Book Review: The Browning Machine Gun Volume I
By Robert G. Segel

The Browning Machine Gun
Volume 1 - Rifle Caliber
Brownings in U.S. Service
By Dolf L. Goldsmith
Collector Grade Publications, Inc., 2005
ISBN 0-88935-370-0

552 pages with 568 illustrations
Reviewed by Robert G. Segel,
Senior Editor, SAR

Dolf Goldsmith is a national treasure for the historic Class III enthusiast, historian and researcher. His phenomenal wealth of knowledge and unyielding quest for accuracy in his research was manifest in his highly acclaimed previous books, The Devil’s Paintbrush - Sir Hiram Maxim’s Gun (now in its third revised edition) and The Grand Old lady of No Man’s Land: the Vickers Machine Gun. Five years in the making, his monumental newest work is just the first volume of a massive three volume set on the venerable rifle caliber Browning machine gun; the most popular and most used machine gun - ever. (Discussions of rifle caliber Brownings do not include the .50 caliber.) Anyone remotely familiar with Dolf Goldsmith’s work will know that hardly a stone is left unturned in this new comprehensive and important research.

Setting the stage in Chapters One and Two, he rightfully begins with John Moses Browning’s development and history of the gas operated Colt/Browning Model 1895 machine gun and subsequent Marlin models. Chapters Three and Four discusses Browning’s switch from gas operation to recoil operation in his design and the development and perfection of the Browning Model 1917 water-cooled machine gun, its adoption by the U.S. and the determination of who the manufacturers were going to be.

Chapters Five and Six detail the production of the Model 1917 by the various manufacturers in 1918 and 1919 and its part in World War I as well as machine gun training and use.

The M1917 becomes the M1917A1 in the interwar years as discussed in Chapter Seven as well as the early aircraft machine gun in Chapter Eight and early tank gun experiments in Chapter Nine. Chapter Ten details the development of the M2 aircraft machine gun while Chapter Eleven covers the commercial sales after World War I.

Chapters Twelve through Seventeen discuss the arming for World War II, the development of the M1919A4 series, the M1919A6, Rock Island Arsenal and commercial World War II producers, ground Brownings in action and the aircraft ANM2.

U.S. Brownings used and developed post-World War Two and in Korea, the M37 and the ultimate replacement by the M60 are covered in Chapters Eighteen and Nineteen.

While the broad-spectrum chapter discussions mentioned above are general in nature, the actual in-depth analysis of each chapter topic is well organized and well presented with many photographs, diagrams and charts to support the evidence of not only accepted production models and their variants, but test models, design changes, experimental models and failures. Production challenges, costs, governmental red tape and actual versus intended usage are but just some of the many details covered.

Volume II of this series, expected out at the end of 2005, will chronicle the history of Browning rifle caliber guns as manufactured and used by other countries around the world.

Volume III will contain the theory of operation, component nomenclature, manuals, training aids, mounts, sights, belts, belt loaders, tools, gauges, ammunition containers, canvas covers, anti-aircraft mounts and sights, sub-caliber conversions, and other ancillary accessories.

Dolf Goldsmith and Collector Grade Publications have, once again, provided an invaluable service to the Class III community in providing new, fresh and reliable information that can only be accessed through this valuable reference material. This new series on rifle caliber Brownings by Dolf Goldsmith will, like his other two books, be standard reference library material and mandatory for the shooter, collector or historian.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N12 (September 2005)
and was posted online on April 19, 2013


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