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Why the US Army’s XM25 Punisher Supergun Failed

XM25 Punisher
A Soldier aims an XM-25 weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. It features an array of sights, sensors and lasers housed in a Target Acquisition Fire Control unit on top, an oversized magazine behind the trigger mechanism, and a short, ominous barrel wrapped by a recoil dampening sleeve.

It was only a few years ago when the U.S. Army officially terminated the “Punisher,” which was the XM25 supergun.

The chief purpose of the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System was to engage enemy troops who were behind cover.

“Since the dawn of the firearm age, one of the biggest obstacles to hitting people with a bullet was the cover they could hide behind. A soldier can hide inside a doorway, or window sill, or even a bunker, exposing himself just long enough to shoot back. Getting at that soldier requires good marksmanship and timing, outmaneuvering him, or simply blowing up the building,” Popular Mechanics wrote.

“While successful, the high-tech infantry weapon was the victim of a lengthy development period, ballooning costs, a perceived lack of utility, and a 2013 incident that wounded a soldier carrying it,” it continued.

Next-Generation Weapon

Developed by Alliant Techsystems and Heckler & Koch under the Counter Defilade Target Engagement program for the U.S. Army, the XM25 System aimed to provide soldiers with a next-generation weapon platform that could vastly ramp up lethality and range using 25mm programmable ammunition. For example, a soldier can program grenades to fly inside a doorway and explode just inside of it, which would strike any target there with deadly shrapnel.

At roughly fourteen pounds, including target acquisition and fire control units, the XM25 was thirty inches long and had a range of between five hundred and eight hundred meters. The supergun also featured a “bullpup” configuration in which the magazine and applicable feed system are mounted to the gear of the grip and receiver.

“An individual Soldier employing basic rifle marksmanship skills can effectively engage exposed or defilade targets in just seconds out to eight hundred meters,” the Army stated.

‘Tepid Reception’

However, when adding the weight of grenades to the equation, the soldiers showcased “tepid reception.”

“The weapon was heavy, with a basic load of the weapon and thirty-six grenades weighing a whopping thirty-five pounds. It was only useful under certain circumstances, and was not useful at all in close combat. In 2013, a Ranger unit in Afghanistan refused to take along the weapon, preferring to take a M4 instead,” the publication noted.

Then in 2013, the supergun was pulled after a soldier was injured when the weapon tried to load two grenades simultaneously.

“The U.S. Army has terminated the contract with Orbital ATK, the manufacturer, but retained the intellectual property rights and twenty of the Punisher guns,” the author writes.

“It’s not clear what the future of the tech is, but the Army can hold onto it and use it for another project. The capability to engage enemy troops in cover is useful but anything that does that and nothing else is impractical from an infantryman’s perspective and an expensive niche weapon unaffordable even by the U.S. Army,” he adds.


The XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System is the Army’s first “smart” shoulder-fired weapon. It launches 25mm dual-warhead, low velocity, flat trajectory ammunition designed to explode over a target.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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