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World’s Largest Machine Gun: Inside the 40mm Bofors Build

by Will Hayden   |  April 5th, 2012 38

Ira, our friend and resident heavy weapons expert showed up with a pretty big surprise a while back, a 40mm Bofors anti aircraft automatic cannon. Needless to say, this is the most incredible gun to ever roll into the Red Jacket shop.

The Bofors is a fully automatic anti-aircraft cannon that was one of the most popular medium-weight anti-aircraft systems during World War II on both sides. It can be used from the ground or from a ship, and the cannon remains in service as of 2012, making it one of the longest-serving artillery pieces of all time.

Ira’s Bofors already worked when it showed up at the door, so all we needed to do was get the road dust cleaned up and get it out to our own personal demonstration spot. This is simply the world’s largest machine gun, shooting150-200 rounds per minute, weighing in at 4,370 pounds and costing its lucky owner about $150,000 in working condition.

Presentation is important with a gun like this one, any client willing to drop that kind of coin on this once-in-a-lifetime gun is going to have to be more than impressed. You want to put the gun in a setting that makes it real for him.

The gun has over 500 parts and came with a pretty thick manual written entirely in Finnish, which made it all the more nerve racking when Kris discovered the gun wasn’t in working order about 96 hours before Ira’s client was going to give it a damn test drive. We were getting pretty nervous until we discovered a small gear that had come out of place during transit that was preventing the barrel from articulating.

Seems it was a small and simple fix — I just used a dowel rod to pop it back in place– and we were on our way to one of the most incredible range days of my shooting life.

But wait, it couldn’t have been that easy. The charging handle didn’t work, and that’s the only way to manually load the Bofors. Sometimes things just aren’t simple.

Joe, Flem and Kris had to remove the loading tray and replace the pin a was missing from the feeding mechanism. Can anyone else see the irony in a tiny pin is preventing us from shooting a nearly 5000-pound cannon?

The cartridges for the Bofors weigh about five pounds each and pack enough charge to send a two pound projectile out of the barrel at roughly 2800 fps (the ejected cases move at about 200 fps coming out of the back of the cannon).

Firing it on full auto with a good loader is something that simply has to be felt to be understood. It’s a full mind and body experience. The targets moving, you’re moving the gun to keep it on target, the noise is overwhelming, the smoke from the muzzle blast is nearly blinding and the steady, rhythmic recoil seems to go through every part of your body. I only got to do it once but I promise you it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

In the end, Ira did good business and we had a great time working with him. See ya’ll next week.

  • fghthjn

    I don't watch this show. I have an allergy to Butt heads.

    • hicusdicus

      I agree!

      • Greg

        Good to see, i recall the story of my now deceased father, some Me 262 flew overhead slowly as if they were conserving fuel, well anyway the gun miss fired and they got away.

    • Sam

      How does one such as yourself know the quality of the people in the show if you dont watch it. Sounds like a unqualified opinion to one such as I

    • Al Brady

      Sounds to me that you have rhumatoid arthritis. Your body is rejecting YOU!

    • bassslayer1960

      if you have an allergy to "buttheads", do you get sick when you look in the mirror?

    • bassslayer1960

      you probably couldn't fight your way out of a wet paperbag.
      Come uphere to the northwoods,and i'll show you what it really means to support our god given 2nd amendment rights!!!!

    • pile drvr 2375

      so you have an allergy to you self,you are probably a pacifist

  • Alan C Rhine

    you forgot to mention that 40mm bofors were used in the AC-130 A/E models Gunships

  • mikee

    manual in finnish??? really?? the thing is built in sweden and it should not be a prolblem to get som info from the still existing factory here in Karlskoga, Sweden! Bofors factory is a part of BAE systems I think!

  • Raymond Clifford

    Your comment section is preventing the Facebook share? Looks awesome!

  • Raymond Clifford

    You're kidding? They had that available during W W 2? Holy Crap!

  • josephpmartino

    I learned to be a loader on one of those things when I was in the Naval Reserve back in the 1950s. Lots of fun firing them on annual cruises. Also learned to field-strip and lubricate them.

  • Jim Raymond

    There's a reason I do not watch this show and I think I just saw it, plus I don't see a reason to make this redneck any richer then he already is.

    • Gunslick

      AND it's people like you that don't understand the 2nd amendment, and the right like so called rednecks to own and operate ANYTHING the military has a right to. You are probably a good Demoncrat though and own a cat… get a life… and learn what it means to be a responsible citizen.

    • gold1

      I bet if you ever handled a BB gun , it made you nervous.

      • guest

        I own a cat…a BB gun ( well, my daughter does) and a H&K 91, Mk 4 Series 70 Colt, P89 Rugar (pre-brady Bill) and a customied .44 Rugar Super Blackhawk…plus a couple of shotguns, a few more pistols, and abour 7 bolt-action hunting rifles of different caliber…including a 7.7 Jap Arisaka….does that make me a Redneck or a Candy-a** liberal???

        • Kyle Meier

          i smell bull. Its spelled ruger not rugar.

          • Pete

            That's the best you could come up with?

  • paultmccain

    SPF Russian fired one that had a a motor on in it allowing rapid movement and target acquisition. What a beast!

  • Remco van de Sanden

    Haha, I used to be a gunner on these 40L70 guns when I was in the Dutch Airforce. Hooked up 3 guns with 1 flycatcher Radar and boom…

    Great fun, great guns.

  • Shadow

    Red Jacket has all the fun. What I wouldn't kill to have job working for Will.

  • Capt_IA

    What's the story on this guy, Haden? Caller's into the Walton & Johnson radio show stated that Haden 's ego and a**hole are so big he needs a wrecker to move either one. While at the SHOT Show this year I noticed that Sons of Guns had a booth w/flamethrower armed PU, a useful item for the SHOT Show to have on hand. My senior firearms instructor for the SO bud told me that Haden had been booted from the LSP firing range for safety violations and lost his FFL license.

    Since most of the items shown on his show are covered by LA RS: 40 here in Louisiana and NFA on the Fed level who owns the shop and who's name is on the license to make all of the interesting items?

  • dhconner

    FghtnJN_–the only buttheadaround here is you and your brother Bevis.
    J Raymond: you need to get out de-tasseling corn, working in a garden, laboring on a concrete ganag, running a 100# airhammer, and some of the other jobs I've done. Then you/d know why we have red necks—because it's outside in often 95 to 110 degree heat and sunshine. But don't let that make you think we're stupid, boy. Sounds like an insane case of jealousy when you whine about how rich Red Jacket's owner is. It's called the "fruits of your labors". It comes from working for a living, not drawing on the trust fund when you want a new Ferrari or Bugatti or Rolex or what the hell ever you want. Shut up and go away–we don't want or need to hear whimpering from you or anybody else. Go find a rag and get the corner wet and put some sugar on it. Then you'll have a sugar tit to suck on, and that'll kep you quiet.

  • kdbaki

    Some people have to act like they are better then the rest of us, enjoy the show or kiss off !

  • Douglas Knight

    Yhe M42 Duster used in Nam had 2 mounted in a half open turret. Could the 75 mm Skysweeper have qualified as a "machine gun"? The Bofors is a cannon-machine guns are small arms .50 cal. or less.

  • aroscan

    Yesuh!! I agree with the neg. bunch of kiss asses that wet their pants with excitement when somethin goes boom or BOOM. YESUH mista bossman

  • Harding

    Had them in WWII? Hell, yes, and on the US Navy ships, they were in 4-barrel quads. Just watch any of the videos of naval AA fire, especially the kamikaze videos, and you'll see them banging away at the planes with overworked 'loaders' with the 4-pack block of rounds being loaded into the ammo bales. One man on windage (horizontal movement) and one on elevation (vertical movement) whipping round on wheels with two handles; these crews filled the skies with shells and flak.

    We had two of those tubs on an old WWII destroyer I was on for a short time and watching those guys work was like watching a synchronized drill or dance team with everyone doing his job so well that it was as if they were all digitally connected. And they nailed the targets!

  • grock24

    I like the show and the BOFORS and rednecks!!!!

  • Disabledarmyvet

    Hi Will:

    This show was one of those that had a one liner that you never forget: when Vince stated that you gave the old gun to the professor and Gilligan. That has to be classic! My wife and I enjoy the entire cast. We hope you stay together.

    Being a gun enthusiast, I enjoy your builds although I'm partial to those employed by the allies. Keep up the good work and keep your team together.

  • Guest

    Love the show! And the smell of burnt nitrocellulose! "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Indeed! Happiness is a warm gun! Oh, yeah!

    • Gary

      And Lots and Lots of Ammo otherwise you just have an expensive and not so effective club

  • Mack Missiletoe

    yah, I was going to say this is a 40mm cannon not machine gun… but we know what they meant :)

    Yall need to check out the documentary The World at War. it's huge, and i believe everyone needs to watch it. The machines that were created and the situations which took place during WWII is both horrifying and awesome. A boy will become a man after watching some o' that! For real…

    I don't feel we're all that far off from then, WWII.

  • ldgrey1963

    Will Hayden may have an arrogant streak a mile wide, but he sure makes for good entertainment. I worked with a man who looked and acted just like him. Most of the people I work with now could not stand him (my ex-boss) but I have a high regard for him and Will Hayden. I do not personnaly know Mr Hayden, but I am sure he is quite a different person when the cameras are not directed at him. Just my 2 cents for what it is worth.

  • Kyle Meier

    if you read the banner at the top of the page it says– "with out the drama" Let cooler heads prevail and keep it that way. Please. And thank you.

  • Jim K

    Show the guns, show the work and show the equipment. Leave the high school drama, egos and the unneeded explosions out, and you have a pretty good show.

  • Fred

    Great entertainment, loads of made for TV drama and some pure BS, but exactly what the TV producers are looking for. Our shop had a screen test from Leftfield Productions but we do not have tatooed, shaved head, big titted drama queens working for us so we were not of interest to them. But taken as exactly what they are, entertainment mostly and factual presentation a distant second place, they succeed in their goal.

  • gbaltil

    Kris can tell you when a gun doesnt fire. Is that his job? He sure cant do nothing else but kiss Wills ass. I wonder how he can breath with all that doodoo up his shnoz…useless pos. He aint worth breathing our precious air. I waste of natural resources.

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