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October 25, 2023

The M240 and the Best Machine Guns

By Joe Engesser

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For arms collectors, military historians, and any fan of hard-hitting heavy metal, it doesn't get much better than the machine gun. From pinnacle pieces like the FG42 and MKb 42(H) to the classic BAR, M60, and BREN MkII, some of the best machine guns will be offered during Rock Island Auction Company's December 8 - 10 Premier Firearms Auction. One of the genre's rarities of rarities heads up this star-studded lineup, the mighty M240.

A seldom-seen M240 machine gun for sale, this M240B features a blade front sight and folding ladder rear sight, a folding bipod, and a lower handguard with Picatinny rail sections on either side. Available this December.

The Fabrique Nationale U.S. M240B belt-fed machine gun up for auction this December is one of a scarce few fully transferable examples in the registry. The remainder are government property and will never be released for public sale, making this a can't-miss opportunity for military arms collectors.

An extremely rare German Krieghoff FG42 "Type III/Type G" paratrooper rifle with a ZF4 scope, another one of the most desirable Class 3 weapons for sale this December. Available this December.

Whether you're in the market to buy a Tommy gun, a Johnson LMG, or a Stoner 63, machine gun lovers will find the largest collection of Class 3 weapons for sale ever offered by Rock Island Auction Company this December, including some of the best machine guns publically available. We'll examine a few of the highlights and compare them head to head.

The machine gun selection offered by RIAC this December includes rarities like the FG42, M240, Mkb.42(H), Stoner 63A, and more.
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The M60 vs the M240

The M60 is unquestionably one of the coolest machine guns around, as well as an icon of Hollywood action films. Nicknamed "The Pig", the M60 was deployed as America's chief infantry machine gun for Vietnam, along with a variety of air, ground, and water vehicle mountings. Though still in limited service today with American and Allied armed forces, in the late 1970s the Fabrique Nationale MAG emerged to challenge the M60's dominance.

An M60 machine gun for sale this December. Manufactured by the New England Group of the Maremont Co., the barrel on this M60 machine gun is equipped with a fixed blade front sight, a ventilated barrel shroud, a bird cage flash hider, and a swiveling bipod. Available this December.

When it comes to belt-fed heavy hitters, the Belgian FN MAG family is considered one of the best machine gun designs around. The American-built version of the FN MAG, the M240 was officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 1977. By the 1990s, the M240B, commonly referred to as the M240 "Bravo," would go on to replace the M60 series of machine guns in their longstanding infantry role.

Though the M240 is heavier than the M60, the M240 is a more robust platform with a faster cyclic rate, and the weapon's popularity with militaries around the world is beyond dispute. For collectors, finding an M240 machine gun for sale is always an exciting event.

One of the best machine guns in the world, and certainly an extreme-rarity for collectors, this Fabrique Nationale U.S. M240B "Bravo" belt-fed medium machine gun is one of December's highlights. Available this December.

The FG42 vs the Johnson LMG

The German FG42 stands as one of the most distinctive weapons of WW2. Designed for the Luftwaffe's paratrooper division, the Fallschirmjaegergewehr 42 was intended to be a "universal weapon" with enough range to replace the rifle, enough suppressive power to replace the standard machine gun, and enough agility to replace the SMG. The FG42 could also double as a sniper/designated marksman weapon with the addition of a ZF4 scope and carried an on-board spike bayonet for a last resort close-quarters option.

An FG42 "Type III", also referred to as a "Type G", paratrooper rifle manufactured by Krieghoff, one of the coolest machine guns to emerge from the Second World War. Available this December.

American inventor Melvin Maynard Johnson Jr. pitched the M1941 as a squad automatic rifle that could serve in numerous battlefield roles, including being fired from the shoulder when necessary like the FG42. The two machine guns had a number of parallels, including similar profiles. Both designs placed the physical characteristics of a light machine gun into a shorter frame and used full-power rifle cartridges. Each gun employed a front-mounted bipod and a side-mounted horizontal box magazine, and the FG42 and the M1941 Johnson both used an open-bolt system when set to automatic and a closed-bolt when switched to semi-automatic mode.

One of the best machine guns of December, and certainly among the scarcest to find for collectors, the Johnson Automatic M1941 LMG was accepted as a substitute weapon by the United States Marine Corps due to a shortage of BARs in the early days of WW2. Available this December.

The Stoner 63 vs M16

One of the many notable products from the mind of American arms designer Eugene Stoner (of AR10, M16/AR15, and AR-18/180 fame, among others), the Stoner 63 was developed in the early 1960s as a modular weapon system with a receiver that could be reconfigured rapidly based on the mission needs and area of operation. Unit armorers could convert the basic Stoner 63 platform from a fully automatic rifle into a carbine, light machine gun, and even a fixed belt-fed tank version. The versatile machine gun was successfully employed by the elite Navy SEALS throughout the Vietnam War, but another Stoner design beat it to production by several years.

Another collecting rarity this December, and one of the best machine guns of its era in terms of sheer adaptability, the Stoner Model 63A could fill numerous roles on the battlefield. Available this December.

The Stoner 63's various components and barrels allowed unparalleled customization, but these capabilities came with a higher learning curve, greater upkeep, and more initial expense than the iconic M16 rifle.

The M16 would also see its share of accessories and customization as the platform was developed and refined. The example below has been fitted with winged post front and adjustable two leaf rear sights, an A2 pattern flash hider on the desirable 11 1/2 inch "Commando" pattern "C MP CB" marked barrel, a Colt 3x20 mm scope with a carry handle mount, and a quick-detach "BIPOD RIFLE M2" marked bipod.

Who doesn't need an M16? This Colt M16A2 Commando pattern selective fire carbine with scope and accessories, including two Beta C-Mag 100-round drum magazines, make this example of the genre one of the coolest machine guns for sale this December. Available this December.

The MKb 42 vs the STG 44

The idea behind the grandfather of the assault rifle started in 1935 when the German High Command ordered the development of a new intermediate-range cartridge, the 7.92mm Kurz. In 1939, the C.G. Haenel firm was tasked with producing a fully automatic rifle prototype chambering the new round.

Walther would manufacture a competing version of the MKb 42, and the letters “H” and “W” were used to distinguish between the two designs. The resulting Maschinenkarabiner 1942 offered a higher capacity than Germany's standard bolt action rifles, could provide covering fire like a machine gun, and was able to outdistance the Russian submachine guns it faced on the Eastern front.

A WW2 German C.G. Haenel MKb 42(H) machine carbine with a sheet metal sniper scope mount, a ZF41/1 sniper scope, and an original "MKb/42" marked magazine. Not only one of the coolest machine guns of December, this extremely rare firearm may be the only fully registered, fully transferable MKb 42(H) publically available. Available this December.

Only 10,700 of the original MKb 42 were manufactured, with German arms producers continuing to improve on the design throughout the war. The next iteration, the MP 43, would take most of its inspiration from the far more successful MKb 42(H), with the MKb 42(W) contributing several features to the platform's new configuration, including the MP 43's hammer-firing system.

The rifle received minor upgrades and another new designation in 1944, and several months later Adolf Hitler, who'd been opposed to the entire production of the platform, finally embraced the weapon and renamed it "Sturmgewehr" or "assault rifle."

A WW2 J.P. Sauer & Sohn MP 44. Both the MKb 42 and the MP 44 are incredibly significant examples of assault rifle development and some of the best machine guns a serious collector could ask for. Available this December.


A legendary firearm from one of America's most famous inventors, the Browning automatic rifle served as America's original squad gun and played a significant role on the battlefield during WW2 and the Korean War. Between World Wars, the BAR received some minor updates before getting its biggest redesign in 1938 when it became the M1918A2. Modifications included a flash suppressor, iron sights, a carrying handle, and a lengthened buttstock, as well as a second slower firing model that helped mitigate the high recoil from the weapon's .30-06 rifle rounds.

A British-proofed Marlin-Rockwell Corp. U.S. Model 1918 BAR Browning automatic rifle with accessories. A small British "Crown / GP" acceptance proof is stamped on the right side of the receiver which may indicate that this was an early WW2 British Lend Lease weapon. Available this December.

In 1922, the British Army conducted trials to replace the aging Lewis gun with a light machine gun. The BAR was recommended, but its price was prohibitive at the time. Trials continued in the early 1930s, with the Czech ZB vz.26 light machine gun winning out over contemporaries like the Danish Madsen. Designated the ZGB 33, the platform underwent a series of alterations that resulted in the BREN gun. While the BAR wasn't as heavy as the BREN, the BREN more faithfully filled the role of a light machine gun, and the BREN MkII introduced in 1941 further boosted the platform's firing rate.

An Armitage International Mark II Bren gun. This example is fitted with a folding bipod and a fixed conical flash hider, and it includes two magazines and a sling. Available this December.

MG 34/42 VS M1919 Browning

One of the best machine guns in the early days of WW2, Germany's MG34 is a classic example of a light to medium-weight squad weapon suited for vehicle use or support fire when mounted on its sturdy folding tripod. The Maschinengewehr 34 was produced with a quick change barrel assembly firing from an open bolt to help stay cool during firing, features later adopted into the U.S. M60 machine gun. The weapon's steel-machined and hand-fitted parts later proved too costly and time-consuming to maintain and produce during wartime. Though never fully retired, Germany eventually phased out production in favor of the MG42.

A fine example of a WW2 German Mauser MG34 medium machine gun with its tripod and accessories, manufactured by the Mauser-Werke, A.G. Borsigwalde in Berlin. Available this December.

The Browning M1919A4 was a reliable machine gun that was easy to produce en masse. While it didn't have the portability of the MG34 or MG42, the M1919A4 was effective at sustained fire and paved the way for the more mobile M1919A6. Though an aging design compared to Germany's squad machine guns, the Browning 1919's core system was well understood by American gunners and armorers, with ample parts available. Along with the AN/M2 "Stinger", a .30 caliber M2 customized for ground fighting in the Pacific, the Browning 1919 platform filled the logistical role as a functional squad weapon until the M60 came online.

Manufactured using original USGI parts and a new-made right sideplate, this full function Browning 1919A4 machine gun was produced by Charles E. "Chuck" Hudak's firearms business, Inland Arms Co. of Austin, Texas. Available this December.

Tommy Gun vs MP40

No collection of best machine guns is complete without a classic Tommy gun. Perhaps the most famous submachine gun of its era and a perennial Hollywood favorite, the Thompson SMG ranks as one of the truly signature American weapons.

The Thompson, a product of finely machined old-school hand craftsmanship, was completed too late to fill its intended role as a WW1 trench sweeper. On the eve of WW2, the Thompson was pressed into service by both the British and United States and went on to serve on all Allied fronts. Though over 1.5 million of the M1928A1 and M1A1 military variants were produced, earlier Thompsons found their way to the field as well.

Find every model of Tommy gun for sale this December. This high-condition Colt Thompson Model 1921 SMG comes with a carrying case and a host of original accessories including a 50-round "L" drum magazine, four 20-round blued stick magazines, and an Army technical manual dated October 1942. Available this December.

While the Tommy Gun vs MP40 question touches on the decades-old debate between the 9mm and .45 ACP round, the two submachine guns carry notable differences across the board. The German MP40 was a lighter SMG with a folding stock and a more compact design. In its favor, the Thompson had a stronger milled steel receiver, a select fire option, and an absolutely blistering firing rate, a devastating advantage in extreme close quarters.

On the other hand, the MP40's slower cyclic rate translated to less recoil and muzzle rise, allowing superior accuracy at a distance. Perhaps the MP40's greatest advantage, however, came in the form of cost. The German SMG made extensive use of metal stampings instead of costly machined parts, as well as synthetic materials to make a weapon robust enough to withstand the rigors of war while being simple enough to pump off the assembly line.

The MP40, another Hollywood favorite from the WW2 era. This example features markings from Haenel and Merz-Werke and has been fitted with a set of brown bakelite side panels and an under-folding stock. Available this December.

M1A vs M14

Developed as the follow-up to the famous M1 Garand, the M14 was conceived as a multi-role universal weapon. This everything-to-everyone approach hamstrung what was otherwise a perfectly suitable combat rifle, leading to a relatively early retirement for the platform as an infantry standard. However, the M14 continues to serve America in a number of specialized roles, including finding an audience with special forces units and snipers, as well as being adopted by the Border Patrol and National Park Service.

A Harrington & Richardson M14 selective fire battle rifle in “Guerrilla Gun” configuration, with a shorter barrel and extra milling performed on the receiver to smooth out the lines and reduce weight. Available this December.

In 1974, the M1A was developed as a semiautomatic version of M14, with numerous variations offered over the subsequent decades. Springfield Armory also produced a limited number of fully automatic M1A rifles compatible with the M14's selective fire hardware, as exampled by the two rare sequentially serial-numbered M1A rifles featured below, with very little separating the pair from their military-issued M14 siblings save for the receiver markings.

Two of the coolest machine guns this December for their sheer rarity alone. Both available in RIAC's upcoming Texas Premier Auction, factory original selective fire M1As are seldom offered, but the two rifles above, available as separate lots, are an extraordinarily scarce sequential set. Available this December.

MAC 10 vs Uzi

The Uzi warrants a nod on any list of best machine guns for its popularity in modern media. Designed in the 1950s for the Israeli Defense Forces, the Uzi SMG was a standard for IDF paratroopers, armored crews, and special forces involved in close-quarters fighting. Like its later MAC-10 rival, the Uzi became a common fixture of '80s action films.

An excellent I.M.I. Uzi selective fire SMG, one of the coolest machine guns for SMG collectors. Available this December.

Advertised as “the gun that made the 80s roar” by its manufacturer, the MAC-10 and its MAC-11 successor shared a number of similarities with the Uzi. At a glance, both guns are designed for economics and simplicity, evident in their open bolt design and stamped metal construction. Both the MAC-10 and the Uzi incorporate the magazine well into their pistol grip, making the weapons more compact.

A Military Armament Corporation M10 submachine gun and silencer set. Available this December.

While the MAC-10 has a blistering firing rate that doubles its Uzi competitor, capable of spraying 1,000 rounds/minute when chambered in .45 ACP and even higher in .9mm, the Uzi is the clear winner when it comes to accuracy. For its superior range, reduced muzzle climb, more comfortable factory grip, and greater reliability in the field, the Uzi saw a far higher rate of adoption with military and law enforcement units around the globe.

The M240 and the Best Machine Guns of December

From the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan, the FN M240 has distinguished itself as America's go-to medium machine gun. The M240B continues to see action in all branches of the armed forces and the exceedingly few examples that are fully transferable are almost never offered for public sale. In a December auction filled with some of the coolest machine guns around, Rock Island Auction Company bidders have the chance to take home the Christmas gift of a lifetime.

An M240 machine gun for sale, an incredibly rare opportunity for even the most advanced firearms collections. Available this December.

Other eye-catching Class 3 weapons for sale this December include an M60E3, a rare Springfield manufactured "M2-AC”, and a plethora of Heckler & Koch conversions like the HK21K. Whether you're looking to buy a Tommy gun, own an FG42, or find an M240 for sale, Rock Island Auction Company's December 8 - 10 Premier Firearms Auction features some of the best machine guns a collector could ask for.

A David's Gun Room/Fleming Firearms/Heckler & Koch MP5SD SMG and silencer combination, one of the coolest machine guns when it comes to H&K conversions. Available this December.

It's only fitting that the largest collection of Class 3 weapons for sale ever offered by RIAC will cross the podium in the company's new state-of-the-art facility at 3600 Harwood Rd., Bedford, Texas. This inaugural Premier Auction event for Rock Island Auction Company's new venue kicks off with a Thursday preview day on December 7th, where guests will have the opportunity to examine all of these fantastic machine guns firsthand in the facility's recently completed 19,000 square-foot preview hall, as well as a breathtaking selection of legacy guns, investment-grade arms, and museum-worthy masterworks from every genre of firearms collecting.

Find the best machine guns at Rock Island Auction Company.

Subscribe to the Rock Island Auction newsletter to receive new gun blogs and gun videos every week on some of the earliest machine gun predecessors such as the Gardner gun, the Gatling gun, the Hotchkiss revolving cannon, the Maltruse volley gun, the Chambers swivel gun, as well as modern heavy hitters like the Japanese Type 99, the PPD-40, and the Smith & Wesson Model 76.

One of the coolest machine gun predecessors, the 1882 Gardner gun is an extraordinarily rare piece of arms evolution. Available this December.

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