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The M16 / M4 rifle platform, long the standard for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, may soon be phased out as officials from both service branches explore new options for weapons and ammunition.

Army researchers have reportedly examined six different types of “intermediate caliber” ammunition, according to Army Times.

These calibers fall between the current 7.62mm and 5.56mm rounds and include the .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .264 USA, as well as other variations that are not commercially available. military officials told The Times.

The search for alternatives for weapons and ammunition comes in response to concerns about the 5.56mm round and the M16 and M4, which have been continuously improved and modified since their introduction in the 1960s.

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The M16 and M4 and their variants continue to have interference issues, an issue the system has addressed since its introduction. Improvements to bulletproof vests have reduced the lethality of the 5.56 cartridge. Groups like ISIS have also used large rounds that outperform the US military’s ammunition. (Russia would be working on its own assault rifle using a 6.5mm cartridge.)

According to some research, the army’s firefight in Afghanistan, where the United States has been engaged for over 15 years, has mainly taken place at distances of over 300 meters, or about 1,000 feet. At this distance, the 5.56mm cartridge is much less lethal.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine fires security with an M4 rifle on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advisory and Assistance Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner / Released)

At least two studies presented to the U.S. military indicated that 6.5mm to 7mm cartridges were better options.

“Right now the [M16/M4] The platform we have is a workaholic and very effective in the hands of a trained soldier or marine, ”said Major Jason Bohannon, lethality branch chief at the Maneuver Center of Excellence. of the US Army from Fort Benning, to Army Times.

Going forward, Bohannon said, the military would not be able to take more advantage of the platform and would likely seek a new one.

A report released last month by the Marine Corps Times also says the Corps is looking to replace the M4 worn by almost all infantry rifles with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 to replace the aging automatic weapon M249 Squad.

Currently, every Marine Corps infantry shooting team is equipped with an M27, carried by the automatic rifle.

“Most Marines love it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commander Gen. Robert Neller told the Marine Corps Times in April, saying the M27s were “the most reliable, durable weapons. and the most precise “worn by rifle squads.

The extension of the use of the M27 would be the most recent of several weapon changes.

In late 2015, Neller approved the switch from the M16 carbine to the M4 carbine as the primary weapon for Marine Corps infantry. About a year later, the Corps began testing the M27 infantry assault rifle, which offered a longer effective range, better fire and greater wear resistance.

A senior Navy officer noted the M27’s rate of fire as a concern, suggesting that the weapon, which carries 30 rounds and can be fired in fully automatic mode, could lend itself to ammunition overuse. (The M4 and M27 both use the 5.56mm round, and the US and NATO military have an abundance of this caliber in stock.)

One downside of the M27 is the cost of the rifle, which is produced by German gunsmith Heckler Koch and costs around $ 3,000. The M4, built by Colt Defense and FN America, costs less than $ 1,000.

Equipping the 11,000 Marines – members of companies and fire teams, but not squad or platoon leaders – who would get the M27 under the new plan would cost around $ 33 million, though a Marine Corps official told the Marine Corps Times that cost was not a concern during the assessment process, and the price may change as the Corps continues to inquire with gun manufacturers.

“I’m thinking about it,” Neller told the Marine Corps Times of the possible change, “but we have to balance the improved capabilities and increased lethality with the cost.”

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