M249 light machine gun

The M249 light machine gun (LMG), formerly designated the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), and formally written as Light Machine Gun, 5.56 mm, M249, is the American adaptation of the Belgian FN Minimi, a light machine gun manufactured by the Belgian company FN Herstal (FN). The M249 is manufactured in the United States by the local subsidiary FN Manufacturing LLC in South Carolina and is widely used in the U.S. Armed Forces (it's the US Army's default machine gun). The weapon was introduced in 1984 after being judged the most effective of a number of candidate weapons to address the lack of automatic firepower in small units. The M249 provides infantry squads with the heavy volume of fire of a machine gun combined with accuracy and portability approaching that of a rifle.

M249 light machine gun
Class Manportable
Type Machine Guns
Manufacturer FN Herstal
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1984
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Afghanistan 2001 2014 View
Bosnia-Herzegovina 1992 1995 View
Iraq 1990 1991 View
Iraq 2003 2011 View
Panama 1989 1990 View
Somalia 1992 1993 View
Syria 2011 View
Kosovo 1998 1999 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
FN Herstal 1984 View

The M249 is a belt-fed light machine gun. It fires the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge, usually a combination of one M856 tracer and four M855 ball cartridges fed from M27 linked belts. Belts are typically held in a hard plastic or soft canvas box attached to the underside of the weapon.

Persian Gulf War: A supply of 929 M249 SAWs was issued to personnel from the U.S. Army and USMC during the Persian Gulf War. Although exposure to combat was scarce, M249 gunners who were involved in fighting mainly used their weapons to provide cover fire for friendly maneuvering troops from fixed positions, rather than maneuvering with them. There were many complaints about the weapons clogging up with sand after prolonged use in the desert environment.

Afghanistan: The standard squad automatic weapon in Afghanistan is the M249 with PIP kit, which serves alongside its heavier counterpart, the M240 machine gun. Almost every eight-man squad deployed is issued two M249s. Most M249s were given a collapsible buttstock immediately prior to the invasion to reduce length and make the weapons more practical for parachuting and close-quarters combat. Special Operations troops typically favor the shorter Para version of the weapon, which weighs much less.

Iraq War: The PIP and Para versions of the M249 have been used in the Iraq war since the invasion. By 2004, many M249s had been in service for almost twenty years and were becoming increasingly unreliable. Soldiers were requesting replacements and new features, and there are reports of soldiers holding their weapons together with duct tape.

Type Squad automatic weapon/Light machine gun
Place of origin United States (M249 derivative) Belgium
Service history
In service 1984–present
Used by United States of America

United States Armed Forces

U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS)

Wars Invasion of Panama

Persian Gulf War

Unified Task Force

Bosnian War

Kosovo War

Afghan War

Iraq War

Turkey–PKK conflict

Syrian Civil War
Production history
Designed 1976
Manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal
Unit cost US$4,087
Produced late 1970s–present
Variants See Variants
Weight 7.5 kg (17 lb) empty,
10 kg (22 lb) loaded
Length 40.75 in (1,035 mm)
Barrel length 465 mm (18 in), 521 mm (21 in)
Cartridge 5.56×45mm NATO
Action Gas-operated, open bolt
Rate of fire Sustained rate of fire: 100 RPM

Rapid rate of fire: 200 RPM

Cyclic rate of fire: 800 RPM
Muzzle velocity 915 m/s (3,000 ft/s)
Effective firing range 700 m (770 yd) (point target, 465 mm barrel)

800 m (870 yd) (point target, 521 barrel)

3,600 m (3,940 yd) (maximum range)
Feed system M27 linked belt, STANAG magazine

End notes