British light machine gun BREN Mk I-IV from World War II.
History, development, specifications, statistics, in action, pictures and 3D model.

Bren Mk I
Bren Mk I

Type: light machine gun.


The British soldiers who had ever used the Bren machine gun only spoke praiseworthy words about it – and for good reason. Almost certainly it was the best light machine gun ever used by any army in large numbers. It was reliable, robust, simple and accurate – and that’s all it mattered.

The design originally came from Czechoslovakia, but there were doubts about its authenticity. Czechoslovakia had been an ally of France since the end of World War One, and the links between the French War Ministry and the Czech Defense Ministry were the closest. One result of this was the production of the French Chatellerault machine gun in the Czech government arsenal in Prague and its sale as a commercial weapon under the name ZB. It is said that this was later extensively tested by the British Army and that a license agreement was signed in May 1935.

There is a clear similarity in form between the Chatellerault and the ZB26, but later research has revealed the existence of a ZB24 model produced before the arrival of the first Chatellerault. So it looks as if the ZB is actually a complete Czech product. In view of the reports about catastrophic explosions and other disturbances, which became known from the Chatellerault during the first years of use, and which did not occur with the Bren, this is probably correct.

The Czech ZB26 was followed by a slightly improved model, the ZB30, which was brought to Britain in the early 1930s. The British Army was looking for a new light machine gun to replace the Lewis at that time and showed interest, provided the weapon could fire cartridges in standard British caliber.
In a surprisingly short period of time, the Czechs were back with a specially produced model, the ZB33. From this model only a handful were produced as demonstration and test weapons, and it was a converted ZB30 for the British .303 (7.7 mm) cartridge with shortened barrel, the gas outlet repositioned and the sight settings changed to yards. The presented weapon showed a high degree of commercial intelligence.

British paratroopers in North Africa
British paratroopers in North Africa with a Bren Mk I.

The other light machine guns considered by the British at that time were the Danish Madsen and the Vickers-Berthier. The latter was almost accepted when the new ZB33 was arriving.
Subsequent comparative studies showed the superiority of the ZB design and it was adopted as Bren Gun Mark I and officially put into service on August 4, 1938.
This model was a direct copy of the ZB33 and had a drum visor attached further back, a strap that could be stretched over the gunner’s shoulder and a recess for the left hand to press on the shaft.
The function of the light machine gun was done by gas extraction in the middle of the barrel. The barrel could be changed in a very short time.

The magazine with 30 rounds was curved due to the requirements for the supply of the British rimmed cartridge. The original Czech design for the rimless 7.92 mm ammunition had a straight magazine.


Mark II: The light machine gun Bren Mk I was a bit too luxurious for war times and in order to simplify the production, some modifications were made. The stump fittings were discarded, the drum sight was replaced by a simpler tangent sight, the telescopic bipod was replaced by a simpler fixed length bipod, with the cocking lever no longer being folded, and some brightening on the case was omitted, increasing the weight up to 23 1/4 lb (10.65 kg). This model was introduced on 6 June 1941.

Mark III and IV: Introduced on July 18, 1944, these models were identical to Mark I and Mark II, with the exception that the barrel was only 22.25in (56.5cm) long.


All production in the UK was carried out under license, without exception, at the state-owned weapons factory in Enfield. In order to avoid failures due to possible German air raids, production was later extended to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth states.

At Enfield in Great Britain, 280,000 Bren machine guns were built during the Second World War. In Canada, the company John Inglis (Toronto) built 228,000 Bren’s, some of which went to the Chinese Nationalist Army.

During the Second World War, the arms’ factory in Czechoslovakia also delivered 3,334 units of the ZB33, which was identical to the Bren, to the Bulgarian Armed Forces.

In Action

Bren machine gun in action
The Bren machine gun in action to support the infantry during the attack.

The Bren machine gun was probably the most commonly used light machine gun in World War II. It proved itself reliably even under the worst external conditions and was the standard suppressing weapon of the British infantry group. It was also used by Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops. In addition, there were the Free French Army, Polish Armed Forces in Exile and the Czech National Army in Exile, as well as the Indian and National Chinese armies.
And in the original Czech form with the 7.92 mm cartridge, it was also used by the Wehrmacht and built further for them.

British infantry on Sicily
British infantry on Sicily in 1943. The soldier in front carries the Bren and the one behind him the Lee-Enfield rifle.

The Bren machine gun has been used everywhere, and there have been numerous outstanding reports on combat performance.
A bold action took place on September 18, 1944, when Sherbahadur Thapa the 1st/9th Gurkhas seized a Bren and stormed a machine gun position, killing the German gunner. Immediately a group of German infantrymen started a counterattack on the position and Sherbahadur Thapa fended off the attack with his Bren. Then he stormed to the ridge of the hill and fired lying in the open into a German infantry company, which was there ready for a counterattack on the Gurkhas.
Shortly thereafter, Gurkha gunner Sherbahadur Thapa was also killed as he tried to bring a wounded comrade under fire to safety. For this achievement, Sherbahadur Thapa was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Bren machine gun was used by the British Army in its role as an infantry suppressing weapon until the 1970s with NATO ammunition. Even today, it is used in parts of the world by various armed forces.

Users (all Bren variants and ZB30/33): United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Free French, Poland (Exiles), Czechoslovakia (ZB30, Bren in Exiles), India, National China (ZB30 and Bren), Bulgaria (ZB33), Germany (ZB30), Romania (ZB30), Yugoslavia (ZB30).

3D model Bren light machine gun

Specifications Bren light machine gun


Bren Mark ISpecification
Typelight machine gun
Caliber 0.303in (7.70mm)
Length 45.25in (115.60cm)
Weight 22lb 5oz (10.2kg)
Barrel 25.0in (63.5cm) long; 6 grooves; right hand twist
Feed System 30-round detachable box magazine
System of Operation Gas; tipping bolt
Muzzle velocity 2,400 ft per second (730 m/s)
Rate of fire 500 rpm (cyclic)

Service statistics:

Bren machine gunsfigures
Manufactures Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield Lock (Middlesex), John Inglis (Toronto, Canada)
Production delivery September 1937
Final delivery in service by the British Army until the 1970s
Production figure in Britain during WW2: 280,000; in Canada during WW2: 228,000
Price per unitunknown

References and literature

The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II (Ian V.Hogg)
Infanterie im 2. Weltkrieg (J.B.King, John Batchelor)
Illustriertes Lexikon der Waffen im 1. und 2. Weltkrieg (V. Dolinek, V. Francev, J. Sach)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)

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