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Old July 18, 2020, 09:36 AM   #1
the45er
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I'm not a rifle guy - curious about 50 BMG capabilities

I have a friend who was a waist gunner on choppers in Vietnam. Great guy but sometimes exaggerates a story for effect! He claims he had a 50 BMG that he could shoot a 2" group at 900 yards with. Now, I'm ever amazed at the ranges snipers and competitive shooters can be accurate, but this claim sounds a bit far-fetched.

Can this be done by anyone with any consistency at all?
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Old July 18, 2020, 09:48 AM   #2
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Ummmmhh. No he would have had an M2.
The most precise .50BMG shooters at regional and national matches are shooting 3-4” groups with purpose built benchrest weapons at 1000 yards. By the way they take an hour to get the platform and gun setup. These are typically in the 1/2 MOA with tuned hand loaded ammo that’s usually different and matched for an individual rifle.

In comparison, the 1-mile plus sniper shots you hear about (see Wikipedia) are most often using MacMillian Tac-50 single shot or Barrett M107A1 semi rifles and factory Hornady 750 gr AMax or NAAMO / GD NM 140 / Mk-211 Raufoss penetrator (explosive) rounds.
I have an M107A1 and it’s a 1-1.5 MOA weapon depending on the ammo.

Now compare Vietnam-era weapons (ala the helo-mounted M2) and at 900 yards, That’s more likely a 2 MOA weapon =18”.

So No, I don’t buy it.
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Old July 18, 2020, 10:13 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply

I think my friend was talking more recent 50 BMG ownership than his Vietnam days but I still don't think he could do that . He doesn't reload and he hasn't shot that much since Vietnam.

My brother's wife is a cousin of David Tubb (her maiden name was Tubb). Her dad was a competitive shooter as well. I have some idea of what it takes to shoot rifles at these extreme ranges and I'm pretty sure my friend was never into the sport at that level. You darned sure don't just buy a 50 BMG and shoot 2" groups at 900 yards!
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Old July 18, 2020, 11:01 AM   #4
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I think the door gunners on Hueys used M60 machine guns (7.62), not .50 caliber. So I think you should doubt your friend's veracity.
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Old July 18, 2020, 11:41 AM   #5
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Waist gunners were on WWII planes, door gunners were on Huey helicopters. As stated above the door gunners used M60's not M2's.

MOA at 900 yards is 9" and back in Nam time, there were no .50's capable of that, let alone a 2" group!

I think your friend is exaggerating just a tad.
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Old July 18, 2020, 12:10 PM   #6
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OTOH, Sgt. Hathcock did kill a VC at 2300 meters with an M2...but I have never seen any references to group size at any range.




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Old July 18, 2020, 12:30 PM   #7
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Funny thing. I keep hearing how good these sniper's were at long range. I read quite a while back that the Army Sniper manual say to get as close as you can before firing. I suspect that the Army want's a successful mission rather than a record long shot. That would make sense to me! I have never picked up a BMG 50 But I have seen a couple. Can't imagine it being a choice of a sniper. they have to carry that thing. I'm sure it's changed by now but last I heard the sniper cartridge was the 300 win mag? If that's wrong, please excuse me, all my information is second hand. Oh, come to think of it I think Vietnam sniper's used the 30-06! I'm thinking carrying a 50 BMG as a sniper would seriously effect your mobility!
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Old July 18, 2020, 01:47 PM   #8
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I wouldn't take your friend's claim at face value. 2" is just too small to be credible.

That being said The Browning M2HB is one of, if not the most accurate machine guns that exist. It's accuracy is on par with good sporting rifles. It is actually TOO accurate for its military mission. Because the gun is so accurate, it didn't create a sufficiently large beaten zone to meet military requirements.

The military solution to this was to put a "dispersal factor" in the ammunition.
The specs for bullet weight (+/-) are several times the allowable variance found in other calibers. This "range" of bullet weight means that even though the gun wants to put its shots in a small area, the bullets vary enough to create the military desired spread down range.

Sgt Hathcock's long range kill with an M2 is well documented and described. The gun was on its tripod, had been fitted with a scope (10x IIRC) and had been previously zeroed on the spot where the VC later appeared. And, again IIRC was fired in single shot mode. (the M2 allows for thiis).

They were not humping an M2 around in the field as a "sniper rifle".
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Old July 18, 2020, 02:20 PM   #9
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My personal weapon on my tank back in RVN in '68/'69 as the Tank Commander was an M-2 fifty. I had it mounted on a cutoff ground mount welded to the top of the cupola on my M-48A3.

Sitting still, on the ground, at 900 yds you were lucky to keep the 'pattern' within the size of a large hut, if you were really good. An M-2 is an area weapon, not a precision weapon.

Yes, the barrel's headspace can be 'tuned' if you're firing it with the pistol grip single shot and with a scope, it's pretty accurate, but no where near that claimed at 900 yds.
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Old July 18, 2020, 03:52 PM   #10
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The 30-06 ammo used in Winchester 70 sniper rifles during the Vietnam war was M72 match ammo. Accuracy tests at 600 yards for production lots ranged from 12 to 20 inches extreme spread in match grade bolt action test barrels. Accuracy specs was 3.5 inch mean radius at 600 yards.

Their 173-grain FMJBT bullets in each lot came from 3 or 4 different sets of dies in as many machines.

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Old July 18, 2020, 04:56 PM   #11
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If his name is Lee or Dale he could shot the 2" world record shot:

https://www.1moa.org/photos-of-recen...d-records.html

These guys have rifles that have little utility other than benchrest @ 1000 yards.

Now I can think of a way he could have had a better chance:

At an altitude of 2700' / 900 yards, on a day with no wind, shooting perfectly straight down toward the exact center of the earth, with no inaccuracy due to vibrations ( ), that would eliminate many of the 20+ variables that affect bullet trajectory.
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Old July 18, 2020, 05:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
My personal weapon on my tank back in RVN in '68/'69 as the Tank Commander was an M-2 fifty. I had it mounted on a cutoff ground mount welded to the top of the cupola on my M-48A3.

Sitting still, on the ground, at 900 yds you were lucky to keep the 'pattern' within the size of a large hut, if you were really good. An M-2 is an area weapon, not a precision weapon.

Yes, the barrel's headspace can be 'tuned' if you're firing it with the pistol grip single shot and with a scope, it's pretty accurate, but no where near that claimed at 900 yds.
My brother, who was a USMC radio man in I corps in 68 told me a story about a tanker who would get high as a kite and then sit in his tank and take snipe shots with the .50 using a starlight scope at night. He's convinced that was the first use of a .50 for sniping.

That you, by strange coincidence?
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Old July 19, 2020, 08:02 AM   #13
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We were dropped off and picked up by choppers , door gunners used M60,s 7.62 not m2's.
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Old July 19, 2020, 08:44 AM   #14
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The OP's post made me immediately think of 50 BMG target rifles, like McMillan, Barret, or a custom build, not M2's. Barret 50's are also used for long range sniping in the Middle East wars, Iraq/ Afghanistan.
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Old July 19, 2020, 09:31 AM   #15
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I’d call BS on that. I met a fool back in the late seventies who claimed an AK 47 could shoot the same 30-06 our M16’s used but our rifles couldn’t shoot the ammo from an AK47. He was supposedly a Green Beret. I laughed so hard I spit out my beer, and told him he was so full of ##it. He just kind of slunk out of the room and left the party.
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Old July 19, 2020, 09:56 AM   #16
Bart B.
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I was part of a USN shipboard team aiming then shooting one 12" diameter round at a 24" diameter airborne target 11 miles away. A direct hit. One MOA at that range subtends about 16 feet
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Old July 19, 2020, 10:03 AM   #17
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Homing round?
I have seen people make improbable shots and immediately put the gun up before they can be asked to do it again.
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Old July 19, 2020, 10:23 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Bart B. View Post
I was part of a USN shipboard team aiming then shooting one 12" diameter round, at a 24" diameter airborne target 11 miles away. A direct hit. One MOA at that range subtends about 16 feet
First shot hit with a 12” round at an airborne target 11 miles away. Daaaaang impressive shot. Was that with, perchance something like a Phoenix missile, or the naval equivalent of a Copperhead guided round?
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Old July 19, 2020, 10:41 AM   #19
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Back in the Nam I had a .410 that at 50 yards, could shoot through the neck of a Coke bottle and knock the bottom out of the bottle without touching the neck, this with size 7-1/2 shot.
But, that was in the Nam, doesn't work here in the world. B-Troop, 1/1 CAV, 67/68.
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Old July 19, 2020, 11:01 AM   #20
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Could spear a fish out of those streams , not every time though . 410 50 yards with the opening of a Coke bottle facing you and knocking the bottom out , maybe once . It's nice to pass on our stories though 3/39 9th Div. #10 GI , May 17 67-68 Hell of a year.
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Old July 19, 2020, 02:14 PM   #21
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The myth of "they could use ours but we couldn't use theirs" has been around long time and I've heard it applied to several different things, all equally false.

When used by Viet Nam era bull artists/posers its usually about the Combloc .30 being confused with our .30s. iT wasn't true then, its not true now.

I don't know of any modern small arms where its true. And, by modern, I mean cartridge arms. Might have been "sorta" true during the Revolution, where SOME of our guys were armed with the French .69 caliber musket vs, the British .72 cal Brown Bess. You can fire a .69 ball from a .72 bore but not the other way around. (dimensions nominal)

There is one "modern" example, again sort of, and its not generally considered small arms. This is the medium mortar used by many nations during WWII. Both Axis and Allied nations made 8cm /81mm /82mm mortars, all based on the same prewar design (a French one, I think..) and there was SOME limited ammo cross compatibility, but this was not by intent, it was just happenstance, and not something any nation counted on.

You hear a lot of BS in the service, and from Vets who either don't know the difference or are deliberately pulling your leg.

Shall we discuss Japanese "Bamboo bullets"? hmm, no, that should probably be its own thread...

The M2 .50 cal has the mechanical potential to be very accuratem, but as used in service, with service ammo, and its fairly coarse sights it doesn't reach its accuracy potential, and being an area weapon is what the military wants from it.

There is, of course, no single weapon or system that "won the war", but if you want to discuss things in those terms, my vote wouldn't be for the Garand or the 1911, but the .50 BMG. No other nation had a comparable gun & cartridge, and while they had some that were close, no one else used theirs the way we did ours.

If it was big enough to carry one, we put a .50 (or more than one) on about everything that drove, crawled, swam or flew. No one else (other than Allies using our equipment) did that. They had their .30s, and so did we, but we also had Ma Deuce, and used them, a LOT!

Other nations had their 13mm and 12.7mm guns, but their use was mostly as aircraft guns, while we used our .50 everywhere!
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Old July 19, 2020, 02:32 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghbucky View Post
That you, by strange coincidence?
Nope, before I made Tank Commander while I were in Germany, before I got sent to RVN, I was 'drafted' by the CO for about 9 months, to take over for our Armorer who suddenly left on a compassionate discharge requested by his mom when his brother died in combat.

I was trained at Grafenwoehr in the Armorer Class there and as part of it we learned to work on them including removing the butterfly handles and installing a pistol grip and trigger to make it a sniper rifle. We also tuned the headspace for more accurate single shot shooting.

The M-2 was used in WWII as a sniper rifle to try and take out enemy Artillery Officers standing up directing fire on their cannons. The reason he could mount a starlight scope on it was that everyone of the M-2s we had had a scope mount plate attached to the cover and we had a couple of scopes in the Arms room in our Headquarters Company to use them as sniper rifles.

So, while he may have used it for that in RVN, he was far from the 1st to use it as a sniping weapon and he was about 25 years late as well.

No, I'm not the person in the story you describe. The closest thing I got to that was a game we played in RVN called "Splash the Ducks". Two tank crews would bet a case of beer on who could do it first. The game went like this.

In almost every rice paddy there was a farmer, his water buffalo, and some ducks almost always in a group together. One tank crew would fire a couple rds to the right or left of the group (their choice) causing the ducks to madly run across the water, flapping their wings, and then take off low.

The other tank's TC would fire his 50 at the water in front of the fleeing ducks trying to have the spray smack the belly of the fleeing duck, causing it to crash into the water where it would scramble to get back into the air. Hence the name "Splash the Ducks."

If you did, you won the case of beer for your crew. If, however, you accidentally hit the duck directly it would explode and you'd lose and they got the case of beer. (If you hit the water buffalo or the farmer, you lost too.)

Most times the ducks escaped un-splashed and the farmer and water buffalo would just scatter so you'd wait for the next opportunity to play where the tank crews would reverse rolls.

I'm proud to say that our tank won twice in the 9 months I was there before I got hit. The first time the other tank's TC hit the duck (that's how I know it explodes if hit directly) and we won our case of beer. Later, I got lucky and splashed one really good so that it took a while for it to get itself righted and try to take off again.

BTW, the case of beer was that God Awful 33 Beer we had over there. The best think you could say about it was that it was wet as usually it wasn't even cold. (We didn't have any refrigeration available to us unless you knew somebody in the mess hall.)
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Old July 19, 2020, 05:51 PM   #23
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67/68 was a hell of a year over there. I may have exaggerated about the .410. Shot a lot of .50 BMG but we aimed with the tracers.......................Welcome home Bro. A Marine I shot with at the club said they did have .50s on their choppers, Not Hueys, something bigger.
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Old July 19, 2020, 06:59 PM   #24
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Duplicate threads merged.
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Old July 19, 2020, 07:15 PM   #25
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Looking at it from the other perspective:

1 MOA is 9 inches at 900 yards.

4-1/2 inches would obviously be 1/2 MOA, and 2-1/4 inches would be 1/4 MOA.

Don't think so.
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