Chambered for the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO cartridge, it shares a locking system similar to the Browning Automatic Rifle and has made use of some other work by John Browning (who had worked on other, earlier designs in Belgium). The downward locking bolt drives the belt feed system, which was style adopted from the MG42 (which had taken it from an even earlier design); it also influenced the trigger mechanism. The belt feed is a similar type, but it is not exactly the same, as the MAG works with the standard NATO belt type, which was a capability not added until a 1968 redesign of the MG3; a descendent of the MG42.
The FN MAG has proven to be extremely reliable under all conditions. In U.S. Army testing it could fire, on average, 26,000 rounds until a failure (such as a part breaking). Mean rounds to a stoppage, such as jam, was lower.
One popular feature of this weapon is that the barrels can be switched very quickly; indeed during sustained usage, a well trained crew can swap to a fresh barrel within about three seconds, and are technically supposed to do so after every 100 round belt during sustained fire in order to prevent overheating. In practise, this is often skipped, and the weapon can take it. During the Falklands War for example British Paratroopers participating in the assault on Goose Green were forced to fire over eight thousand rounds through individual barrels without significant pause or opportunity to change them. The result was muzzles glowing white hot, but the weapons still proving effective.
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