The not-all-that-controversial introduction of the M27 squad support weapon to replace the Marine’s M249s has been a resounding success, and before they’ve even received all their rifles, the Marines have put in an order for more, a five-year indefinite delivery of up to a total of 23.6 million dollars’ worth of rifles.
The Marines are going to be seriously invested in these guns. “The 5.56mm IAR will become the new standard for automatic riflemen. That means there will be one in virtually every four-man fire team, with three per squad, 28 per infantry company and 4,476 across the Corps.”
The M249, as cool as it is, is not the best support weapon in all places. It’s heavy, it’s more prone to failure than other guns, it’s heavy, belted ammunition isn’t as handy as you’d think it’d be, and it’s heavy. The M27 Infantry Automatic Weapon weighs only eight pounds, and that’s with a machine gun barrel and gas piston system.
Made by Heckler & Koch, the M27 is a beastly HK416: “[It] is essentially a (very) heavy-duty Heckler & Koch HK416; it features a free-floating heavy barrel and a quad-rail forearm, and ditches the direct-impingement gas system for a short stroke piston system. It also uses a rotating bolt.”
It’s capable of sustained fire just as much as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, but it looks, handles, and carries like an M4, and takes M4/STANAG magazines. Being able to put thirty rounds down precisely outweighs being able to loose a hundred all over the place (and clear a jam or two in the process). On top of that, the Marines are asking for someone to make them a high-capacity quad-stack stick magazine a la Surefire hundred-rounder. Once that’s done then there won’t be much of a case for the M249.
Not only that, but they’re cheaper, by about a thousand dollars (M249s cost four grand a pop, M27s, three).
“‘Winning the Marine’s IAR competition is another milestone for our HK416,’ said Wayne Weber, President of Heckler & Koch USA. ‘Developed at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer and with U.S. military input in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on America, the HK416 competed against—and beat many worthy challengers. This contract award is a direct testament to the superior performance of the HK416 and it is an honor for Heckler & Koch to equip the Marines with such a fine rifle.'”
We gotta admit, when most weapons development costs are in the billions, something this practical and inexpensive is seriously refreshing. Also, these guns look outstanding.