View Full Version : What Happened to the BAR?

September 20, 2002, 02:23 PM
I've seen Browning's other little amazing toy in movies and heard it mentioned by verterans who used it, but I've never heard too much about what happened to it in the military...when was it used? Was it well liked? Why or why not? When was it retired? Why?

Also...why don't we as civillians have any? I've never seen one on sale...Full auto only? What's the scoop on the Browning Automatic Rifle?

September 20, 2002, 03:29 PM
I believe the BAR came online right at the end of WWI, and was used up through Korea.

All of the original ones were full-auto. There have been some semi-auto ones made, and I've seen them for sale at gunshows, but they're pricey.

September 20, 2002, 03:46 PM
The BAR was used from 1918 through the mid-50s. 20-shot mag, .30-06 chambering, and some of the earlier models were actually selective fire (the Marine ones were, not all of them). It was universally well-regarded as reliable as hell from every account I can find, though heavy (those guys never had an M60 to cart around, but compared to an 8.69lb Springfield or 9.5lb Garand, the 20-lb BAR is heavy...).

The BAR was in .30-06, and only had a 20-round mag, they wanted a general-purpose machine gun similar to the MG42, and they stupidly cobbled together the M60 from the FG42, MG42 and other designs instead of just rechambering the MG42 in 7.62 Nato like the Germans did (the MG3), a much better gun by the way.....

BARs were also built to last forever, they couldn't be "stamped out" like an M16, MP40, Sten Gun, or whatever. Took a long while, and was expensive to make. M60s may have had reliability problems, but were much faster to manufacture. The BAR also did not have a removable barrel, and so cranking too many mags through the gun, you had to wait to let it cool, not just swap a barrel out and keep going.

September 20, 2002, 03:46 PM
24,000 bucks

heres a semi auto repro:
Ohio Ordinance Reproduction 1918A2 BAR - .308 semiauto - $ 2650.00


For over 6 years we have been producing our 1918A3_ Self Loading Rifle (SLR). Prior to it's inception, we had many requests for a 1918A2 semi-automatic only, rifle. After 2 years of R & D, we introduced not only the 1918A3 SLR but also the A1918 (W.W.I. model - limited production.)

The 1918A3 SLR is gas operated, hammered fired from a closed bolt position. It is only one of it's kind in production anywhere in the world and manufactured with many of the original W.W.I parts (including the barrel; sights).
Our 1918A3 SLR is approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as semi-automatic only, Title 1 rifle. Our 1918A3 SLR is in caliber .30-06 and has a 20 round magazine (States Allowance). It has been approved by BATF, in this configuration, as NOT being an assault rifle with respect to the 1994 federal assault rifle ban. The entire manufacturing process for the 1918A3 SLR is accomplished at our facility in Chardon, Ohio. Our team is made up of experts in the military ordnance field, some with over 30 years experience in the trade.

The heart of the 1918A3 SLR is the "Receiver". It is made from 86/20 cast steel that has been carborized and heat-treated. The castings are machined on a state-of-the-art, computer controlled machining center.

The 1918A3 SLR has undergone several modifications that make it unique and reliable. The design of_ the side prohibits the use of full auto parts. The trigger group has some distinct differences. The secondary firing mechanism is entirely new and it's design has been filed with the U.S. Patent No. 5,614,691 for our secondary firing mechanism.We take great care in the building of each 1918A3 SLR. Only highest quality USGI standard parts are used in the construction of the rifle._ Every rifle is fully assembled and test-fired under the direct supervision of our master armorer. Go to Semi-Auto SLR Articles.
__ Caliber .30-06
__ Operation Locked-breech, gas-operated with three-position regulator. Semi-automatic, closed-bolt, hammer-fired. Two-position Selector lever.
__ Feed mechanism 20_ round, staggered-column, detachable box-type magazine.
__ Weight, empty 19.4 pounds.
__ Length, overall 47.8 inches with flash hider.
__ Barrel Four grooves with a right-hand twist of one turn in 10 inches.
__ Barrel length 24 inches.
__ Sights Leaf-type rear sight with open U-notch battle sight and peep aperture adjustable for windage and elevation from 100 to 1,500 yards; reverse ramp-type front sight blade with protective hood.
__ Finish Phosphate (Parkerized) or Blued
__ T&E summary Faithful semiautomatic reproduction of the Browning Automatic Rifle that served as the squad s base of fire during WWII, the Korean War and the early years of the Vietnam War.

September 20, 2002, 04:19 PM
The BAR fired from an open bolt. One of the models had slow and fast fire but not semi. Trained gunners could easily fire single shots but the BAR was the squad automatic weapon for automatic fire support.

There were many variations sold worldwide besides the US BAR. One of the later types had a pistol grip, selective fire semi, slow, fast and a quick detachable bbl.

The current machine gun made by FN called the MAG is a BAR action turned upside down and belt fed so it is still pumping along more than 80 years after JMB built the first. The USA also uses the MAG but I don't know what their nomenclature is.

Mike Irwin
September 20, 2002, 04:32 PM
What happened to it?

Time passed it by.

It was a good weapon, and engendered a LOT of respect and devotion, but the 20 round magazines limited its multi-purpose role, and it was heavy as snot.

The M60 is still heavy, but it is belt fed.

September 20, 2002, 04:48 PM
The early model, M1918A1 was selective fire and used mostly in ww1, some were carried over in ww2 but most were M1918A2 models.The A1 was selective auto/ semi. The A2 was also selective with cyclic rates, Slow was 300 - 450 RPM, Fast was 500 - 650 RPM. The caliber as stated before was 30-06 and was used with 20 round mags carried in bandoleers (sp?). It also had a removable bi-pod and flash hider. Compared to the M-1 Garand it was a heavyweight, around 20 pounds with a mag in. This was one fantastic weapon.

James K
September 20, 2002, 05:39 PM
A couple of notes and corrections. BAR magazines were not issued in bandoliers. They were issued empty in cases and loaded whenever. They were normally carried in a specially made ammo belt and these were worn by the BAR man and the assistant BAR man. In WWI, both carried pistols; in WWII, they might carry pistols or carbines, but usually carried only the BAR itself.

The BAR was extremely accurate. So much so, in fact, that the bipod was placed at the end of the barrel to spoil the accuracy (20 rounds through one enemy soldiers third jacket button really isn't much good for a light machinegun.)

The BAR is a typical example of John Browning's "overkill" in size and weight. They could have been made lighter with a steel receiver (they were wrought iron) and an interchangeable barrel, but that was not Browning's way. (Some foreign models had both improvements.)

Still, they served well and were generally liked except that the distinctive sound made them natural targets and brought a lot of incoming down on the gunners and anyone in the vicinity.


September 20, 2002, 06:56 PM
Believe it or not we had 10 BAR's in the base arms warehouse till about 65 or 66. The Air Police were carrying M2 carbines at the time, and at the base (not the Air Police Armory) warehouse we (marksmanship unit) had a bunch of M1 Carbines and a lot of Garands plus mucho ammo stored in the MMS dump ............... enough to arm every man on base............cooks, mechanics, clerks, etc. Plus said BAR's.

The funny part was that no one had ever been trained with the BAR or the Garand only the M-1 and M-2 carbines. We (marksmanship unit) used to take them out and shoot them all the time. BAR was and is a damn fine weapon..................wish I had one...............be hell in the deer stand :D

I also wondered if the number of enemy casualities would outnumber the number of USAF M-1 Thumb casualities or vice versa if the Grand Old Lady would have had to be issued to untrained airmen?

Both the M-1 and the BAR are fine weapons but lets face it guys, you can't issue them to untrained troops.

September 20, 2002, 07:14 PM
I learned something new from "Tales of the Gun" the other day. It seems that the BAR was already part of the military's arsenal before Pershing took troops to Europe in WWI. The "brass" thought the BAR was so advanced, they refused to allow it to be taken to Europe where it may be captured and copied by the Germans. The troops were told to find something else.

In looking for a replacement, they asked the British if they could use some of their machineguns and were denied because the British were PO'ed at Pershing for not allowing US forces to be split up and used as replacements.

The US ended up with the French machinegun which was apparently a complete piece of junk.

September 20, 2002, 07:21 PM
Big G: You're saying that FN's 7.52 MG is an "upside-down BAR"?

I'd never heard that before. Not to doubt you, but can you offer any source for that info? That'd be fascinating to know.

So far as nomenclature, the only "MAG" MG made by FN that's used by the US, so far as I'm aware, is known as the M240. Marine grunts use it as the M240G (different suffix if it's mounted w/ spadegrips I believe).

If I could find some citation as to the relationship between the M240 and BAR, that'd be quite a trivia piece for the killers. Would appreciate if you can steer me on that, or anybody else with such info. Many of my coworkers and I have always loved seeing the BAR in films or old newsreels, and it's always good to see old ideas keep going.

On a sadder note, the M2 .50 _might_ be going away. They're testing the M3M at Quantico now. It's got a much higher rate of fire, and a better mount which makes it more accurate. Time will tell.

September 20, 2002, 07:57 PM
Here's something I always wondered.

Is the civilian BAR hunting rifle related in any way to the military 1918 BAR?



Mike Irwin
September 20, 2002, 10:43 PM

According to what I've read, the BAR wasn't available in anything even remotely resembling the numbers needed for Pershing's troops to take to Europe, and was still in final prototype phases as early as March 1918.

US troops were initially armed with Lewis guns. The decision to pull the Lewis guns and rearm with Chauchat guns was strictly a political one. Roughly 19k Chauchats in 8mm Lebel and another 19K in .30-06 were purchased from the French.

The Chauchat has received a LOT of bad press over the years -- most of it deserved.

But there's an interesting comment...

The overall design was fairly good for such an early weapon of this type. Where things fell to pieces was manufacture. It was "cottage industry" at its very worst, with very little quality control.

The 8mm guns that were purchased were pretty ragged out by the time the Americans got them, while the .30-06 guns simply couldn't take the pounding the round put them to.

I've fired a Chauchat, and believe it or not, it's not all that bad.

September 20, 2002, 11:18 PM
The other night I caught the Movie "Sand Pebbles"with Steve McQueen.

He made good use of the BAR, but one scene has him firing it "Gangsta" style!:rolleyes:

The BAR is one auto weapon I have never fired and have always wanted to. They actually had some at tactics training at Ft Benning but they gave us M14's instead as the SAW.

One question for you military experts. I have seen BAR belts and would like to know what the brown leather thingie between the pouches is? (#@^%$# can't find the picure)

Mike Irwin
September 20, 2002, 11:44 PM

I saw that too. AMC, right?

Did you see the Lewis guns that were also in use?

And as God is my witness, the scene where Richard Crenna is considering committing suicide, and his pistol is on the desk in front of him, I SWEAR it looks like a Star Model B and NOT a 1911!

When I worked at Navy Federal one of the guys who would come in occasionally to see one of his buddies had been on the China rivers in the 1930s.

He had some NEAT stories to tell.

September 20, 2002, 11:52 PM
Yep, Lewis guns but no water cooled 50 cal !:(

September 21, 2002, 12:20 AM

The Chauchat most definately has a bad reputation. You're the first one I've heard say anything nice about it. Sounds like an interesting gun.....maybe I should do some reading about the WWI machineguns. Never gave them much attention.

September 21, 2002, 08:26 AM
I find it amusing that people rag on the M60. A lot of folks owe their lives to the "Pig". I know a few of them.

I suspect a lot of folks only experience with the M60 is when firing blanks, lthe blank adaptors did cause jams.

Most of the original problems were because of a poorly designed feed system for the belts.The gun was originally designed to feed the belt from 100 round boxes, if the belt hung loose it would jam. GI's corrected this by welding an empty can of Ham N' Mo fo 's to the side of the gun to help the belt feed properly. The Army eventually caught on and corrected the problem.

Infantry squads in Nam used the M60 as a squad automatic Weapon, when it was designed to be a crew served LMG. It performed both jobs admirably.

I suspect a lot of the guns in use today are worn out from decades of use and rebuilding. I had the same problem with the 1911's used when I was a soldier. Great guns but kept too long in use.

September 21, 2002, 08:32 AM
Mathewvanitas: Get a copy of Small Arms of the World by Ezell. Where they describe current developments in small arms there are descriptions, diagrams, etc. of all current MGs. The MAG is verbally described as a BAR mechanism turned upside down and the pictures show the same slide, link, lock and bolt as good ol JMBs BAR. I beleive they also said the MAG is one of the best MGs in the world. The other is the German updated MG42 whatever they call it. This dates from the 90s sometime.

The design was produced in many versions and marketed all over the world by FN. The US BAR was the first but they sold them all over the place with whatever features the buyer specified.

NOTE: Maybe one of the guys can post the photo/text from their copy. Mine seems to be a casualty of an earlier life. :(

September 21, 2002, 09:01 AM
You can shoot an original, full-auto BAR at Knob Creek, coming up in October. It's $25.00 for one mag. I shot one last year, and also an authentic Thompson SMG...both a REAL blast.

Mike Irwin
September 21, 2002, 11:54 AM

Most of what you'll find on the Chauchat simply screws it to the wall.

Hatcher's Notebook and Small Arms of the World at least treat the design fairly.

Hatcher does note that the design is one based on long recoil, which is very unusual for an automatic weapon, and makes for a harsh firing experience.

I really didn't find that to be the case. No, it wasn't like firing a .22, but it certainly wasn't horrible.

Fred S
September 22, 2002, 08:13 AM
K80Geoff: The "thingy" on the BAR belt was where the soldier could tuck in the butt of the gun and fire it on the advance. These were on WWI era belts only. The WWII belts discarded this notion and had different pouches for the magazines than the earlier belts.

I have an Ohio Ordnance M1918A3 and the gun is just super. It fires very well and is very accurrate. I load up a mg, put down the bipods and rip off the rounds as fast as I can. They all hit the target and many go in the 10 ring. That 20 lbs has an advantage, it keeps the gun on target.

Here's a picture of my Dad with his BAR while on maneuvers in Louisiana in 1941. He loved the BAR, says it is a great gun. he's still alive (79) but is in the hospital. When he recovers, he's going to shoot my BAR!

Art Eatman
September 22, 2002, 10:52 AM
SOF magazine (Brown; Peter Kokalis), maybe eight or ten years back, did a comparison test of the BAR against IIRC an M14, an FAL and a G3. Full auto, against a large boulder at 500 meters.

Only the BAR could be kept on target for a full magazine. Obviously the greater weight was a factor, but the BAR was the most controllable.


September 22, 2002, 10:59 AM
Fred S ...Thank you! I kinda suspected it had something to do with resting the butt, but did not think it was for firing on the move, interesting!

I saw it on a BAR belt for sale by http://www.ammoman.com/ but it must have sold as the picture is no longer there.

Your dad doesn't seem to have any problem handling the weight of the BAR in that picture.

One of these years I will get to knob creek and fire one:D

Matt Sutton
September 22, 2002, 01:27 PM
If any of you ever come through Utah, you owe it to yourselves to see the Browning museum in Ogden (just north of Salt Lake City). There are several BAR examples, including at least one prototype. I believe it's the same prototype named in "Rock in a Hard Place", a comprehensive book on the BAR.
Nearly all of the guns are kept in free standing glass cases, so you can get your nose right up to them.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the commercial version, the Colt Monitor.


That's one BAD ASS weapon.

Mike Irwin
September 22, 2002, 04:21 PM
Trust me, Geoff.

After you fire a BAR, the grin on your face won't go away for several days.

September 22, 2002, 05:34 PM
"After you fire a BAR, the grin on your face won't go away for several days"

That's for sure!

We had a regular military jeep assigned to range section. The windshield would fold flat on top of the hood. Now kids don't try this at home, remember we were professionsals (YEA RIGHT!)

Anyway we took a M-2 Carbine and put it (after doing some inletting) in a M1A1 carbine stock, that's the folding Paratrooper stock. Then we got one of the BAR's out of the arms warehouse aalong with a bunch of 30 Rd carbine mags and some 20 rd BAR Mags and a "few" cases of ammo.

We folded the windshield flat on the jeep and started driving around the ranges on base lowering the jackrabbit polulation with both the carbine and BAR. We alternated so they could cool.

After 30 minutes of this the base commander, Col. Adleman came roaring up in his staff car and stopped us.

When he pulled up and recognized Don and I he seemed a little relieved (course we were scared s******s). He and we dismounted and we gave him a highball, and then he asked what were we doing. We told the truth............shooting jackrabbits. He said "oh OK I did not know it was y'all I could hear the auto fire from my office and it was not coming from the same place, and the Air Police were busy so I came to check it out myself, just make sure you dispose of the carcasses because I don't want coyotes dragging them on the road."

YES SIR! Gave him another highball and then carried on! I don't remember how many we got but it sure was fun!

That was 2 sweet shooting weapons (if you had good mags to keep the carbine from jamming).

September 23, 2002, 12:08 PM
some National Guard units continued to use BARs into the 1970s. In retrospect it was a complicated and expensive mechanism which was good by the standards of 1918 but by the '40s was looking decidedly long in the tooth. The lack of a replacement owed as much to lack of funding and willpower as much as anything. There were better designs to be had even in 1941. Production was revived in the Korean War by which time it looked even more old-fashioned.
My BAR is a grimy old New England Small Arms veteran with a 9-44 barrel that was presumably given to some Third World army that didn't believe in cleaning things.

September 23, 2002, 01:32 PM
I just found out today, a guy I work with (a sergeant at my security company) is an Okinawa vet, among other places, and saw quite a bit of action in the Pacific (Army, WW2). I'll ask his opinion of the BAR. Being a grunt, he used it firsthand...that's about as straight from the horse's mouth as it gets.

P.S The upside-down BAR action is true, FN already made a version of the BAR with a pistol grip, they took the action, inverted it, used the feed mechanism off the MG42 (very strong and well tried) along with the pistol grip, trigger group, etc. I think the gas and barrel systems were their own ideas. The MAG (M240 for us) was in use after 1958, and the whole dang world adopted it, from the UK to Egypt, and even Israel, but no, the US had to have one of "our" weapons.... which is why we adopted the M14 not the FAL (then all Nato woulda had one rifle) when both were passed as OK for adoption, and why we adopted the pieced-together M60 (poor job of piecing it together too) instead of the MAG, or the re-chambered MG42 in 7.62, the MG3.

September 24, 2002, 12:39 PM
Thanks, MrMurphy, for confirming my memory about the MAG. I lost my copy of Small Arms of the World to my Evil First Wife. :eek: