The Army's recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army's budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

Next Generation Squad Weapon

The FY22 Army budget includes $97 million for the NGSW program. This outlay breaks out into 390 Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifles, intended to begin replacing the M249 SAW, at a cost of $3.6 million; 3,725 Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifles, to start phasing out the M4/M4A1 Carbine, at a cost of $20.8 million; and 8,093 NGSW Fire Control integrated optics units, for $72.5 million, illustrating the common trope that the glass costs more than the rifle. 

Current NGSW prototypes are pending soldier feedback and technical performance testing for a contract award later this year. (Photo: U.S. Army) 

The Army has an objective to acquire 107,711 NGSW-Rs, 13,205 NGSW-ARs, and 120,916 NGSW-FCs, at least for starters. 

Built around a common 6.8mm cartridge, the program aims to first supplement then phase out 5.56 NATO-caliber weapons in use by the Army's frontline troops. Current contenders for the NGSW-R and NGSW-AR include Sig Sauer and two teams made up of defense contractor General Dynamics- Ordnance Tactical Systems, working with Beretta and True Velocity; and AAI/Textron partnered with ammo maker Winchester-Olin and firearms maker Heckler & Koch. The NGSW-FC competitors include Vortex and Leupold.

The award date is expected in November 2021 with the first rifle/automatic rifle systems being delivered to the Army in May 2022. The optics award, meanwhile, is expected in July 2021 with delivery to begin the following April. 

Precision Sniper Rifle

The Army's budget request asks for 515 new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles for FY22, at a cost of $11 million, a figure that includes program management as well as engineering and logistics support. This follows buys of 315 PSRs in 2020 and 456 in 2021. 

Barrett MK 22 MRAD with Leupold 5HD scope
The Barrett MRAD, with Leupold's 5HD 5-25x56 optic, has been adopted as the MK22 PSR (Photo: Leupold)

The PSR, dubbed the MK22 Mod 0 in Army service, is based on the Barrett MRAD bolt-action multi-caliber system chambered in 7.62 NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum. The glass of choice on the new platform, used by SOCOM, is Leupold’s Mark 5HD 5-25x56, complete with a flat dark earth coating and the Army’s patented Mil-Grid reticle.

All told, the Army hopes to acquire 2,800 PSRs. 

As noted in the budget request, "The Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) provides increased probability of hit over the current M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR) configuration at distances up to twelve hundred (1200) meters and increases range out to fifteen hundred (1500), which enhances the sniper role in supporting combat operations and improves sniper survivability."

M4 Carbines

While the NGSW and PSR are getting the lion’s share of the Army's attention, the service also wants another 699 new M4A1 Carbines at a cost of $473,000 as well as allocating $3.961 million for support items for its legacy M4s to include optics, speed loaders, magazines, suppressors, and spare parts. FN is the current M4 carbine contractor for the Army and produces the carbines in their Columbia, South Carolina plant. 

Modular Handgun System

The Modular Handgun System, based on the Sig Sauer P320 platform, consists of the M17 Full-Size Handgun replacing the Beretta-made M9 pistol, the M18 Compact Handgun replacing the Sig Sauer-made M11, and General Officer (GO) variants.

M17 and M18 Sig Sauer pistols
The M18 and M17 (Photo: Chris Eger/

Based on an award first issued in 2017, the Army has taken possession of 233,429 guns by 2020 to meet its needs. 

With that, the FY22 includes $253,000 for 1,398 additional handguns – the Army uses new guns to replace coded out weapons, rather than refurbishment/overhaul as a cost-saving initiative – as well as $4.6 million for support items like magazines, pouches, blank and marking round conversion kits, suppressor kits, white lights, aiming lasers, optics, speed loaders, magazines, suppressors, and spare parts.  

Other weapons

Another $1 million goes to a diverse program that includes the procurement of "standard and non-standard small arms." As detailed in the request, such acquisition in prior years consisted of FN MK48 machine guns, M500 Mossberg shotguns, HK MP5KA and B&T APC9K submachine guns, Olympic-grade marksmanship weapons and accessories to support the Army Marksmanship Unit and Biathlon teams; replica M1873 Single Action Army ceremonial pistols for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment's mounted troop, and air rifles for varmint control. 

Banner image: Sig Sauer's NGSW-R and AR models. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

revolver barrel loading graphic