18 August 2012

FWS Armory: The Light Machine Gun

When your troops are moving up, the soldier behind them is tasked with forcing the enemy to keep their heads down with covering fire, from the portable machine gun. This is the basic infantry tactic since the First World War, and today, the light machine gun (LMG) is a critical tool of modern warfare used the world over. However, it seems that science fiction has not gotten the memo, and LMGs remain one of the most forgotten elements of basic infantry combat in military science fiction stories. FWS will be exploring the LMG through its history, usage, its future, and sci-fi's take on the LMG. Also, FWS would like to thank William S. Frisbee Jr.'s Tips on Writing Military Sci-Fi website for the general information on machine guns.

What are Light Machine Guns and their combat role?

Since World War One, the Light machine guns have allowed small infantry units to have a portable primary weapon for providing support-by-fire for the squad, pinning down the enemy, and allowing the infantry to close in on the enemy. These weapons are belted or magazine fed and normally use the same cartridge as the assault rifle. In combat, the machine gun forms the defensive or offensive backbone of any operation, by providing covering fire via large volume of outgoing fire.

The History of the Light Machine Guns

Since the 3rd century, mankind has been attempting to develop a portable rapid-fire weapon that could crush multiple enemies on the battlefield. At first, there were industrial arrow launchers from the Roman Empire, then became the so-called 'organ-gun' or the Ribauldequin of the 13rd century, where a row of barrels were mounted to a cart to act as a volley artillery gun, and even Da Vinci had his fan-gun. However, this were not truly portable or even effective, due to accuracy and reloading times. A number of different designs were based on this basic principle of volley-fire and used for several hundred years.
The next evolution of the machine gun came with the development of the Puckle Gun in 1718 by James Puckle, that was a hand-cracked, tripod-mounted, single barreled flintlock rifle that featured a cylinder-feeding system, limited the Puckle Gun to 11 rounds. However, if there were ample cylinders pre-loaded, it could act as an support or heavy-fire weapon. The more unique feature of the Puckle Gun was that the cylinder could fire round or square bullets depending on the religion of the attackers. More 'humane' round bullets for the Christians and the savage square bullets for the heretics and Muslims (especially Turks). It was reasoned that more Turks would convert to Christian rather than suffer from square-bullet wounds. Conversation through gun-shot wounds, an interesting approach to religious conversion.
During the 19th century, guns like the Agar Gun also known as the coffee mill gun of the American Civil War, and the Mitrailleuse gun of the 1850's that mounted a 25-barreled, hand-crack operated 13mm rifle to a cart, making the Mitrailleuse gun a portable rapid-fire weapon system were little more than variants of the grape-shot artillery round. The Mitratilleuse gun was improved over its 40 year lifespan to include 37 barrels, and saw limited use in the Frano-Prussian War. Despite lack of service life, the Mitrailleuse gun may have been the first rapid-fire gun to carry the name "machine-gun. What killed the Mitrailleuse gun from became a world-standard, was the American Gatling gun.
Oddly, Dr. Gatling envisioned his repeater to so effective, it could end future wars...yeah, that didn't happen. Oddly, even after the Union Army got a demonstration, they were unimpressed despite the current situation with the Civil War, and that nothing existed like the Gatling Gun at that time. One of the issues was the vast amount of calibers used in the Union Army, the Gatling Gun was just another weapon to feed, and it was a large, heavy weapon (around 1,000lbs) that did not have the range of an artillery piece, and it was too new. The few that were used during the Civil War were mostly defensive, and most historians do not think it made much of a difference. However, it was a hit on the international market, and used by the US Army during the Indian Wars, but not at the Little Big Horn. During the British imperial expansion, the naval and land based Gatling Guns were used to suppress native tribes, especially in the Zulu Wars.
But all of these rapid-fire guns were man-operated, it was not until the 1884, that the first true machine gun was developed by Hiram Maxim after a shooting trip, when he wondered if the recoil energy could be used to power the gun's reloading mechanism. This rapid fire weapon that fed from a belted system and featured the distinctive water jacket to cool the barrel became a global success, and soon was fielded in imperial suppression of native tribes operations by European nations. Most believe that the machine gun was first used in the muddy fields of World War One, however, it is believed to be first used in combat during the 1st Matable War in 1893-1894, with the British in Rhodesia. The first large-scale conflict that witnessed the use of the machine gun was the British version of the Maxim, the Vickers (in the .303), was used in the Second Boer War (1899-1902).  Not only were the Maxim Gun devastating against the old style of infantry warfare were soldiers lined up and exchanged fire, but it had a crushing effect on the will of the soldier. However, it was not all roses, sunshine, and spent brass, the Maxim gun jammed during combat, and made great amounts of smoke from being fired.
When the accuracy failed to kill the enemy, the mere slight and sound of machine gun fire, drove the enemy from the battlefield. The greatest American arms marker, John Browning, developed his own lighter, air-cooled, machine gun in the .30-06 caliber, the M1895 Colt-Browning, also known as the 'potato-digger', due to its underslung swinging leveler action. While it was used by the US military for a limited time during the Spanish-American War, it was later replaced by a Maxim machine gun made by Colt. But, one critical element was missing of these early MGs: portability. Machine guns of this era were only portable by a team or even an animal, and required a several soldiers to operate them. The machinery also suffered from the use of rifle-sized calibers that increasing the recoil and wore on the machinery. The first military light machine gun was the 1902 Danish Madsen LMG that fed from a box-magazine on the top of the weapon, similar to the British Bren LMG, but was mostly limited to its home nation. For widespread adoption of the LMG into most military organization to take hold, would take the brutal combat of World War One.
Machine guns of the First World War were mostly emplaced and difficult to move, often used in defensive and support roles, but reaped heavy tolls on attacking soldiers, often bleeding the ground red. When soldiers on the western front were able to capture an enemy's trench line, they were left to defend it with only what they could carry across no-man's land. That gave rise to weapons like the CSRG M1915 automatic rifle, or the Chauchat. This odd looking weapon fired both the French 8x15mm and American .30-06 round via an exposed crescent shaped magazine, and featured vertical hand grips and a built-in bipod. Given the lightweight, the Chauchat was easily carried into battle, supporting the assault from trench to trench, and was one the only LMGs on the battlefields of Europe.
This caused the American Expedition Force of 1917 to hastily adopt the French made gun due to lack of arms available at the beginning of the American involvement, but was replaced by the excellent BAR in 1918 at the closing months of the war.  Many historians considered the Chauchat the worst weapon forced on the US serviceman, given its design and open magazine, the weapon was prone to jamming, poor build quality meant that parts from one Chauchat were not interchangeable to another.
Unlike the unlucky that were  forced to use the substandard Chauchat, the British had their own LMG for the western front, the .303 Lewis Gun. This weapon was air-cooled, fed from a disc-like magazine on the top of the weapon, and was easily portable on the uneven conditions. This weapon would see action in the skies as well as World War II battlefields, while the Chauchat was rusting in a landfill.
Portable infantry-based machine guns would become a staple of ground combat in the Second World War with weapons like the BAR, the M1919 Browning Machine gun, and the German's MG42. World War II was the test of how the machine gun would incorporate itself into modern warfare, weapons like the BAR proved the concept of the LMG, but were limited by weight and small magazine capacity (the BAR only held 20 .30-06 rounds), then we had more traditional machine guns, the M1919 and MG42 for example, that offered more firepower to suppress the target(s), but required a team to set them up and hump them across the battlefield. What was needed was a weapon with the portable of the BAR, but the effectiveness of the MG42.
By the time of the Vietnam War, the light machine gun was an fully integrated element  into infantry combat. Weapons like the American M60 and the Russian PK were pitted against each other in the dense hot jungles of Vietnam, one was a child of AK designer Mikhail Kalahnikov, and the other was based off of the MG42. While both survived the war, problems were noticed, namely the weight of the gun itself and the ammunition. Recently, I was at gun store in Fort Worth that is a Class-III firearms dealer, and they happened to have to an M60 in their safe. For kicks, I asked them to get it out, and it was unbelievably heavy, and that was unloaded, with me wearing tons of tactical gear. This reason led firearms markers to design LMGs around smaller rounds, like 5.56mm, and the standard assault rifles, with weapons like the H&K H21,and the RPK.
By the 1970's, countries were starting to field these new lighter LMGs, but now where calling them 'squad automatic weapon' or SAW, which were often belt-feed lighter weight machine guns that fired the same cartridge as their standard assault rifle. In addition to these LMG, came the ones based around assault rifles, the family concept, like the Steyr AUG LMG, and the Stoner 63 used by the SEALs in Vietnam (there is a Knight Armament upgrade version). During the twin wars in Iraq and A-Stan, the standard US LMG, the SAW, has been cut down to compact variants like the para, which is now lose in size to an assault rifle, finally becoming a truly portable all-conditions soldier's machine gun.

Light MG vs. Heavy MG vs. General Purpose MG

Machine gun is a blanket term that can mean (especially in the media) any kind of fully automatic weapon. However, for most military and gamer use, a machine gun is a weapon designed to put maximum rounds down range with heavier volumes of fire, and encompasses three different types of MGs, the light, general purpose, and the heavy. Light machine guns are generally magazine or belt fed portable machine guns used in infantry combat, firing a general assault rifle cartridge. In the middle of the light and heavy machine guns, is the general purpose machine gun (GPMG), which general is a belt-fed machine gun is used in a number of roles, from traditional infantry, to a door gun, vehicle mounted, or gun emplacement, an American M60, German MG42, or the Russian PK are good examples of the general purpose MG.
While the light machine guns and the general purpose are more similar, the heavy machine gun is completely different animal that fires larger round that is above 12mm and below 20mm. These are often used in anti-aircraft roles along with mounted heavy fire support. Good examples are the 12mm  Browning M2 and the Russian DShk. When machine guns reach the 20mm and above category, they are considered auto-cannons, like the US XM307 25mm crew-served weapon.

The Machine Gun Team

During World War I and II, machine guns were treated more like mobile artillery, often emplaced and non-mobile,  the infantry, often sucked up as many as four to six soldiers to service one machine gun (especially WWI). There were soldiers to load the weapon, to replace the barrels or fill the water-cool sleeve, one to command, and several to provide security. Today, while not as common as it used to be, machine gun teams still exist, though mostly called weapons teams, now, and normally use the heavier weapons available to the unit. Today's light machine guns are assigned several to a squad of soldiers, with several soldier being designated to either be a backup gunner or carry extra ammunition.
During Vietnam, it was common for every member of the squad humping about 100-to-200 rounds of belted ammo to support the heavy amounts of fire. No more are LMGs static devices on the battlefield, but are in the middle of the action. with the LMG being lighter and more compact, gunners are able to be in the middle of the action, able to support the team.
The machine gun operator will be armed with a sidearm or a PDW for their own protection, however, there should be several soldiers armed with assault rifles, assigned to the gunner as security. It should be noted that the critical role of the MG Team makes them a target for any attacking force, and one of the worst times to use a LMG is at night due to the muzzle flash, night blinding the operators, and exposing the MGs position. Machine gun teams were featured in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when the stormtroopers stormed Hoth, set up E-Web repeaters which require a exterior cooling cryo-unit and a generator.

Machine Gun Terminology
  • Grazing Fire- LMG is placed on an area one-to-four feet off of the ground
  • Final Protection Fires- When the enemy is about overrun the position, and the MG teams are used for preventing the position being overrun as long as possible 
  • Final Protection Line- Interlocking MG fire from weapons on the front-lines. Wall of Lead. 
  • Beaten Zone- Where the rounds from a MG fall
  • Cone of Fire- The path of the outgoing rounds impacted by the recoil of the gun
  • Plunging Fire- when MGs are fired from uneven territory 
  • Traverse & Elevation (T&E)-
  • Frontal Fire- The MG team is faced directly at the enemy, which opens up the MG Team open to incoming fire from the enemy.  
  • Flanking Fire- The MG team is directing fire at the sides of the enemy, one of the better positions to be in during combat.
  • Oblique Fire- When the MG Team is putting fire down on the enemy at an angle
  • Enfilade Fire-When the enemy is one prefect follow-the-leader-line, and one bullet could pass through them end-to-end. According to one website, the is a machine gunner's wet dream. 

The Future of LMGs

For those of us that have even held an LMG, can only imagine humping one over miles and hours, with the weight of the gun, attachments, and ammo-box. When the shit hits, the LMG, while extremely useful, can be a handful in maneuverability and weight, especially in close quarters conditions. Being aware of this, the US military is attempting to develop an light machine gun similar in size and weight to a normal assault rifle, oddly going back more to the original US military LMG, the BAR in some ways. The weapon that is being tested is the lightweight small arms technology light machine gun, the LSAT LMG. In 2004, the US military proposed that arms makers field a lightweight machine gun and ammunition. AAI  Corporation, a division of Textron (who my uncle-in-law works for), turned a prototype in 2004 that had been designed with computer simulations, lowering the weight of the LMG down by 43% of the standard SAW.
Adding to the weight-reduction, while still maintaining the same operating systems as the SAW, was lower-weight ammunition. AAI tested two versions of the LSAT LMG, one firing a caseless bullet, the first tested by the US Military since the 1980's, and the other using a polymer-cased ammunition. The results were promised when the prototypes were tested by 20 US servicemen against the Mk.46 SAW in 2011, As of this blogpost, the LSAT LMG fate is unsettled, some believed that the project will being viewed as a testbed of advancing firearms technology, and new types of ammunition, like the telescoped and caseless. For the time being, the role LMGs will likely be same, servicing as the defensive and offensive power in a small infantry unit, and it is unlikely that there will be an great changes unless the USMC approved caseless ammo for their LMG project. In the last few years, there has been improvement with recoil damping technology, allowing for greater accuracy, and lower the weight, and continue to feed from either belts or magazines.
Much like assault rifles, LMGs will feature attachment rails for all manner of goodies, and sport bipods, however, some article point to experimental technology of computerized aiming systems, like the ALIENS Smart Gun. With the family-style weapon systems being popular, trend of LMGs being based on an assault rifle base, and even some will be a bullpup design. It is possible that in the near future, LMGs will use caseless ammunition in cassettes or even helical drums for faster reloads and greater ammunition capacity than typical magazine-fed LMGs, and likely grow lighter in weight and more compact. This exploration of caseless ammo for an LMG makes sense, the prototype of the G11 light machine gun would have 300 rounds of 4.73x33 in a single cassette, making for lightning reloads. I can imagine caseless LMGs being a possible over the traditional assault rifle.

Future Military Applications of LMGs

I developed this section of certain blogpost to help writers of MSF with incorporating certain concepts into the future world of combat, and this one is easy. Even when we reach the stars, and fight among them, there will still be a support weapon, and no serious military science fiction work that depicts infantry combat should not be lacking in a LMG type weapon. The fact is that infantry units, like today, will operate in remote off-world conditions, where the only heavy fire support available immediately could be the light machine gun or something equal. For your future squad of badass marines to be believable, than they need to have some machine gunners, even if it fires plasma, laser death rays, or high velocity hockey pucks, there needs to be a support weapon. And please for the love of the Lords of Kobol, don't follow the Killzone example and mount a frakking rocket launcher underslung to your machine gun!  

Feeding Systems

-Belt Fed

The majority of LMGs used to today, are akin to their heavier cousins by use of linked or belted ammunition. Belt-fed LMGs are the preferred method due to larger capacity of ammunition, longer rates-of-fire, and less jamming over magazine-fed LMGs. Originally, these belt-fed systems were made of canvas, allowing these belts to be reloaded. Unlike, those early versions of linked ammo, today's links break apart once the round is ejected, but the ammunition has to be manufactured has linked, causing most members of a squad to carry extra linked ammo, adding to their loads. Currently, the US is experimenting with backpack-fed systems...Predator anyone?

-Magazine Fed

Less popular, is the method of feeding ammunition from drum or the beta-c magazines., in either traditional layout, or bullpup configuration. These are mostly used on the LMG variants of the 'family-style' assault rifle systems, like the SCAR, XM8, and the G36. Some believe that these are the most portable form of the LMG, and the easiest for soldiers to use, due to the similar to the base assault rifle. However, jamming is a disadvantage of magazine-fed LMGs along with added weight, and less-capacity, where most mag-fed are 100 rounds, and belt-fed are 200 rounds.

-Cassette Fed

During the development of the G11 caseless rifle for the West German Army, Heckler and Koch created two variants of the main weapon, the G11 PDW pistol and the LMG. H&K envisioned an LMG weighting in at less than 7kgs with a box of 300 4.73x33mm caseless rounds. In the few pieces of information we have on the LMG variant of the G11, it would have loaded via a cassette box at the rear, making it a semi-bull pup rifle, then snapping it close, becoming the stock of the weapon. This loading operation was very quick, making the LMG11 one of the fastest reloads on an LMG in the business. In addition to fast reloads, the cassette was lighter than a box of 5.56mm, and easily to haul around as well. Cassette fed LMGs could be a better system that the more tradition systems mentioned above, and could led governments to adopt caseless weapons in LMGs only.

Unfortunately there is little information on the LMG11, including if there was a firing prototype. David, one of the consults to FWS, recalled that there was a string running through the caseless ammo, to act as a belt, feeding the rounds, and this string came out the forward section of the weapon.  

Directed-Energy Portable Multi-Pulse Support Weapon

In the future, science fiction informs us that we will all being ray-guns that create death via killer light on future battlefields. Is it possible for there to be a directed energy version of the light machine gun, or as David, one of the consults to FWS, called it: 'directed-energy portable multi-pulse support weapon'? It is likely that normal infantry DEW rifles would be a slower rate-of-fire, requiring an heavy infantry support weapon akin to the LMG role, but they would not be similar in performance.Unlike those lead throwers, lasers would be unable to pepper an area with out-going fire, lasers by nature are a beam of light, causing the laser support gunner to operate the DEW differently than the classic machine-gun, bouncing the beam from target-to-target. Another consideration, is that bullets are a self-contained kinetic energy delivery system, lasers and particle beams, to a lesser extent, relay on dwelling time for damage to the target. That is, unless you pump up the energy output to a level were you're burning 6cm hole that is about 30cm deep each time the pulse-beam strikes the tango.
Then you have to worry about power consumption and heat. This could mean that DEW support weapons would similar to the E-Web from Star Wars, where the gun is hooked into a cryo-plant and power generator, needing a crew to haul the thing around and serve it.
One of the best features of a laser support system is instant impact, and immediate psychological results on the rest of the squad not hit by the beam. The two major issues facing deployment of a support laser is cooling and power source. Much like with LMGs today, everyone in the squad would carry power packs for the support laser, and it is possible of development of 'thermal clips' similar to the ones in Mass Effect. 
Sadly, lasers or charged particle beam portable DEW systems are beyond our science, while we have vehicle mounted defensive laser emitters, we have nothing that Flash could strip on to his back.
Here is the short list of the needed upgrades to a base laser DEW rifle to be an DEPMPSW:
  • larger power/fuel cell source
  • improved cooling system
  • longer beam firing time
  • increased Pulse-Per-Minute 

Light Machine Guns and Science Fiction

If you ask any modern soldier going into battle, if s/he would kindly leave their light machine gun behind, you'll get a 'fuck you' in response. But that is what most science fiction creators are doing when they send their fictional soldiers out into future battlefields without an LMG to support them. But why? Why would a weapon as critical as the LMG get overlooked by science fiction? I would guess that sci-fi creators do not dwell hard enough on the reality of war and infantry tactics, and believe that an assault rifle is good enough. Or they somehow believe that futuristic laser-blasters will overcome the basic need for an LMG.
Anyway, Light Machine Guns in are extremely rare in all types of sci-fi works, however, they are more common in shooter sci-fi video games. This is likely because of the need from world of multiplayer, and after all, if Call of Duty has it, shouldn't that game have it as well. They become even rarer when we further discuss LMGs that fire directed energy beams or bolts, making the Light Machine Gun one of the most forgotten elements of small unit combat infantry in  science fiction or. Hell, even the best examples of MSF, like  HALO, Space: Above and Beyond, the Forever War, and Old Man's War, all lack this basic weapon of infantry combat that has been in use since World War One. 


The M56 10mm caseless 'Smart Gun' from ALIENS

One of the few great examples of a future LMG is the Colonial Marines M56 'Smart-Gun'  that fires a higher power caseless 10x28mm round than the M309 in the M41 pulse rifle. According to the 1996 ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, the smart label is in reference to the M56's computerized IR tracking system, that allows for some quirky behavior by the gun's computer system, sometimes it nails each round into a tight group and other times, it is throw way off, causing the marines to switch off the IR tracking system. In order to allow maximum effectiveness, the M56 was fitted with twin firing triggers. One is at the rear of the weapon, while the second on the horizontal grip, along with the fire sector and fuse timer switch. Powering the electronic pulse ignitor for the caseless propellant  is a DV9 battery, which is seen in ALIENS when Sgt.Apone asks for magazines, Drake and Vasquez hand him the batteries and not the ammo drum. This confused a great deal of us fans prior to the release of the ALIENS: Colonial Marine Technical Manual, some believed that the Smart Gun was a DEW or that it fired some sort of exotic ammunition.  
The prop for the Smart Gun was developed from the MG42 (of course), fitted with a few motorcycle parts, and a drum magazine, and attached to the actors via a steady cam harness to prevent them from falling over, due to the weight. The original concept for the Smart Gun was to have the actors wear a flux power-glove concept instead of the harness.  

The M247H from HALO: Reach

Throughout most of the HALO games, it appears that UNSC does not use an LMG to support their troops, nor does the aliens. Most of the UNSC heavy weapons support comes from the Warthog's tru-barreled 12.7mm rotary cannon. There are a few times, when a emplaced M247H is used to defend an area, especially during the Earth portions of HALO 2. According the HALO wiki page, the M274H machine gun is listed has a 'heavy' machine gun for some strangle reason, despite firing the same 7.62x51mm round as most of the UNSC small arms.  However, it used by Jorge-052, detached as an LMG for the Noble Team.

The M739 SAW from HALO 4

It seems that the Lords of Kobol have blessed us, in November we're getting more HALO and that the UNSC is finally fielding a proper LMG: the M739 SAW. When it was original featured in the HALO Waypoint UNSC weapons trailer, I believe that it was some sort of auto-shotgun due to the drum magazine, and that would be sweet running down Grunts with an auto-shotgun, but I'll take this SAW. No word if it fires the same 7.62x51mm round has the MA5B assault fire.

The Repeater Blaster from Star Wars

I am always impressed with the variety of DEW systems in the Star Wars universe, and that includes some rare examples of DEW LMGs, but they are repeater blasters in a galaxy far, far away. According to a few sources, there are two kinds of portable repeater blasters that fit the LMG/GP category, the mounted version seen during the Battle of Holt used by the Rebel Alliance infantry (believed based on the American WWII-era .30 machine gun), and the handheld T-21 light repeating blaster rifle seen in SW:ANH in the hands of Stormtroopers at Mos Eisley. Normally, the T-21 has only enough powerpack capacity for thirty shots, however, most troopers carry an powerpack backpack that weights in at 60lbs. Ouch! The base gun for the T-21 LRBR prop was based on the British .303 Lewis Machine Gun  

Heavy Bolter from Warhammer: 40K

It seems everything in the Warhammer 40k universe is bigger, and that applies to their version of the LMG. In the ranks of the Space Marine, only these genetically engineered armor power suit wear soldiers are able to wield the  heavy bolter that unleashes .72 caliber rounds at fully automatic fire crushing the enemy. From my older codexs (1998), only Space Marines can use the heavy bolter due to its massive recoil and weight. I've seen modelers use the heavy bolter as a heavy machine gun for the Imperial Guard troopers, similar to Browning M2 .50 caliber,

The Helghast StA-3 LMG Killzone

In the first two Killzone games, the Helghast troops use a futuristic take on the old 3rd Reich MG42, the StA-3 LMG. Much like the assault rifle, the StA-3 feeds from a translucent drum magazine prepackaged with bullets. From the wiki, it lists the StA-3 firing the 7.62x51mm round, and in the game, you can see spent brass flying off, but I think the Helghast weapons fire a smaller round than 7.62mm NATO...maybe the Russian 5.45x39mm round?Anyway, this is one of the best all round guns in the original PS2 Killzone, and damn fun online, allowing the player to really hose that thing! Some have charged Guerrilla Games with lifting the basic idea for the Helghast soldiers from the Jin-Roh: the Wolf Bridge OVA, based the Panzer Corps uses handheld MG42s and similar armor design to the the Helghast soldiers.

The GD RSB-80 Heavy Plasma Gun from the Terminator

In the original Terminator, an infiltration unit sneaks in with some refugees to the bunker complex of the 132nd, "and the bunker was seared with light." The gun that devastated the bunker was the General Dynamics RSB-80 that fires a 15x1000mm plasma bolt with a capacity of 300 pulses at 60 pulses-per-minute from the slush hydrogen tank. In the hands of the  Terminator, the RSB-80 becomes an awesome tool of destruction, and unitized as an LMG. However, the weapon is too heavy for an average Resistance fighter to hand-carry, instead, it becomes a general purpose DEW LMG, mostly mounted to technicals and as an emplaced weapons for area defense. IMFDB.org has been unable to identify the base gun of the prop, but it is mostly likely a WWII-era Lewis MG. One the best fan-site for the dark world of 2029 AD, there is information on a heavy phased plasma gun: the General Dynamics RSB-80. The RSB-80 HPG was only seen on-screen twice, once for a few seconds during the Sarah Conner's dream sequence, and when Kyle blows up the H&K tank, and attempts an E&E with a junker armed with a RSB-80.
Article on the RSB-80:

The MG42 From Jin-Roh: the Wolf Bridge

In the alternate future of this iconic Japanese OVA, the Panzer Corps, members of an elite anti-terrorist squad of the Japanese police department use the 3rd Reich MG-42 (and STG-44) to hunt down and destroy the Sect terrorists. These armored soldiers are able to do this via the protection gear and a specially designed belt-ammo feeding system.

Starship Troopers (Uchu No Senshi) Anime OVA (1988)

Unlike a great deal of stories with armored power suit donning infantry, the 1988 anime OVA adaptions of Starship Troopers, features a mix-weapon squad, complete with an machine gun based around the MG42 7.62mm machine gun.

The AVR-30 from AVATAR

Much like other sci-fi weapons, the AVR-30 is a plastic-fanatic redress of the old M60 general purpose machine gun, and it seems that the AVR-30 is used in a similar role. The weapon is seen being used by Jake and Norm in their avatar bodies, and appears more like an assault rifle. Interestingly, the AVR-30 uses belted traditional ammunition, while most of the small arms in AVATAR are caseless. Most of the RDA contractors on the ground use a LMG variant of the CARB caseless rifle.

The Steyr-Phoenix Arms AHL-1 Heavy Laser from Empty Places

In my last flash-fiction serial for this blog, Empty Places, conscripted soldiers from a post-nuclear Apocalypse are send into battle to defend Earth colonies that abandoned Earth after the nuclear exchange. These armored encased soldiers use laser DEW from Steyr-Phoenix Arms, including the AHL-1 heavy laser.This, like all DEW weapons seen in Empty Places, where developed by FWS reader Christoper Phoenix, and could be the most  scientifically explained DEW LMG in sci-fi. Firing 10jJ antipersonnel bluish laser beam in the frequency of 500nm-0.5 microns from a 20 MJ super-conducting coil battery, enough for about 2,000 rounds. Due to the size and weight of the SRA AHL-1, it was used by Colonial soldiers in standard issue powered body armor.


This is the digital complete US Army field-guide to machine guns and their operation:


Here is the Tales of the Gun on the History Channel episode on Early MGs


  1. You did some pretty good research for this post, William!! I don't know why so many SF creators ignore the LMG. Part of it may be that they just show what they think looks cool without thinking about what a soldier really needs to survive a battle. Hollywood doesn't help by portraying MGs as lead hoses for muscle-bound action heroes instead of support weapons for squads of soldiers.

    Whatever the firearm technology used in you SF future, you should give your soldiers the equivalent of a LMG- either a futuristic version of what we use today or something that fulfills the same purpose. I find the idea of using a camera view fed to a HUD to aim a weapon carried with a steady-cam like harness intriguing. With such a weapon, you could fire a LMG accurately while standing up.

    Since beam guns operate quite differently from firearms, it is harder to match them up directly with firearms. A portable "heat ray" that scorches targets does not behave much like a firearm, after all. A continuous beam laser could be used to slice targets apart or rapidly scan over a battlefield, although this would probably overheat the weapon. "Fan beam" was popular with some SF authors- this is when the ray-gun fires a volley of bolts in an arc. Your target will will fall- in two pieces. However your ray-guns work, there should be a support weapon of some sort in the armory, but it may not look much like modern weapons.

    My favorite beam equivalent of a machine gun in SF is the Standish from E.E. Doc Smith's "Triplanetary". This weapon not only fires a super-intense reddish ray from its "opaque condensing lenses and parabolic reflectors", but has a conventional cannon that fires explosive shells fit under the main beam weapon. Now that's a beam weapon.


    Christopher Phoenix

  2. Thanks! I'm getting off of the guns for awhile on FWS...being research too much on firearms.
    It is amazing the amount of lying that Hollywood has done to us...maybe that is why we Americans suck at science?
    It is hard to imagine the DEW LMG without picturing the repeater blasters or the RSB-80 killing humans with pop-pop of their flesh in the bunker. Still, that is a very cool scene!
    The M56 Smart Gun is a brilliant design, and for me, the best example of Sci-Fi LMGs!
    That Standish is bitching! Going to have to put that into a blogpost!
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Yeah, we've been having too many guns around here on FWS- we've got the guns more than covered. What blogpost ideas are you thinking about? They actually have a kind of prototype smart-gun system called the EOP system. http://www.sero.hu/lynx/optics.html I'm surprised no one has designed a similar system for a LMG yet.

    I think the ray weapons from the older stories are a lot of fun!! There are such a variety of weapons- heat rays, molecular disintegrators, paralysis rays, coagulator rays, pain rays, electro-rays, stun rays, atomic disintegrators, torch rays, poison rays, proton beams, neutron rays, and so on. Coagulator rays coagulate your proteins as though you were a hard boiled egg. Some rays carry a deadly electrical shock, but that is just beginners stuff. Molecular disintegrators weaken intermolecular forces, reducing you to a pile of carbon, while atomic disintegrators weaken the strong nuclear force and disperse you as flavorless fundamental particles. Some rays drive you insane, other ray paralyze you, throw you in convulsions, melt you down like a candle, and who knows what else. Blaster-guns melt, vaporize, or blow a hole in a target with a blast of energy. Weaker blasters may kill by disrupting a target's internal organs without causing much visible damage. A gamma-ray gun could kill by deadly radiation exposure without creating much visible damage, but I would not call that kind of gun "weaker". Particle guns fire beams of various kinds of subatomic or atomic particles. Sadly, you can't make a "freeze ray", but a blast of liquid nitrogen might function similarly, as we saw with the ZF-1 from "The Fifth Element".


    I think we have all the ray guns covered now- better move on to some new topics!! I am thinking about picking up "Triplanetary" from the library, once I am finished reading Stanislaw Lem's "Solaris". It would be interesting to see what SF was like over 70 years ago...

    Christopher Phoenix

  4. I will add the freeze ray to the list of less-than-lethal weapons!
    I've read Solaris, it was former FWS member Nigel's favorite novel, and I saw both versions of the film, the 1972 Soviet and the 2005 American, both are realy great, but the American is the best.
    I plan on, over the life of FWS, writing about most major weapon systems, but at the moment, FWS will publish an article from io9 about ten technologies that are false, a book review of All You Need Is Kill, a Forgotten Classic episode of the Outer Limits, and the impact of planetary environments on future combat on off-world colonies.
    Is there any topic you wanna see discussed? I am always open to new ideas!

  5. William, you wouldn't look into doing a post on real world super soldier/human enhancement and how it will effect warfare?

    There is a lot of things coming out of DARPA especially and also out of non military medical and sports research that IMHO will mean a lot in the future.

  6. I've got a supersoldier post that has been worked off and on over the life of the blog...I'll bump it up and began the research...expect it in a month. Thanks for reading Joe!

  7. Very nice article you have there. I admit that I had not added an LMG in the arsenal of my own Federal Marine Corps, reasoning that, as APS troops who wield larger calibre weapons, they wouldn't need such a thing, but after reading this post, I am doing some re-thinking.
    I would lik to propose an article on the numbers, organisation and logistics of a future army. How many men/women serve in the armed forces, their organisation (divisions, regiments, etc), how expensive can they get and so on. Regularly these are overlooked i most sci-fi settings, but I stumbled on a rock, trying to make my own MSF work sound realistic.
    Once again, an excellent post.
    Cheers, Chris

  8. I wouldn't consider a "freeze ray", "freeze bomb", "cold bomb", "cryo-bomb", etc. a less-lethal weapon. Freezing organic tissue is quite damaging and will kill most targets. I'm not sure whether such a weapon would be practical or even possible. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics tells us that you can't concentrate ambient heat into a more concentrated form of energy, so the only way to lower the temperature of a target will be to bring it in contact with something cooler, like liquid nitrogen. Perhaps some sort of endothermic chemical reaction could be used to freeze an area if deployed in a kind of "cold bomb", in a similar fashion to how instant ice packs work.

    I finished "Solaris" yesterday, and I am waiting for the library to deliver A.E van Vogt's "Voyage of the Space Beagle" by interlibrary loan- they don't have "Triplanetary", sadly. I placed a hold on Stansilaw Lem's "Return from the Stars" and "His Master's Voice".

    I think you should write a series of blogposts on ground combat technology, focusing on the principles of real life ground combat instead of the history of particular weapons. One post could cover the various classes of firearms, another artillery, another armored vehicles, etc. This will help fit SF weapons in the right categories, find gaps in SF arsenals, and perhaps suggest where a futuristic weapon could fill a vital role on combat. The basic categories of weapons (Melee, Ranged, Artillery, Calvary) have not changed for thousands of years, and we can expect future weapons to fit in the same categories even if the tactical use of some weapons changes. As usual, Stardestroyer.net has a good discussion of this: http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Tech/Ground/index.html

    I think it would also be a good idea to discuss the myths surrounding general SF, nanotechnology, etc. that Stardestroyer.net discusses here: http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Tech/Myths/index.html

    Another topic I feel is not explored enough is the role of infantry in a space war. Why would we bother sending in troops if we could just conduct orbital bombardment of enemy holdouts? Most likely, we will send in troops to secure planetary targets, rescue hostages, or capture valuable outposts. If the big nasty aliens are just sitting on a hill we don't care much about, we would probably nuke them from orbit.

    Beyond that, I'd love to see a blogpost cover starships sometime. I've noticed we haven't discussed interstellar travel much. You could cover the more plausible concepts for sub-light travel, including various sub-relativistic craft and truly relativistic travel, and then cover superluminal travel and the consequences that various FTL drives will have on a SF universe.

    Christopher Phoenix

    1. Stanislaw Lem ,,Invincible" is good example of msf, you should read it... But wait i'm commenting something 3 years old!

  9. A big thank you for all of the ideas, I'm adding them to a topics master list I keep.
    @Chris: picking calibers for a future military is a hard one, but just remember, the big the bullet, the big the recoil, and energy that impacts the weapon's frame= greater wear and tear. I will get to work on the numbers post sooner so that it can help you out.
    @Mr. Phoenix: Yeah, you're right about the freeze ray, and I will read that stardestoryers.net...need to explore that site more.

  10. Yeah- even though, as I've said before, I think the SW vs. ST thing is really silly, there is some useful discussions on Stardestroyer.net, most likely because Mike Wong is a working engineer. In particular, his discussions of shields, SF tech myths, engineering as it applies to SF, and several of the tech essays are really useful.

    However, I notice that he has posted some false info on the TOS era hand phaser. The TOS Phaser Type-2's handle is, in fact, a replaceable power pack. This idea is not used that much, although we see it in two episodes- "The Omega Glory" and "The Enemy Within" (Sulu snaps in the power pack and then heats several rocks with several fan-beam heat ray bursts). For all this talk of SW mortars on the Imperial Artillery page, I've never seen anything resembling a mortar in any media SF except for the photon grenade launcher from the ST TOS episode "Arena". Just ignore the SW vs ST arguments and focus on the real world ground combat, or just refer Mr. Frisbee's "Military SF" website for a better discussion. :)

    I just thought that, with all this focus on how our futuristic assault rifles will be better or what-not, a discussion of the various classes of weapons and how they fit with others in real-world militaries would be a useful post. It doesn't matter how fancy your gun is if you have to work around gaping holes in your arsenal. In particular, I haven't seen artillery discussed here much, but it is vital for any real world military. An army without artillery is a dead army, and air support or even orbital bombardment can't replace an artillery piece.

    Maybe you could do a post on advanced combat rifles (ACRs) sometime, perhaps? Future rifles will be more ergonomic, made of lighter and stronger materials, modular, use futuristic ammo (armor piercing tungsten darts? explosive bullets?), reload from cassettes, and who knows what else- at lest according to SF stories. Don't forget the electronic ammo counter. :) Of course, other exotica have been proposed for future firearms- liquid propellents, rocket bullets, and so on, but the ACR seems to favor caseless ammo, combustible case ammo, or just use plain old brass for that old fashioned thrill. Now, that would be a fun post!!


    I just can't seem to stop coming up with suggestions, can I? I'm sorry if I'm overloading you with ideas...

    Christopher Phoenix

  11. I've been thinking for sometime, that you, Mr. Phoenix, should write an in-dept blogpost on the history of the ST phaser. The Phaser is an interesting weapon that has changed over forty years of the show, and it is the only sci-fi weapon that is evolved over hundreds of years of fictional history.
    I'm researching the future of bullets, caseless weapons...because the traditional gun as we known will be the weapon of combat for the next century.
    And don't worry, Mr. Phoenix, FWS is always open to ideas, because one day, I'm going to run out of topics, guns, and hard science topics, and I want my readers to have an active role in FWS. I plan I writing this blog for years to come, and I want it to be THE home of MSF in the English Language, because there is nothing like it.
    I enjoy reading comments, and thank people for reading this blog.

  12. That's an interesting idea- I've never really considered writing a history of the phaser, although it is one of my favorite weapons from media SF. Are you thinking in the terms of a fictional history, like the one you created for the EM-33 Plasma Pistol, or the history of the phasers a fictional concept? I could always make up a little fictional history for the phaser and then discuss it as a fictional concept as an explanation for my history.

    I must warn you that I did not follow Voyager, DS9, and ST Enterprise, and I haven't seen all the episodes of STNG, so my history will correspond with TOS, of which I watched every single episode (and enjoy immensely). I will ignore the phase pistol, as I like Pike's laser pistols more. :-) Maybe I could fit in a little technobabble explanation for the disintegration effect. I must fit the TNG weapons, though, as they are too interesting a development to ignore. They seem to suggest a highly decadent, anti-military culture.

    I enjoy reading the topics here, and I think we can keep coming up with more. SF is just so diverse that we can't fail to find new topics to discuss.


    Maybe you should do a post on disintegration weapons sometime...

    Christopher Phoenix

  13. I am surprised that you did not watch the rest of the ST saga. The only one I still watch is Enterprise, which is my favorite of the entire TV lineup. I am curious to see how the remastered ST:TNG and ST:TOS look when compared to the originals. BTW, Voyager, while having one of the sweetest ship designs was the worst show. Save for the end two-parter finale....that was legendary.

  14. Part of it is that I don't own the box sets of TNG and the other shows- yet. :-) Enterprise does look pretty cool, for what pieces of it I have seen. I own the box set of the original TOS, not the one where they redid all the special effects, and it looks pretty cool. I intend on watching all of TNG sometime, though, I remember enjoying the episodes I saw when I was young. I saw the one where Picard and co. are transformed into a bad-ass military crew by the appearance of an older Enterprise, and they have to send it back in order to turn back into their old selves. I didn't watch Voyager because I heard it was the worst show.

    The biggest problem with a fictional history of the phaser is that the Star Trek has kept changing the history of the show with every new continuation. The original Khan episode doesn't fit with the rest of Trek's history that well, as we didn't have nuclear powered interplanetary spaceships by the 1990s. Pike's crew carried laser pistols that fired an orange-red beam, but no lasers appeared in Enterprise.

    I must admit that I think the phase pistol is one of the neatest weapons from the ST lineup, but I prefer having lasers as the precursor to phaser weapons rather than a phaser with low blood pressure. I did like the inclusion of "particle weapons" in ST Enterprise, as I think both lasers and particle guns were used before phasers were invented. It is a matter of history to me, and Enterprise mucked up that history by ignoring that lasers were the precursors to phasers. We saw these laser weapons in "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and it the first phaser was probably Spock's big beam rifle. Lt. Uhura even mentions "old style hand lasers" in the episode "A Private Little War".

    I'll have to watch some of the later Star Trek shows sometime- thanks for reminding me. I've wanted to see TNG for a while- I think it was the best show along with TOS. Enterprise looks very good as well, for what I've seen of it.

    Christopher Phoenix

  15. I was 11 when ST:TNG came on TV, and I watched every season, taping the best ones on VHS (had a great collection until I moved), and followed the Trek shows on and off throughout by teenage years. I missed much of DS9, after getting disgusted with it after Dax died. Never really liked Voyager...but to me, Enterprise was the best of Trek, and most diehard fans hated it. BTW: if you love classic Trek, checkout the Mirror Universe Enterprise two-parter...epic!

  16. My parents introduced me to Star Trek TOS, and I came to like the show a lot. The salt creature from "The Man Trap" used to scare me when I was younger. After reading "The Voyage of the Space Beagle", it is clear that Coeurl from "Black Destroyer" probably was the inspiration for Crater's salt creature. When you are younger, these shows have a lot more effect on you, and the universe they present is so fantastic it draws you right in. "Star Wars" was that way for me. I saw some TNG, as I said, when I tuned on the TV set, but I never followed nor liked the look of Voyager or DS9- after bright colors, classic phasers, and miniskirts, it is hard to get accustomed to the later stuff. I must say that Enterprise looks bad-ass, I don't care what the Trekkers say.

    I've heard of the two-part mirror universe episode- don't they have Tholians? Those were one of my favorite aliens from ST TOS- they looked so alien, unlike every other being on the show. I think the Tholians are some kind of mineral creature that live in oven-hot temperatures, judging from the odd colors seen on the communication screen. And the classic phaser makes an appearance- and disintegrates someone properly!! I've got to see that show sometime.

    Christopher Phoenix

  17. The Tholians pop up in ST:ENT several times, but the mirror two-parter actually shows them...those episodes are worth checking out for lots of different reasons.
    I liked DS9 at first, then got bored with it and the way they showed the war, and how that stupid ship they had the best damn thing ever...
    To me, ST:ENT, was the death blow to the Trek universe as we know it. Now, we have JJ Abrams fooling around with those god-awful Trek films. When ENTERPRISE was taken off of the air before I could see the Earth/Romulan War, I lose faith in Trek, and dove deep into the HALO universe.

  18. Greetings! I am excited to find out one thing, of course if I'm not asking too much could you please share with us the place where you spent your childhood?

  19. William I ran into a problem with my MSF. I made a weapon similar to Old Man's War's MP-35 that can fulfill pretty much any role in combat, which puts me in a jam because I want to include a heavy weapon but I can't think of a way that it would be practical since the one I already made is so good and I don't want to have to nerf it. Any advice would be appreciated!

  20. You could include a "heavy frame" omni-weapon, that would need the reinforced structure to fire missiles or some sort of kinetic round, and carry the large block of nano-material needed to feed the weapon. Does that help?

  21. Yes actually, it's given me an idea. Thank you William your advice and content is very helpful to MSF writers everywhere!

  22. Hey, nice reading. Had to simile when i read about "weight" of the M60.
    Admit my only experience in service was the MG3 - the "heavier" version of the MG 42.
    During a night march almost 20km i did learn to hate this gun. I was hardly able to carry that thing any further. Each shoulder was hurting because of those 12kg metal - and to carry it at the hip wasn't practicable anyhow. I think i made it only because there were some "training" exercises where did get some rest or even sleep in two cases.

    Funny before that training events i liked it much. Target practice was at 25m you had to hit miniature targets simulating targets >200m away - with 15 rounds i was almost capable of hitting five targets. Some of my comrades where even capable of single round shooting - using the middle finger. We also made stupid shooting test while standing. Rambo style Spray & Pray from the hip .... 30 rounds and you were hardly able to hit the target at 25m. Smaller guys had to be assisted by others that they didn't get knock down by the recoil.
    And the recoil was even as more kicking as for the G3. But as a big n heavy guy had no problems with the recoil...and the weapon did seam to be quiet accurate.
    until i got a 100 round box and really had to shoot at targets >300m away. It was said that the MG3 on bipod should be able to hit targets up to 500m. Maybe if you had enough ammunition and barrels to change. The 150 box - without second machine gunner was attached to the side - so my problems did start to counter the weight of that box - the gun did always tilt on the bipod.
    So hitting targets at range was almost impossible. The accuracy and spread was terrible - i was able to see that during the following night shooting - with tracer rounds. and the MG 3 was/is a great weapon for final protection fire - because you may hit two targets with the same "long" burst - not to mention that you almost vaporize a target at 25m.

    so sound of 1200RPM is awesome - you always had to fight the temper to hold the trigger. tracer round firing was great too - looked like laser fire from the side

    Anyhow - what do you think about a hybrid machine gun?
    You know like in the film Elysium - the combination of Rail/Coil Gun and chemical propellant. If you have problems with energy or a EMP effect renders your electronics useless you still have a powerful weapon. Such a weapon would be more a kind of a "universal" machine gun while using multiple energy outputs - for powerful shots with reduced RoF - or reduced energy output for the accelerator but an increased "mechanical" RoF.
    Currently I'm toying around with the idea of such Hybrid weapons - for battlerifles/DMRs; machine guns - and big game anti tank rifles

  23. I really like the pictures of old and new machine guns. These days we have compact and easy to handle guns which increase efficiency of its shooter.

  24. Most FPS games have at least one LMG in them, I would think. Star Wars is bogged down with WWII thinking where medium to heavy machine guns were more prominent, even though there were very good LMGs like the British Bren and the American BAR. There's also that misconception that magazines have infinite ammunition and only run out for dramatic purposes. But on the subject of Heavy Bolters, only the "Space Marines" can fire them from the hip like a SEAL 60 Gunner. The Imperial Guard does utilize them, but on tripods or mounted on vehicles or aircraft. But I don't think even the Astartes can fire them while on the move; they're too heavy.

  25. Hello! Nice stuff, please do inform us when you post something like that! putlocker

  26. Is there anyway or use to put more than one barrel on an LMG? Would a minigun like lmg be of any use in the future?