Modern Firearms - Browning M1918 BAR
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Browning Automatic Rifle BAR M1918 (USA)

Browning BAR M1918, original version.
 Browning BAR M1918, original version.

 

Browning BAR M1922 - the light machine gun for US Cavalry.
 Browning BAR M1922 - the light machine gun for US Cavalry.

 

Browning BAR M1918A1, with its spiked bipod and hinged buttplate.
 Browning BAR M1918A1, with its spiked bipod and hinged buttplate.

 

Browning BAR M1918A2, the final and most popular version. Often was used withbipod removed.
 Browning BAR M1918A2, the final and most popular version. Often was used withbipod removed.

 

The cut-out drawing of the Browning BAR M1918. showing its bolt locking and feeding system.
The cut-out drawing of the Browning BAR M1918. showing its bolt locking and feeding system.

 

Data for M1918A2

 

Caliber: 7.62x63mm (.30-06 M2)
Weight: 8.8 kg empty
Length: 1214 mm
Length of barrel: 610 mm
Feeding: detachable box magazine, 20 rounds
Rate of fire: 450 or 650 rounds/min, selectable

 

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 USExpeditionary 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 SpringfieldM1903 rifle and exactly 2 times heavier than a latter M1Garand 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 theColt 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 M1922light machine gun, which featured a folding bipod under the partially ribbed barrel, a removable monopod ("third leg") under the butt, and a M1917machine gun sights. The Colt company also produced a lightened semi-automatic version of the BAR, called a Colt model 75 "Monitor" rifle. This wasintended 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 gasblock. 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 bytwo selectable full auto modes, with fast (~650 rpm) and slow (~450 rpm) ratesof fire. The bipod, however, was somewhat awkward, uncomfortable and heavy, somany 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 wasleft without its Squad Automatic weapons until the 1982, when the M249SAW (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.

Technical description.
 The BAR M1918 is a gas operated, magazine fed, air cooled weapon. It used the gas piston, located under the barrel, and the bolt with tilting locking lug,that was raised to lock into the roof of the receiver. This lug was linked to the operating rod via the swinging link, much like in the earlier Berthiersystem. The BAR always fired from the open bolt to avoid cook-offs. The return spring was located around the gas piston under the barrel, so it was prone tooverheating and lost its temper during the prolonged fire sessions, resulting in jams and stoppages. This issue was somewhat cured in M1918A1 with introductionof the heat shield between the barrel and the spring, located inside the for end.

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 alsofitted with carrying handle.

The buttstocks and for ends were mostly made from wood, but on late production M1918A2's sometimes were also made from plastics.