Light machine gun

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.


While early light machine guns fired full calibre service ammunition, modern light machine guns often fire smaller-calibre cartridges than medium machine guns – generally the same intermediate cartridge fired by a service's standard assault rifle – and are usually lighter and more compact. Some LMGs, such as the Russian RPK, are modifications of existing 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 a 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, but some, such as the FN Minimi, will also accept rifle magazine feeding as an auxiliary measure when belted ammunition has been exhausted.


In 1903, French military theorists noticed that the heavy machine guns of the day were of little use in infantry assaults. They determined that "the machine gun must learn to walk".[1] They researched the possibility of a light machine gun which could be carried by troops. A marching fire tactic was theorised, using incidental suppressive fire, with the advancing troops considered a deadlier threat than the un-aimed bullets, causing the enemy to fall back. The prototype guns were not approved for production, and none were in service when World War I began.[1] The French quickly brought the prototypes to mass production 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

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
Madsen machine gun  Denmark 1883 Various 9.07 kg (20.0 lb) Box magazine 450
Chauchat (Fusil-Mitrailleur Mle 1915 'CSRG')  France 1907 8mm Lebel 9.07 kg (20.0 lb) Magazine 240/360
Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié  United States
 United Kingdom
1909 8mm Lebel
.303 British
.30-06 Springfield
12 kg (26.5 lb) Feed/belt 400–600
Bergmann MG15 nA Gun  Germany 1910 7.92×57mm Mauser 12.9 kg (28.4 lb) Belt 500–600
Vickers-Berthier  France
 United Kingdom
1910 .303 British 24.4 kg (53.8 lb) Box 450–600
Lewis Gun  United States
 United Kingdom
1911 .303 British
.30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
13 kg (28.7 lb) Drum magazine 600 (cyclic)
Huot automatic rifle  Canada 1916 .303 British 5.9 kg (13.0 lb) Drum magazine 155/475
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle  United States 1917 .30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
8.8 kg (19.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
Hotchkiss M1922  France 1922 Various Feed/magazine
Type 11 light machine gun  Japan 1922 6.5×50mm Arisaka 10.2 kg (22.5 lb) Hopper magazine, 30 rounds 450 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 26  Czechoslovakia 1923 7.92×57mm Mauser 10.5 kg (23.1 lb) Box magazine 500
FM-24/29  France 1924 7.5×54mm French 9.1 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Maxim-Tokarev  Soviet Union 1924 7.62×54mmR 12.9 kg (28.4 lb) Belt
Lmg 25   Switzerland 1925 7.5×55mm Swiss 8.65 kg (19.1 lb) Box magazine ≈500
Lahti-Saloranta M/26  Finland 1925 7.62×53mmR 9.3 kg (20.5 lb) Magazine 450–550
Degtyaryov machine gun  Soviet Union 1927 7.62×54mmR 9.12 kg (20.1 lb) Various 550
Mendoza RM2  Mexico 1928 7×57mm Mauser
.30-06 Springfield
6.3 kg (13.9 lb) Box magazine 450–650
Breda 30  Italy 1930 6.5×52mm Mannlicher–Carcano 10.6 kg (23.4 lb) Stripper clip fed, internal magazine 500 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 30  Czechoslovakia 1930 7.92×57mm 9.1 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 550–650
Bren  United Kingdom 1935 .303 British 10.35 kg (22.8 lb) Various 500–520
Type 96 light machine gun  Japan 1936 6.5×50mm Arisaka 9 kg (19.8 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 99 light machine gun  Japan 1939 7.7×58mm Arisaka 10.4 kg (22.9 lb) Box magazine 700
M60E3/E4  United States 1950s 7.62×51mm NATO 8.51 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 550 (cyclic)
Stoner 63  United States 1960s 5.56×45mm NATO 5.3 kg (11.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 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)
L86 LSW  United Kingdom 1970s 5.56×45mm NATO 6.58 kg (14.5 lb) Box magazine 775 (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 1150 (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 1200 (cyclic) MG82 (Spain)
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)
Steyr AUG H-BAR  Austria 1977 5.56×45mm NATO 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) Box magazine 750 (cyclic)
Negev  Israel 1985 5.56×45mm NATO (standard)
7.62×51mm NATO
7.4 kg (16.3 lb) Belt fed or magazine 1150 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG4  Germany 1990s 5.56×45mm NATO 8.55 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 885 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG36  Germany 1990s 5.56×45mm NATO 3.83 kg (8.4 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic)
INSAS LMG  India 1990s 5.56×45mm NATO 6.7 kg (14.8 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
Pecheneg machine gun  Russia 1990s 7.62×54mmR 8.7 kg (19.2 lb) Belt fed or box magazine 700
SAR-21 LMG  Singapore 1996 5.56×45mm NATO 3.82 kg (8.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
Ares Shrike 5.56  United States 2000s 5.56×45mm NATO 3.4 kg (7.5 lb) Belt fed or magazine 800 (cyclic)
Type-81 LMG  China 2008 7.62×39mm 5.15 kg (11.4 lb) 100-round drum or 30-round STANAG 750 (cyclic) BD-08 LMG (Bangladesh)
M27 IAR  Germany 2008 5.56×45mm NATO 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) Drum or box magazine 640 (cyclic)

See also


  1. "Fusil mitrailleur Chauchat. FM modèle 1915 C.S.R.G." Les mitrailleuses du premier conflit mondial (in French). 2003. Retrieved December 18, 2011.
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