[SHOT 2020] Textron's NGSW Rifle On Display at the HK Booth

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
The Textron NGSW-R (Matthew Moss/TFB)

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. SIG Sauer had prototypes on display at their stand (which TFB got our first look at back in September at DSEI 2019) and both Textron and General Dynamics had models on display at their partner booths.

Textron’s rifle has undergone significant ergonomic improvements and external styling changes since the US Army shared the first image of the prototypes back in September 2019. Late last year we saw that improvements had been made but this year’s SHOT Show is the first change TFB have had to see the rifle in person – albeit through glass. The NGSW prototypes are constantly evolving and Textron have partnered with Heckler & Koch to work on the ergonomics of their rifle, which dating back to the earlier Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) program prototypes have largely been similar to a conventional M4 in ergonomics and profile – if a little more bulky.

(Matthew Moss/TFB)

The new program, however, calls for elements like powered rails which require a battery pack. Some noted that in the photo of the initial Textron NGSW prototypes the rifle, with its battery pack just under the weapon’s forend, appeared bulky. The rifle on display in the case at HK’s SHOT Show booth, however, has been redesigned with a longer, re-profiled receiver and a new MLOK forend. The battery pack is now smaller and has been moved back and incorporated into the adjustable buttstock. The area forward of the magazine well is now more streamlined.

Textron’s rifle feeds from a 20-round magazine and fires a cased telescoped 6.8mm round. Leveraging technology developed and lessons learned from the earlier LSAT and CTSAS (Cased Telescoped Small Arms System) programs this ammunition offers a significant weight reduction of between 30-40%. The rifle does not have a conventional chamber, instead the round’s polymer case acts as the chamber walls when the weapon is fired, this reduces thermal transfer (as the polymer is an insulator rather than a conductor of heat) into the receiver and also removes the need for an extraction mechanism – simplifying the action.

Another side view of the Textron rifle, while the glass made getting good photos difficult, it was good to see the weapon in person (Courtesy of Jervis)

While Textron have not publicly explained how the NGSW rifle works we know that it is gas operated with a short stroke piston and from publicly available patents we know it does not have a conventional bolt or locking method. Instead, on charging the weapon a round is pushed into a vertically moving assembly that holds the cartridge in line with the breech. Once the round has been fired the assembly lowers the spent case out of alignment with the barrel and the next round acts as a ‘rammer’, pushing the spent case out of the lifting assembly and out of the rifle. This ingenious system, while seemingly complex has a host of benefits ranging from helping to control thermal transfer to reducing mass previously necessary to support high chamber pressures.

Textron have partnered with LMT, whom they have worked with previously during the LSAT program, to provide a machine gun-rated suppressor for both the rifle and automatic rifle. In terms of weight Textron confirm that the belt-fed AR is under 12lbs and the rifle is under 8lbs without the LMT suppressor.

LMT's suppressor with the model number LXS68NGSW clearly visible (Matthew Moss/TFB)

The rifle’s controls are ambidextrous but the model on display at SHOT has moved away for the AR-style charging handle to a side mounted handle, located in the forend, which can be switched from left to right. One the right side, however, there is an additional clearing handle used for clearing cases out of the ejection port.

(Matthew Moss/TFB)

Also as part of Textron’s display they had a length of 6.8mm CT rounds in their proprietary polymer belt links, which offer additional weight reduction, which are used in the belt-fed Textron NGSW-AR.

(Matthew Moss/TFB)
Top view of the 6.8mm CT rounds in a polymer belt (Matthew Moss/TFB)

The Textron display case had ‘See the Next Generation of Lethality’ written above the weapon, along with the names of their program partners Hekcler & Koch and their ammunition partner Winchester/Olin.

The HK booth's Textron Display with rifle, ammo and weight representative ammo cans (Courtesy of Jervis)

Textron had also brought along a pair of ammo cans, one filled with 6.8mm CT ammunition and the other full of 7.62x51mm for visitors to lift as a weight comparison. The 6.8mm CT can weighed in at 17lbs, compared to the 24lbs of the 7.62 can. My friend, and TFB alumni, Nathaniel F ran some numbers and estimated the individual weight of a Textron 6.8mm CT round. He found the by estimating the ammo cans were holding 400 rounds each then, with the estimated weight of Textron’s polymer links subtracted, the rounds weigh around an estimated 18.07g or 0.63oz per cartridge. This, of course, is not confirmed by Textron.

Textron’s, and the other manufacturers’, prototypes are set to continue to evolve as the program progresses and further user feedback is received. Textron have already made further ergonomic improvements to the model displayed at SHOT. I look forward to seeing the latest configurations of Textron’s NGSW prototypes in the future.

Don’t forget to also check out my article looking at the General Dynamics models at Beretta’s booth.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: TheFirearmBlog.com & Overt Defense.com. Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at: matt@thefirearmblog.com

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3 of 177 comments
  • Noob Noob on Jan 30, 2020

    if "the polymer case acts as the chamber walls" does that mean that if this ammo cooks off outside the gun it will not just split down the side like conventional ammo, but instead all that pressure will propel the bullet forward?

    • Ostiariusalpha Ostiariusalpha on Jan 30, 2020

      @noob Err... I think Matthew is a little mistaken there, the Textron rifle has an honest to goodness steel chamber that the cartridge is fed into. When test cook-offs of the previous generation of ammo, the case split open just like any metallic round would.

  • Joshua Joshua on Jan 30, 2020

    I think one of my biggest questions with the entire NGSW is why is it set to only replace 5.56?

    What the Army wants from the NGSW would make it a prime replacement for both 5.56 and 7.62 and all the weapons that use those calibers. So why is the Army continuing to work on 7.62 rifles and ammo?

    It makes no sense to me.