6th Marines to Test M27s in Tricked-Out “Über Squad”, but Are They Already Behind the Curve?

    Original Caption: "U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Skyler W. Johnson, an automatic rifleman assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment (2/3), fires the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) during various courses of fire at Range 105-A aboard Camp Wilson, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 20, 2015." U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson, public domain

    According to a Military.com article, an element of 1st Battalion, 6th Marines will be deploying a 13-man squad of Infantry fully equipped with M27 IARs, suppressors, drum magazines, and other pieces of experimental gear. Called the “Über Squad”, it will be chosen from companies within 1/6, and will use the gear through an entire workup, training, and deployment cycle to Europe. From Military.com:

    As the Marine Corps continues to emphasize innovation and experiments with new gear, service officials are getting ready to equip a single infantry squad with an enviable range of equipment, from suppressors to polymer drum mags and special operations-issue hearing protection.

    Wade, the gunner, or weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said the plan is for the 13-person unit to keep all the gear for a full training workup and deployment cycle to somewhere in Europe.

    The squad will come from Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, though the originating company has yet to be chosen.


    For this effort, every Marine in the Über Squad will be equipped with an M27; a suppressor; and Ops-Core helmets used by U.S. Special Operations Command with built-in hearing protection systems that muffle noises loud enough to damage eardrums, while magnifying other sounds to maintain troops’ situational awareness.

    “This capability protects [Marines’] hearing from high explosives and other loud noises we can’t mitigate in combat,” Wade said. “But digitally, it allowed you to hear ambient sound.”

    Experiments to date with suppressors on whole infantry units have shown they work well — so well that a squad leader might not be able to locate his or her own squad by sound on the other side of a hill.

    “Not only do we need hearing protection, we need hearing enhancement,” Wade said.

    He also plans to fit the section of company-level M240 medium machine guns supporting the squad with suppressors, using equipment borrowed from SOCOM to suppress both barrels of the guns.

    Wade said he is looking forward to seeing his Über Squad contend with Range 400, one of the Corps’ most dynamic ranges and the only one for which overhead fire is authorized.

    “For … 30 years, I’ve been running Range 400,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever ran it with a maneuver element that is suppressed and a company-level machine gun element that is also suppressed.”

    As a bonus, Marines in the squad will be equipped with Magpul 60-round polymer drum magazines. Military.com reported back in January that various conventional and special operations units were testing the drum in small quantities as a substitute for traditional 30-round magazines.

    While the drums offer a lot of portable firepower, there’s also a question of weight to consider. Wade said he planned to set the unit up with about 100 of the drums and let each Marine figure out how many he needed to fight effectively.

    “What I think I’m going to find is that, with the ingenuity of the lance corporal, everything is going to find its place,” he said. “My assumption is they’re ultimately going to be carrying one [drum].”

    The effort to equip this squad will take shape over the next month, Wade said.

    Be sure to click through and read the whole thing.

    While the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines’ “Über Squad” experiment demonstrates the pragmatic, can-do attitude that sets USMC procurement apart, they may already be behind the development curve. The M27, though a very good rifle that has served the Corps well, is not the best weapon the USMC could choose moving forward. This is especially true given that it has problems with the M855A1 round that the Corps is expected to adopt in the near future, something publicly acknowledged by the Commanding General for the Marine Corps Systems Command, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee recently:

    The testing that we’re doing [shows] that round… causes some durability issues for our new Infantry Automatic Rifle that we fielded, the M27.

    In the same testimony, Marine Corps Combat Development Command CG Lt. Gen. Walsh indicated that M855A1 would be the Corps’ round of the future, and that it is already in use with deployed Marines:

    Indications are that we’re trying to go in the direction that the Army is – in fact right now our Marines that are deployed into Afghanistan with our weapons are using the Army round.

    Given that the logistics benefits of being able to use the Army’s standard round for free when in theater is too great to ignore, this seems to be a serious oversight within an effort to increase the number of M27 rifles with now known durability issues.

    It’s interesting to note that the recent USMC RFI for new rifles and accessories which was released by the Weapons Training Battalion at Quantico does account for this problem:

    Bolt carrier group optimized for M855A1 use with Picatinny Durable Solid Lubricant coating or any similar variations thereof

    – Modular bolt/barrel/magazine & magazine insert conversion packages for caliber changes (compatibility with A059, AB49, AB57 [M855A1], Mk255 Mod 0, etc) and optimized for respective caliber, charge, burn rate, and pressure curve (barrel threads can be 1/2X28 or 5/8X24)

    In contrast to an expansion of the M27 fleet, the MTD RFI seems to be in-line with M4 modernization efforts underway by the USASOC, the Naval Surface Warfare, and the United States Air Force; all of which point the way not to a new rifle like the M27, but to an advanced variant of the existing M4 platform that would provide the same or better capability at lower cost and effort.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]