Army looking for up to 50,000 new select-fire 7.62mm service rifles

The military already uses a number of 7.62mm rifles such as the semi-auto M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System shown here and the legacy select-fire M14, but could soon be getting a lot more. (Photo: LCpl. Juan C. Bustos/U.S. Marines)

The military already uses a number of 7.62mm rifles such as the semi-auto M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System shown here and the legacy select-fire M14, but could soon be getting a lot more. (Photo: LCpl. Juan C. Bustos/U.S. Marines)

Noting a desire to close a potential gap in troops being able to penetrate body armor using existing weaponry, the Army has posted a contract for new rifles.

The Solicitation for what the Army has termed the Interim Combat Service Rifle was posted last week for select-fire rifles chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO.

The rifle will be used in tandem with the new M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round “to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation says. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase Soldier lethality.”

The contract specifies the Army will downselect to as many as eight proposals, who will then have to submit seven rifles each for testing.

The rifle submitted must be capable of both semi- and full-auto fire, accommodate a suppressor and include enough detachable weapon magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds. Each must also have a cleaning kit, specialized tool kit (if one is needed), spare parts kit, and manual.

The winner could receive a follow-on production contract of 50,000 rifles, which the Army could modify.

An RFI issued by the Army Contracting Command at Picatinny Arsenal in June wanted information about 7.62x51mm rifles readily available on the commercial market. While that document specified an unloaded weight of fewer than 12 pounds as well as 16- and 20-inch barrel options, the solicitation posted last week omits any arbitrary rifle specifications other than the caliber and capabilities to be suppressed and select-fire.

The Army had used .30-caliber rifles as the primary arms for infantry and ground troops going back to the early 1890s when the Krag Model 1892 was adopted in .30 U.S. (.30-40 Krag), transitioning to the .30-06 which was standard through both World Wars and Korea. In 1959, the advent of 7.62x51mm NATO — for which the new M14 rifle and M60 machine gun were chambered — continued the trend until the M16 in 5.56mm began to replace the former after 1964. Though the 7.62x51mm is still in use as a sniper, special purpose and machine gun round, even those niches have seen encroachment from more advanced rounds such as .338 Norma Mag and .300 Win Mag.

In May, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales testified before the Airland Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasting the current M4 platform while calling for an open, one-year competition to develop a new and more effective rifle as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.