US adopts Bren in the late 1930s

Because they had nothing else! If they had a more modern LMG with a quick-change barrel they would have used that and would barely remember the A6 as a bad idea.
When anyone gets something better they drop what they have, and move on. The British quickly moved on from the Bren, with the L7 Series.
 
Well since it seems so clear that the Bren was they way of the future why did most of the major armies of the world go in a different direction?
But did they really?

The Americans went with belt feed MG's, and auto select rifles.
Over a decade after WWII ended,

The French went with belt feed MG's inspired by the MG-42.
Very slowly. The M29 remained in service until 1979.

The Russians did their own thing, with belt feed MG's.
And also use magazine fed squad automatics.

India had tons of Bren's, but they bought FN, Soviet, and Israeli belt feed MG's.
Which were used at the Platoon level. Sections kept using the BREN, and a heavy barrelled INSAS variant was meant to be its replacement at the squad level.

Israel actually bought FN-BAR Model D's.
For its first decade of existence Israel bought literally anything on offer.

The UK went over to the L7 Series MG's, to replace both their Vickers, and Bren's.
And the LSW variant of the SA80 was only given up on in 2019.

Also just going to point out that the FN Minimi can use belts and STANAG magazines interchangeably.
 
There might be better LMG/GPMGs than the Bren but the OP was about if the US did adopt it. If they did then they would have had a better weapon than IOTL. That there might be even better does not impinge upon it. The OP is clearly not what would be the best LMG/GPMG that the US might have adopted in the late 1930's. That would be a valid thread but just not this one. The Bren is a reliable and adequate section level LMG. Until the GPMG came in it was also capable of acting in other roles with the use of the tripod.
 
The L4 was only withdrawn because they were knackered. Some of them with 50 years of service. I preferred the L4 as a section weapon. The L7 more as a platoon/company one.
 
As a cadet in the early 1970's I was trained as a Bren Gunner By WW2 and Korean Veterans. They all praised the Bren for it's versatility, lightness and its ability to keep on firing. The only downside that was discussed was that to maintain a high rate of fire with the 28 round magazine (we were using 303 calibre WW2 era guns) needed a competent assistant loading new mags onto the gun and swapping barrels. When I asked the WW2 veteran Sgt/Major instructor what way could they have improved the Bren in WW2 his only comment was that in certain situations a belt fed Bren would have "Reall shown the B@st@ards what for".
Just a bit of oral history there and hence only hearsay.
 
Belisarius II said:
It was an improvement, but was still considered too heavy. It could do the job, no weapon is perfect, but still it put out more sustained fire then a Bren. Or at least until the barrel overheated at which point the BREN would just keep going.



Thanks, that was very kind of you. question. Since the whole section carried at most 360 rounds of ammo for the Bren, how would you know it could sustain fire better then the M1919A4? MG's also fire in short bursts, you don't just hold the trigger down. Where did they have this shoot out?
Not sure where you got the figure of 360 from?

The Section carried 25 magazines of 28 rounds (note not 30 rounds as in practice the troops were trained to down load the magazines)

So that's 700 rounds ready to use

Each rifleman also carried 100 rounds in 50 round Bandolier's - the majority of this ammo would be used to refill empty magazines as they passed their full mags to the gun team and received teh used ones and not for the Lee Enfield's per se

Indeed if the section was down to its last 30 rounds (well 28 rounds) of.303 it would be in a BREN gun mag with everyone else fixing bayonets

Obviously as it is the same ammo - it could be used differently but generally the majority was for the BREN

From here

Section Ammo Load (1944)
  • Section Commander (160 rounds for Sten; 2 Mills Bombs) -
    • 5 Sten gun magazines, 32 rounds per magazine
    • 2 Mills Bombs
  • Riflemen (50 rounds for rifle, 108 rounds for Bren; 1 Mills Bomb) -
    • 10 clips of rifle ammunition in 1 Bandolier slung across torso, 5 rounds per clip
    • 2 Bren gun magazines in 1 Patt' 1937 pouch, 28 rounds per magazine
    • 10 clips for reloading Bren magazines in 1 Bandolier kept in other Patt' 1937 pouch, 5 rounds per clip
    • 1 Mills Bomb
  • Section Second-in-Command* (50 rounds for rifle; 112 rounds for Bren) -
    • 10 clips of rifle ammunition in 1 Bandolier slung across torso, 5 rounds per clip
    • 4 Bren gun magazines (2 per Patt' 1937 pouch), 28 rounds per magazine
  • Bren No. 1 (140 rounds for Bren) -
    • 1 Bren gun magazine loaded in gun, 28 rounds
    • 4 Bren gun magazines (2 per Patt' 1937 pouch), 28 rounds per magazine
  • Bren No. 2* (50 rounds for rifle; 112 rounds for Bren; 2 Mills Bombs) -
    • 10 clips of rifle ammunition in 1 Bandolier slung across torso, 5 rounds per clip
    • 4 Bren gun magazines (2 per Patt' 1937 pouch), 28 rounds per magazine
    • 2 Mills Bombs
  • Total: 1,000 rounds for Bren, 400 rounds for Rifles, 160 Rounds for Sten, 10 Mills Bombs
 
Again I said if the Bren had been adapted by the U.S. Army in place of the BAR it wouldn't have made a major difference in how they fought. Changes in most individual weapons translate into small changes on a larger scale. Every army in WWII kept adding more automatic weapons to it's infantry squads, upping their firepower. The biggest prewar change the Americans made in this area was introducing the M-1 Garand. Introducing a semiauto as the standard issue rifle marked a huge improvement in unit fire power, translating into a big change on the larger scale. That's why Eisenhower said the M-1 was one of the 4 weapons that won WWII. The Bren would've been better then the BAR, but it would only have been one weapon in the rifle squad.

In a British Section were most of the men carry bolt action rifles the Bren accounted for a high percentage of the units firepower. Replacing the Bren for the BAR in an American squad with semiauto's makes a relatively small difference in the units firepower. If the Bren is 25% better then the BAR that doesn't translate into a big change across the whole unit. Let me give a crude example of what I'm talking about.

A British 11 man Section has 1 Bren, 9 Enfield's, and 1 SMG. Rate the Bren a 10, the Enfield's 2, and the SMG a 5, and you get a total of 33. An American Squad with 12 men have a BAR, I'll rate at 6, a SMG 5, 9 semiauto rifles, or carbines rated at 3, and 1 Springfield rated at 2, giving them a score of 40. Changing out the BAR for the Bren gives them 44, or a 10% increase in firepower. In a British Section the Bren makes up about 30% of it's firepower. In an American Squad the BAR accounted for about 15% of firepower, a Bren Squad would be about 23%.

Just by way of comparison a German 10 man Squad has 1 MG-42 value 15, an MP-40 value 5, 8 98K's value 2 = 26. Allied Squad/Sections have more firepower. In combination with greater heavy weapon support it's no wonder they beat the Germans more times then not.

Now the numbers I came up with are just my guess, so you can disagree with them, but they should be roughly correct. So based on this rough calculation I don't think the Bren would've made a big difference. A 10% increase in firepower could certainly help in an individual firefight, but across 10,000 firefights, in varying tactical circumstances it wouldn't make much difference on the larger scale. General Patton said that the infantry component of American Infantry Divisions inflicted about 37% of the casualties on the enemy. That included the use of MG's, Mortars, and hand grenades, so with the Bren would the number go up to 39%?

Learning the lessons of infantry combat in WWII all the major armies of the world followed the German Model, and moved toward MG's based on the MG-42. That's not my opinion, it's just a fact. Oddly enough the USMC has moved to a BAR concept with the M-27, we have to see how that works out. The M-27 certainly has corrected the main faults of the BAR, but it may be a regressive move, based on the Marine mantra of everyman a marksmen. So that's my take.
 
Not sure where you got the figure of 360 from?

The Section carried 25 magazines of 28 rounds (note not 30 rounds as in practice the troops were trained to down load the magazines)

So that's 700 rounds ready to use

Each rifleman also carried 100 rounds in 50 round Bandolier's - the majority of this ammo would be used to refill empty magazines as they passed their full mags to the gun team and received teh used ones and not for the Lee Enfield's per se

Indeed if the section was down to its last 30 rounds (well 28 rounds) of.303 it would be in a BREN gun mag with everyone else fixing bayonets

Obviously as it is the same ammo - it could be used differently but generally the majority was for the BREN

From here

Section Ammo Load (1944)
  • Section Commander (160 rounds for Sten; 2 Mills Bombs) -
    • 5 Sten gun magazines, 32 rounds per magazine
    • 2 Mills Bombs
  • Riflemen (50 rounds for rifle, 108 rounds for Bren; 1 Mills Bomb) -
    • 10 clips of rifle ammunition in 1 Bandolier slung across torso, 5 rounds per clip
    • 2 Bren gun magazines in 1 Patt' 1937 pouch, 28 rounds per magazine
    • 10 clips for reloading Bren magazines in 1 Bandolier kept in other Patt' 1937 pouch, 5 rounds per clip
    • 1 Mills Bomb
  • Section Second-in-Command* (50 rounds for rifle; 112 rounds for Bren) -
    • 10 clips of rifle ammunition in 1 Bandolier slung across torso, 5 rounds per clip
    • 4 Bren gun magazines (2 per Patt' 1937 pouch), 28 rounds per magazine
  • Bren No. 1 (140 rounds for Bren) -
    • 1 Bren gun magazine loaded in gun, 28 rounds
    • 4 Bren gun magazines (2 per Patt' 1937 pouch), 28 rounds per magazine
  • Bren No. 2* (50 rounds for rifle; 112 rounds for Bren; 2 Mills Bombs) -
    • 10 clips of rifle ammunition in 1 Bandolier slung across torso, 5 rounds per clip
    • 4 Bren gun magazines (2 per Patt' 1937 pouch), 28 rounds per magazine
    • 2 Mills Bombs
  • Total: 1,000 rounds for Bren, 400 rounds for Rifles, 160 Rounds for Sten, 10 Mills Bombs
Thanks for the correction.
 
There might be better LMG/GPMGs than the Bren but the OP was about if the US did adopt it. If they did then they would have had a better weapon than IOTL. That there might be even better does not impinge upon it. The OP is clearly not what would be the best LMG/GPMG that the US might have adopted in the late 1930's. That would be a valid thread but just not this one. The Bren is a reliable and adequate section level LMG. Until the GPMG came in it was also capable of acting in other roles with the use of the tripod.
The question was what would have happened, and I said it wouldn't have made much difference. I agreed it was better then the BAR. I was responding to the claims that it was better then the M1919A4, and was a match for the MG-42. I agree with your evaluation of the Bren.
 
Well since it seems so clear that the Bren was they way of the future why did most of the major armies of the world go in a different direction? The Americans went with belt feed MG's, and auto select rifles. The French went with belt feed MG's inspired by the MG-42. The Germans who faced the Bren stayed with MG-42 derived MG's. The Russians did their own thing, with belt feed MG's. The Italians the same. India had tons of Bren's, but they bought FN, Soviet, and Israeli belt feed MG's. Israel actually bought FN-BAR Model D's. The UK went over to the L7 Series MG's, to replace both their Vickers, and Bren's.
It was the wave of the future in the 1920-30s, no one claimed it was post-WW2. Though it was still a very good LMG into the 1990s.
As to US Army post-WW2 small arms decisions....they weren't known to make that best ones. Another poster already covered your claims about other nation's post-war MG decisions, so I will leave those claims alone and defer to that poster.

It seems the major armies of the world followed a German Model, and provided their men with belt feed SAW's. If WWII infantry combat showed so clearly that a top loading, magazine feed LMG at the Squad Level proved superior to GPMG's, why didn't they follow up with SAW's based on the Bren?
Right, most armies aped the Germans, but ignored where they were headed in terms of equipment organization and even rejected what the Mauser designers had developed post-war that was an evolution of where the Wehrmacht was headed in WW2. As US combat experience showed the belt fed, crew served MG at the squad level was on the way out. They tried to make it work with the M249 as a single man system in the 1970s, but that still ended up very heavy and in some services replaced by automatic rifles with box magazines, which is what the Germans were headed too at the end of WW2. It all comes around...

Ultimately why no one really followed up with the box fed magazines LMG for the squad after WW2 is because those that used them in WW2 just kept the Bren into the 1990s and in some cases beyond. Hard to improve on perfection. Meanwhile NATO was largely at the mercy of whatever the US wanted for equipment commonality, so if the US picked wrong then everyone was kind of dragged along. Once the Euros got beyond their WW2 combat experience they forgot what worked in a peer level war and got more and more into the colonial small wars mindset. Prior to that though generally what the Euros wanted was different than the US (after look at the EM-2 saga, CETME, even some of the German designs). The one exception of course was a non-US Army American designer who came up with a weapon system the Navy SEALs loved:

American Joe's didn't want more automatic weapons because of the poor performance of the BAR. In any firefight soldiers want to put out as much suppressive fire as possible. British Tommy's didn't say, "We don't need any Bloody SMG's, or Semi-Auto weapons, we got a Bren with us." German Landser's didn't say, "We don't need any MP-40's, or MP-44's, we have an MG-42 in the squad." The Red Army had whole companies, and battalions armed with PPsh-41 SMG's. The Germans used all the captured Russian SMG's they could get their hands on. The British took a lot of Thompsons, without complaint, and the SAS used Browning MG for their fames deep penetration raids in North Africa. The British mounted Browning's on many other vehicles including Sherman tanks. They couldn't have been that bad of a weapon if the British manufactured it, and used it so extensively.
The GIs wanted what the Germans had...having not really used it in combat and not understanding the difficulties in using it.

Tommy's didn't say that, command told them what they were going to have and to like it. As to the SAS's use of belt feds, that was probably more a function of what they could get their hands on and the US was sending them all the Thompsons and Brownings they could, so that was what was used. BTW the Shermans came with Brownings.
Frankly though I don't know why the British didn't just adopt the Browning over the BESA given the weight and complexity of the BESA. Granted though the lack of a QC barrel was a pretty big hinderence.

Same thing with the Landsers, it was largely there is what we've got, use it. And then they supplemented with captured automatics, especially the PPSH 41, which in some ways arguably created the pressure to adopt the STG.

The Soviets adopted SMG companies because it was much cheaper and easier to make and use than bolt action rifles and because they saw how well the Finns used them, so they tried it out. Of course they subsequently added LMGs and rifles back in to SMG companies when they got out of Stalingrad, because in open terrain they needed longer range support. Not only that, but they developed a belt fed SMG and decided against adopting it in favor of their own intermediate cartridge designs.

I think you overselling the Bren, when you say it out preformed M1919A4, and matched the MG-42. It was a good weapon for it's day, but it wasn't the best MG of WWII. That most of the worlds future MG's followed the MG-42, rather then the Bren is proof of that. All the armies of the world aren't stupid, or unable to analyze combat data.
You're allowed your opinions. The QC barrel though does give it a sustained fire edge over the M1919 though. In terms of the MG42 vs. Bren that debate is endless, it's just that IMHO as a purpose designed LMG it's all around virtues give it the edge on the GPMG in light pattern operating as an LMG. The GPMG is a jack of all trades, master of none type weapon, which is why it has been largely kicked out of the role of LMG in favor of the SAW and is mostly used in MMG roles today. Even the HMG role has been taken over by the M2 .50 cal or the newer LWMMG .338 cal.

Best MG and best LMG are different things. Without a doubt the MG42 is the best GPMG of the war, but in the LMG role it wasn't best suited for that. It effectively was a MMG shoehorned into the role. That certainly gave it a firepower edge on the defensive, but offensively it was just too heavy and cumbersome to operate effectively which is why it got replaced by the STG at the squad level by the end.

No surprise that most post-war GPMGs were copying the best GPMG of WW2, but again that was a specific role, we're talking about LMGs here.

The US Army Ordnance bureau from 1945-1970s would challenge your claim that they weren't stupid or able to analyze WW2 data.
 
In a British Section were most of the men carry bolt action rifles the Bren accounted for a high percentage of the units firepower. Replacing the Bren for the BAR in an American squad with semiauto's makes a relatively small difference in the units firepower. If the Bren is 25% better then the BAR that doesn't translate into a big change across the whole unit. Let me give a crude example of what I'm talking about.

A British 11 man Section has 1 Bren, 9 Enfield's, and 1 SMG. Rate the Bren a 10, the Enfield's 2, and the SMG a 5, and you get a total of 33. An American Squad with 12 men have a BAR, I'll rate at 6, a SMG 5, 9 semiauto rifles, or carbines rated at 3, and 1 Springfield rated at 2, giving them a score of 40. Changing out the BAR for the Bren gives them 44, or a 10% increase in firepower. In a British Section the Bren makes up about 30% of it's firepower. In an American Squad the BAR accounted for about 15% of firepower, a Bren Squad would be about 23%.
So that is the crux of the issue, you're arbitrary calculations are at odds with others. In the short term the BAR could put out similar firepower to the Bren, but over the course of a minute or more the Bren can keep chugging, while the BAR has to take breaks; in doctrine two BARs per squad meant only one fired at a time so that when one went down to cool off before resuming firing the other could take up the automatic fire role. The Bren could keep going with a barrel change. So effectively one Bren was able to do the job of two BARs while being cheaper to make than a single BAR; if the US added to Brens, then they would more than match the effective fire of two BARs in FPF and then be able to sustain that fire rate when the BARs overheated. All while being the cost of ~1.5 BARs.
So the effectiveness of the Bren might well be 100% greater than the BAR or at worst 50% greater. That's a pretty huge boost. Especially if it's cheap enough to have two per 11-12 man American squad by 1942.
 
BTW Gun Jesus does rate the modern take on the Bren even more highly than the belt fed version of the weapon:
I can't really say, the actual marines who used it in combat rejected it. No he didn't preferer the Bren type, he said he loved it, but had to go with the 100 round belt feed machinegun version. I'm sure it was much lighter then the Bren, it's much more compact, made of lighter materials, and chambered for 5.56mm ammo. I never said a top loading magazine feed LMG was a bad idea, I said the armies of the world preferer belt feed systems, for the same reason he did.
 
I can't really say, the actual marines who used it in combat rejected it. No he didn't preferer the Bren type, he said he loved it, but had to go with the 100 round belt feed machinegun version. I'm sure it was much lighter then the Bren, it's much more compact, made of lighter materials, and chambered for 5.56mm ammo. I never said a top loading magazine feed LMG was a bad idea, I said the armies of the world preferer belt feed systems, for the same reason he did.
The actual Marines didn't get a say, it was the org that decided it. I get why though, they conceived of it as a one man SAW rather than a crew served weapon, so there was no advantage to it for a single man over the standard M16 or Stoner 63 Carbine except maybe a heavy barrel.

When treated as a crew served weapon however it did have an advantage, but that wasn't what the Marine Corps was looking for. They wanted a single man to be able to operate an automatic weapon, so were interested in either the rifle configuration or the belt fed.
 
So that is the crux of the issue, you're arbitrary calculations are at odds with others. In the short term the BAR could put out similar firepower to the ren, but over the course of a minute or more the Bren can keep chugging, while the BAR has to take breaks; in doctrine two BARs per squad meant only one fired at a time so that when one went down to cool off before resuming firing the other could take up the automatic fire role. The Bren could keep going with a barrel change. So effectively one Bren was able to do the job of two BARs while being cheaper to make than a single BAR; if the US added to Brens, then they would more than match the effective fire of two BARs in FPF and then be able to sustain that fire rate when the BARs overheated. All while being the cost of ~1.5 BARs.
So the effectiveness of the Bren might well be 100% greater than the BAR or at worst 50% greater. That's a pretty huge boost. Especially if it's cheap enough to have two per 11-12 man American squad by 1942.
So what are your arbitrary calculations? I rated the BAR a 6, and the Bren a 10. You say it's twice what a BAR is, so rate it a 12. That doesn't change much. A German Gruppe was based around the MG-34/42, with the riflemen supporting the MG. The riflemen covered the MG, so it could maneuver into a better firing position. I gather the Bren in a British Section served in the same way, forming the center of the section. The BAR wasn't used that way, it covered the riflemen who maneuvered into better firing positions. That's why I said the U.S. using the Bren wouldn't make much difference, because it wouldn't change the way they fought.

You say British Soldiers didn't try to get their hands on SMG's to supplement their firepower? That surprises me, Germans, and Americans did. The Americans would grab extra BAR's, Carbines, SMG's, grenade launchers, and captured Panzerfausts. If they had replaced the BAR with the Bren it just would've been another weapon.
 
I wouldn't call one's primary objective for nearly a decade in government a derailment. If anything the Mediterranean was Nazi Germany's biggest "derailment".
One might argue that without the diversion of trucks and other logistics troops to the Mediterranean theatre, Barbarossa would have stood a better chance of success. An extra Panzer Corps and the LW units used in North Africa wouldn't have gone amiss either. Especially used from Romania to help Army Group South.
 
So what are your arbitrary calculations? I rated the BAR a 6, and the Bren a 10. You say it's twice what a BAR is, so rate it a 12. That doesn't change much. A German Gruppe was based around the MG-34/42, with the riflemen supporting the MG. The riflemen covered the MG, so it could maneuver into a better firing position. I gather the Bren in a British Section served in the same way, forming the center of the section. The BAR wasn't used that way, it covered the riflemen who maneuvered into better firing positions. That's why I said the U.S. using the Bren wouldn't make much difference, because it wouldn't change the way they fought.

You say British Soldiers didn't try to get their hands on SMG's to supplement their firepower? That surprises me, Germans, and Americans did. The Americans would grab extra BAR's, Carbines, SMG's, grenade launchers, and captured Panzerfausts. If they had replaced the BAR with the Bren it just would've been another weapon.
What are you even asking me? Sounds like you're answering all your own questions.

The German squad was not rifles supporting the MG, that was only for the defense; offensively the MG supported the assault/maneuver element. Look on youtube there is a US Army wartime training film about the German squad in combat that shows how the role of the MG changed based on the offensive/defensive posture. There are also translated German squad manuals, including by the US Army during WW2, that show how the MG was used and it was not as you describe.

Basically they largely fought the same as the British and Soviet squads. The US IOTL was a little different by the end, as the BAR number and functionality had changed from the pre-/early war doctrine and the firepower add of the Garand and later various other weapons compensated somewhat.

Where did I say the British didn't have SMGs? They had 1 just like the Germans after the Sten was issued.
You do realize everyone else had SMGs, rifles, and grenade launchers too, right? The LMG served in a capacity all it's own and IOTL both during and after the war (and even before WW2, but the US Army didn't have the money to replace it) the infantry wanted the BAR replaced by a true LMG.
 
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