Sorry about the title. In-joke. But hey, there’s a new tripod in town, and it works with the M2HB and M2A1 machine guns and also the Mk19 grenade launcher. This is kind of big news, because the M3 it replaces was type-classified in 1934. FDR was president, most of the world’s fighter planes were canvas-covered biplanes, and the armed services were roiled with debate over whether such newfangled ideas as multiengine bomber aircraft, tank and motorized forces making independent breakthroughs, and aircraft carriers would ever really catch on.
The Spanish Civil War, where all those things except carriers would get a thorough shakedown, was in the future. So was the Italian campaign in Abyssinia. Most of the babies born in 1934 are now on the Social Security Death List… so maybe it’s time for the venerable M3 tripod to join them. The new ‘pod is called the M205 and it borrows a couple of ideas from foreign tripods, plus a few twists of its own, to save 16 pounds.
At 34 pounds, the new M205 is 16 pounds lighter than the 50-pound M3 Tripod. The tripod also has an integrated Traverse & Elevation (T&E) mechanism that allows faster, more accurate target engagement. Soldiers can even operate the T&E with one hand to make bold or fine adjustments. There’s also an adjustable traverse limit stop, which controls left and right fields of fire. The T&E’s clear, readable scales enable the operator to quickly establish a fighting position’s field of fire limits with a properly annotated range card. The lightweight pintle also allows greater weapon elevation and depression than the M3 pintle and the tripod has a built-in pintle storage slot to prevent loss when stowed.
The tripod appears to be sturdier than the heavier one it replaces. The new T&E is similar to the one on the new M192 tripod used with rifle-caliber MGs, and it lets you aim the gun more precisely, more rapidly, over a wider range, and — a great boon to everyone who positions machine guns — lets you quickly set left and right limits.
A machine gun with a T&E and a scope is a weapon capable of sniping, as Carlos Hathcock proved in Vietnam. A better tripod and T&E, coupled with the new self-headspacing M2A1 gun, answers a lot of the beefs that soldiers have had with Ma Deuce for almost 100 years.
The M205’s design makes it a very stable platform, which is a key factor for accurate engagements and conserving ammunition. The front leg rotates in 6 degree increments and, combined with the adjustable rear legs, can accommodate all types of terrain. There are also spades on all three feet, which allow the tripod to dig into dirt and sand while firing.
The rotation of the front leg and the extensible rear legs will look familiar to anyone who’s ever set up a PK tripod. The M205 looks a lot better built and more smoothly functioning. It remains to be seen how well it holds up.
SGT Gary Huerta, E FSC, 1-41 INF, 3/1AD, also attended the “New Equipment Training” event. With his seven years of service in the Infantry, Huerta appreciates the big improvements in the tripod’s weight reduction and portability. When stowed, the tripod collapses to 46 inches long, and is just 8 inches high and 12 inches wide – less than 50 percent of the M205’s deployed height and width.
“The M205 has more moving parts, but is pretty strong and portable,” said Huerta. “The M3 would flop around on you when you needed to carry it. That doesn’t happen with the M205.”
The Army will be replacing all M3 tripods over the next several years beginning with near-term deployers. In the coming months, more M205 fieldings are scheduled at installations such as Fort Campbell, Fort Hood, Fort Carson, Fort Richardson, and Fort Riley.
Some folks may point out that the old tripod was perfectly functional. And indeed, it was; these new ‘pods just provide some incremental benefits, and nothing really big — except for that one thing.
That one thing is the weight reduction. Any time you can take 16 pounds off a grunt’s back, you shouldn’t let the opportunity slide.