Special operators set to pick light machine gun in new caliber

Special operators set to pick light machine gun in new caliber

TAMPA, Fla. — U.S. special operations officials are set to select a new machine gun in the coming months to give shooters .50-caliber-like performance in a lightweight machine gun package, according to the program manager for special operations lethality.

Army Lt. Col. Tosh Lancaster said here Tuesday during the Special Operations Forces Week conference that Special Operations Command will select its so-called Lightweight Medium Machinegun, or LWMMG, by Oct. 1.

First announced in 2017, the project focused on the .338 Norma Magnum to provide shooters with more distance and lethal punch in a weapon that one person could carry and use. The .338 Norma Magnum is a new entry into military operations.

The three companies competing for the contract are Ohio Ordnance Works; Sig Sauer; and a True Velocity and Lonestar Future Weapons team.

Lancaster previously said the weapon is scheduled for fielding in fiscal 2026.

Sig Sauer in recent years won the Modular Handgun System contract to provide a 9mm sidearm to all military branches as well as the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon rifle and automatic rifle contract.

Companies delivered three weapons each in February and a total of a dozen each in late April for endurance testing, according to documents.

Basic specifications of the Lightweight Medium Machinegun from the competitors are:

  • Ohio Ordnance Works’ Recoil Enhanced Automatic Precision Rifle, or REAPR: a 26.8-pound, 54.5-inch weapon with a rate of fire of 550 to 660 rounds per minute.
  • Sig Sauer’s MG 338: a 24.1-pound, 50-inch weapon with a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute.
  • True Velocity’s Recoil Mitigation 338: a 25-pound, 49-inch weapon with a rate of fire exceeding 500 rounds per minute.

U.S. troops began noticing range limitations in Afghanistan with their M240 machine guns, chambered in 7.62mm, that reached about 1,500 meters. The M2 .50-caliber machine gun could reach farther, up to 2,000 meters, but weighs 84 pounds.

Weapons and ammunition experts in the Army, Marine Corps and other government groups began evaluating the small arms suite of ammunition and platforms as those reports emerged.

One specific effort on the .338 included the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate.

In 2021, Army snipers began using the .338 Norma Magnum for the MK22 Precision Sniper Rifle; SOCOM has fielded an advanced sniper rifle that can fire the .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum or 7.62mm with barrel changes.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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