Sig Sauer grabs the big, messy NGSW enchilada

In news that really should be a surprise to no one, Sig Sauer came out on top at the end of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program. The important points…

  • NGSW is meant to replace the 5.56-caliber M4 and M249 in front-line use.
  • Sig beat second-place competitor True Velocity/Lone Star/Beretta for the contract.
  • Over the past five years, at least 37 companies attended various Industry Days with the Army to discuss the program with AAI, FN, General Dynamics, PCP Tactical, and Sig Sauer submitting prototypes.
  • The NGSW uses a new three-piece bi-metallic 6.8x51mm round that delivers better than 6.5CM-like performance out to extended ranges. This will bring the Army back to long-range performance lost when the M16 replaced the M14 in the early 1960s, while also adopting a round capable of penetrating Level IV hard plate at distance. As the Chinese Army is buying millions of sets of body armor in recent years, this could be the crux of why NGSW is a thing.
  • The NGSW program includes the XM5 rifle, XM250 machine gun, and XM157 “fire control” (optics).
  • The XM5 is Sig’s MCX-Spear, which has a side-folding stock, runs a short (13-inch) barrel, and uses 20-round magazines. With the suppressor installed, it weighs two pounds more than the M4.
  • The XM250 is Sig’s Light Machine Gun or LMG design, which is billed as weighing four pounds less than the M249.
  • The XM157 is made by Vortex and includes not only a 1-8x optic but also all sorts of Gee-whiz electronic accuracy aids that reportedly are so good that your neighbor’s 11-year-old daughter can pick it up and make a 1,000-yard headshot after about 90 seconds of instruction.
  • The program is set to cost billions, with Sig set to get up to $4.5B and Vortex on the schedule for another $2.7 billion for a maximum of 250,000 optics-and-suppressor-equipped weapons. Basic math tells you that is about $29,000 per equipped gun.
  • The Army is only looking (for now) to buy about 120,000 NGSWs, spread across 107,000 M5 rifles and 13,000 M250 machine guns, or about enough to equip the main trigger pullers in combat units. As the Army, including the National Guard and Reserves, counts about 1 million service members, it is clear the M4 will remain in service with most for the near future. Of course, this means a potential logistics nightmare as the Army will then have two completely different series of small arms in the field.
  • It is going to take a while to field even the 120,000 planned guns, likely a decade, with the ammo being the main bottleneck. Right now, just Sig makes the selected 6.8mm cartridges and, while the Army is building a new facility at the Lake City Ammo Plant to make the rounds, it isn’t expected to open until at least 2026.
  • What this means for the commercial market is that 6.8, which Sig markets already as the .277 Fury, is about to explode in popularity, and, as it teases the possibility of being able to hunt with a short action rifle carrying a 130-ish grain bullet doing 3,000fps from a 16-inch barrel, could be a big deal.

By Michael Crites

Michael Crites is el jefe around here. He has spent more than 30 years shooting, learning about guns, and collecting firearms old and new. He holds his Oregon Concealed Handgun License, and enjoys testing products in the back 40 of his farm.

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