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M1917 .30 Caliber Machine Gun

The M1917 .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun was developed by John Browning as a result of the United States entry into the First World War in 1917. At the time, the American Expeditionary Force in Europe sourced many of its automatic weapons from allied forces there, including the Hotchkiss M1914 and Lewis M1917 machine guns.

John Browning was approached and refined a previous design, the M1901, resulting in the M1917. The weapon was intended to replace the various foreign weapons and the outdated Browning M1895 machine guns that remained in US inventory. Intended to be used as a heavy machine gun at Battalion level, some M1917s were deployed with the last American forces to enter France before the Armistice in 1918. The M1917 was tripod mounted, but was also used as an aircraft gun. The M1917 had a rate of fire of 450 rounds per minute.

Following the end of World War I, the M1917 design was modified and weapons were remanufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. The modified weapons were designated as M1917A1s. Additional modifications were made to new production machine guns. Weapons based on the design were also produced commercially for export by Colt. Colt supplied these weapons to other nations in a variety of calibers, including the American .30-06.

The weapon's weight, around 100 pounds including its tripod, led to the development of lightweight versions based on the Browning design. This culminated in the M1918 aircraft machine gun and the M1919 machine gun, initially developed for use in armored vehicles, which later became the standard company level light machine gun of the US Army.

The M1917A1 continued as a standard battalion level machine gun into the 1950s, despite being progressively supplanted by the .50 caliber M2 machine gun. The M1919 family and the .50 caliber M2 machine gun quickly supplanted the use of the heavy M1917A1 in vehicle applications. The M1917A1 saw limited usage by the US military in Korea before being phased out completely in favor of the .50 caliber M2 machine gun. Some had been passed on to US allies, seeing service for a period thereafter.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:45:38 ZULU