A silhouette of a flight engineer manning an M240 machine gun on the ramp of a CH-47D Chinook in eastern Afghanistan. (Photo: Ed Darack)
Sig Sauer held a presentation fire with its recently unveiled .338 Norma Magnum, belt-fed machine gun last month as part of the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show. The new machine gun also comes in 7.62mm caliber.
The weapon, the Sig Sauer Lightweight Machine Gun or SLMG, weighs in at 20 pounds and, with foldable stock, is significantly lighter than the current M240B, 7.62mm machine gun.
In addition to SOCOM, the company also hopes a variant of the weapon will be in the running later this year to replace the Army and Marine Corps’ Squad Automatic Weapon.
A new caliber machine gun under partnered development with both Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps is set to replace the existing M240 machine gun platform for infantry units and, in some cases, the vehicle and aircraft-mounted .50 caliber machine gun.
The company’s first foray into medium machine guns, the SLMG tackles some age-old machine gunner problems.
A company official said the weapon was designed to be fed and charged from either the left or right side. That way it can be configured not only for dismounted ops but in vehicle, aircraft or tank setups.
It is suppressor ready and has an adjustable gas block to match the right pressure for the suppressor. So far, testing hasn’t shown any change in the rate of fire when using a suppressor, according to armytimes.com. Another shift that machine gunners would notice immediately is the move to a mid-gun feed tray. That shifts the sometimes unwieldy feature of belt-fed loading and clearing away from the face and fingers, clearing room for the gunner to better manipulate the weapon.
The cover can be used when not fully opened, and another variant has a version of the feed tray that opens sideways rather than straight up to give a different profile. Sig developers are also working on a drum type magazine that could be added to the weapon for an option other than belt-fed.
The .338mm caliber has received some military attention recently, with the Special Operations Command weapons development office deciding to replace both the M240 and the .50-caliber M2 Browning machine gun in some units with its Lightweight Medium Machine Gun program, using the .338 Norma Magnum caliber.
In that program, SOCOM wants a weapon that can fire between 500 to 600 rounds per minute and hit targets at the 2,000-meter range. Within those parameters, the weapon could not only replace the M240 in most tactical scenarios but also provide enough reach and firepower in a vehicle, boat and aircraft-mounted .50-caliber machine gun configurations.