After 94 years of continuous service, the oldest-serving known veteran in the U.S. military is stepping away from the front lines.
Browning M2 machine gun #324 is finally retiring:
Roughly 94 years after the first production run of M2 machine guns came off the assembly line, the 324th weapon produced made it to Anniston Army Depot for overhaul and upgrade.
In more than 90 years of existence, the receiver with serial number 324 has never been overhauled.
“Looking at the receiver, for its age, it looks good as new and it gauges better than most of the other weapons,” said John Clark, a small arms repair leader.
Despite the fact that the weapon still meets most specifications, it may be destined for the scrap yard.
Modifications made to the weapon in the field mean part of the receiver would have to be removed through welding and replaced with new metal, a process which usually means the receiver is scrap.
“I’d rather put this one on display than send it to the scrap yard,” said Clark, adding the weapon’s age makes it appealing as a historical artifact.
Currently, the 389th M2 is on display in the Small Arms Repair Facility. There is an approval process the older weapon would have to go through in order to be similarly displayed. Clark and Jeff Bonner, the Weapons Division chief, are researching and beginning that process.
In 2011, the depot began converting the Army’s inventory of M2 flexible machine guns to a new variant.
It’s stunning to think that #324 has been serving for that long, and is still in fighting condition, and is only being retired because someone made a field modification to the receiver.
John Moses Browning was a brilliant inventor, a fact proven every day as various Browning designs and variants still dominate the small arms market today.
Let’s hope they give you the retirement you deserve, #324, and thank you for your service