The .50 BMG

By Chuck Hawks

There are bigger bullets out there, .577, .600, and even .700 caliber, but the .50 BMG is "The Big One." No other shoulder fired big bore caliber shoots as fast, as flat, or hits as hard. "BMG" stands for Browning Machine Gun.

As far as I know, no factory loads for the .50 BMG are available from the major ammunition manufacturers, so the cartridge is strictly for reloaders. Surplus military ammo is available and is widely used as practice ammo by .50 caliber shooters.

The U.S. M33 .50 BMG military load uses a 668 grain FMJ-BT bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2910 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 12,550 ft. lbs. The U.S. M2 military load uses a 720 grain FMJ-BT bullet at a MV of 2810 fps and ME of 12,600 ft. lbs.

The following reloading data was taken from the fifth edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading. Hornady used a McMillian rifle with a 36" barrel, IMI cases, CCI 350 primers, and their 750 grain A-Max UHC bullet (BC 1.050, SD .412) for developing all of their .50 BMG loads.

185.5 grains of H50 BMG powder provided a MV of 2400 fps, and 214.9 grains of H50 BMG provided a MV of 2700 fps. 186.5 grains of H870 powder drove the big Hornady bullet at a MV of 2300 fps, and 224.0 grains of H870 achieved a MV of 2800 fps. 218.6 grains of Viht. 20N29 powder gave a MV of 2500 fps, and 238.7 grains of Viht. 20N29 gave a MV of 2800 fps.

Note: A complete article about the .50 BMG can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2004, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.