Have you ever heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

Well, this adage comes to mind when I think about the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun and the M79 grenade launcher. Both of these weapons have a very long, respected history and are still in service. They have been used by thousands of Americans in battle and have reigned terror on the enemy. To this day, these two weapons are still on the inventory list for many United States special operations units.

The Browning .50 caliber machine gun was created in mid-1917 by the hands of John Browning. The U.S. Army wanted a machine gun that could fire a larger and more powerful round. John Browning answered the call and designed and built the .50 caliber machine gun, which was an upgraded version of his M1917 .30 caliber machine gun. The first versions fell short of the desired outcome: the rate of fire was too slow and the round did not have enough power to penetrate armor. Colt redesigned the weapon and placed the M2 into service in 1933.

Special Forces operators shooting the M2HB Browning (U.S. Army photo by Photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis).

By the time WWII began, this weapon could be found in all branches of service. The M2 was used on aircraft, boats and ships, vehicles, and by soldiers on foot. Since then, it has seen service in every major conflict. The Browning .50 caliber shoots 450-600 rounds per minute, with a maximum effective range of 2,200 yards, and the ability to penetrate up to a 1.34” thick steel plate. With this kind of lethality, it comes as no surprise that this weapon is still standard issue in the special operations community. It is common to see the .50 cal mounted on vehicles and SWCC boats.