Light machine gun

The FN Minimi, one of the most widespread modern 5.56 mm light machine guns amongst NATO countries.
.30-06 BAR Model 1918

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.

Ammunition feed

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 from 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 advancing 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.

Selected examples

A Chinese soldier with a ZB vz.26 light machine gun.
The early INSAS LMG, a weapon of Indian origin.
A Romanian soldier instructing a U.S. Marine in clearing a RPK during Exercise Rescue Eagle 2000 at Babadag Range, Romania, on July 15, 2000.
A 7.62×51mm NATO, Mk 48 machine gun on a foot patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan, 2009.

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.


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 *7.62×51mm NATO 8.51 kg (18.8 lb) Belt 550 (cyclic)
FN Minimi  Belgium 1974 *5.56×45mm NATO (standard)
*7.62×51mm NATO
6.85 kg (15.1 lb) Belt fed or box magazine 1,150 (cyclic) *M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (USA)
*MK 46 machine gun (USA)
CETME Ameli  Spain 1974 *5.56×45mm NATO 5.3 kg (11.7 lb) Belt fed 1,200 (cyclic) *MG82 (Spain)
BD-08 LMG  Bangladesh 2008 *7.62×39mm 5.15 kg (11.4 lb) 100-round drum or 30-round STANAG 750 (Cyclic) Type-81 LMG
Ultimax 100  Singapore 1977 *5.56×45mm NATO 4.75 kg (10.5 lb) Drum or box magazine 600 (cyclic)
Vektor Mini-SS  South Africa 1977 *5.56×45mm NATO 8.26 kg (18.2 lb) Belt fed 900 (cyclic)
Negev  Israel 1985 *5.56×45mm NATO (standard)
*7.62×51mm NATO
7.40 kg (16.3 lb) Belt fed or magazine 1,150 (cyclic)
Ares Shrike 5.56  United States 2000s *5.56×45mm NATO 3.40 kg (7.5 lb) Belt fed or magazine 800 (cyclic)
Stoner 63  United States 1960s *5.56×45mm NATO 5.30 kg (11.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 1000 (cyclic)
Stoner LMG  United States 2000s *5.56×45mm NATO 4.54 kg (10.0 lb) Belt fed 1000 (cyclic)
Colt Automatic Rifle  United States 1970s *5.56×45mm NATO 5.78 kg (12.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic) *Diemaco LSW (CAN)
Heckler & Koch MG4  Germany 1990s *5.56×45mm NATO 8.55 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 885 (cyclic)
Steyr AUG H-BAR  Austria 1977 *5.56×45mm NATO 3.90 kg (8.6 lb) Box magazine 750 (cyclic)
L86 LSW  United Kingdom 1970s *5.56×45mm NATO 6.58 kg (14.5 lb) Box magazine 775 (cyclic)
KRR Minigun  Australia 1985 *5.56×45mm NATO N/A Drum magazine 3000 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG36  Germany 1990s *5.56×45mm NATO 3.83 kg (8.4 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic)
M27 IAR  Germany 2008 *5.56×45mm NATO 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) Drum or box magazine 640 (cyclic)
INSAS LMG  India 1990s *5.56×45mm NATO 6.70 kg (14.8 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
SAR-21 LMG  Singapore 1996 *5.56×45mm NATO 3.82 kg (8.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
Pecheneg machine gun  Russia 1990s *7.62×54mmR 8.70 kg (19.2 lb) Belt or box magazine 700
FM-24/29  France 1924 *7.5×54mm French 9.10 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Breda 30  Italy 1930 *6.5×52mm Mannlicher–Carcano 10.60 kg (23.4 lb) Stripper clip fed, internal magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 11 light machine gun  Japan 1922 *6.5×50mm Arisaka 10.20 kg (22.5 lb) Hopper magazine, 30 rounds 450 (cyclic)
Type 96 light machine gun  Japan 1936 *6.5×50mm Arisaka 9.00 kg (19.8 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 99 light machine gun  Japan 1939 *7.7×58mm Arisaka 10.40 kg (22.9 lb) Box magazine 700
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle  United States 1917 *.30-06 Springfield
*7.92×57mm Mauser
8.80 kg (19.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 26  Czechoslovakia 1923 *7.92×57mm Mauser 10.50 kg (23.1 lb) Box magazine 500
Lewis Gun  United States
 United Kingdom
1911 *.303 British
*.30-06 Springfield
*7.92×57mm Mauser
13.00 kg (28.7 lb) Drum magazine 600 (cyclic)

See also

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