.50 Cal M2HB Mounts: One Style Does Not Fit All!
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII
By Hervé "Charby" Charbonneau

Allied AFV modelers have never had it so good. More and more accurate kits of WWII Allied subjects are becoming available, and the quantity and quality of research material and references available to modelers are growing rapidly. In the midst of this era of opulence, however, there is one subject that still seems to elude both manufacturers and modelers: vehicle mounts for the .50 cal M2 heavy machine gun! Part of the problem is that many modelers are either content with using the kit-supplied part, or convinced that the fancy aftermarket part they bought is flawless. The issue is further compounded by the apparent lack of adequate reference on the topic, and this is what this article will try to address.

A Bit of History

The weapon Bruce Canfield describes as "one of the most formidable and versatile infantry weapons of World War II" was type classified by the U.S. Army as the BROWNING MACHINE GUN, HEAVY BARREL, CAL .50, M2, HB in the years before the outbreak of WWII. In addition to being issued to the heavy weapons companies of infantry regiments, it was mounted on just about every kind of vehicle from light trucks to heavy tanks. Although, in the latter application, it was officially considered an antiaircraft weapon, it performed magnificently against ground targets like machine gun nests and light vehicles.

Initial attempts by the U.S. Army to mount machine guns on vehicles consisted mostly in adapting the cradles used with ground tripods through the addition of a longer pin adaptor, or pintle. However, since these provided insufficient elevation for use in the antiaircraft role, new cradles were developed. Early ones were generally made from steel sheeting, but these were gradually replaced with cast parts. Ammunition holders also evolved from fixed boxes that had to be loaded with lengths of ammunition belts to trays that could accommodate standard ammunition boxes with minimal handling.

Overview of WWII Vehicular Mounts

It would take a whole book to go over all the different types of mounts developed for the .50 cal machine gun. However, since this article is intended for modelers of American vehicles of 1941-1945 period, the list shall be restricted to only those most likely to be seen on currently available kits. Let us review, therefore, the types of vehicular mounts for the M2HB most commonly used during WWII. It must be noted that many of these assemblies could accommodate either .30 or .50 cal machine guns, as illustrated in some of the accompanying pictures.

It should also be noted that because they were scanned from a large book, a few of the images presented here have a blurry left or right edge. It would not have been possible to make better scans without damaging the book
















Further Development

In the end, two types of cradle, pintle and ammunition box assemblies were retained as standard for most applications. The first was the E10014, which consisted of the 7068880 (D68880) cradle/pintle assembly with the D90078 ammunition tray. It replaced most other types for use on pedestal mounts. The other was the 7046650, which was basically the D80030 cradle with the D90078 ammunition tray from the E10014 assembly in place of the original tray. It was destined to be used on concentric ring mounts and cupola mounts, but did not supersede the D80030 before well into the 50's. This is why it does not appear in the listing above.

Machine Gun Mounts in 1/35 Scale

Without going into an exhaustive review of the available kit parts, it should be known that, for the most part, the cradle and pintle assemblies found in many of today's kits are either oversimplified, inaccurate or just plain useless. Another problem is that the type of mount represented is often incorrect for the vehicle depicted. Such is the case with Tamiya kits like the M20 armored car and the M26 tank transporter, which come with Tamiya's representation of the D80030 pintle assembly while in reality, these vehicles used the D40733 cradle/pintle assembly.

Two manufacturers deserve high marks for their efforts in that field. The first is Dragon for including nicely done D36960 cradle assemblies in its M2/M2A1 Half-track kit. This type of mount had previously only been represented in Tamiya's old Jeep kit, and maybe in some of the ancient Monogram kits, and those were definitely not up to current standards. The second company is Tasca, who developed the most accurate mounts ever made in plastic, with three different types available, and separated the gun from the cradle assemblies.

Many aftermarket manufacturers offer more accurate and better detailed replacement machine guns, either in full resin or as multimedia kits. However, the use of photo-etched parts to represent cast components may be questionable in some cases.

Bibliography and Photo Sources

U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II, by Bruce N. Canfield, 3rd edition, Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 1998 (originally published in 1994), ISBN 0-917218-67-1.

U.S. Tank Destroyers in Combat 1941-1945, by Steven J. Zaloga, Concord Publications Company, 1996, ISBN 962-361-609-0.

Weapon Mounts for Secondary Armament, by G.O. Noville & Associates, 2nd edition, Long Mountain Outfitters LLC, 2007 (originally published in 1957), ISBN 13-978-0-9742724-4-3.

LIFE Photo Archive, hosted by Google, http://images.google.com/hosted/life.


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2009 Timothy S. Streeter