EVOLUTION OF THE GUN MOUNT
By Bob Morrison
Sylvester Stallone may be able to fire a .50cal machinegun from the hip while standing in the back of a moving vehicle and stitch down row after row of bad guys with every bullet fired finding its target, but off-screen the reality is that even hitting a barn door with second and subsequent rounds is a pretty tall order unless your machinegun is on a tripod or a pretty substantial vehicle mount. Bring vehicle movement into the equation, be that either the rocking and swaying of travel over anything other than a dead straight tarmac road or the movement of the suspension when a static vehicle takes up the recoil, and the chances of even getting the first round on target diminish markedly.
Early machinegun mounts on vehicles were little more than simple pintles, usually either in a fixed location socket on the bodywork or on a simple pedestal post if the vehicle was unarmoured. The former usually provided a limited field of fire, with the gunner needing to reposition himself in an arc rather than being able to reposition the weapon when tracking a moving target and though the latter usually gave a full 360 degree field of fire it not only required the gunner to move with the weapon but usually left him exposed as the pedestal normally had to be positioned in the centre of the vehicle’s cargo bed to give all-round clearance and freedom of movement.
The solution to allowing the gunner 360 degree traverse while not leaving him so exposed to both the elements and enemy fire was the pulpit or ring mount, where the spigot mount and gun cradle assembly was attached to a ring on a ball race around the edge of a circular hatch. This arrangement allowed both all-round coverage, by rotating the ring, and fine traverse through the horizontal movement of the gun cradle itself.
A ring mount solved the traverse problem when engaging targets in roughly the same plane as the vehicle, but for a self-defence machinegun to also engage low-flying aircraft and helicopters or, in the case of urban engagements, an enemy attacking from above the elevation problem had to be resolved. This is where the elbow-like vertical swing mount came into its own, particularly when used in conjunction with a ring to allow both full traverse and maximum elevation with reasonable depression.
The classic example of the modern ring mount principle has to be the US Humvee, which rose to prominence in the eighties, and this relatively simple method of mounting a medium or heavy machinegun on a roof ring was adopted in the nineties for lightweight utility vehicles such as Land Rover’s Defender, first on the US Rangers Special Operations Vehicle variant, and later on the WMIK Wolf model. When the Supacat HMT or Jackal was procured for Afghanistan, the now well proven ring mount concept migrated over, allowing either the .50cal Heavy Machine Gun or 40mm Lightweight Automatic Grenade Launcher to be carried as standard.
For armour protected vehicles, such as Viking or the Mastiff / Ridgback family for example, a large diameter ring mount of the type used on light utility vehicles is impractical as its opening would negate overhead armour protection, so in these circumstances a swing mount, positioned next to the roof hatch, which allows both elevation and traverse is a better option. In the eighties the Danish DISA swing mount fixed alongside the commander’s mini turret, which allowed both defensive fire against ground targets and air defence against helicopters, was adopted for the Saxon ‘Battlefield Taxi’ roled for conveying Territorial Army infantry reinforcements for the British Army of the Rhine.
This swing mount concept migrated to the BV206 oversnow vehicle, but the limited traverse was far from ideal. The Dutch Marines overcame this problem by fitting a complex double U-frame tubular swing mount to a small diameter turret ring and when their new Land Rover Wolf fleet entered service at the turn of the m