Replacing a number of precision rifles
United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has revealed plans to replace a number of precision rifles across its components that use NATO-standard 7.62mm ammunition with new guns chambered for a smaller cartridge, the 6.5mm Creedmoor. It has also disclosed that it is developing a new assault machine gun that fires the same round, which is part of broader efforts to provide longer range, but still relatively lightweight fire support weapons.
Last Spring, USSOCOM undertook a study of 6.5mm family cartridges to determine a path forward for Precision Intermediate Caliber Ammunition. Over the last year, US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), the primary driver of this initiative, narrowed it down to .260 Remington and Hornady 6.5mm Creedmoor. Testing indicated that the two calibres performed very closely.
In March, the command conducted a reliability test, using two incumbent weapons, currently in US service; the FN Herstal FN SCAR Heavy Mk 20 Mod 0 Sniper Support Rifle and Knight’s Armament KAC M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) and H&K M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS). Two weapons of each type were used, one was in .260 Remington and the other in 6.5mm CM. What they found is that both weapons performed just as well and were just as reliable in either calibre.
Testing also showed that the 6.5mm versions of the weapons have 40% greater range and less recoil than their 7.62mm counterparts. The round was 30% less susceptible to wind drift, as well, making it more precise at those distances.
It is not clear whether or not USSOCOM plans to use the shift in ammunition type as an opportunity to consolidate the total number of applicable weapons in use across its components. Special operators are set to begin receiving new weapons in 2019. The command and the US Marine Corps continue to work together on a larger, lighter-weight medium machine gun firing the powerful .338 Norma Magnum cartridge.