The beloved machine gun of the Marines and the US Army
In 1884, the Maxim gun was created, changing warfare forever. Over the next 100 years, the idea of the machine gun was continually improved. Some became lighter, so they could be more easily carried by soldiers, while others remained on the ground or attached to vehicles, allowing them to deliver more intense fire. This was the case for the M240, which is still equipped by the United States and many other NATO member countries.
Design and development of the M240
The M240 was designed by Fabrique Nationale (FN) Herstal, a Belgian arms company. The US Army first adopted the machine gun in 1977, for use on branch tanks. Over time, she and the US Marine Corps found more uses for the general-purpose weapon.
The M240 is a belt-fed, gas-operated medium machine gun that fires the standard 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. Its rate of fire can be controlled via three different settings. The first allows the weapon to fire between 650 and 750 rounds per minute, while the second allows it to shoot at 750-850. The latter increases this total even more, allowing between 850 and 950 rounds.
The US Army was aiming for the M240 to replace the M73 and its later variant, the M219. All three were tested in two categories: average rounds to stop and average rounds to failure. The M240 was the big winner and was later adopted by the military.
Adopted by branches of the United States military
While the Army and Marine Corps use the M240, they do it differently. The Army uses the gun via a lightweight M192 Ground Mount tripod. The device, which was first introduced in 2005, allows users to easily make adjustments in the field. The unit is also known to be lightweight and easier for soldiers to transport.
The Marines use an updated version of the legendary M2 tripod. This new model, called M122A1, allows people in the field to operate the device with one hand. It is also compatible with a number of different machine guns, without the need for an adapter.
Use of the M240 in combat
The M240 has been used by US soldiers in a number of different conflicts. The first was during the Gulf War. The weapon was also carried by infantrymen during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraqi forces used the machine gun to fight against ISIL and ISIS.
The M240 was carried by members of the Free Syrian Army throughout the Syrian Civil War. Units were mounted on Technical Vehicles, which are improvised military vehicles created by outfitting standard pickup trucks or similar automobiles with military weapons, such as machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, or a recoilless rifle.
Many other countries equipped the M240
A number of other nations also use the M240. The Indonesian military has fitted the machine gun on its Leopard 2s, while Poland uses the weapon on its fleet of M1A2 Abrams. The Spanish Army Airmobile Force affixes the M240 to its Chinook helicopters. In 2017, the nation of Georgia began using M240s rather than Russian-made weapons, while in 2021 the United States Joint Military Assistance Group provided models to the Philippines.
The Americans and NATO have also supplied M240s to armies seeking protection. Iraqis received some to help them in their fight against groups like the Taliban, and Ukraine received an undisclosed number to fight the ongoing Russian invasion.
There are several variants
Since its inception, many versions of the M240 have been developed. The M240E1 is used by the Marines to mount on devices like the LAV-25, and the service also uses the M240B as a standard mid-size infantry machine gun. The “B” variant is also used by the US Coast Guard.
The M240L can be transported more easily. Rather than being constructed from steel, it’s made from titanium, making it 18% lighter than the standard model. The only downside is that it takes longer to produce and needs to have extra protections added to defend against the weather.
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There’s also the Barrett 240LW machine gun, built to the specifications of the M240, but aiming to make it much lighter. Gunmaker Barrett was able to reduce weight through the use of different materials and more efficient construction of the gun. A shortened version, the Barrett 240LWS, was also developed.