The M249 is a light machine gun and an American version of the Belgian FN Minimi light machine gun. Formerly known as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), the M249 was introduced in 1984 after it was deemed the most effective weapon to fix the lack of automatic firepower in smaller units. It provided squads with a high rate of fire with the accuracy and portability similar to a rifle.
Gas operated and air-cooled, the M249 has a quick-change barrel that allows the gunner to quickly replace an overheated or jammed barrel. It also has an attached bipod near the front of the gun with a tripod also available. Using 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges, It can take both linked ammunition and STANAG magazines like the M16 and M4, however the magazines have a higher risk of malfunctioning.