Military Systems Group: Half a Century of Innovative Design

Military Systems Group: Half a Century of Innovative Design


By Dan Shea

Part of Military Systems Group’s CNC alley – a variety of high-quality machines with the capability of CNC lathe turning or CNC milling almost any size or type of metal. There are rows of machines like this, with different functions, and at the end is the toolmaker set up. Almost all prototyping and tool requirements can be handled in-house, along with full production runs.

“Military Systems Group: Always quality, always committed to the soldiers.”

Military Systems Group. Inc., located in Nashville, Tennessee, has a long and compelling history in the defense industry. Founded by E.R. ‘Pony’ Maples and Kay Horton in 1977 as part of the original RAMO Mfg. producing the Browning M2HB, the mount-building was in parallel with the first group designing the MK19, including the highly respected Colonel George M. Chinn. Pony astutely noted that a capabilities gap existed between those who made guns and those who made vehicles. Military Systems Group was created in 1984; to address this gap. The original concept was based on the clear need for specific vehicle mounting solutions, in a rapidly evolving vehicle environment. Company growth for almost half a century has been thoughtfully controlled, supportive of their government customers, and grown to be a key partner with many OEMs who supply military and law enforcement organizations worldwide.

There has always been a tremendous need for thoughtfully engineered and reliable mounts for combat vehicles, aircraft, and naval vessels. It’s not high visibility work like the fancy new machine guns might be, the mounts are seldom in the spotlight. Real end users and procurement professionals, though, know the environment soldiers work in is rough on equipment and while the firearms must be robust and reliable, the support systems for vehicle and aircraft mount must meet criteria that are every bit as demanding.

My take-away from meeting current ownership and their engineering/manufacturing team is: “Military Systems Group: always quality, always committed to the soldiers.” I got to spend a day with the owners (both of whom have served with distinction in elite U.S. military and U.S. government organizations), as well as Sales Engineer Barry Becker who has been with the company for over thirty years, the product development engineers, and the Director of Business Development Brace McCoy, as well as others on the team. Brace shared the vision for the company, including how much they value new customers and challenging projects. My in-depth time spent with the engineering team showed the deep commitment and knowledge base the company can draw from. They’re partners with a variety of key USG customers, as well as vehicle and weapon OEMs. As the meeting progressed, Brace emphasized that Military Systems Group is not just a mount manufacturer; they’re concept-to-production-to-fielding program managers for customer requirements. A U.S., NATO, OEM, or other international customer can contact MSG, start the concept conversation to develop a comprehensive needs analysis, and work with the company to get it finished – a one-stop shop for design/build weapons mounts and accessories. This collaborative design process led to the development of the USSOCOM turret system and gunner protection kit that is currently fielded for the GMV 1.1. With full engineering, research, and development in-house, prototyping, precision manufacturing, with market expertise to guide the customer, MSG is also a competitive build-to-print manufacturer. By way of illustration of one of their government contracts, MSG was recently awarded a $72M IDIQ to support prototyping activities for Naval Support Activity Dahlgren.

This large twin machine gun mount construct was designed and built entirely in-house at Military Systems Group. The weldment is pooled perfectly and the quality controls implemented guarantee that every product coming from the factory is up to standard.

Twin machine guns have always been desirable on vehicle mounts; they give an added range of options on rate of fire needed, among other things. The M240B machine guns shown in this mount, can use either the hydraulic stock with a rate of fire about 650rpm, or the mechanical buffer stock between 700-750 rpm. The operator can choose to fire one to preserve ammunition; or use both guns, doubling the downrange projectiles and creating an oval beaten zone.

Twin machine guns and mount from Military Systems Group.
Twin machine guns and mount from Military Systems Group.

Military Systems Group’s customers wanted the twin mount to use standard M240B or G left-hand-feed guns, which can be quickly dismounted and used in the infantry style, thus the bipods are in place as well as stocks and pistol grips. Pull one pin, dismount, ready to move into the fight on the ground. When twin mounts were originally adopted, it was for air-to-air fighting, and the guns were set to converge at a certain point that was considered optimum distance in a dogfight. This put all rounds into a close group at the selected range- unfortunately, what converges, also diverges. The Military Systems Group engineers and customers agreed that the bullet streams should be in parallel to each other, thus creating an oval beaten zone, covering downrange more effectively to the aim. Feeding and brass/link disposal when you have two left-hand guns is always an issue. The M240 machine gun violently ejects the brass downward, and the links drop from gravity into the same basic area. The right-hand gun must have its ammo can to the right, but feed under the gun to the left side via a channel. The specially designed 600 round ammo cans use the same anti-whip principles as used in the M134 minigun, but the right and left cans must be loaded opposite to each other to present properly to the guns. The special mount base has dual shelves with angles that are anti-spinback, for the brass to deflect downward properly, and the link chute angles do so as well, so no brass or links gum up the system. In the opinion of this writer, an excellent and well-thought-out twin mount. 

Mount parts, 100% made at Military Systems, ready for assembly.

Ground Vehicle Solutions from Military Systems Group on OEM platforms

  • GMV1.1     General Dynamics/ Flyer Defense
  • MRZR         Polaris Defense
  • HMMWV    AM General
  • MATV         Oshkosh
  • NSCV          Battelle
  • ISV             GM Defense
  • DAGOR     Polaris Defense
  • Stryker       General Dynamics
  • LAV          General Dynamics
Military Systems Group’s new DShK mount.

The new generation of Military Systems Group’s DShK mount. The DShK has a fairly violent recoil to match its equally impressive muzzle blast; and in the past 20-odd years the DShK and its smaller companion machine gun in many theaters, the PKM, need to be interfaced with U.S./NATO style mounting systems. Here, the DShK is shown on Military Systems Groups’ newest generation of DShK mount on an extended vehicle arm with a vehicle pintle stem, Universal Pintle Adapter travel lock bar and traverse & elevation mechanism. All of those components interchange with the M2HB and MK19 type systems, and the pintle can also be ordered as a 30-50 pintle for the M3 tripod that uses the T&E mechanism. This is a strong, lightweight mount; the charging handle (always part of a DShK mount) is convenient to the left rear under the grips. It is still possible to charge the DShK with a spent 12.7x108mm in case of emergencies. The PKM mount (not shown) is equally adaptable and lightweight. This author has fired extensively with both the MSG first generation DShK mount on vehicle and M3 tripod, and the PKM mounts as well, and can attest to the design being well suited to the guns.

Aircraft Outfitted by Military Systems Group

  • CH-148 Cyclone (CMHP)
  • UH60/S-70i Black Hawk
  • Mi-17 
  • S-70B SeaHawk
  • MH-6 Little Bird
  • S-92 Super Hawk
  • AS332 Super Puma
  • EC725/H225 Carical
  • 212/412/UH1 Bell
Military Systems Group’s Universal M134 Minigun Mount System.

The Universal M134 Minigun Mount Systems were designed for several customers in a variety of helicopter uses such as the Mi-17 door gun mount. This is custom work that the Military Systems Group engineers had to customize in a very short period for customer needs. Any of the various 7.62mm M134 manufacturers’ guns will fit, no modification. This is a stand-alone system generally not requiring extra integration to the aircraft, mounts to the standard bases. It uses any of the standard M134 ammunition cans.

The system requirement included the operator having the ability to prepare the M134 for firing before opening the door, as well as having a footprint/width that appeared to be approximately 12 inches wide. The mount is robust yet light weight, can be adjusted for either side mounting, and stows in a very small area (as shown). The swingarm system has very positive lock positions, rotates in or out on two planes, and the locking/release mechanisms are large enough to handle but are unobtrusive. Reports from end users are that it is an excellent mount, solid to fire from, but this author has not had the chance to live fire from the mount, yet.

Maritime Vehicles Outfitted by Military Systems Group

  • DDG-Class Destroyers
  • High Speed Interceptors
  • Inflatable Boats
  • Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats
  • Fiberglass Hull Inflatable Boats
  • Aluminum Hull Patrol Boats
  • LA-Class SSN Submarines

Richland Industries LLC

While the size of the facility for Military Systems Group is impressive, and the capabilities are very well-rounded and can accomplish almost any project they take on, the owners allowed that for larger contracts, they also own Richland Industries LLC. Conveniently located between Nashville and Huntsville, AL (an hour south of MSG) the Richland facility has over 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space, with a plethora of fabricating/manufacturing capabilities which includes over 21 overhead cranes, and its own railhead.  Richland primarily supports commercial customers such as municipal clean water facilities and serves to offset some of the risk associated with Defense Contracting.  However, when Military Systems Group receives large orders, they can rapidly pivot to utilize these capabilities.

  • CNC Programmers CNC & Manual Machining for parts up to 30 feet long
  • Conventional & CNC Lathe Turning & Milling
  • Certified ASME Section IX MIG, TIG, and Robotic Welding
  • CNC Press braking
  • Grinding
  • Rolling
  • Precision cutting with Plasma, Shears, Saws, Waterjets, & Fiber laser cutting
  • Sandblasting, Wet Paint and a large Powder Coating Oven
  • AS9100 and ISO 9001 Certified
  • Cage Code ODDW5
  • GSA GS-07F-596OR
  • FFL Type 10
  • ITAR Registered for Export
  • 100% made in the USA


Military Systems Group Inc.
736 Fesslers Lane
Nashville, TN
Tel: +1- 615-256-4248