FN Herstal

Ask SSD – “How Mature Is The SIG Machine Gun Design?”

After our articles on the new SIG Lightweight Machine Gun or SL MAG, we were asked how mature the design is.

Well, they’re obviously very serious about it. They’ve already written a -10.

The SL MAG in 338 NM ran fine during the demonstration I witnessed at SIG Range Day. However, I heard there were a few stoppages during the ISOF Range. Considering this is its first public outing, we think the design is very mature. In fact, a similar model is SIG’s entry for the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Other Transaction Authority Production Opportunity. We look forward to seeing how these guns fare throughout further testing.

44 Responses to “Ask SSD – “How Mature Is The SIG Machine Gun Design?””

  1. JB gleason says:

    Forgive my ignorance here. What role is this meant to serve? Is this a replacement / addition to the M2? A replacement for the M240?

    It looks to be somewhere in size between the two. Where does it fit?

  2. d says:

    I haven’t been following this all that closely.

    Is SIG manufacturing the General Dynamics gun we’ve seen in the past, or is this a different gun?

  3. Strike-Hold says:

    “US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Other Transaction Authority Production Opportunity”

    No wonder its belt-fed – you need an ammo can just to carry the program name!

  4. AbnMedOps says:

    “.338”? Hmm. Needs more metric system.

  5. SpankDaddyCool says:

    IIRC, this MG comes in under 20lbs compared to the 240 at 27.6 and increases the range by several hundred meters. I hope it works out to be as reliable as the 240. The 240 got its US start with Ranger Batt in Mogadishu, firing thousands of rounds in a VERY short amount of time w/o a spare barrel. Would be interesting to see a “smaller” version of this with a 6mm caliber that could replace the SAW.

    • Hodge175 says:

      My platoon was testing the earlier MAG58 in Batt back as far as 1989/1990 maybe 91 time frame.

      • SSD says:

        Right on, M240G. You guys were the first unit with them. In 3rd Group, we took MAG58s into Haiti and didn’t get the M240 until after we got back.

        • Kirk says:

          Wait… What? Where did you guys get actual MAG58’s from? Loaners from FN, or something…? I knew the various SF groups had some MAG 58s for foreign weapons familiarization, along with the L7, but this is the first I’ve heard of actual FN-style MAG58 guns being fielded as organic weapons…

          Are you sure those weren’t M240s with the FN-provided dismount kits? This is the first I’ve ever heard of actual MAG58s being used by any US unit, other than in weapons familiarization and testing.

          Also, there’s a comment with links in it stuck in moderation, replying to d, down below.

  6. SVGC says:

    SSD, any idea if SIG has worked on a tripod for this to take more advantage of the weapon system and cartridge or is it just being used with existing tripod systems?

    • Kirk says:

      That’s the $64,000.00 question. This is one of the things that convinces me that most of the people working on our small arms don’t actually have much of a clue about what the real problems we have are.

      A bipod-mounted gun with PFC Joe Schmedlap ain’t going to be able to hit much past 800m no matter what gun system you put in front of him. Correcting fire is going to be a waste of time, because he’s going to be changing his set from group to group, so consistency to adjust from is not going to be there at all.

      Most of the people I’ve seen and heard discussing this matter seem to fundamentally misapprehend the nature of the problem–The gun and the cartridge are not the reasons why we’re not answering distant MG fires effectively. The actual problem is that the guns we’re firing back at the enemy are essentially incapable of reaching the full potential they have because of the fact we’re firing them off of bipods and human shoulders.

      I’ve argued this many times in the past, and it’s like pissing into the wind: The M122/192 are completely inappropriate to use in a dynamic environment like a foot patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan. They take too long to get into a stable firing position, require too much work to create a flat and level firing table, and are generally only suited for work in a prepared defensive position. What is needed is a tripod support system that can actually be quickly emplaced, leveled, and not need a flat surface to fire from. There are any number of modern tripods available on the open market, but we’ve never seriously considered any of them, let alone tried designing something better. I had hopes when I heard of the M192 program, but when I actually saw the end-product, I despaired; obviously, the people running that cock-up have no idea at all about what the requirements actually are for running an MG in a dynamic tactical role, and have never stuck their heads up over the foxhole to examine what other armies around the world do with their MG support systems.

      I’ll start to believe they’re serious and know what they’re doing about the whole MG issue when someone runs up a decent tripod or other solution for supporting the gun itself. I’m not married to the idea of a classic tripod; in my opinion, we ought to be building something like a PackBot RWS that’s either self-propelled enough to get into the fight alongside the troops, or that you can manpack.

      • d says:

        Got a link to a tripod that you’d consider good?

        • Bruce says:

          A slightly beefed up version of the Brit tripod for the L7 / M240 / MaG might do the trick.

          The only problems I ever encountered with these were, firstly, the old footsloggers bane; weight.

          The other is the tendency for the troopies to damage the engaging teeth on the leg angle adjustment. TRAINING and some re-engineering are needed.

          If you want to get all Gucci, the “head” / buffered gun mount could be mounted on a “ball and socket arrangement, similar to those used on serious movie / video camera tripods.

          Judicious choice of materials and GOOD engineering are essential “components”.

          Finally, unless something akin to the C2 indirect fire sights are used for long-range “attitude adjustment”, the whole thing is a pointless and ludicrously expensive dispersal of tax-payers money.

          We are in danger of reverting to the days of the Gatling gun, which was seen as “ultra-light artillery”. Mortars do some serious dealing at MUCH greater ranges . Heavier ammo, lighter launchers. A LOT of folks need to stop watching cheesy war movies and read the actual accounts of those on the sending AND receiving end of actual machine-gun (and mortar) fire.

          • Linz says:

            UK L4 tripod?
            They are pretty beefy as is: you needs a lighter version for a start.
            It’s also Ye Olde Design…I think you can do better.

            • Kirk says:

              Titanium and carbon fiber would do a lot to lighten that design…

              Personally, I think the wave of the future is to mount the guns on something like a PackBot with a CROWS-style mount, and let the gunner and gun team leader stay back under cover. It floors me that we’re still putting our gunners out there with optics that require a cheekweld in the early 21st Century.

              How long have we had periscopic sights, again?

              • SSD says:

                It’s around 20 lbs, fires 338 NM and is controllable.

                • Kirk says:

                  I started to vent, a bit, here… Then, it occurred to me that this probably was meant to go somewhere else in the thread.

                  Because, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in reply to what I was responding to about the UK L4 tripod being too heavy. Something I tend to agree with, BTW.

        • Kirk says:

          d, let me throw a couple links to pictures up, and preface those by saying that most of these systems would need work to fully adapt to modern use:

          FN MAG:

          https://www.gunauction.com/buy/8505538

          http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/File:FN_MAG.jpg

          Note the how adaptable that little feature of extendable legs is, there.

          Canadian C7 style:

          https://www.armyrecognition.com/images/stories/europe/belgium/weapons/mag_fn_herstal/pictures/mag_fn_herstal_machine_gun_mitrailleuse_7-62_mm_Belgium_Belgian_Defense_Industry_011.jpg

          Lafette 34/42 for MG34/42:

          http://www.bergflak.com/lafette/Lafetteindex.html

          All of the above are better options than the M122/192 for mobile dynamic operations. I wouldn’t suggest that any of the are the perfect solution for our needs, but they’d be a hell of a lot closer to what is needed than what we have.

          The key thing is, you have to have a tripod that’s adaptable to the terrain, not be forced to adapt the terrain to the tripod. You want to be able to get the gun into a solidly supported firing solution, one where you can use the T&E mechanism to adjust fire quickly and consistently. The other thing is, the tripod needs to be easily leveled in at least the left-right axis, or you’re going to play hell correcting fire due to the effect of not having your sight plane properly aligned with the barrel. Fore-and-aft isn’t as big a deal, but the left-right axis and whether or not you’re canted is critical. If you have a tripod where the legs are adjustable, you can get the gun into a position to where it is able to effectively use that T&E a lot quicker, and you’ll be able to make fine adjustments on where your beaten zone is hitting out to about 1800m.

          What’s regrettable is that a lot of this stuff is a lost art. I’ve been railing about the deficiencies of the tripod system for I don’t know how long, but because we’re a mechanized force that only really uses the MG for mounted operations, well… No priority to fix these issues. If we were an infantry-centric ground force, and didn’t just use the MGs as glorified automatic rifles, well… It might be different. Up until Afghanistan, the US Army did not see a need to even train the MG team for dynamic dismount operations. What’s really aggravating to me is that we’ve steadily kept on doing the same stupid shit with the guns, and when we don’t see improvements, then wonder why.

          It isn’t the gun or the ammo. It’s mostly the support gear and the training. How many gun crews stay together for an entire tour? How many units take their guns out into rugged terrain, and then practice delivering fire from hasty positions out to the full capability of the guns, while practicing movement? Who trains their leaders to do this kind of thing, and then actually leaves them in charge of the teams they trained for long enough to gain actual expertise?

          I’m confident that I could fix this issue of being unable to answer PK fires from outside the 800m envelope pretty easily with a commander who gave me the resources–And, I’d be using most of the standard gear we already have. First thing I’d do would be find some of the tripods I highlight above, buy them with unit funds, and then I’d stop all turbulence in the gun crews and leadership while I trained the shit out of them up in actual mountains. I’d also make sure that all my PL and gun crew leaders had the tools they needed, like binoculars with reticles and some cheap rangefinders. Do that, properly train in dynamic fire support, and I wager nobody would want to be within 1500m of that unit and fire on them with a PK. Why? Because they’d have effective return fire coming down on them within seconds.

          I wish I still had access to an old Wehrmacht training film that showed German Gebirgsjager up in the Caucasus. Those guys were shown on the march up in the mountains going from open march order on a trail to firing back across a valley within like 60 seconds off of a Lafette 34 tripod, and silencing the Soviets who were shooting at them. It is possible to get a hell of a lot more out of our gun systems than we are, but we just aren’t doing what we need to do in order for that to happen.

      • SSD says:

        There’s no requirement for a new tripod

      • Chad says:

        exactly. but that won’t line cronie’s pockets (or future employers) with as much cash as a whole new weapons system so it will probably never happen.

        • Kirk says:

          Y’know… As cynical as I am, I’m not sure I would say that that’s the real problem with this. I’m of the opinion that it’s more a case of people not knowing what they could do with a proper MG setup, and the general ignorance all too many have about “the old days”, in terms of what could be done with them.

          Much of what I’m describing and talking about with all this is “lost art”, to most people. I’ve known guys who were light infantry who were completely lost about what you can do with a tripod-mounted MG.

          I don’t know why, either, but I’d speculate that the “Big Army, Big War” mentality has a lot to do with it. When all your MG fires are coming off of vehicles, and you’ve got things like the Bradley and Abrams on tap, well… That tripod-mounted MG looks a little silly. But, when you’re on foot and don’t have all that wonderful support fire…? You absolutely have to know how to get the most out of the guns.

          • Pete says:

            100% spot on. Current (US Army at least) teaching and practice really doesn’t emphasize precision at distance with the gun. Gunners know how to use the M192 T&E to get some area effect out at distance, yes, but ask most Weapons Squad guys how many mils a lever bump on an M192 T&E represents and they’ll just look at you funny. “Well Sarge it’s a minor adjustment and a bold adjustment.. i dunno.” That’s not to say that the adjustments on an M192 are that precise to begin with though so there’s that too.
            I would argue your point about the M192 taking too long to get into a stable firing position though. I think the strength of the M192 is it’s weight, portability, and how quick it is to set in actually. A decent AG can do the ninja star flip and flop set with that thing pretty dang lightning fast.

            • Kirk says:

              The “Yes, but…” bit is that the M122/192 give you such little adaptability to the terrain that it isn’t even slightly humorous. You can’t change the command height of the pintle, you can’t adjust leg length or angle, and if you’re not in a nice, level position in relation to the targets you need to service, you’re pretty much ‘effed in the ass.

              The thing about those three families of tripods (FN, UK/Commonwealth, and Lafette) is that all of that is quickly and easily adjusted. You throw a bubble level on those, and you’re golden for getting the gun into a decent plane of fire.

              One of the things a lot of gun crews miss (because they never really train on the tripod except on those idiotic WWI-style firing table ranges we insist on building…) is that you have to get the gun into a parallel plane with the target, and keep it there if you’re going to use the sights and T&E together to quickly dominate the terrain. If there’s cant, in any axis other than fore-and-aft, the gun is not going to consistently drop rounds where you think they’ll go, based on corrections with the binos from the observer/gun crew leader. The tripod needs to be level and stable in the left-right axis in order for those three things to work together consistently. Getting that to happen with the ridiculously primitive M122/192 is difficult, if not virtually impossible in the fleeting moments you have to return fire and hit the enemy before they withdraw or move.

              If you’re out on the flatlands, an M122/192 can fill a lot of your needs, but it’s still a pain in the ass. That fixed command height means you’re having to build firing tables to fire from windows in buildings, where everyone else is just setting their command height to match most of what they find out there. Not to mention, it’s really a lot more efficient to adjust the tripod to terrain/cover than it is to adjust the terrain to the tripod… I have nightmarish memories of being private, and scrambling to get set up with my M60 to fire over a fallen tree that was 18″ in diameter and while providing nice cover, meant that there was about 20 minutes of frantic digging to pile up enough dirt to get me the 12″ I needed to set the tripod in. The Germans would have just extended a couple of legs, changed an angle or two, and then would have settled in for a nice break while waiting for someone to wander into their sector of fire…

              And, yeah… I’m a lazy bastard. Always have been.

              • Kirk says:

                I have no idea why some of that came out bolded the way it did… Weird.

                Last one is a true Freudian slip, though… 😉

              • Pete says:

                OK, in that sense I take your point. I guess having never really used anything but 122s and 192s, I didn’t think about that element. Now that you bring it up, that’s true, there is a lot of fiddling and E tool work necessary in prepared positions and it does actually limit placement of SBF for ambushs and raids. Now that I think about it, a lot of the difficulty in finding a good spot to set in SBF during a leaders recon would be alleviated by that.

              • Pete says:

                My reply disappeared. dang.
                I take your point though now that you mention it Kirk. Having never really used anything but a 122 or 192, I guess I never really thought about that aspect of things. It’s just the way its always been to me that there’s all that extra fiddling or e tool work setting in a prepared position or selecting a SBF site during leaders recon. Now that you mention it, that would really make those things easier.

                • Kirk says:

                  It’s not just the static uses like SBF, either–Ideally, you want a tripod under the gun whenever you fire it, if only for the capability it gives you.

                  The difference between “A little to the left, more towards that big rock…” and “Left 600 mils, up 200…” is immense, and if that’s how your gunners are used to working with the gun crew leadership, you’ll find that you’re actually using less ammo for the same tactical effect.

                  What’d they use to say about “Smoke is the thinking man’s artillery shell…”, the idea being that you’d drop a single smoke round with the first volley, and then correct from there? Tripods are the “thinking man’s mode of MG employment”, because of what you can do firing off of a steady, repeatable, and above all, incrementally precision adjustable firing platform.

      • Seamus says:

        FAKE NEWS

        MANUFACTURED CRISIS

        Clearly you didn’t look at the picture. I shows obvious mounting holes on the bottom of the receiver for a pindal and mount. That would very easily allow for it to attach to tripod.

        BTW every belt fed in the military is capable from a tripod and being mounted to a turret, I would HIGHLY DOUBT this is any different, considering it would likely have to be reverse compatible for all the CROWS, Vehicle Turrets and RWS systems in the Army that were built for M249-M2 that this gun would obviously replace.

        Talk about pearl clutching hysteria.

        • Kirk says:

          Reading comprehension isn’t really your strong suit, is it?

          The subject of the discussion is not whether the gun is adaptable to a tripod, but whether the current US set of tripods is actually capable of supporting the mission this gun is supposed to fulfill. Which I’m gonna go out on a limb and say “No, the M122/192 series of tripods is dangerously incapable.”

      • balais says:

        Say what you want, but the Germans were ahead of the curve with the Lafette tripod.

        That was what? over 70 years ago?

        • Kirk says:

          The Lafette 34 and 42 were based off of the Danish DISA tripod for the Madsen LMG, believe it or not…

          The irony is palpable, because the Madsen LMG has got to be one of the most amazingly obtuse (yet, fairly successful) MG designs ever conceived and put into production. You look at the mechanism, and once you do, you realize you’re basically looking at an MG based on a friggin’ Martini dropping block action, just automated to death. Also, long-recoil operating principle… It’s insane, on the face of it all. Yet, it works…

          If you go look at Forgotten Weapons for the video Ian does on the weapon, there’s a good series at the end showing the DISA tripod for the thing. It’s an amazing piece of equipment, all the way around.

  7. Dave says:

    Did the Army produce that yet to be fully numbered -10, or did Sig produce that to look like an Army TM?

    • SSD says:

      SIG wrote it, but TMs are written by the manufacturer.

      • Dave says:

        I understand that Sig is responsible for the intellectual content of the TM. I was wondering about production. More specifically, did Sig have a printer make a -10 facsimile, or did APD produce that physical TM.

  8. Pete says:

    I would love to see a serious comparison of the current gen 7.62 belt feds US Ord M60E6, FN M240L, Barrett M240LW & M240LWs, KAC LMG 7.62, FN Mk48, Sig’s new gun and throw in some wazoo stuff like UKM2000 + South African and Israeli stuff. This new push to these .338NM guns seems to me a good time to break away from the mold of having the vehicle turret mounted and the dismounted infantry MG be one and the same gun. That mold is what leaves us with the REALLY reliable M240 series, but also with the drawback of that gun’s weight and unsuitability to being fired from the shoulder kneeling or standing. It seems to me this is a good opportunity to make those vehicle mounted guns dismountable, but not THE dismount gun and have the standard dismount gun be a much lighter and shoulderable 7.62 gun. The Barrett M240LWS, the M60E6 and the KAC LMG 7.62 all seem like really measurably better dismounted infantry machine guns.

    • Kirk says:

      I’d second that in a heartbeat.

      Key thing is, though… The guns need to be evaluated as systems, including everything that the gun crew is going to carry–Spare barrels, tripod, T&E, all the rest.

      And, further–I think there needs to be a clearly outlined “This is what we need the gun to do, within the system of tactics and operations we will use it under.”.

      There are a bunch of features about modern MG systems that I really don’t care for–One of which is that ultra-slow rate of fire everybody is in love with. 600rpm is fine if you’re doing close-in work, but if you’re trying to saturate a beaten zone out past 1200m, you need something faster, or the guys you’re shooting at are going to be able to find cover or get down before the burst is finished. That’s one of the key reasons that the MG42 had that supposedly “excessive rate of fire”, and it’s a point that our MG “experts” have continually missed since WWII. The Germans didn’t have that happen by accident: That high rate of fire was a deliberate design choice.

      I’ll grant that 1200rpm in a close-in fight is not a good thing, but I’d prefer to keep that option open for really long-range engagements. The last bullet ought to be hitting out there about the same time the first guy is going down, in order to make sure that all of your targets in that squad-size beaten zone are still standing and unaware of the danger. At least, that was the German explanation I got from a former Landser who was a fully-trained MG42 gunner and MG team leader.

      We keep seeming to do this crap in an absence of mind. The M122 was really obsolete when the Browning .30s went away, and they should have spent some money to improve the utility of the tripod they put under the M60. Assuming they stay on this path, we’re probably going to have the spectacle of using the same inadequate basic tripod design under four generations of guns covering over a hundred years. Which is kinda akin to the notion that we might as well still issue the old BAR magazine belts for the M4 Carbine…

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