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"Basing BARs for WRG 1925-50" Topic


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World War Two on the Land

815 hits since 24 Feb 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Whirlwind24 Feb 2019 11:10 p.m. PST

I am just completing my first ever 6mm US WW2 infantry and I was wondering how they were/are typically based for the WRG 1925-50 first edition rules? Were the BAR gunners just considered part of a rifle group or were they based separately as an LMG team?

David Grech25 Feb 2019 3:17 a.m. PST

If I can remember correctly it was integrated into the squad

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2019 3:39 a.m. PST

I think that makes more sense.

The BAR is not a machine gun.

Hornswoggler25 Feb 2019 4:33 a.m. PST

When people say "first edition" of WRG 1925-50, some confusion can arise.

If you mean rules with this cover:
link

A BAR could be fielded as part of a rifle group of 3-6 men OR as an LMG group of 2 or 3 (in both cases the BAR is specifically mentioned).

However, if you mean rules that look like this:
link

Then logically a BAR could only be fielded as a bipod-mounted MG with crew of 2 since an infantry element can only be 4 men on a single base armed with rifles or SMGs.

Mobius25 Feb 2019 9:22 p.m. PST

You have to use WRG 1950-1975.
Because
WWII infantry: 50-2 100-4 250-5 500-6.
Post 1955 infantry: 50-2 100-3 250-4 500-6.
So the post 1955 infantry team is the more likely candidate if a couple of BARs were in a team.

Andy ONeill26 Feb 2019 2:02 a.m. PST

Ww2 us infantry squads had 0 to 2 bars. They were issued 1 but some units liked them and obtained more. Some units didn't like them and prefered smg or rifle.
The majority took the bipod off and it was used as a sort of rifle.

We used to use one chit per squad.
Back in the seventies.

Whirlwind26 Feb 2019 2:54 a.m. PST

The majority took the bipod off and it was used as a sort of rifle.

I hadn't heard that. You are quite sure about it being "the majority"? For the purposes of my question, that is a key fact.

Richard Baber26 Feb 2019 11:04 a.m. PST

The BAR is bit big and heavy! It could be used without the bi-pod, but I highly doubt most did… The last thing I read about it said the accuracy without the bi-pod suffered really badly as the recoil was awful.

Blutarski26 Feb 2019 2:07 p.m. PST

This aspect of Barker's rules refers primarily to wartime USMC squad organization. The following is excerpted from "Guidebook for Marines" -

"The rifle squad is made up of one sergeant, who is squad leader, and three fire teams of four men each a total of 13.

The fire teams consist of one corporal who is fire team leader, and three privates or PFC's. One of the privates or PFC's is the automatic rifleman, one the assistant automatic rifleman, and the third is a rifleman."

One can quibble about whether or not the BAR qualified as a LMG or not (I consider more like a precursor to the FG42). But what we are looking at above is a very large, highly mobile unit with three fully automatic magazine-fed weapons firing full-power rifle ammunition. That's a lot of firepower.

FWIW.

B

Richard Baber26 Feb 2019 2:35 p.m. PST

Marines liked lots of firepower in the jungle/islands, they had far more Thompsons per head than regular infantry units, this also applied to BARs too.

Andy ONeill27 Feb 2019 5:30 a.m. PST

You can't change the barrel on the bar. Units quickly realised they weren't suitable as an lmg.

What the majority did was make the loader into just a rifleman and the gunner operated just as a rifleman. An automatic rifleman.

In this role the bipod makes a lot less sense. It's fairly heavy and towards the far end of the thing. They removed it to reduce the weight and make the weapon that bit handier.

Not everyone did this but the vast majority of squads dispensed with the loader.

You can see a number without bipods in these pictures:

link

Mark 127 Feb 2019 12:03 p.m. PST

The BAR is not a machine gun.

You can't change the barrel on the bar. Units quickly realised they weren't suitable as an lmg.

Many people seem to find it attractive to have one aspect as a litmus test. It simplifies the conversation to a single issue -- you either have this, or you don't.

With the BAR it is usually some form of: "You can't change the barrel in combat, so it isn't a machine gun".

According to that testing mechanism, the M1919 also isn't a machine gun. Neither is the Lewis. The Russian DP and DT don't qualify as machine guns. Nor the French FM29. Nor the Vickers aircraft gun you so often seen festooning those cool SAS jeeps -- or do we extend this particular case and say that no aircraft carried "proper" machine guns?

It is entirely reasonable to say that the BAR could not compete with an MG42 in effective rate of fire for prolonged periods. The evidence is pretty compelling.

But to say if it doesn't have a quick-change barrel it isn't an LMG seems to ignore half the other LMGs that have been taken into service over the decades.

There were several shortcomings of the BAR in any sustained fire role. It lacked a quick-change barrel. It also had a small magazine capacity. The location of the magazine made it difficult to change it quickly in a fire-position. And the weight of pre-loaded magazines made it difficult to carry the amount of ammunition that could be expended in short time when in a sustained fire role. And then there was the bipod (more on that below).

Lots of weaknesses when the tactical situation called for sustained fire, not just one.

On the other hand it was quite robust and reliable, and it was accurate. And it was self-contained to one man, and was handy and quick-into-action when the gunner was maneuvering along with the rest of the fire-team/squad.

In this role the bipod makes a lot less sense. It's fairly heavy and towards the far end of the thing. They removed it to reduce the weight and make the weapon that bit handier.

There was another shortcoming to the bipod on the BAR -- it's location was too far forward. If you put the gun on it's bipod, it becomes very difficult to swivel your point-of-aim side-to-side. It takes a larger movement of the butt of the gun to get a small angular change at the muzzle, when compared to a gun with the bipod closer to the fore-grip.

So you had an extra weight at the front that made the gun hard to aim when you didn't use the bipod, and you had a bipod that didn't allow for quick-and-easy swivels when you did use it. Unless you have just one target you want to pour fire into ("suppress that gun port on the bunker!") it was a obstacle rather than an aid to bringing the fire where you wanted it. Better to take the danged thing off, and rest it on whatever you are taking cover behind when you want to keep it on target for a while.

That said, while I would agree that it was frequently removed, I have never seen any data to support that it was removed in the majority of cases. Any studies? Counts? Unit SOPs?

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Steve Wilcox27 Feb 2019 12:45 p.m. PST

That said, while I would agree that it was frequently removed, I have never seen any data to support that it was removed in the majority of cases. Any studies? Counts? Unit SOPs?
While it's post-WWII, Use of Infantry Weapons and Equipment in Korea by G.N. Donovan, 1952:
PDF link

"22. Most BAR men discarded the bipod." Page 5.

"As reported by 61% of the men, the BAR in their squads was normally operated without the bipod in order to either reduce the weight from 19.4 lb to 17 lb, or because the bipod tangled in brush, particularly in attack." Page 25.

"Use of bipod. Statement: Sixty-five percent of men remove the bipod to reduce weight.
Of 18 officers commenting, 12 disagreed and said either that all bipods were kept on, or that far less than 65% were removed. Of the 6 who agreed with the figures 4 were opposed to the practice, and the remaining 2 who approved wanted the bipod kept available for defense, but many found it awkward in the attack and liable to catch in undergrowth. They felt this was the main reason it was removed, rather than to reduce weight. It was suggested that if there were some easy way of folding the bipod along the barrel in the attack very few men would remove it." Page 81.

Blutarski27 Feb 2019 5:13 p.m. PST

Thanks muchly for that link, Steve.

Very interesting.

B

Mark 127 Feb 2019 7:50 p.m. PST

SteveW: Excellent find! Even if not actually a part of WW2 … Korea was for the most part a post script -- fought with the weapons of 1945.

Many thanks for the link.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Griefbringer28 Feb 2019 1:03 a.m. PST

Overall, many gamers and rules designers seem to have an obsession in fitting automatic support weapons into fixed categories of LMG/MMG/HMG/etc. rather than treating them as a continuum dependent on feed mechanism, cooling mechanism, mount, rate of fire (short term and sustained), calibre, sights, crew allocation etc.

Skarper28 Feb 2019 2:59 a.m. PST

Rules inevitably have to limit the number of categories and then assign various weapons to them with often arbitrary reasons.

I think in WW2 you have Automatic rifles [BAR, FG42, Lahti..], SAWs [Bren, DP28] and LMGs [MG34/32 and M1919A6] and then various tripod mounted sustained fire weapons.

At some point you have to draw the line and exaggerate the differences. You are basically mapping a continuous range of values onto a discrete range of values.

There seems to be 2 schools of thought. Either you emphasise the differences for more 'flavour' or smooth them out because the differences are hard to quantify or inconsistent.

David Brown28 Feb 2019 6:55 a.m. PST

Digressing somewhat from the OP, whatever title we give to a particular weapon is largely irrelevant.

What is relevant if the effectiveness of that weapon in its intended role.

On that basis the BAR was less effective than larger magazine weapons, (Bren, etc.) and far less effective when compared to belt fed weapons, (MG42, etc.).

DB

P.S. And on removing the bipod. Considering how much the bipod weighs in comparison to the entire weapon, I doubt it made any real difference, other than make the gunner feel a bit better.

Skarper28 Feb 2019 8:26 a.m. PST

The bipod would help if firing prone using it, but greatly hinder accuracy and ease of pointing the gun when not in use….all in all probably more trouble than it's worth.

The gunner could often rest the gun on a wall or similar when doing fire and movement. The US also had a fair number of .30 cal M1919A4s around [and many had extras above TOE] so the BAR was not required to work as an MG, but was reportedly very handy to have when advancing.

Griefbringer28 Feb 2019 8:47 a.m. PST

And on removing the bipod. Considering how much the bipod weighs in comparison to the entire weapon, I doubt it made any real difference, other than make the gunner feel a bit better.

However, considering that the bipod is at the end of the weapon, removing it would affect the location of the centre of mass, which might make the weapon slightly more convenient to carry and handle. That said, I have never handled a BAR so don't have any practical experience – though maybe somebody out here on TMP has?

Mark 128 Feb 2019 2:50 p.m. PST

What is relevant if the effectiveness of that weapon in its intended role.

On that basis the BAR was less effective than larger magazine weapons, (Bren, etc.) and far less effective when compared to belt fed weapons, (MG42, etc.).

Do not quite agree with that sequence of statements.

Te BAR was in fact very effective in its intended role. The MG42 would not have been as effective. But the intended roles, as foreseen by tactical doctrines, were different. It is only a) with hindsight, or b) in trying to simplify for wargaming purposes that we might see them filling the same "intended role".

The BAR was an excellent fit to role foreseen in the US Army tactical doctrine. It was substantially more mobile than an MG42, and far easier for an individual to use while advancing. The MG42 was an excellent fit to the role foreseen in Wehrmacht tactical doctrine. It was the primary weapon of the squad, and could put more rounds downrange faster to provide both killing power and a base of suppressive fire. It was portable enough to move from base location to base location, but the idea that you would pop around a corner with your MG42 and give 'em a quick burst, or pop up from behind a wall to shoot off 4 or 5 rounds of automatic fire before hopping over the wall and sprinting to the side of the house … well maybe not so likely.

The question is less how effective the BAR was in its intended role, and more whether its intended role was well enough conceived, and whether the squad-level tactical doctrine of the German infantry was more effective.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Blutarski28 Feb 2019 3:12 p.m. PST

The BAR was about 5 lbs lighter than either the Bren or the MG42. But everything, at the end of the day, is a trade-off – different horses for different courses.

B

Lion in the Stars28 Feb 2019 4:51 p.m. PST

I'd lump the BAR in with the rest of the stand's rifles, maybe give a slight bonus. It's nowhere near an M1919A4 or MG34/42.

Andy ONeill01 Mar 2019 2:40 a.m. PST

Pretty much a slightly better rifle really. Especially when modified to semi auto as quite a few marine weapons were.
( And no I don't have numbers ).

The marines had a number of early mark BARs without flash suppressor or bipod.

I can't work out a way to direct link the image. Scroll down to mud encrusted marine
link

Or… a cleaner marine.

link


My source for the understanding that most bipods were removed is veteran interviews I collated. I then went through a stack of pictures to reality check that. I found more bipods on "fresh" units and pictures taken during training.

But it's mentioned in numerous articles.

John Weeks (Infantry Weapons ).
"The bipod issued with the ww2 models was heavy and clumsy. It was difficult to adjust and most gunners ended up just throwing it away and reverting the weapon as a rifle"

The Big book of gun trivia:
link

"It was common for the 2.5lb (1.13kg) bipod to be removed."


link

" The M1918A2 also mounted its folding bipod (2.38 pounds!) on a special flash hider near the end of the barrel. Since the bipod could easily be detached in this model, it very frequently was!
but not often in defensive positions, where it was very effective. The flash hider, which was the point of attachment for the bipod, was not usually removed. "

I find that last bit a bit unlikely. Once a soldier took the thing off the second time I think it much more likely it's going to get "lost".

Starfury Rider01 Mar 2019 6:20 a.m. PST

These were some of the instructions on the use of the BAR from "The Marine Rifle Squad in combat" published March 1945.

"Employment of Automatic Rifles – in the defense –

2. Automatic riflemen will open fire "single shot" so as not to give their positions away prematurely. As the enemy gets nearer…the automatic rifleman should switch to automatic fire and concentrate his fire on them. Having once fired at the automatic rate, the automatic riflemen should be prepared to shift to their alternate positions at any time.

- in the attack -

1. The fire team leader will point out the fire position and target for the AR. He will designate the rate of fire to be used and initiate the movement of the AR to a new position…Whenever possible, the fire team leader should select positions that will permit the automatic riflemen to deliver enfilade or oblique fire at the target.

2. Situations may arise where the squad leader may detach ARs from the fire teams to carry out special fire missions. This may frequently occur in open terrain where a position is available on which more than one AR can be emplaced to support more effectively, by concentrated fire, the movement of the rest of the squad."

In the document "Weapons (Marine Infantry Battalion)" published March 1943, the absence of single shot is recognised. The above instruction to use "single shot" is in quote marks in the manual, and given the slow rate of fire that could be selected I wonder if it was a reference to a very quick squeeze of the trigger that could, with practice, discharge a single round. The 1943 manual also refers to the M1918A2 as having been adapted "for use as a light machine gun".

link

When the US Army adopted its new Inf Regt T/O in Oct 1940 it had a Rifle Pl of three Rifle and one Auto Rifle Squads. Each Rifle Squad was to be 12 men, each with an M1 rifle, while the AR Squad had 8 men and two BARs.

The Army's FM7-5 of 1940 describes the BAR Squad in the offensive;

"The automatic rifles constitute a reserve of fire in the hands of the rifle platoon leader. They are put into action when conditions develop especially favoring their employment. Difficulties connected with ammunition supply restrict the use of these weapons to situations where their support is vital to the success of the platoon.

Situations especially favoring the use of the automatic rifles are offered where an open flank permits the establishment of a base of fire for the support of the movement of the rifle squads…

The squad is preferably put into action on the flank of a platoon. It intensifies its fires during periods when any part of it or any squad of the platoon …is in movement."

In defensive use;

"The automatic rifles form the principle fire elements of the rifle platoon in the defense. Where an additional automatic rifle is made available, the squad forms three teams. The teams generally occupy separate emplacements so located as to cover the entire sector of fire of the platoon."

By April 1942 the Platoon was reorganised, with the BAR now issued one per Rifle Squad and the AR Squad deleted, and with some revisions (such as BARs and SMGs in a Coy weapons pool), that remained the Pl used through to 1945. I think there's a March 1945 document that expands on the use of the BAR within the Squad but I've not gotten hold of a copy.

Gary

Whirlwind02 Mar 2019 6:33 a.m. PST

Many thanks for some really interesting points.

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