Few weapons can conjure scenes of terror and carnage quite like machine guns. These rapid-fire guns spew lead at high speed, mowing down soldiers and civilians alike. How much do you know about the best-known machine guns?
The Kalashnikov is the longer name for the famous AK-47. It is one of the most popular and common machine guns in the world.
There are a mind-numbing number of AK-47s whizzing bullets all around the planet. By some estimates, there are about 75 million (and perhaps far more) of these guns in existence.
The M16 rifle was introduced into U.S. military service in 1964. The rifle was used extensively throughout the Vietnam War.
The U.S. has built millions of these rifles, and many of them wind up in other militaries. Dozens of countries, from Canada to North Korea to Liberia, all have stockpiles of M16s.
Mikhail Kalashnikov was a Soviet soldier who was wounded during World War II. He developed the AK-47 as an affordable, reliable weapon that would help counter automatic arms from enemies such as Germany.
The M1919 Browning machine gun was an air-cooled model. It became widely used during World War I.
The water-cooled version actually came in 1917. The company moved to a newer air-cooled version in part to save on weight.
The very first M1919 belts were made of cloth, a fact that makes these guns seem more primitive than they were. Later, the belts used metal.
The AK-47 has been around for many decades. But it didn't make it to any battlefields until the years following World War II.
It's been updated multiple times and is still a popular weapon. About 8 million of them have been distributed around the globe -- far fewer than the AK-47.
A standard AK clip holds 30 rounds. The weapon's rapid rate of fire means that a frantic (or desperate) soldier can empty a cartridge in just a few seconds.
The Tommy gun is one of the most iconic guns of the World War II era. It became a rapid-fire symbol of Allied firepower.
Tommy guns fired .45 caliber ACP bullets. Those were no teensy bits of lead. They were large bullets that could maim or kill men at long distances.
They really are accurate guns. Soldiers active in recent Middle East conflicts are renowned for their ability to take head shots thanks in part to the M16's pinpoint accuracy.
Tommy guns had tons of nicknames. One was "Trench Sweeper," because it had a high rate of fire that allowed soldiers to "sweep" steady fire through trenches, blasting everything in their way.
In its three-barrel configuration, the GAU-19 can blast a ridiculous 2,000 rounds per minute. Of course, at that rate, the weapon is much more likely to overheat.
Inexperienced shooters tend to shoot fully automatic weapons with reckless abandon, wasting ammo with shots that are far off of their marks. The M16A2 was an updated version of the M16 with a three-shot burst setting to help soldiers maintain accuracy.
Thompson machine guns were best for suppressive fire and close-range combat. Once the bullets passed 150 meters, accuracy and power suffered.
Cheapness is one of the AK-47's primary strengths. They are so cheap, in fact, that in many circumstances it's easier and cheaper to replace the whole gun than it is to fix a malfunctioning component.
It wasn’t regarded as a replacement for the M60. But the M16 rifle was definitely a replacement for the M2 carbine and M14. The latter gun still sees some limited action.
Mikhail Kalashnikov has never felt guilty about creating a hugely popular weapon. The bloodshed, he said, is due to dumb politicians, not weapons makers.
Tommy guns were robust and powerful weapons, often well-suited to World War II combat. The men who managed to get their hands on one didn't like parting with them.
The M197 is an electric cannon. It's a Gatling-style rotary cannon that typically shoots 20mm cartridges.
The M197 first made it to battlefields in the 1960s. It has three barrels and is still found on certain types of gunships, much to the chagrin of anyone in its sights.
The Browning M2 was first built at the end of World War I. It eventually became a centerpiece weapon in many battles around the world.
The M2 was similar to the Browning M1919. But there was one huge difference -- the M2 used gigantic .50 caliber bullets that could stop both man and machine.
AK-47s range from nearly indestructible to almost worthless. There are many companies producing cheap knockoffs that are not suitable for rigorous use.
The Browning M2 was first used in the early 1930s and it is still in service. It's one of the most popular and effective machine guns in the history of the world.
Few weapons were so welcome to friendly soldiers as the "Ma Deuce." These powerful guns were so deadly that they could singlehandedly turn the tide of a battle.
The M60 gained "The Pig" nickname during the Vietnam War. Although light for its size, the gun was unwieldy, particularly in the swamps of Vietnam.