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'Limited Standard': The M1919A6 Machine Gun


American Rifleman 1/23/2023

The U.S. M1919A6 machine gun was a compromise gun, and like many such designs, it could not do everything well.

Private First Class Ralph Kollberg, a combat veteran of the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry Division, poses with his M1919A6
machine gun on Okinawa, May 14, 1945. Despite the gun’s 32-lb., 8-oz., weight, it was far more portable than the
tripod-mounted M1919A4.

One of the most popular and effective U.S. small arms of World War II was the M1919A4 light machine gun. Despite the almost universal accolades heaped upon the M1919A4, the U.S. Army Ordnance Dept. continued to seek ways to increase the gun’s utility. While attempting to improve upon existing designs is not a bad thing in and of itself, sometimes the “Law of Unintended Consequences” comes into play.

A good example of this in the realm of World War II U.S. military arms was the Model 1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). As a brief review, when the M1918 BAR was fielded late in World War I, it was an immediate sensation and was, hands-down, the best gun of its genre in the world at the time. The Ordnance Dept. couldn’t leave well enough alone, however, and after World War I, the BAR was subsequently fitted with all manner of attachments that were intended to improve it, including bipods, stock rests, folding buttplates, receiver magazine guides and carrying handles. The popular selective-fire feature allowing either full-automatic or semi-automatic operation was discarded on the M1918A2 version and was replaced with a full-automatic-only mechanism consisting of “slow” and “fast” cyclical rates of fire that few of the users liked, or employed, and which was prone to malfunction.

Most of these “improvements” offered few real advantages but seriously mitigated one of the major hallmarks of the original design—its comparatively light weight and handiness. This resulted in many of the users disregarding or stripping off as many of the extraneous features as possible, especially the bipod, in an attempt to put the gun back in the configuration originally designed by John Browning.

A similar scenario occurred during World War II with the M1919A4 machine gun. Since before World War II, the U.S. military had been seeking a gun that could fill the perceived gap between the BAR and the M1919A4. Several designs were evaluated in 1941 and early 1942, but none were deemed to be satisfactory. As the war progressed, there were increased requests for a machine gun of this type. Although the M1919A4 was widely used with notable effectiveness during the war, there were some negative points cited in a 1943 Marine Corps evaluation of the gun:

“Some weapons platoon leaders believe the gun (M1919A4) to be too slow in getting into action and the crew too vulnerable. It is suggested that a new mount for close in jungle fighting be designed, on the order of the bipod and butt-rest similar to the BAR M1918A2 with the addition of a carrying handle on the barrel jacket similar to the British Bren.”

The Ordnance Dept. wanted to develop a new type of gun with the attributes that were being sought and resisted the suggestions to simply field a modified M1919A4 instead. A World War II Ordnance Dept. report stated: “[It] is believed that no advantage would accrue in recommending a modification of the M1919A4 machine gun at this time, as such modifications would meet the approved military characteristics of the light machine gun in part only.”

The Infantry Board did not agree with the Ordnance Dept. assessment and was of the opinion that a modified M1919A4 might not be optimal, but it would fulfill the requirements until a more suitable type of firearm could be developed.



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