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Light machine gun

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The Belgian Minimi M249 light machine gun, one of the most widespread modern 5.56 mm light machine guns amongst NATO countries. This one is an M249E3 "Para" model.
IWI Negev of the Israeli Army
Bren light machine gun
.30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle Model 1918

A light machine gun (LMG) is a light-weight machine gun designed to be operated by a single infantryman, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. LMGs firing cartridges of the same caliber as the other riflemen of the same combat unit are often referred to as squad automatic weapons.



While early light machine guns fired full-powered rifle cartridges, modern light machine guns often fire smaller-caliber rifle cartridges than medium machine guns – generally the same intermediate cartridge fired by a service's standard assault rifle – and are usually lighter and more compact. Some LMGs, such as the Russian RPK, are modifications of existing designs and designed to share the same ammunition. Adaptations to the original rifle generally include a larger magazine, a heavier barrel to resist overheating, a more robust mechanism to support sustained fire and a bipod.

A light machine gun is also defined by its usage as well as its specifications: some machine guns – notably general-purpose machine guns – may be deployed either as a light machine gun or a medium machine gun. Deployed on a tripod and used for sustained fire, it is a medium machine gun; if deployed with a bipod with the operator in a prone position and firing short bursts, it is a light machine gun.

Light machine guns are also designed to be fired from the hip or on the move as a form of suppressive fire intended to pin down the enemy. Marching fire is a specific tactic that relies on this capability.

Lighter modern LMGs have enabled them to be issued down at the fireteam level, with two or three at the section/squad level.

Ammunition feed


Many light machine guns (such as the Bren gun or the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle) were magazine-fed. Others, such as the Hotchkiss M1922, could be fed either from a belt/strip or from a box magazine. Modern light machine guns are designed to fire smaller caliber rounds and, as such, tend to be belt-fed (from a container attached to the gun) or from a detachable high-capacity drum magazine, but some, such as the FN Minimi, will also accept standard rifle magazine feeding as an auxiliary measure when belted ammunition has been exhausted.



In 1903, French military theorists noticed that the heavy machine guns of the day were of little use in infantry assaults. They determined that "the machine gun must learn to walk".[1] They researched the possibility of a light machine gun which could be carried by troops. A marching fire tactic was theorised, using incidental suppressive fire, with the advancing troops considered a deadlier threat than the un-aimed bullets, causing the enemy to fall back. The prototype guns were not approved for production, and none were in service when World War I began.[1] The French quickly brought the prototypes to mass production to boost the firepower of advancing infantry.

By the end of World War II, light machine guns were usually being issued on a scale of one per fire team or squad, and the modern infantry squad had emerged with tactics that were built around the use of the LMG to provide suppressive fire.[citation needed]

Selected examples

A Chinese soldier with a ZB vz.26 light machine gun.
The early INSAS LMG, a weapon of Indian origin.
A Romanian soldier instructing a U.S. Marine in clearing a RPK

The following were either exclusively light machine guns, had a light machine gun variant or were employed in the light machine gun role with certain adaptations.

Model Country of origin Design date Caliber(s) Weight (base model) Feed system Rate of fire (rounds/min) Model variants
Madsen machine gun  Denmark 1883 Various 9.07 kg (20.0 lb) Box magazine 450
Chauchat (Fusil-Mitrailleur Mle 1915 'CSRG')  France 1907 8mm Lebel
.30-06 Springfield
9.07 kg (20.0 lb) Magazine 240/360 M1918 CSRG Chauchat(USA)
Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié  United States
 United Kingdom
1909 8mm Lebel
.303 British
.30-06 Springfield
12 kg (26.5 lb) Stripper clip fed 400–600
Bergmann MG15 nA Gun  Germany 1910 7.92×57mm Mauser 12.9 kg (28.4 lb) Belt fed 500–600
Vickers-Berthier  France
 United Kingdom
1910 .303 British 11.07 kg (24.4 lb) Box magazine 450–600
Lewis Gun  United States
 United Kingdom
1911 .303 British
.30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
13 kg (28.7 lb) Drum magazine 600 (cyclic)
Huot automatic rifle  Canada 1916 .303 British 5.9 kg (13.0 lb) Drum magazine 155/475
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle  United States 1917 .30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
8.8 kg (19.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic) Wz. 1928 (Poland)
Hotchkiss M1922  France 1922 Various 8.5 kg (18.7 lb) Magazine 450
Type 11 light machine gun  Japan 1922 6.5×50mm Arisaka 10.2 kg (22.5 lb) Stripper clip fed, hopper magazine 500 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 26  Czechoslovakia 1923 7.92×57mm Mauser 10.5 kg (23.1 lb) Box magazine 500
FM-24/29  France 1924 7.5×54mm French 9.1 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 450 (cyclic)
Maxim-Tokarev  Soviet Union 1924 7.62×54mmR 12.9 kg (28.4 lb) Belt fed
Lmg 25   Switzerland 1925 7.5×55mm Swiss 8.65 kg (19.1 lb) Box magazine ≈500
Lahti-Saloranta M/26  Finland 1925 7.62×53mmR 9.3 kg (20.5 lb) Magazine 450–550
Degtyaryov machine gun  Soviet Union 1927 7.62×54mmR 9.12 kg (20.1 lb) Drum magazine 550
Mendoza RM2  Mexico 1928 7×57mm Mauser
.30-06 Springfield
6.3 kg (13.9 lb) Box magazine 450–650
Breda 30  Italy 1930 6.5×52mm Mannlicher–Carcano 10.6 kg (23.4 lb) Stripper clip fed, internal magazine 500 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 30  Czechoslovakia 1930 7.92×57mm 9.1 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 550–650
Bren  United Kingdom 1935 .303 British 10.35 kg (22.8 lb) Box magazine 500–520
Type 96 light machine gun  Japan 1936 6.5×50mm Arisaka 9 kg (19.8 lb) Box magazine 450 (cyclic)
Type 99 light machine gun  Japan 1939 7.7×58mm Arisaka 10.4 kg (22.9 lb) Box magazine 800
RPK  Soviet Union 1960 7.62×39mm 4.8 kg (10.6 lb) Drum or box magazine 600 RPK-74


Stoner 63  United States 1960s 5.56×45mm NATO 5.3 kg (11.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 1000 (cyclic)
Colt Automatic Rifle  United States 1970s 5.56×45mm NATO 5.78 kg (12.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic) Diemaco LSW (CAN)
L86 LSW  United Kingdom 1970s 5.56×45mm NATO 6.58 kg (14.5 lb) Box magazine 775 (cyclic)
FN Minimi  Belgium 1974 5.56×45mm NATO (standard)
*7.62×51mm NATO
6.85 kg (15.1 lb) Belt fed or box magazine 1150 (cyclic) M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (USA)
MK 46 machine gun (USA)
CETME Ameli  Spain 1974 5.56×45mm NATO 5.3 kg (11.7 lb) Belt fed 1200 (cyclic) MG82 (Spain)
Ultimax 100  Singapore 1977 5.56×45mm NATO 4.75 kg (10.5 lb) Drum or box magazine 600 (cyclic)
Steyr AUG H-BAR  Austria 1977 5.56×45mm NATO 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) Box magazine 750 (cyclic)
Negev  Israel 1985 5.56×45mm NATO (standard)
7.62×51mm NATO
7.4 kg (16.3 lb) Belt fed or magazine 1150 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG4  Germany 1990s 5.56×45mm NATO 8.55 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 885 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG36  Germany 1990s 5.56×45mm NATO 3.83 kg (8.4 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic)
INSAS LMG  India 1990s 5.56×45mm NATO 6.7 kg (14.8 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
SAR-21 LMG  Singapore 1996 5.56×45mm NATO 3.82 kg (8.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
Ares Shrike 5.56  United States 2000s 5.56×45mm NATO 3.4 kg (7.5 lb) Belt fed or magazine 800 (cyclic)
Type-81 LMG  China 1981 7.62×39mm 5.15 kg (11.4 lb) 75-round drum or 30-round STANAG 750 (cyclic) BD-15 LMG (Bangladesh)
M27 IAR  Germany 2008 5.56×45mm NATO 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) Drum or box magazine 640 (cyclic)
QJB-95  China 1997 5.8x42mm 3.25 kg (7.2 lb) 60 900 (cyclic)
Colt IAR6940  United States 2008 5.56×45mm NATO 4.32 kg (9.5 lb) Drum or box magazine 700 (cyclic) Colt 6940E-SG (Singapore)
RPD  Soviet Union 1944 7.62×39mm 7.5 kg (16.5 lb) Belt fed 650

See also



  1. ^ a b "Fusil mitrailleur Chauchat. FM modèle 1915 C.S.R.G." Les mitrailleuses du premier conflit mondial (in French). mitrailleuse.fr. 2003. Retrieved December 18, 2011.