This year’s SHOT Show was the first to have models representing all three of the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program prototypes. While SIG had actual prototypes on display (which TFB got our first look at back in September at DSEI 2019) both Textron and General Dynamics had models on display at their partner booths.
General Dynamics’ models were on display at the Beretta Defense Technologies booth. I spoke with Gabriele de Plano, Vice President of BDT Marketing & Operations, about the new weapon system and Beretta’s involvement with the program. Beretta have been involved in the RM277, General Dyanmic’s NGSW, since mid-2019 but talks about the partnership began in 2018.
April marks the next phase of the NGSW program, with prototypes submitted for soldier testing, followed by a further iterative development phase in December 2020. Beretta’s main role in helping development of the RM277 is in helping to manufacture the rifle and barrel manufacture at scale. They also had some input in the ergonomics of the rifle (although General Dynamics settled on the bullpup configuration before seeking partners). Beretta are hoping to be a production partner and produce as many components for the rifle as possible.
The weapons will feature a powered rail system from TWorx with a top mounted battery pack located at the end of the 12 o’clock picatinny rail and above/in-line with the magazine and ejection port. The rifle and automatic rifles will also have round counters.
The rifle and automatic rifle are more or less identical using the same receiver, action and Delta P Design suppressors. The RM277 AR has a heavier profile barrel but both weapons feed from 20-round box magazines. This is something that has been raised as a potential issue by some as the automatic rifle is intended to be a SAW replacement. Beretta said that as yet the Army had raised no concerns about the magazine’s capacity and pointed to the USMC’s choice of the box-magazine fed HK416 as the M27 IAR – with accurate suppression being favoured over volume of fire. Despite this Beretta did say that if necessary they were confident larger capacity magazines could be developed.
While the rifle variant of the RM277 was displayed and available to handle in the meeting area of the BDT booth the automatic rifle variant was on display in a aquarium-like case along with several magazines and spent 277 TVCM cases. Both models were 3D printed and painted to approximate the weapons with some parts like the ambidextrous charging handles being somewhat movable – one had already been broke off the rifle.
The RM277 weapons chamber a polymer cased 6.8mm round (277 TVCM) developed and manufactured by True Velocity. The ammunition reportedly reduces round weight by 30-40% – although compared to which round is unknown and I have not had the chance to handle a 277 TVCM round myself. The polymer cases will reduce thermal transfer to the chamber, bolt face and weapon as a whole and General Dynamics and True Velocity state that in-theatre ammunition production is a future possibility. It is also claimed that the cases are 100% recyclable.
They are ambidextrous with ambi controls and an interesting sliding bolt release on the right side – not seen on the model unveiled last year. The original design did not have an adjustable butt (see the General Dynamics image above) and the sliding butt seen on these models was developed following initial operator feedback. The rifles use a short recoil gas system and have impulse averaging technology which seeks to mitigate the 6.8mm round’s recoil. The weapons fire from a closed bolt in semi-automatic mode and from an open bolt, to aid cooling, when in fully automatic.
Mr de Plano also confirmed that German optics company Steiner-Optik, a part of the Beretta family of companies, has also submitted a fire control unit into the US Army’s Next Generation Fire Control Unit tender for the RM277.