7.62x51 mm NATO
1 263 mm
Cyclic rate of fire
600 or 1 000 rpm
Practical rate of fire
Range of effective fire
Range of effective fire (mounted on a tripod)
1 100 m
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
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
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.
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
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 6.5×55mm 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.
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.
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