The Maxson M45 Quadmount .50 caliber "Meat Chopper" was one of the most effective weapons against low flying aircraft during World War II. It went on to serve extensively in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, providing ground fire against enemy troops. Today, if you're lucky, you might see one at a gun shoot, such as the one above.

WWII ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN


The M45 was the brainchild of the W. L. Maxson Corporation of New York. It was produced in 1943 in response to German Luftwaffe planes strafing Allied soldiers on the ground in Europe during World War II. The US wanted something that could shoot down the aircraft and strike fear into the pilots.

An M45 mounted on a M16 half-track during World War II. (US Army)
Maxson had designed a two-gun mount for the Army, dubbed the M33. However, they took it up a few notches with the M45. Four Browning .50 caliber heavy machine guns were mounted on a quick-moving turret that could rotate 360 degrees and elevate between -10 and +90 degrees.
 

ELECTRONICALLY DRIVEN


The M45 turret was powered by electrical servos that ran on two 6-volt batteries. These were recharged by a small engine running a generator. Two platforms were used to transport the turret during WWII -- the M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage, and the M51 Multiple Machine Gun Carriage.

 

Diagram from the M45’s manual showing the layout and some of the parts. (US Army)
 

KEEP THE BARRELS COOL


Although all four guns could be fired at once, standard practice was to alternate between the upper and lower pair of guns. This allowed for the unused barrels to cool, thus allowing longer periods of action. It was also possible to “tune" the guns to converge on a single point at distances. This could be reset while in use.

The M45 was manned by a gunner and two loaders. The gunner sat in a cockpit and used a large spider web-type graduated sight with lead-elements built in. The effective range was approximately 2,000 yards. The loaders fed the four guns using 200-round tombstone-shaped magazines. With each gun firing some 550-rounds per minute, the rate of fire for the mount was a punishing 2,200-rounds per minute.
 
Crew firing Quad Mount Cal. 50 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage M-17, 21 AAA, Korea, 1953. (US Army)

 

A VERY EFFECTIVE WEAPON


The M45 proved to be a very effective weapon for what it was intended -- deterring strafing runs by enemy aircraft. It was used extensively in the European Theater. The weapon system was also employed on US Navy ships with moderate success. As the jet age began, it was less effective against the fast-flying aircraft.

After WWII, the M45 saw extensive use in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, mainly against enemy ground troops. It was very effective in this role.

Quad .50 used for convoy security along Route 9. (US Army)

 

CURRENT DAY M45S

 

You don't see a lot of M45 Quadmounts rolling down the highways in America these days. Steve Carlesco of Gunsmith Inc., however, tows his rig around the northeast bringing it to various gun shoots to give the public a chance to get behind the controls and lay down some serious heat.

In 2017, Carlesco brought his M45C to the Green Mountain Boys machine gun shoot in Eden, Vermont. It was built in 1944 and according to him, is the only active unit on the road that actually fires in the USA. It’s all original, except for some newer batteries.

At the Eden shoot, Carlesco’s M45 turned a target car downrange into a smoldering heap. The sound of the four .50 caliber Brownings firing in unison was like sweet thunder. I stood nearby and felt my body vibrate. It was magical. However, I could imagine how terrifying it would as the enemy being downrange of this formidable weapon.

Check out Guns.com's Collector Corner for all kinds of fascinating vintage guns.

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