Squad automatic weapon

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The Bren is an example of a British Army squad automatic weapon from World War II.
A Romanian soldier instructs a U.S. Marine in clearing an RPK, a squad automatic weapon variant of the AKM.

A squad automatic weapon (SAW, also known as section automatic weapon or light support weapon) is a weapon used to give infantry squads or sections a portable source of automatic firepower. Weapons used in this role are selective fire rifles, usually fitted with a bipod and heavier barrel to perform as light machine guns. SAWs usually fire the same cartridge as the assault rifles or battle rifles carried by other members of the unit. This reduces logistical requirements by making it necessary to supply only one type of ammunition to a unit. SAWs are light enough to be operated by one man, as opposed to heavy machine guns such as the Browning M2, which fire more powerful cartridges but require a crew to operate at full effectiveness.

Overview[edit]

Many SAWs (such as the RPK and L86) are modified assault rifles or battle rifles that may have increased ammunition capacity and heavier barrels to withstand continued fire and will almost always have a bipod. In the case of some assault rifles, such as the H&K G36 or Steyr AUG, the SAW is simply the standard rifle with a few parts replaced. However, the Austrian Army, though issuing the Steyr AUG rifle, does not issue the HBAR (heavy barrel) variant. Instead the 7.62mm caliber MG74, a derivative of WW2-era German MG 42, is issued. The most common SAWs in use today are derived from two basic patterns: the Kalashnikov-based RPK or the purpose-designed FN Minimi.

One of the first weapons designed for this role was the Madsen machine gun, which, though having a limited magazine capacity, was still more than that of the typical infantry rifle, and it gave the infantry a base of fire weapon that was more suited to maneuver warfare than the bulkier machine guns of the period, such as the MG 08.

Some sources refer to the SAW as a "Squad Assault Weapon"[1][2] but, officially, that is an improper usage.

Examples[edit]

Purpose-built belt-fed weapons[edit]

Assault rifle-based[edit]

Battle rifle-based[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Boe, David (August 1, 1997). "Mission Continues" (PDF). The Talon (in English) 3 (31) (Eagle Base, Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1st Infantry Division (Task Force Eagle) Public Affairs Office). p. 6. Retrieved November 27, 2013. "Sitting atop the platoon leader's HMMWV, the 20-year-old soldier mans a Squad Assault Weapon and monitors traffic at the crossroads." 
  2. ^ Lewis, Jack (September 12, 2007). Ken Ramage, ed. The Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons (7th ed.). Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. pp. 14, 74, 156, 245. ISBN 978-1-4402-2652-6. Retrieved November 27, 2013. "When it comes to machine guns, FNH USA is turning out copies of the M249 Squad Assault Weapon (SAW) that has been in the US military inventory for several decades."