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USMC Small Arms Modernization Update

During NDIA’s Annual Armaments Meeting, Lt Col Christopher Woodburn (USMC, Ret), the Deputy, Maneuver Branch, Capabilities Development Directorate, discussed Marine Corps modernization efforts. He began by reiterating that Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Robert Neller’s priority remains the Infantry regarding small arms.

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2017. (Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory/ Marine Corps)

Next, he mentioned the recent M27 contract and clarified that the M27 Infantry Automatics Rifle would be fielded to the entire Rifle Platoon from the Platoon Commander on down. Fielding will begin in FY18 and continue through FY20.

The M4s displaced by the M27 fielding will be used to replace remaining M16A4s in the Ground Combat Element.

Additionally, he explained that the M38 Designated Marksman Rifle variant of the M27 was a Squad element weapon and that the Squad leader would assign it to his best marksman. Marines have also begun receiving the Squad Range Finder to improve target acquisition and engagement.

Woodburn stated that the Marines continue to evaluate suppressors for use with the M27 and M4 as well as Medium Machine Guns.

Next year, the Marine Corps will begin fielding the M320A1 40mm Grenade Launcher as a replacement for the M203. It will be used in standalone mode only, and not mounted to the IAR.

The Marine Corps has also adopted the Mk 13 Mod 7, sniper rifle which has been used for many years by USSOCOM. The Marines consider it an interim capability until they can field the Advanced Sniper Rifle in 7.62mm, 300 and 348 Norma Mag in the early 20s. They will also begin to see the 84mm M3E1 Carl Gustaf. The Marines will leverage the seven different rounds SOCOM has developed for the recoilless rifle.


In other joint projects with SOCOM, the Marines continue their support of the 338 NM Lightweight Medium Machine Gun. They are also participating in the Army-led development of the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle.

Woodburn finished up by relating that the Marine Corps will begin fielding of the Modular Handgun System in FY19 to replace their legacy pistols.

16 Responses to “USMC Small Arms Modernization Update”

  1. Strike-Hold says:

    Once again the USMC takes months to do the right thing, whilst the Army takes years to get it wrong…

  2. Sneaky Nerd says:

    The Marines can take “months” to do what’s right because their procurement is smaller and a bunch of these seem like Marines piggy backing on someone else’s R&D

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      Great points. Too many buy the propaganda.

      Congrats to the Corps on the emphasis on small arms (not that all their decisions are without a counterpoint e.g. issuing every grunt the M27 vs other solutions).

      It’s not something that has only happened in the Corps, though it just seems that when the Corps does it, it gets a bigger splash.

      • Strike-Hold says:

        Fair point about the piggy-backing – but the Corps does seem to not try and over-complicate, or try to be all-things-for-all-people; in contrast to the Army.

        Maybe just a perception, but…

        • artemio says:

          When it comes to equipment RDT&E, Corps=proud remora. As the poor kids in DOD, Corps gets a significant amount of their R&D “awareness” from the bigger services, especially the Army and also SOCOM, who can invest more time, money and manpower. As a result of piggybacking/program cooperation/outright idea thievery from other services who just can’t get something across the goal line (along with a few good ideas they come up with on their own) and perhaps burdened by more bureaucracy, they can cherry-pick and field the gear relatively quickly, though still more slowly than SOCOM. They don’t always make great decisions but the Corps-wide infantry-centric focus does tend to result in a decent overall approach to grunt equipment and training.

          • Sneaky Nerd says:

            Wasn’t a knock towards them, I think it’s a smart move on their part to piggy back, but it’s also easier to not “over complicate things” when you aren’t spear heading any of it.

            I have generally liked SOCOMs process. Very end user centric a lot of times. But there are times it is not

        • Will Rodriguez says:

          “the Corps does seem to not try and over-complicate, or try to be all-things-for-all-people; in contrast to the Army.”

          Google EFV or F35B

          Not going out of my way to ding the Corps. My point is everyone screws the pooch.

          • SSD says:

            Oh yeah, the Marines has their zingers too. Take for rxMple their current interim Amphibious Combat Vehicle which is wheeled and not amphibious.

            • Will Rodriguez says:

              Yeah I was hoping they wouldn’t make the same mistake the Army did with the Bradley. Great vehicle that it is it doesn’t carry a full squad. That causes a host of problems in the field.

  3. Stash says:

    So – it’s not specifically stated, so I’m curious – no more M249 in rifle platoons? Or are they sticking around, still with 1 per fireteam?

    • sean says:

      SAWs are on their way out.

      • Will Rodriguez says:

        The SAWs or something similar will be back when we face an enemy that doesn’t primarily use hit and run tactics or when we have to fight defensive battles. The BAR, M14 and M16 in the auto rifleman role showed us that time and again. The lesson will be relearned.

    • SSD says:

      In Marine Infantry Squad? Those were replaced by M27 IAR sometime back. Welcome to the outrage of 2011.

      • Stash says:

        I got out in 2012 and my battalion hadn’t even begun fielding any of the IARs yet. I missed that fun I guess.

  4. Tom says:

    Why not simply upgrade M4’s (for less money) instead of issuing the overhyped and overpriced H&K M27.

    • Daniel says:

      Because that would make too much sense. I’ve priced out how much it would cost to upgrade the M4 to greater accuracy and reliability than the M27 and it would be a third of the cost