At one point in “The Man of Bronze,” Doc and Renny go airborne to fight the blue airplane supporting the Son of the Feathered Serpent.
Vastly relieved, Renny lunged back in the cabin. His monster, flinty hands tore the top from a metal case as another man would open a cigarette pack. Out of the case came the latest model of Browning machine gun, airplane type. An ammo box gave way to his iron fingers. The cartridges were already in long snakes of metal link belt.
The low-wing speed plane was going down the narrow lake now. Renny threaded a belt into the Browning. The gun was fitted with a rifle-like stock.
When I first thought about the identity of this gun, I started with the Browning B.A.R. This was the Browning Automatic Rifle M1918.
However, it used a box magazine rather than a belt. Then there was the Browning M1919 .30 caliber machine gun but there were no models with shoulder stocks in use when this story was written.
The next gun I considered was the Browning M1919 machine gun. The original M1919, as the name implies, was adopted by the U. S. Army in 1919. This was a tripod mounted machine gun.
The M1919 Browning machine gun was not static. It underwent several modifications over the years to meet different demands. The version of most interest to Doc Savage readers is the A6. The A6 variant, created in the early days of World War II, featured a shoulder stock as an answer to the very efficient MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns being used by the German army. The A6 was not a light weapon, weighing 36 pounds compared to the lighter German models that weighed only 25-26 pounds.
I decided the weapon Renny was using in the aerial dog fight in the “Man of Bronze” was a modification designed by Doc Savage. A recent article in American Rifleman titled ‘Limited Standard’: The M1919A6 Machine Gun has caused me to rethink that idea. There is nothing wrong with the idea of the weapon in question being something similar to the .30 caliber A6 model, except that Lester Dent was very specific in his description.
Out of the case came the latest model of Browning machine gun, airplane type.
“Airplane type” – this would be the AN-M2 Browning machine gun or as it may be more commonly called, the Browning .50 caliber machine gun. The Wikipedia page states that the weapon entered service in 1933. It also weighed an incredible eighty-four pounds.
The “AN” designation stands for Army/Navy aircraft use. I am sure that this was the weapon Lester Dent envisioned Renny firing rather than the older and smaller.30 caliber version. The AN-M2 has a shorter barrel of 36 inches which reduces the total weight to 61 pounds.
The idea that Renny was shooting a hand-held version of the .50 caliber Browning machine gun is indeed bigger-than-life.