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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.

A light machine gun (LMG) is a machine gun designed to be employed by an individual soldier, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. Light machine guns are often used as squad automatic weapons.



While early light machine guns fired full calibre service ammunition, modern light machine guns often fire smaller-calibre cartridges than medium machine guns, 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 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 feedEdit

Many light machine guns (such as the Bren gun or the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle) were magazine-fed. Others, such as the MG 34, could be fed either from a belt or from a magazine. Modern light machine guns are designed to fire more rounds of a smaller caliber and, as such, tend to be belt-fed from a detachable box magazine, some such as the FN Minimi will also accept 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 examplesEdit

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
M60E3/E4   United States 1950s *7.62×51mm NATO 8.51 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 550 (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)
Type-81 LMG   China 2008 *7.62×39mm 5.15 kg (11.4 lb) 100-round drum or 30-round STANAG 750 (cyclic) *BD-08 LMG (Bangladesh)
Ultimax 100   Singapore 1977 *5.56×45mm NATO 4.75 kg (10.5 lb) Drum or box magazine 600 (cyclic)
Vektor Mini-SS   South Africa 1977 *5.56×45mm NATO 8.26 kg (18.2 lb) Belt fed 900 (cyclic)
Negev   Israel 1985 *5.56×45mm NATO (standard)
*7.62×51mm NATO
7.40 kg (16.3 lb) Belt fed or magazine 1150 (cyclic)
Ares Shrike 5.56   United States 2000s *5.56×45mm NATO 3.40 kg (7.5 lb) Belt fed or magazine 800 (cyclic)
Stoner 63   United States 1960s *5.56×45mm NATO 5.30 kg (11.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 1000 (cyclic)
Stoner LMG   United States 2000s *5.56×45mm NATO 4.54 kg (10.0 lb) Belt fed 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)
Heckler & Koch MG4   Germany 1990s *5.56×45mm NATO 8.55 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 885 (cyclic)
Steyr AUG H-BAR   Austria 1977 *5.56×45mm NATO 3.90 kg (8.6 lb) Box magazine 750 (cyclic)
L86 LSW   United Kingdom 1970s *5.56×45mm NATO 6.58 kg (14.5 lb) Box magazine 775 (cyclic)
KRR Minigun   Australia 1985 *5.56×45mm NATO N/A Drum magazine 3000 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG36   Germany 1990s *5.56×45mm NATO 3.83 kg (8.4 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic)
M27 IAR   Germany 2008 *5.56×45mm NATO 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) Drum or box magazine 640 (cyclic)
INSAS LMG   India 1990s *5.56×45mm NATO 6.70 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)
Pecheneg machine gun   Russia 1990s *7.62×54mmR 8.70 kg (19.2 lb) Belt fed or box magazine 700
FM-24/29   France 1924 *7.5×54mm French 9.10 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Breda 30   Italy 1930 *6.5×52mm Mannlicher–Carcano 10.60 kg (23.4 lb) Stripper clip fed, internal magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 11 light machine gun   Japan 1922 *6.5×50mm Arisaka 10.20 kg (22.5 lb) Hopper magazine, 30 rounds 450 (cyclic)
Type 96 light machine gun   Japan 1936 *6.5×50mm Arisaka 9.00 kg (19.8 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 99 light machine gun   Japan 1939 *7.7×58mm Arisaka 10.40 kg (22.9 lb) Box magazine 700
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle   United States 1917 *.30-06 Springfield
*7.92×57mm Mauser
8.80 kg (19.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 26   Czechoslovakia 1923 *7.92×57mm Mauser 10.50 kg (23.1 lb) Box magazine 500
Lewis Gun   United States
  United Kingdom
1911 *.303 British
*.30-06 Springfield
*7.92×57mm Mauser
13.00 kg (28.7 lb) Drum magazine 600 (cyclic)

See alsoEdit


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