M249 5.56mm not good enough?


Evil Monkey
February 11, 2008, 02:13 PM
In this thread,


in the third post down, "alsaqr" said,

The few dozen infantry folks that I have talked with have no problem with the M4 or M16. The big problem is that the squad automatic weapon, the SAW, is too light for the job. Infantry squads used to have an M60 machine gun as the squad automatic weapon.

I've heard about this numerous times now. Is there a report on the subject out there from experiences in Iraq? Is it really true that the 5.56mm in a LMG has been somewhat of a failure?

Recently I've found a Janes article dated 2001-2002 called "Calibers Reconsidered" and it had some interesting things in it.

Calibres reconsidered

To turn from an uncertain future to the present, the past year has provided several indication, to add to those already present, that all is not well in the accepted field of rifle calibre ammunition selection. With only a handful of standard service calibres in both the East and the West it would have been thought that matters had been decided for the indefinite future but it is becoming apparent that this is not so.

The level of discussion of the effectiveness of the smaller rifle calibres, 5.45mm and 5.56mm, seems to indicate that for many tactical applications such small rounds are unsatisfactory. Leaving aside the fact that these smaller calibre rounds were not meant to have a long-range capability in the first place, it has become apparent that in the field of fire support, larger calibre ammunition, including the most widely deployed round of all, the ex-Soviet 7.62 39mm, is infinitely preferential to the smaller equivalents. This was highlighted during several of the recent small-scale conflicts, such as those in the Balkans. In most instances the relatively recent `rifle family' concept of individual weapon backed by a similar squad fire support weapon with a heavier barrel has not produced the level of firepower required in many tactical situations.

There are many other indications that the small calibres cannot always deliver what is required, especially in areas where vegetation is thick. In practical terms, the small calibres cannot always hack their way through to an intended target. It is for this reason that some nations, Finland being but one example, have never adopted the small calibres.

The general opinion is that in the longer term, there will be a move away from the current dominance of the smaller calibres back towards something heavier. This will probably not happen for years for any move from an accepted norm towards something different is bound to have many ramifications along the way. For many users there may be no need to move away from the well-established 5.45 or 5.56, just as the 7.62 51mm NATO round remains firmly entrenched with many current rifle users. Yet it seems certain that squad fire support weapons could well move away from 5.45 or 5.56 towards something heavier, while special forces will eventually carry rifles with calibres heavier that most of those now in service. This tendency will probably take years to become widely apparent but it seems that the initial moves are already in progress.

Interesting! We shouldn't be worrying about 5.56 v 7.62 from a rifle, rather from a Light machine gun/ squad support weapon. Your thoughts?

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February 11, 2008, 02:49 PM
my brother-in-law used a m249 to light up a dump truck in Iraq. he said it worked really well... i think that the 5.56 is a great round and is very under-rated. if it is no good, why have we been using it for 40 years?? yes there are alot of differant rounds out there, but there is no "magic" round that can do everything. this is why we have different weapon systems availible. as for a "light" sqaud auto. weapon, its amazing. i think.

February 11, 2008, 02:55 PM
I used an M249 as a trunk-monkey - excellent for laying down covering-fire and good on soft-targets, but it took more rounds than I would have liked to stop a vehicle. That forced us to go to PKMs in 7.62x54R

Horses for courses and all that.

February 11, 2008, 03:17 PM
Different pluses and minuses (echoing what AndyC said).

The SAW has its strengths and limitations, as do medium machineguns in 7.62 flavors. I don't see either the 5.56mm light machinegun or the 7.62 LMG/MMG going out of the inventory any time soon. As for the longer term, the powers that be seem content with the idea of a squad level suppressive weapon in an intermediate caliber, judging by the focus of the LSAT program.

I think the bigger problem, as far as end users are concerned, are mechanically unreliable SAWs that are a bit too long in the tooth, more than limits of the 5.56mm round in an LMG. (Particularly when it is employed within the context of a squad or platoon's range of assigned weapons, etc.)

February 11, 2008, 03:23 PM
For Infantry 101, the M249 excels, i.e. dismounted patrol, Battle Drill 1A, et cetera. If you need to lay down a lot of fire so that your B team/squad can flank the enemy element, it's just what you need.

In the turret, I hope it's only a backup to your Ma Deuce/ Mk 19.

The M60 is a good compromise between size, weight, and caliber, especially if you have a vehicle to get you from A to B. On the ground, you better have some PT studs on your weapons squad or it's dead weight.

February 11, 2008, 04:15 PM
I dont know about you guys, but the M249 carries pretty damn heavy to me compaired to something like (especially) the new slimed down 240 Mk whatever. Or even a PKM.

Bart Noir
February 11, 2008, 08:02 PM
Really, scaled up for 7.62x51.


Bart Noir

February 11, 2008, 11:44 PM
Buddy of mine was a saw gunner, they do a great job at what they were intended to do stop people from charging you, but they do a terrible job at what they were never intended to do, ie anti-material. There are advantages and disadvantages to every weapon, that is why you use them the way you were trained and not the way you would like to use them.

February 12, 2008, 04:30 AM
Use the M249 in 7.62
the FN mag aka the m240

February 12, 2008, 06:00 AM
the minimi in 7.62 is slightly lighter than a gpmg or m240 but you'll never see it unless you something special as no governments going to buy lightweight 7.62 mgs when its already got 7.62mgs in sstore

February 12, 2008, 10:05 AM
"Infantry squads used to have an M60 machine gun as the squad automatic weapon."

Dispite appearences and even recollections, this was not true of the US Army Infantry.

From the time the M16A1 rifle was adopted until the adoption of the current SAW the "auto rifle" in each of a squads fireteams was an M-16A1 or A2 with a clip on bipod and not a single other difference.

Each Infantry Platoon of three rifle squads and a Weapons squad had two M-60 GPMGs assigned. Inother words two GPMGs for three squads. Typically one of the guns was attached to one squad and one to another, but that left one squad "out in the cold" and there were times when the mission of weapons squad may have required one or both guns to be withdrawn to be back under the control of the Weapons squad leader.

The Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E)for the rifle platoon called for a rifle squad to consist of from nine to eleven men (depending on the time period and place) divided into two fire teams. The weaposn carried in the rifle squad were rifles and grenade launchers and before the adoption of the M203 Grenade launcher when team Grenadiers were issued the M79 "Bloop-Tube" GL those gunners were issued an M-1911A1 .45 ACP side arm.

Notice there was nothing in the TO&E about a belt fed MG of any kind in the Squad.

It was nice to have an M-60 attached, but not an everyday thing.

Compared to an M-16A1 set on full auto, fed from standard 20 or 30 round magazines, on a cheap clothes pin type bipod.....the current SAW when belted ammo is available is a wonderous thing.

Having fired the .30 "SAW", the BAR, and the 7.62 SAWs, the M-14A1 and M-14 A2 (E2) I personally was underwhelmed with being handed a stamped steel spring loaded bipod that could either be attached to the rifle with its legs sticking down or stored in its bothersome pouch. Amazingly those bipods and pouches were lost at such a rate they were hard to find on occassion.

Later after it was decided I need a better education I moved to a weaposn squad and after a few weeks of being married to an M67 90mm Recoiless rifle had a M-60 gunner leave the service and his assistant turn himself in for drug treatment and inherited an M-60. Yes, there is no comparison to be had between a 7.62 GPMG and a 5.56 "auto rifle" but as has been noted carrying the M-60 and only a mere 300 rounds took a lot out of a fellow that also had to carry his own personal gear. For me about the neatest thing about being a -60 gunner was that I got to keep my 1911A1.....and I confess that seemed heavy at times

Let's stop this silly 7.62 SAW in the good old days as it did not exist in the US Army.

I do not know about the USMC but they usesda a three fireteam squad for a good long while and seem to recall that they only deployed one gun with one of the teams.

The SAW as it was invisioned in the US Army was to be issued one to each infantry fire team, that is two to the Squad. Some how two dedicated (not pulled out by the Platoon leader when ever he damn well pleases and sent some where else) beats a maybe we will get one 7.62 gun if it isn't busy some place else.

Now lets move on.

-Bob Hollingsworth

February 12, 2008, 10:48 AM
When I was in the infantry (mid 80s) we were assigned an M60 for each squad in our company. This was an anti armor company (11h), not a rifle company, but our weapons list was 2xM16s, 1xM203, 1xM60, repeat.

I think my training company may have been the first to train on the 249 at Benning (on of the first at least--the bull dozed trees caught fire on the sides of the range in a few places, shutting us down to douse 'em).

At the time, the M60 was held in contempt by most. The common discussion at the time was why did the US even develop that piece of junk when the MG3 was available. (not saying I agree with that, just saying that soldiers like to bitch about their gear for the most part. Well, they just like to bitch. lol)

February 12, 2008, 02:55 PM
for a squad level automatic rifle the light caliber is all right because you can carry a lot more ammo

February 12, 2008, 03:03 PM
I was a machinegunner in the USMC, and as such, I didn't have to goof around with the SAW much. I can tell you that there is a signifigant difference in weight between the SAW and the M-60, the Saw is much easier to fire from the shoulder if necessary (although you can fire an M60 offhand), and the SAW fires the same round as the rest of the squad, which is no small thing. I happen to think it is a so-so weapon, but it fills a gap and it seems to do so moderately well.

Bart Noir
February 12, 2008, 03:11 PM
MudPuppy, are you saying that the 10-man squad had 2 M-60s??? That is a lot of firepower, but not enough to stop armor:D What did you have to hump for anti-armor weapons?

Possum, I agree that the M240 is a fine MG, although I believe it is heavier than the M60. But I was refering to the Mk48, which is a whole different MG and really is a 7.62 version of the M249. What I don't know is just how much it is used by the SpecOps people.

Anybody know more about the Mk48 in service?

Bart Noir

February 12, 2008, 03:23 PM
6 full drums and a para saw is not easy to lug around. actually it sucks. id hate for it to be replaced with anything heavier. plus we have 2 240s for the platoon. that with 9 SAWs and 40 M16s is usually enough.

February 12, 2008, 04:23 PM

First when you were a direct fire anti tank weapon team member, what was your teams main mode of transportation? does not sound like you were in a team or squad of 11Bs as most Infantry are.

The reason the MG3 was not selected over the M-60 is that the MG3 had not been invented yet. Certainly there were the MG1 conversions of MG42s but not the MG3.

Certainly the M-60 is a lighter gun than the T37 (7.62 NATO version of the M1919A6) it has an easier to change barrel than the 1919 series guns and an easier to deal with feed system than the 1919.

Basically the M-60 was the end result of a project begun immediately after WWII that mated the MG42 feed system with the FG42 and dropping the requirement for select fire, select bolt positioning.

The two biggest problems for the M-60 were its age the Army did not buy enough to keep it in production and two Peter G. Kokalis (sp?)who took every opertunity to remind Amercain youth what a poor gun the M-60 was.

Most of the things "wrong" with the M-60 could have been fixed with up grades if production levels had been kept up.

I never got to play with the M-60 IMOD that the USMC ended up using a bit but it did seem an improvement over the M-60.

Guns get replaced because tactics and conditions change and when there is money to do so. Politics play a huge role in Arms Procurement. When the M-60 was adopted and for a bit after it looked like about the best allround idea.

As a M-60 gunner or some other 11B slot I got to shoot and compare the MG42 family from MG1 with waffen amp marks to the MG3 and also the FN MAG, dispite its warts I liked the M-60 best even though before I got to try the others I though both would be a better gun.

My point was that the M-60 was part of a RIfle Platoons Weapons Squad and ther were never enough for every firetam to have one or even one per squad according to US ARMY TO&Es for Rifle Companies.

-Bob Hollingsworth

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