FN Herstal Minimi Mk3 5.56mm light machine gun is now in service with Portuguese Army

According to a Tweet released by Defence 360° on August 15, 2020, the Portuguese Army already took delivery of approximately 200 Belgian FN Herstal MINIMI Mk3 5.56x45mm light machine guns. A total of 830 MINIMI Mk3 5.56x45mm weapons were purchased in 2019 through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
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Portuguese soldier with Minimi Mk3 5.56mm light machine gun. (Picture source Defence 360°)

The 3rd generation of the Minimi light machine gun was unveiled the Belgian firearms company in November 2013 during the International Exhibition of Stae Security that was held in Paris, France. it is an upgrade version of the standard Minimi fitted with conversion kits. 

Belgian firearms company FN Herstal offers a comprehensive and customized upgrade program to adapt the FN MINIMI® 7.62 to new operational conditions. Various conversion kits are available and the modifications can be carried out in customers’ facilities. Some examples of conversion kits available: handguard/bipod conversion kit, buttstock conversion kit, cocking handle conversion kit, and caliber conversion kit.

The FN Minimi (short for French: Mini Mitrailleuse; "mini machine gun") is a Belgian 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon or SAW developed by Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Herstal based in Belgium. First introduced in the late 1970s, it is now in service in more than 75 countries. The weapon is currently manufactured at the FN factory in Herstal, Belgium, and their U.S. subsidiary FN Manufacturing LLC. The FN Minimi is available in 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibers. 

The Minimi uses a gas-actuated long-stroke piston system. The barrel is locked with a rotary bolt, equipped with two massive locking lugs, forced into battery by a helical camming guide in the bolt carrier. The Minimi is fed from the left-hand side by disintegrating-link M27 ammunition belts (a miniaturized version of the 7.62mm M13 belt), from either an unsupported loose belt, enclosed in a polymer ammunition box with a 200-round capacity attached to the base of the receiver, or from detachable STANAG magazines, used in other NATO 5.56 mm assault rifles such as the M16 and FNC.

The modifications introduced on the FN MINIMI® Mk3 result from feedback provided by users engaged in current operating theatres. Indeed, the demands of users have evolved over the past 10 to 15 years due to changes in the way the FN MINIMI® machine gun is used in combat (increased use of accessories, evolutions in the soldier’s equipment, and changes in tactics such as shooting from all positions).

Main changes are:

· an ergonomic buttstock adjustable in length (5 positions) to allow compensation for body armor and load bearing equipment. The buttstock is adjustable for cheek rest height as well. The user can have his eye correctly aligned with the iron sights, or optical sights, while keeping his cheek properly positioned on the buttstock. It also integrates a folding shoulder rest and a hydraulic buffer that stabilizes the rate of fire and reduces felt recoil,
· a new handguard/bipod assembly that provides a comfortable handguard and three forward MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny® accessory rails. The adjustable-height (3 positions) bipod, when folded back, integrates into the shape of the handguard even with an accessory on the lower rail,
· an ergonomically-shaped cocking handle that gives the user a better grip with the strong or weak hand,
· an improved feed tray with belt retaining pawls that hold the belt correctly in position during the loading procedure, which is most useful when the user is in the standing position,
· an optional heatshield that greatly reduces the risk of inadvertently touching the barrel,
- the convertibility of the FN MINIMI® 7.62 to fire 5.56x45mm ammunition.