Those who’ve ever wanted to fire an actual machine gun now have their chance.
The Cody Firearms Experience recently bought a genuine, fully operational 1943 Word War II .30-caliber Browning 1919A4 machine gun, complete with a tripod. And it’s ready to rock for anyone who wants to get behind it and blaze off a few rounds.
Paul Brock, the business’s general manager, wouldn’t tell Cowboy State Daily how much the northwest Wyoming gun range paid for the weapon, saying only that it wasn’t cheap.
Live-Fire World War II History
Cody Firearms Experience has an indoor range where it allows customers to fire a variety of firearms key to American history, from Revolutionary War flintlock muskets to modern weapons such as the M16 rifle.
World War II firearms are always a huge hit, so the Browning 1919A4 machine gun is a welcome addition, Brock said.
Starting next summer, the business plans to offer a World War II experience package deal. Customers can shoot five infantry weapons that helped America’s boys defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. They include the iconic M1 Garand rifle, the M1 Carbine, Thompson sub-machine gun, M1911 .45-caliber sidearm and, of course, the tripod-mounted Browning machine gun.
Special License Needed
The staff at Cody Firearms Experience had been shopping a while for a Browning 1919, Brock said. So they were thrilled when they finally found one for listed for sale through a Missouri company called Midwest Tactical.
Midwest Tactical and the Cody Firearms experience both hold Class III firearms dealer licenses, which allow them to possess and sell fully automatic weapons. However, only weapons made prior to 1986 are transferable between owners.
A dealer-to-dealer transfer of the machine gun was fairly quick, Brock said. Private individuals with Class III licenses also can buy pre-1986 fully automatic weapons. But the transfer process from a dealer to an individual is complicated and can take months, Brock said.
Fully automatic weapons can’t legally be used for hunting. They can be fired only on private party or designated target ranges, such as the one at Cody Firearms Experience.
John Moses Browning Equipped Our Troops
The Browning M1919 .30-caliber machine gun was one of the many firearms designs of John Moses Browning (1855-1926). He designed numerous sporting firearms, but is best known for his military infantry weapons.
Some of those included the M1911 pistol, variants of which remain wildly popular with shooters today. There also was the M1918 Browning automatic rifle (BAR).
Browning also designed the fearsome M2 .50-caliber machine gun, commonly called the “Ma Deuce,” which is still used by the U.S. military.
The M1919 .30-caliber machine gun was a staple of infantry units in both the European and Pacific theatres during World War II. It’s relatively light, “in about the 40-pound range,” Brock said. So, it could be easily transported and repositioned during battles.
It also was mounted on tanks, jeeps and aircraft. With a rate of fire of 400-500 rounds per minute, it was hardly the fastest machine gun fielded during the war. But troops prized it for its accuracy and rugged reliability.
The Genuine Article
Brock said the gun his business bought is the genuine article. Stamps on the weapon indicate that it was manufactured in 1943 at a General Motors plant in Connecticut. GM, like many civilian companies, switched to manufacturing weapons and military equipment as part of the war effort.
The A4 model of the M1919 was designed for paratrooper units, Brock said. Meaning, if the gun in Cody actually saw action during the war, it was probably carried by troops from the Amy’s vaunted 82nd or 101st Airborne divisions, which were among the first to put the hurt on Hitler’s war machine in mainland Europe.
A wooden backpack frame allowed paratroopers to jump out of planes with the machine gun, Brock said. Once in the fight, the gun was operated by a two-man team – one to fire it and another to feed the ammunition.
Brock said the exact history of his machine gun after it left the factory isn’t known.
“At the very least, it was used as a training weapon,” he said.
The only post-war alteration of the gun was to re-chamber it from the original .30-06 to .308 or 7.62x54 mm NATO. Ammunition in the latter cartridges is cheaper and easier to get, Brock said.
After World War II, Browning M1919 machine guns were used by the U.S. military in Korea and Vietnam, and also were issued to Israeli forces.
‘Everything Has An American Story To It’
Live-fire ranges that allow customers to shoot rare and exotic weapons are growing in popularity across America.
Cody Firearms Experience focuses on American history, Brock said. In addition to military weapons, it offers people a chance to shoot firearms used in the Old West and other eras.
Shooters are escorted by a certified range officer who explains the workings of the weapon and gives a bit of its historical background, Brock said.
Extremely old designs such as the Revolutionary War weapons are accurate replicas, he said. But for the World War II era and forward, the business tries to find authentic period firearms, such as the 1919A4.
“Everything has an American story to it,” Brock said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.