Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Firearms Legends: Behold The US Military’s 5 Top Guns To Go To War

NGSW Rifle Sig Sauer
SIG Sauer NGSW. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

US Military’s 5 Top Guns – The US military is stacked with countless top-tier weapons platforms. But what about the smaller guns that are used every day or were in the past? As you know, 1945 readers love and appreciate our coverage of US military weapons system. But what about the various guns that have served in the US military, both big and small? Clearly, a few really stand out.

Let’s take a look at some of the best pistols, rifles, and machine guns in the history of the U.S. military.

US Military’s 5 Top Guns : Colt M1911

What pistol is still being used 100 years after its inception? That would be the Colt M1911 .45.

If you are a gun collector you probably have one. It might even be a pearl-handled gold or silver-plated model to commemorate all the wars it has been apart of.

It was originally designed after the tough fights against insurgents during the Philippine insurrection from 1899 to 1902. Then it emerged in World War One and Two and thousands upon thousands were produced.

The Army wanted an automatic handgun rather than a revolver with a bullet that could penetrate jungle foliage and had ample stopping power. Fast-forward to the jungle fighting of Vietnam and soldiers and Marines wanted it for the same reason.

Ruger SR1911

Image: Creative Commons.

Colt M1911

Colt M1911. Image: Creative Commons.

M1911 Gun History

Image: Creative Commons.

It weighs 39 ounces with a five-inch barrel. However, the magazine is usually only seven or eight rounds (fewer than the M9 Beretta) and the effective range is 50 meters.

It was in service until 1985 when it was then replaced by the M9 Beretta. But many service members including special operations forces, missed the M1911, because they believed the .45 ACP was a better round than the 9mm. They also preferred the M1911 because it was not as thick and it was easier to conceal, which explains its appeal to law enforcement too.

US Military’s 5 Top Guns : M4 Carbine

It started as a shorter version of the M16 called the CAR-15 that was used by some special operations units during Vietnam. It later became known as the M4. The modern special ops units took it up to clear rooms in the urban combat of Iraq and in the villages of Afghanistan. The barrel is only 14.5 inches compared to the M16’s 20-inch barrel, plus it is lighter than the M16.

Some regular-Army infantry units started using it in the early 2000s to better conduct airborne and air assault missions or mechanized operations. The M4 uses the same magazines and ammunition (5.56mm) as the M16. The stock is collapsible to make it more compact and to accommodate different body types. The rail system offers an unprecedented number of accessories such as sights and aiming augmentation. The M4 is just a great all-around weapon.

War Slogans

A U.S. Army Paratrooper assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade engages pop-up targets with M4 carbine in kneeling position during marksmanship training at Cao Malnisio Range, Pordenone, Italy, Oct. 25, 2018. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility. (U.S. Army photos by Paolo Bovo)

Afghanistan Policy

U.S. Marines assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit fire M4A1 carbines during an exercise on the flight deck aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations, Feb. 8, 2019. Kearsarge is the flagship for the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 22nd MEU, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Moore)

M16 Rifle

PUCKAPUNYAL, AustraliaÑSgt. Jonathan Shue, machine shop noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Air Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, shoots his M4 carbine here May 10 at the 2011 Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting. The meeting is an annual, international combat marksmanship competition hosted by the Australian Army that will be held through May 19. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud/Released)

M4 Carbine Replacement

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Cpl. Johnny Hurst, assigned to A Company 3rd Battalion (Airborne) 509th Infantry Regiment, a native of Chicago, Ill., fires his M-4 carbine during a live-fire and movement-to-contact operation on the Infantry Squad Battle Course at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Friday, May 31, 2013. The Soldiers focused on core infantry skills such as fire team movement, communication, shifting fire, and once on the objective identifying and eliminating weapons caches and treating and evacuating casualties. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

US Military’s 5 Top Guns : M60 Machine Gun

Another legendary weapon is the M60 machine gun.

This was ubiquitous during Vietnam as it entered service in 1957 and spread widely throughout the military. Nicknamed the “Pig,” it fires the powerful 7.62mm round that accompanied many a platoon in the bush of Vietnam. The gun takes belt-fed cartridges that needed an assistant gunner to load. The A-gunner also could carry more ammunition.

Infantry platoons are usually called “guns up” after making contact with the enemy – ensuring the M60 fies rounds as quickly as possible. The M60 could suppress fire while keeping adversaries pinned down, then maneuver units followed-on to the objective. It was also used effectively by door gunners deployed in helicopters.

Rambo Gun

Image: Creative Commons.


M60. Image Credit: US Army.

The Pig, as its nickname implied, was heavy and needed cleaning frequently. But it was reliable and could take a beating. By 1997, the military needed a machine gun that was more portable, lighter, and easy to carry. The M60 gave way to the Belgian FN-built MAG 58 and then later the M240.

US Military’s 5 Top Guns : M24 Sniper Rifle

Do you want to use one of the rifles that snipers grab for high-range well-placed shots? Your Remington Model 700 is one to depend on. You may not know that the Army’s M24 sniper rifle is based on that trusty deer rifle and it has seen action for decades. It has a bolt action and is easy to fire.

The M24 shoots the .308/ 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge with a five-round magazine and a Leupold Mk IV M3 10×42 mm scope. It weighs 15 pounds and it’s accurate out to 800 meters.

Snipers like that the trigger pull is adjustable.

Its aluminum butt-plate enables the sniper to adjust the length of pull from 12-inches to 14-inches.

M24 Sniper

Special operations forces snipers from Honduras line up their target during the stress test, June 11, 2012, at the Colombian National Training Center on Fort Tolemaida. Fuerzas Comando, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special forces skills competition and senior leader seminar which is conducted annually. This event is aimed at enhancing training and strengthening regional and multinational cooperation, mutual trust, readiness and interoperability of special operations forces in the region. Special Operations Command South serves as the U.S. execution agent for the exercise.

Most snipers in the Army and Marine Corps have fired the M24 and they may have learned to shoot long-range with it. Snipers from law enforcement use it as well. It is an accurate and powerful stand-by rifle with few complaints other than a less-than-desirable range.

US Military’s 5 Top Guns : M2 Machine Gun

Do you want to really make sure the enemy is taking cover? Just fire the M2 .50 caliber machine gun anywhere at targets downrange.

All branches of the military have fielded it over many decades. It has been deployed on tanks, armored personnel carriers, airplanes, helicopters, and boats over the years. The M2 has been in service since World War One and it’s not going anywhere.

US Military Guns

Pfc. Daniel Stillwell, a machine gunner with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, shoots the .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun during crew-served weapons training at Schofield Barracks, Oct. 8 to Oct. 10.


M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun. Image: Creative Commons.

Nicknamed the “Ma-Deuce,” the M2 has a muzzle velocity of 2,980 feet per second with a range of 8,000 meters. The M2 can produce a maximum of 850 rounds per minute. It is usually considered the most important casualty-producing weapon in the infantry inventory. And it is ordinarily the first gun placed in a defensive position. But it is heavy at 84 pounds. Once a range card is produced, it tends to stay put.

US Military’s 5 Top Guns : Which Gun Is the Best?

You can’t go wrong with any of these weapons. They have all seen much combat action and are reliable, versatile, and robust. Many veterans of the armed forces have fired these firearms and can instantly recognize them in broadcast news reports or movies. It is easy to see why they are some of the greatest weapons of all time.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.