The M249 Goes Semi-Auto: FNH USA’s New M249S

The M249 light machine gun, which we all know better as the SAW, has been around for awhile. It was first designed in 1984 as part of the US Army’s 1968 Small Arms Program, which called for the creation of some sort of LMG chambered in 5.56 NATO. At the time 5.56 itself was new and didn’t have near the fan base it does today – changes in ballistics have brought all ammo a long way – but some in the Army recognized its potential. At first no money was allocated for the new LMG, but after some time passed contracts and competitions began to fly, and in the end there was a winner: FN Herstal.

For those unfamiliar with FN, a quick background. The company’s full title is Fabrique Nationale d’Herstale, a French name often shortened to FN Herstal but frequently simply referred to as FN. FN was founded in Belgium in 1889 and was originally formed to fill an order of 150,000 Mauser Model 89 rifle the government requested. FN got its start through a collaborative effort of prominent firearms makers in the area’s Liege region, and in less than a decade they decided to enter into a partnership with a respected firearms designer you just might know – John Browning. In fact, FN’s popular Hi-Power pistol was born thanks to Browning with the final touches being made by Dieudonne Saive; sadly, the pistol was not unveiled until 10 years after Browning’s death.

FN has a rich history and a solid reputation in the industry. Although they’re headquartered in Belgium, they also have two subsidiaries in the U.S.: FN Manufacturing in South Carolina and FNH USA in Virginia. Over the years, FN has made a number of well-liked guns from the aforementioned Hi-Power, which has seen extensive military use in more than 50 nations, to the M4A1 to the SCAR. They’ve produced a vast number of the guns used by service members, and now they’ve decided to turn one model in particular semi-auto for sales to the general public. Yes, the M249 is now the M249S.

Author with the FNH USA M249S
Author with the FNH USA M249S

The official unveiling took place at the Annual NRA Meeting in Nashville, and in addition to a one-on-one with one of the FNH USA guys behind the gun, I also stuck around to hear the reactions of NRA members attending the weekend’s events. Overall, everyone was more than a little excited to take a look – getting close to the glass case was a challenge in itself – and it seems safe to say FN had the weekend market cornered on Most Exciting Unveiling. More than one veteran came by and chatted about memories of lugging their M249 through the desert complete with extra belts of ammo and the various necessary accessories, and one asked to have his picture taken with the new semi-auto version, which we’d removed from the case for the purpose of my taking photos and video. Now you know the initial response was overwhelmingly positive, but what about the gun itself?

According to the FNH USA rep I spoke with, this semi-auto version is an exact replica of the military’s version, meaning it isn’t a replica at all but the same gun, with one distinct difference: no full-auto. FNH USA is going all the way with the new M249S by manufacturing all components to the precise standards of the military, meaning they’re not bright and shiny but are instead the duller, less “pretty” version service members have long been used to using. Customers asking why the M249S isn’t up to their previous shiny expectations might be missing the spirit of this new semi-auto model: it’s a little piece of military history the public can hold in their own hands, meaning it doesn’t need to be pretty, it needs to be useful. No time is wasted polishing the external surfaces of the gun; all time goes into ensuring the gun’s a tackdriver. The M249S isn’t just designed to go bang when you squeeze the trigger, it’s designed to go bang with the accuracy of a rifle and the sustained fire capabilities of a machine gun.

The M249S is, of course, belt-fed, but can also be used with magazines, and comes chambered in 5.56 NATO. It has the expected 20.5″ cold hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel, a 1:7 RH twist rate, and a trigger pull FNH USA lists as between 4.5 and 6.5 lbs out of the box. One operational difference does exist; whereas the original M249 operates with an open bolt, the M249S operates with a closed bolt. This makes sense because open bolts are the realm of full-auto weapons, so the new semi-auto SAW will most likely function more reliably with a closed bolt. The entire gun is 40.75” long and weighs in at 17 pounds, unloaded; needless to say this is one solid gun.

If all goes as planned, the M249S will ship for Christmas, making it the number-one item on many gun lover’s wish lists. The first 200 sales will be collector’s items and will come with a spare barrel, sling, and other accessories. MSRP is currently set at $7,000, and if that seems pricey, keep in mind you’re not buying just any gun, and it’s made to truly exacting standards. As one FN rep accurately stated, the goal of the M249S and, indeed, the entire collector’s line, is to bring military guns to consumers, and to give those consumers a greater sense of pride in the sacrifices and actions of our nation’s service members. Not only that, he said, but to honor those service members themselves. We are a nation of symbols, and while it may not be the more traditional shape of eagles and flags, the M249S is a fantastic symbol of our military strength.

To our military: Hooah! And thank you for your service. To FNH USA, I’m looking forward to some trigger time.

In addition to the announcement of the M249S, FNH USA will also be producing the M4 and M16 as part of their FN 15 Military Collector’s Series. From FN regarding the M4 and M16: “The FN 15™ Military Collector’s Series M4 and M16 bring to market military replica rifles made to FN’s exacting specifications. The semi-automatic rifles are chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and feature M4 -profile 16 and 20-inch 1:7” RH, button broached and chrome-lined barrels, respectively. Each UID-labeled lower receiver is equipped with an ambidextrous selector switch, just like its select-fire big brother.”

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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3 thoughts on “The M249 Goes Semi-Auto: FNH USA’s New M249S

  1. 7k is way too much for a semi auto. The US Military pays fractions of that for their Full Auto, I don’t see anyone but wealthy individuals paying that so manufacturing will be slowed down and then it will be Out of Stock or Special Order.

    This is a real disappointment when I know the cost of design manufacturing this weapon in the US was paid for by Defense bidding [tax payer dollars] Belgium market wasn’t as lucrative so they moved to the US so they could capitalize on the US market [which is not a bad thing].

    Message to FNH: WTF? You capitalized on my tax dollars for soooo many years and you can’t even return the favor with a 5k MSRP.

  2. Thank you fnh,I’ve often wondered if I were to live long enough to see this product become available to the average Gun guy,the m249 has been on my list for a long time,you’ll likely make a lot of people happy,keep up the good work,and hurry the hell up,we’ve waited a long time and are still chomping at the bit,owning a chunk of u.s. Military history is a true privilege of being a American citizen in our great nation.

  3. Hi, Katherine Captain Sam Whittemore is one of my ancestors (I think that is why I was born standin up and talkin back!)

    I am a Vietnam era Veteran, dancer, singer, author, poet and Sophomore at 68—-because I wrote about my life and won a scholarship!

    when I retire I won’t be able to continue with my education, because I can’t use my veteran’s benefits…because I have been out of the military over 10 years. This is just wrong!

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