FN MAG: Best of the Western GPMGs

The FN MAG (Mitrailleuse d’Appui Général – General Purpose Machine Gun) was designed by Ernest Vervier, who took over from Dieudonné Saive as FN’s lead military arms designer in 1954. The Swedish government approached FN about building a belt-fed version of the BAR, which they had been unsuccessful at. Vervier took on the job, and in 1957 designed the MAG. It is essentially a BAR action turned upside down and mated with an MG42 type feed system. It was adopted by the Swedes in 1958, in 6.5mm (although they changed to 7.62mm NATO in the early 1960s).

The MAG is constructed like a Browning gun, with riveted side plates. This contributes to both its exception reliability and durability, and all its substantial weight (26lb / 12kg). Ince its first introduction, more than 100 countries have adopted the MAG, and more than a million have been built. The US first accepted it in 1977 as a coaxial tank gun, and then brought on more variants through the 1980s and 1990s until it finally replaced the M60 in 1995 a a standard infantry weapon in .30 caliber.

There is no doubt that the MAG will continue to see use worldwide for decades to come. The particular example is a registered pre-86 dealer sample, one of very few in the United States.


  1. A great weapon, but it did break off our Machine Gunners carrying it on dismounted patrols in Iraq.

    • Which was something that should have been foreseen, but… Yeah. Many of the guys who were involved in that “end-run” around the procurement system seemed to be unaware that the M240 had significant service in other armies around the world, who had all found the gun extremely heavy for use in the LMG role with light infantry. Given that they never really did a full-scale test of what was out there available on the market, things like the Negev and the SS-77 weren’t even considered.

      There was also very limited to no actual “field testing” performed. The Marines and Rangers started the ball rolling, and then the Army basically acquiesced to their desires, and what testing was done was basically “What do we already have in inventory that can be upgraded…?”. This was either the M60E4 or what became the M240B. The testing was revelatory–This excerpt from Small Arms Defense Journal spells it out:

      “Trial by Fire: Sixty vs. 240
      The Army’s big 7.62 belt fed shootout kicked off in January 1994 under the interesting program title of Medium Machine Gun Upgrade Kit. This name actually fits rather well because the only two significant competitors – M60s and M240s – were modified versions of weapons currently in the Army inventory.

      SACO’s “Enhanced” M60E3 guns were fitted with a number of product improved parts and the FN 240s were coaxial guns from M1 Abrams tanks, converted for dismounted ground combat with buttstocks, bipods and such; hence the “Upgrade Kit” moniker for both.

      Each manufacturer submitted eighteen guns and more than a year of technical torture and tactical trials ensued. This ended in December 1995 when the Army declared the M240 victorious.

      Not surprisingly, there were strong critics of the decision then and now, raising objections and citing shortcomings in the process with varying degrees of credibility. Sadly, by keeping a close hold on details of the test regimen and tabulated results, the Army hasn’t helped dispel inevitable misinformation.

      What is a matter of public record is the much-cited test results table quantifying two key performance areas; Mean Rounds Between Stoppages (MRBS) and Mean Rounds Between Failures (MRBF). Stoppages are jams and failures are parts breaking – both are essential indicators of combat serviceability.

      50,000 rounds were fired through both the M60 and the M240. The 240 was a runaway winner in averaging 2,962 MRBS and 6,442 MRBF. The Sixty limped along at 846 MRBS and 1,669 MRBF.

      Determined to find and report more facts of the matter, we went right to source, Program Manager Soldier Weapons at Picatinny Arsenal. Naturally, our first request was for hard copy of test documentation.

      Sorry, came the official answer, “We can’t release any test paperwork until your request goes through legal.” Seems the specter of defamation lawsuits still looms darkly even after a dozen years have past and even where tabulated test results speak for themselves.

      OK, we pressed, how about an interview with Ed Malatesta, the individual who was Product Director/Program Manager for the process? Although since retired from government service, as luck would have it he’s now an independent contractor working at PMSW. A phone interview was agreed to and arranged by officials in surprisingly short order.

      In a conference call and subsequent email exchange Malatesta was very emphatic on the following:

      SADJ: What major factor(s), in your opinion, led to the decision to phase out the M60 in favor of the M240?

      Malatesta: Reliability was by far the major factor. The M60s were always breaking and this doomed them almost from the beginning.

      SADJ: How is this shown in program documentation?

      Malatesta: In data reporting the various test results. Based on this, the Army Source Selection Authority, a general officer, wrote in summary, “In view of the above discussions (Reliability, Probability of Hit, Human Factors and Price) and based on an integrated assessment of the above findings (Developmental Tests, Operational Tests, Human Engineering Testing and a Price Assessment), I conclude that Saco (M60) has no reasonable chance for award and should be eliminated from the competitive range, and that a competitive range of one, Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing, Inc. (M240) be established.”

      Our candid discussion with Malatesta, coupled with additional research, clearly shows the fundamental problem that, in his words, “doomed” the Sixty. Put aside all the “Enhanced” M60E3’s niceties of lighter weight, portability, balance, controllability in assault fire, easy to parachute with, already in the inventory, tons of spare parts, existing instructional materials, lots of experienced armorers, etc., etc.: SACO’s Sixties broke down way too often while FN’s 240s didn’t.

      And the Army moved out smartly to fully equip the force with a new machine gun that – despite being considerably heavier – was vastly more reliable. When you need it to shoot, it shoots.”


      I don’t think anyone has ever managed to pry the full report out of the Defense Department, that I’ve seen. It would no doubt make interesting reading, but the facts that are laid out here are fully consonant with my own experiences with the two guns.

      I do think that the failure to actually go “outside the box” of what was in the system was a failure; I think that they royally screwed up by not examining the experience of others, like the Israelis, the South Africans, the British… Nearly all of whom concluded that the MAG-58 was just too heavy for light infantry man-carried duty. There should have been a full competitive set of trials, that included what was available elsewhere on the world market, and they should have done the actual fielding trials to determine if the M240 was really fit for purpose as a man-carried LMG. They cheaped out, and they weren’t prepared to deal with the fact that the M-60 was really past the end of its life-cycle by decades during the 1990s. It wasn’t until the Marines and Rangers started raising hell that they did anything, and then they did the absolute least they could, which was look at what was already in the inventory.

      Considering what an important basic weapon that the machine gun is, I found that criminal. I still do–The whole process by which the M240 “happened”, because it sure as hell wasn’t “planned”, is an indicator pointing at the essential rot and incompetence at the core of our small arms procurement system. The fact that these idiots also put the M240 on top of the same entirely inadequate tripod we put the M1919 on…? Mind-boggling. It’s like they have zero clue what a machine gun is supposed to be doing, tactically.

      • “(…)I don’t think anyone has ever managed to pry the full report out of the Defense Department, that I’ve seen. It would no doubt make interesting reading,(…)”
        I do not know about document of said entity but this https://www.gao.gov/assets/b-186276.pdf should be interesting read if you are interested in decision surrounding U.S. tank version of MAG.

  2. Basically an upside down BAR model D. Yes, but with an MG42 feed cover and trigger group.
    Machine gunners have to accept that its weight is the price for its legendary reliability and durability. And its riveted construction, like the .30 and .50 Browning machine guns, is partially responsible for this.
    As service life is concerned, aviation variant receivers are rated to 100 000 rounds but only because a reasonably safe number had to be set. I highly doubt an M60 can do as well. And I know of a MAG used for production tests in Herstal that was still running perfectly after more than 300 000 rounds fired.

    • I worked with a British unit that had their version of the MAG-58, one that had been built back in the early 1960s. It had been in continuous use since then, and if I remember rightly, the gunner told me it had close to three-quarters of a million rounds through it. It didn’t look all that bad, either–Some finish wear, and that was about it. He was unclear on whether it had ever been in for depot rebuild, and I couldn’t find any markings indicating it had anything like that done to it.

      Compare/contrast with my M-60 experience? LOL… Frankly, I would have to put the average number of rounds on an M-60 before requiring major rebuild at around 10,000. Maybe another 5,000, but you were pushing it. You could put that off, somewhat, by using heavier lubricants and making sure that they were properly re-staked as the process of receiver stretch went on, but that was an unpredictable and iffy thing. There was also a bit of a dark art to it, in that one guy over at Third Shop could do the staking juuuuust right, and you’d get a few thousand more rounds through the guns, and another guy would try doing it, only to wind up coding out the receiver because he’d basically about punched the rivet out of the damn receiver bridge…

      The M-60 is not a gun which possesses an inherent nature of either durability or reliability, over the long haul. When in perfect, factory-new condition? It works well enough to pass muster. Put the things out into the real Army or Marine Corps, without the excessively generous support structure it got in Vietnam? Cue the high maniacal laughter, in those who were concerned and knowing, back in the day.

  3. Happiest day of my life was when I had the MAG-58/M240 come into it. I was giddy with joy as we packed up the M-60s and drew these, because that meant the low-level anxiety I’d had since the early 1980s about my machine guns being ready for war just… Evaporated.

    Towards the end, there, the M-60 fleet in the units I was in averaged between 30-60% readiness, and that was usually highly questionable “readiness”. You’d have a receiver that looked like a woodpecker had been at it around all the flush-ground rivets on the rear receiver bridge, and which was a thousandth of an inch away from failing the shop standards for receiver flex–That was one of your guns that was actually considered “operational”. Which was a sad joke, because the minute you put another few belts through it, it was done. Unless the guys over at Third Shop managed to coax a little more service out of it with more “judicious staking” of the rear rivets…

    M240s? I don’t think I can remember a time when we had any of those down, for other than damage to the weapon via sheer gunner idiocy, or some admin BS like they wanted to change some parts out for safety-of-use.

    The M240 is a magnificent beast, and beastly heavy, as well. As a gunner, trainer, and maintainer, I’ll take that–Rather than the constant low-grade worries about whether or not the flippin’ tissue-paper M-60s will still be working after our first engagement. What few of those might have made it there, in the first place…

    One thing that a lot of people didn’t know about those bastards was this: There were two different criteria for serviceability, one for peacetime garrison, and another for deployment to wartime. You could have guns in your arms room that met the garrison standards, but if you were to deploy, they’d gauge and inspect them to the less-tolerant deployment standards, and if your current weapons didn’t meet the standard, they’d theoretically give you brand-new from war-stocks.

    Minor niggling detail with that? There weren’t enough M-60s in the war stock to replace what they’d wind up coding out during the pre-deployment. Where I was at Fort Lewis, we went through that process several times for exercise purposes, but the unmentioned thing that nobody bothered to pay attention to was the question of “Are there actually enough guns here on post to fill our deficiencies…?”. There weren’t, and I doubt there were enough in the depots to do it, either. Average number of guns per company that got through the pre-deployment inspections varied, but it was generally 3 out of 9. For someone in a mech infantry company, that’s not a huge deal–They had the Bradleys with the 25mm and their coaxes. For those of us who only had the M-60 for real fire support? The M-60 was a constant source of low-grade anxiety and worry; would we have our guns for war, or would we only have the M249s that were also similarly worn-down by that point, and our organic M-16s?

    Y’all just don’t know what a godsend the M240 actually was. Damn things may be heavy as hell, but they work, and they keep on working. Also, a hell of a lot easier to train the troops on–You’ll note a serious dearth of things you can put back together wrong on the M240. Unlike some guns I could mention…

  4. “(…)Ernest Vervier(…)”
    https://guns.fandom.com/wiki/Ernest_Vervier gives his name as Ernest Henri Joseph Vervier. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable in Belgium/20th century will shed light on 2nd and 3rd part, i.e. it was common for Belgian citizens at that time or it was rather infrequent. Anyway beyond MAG, he also designed successful FN Minimi, FN CAL (went into production, but soon obsoleted by FNC) and sub-machine gun which remained prototype and can be seen here http://firearms.96.lt/pages/Get_Em_Puppy's%20World%20SMGs.html as FN Vervier, note magazine sticking to left. FN elected to use license to produce Uzi sub-machine gun.

    • Yes, it is common in Begium, the Netherlands, parts of Germany and possibly other European nations that people are baptized with more than one given name, of which only one is used in everyday life. This is usually the first, as in the case of Ernest Vervier. In legal matters, all given names are used.

      Each time I receive a letter with all my three given names in the address, I know beforehand its a speeding ticket.

      • Indeed most Belgian citizen have this multiple name, four names in fact.
        Administrative documents generally display the first name and the second name beside the surname (last name).
        This also occurs in daily life, for instance in large organisations where there could be some people sharing the same first and last names.
        In my part of the country, second and third names are often the first name (or a derivative) of the godfather and godmother.
        Fourth name is often related to some Saint to call some kind of protection.

    • If you’re going to stick to US-style MG tactics, the MAG-58 is a better choice. So long as you plan on having man-mountain types haul it around…

      The MG3 is a weapon designed to meet a certain specific set of tactical and doctrinal requirements. Which means that a lot of its features don’t make sense, so long as you’re not following that doctrine… So, unless you’re taking up German MG tactics as practiced in WWII, the rates of fire and all that just don’t make sense.

      There are some really nice features on the MG3, though–Major ones being the tripod, and the fact that all barrels are interchangeable, period. The M240 shares the same deficiency that the M-60 has, which is that the barrels require being headspaced and kept with the same bolt. This is a bit of an irritant, when you have idiot gunners that seem to think that it’s a good idea to remove or mix up the tags…

      Other than that, it’s pretty much six of one, or half-a-dozen of another, when it comes to the question of “is this a better gun…?”.

        • Yes and no. Actually there are two different bolts in use in Austria. One being much heavier to reduce the cyclic rate. With the normal bolt a MG 74 shoots just fast as an MG 3 or MG42.

          • To circle back to the FN MAG. actually the Austrian Federal Army also uses the FN MAG on its Leopard 2 tanks, because those are former Dutch vehicles.

        • The questionable sense of humor possessed by some squad leaders aside, I always found this to be a Really Bad Idea(tm), mainly because “weight”. The other thing is, if you’re going to be using the 7.62mm support weapon on the assault, you really kinda want to have someone capable of firing that bastard off the shoulder. Small guys do not often demonstrate that capability. I preferred to keep them set aside for things like scouting and so forth.

          I know that “small guy gets the big gun” has a long tradition, but I’ll be damned if I see the sense of it. On the other hand, a Really Big Dude(tm) who can one-hand wield the MG like it is some sort of deranged belt-fed handgun? Take him into the assault, and I guarantee you that anyone confronted with that monstrosity is getting the hell out of Dodge as quickly as they can. I am thinking here of a certain specific Samoan I used to work with, a self-described “dwarf Samoan” that had at least two cousins playing in the NFL. He was my height, at around six feet, but his arms were as big around as my thighs–And, I’m no lightweight. His preferred weapon was the M-60, and yes, he could one-hand that bastard and manage to keep the thing under control. Big scary dude, ideal MG gunner.

      • From what I’ve seen of the MG5, even the German Army no longer practices their WW2 doctrine. The MG5 and MG4 seem to be designed around NATO (i.e., everybody else’s copy of U.S.) doctrine.

        What “everybody” seems to forget is that U.S. doctrine was based on the BAR and M1 Garand. Using the rifles to create the squad base of fire.

        That’s OK when (1) your SAW is a machine rifle rather than an LMG (there is a very distinct difference), (2) everything uses a high-powered cartridge with a long reach (the .30-06 aka 7.62 x 63mm), and (3) nobody but you has self-loading rifles.

        In case nobody has noticed, we don’t live in that world anymore.

        Essentially, the “evolved” doctrine during and post-WW2 was to still use the rifles to build the base of fire, and reserve the SAW for dealing with “points of resistance”. That’s an infantry assault concept, assuming an engagement range of no more than about 100 meters, which is typical of an assault. The M1919A6 (cursed be its number) was “designed” around that concept. Again, things have not worked out that way.

        Maybe we need two MGs per section. A true LMG to act as the force multiplier at rifle ranges, and a team-served MMG to deal with the serious business of killing the enemy before things get to rifle ranges.

        Or else, hope that when the guy with the souped-up Iphone calls arty fire, somebody always answers.



        • The recent move of the German Army towards the NATO-standard MG methodology and practice has sort of puzzled me. It makes no sense, really–I think that their way of doing things was superior in every aspect.

          You have two basic options with today’s infantry small arms: You can go down the path laid out by the US and others as far back as WWII, and make believe that the individual rifleman is paramount, and all you need to do is supplement his efforts with some judicious MG and grenade/mortar support, or you can do like the Germans used to, and conduct things in accordance with actual human psychology, which tells us that a crew-served weapon is always going to be more effective because “crew”. To my mind, the idea that a bunch of individuals working their way across the battlefield is going to be more effective is purely delusional; what usually happens, even in the most well-trained units is that the minute a guy gets pinned by fires during that “fire and movement” BS, you’re pretty much done–Unless, you’re playing laser tag. Then, people don’t do what they actually do when they hear the “wheeet, wheeet” of bullets passing by their heads…

          Crew-served stays in action longer, and is more easily managed by the leadership. You have three guys with rifles spread out over 70 meters of terrain, it’s damn hard to manage them and their fires. You have two-three guys right there next to you, with an MG? Yeah; you can direct fires and supervise that firepower a lot more effectively.

          I’m a firepower guy, when it comes to the way I want to do business in a firefight. Maneuver is all well and good, but it has to have a point in order to be effective–Five guys running around the battlefield randomly is nowhere near as effective as having your MG teams finding those gaps in the surfaces of the enemy defenses, getting into them, and then delivering fire appropriately. It’s also a hell of a lot less wasteful of manpower.

          I do not like the usual run of NATO infantry tactics. The times I was able to effectively employ German-style MG firepower-centric tactics, I found I was far more effective than trying to manage the mob action of individual riflemen through their fireteam leaders. I think the German school of MG mentality is superior, period–And, I deplore the fact that the Germans themselves have abandoned it.

          • I suspect the “new” doctrine is based on using the IFV to get the section right on top of the target, at which point they unass the vehicle and assault at what we used to call typical “sweat and bad breath” range. Typical for a police tac team exercise in a shoot house, that is.

            Lots of SWAT cops think they’re infantry. The ones who actually were infantry before becoming cops know better.

            This “tactical concept” rather overlooks the small drawback of the “Spam In a Can” factor. Meaning, while your IFV full of infantry half-section is racing toward the target, your infantry is extremely vulnerable to some Annie Oakley on the other side with an RPG. One hit and BOOM- exit one infantry section before they even get a shot off.

            This seems to be happening to the Russians a lot in UKR.

            Probably the most sensible use for any MICV/APC/IFV/Horse, Spoon and Basin was the M106. A track with a four-deuce mortar firing through a roof hatch. Stop to shoot, start up to displace after a volley. Mobile mortars like that in decent numbers are a defender’s second-worst nightmare (after heavy arty TOTing his positions from beyond the range of his counterbattery fire).

            Infantry in an IFV racing toward his FLOT?

            Target practice.



          • Don’t even get me started on the essential insanity of the IFV concept…

            It is the worst sort of faddish “Keeping up with the Jones’s” non-thinking BS you could possibly imagine. I mean, think about it–Why on God’s green earth are you putting both your medium-scale mobile firepower and your troops on the same vehicle? Does that make sense? The firepower solution is a high-value target, one often wont to be dragged into armor-on-armor encounters where the commanders are letting their inner Erwin Rommel out to play, and where the troops in back are completely irrelevant.

            As well, there is an additional problem: The location from which you’d ideally want to be dropping those troops off to assault your objective is almost never even remotely close to the best position to deliver supporting fires from, which leaves the commander yet another Hobson’s Choice: Do I weaken my infantry assault element by dropping them too far from the objective… Do I split my force such that half of my troops are available for the assault, because the other half is staying with the IFV asset doing fire support…? Do I try to do without a fire support element at all, and just blast my way onto the objective, risking it all?

            The tradeoffs with the IFV are infinitely bad; you either haul your fragile infantry around the armored battlefield to no real purpose, as that turreted weapon system on top tries to effectively engage the enemy, which adds a hell of a lot of mass and height to the vehicle, while simultaneously requiring you to spread out the armor over the troop compartment and drastically reduce your ammo capacity… It’s insane, on the face of it. Plus, the psychology of it all is bad; you put your troops into a vehicle without much more than a heavy MG, they’re gonna be a lot less likely to go Rommelling around the battlefield to no real infantry purpose.

            Overall, I think that the entire IFV concept is irretrievably stupid and short-sighted. The Soviets invented it for the “nuclear battlefield” that never actually appeared, and everyone else is just keeping up with the Jones family. I think they need to split the roles–Essentially unarmed infantry carriers working alongside heavily armed not-tanks for fire support, ones that are actually armored heavily enough to make a difference, and which can take advantage of the drastically reduced envelope possible when you’re not having to haul six to eight soldiers around in the back of the things.

            Multi-purpose almost always works out to “not fully fit for any particular purpose”, and I’ll be damned if I can see a logical way through to justify the IFV in any way, shape, or form.

            At most, I can kinda see a sort of Dragoon affair, where you’ve got one or two dismounts in the things for scouting and local security purposes, but… Loads of infantry with your turreted wonder-toy? That’s just egging the pudding for the enemy–Not only do they get to take out your guns, they’re getting a bonus of 8 infantry bubbas who will likely never fire a shot, and whose first exposure to fight will be when that burst of AP slams through their necessarily-inadequate armor. Or, when the tank main gun round takes out the vehicle entirely…

          • I think we had the best setup in the last six months of WW2. The M3 halftrack, a fast, fairly comfortable infantry troop carrier with decent protection against small-arms fire and frag, plus a Ma Deuce on top for immediate application to annoyances. It wasn’t heavily armed or armored enough to encourage anybody to play Custer, but it would protect the riflemen until they could unass, and they could do that in about two seconds flat.

            Its partner was the M24 Chaffee, the best light tank in the world at the time, and the second-best ever. (The best? Its successor, the M41 Walker Bulldog.) Well-enough armored to stand up to anything short of an enemy MBT, good enough gun to kill anything but that enemy MBT out to 1000 meters (sucker was death on pillboxes, MG nests and etc. according to my uncles who were there at the time), mechanically reliable as a crescent wrench, pretty quiet by tank standards, and fast as a thief (45 MPH on a hard road). It even got decent MPG.

            More importantly, M24s in the infantry units freed up Shermans and tank destroyers to hunt down and kill the enemy tanks. Which was what Fuller said they ought to be doing to begin with.

            The Chaffee got a bad rap in the opening stages of Korea because it came off second best overall to the T-34/85. Which was an actual honest-to-G_d MBT, so that shouldn’t have surprised anybody. The fool who ordered the Chaffees in first instead of those rebuilt Shermans with 76mm high-velocity guns sitting in storage on Okinawa should burn in Tanker’s Hell forever.

            If we still did things like we had brains and an institutional memory, the infantry would be riding in something like the Stryker and they’d be covered by something like the M8 AGS. As it is, we at least have the M1128 with the 105mm on top, so maybe at least the Marines will have a sporting chance the next time we decide to play Rommel in some s**thole vs. an army that’s halfway self-aware.

            And they can come in and secure the area behind the MBTs. Just like the book says.



          • Right there with you, Eon.

            I don’t get the fascination with the freakin’ BMP–It hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory, anywhere it has seen actual combat. Same-same with the BMD, yet the rest of the world seems hell-bent on copying the concept they embody, without much in the way of thought about it.

            If it were me, I’d have my infantry in vehicles with the best armor I could manage for the weight, very little in the way of “gun” on top of it, and I’d do that with the idea that if they were going to fight, they’d have to dismount in order to get their firepower working, like their Javelins and Carl Gustavs… All they’d get on their carriers would be about the scale of an M2HB in a CROWS turret.

            I like the idea of a light tank, although the Russian BMPT is something I find… Interesting. Tank chassis, autocannon, missiles, and a huge ammo load under decent armor. Add in an integrated air defense system or two, and away we go.

            The unholy amount of crap glommed onto the majority of Western IFV options is just… Nuts. You want to put that much onto one vehicle chassis, you’re nuts–And, the damn thing is meant to go in harm’s way, the diametric opposite of what you want an infantry carrier to be doing, right up until the grunts debark near their objectives. Insanity.

          • “(…)Multi-purpose almost always works out to “not fully fit for any particular purpose”, and I’ll be damned if I can see a logical way through to justify the IFV in any way, shape, or form.(…)”
            But BMP-1 was designed for very specific use-case: offensive at Germany(Bonn) territory with lot of tactical atomic weapons (it was assumed that enemy infantry would be out of action due to these)
            One might wonder if copycats were also willing to use enough atomic tactical weapons during attacking probable enemy?

          • “(…)If it were me, I’d have my infantry in vehicles with the best armor I could manage for the weight, very little in the way of “gun” on top of it, and I’d do that with the idea that if they were going to fight, they’d have to dismount in order to get their firepower working, like their Javelins and Carl Gustavs… All they’d get on their carriers would be about the scale of an M2HB in a CROWS turret.(…)”
            I do not know what CROWS turret, but what you have describe sounds like https://www.army-technology.com/projects/namerheavyarmouredin/

          • The “atomic battlefield” never eventuated, and even if it had…? I suspect that things would not have gone the way the Soviets planned. I’ve banged around in the back of a BMP troop compartment for a bit. We were half-loaded, and the lack of space and everything going on inside that thing moving cross-country…? Incredibly disorienting and nauseating. I can only conjecture what sort of shape we’d have been in after staging for the invasion of Western Germany and then driving through the irradiated wastelands they thought they would be. After about 24 hours of that crap, I’m pretty sure I’d be about as much use for doing infantry operations as a wet noodle. Factor in the NBC gear everyone would be in…?

            I think most of the Soviet conscripts in those BMPs would have been desperate to get out, and I also suspect that there would have been more than a few suicides to end the pain. In terms of “user experience”, that vehicle is a nightmare. There’s a reason that much of the footage you see in Ukraine has the troops all riding on top, and it ain’t because they prefer the fresh air and view.

          • I find the IDF Achzarit very interesting. Take a T-55 tank, gut it, and turn it into a sort of Super M113. ERA and heavy armor to counteract RPGs and even some ATGWs, and a .50 in a ROWS on top for close-in support.

            The one quibble I have is the narrow rear door, that requires the riflemen to exit one at a time. A wider rear door like the 113 would make more sense, but I understand that the door has to go around the rear engine, so that’s a tradeoff.

            It occurs to me that an infantry carrier based on the Merkava (front engine) would not have that small drawback.

            One thing is sure. With a dozer blade on the front, an Achzarit would make a very handy “door knocker” in MOBUA.



          • Eon,

            If I were designing a set of armored vehicles for an army, I’d probably use a layout much like the Merkava, with separate modules that plugged into the chassis/powerplant front end. I’d have specialized versions of modules for each role, and I would not be sticking the troops in with the frippin’ firepower. To my mind, the way to go is to have a minimum of four or five different vehicle types working together in teams–One optimized for dealing with heavy armor, one optimized for delivering infantry support, one for providing indirect fire, one as an “RPV mothership” for controlling both aviation and ground RPV assets, and one to do nothing but haul troops around under armor. That vehicle would get maybe a couple of machineguns mounted on it to provide local security with, but not a damn thing bigger which isn’t carried by the infantry it hauls around.

            The thing a lot of people miss with all this is the fact that if you put a decent-sized gun on top of an armored vehicle, the idiots running things are going to gravitate towards playing Rommel; the entire point behind having infantry in an armored vehicle is to get them somewhere, intact and alive, so that they may do infantry things. “Infantry things” do not include getting killed in job lots inside little armored boxes moving hither and to on an armored battlefield as their commanders try to “influence the fight” between the big boys. The thrust of what an infantry carrier should be doing is staying the hell out of those fights, avoiding contact with the enemy heavy armor, and getting the infantry to where it can do its damn job.

            The IFV is a huge dead end, in that formations composed of them have commanders who aren’t good infantrymen, and who also aren’t good tankers. The vehicles can’t carry enough infantry to do infantry missions, and what you wind up with is this halfway house of epic half-assery, where they can’t tackle tanks, can’t take on real fortifications manned by a competent enemy, and there aren’t enough infantry to really do their jobs. In the early days of Iraq, we were sending company-sized elements to do what should have been a platoon-sized mission. Why? Not enough damn dismounts.

            The point to the whole thing is this: Infantry is manpower, and if you don’t have the men, you don’t have the power. Want to secure a building in an built-up area? You need X number of men, period–Depending on size. The fact that your company-size elements can only produce the manpower of what was a platoon, decades ago, means you’re tying up an entire company command team with all that logistic implication, to do what a 2nd Lieutenant and a Sergeant First Class used to do with their 30-odd men.

            The whole insanity of the modern military just blows my mind, when it comes to this. When I was a Corporal squad leader back in the early and mid-1980s, my truck stopped and I got off with eleven men to do our job, leaving a driver to man the truck and pull security for us on the job site. By the late 1990s, when I was an Observer/Controller at the NTC, it wasn’t uncommon to have a line platoon from a mechanized Combat Engineer unit show up with fewer dismounts than I had as a Corporal. And, the bosses wondered “Gee, why don’t we seem to be able to do things the way we used to…?”.

            You can economize on manpower, to some degree. The problem is, there’s a lot of missions that require manpower, period–And, trying to “economize” on it all means that instead of committing a platoon with limited overhead, you’re now forced to commit an entire company in order to get the dismounts, and all that that implies. Penny-wise, entirely pound-foolish. I don’t think the idiots doing the budget or the MTOE really grasp what they do with all this, because it’s all invisible to them in the rarified atmosphere of theory that they live in. I can’t count the number of times where we were told that “We’re cutting your squads because of the new gear that means you can do your job with fewer people…”, and then they’d never actually get us the equipment or it wouldn’t work. They cut two guys out of our squads, back when, on the theory that the SEE they gave our platoon could enable the remaining men to do the work. Thing was, that vehicle was a hydraulic nightmare for maintenance, and all the hydraulic tool accessories like the nifty hydraulic picket-pounder didn’t work worth a damn or were never procured in the first place. Which left us doing what had been the work of 11 men with nine, and with the usual attrition, it meant that what had been a squad job was now a platoon-sized one.

            They’ve done this crap across the board, and if trends keep going the way they are, they’re gonna be able to fit what they laughingly term an “infantry platoon” into the back seat of an economy sedan. Of course, they’ll have so much “manpower-reducing” gear that doesn’t really work with them that they’ll need a trailer to haul all that around…

    • Memory tells me it’s stainless steel, but… Yeah. It’s been a bit. I think aluminum would have been way too soft, especially with the M13 links dragging across it.

  5. Stupid idea…

    Okay, I hope I don’t trigger Kirk’s bad memories, but given a choice of weapons and roles, what’s best for what?

    1. PKM
    2. M60E6
    3. Rheinmetall MG3
    4. FN MAG (WITHOUT the stupid tripod)
    5. HK MG5
    6. Browning M1921
    7. ZPU-4 (quad mount of KPV heavy machine guns)
    8. Stoner 63
    9. Knight’s Armament LAMG

    1. Trench overwatch (static defense)
    2. Special Ops infiltration
    3. Vehicle-borne madcap raid (Desert Rats, much?)
    4. Mountain skirmish (mobility and target acquisition at long range)
    5. Fending off a paratrooper drop (sky suddenly raining troops and weapon canisters)
    6. Dark alley shuffle (keep your hands off my toys!)

    Please don’t respond with foul language…

    • PKM–Good for everything listed in roles.
      M-60E6–Good for anything where you’re able to replace everything on it as needed easily, up to and including the receiver.
      MG3–Anything where you’ve got plenty of ammo available, and spare barrels.
      FN MAG–Suitable for all roles where you’re not having to hump it and everything else all over the mountains of the Hindu Kush on foot.
      HK MG5–Not really enough data to hold an opinion.
      Browning M1921–Not really too sure what value-added you get with the water cooling, vice the air-cooled M2HB. With the weight and water, I’d say only role 1, static trench defense.
      ZPU-4–Static trench defense, again. Probably also handy for the paratrooper drop.
      Stoner 63–At this point, strictly for Vietnam-era SEAL re-enactors.
      Knight’s Armament LAMG–Like the HK5, not enough data out there.

      The PK family is really the right answer to about all your MG questions, so long as you recognize that it’s good only for the current school of MG doctrine. You want to try to use it as the Germans did their guns, weeeeeellll… Helmut the German MG gunner is going to be bitching and moaning ‘cos the rate of fire is too low, and the tripod too simplistic.

      One of the really major things you have to take into consideration is that the MG is really and truly a system, one you can’t just look at the “goes bang” bits and fully comprehend. You have to examine the whole package, from how you train the gun teams to what accessories you hand out to them, along with the way you actually use the guns operationally.

      An example of mismatch between “Operational intent” and “What we bought and trained for” would be evident with most of our problems in Afghanistan, on the US side. The M122/192 tripod system is utterly unsuited for dynamic tactical situations out in the countryside; it’s really only usable in the context of a prepared defensive position, and even then, I would term it utterly inadequate because there are no provisions for getting the gunner’s head down below the bore axis. In order to use the sights, he’s got to be eyeballing the optic or iron sights mounted above the bore, and exposing his entire head. MG3/Lafette combo, he’s got a periscopic sight, and never need expose his head above the parapet of the fighting position.

      From a holistic point of view, the only gun on your list I’d really want to have would be the MG3/Lafette combo. The rest of them all have issues when you look at the whole system; the M240B/M122/192 “system” fielded by the US is put completely into the shade by the late 1930’s German gunnery solutions, especially when you consider the rest of the package they issued gun teams, which included binos, range finders, and a ton of other accessory items that made the guns much more effective doing their jobs than Allied guns.

      You’re hard-pressed to find a US MG team that has their own dedicated bino set; generally, those are “one, each” for the platoons, and the guy who has them is the LT, who often doesn’t bother to carry them unless he’s channeling his inner Rommel. Rangefinders? LOL… The only guys with those are the FO teams, and it’s a rare FO that thinks to integrate small arms fires into his fire plans.

    • “6. Browning M1921”
      But on what mount? See
      1st photo from top: single ground mount it will be poorly suited for Role-5, whilst 2nd photo from top: dual AA mount should work much better.

      “2. Special Ops infiltration”
      Note that here plausible deniability might be important consideration rather than purely technical features.

      “3. Vehicle-borne madcap raid (Desert Rats, much?)”
      But what vehicle exactly? Some might be simply too tiny to carry, like M422 (65-inch wheelbase), say ZPU-4.

      • For the vehicle, let’s assume something like a KrAZ-255B. If that’s too big, we’ll go with the Land Rover MK 1 or a HMMWV.

  6. The lineage of US coax machine guns

    0. Hotchkiss 8mm/303 – Used in tanks supplied by France and Britain, respectively

    1. Marlin 30-06 M1917/M1918 – A modified Browning M1895/M1914 which replaced the swinging arms with a conventional gas piston. Intended as an aircraft gun, also used in the small number of US tanks in the 1920’s.

    2. Browning 30-06 M1919/M1919A5 – An air cooled version of the M1917 developed for tank use and had a heavy barrel. The standard gun in WW2 was the solenoid controlled A5, which served into the 1950’s

    3. Browning 30-06 M37 – A product improved M1919A5, it served from the mid-1950’s to about 1970 (in reserve units)

    4. 7.62 M73 – Principal designer was Russell Robinson and the design objective was a shorter receiver to free up space inside the turret. Accordingly, it replaced the reciprocating bolt with a breech block like a miniature artillery piece. It was just plain bad.

    5. 7.62 M219 – A “Product Improved” version of the M73. I had personal experience of this gun, it was still a dog

    6. 7.62 M60E4 – An emergency solution to get something that worked. The M60C was modified with a tube under the barrel to vent gasses that could otherwise asphyxiate the crew when buttoned up. It was always regarded as an interim weapon

    7. 7.62 M240/M240E1/M240C – Winner of the coax competition. M240 is left hand feed for use on M1 tanks, M240E1 is for the USMC LAV’s and the M240C is left hand feed for M2 IFV’s/M3 CFV’s

    8. &diety knows

  7. Sorry, the M240C is RIGHT hand feed. My apologies. That good Scots Whisky (Talisker) is having its effect

  8. From the initial MAG, to its definitive MAG (Mitrailleuse d’Appui General = General Purpose Machinegun, Australia uses another translation, General Support MG) which was a metric resized variant of the UK L7A1, has always been a superb infantry section and support weapon, superb in vehicle or aerial use.

    It is heavy, but, in the UK “Pokey Drill” physical training with the weapon, built up the strength. Used with a full carrying strap, it is no problem.

    In current UK infantryservice; it is issued either one per 8 man section or one per 4 man fire team (section 1 commander with L85, 3 man GPMG team, section commander with a 4 man fire team (2 L85, 2 L85 with grenade launchers). And it still used in the fire support role on the tripod.

    The FN Minmi Mk3 in 7.62mm, has been trialled as a “in combat weapon”, but it inadequate. The USN SEAL Teams in AFGHAN did use it, but it found that literally needed rebuilding after major contacts.

    Manroy is currently offering conversion kits to lighten the L7 series by the use of modern materials, the butt, pistol grip, carrying handle, and bipod, but, no funds to carry out the work. With barrels to use, that developed for the sustained fire role in the 1960’s, with the fluted barrel (which at the time too expensive), which do help, but, its still heavy for the new generation of physically poor specimens enlisted in the UK – but, time and effort combined with a good diet improves them dramatically.

    MAG 58 comes from the Kulspruta 58 in 6.5mm Swedish issued in 1958, so Machine Gun 1958, the original MAG (Mitrailleuse A Gaz, Gas-operated Machine gun), subsequently converted to a 7.62mm barrel, later purchases from FN the later variation. The reason why it called (totally incorrectly the MAG-58 by punters) is a article in a late 1980’s issue of a Wannabe’s called Soldier of Fortune), my personal dealings with former FN-H and current ones is that the company totally abhors this.

    The MG 3 is now only produced by Iran and Pakistan, both tachy manufacturing, German Army has replaced it from 2015 with the MG-5 in 7.62 (MG-4 in 5.56mm), with some 21,000 delivered or on order for the Army. The German users consider it a superior weapon to the MG-3 (it is a butt ugly looking weapon). But, the French when trialling it found the MAG superior in all ways, and ordered nearly 12,000 for the Army, unknown numbers for Navy and Air Force.

    Manroy is touting for sale a lightend ParaCommando MAG, skeletal butt, and a shortened barrel, in turn FN-H is offering a Jungle MAG, lightened furniture and a short barrel. Neither appear to offer a effective answer to weight problems, and their accuracy is appalling!

    The Australian Infantry Corps Museum, has acquired from the returning contingent to the Solomon Islands, picked up after the rioting, a Chinese clone of the MAG in 7.62mm, with no markings on it to indicate which of two companies known to be producing unlicensed copies. Very poor quality manufacture, and poor quality materials used.

    Regard the stupid tripod, I presume the writers mean the Belgium designed one, the UK L4A1 Tripod with the C2 is a truly superb combo with the L7A2/MAG weapons. Proven very successful in Iraq and AFGHAN, when removed from the Jackel vehicles in AFGHAN by the Fire Support Troops supporting the infantry, very very effective, putting sustained, superbly accurate plunging on to Taliban positions. The Forward Observation Teams using the weapon to tactical affect by using Micro-Drones to look over walls, into compounds, even to direct fire into specific windows. As an aside, some L7A2 recorded as firing from the Jackal mounted weapons up to 12,000 rounds in a contact with no problems.

    The currently Canadian Army variant C6A1, is supposed to be a superb weapon.

    I must admit that I am biased towards the L7 family, but, exposed to it as a very young soldier on the ranges of Hythe during the development of its use with the tripod, and subsequent long time friendship with the FN Engineering Cadets involved. Also the friendship that I developed with Blake Stevens, over The Grand Old Lady of No Man’s Land, I helping his author with information and photos. Our father became as 18 year old sergeant (enlisted as a Regimental Boy in 1912) the commander of 110th Machine Company, after all its officers and SNCOs, killed by a German shell in March 1918 during the German offensive – Kaiserschlacht. He had been present at the 1916 one million round, one day, operation.

    Blake had commissioned me to write a text on the MAG/L7, but, the long cancer that killed him in 2018, got in the way. And I could never find a publisher to publish it (I do not think that he ever made any serious money on his book, just paid his costs!) He sadly missed.

    • If you’ve got a serious book on the MAG/L7 even somewhat put together, you should talk to Ian about doing something like the Enfield one he did for the bullpup rifles.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen much in the way of decent documentation on the MAG/L7, anywhere–Which is darned odd, considering how widely spread the gun is around the world. You’d be doing everyone a service.

    • Manroy is no longer an independent company. It had been bought by Herstal Group a few years ago and operates under the name FNH UK today. Herstal Group is the parent company of both FN Herstal and Browning.

      • Yes, since 2014. Although it supplies components to Belgium, and vice versa, it still goes its own way. The ParaCommando and Jungle MAG good examples. It also has its finger in many other pies, such as military bridging, field kitchens etc, designed by them manufactured by other UK companies (under various complex business agreements!)

    • “(…)Manroy is touting for sale a lightend ParaCommando MAG, skeletal butt, and a shortened barrel, in turn FN-H is offering a Jungle MAG, lightened furniture and a short barrel. Neither appear to offer a effective answer to weight problems, and their accuracy is appalling!(…)”
      If you are do not mind exotic materials there exist M240L
      where titanium was used to provide 18% less weight, yet maintaining performance and durability of the machine gun.

  9. There is nothing at all written in English, there was a good series on it in (English) The Journal on the Belgium Armed Forces, a good quality publication, defunct on the direct of the “Gay” Belgium Prime Minister, in six parts. Thats all, in English little, the article that I mentioned from Soldier of Fortune was not bad.

    Blake Stevens had it totally right with the Collector Grade series, his three volume set of The Black Rifle and the FN FAL, in my mind cannot be beaten. While The Grand OLd Lady of No Man’s Land is what any researcher/writer should aspire too!

    I personally cannot publish it, I have self published in the past, but, I have just finished for Helion Publications in the UK a Text on “Regiments and Corps of South Africa”. With two more on other subjects under way, hopefully before I go toes up. I have been in contact with the Small Arms School Corps Museum, both in the Corps and its Association there being many who could contribute to enhance my works (the last input into it in 2009). It is far too specialised for any UK published, and in Australia beyond the comprehension with the publishing houses. So I will probably sign the copywrite over to the SASC (and also present a copy of the text to the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London).

    I have been told that someone formerly involved with Paladin Press, has got the rights on Steven Laws, The Last Enfield, taking the story to 2022 and the superb L85A3

    • If no UK publisher seems realistic, did you contact the Austrian Verlag Militaria? It is quite busy publishing English language books. Usually these are from German language authors on Austrian and German military subjects, which are in parallel published in German and English.
      An example is the three volume work by Dieter Storz (Curator at Bayerisches Armeemuseum) on German military rifles 1869 to 1918. These are very technical.
      In other words, this is a publishing house that is experienced in publishing English language books of very technical matters.
      Their website is militaria.at (can be switched to English) and I recommend downloading the bi-lingual catalog to get an impression of their work.

  10. 2 comments on the video:

    1.: MAG definitely is “Mitrailleuse Á Gaz” in all original FN documentation I’ve seen and also was taught in service. Google for it FN MAG manual and even the english version will say this.

    2.: You can close the cover in any position. The pin/roller on top of the bolt is spring loaded and will lower when closing the cover.

  11. I think it was Steve Raw who wrote “The Last Enfield”. Good book.

    The problem with the GPMG concept is that it has to fill at least four distinct roles: indirect fire off a tripod, whether as part of offence or defence; direct tripod fire, mostly in defence; bipod in defence, and bipod in offence. It’s impossible to do all four equally well. The 42 and the MAG do the first three well, and the MAG is better at the last than the 42, though less good than the 42 at the first two. The 60, when not worn out, is damn good at bipod offence, less good at the rest. The PK is annoyingly OK at all of them, though not stellar at any.

    A possible answer is the systems thinking shown by the Stoner and by HK in the 70s/80s. Maximise (where appropriate to role) commonality of parts and manual of arms, but configure the base system as everything from an SMG//PDW/carbine through a rifle, DMR, LMG (box mag, please), and MMG role weapon. Varying cartridges across pistol/PDW ones, rile, and MG.

    The only real questions being whether you have one cartridge for rifle/LMG (anything from 5.56 to 6.8) and a different more powerful one for DMR and MMG; or the same but LMG uses the DMR/MMG cartridge; or you go for a modern version of .280” British that seeks to be adequate across the rifle/LMG/DMR/MMG requirement.

    • I have occasionally thought about that whole “systems” thing, but there’s a bit of an issue when it comes to interfaces, in that what’s appropriate for a handgun ain’t necessarily what is appropriate for a rifle or machine gun. There’s also the minor issue that about the only thing common thing between pistol, rifle, and MG is the need for a trigger.

      Mechanically, it would be difficult to unify position and actuation controls for pistols and rifles. It’d be nice, but… You’d wind up with a bunch of issues I can’t see a way of working around.

      Now, when you look at a systems approach to the rest of the weapons…? Kinda a problem there, with regards to weight. The Stoner 63 is the closest thing we have to an actual example, and what the Stoner shows is that if you’re going to have a multi-purpose receiver the drawbacks to multi-purpose is that you’ve got Hobson’s choice–Either the receiver is built heavily enough for the MG role, and you’re now carrying a bunch more weight than you really need to in your individual weapons across the board, or you’re going to have your MGs having to work out of a too-light receiver for their role. If you somehow manage to design everything so that the operating system isn’t reliant on the receiver, akin to the Dover Devil, wellll… Maybe. I can’t see a way actually make all the compromises work, but maybe someone else could.

      Thing is, after considerable reflection, what I’ve come to conclude is that the Swiss Army Knife approach is appropriate only to the times where you’re needing to carry a multi-tool that can be used to do minor things. You use a multi-tool because you can’t carry your entire toolbox with you, and might need to deal with contingencies that come up unexpectedly. The thing is, a Swiss Army Knife is a great tool to adjust a setscrew on something, but if you’re doing an engine overhaul…? You want to have an actual screwdriver. An E-tool is great, when you’re wandering the woods, but… Every try to actually dig with one? It sucks. You’re way better off with a dedicated, purpose-designed tool specific to purpose. I’ve used a SAK or multi-tool to fix an outlet somewhere I was staying overnight, but if I were hired to rewire that house…? There’s no way in hell I’d be trying that with just a SAK or Leatherman.

      Another issue is this: Ergonomic design needs to give you cues. Cues appropriate for a pistol, a rifle, an MG… They’re all different. I would almost say that having the same controls in the same place doing the same thing might not be entirely a good idea. Think about hand power tools… You can have the same sort of interface on a drill and an impact driver, but the sort of grip/trigger arrangement you need to have on an angle grinder wouldn’t necessarily be optimal to use on a drill. Horses for courses…

      The “system” thing also falls down on the mechanical side of things, as well–Say you want interchangeable bolts. How’s that going to work if you also have a dual-caliber solution down in the squad? And, here again–There’s that little problem of “If I build this heavy enough to work in an MG, then the individual weapons are gonna be a lot heavier than I really need them to be…”.

      I think about the best you’re going to be able to do is “basic commonality of operating principles and system” in the same sort of way the PK vaguely resembles the AK in terms of the basic system being the same. Past that? There’s just too much different between roles and missions.

      I know HK pulled it off, but think about it: How many of their “system” weapons were really successful…? G3 and MP5 are really the major ones; the HK21 was a bit of a dog’s breakfast per everyone I know who has handled one with real tactical intent. I’ve only finger-banged one, and I honestly didn’t like it much.

      In short, it’s a nice idea that tends to fall down on the practicalities. There are a lot of things I think they could be doing that might make a lot more sense, like saying “You will use the following X fasteners on your weapons, were practical…”, but that’s about it.

    • Problem is mainly between vehicular MGs and squad MGs. For vehicle MGs weight, of the weapon and the ammos, doesn’t count and, since they act as AA MGs too, an high ROF, or at least an adjustable ROF, is preferable.
      Squad MGs need to be lightweight, and a high ROF is more a problem than a advantage.
      But, assuming we can define the charateristics of such an MG, how should it be made?
      1) Rifle caliber. Otherwise the squad will be outranged by enemies that have rifle caliber MGs.
      2) belt fed. LMGs can be magazine fed but, for suppression fire there’s no real alternative to the belt. Belts are also cheap and lightweight. Since to change a belt requires more time than to change a magazine, the belt should be around 100 rounds long for squad actions, as the best compromise between weight and time spent servicing the gun.
      3) around 8kg unloaded. Otherwise is too heavy to be a squad weapon.
      4) stamped or profiled steel receiver. A riveted construction is either too heavy or too flimsy. The stressed parts of the receiver need to be a single piece, PK style.
      5) At the end of WWI it was considered that between 500 and 600 RPM was the best compromise between effectiveness, ammo consumption and barrel duration. That’s why so many different designs aligned around that ROF in the subsequent years. That’s more or less still valid today. The Franchi LF59 battle rifle used a double hammer to reduce the ROF to 520 rpm. With a similar system you can also have a selective double ROF without toying with the gas system (if you have one), nor weighting the gun.
      6) Quick change barrel, and a bipod linked to the receiver and not the barrel, obviously.
      7) Action should be indifferent, but a rotating bolt design has obvious advantages, since the bolt is locked directly to the barrel, or a short extention of it. The rest of the receiver is less stressed and can be lighter.

      The PK has many points in common with this “ideal” design. In the west instead there isn’t much like it.

      • Couple of points, somewhat in reinforcement:

        Firstly, the thing you have to bear in mind is “system”. An MG that can effectively only be fired off the bipod is basically not much better than an Automatic Rifle down at the squad level. Yeah, off the bipod is how you’re going to be firing it a lot of the time, but… You have to be able to easily (and, quickly…) put that bastard onto a tripod that’s actually stable enough to do support fires out past 800m. It is essential that you can smoothly move from role to role as you do this, as well–You simply cannot get enough tightly-focused bursts consistently out to the ranges you need to reach with a weapon fired off someone’s shoulder.

        So, system is paramount–You also need to include the fire-control tools like rangefinders and binos with stadia reticles so that the guys doing the spotting can direct fires effectively. What you can do with a tripod-mounted gun that has a well-drilled team running it vs. what you can do with even the most proficient gunner firing off a bipod is not even remotely comparable. You need to be able to do things like fire a burst from rough T&E settings, then simply tell the gunner what to change–“10 mils right, 15 mils up, fire for effect, three bursts”. The ability to do that at speed, on the fly? Utterly essential. You simply cannot do that sort of thing off someone’s shoulder and a bipod, because that T&E provides you with an essential tool to correct fires without having to worry about trying to communicate the downrange markers that the gunner may or may not be able to make out from where he’s at, firing the weapon.

        That’s what separates someone who knows what the hell they’re doing with the MG team from someone who’s just got the gun along for the ride.

        The rate of fire thing is another minor little detail that escapes a lot of people today. Germans wanted ever-higher rates of fire; the successor to the MG42 was supposed to have a 1500rpm rate. Why did they do that? The idea was this: If you fire an MG with a slow cadence at a long-range target, you have a very wide “response window” down there in the beaten zone; if the targeted enemy troops have long enough to react, they can get to ground below the line of grazing fire or find cover in between the time they first note the signature of incoming rounds, and the moment when the last round impacts. At 600rpm, that’s a significant amount of time. At 1200-1400rpm, there is no time to react; first round of the burst hits, and you’re still standing when the last round hits.

        Thing you have to remember is that you’re using the MG “on spec” in nearly all cases. If you wanted to just hit that one guy, get a sniper; the MG is meant to address all his friends that you can’t see, and who you are pretty sure are down there, lurking about. That’s why the Germans were such maniacs with the high rates of fire. It works, if you know how to use it.

        Allies liked the slower rates of fire mostly because they didn’t actually use their MGs as weapons; they were theater, more than anything–Convince the schmucks with the rifles that there was something behind them supporting their movement, and they might move more effectively and faster. Reality? Saving ammo in a small-arms firefight is a delusional economy. Even if you have to burden your riflemen like they were mules, carrying the ammo, getting that firepower into action and directed at the enemy is going to be a lot more effective than diffusing it across the terrain carried by individuals with rifles. Weight of projectiles delivered on target, properly directed? That wins firefights. The other path just gets you a bunch of dead riflemen.

        I’m of the opinion that the people who worry about the ammo consumption of a high rate-of-fire MG are also the people who have been wont to use their guns more for moral support than anything else. Me? I’m interested in killing the enemy as far from me as possible, and as efficiently as possible; give me that high rate-of-fire, and I’ll worry about the necessary fire discipline to keep it manageable.

        The real problem here is that too many people have only been exposed to their own nation’s schools of thought when it comes to MG use on the ground as infantry, and that those schools of thought have been inordinately influenced by the whole “mechanized warfare” thing, giving everyone the idea that there’s always going to be a turret somewhere nearby that can hose down the enemy at will. We can see how well that worked out in Afghanistan… You get yourself into a fight where you can only bring to bear what you carried into it on foot, you’d better be able to use what you have as efficiently as possible, and that ain’t “rifleman-centric”.

        • Problem with German WWII tactic is exactly that they conceived the MG exclusively as a long range shotgun. The MG42 was great for that role, but anything else was sacrified. Gunners were instructed to not use suppressive fire, but reality is that sometimes you can’t really do without it and, with the MG42, that means you are spending much more time changing belts and barrels than firing, and the amount of ammos you have IS limited anyway. Not to say to use the MG42 as a squad LMG with the 50rds guttromel. How much work it takes to have 2.5 seconds of fire? It’s not by chance that all the post-war users preferred a lower ROF (and got rid of the guttromel, even if that meant to get rid of every chance to use the MG3 as an LMG), even if that meant to further weighten the weapon.
          However, rifle caliber mgs tend to naturally settle down to around 1000 rpm if anything is dimensioned correctly. To lower the ROF you must use some trick (longer bolt travel, heaveier bolt, etc.).A simple system like the double hammer allows to have the two options if you need long range shotgunning.

          • I have my doubts about the efficacy of “suppressive fire”. Flinging projectiles all about the countryside is the precise sort of idiotic mindset that’s brought us the whole NGSW fiasco as a “solution” to provide us with “overmatch”. Only a bunch of idiots with no real background in machinegunnery could conceive of such an inane solution to a non-existent problem.

            The German idea was, as you say, to use the MG as a long-range shotgun. It works, so long as you’ve trained your troops properly and have the requisite accessory items on issue. If you’re going to go the half-ass route, and issue an effectively bipod-only solution that really can’t do much besides provide moral support to your cannon fodder as it assaults everything frontally? Well, yeah… That lower rate of fire and cheaper basis-of-issue for your gun crews makes sense.

            My preference is for economy of manpower; you achieve that by training what you’ve got on hand and then using it intelligently. The “mob” mentality of a bunch of guys freelancing across the battlefield is neither economical nor intelligent–Say you do manage to get your one surviving assaulter up to the objective: What then? You expect him to somehow manage to “suppress” that position with his one rifle? Even if it’s a Marine Corps M27 wielded by the latest version of Carlos Hathcock they’ve managed to produce, that’s one guy with his individual weapon. Odds are, he’s not going to be successful, although occasionally, you may get Alvin York results. Typically, those only come when you’re dealing with demoralized troops who really aren’t that motivated to fight, and who thinks it wise to predicate their tactics on dealing with those…?

            Up to me, I’d eschew a lot of the post-WWII tactics and techniques, so long as I was doing the light infantry thing. Give me the tools I need, and forget “suppression”–If I don’t know where the hell the targets are, I’m not wasting my time and ammo skylining my guns for the enemy. I’m going to carefully husband those guns and ammo, and use them whenever and wherever I can get effective results, which will be enhanced by the higher firepower.

            Especially given the much tighter ROE we’re all forced into, these days. I’d rather be able to zap a nice, tight beaten zone than spray rounds all over a hillside, which is about all you can do with a 600rpm MG off a bipod past 600-800m. They used to describe smoke rounds as the thinking man’s artillery round, because their use enabled you to correct immediately off the first round; the philosophy behind the MG42 is what I’d term “the thinking man’s MG”, in that it enables someone to be far more effective with it properly employed than the typical NATO standard of today.

  12. Obviously I completely agree about tripod, optics and crew tactics. The lone MG gunner with the belt fed gun never worked well outside Hollywood. It can be a possibility, not the way your basic MG tactic is designed. I never said the MG should have ONLY the bipod.
    But LMG work exists. You are not going to fire only from prepared positions. It so exists that the Germans tried to adapt the MG42 to that role too. With less than stellar results (because it’s too heavy, fires too rapidly, and good luck in using it as an automatic rifle, that’s another thing than an LMG, but if your LMG can decently do that too, is better anyway). And suppressive fire exists also, because the MG not only is a system in itself, but is part of a system that includes also light mortars, grenade launchers, bunker busters… things that hits behind covers.

    • I think we’re really talking about two different sorts of war–The one I’m meaning to describe is the sort of light-infantry centric sort of affair where it’s just down to the stuff they can carry easily. The sort of war where they have all the supporting fires and systems they could possibly desire is another thing, entirely–And, almost requires a totally different weapons set. It certainly requires a totally different mentality than what we’ve typically inculcated in our forces, these days. Few leaders in any army automatically assume that the machine gun is their only real firepower, along with some judicious mortar fire. This is a mentality that you have to have, in order to start thinking in terms where emphasis on the MG is paramount.

      When your preferred tactical solution is to blast the ever-lovin’ snot out of an enemy position, and then sort of casually park your IFV on top of the remains, well… Ya really don’t need a machine gun.

      Which is why we’ve basically not bothered to think about how best to employ them. Effects of that may be seen in the experiences had in Afghanistan, which I suspect have warped the direction our small arms efforts were heading in for at least the next generation.

      I’m of the school of thought that says you don’t go spraying the countryside with bullets, just in the hopes of influencing the enemy’s behavior. I think you get much better results from effective fires than you do the random ones. I’ve had the misfortune to be under mistaken live fire in training, and I’m here to tell you… It’s ineffective if it ain’t killing people around you. If the guy you’re trying to “suppress” doesn’t actually recognize your ineffectual fires at him, what the hell have you gained in that encounter, except wasting ammo and skylining your guns for him? Better to wait until you have an effective firing solution, an identified target, and then absolutely plaster that target with as much fire as you can manage while it’s exposed. That means a high rate-of-fire gun, coupled with well-trained and fire-disciplined gun teams under your authority–Not a bunch of guys wandering the woods, looking for business and getting into trouble outside your actual span of control.

      I’d submit, too, that what we’re talking about is likely as obsolete as the discussion of column vs. line Napoleonic tactics. The changing nature of war is bringing us to a point where I suspect that the machine gun and individual weapon are essentially irrelevant–They’re needed, but they’re not what are going to influence the course of battle. That’s going to be the drone, the electronic intelligence stuff, and a whole range of things we’re just now getting into the early days of. Mid-20th Century combat is only slightly relevant to today; tomorrow? It may be entirely overtaken by technologic developments we’re only beginning to explore. Care to imagine the effect of guided man-seeking projectiles or sub-munitions coming into common use? Hell, some of the stuff that’s coming out, you may well find that you’re better off having your infantry platoon replaced by some stealthy character in civilian clothes, wandering around the battle area and pointing out targets to remote weapons systems. All that guy might have on him is something like the Google Glass system, with it feeding remote launchers that home in on whatever he highlights by blinking his eye…

      I think the future may hold a bunch of weirdness that renders these discussions moot, or only fit for historical reenactors. Remains to be seen, though…

  13. But you can’t always choose your kind of war. Sometimes you’ll be carried to the battlefield, sometimes you’ll have to walk to it carrying your MG and ammos. Sometimes you’ll fire from prepared positions, sometimes you’ll be ambushed. Sometimes you’ll have only the MG, sometimes you’ll have mortars too and in today’w warfare there will ALWAYS be HEAT charge rockets. That “effective firing solution”, you can very well be already dead before having had a single one. Suppressive fire is not “spraying the countryside with bullets, just in the hopes of influencing the enemy’s behavior”. Is hitting the enemy’s cover to keep him there, head down, while your men maneuver, or prepare the mortar, or the grenade launcher, or the rocket, to hit them where they are.
    To have an MG that does well only one thing is a limitation. So much that, as said, even the Germans tried to adapt the MG42 to do something it wasn’t really suited to do, but they couldn’t avoid it, because the MG42 was what they had, and they couldn’t always fire endless belts from a tripod in a well prepared position.

    • As I said, the nature of this sort of combat is undergoing visible change as we observe it going on in Ukraine in real time.

      I would differ with you about the use and utility of “suppressive fire”. The sort of thing I think you are thinking about as “suppressive fire” is what they used to term “recon by fire”, where you just sort of speculate about the presence of the enemy and then expend ammo on that location. I am not a big believer in that sort of concept, because it’s even more wasteful than using that Germanic sort of high rate-of-fire MG inappropriately. What I think of as “suppressive fire” is where you’re certain of enemy presence, but you can’t actually engage them with direct fire because they’re in a terrain fold, a building, or some sort of fortification. At that point, keeping them pinned down while you maneuver to get a good firing solution is a valid use of your MG assets–But, you’re still going to get better results from actually engaging those troops with a higher rate-of-fire weapon, once you’ve got that solution.

      The other thing I’m pretty sure you’re missing is that the tripod isn’t just for positional warfare, where you dig them in the way the US is conceptually married to. The tripod needs to be adaptable to the terrain, and should be carried with the mobile MG team at all times, particularly in open terrain where you can identify and engage targets past 800m. Even in close terrain, there are clear use-cases for a tripod–You can’t pre-register firing solutions for use during a retrograde operation without one, even in dense forest. The typical basic tripod like a US M122/192 is effectively useless outside a prepared defensive position, but something like the Lafette actually allows for rapid deployment in dynamic tactical situations to get you effective fires out to the full range of your weapon’s cartridge. I’ve seen what was supposed to be WWII German mountain troops on film, returning fires with the MG42 within less than a minute of receiving Soviet fire–And, they apparently silenced said Soviet weapons within minutes at easily 1200-1500m. Off a tripod… It is possible, but you’ve got to have the equipment and the training to do it.

      • What you just described as “suppressive fire” is exactly what I described before, and it’s different from “spraying the countryside with bullets, just in the hopes of influencing the enemy’s behavior”. Fact is that, in the situation you described:
        1) you don’t have two different kinds of MGs, one for pinning the enemy, one for engaging them with direct fire.
        2) maybe you’ll never get to the point to have a direct fire solution. As said there are also light mortars, grenade launchers, bunker busters… things that hit behind covers.
        You can have the best tripod in the world, and yet you are not going to always have the time, or the terrain, apt to use it. That’s why the Germans put a bipod on the MG42. It was not there for decoration. You can find how many WWII pictures you want of Germans using the MG42 from the bipod.

        • Not to rain on the parade, buddy, but NOT EVERY INFANTRY PLATOON HAULS AROUND A CREW-SERVED MORTAR THROUGH NASTY MOUNTAIN OR WOODED TERRAIN!!! Plus, the use of a tripod is pretty situational. Kirk’s scenario assumes that there is enough distance between the warring parties so that picking off the machine gun crew with a well-placed rifle shot is nearly impossible once the two groups realize each other’s presence.

          • Exactly. There are going to be different situations. That’s why to have an MG that does well only one thing, is a limitation.
            I’m not really a fan of the GPMG concept but, until the desirable charateristics you can have in a MG are not mutually exclusive, it’s better to have as much of them as you can.

          • What you’re arguing for is biasing the weapon towards what are, in actual fact, uses unrelated to its utility as an actual killing tool, lessening its capabilities in that regard. What you are proposing is that the morale effect is more important than the actual lethal killing-the-enemy potential, which I utterly disagree with.

            This is a fundamental philosophic difference between the two schools of machine gun usage in combat. Your position is that the gun is more important in “influencing” things; mine is that actually killing the enemy is the most important function of the weapon. Screw “influence”; I want actual effect on the enemy, in terms of piles of dead bodies out in front of my positions. If getting that means I have a weapon that eats ammo? Suck it up, taxpayers–Either give me the rounds, or give me your kids; your choice. I’d rather not send your sons to do a bullet’s job, but if that’s the way you want it…

          • My position is that the MG is a tool that has to work for the given situations the soldiers can find themselves in, and that means to find the best design compromises.
            Your position is that an hammer has always to be the heaviest possible, because it can happen to find a big nail.

      • Kirk:

        I have come to the conclusion that with the current tripod, the US does not really have an MMG. The M1919A4 was seen as an LMG (albeit on a simple tripod), to provide more firepower to the company than the BAR. But the MMG was the M1917, on a proper tripod. When the US decided to use the M1919’s tripod for the M60, they basically gave up on having a proper MMG capability, and now they still use the same tripod for the M240. The simple tripod of the M1919 was never meant to be the base for a proper MMG. I wonder how this came about?

        • My perspective is that the people who are running the procurement/training/doctrine systems have very little actual knowledge or experience of what real MG operations ought to look like, and they’re about as imaginative as your average igneous rock. I could be biased–I spent a fair amount of time proselytizing for better tripods and other essential gear, but as I was from a non-Infantry branch, I had about as much influence as someone’s pet rock.

          It really begins from the essential point that these idiots don’t think that the machine gun matters, anymore. That is, until the poor bastards that they trained and equipped run into the Hindu Kush on foot, and discover that you can’t effectively answer tripod-mounted MG fires from a bipod.

          That does, of course, allow you to leverage that deficiency into a whole new small arms suite, with all the attendant opportunities for post-retirement employment and other such benefits for the connected. The reality that most of the issues identified with this “overmatch” charade could be addressed through better training and ancillary equipment? Disregarded–Taxpayer money is endless, the lives of the troops meaningless, and we need to get our cut of the graft whilst expressing virtue at our hard work.

          The point that they’re needlessly overburdening the next generation of soldiers stuck with their too-heavy POS weapons? Irrelevant. We’ve been here, before, and they’re essentially recapitulating the highly flawed 7.62mm NATO/M-14 development cycle, which will end in a “one cartridge to do it all” solution that will suffer from the same deficiencies as the 7.62mm NATO, but in a new, more profitable format. For them. Raw fact is, the support MG role has far different needs than the individual weapon; trying to address both roles with the same cartridge just leads to stupidity. Everyone who has tried this has found that out, the hard way–And, none of them have made it work, all eventually going to a two-caliber solution.

          What irritates me most about this crap is that the facts of the matter are quite clear, so long as you approach the question with an open mind and examine what has actually gone on out there on the battlefield. But, these people are utter dolts, morons with exquisite credentials–Same ones who told me back during the 1990s that nothing like the IED campaigns in Iraq or Afghanistan would never, ever be encountered by US forces, and we had no need to procure either mine-protected vehicles or armored route clearance hardware. The US military is infested with these types, and whether they’re in uniform or civilian clothes, they are all educated-yet-idiot dolts who are completely unable to connect cause with effect until the effect is well past arguing over.

          When I was a child, I used to look up to these people. After some experience with them, I no longer think that the credential process we use is worth a damn, and I have nothing but disdain and suspicion for anyone touting their set at me. Effective dolts have made these decisions, many times over the protests of men like me, but they win because they’re credentialed.

          Here’s a micro-cosm of what goes on: Circa 1993, after the mine clearing of Kuwait was well underway, I spotted a write-up in the New York Times about one of the mine clearance types in Kuwait, one Floyd Rockwell. He was a Vietnam-era EOD guy then in employment with MBB, who had won one of the clearance contracts in Kuwait. Floyd was interviewed by the NYT correspondent, and he mentioned that he’d been getting much better results than advertised out of the then-new AN/PSS-12 Schiebel mine detector. No details in the article, but there was enough that I managed to find and contact Floyd pre-internet, and it was an enlightening series of conversations. I learned how he was getting those results, tested them with a borrowed mine detector, and concluded that we were doing a bunch of things wrong in terms of approved Army practice with the things. I wrote up a nice, dense white paper outlining everything I’d learned, including a bunch of recommendations about how to better train on the detectors, which included drawings of a proposed mine detector range, along with recommended purchases of suitable dummy training mines to be used on said range. This example range was drawn up to fit a specific location on Fort Lewis, laid out to take advantage of existing structures on an old Vietnam-era site that was then disused.

          Said white paper vanished into the maw of the Engineer School combat developments office, and I had to call multiple times to find out what the hell was going on with it. I thought it was important, because that information enabled someone to take an already-issued mine detector and get much better results out of it than were specified; you could, in short, detect mines that were held to be undetectable due to the low metal content in them. After about six months, the guy I was calling all the time finally tired of me bothering him, and told me in no uncertain terms that a.) the Army didn’t need to be able to do that, and b.) if we did have better capability than we had, that would make it harder to argue before Congress for the Ground-Penetrating Radar mine detectors then in development…

          Roughly five years later, we all got this nice, thick “Safety-of-Use” message about the AN/PSS-12 mine detector: We’d been training on it incorrectly, and some bright light with a Reserve commission and a freshly-minted Ph.D had made this “discovery” via the same methodology I had, by talking to Floyd Rockwell. They wrote up this whole packet of supporting documents, including outlining possible range plans for training purposes that looked suspiciously like the ones I’d sent in, with different lettering on the labels. Buildings and lanes in the same positions, exactly matching what I’d proposed be used at Fort Lewis.

          Investigation on my part revealed that no, they’d never seen my paper that I’d sent in, nor had they any idea at all what I was talking about. It had all come independently, of course, and the author claimed he’d never heard of me, or my paper. To my face. Oddly, I remembered him, from when I’d worked with him as a staff officer on exercise around the time I was working on this stuff, and I vaguely remember having talked to him about where to submit such a thing…

          That’s how things work, in the US Credentialed Army. Right information, provided by the wrong person…? Irrelevant, to be ignored, not of consequence. Guy with the right credentials presents it? All of a sudden, it’s true and valid.

          US Army is horrible about a lot of things, and this is one of the biggies. When I was a lowly Staff Sergeant, pay grade E-6, I was considered an untrustworthy source, and constantly got sharpshot by idiots in higher positions–Despite having more time-in-grade than the vast majority of my peers. Centralized promotion boards finally picked me up on the list, and the day I got pinned-on as a Sergeant First Class, pay grade E-7, all of a sudden those same idiots who’d been questioning my competency the week before during range briefings were telling me that I didn’t need to brief them on any aspect of anything, ‘cos as a Sergeant First Class, I was beyond questioning. It was ‘effing surreal.

          Oddly enough, about six months later, one of my peer Sergeants First Class was tasked with an M2HB range, and he screwed that pooch so badly that the folks from Range Control came out, shut him down, and got on the radio to demand that our Command Sergeant Major get his ass out there to fix things. Something I had never, ever seen or heard of before.

          The mentality is that credentials are everything, everywhere, in every context.

          I might beg to differ on that.

          • Kirk,

            Yes, the “not invented here” view is strong in all bureaucracies, and the US Army must be one of the biggest. It’s always easier for a bureaucrat to say no to an idea.

            As I understand it, the Browning machine gun was first made air cooled with a view to using it as an aircraft gun. The cavalry then decided it would provide them with useful firepower, and a light and simple tripod was designed for it. This was then developed into the M1919A4 with tripod, but it was not meant to replace the M1917 as the MMG.

            When the M1917 was in service, I assume the US Army had men who knew how to use an MMG. But once the decision was made to use the simple M1919A4 tripod for the M60, I would argue that the US Army essentially turned its back on the proper MMG. Perhaps this was because in 1960 they assumed any future war would go nuclear very quickly, but it is still odd to think that the standard US Army tripod is based on a 100 year old design. As you say, if that does not indicate neglect, nothing does.

          • I think that the root cause is that the hierarchy made a collective decision that machineguns no longer mattered, and that was that. They didn’t care, ‘cos they were in love with the Atomic Bomb and the “Modern Mechanized Battlefield”, completely missing the point that the infantry (and, others…) occasionally have to actually go out and do the classic thing with just the weapons they can carry. This is why nobody really gave a rip about the weight of the M240, because the Rangers were of a mind that “Hey, we’re only gonna be in the fight for a couple of days, we can hack it…”. Which turned out to be kind of a non-starter, once line infantry had to hump the hills and valleys of Afghanistan for weeks on end.

            Somebody should have raised red flags during that process. Someone else should have been raising red flags back during the late 1970s and early 1980s about the M60 fleet wearing out, which was inevitably going to lead to a point where they’d have to re-capitalize the entire ground machine gun program. They should have had a replacement for the M60, fully tested and validated, waiting in the wings. They did not. And, why not? Well, like I say… They don’t think it matters.

            The US military has this minor problem in that it doesn’t view weapons procurement as an evolutionary thing. It is always treated like “This is the last time we’ll ever need to buy this thing…”, and off they go in pursuit of the ultimate Uber-thingy, the “One Ring” that will serve as the ultimate expression of all things thingy in that category. That’s why the dumbfsck jackasses come up with these nebulous ideas like the one behind the ACR program, where they were in search of some sort of incredible 100% improvement over the M16, like they were back in the days when smokeless powder came on the scene. Hate to tell y’all this, but there are no “low-hanging fruits” out there on the technological scene that are going to get you that sort of exponential performance improvement–It’s all incremental, tiny little improvements that are possible in this technologic era. They should be doing things like going for a cold hammer-forged barrel on the issue weapon, along with better coatings and other things we know we could do, rather than sticking with a TDP that’s literally locked into the late 1950s. Look at what Ian has done with the WWSD rifles, and ask yourself if those aren’t what the issue rifle ought to look like, these days…?

            But, that’s not the way we do business. The whole system is based on delusional blue-sky thinking, rather than any sort of pragmatic evolutionary process.

          • Kirk,

            I’m sure you are right, at this stage of development, there will be no “big bang” so to speak in firearms, rather gradual improvement. As to the art of the machine gun in the US Army, yes, it has been lost. The M60 could have been adapted to a proper tripod, as per the M1917, instead it was adapted for the M1919A4’s tripod, and with that, the ability to use a proper MMG went, and with it the institutional knowledge of how it was done.

            I can only assume that in 1960, when the policy was that any attack by the Soviets would be met with massive nuclear response, the idea that machine guns should play a meaningful role on the battlefield must have seemed somewhat unlikely. That prediction turned out well.

  14. it’s a fantastic firearm with something like 25000 mean rounds between failures. if you keep it oiled heavily, keep the gas regulator nut tight, and either safety wire or pin it in place with the standard cotter pin, the MAG will run for you, no matter what. for this blessing, I adore it as I do my unborn son.
    I will happily carry that bitch in place of a M249/Minimi/C9. In order to get a clean burst of blanks through your C9, the PAM states you need a divine intervention from God, Buddha and Mohammed all combined into a symbiote, at exactly sunrise on a thursday with no morning dew, and between six and ten clouds in the sky. I hate, hate, hate the C9 on blanks. profoundly. sincerely. with a passion. that thing runs juuuuust fine on Live rounds, but how often do you shoot live rounds in training?!
    the FN MAG is called the C6 in Canadian service. I have never seen one with the ‘dust cover’ on the bottom of the receiver, but older handouts still refer it on some drills – so my guess is that it was removed from our stock at some point.
    the Canadian version used to have a similar gas regulator, then we went to something simpler ( small tube with three holes of different sizes along the length, castle nut, pin. done); after that, we drilled the three holes to all the same ”adverse” (3) sized, which bumped the standard fire rate from 600 to 850+. they all seem to run at slightly different speeds. with the new C6 flex we’re starting to get, we’re going back to the adjustable regulator like the example here.
    the flash hider needs to be taken off the barrel in order to thread on a blank firing adapter – and *every SINGLE time* that sucker is jammed on real tight. there’s a typical open-end wrench included in the standard issue cleaning kit, but since it’s only about eight inches long, you don’t have enough lever there to get it done, especially since it’s hard to keep the weapon still while you’re laying a hundred foot pounds on the wrench. typical remedies are torches, hammers ( I used a fire axe once) to hit the wrench with, or just copious CLP and waiting. it’s a hassle each time and the NCOs never give you enough time to get it done.
    the bipod is kind of a hassle to close up, you can get the first leg in fine, then the second one hangs on the button so you need to take your eyes off whatever else you were doing, flip the gun over, and figure it out. kind of annoying but I am a forgiving man.
    you burn yourself once, only once on one of these at a range, and then you remember not to forget. i insist heavily that the only way you touch the barrel is with the handle – it’s unwieldy as fuck and you’re tempted naturally to use a second hand on the barrel so you don’t have to work your wrist muscles into overdrive, but you really, really have to break that instinct or you’ll do it when it’s hot without thinking.
    typical barrel change sequence includes pressing the lever on the left side of the gun with the fat of your thumb.. palm.. thing with the left hand, and an open-palm strike upwards on the handle with your right, finishing by a smack on the butt of the handle with the base of your hand / end of your wrist.. thing.. part. sometimes, on older MGs, the catch to let the carry handle rotate freely is worn, so you’ll whack it out without actually freeing the barrel, so you have to try a few times.
    Recruits typically insert the new barrel wrong – you have to align the chamber end of the barrel, but also the gas regulator out front; it helps to keep the gun straight when you do it.
    recruits also often make the mistake of starting a dissassembly with the weapon cocked, meaning the spring compressed, which will launch accoss the room, into your gut, or into your face.. i’ve been lucky in my years never to have done it, knock on wood.
    We’re not allowed to remove the top cover from the MG, or to take apart the feed mechanism – if we do, we get sprayed with a water bottle and told ”bad grunt! bad!” by higher ups.
    Forgotten Weapons, thank you for showcasing the most fun toy I get to play with at work. I am very much looking forward to your Minimi video if there ever is one. Maybe i’ll become a patron and ask ”Why is the Minimi so unreliable with C79A1/M200 blank cartridges” one day, because by God I work with it directly and neither I nor any colleague I ever quizzed could tell me why it’s such a pig.
    any of you guys want to see some vintage-ass drills from the Canadian military, try ”C6 Handling A.Ryan” on youtube – he posts obsolete training videos and such.

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