MoD Orders 7.62mm MINIMI

According to a few outlets the MoD has awarded a production contract to FN Herstal for a quantity of 176, 7,62m MINIMI light machine guns.

This is a the culmination of a study that started in 2009, looking at ways of reducing the load on dismounted infantry. The aim was to find something that had the punch of the GPMG in the light role but with less weight. A number of concepts were looked at including a lightweight version of the general.

From International Defence Review in 2009

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked industry for expressions of interest (EoI) for the supply of 190 LMGs and ancillaries, in a deal worth between GBP10 million and GBP20 million (USD16 million and USD32 million).

In addition to the SA80A2 assault rifle, the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force currently have access to the 5.56 mm L86A2 light support weapon, 5.56 mm L110A1 Minimi LMG or squad automatic weapon (SAW) and 7.62 mm L7A2 general purpose machine gun (GPMG).

However, a lighter and more mobile weapon system with increased hitting power than a 5.56 mm LMG has been called for by troops operating on the ground in Afghanistan. The heavier GPMG and its ammunition can be cumbersome for long foot patrols in hot climates and 5.56 mm calibre weapons have come in for criticism for lacking sufficient stopping power.

Accordingly, a modified off-the-shelf system is being sought, capable of accurately engaging, repeatedly hitting and incapacitating targets at ranges up to 800 m. It must also be able to fire 100 rounds uninterrupted, and at a rate of 600 rounds per minute (RPM), although an objective rate of 1,000 RPM is sought.

The new weapon system will use in-service 7.62 mm x 51 mm disintegrating link ammunition and must weigh less than 9 kg, although 7 kg is the objective weight, according to the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support’s Light Weapons, Photography and Batteries cell.

EoI responses are expected by June with trials following soon after. Climatic trials will commence in February 2010 with a contract start date due by 31 October the same year. A total of 10 weapons from each system type will be appraised.

Contenders are likely to include FN Herstal’s (FNH’s) 7.62 mm Minimi – the company already supplies the MoD’s existing 5.56 mm Minimi LMG – Denel’s 7.62 mm SS77 GPMG and US Ordnance’s 7.62 mm M60E3 LMG, as used by US Navy SEAL special forces.

The contract includes optional quantities of a further 250 MINIMI 7.62 machine guns to be delivered annually over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014 should these options be exercised.

The MoD selected the machine gun manufactured by the Belgian firearms manufacturer following several months of functional testing under various environmental conditions.

To cope with the recoil the 7.62 MINIMI includes a hydraulic recoil mechanism.

FN Minimi 7.62mm
FN Minimi 7.62mm
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Phil Darley
June 8, 2011 2:11 pm

Excellent news, only thought is that 176, with an option for another 250 is not very many!!!

Now for a replacement for the sa80! HK417 anyone?

El Sid
El Sid
June 8, 2011 2:29 pm

I’m sure the Taliban will appreciate the opportunity to upgrade their 5.56mm MINIMIs that they “sourced” from us….

June 8, 2011 2:36 pm

Lovely News. HK417 or SCAR-H would be preferable. However perhaps the ACR is better, since you can change calibers. This is better for the MOD, since they have the option of changing to 6.8mm and still can use their supplies of 7.62 and 55.6

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 8, 2011 2:38 pm

Does this purchase signal an end to the small arms caliber debate?

7.62 and 5.56 to remain in UK service for the long term?

June 8, 2011 2:48 pm

I’m not surprised. The US have bought the 7.62 mm Minimi as Mk48 machine gun from quite some time.
Inexorably, we are seeing a progressive return to the “half-mile” after experience on the field in Stan.
The 5.56×45 is already on its decline line… maybe the new intermediate 6.8 will gain the top position when some major programme for current-rifles replacement starts.
The Beretta X160 rifle designed as part of Soldato Futuro for example can be configurated for the 6.8.

“HK417 anyone?”

Good weapon, but i would not want to take a retrograde step and shy away from the advantages of the bullpup design right when the focus on urban ops is higher than ever.

I’ll be hated by some for saying it, but a SA80 in modern composite materials (so to be lighter than the current damn heavy one), modified to be fired from left or right hand both and possibly chambered for the new 6.8 rounds would be a damn formidable weapon. The 6.8×43 110gr is quite a great performer in terms of bullet: not as heavy and recoil-intensive as 7.62, but great range and 44% more stopping power than a 5.56.

June 8, 2011 3:01 pm

“176, with an option for another 250 is not very many!!!”
– theoretically, 1408 on patrol, in transit or resting in between
– some article stated that about 30% of our deployed strength in A-stan does the actual fighting; I wonder what proportion of them potentially take up patrols?

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
June 8, 2011 4:21 pm

Gabriele, your composite SA80 sounds like a re-chambered KelTec RFB….

June 8, 2011 4:40 pm

@ Richard

“Gabriele, your composite SA80 sounds like a re-chambered KelTec RFB….

Thanks for sharing that link, i honestly didn’t knew that design.
But yes, looking at it now, i believe it would be a great starting point. Only doubt is the caliber… maybe 7.62 for it is a bit too much.

June 8, 2011 5:27 pm

As a stopgap why not issue a few L4 Brens from storage..?
There must be some kicking around …weren’t they still being used as recently as GW1..?

June 8, 2011 5:51 pm

Yes, they were.
Lovely, Lovely Bren. :)
I’ve always wanted to buy one, and goddamn it, before i die, i will. Then again, i also want an Enfield mk3. Cooler still than the Mk4.

Honestly, i’d want one of each model, but that takes lots of money.

June 8, 2011 5:56 pm

Brens would require extra training, right? The 7.62 minimi, is similar to the 5.56 version, for handling, and maintenance. Obviously, it has more recoil. It has around 70% parts commonality with the 5.56 version and the GPMG. Since extra training is not required, the troops can go into battle almost immediately with this.

paul g
June 8, 2011 6:48 pm

“camel running along the desert, camel stops. jump off, hump off look inside. upon looking you see no food in the camel and none in the hump. full hump on, jump on. carry on running” (LMG/Bren gun drills)

Phil Darley
June 8, 2011 7:07 pm

Gabriele, the problems with bulpup designs are that they are intrinsically less ergonomic. When you start adding all the new whizzy optics it gets even worse. I like the idea if forward ejection but this just adds even more complexity.

With a conventional design with a folding or extendable butt overcome most of the length
issues. So a 416/417 or g36 or scar gets my vote!

June 8, 2011 7:52 pm

“Gabriele, the problems with bulpup designs are that they are intrinsically less ergonomic. When you start adding all the new whizzy optics it gets even worse. I like the idea if forward ejection but this just adds even more complexity.”

Not really. France and Israel do not think so… or at least, particularly in the case of Israel’s Tavor, they have accepted that the peculiar advantages of small and agile bullpups is more important in urban scenario.

The folding butt… i remember this soldier i saw, guarding the entrance of the base with his folding-butt rifle. Boring job, but he had a little game: pushing closed the frigging butt that kept swinging open every few moments.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
June 8, 2011 8:13 pm

I always fo und it hard to understand the “Light” in LMG. I know the GPMG+ammo is heavy but a Bren plus x number of 30 round mags wasn’r exactly feather weight.

I must say that the MoD’s procurement cogs are finally addressing some long standing issues and the 7.62 Minimi is a great choice as long as they choose the right barrel.

AS for replacingthe SA-80A2 I would be happy with the G-36

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 8, 2011 8:54 pm

Good news, but agree that 176 is not enough.
Whats that British firm that makes copies of 7.62 GPMG & .50 HMGs? Wish they would make a GPMG in either .30 RSAUM or .338 Lapua. Would fill the gap between 7.62 x 51 & .50.
I would replace the SA 80 with a 6.8 version of the Israeli Tavor bullpup.

June 8, 2011 9:06 pm

@Lord Jim
I suspect “Light” is a legacy term as in compared to a Vickers gun…

I guess weight is not so simple…30 round mags can more easily be shared amongst the troops compared to 200 round boxes…so how the weight is distributed is an important factor (given debate about infantry loads)…and how is that factored against rate of fire etc..?

And factor in general utility out in the boonies …loose-belt, vs box-belt vs box-mag…what’s best?

Don’t profess to have any answers but interested in hearing what others have to say.

Phil Darley
June 8, 2011 10:33 pm

Gabriele, I agree the TAR 21 / Tavor is a very well thought out bulpup design. It is probably
the best bulpup on the Market. The Fn2000 is almost too radical!!

I still think that a conventional layout is more logical. The SA80 is an ergonomic disaster. I really struggle to understand why soldiers defend it, it’s fcuking heavy, you have to turn the weapon ti one side or reach over the rifle to cock it, the safety us a cross bolt which means you have to take your finger of the trigger to set, the
fire selector is located to the rear, way behind the pistol grip, I won’t even mention the the nightmare involved in stripping and reassembling

June 8, 2011 10:35 pm

Not convinced by the 7.62 mm personally.

June 8, 2011 10:37 pm

The SCAR H 16inchs is 39″ overall max, 30″ when not extended. The SA80, is 30.9″. SA80 is smaller, when the buttstock of the SCAR is extended, however when not extended, it is actually bigger. When you’re outside of a house, or not in tight corners, the SCARs stock can be extended. I believe the conventional layout is a lot better when you are looking around corners. However, someone should confirm that for me.

June 8, 2011 11:17 pm

@ Junior

With the SA80 it all depends whether they are left hand or right hand corners. :)

June 8, 2011 11:33 pm

@ Phil D

I am going to go way out on a limb here but I suspect the reason why many soldiers defend SA80 is because they know no better. I am not saying they are stupid. Or that they that are bad soldiers. Most soldiers do the job with the kit with which they are provided and get on with it. They might see something on exercise with another country that catches their eye. But I don’t think they engage in endless discussion whether the UK should adopt 6.5mm Grendel wholesale to replace 5.56mm. Perhaps some old hands will hark back to the good old days of the SLR etc. But in most spheres of life the old hands hark back to the good old days with a certain piece of kit or what-have-you. I know when cadets came back to visit us I never heard one proffer an opinion of whether the RN should have bought Mk41 or Sylver, or the merits of Phalanx over Goalkeeper, or whether the Rivers should have flight decks. In some ways being in the services is just like any other job.

June 9, 2011 1:44 am

Take this for what it’s worth.

I’ve spent years working as a bouncer. I don’t do it anymore but I had some tasty times when I did. Now just about every bouncer you meet has watched at least one UFC contest. Some of them have done some BJJ training and swear by it. Even those who haven’t think it’s the shit.

But as someone who saw an unusually large amount of fights and of a great variety, I can confidently say that Brazilian JuJitsu is just about the single worse thing you could teach someone for self defense.

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes even professionals don’t know what’s best for them, because they often fail to sit back and critically analyse their job.

Chris in Virginia
Chris in Virginia
June 9, 2011 3:35 am

If I am hoping to stop the enemy, or hit him behind his cover… 6.8 all the way.

June 9, 2011 4:04 am

The whole small arms debate is getting really stupid. 6.8 is a joke, its stubby bullet has terrible balistics at fighting ranges, 6.5 is a bigger joke, it doesn’t feed well, doesn’t like USGI ar mags and cuts capacity, 5.56 does a fine job, and while I would choose a different calibre if starting from scratch (.338 federal comes to mind) to bugger about with calibre in the 5.56 specced weapons is pointless.

As for bullpup vs conventional layout, bullpup takes it every time, so long as it is well designed, It needs a non reciprocating charging handle, fully ambidextrous controls (at the pistol grip), Ambi mag release, quick switch ejection port (like the ARX-160, only faster) as the forward ejection solution makes clearing stoppages a serious pain. Make it fairly light (but not too light, need some weight to dampen recoil) and durable and to my mind you have the perfect infantry assault weapon.

Chris in Virginia
Chris in Virginia
June 9, 2011 4:44 am

I am only hoping to compromise with the choices Grey…. There is a reason why every M-14 is being deployed to Afghanistan right now by the US Military. 7.62 x 51 (.308) is what is needed to reach out and touch the enemy, vs 5.56 M-16.

Now you are correct the Soviets learned that their stubby 7.62 x 39 left them out ranged.

That’s battle rifles… the discussion is LMG which desires short bursts to suppress, if not disable infantry. The 5.56 round allows more ammo to be carried to battle.. the 7.62 less ammo, and depending on the cartridge more range and accuracy (at distance).

I think the difference is urban (short range) vs. rural (long range) contact with the enemy… so you find the medium, although you want to punch doors, windshields, etc… 7.62. In My Humble Opinion.

June 9, 2011 6:07 am

Anything to replace the unfit for purpose L110A1

as for the small arms calibre debate:

Before you settle for a cartridge you have to define the requirements, IMHO if you’re looking to replace 7.62 and 5.56 with a single design then 6.8mm spc isn’t enough (and nothing designed ti fit in the 57mm action ever will be), if you just want to replace 5.56 then it’s too much.

the cost of replacing the SA80 will be £400mn+ the cost of developing a NEW rifle and a NEW cartridge are peanuts by comparison, there is no reason to pick current 5.56mm weapons with cartridges designed to fit in the 57mm action of said weapons

El Sid
El Sid
June 9, 2011 9:48 am

Commenters who joined the site more recently may be unaware of this thread, where the whole 5.56 vs 6.8 vs 7.62 vs whatever thing was thrashed out in pretty exhaustive detail. I suggest that kind of thing continues over there – at least have a read through all the comments.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
June 9, 2011 10:13 am

@ Lord Jim, “I always found it hard to understand the “Light” in LMG. I know the GPMG+ammo is heavy but a Bren plus x number of 30 round mags wasn’r exactly feather weight.”

I believe this was when the Vickers Mk 1 was in general service, and weighed about 50+ lbs all up, anything that weighed less was considered light! Its a shame they never produced a belt-fed version of the Bren to compete with the GPMG (I’m sure the TADEN was tripod mounted?).

Phil Darley
June 9, 2011 2:32 pm

X / Chris.B. I agree with both your connents. X I am glad you said that and not me! I have thought the same but have been castigated abd seen others severely lampooned on ARRSE for
daring to criticise the SA80. which I maintain
us probably the worst assault rifle ever produced!!!

The only redeeming feature is it’s accuracy, weight, ergonomics, balance etc.. Is awful

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 9, 2011 6:29 pm

Belt fed prototypes of the Bren gun were made in the 1950s. Enfield X11E2 & BSA. Our politicians decided to abandon British industry & play lady bountiful with foreign aid by buying the Belgian GPMG. Nothing new under the Sun.
I still think a hybrid of the 6.8 SPC case necked down to the more stable 6.5 Grendel bullet, would be a good idea to work on for an SA80 replacement.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 9, 2011 7:49 pm

RE: Large calibre bullpups –

June 9, 2011 8:39 pm

Grey said “fully ambidextrous controls (at the pistol grip), Ambi mag release,”

As I said early it all depends whether it is a left hand or right hand corner (or side of the street, bush, rock or whatever piece of cover.)

I think FAMAS is still a joy.

@ Phil D

I have carried SA80 twice; thank God it was only playing soldier here in the UK. I am the most hamfisted idiot going. But by then end of both weekends I was field stripping the blasted thing nearly blind. I have handled all sorts of weapons from cheap Spanish air pistols to shotguns costing tens of thousands everything in between. And the only thing that can be said about the SA80 A2 apart from its accuracy (and the trigger which I like for reasons I don’t know) is that it functions. But so do Baikal shotguns and old Taurus pistols. Cheap kit that works is super. But overpriced cheap stuff that has to be fettled to make it work at a cost that would have bought a wholesale replacement I am not so sure about.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
June 9, 2011 8:52 pm

@Requiem; Couldn’t agree more. Wouldn’t it be great if the UK, France, Germany et al got together and adopted a new 6.5-7mm cartridge as a defacto NATO standard even if the US wanted something that would fit an AR-15 magwell? Can’t see it happening . . .

Darley – although I don’t disagree with you about the ergonomics of the SA80, some of it’s problems can be put down to the insistence on a change to NATO standard M16 type magazines and their magazine catch. The original SA80 design was more like a FAL and, probably, would have caused less grief.

Chris in Virginia
Chris in Virginia
June 10, 2011 5:07 am

The USA should never have adopted 5.56. As an American, (with no say in the matter); I duly apologize..

We do some really stupid stuff.. F-35 for instance… we would like to make that a standard… personally I think it is some kind of conspiracy to bankrupt the rest of the planet… as well.

June 10, 2011 8:12 am

“Wouldn’t it be great if the UK, France, Germany et al got together and adopted a new 6.5-7mm cartridge as a defacto NATO standard even if the US wanted something that would fit an AR-15 magwell? Can’t see it happening . . .”

I would hazard a guess that the US buys more ammunition than the rest of NATO combined, so any attempts to impose our own stanmdard would see cost skyrocket

paul g
June 10, 2011 10:11 am

@gareth jones this large calibre bullpup could certainly spoil your day!!

skip the first 60 seconds

barrett have something similar, but i like the retractable barrel for patrolling, it reminds of the crocodile dundee movie if a bloke was standing there with an A2, just delete knife and insert bullpup

June 11, 2011 2:28 am

The MoD only bought 400 something Sharpshooter rifles, with them all being in Helmand now I assume. With the constantly improving capability our soldiers are getting maybe they won’t need that much new small arm weaponry being contracted for now. Come post A’stan (2014) they’ll very well equipped with the few things that in the works at the moment. That’s only 3 years away.

How long will it be for FN Herstal to manufacture and deliver to the UK, a couple hundred modern 7.62 machine guns. 6 Months? Say 6 months and all the guns arrive to the soldiers at the front in 7/8 months, (also include days of weapon familiarisation). So a second batch would if it is, be ordered in 2012, then include 8 months again takes you to late 2012, early 2013.

The SA80 in it’s current usage in A’stan is an excellent 5.56mm rifle. Brit soldiers say it the best 5.56mm assault rifle in the Afghan theatre. It has great range with it’s relatively long barrel, and great reliability due to the upgrade to LA85. It’s ergonomics are said to absolutely fine compared to say the AR-15. It is a bit heavier than the AR-15, and the soldiers don’t cammo the guns, which they bl##dy should do, ASAP, like tonight. Those fitted with grenade launchers now have perfect balance. The rails mean the platform now has enormously improved capability and potential. Some rifles are getting reddots for the grenade launchers, complimenting a good main ACOG.

What our soldiers need is better endurance, more UAVs, better front line logistics and operational capability. The soldiers kit is way too heavy, each patrol is quickly very tiring. Yes they’ve got Warthog now right at the front. But I don’t see much else in this vain being done.

Chris in Virginia
Chris in Virginia
June 11, 2011 8:36 pm

The 6.8 Remington fits in the M16 magwell.

I bought some of the rounds just to see, and they easily fit in a 5.56 magazine. If I had a spare $1,400 I could buy the upper which sets down on the AR-15(M-16) lower.

The USA IMHO should adopt the 6.8 round. So you don’t have to shoot the enemy twice to knock them down.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 11, 2011 9:51 pm

@ Paul G – Third time trying to post this. Awesome link! Apart from flashbacks to Robocop (“state of the art bang bang!”) Started me thinking about my idea of reintroducing the Rifles as modern day skirmishers; could attach a company to a Infantry battalion to boost precision firepower and ISR? Might stop our patrols being out ranged?

June 11, 2011 10:40 pm

@ Chris in Virginia – I think everyone here would think it would be fine for the MoD to spend a million quid or whatever the price would be for at least 200 6.8mm Remington round assault rifles with Picatinny rails, to go to the Afghan front. And then put into storage 200 something SA80 rifles.

Anyone think the money’s not worth it or that we need to wait? I don’t. F### spending millions here there and everywhere like the MoD does, and actually spend it on something which will be provide a great improvement to our front-line soldiers capability. There are many benefits. Good for NATO, bad for those who wield 7.62 AKs?

June 12, 2011 7:59 am

note/ M60E3 LMG no longer used by Navy SEALs.

They now use the 7.62 Mk48 lmg which was the basis for FNH’s 7.62mm Minimi. (anything with “mk”= navy/socom)

Lets hope MoD didn’t buy the short barrels like the 5.56 LMG

June 12, 2011 4:01 pm

lik – popular misconception, FN did not base 7.62mm Minimi on its US products, the Minimi was actually designed as a 7.62mm weapon from the outset in the 70’s – it was developed in 5.56 when NATO showed more interest in the calibre and of course it allowed it to become even lighter.

June 12, 2011 5:40 pm

@ joe88

Just to clarify you do know the AK48 fires a 7.62×39 and not the 7.62×51 round?

June 14, 2011 7:14 pm

Jed is quite right. The difference between the FN 7.62 mm MAG and 7.62 mm Minimi is the locking system not the calibre. The MAG’s breech is sealed by locking lugs attached to the body. Ensuring integrity requires a sturdy and thus heavy receiver. The 7.62 mm Minimi has a rotating locking bolt that is secured to the barrel not the body, so it can be made much lighter.

The MoD is only buying a few hundred 7.62 mm Minimis because that is all it can afford at this moment. If the Army had a free reign, then it would replace all of its light role 7.62 mm GPMGs and 5.56 mm Minimis with the 7.62 mm Minimi. Will this weapon in due course become the standard machine gun for all British infantry sections? Maybe.

Another reason the UK MoD is only buying limited quantities at this stage is that we’re waiting to see what the US does. Will the US Army field a fleet of 5.56 mm assault rifles supported by 7.62 mm machine guns? Will it adopt LSAT case-telescoped ammunition and use this an opportunity to adopt a new calibre? Or will the US simply revert to 5.56 mm as a universal calibre and view Afghanistan as no more than a tactical anomaly? These things are all being discussed as we speak. Only one thing is certain and that is money is tight.

The only problem with the Minimi is that it does nothing to reduce the weight of 7.62 mm link. This is the single biggest factor in increasing the infantryman’s load burden after body armour.

Meanwhile, the Army is mulling over what to replace SA80 with. Sorry, Joe88, but don’t believe the propaganda. Ask any serving soldier off-the-record what he or she thinks of the L85A2 and he’ll say it is a piece of s**t. Period. At 5 kg, it is the world’s heaviest assault rifle. However good it may or may not be, it is less reliable than the latest generation of weapons such as the FN SCAR and Remington ACR by a factor of four. SA80 still requires intense maintenance and lubrication to ensure reliable operation. It has always suffered from an awkward weight balance. Its poor ergonomics make clearing stoppages in the prone position inherently more difficult and slower than doing so with a normal magazine-forward-configured weapon. Its accuracy is down to its sight as much as to barrel length. No one knows what we’ll get next time, but it is VERY unlikely to be a bullpup. The Israeli Tavor suffers from many of the the same disadvantages. It is still experiencing teething trouble. Buying it would antagonise our Islamic allies. All bullpups have non-adjustable LOPs through having fixed stocks. This means firing them with / without body armour and with / without certain items of clothing is bloody difficult.

As brilliant as the HK417 is, we are also unlikely to adopt this either (and despite the fact that Hereford uses it and swears by it). This is because a wholesale return to 7.62 mm would increase the infantryman’s load substantially rather than reducing it.

The main contenders for the next generation UK assault rifle are:
1. Heckler & Koch HK416
2. Heckler & Koch G36
3. Colt M16A4 PIP

(It is possible that H&K may offer a new version of the XM8 made from aluminium instead of polymer. If it gets made, this would be an excellent weapon and would be my choice.)

In the meantime, of the above, the HK416 seems to have the best record for battle proven reliability, durability and accuracy. The G36 has issues. The Bundeswehr has reported variations in temperature affecting the zero of its sights – thanks to its polymer (plastic) receiver. US SOCOM has now rejected the FN SCAR-L, so its future is uncertain (certainly in 5.56 mm).

The most likely future UK scenario is adopting whatever the US adopts next. This seems as though it will be an improved M16A4 / M4A4 with full auto replacing the 3-round burst option, a piston-operated gas system, monolithic upper, ambidextrous controls and a 16.5″ barrel.

France is also about to replace its FAMAS bullpups. They too are evaluating non-bullpup designs. Another scenario is joining forces with the French and then buying the same weapon as them to enjoy economies of scale, commonality etc.

BTW, If you adopt a 5.56 mm weapon with a 16.5″ barrel as opposed to a 14.5″ barrel, then you overcome most of the range and accuracy concerns encountered by the US Army. Revised 5.56 mm ammunition (US M855A1 EPR or UK L2A2 HP) is also providing increased range and more consistent lethality.

More than ever, I believe that a calibre of 6.5 mm for assault rifle and light machine gun is the way to go. This would give us a genuine 1,000 metres capability to match that of the Taliban’s PKMs and SVDs for less carried ammunition weight. The FN 7.62 mm Minimi would be an ideal weapon to convert to 6.5 mm. Until then, a 7.62 mm Minimi gives the troops on the ground a welcome boost in firepower versus the 5.56 mm version.

June 14, 2011 7:25 pm

Forgot to mention.

The Remington 6.8 mm SPC round is dead in the water. It does not offer increased range versus 5.56 mm yet weighs more. While it has been proven to provide more consistent lethality to 300 metres versus 5.56 mm, new 5.56 mm rounds (Mk 318 SOST and M855A1) are supposed to offer better lethality. if this is correct, then 6.8 mm offers no worthwhile benefits to justify the cost of switching calibres.

Personally, I don’t believe that any improved 5.56 mm round is better than the excellent Remington 6.8 mm. If the latter calibre reached 1,000 metres then the US would have already have adopted it universally.

June 14, 2011 7:58 pm


Do you think there is any merit in a small arms weapon family – i.e. ACR or XCR, where different barrel lengths provide all arms from infantry (16 inch up) down to senior officers / drivers / REMF’s with a SBR/Carbine (10 inch or shorter) ???

June 14, 2011 8:10 pm

The SA80 covers that, sort of, a shortened version was issued to AFV crews, along with the UGL and the LSW it covers most function a ‘rifle family’ could cover.

June 14, 2011 8:57 pm

Topman – I am aware of that, I have at least played with / held them all, even though only carried ‘standard’ L85A1/A2 as a matter of course.

I was asking about moving forward and replacing SA80 family :-)

June 15, 2011 9:59 am


Yes, I do think there is much merit in adopting a family of weapons. When Heckler & Koch proposed the XM8, it developed four basic variants:
1. Basic assault rifle (16.5″ barrel)
2. Carbine (12.5″ / 14.5″ barrel)
3. Sharpshooter rifle (20.5″ barrel)
4. Light Machine Gun (18.5″ barrel) plus open bolt firing and heavier barrel

Basically these were all the same weapons with different barrel lengths. H&K created a detachable 40 mm grenade launcher that could be fitted to the rifle and carbine versions. it was anticipated that the US Army would still need a belt fed general purpose machine gun for the light support role.

With a 6.5 mm calibre weapon, you could reduce the number of weapon types to three variants:
1. Standard assault rifle (16.5″ or 18.5″ barrel)
2. Carbine (12.5″-14.5″ barrel)
3. Light machine gun / Sharpshooter rifle (18.5″-20.5″ heavy duty barrel)

Again, all variants would be able to mount a detachable 40 mm grenade launcher. You would complement these weapons with a belt-fed light machine gun to provide a total of four basic infantry weapon types.

The third variant above is what the USMC has adopted with H&K’s HK416 with a heavy barrel, the M27 IAR. This is the same concept as the L86A2 Light Support Weapon. (The SA80 LSW was a great idea, just as the Bren gun had been years before, the only problem with the L86 is that it just didn’t work.)

With most modern calibres (including 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm and 6.5 mm) as soon as you reduce the barrel length below 16.5″ you reduce both velocity and accuracy and thus effective range. So any carbine variant would serve only as an SMG-type weapon for rear echelon personnel, radio operators and tank crew. With folding butts they’d be just as compact as bullpups.

One thing that changes everything is the latest optical combat gun sights. With the 7.62 mm Sharpshooter rifle’s x6 ACOG, soldiers in Afghanistan are routinely hitting enemy targets at 800 metres. That’s incredible for a weapon with a 16.5″ barrel. With Sa80s x4 ACOG you can easily engage targets at 500 metres, the problem with 5.56 mm is that beyond 300 metres it is quite susceptible to wind drift. So ensuring accuracy at longer ranges is much more difficult.

June 15, 2011 2:47 pm

I can’t believe you all have neglected rifle and 20mm+ shell launchers combos, or just even mentioned a standalone shell launcher like the XM25.

HK XM29 and Daewoo K11 (actually built and in service), French PAPOP, Austeyr AICW.

I’m sure there’s a desire by many top Army’s to be fielding an assault rifle and 20mm-30mm shell launcher combination. The French, US, Aussies, Israelis, Ukrainians and the Soviet Russians wanted to. The South Koreans have actually, commendably achieved it.

Surely a big new rifle system won’t be bought any time soon by the UK MoD and the French. So I think we should be projecting and conceptualising systems and purchases for Future Force 2020 and beyond.

I just want to remind you of the stock of G3 battle rifles the HMAF has. It is used in A’stan, often as a sniper weapon from helos.

Lastly I remember someone saying he really thought that the next assault/battle rifle system would be bought from the company who produced the new Sharpshooter rifle for us.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
June 15, 2011 5:33 pm

I won’t go into the calibre issue here because, as has been pointed out, it has been exhaustively discussed in another thread. Suffice it to say that I am a supporter of a new long-range intermediate cartridge in the 6.5-7mm calibre class. Ultimately this should be in plastic-cased LSAT (which could weigh no more than the current 5.56mm ammo) but it should first be developed using conventional ammo in existing (modified 7.62mm) guns, as this will be much quicker and cheaper.

In the meantime it is clear that the UK will never contemplate adopting a new cartridge unless the US Army does so first. The ball is very much in their court – and they are currently examining it.

On the subject of future small arms, I have compiled my thoughts on the types needed, and how technological developments might come into play, here:

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
July 5, 2011 3:00 pm

I had read somewhere that the tradeoff with the Mk48 vs the M240 (FN MAG, UK L7) is that the lighter construction of the former leads to a much shorter service life. It is unlikely (IMHO!) that the Mk48 will ever become general issue in either the UK or US Armed forces for that reason. The Americans also have a project for a titanium receiver version of the M240 which may be in service now. Oddly, the weapon that FN show as the M240E6 seems to have the old, steel receiver, although they claim it’s titanium.

For comparison, here is the titanium receiver version without the rivets:

We could of course have short circuited all of this palava by buying PKMs in 7.62X51 NATO from the Poles. PKM receivers are also made in the States now so getting one with a Picatinny (or latest NATO equivalent) rail on top is no problem.

I agree it’s pretty much an open secret that we will end up with some kind of piston AR15 derivative (or a combination of AR10 and AR15) next time around in whatever calibre the Americans adopt. It’s really sad that a country that has a thriving industry and hundreds of hobbyists beavering away to create new and wildcat cartridges ended up adopting the 5.56×45. I am with Tony Williams on where we should be – hopefully common sense will prevail over short term economy this time around.