Afterwar: Year 0
M240 and M241 Medium Machine Guns
This is the US variant of the Belgian MAG machinegun. The first versions of the M-240 appeared in US service as early as 1976 as coaxial machineguns in US tanks, IFVs, and some other armored vehicles; however, the first personnel and pintle-mounted models did not appear until 1994, when the US Marines adopted the M-240G. At first, these M-240Gs were excess US Army and Marine coaxial machineguns modified for ground and pintle use, but these were quickly superseded with purpose-built M-240Gs. By 1996, virtually all M-60s in US Marine use had been replaced by the M-240G, as well as many M-60s in use by the US Navy. The Marines quickly developed a fondness for the M-240G due to its reliability, ruggedness, and easier field-stripping procedures (and, I suspect, because the Marines rarely get first crack at anything new). The US Army, noting these attributes, asked that a forward handguard be added and called it the M-240B; it is otherwise the same weapon.
That said, one of the few complaints about the M-240 is the size of the weapon; at 48.5 inches long, it can be quite the handful for smaller shooters and even a detriment in QCB. Otherwise, the M-240 series has had remarkably few complaints for weapons in US military use. The M-240 series does use a barrel a full 24.7 inches long, and is tipped with a somewhat different flash suppressor than is used by its MAG ancestor. The polymer stock is also different; it actually looks more like the stocks used on current versions of the M-249 than the standard MAG polymer stock, and has folding shoulder plate to help support the weapon when used from the bipod. Sights are also slightly different; the front sight is a protected blade, while the rear is an adjustable aperture sight, which may be flipped up to reveal a U-notch leaf sight. Cyclic rate of fire has been slowed by about 50 rpm, primarily by use recoil springs and buffers which are modified to suit US manufacturing methods. The pistol grip also has a slightly different shape. The M-240G and B are otherwise essentially the same as the standard MAG, except that the M-240 is further modified to allow it to use M-60 tripods and pintle mounts. The US military has also adopted their own version of the MAG’s helicopter door-gun, called the M-240H; this version has spade grips and a thumb trigger instead of the pistol grip and standard trigger group, no bipod, and no handguard. This version can also be mounted on tripods and ground vehicle pintle mounts.
In early 2000, improvements were made to lighten the M-240, designated M-240G/B A1 resulting in a reduction in weight of 1.36 kg. Starting in 2005, studies were undertaken to lighten the M-240 even further; this entailed replacing the receiver with one made from a titanium/steel alloy, and possibly in the future replacing plastic and polymer parts with ones made from advanced carbon-fiber composites, and even the bipod by one made from titanium/steel alloy. This version was eventually rushed to production in early 2006 to provide a lighter weight weapon for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, designated M-240G/B E6, they are lighter than the standard M-240B and G models by some 1.81 kg. The lightening program continued, eventuall calling for a total lightening of the weapon by 3.18 kg. This led to concerns in testing that these weight reductions literally made the M-240 too light for controllability by smaller soldiers and adjustments may had to be made to the buffer system of the newly designated M-240L in 2010 to provide a sort of recoil absorbtion system. Versions with the improved recoil buffers, designated M-240LA1 were just starting to enter service at the outbreak of hostilities in 2012/13.
|M-240G/B||7.62mm NATO||12.25 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$3219|
|M-240G/B A1||7.62mm NATO||10.89 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$3219|
|M-240G/B E6||7.62mm NATO||10.44 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$3256|
|M-240L||7.62mm NATO||9.07 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$3259|
|M-240LA1||7.62mm NATO||9.07 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$3334|
|M-240L / LA1||5/10||4||2-3-Nil||8||2||6/11||85|
The US Military’s time in Iraq and especially Afghanistan proved to be a cauldron of innovation in improving tactics and techniques for modern light infantry actions, as well as shedding light on the need for new gear. As Taliban and Al Queda insurgents in Afghanistan moved to the long range ambush using Russian 12.7 and 14.5 heavy machine guns, autcannon, and .303 Enfield and 7.62×54R Dragunov fires, the need for a long range medium machine gun to provide for a base of fire was revealed. The weapons would fill the ballistic gap between the M2HB .50 cal and the M240G/B series .30 cal weapons. General Dynamics stepped in with an off the shelf design based on their entry into the lightweight .50 program (XM-806), a medium weight machine gun similar in mass and dimension to the M-240 but chambered in .338 Norma Magnum. The .338NM was chosen over the longer .338 Lapua Magnum because the shape of the brass and the shorter overall length of the loaded round works better in the belted ammunition role.
Although there was some resistance to the idea of another cartrige in the logistics system, officers in favor adoption successfully pointed out the Army was already buying .338 magnum rounds for snipers, and .338 Lapua rifles could be converted to .338 Norma relatively easily. The M-241 Lightweight Longrang Medium Machinegun was just entering service as the Hotwar broke out, and remains a rare weapon at the front. It is however an impressive system, lovignly maintained by those few lucky enough to have one. The M-241 LLWMMG’s 1700 meter effective range gives it about 1/3 more range than the M240s 1100 meters. Only giving up 5-10% in effective range to the M2, which turns an overwatch position into a massively effective support by fire position. While the LWMMG is little heavier than the 9.07 M240L, it’s lighter than the 12.25 kg M240B, and much lighter than the 36.29 kg+ M2HB.
|M-241||.338 Norma Magnum||10.89 kg||100 Belt||$4219|