17 Photos That Show Why Troops Absolutely Love The .50 Caliber Machine Gun

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.

Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.

Here’s why:

188th BSB Mounts Up for .50-Cal Range

The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.


But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …


… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.

.50 cal lights up the night

With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.

.50-caliber machine gun

The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …

.50 cal SLAP round

… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.

Airmen provide show of force

Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …

Crommelin .50-cal qualification

… to the rails of U.S. Navy ships.


Of course, two is better than one.

.50-cal Training

Before they can fire it, soldiers usually learn how to disassemble, assemble, and adjust headspace and timing — tweaks made to the gun that allow it to fire safely. (The U.S. Army upgraded a number of their .50 cals to the M2A1, which doesn’t require headspace & timing adjustments).

6th Engineer Battalion M2 .50 Caliber Machinegun Qualification

Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.

.50 cal at night

Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.

Mounted up

At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).

Mounted combat patrol

While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …

ISAF soldier fires .50 Cal

… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.

11th MEU's AAV platoon shoots .50 cal

And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.


Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.