Image taken from Wikipedia.
Thoughts on the IAR, Part 1
For a variety of reasons I’ve been thinking a good bit about the USMC’s M27 IAR and the concept of the automatic rifle.
Generally my first thought is annoyance that the USMC wouldn’t buy anything cool until after I got out.
While I was in, along with having the M249 SAW, we also heard and believed that the USMC needed rifles. It was often said that we used rifles because of the greater accuracy, reliability, and lethality. I found it funny when we got to Iraq and the SAW gunners were issued PARA barrels (13.7 inch long according to FN). It made the SAW shorter than a M16. Even funnier is how we were told we needed 20 inched barreled rifles for fighting, yet the 16.5 inch barrel on the IAR is apparently good enough.
The M249 was a good light machine gun, but a fair automatic rifle. When you could stay in a stationary emplacement and lay down a wall of lead it was a whole lot of fun. Carrying it around and trying to engage rapidly was not so great. I think the biggest issue is that we generally did not have as much trigger time and confidence in the SAW. Guys graduated Bootcamp thinking they knew how to use the M16. Handing them a SAW was giving them a weapon there were not familiar or proficient with. Not to mention that the SAW was usually given to the new boots who didn’t know how to employ it well.
So the question becomes, does the increased portability and identical handling and controls to the M4/M16 make it worth giving up the capability of massive volume of fire of the belt fed.