Bren Gun Magazine

The Bren gun is instantly recognisable by its curved magazines, mounted on the top of the receiver. These magazines hold up to thirty rounds of .303 ammunition and it is the rim on this round that gives the magazine its distinctive shape. There are two distinct patterns of magazine for the Bren. The very rare Mk I magazine was quickly replaced by a revised Mk II design and these are available in huge numbers on the collectors’ market with examples available for less than 5 each. Despite its ubiquitous nature, these magazines are worth closer study as they were a very successful design that allowed the Bren to overcome the limitations of its ammunition:

The magazine body is made of pressed steel, with a seperately attached floor plate. Note the two half moon crescents that indicate this is a Mk II magazine:

The eminent firearms historian Peter Laidler explains:

What differentiates your Mk2 (and 2* magazines) from the earlier Mk1 types are the two ‘D’ shaped dimples in the base plate and corresponding retainer plate inside. These dimples ensure that you can only slide the base plate off an inch or so at which point the plate will be free to tip off instead of winging its way across the firing point. Much to everyone’s amusement except yours and the firing point Officer who’ll shout and rave for a few minutes

Inside the magazine is a powerful spring that pushes up on the follower to feed the rounds down to the gun’s receiver:

The two feed lips on either side hold the rounds in the magazine until they are picked up and fed into the breach. Nominally this magazine should hold 30 rounds of .303 but for reliable feeding it was usually only filled with 28:

These magazines usually have a number of different stamps in the metal. Here the Roman numeral II indicates that this is a Mk II magazine:

Looking on the other side we have a date of 1942, an inspector’s mark, a /|\ ownership mark and the factory code ‘M’:

I have not been able to identify the exact factory yet as I lack the reference books that cover these details. The magazines were made by numerous factories in the UK as well as in Canada and Australia amongst other nations. The Bren magazine is remarkable in so reliably feeding such an awkward round as .303. Any rimmed round is difficult to use with a magazine fed machine gun (for a truly difficult round/magazine/gun combination see the French Chautchaut) but there are next to no reported problems in this respect from the Bren and this is down in large part to the quality of the magazine design.

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