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XM8 Again

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Spieler, Nov 11, 2003.

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  1. Spieler

    Spieler Member

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    From the Army Times

    www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=0-ARMYPAPER-2349045.php

    XM8 prototypes surpass M16, Army experts say

    By Matthew Cox
    Times staff writer

    It looks like the first prototypes of what could be the Army’s next rifle already outclass anything in the M16 family.
    At least that’s the analysis of Army weapons experts who recently traveled to Germany to check out the XM8.

    “The performance was truly remarkable,†said Col. Michael Smith, the head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, after a recent trip to Heckler & Koch Inc. to inspect the first prototypes of the 5.56mm assault weapon intended to give soldiers a more reliable alternative to the current M16A2 and M16A4 rifles and M4 carbine.

    The 30 prototypes have been shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., where they are slated to undergo testing under laboratory conditions in mid-November.

    Soldiers are scheduled to lay their hands on the weapon some time in December, when the Army expects to receive another 170 prototypes.

    If all goes well, the XM8 could be ready for fielding by late summer 2005.

    The XM8, the Army experts say, is a true family of weapons with different barrel lengths designed to address all the needs of an infantry squad.

    The standard model is expected to be lighter than the M4 carbine and no larger in size. There’s also a sharpshooter version for increased range; a compact version for cramped quarters; and an auto-rifle version for a squad-automatic weapon.

    While months of testing lie ahead, Smith and his colleagues were pleased to find that one prototype has fired 15,000 rounds without a jam and without being cleaned.

    While the XM8 was not exposed to battlefield conditions, it’s still a feat the current service rifle hasn’t come close to rivaling, said Rich Audette, deputy project manager for PM Soldier Weapons. “I was around for the M16A2 and M4 carbine [development], and I have never seen anything coming out of the box firing like this,†he said.

    During their Oct. 20-23 trip to Germany, the weapons experts said they were impressed after watching Heckler & Koch engineers “fire four high-capacity magazines, with 100 rounds a piece, in less than five minutes,†Smith said. “It fired beautifully.â€

    Difference in weapons

    This improved reliability can be credited to differences in the XM8’s operating system from the one in the M16, the Army officials said.

    For instance, a thin gas tube runs almost the entire length of the barrel in all of the M16 variants. When the weapon is fired, the gases travel back down the tube into the chamber and push the bolt back to eject the shell casing and chamber a new round.

    The XM8’s gas system instead is connected to a mechanical operating rod, which pushes back the bolt to eject the casing and chamber the new round each time the weapon is fired. So there’s no carbon residue constantly being blown back into the chamber, reducing the need to clean the weapon as often .

    “What happens is you don’t get gases blowing back into the chamber that have contaminates in them,†said Lt. Col. Matthew Clarke, the head of Product Manager Individual Weapons.

    The XM8 also has a much tighter seal between the bolt and the ejection port, which should cut down on the amount of debris that can blow into the weapon when the ejection port’s dust cover is open, Smith said.

    The XM8 is part of the Army's effort to perfect an over-and-under style weapon, known as the XM29, developed by Alliant Techsystems and H&K. It fires special air-bursting projectiles and standard 5.56mm ammunition. But the XM29 still is too heavy and unwieldy for Army requirements.

    Instead of scrapping the XM29, the Army decided to perfect each of XM29's components separately, so soldiers can take advantage of new technology sooner. The parts would be brought back together when lighter materials become available. The XM8 is one of those components.

    Testing the equipment

    From December through late May, soldiers will get a chance to fire the prototypes in desert, tropical and arctic environments.

    A limited-user test then will be conducted, possibly at Fort Campbell, Ky., where soldiers will test the prototypes for about three weeks while training in offensive and defensive scenarios.

    Improvements will be made based on soldier and test feedback before the final three-months of operational tests, which are scheduled to begin in fall 2004.

    The final decision will be up to the Army’s senior leadership, but weapons officials said they were confident the XM8 weapon system will be adopted.

    “With the introduction of any new weapon system, you have people that like it and people that don’t like it,†Smith said.

    “What we have to do is demonstrate a capability that is beter than the current weapon system, and we think we can do that.â€
     
  2. MaterDei

    MaterDei Member

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    [​IMG]
     

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  3. MaterDei

    MaterDei Member

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    Or the toy version

    [​IMG]
     

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  4. natedog

    natedog Member

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    (Holding breath, crossing fingers) What's the barrel lenght on the standard version?
     
  5. Kaylee

    Kaylee Moderator

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    If I recall correctly, in the neighborhood of 14" I remember for certain that the "sharpshooter" variant is 20" :rolleyes:

    Might that not be so bad if they rechamber it to that 6.8-whatever they're working on for SOCOM?

    -K
     
  6. Kharn

    Kharn Member

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    Uhh, where's the bayonet going to attach?

    Kharn
     
  7. gun-fucious

    gun-fucious Member

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  8. Bigjake

    Bigjake Member

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    thats one ugly-??? weapon... tell me , whatever was wrong with the good ol m-14??
     
  9. Onslaught

    Onslaught Member

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    I imagine that, barring catastrophic incident, this is all but a "done deal". I mean, H&K didn't just decide after all this time "Hey, lets build a manufacturing plant in the US" without some serious confidence that there would be profit in doing so...

    The new plant (here in my hometown, right next door to Ft. Benning) has already broken ground and begun construction. The plant is supposed to be finished before June of next year.

    Gosh I wish my work experience extended to computer assisted machining...! They are supposed to be hiring around 200 people with "specialized, highly technical, manufacturing experience".
     
  10. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Onslaught,
    Sorry to disappoint you, but this is far from a done deal. The XM8 does nothing that the M16?M4 series doesn't already do. It gives us no additional capability at a huge cost.

    Small arms development has reached a plateou. Until we come up with a breakthrough on the order of smokeless powder or fixed ammuniton there is no need to change. In fact to buy the XM8 would be foolish because it will take resources away from making the next big breakthrough.

    There is a move throught the Army and in DOD to kill the XM8. I predict it will succeed.

    Jeff
     
  11. Willard

    Willard Member

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    Where's the Dewalt sticker on the yellow one?

    So basicaly they are going to adopt the G-36 with STANAG 5.56 (M-16) magazines. Hope they add a decent folding stock, although it looks like a retractable one, which would be smarter. Being able to adjust the length of pull for body armor/no body armor/ruck/no ruck shooting will be appreciated.

    The darned thing better have a bolt hold open.

    Of course they could just add gas pistons to the existing M-16's...remember the old "Rhino" gas system from the 1980's?
     
  12. Blain

    Blain member

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    Amen to that, brother.


    I mean they better at LEAST change the caliber from .223....
     
  13. MAKOwner

    MAKOwner Member

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    Acutally I think the newest prototype looks fairly decent, looks better than a regular G36 IMO... From what I understand it's all G36 underneath though, I do question how big an improvement over the M16 family that is. Not sure it's worth that kind of dough just to ditch the direct impingment gas system on the M16 family, I mean it doesn't offer anything else does it?
     
  14. Mark Tyson

    Mark Tyson Member

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    Ye Gods - they should have adopted the FAL when they had the chance. There's some great FALs out there . . . And what's with remaining with the 5.56mm NATO when half of NATO is telling us to go get bent and the other half is ex Com-bloc nations who are on 5.45x39?
     
  15. Destructo6

    Destructo6 Member

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    Well, how much are they spending on these? per unit?

    If they're intent on replacing vast numbers of M16/M4s, and the price is similar/less why not switch?
     
  16. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    Because the dual logistics problem to support two weapon systems over a multiyear changeover program will be a disaster.

    owen
     
  17. Destructo6

    Destructo6 Member

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    Like the M1903 to M1 transition? or the M1 to M14? or M14 to M16? They even use the same mags and ammo.
     
  18. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Regardless of how you feel about the M16/M4 you need to write your congresscritter and ask them not to spend any more of your tax dollars on the XM8. The XM 8 really doesn't do anything for us that we're not already doing satisfactorily with the M16/M4. If you as an individual shooter decide you no longer like your AR15 and decide to replace it with an HK SL8 that's fine...it's your money. And for most people, it's not a big financial strain to make that change. It's a very different thing for an Army to change. By the time you figure HK's R&D costs, plus spare parts, training for armorers and support personnel, training aids, the costs of maintaing two completely different weapons systems with all the attendant logistics headaches for maybe 10 years while they field the XM8 throughout the entire force. (Owen already mentioned this but it's a good point) And yes I do mean 10 years or maybe longer. The Army adopted the M16A2 as ERC-A standard in 1985. We still have units in the reserve components that have M16A1s. So we're already past the 10 year mark and moving up on 20.

    So what do we get with this large investment of scarce defense money? We get a rifle that does the same thing the current one does. Fires the same cartridge, Weighs about the same and is somewhat less ergonomic with the AK type mag release.

    It's better to spend the money we would on fielding the XM8 on R&D for a weapon that truly gives us a greater capability then we already have. If it ain't broke, don't fix it means a lot right now.

    Jeff
     
  19. ShaiVong

    ShaiVong Member

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    Isnt the army allowed to catch "Iwannacoolgun" virus from time to time? :D
     
  20. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Sure, but we all pay for it everytime they do. Personally I have enough trouble paying for my own bouts with the Iwanncoolgun virus. I can't afford to let them have this cool gun, then ther won't be any money for the really cool gun when they make the big breakthrough...

    Jeff
     
  21. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Member

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    Jeff:

    The G36/M8 is the big breakthrough. There ain't gonna be anything else big for a LONG LONG time. I'd like the air-burst grenades to come on line, but that's not a rifle and never will be one. It's expensive, complex, delicate, and probably will remain that way for years to come. When you settle for what you got and hope for some great leap in technology, you are destined to relive the past and the many trials over the years to improve on the battle rifle. Let's not look for a quantum leap, let's look for a big step. The Glock was a big step and I believe that the M8 is also a big evolutionary step that sure as heck needs to be taken.
     
  22. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    If that's the big breakthrough then we're in trouble. The XM8 is at least 50 year old technology. Just how long have we been building autos operated by gas pistons and operating rods? Heck the roller locked stuff that HK is abandoning is newer then the XM8s technology.

    I think you are letting your personal distaste for our current weapons cloud your judgement. Just what is the big evolutionary step we're taking with the XM8? The use of polymers? The M16 pioneered that in the military.

    I think the XM8 is a dead end on the road to a new family of weapons. Look back at all the money we put into the ACR program in the early 90s. What did we get out of that? The SOCOM stock for the M4 came from there. Seems like an awful lot of money for a buttstock. At least the ACR program played with different ideas (not good ones but different). All the XM8 is, is a G36 with plastic furniture to make it look like a ray gun of some type. It shoots the same 5.56mm ammuntion we currently use and it's AK style mag release is less ergonomic then what we have. Think of what we could do in the training side with the money we're spending on the XM8.

    Until we get into energy weapons, the big breakthrough in military small arms is most likely going to be in targeting and sighting. The XM8 will very likely eat into money for those programs as we field it. It's happened every time.

    Jeff
     
  23. Lancel

    Lancel Member

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    Lessons learned but forgotten:
    The open slots of the flash suppressor will catch on the bushes like the original M-16's.

    Ideally the flash suppressor will get replaced when the bayonet lug is installed.

    Larry
     
  24. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Member

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    Actually, the XM-8 is newer than that. The bolt and gas system are borrowed from the AR-18 (actually, an Armalite patent not used in the AR-18) with a little innovation in the expending of waste gas through the front and through the use of AR-15 style gas rings in the piston. Combine that with a Glock style utilization of polymer in the receiver, modern optics, and advanced construction materials and techniques, and a truly innovative charging handle. What you end up with is a gun that is STATE OF THE ART!

    You mention roller locking? While it's an alternative, it was abandoned not because HK was stupid, but because it is inferior to their new gas system on many fronts. There were a few other 'advanced technology' locking systems that still fell by the wayside. Let's see, there's the funky G11 caseless system, the Ross Rudd delayed blowback system, the FAMAS lever delayed blowback system, and the piston-around-the-barrel Czech system. Calling those advanced is true, but that's like saying you've built a better mousetrap. Prove it!

    HK took some very good ideas, some of them new, and assembled them into quite the carbine. Jeff, it's the best thing going. That's my opinion and no, I'm not tainted by my dislike of the AR-15. I own a few AR types and love them, I just don’t think it’s the best thing going. Heck, I own a 1911 also, but I'd probably not arm the Infantry with it these days.

    The ACR trials were the latest in a long line of programs with grandiose ideas that fizzled. They fizzled because they presumed that some great leap in technology was just around the corner. It wasn't. Infantry rifles needed to evolve, they didn't need to be conjured up in some boiling cauldron. Let's list a few of the programs: SCHV, AGILE, SAWS, SPIW, ACR, etc. Did I miss any? You brought the ACR up, but that proves my point... there's not going to be any revolution in firearms design in the foreseeable future?

    The question here is a philosophical one. True, most of the XM8 technology is tested, proven, and sound. So what's the problem with that? What is there better on the market? Where's the golden gun? We bought the M-16 on a 'One-Time Buy' when we were SURE that some wonderful magical ray gun was just around the corner. Two weapons (Armalite AR-18 and Stoner 63) appeared on the scene at about the same time that WERE better but since we were already invested in the M-16, it was too costly to rearm. Bah! That was 1968 and 35 years later, we've already replaced the M-16 TWICE OVER. Yet some still stand by their position that the ray gun is just around the corner. Well, history says that there ain't no ray gun and there ain't gonna be no ray gun. There are major advances still to come, but when you show me a ray gun, I'll buy it. I don't see it and I don't plan on seeing it for a while. I don't replace my 1978 Accord with another new 1978 Accord because I have a few air filters lying around and it fits in my garage. I look for the best and most reliable technology made today. The Army is driving 1957 Chevy's around. Why not buy a 2004 Model?

    In the end, there is the argument of 'if it works, don't fix it.' While some say that I have an "IWANNACOOLGUN" virus or that I hate the M-16, they are ignoring the flaws in their own logic that prevent them from seeing a gun that might be 25% better because they are waiting for one that's 200% better. Keep waiting, I'd like to move on myself.
     
  25. Lancel

    Lancel Member

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    How might a change-over effect the Civilian Marksmanship Program?

    After all, the weapons that would become surplus aren't really fully automatic. They just have a little three round burst.
    ;)
    Larry
     
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