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About .50 BMG

about .50 bmg

Table of Contents

Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy are going to talk about .50 BMG today. The cartridge is well-known among shooter and the general populace due to its military lineage and prominence in pop culture. Our goal with this blog post is to provide a brief overview of the cartridge while delving into features, traits, and more. Without further ado, let’s talk about .50 BMG.


What is .50 BMG?

The .50 BMG, often simply called “50 cal” or denoted metrically as 12.7x9mm, has persisted for over a century. The cartridge was developed by John Moses Browning in the late 1910s following the need for new anti-aircraft weaponry brought on by World War One. Additionally, there was a desire for the round to be utilized for machine gun use, spurring the development of an upscaled model of the Browning Model 1917 machine gun. This led to the development of the M2 Browning heavy machine gun, a machine gun lovingly referred to as the “Ma Duece.”

In addition to being utilized in machine guns, the .50 BMG has also been utilized in anti-materiel rifles throughout its existence. Rifles of this type evolved from the concept of anti-tank rifles which were utilized in World War One. Anti-materiel rifles are intended to be used against a variety of targets such as vehicles, hardware, structures, and other armored and unarmored targets. These types of rifles are generally chambered in a large caliber such as the .50 BMG. The use of large calibers such as the .50 BMG makes these types of rifles viable for use at long ranges, even though they are not intended to act as sniper rifles.

The .50 BMG boasts a stout recoil impulse, especially when compared to smaller, more conventional calibers. Heavy projectiles and high velocities contribute to the considerable recoil impulse and report of the cartridge. Semi-automatic rifles and machine guns chambered in the .50 BMG often utilize recoil systems and muzzle devices to help tame the potent recoil of the cartridge. A notable example of this is the set of strong springs and reciprocating barrel utilized in the Barrett M82/M107 recoil system. Additionally, the cartridge possesses extraordinary penetrative capabilities and will easily defeat things such as concrete cinder blocks and most commercial brick walls.

The cartridge is most commonly used for target shooting applications. While the round is certainly potent, many hunters believe it to be overkill for most hunting purposes. Many ammo offerings, especially match grade .50 BMG loadings, optimize the cartridge for long-shooting. Specific .50 BMG matches exist in which competitors use rifles chambered in the round to reach out to long distances.

.50 BMG, .300 Winschester Magnum, .308 Winchester, and 5.56x45mm NATO (left to right)
.50 BMG, .300 Winschester Magnum, .308 Winchester, and 5.56x45mm NATO (left to right)

What does the “BMG” Stand For?

The “BMG” in .50 BMG stands for “Browning Machine Gun.” This is reflective of the fact that the cartridge’s development took place alongside the design and production of the M2 machine gun.


Military Use

The cartridge entered service with the United States in 1921 and continues to be utilized to this present day. The round is commonly used by anti-materiel rifles and a variety of machine guns which are present on vehicles, aircraft, and in crew-served capacities. The cartridge has also seen a considerable amount of use by countries besides the United States. The .50 BMG was adopted as a NATO standardized round under STANAG 4383 under the 12.7x99mm NATO designation. As a result, many NATO countries and other parties have utilized the cartridge in anti-materiel and machine gun roles.


Who Makes .50 BMG Ammo?

A number of major ammunition manufacturers produce .50 BMG ammo. Companies around the globe in multiple countries offer ammunition of this type in a variety of loadings. For example, companies such as Magtech, PMC, Vairog, Lake City, and Hornady are among the producers of .50 BMG ammunition. Loadings for .50 BMG are generally going to feature projectiles ranging from 500 to 800 grains as far as bullet weight goes. Of course, some lighter and heavier loadings exist and can be found. Some loadings will feature standard full metal jacket (FMJ) projectiles while some .50 BMG ammo offerings feature more unique projectiles. These non-standard projectiles can feature projectiles such as Hornady A-MAX bullets which optimize the round for use at longer ranges.


How Available is .50 BMG Ammo?

At this point in time, a variety of .50 BMG ammo offerings are available on the market. However, these loadings are not nearly as plentiful as offerings for more contemporary calibers which are commonly found on shelves. Ammo for calibers such as 5.56x45mm NATO, .308 Winchester, and even .300 Winchester Magnum are going to be more prevalent than .50 BMG in most cases. This is not to say that one will be unable to find .50 BMG ammo, they will just have to look a bit harder locally or buy ammo online.


How Available are Firearms Chambered in .50 BMG?

There is a decent variety of firearms chambered in .50 BMG on the market today. These types of firearms will often be found in the form of bolt action or semi-automatic rifles. Companies such as Barrett, HM Defense, Cadex, Steyr, and Armalite are among the producers of rifles chambered in .50 BMG. Rifles are typically going to feature long barrels and the ability to accept muzzle devices such as flash hiders, suppressors, and muzzle brakes. Most rifles chambered in .50 BMG will feature factory installed muzzle devices to help tame recoil. All in all, one will be able to find a firearm chambered in .50 BMG if that is what they are after.

.50 BMG
.50 BMG

Is .50 BMG Ammo Legal?

.50 BMG ammo and firearms are legal to purchase, own, and use in most of the United States. While the caliber and firearms are legal in a majority of states, there are a few states which restrict ownership of the .50 BMG ammo and firearms. These states are California, Connecticut, Illinois, and New Jersey. Additionally, the District of Columbia also restricts the use and ownership of .50 BMG firearms and ammunition.

The restriction of the round has led to the creation of alternative rounds, such as the .416 Barrett, being developed to skirt ammo and firearm bans. Additionally, Barrett, a notable provider of .50 BMG firearms, will not service or sell .50 BMG firearms to government agencies in California, New York, op New Jersey. This move by Barrett is due to the firearms restrictions the states placed on civilians, specifically when it comes to the ownership of .50 BMG items. Simply put, a majority of the country has no issue with legal civilian ownership of .50 BMG ammo and firearms.



All in all, the .50 BMG continues to be a popular rifle cartridge among today’s shooters. The cartridge has persisted for over a century and has proven itself to be reliable among recreational shooters and professional end users alike. We here at True Shot Ammo offer .50 BMG ammo for sale in addition to our wide ammunition inventory. Whether you are after some .50 BMG ammunition or looking to buy ammunition of another type, we here at True Shot Ammo have you covered. As always, happy shooting.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website, call us at (888) 736-6587, or you can email us at [email protected] for more ammo options.


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One Response

  1. I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy and save the T. Elsberry articles on ammo. Shop for ammo and learn something at the same time. Keep up the good work.

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