Military Wiki

The Bren is an example of a British Army squad automatic weapon from World War II.

A Romanian soldier instructs a U.S. Marine in clearing an RPK, a squad automatic weapon variant of the AKM.

A squad automatic weapon (SAW, also known as section automatic weapon or light support weapon) is a weapon used to give infantry squads or sections a portable source of automatic firepower. Weapons used in this role are selective fire rifles, usually fitted with a bipod and heavier barrel to perform as light machine guns. SAWs usually fire the same cartridge as the assault rifles or battle rifles carried by other members of the unit. This reduces logistical requirements by making it necessary to supply only one type of ammunition to a unit. SAWs are light enough to be operated by one man, as opposed to heavy machine guns such as the Browning M2, which fire more powerful cartridges but require a crew to operate at full effectiveness.


Many SAWs (such as the RPK and L86) are modified assault rifles or battle rifles that may have increased ammunition capacity and heavier barrels to withstand continued fire and will almost always have a bipod. In the case of some assault rifles, such as the H&K G36 or Steyr AUG, the SAW is simply the standard rifle with a few parts replaced. However, the Austrian Army, though issuing the Steyr AUG rifle, does not issue the HBAR (heavy barrel) variant. Instead the 7.62mm caliber MG74, a derivative of WW2-era German MG 42, is issued. The most common SAWs in use today are derived from two basic patterns: the Kalashnikov-based RPK or the purpose-designed FN Minimi.

One of the first weapons designed for this role was the Madsen machine gun, which, though having a limited magazine capacity, was still more than that of the typical infantry rifle, and it gave the infantry a base of fire weapon that was more suited to maneuver warfare than the bulkier machine guns of the period, such as the MG 08.


Purpose-built belt-fed weapons

Assault rifle-based

Battle rifle-based

See also

Notes and references

Question book-new.svg

This article does not contain any citations or references. Please improve this article by adding a reference. For information about how to add references, see Template:Citation.

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).