September 11th, 2022
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Sunday GunDay: Big Boomers — Shooting the Legendary .50 BMG
Fans of Heavy Artillery should visit Fifty Caliber Shooters Association (FCSA) website. There you’ll find range maps, photo collections and animated slide-shows On the FCSA photo gallery page, you’ll find a map. Click on any gray range link to see images from that venue. There are also a series of articles covering FCSA competition along with the “care and feeding” of the big 50-caliber rifles.
For today’s Sunday GunDay feature we offer a short history of the legendary .50 BMG cartridge, along with some fun photos from FCSA matches in the Western USA.
About the .50 BMG Cartridge
The .50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG, aka 12.7x99mm NATO or 50 Browning) is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s, entering official service in 1921. Under STANAG 4383, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries.
John Browning had the idea for this round during World War I in response to a need for an anti-aircraft weapon, based on a scaled-up .30-06 Springfield design, used in a machine gun based on a scaled-up M1919/M1917 design that Browning had initially developed around 1900. According to the American Rifleman: “The Browning .50 originated in the Great War. American interest in an armor-piercing cartridge was influenced by the marginal French 11 mm design, prompting U.S. Army Ordnance officers to consult Browning. They wanted a heavy projectile at 2700 FPS, but the ammunition did not exist. Browning pondered the situation and, according to his son John, replied, ‘Well, the cartridge sounds pretty good to start. You make up some cartridges and we’ll do some shooting’.”
Are you a died-in-the-wool .50 BMG fan? Got a hankerin’ for heavy artillery? Then visit the FCSA Photo Gallery page. There you’ll find hundreds of photos from Fifty Caliber Shooting Association (FCSA) matches and 50 Cal fun shoots in eleven states plus Australia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. To access the photos from the Gallery Page, start by selecting a state/country and then click on the colored buttons for the event date (e.g. 2015-04).
Photo sets go all the way back to 2002, so you can see the evolution of the hardware over the years. Sample multiple archives to see the differences in terrain from one range to another — from Raton’s alpine setting to the hot, dry Nevada desert. This Gallery is really a treasure-trove of .50-Cal history. Here are a few sample images.
Reloading Powder and Special Tools for .50 BMG
Alliant’s Powder for 50-Caliber Applications
In 2009 Alliant unveiled Reloder 50, a slow-burn-rate powder designed primarily for long-range, .50-caliber rifle shooters. According to Alliant, the burn rate is “a little slower than Winchester 860? and the powder is showing excellent lot-to-lot consistency. Load density is optimized for the 50 BMG and similar cases. Like Reloder 17, Reloder 50 employs a process which penetrates the kernels with the burn-rate-controlling chemical. This should allow a longer, flatter pressure curve, yielding more velocity than conventional powders can deliver. Alliant says that Reloder 50 offers “superior velocity and the ability to burn cleaner (with less residue)”. Reloder 50 comes in both 1-lb (#150527) and 8-lb (#150528) containers.
Forster and Lyman .50 BMG Trimmers
Big Fifty enthusiasts asked for a dedicated .50 BMG case trimmer, so Forster and Lyman created .50 Cal trimmers specifically for that cartridge. Forster’s cutter tip on its .50 BMG Case Trimmer is much sharper than the cutter on the Lyman 50 Cal AccuTrimmer. However, with the Forster tool you will pay more for that superior cutting ability — the Forster .50 BMG trimmer is $95.53 at Midsouth compared to $75.09 at Midsouth for the Lyman .50 BMG trimmer. Go head and pay the extra money for the Forster — the cutter head is much sharper, and we prefer the Forster’s collet-style case-holder. Bottom line — the Forster gets the job done more quickly, with less effort.
Giraud .50 BMG Case/Bullet Comparator
Giraud Tool makes a comparator for 50-Cal cartridges. The double-ended comparator is quite versatile. In one orientation you can measure base-to-ogive bullet length and also measure cartridge OAL from rim to bullet ogive. When reversed, you can use the comparator to measure cartridge headspace. The $33.00 Giraud .50 BMG Comparator gauge is constructed of 303 stainless and fits most any vernier, dial, or digital caliper. CLICK HERE for more info.
Tags: 50 BMS, 50 Caliber, Alliant Reloder 50, FCSA, Fifty Caliber Shooters Association, K02M, King 2 Miles, New Mexico, Raton, Sunday Gunday