M2 Browning : A legend from the greatest generation
It is tricky to know what the longest-serving weapon of all time is, but the bow and arrow, sword, and spear rank high above them. With the advent of gunpowder, the average lifespan of weapons fell dramatically.
Still, some standout examples exist, like the famous British Land Pattern Musket, affectionately called the "Brown Bess," or the American Springfield M1903, which are some of the longest-serving.
But one developed over 100 years ago is still a vital component of the United States Army today: the legendary M2 Browning Machine Gun.
For developed in 1918, the M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in active service for 104 years now and counting. Nicknamed "Ma-Duece," this weapon has seen action in most major and minor conflicts around the world ever since.
The weapon was basically a Browning M1917 machine gun that had been beefed up. American General John J. Pershing had asked for a heavier machine gun.
And so, the great gunsmith John Browning modified the M1917 design to accept larger-caliber rounds developed by Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After being made and tested for only a short time, the weapon was made official in 1921.
Because of its unique design, the weapon's receiver can be set up in seven ways. This, in part, would be the secret to its longevity.
With the advent of World War 2, the M2 would prove instrumental, not for the army (though it was used extensively there), but as the primary armament for several iconic aircraft of the period.
The British Mark 1 Spitfire had eight, and the main guns on the American P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang were also modified M2 Brownings. They were also the main guns for defense on many bombers, like the famous USAF B-17 Flying Fortresses. They were also the main guns for defense on many bombers, like the famous USAF B-17 Flying Fortresses.
After the war, aircraft were mostly armed with cannons and then missiles. The M2 Browning was once again the army's main reserve and served with honor worldwide. However, today, the AN/M3 variant can be seen on some modern aircraft.
Its most modern variant, the M2HB variant manufactured by General Dynamics, has a cyclic rate of 450 to 600 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 809 m/s!
The M2 has been improved over the years, and now the M2A1 is being added to many US military stocks.
Because changing the barrel took so much time, a better QCB (quick change barrel) was made. A lighter version was also made, only 24 lb (11 kg) lighter, or 60 lb (27 kg).
Because these guns don't wear out to the point where a few parts can't be repaired and put back in service, replacing them with anything brand new is not cost-effective.
So, 100 years after its adoption by the US military, "Ma Deuce" is still very much alive and literally kicking!