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Goodbye SAW, Hello IAR

The decision has been made: The Marine Corps will replace the venerable M249 Squad Automatic Weapon -- long the bulwark of fire superiority in the Marine infantry squad -- with the more accurate and reliable M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

Military.com has the exclusive breaking story this morning on how the Corps has made up its mind.

Marine infantry squads will replace their M249 light machine gun with a highly accurate, auto rifle geared for fast-moving assaults. In late May, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, approved a plan to field the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to all Marine infantry battalions.

The lightweight auto rifle, made by Heckler & Koch, is a variant of the 5.56mm H&K 416. It weighs just under eight pounds unloaded -- almost 10 pounds less than the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

The decision comes after the Corps fielded 458 M27s to five battalions as they prepared for upcoming deployments to Afghanistan.

"We wanted to get through the limited fielding and get the feedback before we moved ahead with the full fielding," said Charles Clark III, who oversees infantry weapons requirements at the Corps' Combat Development and Integration office in Quantico, Va.

But there are a couple of pullouts I thought Kit Up! readers would be interested to see.

First, gunners and other infantry experts recognized that since you can't change barrels on an M27 like you can a SAW, the rate of fire needs to be kept down -- particularly in hot weather (read Helmand summers).

And because gunners cannot change out over-heating barrels on the M27, they will likely keep sustained rates of fire at nearly 40 rounds per minute for 600 rounds on days with mild temperatures. They will have to reduce that to 28 rounds when the temps climb past 100 degrees.
And while the Corps still hasn't decided on a high-capacity magazine option for the IAR, they're tipping their hat to the Army which developed a new magazine last year that's a lot better than its predecessor. Marine weapons officials also maintain that the improved 30-round magazine that the Army developed for the M4 carbine and the M16 is working well in the M27.
Some are concerned that M27 gunners are not being issued higher-capacity magazines. Program officials have not ruled this out as a possibility for the future, but for now, gunners will carry about 22 of the standard 30-round magazines for a basic load.
The story says infantry companies will keep nine SAWs in reserve in case leaders want to beef up their firepower (we'll speculate that this could be for defending a position like a COP)...but the die is cast, the SAW is largely done.

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