Iraq (Apr. 10, 2004) - Utilityman 3rd Class Eduardo Riveragonzalez assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seventy Four (NMCB-74), fires a 7.62mm caliber M240B machine gun down range during weapons qualifications. NMCB-74 is currently on deployment in Central Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Eric Powell (RELEASED)
Infantry Platoon Leader’s Choice: M240B Machine Gun – An American light infantry platoon is just that. It’s light, lethal, agile, and easily transported by airplanes or helicopters. It relies on the prowess of individual soldiers using rifles in concert to execute battle drills it knows by heart in fire teams or squads. Weapons are advancing with the Sig Sauer 6.8 mm Next-generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) slated to replace the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW. But the NGSW is not battle-tested. So, what weapon does the infantry platoon leader and company commander like best? Usually, it is the most casualty-producing weapon in each platoon – the M240B machine gun.
The M240B is chambered in 7.62 x 51 mm with a long-range penetrating ability – believed to have more stopping power than the 5.56mm round of the M4 and M249 SAW. The medium machine gun has been around since 1977 as a replacement for the M60 machine gun of Vietnam lore, and it has served the rifle platoons in the Army and Marine Corps admirably in numerous wars and deployments.
Used Across the Military
The M240B is not only employed by rifle platoons, but it has seen action with gunners on helicopters and on various vehicles. The Air Force and Navy even put it to good use.
Manageable Weight and Portability
The machine gun can be bipod or tripod. It is “belt-fed, air-cooled, gas-operated, fully automatic machine gun that fires from the open bolt position,” according to Military.com. This is also known as a long-stroke gas piston system. It has an overall length of 50-inches with a 25-inch barrel. It weighs just under 28-pounds.
Rapid and Sustained Fire
This is a fully-automatic gun that can adroitly send major numbers of rounds down-range. The M240B has a maximum rate of fire of 950-rounds per minute with a cyclic rate of 550 to 650 rounds per minute with a max range of 800 to 1800 meters (depends on setup). It comes with an extra chromium-plated barrel that is easily replaced when needed so no barrels melt down. It has a Picatinny rail system for accessories such as sights and suppressors.
What It’s Like to Shoot
The gun has many fans. Former marine infantry machine gunner Travis Pike has fond memories of the M240B.
“My team leader used binoculars to walk me onto the target. Once we were on target, we laid down hate and discontent. Lots of our ranges offered a multitude of reactive targets that fell when hit. We had zero issues hitting these man-sized targets at 300- to 500-yards with just a few bursts. Not to brag, but on one range, my team was so efficient with hitting targets our maneuvering riflemen had nothing to shoot,” Pike wrote in a review in Pew Pew Tactical.
When I first fired the M240B I was in love. The gun had a great feel and accuracy. There was a learning curve when firing from a tripod – that took some practice, but the range was fantastic. I was even told by some soldiers that it could serve as a sniper rifle in a pinch due to the long-range. The tracers can definitely help you zero in on a target.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Christopher Landon, a motor transport operator assigned to the 182nd Transportation Company, fires an M240B machine gun as part of Operation Cold Steel II, hosted by the 79th Theater Sustainment Command at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Dec. 2, 2017. Operation Cold Steel is the U.S. Army Reserve’s crew-served weapons qualification and validation exercise to ensure that America’s Army Reserve units and Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy on short-notice as part of Ready Force X and bring combat-ready and lethal firepower in support of the Army and our joint partners anywhere in the world. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Heather Doppke)www.dvids.hub.net
U.S. Army Pvt. Ryan Slade (left) fires an M240 machine gun as Spc. Cody Branam fires his M4 carbine during a situational training exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Grafenwoehr, Germany, on March 22, 2012. Both soldiers are assigned to India Company, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. DoD photo by Gertrud Zach, U.S. Army. (Released)
U.S. Army Soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment “Wolfhounds,” 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, fires an M240L machine gun at the support-by-fire position during a combined arms live-fire exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, August 3, 2018. The exercise is part of an overall training progression in order to maintain combat readiness in preparation for a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation later this year. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)
The Army has given mixed signals about the future of the M240B. On one hand, it has discussed replacing it. The gun admittedly is on the old side. But the DOD has also given FN American an extended contract for new variants, parts, and accessories for the M240 models.
Let’s hope the M240B continues to be a mainstay in the army or marine rifle platoon. It will be a loyal companion to the NGSW and should make officers, noncommissioned officers, and machine gunners happy for a long time.
Bonus Photo Essay: The M4 Carbine
Sgt. Jacob Harrison, a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier from the 377th Theater Sustainment Command, takes aim with his M4A1 carbine at the M4 Reflexive Fire event during the 2021 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior/Best Squad Competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 22. Approximately 80 Soldiers from across the nation travelled to Fort McCoy to compete in the annually-recurring event running May 19-28. It brings in the best Soldiers and squads from across the U.S. Army Reserve to earn the title of “Best Warrior” and “Best Squad” among their peers. Competitors are evaluated on their individual and teamwork abilities to adapt and overcome challenging scenarios and battle-focused events, which test their technical and tactical abilities under stress and extreme fatigue. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hernandez/Released)
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Noah Larose, motor transportation operator, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, fires an M16A4 rifle during a rifle marksmanship qualification on Alpha Range at Stone Bay on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Oct. 3, 2019. Marksmanship qualification is required once a year for all Marines and consists of two tables that test the individual’s knowledge and skills while operating the M16A4 rifle or the M4 carbine in order to maintain mission readiness. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ginnie Lee)
A 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Maritime Raid Force Marine fires an M4 Carbine at a range in Jordan, June 19, 2013. Exercise Eager Lion 2013 is an annual, multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships and enhance security and stability in the region by responding to modern-day security scenarios. The 26th MEU is deployed to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group. The 26th MEU operates continuously across the globe, providing the president and unified combatant commanders with a forward-deployed, sea-based quick reaction force. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone, 26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)
A Soldier assigned to U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa engages pop-up targets with an M4 carbine during marksmanship training at Cao Malnisio Range in Pordenone, Italy, Jan. 26, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)
A Class of 2023 new cadet familiarizes herself with the M4 carbine as part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Cadet Basic Training July 9, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Matthew Moeller)
Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.