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M249 SAW.
  • Primary function: Hand-held combat machine gun
  • Manufacturer: Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing, Inc.
  • Length: 40.87 inches (103.81 centimeters)
  • Weight:
    •    With bipod and tools: 15.16 pounds (6.88 kilograms)
    •    200-round box magazine: 6.92 pounds (3.14 kilograms)
    •    30-round magazine: 1.07 pounds (.49 kilograms)
  • Bore diameter: 5.56mm (.233 inches)
  • Maximum effective range: 3281 feet (1000 meters) for an area target
  • Maximum range: 2.23 miles (3.6 kilometers)
  • Rates of fire:
    •    Cyclic: 725 rounds per minute
    •    Sustained: 85 rounds per minute
  • Unit Replacement Cost: $4,087

Tactics[edit]

The SAW is meant to be a support weapon, although it can be used to good effect in CQB maps due a high rate of fire and tons of ammo. On outdoor maps, however, this gun is better used to suppress rushes or for guarding an area. The best example of this is on a bridge, where the SAW can be intermittently fired right down the center of the bridge to blunt an aggressive team. Tracers whizzing past you usually make you duck for cover. When prone with the bipod down (press H), the SAW is even more accurate than the M16. This makes it highly effective in defending large open areas. It becomes even more accurate when near a Fire Team Leader or Squad Leader.

When engaging a target over a long distance with the SAW the key is to fire in short, controlled bursts of 3 to 5 shots at a time. Firing more than that at a time will cause severe muzzle climb and lead to greatly reduced accuracy while leaving a continuous steam of tracers pointing back at your position.

The SAW intended as a suppression weapon. Next to the M203 and sniper rifles it is the best for keeping the enemy heads down. But, in game currently, it is also one of the best "rushing" weapons.

Do not rush with the SAW unless your team meets or beats this criteria:

  1. Poor Teamwork Without teamwork, suppression is useless
  2. No Attempt at Team Organization If the team is trying to organize but you see limited teamwork, still stay back and suppress. It will help the teamwork actually form
  3. The map is CQB CQB stands for Close Quarters BattleIn close quarters battle, there is little to nothing to suppress. In this case, rush and allow your team-mates to come up in the opening you make. Even if you die, it gets a similar effect of suppression by making the enemy hide.

If your team is working well together or at least trying to, find a good spot:

  1. Must have a wide field of view (When defending, narrow and deep fields of fire with frontal cover is best (USMC Close Combat Marine Workbook))
  2. Must be able to see your teams advance and where they are advancing to.
  3. You must not be easily killed and you need to have a place to escape to. A dead SAW gunner in a good position is worse than a living SAW gunner in a bad position.

Remember, when suppressing, always use the bipod.

Appropriate usage of the M249 SAW[edit]

The M249 SAW is a widely misunderstood weapon within the Americas Army community. On the whole the weapon is typically avoided based on the fact that it is a difficult weapon to control without proper training (my emphasis). While many people try to use the SAW in its intended role as a suppressive weapon they do so in a manner that can be useless or even counter productive to the team as a whole.

This guide is not only a background of my experiences with a SAW, but also a training tool in how to increase your personal abilities with this extremely effective weapon.

Step 1: Be familiar with your weapon[edit]

Familiarity with the SAW will only increase your respect for this high-casualty producing weapon. The main role of this weapon in Army usage is to suppress, pin, and generally render a target combat ineffective. In real combat the Automatic Rifleman is essentially the core of the fire team. US doctrine for the Squad and the fire team is set up in such a way that the SAW is set to pin an enemy or suspected enemy as either his fireteam, or another fireteam can flank the target. The mobility afforded by the weapon allows the squad to quickly cover hostile terrain under an umbrella of hot copper shrouded lead.

When firing the weapon the first three things you will notice will probably be:

  1. The Cyclic rate of fire of the weapon: This rate can be from 750 rounds per minute up to 1000 or even 1200 rounds per minute.
  2. The recoil produced by the weapon. This tends to be the reason most people do not use the weapon. Compared to the other weapons it is high and difficult to tame.
  3. The noise produced by the weapon is considerable. Paired with the fact that it uses tracers it makes you a very obvious target to enemies on the field of battle.

A cursory examination of the weapon yields pretty much these three facts. However an advanced user is well to note the following:

  1. The SAW may register 200 rounds, however only 160 of the rounds are lethal. Why? The fifth round is always a tracer round. Currently Americas Army does not handle this round as an actual damage causing round.
  2. While Tracers cross the map slowly the actual damage causing rounds cross the map INSTANTANEOUSLY. This can be a very useful fact. As on some maps the tracers can take up to 3 seconds to cross the map. While firing on a distant target it is possible to gain a 3 second lead in terms of firing before an accurate counterfire can be achieved.
  3. When the SAW is fired by tapping a fire key it will never actually fire 1 round at a time. Typically it fires 2 to 4 rounds in short bursts. A very close examination of the accuracy of the weapon shows that all of these rounds would hit the exact same spot if the recoil and breath stroke were removed from the weapon. This is illustrated by the striated pattern that can be seen in the following picture:

AA weapon M249 striated impact pattern.jpg

The striations occur in patters of 2 to 4 rounds in vertical lines. These lines are produced because the breath stroke causes a vertically undulating motion which knocks the point of aim off. So this basically translates in to the fact that if you can perfectly compensate for recoil and the breath stroke all of the shots in one of those bursts will hit the exact same spot. In actual play this is impossible, however the shots from that burst can group closely enough to all hit a mansize target at extreme distance.

  1. The iron sights of the SAW seem very restrictive and balky as compared to the sights of the M16.

Aa Sawsights.jpg
AA weapon M16 sights.jpg
However on closer examination the SAW sight is actually open around the rear window, allowing targets close to the point of aim, but not covered by the front post to be seen quite clearly. The M16 however completely occludes targets directly beside the point of aim, and only has a very small section to either side of the weapon that is visible. In game this means that a SAW has a definite advantage while in a defensive position. Why? Because he can quickly sight, track, and swap targets because he can SEE THEM without taking his sights down. On the other hand the M16 is more suited to assaulting because the open spaces to the sides of the sights. These spaces allow a user to quickly snap to a target in the periphery while advancing with the sights up.
To address the issue of the balky nature of front post, and the tight size of the rear window I supply these images:

Aa Sightsnorecoil.jpg
These images show the size of the spread of the SAW in relation to posture in a green state (essentially CEM level). The pictures were taken with 'wpnrecoil' engaged so that the weapon had no recoil. The images go from prone supported to standing.

Aa Sightsrecoil.jpg
These images show a standard spread produced by a trained saw gunner (myself) in the same posture states. Note the slightly more disperse spread of shots.
Using geometry and the relative perspective of the user it can be assumed that the spread of the weapon will ALWAYS be that size over the target in those postures. What does that mean? It means that to the user the spread on a wall 10m away as opposed to a wall 100m will take up the EXACT same area within the sight. So in actuality the spread on the wall 10m away may only be 0.5 m in diameter, and the one on the wall 100m away may be 2m in diameter, but they will both look the same size when viewed through the sights of the weapon.

Here is a table to describe these angles:

Prone supported: beaten zone is no larger in diameter than the width of the ironsight
Prone  : beaten zone is 1/2 the internal diameter of the rear window
Crouched  : beaten zone is 2/3 the internal diameter of the rear window
Standing  : beaten zone is the same size as the internal diameter of the rear window

This translates into play by allowing the user to quickly adapt his position in order to optimize his spread to engage his target(s). For example, if you want a disperse spread in order to plug up an entire doorway with fire at 20m you would probably go crouched with your sights up. If you stand up your spread becomes to large, and you are wasting rounds on the edges of the wall around the door, and if you go prone your rounds are too accurate and only cover one side of the door.

  1. The recoil produced by the saw is a vector whose quantity is directly related to your CEM. Basically the lower your CEM the faster recoil will pull your weapon up and to the right making it harder to control.
  2. The Accuracy (spread) of the weapon is directly related to two factors: Health and CEM. Of these two CEM is the most important and the only factor which you can affect. Higher CEM = tighter grouping. If you become wounded your weapon spread will become irreversibly larger. Receiving medical attention will only return your recoil / weapon bob to its original GREEN state, but it will NOT reduce your weapon spread.

Basically this means that if you are Red but have received medical attention, your gun will not *feel* as if you are Red, however the Accuracy of the weapon will be severely impaired. So basically you have now been limited to medium to short range engagements. It would be wise to not engage a sniper at long range while red even if you are prone and supported. It is advisable to close the distance between you and your target, using cover of course, and allow your higher volume of fire to be an asset.

If you keep all of these factors in mind while using this weapon, you will start to realize how this weapon can be used to great and deadly effect.

Step 2: Controlling the weapon[edit]

Mouse sensitivity

No person can possibly 100% compensate for the recoil of the SAW, you will quickly run out of mousepad if you attempt to make usage of the cyclic rate of fire for long periods.

How then can people possibly combat the effect of recoil? Increased mouse sensitivity.

On the positive side a mouse sensitivity that is high (4-6 range) will allow you to quickly tame the saw however you must tune this value for you. I suggest pulling your mouse down and to the left at a constant rate while testing different sensitivity settings (found in settings > Input) until you find a setting that feels right. Like the three bears, nobody's porridge is the same so it is important that you find a setting that is comfortable for you to use. Personally I use a 4.0 setting, however a 6.0 setting is not unrealistic.

Setting your sensitivity too low will cause under compensation and muzzle climb, setting your sensitivity too high will cause overcompensation and muzzle drop. Both cause rounds to miss the intended target.

An added benefit of increasing mouse sensitivity will be that you can quickly turn or track targets in CQB (close quarters battle) giving you an edge. However M203 users be aware, this will desensitize your mouse and may cause lined up shots to be more difficult to reproduce reliably. Also users of ball mice may have adverse effects due to the lack of mouse resolution which may result in large jumps of space while the mouse is moved.

CEM and Recoil

CEM is 'Combat Effectiveness Meter' it is the multicolored bar found at the lower right-hand side of your HUD. Basically the more CEM you have the better your weapon will perform overall.

Factors that effect CEM are Health, Posture, ironsights, Suppression and Distance from a Leader. Try to maximize these factors when possible in order to keep your CEM high. For example, if you get hit, try to get healed immediately in order to reduce loss of CEM and accuracy due to bleeding. A bleeding soldier's CEM will always be lower than a Healed soldier in the same Health state. Once you are healed your gun should feel as if you are Green again however it will still be less accurate.

It is always preferred to use ironsights where feasible. For instance using ironsights to watch down a corridor you expect an enemy to appear from is smart. Trying to use your ironsights in CQB is generally foolish.

Posture effects CEM highly. NEVER use the SAW in a standing position unless you have no other choice, or you are in CQB. As I play my natural resting posture is always the crouched position. Whenever I stop moving I it is a reaction for me to go crouched. Not only does this reduce my target silhouette, making me harder to hit, but it also increases my CEM.

Each posture has its advantages and disadvantages. CEM is an important factor to take in account when you decide on a posture at a giving firing position, however so is mobility. These two factors should always be taken into account as you redeploy from position to position. For instance when you are crouched you have the ability to quickly move if you come under fire or are surprised though your CEM is lower than if you were in a prone posture. Lets assume that you are prone on the rear of a hill crest and an enemy comes over that crest. Not only will it be difficult to track that enemy in CQB due to your posture, but your increased accuracy may actually be a LIABILITY... Yes I know this seems oxymoronic. 9 times out of 10 the guy in the prone position will be overwhelmed by the rusher. If that same person were in a crouched position he could easily engage the rusher in a moving battle and have a roughly equal chance of survival. So you see some situations call for higher mobility.

Back to that thing about accuracy being a liability: You have to understand that this is a multiplayer game, and as such is subject to all the joys of Lag. Lag can cause you to under compensate when leading a target, which is already complicated in CQB. So if your shots are very accurate and your lead is in any way off you will completely miss your target. If you are firing from a standing position your weapon has a very large spread, and thus if your lead is slightly off you still have shots hitting the target. So I hope you can now see why accuracy can sometimes be a liability in CQB.

In terms of erring when choosing a position, always err on the side of higher mobility. If at any point you come under fire you can quickly move to cover. If you are prone or prone supported you are basically stranded in enemy fire while you change posture. The longer you are exposed the more quickly your survivability drops. Of course you can counteract this by moving under suppression by returning fire as you redeploy. If your shots are in any way near their mark they can wound or suppress the enemy giving you crucial time to fall back.

Essentially you should get into the habit of crouching whenever you move from point to point and then deciding on a different posture if the situation applies.

Step 3: Engaging targets[edit]

Long range engagement

Contrary to popular belief using the saw in a burst capacity is not preferred when engaging targets at any distance. In real life this is much more useful because suppression is much more effective however in game it is a completely different world.

As much as I hate to admit it, my time using binds to remove recoil taught me many lessons about SAW fire control. Now that I no longer use these binds I find myself using the same tactics that I employed while I had them, and with the same results.

Many would like to dissuade of the accuracy of the SAW. The SAW is a VERY accurate weapon when you take into the account the sheer volume of fire you can put out with the weapon. In game it fires at 750 rounds per minute or 12.5 rounds per second. If your grouping is tight a great deal of those rounds will rip into their target. This is evidenced by the ability of a skilled SAW user to easily dispatch a prone supported sniper at ~100m in the prone position (I have done this countless times). Many times if you have the first shot you will win.

At long range your main concern tends to be CEM and accuracy. That means maximizing your posture for accurate fire with a low mobility as the situation requires.

A prone SAW can easily duck in and out of fire from behind an obstacle and put very accurate fire on a target at a great distance. This can only be felt out and seen by playing. Just try to maximize your CEM before you even think about engaging the target. After your CEM is full for that posture, start firing at your target using full auto. People may say that burst mode is more accurate, and they may be correct, but only because they cannot correctly compensate for the recoil of the SAW. If you have trained it should be no issue to keep your ironsight over that target for 100 rounds, which is typically 2 times what you need to kill a target at long distance. I average out at ~ 20 rounds per kill. Generally I will abandon a target after 100 rounds due because

  1. I'm running out of mouse pad and
  2. I don't want to have 'Target fixation' in which all my attention is on that one guy as 2 others pop up to fire on me.

If it takes you more that 50 rounds per target on average you need to tighten up your spread considerably.

NEVER try to engage a target at long distance if you are Deep Yellow or Red. If your CEM drops below 66% do not attempt to engage a target at long distance as your rounds will mostly plink harmlessly around them.

Another good thing to remember is that the true center of aim on the SAW is slightly to the left on the front post. So aim accordingly to ensure more hits.

At any distance you should lead a moving target, for targets at long range that lead is typically small. However if you have a target that is moving very quickly perpendicular to your fire it may be impossible to track and lead them. Instead move your sight to aim some distance in front of them, and then begin firing. As they run they will cross your fire and either become wounded or die. Repeat this multiple times until the target is occluded or is dead.

Medium Range engagement

This is the typical distance you will be engaging targets, and it will mostly occur when you are in the crouched position. As a result it may be a good idea to learn how to use the 'Fastmove' (Shift) key to your advantage. By pressing Shift you will be put in a 'slow' state which allows you to bring up your ironsights on the move. Using this feature you can move out of cover with your sights raised in order to engage a target or simply scope out an area.

Engaging targets at this distance is very similar to long range engagement except that the lead you will need to give on targets will be considerable if they are moving. Try at all times to use your ironsights unless a target is moving too quickly to track. If the target moves too quickly simply take down your sights and use your crosshair. It may be less accurate but your lead will be more precise.

Mobility is always important in these skirmishes because the short distance means increased accuracy on both sides. That means that cover is even more essential than it was at long range, especially while reloading.

Close Quarters engagements

As I stated before CQB is all about leading your target accurately. Mobility is absolutely essential when you are fighting a close target. You must be able to strafe, jump, and generally be evasive. This means you should be using the standing position with your crosshairs. Due to your high rate of fire, it is best to use the 'spray and pray' technique when engaging a target in CQB. Basically track your saw ahead of your target, sweeping back and forth over his movement path to ensure a hit. On stable targets sweeping the upper chest with the saw seems to be the most effective method as it ensures a more severe wound.

Always try to 'Circle strafe' your target. Basically strafe around your target while keeping your aim directly on or in front of him. Circle strafing in turn makes you harder to hit. If ever you have to reload, begin hopping like a moron by mashing the jump key until you can get behind some cover. Run away until you are reloaded! You may look retarded hopping and strafing, and some even consider it exploitation, but if it keeps you alive I suggest it.

Additionally the lead you need to use on targets in CQB can been nearly a screen's width if the target is moving quickly. The closer you are to the target the larger that lead needs to be. Leading targets is the hardest part of CQB, and it takes the most practice and death to master. Eventually you will automatically adjust your aim to lead a target based on his distance and speed.

CQB is somewhat of a last resort when playing. Since it is so difficult, typically it is a 50/50 proposition to engage a target in CQB. When you are a saw your chances are greatly improved IF you go in with sufficient Ammo (100+ rounds). For this reason I typically only engage in CQB if I am already wounded or have no other choice. When you are wounded CQB offers your best chance for victory, because you cannot reliably engage targets from a distance. This will equalize the playing field even if you are highly wounded. When I become wounded to the point that I know my saw is useless at distance I will close the distance and engage targets in CQB. I call this 'Hugging the enemy' it is a great tactic to increase your survivability in a situation that seems unwinnable.

Note: In version 2.5 or 2.6 they made it impossible to "bunny hop" (jump around like your feet are on fire) by adding a minimum time between jumps. It is also now impossible to Jump while reloading or reload while jumping.

Additionally, the pictures of the ironsights of the M249 and M16A2 are obsolete. Recently they have made the ironsights more translucent.