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M2 Browning Machine Gun

A machine gun is a crew-served, fully-automatic mounted or portable firearm, firing cartridges of at least intermediate size in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute.

The distinction between submachine guns and machine guns is subtle, hinging upon whether the ammunition used is intended for use in side arms (chiefly semi-automatic pistols) or rifles; the difference between machine guns and autocannons is based on caliber, with autocannons using calibers equal to and larger than about 20mm.



In military usage, the term is restricted to relatively heavy, crew-served, weapons fired from some sort of support rather than hand-held, able to provide continuous or frequent bursts of automatic fire for as long as ammunition lasts.


In civilian use and the US legal system "machine gun" is often held to be synonymous with "automatic weapon".


Machine guns are normally used against unprotected or lightly-protected personnel, or to provide suppressive fire.


Light machine gun[]

Main article: Light machine gun

Medium machine gun[]

Main article: Medium machine gun

General purpose machine gun[]

Main article: General purpose machine gun

The General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), such as the AA-52 and FN MAG, are carried and fired by one man, usually with a dedicated second crewman to act as assistant gunner, working as a spotter and carrying the weapon's cleaning kit, associated tools and spare barrels and additional ammo, a third to carry the tripod and additional ammo, and a fourth a regular rifleman just issued additional ammunition for the weapon on top of his regular combat load.

Heavy machine gun[]

Main article: Heavy machine gun