Army Round Triggers Problems in Marine M27 Auto Rifle the punny headline at military.com announces. “Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR), service officials say.” But there is a solution! Well, kinda. First, a little backstory . . .
In 2010, after more than a decade of development (surprise!), the Army deployed the M855A1 lead-free round to replace the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round. Sensibly enough (or not), Congress mandated that the U.S. Marine Corps get with the program. Which brings us to the M27. As wikipedia.org informs us, it’s . . .
(The M27) is intended to enhance an automatic rifleman’s maneuverability, based on the Heckler & Koch HK416. The U.S. Marine Corps is planning to purchase 6,500 M27s to replace a portion of the M249 light machine guns currently employed by automatic riflemen within Infantry and Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions. Approximately 8,000–10,000 M249s will remain in service at the company level to be used at the discretion of company commanders. The United States Army does not plan to purchase the IAR.
The Army’s cold shoulder to the M27 no doubt accounts for the fact that no one in their lead-free ammunition development team bothered to test the M855A1 in the Marines’ light machine gun. Result?
“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.
Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.
“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”
And how, pray tell, did they reach this preliminary conclusion?
After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.
Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.
“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.
“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.
So, a happy ending for the Army, the Marine Corps and taxpayers? Um, not quite . . .
“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.
“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.
Ya think? Anyway, it’s one gun. Well, one type of gun. And converting the entire U.S. military to a lead-free round is so worth it, right?