A general purpose machine gun (or GPMG for short) is a support weapon chambered in a full-power rifle cartridge (7.62x51mm NATO, 7.62x54mmR, .30-06 Springfield, etc.) and designed to have at least some capability to fulfil both the Light machine gun and Medium machine gun roles.
The type evolved from the German "universal machine gun" concept of World War 2, exemplified by the MG42: the idea of this was that the weapon could combine the portability of a light machine gun and the firepower of a medium machine gun in a weapon that could be used in either role. In this way, the infantry would only require a single type of machine gun for any conceivable situation.
While this did not exactly pan out since the new wave of postwar LMGs made use of the new intermediate cartridge concept, GPMGs using full-power rifle cartridges were adopted by most nations, with the medium machine gun concept more or less abandoned.
General purpose machine guns are flexible weapons and can be applied to most scenarios a machine gun could conceivably be used for. They may also be mounted as coaxial guns on tanks, and may serve as anti-personnel weapons when mounted on helicopters.
- FN MAG/M240, the most widely used GPMG among NATO and other western armies.
- M60 machine gun, known for its use in the Vietnam War. It was later replaced by the M240 in the GPMG role.
- MAS AA-52, French GPMG widely used in African countries.
- Rheinmetall MG3, a direct descendant of the MG 42, is still in service with the German Army and others.
- PK/PKM family of multi-purpose machine-guns, widely exported.
- Type 67 machine gun and later improved models.
- Vektor SS-77, a South African machine gun.