous versions, which did not produce enough recoil to cycle the action reliably. The bull barrel was made much thicker and was lengthened to 24 inches like the M1917. Various other small adjustments to the design were made, such as moving the front sight from the barrel jacket to the receiver, which made it easier to mount the gun on vehicles. The design of the barrel jacket was changed to include circular holes instead of long slits of earlier models, and a recoil booster in the muzzle end improved reliability. The recoil buffer assembly was also a new addition to the design between A3 and A4 development, designed to reduce the impact of the bolt hitting the backplate.
The M1919A4 was used in both fixed and flexible mounts, by infantry and on vehicles. It was also widely exported after World War II and continues to be used in small numbers around the world. Two variants were developed specifically for vehicular use, the M1919A5, with an extended charging handle, and the M1919A4E1, a sub-variant of the M1919A4 refitted with an extended charging handle developed in the 1950s.[18]
During the war it became clear to the US military that the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, while portable, was utterly insufficient as a sustained fire weapon due to its fixed barrel and 20-round magazine. The M1919A4 was faster and cheaper to produce, but did not have the portability of a rifle to be easily deployed by infantry. Realising that producing an entirely new replacement machine gun would take years, the military decided that a stop-gap solution would be best, to adapt an already existing design. The M1919A6 was an attempt at such a solution, to parallel the designs of the German MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns, each of which were portable for a squad weapon and were effective at sustained fire.
The M1919A6 first saw combat service in the fall of 1943. It had a metal buttstock assembly that clamped to the backplate of the gun, and a front barrel bearing that incorporated both a muzzle booster and a bipod similar to that used on the M1918 BAR rifle. A lighter barrel than that of the M1919A4 was fitted, and a carry handle was attached to the barrel jacket to make it easier to carry. Previous designs could change the barrel, but it required field stripping the gun - the pistol grip back plate, bolt group and the trigger group all had to be removed before the barrel could finally be replaced, and this put the gun out of action for minutes, and risked losing and damaging parts in the field. The M1919A6 muzzle device allowed the gun crew to replace the barrel from the front, an improvement, but still an awkward procedure compared to other machine guns of the day.
The M1919A6 was a heavy (32 pounds (15 kg)) and awkward weapon in comparison with the MG34 (26 pounds (12 kg)) and MG42 (25 pounds (11 kg)) and was eventually replaced in US service by the M60 machine gun (23.15 pounds (10.50 kg)) in the 1960s.
The M1919A6 was used by Springfield Armory in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a testbed for an interim general-purpose machine gun. It was rechambered for the experimental T65 series cartridges, culminating in 1951 with the T66 machine gun chambered for the T65E3 cartridge (one of the forerunners to the 7.62mm NATO cartridge). It had a new barrel with a flash-hider attachment, a shorter action, and modified M1 disintegrating belt links to feed the new cartridge. It was deemed still too heavy for field use and was not adopted.
.30 AN/M2
A specific aircraft version of the .30 caliber Model 1919A4 was manufactured by Browning as the .30 AN/M2. It had a thinner barrel and receiver walls to keep down weight. Compared to the M1919A4, the AN/M2 had a substantially higher rate of fire (1,200 to 1,500 rounds per minute). It was used on US aircraft early in World War II, but the lighter .30-caliber weapon was increasingly relegated to training duties as the war progressed. A derivative of this weapon was built by Colt as the civilian market MG40.
It was later replaced by the larger caliber — and is not to be confused with — the Browning Machine Gun, Cal. .50, M2, Aircraft, with the smaller-calibre ordance bearing the official designation of "Browning Machine Gun, Cal. .30, M2, Aircraft." The .50 AN/M2 "light barrel" version, used in the majority of fixed and flexible/turreted mounts on U.S. World War II-era aircraft as the war progressed, lacked the massive "cooling collar" of the heavy barrel M2HB version, which is still in service with the ground forces of the U.S. military in the 21st century.
The AN/M2 was responsible for seriously wounding "one of the best Japanese fighter pilots of the war" and flying ace Saburō Sakai when he attacked eight SBD Dauntlesses from behind mistaking them for F4F Wildcat fighters.[19]
.30 AN/M2 "Stinger" field modification
The AN/M2 was subject to field modifications by marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II and used on the ground as a light machine gun. These were salvaged from crashed and disabled aircraft and fitted with a bipod (spade grips still attached). Later more extensive modifications led to six being fitted with a custom trigger, M1 Garand buttstock, BAR bipod, and BAR rear sights to allow for use without a tripod or other mount.[20] The resulting weapon was a belt-fed, 40 inch long, 25 lb. gun and fired three times as fast as the M1919A6's of the day. The Stinger was recommended as a replacement for the BAR in squads however the war ended just six months later.[21]
A famous example of their use was a personally modified weapon of this type, used by Marine Corporal Tony Stein during the invasion of Iwo Jima. Stein would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle. It had a rate of fire in excess of 1,200 rpm and was nicknamed the "Stinger."[22] Barrel overheating and lack of control were the cause of its demise.
Flygplankulspruta m/22
Flygplankulspruta m/22, ksp m/22 for short was a Swedish variant of the .30 AN/M2 aircraft machine gun.[23] The name literally translates to airplane machine gun m/22. It was originally used by the Swedish army's aviation branch but moved over to the Swedish air force when it was formed in 1926. The first guns delivered were built by Colt but Sweden later got a license produce the weapon. The ksp m/22 stayed in active service all the way to 1957, although by then only in a gunpod for ground strafing.[24]
Originally the ksp m/22 was chambered in 6.5x55 mm but in 1932 almost all guns where re chambered to 8x63 mm.[25]
Browning .303 Mark II
The Browning was adopted by the Royal Air Force as a replacement for the .303 Vickers and manufactured by Vickers Armstrong and BSA to fire the British .303 inch (7.7 mm) round and named Browning .303 Mk II in British Service. It was essentially the 1930 Pattern belt-fed Colt–Browning machine gun with a few minor modifications for British use, such as firing from an open bolt, hence prohibiting their use for gun synchronization through a spinning propeller. It was designed to fire hydraulically as a wing mounted machine gun but was also adopted as hand-fired mount for use in bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. It had a rate of fire of 1,150 rounds per minute.[26][27] The licence was issued to the BSA by July 1935.[28]
The Browning .303 was used on the RAF's 'eight-gun fighters' the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, and as a turret gun in the Boulton Paul Defiant, and in the Handley Page Halifax, Short Stirling, Avro Manchester and Avro Lancaster bombers, and the Short Sunderland flying boat installed in various Boulton Paul or Nash & Thompson turrets. Even after the introduction of autocannon as primary fighter armament .303s were retained as supplementary weapons on many aircraft including later versions of the Spitfire, as well as fighter-bomber and night fighter versions of the de Havilland Mosquito, among others.
For hand-held moveable mount use the Vickers K gun was preferred.
There is pictorial evidence of the .303 Browning being placed on improvised bipods for ground use during the early campaigns in Burma and Malaysia.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s the US military was looking for an upgrade to the M1919 that could feed from either side for use as an improved coaxial machine gun. Saco-Lowell developed a model that had the driving spring attached to the back plate (eliminating the need for a mainspring and driving rod protruding out the back of the bolt), a solenoid trigger for remote firing, a feed cover that could open from either side, a bolt with dual tracks that could feed from either side, and a reversible belt feed pawl, ejector, and feed chute. The experimental T151 had a flat backplate (?), the T152 had spade grips and a "butterfly" trigger like the M2HB, and the T153 had a pistol grip and back-up trigger like the M1919A4 and an extended charging handle similar to those on the M1919A5. The T153 was adopted as the M37 and was produced by SACO-Lowell and Rock Island Arsenal from 1955 to 1957. It was in regular service from 1955 until it was replaced by the M37E1 in the late 1960s and the M73A1 in the early 1970s.
The M37 was used mostly on the M48 and M60 Patton medium tanks. The M37F was a trial variant fitted with special sighting equipment. The M37C was a variant without a sight bracket designed for use in aircraft armament (like the skid-mounted XM1/E1 helicopter armament subsystem).
The M37E1 was a M37 machine gun converted by Rock Island Arsenal and Springfield Armory to chamber the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge and feed the M13 disintegrating belt. They were designed for interim use until the M73 machine gun could be fielded.[29] The M37E1 was to be standardized as the M37A1 but development of the improved M73A1 precluded this.[30]
Mk 21 Mod 0
The increasing American involvement in Vietnam created a demand for small arms, especially the new M60 machine gun. The Navy had surplus machine guns left over from World War 2 and Korea, but they were chambered for the earlier .30-06 Springfield cartridge rather than the new standard 7.62mm NATO cartridge. The Mk 21 Mod 0 was a US Navy conversion of the .30 M1919A4 to fire the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. This was accomplished by replacing the barrel, bolt, and feed cover and adding a chamber bushing, a link-stripper, and a second belt-holding pawl to allow it to feed and fire the new cartridge.[31][32] Spacer blocks were added to the front and back of the feedway to guide the shorter round and block the use of the longer .30-06 Springfield ammunition.[31][33] A six-inch flash hider was also added to the barrel to reduce the muzzle flash.[31]
The conversions were performed from 1966 through 1967 at Naval Ordnance Station Louisville.[31] Modified M1919A4s had the designation "Machine Gun, 7.62mm / Mk 21 Mod 0" stamped on the receiver sideplate in 1/4-inch lettering. The replacement barrels had "7.62mm NATO-G" stamped on them in 1/8-inch letters to differentiate them from M1919A4 or M60 barrels;[34] the letter G indicated it used a grooved barrel bushing.[32]
It used the standard 7.62mm NATO M13 link "strip-out" disintegrating link,[32] in which the bolt pushes the round out of the bottom of the two-part link and then forwards into the breech.[31] The old M1 link "pull-out" disintegrating links, which are pulled backwards out of the one-piece link by the extractor towards the bolt and then forwards into the breech, would not feed through the new mechanism.[31] The M1 links, which were designed for the longer and thinner .30-06 Springfield, would also be too narrow to fit the shorter and thicker 7.62mm NATO round. The US Navy, because of their narrower inventory of 7.62mm NATO ammunition, used linked belts of either 7.62mm M80 Ball or a 4:1 ratio mix of 7.62mm M80 Ball and 7.62mm M62 Tracer.
The refurbished feed mechanism was left-hand feed only. It was different from the one in the M60 GPMG in that the open end of the belt had to be on top so it could be stripped out.[31][35] To prepare the ammo, gunners had to take out both of the 100-round belts from an M19A1 ammo can, had to link them both together, and then loaded the resultant 200-round belt back into the M19A1 can upside-down so it would feed correctly.[31]

International variants and derivatives

The M1919 pattern has been used in countries all over the world in a variety of forms and under a number of different designations.

  • The Browning Mk 1 and Mk 2 were older-style Commonwealth designations for the .303 caliber Browning machine guns used on the vast majority of British aircraft of World War II.[36] The difference between the Mk 1 and Mk 2 versions is unknown, but the weapon visually is quite similar to the AN/M2 aircraft gun. The post-war designations for these weapons was L3, and they were used by the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to designate the fixed (A1) and flexible (A2) versions of the M1919A4 in .30-06 caliber. L3A3 and L3A4 denoted sear hold-open conversion of previous L3A1s and L3A2s. The A3 is the modified version of the A1, and the A4 is the modified version of the A2. The Canadians later adopted a separate designation for 7.62×51mm rechambered M1919A4s for fixed (C1) and flexible (C1A1) applications. The C5 and C5A1 were product improvements of the previous C1 and C1A1 respectively.
  • The Rhodesian Air Force used twin Browning Mk 2 models, chambered in the British .303 cartridge, mounted on Alouette III G-Car helicopters[37] as well as modified variants fitted with FN MAG bipods, pistol grips and stocks for ground use.[38][39]
  • The Browning was produced by FN-Herstal in Belgium as well, being used in, among others, the Fokker D.XXI and IAR-80/81 fighters.
  • MG A4 is the Austrian designation for the M1919A4.[40]
  • MG4 is a South African upgrade of the M1919 in current use with the South African National Defence Force. The MG4 upgrade was done by Lyttleton Engineering Works, Pretoria.[40]
  • MG m/52-1 and MG m/52-11 were Danish designations for the M1919A4 and M1919A5 respectively.[40]
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used vehicle-mounted M1919A4 guns converted to 7.62mm NATO on many of their armored vehicles.[40]
  • Ksp m/22 is the Swedish designation for license-built M1919s chambered for 8×63mm patron m/22 cartridges, for aircraft use.
  • Ksp m/39 is the Swedish designation for M1919A4 license-built by Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori chambered in 6.5×55mm and 8×63mm patron m/32, and from about 1975 rebarreled in 7.62×51mm NATO. Intended for use in tanks and armoured vehicles, it's available with both left- and right hand feeding, the former is used in CV 90.
  • Ksp m/42 was the Swedish designation for license-built M1919A6 used for infantry support, normally chambered in 6.5×55mm but occasionally in 8×63mm patron m/32, and from about 1975, mostly fitted with barrels in 7.62×51mm NATO. The Ksp m/42B was a lighter version with bipod and shoulder stock (used in a similar way as the M1919A6), chambered in 6.5×55mm and later in 7.62×51mm. Even the ksp m/42B proved too heavy, and was replaced by the ksp m/58 (FN MAG). In the late 1980s, most remaining ksp m/42 was rebuilt into ksp m/39 to be installed into the CV 90s.
  • The Poles developed a copy of the Browning M1919 chambered for 7.92×57mm Mauser, designated Ckm wz.32, similar to the earlier Ckm wz.30.

Commercial variants and derivatives

Colt MG40

Colt produced a derivative of the M2 aircraft machine gun, the Colt MG40. It shipped in a variety of calibers, including the basic .30-06 Springfield and popular 7mm Spanish Mauser, and was available in left- or right-hand feed.
The MG40-2 Light Aircraft Machine Gun could be used in flexible- (pintle-mounted), fixed- (wing-mounted), or synchronized- (through the propeller) models.[41] The Flexible mount machine gun came with grips and a "butterfly" trigger plate like the standard ground model. The Fixed model had a backplate. It used a cable connected to an operating slide connected to a stud on the bolt to fire it; tension in the cable causes the trigger to activate and slack in the cable causes it to stop.[41] The synchronized variant of the Fixed model had a trigger motor for through-propeller, gun synchronizing needs.[41]

Civilian ownership

The Browning M1919 remains popular with civilian enthusiasts in the United States, though changes in 1986 to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (the US Federal law regulating private ownership of machine guns) prohibited the registration of new machine guns for sales to private citizens, thus freezing the number of "transferable" machine guns in private ownership. The inflation of prices that followed, and the availability of parts from surplussed and scrapped machine guns, led to the development of semi-automatic versions of the Browning M1919. Typically, these are built using a new right sideplate (the portion legally considered the "firearm" under US law), which has a raised "island" protruding into the interior of the receiver. This requires the use of a modified bolt, barrel extension and lock frame which have been designed to allow only semi-automatic firing. The "island" prevents the insertion of unmodified full-automatic parts. A number of small gun companies have produced these "semi-auto machine guns" for commercial sales. The fairly simple modifications necessary to convert M1919 parts to the semi-automatic version, and the relatively easy process of riveting used in the assembly of the Browning machine gun's receiver, have also made it a popular gun for hobbyists to build at home.

Similar "semi-auto machine guns" have been built using parts from other Browning pattern machine guns, to include the AN/M2 aircraft gun and FN30, and variations that never saw military use such as extremely short (8") barreled guns.

Current and former users

See also


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Further reading

  • Frank Iannamico, Hard Rain: History of the Browning Machine Guns
  • Dolf L. Goldsmith, The Browning Machine Gun, Vol I & II
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa & the retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley (South Yorkshire), Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3
  • Rottman, Gordon L. (20 Feb 2014). Browning .30-caliber Machine Guns. Weapon 32. Osprey Publishing. p. 68. ISBN 9781780969213.
  • Smith, Joseph E. (1969). Small Arms of the World (11 ed.). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Stackpole Company.
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