One Gun to Rule Them All

The Army’s new rifle and light machine gun look good. Companies may want to emulate Sig Sauer’s process for creating them

One advantage of Military Media being free is that you don’t have to feel put-out when a newsletter doesn’t appear in your inbox, as happened Friday and Monday. Was I on vacation? Reader, I was not. No, I was laid up sick in bed, as happens to me every few years or so.

But no virus could lay me out for long; drinking lots of water, sleeping as much as possible, and dosing myself with an old-school Ukrainian healing tea, I was able to recuperate fully and without recourse to modern medicine. A win for my constitution!

Picking back up where we left off: AUSA was a great event, even though being exposed to 35,000 people wasn’t good for my immune system, and I learned a lot there. I’ve been eager to share the most interesting conversation I had while there: a talk with Sig Sauer about their new rifle and LMG, which the U.S. Army is in the process of fielding. It’s going to be a big deal, and have huge ripple effects, not just in the U.S., but across NATO, too.


One Gun to Rule Them All

The Army’s new rifle and light machine gun look good. Companies may want to emulate Sig Sauer’s process for creating them

NATO’s heart is the U.S. military, and the heart of the U.S. military is its Army. The Army’s the biggest service in the military, and the service around which every other service revolves. The core of the Army, the component without which the Army (any army) would not or could not exist, is the rifleman — the soldier.

Changing the thing that defines the rifleman — a rifle — is a big deal. Doubly so when the rifle uses a new ammunition, rendering the majority of existing military small arms ammunition obsolete overnight. An army ought to have a good reason for changing everything. In Vietnam, the introduction of AK-47s onto the battlefield spurred the abandonment of the M14, and the wholesale adoption of the M16, and (ultimately) its M4 variant popular during GWOT. That change — from a rifle to a carbine (or “assault rifle” if you prefer Hitler’s conception of the form and platform) transformed how U.S. infantry platoons fought, and how they were structured. What change is so urgent that it requires overhauling the core of the U.S. Army, from top to bottom?

Before we address that question, it’s useful to consider the answer that the Army selected: Sig Sauer’s XM7 and XM250 (the “X” is a standard military designation for prototype, no weapon has mutant superpowers. At least, not that the government will admit to!). The XM7 will replace the M16, and the XM250 will replace the M249.

The author evaluates Sig Sauer’s prototype XM7 rifle at their exhibit in AUSA. Every time the author walked by the stand, there was at least one soldier or sergeant hefting the rifles, and walking away with a grin on his face.

The systems were developed holistically, and this is one of the reasons the projects are on time and within budget. What’s that mean? Sig Sauer developed the rifle along with the ammunition — the ammo is proprietary, and part of the system. Sometimes a needed change would require tweaking the round — sometimes it’d mean tweaking the barrel’s length, or some other component. Because Sig Sauer was able to make those adjustments in-house rather than coordinating with an ammo manufacturer or some other component manufacturer, it resulted (they claim) in a faster and more seamless development cycle, and a more “complete” package. It made sense to me.

I was curious as to whether AI had assisted any part of the development process, and while the person I spoke with at Sig Sauer couldn’t confirm that — he did not believe so — he did say that computer modeling made it easier to iterate at the design and redesign level, saving precious time.

The package looks good, and it performs well, too. What soldiers will lose in portability as the heavier round is harder to carry — ~30 rounds lost on average for a basic combat load, 180 rounds of 6.8x51 instead of 210 5.56 — they will gain in range and stopping power. Furthermore, that 180 rounds will still give soldiers an advantage over the usual 150 rounds of 7.62 carried by soldiers of countries that favor AK-series assault rifles.

The most important thing from a performance perspective, is that the M7 and M250 will deliver a heavier punch than their predecessors. That means the Army feels its soldiers need a heavier punch — so much so, in fact, that they’re making a huge change with massive ripple effects. That means future war planners believe not only that the 5.56 round will not be adequate for the wars of the future — but that the 6.8 round will be necessary to compete. This is not a small tweak or adjustment, it’s a big deal.

If one needs a heavier punch, that means one’s expecting to fight heavier opponents. More and better body armor for enemy troops. Pentagon planners could even be envisioning robots, drones, and other robust future platforms. The soldier of the future — a future that’s still a few years out — will need to compete with whatever gets thrown in their direction. Being underequipped when and where a firefight breaks out isn’t an option (or, not if one expects victory, and if one doesn’t expect victory, why field an army to begin with).

Col. Christopher Midberry fires a Next-Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Machine Gun during a weapon familiarization demonstration, Sept. 25, 2023, at Fort Campbell, Ky. Both the XM7 Rifle and the XM250 Automatic Rifle are primed to replace their predecessors. Photo via DVIDS, by Kayla Cosby.

It's heartening to know that the small arms sector is capable of creating weapons like the XM7 and XM250 quickly, precisely (within a budget), and on time — all variables that other sectors (shipbuilding and aircraft development) have struggled mightily with in recent years, though one grants that this is likely due to their relative size and complexity. At the same time that it is necessary to remark on projects such as the V-22 Osprey, the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship, and recent efforts to rehabilitate obsolete cruisers, which have gone overbudget or failed to live up to expectations, it’s also important to highlight areas of strength for the U.S. and West: this rifle and light machinegun, and Sig Sauer’s approach to developing them, deserve praise.

Absent being tested in battle, it’s impossible to deliver a final verdict. But if what we’re seeing is a proactive and farsighted initiative to get the U.S. Army (and the military, and NATO) squared away before the next big fight — there is always a next big fight) on advantageous terms, that bodes well. The product of that vision is coming along nicely. The system that develops that product is a good one. There’s still plenty of work to be done. As a taxpayer, I can say: this makes me feel positive about things. As an investor, I like that in the 21st century, there’s a way to effectively and swiftly (relatively speaking) develop a new rifle and ammunition to suit the needs of a ground force without re-inventing the wheel.


Could a stock rebound be forthcoming? Investors hope so, and are putting their money in businesses they believe will turn profits the fastest.

We have been living in a world of free money. What will it mean when that world — at least, in financial terms — collapses?

It seemed years ago like shopping malls were dinosaurs, a thing of the past that would be knocked out for good by Amazon and web deliveries. Hasn’t worked out that way.


The Secretary of the Army likes the new PT test and is sticking with it.

Appifying discipline actually does sound like the kind of thing the Army would play around with. I doubt the guy pitching the concept explained that they’d be disrupting discipline, though, and if the idea wasn’t disruption, why appify?

The U.S. GPS system, a gold standard, risks falling behind competitor nations and their rival systems as satellite technology proliforates.

New weapon (or, an old one, modified) is being sent to Ukraine. The FrankenSAM (an uncharacteristically vibrant and interesting name for a weapon platform).

Moldy barracks are a discipline problem, says my new favorite Army general. We gotta get him read in on the new discipline app!!


It’s “national body check week” — call 10 veteran friends starting Monday (yesterday, as this will be coming out tomorrow).

2024 will see a 3.2% raise for veterans on retirement and disability benefits.


The many American hostages held by Hamas is pushing folks in Washington to consider a more direct involvement in the conflict.

Can China grow its influence in the Middle East by helping resolve one of the longest-running conflicts there? Does it want to?

Fighting intensifies on Israel’s northern border, fueling worries that Iran will seek to expand the conflict.

And meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Gaza.

Difficult story to read but underlines a fundamental truth about the world, which is that the U.S. is still seen as a kind of beacon for people hoping to start over and to make good.


It can be difficult to get messaging just right when you’re an influencer.