The Minimi (Mini-mitrailleuse) is a light machine gun manufactured by Fabrique Nationale.
The M249 SAW designation is used by the US armed forces.
The M249 is an air-cooled, belt-fed, automatic-only firearm that fires from an open bolt position. It can accept linked ammunition through the top-mounted feed tray, or M16 magazines through the side-mounted port. Linked ammunition can be fed from either a loose belt or from a plastic 200-round magazine clipped under the receiver. The SAW features a built-in bipod and a tripod mounting lug for supported fire, and a quick-change barrel that helps prevent overheating during sustained fire.
The gun has an excellent reputation on reliability and firepower, and the latest reports on failures of M249 SAW weapons in Iraq are attributed to the age of the weapons used - most of the current issue M249s in US Army are more than 10 years old and quite worn out.
- United States usage (M249)
In the USMC, the SAW is usually carried at the fire team level; that is, one member of a three- to five-man team carries this weapon. The SAW is also standard issue for a four- to five-man amphibious reconnaissance team.
Recently, the British Army has equipped each four man fire team (2 per section) with the current variant of the Minimi. It is considered a fire support weapon between light support weapons and general purpose machine guns. They are usually fitted with the Common Weapon Sight (CWS) - an optical day and night sight.
The Israeli Defence Forces were among the first to introduce the Minimi as a legitimate 5.56 mm SAW, and show its quality in combat. Limited numbers of Minimis were purchased in the early 1990s and saw combat in south Lebanon. The Minimi performed well and bought itself reputation, but in 1995 it was decided to purchase the IMI Negev, an Israeli manufactured 5.56 mm LMG, which fitted more to IDF requirements.
M249 Para - features a retractable stock and a shorter barrel. It was designed as a paratrooper weapon, although its compact dimensions make it desirable in any combat scenario.
M249 SPW - the Special Purpose Weapon has Picatinny rails mounted on the feed cover and forward grip, a short barrel and a Para-style retractable stock. Some features from the SAW and Para models were removed to save weight - these include the STANAG magazine port, the tripod mounting lug and the built-in bipod. The SPW was adopted by the US SOCOM under the designation Mk46 Mod 0.
Many US SAWs have been modified to carry SPW-style Picatinny rails on the feed cover. This allows them to mount commercial day and night optical sights like the M68 Aimpoint or low-magnification scopes. Additionally, some SAWs have fixed steel tubular stocks instead of the plastic polymer stock pictured above.
All SAWs can mount the laser equipment needed to participate in a MILES combat simulation. This picture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Fibua.jpg) shows an M249 fitted with MILES gear.
The weapon can also mount 3rd party suppressors. In particular, Gemtech manufactures suppressors designed to be mounted on NATO standard flash hiders, such as the one used by most variants of the M249.