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US .50 Cal. M2HB MG Shootout

the weapon
There is always, among WW2 historians and weapon aficionados, a variety of opinions on which was the ultimate weapon fielded in that war and what contribution it made to the Allied victory (or Axis defeat, as it were) by its sheer brilliance of design, performance and effective engagement in battle. This argument has gone on forever, and of course I have my opinion on the matter as well. I would submit for examination the proposition that the single most ubiquitous, universal, reliable, devastatingly effective, and overall feared tactical weapon (as opposed to strategic weapons, like a 1000 plane B17 raid!) was and still is the US Browning M2HB belt fed .50 cal. heavy machine gun.

Why do I say this? Why do I now offend all those M1 Garand followers? All those M1A1 .45 submachine gun gurus? Sherman tank groupies? Possibly historical truth…and real world observation, along with a lot of reading about key battles and the warriors who fought those battles. And of course, I’m ex US Army and an old Tanker at that. I love the .50. I also happen to own one in civilian life. Bias? Maybe. But just look at the facts.

You will find Browning .50 cal. Heavy MG’s mounted on just about every vehicle on track or wheel. In the wings of every fighter plane and bristling like porcupine quills from every port and turret in every bomber. In the gun tubs of torpedo boats, landing craft, and lining the rails of capital ships. It sits on a mount atop every US built tank, in a ring atop numerous trucks and halftracks, in 2’s and 4’s in anti-aircraft turrets both towed and self propelled, and humped across the world by innumerable infantrymen in heavy support weapons squads with its portable tripod mount. It has been manufactured by numerous factories to keep up with demand and even licensed out to FN-Herstal in Belgium post war and contracted to Ramo for current military needs. It serves to this day, mounted atop M1 Abrams, and as primary weapon on every armed vehicle you can name, and most large helicopters. Current state-of-the-art .50 guns, such as the FN M3M and Central Wisconsin Armory M50, take the virtually indestructible Browning to the limit, with 1200 RPM fire rates, but it’s still basically the same gun. What gun saw more action? Fired more rounds in combat? Destroyed more enemy personnel and equipment? Downed more aircraft? Sank more ships? Knocked out more tanks? Pulverized more bunkers and machine gun nests? Defended more bomber formations and killed more attacking fighters? Served longer, harder, more effectively in EVERY role? Overall, it wreaked utter havoc and destruction wherever its massive 700gr. half inch diameter rounds flying at 2900 fps found the target. What weapon has gone everywhere from muddy trenches to the gleaming polished noses of jet fighters? I think the answer is obvious.

Bullets this big offer a lot of opportunity for designers to maximize their destructive power…there’s room to put stuff inside. So not only were there lead with copper jacket “ball” rounds, there were tungsten core armor piercing, my personal fave, the Armor Piercing Incendiary and API Tracer (blows a hole through armor plate and gives you an explosion too!), pure incendiary, tracers to lace every 5th round in your belts, and in modern times even better high explosive AP rounds (Mk211 Mod 0) which REALLY mess up armor bad, and even a high velocity tungsten “sabot” round (SLAP). The US used a color code on the bullet tip to identify the types: only “ball” ammo has no painted tip. Tracers are dark red/burgundy. AP is black. API is silver. API-T is silver with red band. Incendiary is light blue. Combat belts would be AP with a red tracer every 5th round or API with an API-T every 5th round. (Aircraft used this combo a lot). Modern Mk211 (“Raufoss”) rounds have a green tip with silver band.

Paying respect
When putting together a 1/35 scale model of a vehicle, I get very picky about what the manufacturer chose to do about that big .50 up on top. How much attention they’ve paid to accurate shape, size, and detail. The respect. It is after all, about respect. I want that .50 represented as accurately as the rest of the vehicle, with every bit as much attention as the truck dashboard or tank hatches or halftrack chassis and running gear. Because it is not a “secondary” weapon, not in WW2, not now; it was very often the primary weapon, the decisive weapon. Audie Murphy got his Congressional Medal of Honor with a .50 M2HB, as did other MoH recipients. There is a battle on the records where an engineer unit held a crossroads against vastly superior German forces, from a hill using a .50 M2HB and .30 1919A4. It decided battles. It held ground. It stopped advancing enemies. If you knew where to hit them, every tank up to Panzer IV was in danger from this gun’s AP rounds. In the ‘80s, we tankers were even warned that we could seriously damage friendly M60 MBT’s if we got stupid with the .50. I want it respected as the historically important weapon it righteously is.

So let’s see who does it the proper honor, with their scale rendering in both styrene and resin casting. Several key aftermarket and stand alone kits will be examined here. None of the manufacturers or distributors sent me free review samples, I bought them myself, retail. There is no bias due to favors or free stuff. And as always, the opinions and observations expressed herein are purely my own. Your mileage, and opinion, may vary. No warranties express or implied. Now, let’s look at the guns!
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About Gary Roberts (WARCLOUD)

I am one of the fortunate ones who has been gifted all my life with the Charm of Making..I am professionally an Artist / Illustrator at this stage of my life, and am or have been a Musician, Commercial Artist, Movie Effects Tech, Set builder, Mechanic, Machinist, Motorcycle Racer and Builder, and ev...