Light machine guns

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.


Modern light machine guns often fire smaller-caliber cartridges than medium machine guns, and are usually lighter and more compact. Some LMGs, such as the Russian RPK, are modifications of existing assault rifle 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 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 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, some such as the FN Minimi will also accept rifle magazine feeding as an auxiliary measure when belted ammunition has been exhausted.


Light machine guns were first introduced in World War I to boost the firepower of the 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
M60E3/E4  United States 1950s *7.62x51 mm NATO 8.51 kg (18.8 lb) Belt 550 (cyclic)
FN Minimi  Belgium 1974 *5.56x45 mm NATO (standard)
*7.62x51 mm NATO
6.85 kg (15.1 lb) Belt fed or box magazine 1,150 (cyclic) *M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (USA)
*Mk 48 machine gun (USA)
CETME Ameli  Spain 1974 *5.56x45 mm NATO 5.3 kg (11.7 lb) Belt fed 1,200 (cyclic) *MG82 (Spain)
Ultimax 100  Singapore 1977 *5.56x45 mm NATO 4.75 kg (10.5 lb) Drum or box magazine 600 (cyclic)
Vektor Mini-SS  South Africa 1977 *5.56x45 mm NATO 8.26 kg (18.2 lb) Belt fed 900 (cyclic)
Negev  Israel 1985 *5.56x45 mm NATO (standard)
*7.62x51 mm NATO
7.40 kg (16.3 lb) Belt fed or magazine 1,150 (cyclic)
Ares Shrike 5.56  United States 2000s *5.56x45 mm NATO 3.40 kg (7.5 lb) Belt fed or magazine 800 (cyclic)
Stoner 63  United States 1960s *5.56x45 mm NATO 5.30 kg (11.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 1000 (cyclic)
Stoner LMG  United States 2000s *5.56x45 mm NATO 4.54 kg (10.0 lb) Belt fed 1000 (cyclic)
Colt Automatic Rifle  United States 1970s *5.56x45 mm NATO 5.78 kg (12.7 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic) *Diemaco LSW (CAN)
Heckler & Koch MG4  Germany 1990s *5.56x45 mm NATO 8.55 kg (18.8 lb) Belt fed 885 (cyclic)
Steyr AUG H-BAR  Austria 1977 *5.56x45 mm NATO 3.90 kg (8.6 lb) Box magazine 750 (cyclic)
L86 LSW  United Kingdom 1970s *5.56x45 mm NATO 6.58 kg (14.5 lb) Box magazine 775 (cyclic)
KRR Minigun  Australia 1985 *5.56x45 mm NATO N/A Drum magazine 3000 (cyclic)
Heckler & Koch MG36  Germany 1990s *5.56x45 mm NATO 3.83 kg (8.4 lb) Drum or box magazine 750 (cyclic)
M27 IAR  United States 2008 *5.56x45 mm NATO 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) Drum or box magazine 640 (cyclic)
INSAS LMG  India 1990s *5.56x45 mm NATO 6.70 kg (14.8 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
SAR-21 LMG  Singapore 1996 *5.56x45 mm NATO 3.82 kg (8.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
Pecheneg machine gun  Russia 1990s *7.62x54mmR 8.70 kg (19.2 lb) Belt or box magazine 700
FM-24/29  France 1924 *7.5x54 mm French 9.10 kg (20.1 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Breda 30  Italy 1930 *6.5x52 mm Mannlicher-Carcano 10.60 kg (23.4 lb) Stripper clip fed, internal magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 11 light machine gun  Japan 1922 *6.5x50 mm Arisaka 10.20 kg (22.5 lb) Hopper magazine, 30 rounds 450 (cyclic)
Type 96 light machine gun  Japan 1936 *6.5x50 mm Arisaka 9.00 kg (19.8 lb) Box magazine 500 (cyclic)
Type 99 light machine gun  Japan 1939 *7.7x58 mm Arisaka 10.40 kg (22.9 lb) Box magazine 700
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle  United States 1917 *.30-06 Springfield
*6.5x55 mm
*7.92x57 mm Mauser
8.80 kg (19.4 lb) Box magazine 650 (cyclic)
ZB vz. 26  Czechoslovakia 1923 *7.92x57 mm Mauser 10.50 kg (23.1 lb) Box magazine 500
Lewis Gun  United States
 United Kingdom
1911 *.303 British
*.30-06 Springfield
*7.92x57 mm Mauser
13.00 kg (28.7 lb) Drum magazine 600 (cyclic)

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.