Saturday, July 02, 2011

I don't have the background to state an opinion

on this; I do have to wonder of the lighter weight is worth giving up a MG. From what son's told me, the tradeoff of the weight is that you CAN put a lot more fire downrange when needed. And change the barrel fairly quickly when needed.


Captain Tightpants said...

I hate to be one of the "back in my day" guys - but yes, I agree with your son. The MG, in whichever incarnation, is a very nice tool to have in certain moments. I can recall clearly a couple of incidents where the presence of some M60's on our little venture & that 7.62 full-auto belt going downrange are part of the reason I'm here today.

Is the IAR a good weapon? It seems so. But it is NOT a LMG. Are there better, lighter, smarter LMG's than the M249? Absolutely.

I think the root problem is there are some great potentials in weapons designs out there right now - but the powers that be either are ignoring them, or else implementing improperly. Not that it's a new occurrence.

Anonymous said...


GuardDuck said...

It's essentially a BAR.

And while a BAR is nice, it didn't alleviate the need for the Browning MG either.

Matthew said...

The primary maneuver element of the Marine rifle company is not the squad but the fireteam and the fireteam position is called Automatic Rifleman. The idea is increased firepower within the team for supporting the aggressive maneuver of the other two fireteams while not sacrificing or impeding the mobility of the automatic rifleman and his team.

The SAW was shoehorned into the role; it's an LMG, a crew-served weapon, not an AR. To be used effectively you need an A-gunner to help load and to do the barrel swaps (which shouldn't be necessary in the assault as you should be firing short controlled auto bursts if at all).

The SAW is overly heavy and unweildy for the AR role, it was not designed to be fired or reloaded effectively from improvised positions or on the move but off the bipod or tripod. In any event, barrel changes are for the defense, when sustained automatic fire may be necessary as part of the fire plan.

The SAW will be retained for use in the defense, or when moving in convoy, and the infantry platoon can call on the weapons company for heavier MG support as necessary or when needed.

Anyway, the Marines have been looking for a true AR since the M14 and M16 versions proved unworkable. We've been making do with a MMG (the pig) and now an LMG for 50 years. I recall articles in the Gazette about the necessity for a true AR from back in the early '90s, and those weren't the first.

Firehand said...

Matthew, what do you mean by a 'true' AR?

Matthew said...

There's probably a formal definition out there but I'd go with air-cooled, truly shoulder fired (which is where the SAW is inadequate due to weight and "handiness"), magazine-fed, non-crew served (which is where any belt-fed weapon falls down), automatic weapon capable of limited sustained automatic fire (heavy barrel, larger mag capacity than the infantry rifle).

A quick-change barrel shouldn't be necessary in the AR role because a mag-fed weapon, with good fire discipline, shouldn't get hot enough to need one in the assault.

Changing a belt on the move with the SAW is a no-go in my experience, as is putting in truly effective rounds from unsupported or impromised positions. The SAW gunner can be as good as they come but he's always going to be the slowest and most limited in maneuverability member of the fireteam due to the weight, size and unhandiness of the gun.

I'm not saying I'm "right" but I think there's confusion about how the AR man is supposed to operate in the fire team and we've gotten used to just making do with the SAW and working around its weaknesses because there hasn't been an effective proper AR available.

Keith said...

The bits which I've gleaned support Matthew;

The "Fire Team" appears to have been organised around the BAR (or the BREN in the British Army, the RPD in the Soviet).

Full auto FALs, M14s and ARs (allong with the crap British thing) are just too flimsy and unreliable for the roll and, belt fed MGs are too heavy and clumsy.

So it appears to be either a mag fed automatic rifle or re think a new team organization.

Matthew said...

The other common organization at the time the fireteam concept was being developed (haven't formally studied this stuff for a while, so bear with me) was the German squad model developed during WWI to replace company/platoon tactics.

The squad was the primary element of maneuver and was focussed around getting a light machine gun and team, 3 men, into position to have the platoon/company control a large area of the field by interlocking MG fire. The 9-ish squad rifleman were basically there solely to protect the flanks and to provide covering fire (along with that of the other 2-3 squads MGs) while each squad's LMG moved forward in the assault.

With the transition from bolt actions to semi-autos the fire power of the individual rifleman increased, making the need for the less-maneuverable crew-served squad LMG less acute. Conversely that increase in fire power made a closely maneuvering MG squad a pretty large target itself.

The Marine 4-man fireteam was an attempt to provide an optimum balance of firepower, maneuverability and surviveability (a 3 man team is done with one man down). Even a 2 man crewed LMG would slow them down and bunch them up enough to make the concept disfunctional.

In the fireteam the asst. auto rifleman is not part of the automatic rifle "crew" per se (it is a single man operation weapon by design) but rather the designated man to pick up the gun if the AR man is hit and also the designated extra ammo carrier (and because the 4th man position needed a name).

The designated Rifleman needing to be able to scout/flank light and fast and the Team Leader being otherwise occupied leading, designating targets and usually firing the 203.

Anyway, that's history and doctrine circa 1991 or so. The SAW isn't a bad weapon, but the name itself betrays it, it is an LMG, a crew-served squad automatic weapon that is directly descended from the MG38/42 in intended tactical application.