The newest video from Textron industries and available at Tactical Rifleman features a lot of fluff and very little new stuff about their NGSW submission.
Beretta’s social media has also ramped a few newer images of their submission into the public sphere too. Beretta’s partner is General Dynamics
Both Textron and General Dynamics are not known for small arms, they’re known for larger projects like vehicles, drones, and crew served systems. But their partners like Beretta, H&K, and Winchester (who is also the contract winner to run Lake City ammunition) are all known names.
For those unfamiliar, the NGSW is a program seeking to modernize the military small arms selection centered around departing from 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 NATO rounds. These rounds have pretty much hit their developmental limits and the platforms that run them are exceptional. The generation of M4/M4A1 rifles, SCARs, M110’s, M110A1’s, M240’s and so forth are all good systems.
The Army, Marines, and SOCOM, are looking at a performance leap going forward.
That requires new ammunition, and the Army picked 6.8mm. Three very different rounds have emerged from the three contenders, each tackling the requirement for fast, accurate, light, and penetrative in a unique way. Given projectile weights similar to M80 ball, the 6.8mm offers superior ballistics for extended range and the new EPR ‘A1’ projectile designs for defeat capabilities.
Sig kept it most conventional with a modified hybrid-brass case. It utilizes a stainless steel base for strength and allows a thinner and more capacious case in dimensions similar to a 7.62×51. It achieves the designated weight requirements with the thinner case walls and base material.
General Dynamics, Beretta, Winchester, and True Velocity have delivered a polymer case round in a long barreled bullpup. We’ve been being promised polymer case rounds for a long time but have yet to see it penetrate the commercial or DoD spaces beyond a concept.
But let’s take a look at the Textron ammunition, rifle, and automatic rifle specifically.
The video showcases live fire of the combined system, minus the new fire control prototypes from Vortex and Leupold. The current systems look much more like conventional weapon than the earlier 40 watt plasma rifle looking things. The new M-LOK bedecked and adjustable stock items look far more familiar and with controls in small arms familiar locations.
The rifle seems to feature controls similar to the ACR/XCR when it comes to magazine and bolt lock and the automatic rifle is ‘SAW’esk.
Personally, a few items still concern me with the Textron designs. Those concerns center on the viability and easy of stoppage clearance. Unlike the SIG and GD submissions, which have directly transferable manual of arms from current day systems, the Textron does not appear to have direct chamber access. The shape of the ammunition also seems concerning from a feed geometry point of view, however the footage shows it clearly works when it works.. but we do not have footage of clearance procedures. We don’t know anything about what to do if it stops working, we assume cycle the action in some manner but we don’t know. We haven’t seen one go down hard.
The ejection port location is also on the handguard… which seems problematic in its own right as it is a prime location to cause a FTE type stoppage. The automatic rifle has it placed in a less precarious position but the rifle’s seems like a prime spot for interference with the shooters hand. I’m far too unfamiliar with the Textron internals, although they seem complex, in order to gauge the likeliness that a problem occurs. The system seems viable while it is working but we haven’t seen it not working.
The short Textron video features 3D animation of the feed system working with a hinging lever and I really want to know, especially on the rifle, how to get inside to move a stuck case. What happens if a case goes in at a bad angle at the system hands up? What are the internal corrective geometries that fix those problems for a soldier clearing the weapon?
I know how I would clear a bag stoppage on the SIG and GD/Beretta systems, a benefit to them being conventional. I even have an idea on the Textron belt-fed. I am not certain on the rifle, I just foresee
I still feel Sig is the best contender but we don’t have numbers yet on crucial items like durability nor do we have any early reliability numbers from the three systems. We don’t know if the Army, Marine, and SOCOM evaluation teams have found problems fielding them that weren’t encountered on the drawing board.
What we do know is Army is dumping a lot of dollars into 6.8mm tech. Is backwards compatibility with legacy 7.62 and 6.5 systems feasible? Likely, and that could mean we see a wildcard submission or strange change by Big Army. But I don’t think so, I feel we will actually see the another caliber change by 2022 and the DoD will begin scaling back 5.56 through the 2030’s.
It won’t vanish mind you, but it will be pushed into support roles, less critical spots, and training armories until it phases out. 5.56 will also maintain its domestic presence as a highly viable personal defense round, a role the new 6.8mm is not likely to be a champion of because of the programs focus on extended ranges, armor defeat, and intermediate barrier defeat. Translating that to civilian applicable bullet composition and it will probably be a fantastic large/dangerous game round but overkill for clearing your kitchen.