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Squad automatic weapon facts for kids

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Army Heritage Museum B.A.R.
The M1918 is an example of a squad automatic weapon.
Familiarization with a RPK during Exercise Rescue Eagle 2000
A Romanian soldier shows a U.S. Marine how to clear an RPK, a squad automatic weapon.

A squad automatic weapon (SAW, also known as section automatic weapon or light support weapon) is a weapon used to give infantry squads or sections automatic firepower that can easily be moved around. Weapons used for this are selective fire rifles. They usually have a bipod and a heavier barrel so that they can be used as light machine guns. SAWs usually fire the same cartridge as the assault rifles or battle rifles used by other people in the squad/section. This makes logistics easier because only one type of ammunition needs to be given to a unit. SAWs are light enough to be used by one man. However, heavy machine guns such as the Browning M2 are more powerful but need a crew to be as effective as they can be.


The Bren is an example of a British Army squad automatic weapon from World War II.

Many SAWs (such as the RPK and L86) are just assault rifles or battle rifles that have been changed. They may be able to carry more ammunition and will almost always have a bipod. In the case of some assault rifles, such as the H&K G36 or Steyr AUG, the SAW is simply the usual rifle with a few parts changed. However, the Austrian Army, who uses the most Steyr AUGs, doesn't use the HBAR (heavy barrel) version of the assault rifle. Instead, they use the MG 74, which is a gun which was made from the design of the German WW2-machine gun MG 42. One of the first weapons designed for this role was the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle. Even though it could not carry many bullets in its magazine, it was still better than the usual infantry rifle.


Assault rifles

  • HK 13E
  • QBB-95
  • RPK

Battle rifles

  • FN FALO 50.41
  • HK 11E
  • M1941 Johnson machine gun
  • Model 45A
  • M1946 Sieg automatic rifle

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