US Army testing next-gen Sig Sauer XM7 Rifle and XM250 Automatic Rifle

Fort Campbell is testing some of the Army’s newest weapons that have the potential to redefine the capabilities of U.S. infantry forces. Last month, soldiers began field testing the Sig Sauer XM7 Rifle and XM250 Automatic Rifle before they respectively replace the M4/M4A1 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Kayla Cosby reports.
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U.S. Army Fort Campbell Command Sgt. Maj. Chad Stackpole shouldering a Next-Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Machine Gun during a weapon familiarization demonstration, Sept. 25, 2023, at Fort Campbell, Ky. Both the XM7 Rifle and the XM250 Automatic Rifle are primed to replace their predecessors, the 5.56mm caliber M4s and M249 SAWs (Picture source: U.S. Army/Kayla Cosby)

The contract, awarded by the U.S. Army, represents a significant investment in enhancing the Soldiers' effectiveness on the battlefield. “The XM7 has no fixed front sight post, allowing for full-length rail systems and eliminating a heat source that interferes with thermal weapon sights," said Communications Director Bridgett Siter, Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team at Fort Moore. “Both [Next Generation Squad Weapons] were purpose-built and integrated to fire with visual and acoustic suppressors to improve survivability and command and control, and they have ambidextrous controls and improved operating systems. The XM250 incorporates a select fire system that allows automatic riflemen to maintain the volume of fire in the team while improving their ability to do other tasks in semi-automatic mode.”

The transition isn't just about the introduction of new firearms: it also signifies a shift in ammunition caliber from the 5.56mm to the more potent 6.8mm. This decision was fueled by the need for ammunition with improved armor-penetrating capabilities, and it is expected to bring about a substantial boost in lethality. “The move to 6.8mm improves the probability of hitting a target, increases resistance to wind drift and enhances performance against personnel and battlefield barriers,” Siter said. “The NGSW weapons make the [close combat force] soldier more lethal and survivable.”

These new weapons are not only armed with the common 6.8mm ammunition, which includes government-supplied projectiles and specially designed cartridges, but they also come equipped with the cutting-edge XM157 Fire Control optic. Crafted by Vortex Optics, the optic is equipped with a laser range finder, ballistic calculator, visible and infrared lasers, and even a compass, providing Soldiers with unmatched precision and tactical advantages.

This pivotal shift to an "intermediate caliber" round marks a departure from the Army's reliance, for more than half a century, on the 5.56mm ammunition. The decision emerged from a comprehensive series of studies conducted, highlighting the limitations in range and energy delivery exhibited by the existing small-caliber squad-level weapons.

These groundbreaking weapons are designated for close combat forces, including infantry, combat engineers, and select enablers like scouts and special operations units. The integration of the 1-8x magnified XM157 fire control, with its advanced computer-assisted rifle optic, extends the weapons' range, bolsters accuracy, and delivers more formidable hits.

Army Recognition Global Defense and Security news
U.S. Army Fort Campbell Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Midberry shouldering an XM7 Rifle during a weapon familiarization demonstration, Sept. 25, 2023, at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Picture source: U.S. Army/Kayla Cosby)

Defense News October 2023