Still looking for a new Ma Deuce

24th MEU M2 Machine Gun in Jabella, Iraq (2004)A U.S. Marine Corps Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, patrols the city of Jabella, Iraq, with an M2 .50 Caliber machine gun, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on Sept. 21, 2004.(U.S. Marine Corps official photo by Lance Corporal Zachary R. Frank)

Lighter .50-Caliber Machine Gun Sought

The U.S. Army and Special Operations Command are stepping up efforts to procure a lighter, modernized .50-caliber machine gun more easily transported than the standard 85-pound M2.

The goal is not to replace the M2, a combat fixture for 70 years, but to augment the inventory with a .50-caliber weapon that brings the same firepower at less than half the weight, Army officials said here at the Feb. 27-29 winter convention of the Association of the U.S. Army. Early models of the Light Weight .50-caliber (LW50) are expected to be delivered this year.

General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GD ATP) has a new .50 cal MG, the M2A1, with a fixed head space, eliminating the need to make adjustments during use and when changing barrels. They also have an add-on kit for existing M2s that adds the fixed head space design to current weapons.

M2 machine guns, in service since 1921, are being used as much as ever these days as trucks, Humvees, and MRAPs are all being up-gunned in response to the tactical environments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I haven’t heard a word on the XM312 lightweight machine gun for quite a while. It was to be a .50 caliber option to the XM307 25mm grenade launcher. I think it made an appearance on Future Weapons a while back, but I’ve heard no new news in two years.

UPDATE: Via the comments section: Too Good and Too Simple To Replace

Three years ago, field testing of the XM-312, the replacement for the eighty year old, .50 caliber (12.7mm) M-2 machine-gun, began, in the United States and overseas. Then, nothing. That’s because the test results were not encouraging, the biggest shortcoming being the low rate of fire (about 260 rounds per minute). This is about half the rate of the M2, and was believed adequate for the 25mm smart shells the XM312 was originally designed for (as the XM307). But for 12.7mm bullets, it didn’t impress the troops. There were some reliability problems, which could be fixed. The rate-of-fire issue, however, has proved to be more difficult. Meanwhile, a new upgrade for the M2 has been fielded, and Ma Deuce still rules the battlefield. The new M2E2 has a quick change barrel, flash hider and lot of small improvements. It is much in demand.

Thanks for the tip!


  1. Strategypage had a post about this recently. The 50 cal version of the XM312 worked great but only had 1/2 the rate of fire of the original 50 cal. This was because the mechanics of the gun were originally designed for the grenade launcher version. The army decided that they really didnt want a ‘single shot machine gun’ so it was back to the drawing board.

  2. This seems like great news. Maybe the US Army has finally figured out the formula for buying weapons:

    Instead of offering up a huge development contract they’re going out and looking at what’s been developed on private funds. This is really better two ways. One, privately developed weapons incorporate better technology because of competition. You don’t put the good stuff in there up front, you don’t win the contract. With a government funded development contract, the only pressure is to see who can get away with the biggest lie in the proposal. There’s no incentive to make good on those lies once you get the contract. No one in the Army contracting office wants to get fired or have their career destroyed by a lying contractor, so they put the best spin on the crap the contractor produces. Once the procurement bureaucracy is in place, then the Army is forced to buy the weapon it developed by the political power of the bureaucracy it’s created around the development program. There’s none of that when you buy an off the shelf weapon. If it doesn’t work, stop buying it. If it does, great, buy some more. Hell, you’d think it was 1950 again. I might just go out and get a flat top haircut to celebrate.

  3. IIRC from my days as a fifty-gunner in the Corps (1/1 and 3/1), the barrel of the M2 weighs 23lbs and the receiver weighs 42(?)lbs. That adds up to 65lbs, not 85lbs. It sucked hauling that beast up to the turret mount on the HMMWV for gun drills, but it can be done with practice. LONG LIVE MA DEUCE!

  4. Sometimes …………..when you love that special terrorist SO much; you just have to tell them in a special way! And nothing says that like a burst of .50 cal! LOL! So, Defens…………..I’m not the only one who thinks procurement is really bleeped up. For the life of me, I don’t understand why we don’t tell contractor this is what we want, these are the capabilites and performance standards we want. Let them competitively build it…………then buy the best one. If it works, just like you said……….buy more of ’em. Or, if we stick with part of the current system why the bleep aren’t we only paying them the unit price they ‘said’ they could make it for? If there’s a cost overrun………..they’re eatin’ it! Bet that’d only have to happen once before they all saw which way the wind was blowin’ and started producing honest cost estimates! The military needs to lay off making chnages to the design once the bid has been let though. I have a question for you (or anyone else in the know). Does anything ever happen to MilSpec project managers or DPMS who managed to screw up projects and piss buckets of big bucks away on bleeped up equipment?

  5. Why not the Singapore CIS .50? It looks cool ‘This weapon is especially interesting as it has a dual belt feed system that permits fast and easy change of ammunition on the fly’ ‘The barrel is locked by means of a rotary bolt with multiple radial lugs that engages the barrel extension, eliminating the need for headspace adjustments. The CIS 50MG utilizes same ‘constant recoil’ system that was previously used in the Ultimax LMG.’

  6. Ok, Murdoc, don’t ruin this one for me. I’m having a happy moment here. Flanker, nothing typically happens to someone who buys a crappy weapon, not as long as they spin things correctly. The attitude of the military these days is that the soldier serves the weapon, not the weapon serves the soldier. That’s even more prevalent in my business because airplanes and changes to airplanes cost so much. They think nothing of destroying a pilots career to further the interests of the program. Heck, from what I understand the F-22 is miserable to fly. Pilots don’t complain because flying C-130s rarely gets you any babes.

  7. I guess I was mistaken, the receiver for the M2 weighs 60lbs, not 42lbs. So I guess the total weight of the gun IS about 85lbs. Man, I was a STUD when I was a pup!

  8. That thing was a bitch to hump! I had to march around with the barrel tied to my pack a few times. The 7th Marines walked into Kuwait during Desert Storm with all their organic weapons – including the M2. Hard corps.

  9. Flanker – In general nothing really happens. There are exceptions – very high profile programs with TV camera crews parked outside the program office, often lead to terminations. That said, your question is based on a false premise. You are presuming that someone actually makes a decision. The beauty of the procurement system is that it is designed so that no one person actually makes a decision. With no one making a decision, no one gets blamed. More over, many programs have life spans greater then the project managers career – so if something falls in the crapper, you can always blame that other SOB. Programs piggy back on other programs which in turn are spun off from other programs. Other programs continue long after the primary program has been canceled or amended. Its really an elaborate shell game of moving piles of money around that sometimes results in a weapon being produced. Some of the finest technology you will never see exists solely for tracking and allocation of billable hours against programs. And once you go black, you never can go back.

  10. The fact: M2 is nice, but way too heavy, MUCH heavier than the current russian and chinese .50 MGs The DoD interpreation of the fact: A lighter MG wont pay off because we will have lasers in the future babe!!