THE 5.56MM M 16 (Armalite) rifle entered service during the
Vietnam War it gave every man in the squad an automatic weapon,
but with a maximum effective range of little more than 330yd
It was quickly realized, however, that both fire teams needed
a weapon of greater all-round capability, but lighter than the
contemporary 7.62mm M60 and one which used the same ammunition
as the riflemen. This gave rise to a US Army requirement for
a 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), with the US Marine Corps
joining the program later.
considering all suitable weapons in the Western world, the US
forces selected a "product improved" development of the Belgian
Fabrique Nationale's (FN) "Minimi" which was placed in production
as the M249, with initial supplies coming from the FN factory
in Herstal, although a US line was subsequently established.
The product improvements in the US version include minor changes
to the barrel, buffer, handguard, pistol grip, stock and sights.