Army to test LSAT Machine Guns

Kit Up reports that the engineers at the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal will be testing eight LSAT Machine Guns and 50,000 rounds of the LSAT caseless ammunition. From Kit Up blog

The engineers at Picatinny are sending eight M249 SAW-like prototype machine guns that are specially-designed to fire the cased telescoped ammo for testers to put through the paces, including shoot house runs, field maneuvers and range quals at the squad and individual level. They’ll have 50,000 rounds on hand for the tests.

Phillips said the tests at Benning will begin in September and last about three weeks. Then the program is in limbo since it received no money for fiscal 2012. Phillips hopes that if the tests go well, it will get the notice of Army weapons developers and get some cash funneled its way for more weapons and a bigger trial.

Caseless ammunition does away with the brass or steel cartridge cases. Instead of being held in the case, the bullet is held by compressed smokeless powder that is burn’t up in the chamber and barrel. The advantage of this is cost and decreased weight.

UPDATE: LSAT comes in two varieties, caseless and plastic cased, this is the latter.

[ 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.


  • JonMac

    Not caseless – as Kit Up point out, the caseless component of LSAT has been shelved. This is plastic cased ammo.

  • LSAT is being developed in two versions – caseless and plastic-cased – both telescoped (i.e. the bullet is buried inside the case).

    The version the army is testing is plastic-cased, as shown by the spent cases in the photo. The caseless one is much further back in development (and likely to stay that way IMO).

    All of the work so far has been in 5.56mm calibre to be able to make direct comparisons with the M249. However, I understand that future funding may be directed to the development of a calibre with a much better long-range performance. This would be great, since something like 6.5-7mm, in a long-range loading, could replace both 5.56mm and 7.62mm – in rifles as well as MGs (an LSAT carbine has been made and tested).

    Incidentally, the ammo weight saving in 5.56mm is about 40%.

  • Theodoric

    Mind you, they’re not testing the caseless-ammunition version, but the ‘telescoped cased’ one. Still has a reduction in weight and size, but not as much as caseless.

  • Bradass87

    I hate to bring this up since it might seem like such a small error but they aren’t testing the caseless, they’re testing the polymer cased ammo. The difference being that this stuff still has a cartridge that must be ejected, it’s just made from lightweight plastics. It still has advantages over brass but the HTIP still has problems with integrity, humidity, cookoff, etc. It’s a lot better than it was during the G11 testing but it’s not considered ready yet. If anyone wants to learn more about caseless ammunition development I suggest hitting up DTIC and other library sites like it or if you like I could link you to some documentation on the matter.

  • Nathaniel

    The tests are specifically for the plastic-cased, telescoping ammunition, not the caseless ammo. The caseless ammo, as it says in the article, has been put on the backburner due to cost and chamber sealing issues. The PCTS ammunition has a weight reduction per round compared to 5.56 NATO of about 40%, while the caseless has a reduction of about 50%, but the plastic-cased ammunition is, so far, cheaper and easier to make, more reliable, and requires less radical firearms design to accomodate it.

    Hope this helped. I have been following LSAT closely.

  • Hauser

    The article says it is actually just the cased telescoped version that is being tested, not the caseless (I think this is lagging by quite a way in development). Does anyone know if the cases are still polymer, as when they were shown previously they were black, and these ones look distinctly brass coloured.

  • SpudGun

    Not sure why the last paragraph about caseless ammo was included, the LSAT is ‘cased telescoped ammo’ as mentioned in the article and the picture shows…er, spent cases.

    As far as I’m aware, it’s a normal cartridge that has been squished down to make it more compact.

  • Jeff

    Last I read the weight saving was between 30-40%… I realize the goal is to lighten the load soldiers have to carry, but imagine being able to carry that much more ammunition.

  • “Caseless ammunition does away with the brass or steel cartridge cases. Instead of being held in the case, the bullet is held by compressed smokeless powder that is burn’t up in the chamber and barrel.”

    And your illustration is a couple of fired CASES:-))

    That is not the caseless, but the TELESCOPIC Cased ammo for the LSAT.

  • Distiller

    This whole blog entry is wrong. The do not test “caseless” ammo, they do test “cased telescoped” ammo.

  • MarkM

    Any idea who is the contractor helping develop this? It’s no guarantee of a contract for production – ask Danner about the mountain boot – nonetheless, there’s a lot NOT being said about it. Proprietary details on the action, the fact SOCOM signed on for trials, the previously announced Battalion level field trials, and just who is lobbying for funding?

    Considering the cost of one fighter jet could finance the construction and fielding of tens of thousands of LSAT weapons, I don’t buy it being too small to feed at the trough. The age of the existing platform is on the minds of users – and brass cased ammo is the next likely casualty in the improvement of firearms.

    We made the Star Trek communicator work, don’t tell me Scotty can’t beam me down 40% more ammo for the same weight, and for the same price per pound. What I see is conservative foot dragging by the Army, and a dislike by ammo makers to invest new capital in something they aren’t required to do yet.

    Despite the fact that plastic shotgun hulls with only a primer have been around for decades. You don’t even have to crimp or fold the LSAT. As noted in the comments elsewhere, it has been tested in .50 by Crane.

    If you didn’t see the M9 coming, consider again.

  • Leo Atrox

    Yes, but they say that caseless is on the backburner. Not because it isn’t doable, but because it is too expensive to produce in bulk.

    This is a test of cased telecoped ammo, which is like a small shotgun slug in a plastic case. Still lighter, and with less brass, it should be cheaper to produce. The downside (one must assume) would be increased throat erosion. We’ll have to see what becomes of it.

  • Kirk

    Which is it? The article says cased telescopic, and your write-up says caseless, which has supposedly been sidelined. The picture also shows the cased telescopic round, as well…

    Huge difference between the two, btw.

  • charles222

    Welcome to the future. 🙂

    Hope the tests go well and all; LSAT holds alot of promise if you ask me.

  • Martin (M)

    …and the tradeoff is faster rising, hotter chamber temps, and cook-offs, and powder malfunctions due to fouling from external sources, and degradation due to environmental factors, and so on. It’s a cool idea that will likely never work.

    Nylon cases on the other hand, may actually work. They weigh less while performing all the functions of metal cases.

  • Nater

    This isn’t the caseless version, it’s the cased version. It fires polymer cased telescoping ammunition, which I believe is 40% lighter and significantly smaller than traditional brass cased 5.56mm ammunition. It also lacks a taper, so it would likely work very well in quad stack magazines.

    I find it pretty interesting that the Army decided to develop their next generation of small arms (perhaps) around an LMG instead of a rifle. A light machine gun is significantly harder to develop than a rifle.

  • Lance

    yeah but I see many blown out primers thats not too good. Also outside of testing I dont see this going very far for 5 years till the money crisis in DC is finished.

  • Flounder

    Just for clarity is it telescoping or caseless? And i’m a little hazy on the differences between the two. I know they were both created to reduce weight but can someone please educate us on the finer points of them?

  • JT

    Are they like, starting from scratch with a new design? Why don’t they look into H&K’s research with the G-11. It’s not like they don’t have extensive dealings with H&K

  • Soless

    I wonder if this will cause heating issues. Brass absorbs and removes heat from the chamber.

  • Riceball

    I think you misunderstood the KitUp! article, they’re not testing caseless rounds, they’re testing “. . . the cased telescoped ammo. . .” which, according to KitUp! uses a polymer (in other words, plastic) casing instead of the usual brass.

  • zincorium

    Right on! Glad to see the money we spent on this won’t be wasted pointlessly.

    Even if it’s not adopted, it’ll clarify the requirements and preferences of the end user, and that’s a good thing if any manufacturer decides to step up to the plate and make caseless a reality.

  • chris

    It still looks like the gun would have to spit out something.

  • Legman688

    They’re not testing caseless ammo. The LSAT program’s ammunition component is two-phase. Phase 1, which is what they’re testing now, involves cased, telescoping ammunition, in which the bullet is recessed inside the mouth of the case to make the round more compact. This was originally supposed to be a plastic-cased round too, but it looks like they didn’t get the job done.

    Phase 2 is the caseless ammo, and it’s still quite a ways off in the future. It may never happen at all, given the difficulty of breech obturation with caseless.

  • Wanderingsmith

    You make mention of their ceaseless work in your post, but the test, and picture are of their cased telescoping ammunition. Just thought I’d point that out.

  • Moose

    AAI is developing the prototype weapon, ATK is developing the ammo. Well, at least the Caseless propellant was ATK, not sure about CT.

    G11 tech was licensed for the CL ammo, but the mechanism and CT ammo are new. The G11’s spinning breech, vertical feed design is inferior to the system LSAT has cooked up.

  • SouthpawByNW

    One step closer to a 10mm caseless round to help combat xenomorph outbreaks…

  • Sid

    When will we see the M41A Pulse Rifle with the 10mm expolsive tipped, caseless, light armor peircing rounds?

  • Nater

    Hey JT, they did. The caseless version uses a powder that is pretty much identical to the one Dynamit=Nobel developed for the HK G11 program. Just as it was then, it’s too expensive to produce and has issues.

    People think that the G11 came a lot closer to deployment than it did. I don’t think it got much further than the stage the LSAT is currently at. I’m not even sure if it made it that far.

  • The most recent presentation on LSAT, to the NDIA in May, is here:

  • armed_partisan

    Where the hell does this “telescoped ammunition” term even come from? Is a .38 Wadcutter considered “telescoped” ammunition?

  • jdun1911

    There are fundamental issues on caseless ammo. For example does caseless ammo structural integrity hold up to transportation? Will there be pieces of powder left in the chamber when the operator clear the jam. How about failure to feed?

  • tomaso

    seems like a great idea…and lite is better….but i would think jams (FTF)are going to be a big problem… this is the next step towards case-less.

    My bet is that when case-less ammunition becomes viable it will be Incorporated with disposable magazines… think 50rd single cased ammunition pack instead of 30rd cased ammunition and magazine of the same weight.
    In thinking about this a 2 part “pack” could be developed that would keep tension off the feed spring….so in shipping and storage the “pack” would be with out tention…once in the field a simple pushing together of the cases would “load tension” into the “pack”…the more i think about this the more i think this would work great…down side is that shipping crate would hold less rounds with the 2 part “case” but if designed right a whole crate could be made “fire ready” by simply opening crate and stepping on a “load plate” their by pressing all the cases into “fire ready” all at once.

    1000 round battle case would hold 20 “ammo packs” and have about the same weight as 1000 rounds of steel cases about 30% larger

    Disposable outer packs could be recycled back to the ammunition factory to cut costs for training… What do you guys think?

  • Nater

    Just look at the ammunition in question and you’ll see where the term ‘telescoped’ comes from. It’s obvious. No, .38 WC isn’t telescoped ammunition, the projectile doesn’t sit entirely in the case.

  • scatter

    FTF and FTE are supposed to be basically eliminated from the use of the rotating/swinging chamber mechanism. The new round pushes out the old.

    It looks like caseless ammo won’t be practical anytime soon. But the polymer thing seems to hold a lot of promise.

  • jamezb

    As far as the transportability/duribility of caseless ammo, Daisy .22 VL caseless rounds from the early 1970’s are still sure-fire and waterproof! I’d love to see the VL revived as a semi-auto using electric ignition.

  • Mr Silly

    Caseless ammo- look further back to the patrone of the Dreyse Needle Rifle -1864. Then 1968 for the H&K G11.