Browning Automatic Rifle

The Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) could fire single shots or fully automatic bursts. The mechanism worked by expanding gases from the exploding cartridge charge compressing a return spring by means of a piston, then the return spring carrying forward the piston, hammer link and bolt assembly, this cycle being automatic. The rifle was 3 ft 7 in. long and weighed 15 ¾ lbs. It was magazine fed, the magazine holding 20 rounds. Sights were adjustable for 200 to 1,600 yards. It fired .300 caliber ammunition. The maximum rate of fire was 550 rounds per minute.

The Browning issued to the Home Guard did not have any support for the use as a light machine gun, requiring that the weapon had to be rested on something or fired like a rifle. The BAR Group normally consisted of five to seven men (Gun squad leader, gunner, loader, loader, remainder riflemen). The gun was normally to be used to fire single rounds in order to:

  • Conceal the presence of an automatic weapon
  • Ensure greater accuracy (it was a notably accurate rifle when firing single shots)
  • Conserve ammunition
  • Avoid overheating the rifle
  • Avoid stress to the mechanism.
    • Automatic fire was to be reserved until the enemy was too close to do anything about it.

      Some Home Guard were armed with the Lewis gun instead of the BAR – three types were issued:

      • British .303 ground pattern Lewis - This was the same as that used in the First War. Weight was 27 lbs. Fed by a drum magaziene which held 47 rounds. Mode of fire was automatic only, with a maximum rate of fire of 550 rounds per minute.
      • USA .300 ground pattern Lewis - Virtually identical to above except fired .300 caliber ammunition.
      • USA .300 stripped Lewis (Aircraft pattern model) - Shipped over from the US with no sights, no bipod, no radiator casing and a spade handle grip. Weight was 20 lbs. It could fire either a 47 round magazine or a 97 round magazine. It was converted to ground use by fitting spare wooden butts and a ground sight for a range of 400 yards. The position of the wooden butt and sights meant only the 47 round magazine could be used. Later conversions were fitted with a skeleton butt with a wooden cheek rest. The skeleton butt was arranged so the 97 round magazine could be used as well. As with the BAR , it would have to have been rested on something behind cover.
        • The normal method of firing the Lewis was to fire a series of short bursts of four or five rounds, at a rate of about five bursts a minute.

          Left: The USA .300 Stripped Lewis in an
          AA role.
          Right: The British .303 Lewis.

          The American Browning Automatic Rifle, C.J.C. Smitbh, A.C.A., Sherratt & Hughes, 1943
          The Home Guard Training Manual, Major J Langdon-Davies, John Murray & The Pilot Press, 5th edition 1942


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