What’s Happening in SF Arms Today

There are a number of things going on right now, some of which may be trends.

More and Heavier Weapons

When we joined SF, while there was plenty of access to weapons that were heavier/more specialized / foreign, what an ODA carried was 12 M16A1 rifles (if we were fortunate enough to have 12 guys and zero empty slots, which happened… let’s just say, rarely). Soon, they gave us two M203s so we didn’t have to keep bumming M79s that Big Green wanted to get rid of.

Since then, the trend has been to push more and heavier weapons down to team level, giving the team increasing mission-driven options.

Background

By the start of Afghanistan, we had SOPMOD I M4A1s, two of them w/203s per ODA, 7.62mm (M24) and 12.7mm (M82A1) sniper rifles, and had just gotten M249 SAWs. We borrowed everything else or bought it out of theater-specific money: AT weapons, a full suite of suppressors, etc. (Suppressors were part of SOPMOD I but ours got stuck in the pipeline and we got 2/team after deployment).

We had claymores and toe-poppers, and in 2003 had to turn them in because some drone in the foreign service had made an unwise promise to the ghost of the least consequential Briton in history, with the possible exception of Boy George, to wit, Princess Diana.

Demolitions have become more urban-centric lately. Your average SF demo man can rig a door to blow in two seconds flat, but send him into a forest to blow down trees for an abatis, and you’ll see him sneaking peeks at reference material.

With the evolution of the war, the weapons evolved rapidly with many more versions of precision rifle appearing, the Mk17 SCAR with several barrel lengths, and variants on the M4 / Mk18. We finally got M240s, M2HBs and Mk 19s of our own, rather than borrowed from Big Green. And bigger weapons yet began to ride our vehicles, notably M134 Miniguns and some SOF-specific weapons.

Where We Are Now

The basic weapon remains the M4A1 with several different uppers available.

Changes since Your Humble Blogger retired include free-floated rails systems, much better general issue 5.56 ammunition negating the need for Mk 262 77-grain, HK grenade launchers partly replacing the Mk 19 (the HK’s a much better weapon), and Mk 44 (currently Mod 3) replacing earlier iterations of Miniguns.

Pistols are a special purchase of the Glock 19, Gen 3, with the MOS slide and the Docter optic as previously used atop some SOF ACOGS. Not all teams in all groups mount the optic, but if the loggies have done their job, they have them available.

For what it’s worth, the Dillon-made Miniguns are preferred over the original GE ones because they’re easier to handle — which is relative; it’s a very difficult and intensive weapon to maintain. “The way that GE attaches the backplate, it feels like it’s trying to rotate in your hands” said one guy who attended a maintenance school which was “nowhere near enough time” on the miniguns. The M134 nomenclature is still used, but only when the gun is mounted for aerial use (for instance, as a helo door gun). This is operator-level maintenance disassembly of a Mk 44, NSN 1005-01-576-3284:

Haven’t seen that many parts since BAR days! Note the armorer’s breakfast of champions: Starbucks, Krispy Kremes, Gatling Gun.

Contrary to normal Hollywood practice, the Mk44 is not an individual weapon for a muscle-bound refugee from WWE, but a vehicular weapon. If it has an Achilles’s Heel, it’s the electrical system. The Navy specified paper fuses, and it’s not easily to tell when a fuse is blown… the first thing an SF armorer or 18B needs to do is replace the fuses with similar value ones from the vehicle maintenance shop. Because it’s a 24v system, it adapts readily to military vehicular or aircraft electrical systems, but is harder to install in nonstandard vehicles. (It can be, and has been, done, but it’s a pain in the neck). The weapon system, complete, draws 2,500 watts of power.

After juice problems, the next most common reason for a Mk 44 going silent is ammunition exhaustion. It burns a lot of rounds at a rate of about 3,000 / min cyclic. (The rate is selectable but that’s the standards). It’s often installed in a Mk49 CROWS, which is relatively trouble-free compared to the gun itself, but can also be fired by a double spade grip on the backplate, and that’s one of the more common ways for SF to use it. Found on YouTube, SF at the range:

Basic load is a multiple of 3,000 round ready canisters. (The Vietnam-era 1,000 round cans seem to be obsolete). The cans need to be changed before you shoot up the last rounds in the approximately 14-foot long (~4m) flexible feed chute, or reload will be a slow and exacting experience, and if you are under fire your teammates will call you hurtful names.

Even as the SCAR has fallen out of a favored position as the doorkicker-gun-par-excellence, there’s word that Big Green is buying a quantity of them, and they are being relabeled the CAR because the S in SOF Combat Assault Rifle no longer applies.

SF and all ARSOF loves it when Big Green buys something that we pioneered, because it means we can get more with regular Title 10 appropriated funds and not use our MFP 11 SOF money for that. Sure, it’s all the same tax blood coming from the same taxpayer turnips, but the finite pool of SOF money has to buy everything from TF 160’s next space age flying thing to improved foreign-language training classes. As you can imagine, the fly guys and the language instructors (not to mention futuristic communications and ISR-device users) get bent out of shape when we “misuse” what they know is “their” money merely for stuff to kill the enemy with, which they point out that we can do perfectly well with two sticks of wood and 18″ of twine. So when we get guns that are shared with the big Army, it’s better for everybody: we think it often gets them better guns (they sure liked lightweight 7.62mm machine guns), and we know it gives us more cash to spend on our other priorities that are less in-demand among the general purpose forces (who have their own track record of killing the enemy, after all).

Where We’re Going

That’s anybody’s guess. Wider issue of the .300 BLK upper has been a matter of controversy inside SF — some are strong for it, some oppose it. The guys that have it have been dealing deadly execution with it. But SOCOM has reportedly solicited offers for 25 thousand .300 BLK PDW/CQC kits: with a side-folding stock and a 10-inch .300 BLK upper.

There’s no real interest in piston uppers or 416s. Fanboy stuff for the civilian tacticool community, really. Nobody’s shown us a data-driven test that documents any significant improvement. (Remember, the 416 was bought by SOF ~15-20 years ago to solve a short barrel reliability problem that’s now well-licked in DI weapons).

Magazines are prosaic but they’ve come many miles. We’ve gone from having only a couple of decent magazine choices to a great quantity of types of solid, reliable, consistent-feeding magazines. The days that you had to run steel HK mags because the issue mags sucked so bad are long behind us; even the issue mags don’t suck. The HKs are still good, but why pay the dollar and weight premium? Magpuls are good, too — the Marines are standardizing on them — and they’re not the only good polymer option.

There’s also no real interest in a reversion to 7.62 in any of the current platforms as a standard, baseline weapon. Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria are a bit unusual in offering lots of long-range engagements. Unless their predeployment training dropped the ball (which some units have managed to do), our riflemen across the board are far more lethal than the enemy anywhere inside the 800m envelope. The enemy still deploys (apart from MGs and snipers) weapons that are outranged by our rifles, mostly 7.62 x 39 weapons with short-radius open sights; the AK platform fails to exploit the accuracy potential of its cartridges.

With the war continuing, we may not see major fielding but we’re going to see lots of improved developments. We are currently in a place where some of the last decade’s developments need to be digested and promulgated. We’re not sure where the soldier of 2117 will be fighting, but the odds are pretty good he will be fighting with a weapon that launches metallic projectiles from the shoulder and weighs about 6 to 10 pounds. As has been the case since about 1617.

38 thoughts on “What’s Happening in SF Arms Today

  1. SPEMack

    I was told there would be piston driven guns in 6.8 SPC. Oh, and sidearm would be Colt M-45A1s.

    Most interesting about the mini guns.

    1. BAP45

      I distinctly remember hearing the side are was a Bren10.
      Although, admittedly I did always like the idea of the 6.8.

  2. Kirk

    I’m curious about what everyone’s take is from that story over at Soldier Systems Daily, in reference to Big Army going back to a 7.62 NATO solution in the presumed run-up to LSAT fielding…

    I thought at first it was an April Fool’s Day offering, but it came out on the 5th. At this point, I don’t know what to think, in terms of “For real…? Really, really real?”.

    Supposedly, what was initially a solicitation for a DMR is now being looked at as a “Issue it to everybody in the BCT…” thing.

    Back to the future, anyone? It’s like the ghost of Eugene Stoner is up in heaven, laughing his ass off. Maybe sixty years after the initial proposal, the AR-10 will finally make it into the big leagues of mass-issue. Bizarre.

    Still, it goes to add weight to my thesis that the people running this goat-fuck don’t really have any sort of consistent idea of what they’re doing. If we see mass issue of this HK M110A1 variant along with the procurement of the XM-25…? I give the fuck up. Common sense has left the building…

    1. SPEMack

      I touched on that in the comments below.

      The M-14 cult is already chanting and praying forwards Camp Perry.

      So,glad I’m out.

        1. Hognose Post author

          The last rifle with a ‘4’ after the decimal point was the Trapdoor, and our infantry have scarcely shot anybody since then.

          1. archy

            The Lakota and Shyelas and other plains tribes were very respectful of the long rifles, who could make hits at nearly a klick away [maybe a stretch, maybe via unit volley fire] with their .50-70s and later .45-70s. The Cavalry, with shorty carbines and a handgun apiece? Not so much….

  3. Looserounds.com

    It is amazing how fast things changed from 1997 to 2017. The wars really pushed the development of so much stuff. So much has changed for military that has actually in a large amount tricked UP from civilian stuff. With the popularity of class 3 items over the last 16 yeas, the line is really blurring even more, much to anger of the antigun crowd everywhere.
    The last 20 years certainly has refined and improved weapons and their supporting items. Its amazing to even just look back at what was out and common even in 2006 compared to now

    1. John M.

      Shoot, Clinton’s AWB was still looking pretty large in the rear-view mirror in 2006. And Dubya had campaigned (lightly) on a renewed AWB in 2004.

      -John M.

    2. Seans

      Honestly while the wars definitely helped with improving small arms and munitions, I would say the end of the AWB is what brought fourth a lot the improvements.

      1. RSR

        And saved hundreds if not thousands of our soldiers lives due to decreased malfunctions and increased capability…

  4. Steven Y.

    We looked at the HK 302 as a HUGE improvement over the old M203 system. Not only a nifty stand-alone weapon, but compared to the shimmed trial and error clamp fit procedure we had to use to mount a 203 on an M4, much less the blacksmithing required to stretch the barrel yoke to tighten up the mounting on a full length rifle barrel, the simplicity of hanging an M302 was the voice of heaven.
    For that design alone H and K is welcome to hate me as much as it wants to hate me.

  5. medic09

    So pre-SAW days, you didn’t have someone designated with an automatic weapon like a MAG?

    1. Hognose Post author

      Nope. In infantry, there was a designated ‘automatic rifleman’ in each fire team (2 per squad). HE had an M16A1 AND permission to fire on auto.

        1. Al T.

          No. The bipod, two additional magazine pouches and 6 30 round magazines were always hidden in the supply room for the supply SGT to trade for toilet paper. Few Commanders inventoried the BII for the AR dude. :)

          1. BAP45

            Figures. Amazing how much stuff “gets stuck” in the pipeline.

            You know i heard that those little clip on bipods were way better than those Lafayette things…

        2. Hognose Post author

          Yeah, the Colt Clothespin Special, one of which was supplied with every M16A1, and which are still being found in warehouse corners 50 years later.

          1. archy

            one of which was supplied with every M16A1, and which are still being found in warehouse corners 50 years one of which was supplied with every M16A1, and which are still being found in warehouse corners 50 years later.,p>

            And which pretty neatly fits the M203-mounting cut on an M4 barrel. though it’s more usually useful when cleaning or for display than as any sort of shooting aid. The old canvas carry case for the bipod is also mildly useful, providing a better place than a GI sock for storing cleaning equipment for the no-storage in-butt M16 and CAR-15, and can still be used for that if you don’t have one of the little nylon cleaning kit pouches with the ALICE clip or MOLLE straps.

      1. medic09

        Interesting. Thanks for that info.

        We briefly toyed with 50 round magazines for the full-size Galil (including some of our SpecOps folks). I suspect it handled the task better than the M16; but it still wasn’t very good. We had 50 round magazines around, but never bothered with them. Every platoon had two people designated for the MAG. Whether or not they took them on patrols then depended on the patrol and its anticipated needs. Not very light; but certainly effective and with good range. The guys carried them slung like rifles, and took real pride in what they could do with them. Were there times that you wished you had an automatic in the team; or did your sort of operations just not need them much?

        1. Hognose Post author

          In the ’67 war, the IDF issued the FAL and as a squad automatic the FALO (a heavy barrel, bipod-installed FAL).

          Most of the operations we did in 10th and 11th SFGA in the 1980-92 period would have been badly compromised by the firing of a single shot. We did a lot of stealthy sneaking, and our plan for wartime was — more sneaking. The buzz phrase was “one shot is mission compromise.” So was killing an enemy sentry, etc. but we were prepared to do that silently if necessary — and start running for our lives.

  6. Sommerbiwak

    What about the Mark 47 automatic grenade launcher instead of the H&K GMW? Is it dead?

    And whew, finding a steadfast supply at 12 or 24 V and 2500 W in a car sounds like a major headache. And why does the navy spec paper fuses? I guess the Army and Air Force specify wire fuses for the M134?

  7. Swamp Fox

    From an OPSEC stand point the 416 and the 300BLK are both big violations. You catch someone with a 416 just give him some coffee and tell him that you will be back to discuss JSOCs role in your fight. The same for the 300BLK. Even if the enemy just comes across 300BLK brass they know who visited.

    The 7.62×39 is a much better choice. You can run a true .308 diameter barrel with polygonal rifling and not have pressure spikes. (go research reloading sites on this issue as it is just a .003 difference, or So what does this give you? The ability to bring Top Shelf ammo to the fight, if the party goes long or turn ugly you can stuff The Local Well Ammo into you gun. But wait I want to use the 300BLK in place of the MP7. Ok get you rifling twist rate correct to run 200-240 grain match bullets for suppressed operations. We have the ability to use FSU brass and still make a very accurate round.

    http://www.accuratereloading.com/76239.html

    Check out those group sizes Run that MK-47 mutant by CMMG

    https://www.cmmginc.com/shop/rifle-mk47-akm2-7-62x39mm-sbn-mutant/

    The 7.62x39mm is an overboard round so it is not picky when cutting barrel length for suppressors.

    Just an 18B thinking

    1. MD

      Opsec? Pretty sure the enemy doesnt need an to find an HK to figure out they’re fighting JSOC.

  8. TRX

    > 2,500 watts of power

    That’s over 100 amps at 24 volts. Most alternators couldn’t meet that load more than a few minutes without overheating. A lot of modern starter motors don’t pull that much juice…

    1. Aaron Spink

      2.5KW seemed high so I looked at the specs and isn’t off by much. Dillon lists the power spec at 24-28VDC @58A Continuous power. My understanding is that in typical vehicle deployments, the gun is generally powered off of a battery with the options of 10 and 5 AH lead acid batteries and 7 AH lightweight Lithium battery. The 7AH lightweight battery provides ~7 minutes of continuous fire capability or roughly 21-28K rounds of ammo, which seems rather sufficient and is likely a lot more ammo than would be carried. I would assume that there is a trickle charge option from the vehicle to the battery for recharging.

      Alternatively, you could use either direct DC or AC from the vehicle power system an APU.

  9. runalltheway

    This might be a stupidquestion, but: what does the Minigun bring (aparr from the cool factor) that a simpler setup like twin M240s doesn’t?

    I ask because I remember pics from Gulf War 1 of the SAS getting around with a lot of Twin SFMGs on their land Rovers.

    1. Aaron Spink

      Accuracy and volume of fire for one. The minigun is a highly accurate weapon that can be easily walked onto a target. In addition, the barrels tend to last a bit longer than a M240 fired continuously due to the additional air cooling that the rotation provides and the fact that each barrel is only running at ~500 RPM vs ~1k RPM for a M240. Accuracy is improved due to the continuous recoil of the minigun vs the intermittent recoil of a normal MG and in addition a minigun also has effective gyroscopic stabilization due to the majority of the mass spinning. Compare that to a MG where a significant amount of the mass is constantly moving forwards and backwards.

      Just watch pretty much any video of someone laying out fire with a minigun and compare it to an MG.

    2. archy

      This might be a stupid question, but: what does the Minigun bring (aparr from the cool factor) that a simpler setup like twin M240s doesn’t?

      Among other things, most M240s aren’t set up for dual feed or alternate feed like an M2 .50 caliber, or even the old .30 Browning M37 used on the M41/M47/M48 tanks and early helicopter gunship skid-mount setups. The Browning guns also eject their empties straight downward, which makes catching and keeping them in a bag so they don’t foul the guns’ mount traverse a good bit easier.

      The Brits had alternate feed top groups for their tank-mounted co-ax L7/L8 MGs due to the wide variety of tanks and other AFVs the Brits have had the things mounted on, some on the left side of the turret from the main gun, a few on the right, as is the Russian practice. The other possibility for coaxial gun mounts is to mount the MG with the pistol grip [if present, some L7/L8 guns have a PG that folds out of the way] horizontal, feeding ammo in from the top [side] and empties out the bottom [side]. Clearance for opening the top cover can be a problem, depending on the mount and vehicle interior.
      Brit L7/L8 series GPMGs:

      L7A1 7.62×51mm NATO FN MAG 60.20 T3 machine gun.
      L7A2 L7A1 variant; FN MAG 60.20 T6; Improved feed mechanism and provision for 50 round belt-box.
      L8A1 L7A1 variant; For mounting inside AFVs. No buttstock. Barrel fitted with fume extractor. Solenoid-triggered, but with folding pistol grip for emergency use.
      L8A2 L8A1 variant; improved feed mechanism.
      L19A1 L7A1 variant; extra-heavy barrel.
      L20A1 L7A1 variant; for remote firing in gun pods and external mountings.
      L20A2 L20A1 variant; improved feed mechanism.
      L37A1 L8A1 variant; L8A1 breech & L7 barrel for mounting on AFVs. Conventional pistol grip and trigger, plus kit allowing dismounted use.
      L37A2 L37A1 variant; L8A2 based. As above.
      L43A1 L7A1 variant; for use as a ranging gun on the Scorpion light tank
      L44A1 L20A1 variant; for Royal Navy
      L112A1 L7A2 variant; for mounting on Lynx Helicopter

  10. Sabrina Chase

    This is probably the best group to ask… When I had the opportunity to fire a SCAR I fell in love pretty much the same way I fell for the 1911. But it isn’t trivial for us deprived civilians to try lots and lots of similar weapons, and it is a pricy delight. Are there others I should try before selling a kidney to get the necessary funds?

    (It was part of a long gun petting zoo/familiarization class. Didn’t get to spend nearly enough quality time with it. I also got to fire an AK-47, which bit me. I know I don’t want one of those…)

    1. archy

      I also got to fire an AK-47, which bit me. I know I don’t want one of those…),

      Your defeatist and deviationist attitude has been noted by State Security, Comrade.
      We will continue to monitor your shortcomings, and hope for immediate improvement.

      1. Sabrina Chase

        Bring a lunch, tovarich. I don’t have a mere file, I have a filing *cabinet* full of my counter-revolutionary failings! P.S. send cuter Spetznaz. I have standards.

  11. revjen45

    As a holder of a 3 year degree in Professional Gunsmithing that photo of tha stripped minigun gave me a b*ner.
    How about some Chain Gun porn in the future?

  12. Lynn A. Zaring

    “We’re not sure where the soldier of 2117 will be fighting, but the odds are pretty good he will be fighting with a weapon that launches metallic projectiles from the shoulder and weighs about 6 to 10 pounds. As has been the case since about 1617.”

    – Phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range.

    Unless procurement gets ahold of the purchase specification. Which would mean extended trials (that are rigged to favor one outcome, perhaps with a 7.62 objective optic), reliability testing that will be set aside, contract award, filing of lost-bid petitions, adjudication review, and at the end of the process you would have a weapon that can not be carried, operates in partial spectrum in the 12 watt range, and requires 1.21 jigawats to operate.

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