US Army Tests Next Generation Squad Weapon System

The M16/M4 platform has been in service with America’s armed forces since the early 1960s. In more recent conflicts, like in the mountain passes of Afghanistan, the 5.56 NATO cartridge used by these rifles was found to be lacking. After over a decade of testing, the US Army seems to have settled on a 6.8mm cartridge and a new rifle and automatic rifle as part of their “Next Generation Squad Weapon System.” Development is one thing, but troop trials are when the rubber hits the road.

Female cadet at West Point
The Cadets from the Class of 2024 complete Cadet Field Training (CFT II). (U.S. Army Photo by John Pellino/USMA)

It was announced that in April 2024, the new weapons system would be issued to men and women of the 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell for New Equipment Training. 

“The process of developing and fielding new equipment is never without challenges and setbacks and speed bumps, so we’re celebrating the fact that we’re delivering on schedule, as promised,” said Lt. Col. Mark Vidotto, the NGSW lead for the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team at Fort Moore, Georgia. “It was a team effort from start to finish.”

The new XM7 rifle and XM250 automatic rifle fire the new 6.8x51mm cartridge, otherwise known as the .277 Fury. The round and an accompanying weapons system to fire it began development in 2018 before Sig Sauer officially rolled out the .277 Fury to the civilian market in their Sig Sauer Cross bolt-action rifle. 

The 6.8mm splits the middle between the 5.56 NATO and the 7.62 NATO cartridge by giving the soldier more hitting power and a flatter trajectory more akin to the dimensionally similar 7mm-08 round, but without the additional felt recoil and weight of the 7.62 NATO. Only additional testing will bear out the advantages and disadvantages. These new small arms are due to be tested by a National Guard armored brigade in May 2024.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

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