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XM8 Update

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Spieler, Aug 31, 2004.

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  1. Spieler

    Spieler Member

    Jun 30, 2003
    McDonough, GA, USA
    From the Army Times

    XM8 update: Your fix is in
    Thanks to soldier feedback, the Army’s expected next rifle will be lighter, fire faster and sight better

    By Matthew Cox
    Times staff writer

    The Army is about to enter the final round of testing on what is well on its way to becoming your next weapon. The second-generation XM8s sport more than a dozen soldier-inspired refinements that weapons experts hope will help them convince Army leaders to adopt the new family of weapons in early 2005.
    Until then, the new prototypes — 17 carbines, 15 compacts and 14 designated marksman versions — are slated for more soldier evaluation through the fall and winter.

    The Army developed the XM8 in late 2003 as part of a longer-range effort to perfect an over-and-under style weapon, known as the XM29, developed by Alliant Techsystems and Heckler and Koch.

    The XM29 fires special air-bursting projectiles and standard 5.56mm ammunition. But it is still too heavy and unwieldy to meet Army requirements.

    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.

    The weapon was tested in lab conditions, and by soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized).

    “Every time we take it to the field Army, they tell us to leave it with them,†Brig. Gen. James Moran, head of Project Executive Office Soldier, said at a June 14 Pentagon briefing.

    Soldiers reacted positively, but they also had plenty of ideas for making the XM8 more effective on the battlefield.

    The new prototypes — standard carbine, compact carbine and designated marksman models — include changes that make the XM8 more reliable, easier to operate and lighter to carry, said Col. Michael Smith, head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons.

    “We did not try to build the perfect weapon the first time,†Smith said. “We did make a lot of changes. Soldiers definitely affected the design of the second generation.â€

    One of the more challenging changes involved redesigning backup iron sights.

    The XM8 relies on special optics for its primary aiming system. There’s a short-range version with a red aiming dot and a long-range version for use by marksmen. But soldiers always want the traditional front and rear iron sights, since anything electronic can fail, Smith said.

    The backup sights fold down into the hand guard and carrying handle when not in use.

    “I’m very happy with the way it turned out; it’s put out of the way until you need it,†Smith said. The original design was trashed, he said, because it called for the backup sight to be built into the optic.

    “What if it is smashed? That’s why [soldiers] wanted it to be separate.â€

    Both optics have also been improved on the prototypes.

    The battery life for each has increased from 110 hours to 400. And the new designs feature a lever-style clamping mechanism for attaching the optics to the weapon instead of the screws that soldiers tended to strip during testing.

    Both the short-range and long-range optics have a built-in infrared pointer and illuminator similar to the PEQ2 attachment soldiers currently use on the M4 carbine. Plus, there’s more range on the pointer and illuminator — designers upped it from 600 meters to 800 on both optics. Soldiers can focus the pointer and illuminator on the long range or 4x optic while the same infrared features on the short-range or unity optic remain fixed.

    Better aim

    Developers said the full-auto capability should be more reliable now that they have increased the rate of fire by 25 to 50 rounds per minute. The change makes the XM8 capable of firing 850 rpm.

    “We did the change to give us better a capability in nasty environments like the desert,†Smith said, explaining that the higher rate should help push more sand and grit out of the chamber when firing. “You get a little more force blowing that stuff out of there.â€

    The Army changed from full-auto to three-round burst on the M16A2 in the 1980s when the service decided most soldiers did not fire effectively in the full-auto mode.

    But weapons experts now say a soldier using three-round bursts is no more effective than one well-trained in the use of fully automatic fire.

    Unlike the first generation, the designated marksman and automatic rifle models are now the same weapon, except the automatic rifle will be fielded with a special 100-round, drum magazine. The designated marksman variant will use the 30-round magazine used on the standard carbine.

    The high-capacity magazine, which can be used in all the XM8 models, is intended to give commanders the option to beef up a squad’s volume of fire beyond the current M249 squad automatic weapon, which is belt-fed and equipped with quick-changing barrels.

    “We are not proposing that we replace the M249 in the light machine gun role,†Smith said. The XM8 squad auto rifle’s barrel can be changed but the process takes too long to perform in the middle of a firefight, he said.

    “It’s not designed to give you that continuous high rate of fire the machine gun will give you,†Smith said.

    Lighter load

    The second generation XM8s include several ergonomic improvements, such as new ridges or knurls added to the cocking lever for a better grip. They also are about 15 percent lighter than the first prototypes, Smith said. That’s about a pound less on the carbine model which now weighs in at 7.14 pounds with optic and loaded 30-round magazine. An M4 carbine with its standard attachments and a 30-round magazine weighs about 8.5 pounds, he said.

    The prototypes are black, but Smith said the final production models would most likely be a solid earth-tone since the Army’s recently approved Army Combat Uniform has no black in the new digital pattern. Camouflage tests have shown that black is too easily detected during movement, Smith said.

    The Army’s senior leadership is scheduled to make a decision on replacing the M16 with the XM8 in February, Smith said.

    There were plans to possibly field the XM8 to two infantry brigades in 2005, but Congress chose not to provide the roughly $27 million needed for the purchase in the fiscal 2005 budget or in supplemental funding, Smith said.

    The Army could still begin fielding in 2005, but the money would have to come from existing programs, Smith said.

    Before those decisions are made, however, the second-generation XM8s are slated to go through desert testing in Arizona in September, tropic testing in Panama in October and arctic testing in Alaska in December. A limited user test, involving an undisclosed, active infantry division is also scheduled for October, Smith said.

    “As always, we are testing the changes to verify them,†Smith said. “We want the ery best for our soldiers. They deserve it.â€

  2. UnknownSailor

    UnknownSailor Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Bremerton, WA
    This rifle still strikes me as a solution looking for a problem, but then again, what do I know? I'm a squid, right?
  3. Bartholomew Roberts

    Bartholomew Roberts Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 26, 2002
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