M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
In the late 1970's and early 1980's an Army led research and development effort was underway to fix the team automatic rifle position that was held by the M16A1. Previously, this position was filled with the BAR in WWII and Korea, and the M14E2 in Vietnam. It was determined that the M16A1 with its clip-on bipod just didn't cut it when it came to firepower. By 1982 the Belgian-made M249 was adopted. Anyone who has fired it is immediately impressed with its accuracy and ease of handling. It can be operated by one man, and provides a deadly base of fire for a squad. It uses a left-hand feed with linked 5.56-mm NATO rounds from a plastic container that locks under the receiver. It also allows for quick barrel changes. In emergencies, the SAW can fire 20 or 30 round magazines. The SAW filled a gap that was desperately needed at the time. It is currently in use with Ranger fire teams and other infantry units.