August 7, 2009
FORT BENNING, GA — The Army wants to make the M-240B and M-249 automatic weapons easier to handle for U.S. military forces, particularly in urban areas.
As part of the effort, Fort Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab collected input from 10 Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, during a three-day experiment on the collapsible buttstocks of both machine guns.
The attachments were redesigned based on recommendations and surveys taken from a Limited Objective Experiment conducted by the Maneuver Battle Lab last November.
"The main difference is the buttons are vertical instead of horizontal and you only have to push one button rather than two in order to adjust the buttstock," said Freddy Rose, project officer for the Maneuver Battle Lab’s Soldier team, who directed the evaluation July 22-24, at Wagner and McKenna ranges.
He said the buttstocks are adjustable from 10.125 inches to 7 in five increments, each approximately .75 inches apart to accommodate comfort for any gunner body type.
At Wagner Range, the Soldiers fired the M-240B the first day and tested the M-249 in the second session. On Friday, they engaged individual movement technique, or IMT, and urban obstacle courses at McKenna.
"The collapsible buttstock can provide the gunner a number of comfort positions depending on the individual body and shooting style," Rose said. "It also shortens the gun by seven inches, which can make it a little easier when in urban areas."
While many Soldiers praised the design change on the M-240B – which is considered a medium machine gun – some said they prefer the standard collapsible mechanism on the M-249, a light machine gun and squad automatic weapon.
"It’s easier to manipulate, less complicated to use. You don’t need to have as much focus on it," said Spc. Robert Paskiewicz, who’s assigned to B Company. "But one button is good for the 240. It cuts down on the length of the weapon, and makes the weapon a little more balanced."
Spc. Austin Mistretta, also of B Company, who routinely works with both weapons on Fort Benning’s SAW range, had a similar impression.
"The 249 is a shoulder-fired weapon with a thicker, bigger stock. It’s better for urban operations," he said. "I don’t like the one-button (buttstock) on the 249 because you can’t adjust it as quick. It’s too thin. But it works better on the 240."
Staff Sgt. Dino Vassilakos, of C Company, said the M-249 modification is negligible but the single-button buttstock significantly improves the M-240B’s handling without compromising firepower.
"One button definitely makes it more shooter-friendly," he said. "It can adjust to the shooter, depending on the person’s size, but the weapon fires the same as before."
After the recent data and feedback are analyzed, the Maneuver Battle Lab will provide a final report to the program manager to assist in a decision on type classification for the buttstocks, Rose said.
– Vince Little, The Bayonet (www.army.mil)
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