The United States military is finally replacing the beloved M4 along with the M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW). This change is said to be coming in 2021. This will be the first major weapons platform change since 1994, when the M4 became the standard issue rifle for the United States military. Now, it’s time for a change. Not only is the military swapping out platforms, but it’s also changing calibers.
The military was seeking out something that had manageable recoil and high velocity like 5.56, but also wanted something with superior stopping power like 7.62. Despite having lethality on its side, the U.S. wanted to avoid the heaviness and higher recoil of the 7.62 cartridge. This ended with the selection of 6.8 mm.
6.8 mm was specifically designed to address the long-distance ballistics issues of 5.56 NATO and serve as a way to close the gap between 5.56 and 7.62. It can’t match the stopping power of the 7.62, but it’s lighter, faster, and has less recoil. 6.8 is also more easily controlled in burst fire.
There are 3 contenders bidding to be the new platform for the new 6.8mm: Sig Sauer, General Dynamics, and Textron Systems.
Sig Sauer brings the MCX Spear to the table, sporting a familiar design to the M4. Meaning little additional training will be necessary for soldiers to adapt to the new platform. Its weight is probably the same as the M4 as well, but no specifics have been given except that it’s under 10 pounds. What’s interesting is that all Spear rifles come with a built-in suppressor to counter the muzzle blast (recoil) from the new cartridge. Eventually, the MCX Spear will be fitted with a fire control group called the Vortex system. It’s a suite of optics, rangefinders, and even a ballistic computer. This technology could lead to the average soldier having superior shooting ability even without sharpshooter training. The computer determines the trajectory of the bullet before it’s fired making it almost trivial to land shots.
They also have the 6.8 LMG on the table, but even fewer details have been given out about the MCX Spear’s sibling firearm. Sig Sauer claims that its new LMG platform weighs 40 percent less than its predecessors. Recoil is also said to be “dramatically” reduced in the new platform. The new LMG will also feature quick-detach magazines, more M-LOK rail space, the aforementioned suppressor, and “vastly improves upon the operation and function of the legacy M249.”
The military will be selecting one of the three companies by October of 2021. After that, the selected company will have a year to make rifles for the 2022 rollout. These rifles won’t be given out to all U.S. soldiers though. Special forces and recon are among the first to receive the rifles with the rest to receive them in the following years.
Richard Douglas writes on firearms, defense and security issues. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, 1945, Daily Caller and other publications.