Machine gun - the book
Machine guns introduction
all texts and some pictures
Browning Automatic Rifle BAR M1918 (USA)
Browning BAR M1918, original version
Data for M1918A2
The Browning Automatic Rifle was designed by the famous American arms designer John Moses Browning late in the First World War, on the request from US Expeditionary corps in Europe. Initially it was just like that - the Automatic Rifle, a selective fire weapon, intended for use by infantry men to fire from the shoulder or from the hip when advancing onto the enemy positions, and to provide mobile firepower to every squad, since the standard machine guns were heavy and much less maneuverable. But the BAR M1918 was way too heavy for a shoulder fired weapon, being more that 2 times heavier than a bolt-action Springfield M1903 rifle and exactly 2 times heavier than a latter M1 Garand semiautomatic rifle. On the other hand, it was too light to be controllable in full automatic mode, especially when firing such a powerful round from a shouldered unsupported position. Anyway, the M1918, made by the Colt Firearms co. were issued to some US troops by the end of the war. After the war, the development of the BAR continued. In 1922, US Cavalry adopted the M1922 light machine gun, which featured a folding bipod under the partially ribbed barrel, a removable monopod ("third leg") under the butt, and a M1917 machine gun sights. The Colt company also produced a lightened semi-automatic version of the BAR, called a Colt model 75 "Monitor" rifle. This was intended mostly for police use, but also found its way into the hands of outlaws, too.
During the 1930s, next version of the BAR, designated as M1918A1, was briefly manufactured. This gun featured skid-footed folding bipods, attached to the gas block. The butt was fitted with hinged steel buttplate.
In 1939, the final American version of the BAR appeared, under the designation of M1918A2. This version, manufactured by Colt, Marlin-Rockwell, and Winchester, served in the Squad Automatic Weapon role with US troops during the 2nd World War and latter Korea War. Many of earlier M1918A1 guns were converted to the M1918A2 configuration, which featured skid-footed adjustable bipod under the flash hider, M1917 sights, smaller forend and metal heat shield between barrel and cylinder/spring, single shots replaced by two selectable full auto modes, with fast (~650 rpm) and slow (~450 rpm) rates of fire. The bipod, however, was somewhat awkward, uncomfortable and heavy, so many M1918A2 were used with bipod removed.
The BAR also found its way into many European armies, when Browning sold his design to the famous Belgian company Fabrique Nationale. In more or less modified form, BAR served with Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Baltic states and so on. The ultimate BAR version, however, appeared only after the 2nd World War, when FN introduced its BAR Type D light machine gun, with quick detachable barrel and return spring moved into the butt. This gun had seen not too much service, being adopted only by Belgian army prior to switch to the smaller 7.62mm NATO cartridge. There were numerous attempts in the USA to convert the BAR for this new ammunition, but the design was poorly suited to modern manufacturing, so with the adoption of the 7.62x51mm NATO as a standard ammunition the US army was left without its Squad Automatic weapons until the 1982, when the M249 SAW (FN Minimi light machine gun) was introduced into service.
It must be noted that while being technically a very good design (typical for Browning's genius), BAR was not too successful in both Automatic Rifle and LMG role. For Automatic Rifle it was too heavy and too uncontrollable in full auto. For LMG, it lacked the magazine capacity and the quick replaceable barrel, being inferior in terms of sustained firepower to the pre-WW2 LMGs like British BREN, Soviet Degtyarov DP-27 and the like.
The receiver was a machined piece of steel, and the un was fed from the detachable 20 rounds box magazines. Barrel was fitted with flash hiders of different types, and, since the M1818A1, the wooden buttstock was also fitted with the hinged buttplate. The latter production models of M1918A2 were also fitted with carrying handle.
The buttstocks and forends were mostly made from wood, but on late production M1918A2's sometimes were also made from plastics.