According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M249 squad automatic weapon is a drum-fed light machine gun with a medium rate of fire that is used primarily for providing fire support in both offensive and defensive roles. The M249 fires a standard 5.56 millimeter NATO round from 200-round drums, but it is capable of accepting the 20- or 30-round magazine of the M-16 in an emergency with an elevated risk of jamming.
The M249 SAW has an effective range of 1,000 meters and a maximum range of 3,600 meters. The weapon is capable of maintaining a sustained rate of fire of 100 rounds per minute, though this rate can be elevated as high as 650 to 850 rounds per minute with frequent barrel changes. This ammunition is a 4-to-1 mix of ball and tracer rounds that aid in accurate shot placement and have a maximum burn distance of 900 meters.
The weapon may be held at the shoulder, hip or under the arm. It can also be mounted to a bipod or tripod stabilizer to better control the spread of its shots, and this increased control leads to a longer effective range, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The weapon weighs more than 16 pounds and is nearly 41 inches long.