The .50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG, 12.7×99mm NATO and designated as the 50 Browning by the C.I.P.) is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s, entering official service in 1921. Under STANAG 4383, it is a standard 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 target and anti-materiel rifles, as well as other .50-caliber machine guns.
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.
|Type||Heavy machine gun/anti-materiel rifle|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||NATO and many other countries|
|Wars||World War II|
Cambodian Civil War
Persian Gulf War
Global War on Terrorism
War in Afghanistan
Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)
Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)
Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
Saudi–Yemeni border conflict (2015–present)
|Designer||Winchester Repeating Arms Co. and Frankford Arsenal|
|Parent case||.30-06 Springfield|
|Case type||Rimless, bottleneck|
|Bullet diameter||.510 in (13.0 mm)|
|Neck diameter||.560 in (14.2 mm)|
|Shoulder diameter||.735 in (18.7 mm)|
|Base diameter||.804 in (20.4 mm)|
|Rim diameter||.804 in (20.4 mm)|
|Rim thickness||.083 in (2.1 mm)|
|Case length||3.91 in (99 mm)|
|Overall length||5.45 in (138 mm)|
|Case capacity||292.8 gr H2O (18.97 cm3)|
|Primer type||#35 Arsenal Primer|
|Maximum pressure (small arms ammunition pressure testing||54,923 psi (378.68 MPa)|
|Maximum pressure (small arms ammunition pressure testing||60,481 psi (417.00 MPa)|
|Maximum pressure (small arms ammunition pressure testing||53,664 psi (370.00 MPa)|
|Test barrel length: 45 in (1,100 mm)|
Source(s): Ammoguide.com 
John Browning had the idea for this round during World War I in response to a need for an anti-aircraft weapon, based on a scaled-up .30-06 Springfield design, used in a machine gun based on a scaled-up M1919/M1917 design that Browning had initially developed around 1900 (but which was not adopted by the U.S. military until 1917, hence the model designation). Armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) rounds were especially effective against aircraft, and the AP rounds and armor-piercing incendiary (API) rounds were excellent for destroying concrete bunkers, structures, and lighter armored fighting vehicles (AFVs). The API and APIT rounds left a flash, report, and smoke on contact, useful in detecting strikes on targets.
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 13.2x92 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 12.7x99 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, with a capability of completely perforating 0.875 inches (22.2 mm) of face-hardened armor steel plate at 100 yards (91 m), and 0.75 inches (19 mm) at 547 yards (500 m).
The concept of a .50 caliber machine gun was not an invention of this era; this caliber (.50 inch) had been used in Maxim machine guns and in a number of manual rapid-fire guns such as the original Gatling gun, although these were much lower power cartridges.
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. 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. 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 grains H2O (19 ml). 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). 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).
The .50 BMG cartridge is also produced commercially with a plethora of different bullets and to a number of different specifications.
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) contracted with Teledyne Scientific Company to develop the EXACTO program, including a .50-caliber guided bullet. Videos published by DARPA show the guided bullet diverting to strike a moving target.
Two distinct and non-compatible metallic links have been used for the .50 BMG cartridge, depending upon the machine gun which will be firing the cartridges. The M2 and M9 links, "pull-out" designs, are used in the Browning M2 and M3 machine guns. Pull-out cloth belts were also used at one time, but have been obsolete since 1945. The M15-series "push-through" links were used in the M85 machine gun.
The specified maximum diameter of an unfired .50 BMG bullet is 0.510-inch (13.0 mm); while this appears to be over the .50 inch (12.7 mm) maximum allowed for non-sporting Title I firearms under the U.S. National Firearms Act, the barrel of a .50 BMG rifle is only .50 inch (12.7 mm) across the rifling lands and slightly larger in the grooves. The oversized bullet is formed to the bore size upon firing, forming a tight seal and engaging the rifling, a mechanism which in firearm terms is known as swaging. Subject to political controversy due to the great power of the cartridge (it is the most powerful commonly available cartridge not considered a destructive device under the National Firearms Act), it remains popular among long-range shooters for its accuracy and external ballistics. While the .50 BMG round is able to deliver accurate shot placement (if match grade ammunition is used) at ranges over 1,000-yard (910 m), smaller caliber rifles produce better scores and tighter groups in 1,000-yard (910 m) competitions.
In response to legal action against the .50 BMG in the United States and Europe, an alternative chambering was developed. The .510 DTC Europ uses the same bullet, but has slightly different case dimensions. .510 DTC cases can be made by fire-forming .50 BMG cases in a .510 DTC chambered rifle. The new round has almost identical ballistics, but because of the different dimensions, rifles chambered for .50 BMG cannot fire the .510 DTC, and therefore rifles chambered for .510 DTC do not fall under many of the same legal prohibitions. Barrett offers a similar alternative, the .416 Barrett, which is based on a shortened .50 BMG case necked down to .416 caliber (10.3 mm).
A 1999 Justice Department Office of Special Investigations briefing on .50 caliber rifle crime identified several instances of the .50 BMG being involved in criminal activities. Most of the instances of criminal activity cited in the Office of Special Investigations briefing involved the illegal possession of a .50 BMG rifle. The briefing did not identify any instance of a .50 BMG rifle being used in the commission of a murder.
In the United States, Washington, D.C. disallows registration of .50 BMG rifles, thus rendering civilian possession unlawful. California prohibits the private purchase of a rifle capable of firing the .50 BMG through the .50 Caliber BMG Regulation Act of 2004. Connecticut specifically bans the Barrett 82A1 .50 BMG rifle. However, .50 BMG rifles registered prior to the enacted bans remain lawful to possess in California and Connecticut. Maryland imposes additional regulations on the sale and transfer of .50 BMG rifles and other "regulated firearms," and limits purchases of any firearm within this class to one per month, but does not impose registration requirements or any form of categorical ban.
Within the United Kingdom, it is legal to own a .50 BMG rifle with a section 1 Firearms Certificate. Applications requesting firearms in this caliber are not subject to any extra scrutiny compared to smaller calibers.
Contrary to a persistent misconception within the United States Armed Forces, using .50 BMG in a direct antipersonnel role is not prohibited by the laws of war. Writing for the Marine Corps Gazette, Maj Hays Parks states that "No treaty language exists (either generally or specifically) to support a limitation on [the use of .50 BMG] against personnel, and its widespread, longstanding use in this role suggests that such antipersonnel employment is the customary practice of nations." Parks theorizes that the misconception originated in historical doctrine discouraging the use of the M8C spotting rifle—an integral .50-caliber aiming aid for the M40 recoilless rifle—in the antipersonnel role. This limitation was entirely tactical in nature and was intended to hide the vulnerable M40 and its crew from the enemy until the main anti-tank gun was ready for firing; however, Parks concludes that some personnel assumed the existence of a legal limitation on the use of .50-caliber projectiles more generally.
The U.S. Coast Guard uses .50 BMG rifles to disable outboard engines from armed helicopters during interdictions. Similarly, .50 BMG weapons have attracted attention from law enforcement agencies; they have been adopted by the New York City Police Department as well as the Pittsburgh Police. A .50 BMG round can effectively disable a vehicle when fired into the engine block. If it is necessary to breach barriers, a .50 BMG round will penetrate most commercial brick walls and concrete cinder blocks.
The .50 BMG round has been used as a sniper round as early as the Korean War. The former record for a confirmed long-distance kill was set by U.S. Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock in 1967, at a distance of 2,090 meters (2,290 yd; 1.30 mi); Hathcock used the .50 BMG in an M2 Browning Machine Gun equipped with a telescopic sight. This weapon was used by other snipers, and eventually purpose-built sniper rifles were developed specifically for this round.
In June 2017, a McMillan Tac-50 was used by a sniper with Canada's Joint Task Force 2 to kill an Islamic State insurgent in Iraq, setting the world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in military history at 3,540 meters (3,870 yd; 2.20 mi). Before that record, Canadian Army Corporal Rob Furlong of the PPCLI achieved what was then the longest-range confirmed sniper kill in history when he shot a Taliban combatant at 2,430 meters (2,660 yd; 1.51 mi) during the 2002 campaign in the Afghanistan War. This was surpassed in 2009 by a British sniper in Afghanistan with 2,475 meters (2,707 yd; 1.538 mi) using a .338 Lapua Magnum (8.58×70 mm) rifle.
In addition to long-range and anti-materiel sniping, the U.S. military uses .50 BMG weapons to detonate unexploded ordnance from a safe distance. It can disable most unarmored and lightly armored vehicles.
Some civilians use .50 caliber rifles for long-range target shooting: the US-based Fifty Caliber Shooters Association holds .50 BMG shooting matches.
...any person who has a Certificate of Possession issued by the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit may possess the Assault Weapon listed on their certificate.... a Certificate of Possession must be obtained prior to January 1, 2014
The Mauser 13.2mm TuF (German: Tank und Flieger; lit. "tank and aircraft", known also as 13.2×92mmSR) cartridge, was a major step in the development of anti-tank cartridges, being the first one designed for the sole purpose of destroying armored targets.Accuracy International AS50
The AS50 is a .50 BMG sniper/anti-materiel rifle manufactured by British firearms producer Accuracy International. The AS50 enables operators to engage targets at very long range with high accuracy using explosive or incendiary ammunition. The AS50 employs a gas operated semi-automatic action and muzzle brake, allowing for lower recoil than the AW50 bolt-action rifle and faster target acquisition. The rifle is highly transportable, ergonomic and lightweight. It can be disassembled in less than three minutes and serviced without tools.
The AS50 is designed for the British Armed Forces and United States Navy SEALs, the rifle is employed due to its high rate of fire (five rounds in 1.6 seconds). This high rate of fire is due mostly to the floating barrel and the lightweight titanium frame.The rifle has an accuracy of 1.5 MOA. The barrel is free-floating. The two-part machined steel receiver features an integral accessory rail for mounting optical sights. Two additional rails are mounted on the sides of the short barrel shroud. An adjustable bipod and rear support leg/hand grip allow for stable shooting. This weapon can accurately engage targets at a range of 1,500 metres (1,600 yd).The AS50 weighs 14.1 kilograms (31 lb) empty and holds five rounds of .50 BMG in a single-stack, removable box magazine.Accuracy International AW50
The AW50 is a .50 BMG anti-materiel rifle designed by Accuracy International. It is a re-engineered version of the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare L96 sniper rifle (the standard issue sniper rifle in the British forces).Anti-materiel rifle
An anti-materiel rifle (AMR) is a rifle that is designed for use against military equipment (materiel), rather than against other combatants ("anti-personnel").ArmaLite AR-50
The ArmaLite AR-50 is a .50 BMG, single-shot, bolt-action long range rifle manufactured by ArmaLite.Barrett M82
The Barrett M82, standardized by the U.S. military as the M107, is a recoil-operated, semi-automatic anti-materiel sniper system developed by the American Barrett Firearms Manufacturing company. Despite its designation as an anti-materiel rifle, it is used by some armed forces as an anti-personnel system. The M107 variant is also called the Light Fifty for its .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO) chambering and significantly lighter weight compared to previous applications and the 15% heavier base M82 model . The weapon is found in two variants, the original M82A1 (and A3) and the bullpup M82A2. The M82A2 is no longer manufactured, though the XM500 can be seen as its successor.Barrett M90
The Barrett M90 is a bolt-action, bullpup sniper rifle chambered in .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO). It was designed and manufactured by Barrett Firearms Company. In 1995, Barrett stopped production of the M90, and replaced it with the M95.Barrett M95
The Barrett M95 is a bolt-action sniper rifle chambered in .50 BMG (12.7×99mm), and manufactured by Barrett Firearms Company. It has been adopted by a number of militaries around the world.Barrett XM500
The Barrett XM500 is a gas-operated, semi-automatic sniper rifle/anti-materiel rifle currently in development by the Barrett Firearms Company. It is fed by a 10-round detachable box magazine situated behind the trigger in bullpup configuration.
Based on the design of the Barrett M82/M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, it is intended to be a lighter, more compact alternative to the M82. Since the XM500 has a stationary barrel (instead of the recoiling-barrel design of the M82), it will likely have somewhat better accuracy. As with its predecessor, it comes with a removable, adjustable bipod mounted under the barrel, and a top-mounted Picatinny rail for attachment of a scope or other accessory.DSR-Precision DSR-50
The DSR-Precision DSR-50 is a bullpup bolt-action sniper and anti-materiel rifle developed and manufactured by DSR-Precision GmbH of Germany and chambered in .50 BMG. It is essentially an upscaled DSR-1.GAU-19
The GAU-19/A (GECAL 50), is an electrically-driven Gatling gun that fires the .50 BMG (12.7×99mm) cartridge.Gepárd anti-materiel rifle
The Gepárd anti-materiel rifles ("gepárd" meaning cheetah in Hungarian) are a family of Hungarian weapons designed to destroy unarmored and lightly armored targets. These long range, large caliber rifles have high accuracy as well as high muzzle velocity. In 1987 the Hungarian army sought to obtain a compact, mobile weapon that could damage lightly armored targets. The project, led by Ferenc Földi (Institute of Military Technology of the Hungarian People's Army), culminated in the creation of the Gepárds.List of crew-served weapons of the U.S. Armed Forces
This list contains weapons that are classified as crew-served, as the term is used in the United States military.
While the general understanding is that crew-served weapons require more than one person to operate them, there are important exceptions in the case of both squad automatic weapons (SAW) and sniper rifles. Within the Table of Organization and Equipment for both the United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, these two classes of weapons are understood to be crew-served, as the operator of the weapon (identified as a marksman or as a SAW gunner) has an assistant, who carries additional ammunition and associated equipment, acts as a spotter, and is also fully qualified in the operation of the weapon.List of sniper rifles
This page is a listing of major precision rifle variants used by snipers from around the world.
A hunting or precision rifle equipped with a telescopic optic has been long described as a sniper rifle. A person trained in the skills and art of sniping uses many weapons to complete the task and mission given. The weapon doesn't necessarily have to be equipped with a telescopic optic. All snipers have a primary weapon. The secondary weapon is a precision rifle of some kind equipped with a telescopic optic and it is this weapon that is mistakenly referred to as a sniper rifle.
Below is the list of precision rifles used by both military and law enforcement trained snipers and marksmen.
The table is sortable for every column.McMillan TAC-50
The McMillan TAC-50 is a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle. The TAC-50 is based on previous designs from the same company, which first appeared during the late 1980s. McMillan makes several versions of .50 caliber rifles, based on the same proprietary action, for military, law enforcement and civilian use. It is produced in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States by McMillan Firearms Manufacturing.
The TAC-50 is a military and law enforcement weapon, which, designated as the C15, is the standard long-range sniper weapon (LRSW) of the Canadian Army since 2000. Rifles of the TAC-50 family are guaranteed to provide 0.5 minute of angle (MOA) groups with match-grade ammunition under ideal conditions.PGM Hécate II
The Hécate II is the standard heavy sniper rifle of the French Army, sometimes known as the FR-12.7 (French: Fusil à Répétition de calibre 12,7 mm or "12.7 mm calibre repeating rifle"). It is manufactured by PGM Précision of France. This is the largest weapon manufactured by PGM, chambered for the .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO) cartridge.WKW Wilk
The WKW Tor or Wilk (Wolf) is a modern anti-materiel and/or sniper rifle produced in Poland by the Zakłady Mechaniczne Tarnów factory. The nickname "WKW Tor" stands for Wielkokalibrowy Karabin Wyborowy or Large Caliber Sniper Rifle. Its military designation in the Polish army is known as the Tor. This rifle was developed between 2000 and 2004 and the first selected units in the Polish army apparently received Wilk/Tor rifles in around 2005 onwards.
The WKW Wilk/Tor anti-materiel and/or sniper rifle makes use of a manually operated rotary bolt action weapon of bull-pup layout. It is fed from detachable box magazines and is fitted with a folding and adjustable bipod and an adjustable rear monopod. Standard sighting equipment is a Schmidt & Bender X3−12 P/MII telescope sight which is placed on Picatinny rails above the receiver.ZVI Falcon
The ZVI Falcon is a Czech 12.7 mm caliber bolt-action bullpup sniper and anti-materiel rifle developed by Zbrojovka Vsetín Inc. (now ZVI Inc.). The rifle is intended for ground troops and special forces for operations against distant targets up to 1,600 metres (1,700 yd) away, such as armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) or technical equipment.Zastava M93 Black Arrow
The M93 Black Arrow (Serbian: М93 „црна стрела“) is a 12.7mm or .50 caliber anti-materiel rifle developed and manufactured by Zastava Arms.
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