XM806 Lightweight .50 to be deployed in 2012

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Christian Lowe reports that the XM806 aka. the “Lightweight .50″ is on track for deployment in 2012

Talk about taking a diet – the XM806 with its specially-designed tripod weighs a little over 60 lbs. That’s compared to the current M2 Heavy Barrel which comes in at a portly 120 lbs. But the General Dynamics-made XM806’s advantages go deeper than its waistline, Army officials say.

It is still unclear how many weapons the Army will buy, but if all goes according to plan, the service will begin fielding the bantam-weight .50cal in late 2012.

This photo was taken in 2008. The final XM806 or M806 will likely be slightly different.

[ Many thanks to Lance for emailing me 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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  • http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/ Sven Ortmann

    The real experts on lightweight heavy machineguns and autocannons are the Russians.

    The Soviet Berezin UB 12.7x108mm machine gun of 1937 weighed only 21.5 kg (47.3 lb).

    The Russians have also an old and amazingly lightweight 20mm autocannon (Berezin B-20) and even an amazingly lightweight 30mm gatling (built into 80’s fighters).

    They have a durability penalty afaik.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    I don’t quite see the point of this. If you’re thinking of manpacking the weapon, lightening the gun doesn’t help you with the main problem, which is ammo weight: .50 cal ammo is four to five times heavier than 7.62mm, so you really can’t carry much of it.

    If you’re not manpacking it but using in a fixed base position or mounting it on a vehicle (which, not surprisingly, is how .50s generally seem to be used) then the gun weight really doesn’t matter.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    Sven, the Russian guns you mention are aircraft weapons which are only expected to last a few thousand rounds before being thrown away – they are deliberately made as light as possible. The equivalent aircraft Browning M2 of WW2 weighed 29 kg (and FN made a lighter version of it at 24 kg).

    The equivalent Russian 12.7mm army MG currently in service is the Kord, which weighs 41 kg (90 lbs) on its tripod mount.

    The Chinese are the real proponents of lightweight HMGs today: their 12.7mm Type 89 weighs just 26 kg (57 lbs) on its tripod.

  • subase

    The chinese need to make everything smaller cause there soldiers aren’t as big.

  • Jerry in Detroit

    While an interesting concept, the XM806 has two problems. The long recoil action allows a rate of fire about half of the M2HB. The second problem is that the mechanical reliability of the new gun is the same as the old one.

  • Catsandammo

    From what was described to me, General Dynamics was also designing and building an interchangeable auto grenade(size?) launcher into the XM806 as well. It did not mention that in the article though so I’m not sure if it ever came to fruition.

  • Sian

    @Tony The Russians and Chinese clearly see a need for a lightweight HMG, and there’s some good reasons for it. Aside from general improvements over the venerable Ma Deuce, lighter weight means more tactical flexibility. It can be relocated quickly within a prepared position, and deployed faster to repel an attack. Good luck repositioning a M2HB when the enemy switches things up.

    You’re right in how the M2 is currently deployed, and I don’t see anyone lining up to man-pack it, but you could be seeing the XM806 used more dynamically, close to the old M1919 LMG though with far more power and range. In the wide open spaces of Afghanistan, the extra firepower is going to get a lot of fans.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    @Catsandammo, that was the 25mm XM307, a separate version of the gun firing airburst grenade ammo; it was cancelled in 2007.

    @Sian, you could well be right, but they really need to address the ammo weight if the gun is going to be carried around. Part-polymer-cased versions of the .50 ammo have been made (I have one in my collection) but I don’t know if they meet military specs. AAI are also touting a couple of .50 cal plastic-cased-telescoped MGs which save at least a third of the ammo weight. You can’t do much to reduce the weight of those heavy bullets, though.

  • Beaumont

    Let’s hope it actually WORKS. Lightweight MGs have been attempted before, after all.

    As always, kudos to this blog for featuring info that would be harder to find otherwise.

  • Riceball

    @Sian

    From what I understand Marine grunts regularly hump M2s, they break it down into its base components but I don’t know if it’s for actual use or just practice. It’s not easy but it is doable, my old Wing squadron would do that occasionally on humps although we didn’t hump any ammo just the weapon. I’m sure that in practice a heavy weapons platoon would truck in their heavy stuff but I’m pretty sure that they could hump it in if they really needed to and it’s probably a whole lot better than trying to hump in an 81mm mortar baseplate.

  • Lance

    The M-2 isn’t going away the M-2A2 is entering service too and for tanks and Vehicles the M-2 is fine the Light weight .50 is for airborne troops and special forces who don’t have trucks to transport the ma Duce to there needed positions.

    Right on Subase
    The Russians use the venerable DSHK .50 MG for decades as well as the Kord for tanks use. They never really used a light weight MG they experimented with it for of course Airborne forces. Chinese weapons well… they just suck anyway.

  • Martn (M)

    The best place for this weapon, in my opinion, is in Helos. Shaving 60lbs really matters in this application. The weight savings don’t really amount to much in any other iteration, though. It’s still not light enough to hump, so that’s off the table, and that extra 60lbs would hardly break a vehicle. Robots, on the other hand, would benefit from a lighter HMG.

    Basically, in some applications the weight savings may facilitate an upgrade from a MGM.

  • Madeleine Goddard

    Given the weight of ammunition and the impact that has on man (or woman)-packing weapons, is there a case for a new medium machine gun designed to use the .338 Lapua round? Could a new weapon approximately the size of the old Browning M1919 .30 calibre weapon give almost the sort of extended range firepower for which the .50 calibre weapons are currently used? Do we need something one step up from the 7.62 mm GPMG types? I would be interested in readers’ views.

  • Komrad

    @Madeleine Goddard
    A .338 lapua MG sounds pretty cool actually, though I think that it would be difficult to procure enough ammo for it. It was a wildcat for a long time (technically anyway) and most ammo is match/sniper ammo. I suppose that lower grade mg ammo could be made, but as faar as I know, it isn’t being currently manufactured.
    I always wondered why Barret hasn’t made a semi-auto .338 either. Maybe there is an issue with making belted magnums function in auto-loaders.

  • p1choco

    Does anyone else see a problem with that sporter looking barrel? Looks like it will need changing out WAY more often.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    @Madeleine, a .338 MG is an idea which is suggested every now and then, and there is no doubt it would have advantages in some situations. The question is whether it would be needed often enough to justify adding a whole new category of gun and ammo to the inventory. The standard answer seems to be that 7.62mm MGs do well enough up to 1,000m with .50 cal above that, with the advantage of .50 cal being it isn’t just anti-personnel, it also fires multi-purpose AP/HE/incendiary ammo against vehicles etc.

    @Martn, the low rate of fire would be a disadvantage from aircraft. The US has recently started fitting helos with the FN-made .50 Browning versions which fire at around 1,000 rpm.

  • Madeleine Goddard

    Tony, I was thinking in terms of a post-7.62 mm world, where the rifle platoon has a 6.5 or 7 mm intermediate cartridge weapon family, including a LMG, with the .338 round effectively becoming the MMG and sniper round. There would still be a need for the .50 round too, but it seems to me that the reach and punch of the rifle company (especially light infantry who have to carry the stuff) would be greatly enhanced. The 7.62 mm NATO round certainly works, but appears to be too powerful for the rifle platoon level and not quite powerful enough for a support weapon capable of giving serious suppressive fire (across a valley for example). And as a round it is getting a bit long in the tooth. I realize that ultimately it will all be about money, but would this seem to be a reasonable procurement strategy to work towards over the next two decades?

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    Madeleine, yes, a change to 6.5-7mm would strengthen the case for a .338 support MG and it would be interesting to see how such a gun would be regarded by the troops using it in action. The ammo would still weigh twice as much as 7.62mm, though.

  • john David

    What real practical reason is there for a 50cal MG to be man packed. Too much weight and expense for the rare if ever need to engage Targets with MG out at extended ranges. Barretts, Bofors, mortars, and automatic grenade launchers adequate.

  • Vitor

    It’s worthy remember that there is plenty of room between the .338 and the .50. I can see a .408 Chey-Tac or a .416 Barret been interesting, since it would have the same range of the .50 with much lighter ammo and less recoil.

    The only limitation would be the anti-material role, since the size of the .50 allows it to be filled with a nice amount of explosive material.

    Ah, from the .50 MGs around the world, the CIS from Singapore looks quite nice, dual-belt feeding, same recoil reducing system of the Ultimax.

  • Laenhart

    I wonder whether or not a .50 cal semi-auto rifle wouldn’t fill a man-packed support role better than this weapon (or other high-caliber reduced-weight machine guns.)
    I’m not qualified to say what rate of fire meets the needs of the modern soldier, but a non-auto weapon burning less ammunition might be a better compromise. It could fulfill an anti-personnel and anti-material role even without the fun-switch.

  • Some Guy

    Laenhart, I know what you mean.

    But this weapon is more or less intended to be super awesome semi-auto/auto sniper rifle.

    It’s basically a 60 pound, 45 inch barrel super accurate low recoil sniper rifle with a theoretical unlimited magazine capacity.

    You basically set up a tripod and use an extremely high powered sniper rifle with the ability to be fully automatic.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    @ Some Guy,

    There’s a big difference between 60 lb for the XM806 and 30 lb for the Barrett M107 when it comes to man-packing the guns, especially across rough terrain at high altitude – and maybe in scorching summer heat – as is often the case in Afghanistan. And the XM806 is going to be no more accurate than the Barrett.

    So the real question is: is it worth doubling your manpack load just to obtain burst fire, when the weight of the .50 ammo means you’re not going to be carrying much of that to let off in bursts anyway? The anwer looks unclear to me.

  • Rohan

    @Tony.

    In a post brass cased world there is a case for change (no pun intended).

    A plastic cased 6.5mm weights in the same as 5.56mm brass.
    A plastic cased 8.7mm (.338) weights in the same as 7.62mm brass.

    Both have 50% more muzzle energy and double the projectile weight.

    It all depends whether troops want to carry more of the older less efficient rounds or the same number of more efficient rounds.

    A .50 projectile weights 45 grams. That alone is nearly double the weight of a .338 plastic (about 24 grams). A plastic .50 I guess would weight about 60 grams.

    A “full weight” .338 MG would be only 15 kg /30lb, half that of the “lightweight” XM-306.

    Unlike other GPMGs, which are design to fill both light and medium roles, a solid (not lightweight, i.e. weak / short life) .338 SFMG (sustained fire machine gun) would be designed to fire fast, long steady bursts, tripod only from the start.

    Used in the British “Vickers gun” model would allow 360 degree direct and semi-indirect fire to 5 Km.

    AFVs would use the same gun and have a single “tank MG” that would replace both the 7.62 and anti-sniper .50 guns.

    Helicopters would have a good all-round door gun; flat shooting but much lighter than M3 .50 guns but still the same rate of fire.

    A SFMG using a MG-42 (roller locked / short recoil) is best for inside AFVs. Gas pump fumes back into the turrets. It must be remembered that the US Army wanted the MG-42 to replace the M1919 in the 50’s as their GPMG before creating the M60.

    Fast MG (ie MG-42) fire is said to be more effective than slow, as soldiers have less time to go to ground. Once prone MG is not very effective producing casualties.

    Lastly .338 is cheaper than .50.

    Assuming a plastic case future.
    A 4 man gun crew carry a gun up an Afghanistan mountain side (16kg load carriage per man).

    .50
    XM-306 30kg, XM-205 tripod 16kg, 250 rounds 15kg
    (assuming 60 grams rounds including plastic link).

    .338
    SFMG 15kg, 360 degree soft mount 15kg, 1000 rounds 25kg.

    XM-306 is case of making current systems “fit” the world, not of lateral thought of designing systems to meet the requirement from the beginning (including ammunition).

  • Rohan

    US Navy fitted 80 of Mk44 miniguns to its ships after USS Cole. It is now replacing them with twin M240s. Why? Because if a minigun losses power or jams, your toast. A twin M240, has quote “graceful failure”, both guns have to jam before failure. Any M240 aboard ship can be used to replace a broken weapon.
    http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2007smallarms/5_8_07/Ruehlin_Panel.pdf

    During “Blackhawk down”, the SOCOM helos went down with miniguns. Once crashed and no power, the miniguns were useless.

    A twin .338 SFMG weights half what a single M3 (1000-1200rpm) and would fire at twice the rate (2400rpm). Miniguns fire at 3000rpm. Ammunition weight (plastic case) would be roughly the same per minutes of firing. A helicopter with .338 SFMGs (with butts) crashes; you just rip it off the mount and fight on. Try that with a M3 or Minigun.

    Correction with a mistake above.
    Short recoil with 3 chamber revolver (like G11 LMG). A revolver is simpler than “swinging chamber”. It is a more “balanced” design, with no mass moving side to side.
    A SFMG should have right or left feed and downward ejection.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    @Rohan,

    I agree with you that if the standard rifle/LMG calibre changed to a 6.5-7mm intermediate, any larger calibre MG would logically be be a sustained-fire support weapon rather than a lightweight one. And .338 would certainly be very much more portable than .50, with the bullet weights being 35-40% of the .50s.

  • Александр

    У нас как обычно лучше – один из современных пулеметов “Корд” – Cord
    weight 25,5 kg И это не единственное его преимущество!
    http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Корд_(пулемёт)