Over the past several years, there have been stories about the possibility of the United States military converting to a new ammunition round.
The standard 5.56 NATO round has always seemed under-powered, and although it’s light enough to carry more rounds during field operations, it doesn’t really count as extra ammunition when you have to “double tap” with two bullets for every shot. The heavier 7.62×51, or .308 caliber bullet, provides better range and penetration, but also has heavy recoil which is hard to control during automatic fire.
The answer is an in-between round, recently announced as the 6.8mm, which can perform the functions of both of the current paradigm choices.
The announcement of the new round is so recent that isn’t quite clear exactly what the new bullet is capable of. There is an existing 6.8 Remington round, but critics have stated it offers little if no improvement over the 5.56 NATO, so the expectation is that the Army has developed an entirely new round of the same diameter.
The major claim for the new ammunition is that it will be capable of penetrating any modern body armor, which may not mean much in Iraq or Afghanistan, but becomes very important should fighting break out with a first world country utilizing well equipped troops. It is also purported to have a much longer range capability, the usefulness of which has been seen in Afghanistan where fighting can occur between mountain ranges. Any time combat can be strategically planned for distances, the side with longer range of fire has a distinct advantage.
In addition to range and power, the 6.8mm will be capable of replacing both the M4 standard battle rifle and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Carrying one standard caliber of ammunition is far more efficient than having to stock two types. Of course there will still be some need for other calibers by special forces and demanded by the needs of specific missions, but the majority of most needs will be filled by a single standard, instead of two standard, rounds.
Time frames can be difficult to predict, as the actual new weapons have to be developed, tested, improved, and prove themselves reliable enough to function in any condition. Then troops have to be trained with the new weapons. As of now, five companies are working on prototype weapons to fire the new round, and then the top three weapons will be chosen to undergo further development. Snipers are expected to make the change next year by replacing the barrel of existing weapons. The new weapons which are going to replace the current standard issue are hoped to be ready for testing by the end of 2019, and if everything goes according to plan without a hitch, begin service in 2022.
~ Ready to Fire News