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Pint-sized .22 long rifle machinegun.

I guess many of us never really grow up, and because of this, miniaturized versions of everyday items have long delighted the child in us.

Artisans from the earliest times have turned out diminutive copies of everything from bronze war chariots to golden representations of state coaches.

Weaponry has long been a favorite subject for miniaturization, and small, crude copies of wheellock pistols have been found dating from the mid-16th century. On a grander scale, during the 19th and 20th centuries, wealthy patrons commissioned working models of everything from Colt Paterson revolvers to silver-and-gold-mounted Boutet pistols.

Unfortunately for most of us, these items are far too elusive--and expensive--to even be considered as additions to our gun cabinets. This regrettable situation, however, is now about to change.

Tippman Arms Co., Dept. GA, 4402 New Haven Ave., For Wayne, IN 46803, is currently offering the best of several worlds--in the guise of an affordable, available, half-scale, semi-auto shooting replica of one of the world's most famous military arms, the Browning M-1917/19 .30 caliber machine gun.

As well, while many manufacturers have been reluctant to produce full-sized semi-auto MG copies, Tippman has now legitimized the business with their less belligerent .22 Long Rifle version.

Before getting into Tippman's model, however, perhaps it might be a good idea to cover a bit of the history and design of John M.'s original piece--for size aside, the new gun duplicates the parent to an uncanny degree.

Despite the fact that the basics of the gun were patented around the turn of the century, official ennui caused Browning's blowback .30 caliber machine gun to be shelved until the exigencies of World War I caused a reevaluation of the piece.

When the U.S. entered the first world war in 1917, her supplies of machine guns were at a low ebb. A few outdated 1904 Maxims, Colt 1895 "potato diggers," and Benet-Mercies were the sum total of America's automatic capability.

Browning took both his water-cooled machine gun and Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.) to Washington for testing, where both acquitted themselves very well. The B.A.R. was adopted immediately, and after further exhaustive trials the machine gun was also accepted.

In its original form the M-1917 was belt-fed, weighed 53.2 pounds, with its mount, measured 38-1/2 inches and had a cyclic rate of fire of about 450-600 rounds per minute.

Contracts were immediately let out for the gun, though only about a thousand of them actually saw service in Flanders. The Browning machine gun made its debut with the 79th Division on September 28, 1918, where according to the using unit's commander, "During the five days that my four guns were in action, they fired approximately 13,000 rounds of ammunition. They had very rough handling due to the fact that the infantry made constant halts, causing the guns to be placed in the mud. The condition of the ground on these five days was very muddy, and considerable grit and other foreign material got into the working parts of the gun. The guns became rusty on the outside due to the rain and the wet weather, but in every instance when the guns were called upon to fire, they fired perfectly. During all this time I had only one stoppage, and this was due to a broken ejector."

The Browning had come through its baptism of fire with flying colors. Following the war it was further modified into an air-cooled version, termed the M-1919A4. This gun was accordingly adapted to aircraft, tank, and shoulder-fire use.

The Browning 1917/19 variants were used by U.S. and allied forces throughout World War II and the Korean conflict, as well as by numerous other countries including China, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Poland, Greece and Sweden. To say that it was a successful weapon is something of an understatement.

Tippman offers copies of both the M-1917 water-cooled gun and its M-1919A4 air-cooled version. Both guns are belt-fed and chamber .22 LR ammo. Though the gun has been modified to semi-auto, the piece is virtually identical to its predecessors, with the exception that, in order to handle the rimmed .22 LR ammo, the firing and feed machines have been slightly modified. But, again, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before delving into the arm's innards, let's talk specs and external appearance.

Our test gun was an M-1919A4 air-cooled model and at first glance, with the exception of a few standard-sized screws, the gun was a Liliputian ringer for the original. Mounted on its M2 tripod, the Tippman gun was the (I hesitate to use this word ... but what the heck!) "cutest" firearm that I had seen in a considerable period of time.

From its grey parkerized finish, down to the perforated barrel cover and adjustable ladder-style rear sight it was a stunner. The gun comes complete with a traversing attachment that is also adjustable for elevation. The tripod even has the cleated feet and traversing bar sleeve latch of the original, though due to BATF regulations, unlike a Government model, the Tippman gun is permanently attached to the tripod pintle mount.

Tippman's M -1919A4 measures 19-1/2 inches overall, has an 11-inch barrel, classifying it as a pistol, subject to state and federal regulations governing the registration and transportation of such arms, and weighs 10 pounds.

As we noted before, the gun is belt-fed, and comes with four 100-round plastic belts, which, when loaded, closely resembles the disintegrating metal link belt.

To top all this, the Tippman machine guns come packed in beautifully fashioned oak "military style" cases with black metal hardware. Accompanying the gun, in the case, are a pair of scaled-down GI ammo boxes, an internal diagram, the "TM"-style instruction manual.

As noted earlier the guns are semi-auto blowbacks, which fire from closed bolts, although full auto versions may be had, on order, providing one had the proper federal, state and local licenses.

Cyclic rate on the auto version duplicates that of the original, while the number of shots one can get off in a given time with the semi-auto gun, is dictated by how fast one can pull the trigger. The trigger, by the way, is a scaled-up variant of the original, positioned at the rear of the receiver, below the cast-steel pistol grip.

Loading and firing the gun is extremely easy, but bears some telling. First, the cartridges must be inserted manually into the belt. Their position is perhaps the most critical part of the entire operation, for should they protrude too far or not far enough, the belt will not feed properly.

To insert a belt, merely lift the cover group and position the first round just to the right of the belt holding pawl. Now, close the cover, pull the bolt to the rear and release it. To fully chamber a round, the bolt must be pulled back a second time (just like the original). The gun is now ready to fire. Pulling the trigger fires the round and pushes the empty into a channel beneath it. When the next round is fired, the case pushes the first empty out of the bottom of the receiver.

A belt can also be inserted in the left side of the feedway with the cover closed, however I prefer the positive open method.

When G&A Editor Howard French, Senior Editor Dave Hetzler and myself took the gun to the range for testing, there were many covetous glances cast in our direction from other members of the staff. I am happy to report that their jealousy was well-founded. The Tippman "machine gun" is fun!

Our test ammo was Remington High Velocity, round nosed Long Rifle, as recommended in Tippman's TM. I had loaded the four belts the night before, and found that it was not the onerous task I had supposed, though it definitely comes a poor second to actually shooting the piece.

Following the loading instructions explicitly, we had absolutely no hitches. The gun steadfastly chambered, fired and shucked each round as reliably as Browning's forerunner. After zeroing the gun in on paper at 25 yards, we moved our 60 yards to a "fun" target, in the guise of a 4-inch diameter gong that was rung with through a 100-round belt in short order.

Fieldstripping the Tippman is, again, similar to the original method. First open the cover the check the chamber and channel to ensure that the gun is unloaded. Then pull up on the pistol grip and slide the grip and plate out of the milled slots on the rear of the receiver. Care must be taken that the inner spring guide, which is under tension, does not pop out. When the plate is removed, the tension can be taken off the firing pin and recoil springs, and they, along with the pin can be removed from the rear of the bolt. Now, slide the bolt to the rear, align the bolt handle with the widened portion at the rear of the bolt slot, and pull it from the bolt. The bolt can now be slipped from the rear of the receiver. If you wish to remove the extractor, it can be taken from the bolt by pulling it up and to the left.

When fieldstripping the gun, you are immediately taken by the quality of workmanship and attention to detail inherent in the arm. The bolt is a work of art in itself, and shows considerable machining and apparent hand fitting.

Admittedly quality doesn't come cheap. The Tippman M-1919A4 runs $1,425 and the more elaborate M-1917 water-cooled version sells for $1,995. Frankly though, given labor and material costs, coupled with the high quality of the guns, it is hard to imagine that costs have been kept to where they are.

Tippman is currently working on a half-scale Browning .50 caliber machine gun that will fire .22 Magnums, and, given the quality of the other guns, I look forward eagerly to its debut.

There are too few things in this life that simply offer pure joy of ownership. The Tippman machine gun certainly falls into that category. Here is a gun that can be appreciated aesthetically sitting on the coffee table, and can also be taken to the range for an afternoon of fun, low-cost plinking. One can hardly ask for more than that.
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Author:James, Gary
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jan 1, 1985
Previous Article:Will a cashless society breed a gunless society?
Next Article:Enfield "Jungle Carbine." (classic test report)

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