USSOCOM Small Arms Update


A readers brought this article from Soldier Systems to my attention ah hour or so ago. It reports on the SOCOM program for new small arms. AKA wasting our taxes on another XM8 type boondoggle. To say I am skeptical about this entire thing would be an understatement in the extreme.

“The most significant lethality efforts revolve around the adoption of the 6.5 Creedmoor and .338 Norma Mag cartridges which offer overmatch against threat small arms, allowing SOF operators to provide accurate fire at longer ranges than before.

There it is, everyone’s favorite bullshit buzzward that essentially means anything they want it to mean to get more money to waste. That post Army retirement job at SIG is counting on it!

COL Babbitt stated, “The 7.62 round we were previously using allowed engagement out to 7-800 meters, while the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge goes out to 1200 meters.” Likewise, he is excited about .338 NM which offers .50 ranges from a package the size and weight of a 7.52 machine gun.

No comment from him about actually training the users to actually take advantage of this new extended range. Just ignore that 99 percent of the Army would have trouble making a hit at 500 yards.

As far as adoption of ammunition in 6.5 CM, SOCOM is pursuing three courses of action. First, it has developed a government Technical Data Package for a ball round which is being assembled using commercial components. Second, they are purchasing and evaluating “best of breed” cartridges in this caliber. This COA is being used to inform development of other types of rounds such as Armor Piercing. Finally, the command is working with Lake City Army Ammunition Plant to manufacture the ammunition to the TDP.

REad that as ” lowly civilians won’t be able to buy the new service cartridge thank God”

In other ammunition news, SOCOM is looking at alternative types of ammunition construction to reduce weight 20-30% from current brass case weight. They’ve already looked at .50 and are expanding the search which includes such constructions as polymer, steel and hybrid.

Two weapons development programs currently leverage the capabilities of 6.5 CM, Medium Range Gas Gun – Assault and and Lightweight Machine Gun – Assault. These are slight name changes from previous years.

The MRGG-A requirement is a sniper support rifle unique to Naval Special Warfare. Utilizing Mid-Tier Acquisition strategy, the program is underway.

Interestingly, during a media Q&A session, COL Babbitt revealed that the Lightweight Machine Gun – Assault is currently on hold, pending the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program which promises to field a carbine and automatic rifle (think Squad Automatic Weapon) in a new 6.8mm cartridge offering similar ballistic parameters to the commercial 270 Win Mag.” LOL!

Blah Blah Blah, bullshit bullshit bullshit. Buy more stuff to fail at curing a skill problem. Whatever.

I just gave you the only parts that matter for our purposes here. Trust me. But, if you still want to check it out, link below.


  1. I could see the LMG being useful. Lighter with a longer ranged round would be nice. But as I’m sure you guys, especially Kirk, will point out that A. without a quality bipod you aren’t going to be able to leverage it and B. we won’t use or be allowed to use the capability anyways.

    • None. The last time we won a war was WWII.

      The M4 Sherman tank was “overmatched” by many German tanks. We won – because we could built a 50 M4 tanks in the time it took the Germans to build one Tiger. Then, when we got to the field, the M4’s were much easier to move around and support in logistics.

      So the Germans had “overmatch” in spades. Hitler was positively obsessed with ‘overmatch’. The M-262 was a huge overmatch for any Allied fighter near the end of the war. That didn’t stop Chuck Yeager from shooting down a M-262 with a P-51.

      • Give it to Pappy Bush: He won the Gulf War.

        GWBush could have had two victories under his belt if he’d walked out of Afghanistan somewhere around September of 2002 and said, “And don’t do it again!”

        Ditto for walking out of Iraq about the time Baghdad fell.

        Instead we stuck around to pursue vague meandering goals without any real understanding of the goal of warfare, which is to break the will of your opponent to fight.

  2. I can see some of it. I am a big fan of 6.5mm and o5 does offer better performance than the equivilant 30 cal. I dont know that it is more militarily useful than 30. Can it have useful tracer or spotter? Idk.

    I do think that small niche percision rifles are different. They really need to look at the whole and not just socom

    They also need to fix procurement.

    • Yeah, a lot of this would be nice for niche rolls, but I’m not sure how useful it would be fleet wide. Maybe the thinking is more payload/penetration ability with armor plates becoming more wide spread?

    • I think the swap to 6.5 CM is primarily a weight and recoil proposition.
      Improved ballistics matter and reduces training (6.5 CM also puts trajectory/ballistics on roughly same plane as .300 win mag, .338 lapua or .50 bmg [one aligns and one doesn’t, forget offhand], etc), but reduced weight means less injury to highly trained (and $$$ training) SOF soldiers as well as greater rounds per weight in vehicles, etc. The 6.5 CM is intended to replace .308 entirely best as I can tell (precision DMR/SPR and medium MG roles) w/ 5.56 remaining primary small arm.

      6.5 CM is already in service SOF for both medium MG and precision roles, so it’s not entirely new.

      For 50s, the number of rounds carried per lb of weight is almost certainly the consideration. Most US troops are vehicle-borne these days, so it’s about weight capacity of vehicles — and SOF is more likely to find themselves on islands as well were rounds on hand are the difference between life and death.

  3. The problem of the US military isn’t the lack of weapons, IMO.

    The problem is in our ROE, our objectives, the number of lawyers and ill-formed goals.

    I, as a taxpayer, who has already paid a tidy seven-figure sum of money to Uncle Sugar in my lifetime of paying taxes, have only two missions for our military:

    “Kill people and break shit.”

    Notice what’s missing there. No “nation-building.” No “strategic deterrence.” No “postures.” No “grand alliances”

    Kill people and break shit. That’s it. The military I want could do it with a 1903 Springfield or a M-240. I don’t care. Hell, they could do what I want done with Brown Bess muskets. All I want at the end of a day’s work is a pile of bodies amidst huge piles of rubble that used to be their cities and infrastructure.

    In the fullness of hindsight, the failure of today’s military to actually win wars but still buy endless toys claiming they want to win wars goes back to Marshall, of the Marshall Plan in Germany post-WWII. That’s when the US taxpayer started getting suckered into supporting other people’s stupidity, and the US military started getting tasked with “nation building” and other such nonsense. It was also, not coincidently, the last time we outright won a war.

    And, just to tweek you guys, I’ll NB that it was done with a precursor to the M-14 – one where the detachable box magazine was left out of the design because some desk jockey thought that GI’s would leave valuable magazines on the ground, and they might waste ammo if they had too much of it.

    • The problem of the US military isn’t the lack of weapons, IMO.

      The problem is in our ROE, our objectives, the number of lawyers and ill-formed goals.

      I agree with the first sentence, and I’ll quibble with the second: The issue isn’t the ROE or the objectives, in other than a secondary sense. The real problem lies in our understanding of the nature of war, and our response to that understanding as codified in what the military professional terms “doctrine“.

      Which is often discussed, but almost never defined in discussions like ours:

      “The term also applies to the concept of an established procedure to a complex operation in warfare. The typical example is tactical doctrine in which a standard set of maneuvers, kinds of troops and weapons are employed as a default approach to a kind of attack.

      Almost every military organization has its own doctrine, sometimes written, sometimes unwritten. Some military doctrines are transmitted through training programs. More recently, in modern peacekeeping operations, which involve both civilian and military operations, more comprehensive (not just military) doctrines are now emerging such as the 2008 United Nations peacekeeping operations’ “Capstone Doctrine” which speaks to integrated civilian and military operations.”

      That’s the Wikipedia outline of it, and while I feel it is incomplete, it does offer a starting point. Doctrine is what exists at that nexus of “training to fight” and the operational intent which flows from that. It’s a holistic thing; what you teach the troops to do in response to set-piece events in Basic flows up and out into how your battalions and brigades respond to tactical pressures presented by the enemy. What is often ignored is how all of it works together; the commander operating as a brigade commander relies on his squad leaders to do certain things at certain times, when they encounter certain specific tactical events. From that, he can plan–Much of it is entirely unspoken, unwritten, and entirely the product of habitual reaction that the commander has learned through experience as a junior leader. If a commander has the expectation and understanding that his subordinate leaders down to the lowest level will react in a certain way, and then he bases his plans and actions on that, he and his subordinates can be said to be following “doctrine”.

      The issue with regards to the whole question of weapons selection goes into this. Numbnuts Milley has decided he needs mo’ bettah overmatch, and he feels this through the seat of his pants. Dude can’t quantify it, can’t measure it, but he intuitively just knows he needs it.

      Thus, the buzzword.

      The reality that I see is that most of our problems come down to one thing: Inept use of what we have, and a really poor training environment that produces the troops and the leaders.

      Case in point: Look at the Qualification Standards for the machine gun. Gentlemen, we are still basing 90% of our qualification on the idea that the MG team is going to be used in the defense, from static prepared positions. That’s the assumption; WWI trench warfare such as we haven’t fought since the static phase of the Korean War. If that were not the case, then the guns would not be fired from crappy little tripods off of firing tables in dug-in positions. If we were training properly, the qual range would look like a foot patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan, and emphasize delivery of fire on moving enemy elements in a dynamic flowing scenario that required the gun teams to move between firing positions.

      And, we’d be doing it at altitude, in hills and valleys that replicated what is found in the Hindu Kush.

      Fix that kind of problem, which you could do with training, and then come back to me for more money to buy different weapons. Until you’re using what you have to the full capabilities it has, don’t play this game of post-retirement jobs for generals with me.

  4. Since the article is talking SOCOM weapons programs I’ll withhold my judgment on whether it’s worthwhile or not. They’re not infallible of course but they know more of what they need and why and then train in employing it more than your average soldier.

    If that 338NM MG is as good as the reports I’ve read from actual shooters it’ll be a helluva gun. Yeah it needs a better system of employment; tripod, sight, etc but that can come later.

    • “If that 338NM MG is as good as the reports I’ve read from actual shooters it’ll be a helluva gun. Yeah it needs a better system of employment; tripod, sight, etc but that can come later.”

      Ah, but those things won’t come later. The weapon itself flows from a fundamentally flawed understanding and definition of the problem, and when it fails to fix things…? Guess what? They won’t then try to do those things you enunciate that “…can come later.”.

      The problem with this program is that it’s trying to set out from fundamentally flawed premises, and then work to fix issues that are both poorly defined and entirely misunderstood.

      You want to get at the root of all this, you have to go back to the beginning, the M14 and the 7.62X51 NATO cartridge. Those two both came out of a flawed understanding of the realities of low-level infantry combat during the mid-20th Century, and everything flows from that fatally skewed mindset.

      The reality is that the intermediate cartridge as a do-all “one ring to rule them all” hasn’t ever worked. It’s fine in an individual weapon; where it is lacking is as an answer to the tactical problems that the support MG addresses. There, I am afraid, you need a full-house big-boy caliber. The Germans learned this in their units that they managed to fully field the StG44 in, the Soviets learned it in the formations that they managed to kit out with the AK/RPK/RPD complex, and so did we, if we admitted it, in the way we had the M16 coupled up with the M60 in Vietnam. Denial of this set of facts at this point is sheer madness.

      What these benighted fools are trying to do with this program is to recapitulate all of past failures. From the signs, what they’re going to wind up with is another half-ass unworkable individual weapon cartridge and yet another flawed support weapon one–Only, this time around? They’re going for “too big” in the support weapon. My read is that the .338 range is too damn big for something a squad can handle hauling around on foot (both tactically and logistically), and that the first units that try it are going to go back to the 7.62 as quickly as they can manage.

      And, again–They’ve mistaken an employment and doctrine problem for a ballistics issue. The results are going to be no different than any of the other previous failure iterations.

      All of this flows out from a failure to really grasp and understand what goes on down on the pointy end of combat. The fact that we’re still doing MG qualifications the way we are just highlights that point, painfully. We simply do not use our guns and teams dynamically, nor do we really understand how to use them to best effect, influencing the battle. Changing calibers and guns won’t fix this issue–It’s a software, not a hardware issue. The .338 will still be fired off a bipod and the human shoulder, with all those inherent limitations. Anyone who claims they can get much past 800m off of a bipod, and still be able to maintain any kind of tight beaten zone is either delusional, lying, or simply doesn’t understand what the hell they’re doing, or how machineguns work.

  5. These 6.5 CM aren’t intended to replace everything AFAIK, just replace .308s that need a diet and are ballistically-deficient. So I think it’s prudent.

    Also the .338 NM MG will be primarily vehicle-mounted, not lugged around by hand. SOF typically keeps most of their .50 bmg MGs on vehicles even when in static base positions in Afghanistan. Not an expert — but I’d think the beaten zone from a pintile mount should be more equivalent to a tripod than a bipod.

    So the question is more one of the weight delta between .338 NM and .50 BMG rounds and weapon systems, how many more rounds are able to be carried for that weight (haven’t run hard #s, but I’d think at least 2x for rounds and 3-4x for weapon), and whether the swap to .338 NM actually results in any significant detriments for the intended/typical use of the heavy MGs.

    Also, at least Sig .338 NM MGs are already in use in SOCOM.
    “Chambered in .338 Norma Magnum, the MG 338 is billed on being able to deliver effective fire at ranges out to 2,000 meters, closing the gap between 7.62 NATO weapons like the M240 and .50 cal BMG platforms such as the M2 heavy machine gun. Weighing only 20-pounds, the MG 338 uses Sig-produced ammunition as well as the company’s suppressor design to create an all-Sig product.
    The gun is the answer to a 2017 solicitation by USSOCOM for 5,000 Lightweight Medium Machineguns chambered in .338NM. The 300-grain belted magnum round is touted as having a recoil similar to a 7.62mm NATO round while still being lethal out past 1,700 meters. At 1,000 meters, the round is still capable of defeating Level III body armor and penetrating soft-skinned vehicles, thus considered a bridge between the current 7.62mm offerings and .50 BMG.”

    • Also: “Operational Impact: The 23-pound .338 NM LWMMG fills the gap between the ballistic capabilities of the M240 L 7.62mm machine gun and the .50 caliber M2A1 machine gun. The .50 caliber M2A1 has the range required, but due to size, weight, and volume of both the weapon and ammunition it is not practical to mount this system on the lighter vehicles employed by tactical operators nor can it be used in a dismounted assault role. By designing and developing the .338 NM brass-cased round, the warfighter will have the most versatile and lightweight medium machine gun capability for dismounted and mounted operations on the battlefield.”


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