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Muzzle Velocity: 3,080 FPS
Muzzle Energy: 13,688 ft-lbs
|Ammo Caliber||50 BMG|
|Bullet Weight||660 Grain|
The .50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG, 12.7×99mm NATO and designated as the 50 Browning by the C.I.P. is a .50 in (12.7 mm) caliber cartridge developed for the M2 Browning machine gun in the late 1910s, entering official service in 1921. Under STANAG 4383, it is a standard service cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries. The cartridge itself has been made in many variants: multiple generations of regular ball, tracer, armor-piercing (AP), incendiary, and saboted sub-caliber rounds. The rounds intended for machine guns are made into a continuous belt using metallic links.The .50 BMG cartridge is also used in long-range sniper rifles and anti-materiel rifles. A wide variety of ammunition is available, and the availability of match grade ammunition has increased the usefulness of .50 caliber rifles by allowing more accurate fire than lower quality rounds.
In response to the need for new anti-aircraft weaponry during World War II, John Browning developed the .50 BMG. He wanted the round to be used in a machine gun, and wanted the machine gun to be based on a scaled-up version of the M1917 Browning.
The development of the .50 BMG round is sometimes confused with the German 13.2 mm TuF, which was developed by Germany for an anti-tank rifle to combat British tanks during WWI and against aircraft. According to the American Rifleman: “Actually, the Browning .50 originated in the Great War. American interest in an armor-piercing cartridge was influenced by the marginal French 11 mm design, prompting U.S. Army Ordnance officers to consult Browning. They wanted a heavy projectile at 2700 feet per second (f.p.s.), but the ammunition did not exist. Browning pondered the situation and, according to his son John, replied, ‘Well, the cartridge sounds pretty good to start. You make up some cartridges and we’ll do some shooting.'”
The American Rifleman further explains that development was “[r]eputedly influenced by Germany’s 13.2×92 mm SR (.53-cal.) anti-tank rifle” and that then “Ordnance contracted with Winchester to design a .50-cal. cartridge. Subsequently, Frankford Arsenal took over from Winchester, producing the historic .50 BMG or 12.7×99 mm cartridge. The Army then returned to John Browning for the actual gun. Teamed with Colt, he produced prototypes ready for testing and, ironically, completed them by Nov. 11, 1918—the Great War’s end.
The round was put into use in the M1921 Browning machine gun. This gun was later developed into the M2HB Browning which with its .50 caliber armor-piercing cartridges went on to function as an anti-aircraft and anti-vehicular machine gun, capable of penetrating 0.9 inches (23 mm) of face-hardened armor steel plate at 200 meters (220 yd)1 inch (25 mm) of rolled homogeneous armor at the same range,and 0.75 inches (19 mm) at 547 yards (500 m).
During World War II the .50 BMG was primarily used in the M2 Browning machine gun, in both its “light barrel” aircraft mount version and the “heavy barrel” (HB) version on ground vehicles, for anti-aircraft purposes. An upgraded variant of the M2 Browning HB machine gun used during World War II is still in use today. Since the mid-1950s, some armored personnel carriers and utility vehicles have been made to withstand 12.7 mm machine gun fire, restricting the destructive capability of the M2. It still has more penetrating power than lighter weapons such as general-purpose machine guns, though it is significantly heavier and more cumbersome to transport. Its range and accuracy, however, are superior to light machine guns when fixed on tripods, and it has not been replaced as the standard caliber for Western vehicle-mounted machine guns (Soviet and CIS armored vehicles mount 12.7×108mm NSVs, which are ballistically similar to .50 BMGs).
Decades later, the .50 BMG was chambered in high-powered rifles as well.4 The Barrett M82 .50 caliber rifle and later variants were developed during the 1980s and have upgraded the anti-materiel power of the military sniper.4 A skilled sniper can effectively neutralize an infantry unit by eliminating several targets (soldiers or equipment) without revealing his precise location. The long range (over one mile) between firing position and target allows time for the sniper to avoid enemy retaliation by either changing positions repeatedly, or by safely retreating.
A common method for understanding the actual power of a cartridge is comparison of muzzle energies. The .30-06 Springfield, the standard caliber for American soldiers in both World Wars and a popular caliber amongst American hunters, can produce muzzle energies between 2,000 and 3,000 foot-pounds force (3,000 and 4,000 J). The .50 BMG round can produce between 10,000 and 15,000 foot-pounds force (14,000 and 20,000 J), depending on its powder and bullet type, as well as the weapon it is fired from. Due to the high ballistic coefficient of the bullet, the .50 BMG’s trajectory also suffers less “drift” from cross-winds than smaller and lighter calibers, making the .50 BMG a good choice for high-powered sniper rifles.
The .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO) cartridge has a capacity of 290 gr (19 g). The round is a scaled-up version of the .30-06 Springfield but uses a case wall with a long taper to facilitate feeding and extraction in various weapons.
The common rifling twist rate for this cartridge is 1 in 15 in (380 mm), with eight lands and grooves. The primer type specified for this ammunition is a boxer primer that has a single centralized ignition point (US and NATO countries).10 However, some other countries produce the ammunition with Berdan primers that have two flash holes.
The average chamber pressure in this round as listed in TM43-0001-27, the U.S. Army Ammunition Data Sheets — Small Caliber Ammunition, not including plastic practice, short cased spotter, or proof/test loads, is 54,923 psi (378,680 kPa). The proof/test pressure is listed as 65,000 psi (450,000 kPa).
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