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Garand 04-07-2017 06:59 AM

Now It's the Army That Wants a New Rifle

The U.S. Army wants a rifle that fires a heavier, longer range bullet.

On the heels of the Marine Corps' desire for a new rifle for its infantrymen, the U.S. Army now says it is contemplating a dramatic switch in rifles. The service is considering going back to battle rifles—heavier rifles that can hit targets at longer ranges. The last time the Army fielded such a rifle was in the 1960s.

The story, broke by Soldier Systems Daily, says that U.S. Army troops feel they're "in a street fight with a guy with longer arms." That longer arm is the 7.62x54R cartridge, the cartridge used by the PK machine gun and Dragunov SVD sniper rifle. The PK squad machine gun is extremely common; it's in use by the Taliban, the Islamic State, and most insurgent and terrorist groups worldwide. Longer and heavier than the 7.62x39-millimeter round used in the AK series of assault rifles, a PK with the 7.62x54R round has an effective range of 800 to 1,000 yards, versus only about 350 yards for an AK-47.

On the Army side, the maximum effective range of an M4 carbine against man-sized targets is about 500 yards, depending on the skill of the rifleman, and 700 yards for the M249 squad automatic weapon. Both fire the same cartridge. That leaves a dead zone of roughly 500 to 1,000 yards where the bulk of a nine person infantry squad can't engage individual enemies. In a platoon of 40 soldiers, on average only about six soldiers armed with M249s, marksman rifles, and M240 machine guns have the range to engage an enemy in the dead zone.

U.S. Army troops may have an edge on paper, but guerrilla groups don't adhere to a bureaucratic equipment roster that says each unit can have a certain number of weapons. Taliban and IS groups routinely have a large number of heavier machine guns, and what they lack in skill they often try to make up in firepower.

The Army says it wants a heavier, longer-range bullet in the 7.62x51-millimeter weight category, from which it would later transition to an even more exotic, modern caliber. The Army did once have a rifle that fired the 7.62 round: the M14 battle rifle. Adopted in the 1950s, the M14 was problematic. In addition to manufacturing and accuracy issues, the M14 weighed 10.7 pounds fully loaded. The 7.62-millimeter ammunition also weighed twice as much as the 5.56 millimeter ammunition of the M16 rifle that replaced it, meaning M16 users could carry twice as much ammo into battle. It was also long and unwieldy, making it difficult to use in close quarters combat.

If the Army does go forward with an interim battle rifle, as Soldier Systems Daily suggests, the Army will gain range. With decent optics, a modern 7.62 rifle can reach out to 700 to 800 yards. However, soldiers will once again find themselves up against ammunition weight and length issues. The rifles will be heavier: Properly outfitted with the same optic and a laser/light combination on virtually every M4 carbine, a 7.62 rifle would weigh about 12 pounds. The new rifle will also be more difficult to use in urban terrain, as the longer barrel (which imparts bullet velocity and range) will be hard to handle in caves, inside buildings, trenches, and rough terrain.

Fitted with a new rifle scope, the M14 has been brought back in limited numbers to fight in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Down the road, the Army would rebarrel the rifle for a new round, according to SSD, likely a 6.5-millimeter bullet. That could result in a lighter round, but a longer, heavier rifle is an inevitability to get the desired range.

Although well intentioned, the adoption of a new rifle and round could open up a Pandora's Box of development, cost, and practical issues sealed more than 50 years ago by the M16. One alternative is supplying more infantrymen with better, more accurate ammunition and higher power optics. The relatively new 5.56-millimeter Mk 262 round paired with an 18" barrel (the M4's barrel is 14.5" inches long) would make the M4 effective to 700 yards in the hands of a trained rifleman.

While the Army's project could result in an amazing new rifle that satisfies everybody, that's unlikely as tradeoffs are inevitable. It may just be that the Army is better off modifying its existing weapons and accepting known shortcomings than wandering into new ones.

Maybe its just me but if I had to do it all over again, with current technology I think I'd go with a 16" barreled AR platform in 7.62 NATO. Given the wide variety of ammunition available it can take down almost everything on the continent either 2 or 4 legged

John in AR 04-07-2017 08:43 AM

IMO, making the M4 “effective to 700 yards in the hands of a trained rifleman” is a training thing or at most an optic thing, not a caliber thing. The 5.56 isn’t the be-all end-all, but its capabilities exceed that of most shooters. I know there are guys who shoot their 5.56 AR's better and further than I can, so that inescapably means that the caliber exceeds my abilities.

That said:
…a heavier, longer range bullet. the 7.62x51-millimeter weight category…
…the Army would rebarrel the rifle for a new round [/quote]

Hmmm… If we just MUST have a new caliber in the 7.62mm range, how about just rebarreling some M4’s for an existing 7.62mm round? One that launches a .30-caliber bullet at more than mach-2, fits in the same-size gun (frankly, in the [i]same[/i] gun), uses the same magazine and even the same bolt?

Personally, I don’t believe that a new gun or even a new caliber is needed. I suspect it’s the inevitable recurring “hey, wouldn’t this be cool” or “man, we need to justify our budget” mindset that constantly dwell in bureaucracies.

{edited to move the video to below; to get rid of weird site formatting with embedded videos}

John in AR 04-07-2017 08:47 AM

Start watching at about 7:00 into the video for consistent hits at 750 yards, with an unmagnified optic:

Terry G 04-13-2017 09:28 AM

Another small arms round in the pipeline? I can hear supply Sergeants scream from here. 5.56, Ball and Tracer, belted and clipped, 7.62, belted and boxed and clipped, 9MM Ball and Tracer, 40MM Grenade, pouched, 40MM Grenade belted. .300 Blackout? HELLLPPP! In my past I remember starting to pull ammunition crates off a Chinook Helicopter and noticed .30 Carbine on the crates. Whoops! No 5.56MM or 7.62 MM Machine Gun, Carbine and M-1 Garand and .30 Machine Gun. Wrong stop! First Sergeant went ballistic.

gripper 04-13-2017 07:18 PM

In the end,its always a trade-off:power and reach vs the weight penalty per load out...if a new round(or an old round)is selected/reintroduced/reissued,NOT having to complicate supply is always an issue.
Who knows? We may wind up rolling out a " universal caliber" across the standard rifle and GPMG caliber needs...if a smaller cartridge can do what the 7.62x51 does-be it a 6.5,6.8 or one of the additionally promising 7mm's? Could be interesting.
I know the Chicoms were toying with the notion of the 5.8 (in a hotter form)as a way to standardize-they even had a 5.8 pistol round(interchangeable with a 9x19 barrel) that didn't seem to go anywhere....

boati 04-16-2017 06:32 PM

it's bs. Nobody's hitting anything in combat, beyond the range of a scoped, 20" AR, and there's no need to do so, either. those ragheads aint hitting anything at 600 yds with clunker mosins, or with belt feds, either, for that matter. This is all just waste of time and money. If you have one DSM per squad, with a full sized M16, scoped, and maybe a trigger job, with the 77 gr hpbt that's well proven, both in matches and combat, that's going to serve just fine. You've got guys with SAWS that can answer the belt feds a lot better than any clown with a 308, 6.8, etc. this is just the testing-teachers-gun-ammo sellers trying to make money/justify their jobs.

Terry G 04-17-2017 01:36 PM

[QUOTE=boati;272730]it's bs. Nobody's hitting anything in combat, beyond the range of a scoped, 20" AR, and there's no need to do so, either. those ragheads aint hitting anything at 600 yds with clunker mosins, or with belt feds, either, for that matter. This is all just waste of time and money. If you have one DSM per squad, with a full sized M16, scoped, and maybe a trigger job, with the 77 gr hpbt that's well proven, both in matches and combat, that's going to serve just fine. You've got guys with SAWS that can answer the belt feds a lot better than any clown with a 308, 6.8, etc. this is just the testing-teachers-gun-ammo sellers trying to make money/justify their jobs.[/QUOTE]Welcome back, Melvin. How's Wifey?

gripper 04-17-2017 02:06 PM

[QUOTE=Terry G;272930]Welcome back, Melvin. How's Wifey?[/QUOTE]

Well,to be honest; I WAS wondering if he was OK. JMD it's nice you're above ground and not in custody. Belated Happy Easter and Good Passover.

Kilibreaux 04-19-2017 12:34 AM

It's tough being the's even tougher having been the King since 1965 - actually since 1957 if you go back to development start. The 5.56x45 has been the standard U.S. rifle round for over 50 years. Whatever anyone wants to say negatively about it, longevity is the clearest indicator that nothing "better" has happened along since it came into being.

The round isn't the best at any one thing per se, but it's a light to carry, delivers excellent "Battle Sight Zero" trajectory out to 300 meters and beyond in competent hands, and is still every bit as capable as it's obsolete "big brother" in defeating man-portable body armor. I'd rather CARRY an M249 over an M60 everyday including Sunday night.

With that said, might there be room for improvement? I suspect so, but I do NOT think the answer lies in ANY cartridge that deviates from the 5.56 case head size and O.A.L.

This instantly rules out the 6.8 which looks really neat except it uses a proprietary case head that isn't optimal for the M-16 bolt structure...and for what purpose really? Just another attempt at crafting a high-end boondoggle to suck up more tax-payer money.

The 7.62x35, aka: .300 Blackout is a pretty good modification to the STANDARD case to produce both a genuinely efficient subsonic cartridge for Special Ops, and a pretty decent high-velocity round when loaded with the newer design 110-115 grain bullets. However, with that said, it is NOT "superior" to the 5.56 for general purpose use!

One thing virtually always overlooked in the caliber discussions is that body armor...ALL armor including plate is rated to a "velocity" standard...doesn't say a word on it about kinetic energy, (for sure as hell it doesn't say "power factor"), it only rates by bullet speed. In that regard, the ubiquitous 5.56 M193 55gr. "ball" round when fired from a 20" barrel is very effective against all but AR-500 at distance, and there is not a load in the 5.56 case family carrying a 7.62 bullet that can even come close to the same armor punch-through. Not talking about shooting cinder blocks here, but putting a HOLE through something to put a hole through human tissue behind it!

Thick-jacketed, "pointy" .22 bullets going really fast have an amazing ability to punch clean through a lot of stuff for very little "payment" on the shooter's end.

Sure I like the .300's a versatile round that works off the parent case with little modification, but it still comes up short next to the 5.56 when it comes to maximum point blank range. Despite a lot of tripe about what bullets do what damage...a hit to the leg or arm from a 5.56 at 500 meters is still a debilitating wound, rendering it HIGHLY improbable the person struck is going to continue closing distance to hand-to-hand range.

All the recent yap about our boys needing to each have a rifle capable of making hits out to 800 meters....great! They already HAVE such a rifle, though in point of fact, a couple of guys sitting over there with .338 Lapua's or .416 Barretts are FAR more effective....800 meters is merely a "snap shot" to a competent sniper with the right platform.

I suspect that until the development of a genuinely new form of plasma rifles, or miniature rail guns, there will be very little that can be done to improve upon the 5.56 round...and certainly the M16 platform has been proven the best in terms of ergonomics and field disassembly. As they say, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..." So think about that every time you oogle a Sig Saur AR, or a S&W AR, or a Ruger AR, or an HK AR, or any one of the bazillion non-big-box brands.

John in AR 04-19-2017 08:01 AM

Agree. IMO, they're looking for an answer to a non-existent problem.

My personal opinion - for general-troop issue, I'd recommend a new barrel and an old ammunition. Stick with the 5.56 caliber, go back to 55-grain M193, drop the twist rate from 1:7 down to 1:10 or even 1:12, and give it progressive-gain rifling (if it's not prohibitively expensive to do so). At that point, you've got a gun that will push a 55-grain bullet at 3,200 fps even from a 14.5" gun and still be more accurate than most shooters are. The increased velocity and slower twist would also result in a projectile that would be more terminally effective due to extended range for fragmentation and destabilization. And the only cost is a new barrel.

Seriously, give me a 5.56 with a 14"-16" progressive-gain twist barrel that terminates in 1:12, and I'd be completely content with M193 ball for any shooting I'll ever do, short of long-range varmint stuff.

gripper 04-19-2017 08:40 AM

Interesting. I have always considered the 5.45 and the 5.56 to be at their best in an 18-20 inch barrel. The progressive rifling adds another intriguing idea.

John in AR 04-19-2017 10:39 AM

I read an article 10-12 years ago about an SBR-AR called iirc the "compac-16" or something like that. IIRC, in their 9" gain-twist barrel they got almost the same velocity as a standard 14.5" M4 barrel. Assuming that's true, a 14"-16" gain-twist barrel should(?) be able to do about what a 20"-22" standard-rifled barrel does.

And maybe I'm just an old fart, but a full-power M193 5.56 from a 20-22 inch barrel with a 1:12 twist is a truly capable round imo.

Garand 04-19-2017 05:39 PM

Welcome back Melvin, where have you been hiding?

Kilibreaux 04-20-2017 12:38 AM

Back when I was issued an M-16, it was still the "A1" version with 20" barrel, full stock, triangular hand guards, slender grip, and of course those wonderful aperture sights!

To be honest, when the Army adopted the M855 ball round and the "improved" M-16A2 with 800 meter adjustable rear sight, heavier barrel, brass deflector, longer stock, round hand guards, I didn't see any actual improvement in the brand.

The 55 grain M193 SCREAMS from a 20" barrel and aside from producing the most ghastly "wound" (meaning the person was killed and LOOKED like it hurt), is also plenty effective on various grades of steel...certainly kevlar and mixed variations. While I like the steel core 62 grain bullet, being shot from current iteration 14.5" barrels, the round simply isn't being given the best start possible. I mean let's be honest, even with a 20" barrel an M-16 isn't exactly a long rifle, and with the 5.56x45 barrel length matters...and velocity matters.

Also, under combat conditions, the original A1 rear sight made all the sense in the world. With the sights situated some 3.5" above the bore line, the rifle and cartridge was EASY to sight in to cross the bore axis at 25 meters going out, and interested it again 250 meters more distant, with a small enough drop at 300 to remain easy to place on a standing human. Adding in just a bit of "Kentucky windage" a good shooter could easily place telling hits out to 500 meters.

Having said all that, "my time" in the Army was back when we were most often deployed to places with heavy forestation. A rifle capable of punching hard 800 meters out was totally unnecessary. With deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where you can actually SEE people scurrying around a thousand meters distant, the limitations of the "M-4" variant of the M-16 are painfully obvious. This situation really calls for the Army to consider adopting a long-range bolt caliber to be issued as a "second gun" for those situations that warrant it. Even though I love the 7.62x51, I still wouldn't go that way, I'd go with a .338 WinMag using VLD's and 70% efficient muzzle brake to virtually eliminate the kick.

Garand 04-20-2017 09:28 AM

In the 28 years I spent in uniform I carried the FN FAL (C1A1), M16A1, M16A3 (C7A1) and the M4 (C8A1) variant. I do like my AR 15A2 for 3 gun matches, but for serious social work these days I think I would prefer something like the Ruger SR 762 [url][/url]

In all the time I carried a 5.56 on duty (1985-2002), I never felt that it would do the job for me after carrying the FN for 13 years. Realistically most people will not engage a target out past 500 yds but I want a cartridge that's a little bit heavier to buck the winds on the prairies out to that range.

John in AR 04-20-2017 11:27 AM

[QUOTE=Garand;273378]...Realistically most people will not engage a target out past 500 yds but I want a cartridge that's a little bit heavier to buck the winds on the prairies out to that range.[/QUOTE]

That's one thing about our area - other than roads or power line right-of-ways, it's rare to be able to SEE more than a couple hundred yards. It's probably 80% brush & pine forest, and even where the brush is cleared like farm fields & such, visibility and range are still limited because it's so hilly & uneven.

If I were in your kind of area or a plains state, or even south arkansas where it's flat, I might (or might not) want a bigger gun and a heavier bullet. But in the 24 years we've been in this area, I've never taken a deer past 80 yards, and only one past sixty; & I figure if I can't see game animals very far away, I'm not likely to encounter bad guys very far away either. That's probably part of why I got so heavily into handgun-caliber carbines; they're lightweight and for our short ranges, they do pretty well.

Garand 04-20-2017 02:54 PM

Back when I still hunted mulies, my bragging shot was 1 shot, at 450 yds in the heart of a 6 pointer mulie buck. I was using a Remington M788 in .308, with a Bushnell Banner 4x scope fitted with a BDC and using Remington 150 grain Core Lokt. He went straight down, never got up. Never started the year without putting at least 200 rds down range through that particular rifle. After about 5,000 rds through it I was still getting 1 1/4" groups at 100 yds. Good rifle.

BigBassMan 04-20-2017 03:48 PM

An that 308 did not bounce off?

Garand 04-20-2017 03:51 PM

[QUOTE=BigBassMan;273482]An that 308 did not bounce off?[/QUOTE]

Only if Melvin had shot it!

Jammer Six 04-24-2017 11:35 PM

I know I'm late to this discussion, but I've thought about it quite a bit. I served in the A1 days, and was trained for short range high volume fights.

After watching the military struggle with arms for all this time, I've noticed that they always seem to have the wrong one: the long, heavy battle rifle when they arrived in Vietnam, and the short, light assault rifle when they went back to the desert.

I've always wondered why we don't simply qualify eleven bravos on both.

Then, just like we tell new shooters, we can choose the weapon system based on the job we want it to do. As long as the infantry is qualified on both weapons, which weapon we hand them can be theatre specific, or even unit or mission specific. Then we can stop asking M4s to stop taxis at 400 meters, and we can stop taking M14s into the jungle.

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