The United States Army officially adopted the M240 medium machine gun in 1977 – the same year the first Star Wars film hit theaters. The 7.62x51mm NATO medium machine gun continues to be used extensively by the infantry with rifle companies but is also employed on ground vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft. While far from the lightest machine gun in terms of weight, it is noted for its reliability.
Now, the United States military is seeking to address the loudness of the weapon and has solicited a request from the U.S. defense industrial base (DIB) to provide input on potential suppressors that could reduce the sound and flash signature of the latest variants of the M240.
“Presently, the M240B and M240L machine guns are unsuppressed weapons that utilize a flash hider for signature reduction. It is desired to further reduce sound, flash, ground disturbance, while not significantly increasing the thermal signature. The suppressor should minimize the increase in toxic fumes at the shooter’s face. The durability/reliability of the M240 weapon platform cannot be significantly compromised,” the U.S. Army Contracting Command stated in recently issued a ‘sources sought’ notice.
“The suppressor should be able to achieve similar or lower visible flash levels than the baseline M240L or M240B, with a standard flash hider, when firing M80A1 or M62A1 ammunition,” the notice added.
The Army Contracting Command has called for a suppressor that could demonstrate a minimum service life of 10,000 rounds, with the desired service life of 25,000 rounds.
“The suppressor should be able to survive 50 to 125 of the 200 round belt standard duty cycles, in order to achieve the service life to 10,000 to 25,000 rounds,” the notice also stated. “The suppressor should weigh between 16 to 56 ounces at zero rounds and should not extend past the end of the muzzle more than 4-10 inches.”
It should also not require special cleaning, or change the typical cleaning cycle of the M240, which currently consists of a wipe and lube at 2,000 rounds and full cleaning at 4,000 rounds.
All of those requirements could sound like a tall order, but apparently the Army already has tested a suppressor for the M240.
The Defense Post reported that during the 2020 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), American gunmaker Radical Firearms unveiled a potential suppressor for M240 machine guns. It was selected for evaluation by the Joint Special Operations Command.
Another suppressor for the M240 was reportedly developed by Maxim Defense. Dubbed the MSX-240, it was tested in late 2020 at Maneuver Battle Lab in Fort Benning, Georgia. While the MSX-240 successfully lowered the report from the machine gun to around 136 decibels, the Army has been rather silent about it.
Perhaps none of the past efforts fulfilled all of the Army’s requirements, which could be why the recent sources sought notice is so specific. That notice is also notable, as it was just over a year ago that the U.S. military suggested it was looking to find a replacement for the M240. Apparently, in the Cold War era, Belgian-designed medium machine gun will be sticking around a little longer.
A Forbes Magazine Contributing Writer, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.