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The first self powered (not needing external power source like the hand-cranked Gatling Gun) was invented in 1884. Heavier descendants, the first heavy machine guns, where first used in on a large scale during World War I, where they changed the face of warfare. Their purpose is mainly to provide suppressive fire, meaning letting bullets rain over the enemy, making him get stuck behind his cover. Machine guns are divided into categories after caliber. Light and medium machine guns can be used by a single soldier, but heavy machine guns are always mounted, either stationary or on vehicles.

Light machine guns

Light machine guns are machine guns chambered in intermediate assault rifle calibers that are designed to be employed by a single soldier as a handheld weapon. These weapons are sometimes called the Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW. A light machine gun may be a variant of an existing rifle design (with modifications -- such as a larger capacity magazine, a heavier barrel, and a bipod for stability -- to make the weapon more suitable for sustained automatic fire) or a unique design specifically for the purpose.

Common Light Machine Guns

RPK

A Russian light machine gun, chambered with the 7.62x39mm cartridge, was made by Mikhail Kalashnikov for Soviet troops. It is almost identical to the AK-47 except being heavier and with longer barrel, using a higher capacity magazine, and a few other changes. It was modified into the RPK-74 (alongside the AK-74) and then chambered for the lighter 5.45x39mm cartridge, and later modified into the RPK-74M, which uses polyesters
RPK

The RPK light machine gun, chambered in 7.62x39mm (.30)

and plastic parts instead of wood. It also exists in a version chambered in the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. If you for some reason want to carry an LMG the RPK and its many variants are exellent candidates. Although it can't hold as much ammo in its box magazine as belt-fed MGs can (some 100-round drums exist), it is much lighter. It can be found in the former Soviet Union and some Asian and African countries.

FN Minimi

M249 FN MINIMI DA-SC-85-11586 c1

An FN Minimi variant

A Belgium made, belt fed LMG, probably most famous as the M249, the version used by the U.S army. It uses the 5.56x45mm NATO round. It has many variants, notable are the before-mentioned M249 and a more compact and lighter paratrooper version. The M249 can accept standard USGI M16, but jamming issue is common due to the fact it was only made for emergency purpose. They can be easily found in abandoned military bases of many countries, like the U.S, U.K, Belgium, Norway, Australia, Malasia and more.

Medium machine guns

Medium machine guns (also known as general-purpose machine guns) occupy the gray area between light machine guns and heavy machine guns. They are chambered in full-size rifle calibers, are man-portable, are usually belt-fed, and are designed to be fired from a stationary position mounted on a bipod or tripod, although it is possible for one man to carry a medium machine gun, though it is not advisable.

Common Medium Machine Guns

PK

Series of Soviet medium machine guns, firing 7.62x54 mmR round. The original PK was made in the 1960s by Kalashnikov, and was later modified to the PKM.
M60

An M60 medium machine gun, chambered in 7.62x51 (.308)

FN MAG

A Belgium made belt fed GPMG first introduced in the 1950s. Known as M240 in the US Army.

M60

An American medium machine-gun, most notably used in the jungles of Vietnam by the US army. The M60 fires a large round and can tear down a horde of zombies in little time. But, reliability problems like jamming, feeding issue, inversed safety and the gas tube how is fixed on the barrel (making additional barrels heavier), lack of grip for changing hot barrels after a sustained fire, that means the assistant gunner must have additional gloves, the M60 was named "The Pig". Very unpopular in US Troops during the Vietnam War, some expert consider this general purpose machine gun as the worst in widespread use. US government replaced it with the FN MAG, under the name of M240.

Heavy machine guns

Heavy machine guns fire larger cartridges than general purpose and medium machine guns, usually .50 caliber or larger. Also they are built heavier and are mounted on tripods. They are also often mounted on vehicles. It is not possible to fire them unsupported.

Common Heavy Machine Guns

  • American M2 Browning
  • Russian DShK
  • Russian KPV

Pros and Cons

All machine guns, even those considered "light" machine guns, are heavy. For example, a loaded M249 SAW weighs roughly 10 kg (about 22 lbs), so when you are traveling, these weapons are not the most comfortable. Also, very few have selective fire, which can be a problem when trying to save ammunition which there is no doubt you will. Another problem ammunition wise is that the ammo is usually big, bulky, and heavy to carry. Plus a fully loaded machine gun will run out of ammo in in a matter of seconds, and chances of an average survivor reloading in a quick and timely fashion is little to none. On the other hand, if the off chance you do have access to enough ammunition, they can be very valuable as mounted weapon to defend bases. As seen in many war films machine guns are seen as this wonder weapon being able to mow down infantry like Swiss cheese. However these are zombies and not soldiers you are firing at with zombie capabilities. They won't simply go down with a shot to the chest no matter how many times you hit them. They will still come after you as long the brains are intact and have a means to move themselves. It should be noted that the constant sound of a machine gun firing will bring every zombie within a two mile radius. With zombies that's a different story as they will not take cover and still push forward no mater how deadly and intimidating you are or look.

Some larger machine guns have the documented ability to shred a person to bits in a matter of seconds. Although this is great for dealing with bandits or other living enemies, it is not going to kill a zombie unless one of the bullets goes through the head. Machine guns can still be used for fighting the living, and even their ability to cut down zombies can be useful if the plan requires that they be significantly hindered.

Machine-gun must have time to cool. In a real battlefield, only 3 to 5 rounds burst are fired to not heat-up the barrel. At normal temperature, 30 minutes are required if the barrel is to hot. Also cook-off can happen if the weapon is to hot, making the gun to fire without pulling the trigger. Sustained fire mustn't be use unless it is really necessary.

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