The LVAW: JSOC’s Micro Sized Blaster

The Special Operation community is an interesting bunch that is capable of tackling a number of high-stakes missions. They are America’s best warfighters and a rather diverse group. To tackle these specialized and often intense missions, they are equipped with the best of the best when it comes to guns and gear. One such specialized weapon is the SIG-made LVAW. LVAW stands for Low Visibility Assault Weapon. 

When they say assault weapon, they mean it. It’s a selective-fire rifle that’s roughly the size of an SMG. The LVAW isn’t your everyday, average service rifle but a precision instrument designed for specific missions. It’s one of the more fascinating rifles in service with special ops, and the fact it’s often seen amongst units like CAG makes it a bit of a low-key superstar. 

The LVAW — What’s The Purpose? 

The name Low Visibility Assault Weapon is an interesting one and is a weapon that should be looked at with military eyes and not civilian. It’s certainly not a concealable platform. It is a very compact carbine design that features a super short barrel — it’s a mere 6.75 inches long. I have handguns with a six-inch barrel, for reference. Finding official measurements is tough. This isn’t a rifle that pops up in SIG’s catalog. 

The LVAW does feature a folding stock and has been seen with both a standard metal folding stock and the modern folding and collapsible design we see in numerous MCX rifles. It’s a rifle design that can be very small and compact. It’s not designed to be hidden under a coat, but it does help the operator keep a low profile in other ways. 

psd team with lvaw
General Austin Miller’s PSD team carried the LVAW. (JSOCArchives/Reddit)

Inside a vehicle, it’s rather small and easy to conceal. The same goes for a surveillance position or something similar. It’s small enough to fit into a rather average-sized bag and be toted with ease and without attracting attention. Additionally, it’s a rifle that is designed to be suppressed. Hell, it’s almost required to be since the handguard is longer than the barrel. 

A suppressor limits both flash and audible signatures, making it harder to locate when fired. It’s not like the movies where they are basically invisible at 10 feet. In a firefight, it’s harder to find the location of a shooter using a suppressor, especially when they could be 100 yards out. 

The Star of the Show — .300 Blackout 

The LVAW essentially gives you rifle performance in an SMG-sized package with the potential to be as quietly suppressed as an SMG. Submachine guns are great, but the fact they fire pistol rounds limits them a good bit. The LVAW uses the 300 Blackout round. In an instant, an operator could choose between subsonic and supersonics by just swapping magazines. 

The heavy subsonic rounds eliminate the telltale sound of a supersonic rifle crack, but they do lack range. While they penetrate better than pistol rounds, they don’t penetrate as well as supersonic rounds. If the shooter needs more range and penetration power, they can swap in supersonics, and they have it. This is what .300 Blackout was designed to do. 

300 blackout ammo
The .300 Blackout makes it all possible.

It’s also designed to work well in short-barreled firearms. At less than seven inches, the LVAW certainly fills that short barrel role. When .300 Blackout was devised, it had a few requirements. Easily suppressed, works well in short barrels, can be used in sub and super formats, and ultimately it’s designed to help produce weapons to replace SMGs. 

If you are going into a warzone, do you want an SMG that has maybe 100 yards of effective range, nearly zero armor penetration capabilities, and bad terminal ballistics? Or would you like a rifle that can do everything the SMG can do, but better? The LVAW does it better. 

The Base Gun — The MCX 

The LVAW comes from the SIG MCX series. SIG released the MCX to be the future of modular rifles. It’s a short-stroke gas piston system with a design similar to the old AR-18. There is no external buffer, which allows for the folding stock. The short-stroke gas piston design certainly helps with reliability when it comes to short-barreled rifles. 

MCX rifle
The LVAW comes from the SIG MCX.

The MCX comes in a ton of configurations. In fact, the Army’s new XM7 (formally XM5) rifle is an MCX variant but amped up for a larger action. The MCX does offer quite a bit of modularity, and SOCOM has even adapted the Rattler for their PDW weapon. The Rattler is even smaller than the MCX. 

The platform is certainly not an AR, but it’s AR-like. The rifle does use the same controls as the AR and M4 series rifles, except they are ambidextrous. This makes it easy for anyone trained on an M4 to transition to the LVAW and, by extension, to the XM7 and Rattler. 

The LVAW Configuration 

As covered, it’s short and suppressed and does have a folding stock. The rail is also nonstandard and highly sought after by the clone market. It’s not an MLOK rail or Keymod but is modular with the ability to add rails where they are wanted. On this handguard, it seems like PEQ 15s are popular and common. Those are perfect for those nighttime operations. 

LVAW With delta operator
This Delta Operator prefers a 40-round P-MAG with his LVAW. (Reddit/JSOCArchives)

The photos we’ve seen from the LVAW in use include various optics, including the Aimpoint T2, the Eotech XPS3, and even the Romeo4T. It’s typically equipped with backup iron sights as well. A few users seem to prefer 40-round PMAGs with the LVAW, which is interesting to see. Surefire Scout lights seem to be the light of choice as well. 

Where We’ve Seen It 

CAG, and JSOC in general, is a pretty secretive group. Most pictures we see of the LVAW come from former operators in unclassed photos. It’s often unclear where, why, or how the gun is used, but like many tools, it’s versatile. We do know from DOD-released photos it seems to be a favorite for personal security details of high-value individuals, including General Scott Miller. 

lvaw in the armory
This photo is from an armory and it’s a very clear LVAW photo. (Source Unknow)

These guns aren’t on full display, but if you look in the background, you’ll see armed commandos, and quite often, they are carrying the LVAW. 

It’s a shot in the dark to guess where else the rifle has been used. Surely it’s made its way to bad places to arms commandos in the night. For the next 20 or so years, I doubt we’ll know just where and when the LVAW was utilized. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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