You thought that last week’s cartridge was full-sized. Well welcome to the jungle folks—we got what it takes this week. Why wait until your enemy comes out from behind that concrete wall? Just shoot through it! Don’t let that armor plating get in the way of your job, just shoot through it! Have a big truck coming into the no bad-guy zone? Shut it down by obliterating the engine with one shot. Cars, trucks, boats, armored vehicles, planes, and buildings cannot stop this big bad boy, the famous .50 BMG!
Once again, his most-excellent John Moses Browning comes into our discussion. There is a fine line between a cannon and a gun. This cartridge flirts on that line. Anything bigger usually comes out of a cannon. In the Cartridges of the World, 12th edition, this is the end of the story; nothing is beyond JMB’s cartridge. However, Browning did not originally design this cartridge for sniping.
Browning originally designed the .50 BMG for exactly what the abbreviation says, Browning Machine Gun. The year was 1918 and the war to end all wars was drawing to a bloody conclusion. In World War I bigger became better. The .30 caliber Browning machine gun was less potent as things like tanks and airplanes began to make their presence known. Furthermore, an 11mm Hotchkiss made its debut on the battlefield of Europe. General Pershing called for a gun that would balance that new heavy cartridge technology.
On October 15, 1918, less than one month before the conclusion of European festivities, the first trial of Browning’s machine gun took place. The cartridge was huge, the gun enormous. It was a beast and hard to control. It would be three more years until the improvements allowed better control over this colossal cartridge. That design would be the Browning Machine Gun, Model of 1921 M1921. Later upgrades would make it the M1921A1 and in the 1930s it became the M2, or Ma Deuce.
With the Ma Deuce, this cartridge would take off from vehicles that traversed jungles, deserts, and mountains. It also served in the air and on the water. If it rolled, flew or floated, this cartridge could take it out. When mounted to the P51 Mustang fighter plane with six Browning Machine Guns, it rained .50 bullets and brass all over the skies of Europe. One word fits that thought-devastating!
Our cartridge is not just one of history. It lives on in the M2, which is still in use today. However, the big resurgence for the .50 BMG has been as a sniper round. Distances and targets previously unattainable were now within range and vulnerable to this massive bullet, which moves at incredible velocities. What used to be true cover has now become just concealment. You can now shoot through the wall they are hiding behind and the shrapnel from the wall itself becomes nearly as deadly as the bullet. You do not want to be on the opposite side of most anything this bullet impacts.
Furthermore, it has compressed the battlefield as kill shots of a mile (1,760 yards) and more are within reach of this bullet. It really can reach out and touch the enemy from a long, long, long, long, well you get it, way off. Simply put, if you think you’re safe you’re not! The U.S. military helped tame this beast and it is at the bidding of the one who holds the leash. I would encourage you to pay the braggart money and take this monster for a walk, you will not regret it – but your shoulder may!