This story from 2011 gives you a clue as to the durability of Browning machine guns. Take a gun. Wrap it in several thousand pounds of airplane, with several hundred pounds of 115 octane fuel. Slam it into a peat bog. Dig it up 70 years later. Will it work?
Maybe, if John Browning designed it in the first place.
A Browning machine gun found in a downed Spitfire has been fired for the first time in 70 years.
The weapon worked despite being buried in peat since the aeroplane that housed it plummeted to earth in Donegal in 1941.
A team from the BBC went to the site and dug the guns from where the Spitfire had crashed and could even smell aviation fuel in the air.
Six Browning machine guns were found in good nick thanks to the ideal clay, soil and peat condition
Despite being buried for the last 70 years, the Browning machine gun worked perfectly
There were six guns that presenter Dan Snow reported were in ‘great shape, with belts containing hundreds of gleaming .303 rounds.’
They even found pilot Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe’s leather helmet among the wreckage.
The guns were cleaned and a couple of pieces were straightened out after suffering some damage on impact.
The soil, clay and peat had provided the perfect conditions for the artefacts to be preserved and, when fired, they worked like a treat.
Mr Snow continued: ‘The gun fired without a hitch. There can be no greater testament to the machinists and engineers in UK factories in the 1940s who, despite churning out guns at the rate of thousands per month, made each one of such high quality that they could survive a plane crash and 70 years underground and still fire like the day they were made.’
While we’re all for giving credit where due, we think the anvil-like design of Browning’s original 1917 machine gun and its later variants including these .303-caliber solenoid-fired British models was a big factor.
The Browning is also a simpler and much more easily manufactured gun than the Vickers the British used as a ground gun at that time. But pulling a gun out of a hole and firing it after the passage of most of a century is a pretty neat trick.
The Supermarine Spitfire and its equally legendary rival the Hawker Hurricane were originally designed in 1934-35 around eight of these rifle-calibre machine guns. Mounting the guns in the wings, beyond the propeller arc, saved the weight and complication of interrupter/synchronizer gear, but required much additional wing structure, especially in the minimalist Spitfire. At the time these planes were introduced, standard fighter armament worldwide was two rifle-calibre guns — often variants of these same robust Brownings.
A little credit goes to the noncorrosive nature of the damp peat in which the Brownings slumbered for all this period. (The pilot, interestingly enough, was an American in the RAF. He survived. More details at the link).