View Full Version : Browing Automatic Rifle vs. the Bren Gun

April 20, 2001, 02:59 PM
Okay! Here are two of my all-time favorite guns. The M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle and the British Bren of various models.

Has anyone fired either of these? How is the recoil? Are they hard to control on full auto? Are they too heavy to fire from the shoulder? (Somebody in 1918 managed to shoot steel plates out of the air with a BAR on semiauto). How do the two compare, overall? I'm a huge fan of the BAR, but I've heard the Bren was the best LMG of the era.

Did the Bren have a quick-change barrel?

M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle

Bren Mark IV

April 20, 2001, 03:11 PM
I've fired both of these, and both of them were very nice, but suited for slightly different roles. The BAR has too little mag capacity to be a true squad automatic, but it's light enough that it can be carried anywhere anyone else in the squad has to go. Downsides? The above-mentioned mag capacity, a lack of a quick-change barrel, and it DOES tend to climb on full-auto. The Bren is at the other end of the scale, but it's heavy enough that I wouldn't want to have to hump it all day. Because of the weight, you can fire a Bren all day long with no problem, but the huge curved mags are an absolute pain in the ass to carry. If you had to fire one of them standing, I'd go with the BAR, but if you could go prone, I'd take the Bren any day. It's accurate enough that they had to build some "wobble" into the bolt rod for use in area fire; otherwise, it would put everything into the same jagged pattern. The Bren's QC barrel lever is just visible on the other side of the above picture; you lift it up and slide the hot barrel out, then reverse the process for the cool one.

April 20, 2001, 03:47 PM
cool, thanks for the info. Later on they made 30 round mags for the BAR. I"ve seen one on a Colt Monitor, or, a photo of one, anyway.

Badger Arms
April 20, 2001, 11:37 PM
Proper training allows the BAR to hold steady on target. Never fired either of them, honestly though. My Father carried the BAR during Korean Conflict. Must say that he was a larger guy than most and that might have accounted for his ability to hold the BAR steady.

The BAR has too little mag capacity and heats up quick, but was still adequate for most uses. The MG-34 and 42 were both excellent weapons also and should be considered in this group. The BAR and BREN are not that different in reality.

For the First World War, I'd have to say the BAR was the best thing going. You have to remember, the Bren was based on the CZ design of the early twenties? When you are talking about the BREN being better than the BAR, you might be right within limitations but the BREN is from another generation. That the BAR survived through the mid 50's as the primary SAW in the US is a testament to the soundness of the design.

April 20, 2001, 11:46 PM
I have used both also including the later bren in .308, I like the BAR better from a cool factor but the bren goes to ground better and mag changes were easier,as side from that the other points are very valid, which woould I choose, Commonwealth preferences aside...FNC2, just kidding, BAR any day

February 7, 2008, 08:34 PM
My Dad fired a BAR in Korea. He described to me briefly how he would change the barrel when it had gotten too hot. He said it heated up alot because so many Chinese would attack his patrol. He told me he carried two or three barrels each patrol. He said he had a special wrench for the barrel. He would take his asbestos glove from his belt, grab the barrel , loosen it with the wrench, put the other one on and go back to work. Sounds like a crazy story, huh. Fourty years with him have taught me that this is very likely exactly what he did. Are there any Korean Vets out there who might have some insight into this?

February 8, 2008, 06:27 AM
I've fired the BAR. I don't the muzzle climb is all that bad. It jumps but it's pretty easy to rattle off a magazine into a small area (2-3 ft diameter). The BAR isn't light but it's not a too bad walking around full auto. The BREN would be, as has been pointed out, a better ground and sustained fire weapon.

February 8, 2008, 08:46 AM
Johngg, I think your dad must have been talking about either a 1919A4 or 1919A6 Browning Machine Gun, not the BAR; both of the 1919s were made with the ability to change barrels (though not as quick as on the Bren), but a BAR barrel is threaded into the receiver so tightly that you need an armourer's shop to get a burnt-out barrel out and a new one back in. They issued asbestos gloves to machine gunners specifically for changing barrels.

February 10, 2008, 12:19 PM
my dad fired a BAR in basic back in 66. it seemed to pull away when firing. not kicking back. he would fire a burst then have to pull it back into his shoulder then fire another. for whatever reason they did shoot it during basic training but did not carry them in nam. heck they even fired the 3.5" and 5" rocket launchers.:D they carried the m14 for a short time then carried the m16. but they didn't give anyone in the recon patrol an m203 grenade launcher for the m16. they had to use the m79. the pointman carried an m14 with a WP grenade on the muzzle ready for marking a target. but the army had the m203.:confused: as far as the BREN didn't fire that.

4V50 Gary
February 10, 2008, 01:53 PM
Concur with SDC's observation that the gun spoken of must be the 1919 and not the BAR. The BAR could be modified to take a quick change barrel, but that would add to the weight.

February 10, 2008, 01:58 PM
Well, the US military still uses a BAR derived machine gun. They don't use a BREN derived one. :D

James K
February 14, 2008, 09:02 PM
The Swedish and some Belgian BARs have quick change barrels, but neither would have been used by an American in Korea. Johngg's description sounds like the M60, but none of them were available in the Korean War era.

In fact, that glove business sounds like it might have been a .50 HB M2. That barrel unscrewed also, but it came off a lot easier than on the .30 MG, and spare barrels were issued.


February 15, 2008, 03:30 AM
Apparently the British machined Bren receivers out of one very heavy block of steel. Not real cost effective, but good for longevity. The Bren stayed in service, in 7.62x51, in the british army until they switched to the FN MAG in the 80's. That a LMG could stay in service for that long says something about the quality and applicability of the weapon.

The 1919/BAR/Monitor was a great gun too.

February 15, 2008, 08:47 AM
The Bren stayed in service, in 7.62x51, in the british army until they switched to the FN MAG in the 80's.

And, of course, the operating mechanism of the FN-MAG (or U.S. M240) is based on the BAR.

See: http://remtek.com/arms/fn/mag/

February 18, 2008, 12:43 AM
The WWI BAR was select fire where the later version was not. The selector on the later BAR Selected either slow or fast full auto. I thought is was fast and faster I could empty the BAR from prone with the bipod with some accuracy. off hand it was difficult to control. it is my understanding that some of the select fire ones were used as sniper rifles. Yes it would heat up. yes the mag didn't hold much. No you couldn't change barrels. It was heavy compared to the M1 Garand I had full webbing and Poor Lamberti had a full load of webbing plus a carbine. Never did the Bren so I can't compare. I was trained to use it in bursts. I have heard they would use two in WWII in what was called walking fire. I will try to find a ref for that. they used a special pocket that fired from the hip while advancing As one would run dry the other bar would light off. you caold keep a steady stream of lead on a position until the rest of the squad could flank the enemy. The 30-06 round could penetrate cinder block wall and do a frame structure with ease. I heard some bar men used strictly AP rounds. thus they could chew up a house or light vehicles. it wouldn't put a dent in a tank but it might draw their fire. Now Ma deuce could chew on light armor, and did have a change barrel system. not to mention it could really reach out and touch someone. the 50 was designated as an AA weapon but saw use for everything.

February 18, 2008, 03:35 AM
The BAR was more popular in the Pacific than in the European theater.
It could be used as an anti-tank weapon against some of the lighter Japanese tanks.
In Europe it was unfairly compared to the Axis light machine guns such as the German MG42.

As mentioned above the same action used in the BAR is used in modern light machine guns.

The Bren weighed about 10 more pounds than the BAR. It lasted in service several years longer than the BAR. It was used in the Falklands war.

For the role of light machine gun the Bren was a better weapon. Not as good as the MG42 but still better than the BAR.
The BAR was superior in rapid tactical movement, shoot and move.

With the introduction of select fire MBR such as the M14 and M16, the BAR became redundant.

My own opinion is that the Bren is a better choice than the BAR for a squad level automatic weapon.

The lack of a light machine gun in the US inventory wasn't noticed as much because of the presence of the M1 Garand and the M1919 medium machine gun. Without one or the other the US soldiers in Europe would have been seriously under gunned compared to the Germans.

February 18, 2008, 09:03 AM
I have heard they would use two in WWII in what was called walking fire.

Don't think so. Walking fire was a silly concept from WW1, I have a BAR web belt with the metal cup that the butt was to fit into for hip firing. I've never come across evidence that it was ever seriously used in WW1, not to mention WW2 by which time it was not seriously considered.

February 18, 2008, 09:16 AM
Thanks for the information I guess I can put that one to rest.

I have heard they would use two in WWII in what was called walking fire.

Don't think so. Walking fire was a silly concept from WW1, I have a BAR web belt with the metal cup that the butt was to fit into for hip firing. I've never come across evidence that it was ever seriously used in WW1, not to mention WW2 by which time it was not seriously considered.

July 13, 2008, 01:41 PM
I own both and have fired both extensively. The Bren has a buffering device built into the receiver and the felt recoil is much less than the bar. The bipod on the BAR is a pain to use. Perhaps that's why you see so many photos of them with the bipod removed. The extra weight not worth it for its usability. I haven't fired my BAR in 5 years while I shoot my BREN all the time. No contest in my opinion. If I had to carry one I'd take the BREN even though its heavier than the BAR.

July 13, 2008, 02:19 PM
In 1958,,the BAR was a SAW,,but we had 3 per squad !!!the army used one per squad-this overcame the Mag problem-plus one guy was the assistant BAR-man-he provided mags for the main man-believe it or not they picked the littlest guy most of the time for Barman

44 AMP
July 15, 2008, 12:10 AM
Probably because there is some tactical overlap between the BAR and the Bren gun.

The BAR is an Automatic Rifle. it can do short term duty as a light machinegun, but it is not as good at it as a purpose built light machinegun like the Brengun.

The base ideas behind the guns are similar, but not identical. The automatic rifle idea accepts some shortcomings compared to the light machinegun, in exchange for improved portability.

The BAR "heats up too fast and has limited mag capacity", yes, compared to a LMG, but compared to an M1 Garand or a 1903 Springfield it has a large capacity and lays down heavy fire.

The Bren gun's magazine location allows for gravity to assist feeding, and a low prone position. However the bipod negates the low prone to a large extent.

They weren't built to do the same jobs, although either will serve as the other in a pinch. Comparing one to the other directly isn't stricly applicable.