Winchester, the current operator of the government-owned Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, was recently awarded a contract to produce the service's next generation of primary small arms cartridges.

The award, announced on Feb.1, contracts Winchester to manufacture, test, and deliver 5 million 6.8x51mm Next Generation Squad Weapon cartridges at the Lake City facility in Independence, Missouri.

The round, developed by SIG Sauer, uses a hybrid bi-metallic steel/brass case to allow the pressure to go from the traditional ~68,000 psi of an all-brass case to the region of 120,000 psi without any failure, while still using conventional primers and powder. This translates to a 350-feet-per-second boost in velocity. Alternatively, this also allows for 16-inch-barrel-level velocities from an 8-inch barrel or a 24-inch-barrel-level velo from a 14-inch barrel.

"The key combat cartridge for the system leverages the technology successfully demonstrated in various small caliber improvements," explained Army officials last year when SIG was awarded the contract to produce the NGSW weapons, suppressors, and, at least initially, sole-source the ammo. "It builds upon the enhanced performance round, the EPR, in our current 5.56 inventory and enhancements in other calibers to address a broad spectrum of targets."  

The Army has gone on to say the new 6.8mm family of ammunition for the NGSW, which is expected to replace 5.56 NATO in front-facing close combat units in the coming years, "has proven to outperform most modern 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition against a full array of targets."

Lake City produced the projectiles for SIG Sauer as well as the other competitors during the prototyping phase and will continue to provide all projectiles moving forward. The new contract to Winchester covers initial full cartridge production at Lake City to augment SIG's in-house production and follows on the heels of a $9 million contract for 6.8mm tracer projectile production awarded last November and a  previous $20 million contract for Winchester to plan production of 6.8mm ammo types at Lake City.

"The award of Lake City’s first production order of the 6.8mm NGSW cartridge represents several years of hard work, dedication, and collaboration between Winchester, the U.S. Army, and industry partners,” said Brett Flaugher, Winchester's president, on the latest award. "The Winchester team is honored to have been entrusted with the opportunity and responsibility of producing the ammunition which will keep our nation safe for years to come."

The Lake City plant, which encompasses 408 buildings, 43 magazines, nine warehouses, 11 igloos, and a storage capacity of 707,000 square feet, also serves as a national and regional test center for ammunition performance and weapons firing. Winchester was awarded a $28 million contract to manage the plant in late 2019 and, if all the options are exercised, could run the facility until 2029. 

The 150-year-old company also operates its manufacturing facilities in East Alton, Illinois, and Oxford, Mississippi. Winchester in 2016 was selected by the military to supply as many as 100 million rounds of 9mm ammunition – M1152 Ball, M1153 Special Purpose, and M1156 Drilled Dummy Inert – to the Pentagon as part of SIG Sauer’s successful Modular Handgun System.

Banner image: A Soldier fires the suppressed SIG Sauer XM-7 Rifle with Vortex XM-157 Fire Control at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD in November 2022.  (Photo: PdM Soldier Lethality Office/U.S. Army)

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