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Light Machine Gun


M249 Squad Automatic Weapon

Caliber 5.56-mm
Cartridge type 5.56 x 45 mm
Dimensions and weight 
Total weight (with empty magazine) 6.9 kg (15 pounds)
Overall length  1 038 mm (41 in)
 Length (with folded buttstock) 766 mm (PARA version)
Barrel length 456 mm (18 in)
Fire characteristics
Bullets initial speed 838 m/s
Rate of fire 725 rpm
Practical rate of fire 200 rpm
Magazine capacity 30, 100, 200 rounds
Range of effective fire 1 000 m

For the first half of the twentieth century, the most popular (and the best) squad automatic rifle was none other than the famous .30cal Browning Automatic Rifle. However after World War II, the weapon was fastly becoming obsolete. A new squad weapon was of great need. After much deliberation and testing, these needs were met when the United States Army adopted the Belgian FN MINIMI concept in 1982. Having the best qualities of its type, the United States massed produced this weapon and thus, the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) was born.

The M249 is no stranger to most NATO countries' arsenals. Its fully automatic function that operates on an open bolt position is the only one of its kind. Its lightweight of about 22 pounds, pistol grip handling, and well-balanced body makes the gun a comfortable weapon to handle. Like all SAWs it is a gas-powered, air-cooled rifle that fires a 4.5-mm NATO cartridge. The weapon can be fed by a number of different methods. These include a 200 round belt, soft pouch, or a typical plastic case in the M249's top mounted feed tray. The M249 is built to handle Beta-C Magazines, which carry 100 4.5-mm NATO rounds (These aren't very popular due to problems relating to the Beta-C magazines reliability). Also, in circumstances when a shooter unexpectedly runs out of ammunition, the M249 is built to accept M16-like 30 round style of clips. This function is not recommended as jamming often occurs. Fortunately, the M249's "quick change" reloading system allows the shooter to change ammo within moments, making the 30 round clips usually unnecessary.

M249 Squad Automatic Weapon The rate of fire for the M249's class is relatively normal. The 200 rpm of the weapon is only accomplished however with a barrel change every two minutes. A lesser velocity of 85 rpm is practical with no barrel changes and the M249 is capable of achieving an astonishing 850-rpm with an ammo change every minute. This making the M249 a controllable weapon in a small high fire environment as well as the need to produce a large blanket of fire in a ballistic firefight. The rage of the M249 varies quiet a lot on the target type and the number of times the barrel is changed. The weapon's design allows for an absolute maximum range to extend to 3,600 m. Effective ranges for a point target is 600 m, and for an area target the range is 800 m. This range is further extended to 1,000 m in the case of suppression fire.

As a chosen weapon of the United States Army, one of the most impressive feats of the M249s is it durability and reliability. A series of extreme and brutal tests were conducted to prove the M249's quality and enrolment in NATO's arsenal. The M249 was put through a number of firing tests in which the gun was cleaned every 2000 rounds' and cooking tests in which the M249's rate of fire was slowed to 85 rpm. The consistent worry by a soldier of a bolt going into the battery with a broken pin was a fearful one. This consistent fear was reduced by the performance of the M249, along with other issues, such as lack of lubrication, noise and smokes levels, and flash visibility. As the M249 continued to impress the trials, most rigorous tests were conducted. With out cleaning, the weapon was separately submersed in salt water for hours, dipped in wet mud, dipped in mud then allowed to dry, exposed to a sandstorm and harsh water environments. Then the weapon was operated after all of these trials. A successful firing left a jaw dropping effect on its spectators. The M249 was also put in extreme temperatures and operated; such as a humidity chamber for 10 days (to simulate tropical environments), along with drastic temperatures of 155F and -50F, the M249's firing was still effective. Overall, a 95% reliability rating was established for the weapon. By far a most impressive and outstanding score and certainly worthy of high-end military use.


A well balanced, reliable and fully automatic weapon. Easily capable of handling almost any battle scenario, in any condition. Lightweight, comfortable handling, and fairly large ammo load are all great features that come with the M249. One of the best guns of its type makes the M249 a common sight in NATO and particularly United States operations.


The M249 has reported to have most of its mechanical problems in Iraq. Although the age of some of the weapons is a considerable cause, sandy environments are known for causing a good deal of damage to the weapons inner workings. The ability to quickly load an M16 magazine in the ammo slot in times of great urgency is a handy tool, but this action often results in the gun's ammo feed system jamming.

Written by visitorWritten by Sean Carvell (Do you also want to become an editor?)

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