Doctrinal Revelations

Back on this side of the pond, the belt-fed M249 SAW has soldiered on reliably in US service since the mid-’80’s. Designed and originally produced in Belgium, the M249 has nominally retained the capacity to feed from M16 box magazines as well as standard 200-round belts. The M249 is also available in a remarkably compact Para version with collapsible buttstocks in two varieties and a short barrel. Barrels are readily replaceable in the field without tools, and the gun fires from the open bolt. Despite these desirable design features, the USMC still reached out for an entirely different weapon to supplement the time-proven SAW.

The HK M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle is essentially a heavy-barreled M16 with all the bells and whistles. Firing from a closed bolt and utilizing standard M16 box magazines, the M27 fills a need the Jarheads recognized for a portable weapon offering the same degree of first-shot reliability exhibited by the M4 while including a modest sustained-fire capability. The Marines claimed the belt-fed SAW was not sufficiently reliable to arm the point man on breaching teams. The M27, which by all accounts has been well received by Information Age Marines in a combat theater, bears an eerie resemblance to the magazine-fed RPK of a previous generation.