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This site is designed to help in identifying the many variations of .30 caliber Browning automatic machine guns. While a few commercial models are shown which were sold to armies outside the United States, most of the Brownings covered here were adopted by the US military. The weapons are listed roughly in order of their production. You may click on an image to enlarge it.


The Model 1895 was John Browning's first production belt-fed machine gun, seen here mounted on a 1905 Franklin Cross. The 1895 was used on virtually every platform, from the armored car to the biplane, as well as in infantry support.


John Browning astride his Model 1895. It was called the "Potato Digger" because it's gas-hammer operation involved an arm which cycled down below the receiver.


The Model 1917, first used towards the end of WWI, was Browning's first recoil operated/gas assist* design, one which is still in use today in the .50 caliber HB. The 1917 had a bottom plate that fit inside the two side plates, and was held in place by sliding dovetails instead of rivets, a design that proved inadequate against the forces of the recoiling parts, which tended to cause the dovetails to shoot loose over time, allowing the side plates to separate. A stirrup was added under the bottom plate to reinforce the side plates, as can be seen in the photo at right. (* The booster at the barrel's muzzle traps expanding gases, pushing the barrel rearward.)

This soldier, mugging for the camera, is holding a Model 1917 with the reinforcing stirrup (white arrow) in place.

The 1919A2 was developed to address the need for a lightened 1917 for use with the cavalry. Because of its compact size, it also saw extensive service in tanks. It was essentially an air-cooled 1917 with a redesigned rear sight, which also had a lower profile as it did not need to sight over the larger water jacket.

A pack horse carrying a 1919A2 with it's Mark 1 Emergency Tripod.

The Colt MG 40. Flexible machine guns used a dual handled spade grip for better control when tracking fast moving targets. The aircraft guns were lightened considerably, and generally had a very high rate of fire, often nearly twice that of its ground counterpart. Because the barrel was invariably operating is a slip stream that could reach 300 MPH or more in the WW2 fighters, it did not need the heavy barrel to dissipate heat as with the ground MGs . The aircraft MGs are regarded by many collectors as the cream of the crop in air-cooled Browning machine guns. Note that an improved bottom plate supports the side plates for the entire length of the bottom plate.

The flexible ANM2 aircraft. Nearly identical to the Colt MG40, the ANM2 was the most widely produced .30 caliber aircraft gun. When it became apparent that the small cartridge was not adequate to stop the modern WW2 fighters, it was largely replaced by the .50 caliber M2. It remained in use in Navy planes, such as the Dauntless, but was used most extensively in air gunnery training as it was far cheaper to operate than the .50. The British used a variation of the .30 caliber ANM2 in their heavy bombers, the Lancaster and Halifax, and fighters, such as the Spitfire.

Top: Early production 1919A4 with slotted barrel shroud
Bottom: fixed weapon with vertical buffer.

The Colt Commercial 1917, Model 1928. This variation is the closest to the original Browning design presented to the military. Unlike the original design, however, the Model 1928 has a distinctive step-up in the bottom line of the receiver which allowed for a row of rivets to strengthen the receiver there, eliminating the need for a reinforcing stirrup. Manufactured between WW1 and WW2, it was largely sold to foreign buyers, the most being sold to the Argentine Army.

Above & right, the Model 1928 on its M35 tripod. Water-cooled machine guns built between WW1 & WW2 are considered some of the finest. War production weapons tend to be needed quickly and in great numbers, with little attention given to appearance. The Colt Model 1928 exhibits the beautiful fit and finish of a thoughtfully built MG, as well as having been made by Colt, a company long known for it's excellent craftsmanship.

The left view of the Model 1928, showing the ammo can holder. The chain dangling from the front is connected to a cork which can be inserted into the steam condensing hose fitting to keep out debris when the weapon is being transported. It can also be used to plug the hole in the end cap should the barrel need to be changed without draining the water. The cork is fitted into the muzzle of the barrel and as the barrel is withdrawn, the cork plugs the hole in the end cap.

Colt MG38 on M 37 tripod. The same receiver as the Model 1928, but the water jacket is threaded inside the trunnion. This is another finely made peacetime weapon.


Twin FN30 flexible aircraft guns. This variation was introduced in 1932, and is typical of aircraft weapons made by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium, or FN. If any weapons manufacturer could rival Colt for it's exquisite craftsmanship, it is FN. This model is yet another peacetime weapon and often touted as the finest Browning machine gun ever made.


1917A1 on 1917A1 tripod. This heavy .30 caliber was an improvement over the M1917, having the wrap around type bottom plate, an improved two position top cover pin, and a newly designed rear sight. The 1917A1 tripod was also a considerable improvement over previous models.

Two views of the 1917A1. It was phased out at the end of WW2 , but saw limited use thereafter. It remained popular in developing countries. This was the last of the Browning water-cooled machine guns.

Flexible 1919A4. This was the standard light machine gun of WW2. When most people think of the air-cooled belt-fed machine gun, this is the gun they imagine. With it's light M2 tripod, the versatile 1919A4 was easily transported, and owing to a very low profile, provided a smaller target for the enemy than the bulkier 1917A1. The receiver is identical to the 1917A1, making the internal parts interchangeable.

1919A4 on an M2 tripod with ammo can and belted ammunition. The tripod could be folded into a very slim package.

           Fixed 1919A4 with short buffer - WW2

The first version of the 1919A6, developed during WW2 to meet a need for an even more portable light machine gun. With a lighter barrel and an integral bipod it weighed 32.5 lbs, in contrast to the 45 pounds of the 1919A4 with M2 tripod.

Post WW2 1919A6 with conical flash hider and improved carrying handle and top cover latch.

The Browning M37. Adopted in 1953 for use in tanks. It featured alternate feed capability, allowing the weapon to load ammunition from either the left or the right. It had a rear charging handle and many small improvements over the 1919A4. This was the last US machine gun chambered for the 30-06 cartridge.

FN30, manufactured for Israel in the 1950s. Similar to the 1919A4, this variant was chambered for the newly adopted .308 cartridge. It featured a distinctive single handled spadegrip.

1956 FN30 with spadegrips. This variant has the forward mounting point in front of the receiver. The rear mounting hole is moved forward to compensate. Produced in both left feed only and alternate feed.

            1956 FN30 on a FN designed M2 tripod

                1956 FN30 on Mag58 tripod.

The 1919 C1, a Canadian variant chambered for the NATO .308 cartridge. The C1 was designed to use the new NATO "push through" links instead of the traditional "pullout" style links. This was to be the last development of the 1917/1919 series of weapons.
SWEDISH KUULSPRUTA
The Swedish Kulspruta is one of the more unusual Browning variants. It has no grip on the gun itself, but rests in very substantial buffered mount which has the spade grip. With its massive brass trunnion block/rear end cap and bold crest, it is a very sought after Browning in the American collector market. Extremely rare as a single mounted ground weapon, the Kulspruta is nearly unattainable in a twin configuration. Many thanks to BORE for sharing photos of this beautiful weapon.

The Kulspruta panoramic sight is compact and well designed.


The Browning .30 caliber machine gun had a long life. Owing to its reputation as a robust and reliable weapon, the Browning gas/blowback design was in use with the US Military from WW1 until Viet Nam, a span of over fifty years. That a weapon designed in WW1 could serve so long and outlive so many other designs is a testament to the genius of John Browning, whose other contributions to American military arsenals included the .50 caliber MG, the 1911 series automatic pistols, and the Browning Automatic Rifle.

The Browning light machine gun was to be replaced by the M60 for service in Viet Nam. Considered by few to be an improvement on the 1919A4, after a relatively short service life the M60 was replaced by newer FN designs. The 1919A4 remained in service in developing countries until the end of the 20th century, and will doubtless still be showing up in scattered use well into the 21st century.

RESOURCES
Image Sources: Weapon Mounts for secondary Armament, The Machine Gun by George Chinn, the National Archives, US & Belgian Military manuals, Canadian War Museum, and my personal collection.
John Browning's designs were adopted by a great many countries, and the number of foreign manufactured machine guns can not reasonably be covered here. Dolf Goldsmith has an excellent series of books devoted exclusively to the Browning. Volume I (515 pages) covers US made Brownings and Volume II (367 pages) deals with those manufactured outside the US , or made for countries outside the US. If you would like to purchase one or both of the Browning books, click on the books at right to E-mail Dolf Goldsmith.
Another excellent volume is Hard Rain, by Frank Iannamico (326 pages). It covers a wide range of Browning designs and is an excellent resource. You can purchase a copy from Frank online by clicking on the book at right.
LINKS
Link to 1919A4.com The 1919A4.com board is the main gathering place for Browning enthusiasts, whether your interest is in full-auto or semi-auto, or whether you are a newcomer or an old salt. It is mostly devoted to collecting and restoration. A good place to track down parts or to buy complete guns. A very friendly membership and an excellent resource.
Frank Iannamico's Web site and forrumsFrank Iannamico's Web site has several forums, including a couple for the 1919A4 and variants.
Link to M2HB.net This site is devoted to the .50 caliber and has forums for discussing all aspects of the Browning .50 "Ma Deuce" and others.
Link to BrowningMGs.comYou probably got here from this site, but if not, this is my Browning links page and has many sites devoted to the Browning .30 caliber machine guns.
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