The M27, the Marine Corps, and the Future

When I was a young whipper snapper in the Marine Corps, we joked that we got the Army’s leftovers. That was 2008 through 2013, and in a little more than a decade, that’s completely changed. In terms of equipment and gear, the modern Marine rifleman is like looking at a spec ops guy. Your average Marine grunt is rocking the latest and greatest gear, and I applaud the USMC for it. As a gun website, we are going to take a look at the modern Marine Corps rifle, the M27. 

The Modern Marine Rifle – The M27 

The Marine Corps originally adopted the M27 to replace the M249 SAW. They wanted an automatic rifle to replace the hefty and aging complement of SAWs. The idea was suppression by precision rather than volume of fire. Machine gunners would still be attached to rifle platoons and could provide platoon-level support with volume of fire. Riflemen could decrease their load with the M27 and more precise suppressive fire. The M27 is named after 2/7, the infantry unit that originally tested the rifles. 

That was the idea. Then, the Marine Corps pulled a sneaky move and essentially just made the M27 the main combat rifle of their fighting forces. Combat arms guys ditched the M16 and M4s for the M27. What’s the big deal? Well, the M27 is an HK 416 with a 16.5-inch barrel. It’s more accurate and reliable than the M4, and the Marines adored them. At one point, a grunt famously remarked he’d request mast if they gave him a SAW again. 

The M27 offered a gas piston gun that was better suited for more sustained automatic fire than the old Stoner designs. Gas piston guns also tend to work better with shorter-barreled guns and suppressors. As the Marine Corps adopted the M27, they saw a need for a slightly shorter barrel option. 

The first guys who needed the shorter guns were the Recon Marines. The Recon Weapons Kit offered an 11-inch barrel version of the M27. A few RWKs have leaked to the line companies, and they aren’t necessarily rare amongst general infantry. The M27 offers Marines an upgraded rifle to make the famed Corps of Riflemen even deadlier. 

Rifle Accessories 

That rifle isn’t a barren weapon relying on iron sights. It’s a very modern weapon with modern accessories. For the average infantryman, this rifle is extremely modern and well-equipped. 

Trijicon VCOG 1-8X 

Originally, the M27 utilized the SDO, a beefy 3.5X ACOG. On top of the SDO sat a Trijicon RMR for close-range use. That optic is still in service but is on its way out. In its place is an LPVO, specifically the beefy Trijicon 1-8X. The VCOG is designed to be extremely durable and well-made, which is a must-have for an optic being handed to 18-year-old riflemen. 

The VCOG is an FFP optic with a super slick and usable reticle for both close and long-range engagements. The optic reticle is illuminated and provides aiming points for both drop and windage. It’s a cheat code for accurate shooting at a multitude of ranges. 

I remember the old-timers complaining about us having ACOGs. So, following that tradition, should I yell at the whipper snappers about their LPVO? 

KAC NT-4 Suppressor 

Every rifleman is now equipped with a suppressor, specifically the rock-solid and well-proven NT-4. The Knight’s Armory NT-4 is an older design, and while it’s not the most modern or lightest, it is extremely well-made and designed to last. Much like the VCOG, it needs to be tough for the average rifleman to avoid breaking it. 

The USMC found that suppressed rifles make it easier to establish and maintain command and control. Suppressors will also make it tougher to locate troop positions accurately and reduce recoil as well as muzzle flash. Seeing grunts armed with cans brings a tear to my eye. 

P-MAG Gen 3 

The Marine Corps and P-MAGs have had an on-again, off-again relationship. When I deployed to Afghanistan, everyone loved their P-MAGs. On my second pump, we were told to stop using them because they didn’t work in the M27. Keep in mind, at this point, my unit didn’t have any M27s yet, but the Marine Corps isn’t always a place for common sense. 

Magpul brought out the P-MAG Gen 3 magazines, and all was forgiven. The P-MAGs were a massive improvement over the old aluminum magazines, and it shows. These polymer magazines are designed for rugged use and are super reliable. Everything about the Gen 3 magazines has been tweaked to refine them for reliable feeding. They are currently the best magazine option on the market. 

Break Out The Rattle Can 

Another interesting aspect of the Marine’s new rifles is the fact they are rattle-canning them. I don’t just mean Force Recon or MARSOC, but grunts are now seemingly allowed to camouflage their rifles. I’m sure it’s dependent on the environment they’ll be deployed to, but it’s interesting to see the process is now allowed and encouraged. Wearing all that camo while carrying a big black rifle never made much sense. 

Beyond the Rifle 

The Marine Corps has also revamped its entire rifle training process. It’s become more combat-oriented and includes a brand new qualification known as the ARQ. The ARQ requires its own article to explain, but it’s quite well thought out. The Marine Corps force modernization process has delivered some fantastic results in the field of small arms. I think the USMC is on the right path and finally keeping up with the times rather than lagging behind it. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.