While the USAAF and USN aircraft started the Second World War with the .30" Browning as their primary weapon, the story of American air armament is dominated by the .50" Browning M2 HMG. The big Browning has already been described so it is unnecessary to say more than that it was a belt-fed gun weighing (in light-barrelled aircraft form) 29kg. Although prototypes were tested in the 1920s the gun saw little use until the introduction of the M2 in the mid-1930s. In pre-war form the rate of fire was officially 600 rpm
(although only 500 rpm in actual installations due to belt drag). During 1940 the design was amended with changes to the barrel and recoil springs which improved the rate to 750-800 rpm. Its specification and performance were not particularly remarkable and some early installations suffered from ammunition feed interruptions in high-G manoeuvres, but it is unquestionably one of the classic air-fighting weapons.
It became the standard American aircraft armament, both in fighters (which carried between four and eight, but typically six) and as the defensive weapons in bombers, both in turrets and free-swinging. In the latter form it was fitted with the characteristic spade grips: two handles at the rear of the gun, with a thumb-operated trigger. At the start of the war only a few of the big Brownings were carried, and in fighters such as the Curtiss P-36
Eight.50" Brownings in the nose of a B-25 attack aircraft. Note the belt guides from the ammunition boxes ( BuOrd, USN)
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