NEWS | Oct. 16, 2019

M2/M2A1 Machine Gun: How To Stop M2/M2A1 Damage

Too many M2s and M2A1s are being damaged because Soldiers aren’t thoroughly trained on how to fire and maintain them. Here’s What units need to do to stop that damage.

Since Jan 2018, there’ve been 40 reported M2/M2A1 machine gun firing incidents resulting in damage to weapons. There are likely many more unreported incidents.

More than half of the incidents involved improper barrel installation. The barrels’ alignment pins were sheared off and the barrels had to be replaced at a cost of more than $1K each. Most of this damage could’ve been avoided if units had required more training of gunners before certifying them to fire M2s.

Training should include:
  • emplacing the tripod.
  • installing the weapon on a tripod or pedestal mount.
  • properly installing the barrel.
  • proper loading.
  • determining distance to targets.
  • engaging targets correctly.
  • clearing weapon stoppages.
  • diagnosing malfunctions.
  • disassembly and assembly.
  • required cleaning and lubing.
Until Soldiers can demonstrate ability to do each task, they shouldn’t be certified as an M2/M2A1 operator. These checks shouldn’t be considered one-and-done. Soldiers, like everyone else, forget skills. Refresher training is a must.
 
M2 and M2A1 Differences

Of course, Soldiers need to be able to tell at a glance whether they have an M2 or an M2A1. Here’s what to look for: 
 
  • The M2 has round holes in the barrel support and its barrel has notches and uninterrupted threading.


     
  • The M2A1 has a zig-zag slot in the barrel support and its barrel has an alignment pin, an interrupted thread design and no notches.

It’s critical to know which M2 you have.
 
  • M2s must be headspaced and timed by the operator each time they’re fired or the barrel is changed.
     
  • M2A1s don’t need to be head-spaced and timed by the operator, but headspace and timing must be checked by the armorer.
Many M2A1 barrels are ruined because operators don’t screw them all the way into the barrel extension. One simple check prevents that. Before firing, check for barrel threads in front of the barrel extension.
 
  • If you see threads, the barrel is not fully screwed in.
     
  • No threads? You’re good to fire.

Train, train, train to prevent more M2/M2A1 damage.