The NGSW Three

For those following the Next Generation Squad Weapon contract competition being run by the US Army, all three finalist submissions have been made public.

The crux of the competition is an update to the individual service weapons of the US Military’s fireteam elements, specifically the Army. The Marine Corps is closely following the development as well but has their own requirements to remain directly involved as a purchasing entity. The Marines have charted their own course in recent years by adopting the service exclusive M27 as an updated service rifle while the Army stuck it out with the M4A1.

Both weapons are behind the technological times however.

The NGSW is for two weapons in a new unspecified 6.8mm round that should vastly outperform current 5.56 and 7.62 rounds for effective range, accuracy, and wounding characteristics. One rifle and one automatic rifle will be selected. The weapons will also be forward thinking compatible with future optics and power systems in development.

The 6.8mm was selected as part of the ‘overmatch’ theory in that we would have a standard small arm that could out range and out damage round per round any of its peers. Greater effective range and greater effect on modern equipped near peer infantry are the end goals. The 6.8mm should, in theory, still retain a very manageable recoil (think along the lines of 6.5 Creedmoor) while being ballistically superior to 7.62x51mm legacy systems.

The finalists are…

Sig Sauer (Their MCX derivative and belt fed automatic rifle are the title image)

General Dynamics OT&S, with partners True Velocity & Beretta

Automatic Rifle
Carbine

And Textron Systems partnered with Winchester and H&K

All Images VIA Soldier Systems

Here’s my take on the systems.

Textron

The Textron, H&K, and Winchester collaboration appear to be fairly straightforward designs spinning off of Textron’s telescoped ammunition concept. Controls are AR like, appear ambidextrous, and feature largely familiar layouts for both rifle and automatic rifle. There is a lot going on with the handguard area, I suspect for near future battery storage to power optics, laser, and ancillary equipment.

It does look the most awkward to use out of the three. It reminds me of trying to hold the M203 equipped M16, that bulky beast, but without the benefit of a grenade launcher.

Winchester did win the contract to run Lake City, which seems to indicate they will be making their ammo. This could be any ammo however, if one of the other competitors won Winchester would make that ammunition design. Or any design the DoD decides for that matter.

General Dynamics OT&S, with partners True Velocity & Beretta

The most interesting of the three submissions is the General Dynamics. They’re going bullpup. And they have video.

From True Velocity’s Instagram

It’s quite an action series. Long barrels on short guns is still the defining advantage of bullpup rifles. I do like me a bullpup every now and then, the X95 and Tavor 7 being prime examples. They’re utilizing the True Velocity polymer cased 6.8mm rounds and feature a very squat sound suppressor.

The selector on these are a rotary design located above the trigger guard, not dissimilar in function from an SA80. It’s curious they appear to be splitting the safe and fire from the semi-auto and automatic functions. The design even looks a little reminiscent of the Barrett bullpup .50’s.

This would be the greatest departure from current small arms design and doctrine in the US forces of the three submissions. I don’t know how well the bullpup automatic rifle is going to function from a volume of fire standpoint either. The Marines are currently requiring a magazine fed design, consistent with the M27 in that regard, to consider the system for adoption.

Both the AUG and SA80/L86 that were used as bullpup support weapons were largely supplanted by more effective belt feds. It will be interesting to see and hear the Army’s take on the system.

Sig Sauer

Sig, who has been eating up contracts since the M17/M18 win, honestly looks to have the best looking submission.

Unlike the other competitors who partnered Sig has been doing it all themselves. Suppressor? Theirs. Ammunition? Theirs. Optics? Theirs, with two fresh wins on the SDMR M110A1 and the SOCOM 1-6x to run with. There are open optic solicitations too and a slew of legacy systems but they are all compatible.

The ammunition is the most conventional of the three 6.8mm rounds submitted, being a metallic cartridge. It’s a brass/steel hybrid. The rifle layouts themselves are highly ergonomically consistent with modern designs. The carbine and automatic rifle have AR style selectors and the carbine features full ambidextrous controls, plus a forward side charger charging handle to supplement the traditional AR location.

Gratuitous M-LOK and hard point QD’s for slings abound. The stocks fold and are adjustable for length of pull, M4 derivatives of some variety.

The automatic rifle is reported to have a sidegate feed system for the belt and, I believe, can be magazine fed as well.

Final thoughts

Given similar reliability and performance numbers from the three weapons systems, I would select Sig’s submission without hesitation. While I think True Velocity has something going with their polymer cased ammunition I don’t like the ergonomics on their systems at a glance the way I do Sig’s. The same goes for Textron, in their case its the bulk of the system.

Sig’s, again at a glance, appear to incorporate the majority of modern rifle features into the system without additional bulk. They compliment the AR ergonomics and would require a much lower training/retraining curve to implement the system than the General Dynamics bullpup. While the Textron appears closer the departure still appears to be greater than the Sig submission.

Going to a new round will be the most significant departure from conventional small arms theory in decades. Going to the telescoping ammo or polymer casings, if reliable, could significantly cut shift weight distribution in favor of carrying more rounds. I don’t have weight specs on any of the individual components though at this juncture.

If Sig wins though, they’d have a hell of a hold on the US small arms community, something they absolutely want.

Keith Finch
Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Group editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009 he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.