Gun Smoke

…as in, blowing smoke up our ass.  Here’s a breathless little piece which, after careful reading, sounds like the kind of scam you would expect from a Nigerian con man:

Has the next generation rifle already arrived?

My immediate take is: no.  Not even close.  Not when you see puffery like this:

The Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) efforts have resulted in multiple, unique 6.8 mm cartridge designs. Each of the companies involved has tried to develop a solution to the Army’s reported desire to penetrate modern, peer-level body armor far beyond close-combat ranges. The selections of SIG Sauer’s 6.8×51 mm hybrid-case ammunition, XM5 carbine and XM250 light machine gun as solutions have been met with both fanfare and skepticism. While the velocities that are reported for the 6.8×51 mm, and its .277 SIG Fury commercial counterpart, seem to generate the most excitement, this cartridge’s projectile energy is likely to be the main driver of the DOD’s interest. 

According to SIG’s published numbers, its hybrid steel-and-brass cartridge case allows chamber pressures to reach a whopping 80,000 psi. Subsequently, its 150-grain projectile is reported to leave a 16-inch barrel at 2,830 fps with 2,667 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. Running those numbers through a ballistic program shows that SIG’s loads should fly flatter and hit much harder than anything used in current battle rifle and light machine gun designs, including 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. loads, out past 1,000 meters.

Long experience in examining the .dotmil’s record in tinkering around with this issue makes me think they’re still in the “oh what if” and “wouldn’t it be nice if” stages — wishful thinking, in other words — and even so there’s this little warning sign:

Pushing a bullet faster so that it will fly flatter and hit harder is one thing. Doing it without rapidly burning out barrels or prematurely wearing out other parts has proven difficult with several past attempts to achieve game-changing muzzle velocities.

Yeah, that bastard Newton enters the fray again.  But all is well:

One bit of reassurance on barrel wear concerns comes from a reliable source within SIG, who told me the special material technology used in their 6.8 barrels can hold up to this high pressure cartridge.

Oh, well then we don’t have anything to worry about, do we?  Manufacturers never lie about this kind of thing, especially when there’s a multi-billion dollar military contract dangling in the wind.

No doubt, their “special material techology” will be super-inexpensive too, cheaper than the current steel even.

Just think:  if the US Army had adopted the superb .280 British (actually 7.2x43mm, or .284 in Murkin) cartridge back in the late 1940s, we’d still be fielding it — but no, we had to go to the 7.62×51 which was oops too powerful and then over-correcting with the .223 which was oops too underpowered.  Ever since then, the Army has been fucking around trying to find ammo’s Holy Grail — and I have to say that based on what I can see, the 6.8x51mm isn’t going to The One.  (FFS:  .277 SIG “Fury”?  Better ammo through marketing?)

It’s like watching a kid with learning issues trying to fit the multi-shaped sticks into the proper slots:

So, to answer the headline’s question, the answer is…



  1. When I first saw it advertised at $80 for a box of 20 rounds, I simply rolled my eyes and kept moving.

  2. All this to replace what the 30-06 could do in two world wars. Maybe instead of research we should add a week to basic training or AIT, re-issue the 30-06 and teach marksmanship rather than chase another poodle shooter


    1. (Falsetto voice) B-b-but what about the TERRIBLE Recoil?

      I have a friend who thinks the .30-30 Winchesters chamber in .30-06.
      When he said that I stopped using any of his reloads. Even the 9mm Luger and the .32 ACP and brought my own when I wanted to shoot his guns.

  3. I do not know which solution will win out, but we will end up fielding something new. Top level body armor is becoming way to common.

    The barrel life will not be too big of an issue as long as it is not ridiculously short. If it will last through a deployment, make the barrel quick change and swap out after round count of #### whatever number.

    And no, 7.62 NATO or 30-06 would not do it. Their body armor penetration is not too much better than 5.56. Or worse/similar: depending on the criteria. You need velocity and sectional density (besides bullet construction) and the 30 cal rounds are no better on those counts.

    1. I’m not an expert by any means, but the bullet weight and velocity of the new round aren’t that much better than 7.62 or 30-06. I understand the sectional density is better with the 6.8, but they do make armor piercing rounds for the 7.62 (and 5.56 as well). So, are we comparing apples and oranges or are we saying that the new 6.8 does better than dedicated armor piercing rounds for older calibers?

      And furthermore, if we’re talking about armor penetration at some actual rifle distance (400+ yards), why the fascination with a 16″ barrel? Go ahead and put a full rifle length barrel on there. And I have my doubts about infantry grunts making hits at those distances anyway. I’ve shot with some friends who were ex-military and color me not impressed. Not to throw shade on their service, just saying the army didn’t really teach them how to shoot and actually hit anything.

  4. So now we’ve moved the tank gun vs armor competition from vehicles down to the crunchy level.

    Good body armor will ultimately vanish from line units again when they return to mass conscription (which will be after the EMPs).
    Great stuff if your spear tips have a 10 mile long shaft and fast casualty evac, nice to have, but if you bleed out from an ass wound laying in a shell hole it won’t seem to be of much use.

    Massive deployment of body armor is for countries that freak out over losing 13 men in battle, that would be the First World Western countries. In the long haul the monetary math will work against it being standard if there’s a prolonged conflict with the 2nd and 3rd worlds.

    Excuse me if I see the fat fisted hand of the military industrialist complex pushing this cart for constantly reinventing ballistic weapons and the associated ammo supply to kill people who probably won’t be wearing body armor.

    1. This right here. This is the military playing the same stupid games that does nothing but shove money into the pockets of whoever is giving the top brass a handjob at the moment. For fuck’s sake, the civilian market already came up with a replacement for the 5.56, the 6.5 Grendel. Or any of the other hosts of rounds out there that can be used in an AR15 platform. This bullshit right here is just a money give-away to the politically connected people.

      1. That’s right. As in all things gov’t, follow the money. Since the military’s have not been very successful since 1945 and now refuse to secure the US borders, defund all of it by at least 90%, refund the money back to the taxpayers and they can protect their own property. I’m mostly anti everything criminal gov’t.

  5. I call it the .277WunderBlunder.
    It is overpowered for materials tech, and will most likely wear rifles faster than normal, both in barrels and in lockup. Maybe even damage actions themselves.
    It requires fancy cases, which complicates supply lines.
    It requires a fancy complicated action to help the fancy case contain the pressure without blowing up. Extra points of failure.
    It’s insanely expensive too, which means that practice and training, already abysmal, will be relegated even further to the “maybe tomorrow to never” category, and not actually done.
    And all in pursuit of a rifleman capability and range that, frankly, our military has not had – or needed – in well over a generation, if ever. Too many of them can’t even make use of the existing effective range of the 5.56 as is today, much less even the 7.62×51.
    My reply to the .277 WB? How about we teach our soldiers how to actually shoot first, and get good with what we’ve got, BEFORE we search for something we don’t actually need, and certainly cannot make full use of at present.

  6. They claim most shooting by troops will be with the “practice” load – standard brass case a 7.62 NATO pressures. The 80.000 psi stuff is supposed to be reserved for machine guns and issued to troops only when facing enemies with modern body armor.
    Also the quick change barrel can be replaced with one chambered in 7.62 NATO, with no other changes needed as it already uses AR-10 magazines. So even if it fails miserably, the guns can be salvaged…

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