Courtesy FN America
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Courtesy FN America

The US Army has been talking about replacing the venerable M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — more affectionately known as the SAWfor years. But they’ve continually found that it’s awfully hard to replace a firearm as durable, proven, effective and versatile as the 5.56 NATO M249, a gun that’s been in hard use since the Reagan administration.

It seems the Army just can’t seem to bring itself to quit the SAW and they’ve just signed a new contract with FN America to keep the light machine guns coming for at least another five years.

From FN America:

FN America, LLC is pleased to announce that the company has been awarded a firm-fixed-price contract to supply the U.S. Army with M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, also known as the M249 SAW. The contract is expected to be completed by 2025.

Nick Leghorn for TTAG

The FN M249 SAW has been a mainstay throughout the U.S. military since 1986 and is currently in service in more than 30 countries globally. FN has been the sole source manufacturer of the 5.56-chambered belt-fed lightweight machine gun. Designed for front line applications delivering crucial support at the infantry squad/fire team level, the FN M249 SAW provides highly accurate fire from a highly maneuverable light machine gun. The ergonomic polymer buttstock contains a hydraulic buffer that allows SAW gunners to maintain a high rate of fire with accuracy and effect.

Courtesy FN America

“We are honored to continue our dedication as a critical partner to the U.S. military and pleased to announce this latest Army contract award for the FN M249 SAW, a flagship design for FN, in service for more than 30 years. The proven design has served the U.S. military, reliably and without fail,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America, LLC. “We look forward to building these machine guns at our production facility in Columbia, South Carolina.”

Throughout its history, FN has been one of the largest suppliers of small arms to the U.S. military. In addition to the M249 and its variants, the company currently holds contracts for the FN M240 medium machine gun and its variants; the FN MK 46, MK 48, MK 17 and MK 20 SSR for USSOCOM, and various other contracts.

For more information about FN’s military product line or current U.S. military contracts, please visit www.fnamerica.com.


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  1. Wasn’t the SAW the one that was supposed to be able to switch from belts to m16 mags as needed? And it choked on the mags? Am I wrong about that?

    • You’re correct. The IDF even tried it out and ended up making their own version, the Nagev. Added a dust cover for the magazine well and a rate of fire reducer so the follower in the magazine would have time to bring a new cartridge up for the bolt to strip.

    • Yes but it was always last resort and oh crap we are out of ammo thing. It never really worked well because the magazine could not feed the ammo fast enough.

      • If you adjust the rate of fire all the way down (knob on the barrel assembly) it can make it through a full mag but ……….yeah if you are doing that something went very wrong quite some time prior.

        • M2 all deployment and loved how hard it was to screw it up even with the moon dust. Fun part was tracking the serial number down to a time where my grandfather would be using its contemporaries. Half expecting it to see service on the moon at this rate.

    • Bout 10 years ago I did my last enlistment, 20+years. And my unit had just had all it’s old SAWs turned in for depot refurbished(like new). And we were also issued new production Magpul 30 round mags. So I had my platoon’s SAW gunners hit the range last for the spend-ex(turning in unused ammo is such a pain). So night fire with two and one ball/tracer mix, 10×30 round mags each. 1,800 rounds in 5-6 min and not a single misfeed or malfunction.

      Again new magpul mags, clean/lubed factory fresh guns, and clean ammo. Sure was pretty light show, and calls of “Mag Change”! The current SAWs are not like the pics in this post, they are telescoping M-4 type butt-stocks and short(assault)barrels. Ends up shorter than an M-4, almost. Great for clearing rooms, too. Belt fed sub machine gun. Not bad for 22lbs with 200 rounds.

      • TMK, the gen 3 magpul mags fixed feeding issues with the SAW. The feeding issues were the whole reason the mags got banned in a lot of units before flipping to adoption.

    • Jam-o-matic piece of trash!

      The USMC is getting M27/IAR rifles for a reason; the M249 SAW SUCKS! Give me a M240 over a SAW any day.

    • I carried the original M249 for several years. When magazine-fed, it would only chock when the cyclic rate of fire was set to high.

  2. I enlisted in 1986. We had the same hopes for the M60. The weapons we had were leftover from the Vietnam War. Was a good weapon. It was just that the ones we had were worn out. It was constant shuffling of weapons to the weapons depot.

    The answer that would have been smart at that time was to simply purchase replacements. No need to replace the weapon system, just the actual weapons.

    The SAW is a good enough weapon. The systems are already in place. Just purchase replacements.

    • With the M60, even the receiver is considered a consumable part. I heard the serial numbers are on the barrel trunion.

    • Too bad the Army in it’s infinite wisdom did not just upgrade to the later versions of the M-60. Better, shorter, lighter, barrels and all the rest.
      Also get the quick-change barrel mods to go with the “Fixed Headspace” mods being done now to the Maw Deuces. But nooo, not the Army they have Trump Money so they have to have yet Another change of Dress Uniform to go with the new duty uni…retards…Army Greens and BDUs for da ARMY&CORPS saved taxpayers zillions…

      • Was in for the change from M-60 to M-240 and was not impressed. After the new wore off all we had was an even longer mg by about 6-7in, 60 was 43in. And heavier by another 5lbs. Also about 400-500rpm more RoF, so you can never have enough ammo. Good gun for mounting on a Vic, humping the swamps, mountains, and jungles I would rather a shorter little lighter M-60E4, better for dismounted ops, imo.

  3. Had the opportunity to shoot one of these out of a helicopter in Vegas. Not cheap, but worth it. Kick ass time. Not sure how much I’d trust it on the battlefield though. I noticed several stoppages during the time I was there. According to staff, it needed to be pretty dripping wet to function reliably.

  4. The FN MAG was the answer to the M-60. Experience with both. Especially the pig. The 249 not so much, but I never wanted a 22 caliber belt fed machinegun. And yeah, I humped a 60 many a klick. Wasn’t fun, neither was those 30 caliber rounds on the receiving end.

  5. The SAW gets a lot of hate by grunts, which makes sense as it’s bulky, heavy, and a lot of the inventory the last 20 years has been rode hard and put up wet.

    It’s not a bad concept, though. My experience with it has been similar to most others. I never understood why for the round it fires, it has to be so bulky and heavy. It’s only a couple pounds lighter then an M60. You’d think it could be trimmed down a significant amount.

    I liked the limited experience I had with the M60, and as much as the 240 lives in a legendary status I think it would’ve made more sense to have not adopted either the 249 or 240 and stuck with an ever improving and new M60. Many of the reliability issues with M60s had to do with aging abused weapons and many of the issues have been solved in the newest models.

    As it stands though, the 240 definitely deserves its legendary reliability badge. I don’t think I ever saw one jam, and they were put through all kinds of abuse and kept chugging. Cannot say that for any other weapon we had.

    • It’s a shame the U.S. didn’t adopt the Ultimax 100. Now that is a superior weapon in just about every respect. Only weighs about 10lbs. Feeds from drums or STANAGs. Singapore uses them pretty heavily.

      • THIS!

        The Ulti is probably the best LMG platform ever made. Best features of the Stoner 63, M60, MAG58 and other odds and ends all mashed up and put together in one MG.

        And the “constant recoil” system made it the most accurate, smoothest firing LMG ever made, simply because there’s no bolt slamming into something hard at the limit of rearward travel, constantly knocking the gun off target for the next round. The bolt travels as far backwards as it needs to, and only stops when it’s energy is eventually overcome by spring force alone, and not because it hit the back of the receiver.

  6. I carried an M60 or FAL in 7.62 for a lot of years, both are extremely reliable.
    When I had a choice between M16, Styr or FAL I took the 7.62 option.

  7. There’s plenty of 5.56NATO to be fired off, but there are better cartridges out there to be had. The M249 has its place but can compete with a PK/PKM in the range department.
    The NGSW program is an example of another Army boondoggle to the MIC contractors like GD. Instead of wasting millions on a new system the M16/M4 lowers could be retained and the upper receivers/magazines could be replaced. God forbid you give the US line infantry ballistic reach and parity with OPFOR LMGs out there.
    That would make too much sense when the object is to re-hash the same old logistical problems of the past and piss money down the drain. If the DOD ran their budget like a real business they’d be broke in f*cking week.

  8. Oh Jebus, at first I thought you were dissing the M240. My two favorite MG’s, the M2HB and M240. I say that as an armorer and user. Death to the M85 and M73/219. Crap on ice. The SAW had it’s issues at first but got over them…

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