Squad Support Weapon / Light Machine Gun
The Dror Light Machine Gun had its origins in the American M1944 Johnson LMG series but was never entirely successful for the newly-founded Israeli Army.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Prior to the establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948, plans were already being laid for its fighting arm by Haganah ("The Defense"), serving as a defense force from the period of 1920 to 1948. Before the 1948 War of Independence and the rise of the formal Israeli Defense Force, the group was granted production rights of the American M1944 Johnson Light Machine Gun (LMG) chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge and firing from a side-loading, 25-round detachable box magazine through a short recoil action. Along with the original M1941 mark, some 9,500 Johnsons were produced and these saw only limited serviced with American and foreign parties. The M1944 primarily differed from the M1941 in its use of a twin-tube butt (as opposed to fixed, solid butt) and monopod (as opposed to folding bipod).
The M1944 was rebuilt as the "Dror" in Israel and its appearance remained largely faithful to the original design with exception of a folding bipod (as in the M1941). There remained a heavily perforated heat shield over the barrel at the receiver though this was noticeably extended forward. The design remained a basic, air-cooled weapon which made use of a "quick change" barrel feature. Feeding was through 20-round detachable box magazines which were, themselves, based on the American World War 1-era Browning M1918 BAR's magazine design. The operator could set the weapon for semi- or full-automatic fire to suit the mission need and rate-of-fire was listed at 250 to 950 rounds per minute depending on setting with a muzzle velocity of 2,600 feet per second. One of the unusual features for a weapon of this class was its use of short recoil, an action normally reserved for semi-automatic pistols and also found in some early (and successful) machine guns. The short recoil action was also the heart of the original Johnson design.
The Dror was originally chambered for the .303 British rifle cartridge due to the large stocks then available in Israel. Manufacture was then revised through a second pattern offering under Israeli Military Industries (IMI) which chambered the weapon for the German 7.92x57mm Mauser rifle cartridge. Unlike the original Drors, this follow-up form saw the magazine feed relocated to a more conventional underside placement which aided in proper balancing of the weapon and promoted a more compact forward profile (less chance of snagging). A carrying handle was affixed to the weapon ahead of the receiver and also aided in barrel changing. The perforated heat shield was considerably extended to encompass nearly the entire barrel length save for a section at the muzzle. This allowed the bipod hinged to be moved well-forward of the receiver.
Limited manufacture of Drors was undertaken in small workshops which limited exposure. This mattered not for the new Israeli government moved in adopting an existing, proven product in the Belgian Fabrique Nationale FN Mle D light machine gun series - a European copy of the famous American Browning M1918 BAR. The Dror itself never proved a wholly successful design for her time, leading a short service life from 1947 into 1952 and not even pressed into combat service during the 1948 War of Independence. She proved highly prone to stoppages brought about by the operating conditions of the region.