Ma Deuce

I wanted to do a big post on the M2 machine gun and the failure to find a replacement for it after last week’s announcement that the US Army was going to be ordering (mentioned in Linkzookery) nearly 30,000 new M2s. I wanted to follow up on March’s Still looking for a new Ma Deuce. The alternatives just haven’t got it done.

Well, Strategy Page beat me to it: Irreplaceable.

UPDATE: In the comments:

The lightweight .50 only has one realistic application – use on a lightweight remote weapons station, where you don’t have the weight budget to absorb the recoil of an M2. Otherwise, it’s an unnecessary capability. The .50 machine gun will always, and should always, be a mounted (or fixed site) system. The days of the dismounted .50 maneuvering on the modern battlefield are gone. Why? Because no matter how much you lighten the gun, you still don’t have the weight budget to hump 100-round cans of .50 ammo around, and the ammo ain’t getting any lighter. The 20 lbs different between the two guns is negligible in a mounted role (remote weapons stations aside). So the light weight argument for the XM312 is a red herring.

Comments

  1. That’s good to hear. The XM312 has always been a solution in search of a requirement, and it’s one that needs to die. It was not originally developed to be a replacement for the M2 – it was developed to provide a cheap test bed for GD-ATP to work the bugs out of the XM307, as the 25mm ammo was still in development. When it became clear that you could get both capabilities by swapping a few parts, GD started marketing XM312 as an M2 replacement – a position never endorsed by the actual Army user community. Sadly, XM307 died to a combination of poor reliability and ever-changing FCS-related requirements that made it impossible to lock down requirements and develop it in a cost effective manner, leaving the XM312 an orphan looking for a home, supported only by Congressional plus-up funding.

    The lightweight .50 only has one realistic application – use on a lightweight remote weapons station, where you don’t have the weight budget to absorb the recoil of an M2. Otherwise, it’s an unnecessary capability. The .50 machine gun will always, and should always, be a mounted (or fixed site) system. The days of the dismounted .50 maneuvering on the modern battlefield are gone. Why? Because no matter how much you lighten the gun, you still don’t have the weight budget to hump 100-round cans of .50 ammo around, and the ammo ain’t getting any lighter. The 20 lbs different between the two guns is negligible in a mounted role (remote weapons stations aside). So the light weight argument for the XM312 is a red herring.

    Then there’s accuracy. The XM312’s advantage is dependent on having a fire control. A fire control, by the way, that is vaporware. One or two demonstrators exist – that’s it. The fire control was never funded for development, because it was never part of a program that has a requirement (XM307’s fire control was going to come from the platform,). Without it, you just have a low rate of fire machine gun, which isn’t particularly useful because you don’t put out the beaten zone needed for suppression. Some will argue that accuracy outweighs rate of fire, but try and take away a unit’s M240s and give them M14s instead and see what happens. And what about the M2s’ accuracy? Well … Carlos Hathcock’s longest confirmed sniper kill at around 2500 meters was done with an M2 in the single-shot mode.

    Oh, yeah, and there was the small problem that the XM312’s ammo wasn’t compatible with the M2. Bullet was the same, but it used the forward feed link from the M85 machine gun, not the rear extracting link the M2 uses. So if fielded, you’d have to have two versions of each type of .50 ammo to supply – a logistical pain unless and until you pure fleet one weapon or the other. Now, I understand GD has subsequently redesigned XM312 to use the M2 link, so that problem has been overcome, but then …

    There’s reliability. XM312 (per the last data I’ve seen, which is admittedly somewhat older and predates the current redesign) had a reliability of more than one failure in 1000 rounds, headed for a goal of less than one failure in about 3000 (compare to about 1 in 6000 for a Mk19 or 1 in 10000 for an M2). Not a trade I’m willing to make.

    Now the M2E2 is a good and needed mod … which should have been fielded two years ago had GD not cheaped out on the test guns, using rebuilds instead of new production in testing, and as a result failing testing and resetting the program to square one. Maybe some day … I hear they’re headed for a competition, and FN has their own fixed headspace & timing M2 variant.

  2. I’m not so sure GD ‘cheaped’ out on testing the M2E2. The entire military stock largely consisted of rebuilds. It would be appropriate to test the kit on rebuilds.

  3. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Russia, China, Singapore, all of them created lighter .50 MGs without ridiculous rate of fire. The one from Singapore even employs dual belt fed mechanism and a reducer of perceived recoil also used in tha Ultimax LMG.

    Sheer incompetence, thats the only explanation of not being able to develop a better MG than one that was designed almost 90 years ago.

  4. “Sheer incompetence, thats the only explanation of not being able to develop a better MG than one that was designed almost 90 years ago.”

    So its not the newest, shiniest toy on the block…..and that means it MUST be obsolete and unable to perform its function.

    Funny how it still has the same rate of fire, range and accuracy as the new ‘toys’.

    As for those toys, I’m assuming the Singapore weapon is the CIS, due to the dual feed statement. Look closer and the CIS only has a weight difference of 8kg (38 for the M2, 30 for the CIS). The dual feed is really an optional feed, as it only uses one belt at a time, and uses a slide and sprocket system to move the other belt into the feed position (possible failure point?). It also uses two gas tubes and two pistons, which translates to higher maintenance, and an increase on the logistics burden.
    Yet it still only has the same rate of fire as the M2.

    For China, the 85 is lighter at 24kg, but unless it is vehicle mounted, has recoil significant enough to mandate a very low mounting tripod, to combat tripod rise at full auto.
    And it too only has the same rate of fire as the M2

    Russia…ok, I’ll give you that one. 25kg, and a higher rate of fire (700-800rpm), but again, unless vehicle mounted, accuracy on the tripod suffers in full auto due to lighter weight and an even higher rate of fire than the M2.

    I don’t know about reliability issues with these weapons, but I do know that the M2 is as reliable as a hammer: and like a hammer, when you pick it up it works every time. Thats what the PBI looks for in a weapon: it does the job, and works every time its needed.

    Re-read the original posts link, and an important fact comes to light: nearly every M2 in service is a rebuild, yet only now are they, ‘beginning to wear out’. Will any of these newer weapons be able to serve as well, or even last half as long?

    You’d think we would have learned our lesson with the M-4. A new, latest tech weapon that is now widely condemned for jamming problems inherent in the design, requiring high maintenance and near constant cleaning, using a caliber condemned as too light to do the job, and finding itself replaced in certain combat situations with the very weapon that it replaced long ago…the M-14.
    Do we really need to relearn these same lessons with the M2?

  5. By the way, based on routine soldier post-combat survey ratings, the top three rated weapons in the Amry inventory are (in order) (1) the M240, (2) the M2, and (3) the M4, all of which have troop effectiveness ratings of better than 90% (meaning that fewer than 10% of the troops had a gripe about the weapon). Meanwhile, the M9 pistol gets Bush like ineffectiveness ratings of 60% or better. Not that you win a war based on the pistol you’re carrying, but still …

  6. “Carlos Hathcock’s longest confirmed sniper kill at around 2500 meters was done with an M2 in the single-shot mode.”
    Nope, try c.1500m; it’s in his book.

    Cheers

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