Posts Tagged ‘RPK’

My post on the IAR solicitation continues to get hits, so when I saw this article in the Marine Corps Times I thought you would be interested:

Marine acquisition officials are considering a high-capacity magazine that could hold 50 or 100 rounds and fit numerous 5.56mm weapons, raising questions about the Corps’ plans to move forward with development of the controversial infantry automatic rifle.

Marine Corps Systems Command, based at Quantico, Va., is “seeking potential commercial sources for a high capacity magazine for use in a semi or fully automatic rifle,” with responses that were due by Nov. 17, according to a new advertisement to industry. The magazine would need to fit “the M16/M4/HK 416 family of weapons,” which includes the new 5.56mm auto-rifle SysCom is considering as a replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in most fire teams.

Marine officials did not respond to requests for comment, but adopting a high-capacity magazine for the IAR would address concerns posed by some grunts worried that replacing the SAW with the IAR would cut firepower in situations where a sustained rate of fire is needed.

The SAW typically holds a 200-round drum of 5.56mm ammunition, while the IAR is designed for use with 30-round magazines.

Maj. John Smith, the weapon’s project officer, said in September that the Corps was “close to having a decision” on the IAR contract competition, which pits one rifle from FN Herstal, two variants from Colt Defense and one from Heckler & Koch against each other. At the time, Smith acknowledged that Commandant Gen. James Conway had questioned how the IAR will fit into fire teams, but said that his concern was “answered in short order.” Smith declined to elaborate, and Maj. David Nevers, a spokesman for Conway, said the commandant was unavailable for comment.

At the Modern Day Marine exposition held at Quantico in October, FN Herstal displayed a high-capacity magazine for its IAR variant that can hold 100 to 150 rounds. Another contractor, Armatac Industries, has approached the Corps about a 150-round magazine it makes and says is compatible with each of the finalists’ weapons.

Early in the evaluation process for the IAR, the Corps’ requirement called for the weapon to use 100-round magazines. That was eventually eliminated in favor of using the same 30-round magazines, as Marine officials sought to cut weight from the SAW’s replacement.

According to Darren Mellors, LWRC had been developing a high-capacity magazine like this for its candidate as well. I am not sure what this bodes for the IAR or the SAW, but I would be curious to see how well they perform in the field. To say the least, the BETA C-Mag has not gotten very flattering reviews. In theory, I like the idea of a system like the RPK that can alternate between drum and box magazines. However, drum magazines are much more complex and getting them ‘right’ is no easy task. It might be worth looking into 40- and 50-round box magazines akin to the RPK and Galil as another option. (For more information on Kalashnikov drum magazines, see this thorough article in Small Arms Review.)

With all this talk of high-speed low-drag mags, it is worth noting that soldiers could always use more regular vanilla 30-round magazines. These things are intended to be disposable items, and their springs wear out from repeated compression and decompression. Bad magazines are a top culprit of M16/M4 malfunctions, and they are a lot cheaper than a brand-new weapon system–particularly when the new system uses the same mags a la the SCAR. I have heard too many stories about warfighters not having enough, good-quality mags, and it is a pretty sorry commentary. I do not have an exact figure for what the DoD pays for a plain Jane STANAG magazine, but I have to imagine its less than $10. That’s $10 for truly life-or-death equipment.


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