The Browning Automatic Rifle

The .30-06 BAR 1918A2 & A3

Last year after my article titled “Guns Of The Pacific”, a reader wrote in saying I had short-changed the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). Editor Jeff rightly replied it wasn’t I who gave BARs short shift in the HBO mini-series, but rather the moviemakers themselves.

Due to lifelong reading, I did know the Model 1918A2 BAR was indeed the most prized infantry weapon carried into combat by the US Marine Corps in both World War II and the Korean War. I also judge the same to be true, but perhaps to a lesser extent, with US Army infantry troops in both conflicts.

Browning Comes Through

Designed in a hurry during World War I by America’s most famous firearms inventor, John M. Browning, the BAR was first adopted by the US Army as the Model 1918. It fired the standard American .30-caliber cartridge (.30-06) from a 20-round detachable box magazine and was select fire. That is, it could be switched from semi-auto to full-auto by the flick of a finger. As with most full-auto military weapons of that time, BARs fired from an open bolt. Its weight was about 16 pounds.

Then it got heavier. Ordnance officers decided the BAR needed a bipod and for some reason the select-fire capability was changed. Instead the shooter was given the option of two rates of full-auto fire. Those were nominally 350 and 550 rounds per minute. Now about a 20-pound, shoulder-fired weapon, BARs were re-designated Model 1918A2.

Interestingly, Model 1918 BARs had been made by Winchester and Marlin-Rockwell, and until the beginning of 1943 all Model 1918A2s in the hands of troops were converted Model 1918s. However it must be noted there exists many photos of un-converted Model 1918 BARs being used in combat in WWII. Also worthy of mention is that most photographs of BARs in action in WWII show the bipod is missing. Being so overburdened anyway, BAR-men often just tossed them. Aside from the weapon itself, a fully-loaded BAR ammo belt with 12 magazines holding 20 rounds each weighed 25 pounds.

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