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Army Is One Step Closer to a 6.8mm Next-Generation Rifle
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Army Is One Step Closer to a 6.8mm Next-Generation Rifle

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NEW YORK – January 18, 2019

There are signs that the US defense Ministry is ready to carry out a radical reform to replace small arms, due to the military failure in Afghanistan, which in 2017 was a turning point in favor of the Taliban.

The Pentagon needs an excuse and the generals immediately explained that failures and problems are due to outdated small arms, saying that rangers are fighting with "rifles of the fathers" — M4 carbine (and its modifications). In other words, the growth of US defense spending coincided with an amazing "objective necessity.”

Meanwhile , for decades, small arms advocates have pushed for a replacement for the M16/M4 weapons carried by most soldiers, marines and special operators. Recall that in 2010, the Pentagon announced an industry competition to replace the assault rifle M4. It is rightly criticized for weak performance, and its unreliability has become a byword. Then among the candidates for the replacement were Heckler & Koch HK 416 (according to the American classification of M27 IAR with a caliber of 5.56 mm) and Barrett REC7 with a caliber of 6.8 mm and XCR-M 7.62×51 mm cartridge, schematically similar to the AK-47.

According to Business Insider in 2019, American troops are expected to receive many new weapons and equipment. First of all, in the Marine corps will receive the long-awaited replacement of the M4 to M27. Note that the purchase of 15,000 Pentagon automatic rifles M27 became possible after the manufacturer, the German company Heckler & Koch, dropped the price from $3000 to $1300 for the rifle. Of course, "German" is a better option than the disgraced in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan "American" M4. However, this does not present a final solution to the "small" issue.

The thing is that in the US, in parallel with the contract between the Pentagon and Heckler & Koch, there was a leak of secret documentation about the tests of nine M27 in 2016, according to which "the rifle system is far from optimal reliability." So, when shooting a cartridge MK. 262 5,56×45 mm NATO, there are no issues. However, if you use the more powerful M855A1 (which, incidentally, is widely used in the Marine Corps), there are serious problems with the flame arrester.

The M27 rifle has performed poorly with loads at higher cyclical shots characteristic of the M855A1. Even with a short turn, the flame arrester does not have time to discharge the powder gases, which results in a stop of shooting. Or the soldiers literally go deaf from the thundering bang and are blinded by the muzzle flashes. In the automatic mode, it is extremely difficult to shoot powerful M855A1 ammunition from the M27.

However, the Marines, who have already fought with the M27, were generally satisfied  with this weapon. "German" has a bipod of Harris, providing a stable shooting position and, consequently, high accuracy. “It's two in one,” writes expert Kyle Mizokami from NI, “at long and medium distances, it works like a sniper rifle, at short range it works like an infantry machine gun.” However, you need not be confused with cartridges, replacing powerful ammo to M855A1, MK. 262. when shooting at targets up to 100 meters.

In combat, the use of two types of cartridges is bad and regarded as a necessary measure, so the Pentagon generals chose "German,” with the reservation: "time will tell."

We also add that Heckler & Koch actually banned Americans from using other optical sights and accessories, except those that are included. However, those are little things... the more powerful M855A1 cartridge has a negative impact on the operational characteristics of the weapon.

There have already been cases when the weapon had to be written off after 3000 rounds of automatic fire. The fact is that cracks appear on the camera shutter and along the edges of the gas outlet hole. In this regard, the Senator from the Republican Party, Loretta Sanchez, a member of the committee on the armed forces, said that the use of this ammunition is hardly realistic in the context of a major war.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is planning another revolutionary innovation. At the annual forum of the National Military-Industrial Association “Weapons Systems,” Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Runoff, who is responsible for the small-caliber ammunition program, announced that in fact the decision to switch to 6.8 mm (or 6.5 mm) caliber cartridges was made. According to him, it was an extremely difficult decision, but it was enthusiastically taken by the front-line commanders.

As is known, the M27 rifle in the HK417 version is designed for a powerful 7.62 × 51 mm NATO cartridge, so Runoff’s statement indicates that the anti-German lobby in the Pentagon has won. In fact, the US Department of Defense chose five gun companies to provide six prototypes for an automatic 6.8 mm caliber weapon to test them in June 2019. These corporations are: AAI Corporation Textron Systems, FN America, General dynamics-arts ink. PHP Tactical, LLC and Sig Sauer Inc.

Apparently, the Americans will take the best of the “German” M27. The good thing is that they have good experience in its use and fully examined all the constructive pros and cons of the creation of the Heckler & Koch company. Most likely, this explains the “strange” leakage of the critical report from 2016, although purchases of M27 were made only in 2018 with the delivery of this year.

We also note that the new American cartridge will have all the “sweet” (according to Andrew Runoff) characteristics of a heavier 7.62 mm ammunition, but it will be lighter by 10%. What the sleeve will be made from, the Lieutenant Colonel didn't specify, but said that "it will definitely not be brass." Two options are considered - a special polymer or a special composition of steel. In any case, the American army will have an advantage over the Russian troops in small arms, which are more focused on 5.45-mm rounds for the Ak-12 and 7.62-mm for the AK-15.

It is expected that the prototypes of the intermediate caliber for the new rifle program, which Andrew Runoff announced, are planned to be tested by the end of 2019, while the next-generation wonder-rifle will be sent to US units by 2022.

Author: USA Really