Sig Sauer to Develop New NATO Caliber, Will Build New UK Factory

At the Eurosatory 2024 defense show in Paris, Sig Sauer CEO and president Ron Cohen told international military analyst firm Janes that the company’s American-based operation has been charged with co-developing a new general-purpose cartridge for the U.S. Army. The round would become an alternative ball cartridge used with the Sig Sauer-designed XM7 rifle and XM250 machine gun.

It was two years ago that the United States Army selected the Virginia-based Sig Sauer design for the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), which will replace the legacy M4 Carbine and M249 light machine gun. The announcement came after a rigorous 27-month prototyping and evaluation period. The NGSW program was initiated to find a replacement for the legacy small arms with a new weapon that could serve as both the main battle rifle and squad automatic weapon – both chambered for the 6.8x51mm common cartridge (also known as .277 Fury). The new round was developed to find a middle ground over the legacy 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm cartridges.

Sig Sauer MCX SPEAR, the civilian version of its new Next Generation Squad Weapon that was selected in April 2022 by the U.S. Army as its M4/M16 and SAW replacement for close combat forces. (Sig Sauer)

The U.S. military developed a 6.8mm round for testing and initially stated that companies would have to deliver that projectile at a set velocity and range. However, Sig Sauer found it necessary to re-engineer the cartridge to take 25% higher barrel pressure. This was achieved by adding a new steel base cap, which increased the strength of the weakest part of the round.

The new round could eventually become another NATO standard, alongside the 5.56 and 7.62 cartridges.

Sig Sauer will handle the round’s initial production, with the U.S. Army taking over production at its Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri. Sig Sauer will remain a second-source provider of the new ammunition and announced plans last October for a $150 million expansion at its Elite Performance Ammunition manufacturing in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

The gun maker opened the plant in 2016 with just 50 jobs but expanded to 350. With the expansion, it will bring more than 600 new jobs to the region.

New UK Facility

In addition to the new cartridge announcement, Cohen also said that the company will expand its footprint in the UK. That will include a new ammunition plant, which could produce the aforementioned 6.8mm round for NATO members.

In addition, Sig Sauer is expected to be among the firearm firms that will compete for the British military’s Project Grayburn, the program to find a replacement for the SA80 assault rifle – designated the L84A3. The bullpup firearm was the last in a long line of British weapons, including the Lee–Enfield family, to be developed by the Royal Small Arms Factory, the national arms development and production facility at Enfield Lock. The factory was closed down in 1988, and upgrades to the SA80 have been outside firms, including German-based Heckler & Koch.

Though it took 12 years to develop the SA80, Project Grayburn calls for its replacement to begin to enter service as early as 2027.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based freelance writer who regularly covers firearms related topics and military history. As a reporter, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and websites. Among those are The National Interest, Forbes, and many others. He has collected military small arms and military helmets most of his life, and just recently navigated his first NFA transfer to buy his first machine gun. He is co-author of the book A Gallery of Military Headdress, which was published in February 2019. It is his third book on the topic of military hats and helmets.

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