U.S. Army infantry units are fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan with a special operations forces machine gun that’s 30 percent lighter than the standard M240B but still packs the killing power of 7.62mm NATO.

fnhArmy weapons officials are fielding several hundred MK 48 MOD 1 machine guns in an effort to lighten the heavy loads ground forces, especially machine-gunners, struggle to carry over the country’s unforgiving terrain. The MK 48, made by FN Manufacturing LLC, was first adopted by Navy SEAL teams in 2000. The elite commando units needed a reliable 7.62mm machine gun that was light enough to carry on fast-moving raids and other special missions.

“It’s a great assault gun,” said Army Col. Doug Tamilio, the head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, the command that overseas Army small arms.

At 18.26 pounds, the MK 48 is about nine pounds lighter than the 27.5-pound M240B. But the 550 MK 48s being fielded are not the beginning of a move to replace the Army’s beloved M240B, also made by FN Manufacturing, Tamilio said. It’s a short-term fix until next year when the Army begins fielding the lighter version of the M240B—the M240L.

Fast Fix For Afghanistan
The MK 48 fielding is intended to quickly “get something in the hands of soldiers to fight with in the mountains of Afghanistan,” Tamilio said.

The weapon’s appearance resembles the M249 squad automatic weapon, also made by FN Manufacturing. It has the same ergonomic fixed polymer stock and pistol grip. But unlike the 5.56mm M249, the MK 48 is chambered for the potent 7.62mm NATO round and is capable of spitting them out at a cyclic rate of fire of 720 rounds per minute.

The MK 48, while highly reliable, wasn’t designed to offer the long-term durability found in the M240 series machine gun, said Jim Sharp, deputy director for crew-served weapons for FNH USA. The MK 48’s receiver will last about 50,000 rounds compared to the M240’s 100,000-round receiver lifespan.

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