Gun Review: M240 Machine Gun

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(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details – enter by December 26th!)

By Travis Pike

A long time ago I was a young, naive kid, looking to serve my country. I chose the Marine Corps and was hell bent on the infantry. So in my recruiter’s office staring my future down, I knew I wanted to be a machine gunner. The Marine Corps splits the infantry into different jobs and machine gunner is a real MOS (0331). I also had an interest in firearms and I liked shooting guns that went bang, so why wouldn’t I want to shoot one that goes bang, bang, bang, bang really fast? . . .

The M240 is not an attractive weapon, but the first time you fire it is something you’ll never forget. In my five years FN’s M240 and I became close friends. The M240, in case you don’t know, is a 7.62 NATO gas operated, open bolt, air cooled, crew served, fully automatic machine gun. The 240 is the Marine Corps’ standard for medium machine guns.

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The M240 is an absolute beast. The first time I got my 240 it was in a heavy canvas bag, taken apart, shoved in there with two barrels, a T&E, and a tri pod. The weapon is outfitted with an optic rail on the top cover and two short rails on either side of the barrel. It’s an awkward looking beast, completely lacking the streamlined appearance of classics like the MG 42. It’s heavy, too…about 27 pounds and is most comfortably carried on the shoulders. Ergo, it pretty much suck when it comes to carrying the weapon.

Crossing river

 

The 240 uses a simple push button safety positioned awkwardly behind the trigger. The grip is huge, by the way. For guys like me who have big hands it’s okay. Small guys may have trouble, though. The charging handle is non-reciprocating, and locks when in the forward position. Reloading is simple; open the tray, sweep any links, line up a new belt, close the lid, rack the charging handle, place on safe. I could go on about changing the barrel, but I doubt anyone really cares.

The trigger is like a sponge. It’s bad and it’s a bit long, and stupid-spongy. Once that trigger is pulled though, hold on. The M240’s weight soaks up most of the recoil, but without some training and experience you aren’t going to be very effective at hitting much beyond a hundred yards.

Speaking of range and accuracy, the M240 is a superbly accurate gun. With the 240 you aren’t aiming to make a small group, but to suppress and destroy stuff. For example, at a thousand yards we could walk our guns onto a car carcass and hit it all day long. The sound of metal on metal was enough to let us know we were ponyboy golden. We could even knock down man-sized Ivan targets out to 800 yards pretty easily with someone spotting. Remember, this is using iron sights, but we did have a tripod so maybe I’m being a little self flattering.

Reliability? Don’t even get me started. The gun doesn’t stop. Sandstorm in UAE during a force-on-force training op? The 240s are the only guns that are still working. Get it wet? No problem. Shoot a few thousand rounds and not clean it? Go ahead. Wanna run blanks through it for a week? Go ahead. It just keeps going. Run out of lube? Spit, piss, or bleed in it, work the bolt and it will keep going.

Best way to clean it? With a pressure washer. On one field op we were on the last day and the good idea fairy decided to provide us with another 10,000 rounds. We took two guns, and let ‘em rip. We dumped CLP in the actions every thousand rounds and kept going. It was raining, but the barrels were still hot enough to light cigarettes off of.

So disassembly is a snap and can be done quite quickly, but I doubt anyone wants me to walk them through it. It isn’t as simple as twisting a pin and removing it. Rather it’s a multi step process with a few pins, springs and pieces.

What makes the M240 such a kick ass weapon is the fact it stops fights pretty quickly. Like Rosie O’Donnell at a buffet quickly. Machine guns will shut up enemy fire and take the will to fight out of any asshole that is dumb enough to pick a fight with a dude carrying one.

Nl;oombergmeme

Firing a machine gun is an art. It’s not just pointing and spraying ammo down range and hoping something falls down. When machine guns work in teams and practice talking guns, it takes both machine gun teams to create an effective rhythm. A good machine gun squad (two teams) isn’t just shooting machine guns, they are make music. The tempo and rate of fire increases or decreases with our squad leader/composer to fulfill whatever our suppression goal is. It’s a symphony of ass kicking.

A machine gun should rarely be in action by itself, but it happens. A machine gunner still exercises fire discipline lest he blow his load and overheat his barrel. Unless you want to dump your ammo to make the patrol a bit easier.

I served five years with or around a M240 and I grew to love the beast. After carrying that pain in the ass you’d think I’d hate it, but even now all my memories of that gun are fond ones. In fact if I had to choose one gun as my favorite it would be the old faithful M240.

Specifications:

Model: FN M240
Caliber: 7.62 NATO
Magazine Capacity: As long as you want the belt
Weight Empty: Freakin’ heavy (27.1 lbs)
Barrel Length: 24.8 inches
Overall Length: 49.7 inches
Sights: Peep
Action: Open Bolt
Finish: Blued/Parkerized/ IDK
Price: Four years military service cause the NFA is totally lame

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style: * * 1/2
Pretty ugly, it’s awkward looking from the barrel-mounted handle to the weird pistol grip. The weapon is like a prized pig — it may be the greatest pig around, but it’s still a pig. The 2.5 stars are solely because it’s belt fed and belt fed weapons are a style class all their own.

Ergonomics – Carry: *
HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA! It’s heavy, unbalanced and awkward. The closest thing to comfortable carry is tossing it on your shoulder and letting those little metal pieces dig in nice and deep.

Ergonomics – Firing: * * * *
A very comfortable weapon to fire. The broad butt plate gives you a good shoulder and cheek weld. The bipod is strong and once it’s down, it’s not moving. The weight absorbs the recoil, and the user hardly feel anything. The awkwardly placed safety is, well, awkward. In terms of the fun factor, it was a belt-fed machine gun I got to shoot at people. Of course it’s fun.

Reliability: * * * * *
This thing steps up there with the AK in the gun reliability hall of fame. Maybe it’s because of the open bolt, or maybe it’s because of the fine craftsmanship FN places in their weapons. I don’t know. I’m a self-proclaimed internet gun expert, not a real one. Either way it grinds and works no matter the weather, environment, or amount of use.

Accuracy: * * * * *
From a prone position with a tripod, an experienced machine gunner can engage targets at over a thousand meters with a good A-gunner, tracers (they burn out before a 1,000 meters, though) and some right, tight and down-on-the-gun. On bipods, accurate engagement to six hundred meters on man-sized targets is pretty standard.

Customize This: * * *
The weapon can be outfitted with a variety of optics including night vision and thermal (although they suck after the barrel heats up), and optics like the MDO by Trijicon. The side rails allows the mounting of PEQ 15/16 laser devices. The new M240L introduced a shorter barrel and collapsible buttstock. New bipods have been introduced that are a bit lighter with spikes in the feet. Also, the weapon can be fitted with a soft belt container called a nut sack for starter belts on foot patrols.

Overall: * * * * 1/2
I want to give it a five stars, I really do. The main detractor is the weight, and awkward-to-carry nature of the weapon. Marines make due though. Plus the style is absolutely atrocious. The weapon works though. It is a fight stopper and game changer. The 240’s reputation among the troops is absolutely fantastic with a 100% confidence rating from soldiers in a study by Natick Soldier Center.

comments

  1. avatar Rob Aught says:

    The FN MAG is a pretty sexy beast. You’d give it more style points if the US Military hadn’t upped the weight with questionably useful heat shields and ruined the aesthetics along the way.

  2. avatar preston says:

    cosmetically, the M249’s big brother, only better albeit heavier.

    1. avatar TheBear says:

      It’s also even more of a pain in the ass to clean.

  3. avatar El Mac says:

    @Travis Pike, awesome! Much better than the 60. Makes one wonder about the crybabies that piss and moan about a 7lb AR or a 9lb MBR.

    1. avatar John B says:

      M60 is far superior to the M240B. I have fired both. The M240 is more accurate than the M60 and that is it’s only advantage. The M60 is lighter and can be fired while standing or moving. The M240B requires the shooter to be prone or the gun to be mounted.

      1. avatar El Mac says:

        @John B, interesting. In my experience, the 60 was a piece of shit.

        1. avatar Rob Aught says:

          Never fired the 240 but the 60 I used was a jam-o-matic. Still fun as hell.

        2. avatar Xanderbach says:

          Same- Then again, the ones I had when I was in the National Guard were older than I was. I just remember using it more as a bolt action than an MG…

        3. avatar ropingdown says:

          I completely agree that the M60 did not have stellar reliability. Feed trays wore out too quickly and the gas cylinder needed fairly frequent cleaning. It may be that our M60’s had been heavily used, but I’d rather have had a more reliable gun. I should say that I used one quite heavily, but never on the ground, always from a Huey. And my greatest horror in RVN, especially during LS 719, was that we were not given the opportunity to test-fire our weapons after major cleaning. Just flew right into battle/hot LZ’s hoping everything was good.

        4. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Never fired either, but I recall some years back the M60 was upgraded somehow specifically to address reliability problems, maybe the differences in experience is due to the dates people are referring to.

        5. avatar Icorps 1970 says:

          I carried an M60 a lot. If it jams its either REALLY neglected or worn out OR has new parts that may need a little shooting. I was in a Mech infantry company in VN and we shot a LOT. No significant complaints. But EVERYTHING has a failure rate. You have to remember that it replaced the Browning. Which was nearly flawless but old school. The 1917 water cooled Browning shot a 20000 round burst, yeah 2000 rounds, in testing. The army told JM Browning that they wanted the test repeated with a production gun. He came back with one and shot another 20000 round burst. The design was accepted.

      2. avatar AllAmerican says:

        Though yes the 60 is lighter you can indeed fire the 240 from the hip. In my unit we often mounted a grip on the left hand side of the gun for this exact purpose.

      3. avatar Anon in CT says:

        We had a couple of man-beasts who could fire it from the shoulder.

        I could do that with the SAW, but not the 240.

      4. avatar Too long on the South Side says:

        You clearly never served in the military. Firing a couple of belts from a perfectly clean, meticulously maintained range toy at a gun club does not make you an expert on machine guns.

        The M60 was a fragile, unreliable, badly-designed piece of shit. There’s a reason that half the world adopted the FN MAG (M240) while the only countries besides the US that used the M60 were the ones who got free M60s as military aid paid for by US taxpayers.

        No Soldier or Marine who carried and used both in the field misses the M60. The M60 never should have been adopted. Even in 1957 the FN MAG was a more reliable and more durable GPMG. But narrow-minded fools demanded an “American” gun, even if it was nothing more than a lousy combination of a German designed bolt group and a German designed feed mechanism, fabricated out of flimsy inadequate steel stampings to save a few pennies.

    2. avatar Howard Moore says:

      Much better than a M60 is an understatement. When i was in the m240 was mounted coaxly with the man gun on my tank. The sheet metal and rivet beast would fire till the barrel glowed. the only problem we ever had was some run put to much lube on one and it ran off we had to break a link to get it to . It made me wonder why the service was so long in replacing the M60

      1. avatar El Mac says:

        @Howard Moore, indeed.

      2. avatar DJ says:

        We would cut narrow strips of rubber matting (the same stuff some crews put on the turret floor) and put it between the pin holes in the coax mount (kinda hard to describe without a diagram). You then had to have your loader basically lay on top of the coax while you pounded the pins in with a mallet, but it effectively eliminated all movement between the coax and the mount. “Turn you coax into a sniper rifle with this one weird trick.”

  4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    WINNER!

    and thank you for your service

  5. avatar Scrubula says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to get a semi auto version and fire it with an ATF approved hand crank?
    Wouldn’t be the same but if the trigger is nothing to brag about anyway, it would still be a close experience.

      1. avatar Scrubula says:

        Ok, at prices like that just buy a registered full auto M16…

        I guess there isn’t high demand for neutered 27 pound LMGs anyway.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          19h, saw one of those beasties in a gun shop in CA for 6 grand a few years ago. I guess if you wanted to play Enemy At The Gates…..

  6. avatar colin pascik says:

    Seems to me that Travis is a boot.

  7. avatar The Mountain that Rides says:

    Once again, a review of a weapon I’m not allowed to own. Is this supposed to make me jealous? Should I be prepared to rail against the ATF for closing the books on registering new machine guns? Because I will.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      I’m no fan of the ATF, but your rage is misplaced. Congress closed the books on new machine guns in the 1986 FOPA bill. Blame William Hughes.

    2. avatar Sledgecrowbar says:

      You can own these just fine. Just join that big hippie commune in the desert, they’ll practically make you shoot it on the finest two-way range since divorce court.

  8. avatar Craig says:

    I can’t believe people are rating machine guns by style – it’s a machine gun, not a Holland and Holland. If you think this is ugly, go look at a Potato Digger in action.

  9. avatar Jack says:

    If you put lipstick on it will it still be a pig?

    Some of the same complaints I had about my pig – M60. Old rock and roll.

  10. avatar IdahoPete says:

    “The gun doesn’t stop. Sandstorm in UAE during a force-on-force training op? The 240s are the only guns that are still working. Get it wet? No problem. Shoot a few thousand rounds and not clean it? Go ahead. Wanna run blanks through it for a week? Go ahead. It just keeps going. Run out of lube? Spit, piss, or bleed in it, work the bolt and it will keep going.”

    Sounds like a Garand, only faster and a lot more lead downrange. Who said there is no “sporting purpose” to owning a machine gun?

    1. avatar seans says:

      You realize Garands had a lot of reliability problems right. They were better than most anything else around at the time, but there reliability was far overrated

      1. avatar AllAmerican says:

        Yeah it’s great rifle but everyone I’ve ever known that’s had one old or new has always had them f**k up and break. I think part of that has to do with the fact that you can’t shoot most modern 30-06 out of it because of the load changes, and most people don’t know that and just run any 30-06 they can find. Still, it’s enough to deter me from buying one if you can only run specialized ammo through it and even then chances are it’s going to jam and break.

      2. avatar int19h says:

        “By most everything else” you specifically mean semi-auto rifles, right? I don’t think Garand was significantly more reliable (or more reliable in general) than any bolt-action service rifle of the time.

        1. avatar Ben Schneider says:

          A semi auto rifle that is more reliable than a bolt action? What planet are you from?

        2. avatar int19h says:

          “I don’t think Garand was significantly more reliable (or more reliable in general) than any bolt-action service rifle of the time.”

        3. avatar Icorps 1970 says:

          The Garand would produce more hits per pound of ammo fired than the more accurate 1903, for example, in simulated combat. Donald Burgett, 101st Airborne, D-Day, Market Garden, Bastogne and into Germany would not use anything else. And when made squad leader he gave his Thompson to a replacement for the guys Garand. Stated what a HUGE advantage it gave over the K98. With the right ammo the in spec Garand is frighteningly reliable. In very cold weather, like Chosin, they had to be run dry but they still ran. A Medal of Honor winner at that fight was holed up with 3 wounded Marines and set his handguard on fire twice and had to put it out with snow, fought ALL night shooting Chinese at close range. Used at E-tool to scoup up chicom grenades and throw them back, his Garand never failed….. Watch newsreels of German infantry firing K98s in combat and then look to the Garand in use in combat footage. Its a no brainer….

      3. avatar Icorps 1970 says:

        You realize that the early problems with the Garand were related to a machine cut that was changed by someone other than Garand when full production started? It was human error and not a fault of the design as adopted.

  11. avatar Troutbum5 says:

    I got to fire one at the SF range in Iraq 9 years ago. Yep, ugly as hell but an absolute blast to shoot. Hardest part was ignoring my ingrained 3-round burst training. Just pull the trigger and let her rock and roll.

  12. avatar GuntotinDem says:

    Makes me miss my M60. Big iron pig but it was Mine.

  13. avatar Matt from Oregon says:

    Yes… the 240 how I love to hate thee. I’ve carried that metal monster on several humps and would prefer the SAW over that monstrosity. This is until you shoot it… then well yeah 240 all day. Great article, it gave me some flash backs of the field ops and the good idea fairy finding “fun” stuff for us to do during our down time.

    1. avatar int19h says:

      Apples and oranges. M249 is LMG, M240 is GPMG. Both have their uses.

  14. avatar Yellow Devil says:

    Not to be entirely too nit-picky, but why in an article about the M240B show a picture of the M60 and Marine carrying a M249 in the photo?

    I would also add the deterrent factor it has over the smaller M249, even if just visually speaking. My unit was stuck with M249s on convoys until we got our hands on some M240s for the gunner position. Now it seemed the average Iraqi driver, who probable has the same attention span as an American driver, would actually take note of the M240b on the turret and not get as carelessly close to the convoys. It may not have been as imposing as the ma duece, but it was good enough for what we were doing. Another observation I had with the M249b is that although it well known for it’s reliability, it can still fall pray to fouling if not kept clean enough. During an FTX, we were running thousands of blanks through them for a dry run, and than use actual live fire for the final run. Unfortunately, even though my ran fine when I had the initial blanks, by the time everyone went through the dry run (and probable no wipe down afterwards), the same 240B refused to cycle correctly with the live ammunition. But in fairness, that was the only time I ever had trouble firing the 240B in my military experience.

    1. avatar Colin Pascik says:

      Uhhh dude all those pictures are of 240b’s, i don’t know were you saw an m60 or a marine carrying a 249. Every gun pictured is a 240b i promise you you’re wrong.

    2. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      Correction: mean to say “240B”, not “249B” and “mine” not “my”.

  15. avatar Roll says:

    Pic number 4, is a 60 i think.

    1. avatar Tr0llT0ll says:

      M60E4 I want to say. Also, the previous poster is right; that Marine in picture #3 is humping a 249. You can tell from the relative size and the shape of the buttstock. Typical TTAG journalism and attention to detail.

      1. avatar Too long on the South Side says:

        The guy wading, with the gun over his shoulder?

        It’s an M240. Take a look at the hinge for the (folded) bipod. That is not an M249.

      2. avatar TravisP says:

        Well as the person in the pic I have to disagree. That’s a 240, for one most grunt units issue collapsible stock M249s. Also I’m a big dude, 6’5 230 pounds, maybe it just looks tiny on me. Plus that’s a bandolier I[‘m keeping out of the water, saws use plastic drums

    2. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      My bad, slipped by without me noticing. Fixed now with something more accurate and entertaining.

  16. avatar Accur81 says:

    I remember blowing 6-8 round bursts straight through a single man-sized target at 500 yards from a bipod and thinking about how badass the gun was. Luckily, I was a sissy 0311 and rarely had to carry one. Excellent review, sir.

  17. avatar BillC says:

    Why is there a picture of a M60 in the middle of the article?

  18. avatar JWTaylor says:

    Outfriggin standing weapon. I never took a liking to the 249 (we gave them to our terps when we got in TICs. They would get up, shoot through the single magazine we gave them, and hop right back down and out of the way, proud to be in the fight) but lord I loved that 240. Great accuracy for its intended use and simply did not stop. It’s the gun that will outlast you.
    I got to shoot the 8mm MG42 out at my house about a month ago. I loved it, and I’m not usually a full auto fan. It makes total sense now that I find out it’s related to the 240. Crazy sound that MG42makes, like a reciprocating saw. Seems faster than the 240. Plus, 8mm Mauser. Dang.
    Oh, and I don’t know why the 249 was never as accurate, but none that I have ever fired have been. Anybody with a similar experience?

    1. avatar TravisP says:

      I think the M249 innaccuracy is due to a few things, first weapons age, our M249s were ancient. Next, the barrel latch system, take a M249 and you can move the barrel around, not like that with the M240. Thirdly, so many people use the barrel handle as a carryig handle, and it’s only designed to aid in barrel changes, not supporting the weapon

  19. avatar CJ Minnesota says:

    I for one find the M60 and M240 very good looking guns!

    Fun read, thanks!

  20. avatar Skyler says:

    I remember in 1985 I saw an M-60E3 for sale in a gun shop above a cigar store in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. They wanted $7000 if I recall correctly. I had several months of pay second lieutenant pay checks in my desk that I hadn’t deposited yet back in Quantico. I was very tempted to go and buy it. I’m still kicking myself for not.

    I’m curious as to anyone who has worked closely with both the M-60 and the M240 as to how they compare. I’ve fired the M240 but honestly, I’m not a machine gunner and there were two decades between firing each, so I don’t have a good feel for the differences.

    1. avatar seans says:

      Comparing the M60 and the 240 isn’t really fair. The 240 is pretty much the definition of a medium machine gun, while the 60 has always been a true light machine gun. The 60s biggest weakness was units using it way past its shelf life, and trying to us it as a medium machine gun. If you needed one guy to run a machine gun by himself, the 60 was your gun of choice(now the 48) if you use it in a weapons squad or mounted go 240.

      1. avatar Skyler says:

        I don’t agree with that assessment at all. Both fire the same round, the 7.62mm NATO and at roughly the same rate of fire, are generally the same physical size and use the same type of tripod. They are employed the same way and both are medium machine guns.

        1. avatar seans says:

          Their is a reason that a lot of SOF forces kept using the M60 family over the 240 for on man AW use. The 60 is smaller in weight and overall length than a 240, especially the E4/MK43 model with the short barrel. Look at the forward grip for the E3 and beyond models. The 240 was never meant for shoulder fired use. Again if you are using a tripod you are using a M60 wrong.

      2. avatar int19h says:

        I don’t think M60 would qualify as LMG. At least if you look at the weights, it is still significantly heavier than pretty much anything else in that category. Hell, it’s heavier even than PKM, which is generally considered a GPMG. Compare to M249, RPK etc.

        I mean, if you want to treat it that way, it’s fine, but then it makes for a really sucky LMG just on account of weight alone.

  21. avatar Jacob says:

    Big, accurate, reliable… hapiness is a belt-fed weapon… Ooh-rah!

  22. avatar EMEKA KENNETH BUKKASA says:

    I am a gun lover. shooting is my hobby, i dont have gun neither. how i wish i joined the Marine. l really love to handle any gun that has the capability to suppress enemy positions.

  23. avatar Tile floor says:

    Hated toting it around (for six years) but boy that was a sweet weapon system

  24. avatar Ben Gordon says:

    Got a chance to put a couple hundred rounds through one over the summer at Ft. Jackson during basic. Fantastic experience.

  25. avatar AnthInCO says:

    My favorite job in the Army was being a 240 gunner. There was no funner weapon system IMHO, other than perhaps the Gustav…

  26. avatar Jimmyjames says:

    I just watched Korengal documentary last night on Netflix. One of the soldiers they were interviewing said his favorite weapon on the base was the M2 (ma Deuce), next the M240. What he said…

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