Stoner 86 and Stoner 96

ARES Stoner 86 light machine gun with magazine feed

ARES Stoner 86 light machine gun with belt feed


Stoner 96 / Knights LMG light machine gun


Stoner 96 / Knights LMG light machine gun



Stoner 86

Stoner 96


5,56×45 NATO

5,56×45 NATO


1073 mm

900 mm

Barrel length

550 mm

320 mm


5.47 kg

4.5 kg

Rate of fire

600 rounds per minute

550 rounds per minute


Magazines and belt


The M249 SAW, which was adopted by US Armed forces in 1982, had some early teething troubles, and in 1986 US-based company ARES Inc introduced its own 5.56mm LMG, which was a belt-fed weapon with an optional magazine-feed unit. Basically it was a Stoner 86 LMG which, in turn, was an evolutionary development of the earlier Stoner 63, which abandoned most of its transformation abilities (except for barrels and feed units) in search of a simplified design, lower costs and better reliability. Despite its merits, this system was never seriously considered by anyone, and found no takers. During early 1990s Eugene Stoner teamed with another American company, Knight’s Armament Co, and among other projects he further simplified and improved his light machine gun design, which eventually evolved into Stoner 96 LMG, also known as Knight’s 5.56mm LMG. This weapon is extremely light, and yet confortable and controllable when fired, and has excellent reliability. It was produced in small numbers by Knight’s Armament Co (KAC) and submitted to several LMG trials around the world, although so far there were no official adopters of this gun.

Stoner / ARES Model 86 light machine gun is a gas operated weapon, firing from open bolt and featuring quick-detachable barrel. It has long stroke gas piston, located below the barrel, and a conventional rotary bolt locking. Feeding is achieved by using standard disintegrating steel belt with M27 links. Standard belt-feed unit, whish is located at the top of the receiver, can be replaced with optional top cover with magazine housing, which accept standard M16-type magazines, inserted from the top. To clear centrally located open sights, magazine housing is canted to the left. Gun is equipped with fixed tubular shoulder stock, and folding bipod under the gas tube.

Stoner / Knight’s Model 96 LMG is a further simplification of the Stoner Model 86. Magazine feed option is omitted, and many parts are redesigned for better reliability. Quick detachable barrel is shortened to provide better CQB characteristics and M4 carbine styled collapsible shoulder stock is fitted to the gun. Gun is provided with several Picatinny rails – one at the top of receiver and four more at the forend. No bipod is provided by default, but a GripPod (vertical foregrip with built-in small retractable bipod legs) is usually fitted to the 6’o-clock rail below forend to provide necessary stability when firing off-hand or from the ground. Gun is fed using same standard disintegrating belts with M27 links, and can accept 100- or 200-round belt containers clipped under the receiver.