Note, this article origionally written by Nick Leghorn on Thetruthaboutguns.com

FN Manufacturing has been cranking out weapons in Columbia, South Carolina for the U.S. military for years now, winning contracts for everything from the infantry man’s friend, the M4, through the explosively fun M240B. Up until last year the civilian side of the house had been forbidden from offering civvy-legal versions of their military guns — the closest we’d gotten was their FN-15 rifle released in 2014. But last year all that changed and the “Military Collector” series was born. Now the average American can purchase a proper M4 or M16, spec’ed out exactly the same as the military gets them (minus the full-auto setting, no matter what you may hear on MSNBC). The most awesome offering in this collection so far: theMilitary Collector M249S.

The original M249 was developed in the early 1970’s. The U.S. military had briefly fielded theStoner 63 light machine gun (LMG) in Vietnam as a way to provide front line troops with a lighter machine gun that was easier to maneuver through the thick brush and jungles of the area, eventually looking to replace the much heavier M60 and M2. While the Stoner design had worked, the military wanted something better. A Belgian company called FN had been in development of their FN MINIMI LMG for a few years by the time the U.S. decided to look for a replacement, and in a head to head competition in 1980 their design beat out both H&K (HK21A1) as well as Colt (who just thickened the barrel on an M16 and called it good) for the contract.

Something to note about the M249S is that it is a bit different than the other offerings in the Military Collector series. Where the Military Collector M4 is identical to the as-issued version, the M249S is instead a mix-and-match version that has been cobbled together from different eras of the M249 to create the most visually appealing and enjoyable example of the firearm possible. The purist inside me is complaining, but the execution doesn’t leave much room for argument.

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(featured image courtesy of thetruthaboutguns.com)