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Jeremy M H
April 1, 2013 10:57 pm

Looks like a fun toy. I am skeptical that anyone is going to want to buy ammo of that cost for what is fundamentally a weapon to lay down suppressing fire for the infantry. For the US and UK I can’t see going down that path considering that they have 7.62 machine guns on everything (M-1, Challenger, Bradley, Warrior, CROWS ect ect). Right now you can just ship crates of 7.62 linked ammunition into theater for everyone to use. Unless you are going to go about replacing all of those 7.62 weapons I just can’t see taking on the logistical headache for mainline units to get the bump in firepower.

I could see this being used by special forces types who don’t have those same worries but I don’t see a wide scale deployment.

April 2, 2013 10:27 am

I think the intention here Jeremy is that it’s an option to entirely replace 7.62. Until designated marksmen started using 7.62 weapons and well, 7.62 was actually only used by medium machine guns which in the case of the US army meant the M240 and nothing else (the UK also use the chaingun on the warrior, but that’s terrible). Even now I’d be surprised if marksmen used anything like the ammo the machine guns use.

The US is looking to replace the M240 anyway with something lighter so GD has probably thought this up to go “Hey, while you’re replacing all your machine guns, why not switch to a better calibre?”. The 7.62 has a pretty old bullet shape, one of the reasons that cartridges like 6.5 and 6.8 can match or beat the ballistic performance of it, I’d guess that .338 Norma has a more modern bullet.

As for ammo cost, at the moment it’s only going to be a hunting cartridge, so match grade ammo only, mass produce the stuff and cost will come down.

April 2, 2013 11:30 am

Happy to see 5.56 and 7.62 replaced with 6.5 for platoon level and 7.62 replaced with .338 :-)

Seriously, our current inventory is wearing out, should be done by 2020. We should be thinking about new ammo as well as new weapons; hell, new ammo first, then the weapons. Should cost us the same anyway

April 2, 2013 11:33 am

Actually I see this as a possible step in the eventual replacement of the old 7.62 NATO round, which is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. It is worth pointing out that the Vickers MG with .303″ boat tail rounds could fire out past 4000 yards with reasonable accuracy, a far better performance than modern counterparts. With the option of replacing 5.56 mm weapons with a new 6.5-7 mm round which will take care of the assault rifle and LMG needs (say to 1000-1200m for the latter with optical sights), then a more powerful replacement for the 7.62 mm MG becomes possible. Moreover the .338 round also goes some way to supplanting the .5″ Browning round. While it cannot totally replace the HMG, it could go some way to reducing the need to field such heavy weapons. As Ashley says, mass production will seriously reduce the cost of the ammunition. What’s not to like?

April 2, 2013 11:48 am

The 0.5 cal has a sabot round for anti-armour use, going .338 might remove the anti-armour capabilities.

Problem with calibre replacement is that warstocks of the old rounds run into the hundreds of thousands of rounds conservatively, if there is a change, what are you going to do with the old stock? That is an added cost, and the time delay as you build up your ammo stocks to sufficient levels is a period of vulnerability where you cannot engage in self-defence for long.

April 2, 2013 12:04 pm

You have two choices – run the weapons side by side and gradually use up old stocks on a non-replacement basis until the original calibre weapons can be phased out, or simply dispose of them. There are plenty of countries to which they could be sold or gifted. The same applies to any change in calibre or munition type. If really necessary give them to Qinetiq for disposal by incineration. It happens all the time, just as when .303 was replaced by 7.62. In any case I would retain the .5 weapon on a limited basis. The real issue is disposal of 7.62 mm ammo, but you could look at at a 10-15 year swap over period.

Jeremy M H
April 2, 2013 1:03 pm


I don’t disagree with you but I think people over-simplify the implications of switching gun calibers. As someone else pointed out there would be a bit of a transition period for military forces trying to do this (that is why major caliber changes are so rare for the most part) and then you have to figure out what to do with all the old ammunition you have sitting around. For the US alone you are talking about tens of thousands of machine guns (the M-240 is on about every helicopter, vehicle and with every rifle company out there).

More than that getting NATO to agree on the original caliber specifications was like herding cats to begin with. I can’t imagine, in this budget environment, getting the French, US/British (since we use the same MMG) and Germans to all agree to a switch. This might or might not be a deal breaker moving forward as I am not really sure NATO has a core mission right now like it did when those deals were first put in place but it is a concern. I just can’t see the German’s (and their MG-3 is used by a lot of other NATO nations) or French wanting to take on the cost of a comprehensive change in caliber.

That being said I would be for it if the cost are reasonable (given that the 240 inventory needs to be recapitalized anyway) and the US and UK both went down the route since we engage in so many joint operations. To me reasonable cost means it is something we can get done at a 10% or less increase over just buying upgraded M240’s and continuing to use current ammo stocks. In this budget environment I think it would have to be fairly close to cost neutral to get it done.


What is not to like? Well about the general idea nothing. The devil is always in the details.

In general I think new and up-gunned infantry weapons make a lot of sense. With body armor only becoming more common you need something that hits harder. Simply and effective sights have extended the effective range of your average rifleman and even machine gun crew. I don’t think that prior to this change that anyone could really make an argument for better ballistics as hits at long range would be pretty rare and body armor was not at all common.

The problem is making a case for it in a budget constrained environment as you are pulling out of Afghanistan and presumably looking to avoid such entanglements. The auditors will point out all the conversion expense as being a “new” cost that is either viewed as a stand alone expense or added to the unit runs of the guns or ammunition making everything appear to be very expensive early in the program. The budget people will try to fit it in but I question just how high of a priority one would be able to make such a program given that most armies are downsizing and that the case for a new machine gun is significantly less compelling to most than other big budget items.

April 2, 2013 2:46 pm

@JeremyMH Good points, I also see some utility for a small pool amongst Mountain troops (the US still have those) and Airborne troops (who in Afghan also tend to draw the short straw on the most remote patrol bases); as sometimes suppressing the opposite hill across a wide valley, is a tough proposition for 7.62 and no-one likes humping .50cal up sheer slopes.

Adam Sugden
Adam Sugden
April 2, 2013 3:15 pm

look at the how p.d.w. project ended up with loads on different calibres and no one buying them in significant numbers.
goverments like to stick with what they know

April 2, 2013 4:17 pm


I don’t underestimate the scale which GD appears to be aiming for here, the cost of replacing machineguns everywhere would be huge, so it’s far more likely that in the event of a change over the infantry would get the new toy and new vehicles from then on would change calibre, so the Bradley replacement would get it etc.

And I do agree that NATO specifications are much of a nightmare, but having said that things are not quite as unified as they seem. For the most part, in the cold war era we did use pretty much the same ammunition, though I think the French FAMAS fired a more powerful round which had compatibility issues. Nowadays the US army is pushing the limits of those specs with their latest round and the British army is using their own ammo types and planning more. Not to mention reports that special forces are already using whatever the hell they please, which in Iraq at least was frequently in 6.8mm or 6.5mm. Add in that that it was always NATO that towed the line with the US when it came to ammo specs, if the US really wanted to do it then I don’t see anyone stopping them, not that everyone would change with them though. The question is whether the desire is there. (on a slightly related note the MG-3 is actually being withdrawn after some 70 odd years of service).

Lastly I’d like to talk about ammo stocks, this subject does seem to keep coming up every now and then when people talk about changing calibres. Whenever I go digging into this subject I never find any numbers on ammo stocks, instead what you pick up are soldiers complaining about ammunition (ARRSE is great for this, us Brits complain about everything) used for training delivered in different sized boxes, because it’s from a different company to usual, because all the ammo from the primary supplier is going straight to ops. You also hear about how as Iraq ramped up TV shows started to have problems buying blank ammunition because factories were busy producing live rounds.

The numbers you can get are for amunition purchases though, things like the British Army using 1 million rounds during august 06 to September 07, up to 12 million by 09. (interjection, I’m not providing citations here because that’s a lot of work to go through, but these are all things easily googled). The US military in 2000 used 733 million rounds a year during peace time, up to 1.7 billion on 2005.

I don’t think those stocks of ammunition exist, certainly not in sizes large enough that we wouldn’t go through very quickly.

But as you say Jeremy, the devil is in the detail. I think 7.62 is due for it’s retirement, but I don’t see it happening because it’s just not a big enough deal to replace everything.

April 2, 2013 4:30 pm

@Ashley: I don’t think we’re talking about a forklift upgrade here. It’s more a matter that as the existing stuff wears out, we replace. As you say, I don’t think there are even the old “30 days” of stocks available anymore, so we can throw away the “but there’s lots of pre-existing stocks” argument

Jeremy M H
April 2, 2013 8:17 pm


I am not even resisting the change. If it is cost neutral I would sign up for it today were I the US military. I like Wstr’s idea of phasing such things in over time. My main objection is that I doubt it is cost neutral and thus I doubt can get pushed to the top of any pile. I am hopeful though because that is a neat gun.

April 2, 2013 9:21 pm

Before we start buying new machine guns, making sure each soldier has a decent pair of binoculars might be a start.

paul g
April 2, 2013 9:56 pm

can’t see a problem with a two teir system for introduction of new weapon/calibre myself. During basic i trained on the SLR, however when deployed in trade out in the real worldwe had SMG’s, different weapon, different calibre. When the A1 was being introduced it started with para/RM throught the various teeth arms and then down to us loggie types. In fact in GW1 Some LAD types were attatched to us so we had us with a mixture of SLR/SMG depending on trade and rank and some bods with the A1 so a 5.56/7.62/9mm headache surrounded by inf bods all with the A1.

Therefore just repeat the process. through the 3 services To be brutally honest for some trades in the army and most if not all trades bar the regt in the RAF it’s just a PDW.

April 3, 2013 12:10 am

Read somewhere on some Yanky gun forum that the general consensus is that the extra range of .338 NM is generally not needed / required in a General Purpose Medium Machine gun……. as noted above though, potentially useful in the “ridge line” battles of Afghanistan – flip side of course is that would be equipping for the last war, not the next ones……….. oh hum

Fantasy small arms fleets:
Replace all 50 cal with 40mm GMG
Replace 7.62 MG, DMR and .338 LM sniper rifles with .338 NM
Replace all 5.56 and 9mm with 6.5mm CBJ


April 3, 2013 1:50 pm

Those folks don’t seriously think the .338 Norma Mag can compete with a .50 do they? Yes, it’s got a slight range advantage that places it above the 7.62 NATO and below the .50 BMG cartridge, but so what? The ammo is heavier, so that’s less that the gunner can hump on his own.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 3, 2013 2:26 pm

On what Ashley was saying about ammo stockpiles. This article from last year mentions a six month shelf life for ammunition in theater, after which it’s chucked into an incinerator.
Just-in-time procurement is also well established; we just don’t hold huge war stocks of small arms ammo during peace time.