Sunday, July 3, 2011

Browning and Kijiro's designs

The diversity and durability of the small arms designed by John Moses Browning are remarkable. His BAR and M1919 machine gun would see US forces through World War II and the Korean War, and in the case of the M1919, were still used by armies around the world in the 21st century. While never in the Browning league, General Kijiro Nambu was also a very talented designer, producing pistols, rifles and machine guns.

The Browning Automatic Rifle
Late in World War I, John Moses Browning received a request from the US Expeditionary Corps in France to design the 0.3 Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR. It had a 20-round box magazine and was initially a selective-fire weapon. Since the standard machine guns were heavy and not very manoeuvrable, it was intended for use by infantry firing from the shoulder or the hip when advancing on enemy positions, and to provide mobile firepower to every squad. However, the BAR M1918 proved to be twice as heavy as a bolt-action Springfield Ml903 rifle.
US soldiers in training with the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) after World War I. The BAR was a heavy but reliable squad automatic weapon that served through World War II and during the Korean War of 1950-53, with greater range and power than the opponents' weapons.

In 1939, after several modifications, the final version of the BAR appeared as the M1918A2. Manufactured by Colt, Marlin-Rockwell and Winchester, it became the section or squad automatic weapon for US troops during World War II and the Korean War. M1918A1 guns, converted to M1918A2, had a skid-footed adjustable bipod under the flash hider, M1917 sights, smaller forend and a metal heat shield between barrel and cylinder/spring. The single-shot capability was replaced by two fully automatic modes, with fast at 650 rpm and slow at 450 rpm. The bipod, however, was rather impractical, so many M1918A2 gunners dispensed with it. The BAR remained in service with US Allies into the 1970s.

The M1919 Browning machine gun
The .3in Browning M1919 machine gun was essentially an M1917 but with an air-cooled barrel. The M1919A4 was used on a ground mount by infantry, the M1919A5 worked coaxially in tanks, and the M2 was used in aircraft and as an AA gun by US and Allied forces in World War II. The M1919A6 was fitted with a bipod, butt and carrying handle. As an infantry squad weapon it looked a little odd, but was very popular, and 43,479 were manufactured in World War II. The M1919 remained in service in the Korean War and was even used in Vietnam. Towards the end of the 1960s it began to be superseded by newer designs. Even so, in the late 1990s (as the 7.62mm NATO M2) it formed part of the arsenals of the armies of Canada, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Israel, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The Browning Ml919 machine gun would prove almost as long lived as the bigger .50 Browning. Here it is on an improvised mount on a US jeep in the bitter winter of 1944-45 in Europe.

US Navy Brownings were converted to 7.62mm during the Vietnam War and designated Mark 21 Mod 0. These guns were fitted to river patrol craft which were operating on the Mekong Delta. A reliable recoil-operated gun, the Mark 21 Mod 0 fired from a 250-round belt at 400-600 rpm. The maximum effective range was 1,370m/1,500yd.

The Type 11 LMG
Commonly known by the Allies as the Japanese Nambu and by the Japanese as the Taisho 11 Nen Shiki Kikanju, the Type 11 LMG was designed by the prolific General Kijiro Nambu and entered service in 1922.
Japanese troops wearing gas masks man a Type 11 LMG during fighting in the streets of Shanghai in the Sino-Japanese War of the 1930s, later becoming part of World War II.

It was the standard light machine gun (LMG) in 1941, although later in the war it was replaced by the Type 96 and the Type 99. It drew on Hotchkiss principles but had an unusual hopper feed mechanism. Up to 30 rounds in standard clips of rifle ammunition could be dropped into it, but the complex mechanism could not handle the powerful rounds, so it required its own lower-powered 6.5mm ammunition to operate. Only capable of automatic fire, the gun fired at 500 rpm.

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