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Marines Testing Polymer Solutions to Cut Ammo Weight

The top equipment official for the Marine Corps recently said he believes that polymer is the answer to cutting ammunition weight for infantry squads.

The Marines are focusing on lightening the load infantry squads carry into battle, William Williford, executive director of Marine Corp Systems Command, told an audience Monday at the Navy League’s Sea, Air, Space Exposition.

“We have to have lighter equipment,” Williford said, adding that the service is interested in using "polymer magazines, polymer rounds" and other polymer products to reduce ammunition weight.

The Marines have tested polymer-cased .50 caliber ammunition, but companies also make polymer ammunition pallets that offer significant weight reduction.

“On a .50-caliber pallet, we think we can save 1,000 pounds per pallet,” Williford said.

The U.S. Army has had a strong interest in reducing the weight of ammunition for a decade. The service has invested in the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program, which has produced a matured lightweight squad automatic weapon that is about half the weight of a 17-pound M249 squad automatic weapon.

The main weight savings LSAT brings is in its use of cased-telescoped ammunition.

LSAT’s cased-telescoped 5.56mm ammunition relies on a polymer case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell. It weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.

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