A huge hat tip to ACE, who pointed this Army Times story out last week. For some reason it didn’t register on MO’s radar, but in the name of my quest to be the home of all things XM8, here it is.
A second generation of XM8s, these with soldier-requested improvements, is about to begin testing with the troops.
“Every time we take it to the field Army, they tell us to leave it with them,” Brig. Gen. James Moran, head of Project Executive Office Soldier, said at a June 14 Pentagon briefing.
Soldiers reacted positively, but they also had plenty of ideas for making the XM8 more effective on the battlefield.
The new prototypes — standard carbine, compact carbine and designated marksman models — include changes that make the XM8 more reliable, easier to operate and lighter to carry, said Col. Michael Smith, head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons.
“We did not try to build the perfect weapon the first time,” Smith said. “We did make a lot of changes. Soldiers definitely affected the design of the second generation.”
Among the most notable changes:
- Fold-down back-up sights
- Improved optics
- Increased battery life
- Increased laser pointer/illuminator range
- Slightly increased rate of fire to lessen the chance of jamming
- Improved grips and ergonomics
- It’s about 15% lighter
See the Army Times story for more details.
Another change is the merging of the sharpshooter and automatic rifle models into one weapon. The 100-round drum magazine planned for the automatic rifle is usable by any XM8 model, so it will be issued when needed. No word on the barrel for this mongrel version. The sharpshooter variant was going to have a special match-grade barrel, but I imagine that this new variant will use the heavy-duty barrel originally intended just for the automatic rifle.
Another note is that the Army said the automatic rifle version is not intended to replace the M249 as the primary sqaud automatic weapon.
“We are not proposing that we replace the M249 in the light machine gun role,” Smith said. The XM8 squad auto rifle’s barrel can be changed but the process takes too long to perform in the middle of a firefight, he said.
“It’s not designed to give you that continuous high rate of fire the machine gun will give you,” Smith said.
I had noted the lack of a quick-change barrel previously, and this plan sounds good. However, since the M249 will still be around but use different magazines and ammo boxes, that point of commonality is lost. And, since that point of commonality is lost, that leaves open the possibility of the XM8 being fielded with a different caliber than the current-standard 5.56 NATO.
As ACE wrote about the second generation:
The third time (chambered with a round > 6.4mm) should be the charm.
I’d like to see it, as well, I think. But I don’t think it will happen. See previous posts for this discussion.
ACE also writes
I’d say they should field the weapons in at least one unit in Iraq and Afghanistan for at least six months before locking in on it. Wait until the funding is available to do adequate testing. Letting troops fire a few rounds over a few hours is not field testing. There’s nothing like real world conditions.
I’ve also mentioned this before, and it seems to be a no-brainer. Let’s hope the Army follows his advice.
And for more on the caliber debate, see ACE’s 6.8mm SPC vs. 7.62x39mm vs. 6.5mm Grendel. Good stuff.