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M2HB .50 cal Machine Gun Set

AFV Club 1/35 M2HB .50 cal Machine Gun Set First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review June 2013 Manufacturer AFV Club
Subject M2HB .50 cal Machine Gun Set Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35246 Primary Media 91 parts (78 in olive styrene, 13 etched brass)
Pros Provides all major barrel types for the M2HB machine gun; also covers most of the major ground mounts for this weapon Cons One half of the guns provided is an M2 aircooled/M3 type with no barrel options; very expensive for value received
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $18.50

First Look

Of all nominally small arms in the world today, probably none is as well known or widely proliferated than the Browning Model 1921 .50 caliber machine gun family, better known as the M2 machine gun. It has been offered in three basic barrel types over the years – water-cooled, air cooled, and heavy barrel ground mount, and two basic firing rates: 550 rpm as the M2 and 1100-1300 as the M3 aircraft version. Its 12.7x107mm round still packs a major wallop today.

Over the years modelers have grown more and more fussy about their machine guns, and as nearly all US made vehicles packed an M2 as their turret external/antiaircraft mount, the old single-piece moldings from the 1960s have fallen into disrepute and any good modern kit needs a much more detailed "fifty" for the turret. To that end, a number of resin kits have been offered over the years and now injection molded kits have caught and in some areas surpassed them.

This kit makes the fourth after-purchase offering of a more detailed M2 for modelers to use. The oldest is a Tamiya set from many years ago which offered a nice M2 with tripod. The most useful general kit is one from Academy that offers a variety of both .30 and .50 caliber weapons and accessories. Tasca offers a separate .50 caliber kit for less than US$10 that builds a single machine gun. Now this kit from AFV Club is offered which provides for two machine guns and a number of different mounts and accessories.

The kit offers two different M2 variants: one is an M2HB with a choice of either the common barrel with muzzle reinforcement or the modern one with flash hider bolted in place; the other, for reasons best known to AFV Club, is the air cooled barrel that is rarely seen anymore and was not common in ground usage. The HB one consists of eight parts including an etched brass forward sight; the air-cooled one only has five parts. Both come with slide-molded open bores.

An M3 tripod is offered in either open or folded configuration, and comes with separate feet ("spades") and pintle. Cradles add another five parts to each gun, and a choice of ammo boxes and ammo box holders completes the weapons.

The kit includes the M63 AA mount and a set of "speed-ring" type sights from etched brass for each type of gun. The mount comes in 17 parts and also includes the double-handled two position trigger frame assembly for the gun in this use. (I first saw one of these at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1975 when one of the infantry units set it up and left it. My guys wanted to swipe it and put in on my jeep but we decided that all of us getting busted wasn't worth it!)

The machine guns are very nice, but all things considered the choice of the air cooled barrel is a bit odd as most ground mounts never used one. A few are in service with the USAF for protection on helicopters and some may be in service with the Navy/Marine Corps but most are now gone. Two breech mechanisms with a choice of three barrels would have been a better option.

But for nearly $20 this is a very expensive proposition for one machine gun of use to armor fans. The Tasca gun is more detailed and under $10 so a better deal for a single detailed gun; overall, the Academy kit offers six guns (two M1917A4 .30 calibers, two M2HB and two M2 air cooled) plus accessories for US $7-10 a set and is a much better deal.

Overall the kit is nicely done but quite pricey.

Sprue Layout

  • G1 8 Etched brass
  • G2 5 Etched brass
  • X 30 M2 parts, M3, handles, grips, cradles, ammo boxes
  • Y 7 M3 tripod (open and folded), details
  • Z 41 Handles, levers, cradles, base elements