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Like just about all military procurement projects, the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon selection process has been a long and bumpy journey that’s dragged on since 2018. The Army’s been running 5.56 weapons for over half a century now and the move to a 6.8mm round while replacing venerable small arms like the M4, M16, and M249 SAW is a significant change.

But at long last, the Army is expected to make its final firearm selection some time in 2022. Maybe by the middle of the year. Allegedly.

The Army has, at least, settled on an optic for the new firearms from Vortex. Uncle Sugar will spend $2.7 billion on a fire control system that “increases accuracy and lethality for the Close Combat Force. It integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic, backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay.”

SIG SAUER MCX Spear
Courtesy SIG SAUER

The two remaining firearm makers in the hunt are SIG SAUER with their more traditional MCX Spear rifle design and a bullpup configuration from an alliance of True Velocity/LoneStar Future Weapons and Beretta, now that General Dynamics is no longer in the picture.

Courtesy True Velocity

Both remaining competitors are, of course, built around the Army’s chosen 6.8mm round. SIG’s cartridge is the 277 SIG Fury with its two-piece brass case.

SIG SAUER 277 Fury NGSW hybrid case round
Courtesy SIG SAUER

SIG says the 277 SIG Fury’s “hybrid” case “allows for increased muzzle velocity and greater energy than traditional brass cases.”

True Velocity’s round for the NGSW competition is the polymer-cased 6.8TVC.

True Velocity 6.8TVC 6.8TVCM composite cartridge polymer case NGSW
Courtesy True Velocity

Both rounds apparently provide what the Army wanted; namely more lethality with increased muzzle velocity and range in a lighter weight package.

The Army also wants a commercially manufacturable cartridge that supports high volume production. Both companies’ rounds have now been certified for commercial use. SIG is already selling their MCX Spear, a commercial version of the NGSW rifle that’s chambered in 277 SIG Fury. They’ll be releasing a Cross bolt action rifle in 277 SIG Fury this year and there are more production rifles scheduled to be chambered for the round down the road.

True Velocity/LoneStar in partnership with Beretta has promised commercial semi-automatic models of their RM277 pullpup at some point.

The 277 SIG Fury was approved by SAAMI in September of 2020 and the certification was announced last year. The True Velocity round was approved in January of 2022, a first for a composite-cased cartridge. But there are some interesting differences in the details when you look at the rounds closely.

The 277 SIG Fury was certified for a 135 grain bullet at 3000ft/second and a maximum average pressure of 80,000psi. That’s a high pressure round which was the reason for the hybrid cartridge design. As a SIG engineer tells us . . .

The hybrid case technology was developed to permit higher pressure ammunition.  It’s a stronger shell case. Higher pressure allows for more performance/energy in a smaller, lighter package.

The weak link in traditional brass cased ammunition has always been the primer pocket area that is unsupported by the chamber. For that portion of the shell case we replaced brass with stainless steel. Stainless steel is much stronger than brass so we’re able to use less material, which saves additional weight, and still have a substantially stronger shell.

The True Velocity 6.8TVC round (which is also referred to in some materials as 6.8TVCM for some reason) was certified for a 150 grain bullet at 2700ft/sec and a maximum average pressure of 65,000psi. So…a heavier, slower round than the SIG and a more conventional pressure.

True Velocity’s January 17 press release announcing the SAAMI certification, however, listed the certified 6.8TVC round as 135 grains at a velocity of 3,000ft/sec. The reason for the difference between the SAAMI data and the press release isn’t clear.

But that’s not where the differences end. If you look at the SAAMI spec sheets, you see that the 277 SIG Fury round achieved its certified performance from a 16-inch barrel. The 6.8TVC was certified using a 24-inch barrel (that’s not easy to see…you have to look at the bottom of the second velocity and test pressure page). The True Velocity web site indicates that the 6.8TVC round’s “ballistic data and specifications are currently confidential.”

Both companies plan to offer firearms with different barrel lengths for the military and commercial markets. SIG’s MCX Spear (and the limited run rifle being sold commercially now) will have a 13-inch barrel in the military version. SIG tells us the commercial version of the rifles will have a 16-inch barrel for NFA compliance.

The Genesis RM277R will apparently have a 19-inch barrel in its bullpup design. It’s not clear how the crew-served RM277AR version of the gun will be equipped. See this video . . .

Sadly, we weren’t aware of these details prior to SHOT. If we had been, we could have talked to True Velocity directly about these questions while we were there. Our bad.

We’ve tried to clarify these points with True Velocity over the last week, but haven’t been able to reach them either through their web site or by phone. If we’re able to get in touch with them, we’ll update this post.

In any case, the Army is now choosing between two very different small arms platforms and two distinctly different 6.8mm cartridges (Winchester will also be producing 6.8mm ammo for the Army at Lake City).

The differences between the platforms and the ballistic performance of both remaining competitors are obviously significant. We wouldn’t want to bet on the winner as trying to predict outcomes of the military contracting process is a fool’s game. But the long-term effects — both military and civilian — of the Army’s multi-billion dollar competition will be felt for decades.

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47 COMMENTS

  1. “But the long-term effects — both military and civilian — of the Army’s multi-billion dollar competition will be felt for decades.”

    Yet only 1 in 4 soldiers will get these new things.

  2. I won’t live long enough for this ammo to be proven long enough for me to trust it. For instance. How tough is that case? I’ve run dented brass through H&Ks and Galils over the years. Including the ones in the safe now. No problem. Will this polymer case break instead of bend?

    • My guess is they’ll break before they bend, but you’re going to need a really big sledge hammer to do it. You wouldn’t dent a brass case, you’d squish it flat.

        • and according to this > https://www.beretta.com/en-us/assets/12/7/GD-OTS_NextGenSquadWeapons_202010.pdf

          30-40% lighter than brass ammo. Weight
          reduction produces logistical cost-savings while
          simultaneously lightening the soldier’s load,
          increasing firepower and improving operational
          effectiveness.

          » Improved accuracy. Manufacturing and quality
          control processes result in an extremely
          concentric and consistent case and precise
          powder drop, producing exceptionally consistent
          pressure and muzzle velocities.

          » Reduced heat transfer. Composite case insulates
          the chamber and bolt face from heat transfer,
          reducing wear and tear on weapon system.

          » Elimination of heavy metals that produce adverse
          health effects on soldiers.

          » More efficient powder burn results in tighter
          standard deviations, higher velocities and
          dramatically less muzzle flash.

          » Significantly reduced production footprint that can
          be replicated anywhere. On-demand production
          in theater is a reality.

          » Magnetic retrieval of spent cases saves time
          during training.

          » Cases are 100% recyclable.

        • Whoa. When you say “recyclable”, what does that mean? They can be melted down at a zillion dollar factory and formed into new cases, or that the cases can be reloaded using hand tools? Because I’m having a hard time imagining a resizing die for those suckers.

        • to Booger Brain

          quote————save us all some time and post a link to the stuff you keep copying and pasting over here from other web sites——-quote

          Your own quote asshole. What comes around goes around.

    • I’d be concerned more with jams resulting from deformed casings. Steel and brass thermally expand at different rates. (Steel-cased ammo is “dirtier” than brass because steel expands slower, so the gas seal in the chamber isn’t fully closed before the bullet exits.)

  3. Plastic case would be good for military, lighter, non reloadable, corrosion free, and they could make them in decorative colors.
    One things for sure, it’s nice to have the taxpayers footing the bill for all this sht. It’s not like were in a depression or anything.

    • I’m envisioning (always wanted to use that word) the Stars n Stripes pattern on the freedom seed cases thru windowed P-mags. Would be a good look. Canadian flag too, of course, or maybe, like, a beaver…

  4. I hope the military chooses the bullpup version because it looks less like the AR-15.
    Maybe then the media will stop calling the 60-year-old AR-15 a “military-style assault rifle” and stop calling the 5.56mm cartridge a “high-powered high-caliber bullet designed for killing as many people as possible as fast as possible”?

    Naw, the media will never stop saying those things!

    • Reminds me, a TV show a couple nights back referred to the weapon used as a “small caliber 9 mm …”. Had to pick myself up off the floor.

    • Considering the standard ammo for this (steel core/tip not sure what they settled on) is likely to laugh at most if not darn near all level 3 plates and possibly some lower end level 4 plates I think they will just invent a new scary term and keep going after the AR with wannabe thrown in here and there otherwise unchanged. Also kudos to the comments section pretty much every fine point or question are covered very well above.

  5. TV seems to be the more innovative bid, but most armies across Europe are just switching away from bullpups.
    Meanwhile, Sig wants to impress the military with the same-old approach to minimize change and just burn out barrels. And they have the money for the fun powder and fun girls that some generals certainly like. Allegedly of course.

    • What would you consider innovative about it? It uses plastic? It still has less muzzle velocity than 70 year old hunting cartridges.

      The gun? It’s a fucking bullpup a failed experimental gun design from the 80s that are finally starting to phase out of modern militaries.

      No thanks.

      • Bullpups look cool but don’t tend to work as advertised. Some are right-hand only. Some can be converted. Only two to my knowledge are properly ambidextrous.

  6. Extremely curious where this seems to go honestly. 80K PSI is a massive bump in pressure and may set a precedent into the future for a lot of arms.

    I will put my money on “do nothing” but we’ll see. Things are starting to heat up in the world and the trade offs between redefining the supply lines as they are now vs the potential extra performance could come into play.

    • Also there’s interesting implications around the round being the source of the velocity vs the gun (e.g. shorter barrel similar velocity.) I would be curious to see what the SIG round could do in a 24″ barrel, it could make for an interesting DM, SAW or longer range (dare I even say bolt) rifle honestly.

      • According to their website where you can buy this stuff now. They’re selling a 150gr that does 3150 out of a 24” barrel. So… 450 fps faster than the TV

        • These were the 75-80gr bullet weight class.

          The chart was from testing done in the late 60s and early 70s. Modern propellants may not have such high pressures.

        • Neat, may be a bit long for an AR magazine and now that I think of the likely length involved compressed powder loads may have been involved for back then as it would exceed the tracer loadings for length of projectile at that grain weight (unless they were using something denser than lead/me)

        • From memory, in the early days of Afghanistan post 911, I heard some of the SpecOps were using Black Hills 77g ammunition for the longer range. The reason why the M16A2 and the later carbines were using a 1in7″ pitch barrel was for the long and heavy tracer bullet that was originally developed. For 62g a 1in10″ pitch is enough. 1in9″ will easily stabilize up to 70g bullets.

  7. The whole purpose of this NGSW program is in reaction to the problems of ranged small arms engagements in Afghanistan. The 5.56 M4/SAW was regularly outgunned by Taliban who’d carry PK-series MG’s using the 7.62x54R.
    SIG states their new 6.8×51 has a max effective range of TWICE the 5.56 in a SAW and has less drop than 6.5 Creed … well, given the round is going into an LMG, that pretty much gives a dismounted infantry squad carrying the new rifle and LMG the ability to outgun the AK’s and PK’s handily. These rifles aren’t going to be cheap and I hope the Army gets some good testing data on barrel life and bolt wear …
    An accurized DMR with a match round would be the schiznit and I see that coming, too, just like the M110 came along.

  8. You always prepare to fight the last war and the Army seems to learn nothing from the combat experience of their soldiers.

    Traditionally in ALL modern wars, the maximum rifle combat distance has been around 250 yards +/-. The advent of the universal issue (almost) of the 4x ACOG let troops reach out to 400 yards or so, if they needed too, terrain permitting. However, if the enemy was engaged with rifle fire at at 400 yards, it really wasn’t ideal as it gave them a lot of space to maneuver and escape. Better to hit them with mortars or artillery and keep the position of the rifleman concealed.

    Yes, in Afghanistan, the Taliban would shoot at troops at longer ranges with PKM’s and the poorly trained Afghan troops would fire blindly in the direction of the PKM. They would sit still, use all their ammo, while the Taliban maneuvered and flanked them for the Kill. This was routine, but the Afghans never learned.

    This is why you heard about Army brass (not the fighting troops) wanting 7.62×51 rifles; the SCAR Heavy and even M14 back in service. Stupid idea then, stupid idea now.

    In Iraq, the fighting was closer. The Army sent M249 gunner over there with ELCAN 1x-4x optics which were heavy and needlessly complicated. Most gunners swapped these out for an AimPoint and zeroed the dot at 300 meters, so no need to adjust the elevation, just hold at the belt buckle up close and the head if they are far away. Simple.

    There is nothing wrong with the 5.56 as a combat round. That being said, improvements can be made. The M193 is a fine round, the M885, no so much. The new M885A1 is a disaster. None of these rounds can penetrate modern Russian body armor. Only the M995 Tungsten core round can penetrate to 100 meters (maybe 200). 50 BMG Ball and 338 AP can get the job done at 500 meters+.

    What is needed is a 5.56 round with a true AP core, but with a Von Karmen Ogive to allow it to shoot flatter and and retain more energy at range. This was tried out in the 1960’s at the old (Real) Frankfort Arsenal with good results. With modern tech and the new SIG hybrid case, you should be able to get a 4,000 fps projectile with a AP core, that will give the infantryman the ability to penetrate body armor, perhaps up to 200 meters. The round would be lighter than the current 5.56 and could be made to fit in existing M16/M4 magazines. Think a longer 50 grain bullet in a shorter 5.56 case, built like the 277 Fury with the 2 piece hybrid case.

    Placing the Core of the bullet at the rear of the case and using a polymer ballistic tip, should allow the bullet to “Upset” in soft, non-armored targets. The AP Core would also be able to deal with windshield glass, unlike the M885.

    Because of the higher 80,000 PSI case pressure, the M16/M4 would need to be replaced, as the bolt head and bolt carrier are too weak to handle the stresses. We could still produce a reliable weapon in the 6.5 to 7lb range with standard (non-exotic) materials.

    I expect the Army to spend lots of money, award contracts and like so many programs before, nothing else will happen and the troops with still have M4 carbines for the foreseeable future. The Generals/Managers (not leaders) do stupid stuff, like the USMC ditching belt fed M249 and disbanding their M1 Abrams tank units.

    • M995 to M993 is a difference of ESAPI rev G to XSAPI current issue in what is needed to stop them. Size, mass, density, velocity, shape, and hardness all play a part for the bullet and while ultimately 5.56 is fine it is not a great armor piercing round even though it can be good enough for most of what needs shooting with a rifle.

  9. To me it looks like the mcx plus 80k psi round sure makes the most sense. Both are more conventional and both give the update the military is looking for.

    Plus I’d like a reason to build and load a rifle in the new cartridge.

  10. The constant promotion for a bigger diameter bullet is and has been false as proven as far back as when smokeless powder was first invented. Bullet penetration and bullet placement incapacitate not bullet diameter. When W.D.M.Bell shot over 1,000 elephants with the 6.5 and 7mm cartridges that proved that the bigger diameter elephant cartridges were a farce.

    One must realize that if the new technology to produce these two new 6.8 cartridges could be also used to improve the existing 5.56 mm which recoils less and enables one to carry more ammunition. But this is far beyond the mentality of the Neanderthals who run the arms procurements for the U.S. military.

    One must realize too that the current 5.56 mm round with its steel penetrator core will easily penetrate many objects out to 400 yards which is way beyond the marksmanship ability of the average grunt who is lucky to hit anything beyond 100 yards.

    One must also realize that even these two new cartridges will not penetrate most military vehicles these days so what is the point of all the hoopla for adopting them anyway except of course to chase rainbows promoting a new miracle cartridge and blow billions on another hair brained useless adoption.

    • dacian,

      save us all some time and post a link to the stuff you keep copying and pasting over here from other web sites.

  11. This will come to nothing as it is stupid. The increase in weight of the weapon and ammo will result in less ammo carried and gives up a very important advantage. If you want troops to hit at longer range then good optics and training is the answer.

    • Actually, if they want to hit harder at long range they could go back to .308. The specs for the new ammo are no better than the old ammo. A 125gr .308 pushes 3100 fps. The 150 is 2800. Unless the claim is that they’re going to stick 30 rounds of .277 in an AR mag, what’s the point?

  12. I was only ever an average vanilla infantryman but I would have rather had an intermediate cartridge weapon like a 6.5 Grendel that weighs 2.5lbs less than a full powered .277 Fury chambered weapon. Without the Chinese selling us lots of tungsten we aren’t going to penetrate their armor anyway. I imagine the intermediate cartridge weapon would be more reliable too. This is what I mean when I say I am conservative.

    • At a wild ass guess we may be trying to get something that has a bit more range and can pop level 3 and cheap 4 plates with steel tip/core at the cost of wild pressure and/or weird design to sidestep the tungsten shortage. This is assuming it’s not just a waste of taxpayer money of course.

  13. M277 all the way. Sig’s is too conservative, barely can do the job, and is too heavy. The move by General Dynamics to make the lead contractor and DoD liaison Texas-based, have Berretta’s US factories build it, and using Delta P in Oregon to make the cans is all wise.

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