Infantry Automatic Rifle: Replacing the M-249

The M-249 has a long history. Ever since the Army took the German MG-42 design and “improved” it, the M-60 was loved and hated by U.S. troops. Belt fed, the firepower of 7.62mm round was good, the mechanical problems and 7.62 ammo were bad. Despite fixes, the M-60 was soon replaced with the M-249 in the infantry. Called teh Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), the SAW gave plattons lots of firepwoer that used the same 5.56mm bullets that the M-16 does. In addtion to belts, the SAW can make M-16 magazines too.

But the SAW has it’s critics. It is a heavy beast. I know, I was a SAW gunner for three years. I do not have combat experience, just many, many field problems. It is heavy, the belt can snag and the magazine feed works about 80% of the time.

Fully automatic riles went away after Vietnam, studies showed that soldiers and marine would fixate on a target and pump it full of rounds. The 3-round burst feature was added to make the shooter conserve ammo. The SAW gunner bring a fully automatic rifle, built for full auto, to the team. But many longed for the full-auto goodness of the BAR, M-60 and the like at the squad level.

Enter the IAR (From Wikipedia):

The Infantry Automatic Rifle or IAR is the name given to a light weight, magazine fed, 5.56mm weapon sought by the United States Marine Corps which will enhance the automatic rifleman’s maneuverability and displacement speed while providing the ability to suppress or destroy not only area targets, but point targets as well. With a planned purchase of 4100, the IAR is intended to replace around 2000 M249 Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWs) currently employed by automatic riflemen within Infantry and Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalions. The M249 SAW will remain in service at the company level to be used at the discretion of company commanders. The USMC will still keep around 8000-10000 SAWs in service for when commanders need more firepower. The U.S. Army does not plan on purchasing the IAR, and instead will buy new SAWs or MK 46 LMGs.[1][2]

COLT: IAR prototype

COLT: IAR prototype

LWRC had their version, but they lost the initial round. Colt, FN Herstal and Heckler & Koch are building prototypes as we speak

Some are uneasy with the new rifle:

Unease in the Fleet About the Marine Corps Infantry Automatic Rifle
by Sean Meade

Fast forward to the Marine Corps Times Feb 3, 2009 article by Dan Lamothe, staff writer for that publication. In the online article Lamothe interviewed Staff Non-Commissioned Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers in order to gain their perspective about the upcoming acquisition. Put simply, the Staff Sgt and Cpl interviewed expressed deep concern about the loss of suppressive fire due to the anticipated use of 30 round magazines. Despite the weapons light weight, the thought of not being able to “keep the enemy’s head down” appeared to be a major concern.

What follows is a quick list of concerns that I have regarding this new weapon.

1. Suppressive Fire- a magazine change takes time that might prove critical. Sustained fire against an entrenched foe during the assault would prove problematic. Especially in light of the loss of fully automatic fire from the M-16A4 (current weapon of Marine Corps Riflemen).

2. The near certainty that Beta C-Mags would be employed to attempt to regain the sustained suppressive fire thought to be lost. Several online sources indicated that Beta C-Mags weren’t as reliable as belt fed magazines, and that during US Army testing in Afghanistan, they suffered from the dusty-sandy environment. The US Army went so far as to offer a Ground Precautionary Message (GPM-02-017) regarding C-Mags and outside of perhaps the USN SEALs they are thought to not be in use by the military.

… and lastly but perhaps more importantly in this age of stressed defense budgets …

3. No appreciable gain in performance either in weight, firepower, portability or accuracy.

He dings the IAR’s magazine feed. Belts snag and can come out of the box at the worst times, but you have 200+ rounds at your fingertips. In contrast the mags have 30 a piece. Changing them does take time, not as long as moives make it out, but it does take time.

IMHO the answer is obvious: (Caution, Marylin Manson, bullets, and profanity ahead)

Ares Shrike 5.56
The Ares Defense Shrike 5.56 is an air cooled, dual-feed weapon that fires the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The Shrike 5.56 can be supplied as a complete weapon, or as a low-risk upper receiver “performance upgrade kit” to existing M16-type service rifles and carbines.

Just drop it into an M-16 lower and there you go.  Due to it re-suing the lower part of an M-16 it takes mags, but it can be belt fed to:

Video 1:

Video 2:

Sadly, LWRC lost the competition, but just for you XBradTC:

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One Response to “Infantry Automatic Rifle: Replacing the M-249”

  1. After reading the article, I just feel that I need more info. Can you suggest some more resources please?

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