FEATURED ARTIFACT: M1917A1 MACHINE GUN
Developed in the 1930s, the Browning M1917A1 machine gun was an improved version of the M1917 used by the U.S. Army in France during World War I. The weapon featured a water jacket, which allowed the machine gun to fire for long periods without the barrel overheating. As the water heated and began to boil, steam collected in the top of the jacket and was vented into a container, where it condensed back to water for reuse in the jacket.
Water cooling allowed the M1917A1 to fire sustained bursts of between 450 and 600 rounds per minute, but it also made the machine gun heavy and difficult to move. The machine gun, tripod, ammunition and water needed to operate the weapon weighed more than 100 pounds. The M1917A1’s weight made it ideally suited for static defensive positions, where it could provide prolonged defensive fire without the need for mobility. The M1917A1 was used in all theaters during World War II and remained in service through the Korean War before finally being phased out during the Vietnam War.
The National World War II Museum Inc., 2006.050