Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Army Looking at New and Heavier 7.62 mm Battle Rifle to Replace M4?


(Photo : US Army) The heavy M14.

The U.S. Army appears to be headed back towards adopting a new "battle rifle" firing a 7.62 mm round to win firefights against Chinese and Russian troops equipped with assault rifles and machine guns firing this larger round.

The last U.S. Army battle rifle that fired a 7.62 mm round was the heavy M14, which was the standard issue infantry rifle from 1959 to 1964 when the M16 automatic rifle began replacing it. The M14 fired a 7.62×51mm NATO round compared to the M16's 5.56x45mm NATO.

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The Colt M4 carbine, today's standard infantry rifle for U.S. troops, fires a 5.56x45mm NATO round.

The Army's back to the future thinking is apparently being driven by the need to kill at longer ranges, a tactic which will be a must in any future conventional war.

Sources said U.S. Army troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan complained of getting into fights in with "a guy with longer arms" such as the Russian-made PK general purpose machine gun firing 7.62x54mmR rounds and the Dragunov SVD sniper rifle firing the same caliber ammunition.

The 7.62x54mmR round has an effective range of 1,000 yards versus 350 yards for an AK-47 and 550 yards for the M4. This means U.S. Army troops are outranged by foes armed with weapons firing the 7.62x54mmR round.

Media reports say the Army  wants a longer range, heavier round such as the 7.62x51mm as an interim solution. This new rifle should be able to hit man-size targets out to 700 to 800 yards.

Longer range and a larger round, however, come at a hefty price: heavier weight for the battle rifle and its ammunition. Outfitted with the same optics and accessories such as a laser range finder that are standard issue on M4 carbines means the new 7.62 battle rifle will weigh over 12 pounds.

The 7.62 mm rounds in the new battle rifle envisioned by the army will also weigh twice as much as the 5.56 mm ammunition of the M4.

The heavy weight of the old M14 (11 lbs with a 20-round magazine) was one of the key reasons it was replaced by the M16, which weighed just 7.5 lbs with a 30-round magazine. The longer length of the M14 meant this rifle was unsuitable for urban combat or for close quarter combats.

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