|FABRIQUE FANTASTIQUE: The FN MK48 MOD 0 Machine Gun |
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Lighter than the cumbersome M240, more durable than the notorious M60s, and invulnerable to an array of harsh weather conditions, the MK48 passed rigorous requirements from the front lines to become SOCOM's dream gun.
My big brother can beat up yours: The MK48 is a "big brother" or scaled up version of the MK46, and incorporates many of its popular features. (Photo: FN Manufacturing)
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It's hard not to play favorites. But if one sibling is better at, say, hitting point targets out to 800 meters, then who would you choose? U.S. Special Operations Command can answer that question in two words -- or two letters and two numbers -- MK48. The U.S.-based division of the famous Belgian company Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FN Manufacturing Inc.) has unveiled the MK48 light weight machine gun as a scaled-up version of the MK 46. The beefier and more lethal "big brother" of the FN machine gun family, the MK48's caliber has been increased from 5.56mm to 7.62mm over the MK 46. Known to U.S. troops as the M249, the MK 46 was an improvement on the consistently problematic M60, but couldn't give U.S. military SpecWar operators the punch they needed. Basing its construction on input from SOCOM and the frontlines, FN Manufacturing designed the MK48 to cater to specific Spec Ops needs. With reduced maintenance costs and more firepower, Special Operations Command may have found its dream gun in the MK48.
|The MK48's Killer Features|
MK48 Mod 0
Type of Equipment:
Light Machine Gun
- 17 percent lighter than the standard M240
- More firepower, greater lethality than 5.56mm MK 46
- Reduced maintenance because of existing weapon commonality
- Significantly more reliable than existing M60 E4
M249 M240 M60
Black Sheep & Goldilocks
In 2001, the Navy and U.S. SOCOM initiated development for a new 7.62mm machine gun in response to complaints that the M60 E4 was chronically unreliable. The M60 is notorious for the reputation of being the most hated gun in the U.S. Army. The Army began using the M60 as their standard machine gun in 1957, and since then, the M60 line has gone through a series of improvements. It was made lighter, more durable, and less prone to malfunctions and jamming. No matter how many new variants and alterations were made, the M60 remained an outcast among troops, and was never widely accepted. In the end, troops wanted a balance, something easy to carry around, something they didn't have to patch up with duct tape. Alternatives were used, such as the M240 and the M249, but weight and lack of firepower once again became causes for complaint. Like Goldilocks, troops wanted something just right.
The failures of the M60 line have been corrected by the virtues of new MK48. Commonality of parts with the M240 and the M249 make maintenance a dream. No more barrel failure, and more importantly, no duct tape or cable ties needed to hold failing parts together. The MK48's exterior is coated with a combination of Teflon, hard chrome, and phosphorus, to prevent corrosion. The entire unit was tough enough to withstand 96 hours in a salt-spray tank -- now that's resilience. The salt-spray test was used to simulate the variety of environments in which Spec Ops must train -- environments that have a tendency to wear weapons out fast. The barrel interior, chamber and bolt rails are hard chrome and phosphate coated, making failure due to rapid fire overheating a non-issue.
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The MK48's construction and design is largely based on it's "little brother," the MK 46 (M249), but is a step up in terms of caliber. This makes for greater firepower and a more lethal weapon overall. The MK48 can fire any standard 7.62mm ammunition, and uses the same metallic disintegrating links as the M60 and M240 systems. Incorporating a solid, non-collapsible polymer butt stock and integral bipod, the MK48 is equipped with numerous Picatinny rails to accommodate optics, night vision devices, and laser aiming modules. Including all accessories, the MK48 weighs in at 18 pounds, which is still around six pounds lighter than the massive M240.
With the M60, barrels had to be replaced each time a sustained rate of 200 rounds per minute was fired. The barrel, glowing cherry red from overheating, had to be replaced on the battlefield by a soldier wearing asbestos heat-resistant gloves. The M60 E3 variant could only fire 100 rounds per minute before overheating. In a combat situation, losing precious minutes to maintenance could prove fatal. The MK48 can fire 750 rounds per minute (cyclic), and still be in good shape. FN Herstal has further addressed this problem by installing an easily detachable barrel on the MK48, with a heatproof handle for quick removal without the use of asbestos mittens. All in all, the MK48 has increased usability and given troops an infinitely lighter load.
The MK48 during winter trials. With a combination teflon, hard chrome and phosphorus coating, the MK48 can withstand a variety of weather conditions.
In addition to a decrease in accompanying equipment needed to maintain the MK48, the gun is 17 percent lighter than the M240, which replaced the M60 in 1991. In the off-chance the MK48 happens to need a replacement part, its commonality with the M249 and M240 make it easy to interchange any necessary components.
If anyone is in need of such a versatile and reliable gun, it's the U.S. Navy and SOCOM. Navy Seals protect the U.S. from enemy forces and terrorists in the air, land, and sea and need durable weapons that withstand the test of time and repeated use, combining durability with lethality. The MK48 will be especially effective in Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and urban warfare. All auxiliary support equipment is scheduled for completion in March 2007, and deployment should be expected soon thereafter. Unlike the M60 -- arguably the black sheep of the Army's artillery for the past sixty years -- the MK48 is a dream come true, and a weapon that SOCOM will have no qualms about playing favorites with.
|FN HERSTAL'S MK48 MOD 0 MACHINE GUN -- SPECIFICATIONS|
|Length ||39.75 inches|
|Weight ||18.64 pounds|
|Bore diameter ||7.62mm|
|Maximum effective range ||800 meters|
|Maximum range ||3600 meters|
|Muzzle velocity ||6.4 inches (16.3 cm)|
|Rate of fire ||Cyclic: 710 (+/- 50) rounds per minute|