- Belt (firearm)
A belt is a device that holds cartridges adjacent to each other in a single row for feeding into a
firearm, typically a machine gun. The belt itself only serves to link the cartridges together so that they may be fired in a uniform manner; it does not perform the feeding of the firearm.
In general, the belt is either permanently linked, fed through the weapon, and subsequently pushed out the other side of the chamber, or the links themselves "disintegrate", or break apart after firing, as the cartridges are integral to the design of the belt. The latter is called a "disintegrating belt". The main advantage of the non-disintegrating belt is that it is much easier to refill. The advantages of the disintegrating belt are that it is lighter and the expended links do not dangle from the other side of the gun.
Belts are useful in that long sequences of ammunition can be run through a weapon with little to no interaction from the individual firing it. As machine guns in the 20th century evolved with higher rates of fire, the traditional sprung magazine was found to be insufficient for two reasons: first, a magazine of reasonable size (typically 70 rounds or fewer) would require too-frequent changing during sustained fire. Secondly, the spring used to feed cartridges often cannot deliver them quickly enough to match the weapon's firing rate and this would result in jams.
Belts are often stored in a transportation box, which can be attached under the firearm. This allows mobile
infantrytroops equipped with light and medium machine guns to carry a large amount of ammunition with ease of transportation that would not be allowed by a loose belt.
FN MINIMI/M249 SAW, a light machine gun in use by the U.S. and other NATO forces, and the IMI Negev, used by the IDF, are unusual in that they can be fed interchangeably by belt or 30-round magazine. However, the latter is used only in an emergency due to the aforementioned problems.
The downside to belts are that their reload times exceed that of magazines and clips.
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