Afterwar: Year 0
M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
After spending seemingly forever looking for a suitable squad automatic weapon (SAW), the US Army (and later, the rest of the US armed forces) decided to go with the Belgian FN Minimi. Unfortunately, the US Army (as usual) was not willing to let well enough alone, and therefore the base Minimi was modified into the M-249. The M-249 was first adopted for US Army units in 1982, but most Army units didn’t see any until 1985; some National Guard units still don’t have them by the outbreak of the Hotwar.! Most US Marine units didn’t see them until after Desert Storm. Acquisition of the M-249 was so slow and drawn-out that the US Army even had to buy an emergency lot of 1000 Minimis straight from FN during Desert Shield.
Basically, the M-249 is a Minimi, but many changes were made to accommodate US manufacturing methods, and more (mostly inconsequential) changes were made to suit the Army brass. The front sight is a hooded post with very limited capability for adjustment to windage, and the rear sight is an aperture adjustable for windage and elevation. Newer M-249s also have a MIL-STD-1913 rail on the feed tray cover. The quick-change barrel is 20.6 inches long and very slightly heavier than that of the Minimi, but this adds more to the weight of the barrel than anything else. The original flash suppressor was derived from, but not identical to, that of the M-16A2 (which meant that the Army had no blank adapters for the M-249 for a while); this flash suppressor was later changed to an M-16A2 type. The stock is still polymer, but it is semi-skeletonized, with a buttplate and a reinforced section for most of its length. The polymer handguard is of a different shape, and the pistol grip, while originally a standard Minimi pistol grip, is now shaped more like that of an M-16A2. The M-249 also uses an upper handguard above the barrel. The M-249 was originally meant to be fed by M-16 magazines or a 200-round disintegrating link belt contained in a plastic box which slides onto rails underneath the receiver (often known as a “ham can” to grunts). Magazine feed on the M-249 is iffy at best, and is the source of the M-249’s rumored tendency to jam, and is officially not recommended except in emergencies. The “ham cans” have a nasty tendency to simply fall off, particularly when a troop is running hard or when the M-249 is used for sustained fire. In Iraq and Afghanistan, troops began buying improved “ham cans” which don’t fall off on their own dime, as well as devising a number of jury-rigged solutions ranging from modifying the standard containers to making new ones out of canvas (usually lined with cardboard to give it stiffness). In addition, the 200-round belts in their containers tended to become unwieldy in close assaults, and many troops began to use the 100-round belts and containers devised first by special ops units for their SPWs. The folding bipod is basically the same as that of the Minimi, adjustable to a limited extent for height and cant, but is attached a little forward from the Minimi position. The M-249 can also be fired from NATO-compatible light and medium tripods and pintle mounts. The gas regulator has also been retained.
Also known as the M-249 SPW (Special Purpose Weapon) and the ParaSAW, the Mk 46 Mod 0 SPW was designed at first for US special operations units (especially the SEALs, hence the designation), and first operationally fielded in 2001. Use of the SPW later spread at first to other members of the US special operations community, and then to a limited extent to other types of US military units, particularly infantrymen conducting CQB. The SPW is a belt-feed-only weapon; the troublesome magazine-feed capability has been removed along with the parts required to allow it. The polymer stock is a standard Minimi stock, rather than the stock used on the M-249, and also has a shoulder support for use when firing from a bipod. The finish is corrosion-resistant and much tougher and more durable than that of a standard M-249. The barrel length is reduced to 16 inches (with a 15-inch barrel an option, but not often used). The gas regulator has been removed, with the cyclic rate of fire fixed at 750 rpm; this allows a skilled gunner to squeeze off short bursts and even single shots if necessary. The portion of the handguard above the barrel has been removed, along with the carrying handle and the tripod mounting interface. The SPW is literally festooned with MIL-STD-1913 rails or their mounting interfaces; an SPW generally has at least one mounted on the feed tray cover, and can also have 3 long ones on the handguard (on all sides except the top), with another pair of short rails mounted directly under the sight post. On certain occasions, special ops units will use this rail-mounting capability to produce a compact weapon with no stock and a forward handgrip attached to the rail on the bottom of the handguard. US special operations units, particularly the Rangers and SEALs, often use a version with a sliding M-4-type stock. They also use a version with high-strength, high-efficiency suppressor specifically designed for use with high-volume automatic fire. Both of these are based on versions with a 16-inch barrel. (There’s no reason that the sliding stock and suppressor cannot be combined; if so, add $20 and change Bulk to 7/8.) The flash suppressor of the barrel to be suppressed must be removed with an armorer’s wrench, but no other changes are required.
|M-249||5.56mm NATO||6.85 kg||30, 100 Belt, 200 Belt||$1823|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (16” Barrel)||5.56mm NATO||5.72 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$1331|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (15” Barrel)||5.56mm NATO||5.68 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$1300|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (16” Barrel, Sliding Stock)||5.56mm NATO||5.72 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$1352|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (16” Barrel w/Suppressor)||5.56mm NATO||6.77 kg||100 Belt, 200 Belt||$1652|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (16”)||5||3||1-Nil||6||2||4||40|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (15”)||5||3||1-Nil||6||2||4||36|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (16” Sliding Stock)||5||3||1-Nil||4/6||2||4||40|
|Mk 46 Mod 0 (16” Suppressed)||5||2||1-Nil||8||1||1||27|