The M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) is the light support weapon currently used by the U.S. Army today on the squad level. The M249 fires the same 5.56 x 45mm ammunition as the M16, and can even use the M16 magazines. However, the M249 is more commonly fed from a 200 round box magazine. The weapon only has safe and fully automatic modes of fire.
The SAW is a belt fed automatic weapon using 100-round box magazines used by support soldiers. It's high rate and of fire allows the Support Gunner to lay down suppressive fire as well as cover fire for his squad. It was developed by the Belgian company FN Herstal in the late 1970's early 1980's.The folding bipod is mounded under the gas chamber, and the gun has provisions for tripod or vehicle mountings. The open sights are standard, with the availability of wide variety of optical and night sights for SPW and Mk 46 versions with Picatinny rails.
The Mk 46 is a US Navy type designation for a specific variant of the FN Minimi that differs from baseline M249s in a number of ways. Several dozen changes were made in total, but the most prominent are a shortened barrel, adjusted sling mount positions, a fixed gas system, inclusion of a suppressor-friendly M4 flash suppressor, factory rail mounts, removal of quick change barrel capability, removal of the pintle and tripod mounting adapters, and an overall reduction in weight of over three pounds. The Mk 46 is typically fed from soft or plastic drums in several configurations that hold 100 to 200 rounds.
The M249 has a high ammo capacity for sustained firepower.
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