Where does the 15 pound M122 tripod go?

A Paratrooper falls from the sky, his parachute lines tangled and caught on the metal edges of his M60 Medium Machine Gun (MMG)'s tripod strapped sideways but sticking out of his ALICE rucksack. The impact breaks his back (A T-21 parachute with shock-absorbing honeycomb back pad could have prevented this) and he begins a long recovery to full duty status, his ordeal described in the post's newspaper, The Paraglide. With the advent of the 27-pound M240B derivative of the FN MAG, MAG 58 or "GPMG" the weight burden on the Medium Machine Gun team has only gotten worse. As U.S. Army leaders, we decided it was about time we find a better, more safe and tactically sound way to carry the tripod using the professionalism and resources available in the Fort Bragg, North Carolina area: "Home of the Airborne" and Special Operations communities.

Dejau WWII All Over Again: Why are we still fumbling around with tripods in our bare hands?

M60 MMG 'the pig' on M122 tripod

For decades, the 23-pound M60 Medium Machine Gun has been carried by a team with a spare barrel bag to carry an extra barrel, asbestos glove for barrel changing, cleaning tools, pintle and Traverse & Elevating (T & E) mechanism but nothing for its M122 tripod. In a three-man MMG team, one Soldier's entire job is to hold this 15-pound, uncamouflaged, bare-metal weight in his bands over his shoulder, denying the team the use of his M16A2 Assault rifle/M4 5.56mm carbine for self-defense fires. Fumbling around with a tripod that wants to slide open, over your shoulder where it snags on vegetation or constantly slides off wearies the Assistant Gunner, pinches your fingers as it slides open and closed. Movement with this chunk of metal is clumbsy and not tactically sound. This metal-on-metal sound is a noise hazard that can give away your presence to the enemy. The bare metal finish on the M122 tripod is not easily camouflaged and stands out amongst the terrain/vegetation: yet another camouflage hazard. If you need both arms for climbing ropes or rucksack wherever you go, you can strap the tripod under the rucksack's top flap, the MMG cannot be put into stable, accurate tripod-fire configuration quickly, slowing down the MMG teams' ability to get killing fire onto the enemy. A 2-man MMG is even more encumbered with the tripod; most sacrifice the tripod and precision MMG fire capability, resultingly institutional tripod firing skills have suffered. The ability of British Paratroops in the Falklands War to "dial in" machine gun fire with accuracy using tripods/T&Es was critical in their drive to push the Argentines off the forward slopes indirectly with the gun team under the safety of terrain masking defilade; a "poor man's mortar". The sustained fire accuracy of the tripod and attachments is worth its weight; however, the WAY that it is carried-- "human factors" needs improvement. We need to mass-produce a self-carbonizing notebook with weapons range cards inside so the gun team can draw their sketch one time and automatically have copies to give their squad, platoon leaders etc. to rapidly form a cohesive defensive plan.

The new aluminum M122E1 MMG tripod will cut the weight by 2/3ds to about 5 pounds, but there is still no way to carry it except bare-handed.


Medium Machine Gun Tripod (Lightweight) System (MMGT-LW)

Primary function: To optimize operational capabilities of the M240G Medium Machine Gun.

Manufacturer: NSWC, Crane, Indiana
Weight: Tripod 5 lbs. (approx.)
T&E 3 lbs. (approx.)
Composition: Principally Aluminum and Stainless Steel Finish Enamel over hard coat, anodized
T&E Range (mils) Controlled: Traverse 875 (425L/450R)
Elevation 265
Depression 200
Free-gun: Traverse 6,400
Elevation 445
Depression 445
Unit Replacement Cost: Information not available
Features: The MMGT(LW) is a lightweight, man-packable, weapon mount and control that provides an accurate and repeatable means to aim and shift the fire of the M240G Medium Machine Gun (MMG). The MMGT(LW) consists of a tripod and a Traverse and Elevation (T&E) control mechanism. The acquisition objective is 5,200, one for every M240G MMG.


Background: The MMGT(LW) will be used with the M240G MMG in all ground mount applications. It is a direct replacement for the M122 Tripod System (the tripod and T&E mechanism currently used with the M60E3 MMG). The MMGT(LW) will enhance the capability of the MMG team by providing them a lightweight means to accurately engage targets with the M240G MMG.

Date last modified: 12/15/95

But as you can see the information is 5 years old...WHERE ARE THE LIGHTWEIGHT TRIPODS?

Apparently the Navy/Mc effort failed and they didn't bother to take the web page down. The U.S. Army Small Arms development team writes:

"No, the Lt. Wt. Tripod effort of PM Small Arms is not the M122A1. The USN/MC effort of the early 90s failed. The current Lt. Wt. Tripod effort is a new start using ARDEC, Picatinny engineering, expertise.

The M122A1 is for the M240B, and it's NSN is 1005-01-433-1617. It is a modification of the M122 Tripod and the MWO is fielded concurrent with the M240B M.G. Both the 82nd and 101st have received their M240Bs / M122A1 mods in Nov 98 and Feb 99."

The new M240B MMG slated to replace the M60 series of MMGs is heavier (27 pounds) but its spare barrel bag isn't as sturdily constructed as the M60's spare barrel bag.

M240B on bipod legs

The M240B spare barrel bag doesn't have pockets to hold the T & E, printle etc. and its main compartment isn't large enough to carry the spare barrel and flex-mount! Carrying the flex-mount in the rucksack is a serious tactical liability and time waster. The M60's spare barrel bag (Case, carry, barrel assembly & equipment NSN 1005-00-791-5420) main compartment is just large enough to carry the spare barrel and flex-mount if you pack it carefully, as well as other accessories in a durable case that has proven itself after years of rugged field-use.


Spare barrel bag with modifications to carry the M122 tripod

We contacted some of the CMF 18B Special Forces Weapons Instructors at 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for advise. SFCs Jeffrey Haase and SFC Carl Rawles considered with us a separate TA-50 item--a case specifically for the tripod but determined it would just add weight/complexity. SFC Haase came up with a better idea: strap the tripod to the opposite side of the spare barrel bag using two add-on pockets and quick-release buckle straps so whoever was carrying the spare barrel could carry the tripod arms free across his back. I contacted Mr. Joe Unterkofler (DSN: 880-6013 FAX 2139) and Mr. Frank Fortino, the Medium Machine Gun Program Managers at Picattiny Arsenal, New Jersey (DSN: 880-2307 COM: (201) 724-2307 FAX: 5479) and obtained a new spare barrel bag.

Taking our concept to Willie at U.S. Cavalry Store, 6216 Yadkin Road, Fayetteville, NC 28305 (910)864-3220 (2005: store is now closed), we quickly had a working prototype. (See photos by Ms. Roberta Straight). Any unit desiring this simple modification can go to off-post sewing or local parachute riggers to effect the change for under $15. Field testing by 1LT Charles Bowser, XO of "B" Company of 1/325 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division has shown that the modification sewing or local parachute riggers to effect the change for under $15. Field testing by 1LT Charles Bowser, XO of "B" Company of 1/325 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division has shown that the modification stands up to field use, and is comfortable to carry while greatly speeding up the employment of the tripod for stable, medium machine gun fire. The Spare Barrel Bag modification was demonstrated by us to the 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia--in-person to their Pre-Ranger cadre, details FAXed to their Combat Developers in 1997 by SFC Hoppe and I. This web page has been up for almost the same length of time.

Using the existing M60 sling, the spare barrel bag with tripod is fairly comfortable at the Soldiers back because the opposite side's items are covered in the bag. Even better is a double sling like Ed Verdugo's "Simple-Sling" (GSRC, PO Box 1246 Yucaipa, CA 92399 (909)944-05399) that carried the spare barrel bag/tripod upright "backpack style" so it doesn't bounce into your legs while running. In a letter dated May 8, 1992 to the author, from the U.S. Army OPerational Testing and Evaluation Command, (OPTEC) Colonel Albert Ferrea, Chief of Staff said:

"The points raised in your 29 March 1992 letter are very cogent, and I will attempt to answer some of your questions. The Army has long recognized the merits of the dual-purpose strap system and has elaborately tested it over the past several years as part of other test. The results of all this testing will be evaluated and incorporated in sling design. You are correct, a good sling does improve foot mobility."

Double-slings can also be worn together for single-sling carries for those that prefer it.

The integrated tripod/spare barrel bag carry can make it possible to deploy MMGs in 2-man teams fully capable of sustained-fire. In a 3-man team, the Assistant Gunner could use the modified spare barrel bag as a faster means to carry and employ the tripod without having to tie one arm down carrying the tripod or strap it to his rucksack. If the M60 MMG is used, a plastic assault pack that connects to the machine gun to securely hold up a 100-round belt of 7.62mm ammunition is available for about $12 from CAPCO Enterprises 3250 Pollux Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada 89201 (702) 362-3700 to complete the ready firepower arrangement for this gun.

For the M240B, the U.S. Army is doing a market survey of the various fabric ammo belt carrying bags to determine the best one to outfit its Soldiers. The Swedish Magazine, known as the "49 round cassette" was provided by to the U.S. Army experts by the Swedish representative to the NATO small arms panel. (Sweden currently being a "partner" NATO country...not yet a full fledged member). The company who manufactures this item is Bofors in Eskilstuna Sweden, however, they have not provided any pricing yet. Its an U.S. Army official SEP program to procure and evaluate several different magazine designs, for eventual adoption into our equipment.

There are two very minor modifications required to make the Swedish cassette fit our M240. (For our quick test, we simply cut away some excess materiel) We would of course require that these modifications be incorporated into the packs if we eventually buy them from Bofors. Also, the Swedes use a non -disintegrating 50 round belt (that's why their magazine is advertised as having only a 49 round capacity). However during our test, we easily fit and fired 75 rounds of disintegrating belt links.(It would probably accommodate more).

The hyperlink below is a JPEG picture of the Swedish magazine. This page gives several views of the magazine and will give you a good idea of what it is all about. The M240 has a small post on the left side of the receiver, below the feed tray that the Swedish magazine attaches to. This post is also utilized by the attachment bracket that the U.S. Army uses to hang the 100 round bandoleer/cardboard box system. The FN aluminum magazine and both of the UK magazines also use this post as a means of attaching their magazines.

Swedish MMG magazine

Another ammo carrying option is the SS77 MMG ammo belt holder used for years in combat by the South African Defense Forces which is interchangeable with the MAG machine gun.

The budgetary unit price for a SS77 ammo belt holder is $ 97.000 (ex-works) for the re-usable pouch.

Your contact person in VEKTOR is Mr. Ken Becker, Tel (27) 12 620-2387, cell (27) 82 881-4952, fax (27) 12 620-2407.

A secure carry of the MMG belt insures good pulling action, by holding the belt up. The Assistant Gunner is now free to spot targets or supposed to have a zippered canvass bag to hold its ammunition belt. The lighter 15-pound M249 Light Machine Gun can with attachments fire from the M122 tripod--the spare barrel bag carry of the tripod, particularly the lightweight E1 version may make one-man sustained machine gun fire possible, though an assistant gunner to spot is essential.

UPDATE 2002: the Army didn't act fast enough: M240B Accessories lacking in Afghanistan!

The Brits: Ammo Box on their FN MAG MMGs

The U.S. Army in Afghanistan: no ammo box or bag; loose ammo belts on their M240B MMGs; asking for a weapons malfunction (which happened)

U.S. Army Soldiers went into Afghanistan 2 years after we updated this web page WITHOUT AN AMMO BAG FOR THEIR M240B MMGs! There is no excuse for this! As you can see from the picture above, British Royal marines had ammo boxes for their FN MAG 7.62mm Medium Machine Guns so they were ready-to-fire!

To read more about this gear debacle:

One unit according to an un-named First Sergeant used London Bridges' 7.62mm ammo bag in Afghanistan combat:

"Our battalion bought the ammo bags for the M240[B Medium Machine Guns] from London Bridge, they worked great."

We don't know which London Bridge products the 187th 1SG is praising for its performance in Afghanistan? As soon as we find out, we'll post the details here!

Possibilities listed as M60 MMG accessories:


Ammunition Bag (M60 x 350 rounds)



M60 Feed Tray Pouch (100 rounds)


M-60 Belt Pouch (100 rounds)


M-60 (200 round) Belt Pouch (hook and loop flap closure)


M-60 (200 round) Belt Pouch (hook & loop, with side release, flap closure)


The Army's Small Arms Team recently wrote us about the Brit FN MAG ammo box:

"We have looked at this box as well as several other designs. The picture you provided was examined - it interfered with carrying the weapon (if you notice carefully, he is holding the weapon sideways to orient the pack underneath the weapon so it doesn't hit him the the stomach), was noisy (ammo inside hitting plastic walls), and if I remember correctly had difficulty reloading.

These are being examined under the Soldier Enhancement Program and the name for the program is Combat Ammo Pack.

Requirements for the item is that it must hold 50 - 100 rounds, not degrade performance of the weapon, must not interfere with carrying the weapon or firing from the tripod.

Attached is one other example".

Well then......I hope we finally get an ammo bag or box for the M240B before we have any more combats around the world...its already been 3 years...look on the text below...we are still tinkering when the troops are in COMBAT with the M240B without an ammo bag/box....while the brit box may not be the PERFECT solution its better than NOTHING which is what we have now, NOTHING. "Perfect is the enemy of good enough".

Back to our Narrative...

For a very low-cost local units or the U.S. Army Infantry School Directorate of Combat Developments (In 1997, led by Major Matt Clarke DSN: 835-1910 FAX: 2517) and Special Operations community as a whole could modify spare barrel bags to the new configuration to give us a covered tripod carry for safer parachute jumps, and better tactical camouflage. The Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) has approved of our conversion for FY 98. The reduced fatigue carry and less entanglement when moving through dense brush would result in higher levels of foot mobility (4 mph) as well as faster tactical employment of the MMG in a sustained, accurate fire condition. The MMG is the base-of-fire for almost all infantry maneuver, and even the seconds lost getting it into action can spell the difference between success/failure on the increasingly urbanized battlefield. In Afghanistan, only 17% of the U.S. Army's M240B MMG Gunners were able to employ their weapon against the enemy, and over 50% wanted a better way to carry 7.62mm ammunition other than loose belts.

The Army Small Arms team had emailed us earlier:

"There is a 'new' M240B barrel bag in the works, the tripod straps to the out side, it is a tweaked 75th Ranger designed bag. The Rangers developed theirs when they had M240Gs, they have been using theirs for about 4 years now.

PM-SA, Robert Zienowicz, DSN 880-4011, e-mail, worked with NATICK to produce the bag. Suggest you furnish Mr. Zienowicz your adaptation of the M60 bag.

We will begin back filling/fielding the new bag by DAPL sequence, same as the previous weapon fieldings of FY96 through present; i.e., Rangers, 82nd, SFG, 101st, 10th Mt., etc. in 3rd Qtr/FY00."

Super combat developer, Mr. Robert Zienowicz writes:


I looked at the web site you provided and the illustration of the spare barrel bag modification. It is somewhat different than what we were proceeding with (illustration attached).

This concept was made known to us by the 2/75th Rangers, not the Regiment guys. I can't say for sure if they came up with their own idea or received the concept from the Regiment HQ. The tripod can be stowed inside or attached to the outside of this bag. They are currently in production."

Robert Zienowicz
PM Small Arms Office

Our reply:

BIG HOOOAH!!! You guys are A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!!! We vote you a pay raise effective immediately!!! AIRBORNE!

For the Army of excellence,

LT Michael L. Sparks
SFC Ernest P. Hoppe


The bare metal M122 has been a source of shine/reflection that can give away your position for decades. Here an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper offers an immediate solution: paint the tripod. He painted it for wet vegetated areas, today we should camouflage paint tripods TAN for dry environments.

1. Must contact the post I.G. Inspector (Armament Inspector) for each post to see if they will "allow" this. Funny, how you have to ask if you will be allowed to do your job and not die in battle.

2. Here is what one Inspector told us; "you can paint it as long as no moving parts on the tripod are painted", so where you see tape, it is where the moving parts are, also, put some paper in the hole where the pintle goes. He also said to use a FLAT, NON-REFLECTIVE PAINT.

3. Ensure both sides of the tripod are painted not just the top.

4. Go to LOWES and buy some rustoleum camo paint (black, earth brown, and olive drab, they also sell this paint at the PX - but it costs too much at the PX.

5. 2 cans of black and 1 can of the other colors will do 6 tripods enough for 1 company's worth. Armorers must touch up the tripods when they come back from the field they will get alot of chips in them with the metal on metal contact. (overall BIG DIFFERENCE with it painted)

6. The tripod does not stand out any more now that they are painted!!!

7. Who knows,this might help a squad or platoon from being noticed one day.

Another view of camouflage M122 tripod

ALL tripods should be painted--to include our large ones for heavy machine guns...

An awesome camouflaged tripod!




"Amen on the tripod problem. Sometimes.....procurement guys don't think.

Got reacquainted with an MG3 recently. It's a splendid weapon....especially with the heavier bolt inserts. The DISA tripod is a bit fiddly but at least it comes with pads and straps for wearing it. Now...all it needs is to be made from titanium."

From: LTC Chester A. Kojro

"Did you know that ALL the good machineguns of WWI were American?

Hiram Maxim, inventor of the Maxim gun (used by Germans, Russians, and British) was American. The Vickers is simply a reengineered Maxim, under license.

Benjamin Hotchkiss, whose company developed Hotchkiss gun used by French and Japanese, was American, as was his successor, Benet.

Lewis (Lewis Gun) was American. British bought it.

John Browning, of course (M1917 Heavy and M1918 BAR) was American, though his guns were too late to significantly influence the war. Had the War gone on into 1919, as expected, they would have been great. As is, they served throughout WW II and Korea and even Vietnam.

Finally, Hiram Maxim perfected the recoil operated repeater about 1890, and John Browning perfected the gas operated repeater in 1895. Since then, only the metallurgy has improved.

Food for thought."

A former Soth African Army officer writes:

"Your comments are spot on.

1. I served in SA's 32Bn for many years and we always had the problem with belts and MAGs. The only solution is "liner" boxes of 200 rounds for reserve ammo and a bag that will hold 100 rounds on the gun. Initially we had an FN accessory metal box holding 100 rounds; it was a bitch to carry as it dug into the gunner no matter how he carried the weapon. But if you want the gun to fire continuously you must use it or something like it!

2. I couldn't agree more regarding your comments on badly maintained belts. Extra ammo must be kept in some sort of box to prevent damage, dirt, rust, etc. If they are not, rounds will misplace and cause stoppages. This will happen as surely as night follows day, the belts the key, the gun will fire if it just has oil, belts need CARE!

3. To that end belts need regular inspection. I used to have my gunners bring me that particular LMG's ammo and we would lay it out on a poncho and I as platoon commander used to check each length of belt. That was done in the bush, each gun in turn. I know it's a lot of falling about and perhaps not too tactical, but do you want the bloody thing to work or not?

4. Spare barrels must be carried, swapped daily on the gun and regularly checked, do it at the same time as you check the belts. Don't loose the half moon collets, a FN MAG won't work without them.

5. Eventually we were issued with the bags you allude to in the article, they worked great, and don't eat the gunner. However they are soft and the rounds can still misplace, so check' em regular!"


G'Day!, Sir!

We need your help reminding those in the U.S. Army how belts and MMGs actually work or don't work in the field!


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