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US Army Considers Adopting an Interim Battle Rifle in 7.62 NATO

According to multiple sources, what started out as a directed requirement for a 7.62 NATO Designated Marksmanship Rifle for issue to Infantry Rifle Squads has grown in scope to increase the Basis of Issue to all personnel in Brigade Combat Teams and perhaps beyond. The genesis of this requirement is overmatch. The troops feel like they’re in a street fight with a guy with longer arms. The 7.62x54R cartridge gives the enemy those longer arms.

Consequently, the Army wants to enable the rifleman to accurately engage targets at a further range than the current 5.56mm. Although at this point, I’ll keep that exact exact distance close to the vest. The goal here is to foster a dialogue about the 7.62 requirement in general, and not offer operational specifics.

It’s important to establish right up front that 7.62mm is not the Army’s end goal. The “Interim” component of this capability’s name relies on a plan to eventually adopt one of the 6.5mm family of intermediate calibers. Currently, elements of the Army are evaluating .260, .264 USA and .277 USA. The .260 is commercially available while .264 USA and .277 USA are developments of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Unfortunately, the US Army doesn’t plan to conduct an intermediate caliber study until the early 2020s. That’s why they want to adopt 7.62mm now. The idea is to adopt the Battle Rifle to deal with a newly identified threat with what’s available now, and transition the fleet to an intermediate caliber cartridge, once its selected. Additionally, the transition to this proposed intermediate caliber cartridge is possible from a 7.62 platform. Such a transition is all-but-impossible with the current 5.56 receiver sets.

The path of least resistance may well be to adopt an existing 7.62mm Government Off The Shelf (GOTS) weapon. It means less oversight and is quicker to put in action. There are currently four options, although the first one I’ll mention hasn’t even been discussed.

First up is the M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle. This option, isn’t even really an option. Brought back into limited service during the early years of the war, it suffers from numerous shortcomings. However, it did validate the need for a 7.62 rifle option.

Second, is the Mk17 SCAR-H. Built by FN, and designed to meet USSOCOM’s SOF Combat Assault Rifle requirement, it is a modular platform with a simple swap from one caliber to another. This makes it very attractive for a planned transition to a new cartridge. However, the platform was adopted after a competition between 5.56 weapons and was not evaluated for adoption against other weapons in its 7.62 configuration. Unfortunately, it’s not a panacea. There aren’t nearly enough in inventory so the Army would have to buy more, but that’s true of any of the GOTS options. Finally, the Mk17 uses a proprietary magazine, adapted from the FN FAL which is less than ideal.

The third option is the M110 Semi-Auto Sniper System. Currently in service with the Army as a Sniper weapon, it is manufactured by Knight’s Armament Co. As a system, SASS comes with a rather expensive optic and some other accessories not for general issue. On the plus side, it has been adopted by numerous other user groups and a multitide of variants are readily available. It uses what most believe is the best of the 7.62 AR-style magazines and is considered industry standard.

The final GOTS option is the newly adopted M110A1, Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System. Manufactured by H&K, it is a variant of their HK417 platform, or more specifically, an Americanized G28 sniper rifle. It utilizes a piston system which many prefer over the M110’s M4-style direct impingement gas operating system. However, as a weapon system, it incorporates an expensive optic and a rather unconventional suppressor system. Additionally, it uses a proprietary magazine. Essentially, it would need to be “dumbed down” for general issue.

It’s important to note that if any of one these platforms is adopted for this role, it will require some changes as mentioned above because they were all adopted for other requirements.

However, the Army may evaluate these GOTS platforms and determine that none of them meet their requirement. In this case they may very well issue an RFP to industry. There are definite long-term advantages to this course of action. For example, the Army can get exactly what they want, rather than adapting a weapon originally procured for another purpose. Additionally, the Army can leverage the latest in small arms technology such as the new short frame receivers. Interestingly, these may well turn out to be more appropriate for use with an intermediate caliber cartridge.

In order to take full advantage of the range of the 7.62 cartridge, the current draft requirement for the IBR calls for a 1×6 variable optic.

Obviously, a transition to the heavier 7.62 cartridge means a reduction in the basic load of the Soldier, to just under half of the current 210 rounds. That is a serious consideration; perhaps the most important for Army leaders to contemplate. Obviously, transition to the intermediate caliber cartridge will mean more bullets per Soldier, but there must be continued development of polymer cases or telescoping rounds to take fully realize this increase in lethality.

Other factors to consider are the additional weight and recoil of a 7.62mm Battle Rifle. Let’s face it, the military transitioned from the M14 to the M16 for multiple reasons, and one of those was weight savings. Soldiers are also going to require additional training to take full advantage of the new capability. Increased engagement distances also mean Soldiers will require access to longer marksmanship ranges.

Additionally, word is that the Army desires a sub-MOA gun. If this is true, they are setting themselves up for failure because M80 Ball is not sub-MOA ammunition. Even the M110 is required to often 1.3 MOA accuracy. Something similar occurred in USSOCOM’s Precision Sniper Rifle program where the ammo was not spec’d to the same level of the rifle which fired it. If the Army tests any of these rifles, even if built to deliver sub-MOA precision, with an ammunition which delivers 2-3 MOA, they will get 2-3 MOA results. It’s the old story of the weakest link, and the capability will be considered a failure because all of the variables weren’t considered. You want an accurate rifle? Make sure you use accurate ammunition.

Then, there’s this whole ‘interim’ concept. Too many times I’ve seen capabilities that were sold initially as an interim and ended up never being replaced with the proposed final capability. There’s always a chance our Soldiers could get stuck with a 7.62 rifle if the planned caliber study doesn’t pan out or worse yet, DoD faces another budget challenged situation similar to the sequester. As we’ve learned, we go to war with the Army we have, not the one we wish we had.

While the change to the intermediate cartridge could be accomplished with bolt and barrel swaps, which is less expensive than completely new rifles, the Army will still need to transition to a new ammunition. That would be two ammunition transitions in less than a decade and three within 15 years, if you consider M855A1.

To be sure, this is a very exciting opportunity for the US Army. It could well mean the first major upgrade to the Soldier’s individual weapon in half a century. My concern, as always, is that the Army doesn’t rush into something it will regret, and that it creates a realistic requirememt, having considered all factors, including ammunition and magazines, which continue to plague the M4. As the DoD budget grows over the next few years, there will be money enough to make rash as well as bad decisions.

On the other hand, there will be institutional momentum against this concept. The Army must not let those voices drown out the requirement to overmatch the reach of our enemies on the battlefield. If the requirement is valid, then it must be supported. The rifle is the most basic weapon in the Army’s inventory.

Instead, the Army must navigate the middle path, carefully considering its near and long-tern requirements. The M16/M4 with its 5.56mm caliber have been in service for over 50 years. The next rifle may well be in service just as long. Or, until Phased Plasma Rifles in the 40-watt range, are available.

197 Responses to “US Army Considers Adopting an Interim Battle Rifle in 7.62 NATO”

  1. Brian Foley says:

    This recurring argument, 5.56mm or 7.62mm is stale. This issue has been argued since the late 1950’s and here we are right back where we were back then. All the while the “bad guys” soldier on with a weapon system designed in 1947. Yes, the “bad guys” currently use 5.56mm…just like we do, but the “tribal bad guys” make do with 7.62mm very nicely. Maybe what is needed is some thought into how we train our “guys” and how we utilize them. The old sports adage about how it’s the player, not the glove, that makes a play might be appropriate.

  2. SemperFi, 0321 says:

    The key issue you’re all missing; New and Improved!
    The US is the worlds leader in new and improved sales policy, we could have the perfect infantry weapon in 6.75 Whizbang and next week someone will be trying to change it out for another improved 5.588mm SuperDoubleBoom model.
    As someone else mentioned, this and the cammies will bankrupt the US military, it’s gone beyond insanity, well except for buying airplanes.
    Having been issued the M-14 and M-16, and seeing how they both shoot just fine, another new round somewhere in the middle should be the perfect fix, no? Let’s see how far the bean counters get in a yr (or decade) with this.
    And for my choice, something along the lines of a .260 Rem will shoot far and flat. But being from Wyoming, what would I know about long range Afghan terrain.

  3. Luddite4change says:

    And the Army just realized this was a problem? After 50 years of facing rifles firing 7.62×39. You really need to justify to the taxpayer why it’s so critical now that we need the move to 7.62 then to an improved final solution.

  4. GMK says:

    “Interim” has a habit of becoming permanent. Just look at the Stryker “Interim Armored Vehicle” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stryker)

  5. Will says:

    Little late for April Fool’s jokes

  6. Bart Ives says:

    The key controlling factor when choosing a new weapon for our Infantry Soldiers is Women. The country is no longer able to field an all volunteer force in the numbers required without women. That is why they are now being rolled into all of our combat roles. Weapons based on the AR10 frame are a no-go. Weapons based on bolt actions, no-go. Any weapon system currently heavier than M4, no-go. Any weapon longer than the M4, no-go (have you ever seen a female soldier carrying a M16, muzzle dragging in the dirt?)

  7. rip says:

    The M14 has been putting bad guys in the ground for over 60 years, it’s Papa has for almost 78 years….and many of you think a FAL type will suffice? …Not.
    most of you aren’t good at math either because you keep thinking 5.56 equals 800 meters…..it should have never been adopted in the first place.

    This isn’t about rifles, or ammunition size, style, weight, or any of that. It is about panic. The inability of the human to calm down, take precise shots, and subdue the threat…..when all hell is breaking loose around them. They panic every time. Start spraying rounds everywhere, shoot their own guys, etc.etc.

    Bottom line, keep the M14 and the gazillion rds. we already have,…take the money you would have spent on changing something that isn’t broke, and teach the little dweeb video gamer crowd how to act in a combat situation.

    Hypnotize them all if you have to. Drug them, do whatever it takes to teach the little turds to stand and fight, and quit worrying about dying. A D.I. can’t even slap a new recruit now !!!….what the hell has happened to our so called Army. It isn’t an Army any more, it’s a bunch of boy scouts that have never been trained to kill yet, and stay alive while doing it. Precision shooting, that’s the issue here.

    • Mikial says:

      Sorry, rip, but I worked DoD security contracts for 2 1/2 years in Iraq, and have made multiple trips into Afghanistan. American troops are not Boy Scouts that have never been trained to kill in the field, they are the finest soldiers in the world, bar none. I was in several actions with them and attended more than one Memorial Ceremony, so I respectfully suggest you show some respect and think before you speak.

      Also, from your post, were you saying “keep the M14 and the gazillion rds. we already have,” or did you mean M16?

      • rip says:

        Respect ?….Ok. FYI, I am a 100% disabled American Veteran ….copy?
        Vietnam Era….and I know what it takes to train killers. Not soldiers I am talking about, but killers. There is a difference you know….and don’t talk to me about respect for the dead until you dump your best buds over the side into the deep six doing 22 knots…..daily……with no memorial…..please. Thx.

        The training has slipped is all I am saying. You can’t train hard men with soft tactics designed for women too….Oh, it may look good on paper, and they may appear trained to the teeth and hard as nails to the untrained eye,…

        but when the firefight comes and the chips are down, tell me nobody was looking for some yonder ? Hard cover ?….or were they immediately returning precise cover fire? so their troops could get to cover…leaving their self exposed while doing it?………this is about sacrifice, like carrying more than your share of the load, up to and including heavier battle rifles and support ammo….and from what I saw at Camp Shelby on many units before their deployment, most of the youngsters were all about themselves, the older reserve guys,…. good to go. I would fight with them any day. I suppose it’s a generational thing. Values. Morals….non-existent in the young ones. Just my humble opinion from training ACT, ….YMMV.

    • Dev says:

      I’ve read some pretty dumb shit on Soldier Systems over the years. This definitely ranks up there somewhere.

  8. Ole Cowboy says:

    We have a multi-dimenisonal battlefield: Fighting in Vietnam where even the M 16 was to long and the chances were that in a firefight you could see the whites of their eyes was the norm. Combat in the cities brings the short barrel again to the forefront, then suddenly we are plunged into the killing fields of the ME where big caliber and long barrels become key combat multipliers.

    That said I have some real bad news for some…you can NOT have it both ways! But there may be a solution: (example only) The AR 10 platform is well adaptable to both 7.62 and .243 by a upper swap. Upper swap would give us the ability to mission tailor for caliber and barrel length. Add to this superior marksmanship training to include sniper training at the BCT level and now the better training soldier can make use of a better weapon.

    I like the 6.5 and with Weatherby’s release of the 6.5/.300 based upon the 6.5 Creedmoor. This could possibly be a solution for the short and long? If not at least we should be thinking about this approach.

    • oghgul says:

      The army puts an 80-pound pack on soldiers backs in the field to chase down fighters that carry only the AK and ammo. Old Cowboy mentions the 6.5 Creedmoor, he is right and it has already been evaluated as an excellent long-range hard hitting round. Soldiers that trained while carrying the M1 Grand in 30-06 became accustomed to the weight, and won WWII with it, our troops in Korea did very well with it against the SKS and Aks of the communist forces. Someone said the M14 had a lot of problems, having joined the Army in 57 I can say the M1 Grand or the M14 never gave me any problem. If we need a different weapon I would go back to the M14 but in 6.5 Creedmoor, then train our troops on a 500-yard range and for crying out loud put a bayonet back on them. For longer ranges adapt a squad formation with one sniper capable rifleman in every squad. Weight of ammo and rifle is not a consideration, just train until every soldier makes the grade and if they can’t we need medics, commo, supply, and clerk types to support the fighters.

  9. DOUG says:

    Looks to me that the Army is once again trying to cover training issues with technology. True, the 5.56 is not a great battle cartridge. True also is that it was not originally designed to be a battle cartridge. There was a lot of political intrigue involved with the adoption of the M16.
    John Cantius Garand had the right answer almost a hundred years ago now; the .276 cartridge. Now the Army is looking at pretty much the same ballistics but a smaller case size. The ballistics of the 7mm Mauser cartridge are in the direct path of what the Army wants in an “intermediate” (?) cartridge and this is shown in ballistics table beside the 6.8 SPC cartridge.
    IMHO, the military establishment always falls prey to a new ”whizzbang” idea of how some magic can be conjured with a new platform and a new cartridge when the real issue is range time and training. Most military recruits these days do not come from backgrounds of firearm ownership and proficiency.
    Worrying about the ammunition load vs the effective use of the ammunition available is a witness to the mindset of “volume of fire” vs “fire effectiveness”. Saying that our troops are “outgunned” by a 100+ year old cartridge is ridiculous. We have machine guns in .30 cal and the SAW in 5.56mm to give support and riflemen to use their individual weapons for fire and maneuver. Not every bad guy is carrying a RPD! Also, we have .30 cal DMR’s that were, supposedly, inserted into platoons to give that added reach and accuracy to engage at extended ranges. Wha hoppn’ed?
    My quick and dirty fix would be to start issuing an M16 in 6.8 SPC as quick as possible since it is a known performer and was engineered to fit the M4/M16 platform and has the ballistic capability (with proper bullets and loading) to extend the average rifleman’s performance out to 500+ yards, if he is trained properly.
    All the Army is trying to do is use it’s R&D budget money so that they can get more next budget period. It happens every day. If the military PTB’s wanted a new toy, they would have had it by now.
    “It’s not important that we do anything, it’s important that we look like we are doing something.” (gov’t workers motto)

  10. James says:

    Seems like the Army has come to the same conclusion you guys have regarding the 6.5. The .264USA is likely to be a slight improvement over the Grendel while not being as overbore as the .260, or requiring a full sized AR10 rifle.

  11. Tarjei T. Jensen says:

    Hi,

    Going for 7.62×51 will solve a lot of problems. You get decent anti-materiel and armour piercing capability of a well rounded ammunition type. No helmet can stop the round.

    The M-16 probably comes from the necessity of providing firepower from before the squad machine gun (German style squads) arrived. Hence a lot of spraying and praying with individual guns instead of letting the machine gun do the talking. Performance against such things as cover, was probably not that important since there were heaps of artillery, aircraft, etc to do the heavy lifting.

    So, it may be that when the US now encounters an enemy with long range capability, the infantry tactics are reevaluated in light of this. And it may be found that going for 5.56 was not a particularly good move everything considered. And that 100 rounds that can easily pierce cover is preferable to the pray ands spray legacy. And there are heaps of vehicles capable of carrying more ammunition.

    I have hauled around a G-3 rifle with 5 magazines with 100 rounds. The Norwegian infantry person used to be trained to do directed semi automatic fire and letting the machine gun do the suppressing. We don’t fire into the air. Ever.

    During peace operations in Lebanon, it is supposed to have been worrying for the Israelis that were examined the target of an attack that were completely shot to pieces with rifles and machine guns. No holes elsewhere.

  12. AbnMedOps says:

    Maybe this time Robinson Arms will remember to ship a blank adapter with their candidate rifle.

  13. Gman61 says:

    Isn’t a little late for an April Fool’s joke?

  14. Mikial says:

    A well written and well considered article. All too often decisions are made based on a single factor, and similarly, often the people calling the loudest for change are not the people who will be the end users. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that there are a lot of factors to consider.

  15. Nuno Gomes says:

    It would like to point out that many armies and terrorist groups use body armour today.The 7,62x51mm should be evaluated under the premisse that future wars will be fought against soldiers/non regular troops that are better protected than in the past.
    Under this condition the 7,62 will be a better round than the 5,56mm…

  16. G DESMARAIS says:

    what is wrong with the ar15 platform in 6.5 Grendel???it would just require a barrel change and bolt carrier group…we already have the rifles and the 6.5 has better ballistics than .308…the perfect solution…

  17. Mitch Shoffner says:

    On March 30 at the AIMS IX Conference shoot at Ft AP Hill, Osprey Combat demonstrated their 6.5X43mmZ with the Invictus weapon platform. Shooters had no problem hitting the 800m pop-up target with a 14.5″ AR15E rifle.

    This system gives long range and power in a lightweight system. It also allows the use of all the sights and innovations for the AR/M16 system, and large battle loads of ammo.

    Mitch

  18. Pappy Patchin says:

    I look at the wording and recognize ‘interim’. While everybody’s cousin lines up to get a piece of the graft (the camouflage consortium) a solution may be to adopt the PKM. It’s readily available, our friends the Russians would love to get a piece of our defense money (all our computers come from China) and no one’s congressional district could compare to labor from a good Russian laborer. While we are using the PKM the money guys can sort out the most profitable weapon while not actually caring about the end user. We sharp end of the stick guys understand the problem. The safe people only see dollars.

  19. Steven S says:

    “Then, there’s this whole ‘interim’ concept. Too many times I’ve seen capabilities that were sold initially as an interim and ended up never being replaced with the proposed final capability.”

    This reminds me of the “Interim Armored Vehicle” *cough* Stryker *cough*.

    Also, in times where budgets are unpredictable and too small, someone thought it would be wise to push this “interim battle rifle” bs.

  20. TheTuna says:

    I have been issued and used both the M14 EBR and M110SASS as a Designated marksman in OIF. In my experience, the M14 was a sub optimal choice. My squadron had 4 DM’s per troop. All of us had issues with m14’s holding zero, and maintaining anything close to a 1.5 moa. Some were as bad as 4 moa. I believe those had leupold mk4’s. i bought some larue rings which helped some, but the inherent inaccuracy was still an issue. that sucker was also very front heavy. I either rolled with the M14 with 6 mags total, or my M4 if we were going to be doing raids or something up close like that. we also lacked the support of having night optics, which didn’t help.

    On my second deployment my PSG was tight with the ODA on our FOB and acquired a M110 to use instead of the m14. MUCH better experience with that that set up. Glass was superb ( i want to say it was Night force, obviously regular army wouldn’t get those)and the suppressor was money. I found it much easier to maneuver in close quarters, as it was much better balanced. I also liked having a manual of arms like the M4’s. Accuracy was very close to 1 moa consistently.

    All of that to say I’d be happy to see the guys get m110’s or something newer and fancier. And can we please issue a night vision optic with them? hard to “own the night” with your PVS 14’s either on your head and no scope, or on your scope and having to aim at everything you want to see…. just sayin…

  21. Rob says:

    https://www.falkordefense.com/rifles/norma/

    Cheaper and better…..WAY better. Check out the barrel specs.

  22. RH says:

    This is very simple. Select an AR10 or LR308 variant battle rifle with open sights. If an optic is needed, add one. Uses standard AR10/LR308 magazines which are readily available. Sub MOA is achievable by many brands out there. Commercially these rifles are available for around $1700 to $2800 so the military will pay $5,000 to $6,000 each.

  23. Tom says:

    As others have commented,the Eugene Stoner AR 10 is a logical choice,as it is functionally identical to the current M16. It is in 7.62 but can easily be converted to any .308 cased spin offs by simply changing the upper. A logical choice would be the .260 Remington,as it is considered to be an extremely accurate round which carries its power down range better than the .308.

  24. A. Nonymous says:

    Only one tangential mention of LSAT in the whole thread? Last I heard, it was making good progress and research was ongoing into a production caliber, with the 6.5s in the lead.

    Is this outdated or incorrect information? If not, then how far is LSAT from potential service? If it’s close enough, why keep fiddling with “interim” solutions as opposed to adding money to bring the long-term solution farther to the left?

    • A. Nonymous says:

      I should also point out that outside of a brief mention of XM-25, there has been little discussion of airburst or guided munitions for long-range infantry engagements.

      Given that within this program’s timeframe, the infantry will have XM-25, Pike, Switchblade, and a couple of other man-pack UAV/GLCM systems available to us (plus PGK/PGMM/APKWS/SDB-1&2 from supporting arms), it seems to me that trying to force rifles (and riflemen) to optimize for the 500-1500m bracket is a waste when you account for the opportunity costs involved.

  25. Phillip Owens SFC Ret says:

    My question is are we preparing for the type of combat we have been fighting or are we preparing for the type of combat we will be facing in the coming years? Long range lethality or shorter range maximum firepower?
    Accuracy or spray and pray.
    While the wounding capability at short range with the 1:12 twist of the .556 created considerable damage it was not capable of penetrating the brush effectively as the heavier 7.62/39 or the 7.62/54.
    What kind of warfare are we to face in the future.
    That seems to me to be the most important factor in the decision process.

  26. TOB says:

    In the article .277 was mentioned. Anyone familiar with the 277 Wolverine cartridge? Good ballistics, only requires barrel change on std M16. Same bolt and magazines because it uses the native 5.56 case (shortened). Offers better downrange performance than 5.56 at out to about 50% more range. Regardless, the average rifleman (even with more training) is unlikely be shooting at more than 300m. A better weapon deployed in a squad marksman scenario seems a good solution with the rest of the squad carrying something better than 5.56, but everyone shooting the same cartridge from the same basic platform. However maybe 2 SM’s in the squad, not just one. I was the SM in RVN and only one of me was often not enough. Everyone would be trained on both guns but not everyone carries it.

  27. Malcolm says:

    7.62×54R is the Mosin Nagant cartridge.
    7.62×51 is the NATO cartridge.
    I’m guessing that was a typo in the beginning of the article?

  28. Schelz87 says:

    This is dumb Army institutional thinking at its best if this report is true. This makes no sense from any practical perspective. A “few” adversaries have 7.62×54 weapons so let’s equip every grunt with a 7.62? it would be a ton cheaper to have BCT’s supplied with longer barreled upper receivers for their current m4’s so they can increase range for specific threats in specific theaters of operation that way they can switch back to carbine length weapons when in urban terrain and to that end provide mk77 rounds to realize the rifles potential. Maybe throw a mark 48 in the squad instead of a saw and then just develop the new DMR if that’s really necessary. Also free float rails make sense if accuracy at range is an issue. This doesn’t need to be the next beret or ucp incident.

  29. ASchur says:

    Perhaps if none of the existing platforms are sufficient Remington can offer up their own version of the DPMS G2 or maybe even Colt with their multi caliber M.A.R.C 901 system. Both companies are no stranger to the politics of the game.

  30. Jill Smith says:

    Alas, As many have mentioned indirectly, I believe this process is a moot point. Money and politics will not let this trial find the best gun/ammo possible. Congress men and weapon /ammo manufacturers plus preconceived solutions from the higher brass will arrive at a solution for their best interest. Not the soldiers. If this were a trial by soldiers and the soldier developed decision would be accepted then great, trial away.