A New Revolution of Firearms

12 m.   |  2022-07-07

L iterally days ago the American army finally accepted the results of the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) competition, by which the next generation of the main shooting armaments of the American army was determined, that is, a firearm, a machine gun, a unified cartridge and an optical fire control system.

Generally in the world weapons of the new generation are born on the basis of new cartridges. That is, first of all, a change of cartridges occurs and only then a change of the weapon. However, this is the first time that an optical, even not an ordinary gunsight is also added to all this.

3 main participants were taking part in the project of Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW): General Dynamics, Textron Systems, Sig Sauer companies with their respective assault rifles and machine guns. Eventually Sig Sauer company won. The civilian version of the winning project is called MCX Spear, and for the American army this assault rifle will finally get the name M5, when it fully appears in the armament. And the company's winning machine gun will be called M250. The project's revolutionary hybrid 6,8x51mm cartridge has a unique structure, the civilian version will be called .277 Fury. In general this is something revolutionary in the production of the army military weapons.

Textron Systems actually did a fantastically revolutionary thing: it created a cartridge of a completely new concept. General Dynamics had also given revolutionary solutions to its cartridge, while Sig Sauer had done the following: it had taken an ordinary cartridge with a classic structure, at the end of which an additional frame is added, a safety ring, which is made of a harder metal, and got a 7,62x51 mm American NATO length cartridge, but with a caliber of 6.8 mm, the energy of which is fantastically high. That is, in that case we deal with a new cartridge of a super magnum type, the structure of which is as innovative and simple as that of the unified cartridge of the time. Let's try to compare in order to find out that the cartridge of 6,8x51mm (.277), having a bullet of only 8-9 grams, has 3700 Joules of energy in the case of a short 406 mm barrel of the weapon, which means that in the case of a 500-520 mm barrel it will be 4000-4100 Joules. This is extremely powerful for a private soldier's ordinary gun.

Let's try to explain why we call it revolutionary: as a matter of fact, the last similar revolutionary step, which was taken again in the USA, when 5,56 x45 mm cartridge or the civilian .223a appeared in the 1950s, on its basis M16 platform had been created and after that also the respective machine guns. It had become the main caliber for the entire NATO.

This is a new step, a new project, which has very clear strategical-political and military, tactical goals.

As a matter of fact, at the end of the Second World War German and American military scientific schools created the intermediate cartridge ''retreat from the rifle cartridge to a small impulse, in the same caliber''. At the request of the military men the scientists were working in this direction even after the First World War. In the end this issue was resolved with American .30 Carbine, 7,62x33mm and especially German 7,92x33 mm cartridges. Following the German path very quickly the USSR created the 7.62x39 mm cartridge and quite good pair of AKM-РПК.

At the end of the 1950s the USA decided that they needed to further shrink the intermediate cartridge (an intermediate cartridge with a weak impulse, the above-mentioned 5,56x45mm was created) later this revolution of cartridges with a weak impulse was used in the armaments also in the USSR. The 5,45x39 mm Soviet cartridge emerged, on the basis of which the pair of AK 74-РПК-74 was created.

What was the reason for all this? Currently there are a lot of professional discussions on this topic, but all this was conditioned by very clear rules of war conduct. After the Second World War the dictating force of the world military science moved across the ocean to the United States. There they understood that in the battle and operation of combined arms (during the Cold War a massive clash of large armies was expected ) a private soldier does not need such a powerful cartridge. Even an ordinary intermediate cartridge, such as the Soviet 7.62x39 mm cartridge of AKM, so to speak, has excess capacity, the soldier does not need it. And the powerful American economy had equipped the American army, specifically the squad, platoon, company, especially the battalion ring, with various supplementary weapons and ammunition, including the range of large-caliber machine guns, sniper rifles, small mortars in the companies, platoons, for battalions helicopters could be used. This made the assault rifle with a powerful cartridge pointless, that's why the American army went for the 5,56 mm cartridge. Let's remind that the American rifle 30-06 cartridge was the most powerful one of its kind in the world. It was in this situation that the legendary M16 emerged, and it seemed to fit perfectly into the logic of operations and battles expected in the Cold War.

D uring the local conflicts that took place after the Cold War it turned out that this concept was quite a dead end, that is, in local conflicts there were no such massive large clashes, where the mentioned supplementary types of weapons could always come to the aid of platoons, squads. In the Iraq war, in the Afghan war, in the Chechen war and in numerous minor conflicts life proved that, for example, a private soldier fighting with a separate squad needs an assault rifle with a more powerful cartridge. Because they don't have those big machine guns, mortars and other aids, they are not always with them. It is no coincidence that the AR10 platform, recreated on the 7.62x51 mm (.308) base, or similar weapons, such as the legendary SCAR, which is a very popular assault rifle in the American special forces, and other solutions slowly appeared in the NATO armies. At the same time in poor countries, terrorist organizations the AKM was again reevaluated and reequipped with its quite powerful intermediate cartridge. Starting from that moment scientists and the military men have been constantly thinking about how to act in order to return again to a powerful cartridge, but so that the powerful cartridge should not be a direct return to the rifle cartridges, that is, 7.62x51 mm and other types. It was at this time that the snipers created on the basis of .300WM, .300 RUM and similar cartridges with a capacity greater than 7.62x51, but belonging to the .300 family, were welcomed in the special forces. In the American army even today it seems that after the whole same revolutionary concept the issue of snipers remains clarified, that .300 WM is going to be a basic sniper minimum cartridge. Even 10 years ago these discussions were very intensive, and already at that time 6.5 mm Creedmoor, 6.8 mm Remington and other experimental cartridges were born, there were ideas, competitions were held, but those competitions didn't seem to work. The regular competition that was being held caused negative mood, but all this happened. What is all this? We should state one important thing: Sig Sauer, which had presented the aforementioned platform, differed from the two companies, presented to the competition, with its more recognizable platform that was revolutionary, but more modestly revolutionary and easily digestible both in the production and for the soldiers’ use.

Why did the USA go for such a powerful cartridge?

As one of my friends once noted with humor, in the 1950s the USA deceived the world, making everyone follow the path of a small cartridge, then it wanted to create a more powerful one, why did all this happen?

I mentioned the most important reason: wars have become more unconventional and during those wars a private soldier must have a powerful cartridge in his hand. Reason number 1.

This powerful cartridge enables the special forces without supplementary weapons, and as we have seen, the role of special forces in unconventional wars is increasing, even ordinary troops receive special training, special courses of practical shooting, the whole system of combat readiness is changing, they no longer fight with usual linear tactics, and such a soldier must have such a powerful cartridge in his hand so that he can implement various terrorist ambushes when fighting against the rebel forces, can overcome the AKM. A similar cartridge is necessary to defeat such types of weapons.

However, all this would not be revolutionary if there was not also the issue of the weapon control system, that is, it is not only the capacity of the cartridge that has changed everything and will raise the American army to another level. The interesting project with the initial name of XM150 platform, presented by the winning Vortex company, will be mounted on the weapons, both on the machine gun and the assault rifle, it both represents an optical gunsight, on which there is a respective collimator screen, on which it will be reflected by ballistic calculation, with the rangefinder the soldier will receive the distance to the target and the angle of fire with the ballistic calculator, which shows where to aim to get a hit at a given distance. This is quite an innovative solution, personally I have used similar optics (we are not talking about vortex), such possibilities are provided by expensive night thermal imaging systems or various civilian optical gunsights, such as Swarovski DS, etc. This is a fantastic opportunity for the soldier, it will be very easy to spend fewer cartridges and hit easily. Moreover, automatic firing is being used less and less in the special training of the American troops. As we mentioned M5 will have a powerful recoil, and we have already seen that hitting in the videos, the automatic fire will be used very little, and with the help of this optical device, it will be possible to hit more easily with a single fire.

All this is also revolutionary from several very important perspectives. There is also the strategic-political component, which should probably be mentioned the first. As far as at this moment, in fact, the final mastering of the AK12 platform assault rifle, presented by the Kalashnikov Concern, is finishing in the army in Russia, which actually has versions with the same Russian classic cartridges AK12etc. they represent 5.45x39 mm and 7.62x39 mm cartridges, which means, we are talking about the Soviet era cartridges. Within the framework of the same project the introduction of the Ratnik system of soldiers' protection with its body armor is also being implemented, therefore, Russia cannot enter into any major project in the near future, because this platform is being adopted at a great pace. The same thing happened and is happening in China, where the 5,8x42mm cartridge was finally adopted by the army, the various weapons created for it were produced in billions, particularly Type 87, Type 95 platforms with their body armors are already accepted in the armament. As we see the USA takes the horse's step, that is, rises one more level, which strengthens at once. The Chinese and Soviet cartridges approach maximum 2000 Joules, while the American ones actually approach 4000 Joules. After all this, neither Russia nor China can afford to try the whole concept very quickly. This is natural, because the innovations of the military science, the rules of battle conduct, the tactics from a small squad platoon to major operations are essentially dictated by the American military school after the Second World War, and this is another proof that the dictation to the whole world continues, that is, the world will fight the way the Americans will fight. All this means that Americans got another big military-political playing card. It is more powerful in their hand, and they can economically afford to implement it, because, on the one hand, they have a very powerful economy, on the other hand, there is the most important segment, which is often neglected. The United States remain the world's largest civilian weapons market, and it is no coincidence that one of the old giants of German-Swiss weapon production wins the American competition. Such a great revolution took place in the field of weapons. In just a few years we will witness the radical development of the 6.8x51mm, (.277), many similar civilian rifles will be born upwards, weapons that should be able to digest the cartridge of this so-called super magnum series.

By the way, Sig Sauer has done something genius, it has not deviated much from the M4 platform, with its basic structure the weapon is similar to the M4 with some slight differences, which will enable the troop to quickly master this assault rifle, which has already received the name M5, as I have mentioned the same refers to the machine-gun M250 in the army, which is essentially the M249, that is, a very little modified version of today's NATO machine gun. This means that both the assault rifle and the machine gun will be mastered by the army very quickly.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan
Reserve Army Colonel