FM 3-1.2 - The Machine Gunner


While the individual rifleman is the most basic unit of the infantry, they cannot conduct their missions effectively without support. One important support for the rifleman is the machine gunner, whose duty is to provide direct fire in support of the rifleman. They are responsible for the tactical deployment of their weapon to best support the infantry.

This manual discusses the techniques and procedures on how the machine gunner fights. Its intended audiences are the infantryman and all infantry leaders. Secondary audiences include staff officers and instructors. The manual is organized in separate sections that discuss hand-to-hand, close range, mid-range, long range combat, and the assistant. All else is covered in FM 3-1.1 The Rifleman.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

Machine gunners should not engage in hand-to-hand combat, as their weapon is too bulky to be used for such purposes. But when a position is being overrun, when in tight places, and on the offensive, there comes a time when a machine gunner may have to fight so closely with an opponent.

The techniques in engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat is the same as the riflemen, so refer back to FM 3-1.1 if you need to refresh your memory.

Close Quarters Combat

Machine gunners with heavy and medium machine guns should not engage in close quarters combat as their weapon is too bulky to be used for such purposes. This should be left up to riflemen or those who have light machine guns who are more maneuverable in close quarter battle. Unfortunately, when on the offensive or defensive, there may come a time when a machine gunner may have to fight in close proximity with an opponent.

Armed with a light machine gun, it may be permissible to fire at a target without deploying it (+shoot <target>). However, if the environment and the situation dictates, one might be able to deploy the machine gun to fire at the enemy and reduce recoil (+deploy, +shoot <target>). Otherwise, the machine gunner may choose to engage in hand-to-hand or flee to a more tactical location. The stances and engaging techniques are similar to the rifleman’s, so again, refer back to FM 3-1.1 if you need to refresh your memory.

Mid-Range Combat

When in this situation, the machine gun is at its best. Deploy the machine gun by setting it down on suitable ground and wait for the enemy to come within range (same room, but not in the same subroom). Once they are in range, simply spray bursts at the enemy (+deploy, +shoot <target>). Don’t fire off too many rounds at a time because it is a waste of ammunition. Even when under heavy fire, the machine gunner should keep delivering scathing fire upon the enemy to keep them down. The only exception is if the unit leader wants to draw the enemy into the kill zone or withdraw. And as always, the machine gunner contributes supporting fire to the rifleman during assaults and defense. The stances are otherwise similar to the rifleman’s, so refer to FM 3-1.1 if needed.

Long Range Combat

Machine guns are not very accurate when it comes down to long range combat, as rifles are best suitable for this. However, it can keep the enemy’s head down and in the case of skilled machine gunners, may be just as deadly as in mid-range. Simply deploy the machine gun at the best tactical location and fire short bursts at the enemy (+deploy, +shoot <enemy>). The unit leader may decide not for the machine gunner to open fire to conserve ammunition, maintain surprise, or draw the enemy to the kill zone. Otherwise the techniques and stances are similar to riflemen techniques.

The Assistant

Machine guns are heavy weapons. While they may be operated by a single individual, their performance is less than optimal when operated by just one man. Ideally, every machine gunner should have an assistant, who can greatly improve the lethality of the machine gun team by performing the following duties.


Machine guns quickly drain ammunition. When on the advance, when ammunition is scarce and must be carried by the squad, ammunition is likely to be the limiting factor on the use of the squad machine gun. The assistant can help by carrying extra ammunition for the machine gun, staying close to the gunner, and focusing on keeping the weapon operating. Machine guns often need frequent reloading, whether it is loading fresh magazine or managing belts of ammunition in combat. The primary task of any machine gun assistant is to keep the weapon firing and the ammunition coming (+reload <gunner name>).

Dealing with Stoppages

As a complex piece of equipment, the machine gun is unfortunately exposed to a dirty, mud filled environment. As a result, it is prone to jamming. The assistant, as part of his ammunition management duties, can keep alert for stoppages and help unjam the weapon (+unjam <name>).

General Assistance

A machine gun is capable of delivering far greater firepower against the enemy than a rifle is. To make sure that fire is well utilized, the assistant can assist in spotting opportune targets for the gunner. When the gun is being moved, the assistant can help the gunner carry the heavy, bulky weapon and when setting up the weapon under fire, the assistant can make themselves useful there as well. A two-man machine gun team is just that, a team, and the value of helping hands should not be underestimated (+assist <name>). If the gunner is put out of commission, the assistant must take over the machine gun and keep it firing.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.