Like other John Browning gun designs, his famous Browning M2 Heavy Machine Gun ended up produced in Europe (Belgium) under the Fabrique Nationale (FN) brand label as well. This was the M2HB ("Heavy Barrel") form and was essentially faithful to the original American offering same for slight alterations in its manufacture to suit European production practices. Largely, however, the FN M2HB retained both the form and function of its American-originated counterpart- it remained a heavy support weapon capable of engaging light armored vehicles. Its applications included static defense on a tripod, on vehicle pintle mounts (or as a coaxial installation), on watercraft, and on assault helicopters. FN engineers also developed a "lightweight" version of the heavy gun for use by airborne elements.
The M2HB supplies a useful 485 to 635 rounds-per-minute cyclic rate-of-fire (RoF) through a full-automatic-mode-only design. Upgrade kits for older M2 weapons were also made available and these allowed support of newer heavy duty barrels, a breech lock system, and barrel extension kit. There was also an "anti-cook-off" attachment for the lightweight airborne models. The M3 Tripod added an additional 43.98lbs (19.95kg) of weight to the complete weapons system when fielded as a static defensive suppression weapon. A standard operating crew was at least two to help handle the ammunition belt and its feeding.
The FN M2HB has gone on to see expanded use throughout the world which allowed the Browning design to broadened its worldwide reach - a design with origins in the post-World War 1 years. Nevertheless, the weapon continues to serve in a frontline role as there have proven no suitable replacement options since its inception. It has become a most reliable and proven battlefield performer, making up the heavy weapons section of most Western militaries since the Cold War decades. Soviet allies of the period utilized a Soviet-based 12.7mm alternative.
The M2 represents the original Browning variant. The M2A1 is an adoption of 2010 based on the developmental M2E2 and includes support for a Quick-Change Barrel (QCB), optional carrying handle, and new muzzle flash suppressor.
Manufacturing Fabrique Nationale Herstal SA - Belgium
M2 HB - Base Heavy Support Machine Gun Model
M2 HB-QCB - Quick Change Barrel
M2 HB Coaxial - Coaxial Armored Vehicle mounted gun with electrically-fired solenoid capability; sans conventional sights for obvious reasons.
M3M - High-rate automatic fire pintle-mount model based on the lighter-weight M3P; full-automatic fire of 950-1,100 rounds per minute capability; spade grips with basic trigger button.
M3P - Lightweight M2 variant for airborne use; cyclic rate of 950-1,100 rounds per minute; solenoid fired; light barrel.
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