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.
Modern light machine guns often fire smaller-caliber cartridges than medium machine guns, and are usually lighter and more compact. Some LMGs, such as the Russian RPK, are modifications of existing assault rifle 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.
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 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.
Light machine guns were first introduced in World War I to boost the firepower of the 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.
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.
- Madsen machine gun (Multi-caliber)
- Bergmann MG15 nA Gun (7.92 x 57 mm)
- M1909 Benet-Mercie (8 mm Lebel, .303 British, .30-06 Springfield)
- Bren (.303 British)
- Fusil-Mitrailleur Mle 1915 'CSRG', 'Chauchat' light machine gun (8 mm Lebel)
- Lahti-Saloranta M/26 (7.62x53mm R]
- Degtyaryov light machine gun (7.62x54mm R)
- Furrer M25 (7.5x55mm Swiss)
- Lewis automatic rifle (8 mm Lebel / 6.5x55 mm Mauser)
- Mendoza RM2 (7.92x57 mm, .30-06 Springfield)
|Model||Country of origin||Design date||Caliber(s)||Weight (base model)||Feed system||Rate of fire (rounds/min)||Model variants|
|M60E3/E4||United States||1950s||*7.62x51 mm NATO||8.51 kg (18.8 lb)||Belt||550 (cyclic)|
|FN Minimi||Belgium||1974||*5.56x45 mm NATO (standard)
*7.62x51 mm NATO
|6.85 kg (15.1 lb)||Belt fed or box magazine||1,150 (cyclic)||*M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (USA) |
*Mk 48 machine gun (USA)
|CETME Ameli||Spain||1974||*5.56x45 mm NATO||5.3 kg (11.7 lb)||Belt fed||1,200 (cyclic)||*MG82 (Spain)|
|Ultimax 100||Singapore||1977||*5.56x45 mm NATO||4.75 kg (10.5 lb)||Drum or box magazine||600 (cyclic)|
|Vektor Mini-SS||South Africa||1977||*5.56x45 mm NATO||8.26 kg (18.2 lb)||Belt fed||900 (cyclic)|
|Negev||Israel||1985||*5.56x45 mm NATO (standard)
*7.62x51 mm NATO
|7.40 kg (16.3 lb)||Belt fed or magazine||1,150 (cyclic)|
|Ares Shrike 5.56||United States||2000s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||3.40 kg (7.5 lb)||Belt fed or magazine||800 (cyclic)|
|Stoner 63||United States||1960s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||5.30 kg (11.7 lb)||Drum or box magazine||1000 (cyclic)|
|Stoner LMG||United States||2000s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||4.54 kg (10.0 lb)||Belt fed||1000 (cyclic)|
|Colt Automatic Rifle||United States||1970s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||5.78 kg (12.7 lb)||Drum or box magazine||750 (cyclic)||*Diemaco LSW (CAN)|
|Heckler & Koch MG4||Germany||1990s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||8.55 kg (18.8 lb)||Belt fed||885 (cyclic)|
|Steyr AUG H-BAR||Austria||1977||*5.56x45 mm NATO||3.90 kg (8.6 lb)||Box magazine||750 (cyclic)|
|L86 LSW||United Kingdom||1970s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||6.58 kg (14.5 lb)||Box magazine||775 (cyclic)|
|KRR Minigun||Australia||1985||*5.56x45 mm NATO||N/A||Drum magazine||3000 (cyclic)|
|Heckler & Koch MG36||Germany||1990s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||3.83 kg (8.4 lb)||Drum or box magazine||750 (cyclic)|
|M27 IAR||United States||2008||*5.56x45 mm NATO||3.6 kg (7.9 lb)||Drum or box magazine||640 (cyclic)|
|INSAS LMG||India||1990s||*5.56x45 mm NATO||6.70 kg (14.8 lb)||Box magazine||650 (cyclic)|
|SAR-21 LMG||Singapore||1996||*5.56x45 mm NATO||3.82 kg (8.4 lb)||Box magazine||650 (cyclic)|
|Pecheneg machine gun||Russia||1990s||*7.62x54mmR||8.70 kg (19.2 lb)||Belt or box magazine||700|
|FM-24/29||France||1924||*7.5x54 mm French||9.10 kg (20.1 lb)||Box magazine||500 (cyclic)|
|Breda 30||Italy||1930||*6.5x52 mm Mannlicher-Carcano||10.60 kg (23.4 lb)||Stripper clip fed, internal magazine||500 (cyclic)|
|Type 11 light machine gun||Japan||1922||*6.5x50 mm Arisaka||10.20 kg (22.5 lb)||Hopper magazine, 30 rounds||450 (cyclic)|
|Type 96 light machine gun||Japan||1936||*6.5x50 mm Arisaka||9.00 kg (19.8 lb)||Box magazine||500 (cyclic)|
|Type 99 light machine gun||Japan||1939||*7.7x58 mm Arisaka||10.40 kg (22.9 lb)||Box magazine||700|
|M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle||United States||1917||*.30-06 Springfield
*7.92x57 mm Mauser
|8.80 kg (19.4 lb)||Box magazine||650 (cyclic)|
|ZB vz. 26||Czechoslovakia||1923||*7.92x57 mm Mauser||10.50 kg (23.1 lb)||Box magazine||500|
|Lewis Gun|| United States
*7.92x57 mm Mauser
|13.00 kg (28.7 lb)||Drum magazine||600 (cyclic)|
- Medium machine gun
- Heavy machine gun
- Squad automatic weapon
- General-purpose machine gun
- Assault rifle
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