One North Carolina gun range had a special attendee at its recent “Machine Gun Social,” a day when Point Blank Range in Mooresville gave folks a chance to see what it’s like to lean back on full-auto firearms for $50 a turn.
According to this story from a local NBC affiliate, 91-year-old World War II Veteran Harold Frank got a chance to fire the weapon he carried through the war, including on D-Day: a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).
“I turned 20 years old in a German POW camp,” Frank said in the story. “And I didn’t think I’d live to be 21. But the man upstairs wasn’t ready for me yet.”
Of the BAR, Frank said, “I hadn’t touched one since I come home from the German prison camp. And I got captured the seventh day of July of ’44.”
Though he couldn’t quite handle the 19-pound monster or the recoil of its .30-06 cartridges on his own any longer, with a little help, he could still rattle off a few rounds down range.
“When that kicked me back, I didn’t expect that,” Frank said after shooting. “But, I wasn’t but 20 years old when I was really shooting one and I’m an old man now, and lucky to be here.”
The first incarnation of the BAR was introduced in 1917 and was dubbed the M1918 by the U.S. Army. It was originally made by Winchester under John Moses Browning’s patents, but would go on to be made by many companies through the World Wars and through the Korean War.
It was a striker-fired, selective fire, air-cooled automatic rifle using a gas-operated, long-stroke piston rod and firing from an open bolt to help dissipate heat. It fed from a double-stack, 20-round magazine. Throughout its lengthy service life, there were many variants of the BAR produced, including shortened and lighter versions. In World War II, the M1918A2 saw extensive service as a light machine gun (today known as a squad support weapon), often fired from a bipod.
The BAR was eventually replaced by the M60 machine gun in 1957, which was in turn replaced by the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in the mid-1980s.