Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington D.C., United States (4E) – The United States Marine Corps has selected the Heckler & Koch M27 Infantry Assault Rifle (IARs) as its new service rifle, ending over a year of speculation as to whether it has the money to do so.
The selection was confirmed by Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. In addition to the new and more lethal weapon, Marines will also receive new communications equipment, body armor, flash suppressors and night-vision optics.
Gen. Neller said the M27 will be issued to Marine combat infantry, engineers and fire-support teams. Mortar crews and Javelin missile operators, who lug around long and heavy weapons, will continue using the current standard rifle, the Colt M4A1, which is shorter than the M27.
Gen. Neller didn’t reveal how much the Corps will spend for its new rifle, which costs some $3,000 apiece.
“Wait and see,” said Gen. Neller. “It’s not that much (money).”
“I could kit out every grunt in the Marine Corps with the coolest sh*t head-to-toe for $100 million. And I intend to do that.”
The 5.56 mm M27 is based on Heckler & Koch’s HK416. Marines reportedly like the M27 for its reliability and accuracy. The Marines began unit-level trials with the M27 in late 2016.
The Marines have indicated a firm intent to acquire 11,000 M27s, which is considered by some as the best assault rifle in the world.
The M27 has already replaced the heavier M-249 Squad Assault Weapon (SAW), of which there are three in every Marine squad of 13 men. The M27 is fed by a 30-round magazine firing the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. It also has a longer range than the M4 and has proven the more accurate.
Based on the Heckler & Koch HK416 tactical rifle/carbine, the lighter weight M27 intends to enhance an automatic rifleman’s maneuverability compared to the heavier SAW. The M27 weighs 3.6 kg empty as against the SAW’s 7.5 kg empty weight.
The SAW’s 200-round ammunition drum adds an extra three kilograms to the weapon’s weight, bringing the loaded weight of this light machine gun to a hefty 11 kg. That compares to the M27’s weight of just over 4 kg with a 30-round magazine.
Whatever advantage the M27 loses in rate of fire since its magazine fed it regains with far better accuracy compared to the M249. The Marines said the substantially increased accuracy of the M27 was a key factor in their decision to replace the M249.
The HK416 was originally developed as an improvement on the Colt M4 carbine family, which it is. It has a free-floating barrel that keeps the barrel out of contact with the stock and minimizes the effect of vibration on bullet trajectory.
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