For the historical record, the M-16 entered military service in 1964, was replaced by the M-16A1 in 1969, the M-16A2 in 1983 (USMC) and 1986 (US Army), and the M-16A4 (M-4) in 1997. Between 1997 and now the M-4 has seen extensive combat service and is carried by law enforcement officers as well in the US.

Today, General Dynamics, Textron and Sig Sauer are creating/have created potential replacements for the M-4, firing the 6.8 SPC round.

  • GD wants to sell the services a bullpup, which I’m not fond of.
  • Textron’s entry seems to be well conceived and I would like to test fire it.
  • Sig’s entry actually flicks by Bic more than the other two, for a number of reasons that can be delved into in future blog posts.

The 6.8 SPC is superior in all respects to the venerable 5.56 mm, which I was never particularly fond of. Don’t get me wrong, I own rifles that shoot the 5.56 mm (.223 caliber) round and I like them, but frankly, it was never the right cartridge for military applications – with no apologies to the Army Chiefs of Ordnance.

For the historical record (we’re headed back there again), the US Navy SEAL teams never abandoned the venerable M-14

DoD photo by : PH2 USNR-R MILTON SAVAGE

The Team Eight guy, pictured left, was involved in a ship boarding in the Gulf circa 1991. I was in the Gulf then with SEAL Team Five, but the Team Eight guys were operating out of Half Moon Bay and I was at Ras Al Mishab.  Not that any of that matters. The point is that the teams have been using the M-14’s because the 7.62 NATO cartridge packs more punch than the 5.56 NATO. Not everyone loads out with M-14’s but they’re an option and are in inventory.

In 2000, the Navy SEALS through their parent command at JSOC, convinced the machine to produce the Mk 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR), chambered for 7.62X51. Once the Navy broke the ice everyone else (USAF, US Army, USMC, and USCG) ordered variants of the Mk 14, which is a lot lighter and more svelt than the one the SEAL operator is shown holding (above/left).

Mk-14 EBR (Rock Island)

Rock Island built some, NSWC Crane built some and USMC PWS Quantico built some, all on the Sage chassis.

No, dear readers, I’m not suggesting that USGOV go to a MK 14 rifle. I simply suggest that the 5.56mm was recognized as inferior for a long time among the point-of-the-spear types. And you don’t shoot most weapons full-rock in combat unless you have a supply train with lots of ammo behind you. Semi-auto is fine if you want to kill things. SMG’s can fire double taps in close range environments and that works well in CQB, and if you are using a SAW or M-60, you can fire five round bursts.

Anyway, things are changing and the military is transitioning to the 6.8 SPC. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of the R&D process.  USGOV has had a lot of war fighting experience over the past thirty years, and hopefully the lessons have been learned.

14 COMMENTS

  1. When I built my “Battle Rifle” I chose top of the line components for the trigger, buffer system and even the take down pins. I also compared the multiple calibers the AR can be configured in. I was not interested in the “x39” or the once wildcat cartridges made from its casings. Anything above .308 in size had a lot of drop at 300 yards. After all of my research I put together a 6.8SPC carbine. This was over 10 years ago and I haven’t changed my mind.

    • I know that you chose well. I could elaborate for the sake of the blog, but you found what the Army found.

  2. The M14 was my first issued weapon when I took basic training in ’68. I liked it in spite of its weight. The M16A1 felt almost like a toy in comparison. The 5.56 isn’t a horrible round, but there are better for the platform. I’m experimenting with rifles in 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel. Both function just fine. I tend to lean towards the 6.8 for social purposes. I just wish the 5.56 magazines were compatible.

    • I think that the 5.56 mm cartridge is a good one. I have (or had before the tragic boating accident) more than one rifle chambered for that cartridge. The original M-14 that you trained with has morphed into something with roughly half the weight. But is that the way forward? I think that the Office of the Chief of Ordnance is making the right move for the time by moving to 6.8 SPC.

  3. Interesting how things come full circle, at least for projectile diameter. Pre-WWI, the Brits were developing the .276 Enfield, and post WWI the U.S. was developing the .276 Pedersen.

    I shot my first NRA Highpower Rifle match around 1980. Nothing like a little competition to inspire experimentation. The “Big Dogs” then were 308 for across-the-course and 300 Win Mag for longer ranges. There was 30-06 as well, mostly Garands shooting Service Rifle. Then came the 7mm-08, all the rage for a short while, then 6mm, and finally 6.5. With the advent of the M16-A2, 5.56 came on as well with longer, heavier bullets.

    Being literally belt buckle deep in components for 223, 308, and 30-06 for decades, I stayed with them. If I was younger and still shooting competition, I might well reconsider. At one time, I was enamored of a new round I read about in the magazine ‘Precision Shooting’. It was a delightful little round that somebody came up with by simply necking up 22-250 to 6mm.

    • Originally, the choice of the Army Ordnance Dept. was a .257 – when the .308 debate was raging in the final days of World War 2. But then, at that time, the old dogs muscled their way to a win with 30 Cal. And now it’s dropped back to 6.5mm, where many thought that it belonged in the first place.

  4. If you ask me (which you just did), IMO the U.S. should get with the program and adopt the best weapon ever invented for the modern battlefield: the Kalishnikov AK-47. It also utilizes a very effective 7.62 round much like your beloved M-4, and can fire in almost any battlefield condition: mud, water, hail, snow, ice, lava, you name it, it will fire, clean or dirty. Unlike the tempermental M16 which had to be sparkling clean to reliably put rounds down range. I was issued the M16A1, with the at-the-time newly adopted forward assist lever. When one had to resort to jamming on that forward assist lever, you were in big doo doo no matter what. No such balderdash with the AK-47.

    Maybe the Russians will sell us a patent right, or we can just get them made in Russia and have them as our primary supplier, how does that sound? A lot like the contracts we have with China…

    • Good catch. I did not know that. Yes, they will want a new platform that costs more money.

  5. I don’t own an M14 but enjoyed shooting one a little while back. Tempted to build a 6.8 upper, too. Keep getting mocked for only having 5.56. Hmmmm.

    • The DLC needs to ISSUE me one of the new 6.8’s. Though from what Ed pointed out, it’s not the 6.8 SPC. (what the heck)

      And ammo, and new magazines, and new load bearing equipment and the latest night vision, and maybe a surplus USMC LAV-25. I mean, while I’m asking, I should ask big.

      I’m not anti-horse, but better to be surrounded by armor with a 25mm chain gun.

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