(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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.