U.S. Army Support Weapons Teams
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Dragon Models Limited

Each Army infantry rifle company had a weapons platoon, consisting of two .30 Browning light machine guns, three M2 60mm mortars, and one .50 Browning heavy machine gun. These weapons platoons could be split among various platoons or squads as strategically necessary to provide appropriate covering fire, though the mortars typically remained together in the rear area.

For ages, modelers had to make do with Tamiya's "U.S. Gun and Mortar Set" issued in 1976. In the late 1990s, SOL offered a couple resin paratrooper figures wielding .30 and .50 machine guns. In 2003 we finally got a couple good bazooka boys from DML. Then, in 2004, came Academy's excellent "U.S. Machine Gun Set," the first of a series of resin figures from Warriors using the M2 HB (heavy barrel) .50 machine gun, and this trio of weapon teams.

This review will compare some of the key elements of this DML set to other offerings.

.30 Light Machine Gun Team
The .30 came in several versions. The old Tamiya set has the M1917A1 water-cooled model with the large cylindrical jacket, the similarly-designated tripod, and water can. DML previously offered the M1919A6, with the bipod, butt stock and carrying handle, in its "Pusan Perimeter" set from the Korean War. This set features the M1919A4, with the M2 tripod. This tripod was standard gear for AFVs that used the .30, if crew needed to employ the gun in a "dismounted" role.

I am not impressed with the .30 and tripod in this particular set, especially in comparison with the gun from Academy's offering. The DML gun is noticeably smaller coming in at 38" whereas the Academy gun is 42" (the correct length is 41"). The DML gun looks less substantial all the way around and details are softer. It does have a very nice elevating mechanism attached to the underside of the receiver.

On the other hand, the Academy tripod has locking levers for both sides of the graduated traversing bar that spreads between the two rear legs and helps stabilize the gun; these locking levers do not exist in any of the photos I've seen (you can also check out the .30 in the Uniforms and Equipment section of this site). The DML tripod does not have the locking levers. If you want to use the Academy gun, you could clip off the levers on the tripod. The front leg is a separate part, so you may need to adjust the height of the gun by how steeply you set the angle of the front leg, in order that the gun's grip fits into the gunner's hand.

The ammo boxes are also differently sized between the manufacturers, again with DML's being smaller and less sharply detailed, as is the belt of .30 ammo. I'll be more inclined to try to use Academy's gun and ammo when I put these figures to use.

Painting notes: the grip of the .30 was not wood, as some modelers mistake, but was plastic and should be painted black. The tripod is gun metal in color and not olive drab. The belt linking the ammo rounds was a white fabric or metal links.

The figures wear the M1941 combat jackets, woolen trousers, and canvas leggings, typical for 1942 onward. They would be appropriate for the Kasserine Pass, Salerno, Anzio, or Normandy. They are without any extra packs or gear, having only their Colt .45, canteen, and trench knife on their persons. Given the absence of backpacks and web suspenders, that suggests they are in static position, perhaps entrenched, rather than on the move.

The sculpting of all the figures is up to DML's usual high standards, even if the weapons aren't. There are the usual light seams to remove and heads to replace.

M2 60mm Mortar Team
Tamiya included this mortar in its "U.S. Infantry Weapons Set" in 1981. In some ways, the details of this mortar are better defined than DML's, although the latter does a better job with the collimator sight. DML's base plate is a tad larger, but the Tamiya base looks more like the real thing (except for the simplistic underside). Tamiya's tube is a bit longer than DML's, but I'm not sure which is more correctly scaled because the measurement I have for the mortar is overall length and I'm not quite sure where that ends off on the bottom of the base plate (all the way to the extended arched "cleats?").

Another significant difference is between the M49A2 60mm rounds. Tamiya's one-piece round is more substantial looking (to the point of almost making it look too large for insertion into the mortar tube), but has only four fins. The DML round is almost puny in comparison, but the separate fin piece does have multiple vanes (it's so small I can't count them, and it's attached to the sprue in such a way that some of the detail will be lost when it's removed from the sprue). Personally, I might be inclined to go with Tamiya's rounds (two are included in their set, vs. three in the DML set). It would have been nice if both DML and Tamiya had included rounds in their packing tubes and some wooden boxes.

Overall, the advantage here tilts to DML.

These figures are similarly outfitted as the machine gun team. While they could be in a temporary position, you could also put them in a mortar pit, with their packs and M1 carbines (typically issued to mortar crews) close at hand.

M18 57mm Recoilless Rifle Team
The M18 57mm recoilless rifle was used primarily by airborne units, first appearing in Europe in March 1945 during Operating Varsity, the massive airdrop across the Rhine River. The gun could be fired from the shoulder, or mounted on the M1917A1 tripod. The 57mm round was designed to counteract the recoil. Like the bazooka, there was a back blast zone behind the breech, so the loader had to remain clear of the read end.

This weapon, with the tripod mounting, shows up in the old Tamiya set. You can build it with the breach open or closed. You do not have that option with DML's gun.

The single DML round realistically captures the dimpled casing, where actual perforations helped dissipate the blowback gases. It far outclasses the two undetailed Tamiya rounds.

There is a nice photo on the last page of Steven Zaloga's The G.I. in Combat that probably served as the inspiration for Ron Volstad's posed pair, right down to the ammo pouch for the carbine sewn onto the gunner's jacket sleeve. The kit's paratrooper figures nicely complement the poses in DML's "U.S. Airborne (Operation Varsity)" set. They wear the M1943 jacket and trousers with the extended cargo pockets. The loader has a couple bandoliers looped around his chest to arm his M1 Garand. The gunner is equipped with the M1A1 carbine with the folding metal stock. The M1943 entrenching tools appear to be the same from DML's old Rangers set, where the backpack strap was extended over the handle of the shovel. You'll want to whittle that off if you use these shovels. Personally, I've always felt these have been among the weakest of DML's accessories, as the spade (or at least its cover) is far too elongated compared to photos. You might want to take your X-Acto knife to the backside of the bandage pouches so they sit a little more solid against the paratrooper's helmets.

M2 HB .50 Machine Gun
What have we here? DML has tossed in an unadvertised .50, and it's as sadly undernourished as its .30 cousin. The Academy version is more robust in detail and accuracy. Even the old Tamiya .50 is more interesting, and at least has an attempt at a cocking handle, unlike the DML. There are no instructions for assembling it and the tripod, but they aren't really necessary.

I looked in vain for an extra pair of arms for the .30 gunner, thinking there might be an old switcheroo that would allow the figure to man this weapon, but no go. This must be for a future offering.

So the long draught is almost over with just a few significant holes to fill. Now, all we really need are some good 81mm and 4.2 inch mortar teams, and some G.I.s to fire off the Ma Deuce.


  • The American Arsenal, Greenhill Books.
  • D-Day, Operation Overlord, Smithmark Publishers, Inc.
  • Government Issue Collector's Guide: Army Service Forces Catalog, U.S. Army European Theater of Operations, by Henri-Paul Enjames, Histoire & Collections.
  • The US Army Handbook 1941-1945, by George Forty, Barnes & Noble Books.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter