Tactical Tailor

Total Game Changer – USSOCOM & USMC Take First Steps Toward Adopting a .338NM Lightweight Medium Machine Gun

In a move that will turn the term “Overmatch” on its ear, the United States Special Operations Command, in conjunction with the United States Marine Corps has issued a sources sought notice for 5,000 Lightweight Medium Machine Guns in .338 Norma Magnum. The Russian PKM is a primary concern for dismounted infantry and the LWMMG doubles the 1000m effective range of the PKM.

Specifically, they are seeking producers who can provide:
-complete machinegun system to include weapon, suppressed barrel, and tripod
-any tools needed to conduct basic maintenance

In short, the capability will provide a machine gun which is lighter than the current 7.62mm M240, yet offers nearly the reach of the .50 M2. However, unlike the M2, this new capability will offer pinpoint accuracy at those ranges. What’s more, with the introduction of polymer cased ammo, the weight of ammunition comes much closer to 7.62 than .50.

LWMMG specifics: The LWMMG should fire the belted .338NM round of ammunition with a polymer case. The LWMMG should weigh less than 24 pounds unloaded with a barrel length of 24in. The LWMMG should have a rate of fire of between 500-600 rounds per minute. Weapon shall be compatible with current rail mounted aiming systems with the ability to incorporate more advanced fire control technology. The system should include both a suppressed barrel and an unsuppressed barrel that can be rapidly changed. The LWMMG should include a tripod that is lightweight and provides the stability and accuracy required to engage targets at extreme ranges. The LWMMG should be able to mount in current machinegun mounts designed for the M240B/C. The weapon should have sufficient accuracy to engage area targets and vehicles at 2,000m.

At the recent NDIA Armaments Symposium, USASOC DCS G8, COL Samuel Ashley briefed this capability. The capability has been sufficiently demonstrated to move to procurement. However, COL Ashley related that this new capability will require new ootics amd target acquisition solutions.

To be sure, adopting a new cartridge is an expensive endeavor, but in this case, the new capability more than outweighs the cost. Additionally, SOCOM plans to introduce the caliber to its upcoming multi-caliber Advanced Sniper Rifle, along with a legacy 7.62 NATO and .300NM round.

One interesting point in the RFI is the mention of two types of barrels. One is a standard barrel and the other is suppressed. Notice they didn’t ask for a suppressor, but rather a suppressed barrel. As GD has demonstrated the weapon in use with a detachable suppressor in the past, this indicates they must have developed an integrally suppressed barrel. The amount of Interal Reasearch and Development Dollars GD has put into this weapon is impressive.


This 2016 chart from a Jim Schatz briefing to industry depicts the weights of the M240, LWMMG and M2. In addition to weapon upgrades, Polycase technology is going to further lighten that load, or better yet, increase the amount of ammunition a machine gunner can carry.

We recently mentioned General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems’, Commercial Off The Shelf solution which this requirement is based on and is available right now, but I would not be surprised to see other vendors offer up solutions as well. I’ll keep my eyes peeled during this week’s SOFIC to see what turns up.

Some readers will get wrapped around the axel over the 5,000 number of systems in the RFI; but don’t. It’s a nice round number the government is using to measure industry’s capacity to produce the weapon. By no means is it a basis of issue plan based number.

In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century. It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator. MARSOC has been following the weapon’s development, but good on the Marine Corps writ large in seeing the value of this proposition. Hopefully, the US Army, a service very concerned about threat overmatch, will move this capability from a Future to Near-Term priority. However, based on recent directed requirement from the 4-Star level, I would not be surprised to see this happen as SOCOM’s program reaches maturity. This will not only enhance the Army’s capabilities but also help control ammunition costs.

For those interested in full details, visit www.fbo.gov.

41 Responses to “Total Game Changer – USSOCOM & USMC Take First Steps Toward Adopting a .338NM Lightweight Medium Machine Gun”

  1. TexasKrypteia says:

    I have more wood than a National Forest.

  2. SVGC says:

    This is pretty big deal and something that would’ve been hard to imagine a few years ago. USASOC really needed the Corps to get behind this for this program to pan out. Would love to see the same level of interest put into a sniper system for the Corps though. It’s hard to imagine that while their machine gunners will have a .338NM, their Scout Snipers will have a 19.5″ .308…

    • Non-operator says:

      Several years ago I had a discussion with our battalion gunner about why the Corps is still using 7.62 sniper rifles when there are multiple ballistic-ly superior calibers out there to choose from. His take was that although better options exist, it comes down to a return-on-investment from a manpower training perspective. By the time a Marine would truly master the complexities of the more capable platforms, they’re already eligible to EAS, and a majority probably would. I’m not saying I agree with this – but I think within the powers-that-be of the Corps, it’s a factor in the decision to stick with 7.62 so long.

      • SVGC says:

        If that’s a factor, it’s an extremely misguided one. It’s not somehow more difficult to master a more efficient weapon system, it’s actually the exact opposite. The same line of thinking could be applied to this machingun. A gunner once put out an article in 2009 saying just what you say you were told. The article stated the USMC Scout Sniper Program didn’t produce good enough snipers to be able to use a better, more efficient, more capable weapon system. The next month 1st MarDiv SSBC crushed and won the ISC.

        • Non-operator says:

          Agreed. I think within the Gunner community there’s embedded resistance to changing sniper rifle calibers unfortunately.

        • Core says:

          That’s the thing though, the ISC isn’t the two-way range. Once the Marines field it, we can see how they fare versus the existing loadout. They will compare data, and feedback and the proof will be in the pudding. If infantry doesn’t like the looks of something or has no faith in it, no matter how amazing it is, it will not instill confidence and will be shunned until it proves its metal.

      • Rob says:

        Even if they didn’t EAS they would be flagged for recruitment duty.

      • Core says:

        This is an excellent explanation. Fieldability is the end result. Is it more effective as a replacement in the hands of said grunt/operator?

    • Core says:

      Until the field data comes back, it’s not likely to be accepted by snipers. The 7.62N is gets the job done for precision anti-personnel but if the projected enemy has something that extends range on the 7.62N it will force us to develop a viable replacement. As we witnessed this when the .30-06 was replaced by the 7.62N. The .30-06 was in many ways better than the 7.62N but it has greater precisions lethality due to flatter trajectory. Interestingly the 7.7 Jap could be loaded to exceed 7.62N range and lethality but it wasn’t fieldable with existing projetiles and powders by Japan at the time. Despite the 7.7 having the ability to strike low flying aircraft it wasn’t practical as a precision anti-personnel platform thanks to the sighting system. In design it was a superior cartridge. So it makes you want to collect real world data on the .338NM before we assume it’s a game changer like the 7.62N actually was. The Human component to the platform is can the user apply the platform in a mnner that is effective and lethal? Does it in fact get the job done better than the 7.62N?

  3. PTMcCain says:

    Because there is no such thing as “too much bacon” and “too much firepower.”


  4. Thulsa Doom says:

    So, other than making the FN MAG with titanium bits, it seems the first major advance in the Western GPMG since the Eisenhower administration.

    • some other joe says:

      Titanium’s already been done. That’s something I can’t stand about the late Mr. Schatz’s PowerPoint on the subject. Like other presentations pushing new equipment and concepts (ones that can stand on their own already, mind you) is fudging the numbers to make your new, whiz-bang system look better. Comparing an M240B vs M2 vs this system, rather than the M240L and M2A1 is simply disingenuous.

      We accept that a gun shooting a bigger bullet and giving us vastly improved range is going to be heavier. But the argument used undermines the credibility of how much heavier. I’m already dropping ducats to upgrade my 240s to L models, how does your bigger bullet system compare to that?

      Add that M2s are rarely used without motor transport and I have a hard time understanding why I want to eliminate API capabilities. And, again, the disingenuousness in breaking an M2 into a 9-man rather than a doctrinal 4-man load.

  5. rob371 says:

    Awesome. Looking forward to a more formal RFI for carbine ammo. I know things are in the pipeline, but I think it’s moving slower than the LWMMG. Guess the “overmatch” concept got some traction.

    • SSD says:

      Like I said about a week ago, USASOCis conducting an evaluation of 20ish cartridges in .260 and 6.5 Creed. If all goes well, they’ll select one and conduct a user assessment this Fall. By mid FY18, USSOCOM should have a new caliber. In my story, I also told you that this caliber would be used in a new semi auto sniper weapon/carbine and an assault machine gun.

      • Rob371 says:

        Yup. Tracking all, believe me. I’m guess I’m just getting anxious/excited to see all of this coming out and hope it doesn’t lose steam.

    • Joshua says:

      They’re not getting rid of 5.56 for a general issue carbine round.

  6. DSM says:

    Good move.

    $10 says it’ll be fielded with a trash tripod yet.

    • BAP45 says:

      Kirk is that you? haha

    • d says:

      I think it’ll work with the current tripod, which is imperfect, but less to lug around than the old one.

    • Kirk says:

      It’d be interesting to compare the performance of this gun off the bipod with a control for what we’re normally taking outside the wire right now, and the M240 in combination with a decent tripod system and better training.

      Given what I know of historical performance with the MG42/Lafette combination, I’m not sure what we’d find out, but I think it would likely wind up being a wash. You can’t really get very good accuracy for an MG of any caliber off a bipod–You need that tripod system, and you need one that you can emplace in a variety of terrain, quickly and effectively enough to take the enemy under fire. The inability for the M122/192 to really adapt itself to anything other than a firing table in a prepared position is the source of the problem, and one thing that needs addressing no matter what gun we put on top of it.

      I’m about resigned to the US Army ever fielding a decent tripod, to be honest. They just don’t get it, and I see the only real path forward for these knuckleheads is to put the guns on some kind of Packbot-derived semi-robotic mount that can stabilize itself in all three dimensions. Call it a dismounted RAWS, or something, and that will get us a lot of what we really need–Rapid mechanically supported firing platforms for the guns.

  7. Rob says:

    This needs a Lafette!

  8. KUTF says:

    And just to think, back in the early 90s there was a very serious movement afoot to remove M60s from Army Light Infantry units because ‘…the M249 on a tripod, with a spare barrel, offered the same capability…’

    • TexasKrypteia says:

      I remember that “Retarded Moment In Military History”. They wanted to do the same thing in the USMC. Of course they now think that a heavy barrel carbine can fill the role of the SAW, so those deformed chromosomes are still floating around.

      • Greg says:

        Possibly the same people behind it.

      • some other joe says:

        Except, you know, the IAR doesn’t replace the SAW. The gunner (or rather, his leadership) now has choices for what tool to take to do the job at hand.

        But never let the truth get in the way of a good rant.

    • Cy says:

      We had to Fight to keep our M60’s back in 92. We were not allotted ammo for live fire so we had to scrounge ammo from the Bradley’s at NTC.

  9. Steven S says:

    So imagine this:

    Keep the 5.56, 12.7, and replace the 7.62 with .338 NM. All while using the LSAT technology.

    • bulldog76 says:

      you had me til you mentioned lsat

    • CAP says:

      Or better yet, keep 5.56 for the carbines because M855A1 works, replace 7.62 with whatever 6.5 round they go with, and replace 12.7 with .338NM.

      • Joshua says:

        5.56 isn’t going anywhere.

        USASOC is very happy with the performance of M855A1. That’s why they are looking at a Block III M4A1 instead of a new caliber and rifle.

  10. Hussar says:

    As a Tanker, this part caught my eye “The LWMMG should be able to mount in current machinegun mounts designed for the M240B/C”.


    • Christopher Schmidt says:

      It would push the max effective range of coaxes on tanks, Bradley’s, LAVs, etc, etc. to way beyond that of the M240. Really, with the aid of the rock solid coax mount and ballistic computer, the M240 on the M1 series is lethal waaaay past 1200 meters as it is. There would have to be a software (firmware?) update to account for the new ballistics, and ammo chutes and ready boxes would have to swapped out for the longer round, but it could be done. I would like to see a higher rate of fire for coax models, though. The model in the video had a rate of fire just a bit faster than that of an M2.

  11. jose gordon says:

    What a ferociously terrible video!!! WTF is up with that music?????

  12. Tom says:

    I vote for it as a replacement for the 240H…. It’d be nice to have a little more reach for our door gunners…..

  13. PA Shooter says:

    Awesome. Outstanding firepower and capability. Glad they are also requiring in to git current M240 mounts and cradles.

  14. HarlyPenn says:

    Overmatch? How exactly can we compare this to the PKM unless both are vehicle mounted?

  15. Bogwalker says:

    Did USSOCOM cut-n-paste the requirements from the General Dynamics LWWMG Spec Sheet?