With the new defense budget which was put to bed without a bloody fight among lawmakers for the first time in recent years, there are plenty of things and goodies for rank-and-file U.S. service members tucked into the massive appropriation measure — and not just their largest pay raise in more than a decade for U.S. soldiers.
Here’s a brief overview of all the new gear and weapon systems headed into the waiting hands of soldiers and Marines downrange in 2019.
An M4 replacement — for Marine Corps, at least
While the U.S. Army continues to hash out the fewer details of its next-generation rifle, the U.S. Marine Corps in April announced their plans to snag up to 15,000 M27 infantry Automatic Rifles produced by Heckler & Koch as a replacement for the legendary M4 carbine, with additional plans to actually field the new rifles to active and reserve infantry platoons at the beginning of 2019. Given some of the problems that cropped up during testing of the platform, time will tell if the U.S. Army’s decision to stick with its homegrown rifle was the right one.
New sniper systems for Marine Corps
While a handful of lucky Marines with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force units are already rocking the Mk 13 Mod 7 (the Marine Corps’ first new sniper system since the adoption of the M40 during the Vietnam War) in their kits, there are plans to field the rifle to II MEF and II MEF units through 2019 — and our Marines already love it. Add in the service’s push to procure the 116 7.62mm M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper Systems (CSASS) to replace the M110 currently wielded by squad designated marksmen, and it looks like “Boom, headshot!” may become the Marine Corps’ motto for the year.
Lighter body armor for soldiers
Back in September, a Center for a New American Security report commissioned by the Army Research Laboratory found that American soldiers were lugging around way too much shit, including bulky body armor that “not only slows movement and increases fatigue, but also has been experimentally demonstrated to decrease situational awareness and shooting response times.”
Good thing that, starting this year, the Army began rolling out the new (and lighter) modular torso and extremity protection system (TEP). Sadly, the Marine Corps only just opened a competition for lighter body armor plates, so don’t expect a lighter load for Marines anytime soon.
New night vision goggles for Marine Corps
The Marine Corps began fielding the brand-new Binocular Night Vision Goggle II (BNVG II), to Force Reconnaissance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines over the summer with the goal of achieving full operational capacity by spring 2019, which means other Marine MOSs likely aren’t far behind. And the BNVG III can’t get here soon enough: According to Marine Corps Systems Command, the system’s Clip-on Thermal Imager (COTI) “intensifies Marines’ ability to see anything in dark conditions, rain, fog, dust, smoke and through bushes that the legacy binoculars couldn’t.” Predator, anyone?
Boomsticks for both U.S. Army and Marine Corps!
Sure, it was great news when the Army opted to request $23.3 million for 300 new-and-improved M3A1 recoilless rifle systems rather than last year’s $6.5 million; after all, who doesn’t love the awesome power of the arsenal of 84mm Carl Gustaf?
The Marine Corps certainly do: The Marine Corps announced in August that it planned on ordering 84mm M3 Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles for every tactical squad as part of the branch’s long-awaited plan to overhaul its infantry squads — the first time the service will field the legendary bazooka downrange.
New sidearms for everyone!
The U.S. Army began adopting the Sig Sauer P320 pistol as the M17 and M18 after a long, exhausting hunt for a new sidearm under the service’s Modular Handgun System program. Now the other branches are getting a taste: While the Marine Corps already has its own order for 35,000 pistols as part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget, both the Navy and Air Force will soon adopt 60,000 and 130,000 handguns as their go-to sidearm, respectively.
Introducing the CAR-15: America’s Ultimate ‘Commando’ Rifle?
During the Vietnam War, the Pentagon provided U.S. Army Green Berets and U.S. Navy SEALs commandos with a shorter, more compact version of the M16 rifle. The CAR-15 was well suited for the jungles of southeast Asia while still packing the potent 5.56-millimeter round. Although classified as a submachine gun at the time, the CAR-15 was the forerunner of modern special forces weapons and the regular Army’s M4 carbine.
In the mid-1960s, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps purchased a large number of M16 rifles for troops bound for the Vietnam War. The M16 was shorter and lighter than the M14 battle rifle that equipped U.S. ground forces based in the United States and Europe, and would eventually replace the older rifle entirely.
U.S. Army Special Forces troops were on the ground advising South Vietnamese Army units, and in that capacity, the green berets often carried older weapons such as the M-2 carbine. The M-2, dated to the Korean War, was more suited to the size and stature of Vietnamese troops than the M-14 and U.S. advisors carried them to increase commonality with the troops they advised (and sometimes led.) Although a useful weapon, the older .30-caliber cartridge lacked the power of the new, modern 5.56 cartridge.
Colt’s Manufacturing had purchased the rights to the AR-15 rifle from ArmaLite and manufactured the rifles for the Department of Defense as the M16. Colt’s solution to the short rifle problem was the CAR-15. Derived from the Colt Model 607 carbine, the CAR-15 featured a sliding buttstock that reduced overall length and the barrel was shortened from the 20 inches of the M16 to 10 inches. The new carbine also included a forward assist mechanism in the upper receiver, a push button meant to help advance fresh cartridges into battery.
The Pentagon signed a contract in June 1966 with Colt for 2,815 Colt “Commando” rifles, although officially it was known as a “Submachine Gun, 5.56-mm, CAR-15”. Colt completed the deliveries within six months. The first rifles sent to the military were unmodified Colt 607s, designated XM177 in Air Force service and XM177E1 in Army service. Right away soldiers noticed some issues with the new weapon. One major problem was that the drastic shortening of the barrel led to a large, bright fireball at the muzzle and very loud gunshot report—clearly, the flash hider designed for the rifle was not up to the task. Soldiers also noted a problem with accuracy and thought the buttstock too complicated.
Within weeks Colt was back to the drawing board and the result was the new Colt 629 Commando. The 629 featured a slightly longer barrel, at 11.5 inches, and a newly redesigned flash hider. A chrome-plated chamber helped prevent gunpowder residue from accumulating in the upper receiver, leading to stoppages. The result was what the company believed was the best compromise between a compact weapon and one that generated an obnoxious amount of noise and light on the battlefield. The 629 was rebranded the XM177E2 and the Army placed an order for 510 of the E2 rifles in early 1967; the rifles to go to the U.S. Army’s Studies and Observation Group (SOG), Vietnam. Despite the bookish name, SOG was a cover for U.S. Army special forces reconnaissance teams operating in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia and, later, Laos. Operating deep within the enemy territory for days at a time, green berets and the local troops that fleshed out their recon teams liked the CAR-15 for its compactness and firepower.
Another special forces unit that used the CAR-15 in action were U.S. Navy SEAL teams. SEALs originally carried the Colt 607 but transitioned to the XM177E2 when available. Both SEALs and U.S. Army Special Forces continued to use the XM177 well into the 1970s, working around the lack of new production by cannibalizing some rifles to provide spare parts for others.
The concept of a shorty M16 went dormant into the 1980s, but in the 1990s the U.S. Army officially adopted the M4 carbine. Although not as short as the Colt Commando, as an offshoot of the original weapon separated by more than twenty years of research and development, the M4 is a more reliable and generally refined design. Today the M4 is the standard weapon assigned to U.S. Army and Marine Corps infantrymen worldwide. Another “shorty” M16 was the U.S. Navy’s Mk.18 Mod 0, a weapon with a ten and a half inch barrel currently issued to Navy SEAL teams. Between the two weapons, the legacy of the CAR-15 rifle lives on.
Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.
A New Rifle Combines AR-15 with Classic Bolt
Known as the Delta 5, this gun brings together the modularity and versatility of an AR-15, changing the game for shooters who prefer the feel and look of a classic bolt gun. The Delta 5 offers shooters a highly accurate and competition-ready gun without the need for any expensive aftermarket modification and tuning.
Based on the popular Remington Model 700 platform, the Delta 5 is anything but your run of the mill bolt-action rifle. The gun features a threaded cold hammer forged stainless steel barrel that can easily be swapped based on user preference without having to avail of a gunsmith, thanks to factory-set headspace, according to militarytimes.com.
Internally, the Delta 5 makes use of integrated pillars which maintain rigidity through the stock to the mini-chassis, making for a tighter action.
An integral recoil lug, mated to the action, further dampens recoil, making the gun highly consistent and incredibly accurate. The Picatinny scope base boasts a 20 Minute of Angle/5.8 MRAD of elevation right out of the box.
A single-stage Timney Elite Hunter trigger which can be adjusted between a 1.5 and a 4 lb trigger pull, an ambidextrous magazine release, and a swappable bolt head and knob are among the more noticeable features of the rifle.
A total of 11 M-LOK points along the forend, and one more under the stock, which itself is fully adjustable with a variable cheek riser. The Delta 5 feeds from most AICS-type detachable magazines and has plenty of rail space to mount a wide array of optics.
DD design engineers were able to keep the overall weight of the rifle down thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer in the stock and the body of the gun. As such, the Delta 5 clocks in at just around 9 to 9.5 lbs. It will be available in 3 primary calibers: .308 Winchester with the 20-inch factory barrel, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Remington, the latter two using a 24-inch factory barrel.
The company produces AR-style rifles and accessories used by law enforcement agencies, special operations units, and civilian shooters alike.
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