So you want your very own BAR you say?
One of the most iconic US military firearms of the 20th Century was the Browning Automatic Rifle, better known by GIs in both World Wars as the BAR. Sadly, most of these guns were torched up and trashed in the 1960s, but if you look hard enough, you can find out for your very own.
What was the BAR?
Officially designated "Rifle, Caliber .30, Automatic, Browning, M1918," this 16-pound light machine gun was revolutionary when it was introduced in the tail end of the First World War. At the time, the US Army grew from 200,000 to over 4-million in the span of about 18-months. Far outstripping all of the arsenals of weapons, the new Doughboys needed a machinegun capable of being mass-produced, then carried into the field in huge numbers. It was to be used along with such wonder weapons as the Thompson submachine gun, Pedersen-device equipped Springfield rifles, armed airplanes and modern field artillery to scour No Man's Land of the Kaiser's storm troopers.
(The BAR was set up for "walking fire", in which the WWI soldier would carry it mounted as shown to provide suppressive fire while the Doughboys marched across No Man's Land. Looks comfortable doesn't it?)
Capable of full-auto fire, the gun, usually just referred to as the BAR, could fire 30.06 rounds as fast as 650 rounds per minute, which meant it could drain its 20-round detachable box magazine in as few as two seconds if set to rock and roll (or we should say, jitterbug). Although a beast, it was designed to be carried and operated by a single solider, which gave squad-sized units an incredible boost in firepower.
(The BAR, as the M1918A1 and M1918A2, saw lots of service and love during World War Two)
The gun proved so popular that it served both cops and robbers during the wild Prohibition era, and then was redesigned and produced in great numbers (100,000+) during World War Two. By 1959, the new-fangled M14 rifle replaced the BAR as well as its battle buddies the M1 Garand, M1/M2 carbines, and M3 submachine gun in active service. This led to most of these now surplus guns either being shipped overseas to allies or scrapped. Which means they are rare today. In fact, if you want a real, functioning Class III M1918, they can cost as much as a new car.
If your budget is a little lower, and you don't have the inclination to jump through the Class III hoops, there is always...
Based in Chardon, Ohio, Ohio Ordnance Works, Inc was established by TRW engineer and US Army (armor) veteran Robert I. Landies in 1981. Sticking first to buying and selling surplus military arms, by 1990 they expanded to production as the stocks of these old guns dried up. Today, as an ISO9001:2008 certified company; OOW produces a number of unique designs including a civilian-legal belt-fed rifle based on the M240 FN MAG machinegun and (drumroll) a semi-auto only BAR rifle.
The gun, the 1918A3 SLR, is a faithful reproduction of the classic WWI and WWII era M1918 BAR. Built around the heart made from a new locked breech semi-auto receiver constructed from an 8620 steel casting that has been carburized and induction heat treated, the gun uses surplus GI parts whenever possible to preserve history as much as possible. The receivers are machined on state-of-the-art, CNC machining centers, Phosphated, and assembled with care by trained smiths to produce something you just can't get these days.
They are available in either a wood version with walnut furniture or with Bakelite (polymer) stocks.
The bad news is that they run about $4300.
If you want to build your own and save money, OOW sells receiver sets for about half that amount that is ready to complete with your own parts.
The new semi-auto modernized BAR/HCAR from Ohio Ordinance (Photo credit Soldier Systems)
For something completely different, the company also has a modernized version that they brought to Shot Show this January. Clad in a Picatinny rails and looking far more 2014 than 1918, the updated BAR (called the HCAR for Heavy Counter Assault Rifle) is supposed to be available sometime this year for about $3600 http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2014/01/foghorn/new-improved-browning-automatic-rifle-bar-ohio-ordnance-works/ .
Specs of the HCAR Ohio Ordnance BAR reproduction, semi-auto civilian model
12lbs or 5.5kg (Original BAR weighs 19lbs or 8.5kg)
Magpul MIAD styled pistol grip
Ambidextrous bolt release
FAL style mag release
Intuitive thumb selector
Adjustable gas system
Threaded and "dimpled" barrel (reduces weight, adds more surface area for heat dissipation)
Fires from the closed bolt
1 MOA out to 1000yds or 915m (12" (30.5cm) group at 600yds (550m)
Adjustable trigger (two settings, 3.5 and 6.5lbs (1.5 and 3kg)
All of this reminds me of a joke I heard once...