The Army’s new gas-operated, magazine-fed XM7 assault rifle is expected to formally arm the operational Army by the 2nd quarter of 2024.
The Army’s SIG MCX Spear is a weapon designed by SIG Sauer and chosen for the service’s Next Generation Squad Weapons program, designed to replace the legacy M4 Carbine.
After awarding an XM7 production contract to Sig Sauer in 2022 to produce as many as 107,000 new rifles for close combat forces including infantry, cavalry, scouts, combat engineers, forward observers, and combat medics. The weapon will not be issued to non-close-combat forces, Army statements indicate.
Army weapons developers emphasize that the development of the XM7 resulted from extensive soldier “touchpoint” texts where the weapon was assessed, tested, and fired at targets.
Soldiers evaluated the weapon for ease of use, rate of fire, ergonomic variables, and precision attack.
Soldier touchpoints, Army weapons developers explained, resulted in several design changes before the weapon entered more extensive production.
XM7 Extensively Tested
An Army essay on the XM7 from March 2023 said the Army conducted 20,000 hours of soldier testing, 100 technical tests, and the firing of more than 1.5 million rounds of ammunition. The XM7 is now going through what the Army calls Product Qualification Tests in preparation for formal delivery and operational use of the new weapon.
The Army report quotes a soldier with the 75th Ranger Regiment saying “I absolutely would take this weapon to combat in a heartbeat. It is light, functions very well, has an awesome load system, and is easy to handle and engage targets with.”
The Army plans formal “operational testing” in 2024 to “assess natural environments and airborne qualifications.” Although the contract is specific to the Army, it includes options for the U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations Community to join.
Advances in enemy body armor resulted in the XM7 firing ammunition chambered in a 6.8x51mm (.277) SIG Fury cartridge, due to concerns that legacy or standard 5.56x45mm ammunition was losing effectiveness against cutting-edge enemy body armor defenses. The new .277 SiG Fury is engineered with higher chamber pressure, velocity, and lethality.
While handling, weight, maneuverability, and accuracy are always important for a weapon, there are several additional features of great relevance to soldiers, particularly those engaged in close-quarter combat.
The weapon length should not be too long, as soldiers in close-quarter combat will need to maneuver quickly in narrow areas and switch between rooms and close-in walls. Close combat soldiers also need to clear areas, meaning they will need to attack quickly and disperse while going through doorways and narrow entryways.
Of equal significance, soldiers will need to make sure the weapons do not jam, something that reportedly happened frequently with the M4 Carbine the XM7 is replacing. Moving into the future, perhaps the most important thing is that the weapon has likely been built with the technical infrastructure such that it can be upgraded as new performance-enhancing technologies arrive.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
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