M249 Squad Automatic Weapon System (SAW)
5.56 mm M249 Machine Gun Picture
The M249 SAWS light machine gun is gas-operated, magazine or disintegrating metallic link-belt fed, individually portable machine gun capable of delivering a large volume of effective fire to support infantry squad operations. The M249 is used to suppress enemy positions with accurate automatic fire.
The M249 has a maximum rate of fire of 850 rounds per minute. Primarily, ammunition is fed into the weapon from a 200-round ammunition box containing a disintegrating metallic split-link belt. As an emergency means of feeding, the M-249 AR can use a 20- or 30-round M16 rifle magazine, but this will increase the chance of stoppages. Although the M-249 AR is primarily used as an automatic rifle, it is also used as a light machine gun. It can be fired from the shoulder, hip, or underarm position; or from the bipod-steadied position.
The M249 fires the improved NATO Standard SS 109 type 5.56mm ammunition. The M249 replaces the two automatic M16A1 rifles in the rifle squad on a one-for-one basis in all infantry type units and in other units requiring high firepower.
Picture: Army soldier with M249. It entered US Army service in 1987.
The Belgian Fabrique Nationale XM249 “Minimi” was standardized as the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon System in 1982. The M249 filled the void created by the retirement of the M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) during the 1950s because interim automatic weapons (M14 series/M16A1 rifles) had failed as viable “base of fire” weapons.
The M249 gunner has the option of using 30-round M16 magazines or linked ammunition from pre-loaded 200-round plastic magazines. The gunner’s basic load is 600 rounds of linked ammunition.
This soldier is holding a M240B a .308 machinegun in Iraq. Hat tip Nillerz
Cartridge, 5.56-mm ball M855 (A059). The M855 cartridge has a gilding, metal-jacketed, lead alloy core bullet with a steel penetrator. The primer and case are waterproof. The ammunition is linked by a disintegrating metallic split-linked belt for firing from the ammunition box. In an emergency, the M855 round can also be loaded and fired from the M16 20or 30-round magazine. It is identified by a green tip, has a projectile weight of 62 grains, and is 2.3 cm long. This is the NATO standard round. It is effective against personnel and light materials, not vehicles.
Cartridge, 5.56-mm tracer, M856 (A064). This cartridge has a 63.7 grain bullet without a steel penetrator. It is identified by an orange tip. The tracer is used for adjustments after observation, incendiary effects, and signalling. When tracer rounds are fired, they are mixed with ball ammunition in a ratio of four ball rounds to one tracer round. The DODAC for ball and tracer mix is A064.
US Army soldier aiming a para version of the M249.
M249 Belt Fed Machine Gun Data
M249 Length: 40.87 inches (103.81 centimeters)
With bipod and tools: 15.16 pounds (6.88 kilograms)
200-round box magazine: 6.92 pounds (3.14 kilograms)
30-round magazine: 1.07 pounds (.49 kilograms)
Bore diameter: 5.56mm (.233 inches)
Maximum effective range: 3281 feet (1000 meters) for an area target
Maximum range: 2.23 miles (3.6 kilometers)
M249 Rates of fire:
Cyclic: 725 rounds per minute
Sustained: 85 rounds per minute
Unit Replacement Cost: $4,087
Picture: US Marine sighting the medium machine gun.
Follow the links below to learn more about:
Marines practicing with the M249 SAW in Iraq.