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Thread: Retro 249...Kinda Sorta

  1. #1
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    Retro 249...Kinda Sorta

    With most firearms I buy, I know at least a little bit about it before the purchase but then I usually obsessively research the hecks out of it afterwards. I can't help it. It's a combination of OCD and my History degree. It's just going to happen. Then, because it's useless to learn all this worthless knowledge without sharing it, I end up typing up a long and boring essay and posting it online. It's just the way of things. Once it's dumped out of my memory banks, I can move on. Sometimes, there are variations over time concerning the firearm you are looking at so you get to go track down a bunch of pointless obsolete bits in order to compare them to the latest and greatest bits. Why? I don't know. I mean, they upgraded for a reason didn't they? Yes, yes they did......but that doesn't matter. Ya' just gotta go find the stuff and play with it. It's an obsession thing. I mean half the fun of owning this stuff is the toy value right?? Don't get me wrong, shooting is a blast (literally) but, for me, the simple joy of having toys you could only dream about as a kid is probably THE BEST aspect of owning all these military firearms.

    So it is with the M249. When I got it, I knew what it was and knew some general knowledge about it. I bought it for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it's currently in use around the globe with scores of countries. When I got it home and started shooting it, I did a pretty detailed write up about it, showing various details and giving my impressions. I loved it then and I love it now. It has never failed to please and it's been rock solid reliable just as I would expect of an FN product. The addition of a scope has really brought out it's potential accuracy making it all that much more enjoyable at the range. The pissing off of the Fudd and libtard factor is high too, another bonus.

    As to the research, I quickly discovered that, like all US firearms in use for any length of time, the M249 evolved. At it's core, it has remained the same machine gun but lots of little things changed over time literally from the end of the butt to the tip of the barrel. Well, that got me wanting to get my hands on some of these bits so that I could compare them. I mean how hard could it be to get my hands on the older parts seeing as how it's only been in service since the 80's? As it turns out, it can be very hard!

    In the late 80's-early 90's, the 249 underwent a Product Improvement Program (PIP). At that time, most (but not all) of the changes that have taken place to date were implemented. A 1991 manual I have still shows both the older parts and the newer replacements. It says that armorers can submit orders for the upgraded replacement parts as the guns came in for service. I can only assume that the old parts were destroyed after being switched out because they are pretty much impossible to find today. I mean, I have an easier time finding 73 year old parts for a long dead MP44 design than I do finding 30 year old parts for a still in production 249! How crazy is that? Fortunately, I found a guy who is both a Paratrooper and has collected Belgian military rifles for a lot of years. That's what some of the parts we will be looking at in this thread are, Belgian surplus parts. Still, to my knowledge, they are identical to 1980's US parts other than the markings so they'll work. I'm nowhere NEAR where I want to be collecting parts and accessories for the M249 but at least I'm not on the starting line anymore.

    Alright, that was way more lead in than I intended but, if you're still with me let's take a look at some stuff. As usual, this will be a multi-post thread so check back if you are interested. Let's get started.

    M249 Retro:













    Get rid of the scope and switch out the feed cover with one minus a rail, and it's 1990. I was much younger then. I haven't been able to source an early feed cover yet and I'm not sure it would be smart to switch it out if I did because I wouldn't want to risk screwing up the sighting zero or feed cover. I'd still like to find one though. One of the pictures shows a Belgian 100 round pouch mounted. We'll look at that closer later. For this picture, I replaced the butt stock, buffer (internal part), hand guard barrel and installed a Belgian Minimi sling. I also omitted the upper hand guard did not exist prior to the PIP. These things make it immediately look older IMO. Lets look at and compare the parts in a little more detail.


    First up are the stocks:



    On the bottom is the older stock and buffer/recoil rod. The stock is made entirely of aluminum except for the shoulder rest which is steel. Originally, this would have has a plastic or hard rubber (I'm not sure which as I've heard both) web fitted between the tubes. It's long gone and I don't really know what the purpose was to begin with. This stock is clearly derived from the FAL Para stock. The buffer is a heavy spring mounded on the recoil rod. Its painted yellow. If you find one of these stocks, you MUST use the early buffer as pictured or you will destroy things. The upper stock is the newer version and has a hydraulic buffer built into the stock. You can see the piston sticking out the front. It plugs into the new style recoil rod. The mounting block is made of aluminum, the stock is plastic while the butt plate and shoulder rest are steel.

    Here's a front view of the stocks:




    The only markings on the Belgian stock are shown here. I assume it was made in 1995:



    Close up showing the rear of the recoil assemblies:




    The new style assembly is shown as it would be if the stock piston were plugged into it. As the bolt/carrier group reaches the end of reward movement, it presses on the front of the steel block (marked with FN's manufacturer number). This block then presses on the stock piston and is buffered as it moves reward until it bottoms out on the fixed metal plate at the extreme rear of the recoil assembly. By this point, there is no reward inertia left and the bolt/carrier begins its' forward movement. This system significantly reduces felt recoil. Although I haven't found it in print, I'm sure it's also easier on the little pin shown sticking out the side of the fixed metal plate. That pin is essentially a roll pin that sticks out both sides of the fixed plate and it fits into cutouts in the rear of the receiver holding all the guts in the rifle. If that pin were to break, you're out of action. The old style buffer is a much simpler affair using only a strong spring to take the beating.


    Old style buffer shown installed in receiver:




    One last thing about the stock before we move on. Because the attachment point is aluminum and the snap hook on the sling is steel, they don't play well together. In other words, the snap hook will tear up the attachment point over time. This is all well and good when you are only using the rifle and can turn it into an armorer for replacement once it's trashed but, for us armchair Rambutts, it's a good idea to use a piece of paracord to save the stock:




    While we're at it, we might as well do the same at the front of the receiver to keep it from getting all marred up. Put the knot on the outside so that it doesn't get scorched on a hot barrel. A detachable swivel will fit on this fron mounting point too if you want.




    Okiedokie, I'll continue this in the next post.

  2. #2
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    The early grip was smooth and patterned after the FAL. For all I know, it might have even been an FAL grip....need more research. Whatever the case, I haven't found one yet. What I did figure out is that the existing grip is made to securely hold a 1/2 ounce CLP bottle. Yes, you guys who used these things already knew that but I had to learn it. The inside of the grip is molded so that the bottle fits snugly and does not rattle around. You can also ram some patches in there although I haven't pictured that:







    Most people probably couldn't care less about this kind of thing but I really think stuff like this is neat. I'm all about a place for everything and everything in its place. Clutter is bad!


    Let's move on to barrels:

    Above, we see three barrels and a flash hider. That flash hider is supposed to be mounted on an early barrel with non-folding carry handle and an adjustable gas regulator. I've been looking for one for a couple years now to no avail. If anyone has one, please hit me up. Although I'd like one with a good bore, it doesn't absolutely have to be as I'll most likely never put rounds through it anyways. Come to think of it, I'm looking for the proper headspace gauge for a 249 too. It's different than an AR gauge. The top barrel replaced the one I don't have. It has a folding carry handle and a gas regulator that can be taken apart to clean but it is not adjustable. The next barrel down is what came with the rifle. It's the only one I'll use until I can get a proper headspace gauge. It is also the current barrel in use and the gas regulator is non-dismountable. On bottom is the short barrel. It is also current issue and has a non-dismountable gas regulator. Because it is shorter than 16", it cannot be mounted on the rifle unless you register it as an SBR. Because, well....you know, the government says it would be too concealable with that shorter barrel. Okiedokie then.


    Different flash hiders:

    Up top is the original Belgian style. In fact, that one is Belgian. This type fits on a barrel with no shoulder and no washer. You just screw it on and tighten it down until it's tight as there is no "down" position. The next one is identical to an M16 birdcage and is also closed at the bottom just like the standard birdcage. Below that is the current model. It also has a closed bottom. At the bottom is the model used on the short barrel. It has four sets of three ports arranged in an "X" pattern.

    Here we see a difference in the gas regulator fixing pin. Most stick out both sides so that the upper handguard can hook onto it keeping it from sliding back and forth on the barrel. For some reason, the short barrel I have has a shorter pin just like all early barrels would. Most I have seen have the longer pin.

    Also notice that the front sight is hooded. According to the 1991 manual I have, some early barrels had open front sights similar to an M16. I have never seen one but would like to.

    Disassembled gas regulator:

    The rear hole lines up with the hole in the bore and the front one vents to the atmosphere. Notice that the regulator body has a flat cut into it that lines up with a flat on the bottom of the gas block. This ensures that the gas holes line up properly.

    Here we see the front of the gas block and the rear of the regulator retaining knob:

    The plunger sticking out the back of the knob is under spring tension from a flat washer-shaped spring riveted to the front of the knob. That spring is crazy strong! Notice that there are two detents cut into the front of the block. I assume this is a holdover from the earlier adjustable regulator. They serve no function here save to keep the knob from moving.


    In this shot we can see the plunger clicked into one of the detents:

    To disassemble the regulator from the gas block, you turn the knob clockwise (when viewed from the front) until the plunger comes out of the detent. Then you insert a little nub sticking out of the special cleaning too into that detent creating a ramp. Lastly, you turn the knob like hell counterclockwise (it's really hard to turn because the spring is so strong) until the plunger rides up the ramp and onto the higher portion of the gas block. Turn a little more, the knob comes off and the regulator falls out the back of the gas block. It's difficult to describe but it's really simple in practice.


    Here, the spring washer is at rest and the plunger is in a detent:


    Here, the knob has been turned until it is just shy of coming off the regulator and the spring is under maximum tension:


    Here, we see the regulator and knob assembled but removed from the gas block:

    It's not obvious because we aren't looking straight at it but the part of the regulator projecting through the knob is shaped like a keystone. The knob is cut to match so that they cannot separate until lined up just right.

    The magic mystery tool:

    I now have three of these things but I started out with zero. It is an absolutely essential tool to properly clean the 249 yet FN didn't include one with the semi-auto rifle unless you bought one of the first 200 "Special Edition" models. Come on FN....REALLY??

  3. #3
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    Lets look at some barrel markings. I have just three barrels at this point. Two are FN made and the third is made by Colt I think. If these were old and sought after by collectors, , they would be debating what's "correct" and whether or not this one or that one has been faked. One thing I've learned in over 30 years of collecting, expect variation even from the same manufacturer. These are no exception.

    We'll start with the earlier barrel. Marked along the side is the number 12557000:

    That means, loosely translated, Barrel, Machine Gun

    Up top is this:

    Of course, "M P" means that it's been Magnetic Particle inspected. It's also caliber marked. I think TW7 is the twist rate; 1 in 7.

    Also marked on the side is a "C" which I think is Colt:


    Long barrel markings (FN):


    "19200" is the CAGE Code (I don't really understand what that is) "12011986" is barrel assembly, M249 and "MFR 3S679" means FN made it.

    Short barrel (FN):


    Notice that there is no CAGE Code and no Assembly number. Also the caliber and twist rate markings are turned 180 degrees compared to the long barrel.

    All three barrels also have markings other than the ones I show here that I believe are not important at this time so I'm only showing the ones I think have any significance.

  4. #4
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    On to handguards.

    Left side:

    At the top is the early type. They are shaped slightly different but both mount up just fine. I assume that the flared out part at top rear on the new style is to protect the barrel release lever from catching on things.

    Right side:

    I have no idea what the purpose is for the cutout at the lower rear of the old style.


    Bottoms:

    The cutout in the bottom is for tabs on the bipod to lock into when folded. Note the 1977 Canadian patent date.

    Top:


    The handguard is designed to hold a cleaning kit very nicely using little spring catches. Both hanguards store exactly the same items in exactly the same way.
    Inside right going from top to bottom:

    Top of cleaning rod with handle, chamber brush, rore brush and patch holder.

    Inside left top to bottom:

    Cleaning rod section, cleaning rod section and scraper tool.

    An assortment of manuals:


    The yellow one is the 1991 issue US manual. It shows both old and new parts. The one below that came with the semi-auto model pictured and the one on the right is an original FN manual dated 1987. If you start from one side, it's in French and it stops at the middle. If you flip the manual upside down and turn it over to the other side, it's now in Dutch. Pretty slick design right there.

  5. #5
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    This last post will look at a few ammunition boxes/pouches both US and Belgian.


    The top ones are Belgian in 100 and 200 round while the lower ones are US in 100 and 200 round. To the left are some Belgian starter tabs.
    The 100 round US one came from a Veteran who told me "I carried this nut sack in Afghanistan and Iraq as my starter belt pouch. It's been to Pakistan, England, Australia, Phillipines, Panama, India, and all over the US. I just want to see it put to good use." I use it for peaceful purposes and look it as a Holy Relic. I think of him and many just like him every time I pick it up.


    Some comparison shots of the 200 round boxes. The Green one is the Belgian one.





    And last are the 100 round ones:
    Belgian up top:


    An interesting thing about the one from Belgium is that it was made in Australia...in December of 1998


    The US one has dirt from around the world in there:


    Alright, that's it for this mess. In retrospect, maybe I should have titled the thread "Belgian Minimi Clone" instead. Oh well, whatever you want to call it, it's definitely fun! When I get anything else interesting, I'll post a few pictures. I'm close to getting an early manual and a technical manual and I'll post some information about them when I get them. I'd like to pick up one of the titanium tripods but I just don't have the dough laying around for that right now. It has zero practical value but hey, this whole rifle has zero practical value! That's not the point! Alright, thanks for your time and I'll see you at the range!

    P.S. If any of you guys have any old, obsolete bits for this thing that I don't have and you are looking to cut loose, please hit me up and we'll do some wheeling and dealing.

  6. #6
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    And, lastly for now, here's a write-up I did when I first bought this thing:

    http://www.falfiles.com/forums/showt...seemingly+made

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    Wow! Awesome post with great pics and info, as always! Thank you.
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

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    Fascinating post. Just looking at the ammo boxes and cleaning gear storage was interesting. Same with barrel marking and hand guard styles
    BTW I like the Belgian shelter half, very cool 1950's camo
    We thought about it for a long time, "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union

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    Is that full auto? What will it group at 100yd in semi-auto, and what does it like for ammo? Cool rifle and you take good pics.

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    I like the cleaning kit in the handguards. I have fired one while in the Army and never knew that was in there.
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

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