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Browning M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun: One Scary Sniper Rifle?

M2 Browning Machine Gun 2
Image: Creative Commons.

Snipers—military marksmen who engage targets from positions of concealment or at distances exceeding the target’s detection capabilities—are unquestionably some of the most lethal and important shooters in any war zone.

According to Ian D’Costa at We Are the Mighty, “they are experts at blending into the environment, masters of patience, physically developed, and always well-trained.”

However, as the expert notes, “snipers still can’t take the shots they they’re known for without a decent rifle in their hands, capable of helping them reach targets at longer-than-normal ranges.”

Over the past five decades on battlefields across the world, there have been several records set for the longest kill-shots in history. Here is one gun—the Browning M2 “Ma Deuce”—that made that achievement possible.

M2 Specs

Per Military.com, “the Browning M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun, Heavy barrel is an automatic, recoil-operated, air-cooled machine gun with adjustable headspace and is crew transportable with limited amounts of ammunition over short distances. By repositioning some of the component parts, ammunition may be fed from either the left or right side.”

It continues: “A disintegrating metallic link-belt is used to feed the ammunition into the weapon. This gun has a backplate with spade grips, trigger, and bolt latch release. This gun may be mounted on ground mounts and most vehicles as an anti-personnel and anti-aircraft weapon. The gun is equipped with the leaf-type rear sight, flash suppressor and a spare barrel assembly.”

As for the M2A1, it “features a fixed headspace and timing configuration, flash hider and removable carrying handle to increase the performance of the battle-proven M2. The M2A1 speeds target engagement and improves survivability and safety. It reduces the time required to change the barrel while eliminating the timely procedure of setting headspace. The flash hider reduces muzzle flash by 95 percent, making the M2A1 less detectable in darkness.”

2,500-Yard Kill

Armed with these particular Browning M2 features, a twenty-four-year-old Marine named Carlos Hathcock used that gun in February 1967 to eliminate a Vietcong militiaman from two thousand five hundred yards away who was transporting a bicycle filled with weapons and ammunition. That record distance wasn’t broken until the Afghanistan war in 2002.

“Built to fire the .50 BMG round, the M2 had exactly the range and stopping power Hathcock wanted in a gun that would allow him to hit targets at distances far beyond what a standard-issue sniper rifle permitted,” D’Costa writes.

“With an Unertl scope mounted to a custom-made bracket crafted by Hathcock himself, and the M2 in single-shot mode, the gun could engage targets at distances over sixteen hundred yards. The machine gun was balanced on an M3 tripod and kept in place with sandbags,” he continues.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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