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    HomeMilitaryThe Evolution of US Military Rifles: Farewell M16, Welcome XM7

    The Evolution of US Military Rifles: Farewell M16, Welcome XM7

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    After more than fifty years of dedicated service, the iconic M16 series, a direct descendant of Eugene Stoner’s AR-15, will be succeeded by the advanced XM7 rifle from Sig Sauer.

    M16A1 cutaway noBg” by Curiosandrelics is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    The M16, first introduced in 1964, has been the most-produced 5.56x45mm weapon, marking a significant chapter in the annals of U.S. military history.

    M16 rifle variants” by gunman47 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

    The latest variant, the M16A4, known for its three-round burst feature, will soon yield to the cutting-edge design of the XM7, a testament to the relentless pursuit of small arms excellence.

    The Army’s decision to replace the M16, along with the M4 carbine and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), forms the core of the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) program.

    USA rifle versus soviet union rifle.

    This ambitious initiative aims to equip soldiers with rifles and light machine guns that offer enhanced range, accuracy, and lethality to confront modern threats.

    The XM7, originally designated as the XM5, has undergone a name revision due to a naming conflict with a Colt Industries carbine.

    The Army spokesperson from Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, clarified the change stating, “As a result, the [Next Generation Squad Weapon] Rifle will now be called the XM/M7.” The corresponding light machine gun, retaining its XM250 nomenclature, is also chambered in 6.8mm and will replace the venerable M249 SAW.

    Sig Sauer’s XM7 and XM250 promise a significant capability increase over their predecessors, firing a common 6.8mm ammunition that delivers greater effectiveness against current and emergent threats.

    FORT BENNING, Ga. – Soldiers of the 4th Ranger Training Battalion, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, demonstrate the U.S. Army’s newest weapon during a Rangers in Action Ceremony September 16, 2022, at Victory Pond, Fort Benning, Georgia. The XM5 Rifle will replace the M4/M4A1 carbine within the close combat force. The new ammunition includes multiple types of tactical and training rounds that increase accuracy and are more lethal against emerging threats than both the 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs)

    The new round, an intermediate caliber, outperforms both the 5.56mm and 7.62mm in terms of accuracy and power, especially at extended ranges—a critical factor in modern combat scenarios where adversaries have improved their body armor.

    Weapons and military equipment for army, Assault rifle gun (M4A1) and pistol on camouflage background.

    Both the XM7 and XM250 are slated for fielding later this year as part of a 10-year contract awarded to Sig Sauer, amounting to an initial $20.4 million.

    Sig Sauer, already the provider of the M17 9mm pistol replacing the Beretta M9, will now become a predominant supplier of small arms to the U.S. Army’s close combat forces, potentially extending to special operations forces.

    Close-up studio photo against a dark textured wall. The elite unit, special forces soldier in camouflage uniform holding an assault rifle with a laser sight and aims at the target

    The selection process for these weapons spanned 27 months of rigorous evaluation, with other defense contractors vying for the contract. Sig Sauer’s submissions were ultimately chosen for their notable improvements in soldier lethality.

    1st Lt. Keller Fires M16” by U.S. Army Europe is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    An added enhancement to these weapons is the inclusion of the XM157 Fire Control optic, manufactured by Vortex Optics subsidiary Sheltered Wings, which integrates a suite of advanced technologies to further augment the user’s combat efficiency.

    Capt. Bruce Fires M16” by U.S. Army Europe is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The transition to the XM7 marks the end of an era for the M16 series, a rifle that has been a staple in the hands of American servicemembers across multiple generations.

    M16 (Armalite Colt AR-15) at Athens War Museum on November 22, 2022” by George E. Koronaios is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    As the M16’s storied service draws to a close, the military community looks forward to the next chapter in small arms history with the XM7, poised to become the new benchmark in soldier firepower.

    Relevant articles:
    Army Picks Its Replacement for the M4 and SAW, Military.com, Apr 19, 2022
    Army chooses Sig Sauer to build its Next Generation Squad Weapon, Army Times, Apr 19, 2022
    New name selected for Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon, Army Times, Jan 18, 2023

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