From Strategy Page:
April 14, 2004: The U.S. Army has asked Congress for an extra $26 million to buy 7,000 XM-8 rifles next year. These weapons would be used to equip to infantry brigades and thus give the rifle a wide scale test. The money requested would also pay for the staff needed to monitor the testing. The rifle has already undergone thousands of hours of user testing and there have been some recommendations, all minor. The buttons on the sight are to be rearranged, to make the sight easier to use. There were also complaints about battery life for the sight, and a new battery is being obtained that will boost battery life from 200 to 400 hours. A more serious problem arose when the hand guard began to melt when several hundred rounds were fired in a few minutes.
Apparently the hand guard’s heat-resistant material isn’t heat-resistant enough. A new hand guard will be needed, and it will probably add weight to the weapon. Before anyone goes “A-Ha! I knew it was worthless!”, please remember that this is exactly why new weapons systems go through extensive testing. When this sort of thing is caught before the weapons hit the field, it’s a good thing.
There is a bit of competition among combat divisions to be the first to get the rifles for the 2005 test, with many officers lobbying to get one of their divisions brigades selected.
I’ve heard previously that two brigades would be issued the new weapons, and that seems consistent with the 7,000 number of rifles. While I’m not suggesting that we throw entire brigades into Iraq with untested weapons, I do think it’s important that we run a fair number of XM8s through the Iraqi dust and heat, and get feedback from real soldiers in real combat. It’s the only way to know for sure.