The M240: The most reliable machine gun in the world

M240 is a successful and well-regarded tool of destruction that has proven itself in battle in Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Ukraine
Interesting Engineering

Few weapons can instill so much fear into an enemy as a machine gun. With a high rate of fire, machine guns can deliver suppressive fire (directly or indirectly), enforce area denial over a region of land with grazing fire, and are utilized against infantry, low-flying aircraft, small boats, and lightly/unarmored ground vehicles.

First used en masse during the trench warfare of WW1, machine guns have become a vital part of any army today. But, within this class of weapon, one stands heads and shoulders above the rest, the M240.

The M240 is a gas-operated, belt-fed machine gun chambered in the 7.6251mm NATO round, mostly employed by the US military. It is a variation of the gas-operated machine gun known as the FN MAG, which was created in Belgium and has been used since the 1960s.

With its rate of fire of up to 950 rounds per minute, this weapon is probably the epitome of a “suppressing fire” weapon. Woe betide anyone unlucky enough to be in its sights.

The M240 is crucial because it is a dependable and adaptable weapon that can serve in several capacities, such as a ground-based machine gun, a weapon installed on a vehicle, or a door gun on a helicopter. It is well-known for its durability and accuracy under sustained fire and is also widely employed by other nations.

The U.S. military selected the FN MAG for several tasks following extensive searches and competitions worldwide. Considered a general-purpose machine gun, it can shoot accurately from its built-in bipod while mounted on a tripod, ground vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft, exemplifying its adaptability.

The U.S. Army first used it in 1977 as a coaxial tank gun before gradually expanding its use in the 1980s and 1990s. This prompted increased acceptance of various applications, particularly for the army and Marine Corps infantry.

Despite sharing many of the same fundamental traits as its predecessor, the MAG system is more reliable than the M60 due to its endurance. Even though the MAG has a more complicated gas system than the M60, it offers higher reliability and requires less maintenance, even if it costs more to produce and weighs more.

Its rating of 26,000 mean rounds between failure (MRBF) is quite high for its weight compared to other machine guns, which, when it was initially adopted in the 1970s, was around 7,000 MRBF for other machine guns.

In case you are unaware, MRBF Mean rounds is a measure of the reliability of a system or component, typically used in engineering, that defines the average number of rounds or cycles of operation that a system or component can go through before it fails.

Despite being heavier than some comparable weapons, it is recognised for its dependability, and the fact that it is standardized among NATO states is a significant advantage.

All variations can fire the majority of NATO 7.62 mm (.30/.308 cal) ammunition types and are fed from disintegrating belts. Though, non-disintegrating belts can be installed on M240 models.

The installation of numerous upgrade kits has allowed the US M240 machine guns to be enhanced and modified over time.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps are exploring new medium and heavy machine gun technology to replace them. Still, even if they are, the M240 has safely sealed its place in military history as the crème de la crème of machine guns.