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Bren L4



Bren light machine gun chambered in .303 British.
Source: Unknown author - © Copyright lies with original owner

United Kingdom
Light machine gun
Entered service
Limited service
Early 1930's
United Kingdom
1935 - 1971
United Kingdom - RSAF Enfield
Australia - Lithgow
Canada - John Inglis
India - Ishapore
Unit cost
GBP 40 during WW2
Number produced
About 0.5 million
Notable users
United Kingdom



The Bren is a light support weapon of UK origin and is an icon of British forces in World War 2. The Bren, most of the time called the "Bren gun", was adopted by the British forces in 1935 to increase the firepower of the rifle section. The name Bren comes from the names Brno and Enfield. With the former being the Czech place of origin of the design and the latter being place of production. The Bren was widely used during World War 2 and subsequent conflicts. The Bren was a weapon that was liked by its users and its long service life is a testament to its quality.


The design of the Bren is based on the Czechoslovak ZGB-33, which in turn is a modified ZB-26. As such it is a gas operated weapon with a tilting bolt. The Bren differs in a lot of small details, with the most visual being the curved magazine to accommodate the rimmed .303 cartridge instead of a straight one. A quick change barrel is fitted to allow for replacing the barrel during prolonged fire. When after World War 2 the UK adopted the 7.62x51mm NATO round the Bren was rechambered and known as the L4. The L4 differs in using a new barrel with slotted flash hider and magazines and some minor other changes. The rimless 7.62x51mm round resulted in a new straight 30 round magazine. The Bren was also used a lot on pintle mounts on all kinds of armored vehicles, most notably the Bren Carrier, but it was not used as a coaxial weapon.


As introduced Bren fired the British .303 round from a curved 30 round magazine. The converted models fire the 7.62x51mm NATO round from a straight 30 round magazine, but can also use 20 and 30 round FAL magazines as used by most Commonwealth forces. The cyclic rate of fire is a modest 500 rounds per minute. The practical rate of fire is much lower due to frequent magazine changes. The maximum effective range when firing from the bipod is about 600 meters.


The main user of the Bren has been the United Kingdom and was in widespread use during World War 2. The Bren was adopted by most Commonwealth nations and additionally the Bren was successful on the export market. In the UK the Bren was supplemented with the MAG after World War 2, but it remained in use right up till the end of the Cold War. Currently it has been replaced by 5.56mm weapon systems. The Bren continues to be used throughout the world, although in ever more limited numbers and usually with reserve forces.


Bren .303

The original Bren guns used during World War 2 were chambered in the .303 caliber and used curved magazines. The Mk I is the original British model and features a radial sight. Early models also had a wooden handle underneath the buttstock.

The Mk II is a more simplified model with larger gas port and tangent leaf rear sight, this was mainly produced in Canada.

The Mk III and Mk IV are conversion of the Mk I and Mk II with a shorter barrel for those units requiring a lighter and more compact model.

Bren L4

The Bren L4 is a conversion to the 7.62x51mm NATO round adopted after World War 2. The barrel, magazine assembly and magazines differ from the original .303 models.

The L4A1 and L4A2 are conversions of the Mk III, with the former having a Mk I bipod and the latter a lighter bipod. The L4A3 is a converted Mk II.

The L4A4, L4A5 and L4A6 are similar to the L4A2, L4A3 and L4A1 respectively, but fitted with a chrome barrel. The L4A9 is fitted with a L7 dovetail.


Facts Bren Mk I Bren Mk II Bren Mk III Bren Mk IV Bren L4A4
United Kingdom
Light machine gun
.303 British
Feed system
30 round detachable box magazine
Barrel length
635 mm
6 grooves, 254 mm right hand twist
Muzzle velocity
744 m/s
Gas operated
Tilting bolt
Fire selector
0 - 1 - F
Rate of fire
500 rpm
Stock type
1.156 mm
10.04 kg empty
11.29 kg loaded
Iron sights, radial rear sight
200 to 2.000 yards
Sight radius
788 mm


Related articles

BAR M1918

The Bren fulfilled a similar role during World War 2 for Commonwealth forces as the M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle for US forces.