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Next Generation Squad Weapon Tested at Army’s Cold Regions Test Center

FORT GREELY, Alaska — It is vital that military equipment work wherever in the world American Soldiers need it, and extreme cold is a weather condition troops have had to contend with frequently in American history.

From Korea to Afghanistan, the lives of American Soldiers have frequently depended on properly functioning equipment in inhospitably frigid environments.

This fact led to a multiweek test of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely, Alaska early this year.

The XM7 and XM250 are successors to the M4 rifle and M249 light machine gun that American forces have used for decades. The new weapons boast improved accuracy and range, weigh less and fire with less recoil even though their 6.8-millimeter round is larger than the two legacy weapons’ 5.56 mm cartridge.

“The big idea behind this weapon is for close-combat forces,” said Steven Prewitt, test officer. “It’s a capability gap-filler for infantry and special forces, not necessarily an M4 replacement. It gives them a different tool.”

Even when outfitted with a flash suppressor, the XM7 weighs less than 10 pounds. The new weapon has a standard rifle scope with an etched reticle, but also much more.

“It has adjustable modes of operation where it can act like a red dot or close combat optic,” said Prewitt. “It also has a corrected aimpoint: it has a ballistic calculator and range finder built in, so if you range a target it takes into consideration your environmental conditions, the distance to target, and the attitude of the weapon to ensure first shot accuracy.”

Soldiers from the Army’s 11th Airborne stationed at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson supported the testing.

“We had an organic troop, which was nice,” said Isaac Howell, senior test officer. “We had the entire leadership from the company commander on down.”

The Soldiers and testers utilized the weapons in rigorous scenarios, from static and kinetic ranges at Fort Greely and Fort Wainwright to maneuver live fires and ultimately a 72-hour simulated mission across CRTC’s vast ranges. All the while, a team of 16 data collectors recorded information in the weapons’ battery life, hit-miss data on targets the Soldiers engaged, and a variety of human factors data involving utilizing the weapons in extreme cold.

“We knew it was going to be extremely fast-paced and that usually means there will be changes,” said Monica Gaschler, senior data collector. “We settled on 16 data collectors, which meant one data collector per three Soldiers. 14 went out in the field, and two stayed in house to do quality assurance on the data and write test incident reports.”

Extreme cold was a coveted commodity for this test, and the weather forecast delivered beyond the highest hopes of the testers.

“We were fortunate to have some pretty substantial cold weather for the duration of the test,” said Prewitt. “The last urban rifle marksmanship course we did was -54 degrees Fahrenheit when we started, so it was incredibly cold.”

“The Soldiers really got to experience what a long, cold day was,” added Howell. “Every day they went out one week it didn’t get above minus 20. The next week it was hovering in the minus 30 to minus 40 range all day, every day.”

The majority of data collectors who supported the test traveled from Yuma Test Center in Arizona, which like CRTC is under the command of U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.

“It was an endurance challenge for data collectors from the desert,” said Gaschler. “It’s rare for data collectors to be out in the field in temperatures below minus 50 degrees, but they did it without complaints. They got every bit of data, and I am so proud of every one of them.”

“We’ve got a lot of data that is informing decisions,” added Howell. “It’s very fortunate that we had a good block of cold to test this equipment, especially something as prominent as the NGSW is going to be. It has definitely been a successful test.”

By Mark Schauer

16 Responses to “Next Generation Squad Weapon Tested at Army’s Cold Regions Test Center”

  1. Paul says:

    Given that the XM250 operates with a reciprocating barrel, wouldn’t using the gas piston as a rest induce malfunctions?

  2. GSC says:

    Wait… So the M7 is NOT an M4 replacement now?

    • NTX says:

      Textbook answer: The XM7 is only intended to “replace” the M4 in close combat forces, non CCF forces are intended to continue using the M4 for the forceable future.

      Common sense answer: Soldiers, especially infantry, probably don’t want to carry the XM7, maybe some of the program personnel are realizing that and starting to craft the backup narrative.

      I don’t imagine that the touch points have been very positive for that half of the program, especially when you look at the comments.

      The overwhelming majority of publicly released comments are positive comments about the XM250, comments (especially positive ones) on the XM7 are “mysteriously” absent.

      • admin says:

        The problem with this program is that the Army continues to treat the effects of the 6.8×51 ammo as classified instead of showing them, and everyone else what this weapon does. It’s devastating. You can’t see that by picking one up or by firing it. Consequently, Soldiers (and the vast majority of commenters who have never seen an XM7 in person let alone fired it) compare it as apples to apples against the M4 and complain about the weight and recoil. The issue is, the XM7 is an Orange.

        • PB says:

          I think your comment highlights the issues that the XM7 has. The biggest benefit is in the cartridge, not necessarily the XM7. But I do think the XM7 gets undue hate.

      • Hodge175 says:

        One of the main issues with modern day America is that speculations are pushed off as fact and factual information is never presented.

      • PB says:

        The XM7 seems pretty awesome*

        I think the XM250 is definitely much more of an improvement, but the XM7 is still an increased capability. That said, I think it’s pretty foolish to have it completely replace the M4 in combat units. I could see it being given to the riflemen in fire teams and being a plus. Leaders don’t need it and should focus on leading, grenadiers should focus on the M320 and save weight with an M4, automatic riflemen get the awesome M250.

        * actually, the bimetal 6.8×51 and XM157 seem pretty awesome.

    • admin says:

      Not for ALL M4s. It never was. Just Close Combat Forces M4s.

    • Ian says:

      Low information internet dopes ran with “getting rid of the M4!” like their hair was on fire. Again, this was never the case.

      Just do the math:

      Total Army manning = 1,073,200 (As of July 31, 2023)
      M7 Army Acquisition Objective = 111,428
      M250 Army Acquisition Objective = 13,334
      Total NGSW = 124, 762

      That leaves 948,438 Soldiers unaccounted for…so OF COURSE those folks will still use M4s (if a rifle is assigned to them, anyway).

      • Eric G says:

        Last time I looked at the numbers, the delta is just under 984,000 M16/M4. Yeah, there are are still some M16s running around. Two weeks ago, the Army issued an RFI for more M4s.

  3. Evstathios Palaiologos says:

    Quote: “weigh less and fire with less recoil even though their 6.8-millimeter round is larger than the two legacy weapons’ 5.56 mm cartridge.”

    This is not true by any account…. :-/

    • PB says:

      The XM250 is indeed lighter than the M249 SAW. And I believe with the reciprocating barrel, it does indeed have less recoil. But it has better external and terminal ballistics than an M240.

      The XM250 is 14.5lbs WITH its silencer. The M49 is 18lbs. With 400 rounds of ammo each, the XM250 is 27lbs and the M249 is 28lbs.

      You’re right that it’s not true for the XM7 vs M4.

      • Evstathios Palaiologos says:

        I think you are mistaken on the M250
        Thr weapon is indeed lighter but, 27lbs is the weight of the ammunition alone
        When compared to a M249 with 600 rounds the M240 with 400 rounds weights 1 kilo (2 lbs+) more

        • PB says:

          Thanks for the correction.

          Still, the XM250 is lighter than the M249 despite being able to fire a much higher pressure and much better cartridge. And compared to a Mk48, it’s overall lighter all the way around.

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