DAVIDICUS said:THere is also apparently serious discussion about a new cartridge too. The 5.56mm NATO aka the civilian .223 Remington has been the subject of numeroius complaints from frontline soldiers, especially in Afghanastan, over failure to achieve one shot stops with center of mass hits.
Remington, in conjunction with the military has developed the 6.8mm SPC (Special Purpose Cartridge) and is pitching it as a replacement for some, if not all 5.56mm NATO applications.
The new 6.8mm cartridge fires a 115 gr. bullet at approximately 2,750 fps.
The 5.56mm NATO fores a 62gr. bullet at about 3,100 fps.
The new cartridge's dimensions are such that it can operate in the M-16 and related model platforms.
Some of the military brass aren't sold on it. It should be interesting to see if it actually goes into operation.
Left - 6.8 SPC / Right - 5.56 NATO
For almost 40 years, the M-16 5.56mm combat rifle, in all its incarnations, has served as the United States military's primary battle rifle. To give you an idea of how long a time that is, the only other long gun with a similar tenure is the .58 caliber Brown Bess musket -- which entered service with the Continental Army in 1776.
The German weapons manufacturer Heckler Koch believes it's high time for a change; specifically, it would like to see the United States retire the M-16 and replace it with a slick, new, high-speed battle rifle dubbed the XM-8. And boy, what a rifle it is …
Army of One
The XM-8 weapon system -- for that's what it really is, a family of related weapons -- packs quite an arsenal in its portable shape (6.4 pounds, lighter than the current M-4 at 8.85 pounds). It takes its cue from the M-29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW), a $10,000 prototypical technology test bed from the late 1990s. The OICW was a combination of "kinetic energy" projector (a battle rifle that fired the Remington .223) and a semi-autonomous, air-bursting 20mm grenade launcher. The XM-8 is the "kinetic energy" portion of the OICW, plus a receiver to which all other components can be attached or removed.
Complementing the XM-8 are two attachable weapon systems, the XM320 40mm single shot grenade launcher and the LSS 12-gauge shotgun. The XM320 incorporates a swing out barrel design with integrated sight, and is capable of firing all currently manufactured 40mm grenades, while the LSS is capable of firing both lethal and non-lethal shotgun shells, as well as specially-designed breaching shells. Both weapons are mounted forward of the magazine, underneath the barrel, and can be installed by the operator in minutes without tools.
The XM-8 is a model of efficiency in use: its operation controls are ambidextrous, it has three firing modes (single round, three-round burst, and fully automatic), and can handle a variety of magazines, including a 30 round semi-opaque (to allow the shooter to see how many rounds are left in the magazine) hard plastic magazine, which can be rapidly reloaded in close combat situations, and a 100-round drum (for sustained fire), as well as 10-round weapon qualification magazines and M-16 style metal magazines.
Flexible on the Fly
Whether the user is a sniper or part of an attack team, the XM-8 can accommodate all uses. It uses four different interchangeable barrels (a 9" compact, a 12.5" assault, a 20" match grade sharpshooter, or a 20" heavy barrel for sustained high ROF applications), each of which can be swapped out at the unit level in less than 2 minutes. The weapon can also be equipped with a 5-position collapsible stock, a flat butt plate (for an extremely small weapon profile), an adjustable sniper stock, or a folding stock.
Attention has also been paid to look and feel with the XM-8. Forward handguards incorporate non-slip materials to improve weapon handling and retention. The XM-8's non-metallic components are manufactured from fiber reinforced plastic polymers which can be molded in numerous colors, and can be removed or replaced by the operator without specialized tools. In other words, whether you're in the jungle or on the sand, the weapon's "skin" can be changed to blend with its surroundings.
The XM-8 doesn't skimp on optics, either. Its optics/sight package is an "all-in-one" combination: an infrared laser target designator, IR target illuminator and 1x close combat red-dot sight. In addition to incorporating the three sights into one system, the sight is zeroed at the factory and can be removed and reinstalled by the operator without specialized tools, or the loss of zero. Contrast this with the M-16/M-4 series: While advances have been made in their combat optics to improve rifle accuracy, these advances have brought additional issues (increased weight, cost, the need to continuously re-zero the devices when removed).
How useful are the XM-8's interchangeable parts? Here's a quick look at some of the M-16's problems in this regard:
A half dozen incarnations of the M-16/M-4 are currently in service, and none of them have parts that are 100% interchangeable with a different series weapon.
For the M-16, mounting optics requires the use of weapon specific (read: non-interchangeable) adapters.
The M-16A1 (still in widespread service with the National Guard and Reserves) was designed to fire the M198 5.56mm Ball cartridge, while the M16A2 and later rifles (used by Active Duty formations) was designed to fire the heavier M855 cartridge. While both rifles can chamber and fire both types of bullet, the M885 bullet weighs more, and is less accurate when fired from the M16A1.
On the other hand, the XM-8 has:
One common component receiver, with the remaining parts (barrel, optics, stock, hand guards, auxiliary weapons) attached as needed.
Combining three optic units into one not only reduces weapon weight, but also simplifies equipment issue, maintenance and accountability.
One common bullet type (5.56mm cartridge) for all models.
This is not to say that soldiers are going to enter battle toting a golf bag of rifle barrels and accessories, but rather, replacement parts can be replaced or exchanged at the unit level without worrying about system compatibility. At the end of the day, does any of this make the XM-8 more lethal than the M-16? No, as both fire the same 5.56mm cartridge … but the XM-8 completely outclasses the M-16 is in reliability, ease of maintenance, and reduced logistical requirements.
Of course, all the fancy weapons and attachments on a rifle don't mean much if it jams on the operator. One of the M-16's major flaws is jamming, due to its gas operating system, where propellant gasses are used to cycle the rifle's bolt and fire bullets. In the M-16, these gasses are vented directly back to the rifle chamber itself. This means that every time the weapon is fired, propellant gasses, gunpowder residue, and other particles are deposited directly on the bolt face (this process is called "fouling"). Eventually, the bolt becomes too dirty to fully lock into place, rendering the weapon unreliable.
While no gas-operating weapon (including the XM-8) is immune to the effects of fouling, the XM-8's system presents a clear advantage over the M-16: The receiver utilizes a six-lug rotating bolt that fully supports the cartridge case and is driven by a "pusher" type gas piston. This piston is unaffected by barrel changes, and is even capable of operating if the weapon's barrel is full of water. Most importantly, it eliminates fouling of the bolt face, which dramatically improves the weapon's overall reliability in a sustained firing situation. In short, soldiers using the XM-8 in combat should have one less thing to worry about, and that one thing can mean the difference between life and death.
Goodbye to the Past
If you add up all the M-16's flaws -- its poorly designed gas operating system, its need for constant maintenance and cleaning, its lack of interchangeable parts - it becomes clear that the XM-8 is superior to the M-16/M-4 family in all respects. It is lighter, cheaper, more reliable, and easier to maintain than the current rifle. In short, it surpasses all of the M-16's strengths while eliminating all of its weaknesses, thus earning a spot on our Military Gear Hot List.
XM-8 Rifle: The Skinny
XM-8 Rifle (Heckler Koch)
Type of Equipment:
Flexible, heavy-duty weapons platform accommodates rifle and grenade launcher
Polymer "shell" can be replaced with shells of different colors, to blend in with environment
All weapon attachments, barrels, butts, and optics can be switched out by operator, without special tools or maintenance
Improved "pusher" gas piston cuts down on weapon jamming
Base configuration fires Remington .223 (a.k.a. the 5.56mm NATO) bullets; 20 mm grenades
Attachments include XM320 40mm single shot grenade launcher, and LSS (lightweight stand-off shotgun) 12-gauge shotgun that fires 2.75" and 3" 12 gauge shells
DAVIDICUS said:DerAdlerIstGelandet said, " I know for the M-9 I might as well throw my rounds at the enemy, I have a better chance of taking them out. The Army is also looking to replace the M-9 with something that has more stopping power such as going back to the Colt 45 or an HK. "
It is said that a pistol is only for use while you're getting your rifle. I have not heard anything about a serious movement to replace the 9mm as the standard pistol cartridge. You don't engage the enemy that often with a pistol. Even in close quarters like inside a house.
The March 4 "Pre-solicitation Notice for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon Increment I family of weapons," invites small-arms makers to try and meet an Army requirement for a "non developmental family of weapons that are capable of firing U.S. standard M855 and M856" 5.56mm ammunition.
The family would consist of carbine, compact, designated marksman and light machinegun models.
A formal Request for Proposal is slated to be issued "on or about" March 23, the notice states.
The OICW Increment I is intended to replace current weapon systems, including the M-4, M-16, M-249 squad automatic weapon and selected M-9 pistols for the active Army, the notice states.
Both soldiers and Marines also noted problems with the M-9 9 mm pistol.
"There was general dissatisfaction with this weapon," the Army report said. "First and foremost, soldiers do not feel it possesses sufficient stopping power."
Soldiers asked for a tritium glow-in-the-dark sight for night firing.
But soldiers and Marines alike railed against the poor performance of the M-9 ammunition magazines.
"The springs are extremely weak and the follower does not move forward when rounds are moved," the Marine report stated. "If the magazine is in the weapon, malfunctions result."
Soldiers complained that even after they were told to "stretch" the springs and load only 10 rounds instead of the maximum 15, the weapons still performed poorly. Lack of maintenance was determined not to be the cause.
"Multiple cleanings of the magazine each day does not alleviate the problem," the Marine report stated. "The main problem is the weak/worn springs."
DAVIDICUS said:The 9mm shoots considerably flatter than the .45 due to its significantly higher velocity. I don't think it's that much less lethal than the .45. A single center of mass hit with either can be fatal. The .45 has a very large cross-section that can prove detrimental in penetration. During the Korean conflict, there were accounts of enemy soldiers whose heavy winter clothing actually stopped .45 rounds from Thompsons. I suspect that these were at longer ranges though.
I do know that some special forces use the .45 instead of the 9mm for their sidearms so take my personal experiences with both with a grain of salt.
I know that disatisfaction with the 9mm is quite common with soldiers. Part of it though (in my opinion) stems from the psychological impression that the .45 has. The 1911A1 pistol has a large diameter hole in the barrel of .45 as opposed to .35 inches and its individual rounds weigh considerably more at 230 grains as opposed to 124 grains. Thus, it just seems more lethal.
There was a similar disatisfaction when the armed forces went from the 7.62X51 NATO to the 5.56X43 NATO round for the main combat weapon. The new cartridge was bad mouthed before it's effectiveness was ever exstensively tested in combat.
The current cries of disatisfaction did not arise until the Afghanastan campaign. In that threatre, the longer engagement ranges of 300 yards plus in conjunction with the shorter barreled M-4 with its reduction in muzzle velocity revealed the shortcoming of the little .22 cal bullet. It relies heavily on high velocity for its ability to impart terminal hydrostatic shock.