Question of the Day: Browning M2 “Ma Deuce” – Greatest Machine Gun Ever Made?

Browning M2 "Ma Deuce" machine gun (courtesy youtube.com)

In the video below, members of the U.S. Military fire the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun in various training exercises. The caption informs us, correctly, that the our boys in uniform have used the “Ma Deuce” in every war or conflict from WWII to the present day. TTAG’s resident war hero Jon Wayne Taylor said the sound of a Ma Deuce in combat told him that “everything was going to be alright.” All right then, M2 Browning. Greatest machine gun ever?

comments

  1. avatar fiundagner says:

    Best heavy mg yes. M60e4 best medium mg. Have yet to find a good light mg

    1. avatar ORCON says:

      What’s wrong with the M249 or M240B?

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Nothing is wrong with the 240B (or G). The Negev is even better, however.
        The 249, on, the other hand, is too inaccurate and unreliable. We always just gave our to our terps with a 25 round magazine. We figured if they turned on us with those, we’d still be safe.

        1. avatar ORCON says:

          I got saddled with one on an intel co-op mission with the Punjabi Rangers. Never had to fire one in anger. They were fun to shoot in the range at Benning though, when the 249s started up the fire response team was never far behind.

        2. avatar Joe R. says:

          Gotta strip your tracers (and NOT belt them all back as one link). Once burnt down a few acres (and nearly caught a parked base fire-truck on fire) at Ft. Chaffe, AR (iSORRY).

          BEST = M2 ??? YOU ARE FNA RIGHT !!! [even in the looks nice / feels nice / smells nice / sounds nice categories]. She can be a heavy b1T<h with a few belts linked together and an extra can, and some HEDP 40MM ROUNDS in a mount on a man powered turret atop an OSHKOSH DEFENSE MTVR (HOORAH!). Gimme some SLAP rounds, and I'd take all comers. Happiness is pushing a .50 BMG shell out from under a butterfly trigger (while closing with a possible target at 120 mph, in the middle of the night, on a route called "MOBILE" (Iraq) [again, HOORAH ! ! !]).

          240G = NEXT best. (However, in this house, we bury 2nd Place).

        3. avatar The Gray Man says:

          You gave a SAW to an interpreter? If that’s what you’re saying, I’m going to call total BS on that. I never had a problem with the SAW and also believe the 240B to be superior to the M60.

        4. avatar jwtaylor says:

          The Gray Man, yes, we gave our SAWs to our interpreters. If you never had a problem with the SAW you must have spent less time shooting it than they did.

    2. avatar Sad Trombone says:

      GPMG: PKM, SS-77, FN-Mag

    3. avatar rdsii64 says:

      I’ll take an M240 over the M60

        1. avatar Chris in SC says:

          What he said. M240 definitely wins the medium MG title.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        M2 – YES

        M60 is best bestowed on unreliable “allies” Good riddance to bad rubbage.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          The M60 is the result of a very drunken one-night stand between a FG42 and a MG42. With the M60 even the receiver is considered to be a consumable part.

          FN MAG or M240. Accept no compromises. Don’t accept the L7. The Brits have hoarded all the spare parts and they are different enough for Belgian and US parts not to fit.

          The M2? Other than slight improvements there’s a reason why the basic design hasn’t changed in nearly a century. I’ll bet they are still in use in another hundred plus years.

  2. avatar John La Voie says:

    No need to even ask this question, good against everything that is not as heavily armored as a tank. It will chew things up just as long as you can keep feeding it and if you can see it, you can most likely hit it.

  3. avatar BLoving says:

    Was this even a serious question?
    When all of the rest of St.John the Browning’s inventions have been relegated to the dustbin of history and are used only by reenactors and collectors, we will still be fighting the enemy with the Ma Deuce.
    🤠

  4. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Really, to this day, I can hear SFC Whilhite and MSG Geise on the guns, making them talk. To my left: WHUP WHUP WHUP WHUP WHUP… To my right: WHUP WHUP WHUP WHUP…Total sense of calm comes over me. I can’t help but smile. Everything’s going to be ok. Everything’s going to be just fine.

    The M2, when mounted in front of men who know how to use it, transcends the term “machine gun”. It is the mechanical avatar of fury and devastation.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      For fan-hitting-the-turd time, my MTVR driver said NOTHING calmed him down (allowing him to think in the moment) as when the empty shell, I used as a safety for my M2HB, fell down out of my turret and into his lap. When I was ready (and willing) to rock-n-roll, he was able to do his job better.

      Nothing made people play nice (by our rules) like when we pointed our 50s at them.

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Ask the guys who were up against the MG42.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BxDauR7REPw

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I got to spend a day with one at my place a couple years ago. Absolutely loved it. Sounds like a reciprocating saw. And that 8mm? Damn gurl…

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      I’ve always wanted to shoot an MG34 personally. The 42 is arguably a better weapon in a number of ways but getting behind a 34 has always illuded me and therefore the thought still gives be heart palpitations.

      1. avatar Sian says:

        The 42 is a better war weapon but the 34 is a better firearm.

    3. avatar patrulje68 says:

      Carried the modern Danish version the MG3 (M62) during an exchange. 1100 rds a minute heavy bolt and 1400 with the light bolt. Great weapon, fast barrel changes, only drawback was the non-disintegrating links.

  6. avatar little horn says:

    you need only look at its service life and performance. Since its debut, nothing has beaten it. Nuff said bub.

  7. avatar strych9 says:

    Depends on how high mobility ranks in your matrix I guess and that will vary based on what you’re doing.

    Overall I’d say the M2’s service record speaks for itself.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      It’s been Platoon carried and mounted on nearly every type of vehicle in our Nation’s service since invention.

    2. avatar patrulje68 says:

      While working with 2 Para, they described “jumping” the M2 as the squad level. The idea was in a Dien Bien Phu type battle or strategic forced entry where you were landing on the objective and didn’t have to carry it very far. One person jumped the receiver, another the tripod, 2 jumped barrels and the rest of the squad had a couple 100rd ammo cans. Net effect is that a company could put 12 M2HBs into action in order to defend the objective for a short period of time before they ran out of ammo. I found it an impressive TTP, but I do not want to exit any aircraft carrying any part of an M2.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        In Iraq (early on in deployment) we had to un-ass the truck of all weapons on base and were given secured armory access at each particular base we went to (this we liked for peace of mind). On bases that we were not given any armory access, we hauled them to our temporary hooches / Quonset huts and slept on them (this was not so bad, except sometimes you had to haul them a quarter to ~ half mile from where the trucks were at to the hooches [and back]). A PAIR OF times I carried the Receiver, and both barrels, my M203, chest-rig, M9 and belt, (body armor / Kevlar etc.) and a three-day pack from the truck to the Quonset hut (at least 500-700 meters). Felt like my shin bones were going to freekin’ just snap.

  8. avatar Sad Trombone says:

    KPV

  9. avatar jsallison says:

    Yes.

  10. avatar Anthony O'Nan says:

    Yes, is it the most lethal? No. Is it the most accurate? No. Does it fire 8,000 rpm? No. But it’s the most economical, simplest, easiest way to end a fight, engage vehicles, entrenched positions, and low-flying aircraft, and for that it will serve until such time as wars end because we’re all dead.

  11. avatar Sad Trombone says:

    Comparative anatomy:
    12.7x99mm
    800gr @ 2895 fps = 14,895 ft-lbs

    14.5x114mm
    1,026gr @ 3,300 fps = 24,520 ft-lbs.

    Reality anyone ?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I’ve been on the receiving end of the KPV, and it is an awesome thing indeed. But as a weapon’s system, it just doesn’t have the same level of accuracy, or even dependability and durability as the M2, a rarity in comparing soviet to US weapons.
      It’s also heavy as hell, even heavier than the M2, and by quite a bit.

    2. avatar Xanthro says:

      Why not 25mm or 40MM, both have way more ft-lbs of energy than the KPV.
      The M2 is the better all around platform because it is far more versatile, accurate and reliable.
      Are there specific missions where the KPV is better, yes, but that doesn’t make it a better all around platform.

  12. avatar Michael says:

    Best vehicle mounted machine gun, I’ll grant you. But I still remember the rainy night a 6 man crew tried to hump that b*tch through the Nisqually rain forest. We arrived two hours late, after the exercise was over. That was 40 years ago.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yeah that’s definitely a 4 man job. And sturdy dudes at that.

      1. avatar Michael says:

        My platoon leader had the bright idea of putting it all together and carrying it on a stretcher. That did not work well.

        1. avatar anaxis says:

          While in garrison, whenever we’d come back from the field, I was invariably tasked with giving the staybehind pogeybait addicts, malingerers, & rickety short-timers their afternoon remedial PT.

          So on a regular basis while everyone else was smoking & joking & juggling gear (i.e. rifle PMCS @ the armsroom), I’d stay at the motorpark with the platoon’s filthy M2 and have the class form up there, and it would be waiting on a stretcher with spare barrels, pintle, cradle, glacis plate, and two empty ammo cans (except for 35lbs of wheelweights).

          Sometimes they’d just shuffle the 2.7km doing back-to-front stretcher relays….. but if I had enough bodies with walking/brokedick PT profiles & I was feeling froggy, the runners would relay the barrels & cans to/from the stretcher; with the stretcherbearers swapping out with the running relayers halfway back to the barracks (i.e. the shop solvent tank), and the walkers did relay sets of overhead barrel presses.

      2. avatar Joe R. says:

        The average human body can ~ relatively comfortably carry 2/3 of its weight.

        That’s where reservists come in handy. When you’re 220-240 lbs, carrying heavy things isn’t as insurmountable. Slicked-down (no other gear / weapons / body armor / kevlar) our reservists could carry the receiver and both barrels for a good distance (mostly flat-ish / hard ground), and could trade-off without a long halt or intermediate rest.

        We used to do (practice) it A LOT when we were displacing to our alternate firing position during Fex’s. but we would also displace them to the far side of the camp or to another unit’s firing line.

    2. avatar anaxis says:

      Hell…. as a junior enlisted you’d get at least an AAM, if not an ARCOM, for accomplishing such a feat in every non-Div. filthy snowflake quartermaster battalion I ever had the misfortune of drawing orders to.

      If you’re an officer; Bronze Star, with mandatory valor device for butterbars.

      But as an NCO? If nothing got hurt or lost and battalion CQ was asleep or (sucking face with the BN runner), you’d be lucky to get an Impact-Attaboy Certificate, printed on the reverse of genuine recycled FM photocopies.
      More likely though, you’d be blessed with extra attentions from above & instructing land-nav classes for Sgt’s Time training every week.

  13. avatar RetMSgt in Pa. says:

    The only thing better than a .50-cal. machine gun is a quad .50-cal., or an M-42 Duster.

  14. avatar bobinmi says:

    I preferred my M240G. but I never was a fan of riding around in RPG magnets.

    1. avatar anaxis says:

      Slight correction; M2 gunners are the bullet-magnets, our vehicles were more like rolling RPG-yodelers than catchers…. unless ambushing, most haji we encountered ’04-’06 had more sense than guts, rather than expose themselves with a .50 around long enough to actually aim.

      Except there was that one halfway brilliant bunch who put a few of their dirtmunching kin with RPGs on one flank to get our crew-served attentions, then opened up with their own MGs on the other.

      I guess the dead meatsacks manning RPGs that day must’ve pissed off their muzzy something fierce, because they got tore up by MG direct fire and haji crossfire. They’re stupid, but I don’t think they’re dense enough to screw up a simple 2-sided road ambush that epically.

  15. avatar Sal Chichon says:

    25 mm Bushmaster. 100 caliber > 50 caliber

  16. avatar patrulje68 says:

    I would have to quantify “great”. The GAU8 on an A10 is certainly “great” when you have troops in contact; the crew chief’s minigun on a helo exfil is also “great”. If the specs were greatest overall impact, the M2 wins hands down. She has done more, for more soldiers, sailors, airman and marines over the years than any other machine gun.

  17. avatar Hank says:

    As a former .50 gunner for a time in Iraq, yes. It’s hands down the best machine gun ever.

  18. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    As a .50 gunner, driver, dismount, and Vehicle Commander. Old Ma is the best period! Nothing shuts their shit down like Ma barking. 249, 240, m60, m4, none of those kept haji behind cover for long but when Ma started singin the song of her people they flat ran the other way.

  19. avatar GS650G says:

    Very useful against buildings as well as that dinosaur problem.

  20. avatar ironicatbest says:

    We missed a running turkey at firing range, had two guns going, impacts busting up dirt, turkey running, us guys laughing so hard our guts hurt. Got chewed out for shooting at the turkey, and got chewed out for missing it

  21. avatar The Rookie says:

    Given that it’s been in service nearly a century, has outlasted a number of its proposed replacements, and continues to be a very effective weapon on the battlefield, I’d have to say it’s one fine weapon system.

    BTW, speaking of M2 replacements…for those who’ve ever worked with it – was the M85 as bad as they say it was?

    1. avatar jsallison says:

      Lots more fiddly bits to wear out, break, get lost, etc. Most folk in my experience always used high rate of fire, and wondered why they tended to break down. I kept mine on low rate for two reasons, more reliable, and I was a lazy sob, wanted to load up my cupola at the beginning of gunnery and not touch it again until time to endex. The old M73/219 coax had the same problem, way more complex than the M1919 it replaced, or the M240 that replaced it in turn.

  22. avatar Robbins Mitchell says:

    I watched a quad .50 tear up a steel box car about 500 yds down range at Ft Carson some years ago (Camp Red Devil)….it left nothing but steel chunks about 6 inches wide at most…including the wheel trucks….color me awestruck

  23. avatar bob says:

    The M2 is proof that (insert preferred deity name here) loves us and wants to keep us safe.

  24. avatar CCDWGUY says:

    Vietnam, 1969 I was in a counter mortar radar group that was generally posted with artillery battery’s. We were at a PSP runway with a battery of 155mm Self-propelled 155’s. Our ground support if remember correctly were a platoon of Vietnamese Montagnards who made some wonderful rice wine. Suddenly we saw some incoming rounds and all the 155 barrels leveled across the runway and started firing what we later learned were Beehive flechette rounds and then the 50 caliber’s on each of the self-propelled opened up. Trees and just about everything else across the runway was disappearing. I looked at my pitiful M-16, and told a friend next to me…if they get through that what the heck are we going to do with this. The 155’s and the 50’s took care of the problem. I’ll never forget that moment. I think we were posted at that time at Phan Rang, not much of anything around except a Special Forces Group that were about 5 km away. Tried to let the guys on the 155 let me shoot the 50 but just could not convince anyone to let me.

  25. avatar Chris in SC says:

    I’m surprised we aren’t seeing move love for the Mk 19. As far as shooting experience goes, I much preferred the Mk 19 to Ma Deuce. I’m sure the thunderous sound of the old bird keeps heads down though.

    1. avatar anaxis says:

      The Mark is definitely mostly effective; but those slow 40mikemikes aren’t exactly precise, and tend to leave a mark on everything nearby…. and sometimes the chucklefuck downrange just ends up with a headache, even though it looks like nothing within his stink-radius could’ve survived.

      What eventually turned me off though is that it’s fairly innocuous; hapless hajis who couldn’t read & didn’t have enough sense to not tailgate and/or stop, wouldn’t even register that a goddamn automatic grenade launcher is pointed at their bumper.

      I’ve seen ’em stare directly at the Mark’s muzzle with their most idiotic durrrr-face, like it was a potato-gun. (with a side of extra confusions, because haji isn’t allowed to have fun and doesn’t have potatoes).

      However, when the .50 got swung around and trained on their beater Bongo or HiLux goat-getter, it’s universal knowledge of exactly what that gun does….. while sometimes providing essential lulz from watching them wreck after braking/swerving too hard.

  26. avatar David N says:

    If you can’t fix the problem with a Ma Deuce, you better be on the horn with the cannon cockers, because you have some serious issues that you’re dealing with. I think the M2 HB is probably the best overall heavy machine gun out there. It penetrates what the lighter stuff won’t and while heavy, not impossible to move around. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned its other sometime use-a few wars back, some of the guys were buying telescopic sights out of the PX and mounting them on the weaver base on the top cover. Provided you had a good, tight T&E mechanism, you could make some pretty impressive long range single shots. Next step up and you are going to be in some sort of vehicle. For a time, I was a gunner on an M163 Vulcan, 20MM with a 3000 RPM burst fire and 1K continuous.

  27. avatar Aaron says:

    The great ones were all designed by john moses browning (PBUH).

  28. avatar Tom in PA says:

    Many, many moons ago I found myself “volunteered” to spend a short period of time running a helicopter mounted .50 cal in a place we never were. I had little previous experience with it, but I came to the immediate conclusion that I had greatly underestimated the weapon, not to mention the disservice done to it in movies. She can deal some straight up hate, no chaser.

  29. avatar anaxis says:

    History & my own experience reply with an affirmative to the interrogatory; but with caveats.

    ~ My back, joints & left ear try convincing me that the M2 sucks every day. She’s a loud & heavy bitch, but keeping her fed makes everyone happy (except the hapless who piss her off).

    ~ I get twitchy at the thought of headspace/timing gauges, and occasionally have nightmares about not being able to find one. So when I lose my keys and start panicking, it’s not because of the keys; it’s because they’re attached to my own personal goddam headspace gauge.

    ~ The new M2s have quick-change barrels & don’t need no stinking gauges, which also means a lot of gunners and gofers are gonna go soft on PT scores and regular reinforcement of attention-to-detail.

    Also…. it figures the Army would finally fix headspacing and add QC barrels, only a few years after turning mine in for the last time.

  30. avatar JB3 says:

    My Dad was a Korean War vet. Tank retreiver driver from the Pusan Breakout until the stalemate after the Chinese Incursion. Said the NK’s and the ChiComs liked to drop mortar rounds and sniper fire onto the exposed crews as they were trying to hook up and bring back disabled tanks and such. Their CO was able to get a quad-50 from an AAA unit to start tagging along. Dad said whenever they started taking fire the quad-50 crew would firehose the hillside it came from. Looked like a giant weed eater had worked over the terrain when they finished, and no more incoming rounds. Said it was the most awesome thing to watch and the most reassuring sound. The crews of the 2 retrievers always made sure the quad-50 guys had plenty of chow and beer. He always said to take care of those who take care of you! He made it back, was married to my Mom for 48 years, raised us kids, made a good living driving a truck, deacon in our church and was a quiet pillar of the community. He always gave the credit to God and the M2!

  31. avatar Sid says:

    So, there we were. The last survivors of my unit formed a small circle on top of a hill. We had pledged to one another to make a final stand rather than being captured. We knew that resupply was not going to happen until the fighting was over, so we decided to make every bullet count. Mostly, our M4s could out duel their AKs. And inside pistol range no one seemed to care if they were hit with a 9mm from our sidearms or theirs. It was mostly a stalemate. My blood ran cold when I first heard the shriek. We had fought off a few waves when our enemies realized they could not break through man-to-man or with the few technicals they had. I saw the dust over the hilltops. I prayed it was our armor moving into to relieve us. But when I heard the first shriek, I knew we were going to die. The dust clouds were moving too fast. Our armor could not possibly maneuver in the mountain passes that quickly. The first riders strode over the crest of the hill. As a battle-hardened veteran, it causes me no shame to admit I pissed my pants. I listened as two of my teammates had this exchange Billy: I’m scared Poncho. Poncho: Bullshit. You ain’t afraid of no man. Billy: There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man. We’re all gonna die.They were riding velociraptors. The human ear can barely detect the human war cry over the roaring hiss of the beast it is riding. Their speed was like lightning. I knew we did not have long to live and our deaths would be gruesome. And then it happened. MSG Blain bellowed “time to let Old Painless out of the bag!” Blain had been carrying a GAU 19B. He cut through their front line like canister shot on Pickett’s Charge. The beasts approached the last stonewall that separated us from them. But our line held.

    I would not be here typing this if not for MSG Blain and the GAU 19B. And that is why I nominate it for the Greatest Machine Gun Ever Made. You never know when the terrorists are going to be riding velociraptors.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      GAU19B? No stopping power. What if they’re riding T-Rex’s?

      1. avatar Sid says:

        Terrorists on T-rexs?…… An A-10 has a little nose gun that should prove effective.

    2. avatar Big Bill says:

      Velociraptors, at most, weighed about 50 lbs.
      Were you being attacked by Barbie Dolls? 🙂

      1. avatar Sid says:

        My best guess is that they spliced the DNA with a beast of burden. The velociraptors we faced that day were the size of horses. Think Luke Skywalkers taun-taun with less fur and more alligator-like teeth.

  32. avatar IdahoBoy says:

    At least one legendary person used it to great effectiveness as a sniper rifle:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Hathcock

  33. avatar Korky Budzek says:

    Probably the greatest heavy MG. Soviet PKM is the best GP MG though. Stupid simple, accurate, reliable and light enough for spetsnaz to carry it as a SAW, giving them a lot of firepower. Pecheneg is even lighter and handier, but no barrel changes.

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