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United States Military Weapons of War
Part 1: Weapons and Equipment of the Infantry and Special Ops
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There is no argument that the United States Military is the most powerful military in the World. We have achieved a level of technology in military weapons and equipment that no other nation on earth comes close to.

So, what weapons and equipment is available to our military service members in times of war and conflict? This series will describe some of the main weapons and equipment items used by our members. It would take a very large book to thoroughly discuss all of the weapons and equipment used by the United States Military today, and I won't even try. This series will try to cover the highlights, starting with some of the main weapons and equipment used by the Infantry and Special Operations Units. In future parts of this series, I'll cover military vehicles, including tanks and armor, missiles and artillery, military aircraft, and military ships and submarines.

Small Arms

The basics of basics are the small arms weapons used by the individual infantryman. Here are the basic small arms used by the United States Army:

M16A2 Rifle. The M16A2 is the standard issue rifle. It's carried by pretty much every soldier in a combat zone. Most people simply call it the M-16. The M-16 has been around in one version or another since the Vietnam war (the first version, the M16A1 entered Army service in 1964). It's longevity is creditable to its usefulness as a general assault weapon. It's quite simply one of the finest military rifles ever made (although advocates of the M-4 Carbine may argue with me). The rifle is lightweight, simple to operate, and puts out a lot of lead.

The M16A2 5.56mm rifle is a lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, shoulder or hip-fired weapon designed for either automatic fire (3-round bursts) or semiautomatic fire (single shot) through the use of a selector lever. The weapon has a fully adjustable rear sight. The bottom of the trigger guard opens to provide access to the trigger while wearing winter mittens. The upper receiver/barrel assembly has a fully adjustable rear sight and a compensator which helps keep the muzzle down during firing. The steel bolt group and barrel extension are designed with locking lugs which lock the bolt group to the barrel extension allowing the rifle to have a lightweight aluminum receiver.

Primary function: Infantry weapon
Manufacturer: Colt Manufacturing and Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing Inc.
Length: 39.63 inches (100.66 centimeters)
Weight, with 30 round magazine: 8.79 pounds (3.99 kilograms)
Bore diameter: 5.56mm (.233 inches)
Maximum effective range:
Area target: 2,624.8 feet (800 meters)
Point target: 1,804.5 feet (550 meters)
Muzzle velocity: 2,800 feet (853 meters) per second
Rate of fire:
Cyclic: 800 rounds per minute
Sustained: 12-15 rounds per minute
Semiautomatic: 45 rounds per minute
Burst: 90 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Unit Replacement Cost: $586

M-4 Carbine

The M-4 combat assault rifle first entered Army service in 1997. The rifle is the standard weapon used by some Army units such as the 82nd Airborne Division and special operations units, such as Army Rangers.

With a shortened barrel and collapsible stock, the M-4 is ideal for close quarter marksmanship where light weight and quick action are required. Firing a standard 5.56 millimeter round, the weapon weighs a mere 5.6 lbs. (empty). A revised rear sight allows for better control of the weapon out to the maximum range of the ammunition used. With the PAQ-4 (Infrared Sight) mounted on the forward rail system, the M-4 can be fitted for increased firepower.

The M-4 Carbine can also be fitted with the M-203 40mm grenade launcher. The M-203 is a lightweight, compact, breech loading, pump action, single shot launcher. The launcher consists of a hand guard and sight assembly with an adjustable metallic folding, short-range blade sight assembly, and an aluminum receiver assembly which houses the barrel latch, barrel stop and firing mechanism. The launcher is capable of firing a variety of low velocity 40mm ammunition. The launcher also has a quadrant sight that may be attached to the M-4 carrying handle and is used when precision is required out to the maximum effective range of the weapon. The M-4 in this photograph also has an M-68 close-quarters battle sight mounted on the rear rail and a PAQ-4 infra-red sight on the forward rail.

Type: Compact assault rifle
Entered Army Service: 1997
Caliber: 5.56mm
Weight: 5.65 lbs
Range: 500 m
Rate of fire: variable, depending on rate selected

M-24 Sniper Weapon

The M24 Sniper's Weapon System (SWS) represents a return to bolt action sniper rifles by the US Army. The rifle entered Army service in 1998. The M24 uses the Remington 700 action, although the receiver has been made for adaptation to take the .300 Winchester Magnum round. The stock (HS Precision) is made of a composite of Kevlar, graphite and fiberglass bound together with epoxy resins, and features aluminum bedding block and adjustable butt plate. A detachable bipod (Harris) can be attached to the stock's fore-end.

The rifle is a bolt-action, six-shot repeating rifle (one round in the chamber and five rounds in the magazine). It is used with either the M3A telescope (day optic sight, usually called the M3A scope, a 10X fixed Leupold M3 Ultra telescope) or the metallic iron sight. This is the sniper weapon used by the Army.

Caliber: 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 win)
Operation: Bolt Action
Feed: 5-Round internal magazine
Weight: 12.1 lb (5.49 kg) empty without telescope
Length: 43in (1092mm)
Sights: 10x42 Leupold Ultra M3A telescope sight (Mil-Dots), plus detachable emergency iron sights. (Redfield Palma International)
Barrel: 24" length, 1 twist in 11.2", 5 lands & grooves.
Stock: HS Precision - adjustable length.
Max Effective Range: 800 meters (875 yards)
Expected Accuracy: 1 MOA with M118 (Ammo is limiting factor)

M40A1 Sniper Rifle

This is the preferred sniper rifle for the U.S. Marine Corps. The M40A1 sniper rifle is based on the Remington model 700. It is a heavy barrel, bolt action, magazine fed 7.62mm rifle that is optimized for accuracy with Match Grade ammunition. The rifle is equipped with a special 10 power Unertl sniper scope. With scope, the rifle weighs approximately 14.5 pounds. It is equipped with a built-in five round magazine.

The unique characteristics of the M40A1 Sniper Rifle are: commercial competition-grade heavy barrel, McMillan fiberglass stock and butt pad, modified Winchester Model 70 floor plate and trigger guard, and modified and lightened trigger. In addition, each stock is epoxy bedded for accuracy and all weapons must shoot less than one minute of angle (MOA).

The M40A1 was put into service in the 1970s to meet the need of a long range sniper rifle. Each rifle is hand built by specially trained and qualified personnel at the Marine Corps Marksmanship Training Unit (MTU) at Quantico, Virginia.

Length: 44 inches (111.76 centimeters)
Barrel length: 24 inches (61 centimeters)
Weight: 14.5 pounds (6.58 kilograms)
Bore diameter: 7.62mm (.308 inches)
Maximum effective range: 1000 yards (914 meters)
Muzzle velocity: 2550 feet (777 meters) per second
Chamber pressure: 50,000 psi
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
Unit Replacement Cost: $2,105

M-249 SAW

The M-249 is unofficially called the Minimi. The official name for the weapon is SAW which means Squad Automatic Weapon. Early test versions of the M-249 were plagued with problems, but the current model is considered reliable. The weapon entered Army service in 1987, replacing the M-60 Machine Gun.

The M-249 is a .223 cal (5.56mm) gas operated light weight machine gun which feeds from a belt held in a 100 or 200 rounds box under the gun. This weapon has a plastic pistol grip and a folding stock so it can be kept compact and light.

The M-249 machine gun is an ideal complementary weapon system for the infantry squad platoon. It is light enough to be carried and operated by one man, and can be fired from the hip in an assault, even when loaded with a 200-round ammunition box. The barrel change facility ensures that it can continue to fire for long periods. The US Army has conducted strenuous trials on the M249, showing that this weapon has a reliability factor that is well above that of most other small arms weapon systems. The weapon is used by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Type: Squad automatic weapon
Entered service: 1987
Caliber: 5.56mm
Length:100 cm
Weight:16.3 lbs
Range: 800 meters
Rate of fire: 750 rounds per minute

M-240 Machine Gun

The M-240 entered Army and Marine Corps service in 1997. The M-240 is a version of FN's MAG 58 general-purpose machine gun. The M-240 fires the 7.62mm NATO round and is very reliable, with an estimated 26,000 Mean Rounds Between Failure (MRBF).

Advantages of this weapon include its popularity with other nation's forces and number of configurations. For example, in a helicopter crash, the M-240d helicopter-mount version could be quickly modified by installing the bipod and butt stock of the M-240b version, which would then allow the weapon to be used for self defense by the surviving helicopter crew members.

The M-240 is manufactured in the following configurations: M-240b is designed for infantry use. The "B" version weapon is equipped with a thermal shield over the rear of the barrel to protect the operator. The M-240c version is designed for use internally in M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The M-240d is designed for use on pintel mounts in helicopters and on the outside of tanks and armored vehicles. The M-240g version is used by special operations forces. The heat shield on this version is removed and there are special fittings for night sights.

Type: Medium machine gun
Entered service: 1997
Caliber: 7.62mm
Weight: 27.6 lbs
Range: 1,100 m
Rate of fire: 600-9 rounds per minute

Next page > More Small Arms > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Above Photos are Official U.S. Army and USMC Photos


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