General purpose machine gun

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A general purpose machine gun (GPMG) is a multi-purpose weapon, a machine gun intended to fill the role of either a light machine gun or medium machine gun, while at the same time being man-portable.

In modern practice, they are air-cooled medium machine guns firing rifle cartridges such as the 7.62x51mm NATO, 7.62x54mmR Russian, or 7.92x57mm Mauser. They are generally operated from a stationary prone position from either a bipod or tripod, or mounted on a vehicle, as they are usually too powerful and heavy to be fired effectively on foot from an unsupported standing position or on the move.

Notable examples include

  • German Maschinengewehr 34, or MG34 of the Second World War - air-cooled, belt-fed and had the ability to be mounted on a variety of fixtures and employed in several different roles. Notably, the MG34 remained the standard co-axial weapon for Nazi German vehicles through the Second World War. The MG34 was successful enough during use in the opening stages of the Second World War that the concept of the GPMG was adopted in many other post-WWII armies.
  • German MG42 - the MG 34's immediate successor in Wehrmacht service - and the most versatile and effective machine gun design of the Second World War.
  • German MG3, a direct descendant of the MG42, is still in service with the German Army and others.
  • Belgian FN MAG, the most widely-used GPMG among NATO and other western armies.
  • Russian PK/PKM family of multi-purpose machine-guns, widely exported.
  • American M60, replaced with the M240 (FN MAG variant) in U.S. service.

See also

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