US adopts Bren in the late 1930s

Tank​
LT vz.38/THN
Panzer III C​
BT-7​
M2A4​
Date1938193819371938
Weight10.5 tons16 tons15 tons12
Engine125HP250HP405HP262HP
Top Speed/Off Road26mph22mph45mph36mph
Crew3, two man turret, later 45 man, 3 in turret3, two man turret3, two man turret
Armament37mm, Coax, Hull 7.92mm MG37mm, (3) 7.92mm MG45mm, 2-3 7.62 MG37mm, (5) .30MG
Turret Armor25/15/1516/15/1515/15/1325/25/25
Hull Armor25/15/1515/15/1520/19/1325/25/25
Ammo90 37mm,2500 MG99 37mm44 45mm103 37mm, 8470
SuspensionLeafLeaf: unreliable. Torsion was laterChristie internal coilVVSS
Radioyes: FuG 5 4km range Morse, 2km VoiceFuG 5 / Fug 7 Command 80km Morse, 60km Voice71-TC Some command, but lose 18 rounds 45mmSCR-245 45 mile range Morse 20 mile voice
Yeah even though it is a medium tank,and a Panzer II would be the equivalent the M2A4 seems to be the better tank than a Panzer III as it has a bigger engine, ,is faster and has better armor. The LT vz.38/THN is clearly worse while the BT-7 may better, it is faster and has a better gun but has considerably worse armor so the edge isn't overwhelming if it has one. Considering how many were lost in Russia due to its poor armor and unreliability it may be worse.
 
Per Rumsfeld, you fight with the Army you have, not the one you want
Exactly, if we go that route the US would have wanted all its light tanks to be Stuarts, all of its medium tanks to be Shermans, all of its rifles to be Gerands , all its fighters be Thunderbolts and Wildcats etc.
 
Well pre-war there were tentative plans for a .303 rimless which disappeared due to financial constraints. 8mm Mauser was considered but when the operational research types completed their report and submitted it the UK opted for a .270/.280 cartridge instead. The UK was never going to change to 8mm pre-war except for limited and specific purposes like tank use.
Looks like it's a British version of the .30-06. Might as well just buy from the US at that point and have all the .30-06 they could need.
 
Yes. From Wikipedia (Yes I know not 100% reliable but I've read it in other sources as well)

Development and use[edit]


Vickers Light Tank AA MkI with 4 Besa machine guns

Although British forces used the .303 in rimmed round for rifles and machine guns, the ZB-53 had been designed for the German 7.92×57mm Mauser round – referred to by the British as the 7.92 mm. The British had intended to move from rimmed to rimless ammunition but with war imminent, wholesale change was not possible. It was considered by BSA and the Ministry of Supply that the industrial, technical and supply difficulty of converting the design to the .303 round would be more onerous than retaining the original calibre, especially given that the chain of supply for the Royal Armoured Corps was already separate from the other fighting arms of the British Army and the round was not changed for British production. Since the Besa used the same ammunition as Germany used in its rifles and machine guns, the British could use stocks of captured enemy ammunition, albeit without the ability to use their ammunition belts as packaged.
 
Yes. From Wikipedia (Yes I know not 100% reliable but I've read it in other sources as well)

Development and use[edit]


Vickers Light Tank AA MkI with 4 Besa machine guns

Although British forces used the .303 in rimmed round for rifles and machine guns, the ZB-53 had been designed for the German 7.92×57mm Mauser round – referred to by the British as the 7.92 mm. The British had intended to move from rimmed to rimless ammunition but with war imminent, wholesale change was not possible. It was considered by BSA and the Ministry of Supply that the industrial, technical and supply difficulty of converting the design to the .303 round would be more onerous than retaining the original calibre, especially given that the chain of supply for the Royal Armoured Corps was already separate from the other fighting arms of the British Army and the round was not changed for British production. Since the Besa used the same ammunition as Germany used in its rifles and machine guns, the British could use stocks of captured enemy ammunition, albeit without the ability to use their ammunition belts as packaged.
Looking at some other sources you're right, however there was also the desire to adopt a rimless cartridge and rearmament got in the way of that, so in a really round-about way this got them a rimless cartridge through a backdoor, just not replacing the .303 in general service.
 
Yeah even though it is a medium tank,and a Panzer II would be the equivalent the M2A4 seems to be the better tank than a Panzer III as it has a bigger engine, ,is faster and has better armor. The LT vz.38/THN is clearly worse while the BT-7 may better, it is faster and has a better gun but has considerably worse armor so the edge isn't overwhelming if it has one. Considering how many were lost in Russia due to its poor armor and unreliability it may be worse.
The Russian Tanks serving in the Spanish Civil War outclassed the German, and Italian models deployed. The M-2A4 was competitive for it's time, and was effective with the marines on Guadalcanal. The M-3 Stuart was comparable to the PZ-III, but not it's up graded versions, with improved armor, and 50mm guns. Tank technology was advancing so fast in the later 30's, and early 40's.
 
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The Russian Tanks serving in the Spanish Civil War outclassed the German, and Italian models deployed. The M-2A4 was competitive for it's time, and was effective with the marines on Guadalcanal. The M-4 Stuart was comparable to the PZ-III, but not it's up graded versions, with improved armor, and 50mm guns. Tank technology was advancing so fast in the later 30's, and early 40's.
Not with its upgrades, no. But it seems to be superior to a 1938 Panzer III. The thing is that the combatants had a war time weapons R&D budget while the US had one that was peacetime but one in which it thought war was likely in the future. Once it had a wartime budget it caught up in a hurry.
 
I suspect it was a combination of factors, mainly financial, the UK trials for a semi-auto were inconclusive. Personally I would have just said screw it and gone with the Pedersen as a SMLE replacement, the Vickers would have been an easy conversion and the Lewis was due to be replaced with a new LMG anyway, just buy .276 BRENS instead. They could even re-barrel SMLE's in .276 for reserve forces and use the remaining .303 stocks for training and colonial use in Africa.
.276 Pedersen Brens would have been quite interesting and probably quite similar to the VZ52 LMG:

For the Brits this probably would have ended up being a world best combo, the Pedersen Vickers-Amerstrong rifle and Bren both in .276.
 
Looks like it's a British version of the .30-06. Might as well just buy from the US at that point and have all the .30-06 they could need.
The British weren’t planning to buy from anyone. No major power would plan to buy ammo or even small arms from another one. Especially in WW2. They buy licensing and produce their own. Buying ammo or small arms directly is a desperation move, so why would they plan on that beforehand?
 
The British weren’t planning to buy from anyone. No major power would plan to buy ammo or even small arms from another one. Especially in WW2. They buy licensing and produce their own. Buying ammo or small arms directly is a desperation move, so why would they plan on that beforehand?
Counterpoint:
The Brits didn't make .45 ACP ammo.

Since the Brits were planning on using the US as a major supplier if another war broke out and like the French were importing from them before the war started and only ramped that up even more once Poland was invaded, it would make sense to consider buying ammo from them, BTW as they did from the Czechs until they could set up their own production for the BESAs, as well as producing .30-06 eventually themselves.
 
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Counterpoint:
The Brits didn't make .45 ACP ammo.

Since the Brits were planning on using the US as a major supplier if another war broke out and like the French were importing from them before the war started and only ramped that up even more once Poland was invaded, it would make sense to consider buying ammo from them, BTW as they did from the Czechs until they could set up their own production for the BESAs, as well as producing .30-06 eventually themselves.

Britain didn't have an SMG at the time and needed to fill the gap. There were some promising prototypes but no production facilities and the need was urgent, there was a war to fight. This is very different to planning in peacetime to rely on foreign production.
 
Counterpoint:
The Brits didn't make .45 ACP ammo.

Since the Brits were planning on using the US as a major supplier if another war broke out and like the French were importing from them before the war started and only ramped that up even more once Poland was invaded, it would make sense to consider buying ammo from them, BTW as they did from the Czechs until they could set up their own production for the BESAs, as well as producing .30-06 eventually themselves.
The Thompson was a last minute purchase AIUI. They weren’t planing to have any sub machine gun until war broke out and they figured they might need one. The first Thompson’s weren’t issued to British troops until 1940 IIRC. So they weren’t really planning to buy it. They just weren’t really planning at all. The other two examples kind of prove the point. They bought Czech ammo only until they could set up their own production. And when they ended up issuing .30-06 (again more because they could get it than because they wanted to) they set up their own manufacturing.
 
The Thompson was a last minute purchase AIUI. They weren’t planing to have any sub machine gun until war broke out and they figured they might need one. The first Thompson’s weren’t issued to British troops until 1940 IIRC. So they weren’t really planning to buy it. They just weren’t really planning at all. The other two examples kind of prove the point. They bought Czech ammo only until they could set up their own production. And when they ended up issuing .30-06 (again more because they could get it than because they wanted to) they set up their own manufacturing.
That's probably the problem then, the Brits weren't planning very well.
 
For some inexplicable reason the British Army was vehemently opposed to the idea of adopting an SMG or as they called it a "Gangster Gun". Whether this was just traditionalists not wanting something new, a belief that the money was better spent elsewhere or a combination of factors it left them scrambling for anything they could get once the war began.

I find it odd that the only small arms development programs that bore fruit in the 30's were replacing a revolver with a less powerful version and replacing a reasonably adequate LMG, when the Army was still using a rifle it had been trying to replace since the Boer War. I've no problem with the excellent Bren but the money spent of the Enfield Revolver should have gone into a Semi Automatic Rifle (A Pedersen simplified for mass production).
 
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For some inexplicable reason the British Army was vehemently opposed to the idea of adopting an SMG or as they called it a "Gangster Gun". Whether this was just traditionalists not wanting something new, a belief that the money was better spent elsewhere or a combination of factors it left them scrambling for anything they could get once the war began.
The nickname they gave might show the reason. Maybe the British Army saw it as something only gangsters use and they were no gangsters.
 
I started a tangent earlier in the thread about the value of the Bren to the US because the infantry were forced to rely on artillery more than they arguably should have to make up for the deficit in infantry firepower, which limited their effectiveness; my support for that was the lower German casualty rates than the Allies in the major battles of 1944, lower even than US official figures, despite overwhelming applications for artillery fire among other support, which then turned into a major tangent that ended up bringing in a mod to tell us to stick to the main topic.


Not sure if you saw Calbear's post, but he doesn't want any more derailment of the thread, so I'm going to have to leave the bulk of your post unanswered.


Since this part is on topic I will respond.
In semi-autos sure, but ITTL with the Bren they would still have Garands their other weapons, so it would be a substantial firepower enhancement. I get into the reasons below in more detail, but the Bren was able to produce much more and sustained automatic fire, which is how a squad achieves firepower superiority in battle. The Bren, besides the larger, more easily reloaded magazine, also had a QC barrel to keep the fire up while the BAR had to take a 90 second pause after IIRC 3 magazines or risk burning out the barrel, and had a higher ROF so the volume of sustained effective fire was substantially larger than the BAR or even potentially 2 BARs could generate, while the Bren was still less expensive than 1 BAR and no heavier. So you could equip a US squad with 2 Brens by or before the time that 2 BARs became standard issue in a US squad. 2 Brens then would be able to produce an effective fire rate equivalent to 3-4 BARs and require no more people compared to the BAR per US doctrine.

In a 12 man US squad if they divided into fire teams with one being a Bren group of 2 Brens to support the rest of the squad or two equal sized 6 man fire teams each with a Bren you'll have a much more effective squad than one with 2 or 3 BARs. They'd easily produce more than enough firepower to overpower an MG42 squad and still be somewhat competitive with a 2x MG42 squad, which did appear towards the end of the war. That's assuming there isn't a platoon level Bren group instead of squad LMGs. Or supplementing the squad MGs.

The nice part about the Bren, other than being superior to the BAR, is that it can also replace the weapons platoon M1919s as well, which means you can really have a lot of firepower for a US platoon by having more, cheaper Brens than BARs+M1919s.
Per this by 1944 there wasn't a platoon MG, but the infantry companies have a weapons platoon. For the cost of two M1919s they could have fielded three Brens instead and had only a 3 man team each instead of a 4 man M1919 team. Even without the belt fed weapons the extra Bren could increase overall firepower and be much lighter and handier for the team to move around while allowing for extra ammo to be carried from saving 4kg per MG.


The last part is related to the point of the Bren being adopted by the US, namely in that a machine gun with a higher rate of sustained fire will be the best way to achieve fire superiority in an infantry firefight. Personally I've been partial to the Bren as a LMG over every other WW2 LMG, but recently I've started to come around to the idea behind the MG42, despite it's disadvantages in weight, ammo consumption, and need for multiple 1kg barrels. Namely that the ROF does suppress better than any other MG of the period that isn't a .50 cal or higher because of the weight of fire and the psychological impact of that, which I came across some related research about by the British in the 1980s. Winning infantry engagements is mostly about being able to achieve firepower superiority over the foe and having a weapon that can beat any other infantry weapon in volume of fire will suppress better and through that create the conditions to win the engagement. That doesn't even get into firing ratios and the reasons behind that, which are also highly relevant. If you're interested I can post the paper with some commentary.

Now rather than this being a "MG42 so awesome" post, the above concept is more to illustrate the advantage of the Bren over the BAR in that the Bren had a larger magazine that was replaced more quickly so could produce a greater volume of fire, could sustain fire much longer thanks to the QC barrel, and had a cyclic rate as well. All that adds up to making the Bren a more effectively base of fire than even two BARs, while being cheaper and no heavier.
I'm sorry but I just don't see the Bren having the decisive effect your seeing. It wouldn't effect the way a squad fought, and I just don't see it replacing the M1919A4. If your coming around to thinking the MG-42 was a better SAW then the Bren, then how would replacing the GPMG's in the weapons platoon with Bren's redress the firepower shortfall? Replacing the 1919A4 with Bren's would've been a retrograde move. What the Americans did was add more BAR's, SMG's, and the select fire M-2 Carbine. The M-2 Carbine should've been developed earlier, it was lighter then the Thompson, and used a more powerful cartridge. They also kept trying to lighten the 1919, but the 1919A6 was still too heavy, and awkward. There were even front line kits to convert M-1's into fully automatic rifles, feed from BAR Magazines, essentially proto M-14.

I'm not saying the Bren wasn't a better weapon. At the least the army should have bought the FN modified BAR. As others have been pointing out in 1938 the U.S. Army still had limited budgets, and felt pressed for time, they wanted to stick with what they had, and thought they could quickly produce. Likewise the caliber changes others on the board are suggesting just seemed too revolutionary, for an army thinking in terms of a new war in the immediate future. I agree the 30.06 was too much for what was needed, the post war NATO Standard 7.62 would've been more then adequate., and have saved some ammo weight.

So what I'm really disputing with you is that having the Bren, or an improved BAR wouldn't have made American Infantry fight like their German counterparts. The Americans had a different doctrine, and I think it was the correct one, that better took advantage of their technological, and material advantages. The Americans more then compensated for the shortcomings of the BAR, and even if it had preformed as they hoped they never intended to fight like the Germans did. The Americans had drawn different lessons from WWI, then the Germans did.
 
The nickname they gave might show the reason. Maybe the British Army saw it as something only gangsters use and they were no gangsters.
You just reminded me of the story of Air Chief Marshal Downing requesting bulletproof canopy's for his fighters. When they laughed, because it was unrealistic he answered. "If American gangsters can get bulletproof glass on their cars, we can get them for our fighters." The British watched a lot of Hollywood Movies, RAF Fighter Pilots got a lot of their slag from Westerns.
 
Counterpoint:
The Brits didn't make .45 ACP ammo.

Since the Brits were planning on using the US as a major supplier if another war broke out and like the French were importing from them before the war started and only ramped that up even more once Poland was invaded, it would make sense to consider buying ammo from them, BTW as they did from the Czechs until they could set up their own production for the BESAs, as well as producing .30-06 eventually themselves.
I understand you point but your using too much hindsight. It makes sense to have alliance standards, like NATO does, but there was no alliance. The British didn't even have a real alliance with the French, let alone the U.S.. Each army was feeling it's own way forward, trying to form it's own doctrine, and equipping their troops with what they thought was best, and could afford.
 
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