Everyone wants to shoot the machine gun. No one wants to carry it.
This is especially true for infantrymen and SF teams the whole world over. Machine guns are heavy. Machine gun ammo is heavy. Machine gun accessories are heavy.
Do machine guns give you a tactical advantage on the battlefield? Yes. Do you want your buddies to have machine guns to deploy effective fire on the assholes shooting at you? Yes. Do you want those machine gun armed buddies to quickly maneuver and lay fire down where it is needed? Yes. Do you want them to have PLENTY of linked ammo to sustain that life-saving fire? Yes. Do you want them to have long pauses in fire to reload their weapons or set up new firing positions? NO!!! No you do not. Are machine guns are fun to shoot? Hell Yes! That’s why we were happy to see what the TYR Tactical MICO ammo pack is all about.
You’ve probably seen setups similar to the MICO. In movies and video games, characters often have a backpack with a million rounds and car battery to feed their M134 7.62 minigun as they prance across the fictitious battlefield. After a ten-minute string of fire at 4,000 RPM they finally run dry and jettison the $45,000 weapon like a used tissue. “It’s time to go to cold steel!” they grunt, as they unsheathe a $30 machete.
But in real life, running a machine gun is a lot less glamorous. For dudes that carry one as their primary, the machine gun isn’t a grab and go weapon like a carbine. With a high rate of fire, machine guns require a lot of ammo to support the advantage gained by carrying it. MG gunners need a readily accessible supply of ammo to deploy effective fire.
Traditionally this has been accomplished by carrying ammo in pouches attached to body armor, stowed in day bags, and hauled in cans. Hundreds of rounds stowed in pouches weigh down the front of armor, often at the cost of balance and comfort. It also can affect the gunner’s ability to properly go prone behind the gun, as the pouches add bulk to the torso. Furthermore, reloading the weapon is limited to the amount of ammo that can fit in the pouches, meaning the gunner will have to reload more often with small drums or “nutsacks” of linked ammo. When seconds count, you don’t want the machine-gun to be down for reloads.
Hand carrying ammo in cans or spread-loading it among your team can also create issues, most of which are pretty obvious. So what can be done to maximize the machine gun’s effectiveness, and the gunner’s behind it? With little progress made in this department in modern warfare, Tyr Tactical set out create a viable solution to help feed the belt-fed beast.
The Huron MICO
Others have tried to create a backpack-style ammo carriage system, with varying degrees of success. We aren’t going to lie, we were skeptical of the MICO as soon as we saw it. Was it Hollywood bullshit, or a force multiplier? We recently hit the range to check it out.
It’s important to note that the MICO is more than just an “ammo backpack”; it’s a load carriage system TYR designed from the ground up. The MICO is built around a rigid, lightweight aluminum ammo box that holds 500 rounds of 7.62×51 NATO and nearly a case of 5.56 with an adapter installed. When fully loaded the ammo is protected from the elements and supported as it feeds from the internal can. As the rounds leave the box, they are guided into the feed chute and machine gun. 75 rounds of 7.62 occupy the flexible feed chute when loaded, so in reality the MG is not pulling the weight of the entire belt.
Between the unique design of the ammo box and smooth travel of rounds down the feed chute, gravity is not as big an issue as you might expect. The feed chute itself clips onto various common machine guns via special adapters, just like a drum or “nutsack” pouch. The chute is shrouded with a removable cover, to allow access to the lightweight metal assembly inside. We found that loading the MICO itself takes a few minutes, but attaching the system to a MK-48 machine gun only takes a few seconds. With a loaded MICO and MG, a gunner can don and load the system in only a few seconds, roughly how long it takes to put on a plate carrier.
With a full load of ammo and a MG in your hands, you are immediately impressed with how well the set up carries. The weight of the ammo is distributed over your shoulders and waist via padded shoulder straps and belt. Once adjusted, the system feels more like a regular rucksack than a box full of heavy lead. Because of the feed system and chute, the MG remains light and easy to maneuver. We also found it easier to go prone quickly, and recover to a standing position. Shooting from the prone, kneeling and standing was all accomplished with ease.
Although the MK-48 is a lightweight MG, we feel that the MICO would work great with a heaver weapon such as the M240. The MICO would allow a gunner to carry the weapon fully loaded, and employ the gun in seconds without much in the way of setting up a firing position. For fire and maneuver assaults, the MICO would be worth its weight in gold. In a more traditional role, the machine gun could begin to lay down extended, suppressive fire while an assistant gunner sets up a tripod and T&E mechanism. A tap on the helmet and the gunner can displace to the advantage of the tripod.
We didn’t want to just shoot from the stationary with our range evaluation. Mimicking a slow patrol pace, we would randomly choose a moment to fire from the standing, on the move and also by dropping down to the kneeling and prone. The MICO stays put on your back, with little movement even when diving to the prone position. We were concerned about stoppages and your ability to clear them, but we experienced very few to correct. Those that we did experience were easily cleared, such as in the case of a broken link or mechanical failure inside the gun. The Velcro cover to the feed chute is easily removable to troubleshoot, and features a tab to hold your ammo in place when the MICO is not attached to the gun. This would allow a turret gunner in a vehicle to use boxed ammo in the turret, and grab the MICO with the MG if he needs to leave the vehicle (if, for example, the vic was destroyed).
A gunner providing support during an assault could go back and forth between ammo cans from the tripod, to using the MICO on the move in mere seconds. When the weapon runs out of linked ammo, or in a situation where the gunner is suddenly submerged in water he can jettison the MICO and detach the feed chute in 3-4 seconds.
Putting some 3,000 rounds of 7.62 through the MICO and machine gun showed us how great of a system this really is. This setup, combined with a MK-48 or MK-46 would be straight up murder on the battlefield. We’re confident many machine gunners would have done better had we been equipped with the MICO early in GWOT.
The MICO belongs on the backs of our war fighters, and luckily for them it has recently been assigned an NSN to make that happen. Prudent officers would order these for their door-kickers if they fully understood the difference in mobility and sustained fire it provides. Elements of SOCOM have used the MICO to great success, but that doesn’t limit it to being a Special Forces toy. The average grunt would appreciate the capability as well, if not more so. The MICO isn’t cheap, but to be honest we can’t figure out how you could build such a setup to be inexpensive. The best materials have been scrutinized and picked, and the end result validates the design. For our boys in uniform, you can use NSN# 8465016295960 to order your own. for everyone else, check the MICO out here on TYR Tactical’s website, and dream of winning enough lotto money to buy a M134 or MK-48.
All is not lost though–TYR makes a lot of other cool stuff too (we reviewed their Gunfighter belt here). TYR also provided us with a coupon code good for 10% off until January 2016: BREACH10. While that’s ~$400 off a MICO system, you can use it for belts and pouches and other more attainable gear.
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Mad Duo Nate About the Author: Nathan “Mad Duo Nate” is a former USMC Sergeant who recently transitioned to being a nasty civilian. He lives largely on nicotine, whiskey and hate and can be frequently found orating Kipling poems to frightened hipsters. A graduate of the Camp Lejeune School for Wayward Boys, he was a Marine NCO, Infantry Platoon Sergeant and Scout Sniper team leader. He is a fully qualified American Jedi, handsome badass and world-renowned field barista. He has numerous deployments to the Middle East and Africa and is something of an idiot savant when it comes finger-fucking stuff to make it work better. Nate only chain smokes when he’s drinking and only drinks every day. We reckon he is probably best described as a sociopathic philosopher with vestigial cutthroat (though poetic) tendencies. Thus far Murr’s writing has appeared in such places as here on Breach-Bang-Clear, on Military.com, in field shitters and portajohns on at least 3 continents, in RECOIL Magazine and of course Penthouse letters. (Grunts: vestigial)