Meta: We’re going to go over the three different kinds of machine guns today, as there is plenty of confusion when it comes to their calibers and intended roles.
When the machine gun was first developed by Hiram Maxim, it resulted in a revolution in warfare that turned the First World War into a bloodbath. Technology had outpaced advances in doctrine, and young men paid with their lives for the mistakes of their superiors. Over time, machine guns have developed further, separating into three distinct classes.
Light machine guns, medium machine guns, and heavy machine guns all play their roles on the battlefield, but to the casual observer, they may all look the same. We’ll take the time to look at each of these machine gun types and discuss the factors that set them apart from each other.
The smallest class of machine gun is the LMG, which is designed to fire an intermediate caliber cartridge similar to assault rifles. LMGs include the M249 SAW and the MG36, both of which fire the 5.56 mm NATO cartridge. Keep in mind that throughout history, there were also LMGs that fired full-power cartridges.
The point of a light machine gun is that it can provide support at the squad level, without the need for a specialized machine gun team. A lot of the time, the LMG gunner is integrated into a standard line infantry squad, which means that they can have fire support available whenever it’s needed.
On the other hand, medium machine guns are typically organized into specialized units, often consisting of a gunner and a feeder who will ensure that the ammo remains properly supplied. MMG teams will usually be reasonably mobile, meaning that they can often advance with an offensive instead of after it.
In the present day, medium machine guns fire full-power rifle cartridges, making them more suitable for long-range use and heavy suppression. The issue with this is that their ammunition is far heavier, which is another reason why they’re typically only used in dedicated teams.
The final kind of machine gun is the HMG, which often fires a .50 caliber bullet or larger. These machine guns are the least maneuverable of the bunch, and they are commonly used on vehicle mounts or by slower machine gun teams. These guns are also often found in entrenched machine gun nests.
The advantage of a heavy machine gun is that it is equally adept at stopping enemy light vehicles as it is at halting infantry advances. This makes the HMG far more versatile in a combat role, though its heavy ammo, the weight of the gun itself, and the mount itself will often drastically reduce mobility.
While the LMG is by far the most common type of machine gun that is used by individual troops, there are plenty of MMGs and HMGs used on vehicles and by machine gun crews. We hope that we’ve been able to clear up any confusion that may have existed when it comes to machine guns.