Bren Machine Gun
|Barrel Length||635 mm|
|Rate of Fire||500 rounds/min|
|Muzzle Velocity||744 m/s|
Contributor: C. Peter ChenIn 1935, the British Army tested the Czechoslovakian light machine gun ZB vz. 27 and gave the design satisfactory results. After a series of modifications in order to fulfill British requirements, the final design, ZB vz. 33, became the Bren light machine gun. The compound word Bren came from the amalgamation of the Czechoslovakian city of Brno and the British borough (of London) of Enfield. The former location was where the design was done, while the latter was the location of the British Royal Small Arms Factory where the weapons would be manufactured.
The Bren light machine guns were gas-operated. Earlier models came with a spare barrel that could be quickly swapped during battle should the original barrel became overheated from sustained fire; later models had chrome-lined barrels that offered less resistance, therefore preventing overheating and thus eliminating the need for spare barrels. One distinct disadvantage of Bren guns was the use of magazines instead of belts, which required frequent reloading during battle. However, the use of magazines meant they were light weight, therefore more flexible in battle situations; although officially a Bren light machine gun crew consisted of two men, in reality they were usually operated by one man, in rare occasions even being fired in the same method as submachine guns or automatic rifles. Additionally, the use of magazines kept the ammunition cleaner than belts, making the Bren light machine guns less prone to jams. Another disadvantage of the Bren light machine guns was the location of the magazines, which was on top of the guns, which made concealment of the gunners difficult. Overall, popular opinion was that the Bren guns were reliable and effective; many considered them to be among the best light machine guns of WW2.
The Germans also fielded nearly the same weapons in combat: after Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, many ZB vz. 26 light machine guns were integrated into German service. The Nationalist Chinese forces also used ZB-series light machine guns during the Second Sino-Japanese War theater of WW2, having purchased them in the late 1930s before the German annexation of Czechoslovakia.
Bren light machine guns were also used on vehicles. They were often found aboard the British Universal Carriers, leading to the nickname "Bren Gun Carriers" for these vehicles.
During WW2, the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield initially produced 400 Bren light machine guns a month. By 1943, production was increased to nearly 1,000 guns per week. John Inglis and Company of Canada also produced Bren guns under license beginning in 1940; by 1943, it was producing 60% of the total world output of Bren guns in its factories in Canada, India, and Australia.
After the war, the Bren light machine gun design was modified to make use of the standard 7.62-mm cartridge of NATO forces. When the modification was completed in 1958, the model was redesignated L4 light machine gun; L4 light machine guns remained in British service until the 1990s. During the Korean War, they were seen on both sides of the war, with British and Commonwealth forces wielding Bren guns while the Chinese fought back with ZB guns. Some Chinese units also used them during the Vietnam War. Many military and police organizations still use Bren guns today.
|3 Sep 1937||The first British-built Bren gun fired in testing.|
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