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General purpose machine gun


The FN MAG is the most widespread and successful modern machine gun of Western origin

Entered service 1958
Caliber 7.62x51 mm NATO
Weight (empty) 11.79 kg
Length 1 263 mm
Barrel length 630 mm
Muzzle velocity 840 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 600 or 1 000 rpm
Practical rate of fire 200 rpm
Magazine capacity Belt-fed
Sighting range 800 m
Range of effective fire 800 m
Range of effective fire (mounted on a tripod) 1 100 m


   The Fabrique Nationale MAG (MAG being short for "Mitrailleuse d'Appui General", meaning "General Purpose Machine gun") is one of the most widespread and effective machine guns in the world, and is still being mass-produced around the world more than 50 years after its introduction into service.

   Development of what would eventually become the MAG began in the early 1950s, when FN assigned their top designer, Ernest Vervier, to develop a general purpose machine gun along the same lines as the German MG-42 of World War 2. Several design attributes of the MG-42 were borrowed (including its trigger mechanisms, quick-change barrel, and spring-loaded dust cover), but much of the weapon was derived from the basic design formula of the venerable Browning Model 1918 BAR. In fact, Vervier essentially created most of the MAG by simply inverting the BAR's receiver, so it could be belt-fed from above rather than magazine-fed from below.

   The MAG's development was complete by 1957, and it was adopted by the Belgian military in 1958 (hence, why it is often referred to as the "MAG 58"). Numerous foreign orders followed soon after, particularly from NATO nations, ensuring the MAG's sales success for years to come. Despite fierce competition from the M60, AA-52, and MG-3, the MAG has dominated the market for Western Block General Purpose Machineguns (GPMGs). Though it was originally rejected by the US military in favor of the US-made M60, that weapon was ironically itself replaced by the MAG (built in the US as the M240), starting only 2 decades after the former was adopted.

   The MAG is gas operated with a long stroke gas piston, with the barrel above and the gas regulator below, and fires from an open bolt. It is a selective fire weapon, but does not have a single shot capability; the fire selector switches between a low rate of fire of 600 rpm, or a high setting of 1000 rpm. A safety is integral to the design, which disables the sear when set to "safe", but it can only be safed when the weapon is cocked. The bolt carrier contains the firing pin, and striker-fires chambered cartridges.

   Ammunition is fed into the upper left side of the weapon by a belt, and the MAG will accept linked belts with disintegrating or non-disintegrating links; it will not accept cloth belts. These belts are typically 50 to 250 rounds in length, typically in pouches or boxes, which some armed forces attach to the weapon itself. The 50-round belts are the most widely-used, and can be linked end-to-end.

   The sight is a folding leaf type, with an aperture and notch in the rear, and a simple blade in the front. The rear sight is adjustable for sighting range, from 200 m to 800 m. Some variants are also configured to accept optics.

   The furniture consists of a buttstock, pistol grip, and on some models a foregrip. On older examples of the MAG, these components are wooden, while newer models employ composites.

   A folding bipod is standard equipment, allowing the MAG to be fired from a stable position while resting on the ground or a raised object (such as a wall or a boulder). A carrying handle is directly attached to the top of the quick-change barrel; this handle also allows the crew to quickly remove an expended barrel while it is still hot, with no need for insulated gloves to handle it. The MAG may also be mounted as a fixed weapon atop a tripod, pintle, skate, or other such implements.

   The MAG is known for its outstanding reliability which, according to several sources, is the best of any general purpose machine gun in the world. For example, during testing in the 1990s, it was able to fire an astonishing 26 000 rounds between failures. This reliability was further confirmed in a 2013 torture test of the M240B, after which there was no loss of accuracy, despite the weapon firing a total of 15 000 rounds at its cyclical rate of fire. By the end of that 2013 test, it had fired more than 32 000 rounds without ill effect. The barrel is rated for 800 rounds fired before replacement, but the MAG has frequently exceeded this requirement; according to Military Technologies of the World by T.W. Lee, MAGs have been able to fire 8 000 rounds out of individual barrels before requiring a replacement, even when the barrels were heated until they glowed red hot. Barrels with advanced lining materials have even longer life ratings, with Stellite-lined barrels claimed to last for 15 000 rounds.

   The MAG has seen use in innumerable conflicts across the globe, which are far too numerous and complex to be recounted here. In some of these, such as the 1982 Falklands War, it has even been used by both sides.

   More than 200 000 MAGs have been manufactured, and have served the armed forces of more than 80 nations. In addition to being made in Belgium, the MAG and its variants were manufactured under license in Argentina, Egypt, India, Singapore, Taiwan, USA and the United Kingdom. China has also manufactured a copy of the MAG for export, though without a license. Several non-state users operate the MAG as well, and it is certain that this weapon will continue to proliferate.

   Production of the MAG is ongoing, with new examples costing approximately US $9 500.




   MAG 60-10: Tropicalized version of the MAG 60-20, with shorter barrel, gas tube, and stock.

   MAG 60-20: Basic infantry machine gun, with a fixed stock, pistol grip, foregrip, and bipod.

   MAG 60-30: Fixed, forward-firing machine gun for use in aircraft.

   MAG 60-40: Coaxial machine gun for use in armored vehicles.

   C6 GPMG: Canadian-built version of the MAG.

   CS/LM1: Chinese-built version of the MAG.

   Kulspruta 58: Swedish-built version of the MAG. Early examples made especially for Swedish military use were chambered in the 6.555mm Mauser round; these were supplanted in the 1970s by new models chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO.

   L7A1: UK-built version of the MAG.

   M240: US-built version of the MAG.

   SPM2 GPMG: Indonesian-built version of the MAG.

   Type 74: Taiwanese-built version of the MAG.


Related weapons


   MG-42: The first modern GPMG, and the inspiration for the MAG. Nonetheless, the MAG was not actually derived from the MG-42.

   Model 1918 BAR: Early squad automatic weapon chambered in 7.62x63mm (better known as .30-06 Springfield). Not a true variant, but this weapon was partially the design basis of the MAG.

   MG-3: Modernized MG-42 chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. The primary competitor of the MAG.



   Article by BLACKTAIL

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