Tag Archives: True Velocity

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.”

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.

Beretta will offer their NGSW Rifle to the People

Firearms powerhouse Beretta has announced it will support True Velocity in the production of the proposed Army Next Generation Squad Weapon and develop commercial variants. 

The announcement came this week during SHOT Show in Las Vegas, where True Velocity is exhibiting. True Velocity’s subsidiary LoneStar Future Weapons is the prime contractor in the group’s bid for the NGSW program, an initiative to replace the Army’s current 5.56 NATO platforms with a new series of small arms using a 6.8 caliber cartridge. The variant submitted to the Army for testing is the RM277, chambered in True Velocity’s proprietary 6.8TVCM composite-cased cartridge.

In addition, Beretta will take the lead in developing a semi-automatic variant of the RM277 rifle intended for sale in the U.S. commercial market. The latter could prove exceptionally popular should the platform secure the potentially huge NGSW award.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig Delivers Commerical NGSW-R Variant to the Consumer Market

I’ve been talking a lot over the past couple of years about the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program- which is rapidly coming to a head. While Winchester recently won a contract to set up the Army’s Lake City Ammunition Plant to make the NGSW’s 6.8mm ammo and Vortex pulled down a huge award to make up to 250,000 advanced optics for the weapons, the Pentagon has not decided which version of the NSGW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle to order.

Current contenders for the weapons platforms themselves include Sig Sauer and two teams made up of defense contractor General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems, working with Beretta and True Velocity; and AAI/Textron partnered with ammo firearms maker Heckler & Koch. 

Well, it seems Sig is confident enough about winning the big teddy bear when it comes to the NSGW-R that they are now releasing a commercial variant of it, the MCX-Spear in .277 Fury (the company’s civilianized 6.8mm NSGW round.)

The Sig Sauer MCX-Spear is a multi-caliber platform that can swap between .277 Fury, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7.62 NATO via a simple barrel change at the user level. It has rear and side non-reciprocating charging handles, a 6-position folding stock, a lightened free-float M-LOK handguard, and a full-length Picatinny top rail for optics and accessories.

The overall length on the Sig Sauer MCX-Spear is 34.1-inches with the stock extended while the weight is 8.38 pounds. Listed with a 13-inch 1:7 twist, it looks like this will require an SBR stamp.

More in my column at Guns.com.

U.S. Army just a breath away from the Next Generation of squad weapons

The Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons program– which plans to replace the 5.56 NATO caliber M4 Carbine and M249 SAW with two new man-portable weapons that share a common 6.8mm caliber– is right around the corner from becoming a reality.

In the past week, Picatinny Arsenal and Project Manager– Soldier Lethality, have issued a $20 million contract for Olin-Winchester to set up the Lake City Army ammo plant for the production of the new 6.8mm rounds in General Purpose (GP), Special Purpose (SP), Reduced Range (RR), and blank cartridges.

Next Generation Squad Weapons program submitted cartridges

This was almost immediately followed up by the selection of Wisconsin-based Vortex to supply as many as a quarter-million optics for the country’s planned Next Generation Weapons platforms. The 10-year contract, announced late last week, covers the production and delivery of up to 250,000 XM157 Next Generation Squad Weapons-Fire Control systems.

With the ammo being set up for production and the optics package selected, all that is left for the NGSW program is to announce the winner of the contract for the weapons themselves. The current contenders for that award, as listed by the Army, are SIG Sauer, General Dynamics– OTS, and Textron Systems.

An award is likely sometime in the coming weeks and would stand to become the biggest change in combat small arms since Curtis LeMay ordered a batch of early AR-15s from Colt for his USAF Security Police in 1962. 

More Vulcans

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a 10-year contract to General Dynamics-Ordnance & Tactical Systems for new M61A1 Vulcan 20mm guns.

The firm-fixed-price award, for $88,275,000, was granted to Gen Dyn by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, based at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Classified as an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity requirements contract, it will cover the purchase of new M61A1s in support of the F-16 fighter aircraft. Of this amount, some $7.8 million in funds set aside for Foreign Military Sales were obligated. Notably, 25 overseas allies fly the aircraft along with Venezuela, which probably doesn’t rate FMS dollars anymore.

Battlefield Vegas’ 20mm Vulcan nicknamed ‘The Hand of God’ at the Big Sandy Shoot October 2018. (Photo: Ben Philippi / Guns.com)

More on the Vulcan contract, and Gen Dyn’s work on the Next Generation Squad Weapon for the Army, in my column at Guns.com.

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Could the Army Ditch Brass for Plastic?

The hybrid polymer-cased cartridge, developed by Texas-based True Velocity as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program, is compatible with legacy firearms as well.

The 6.8mm TVCM composite case design, coupled with the Army’s 6.8mm (.277-caliber) common cartridge projectile, was originally developed and optimized for use in the NGSW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle submissions submitted to that military program by General Dynamics-OTS. It performs better ballistically than 7.62 NATO and weighs 30 percent less.

However, using what True Velocity characterizes as a “switch barrel” capability, they have demonstrated it can work with much of the Army’s currently fielded small arms including the M240B belt-fed machine gun, the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and the M134 minigun.

Which could mean that, even if NGSW tanks, there could be a revolutionary advance in the ammo used by U.S. troops in the near future.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig Shows off Planned Army Future Weapons

Sig Sauer, as I’ve covered a few times in the past couple of years, is one of the three teams who are in the running for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons, a group of guns using the same 6.8mm caliber that is set to replace the M4 and M249 families. Further, they are the only one that is solely a firearms company and plans to do everything in-house as opposed to the other two teams which are made up of several sub-contractors. 

Their submission:

Sig’s MCX Spear series carbine aims to be the Army’s NGSW-Rifle, replacing the M4. Standard features include a fully collapsible and folding stock, rear and side charging handle, free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, fully ambidextrous controls, and a quick-detach Sig Next Generation suppressor. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Sig’s Lightweight MMG is a belt-fed general-purpose weapon intended to become the Army’s NGSW-Automatic Rifle, replacing the M249 while hitting the scales at 40 percent lighter and with a round that has double the effective range of 5.56. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Both platforms use Sig’s 6.8mm hybrid ammunition, which is billed as offering a significant reduction in weight over traditional ammo while offering better performance and greater penetration while using a 121-grain bullet. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Further, Sig thinks they are positioned to pull it off, a move that, when coupled with the fact that their P320 pistol has been adopted as the M17/M18, would give the company the Pentagon small arms hat trick with the exception of 7.62 caliber platforms.

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