Machine Guns

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machine gun is an auto-firing, rifled long-barrel autoloading firearm designed for sustained direct fire with fully powered cartridges. Other automatic firearms such as assault rifles and automatic rifles are typically designed more for firing short bursts rather than continuous firepower, and not considered real strong guns. Squad automatic weapons, which fire the same (usually intermediate-poweredcartridge used by the other riflemen from the same combat unit, are functionally light machine guns though not called so. Submachine guns, which are capable of continuous rapid fire but using handgun cartridges, are also not technically regarded as true machine guns.

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Machine gun, automatic weapon of small calibre that is capable of sustained rapid fire. Most machine guns are belt-fed weapons that fire from 500 to 1,000 rounds per minute and will continue to fire as long as the trigger is held back or until the supply of ammunition is exhausted. The machine gun was developed in the late 19th century and has profoundly altered the character of modern warfare

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Similar automatic firearms of greater than 20 mm (0.79 in) caliber are classified as autocannons, rather than machine guns.

As a class of military kinetic projectile weapon, machine guns are designed to be mainly used as infantry support weapons and generally used when attached to a bipod or tripod, a fixed mount or a heavy weapons platform for stability against recoils. Many machine guns also use belt feeding and open bolt operation, features not normally found on other infantry repeating firearms.

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Modern machine guns are classified into three groups. The light machine gun, also called the squad automatic weapon, is equipped with a bipod and is operated by one soldier; it usually has a box-type magazine and is chambered for the small-calibre, intermediate-power ammunition fired by the assault rifles of its military unit. The medium machine gun, or general-purpose machine gun, is belt-fed, mounted on a bipod or tripod, and fires full-power rifle ammunition. Through World War II the term “heavy machine gun” designated a water-cooled machine gun that was belt-fed, handled by a special squad of several soldiers, and mounted on a tripod. Since 1945 the term has designated an automatic weapon firing ammunition larger than that used in ordinary combat rifles; the most widely used calibre is .50 inch or 12.7 mm, although a Soviet heavy machine gun fired a 14.5-millimetre round.

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