Parts Problems with the M249 SAW?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

Are there parts problems with the M249 SAW?

A former employee of an Indiana defense contractor has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the company ordered him to approve parts for machine guns used by U.S. troops that didn’t meet quality standards, and that he was fired for complaining about it.

In his lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Evansville in February 2009 and unsealed in March, Andrew T. Pool accuses Dugger-based Northside Machine Co. of fraud and wrongful termination. He is seeking reinstatement with back pay and unspecified damages.

In a court filing Wednesday, the company contends that it never told Pool to falsify test results and that Pool never complained to management before he was fired. It asked a judge to dismiss his lawsuit.

Northside Machine supplies trigger assemblies and other components to defense contractor FN Manufacturing for use in its M240 and M249 machine guns, which are widely used by the military. FN Manufacturing is not accused of wrongdoing.

Attorneys for Pool and the company declined to comment Wednesday, and a spokesman at FN Manufacturing in Columbia, S.C., did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

According to a 2006 report by the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research group that studies military matters, 30 percent of troops surveyed reported that the M249 had stopped firing during combat, a higher percentage than with any other weapon included in the report. Problems with the light machine gun and other weapons were reported during the July 2008 battle in Wanat, Afghanistan, in which nine U.S. troops died and 27 were wounded.

U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings Jr. declined to comment on any possible link between such weapons failures and alleged substandard parts, citing the ongoing litigation. The Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses also declined to speculate about any such connection and said its report hadn’t diagnosed the underlying causes of complaints about the M249.

There are two issues here.  First off, if substandard parts are being manufactured and accepted as meeting specification, then this is both an ethical and legal problem.  Any industry that accepts failure to meet specifications for parts deserves to go out of business.  This allegation should be run to ground, so to speak, and either the company or the employee punished, depending upon who is telling the truth.

But there is the second issue of reports of the M249 failing to operate in combat, apparently up to 30%.  All I can do is report what I know from a certain Marine.  According to his reports – and he saw a lot of combat – his M249 SAW never once jammed or stopping firing for any reason during combat, period.

But then, he was properly trained to operate the SAW, and he properly trained his boots just like he was trained.  He carried a paint brush on patrols, and when they stopped for a water break, the first thing he did (before water) was to clean his weapon with brush, Q-tips, fingers, etc.  This required disassembling his weapon, at least partially.  Then, he would remove every inch of belt from his SAW ammunition boxes and check to ensure that every round was seated properly in the belt (because they can rattle loose during fast movement on patrols).

For the M16A2 and M4s, he would assist in stretching out the ammunition clip springs to ensure that they had the capability to feed ammunition without jamming after they cleaned each weapon of dust.  Finally, each and every clip was checked to ensure that it wasn’t completely loaded (each clip was loaded minus a few rounds to prevent deformation of the spring).

Before deployment, he demanded new action for his SAW, as he had monitored and cataloged its behavior for months, and refused to deploy without new action.  He got the new action, and thus he knew that the weapon was reliable if correctly maintained and properly employed.  It was correctly maintained and properly employed – and given a name that I will not repeat over this blog.

His view?  Well, simply put, those who complain about the M16A2, M4 and SAW are either lazy or not properly trained.  The system of weapons is just fine, says he.  He killed many bad guys with them.  Oh, and by they way.  The M249 SAW is an area suppression firearm, but he deployed with an ACOG on his SAW.  The 2/6 Battalion Weapons Warrant Officer was awesome, said he.


  1. On June 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm, Federale said:

    You mean magazines. And the cleaned their magazines and stretched the spring on each water break? I thought the new tan magazine did not need such action? Isn’t the problem with the green magazines the follower, not the spring? Is such action authorized? Seems strange. I thought spring memory was a myth.

  2. On June 12, 2010 at 8:13 am, apiraven said:

    Same bull$hit we got about the M-16 back in Nam. Turns out the M-16 action was a piece of crap then and now.
    The AK’s function on time, every time under damn near any condition.
    When are the Generals & politicians going to stop killing our own troops?

  3. On June 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm, raptor0311 said:

    I have to second that opinion on the 2/6 Gunner, hell of a guy.

  4. On June 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm, jaredclarksmith said:

    I can look back over the years, but based on my current and ongoing experiance as a soldier; I believe that it is purly an accident when we get exactly the right piece of equipment to do the right job. The process is too big and there are far too many competing interestes that are at best, unmotivated to see soldiers and Marines get the best gear for the right reasons. The Marines figured this out years ago and conduct equipment fielding in a way very different than that of the U.S. Army. So to, Marines focus on training 1st and foremost, equipment and technoloigy 2nd. Their way is superior.
    IME; the M249 suffers from issues and shortcommings very much like the M4. Your Marine buddy’s hour-by-hour slavery over the weapon is testiment to this. It’s possiable that he is utterly correct and we mortals who hold the M249 in caution and contempt, are lazy and slovenly in our weapons maintenance. For my own part, I’ll suggest that the M249 has issues that every SAW gunner fears. Isn’t it enough to have an enemy to fear, without having to also fear the vagaries of our weapons?
    As for magazines; the army purchases thousand dollar weapons and equip’s them with ten cent magazines. M9, nine mil mags, are espicially horriable. I keep two sets of magizines for my combat arms and change them out weekly, to give the springs a break from the pressure of pushing back on the rounds loaded. During this unload-reload procedure, I also clean and polish all the rounds. I must be as finicky as my weapons if I expect them to work.
    I look at the M240B as the gold standard in weapons procurement. Light years ahead of the M60 machine gun; rugged, accurate, simple. Even when it breaks, I can fix it myself with wire and off the shelf hardware! So I wonder; why is the M240 so far ahead of the M249 and M4? I guess for the same reason that the boots the army issues for mountaineering are such junk. Our army is at its best when its is figuring its way out of a problem of its own creation!

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You are currently reading "Parts Problems with the M249 SAW?", entry #5096 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Marine Corps,Weapons and Tactics and was published June 10th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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