Update on the Marine IAR competition

Military Times (via. SNAFU!) reports … (emphasis mine)

James Conway had questioned how the IAR will fit into fire teams, but said that his concern was “answered in short order.” Smith declined to elaborate, and Maj. David Nevers, a spokesman for Conway, said the commandant was unavailable for comment.

At the Modern Day Marine exposition held at Quantico in October, FN Herstal displayed a high-capacity magazine for its IAR variant that can hold 100 to 150 rounds. Another con­tractor, Armatac Industries, has approached the Corps about a 150-round magazine it makes and says is compatible with each of the finalists’ weapons.

Early in the evaluation process for the IAR, the Corps’ requirement called for the weapon to use 100-round magazines. That was eventually elimi­nated in favor of using the same 30-round maga­zines, as Marine officials sought to cut weight from the SAW’s replacement.

Translation: Ultra-high capacity magazines have poor reliability and so we are pretending that they are in fact too heavy for our Marines to carry.

I was not aware that the requirement had been dropped. Not having a ultra-high capacity magazine would seem to significantly decrease the utility of the rifle, insofar as it being a replacement for the SAW.

150 round AR CL-MAG

Many thanks to Solomon for the link.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • So if it’s only going to use 30 round mags, what’s the point?

  • Timo

    Sounds like Stoner 63 and RPK re-invented but with even less ammo capacity than RPK. I can only wonder why. Isn´t modern belt fed LMG the very thing that replaced these kind of support weapons? 🙂 IMO squads need LMG to suppress enemy and this feat requires especially ammo capacity for continuous suppression. I can´t think of any better way to implement this than by a belt.

  • Vitor

    So…in the end it will be only an assault rifle with a tad heavier barrel and that can be shot with an open bolt? And that’s coming from the same place that refuses to consider a substitute for the M16 because there is nothing “revolutionary enough” out there.

  • Clodboy

    In other news, the contenders in the upcoming SOCOM Precision Sniper Rifle trials will no longer be required to be able to accept long-range rifle scopes, as officials realized they could cut a lot of weight from sniper rifles by only using iron sights…

  • Zach

    I can see utility even with 30rd magazines. I can also imagine reliable 40rd box magazines being developed (they exist for many other weapons). As far as I understand this isn’t to replace the SAW but only to provide more automatic firepower in a squad, compared to the limited sustained fire of the lighter barreled M16 and M4. To me this makes good sense. It seems like it would compare well to the RPK.

  • Martin

    I’d have to agree with sticking to 30rd mags for a number of reasons.

    1. STANAG weapons are decidedly drum un-friendly owing to the deep mag well. So STANAG compatible drums are a) bulky b) failure-prone & c) expensive.

    2. 30rd magazines are a) compact b) generally reliable & c) inexpensive.

    Changing a 30rd mag is so quick and easy that having a higher capacity only yields mixed/marginal results. If you really want continuous fire, then go with a disintegrating belt, because it’s a) compact b) reliable & c) inexpensive.

    With that in mind, I can’t understand why the USMC is replacing their SAWs with IARs. The IAR will be an ok rifle, but it will never be a light machine gun.

    I say the whole IAR is a mistake. Instead, dump the SAW for a M60E4. It adds 6lbs, but then you can justify having an DMR in 7.62, and add some real firepower to a patrol.

  • Lance

    Like I said earlier though the military didnt like FNs mags and had selected C-mags and CL-mags more of a M-16 mag design.

  • HK_USP_45

    30 round mags are about the max you can go without having reliability and feed issues. If you’re going to limit it to 30 round mags, what is the point? Then it would just be like the BAR — great gun, but too few rounds. I would rather keep the M249. I carried one for the better part of 4 years, including my stint in Somalia. Not one single problem with my issued M249 other than the stupid plastic drum not staying on, but they later fixed that.

  • jdun1911, I am really sorry – I accidentally deleted your comment (browser started going slow and I clicked delete by accident instead of reply.)

    jdun1911 was saying he thought the BAR and RPK concept should never have been dropped.

    I agree, although the .30-06 was just to much power and physically to large (low ammo capacity) for a automatic rifle such as the BAR . This is where I think the 5.56mm will shine.

  • jdun1911

    Lucky I still have it on MSWord.

    The IAR program is being develop at the request and push by NCO with combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.. This program is not being push by bean counters, PhD, officers with no combat experience, etc. In other words the people that actually go out and fight the ground war wants the IAR. In that regard, I trust their judgment.

    I never understood why we went away from the BAR, RPK, real light machine gun concept. The BAR works well in WWII. The RPK is hands down one of the best light machine gun out there. The RPK is able to keep up with the team and give suppression power when needed.

    The drum concept never work because the rate of fire and magazine spring. What you have is large amount of weight and the magazine spring must be strong enough to keep up with the machinegun rate of fire. It might be able to do it in the first few complete cycles but it will wear out and thus causing jams due to lost of spring strength (ie won’t be able to keep up with the rate of fire). I believe the Soviet gave up on their drum magazine and went with the 40 rounds magazine.

    There is already reliable 40 rounds AR magazine in the market that is being use in completion. So I don’t think that would be a problem adopting it for the IAR.

    • jdun1911, good stuff 🙂 Yea, I make sure I have backups of large comments.

  • Brad

    The current Russian RPK-74 uses 45 round box magazines in 5.45 mm.

    The Chinese seem to have always liked drum magazines for squad LMG since several weapons use them; for what that’s worth.

    I don’t see why a 45 round box mag couldn’t be adapted for the IAR, if an adequate drum mag isn’t available.

  • HK_USP_45

    jdun1911, when you say drum, what do you mean? When I was in, the ammo belt for the M249 came in a plastic drum, but there weren’t any springs or followers. The belt just laid in the drum. That’s the drum I was referring to in my previous post. I know it is also a called a drum, the type that goes with the Tompson smg, also, and that has a spring and follower. Is there any term to differentiate between the two?

  • HK_USP_45

    jdun1911,

    A 40 round mag being reliable for a competition and being reliable for military use is apples and oranges. In a competition the rounds get loaded, and within hours if not minutes the ammo is fired. The military might load a mag and it might sit in their ammo pouch for weeks or even months. Sure, we’re supposed to unload the mags to relieve the tension, but not everyone does. it. Granted, spring materials have improved in recent years, but there is still a big difference. There is such a huge difference in mag tension if you have 2 or 3 rounds in it, or if you have it fully loaded with 40 rounds. After that mag has been used in say Iraq for a few year or so and 98 percent of the time it’s loaded with 40 rounds, how will the springs be when it is on the last 2 rounds?

    Not every conflict is like Iraq or Afghanistan. I was in Somalia, and for most people, the mags they loaded when they got there were filled with the same ammo when we left. And even the guys that tried to unload mags, had them unloaded for maybe 5 minutes out of the whole day.

  • jdun1911

    I did mention drum with spring on my post. The entire post was related to IAR and RPK drum magazine. It doesn’t take much effort to figure it out.

    Magazine spring doesn’t get weak if you keep it loaded. It gets weak from use, ie compression and decompression. That’s isn’t my opinion, it is a mechanical fact. So for those that worry about keeping your magazine loaded, don’t. It won’t effect reliability, it won’t weaken the spring.

    My fault, the RPK does use 45 magazine. If the RPK that has been using 45 rounds magazine reliable since the early 1960. You would think that a 40 round magazine wouldn’t be a problem right?

    Let me repeat what I said. This entire IAR program is being heavily pushed by decorated combat Marine NCOs, i.e Staff Sergeant and above. The Marine NCO rank and file wants their version of the RPK. It has been on a fast tack since the program has started. No one should delay it IMO.

    BTW these NCOs that is pushing it, some of them has over 25 years in the Corp. They been there and done that. I’m not going to argue with them.

  • HK_USP_45

    Jdun1911,

    “It doesn’t take much effort to figure it out.” — you don’t have to be a prick about it. I can read what you wrote. I was asking you because I previously posted using the word drum, and then you commented, and I wanted to make sure you understood the type of drum I was talking about.

    No one is debating the IAR program, so your condescending arse doesn’t need to “repeat what you said,” I’m debating the use of a box magazine. Can I do that? Isn’t that the purpose of posting? Or should we all just agree and hold hands?

  • jdun1911

    There really shouldn’t be any debate about the reliability of 45 rounds or lower magazine. 45 rounds magazine work. It has been proven to work in RPK.

    The entire concept of a light machinegun is well light. Box magazine fit that concept well. The Iraqi insurgents and Taliban use the RPK very effectively against our troops. The Soviet didn’t complain about reduce ammo size in their RPK. The RPK is there to give the team the extra firepower without slowing the team down.

    Carrying a SAW full loaded with body armor alone will weight over 50 lbs. That’s why the NCOs want a change. They don’t want to sacrifice mobility in the fire team.

  • HK_USP_45

    jdun1911,

    Alright, lightness is a plus, that’s true. And I will take back what I said about arguing against the 45 mag — I got caught up in the argument, but lost sight of the fact that the IAR will be in addition to the SAW, not replacing it. That makes a difference. my bust.

  • Matt Groom

    Does anyone know why the Ultimax 100 was kicked out of the competition? I thought it was because they decided against drums, but I see the new Mark 3 version can take STANAG 4179 magazines.

  • Destroyer

    in my opinion, the IAR should:

    1.) have some parts commonality with the M4/M16 family of weapon (basing this opinion on the contention that the US forces will remain with the M4/M16 for years to come).

    2.) have a gas piston design (countless tests prove that DI designs fail especially in prolonged fire situations)

    3.) heavier, quick change barrel (a weakness of the BAR and M60, which justified the adoption of the SAW and M240)

    4.) open bolt design (disadvantages in dusty terrain make a dust cover essential)

    5.) An actual, reliable magazine (drums have traditionally been tempermental since the days of the thompson or PPSH41)

    6.) heavier upper receiver

    now if the military (even the marine corps) can drop the political BS and actually adopt a weapon that is practical and effective.

  • Some Guy

    Mk. 48 all the way.

    The IAR thing is awesome, but, I think it would be AMAZING if it was applied to everyone in a squad OR if it was made and applied in use with a much more powerful round.

  • David

    What not the Diemaco/Colt Canada LMG? The Netherlands use those with either 30 rounders or C-Mags, but, I’m sure the 416 will do great

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