Category Archives: US Army

Is the Army going back to Battle Rifles?

While initial media briefs on the systems set to replace the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW on the Army’s frontlines held back some details, the specs are now public. 

The largest and most sweeping small arms program developed by the U.S. military since the 1950s, the Next Generation Squad Weapon initiative recently picked Sig Sauer to provide the XM5 rifle and XM250 light machine gun to replace the M4 and M249, respectively. Both weapons use Sig’s in-house developed SLX suppressor system and 6.8x51mm cartridge– sold on the consumer market as the .277 Sig Fury. Meanwhile, the platforms will use an integrated optics system developed for the purpose by Vortex. 

A briefing by the Army last month immediately after the announcement that Sig was the tentative winner to supply the XM5 and XM250 was fuzzy when it came to weights and dimensions. 

“So, I — so the weights are — I’ll give a comparison to the M4 and the 249 in general weight difference,” said Col. Scott Madore, PM Soldier Lethality when asked. “So, the rifle — the Next-Gen Squad Weapon rifle is about two pounds over the M4. Now the automatic rifle is actually four pounds less than the current M249 squad automatic weapon.”

Now the Army has released the figures, with the XM5 listed as 8.38 pounds, and 9.84 with its suppressor attached. The overall length, with the suppressor attached, is 36 inches with the side-folding stock extended and the standard 15.3-inch barrel. By comparison, the service lists the weight of the M4A1, complete with backup iron sight, sling, adapter rail system, and an empty magazine, as 7.74 pounds. The length of the M4A1 with its stock extended and without a suppressor is 33.82 inches. 

The NGSW-R, the XM5 rifle, is Sig Sauer’s MCX Spear. Using a 20-round magazine, it is chambered in a new 6.8×51 caliber. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Like the combat load of the XM5 compared to the M4, the XM250 user will carry fewer rounds at a heavier weight, described as four 100-round pouches, at 27.1 pounds. The M249 light machine gun combat load, which is three 200-round pouches, weighs 20.8 pounds.

The XM250, Sig Sauer’s light machine gun, is the tentative NGSW-AR winner. Like the XM5, it is chambered in 6.8x51mm. It is expected to replace the M249 SAW in front-line service with the U.S. Army. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Is the juice worth the squeeze? The Army thinks so, saying the benchmark for the 6.8 cartridge was that it weigh less per round than the 7.62 NATO.

With that in mind, in a very real sense, comparing the XM5/XM250 to the M4/M249 is an apple to oranges situation, and it may be more appropriate to journey back to about 1965 and compare the new guns to the M14 battle rifle and M60 machine gun, both of which were in 7.62. 

The basic wood-stocked M14 hit the scales at 9 pounds empty and was, initially, carried with five 20-round magazines, later increased to seven mags. A 140-round combat load of 7.62 carried in seven steel M14 mags is 11.2 pounds, or about 1.5 pounds less than the same quantity of 6.8 as carried with the XM5.

A demo of the then-new M14 at Fort Dix in June 1959. Similar in size to the M1 Garand, with 29 of 116 parts interchangeable with that .30-06 semi-automatic rifle, the M14 was select-fire and had a larger, 20-round magazine. (Photo: Springfield Armory National Historic Site)

The M60, which was often derided as “The Pig” due to its weight, took cues from the German MG42 machine gun and, even with the use of early plastics in its furniture, weighed 23 pounds when introduced, although this was later whittled down to a more carry-friendly 18.5 pounds, both figures significantly heavier than the XM250. 

A demo of the then-new M60 before troops. The 23-pound 7.62 NATO belt-fed machine gun replaced the awkward M1919A6 and was considered much lighter than the latter 32-pound weapon, so much so that it was demonstrated firing one-handed overhead. (Photo: Springfield Armory National Historic Site)

As noted by the Army, “The 6.8 mm has proven to outperform most modern 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition against a full array of targets.”

Of Hickory shirts and Tiny Pistols

Ambrotype/tintype described as follows: “May 1861. Five enlistees from Co. K, 11th Ohio Infantry Regiment, one in uniform and three in hickory shirts, at Camp Dennison [near Cincinnati], three with bayoneted rifles.”

Take note of the extensive collection of small pistols and large knives in the volunteers’ belts.

Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress) https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2018648144/

“Summary: Photograph shows soldiers who enlisted [from] Greenville, Ohio, identified as (left to right) Lieutenant Wesley Gorsuch, Private Francis M. Eidson, unidentified soldier, Brigadier General [Brevet] Joseph Washington Frizell, and Doctor Squire Dickey, a surgeon candidate who did not muster.”

The photo comes from the time in which the 11th Ohio was a “three-month” regiment, formed from 90-day men meeting Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers. Mustered out 20 June 1861, the regiment was reformed the same day as a “three-year” regiment and was soon assigned to Cox’s Kanawha Brigade, seeing its first combat in a skirmish at Hawk’s Nest, Virginia on 20 August.

The 11th would go on to be in the thick of it at Second Bull Run and Antietam (where they have a monument noting their action and the loss of their commander, LTC Augustus H. Coleman), then transfer out West to fight at Chickamauga, the Siege of Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge (where three of its enlisted earned the Medal of Honor).

Original Veterans of the regiment were mustered out in Cincinnatti in June 1864, then many went on to join new recruits as a battalion in the 92nd Ohio for Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the Carolinas Campaign.

The last of the 11th was mustered out on 11 June 1865, following the Grand Review in Washington, at which point several likely donned plaid shirts once more. 

Meet Colt SAA SN 4552

I’ve seen, held, and help document thousands of rare guns, and the mantra is always “buy the gun, not the story,” but this one has a hell of a story to it.

Colt Single Action Army model Serial Number 4552 comes from Colt’s 5th Lot of revolvers shipped to the military in January 1874 and was then shipped from Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois where they sat until June until finally sent further West, to the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.

You know, Custer’s outfit.

Lot Five revolvers, among which this revolver falls, are noted as issued to companies C, E, F, and L along with the staff and scouts, as well as other U.S. Army personnel in the area. Its serial number mate, 4553, has been documented as being Brig. Gen. Alfred Howe Terry’s personal revolver is recorded in Terry’s personal diary. Terry, of course, was the commander of the U.S. Army column marching westward into the Montana Territory during what is now popularly known as the Centennial Campaign of 1876–77.

The thing is, 4552 kinda dropped off the Army’s radar after that.

After the battle, at least 302 of the 632 revolvers carried into the battle by the 7th Cavalry were reported lost, and “At the minimum 252 and probably closer to 280 Colt Army revolvers were recovered by the warriors during the two day battle at the Little Bighorn” as noted by “Colt Cavalry & Artillery Revolvers.”

The authors noted, “Serial numbers 4507, 4553, 4597, 4949, 4955, 5100, 5128, 5133, 5153, 5147, 5180, and 5416 all have either documented Seventh Cavalry history or some lesser degree of Seventh Cavalry history or battle association. All of these revolvers are from Lot Five.”

Fast forward to a couple of years ago and a family heirloom came into a gun shop in Colorado. An unmodified Colt Single Action with its 7.5-inch “Cavalry” barrel, complete with Ainsworth inspector marks and an early four-digit serial.

The backstory on the gun, as noted by one of the sellers outlining the provenance says the revolver has been in her family since 1915 when it was given in trade to her great-grandfather John Tooker Henderson at his mercantile shop along the Platte River in the Denver area.

She writes, “In 1915, an old Indian came to his store and traded him this revolver for a pair of pants and a blanket. He told my great-grandfather he picked it up off the Custer battlefield.”

Boom.

Ever seen an XM-10?

Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson is one of the oldest American gunmakers, only narrowly bested by Remington who claims a circa 1816 origin. While best known for their revolvers, Smith is also one of the oldest makers of semi-auto pistols in the world, having placed Belgian engineer Charles Philibert Clement’s interesting .35 S&W blowback autoloader into production in 1913. This later morphed into the Model 35, for obvious reasons.

After selling the U.S. and British military somewhere on the order of 900,000 “Victory Model” .38-caliber revolvers during World War II, Smith took an interest in a series of pistol trials conducted by the U.S. Army between 1948 and 1954 to produce a lightweight handgun that would replace not only the service’s stocks of .38 wheelguns but also the millions of M1911 .45ACP pistols.

The resulting X100 program saw Smith & Wesson’s Chief Designer, Joe Norman, develop a 7+1 single-stack 9mm pistol with a double-action trigger like the Walther P-38 and a Browning-style unlocking system. It was lighter and more compact than the M1911, as well as being more modern by far.

In the end, the bean counters decided that the Army could make do with what they had rather than buy more handguns and stuck with the status quo until 1986. 

January 1955: U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Colonel John Rentsch visited Smith & Wesson President Carl R. Hellstrom to examine the brand new Model 39. Developed over six years and through 30 prototype changes during the Army’s XM100 program, the Model 39 became the first double-action, auto-loading pistol made in the U.S. (Photo: S&W)

However, not to let six years of R&D go to waste, Smith introduced the definitive version of the T4/X100 to the commercial market in 1955 as the Model 39, and it was the first American-made 9mm available.

Model 39 ad

With that being said, there are a few XM-100s and the later XM-10 floating around. The XM-10, of course, was Smith’s 1980s attempt at again winning the same contract to replace the Army’s .38s and .45s with a new 9mm pistol, this time a modification of the company’s Second Generation Model 459, itself an evolution of the old XM-100/Model 39.

A lesson in what could have been.

One of the few S&W XM-10 trials guns floating around, complete with its factory 20-round mag. Via Jeff Zimba (BigShooterist), Poulin Auctions

Via Poulin Auctions:

TRIALS PISTOL. Cal. 9mm Parabellum. S# A883390. Bbl. 4″. An extremely rare S&W pistol to find in public hands. This is one of only 40 total mfg. w/ a minute number finding their way to the open market. Equally as rare if not more unusual is the inclusion of the original 20 rd. mag. that accompanies it.

The alloy frame is a traditional dark black while the slide, bbl. & hammer is parkerized. The serrated slide includes all of the unique features of the XM-10 project consisting of the oversized extractor, the barrel, and the bushing plus special dedicated rear sight. The hammer spur is serrated as well as the ambidextrous safety / decocker, the slide release, and both front and backstraps. Lanyard loop below pistol grip. It is interesting to note that the traditional long-time safety mechanism that disables their pistols when no magazine is inserted is not present in this example. Checkered trigger guard. Black plastic checkered grips with S&W insignia.

A letter signed by S&W Performance Center Co-Founder & former Chief Design Engineer, Paul S. Liebenberg states that: “this particular handgun was definitely involved in the military test and the condition reflects that fact, even though in actuality, the weapon is in excellent mechanical and aesthetic condition and totally original. It was never abused or used in an endurance or destruction test”.

MAGS: 1 extremely rare 20 rd. as submitted for test trials.

UNATTACHED ACCESSORIES: signed declaration of authenticity. A blue plastic S&W foam-lined shipping case w/ partially removed side label.

CONDITION: original finish on the frame is remarkably unblemished aside from a few minute handling marks. The slide finish, upon close inspection, demonstrates a little thinning in areas of mechanical intervention which occurs almost immediately and on some high spots. Some thinning on slide release is typically associated w/ holstering. Shiny bore w/ sharp rifling. The fire control mechanism appears to function correctly when cycled by hand.

PROVENANCE: Estate collection of Fred Inganamort. (22-1639/JZ). MODERN. $5,000-7,000.

Army Spends $1B on Sci-Fi Weapon Sights

Massachusetts-based FLIR Systems Inc. and Leonardo DRS of Melbourne, Florida last week pulled down a shared $1 billion Pentagon contract for advanced weapon sights.

Terme the Family of Weapons Sights-Individual, when coupled with the new ENVG-B night-vision goggles, the FWS-I gives the user the ability to accurately engage targets via offset shooting without shouldering the weapon. This includes shooting in daylight or no-light, through smoke, and under adverse weather such as rain and fog.

“The ENVG III/FWS-I integrated solution uses a wireless connection that transmits the weapon sight’s aim point and surrounding imagery directly into the soldier’s goggle,” notes the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier.

Yup, around corners, under obstacles such as cars, etc., all while giving you thermal “Predator vision”

Weight on the FWS-I is under two pounds, giving an 18-degree field of view and a range of almost 1,000 meters. The runtime on a trio of AA Lithium batteries is seven hours, which means you really need to carry some spares, but hey, these things allow you to fire from cover and concealment, and ignore the night, weather, and smoke grenades.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Army & Air Force Sniper Rifle Updates

The Army’s Picatinny Arsenal earlier this month announced it has ordered an additional 485 of the service’s newest bolt-action sniper rifles, the MK22, from Barrett Firearms in Tennessee. Also known as the Advanced Sniper Rifle and the Precision Sniper Rifle, the MK22 is based on Barrett’s Multi-role Adaptive Design, or MRAD, platform. It is part of a program to replace the service’s existing Remington-made M2010 bolt guns, as well as the M107 .50 cal.

The MK22 is a version of Barrett’s popular MRAD bolt gun, which can be swapped between three different calibers on the fly, hence the “Multi Role Adaptive Rifle” abbreviation. The MK22 is part of the Army’s Precision Sniper Rifle Program, which also includes the Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25×56 optic – complete with a flat dark earth coating and the Army’s patented Mil-Grid reticle – on a Badger Ordnance mount, along with a suppressor and a sniper accessory kit. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Meanwhile, the Air Force is almost done fielding 1,500 new M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifles. The SDMR is a variant of HK’s 7.62 NATO G28/HK417 rifle that includes offset backup sights, a Geissele mount, OSS suppressor, Harris bipod, and Sig Sauer’s 1-6x24mm Tango6 optic.

A sergeant with the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fires the M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDMR) at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (Photo: Spc. Michael Schwenk/New Jersey National Guard)

Why does the Air Force need 1,500 SDMRs?

More in my column at Guns.com.

How time flies when you don’t need ADA

U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade fire an FIM-92 Stinger during an air defense live-fire exercise alongside soldiers with the Croatian Air Defense Regiment. This training is part of Exercise Shield 22 at Kamenjak near Medulin, Croatia on April 8, 2022 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Yountz)

Air Defense Artillery has been a facet of the modern battlefield since at least 1911 when 2LT Giulio Gavotti of the Italian Air Flotilla, lobbed four small Cipelli grenades over an Ottoman camp in Libya, from his Taube monoplane during the Italo-Turkish War. In the U.S. Army, this meant the birth of AAA, moving from early 3-inch M1916/M1917 “balloon guns” in the Great War to the .50 cal in various mounts (M2, M16, M45), 37mm (M1), 40mm Chrysler Bofors (and its later M19 and M42 SPAAGs), and the 3-inch M3 in WWII.

By the Cold War, we had the radar-directed 120mm M1 Stratosphere, the 90mm M1/M2/M3, the 75mm M51 Skysweeper, and the 20mm M163/M167 VADS, with all but the latter replaced by missile systems evolving from the Nike family to Hawk (augmented by Redeye) and, finally, the Patriot.

The only late Cold War-era SPAAG on the chart was the disastrous Sgt. York system which was never fielded, and it was left to the M48 Chaparral, a stripped-down M113 APC chassis carrying four modified Sidewinders, to provide an umbrella over the immediate battlefield in what was termed Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) until it was withdrawn in the 1990s.

Since full-capability Patriot batteries are not small things that can be shlepped around easily, and are typically a division or corps-level asset except under special circumstances, this left brigades to make due in the SHORAD mission with light ADA battalions consisting of man-carried Stingers MANPADS or, in the case of mechanized units, the Avenger system which was just a Hummv with a few Stingers and a .50 cal M3P. The typical TOE for an ADA battalion since Chaparral was retired in the early 1990s was for 36 Avengers or 24 MANPADS teams to defend a brigade or about one system per 150 or so Joes.

The thing is, once the Cold War ended, the wheels fell off ADA in the U.S. Army.

Facing no realistic and immediate air threat since the IFOR/SFOR mission ended in 2004 and Saddam’s air power had been destroyed the year prior, ADA at least at the brigade level and below got the same treatment that the CBW guys have always had. Chaparral and Hawk had long been retired, even from the National Guard. VADS was gone as well. Of the more than 1,100 Avengers delivered, fewer than 400 remained in inventory by 2017, and a lot of these were dry rotting in Guard armories.

After all, South Korea can largely take care of its own air defense needs in the event of an all-out war with the stuck-in-the-1960s Norks, and if China went for Taiwan, that was clearly going to be a problem for the Navy, so why bother? I mean, the Air Force says there will always be air superiority, right? 

In a more staggering bit of news, it was just detailed by Raytheon that the Army’s stockpile of Stingers is at least 18 years old for the newest models and, with a potential need to replace “over 1,400” Stingers sent to Ukraine courtesy of a drawdown from U.S. war reserves, the pipeline could take months if not years to reopen.

“We’re going to have to go out and redesign some of the electronics in the missile and the seeker head,” Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told investment analysts Tuesday during the company’s quarterly earnings call. “That’s going to take us a little bit of time.”

Because time is always the thing you have the most of when suddenly needing air defense.

Happy 200th, Sam!

On this day in 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and merchant, and Hannah Simpson Grant welcomed their first child to the planet. With his name chosen from ballots placed in a hat, the boy became Hiram Ulysses Grant, although the first name soon dropped out of common use by the family.

Speaking of names, by the time young Ulysses made it to West Point at age 17, his local Congressman had made a clerical error on his nomination to the military academy, enlisting him as U.S. Grant. Classmates soon bestowed him with a simple “Sam,” and he graduated almost dead center of his year, 21st of 39, in 1843.

Leaving the Army after 11 years, which included the Mexican War and the California Gold Rush, Grant went through a period of extreme stability and, in the end, found that civilian life did not suit him.

However, when the great war between the states erupted in 1861, Grant’s efforts to rejoin the U.S. Army were turned down by McClellan (ironically) and Nathaniel Lyon in turn, so he settled for a colonel’s appointment in the Illinois state militia. Before the autumn leaves fell, he was a Brigadier General of Volunteers. 

Soon, the Western Campaigns through Missouri and Kentucky and then along the Mississippi called and Grant’s star rose meteorically, ending as the first four-star general in the nation’s history in 1866, then eventually as the Commander and Chief in 1869.

Good old Sam.

A mosaic of five photographic prints taken in Cairo, Illinois in October 1861, only 6 months into the Civil War. It shows Brig. Gen. Grant (Commander of the District of Southeastern Missouri), in the middle, with his staff officers Clark B. Lagow, William S. Hillyer, John Aaron Rawlins, and James Simons. This photo image is from Library of Congress DIG-ppmsca-55864.

Sig’s $4.5 Billion Army Rifle, Machine Gun Contract: By the Numbers

Here are some interesting data, dates, and figures to keep in mind on the NGSW contracts:

XM5 – Designation of the Sig Sauer NGSW-Rifle as adopted. The rifle, Sig’s MCX-Spear design, is intended to replace the M4 Carbine in use with “close combat forces.” Once it has been fully adopted and released, the “X” will fall off, making it the M5.

 

Sig Sauer NGSW XM5 rifle
The XM5 is based on Sig Sauer’s MCX-Spear rifle system (Photo: Sig Sauer)
Sig Sauer NGSW XM5 rifle
Chambered in a new 6.8-caliber round, it is suppressor-ready and uses 20-round magazines (Photo: Sig Sauer)

 

XM250 – Designation of the Sig Sauer NGSW-Automatic Rifle as adopted. The weapon, Sig’s Lightweight Machine Gun design, is intended to replace the M249 SAW Carbine in use with “close combat forces.”

 

Sig Sauer XM250 NGSW machine gun
The XM250 is Sig Sauer’s LMG, and is belt-fed, using the same suppressor and cartridge as the XM5 (Photo: Sig Sauer)
Sig Sauer XM250 NGSW machine gun
It is reportedly four pounds lighter than the M249, while using a more powerful round with a greater effective range. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

 

XM157 – Designation of the Fire Control system, a separate contract awarded earlier this year to Vortex, to provide an integrated optic to be used on both the XM5 and XM250.

 

 

6.8x51mm – The Common Cartridge family of ammunition to be used by both the XM5 and XM250. The first types will be general-purpose, blank, drill/dummy inert, a reduced range training cartridge to allow the Army’s current ranges to be used, and high-pressure test rounds.

$4,500,000,000 – The total contract value if all options are taken for Sig Sauer to manufacture and deliver the XM5 Next Generation Squad Weapon Rifle, the XM250 NGSW Automatic Rifle, and the 6.8 Common Cartridge Family of Ammunition, as well as accessories, spares, and contractor support, over the next 10 years.

$20.4 million – Funds authorized for now to Sig covering weapons and ammunition that will undergo further testing.

$20 million – Amount of the contract awarded to Winchester earlier this year to plan the production of new NGSW ammo types at the contractor-run Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri. Lake City has already been providing projectiles for Sig Sauer and the other competitors to use on their cartridges during the prototyping phase.

$2.7 billion – Maximum amount of the 10-year contract to Vortex to provide the XM157 Fire Control optics system for the NGSW firearms. The Army said this week the weapons will be fielded as a system, with both the rifles and machine guns carrying the same optics and suppressors.

140 – The number of rounds carried by the average XM5 user. The XM5 ammo loadout is seven 20-round mags for a weight of 9.8 pounds, compared to the current M4 loadout of seven 30-round mags (210 rounds total) for 7.4 pounds, meaning XM5 shooters will give up 70 rounds and carry another 5 pounds in a total weapon, optic and ammo load compared to the M4.

400 – The number of rounds carried by the average XM250 user. The XM250 ammo load per automatic rifleman is four 100-round pouches weighing 27.1 pounds. Compare this to the current SAW gunner who carries three 200-round pouches (600 rounds total) for 20.8 pounds. In other words, XM250 light machine gunners will lose 200 rounds and add 3.6 pounds compared with the M249 SAW load. While the XM250 is lighter overall, the ammo is heavier and the new optic adds 2.6 pounds to the system.

16,348 – The number of XM5 rifles planned to be purchased by the Army in Fiscal Year 23.

1,704 – The number of XM250 machine guns planned to buy in FY23.

17,164 – The number of NGSW fire control modules planned to be purchased by the Army in FY23.

27 Months – The length of the Army’s rigorous testing and evaluation process prior to down-selecting Sig this week.

500 – Number of Soldiers, Marines, and special operations personnel involved in 18 touchpoints and more than 100 technical sub-tests during the past 27-month evaluation.

20,000 – Hours of user feedback garnered from Soldiers and Marines in the testing process.

120,000 – Soldiers in the Army’s active (COMPO 1) and reserve (COMPO 2) close combat force– identified as infantrymen, cavalry scouts, combat engineers, medics, special operations, and forward observers– who will use the NGSW platforms. Army spokesmen this week said other units and specialties will continue to use legacy small arms. “For example, the company supply sergeant will continue to carry M-4 or another weapon, not the Next-Gen Weapon.”

250,000 – Current ceiling of NGSWs in the contract. With that being said, the Army stated this week the current thinking is to field 107,000 M5 rifles and 13,000 M250 machine guns initially, roughly an 8:1 ratio.

Two pounds — The weight that the XM5 rifle is heavier than the current M4 it is set to replace.

Four pounds – The weight that the XM250 machine gun is lighter than the current M249.

3-to-5 Years – The length of time Sig Sauer will remain as the primary supplier of 6.8 ammunition to the Army as the military ramps up production at its own facilities. After that, it is expected the company will still provide ammo to the Army as a secondary source.

10 Years – Potential length of this week’s contract between Sig and the Army, broken into annual ordering periods.

65 Years – The last time the Army fielded a new weapon system of this nature– a rifle and machine gun along with a new caliber family of ammunition. The previous date was 1957 when the M14 and M60, in 7.62 NATO, replaced the M1 Garand, M1918 BAR, M1 Carbine, and M1919 machine gun.

2023 (3rd quarter) – When the Army expects its IOT&E– Initial Operational Test and Evaluation– a major program milestone that, will be completed on the NGSW, paving the way for full-rate production.

2023 (4th quarter) – The year the Army expects to equip the first unit with production NGSW variants, as detailed in a Pentagon press conference this week.

2026 – Expected start date of 6.8mm ammo production at a new building constructed specifically for the purpose at Lake City.

2029 – The theorized date mentioned by Army spokesmen this week when 6.8 ammo production “perhaps open it up to commercial vendors like we do with the other calibers.”

2032– The year this week’s Army NGSW contract with Sig concludes.

The Army’s Plan to Replace the M4 and M249 with a 6.8mm Super Gun Family is Underway

In the cumulation of a story I’ve been working on and filing installments on since 2017, in what could be the biggest change in American military small arms in 65 years, the U.S. Army announced a major new contract for Sig Sauer this week.

The Army’s award on Tuesday of a 10-year firm-fixed-price follow-on production contract to New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer covers the manufacture and delivery of the new XM5 Rifle and the XM250 Automatic Rifle, as well as the weapons’ fodder– the 6.8 Common Cartridge family of ammunition.

The big prize of the Army’s four-year Next Generation Squad Weapon program, the XM5 is intended to fill the role currently held by the M4 Carbine series while the XM250 will replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, two 5.56 NATO weapons that have been on the frontlines for decades.

XM250, left, XM5, right

More in my column at Guns.com.

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