M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, 5.56mm

The Belgian Fabrique Nationale XM249 "Minimi" was standardized as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon System in 1982. The Machine Gun, 5.56mm, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon System (SAW) 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 at ranges up to 800 meters.

Soldier with the 104th Military Intelligence Bn, provides cover with a HMMWV-mounted M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a live fire exercise, Moving Operations Range, Tikrit, Iraq, 2004
Soldier with the 104th Military Intelligence Bn, provides cover with a HMMWV-mounted M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a live fire exercise, Moving Operations Range, Tikrit, Iraq, 2004.

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The M249 fires the improved NATO Standard SS109 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.

Machinegun, 5.56MM, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
Machinegun, 5.56MM, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

The M249 filled the void created by the retirement of the M-1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) during the 1950s because interim automatic weapons (M14 series and M16A1 rifles) had failed as viable "base of fire" weapons.

Machinegun, 5.56MM, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Twentynine Palms, CA
Machinegun, 5.56MM, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Twentynine Palms, CA.

Chambered in 5.56 mm NATO, the SAW is fed from a 200 round box of linked ammunition, and also accepts standard 30 round box magazines from the M16 family of rifles. Four 200-round magazines are typically packed into one PA-108 'SAW box' ammo can.

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