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The Browning Arms Company has been pumping out industry-changing weapons since its debut in the 1800’s, and the BAR series is no exception. The M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) is as historically significant as Browning itself. John Browning, who was already an established trailblazer in the gun community, was commissioned to create a rifle that would completely alter the horror known as trench warfare. The United States Army came to him in 1917 with the hopes of ending the stalemates in Europe during WWI, and he delivered. What ensued was one of the most effective centerfire light machine guns ever invented. In fact, it was so transcendent that its place in the military was solidified all the way until Vietnam.
Browning’s invention was a huge success from the get-go. After a public display in front of some very important military and government men, Browning was immediately awarded a big contract to supply the soldiers in Europe. Although the BAR came into the war towards the end, it still made a huge impact. Even after the war, these automatic shoulder weapons were still in high demand. Colt had attempted to market them to civilians with slight modifications, but it wasn’t until the 30’s and the Depression that they saw a huge revival. BARS were being sold for a hefty price on the black market and eventually became a favorite among gangsters. Their use in crime became so rampant that J. Edgar Hoover felt compelled to arm and train the FBI with them.
All in all, the BAR is yet another Browning firearm that changed the world with its exceptional engineering. To find out more about Browning’s other weapons and products, check out our Browning Arms Company Review –but for now, let’s jump right into the BAR M1918!
Browning Bar M1918 Variants Explained
Even though the BAR began as a strong military firearm, this Browning, like many others, has seen several evolutions throughout the last 100 years. After a few initial tweaks and an attempt by Colt to revive it, the M1918 was totally redesigned in 1932. This new model was much shorter and lighter than the original and was intended to be used primarily in bush warfare. In 1938, the BAR saw its first major makeover. The designers incorporated a pistol grip, rate-reducer mechanism (with 2 rates of automatic fire), and a skid-footed bi-pod fitted to the muzzle end of the barrel. Additionally, this new model, the M1918A2, was also outfitted with a heat shield and a shortened hand guard. Once WWII came around, the U.S. Military wanted to go back to the Browning, but it needed an update.
The original BAR could fire 330 rounds per minute, but when redesigned for WWII, it could fire up to 550. Nowadays, the BARs available through Browning’s catalog are primarily sporting rifles. Most of the M1918’s you’ll come across will either be from the Mark II or Mark III lines, which began production in the early 90’s. These two new variants include several crucial upgrades to the historical rifle. Besides for updating the gas system and making disassembly easier, the Mark II also included as slide stop which allowed the bolt to remain in the open position with/without the mag inserted.
One of the key factors of the BAR’s success was that it was chambered in .30-06 Springfield ammunition. This powerhouse ammo was the U.S. Army’s primary rifle and machine gun cartridge for nearly 50 years. Nevertheless, it has still remained popular, especially among sporting shooters. Towards the turn of the 20th century, militaries across the globe were searching for lighter-weight, higher velocity rounds, and it didn’t take long for the U.S. to develop the best. In 1906, the Springfield .30-06 (aka M1906) hit the market and was a huge success.
However, once the U.S. realized the Germans had designed a better cartridge that could fire significantly farther, they had to adapt. Finally, in 1926, the .30-06 was replaced by the .30 M1 Ball. One of the key upgrades to this new cartridge was a gliding metal jacket which significantly reduced the metal fouling which caused many issues with the .30-06.
Browning Bar M1918 Specs
- Model: BAR Mark III.
- Action length: Long action.
- Caliber: .30-06 Springfield.
- Overall length: 43 3/8”.
- Barrel length: 22”.
- Twist rate: 10”.
- Weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz.
- Capacity: 4.
- MSRP: $1,239.99.
Browning Bar M1918 Build
I don’t think the BAR is one of Browning’s more sexy guns, but its design is still incredibly effective. For starters, the new and improved gas system, combined with a 7-lug rotary bolt, give the BAR a whole new shooting experience. For a gun with this kind of stopping power, its bolt action-like accuracy and reduced recoil is a huge plus. Even if you are a traditionalist and don’t trust auto-loaders, I beg you to try out the Mark III; this gun is the culmination of 100 years of BAR engineering and functions accordingly. The attractiveness of the walnut finish, durability of the alloy receiver, and the adaptability of the M1918 make this another Browning that’s hard to pass up. Although there are several variants, one of the things that unite them all is their durability.
One of the few features of these which I’m not a huge fan of is the sight system. Even though they are drilled & tapped for a scope base, I just wish they would be effective without a scope. However, I was really impressed by the BAR’s trigger system. The smooth crisp pull of the trigger only adds to the gun’s already impressive accuracy and handling. One of the best options on these guns is only available on certain models, and that is the Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System (BOSS). This add-on enables the shooter to make adjustments to the firearm’s accuracy, making it one of the most accurate auto-loaders on the market. Last but not least is the BAR’s incredibly versatility; no other hunting auto-loader can compare to the caliber selection on these Browning’s.
Browning Bar M1918 Shooting & Performance
As previously mentioned, the Browning M1918 is available in a wide spectrum of calibers ranging from the most popular magnum calibers to long range, high velocity varmint-class loads. This variety enables every shooter to find the exact type of shot they are looking for, and makes this gun the ultimate hunting companion. Because of the BAR’s heavy weight and corresponding lower recoil, its handling and accuracy is actually pretty good. However, because of its build, it is prone to carbon fouling and build-up, so make sure to keep it clean and well-lubed. For a rundown on gun oils and lubes, check out our piece on general firearm upkeep and grease, oil and lubricant.
— AmericasMilitaryHist (@AmericasMilHist) December 10, 2016
Browning Bar M1918 Magazines & Accesories
Most of the BARs come with a detachable box magazine (DBM) with a unique hinged floor plate. These mags are pretty average in terms of durability and reliability, so I recommend having at least 3 on hand at all times. Also, since the cartridges are fed from a DBM, keep extras on your person for faster reloading.
When it comes to accessories and the Browning BAR, you’re going to need to buy a good scope. There are tons of great options out there, and a lot of it depends on the type of shooting you will be doing. Either way, I’m a big fan of the Zeiss MC Conquest Rifle Scope 3-9 x 40mm Z-Plex Reticle Matte and the Bushnell Elite Firefly Reticle 3-9x40mm. A few buddies of mine have been hunting with the MKIII for years and these sights are the ones I see the most. These sights are great for hunting because they are some of the most dependable and durable scopes available all for an affordable price.
M60 Machine Gun Explained
In 1957, the United States Military decided to phase out the Browning M1918 and replace it with the M60. This behemoth was manufactured by Saco Defense as a general purpose machine gun designed to fire 7.62 x 51mm NATO rounds. The M60 was basically a Frankenstein machine gun; it was an amalgamation of German WWII guns with American engineering and innovation. I don’t think the M60 was the best choice to replace the M1918, but due to congressional regulation, the M60 won the contract. One of the final tests for the M60 was Vietnam, and the squad automatic weapon didn’t do so well –The extreme conditions caused a lot of malfunctions and misfires. Eventually, the price of ammunition went up and the technology became outdated, so like its predecessor, the M60 too was phased out.
When John Browning was commissioned to create the M1918 for the U.S. Military, I don’t think he ever would imagine the BAR of today. This auto-loading hunting rifle was produced to end a war with its unique balance of strength, weight, and versatility, but a lot has changed since then. Currently, the BAR is the standard by which all auto-loading hunting rifles should be measured. Besides for its distinguished yet humble looks, the BAR is undeniably accurate and easy to use. It’s truly a pleasure to shoot and I highly recommend it for all types of hunters. The price tag is much steeper than I am comfortable with, but that’s the price you pay for 100 years of experience and the Browning reputation.