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PEO-Soldier responds to our questions regarding the XM-312, "Light .50"

Photo by Pvt. Kelly Welch, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs August 19, 2008  Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Carey, command sergeant major for United States <s>Armed</s> Army Forces Command, tested out the newly designed Lightweight .50 Caliber Machine Gun July 29. Carey and several others from FORSCOM took a look at new weapons designed by Program Executive Office -Soldier.
Photo by Pvt. Kelly Welch, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs August 19, 2008  Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Carey, command sergeant major for United States Armed Army Forces Command, tested out the newly designed Lightweight .50 Caliber Machine Gun July 29. Carey and several others from FORSCOM took a look at new weapons designed by Program Executive Office -Soldier.

If you need to catch up on the discussion by reading the orginal post - click here.

I sent a note to Debi Dawson, at PEO-Soldier, with a link to the post, and she arranged for Major Mike Pottratz to respond for PM Soldier Weapon, the office responsible for weapons development.

For me - the money graf, if the weapon holds up in terms of reliability:

"What does the XM-312 bring me as a capability? I fired the XM-312 at a National Guard range in Vermont. There were two things that amazed me about the machine gun. First, I picked the whole machine gun, tripod, and T&E up with one hand. The machine gun, at 40 pounds was simply amazing. The XM-312 had such little recoil, I could easily walk my rounds into the targets through the M145 optic. Third, the XM-312 was so stable and such little recoil I could easily and quickly engage targets at 1,600 meters through the optic. Finally.no need for head space and timing.ever."

Emphasis mine.  Now I'll have to find a way to talk them into letting me go shoot one.  And have someone else pay the bill to get there.

So, here's Major Pottratz-
John-

I would like to thank everyone for your questions and comments related to  the Light Weight 50 Cal Machine Gun. At PM Soldier Weapon we want to have an open discussion about the XM312. I went through each of your blog  messages and pulled out some specific questions.

Is the XM-312 barrel weaker than the M-2? A great many of you mentioned worry about the durability of the XM312 as compared to the M-2, specifically the very thin walled barrel. The XM315 barrel has the exact same wear life (10,000 rounds) as the M-2. This is due to the slower maximum rate of fire than the M-2. With a slower rate of fire (265 rounds/minute) we can achieve increased accuracy over the M-2. Also, the XM-312 uses a new technology than the M-2 called "implulse averaging weapon system". This is the attribute which extends the life of the XM-312 and permits us to lighten the
design. The machine gun recoil system softens the force on the internal gun parts. The result, the machine gun doesn't have to be thick walled steel like the M-2. PM Soldier Weapons, in conjunction with General Dynamics, completed life cycle testing on the XM-312 barrel and the life span of the barrel is the same as the M-2. We definitely would not put out the weapon unless we were sure it met the rigorous requirements of combat.

Where does the XM312 fit in the Military? The XM-312 IS NOT a replacement for the M-2 but augments. Each gun has a specific purpose. We have a definite requirement for the XM-312. The blogger "GRIMMY" hit the nail on the head. The XM-312 will be used in specific locations through out the military. One location is the Weapons Company. Using an Arms Room Concept, a weapons squad could encounter a mission requiring a 50 cal machine gun. This would give the weapons squad a dismounted 50 cal capability. The weight of the ammunition is an issue we are looking at but the answer would rely upon distributed weight. The same concept we use with a dismounted 60mm mortar system.

In another application, the XM312, with the low recoil, (300 lb vs. the M-2 at 1000 lbs) can be mounted on a wide variety of light vehicles such as Land Rovers. With the XM-312 we are not relegated to the M-66 ring mount, but increase the possibility of locations such as rotary aircraft.

What does the XM-312 bring me as a capability? I fired the XM-312 at a National Guard range in Vermont. There were two things that amazed me about the machine gun. First, I picked the whole machine gun, tripod, and T&E up with one hand. The machine gun, at 40 pounds was simply amazing. The XM-312 had such little recoil, I could easily walk my rounds into the targets through the M145 optic. Third, the XM-312 was so stable and such little recoil I could easily and quickly engage targets at 1,600 meters through the optic. Finally.no need for head space and timing.ever.

If you have any other questions or comments about the XM-312, fire away!
 
So, Ladies, Gentlemen, and Others, fire away!

Photo by Pfc. Phillip Adam Turner, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs Office

21 Comments

 All well and good, but as an enlisted swine of the lower ranks I can guarantee that the Sergeant Major didn't clean that weapon after it was fired.

I don't know... maybe it's just me, but I think the person that has to clean the weapon after it's fired should be the person who gets to be in the photograph.  Maybe I'm 'still' a tad bit pissed at having a Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader that used to fire their pistols and rifles at the range or (worse yet, blanks) during an ARTEP.  Then, as soon as we get downtime, just hand those weapons to the first available private and to be cleaned.

That always stuck in my craw.

Anyway, as a weapon system it looks and sounds pretty good.  

Paul
aka V5
 
V5 - leaders who don't  clean their own weapons aren't leaders.  They're poseurs.  If I had caught one of my NCOs or Officers doing that, they would not have been happy.  At all.

And they would have garnered a *lot* of weapons cleaning time.

Pissed me off enough, I might well have let troops turn in dirty weapons and had a weekend cleaning party - officers only.

No one is so important that they can't make the time to clean their own personal weapon.
 
However, in defense of the Sergeant Major - this was a demo shoot, and I'm guessing that the PM Soldier Weapon guys cleaned the weapon.  And that doesn't bother me.
 
 John,

Why did I get that very impression of you when we met at the 2007 Mil-Blog Conference?  *GRIN*

And, to qualify my statement, not every Plt. Sgt. and Plt. Ldr was like that.  Just one pair.  Mostly, I had great NCOs and Officers.  MEN like SSG. Michael Voce, Sgt. Dan Cunningham, Lt. Patrick, and Cpt. Capral.  Men I'd gladly follow into combat today, wheelchair or not.

Paul
aka V5

 
 
OK, I'm feeling somewhat better about the weapon itself. But the next thing that pops into my head is my concern about the "arms room" concept. I know this approach is taken with some weapons in the Stryker units. How much of a burden is it on troops to have additional weapon systems that still need troops to qualify on, clean, maintain, and how do the units go about establishing "ownership" of them? I'm sure it is an issue that units have addressed, either locally or doctrinally, and outside the scope of PM SW, but I haven't seen it answered anywhere.

BTW, I'm stealing this post.
 
Thief.  Yanno, just because ya admit yer doin' it, doesn't make it right...  it just makes you a politician.
 
You know, it wouldn't hurt the PAO twinks to get their captions right...it's not US Armed Forces Command, it's US ARMY Forces Command (FORSCOM).

It's 'armed forces' level counterpart is Joint Forces Command (JFCOM.)
 
That business with the thin-walled barrel still bothers me. Yes, I know, they checked the life-cycle, but isn't that really just an advanced R&D test, as opposed to a real workout of the weapon?

It's always been my impression that one will never know how useful a weapon is, until you let the grunts beat it up for a year or more in the real world.
 
Regarding the caption - I've given up on that - except that I rat them out when I find them.

I don't think they really care...

Casey - they aren't at that phase of development yet.  Still a ways to go.
 
Oh, and in defense of PM Soldier Weapons - the pics I harvested from Army.mil - they were not provided by PM-SW, so, in the end, the final error is mine for not catching it before Heartless did.
 
Rule No. 1 of Grunts and Gear: If it can be broken, it will be broken.

That gun system dang well better have iron sights to back up those optics when they WILL be broken.
 
My statement about the optics above is in regard to how things are shaping up for the future, at least for the USMC.

Case in point, the recent deployment of 24 MEU. The MEU went into the field and stayed there. No easy access to the armory for quick gear replacement and/or repair.

Iraq and it's FOB structure will not be the only battle ground concept in the near nor distant future. Battalion level units operating for long periods with very limited access to rear area support components will be much the norm for the Marines as issues develop.
 
 Grimmy
The sight unit has been in US service since 2003 minimum.

Cheers
 
JMH:

Yeah, I know. But the weapon in the pic above does not appear to have any iron sight backup for when the optic will fail.

Optics are all well and good for such times as when service and support are co-located with the operational units. But in the Distributed Ops model that the USMC is migrating to, and the logistics limites required by extended field ops, if this system is an optics only sighting platform, then that will become a problem.
 
Re: letting the troops test it: I thought the Army learned THAT lesson 90 years ago when they bought that worthless LMG from the French & issued it in place of the BAR because the brass was afraid of losing JMB's design to the Germans.
 
Maj. Pottratz,

Somewhat off topic, but pertaining to a good friend up at Ethan Allen. Please send my regards to Sgt. Hance, & tell him that I appreciate his good work down at The Putumayo.

Guess that they are already retooling at Saco.

P.S. Has he run over Porky yet?
 
Life-cycle?  Okay, but what about accuracy?  The reduced firing rate helps some, but even doing five-round strings through a mauser shows us that heat builds up pretty quick, and if it isn't dumped evenly, it WILL wander the shots-even if the rifling and chamber wear aren't all that bad.  I noticed his reply didn't address the former, only the latter, and wandering zero isn't a desirable trait-even with a weapon firing bursts.

As for the weight/recoil compensation, in a soldier's hands, things tend to break nobody thought in the engineering and scientific testing departments would ever be in danger of breaking.  I remember one guy who broke the drivetrain of a Humvee-an act that was allegedly nearly impossible to achieve, back in the early nineties, and I am forced to recall the AR-15's "Self Cleaning"  feature.  Considering that even in the early nineties we were wrapping our M-16's in pantyhose to keep 'm functioning in the desert...

And then, there's the reliance on optics.  Optics work great if they don't get muddy, or dirty, or stepped on, don't have things dropped on them, don't end up optic-down when the gear lands off the back of a truck/parachute drop/mistreated in the C-130 etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Iron sights can be made "Kinda useful" with a pair of pliers if they get bent, a scope? not so much.  These aren't going to be put in use by college-educated adults who will care for them like the gold they are, they're going to be issued to or used by eighteen year olds with too much adrenaline and testosterone and not enough patience and care.  (this is why Privates and Specialists need NCO leadership).  They're also not going to be present exclusively in locations where spare parts and repair time are in abundance, along with arms rooms and trained armorers.

The question, therefore, remains: How hard is it to keep in a running condition when it isn't going into a nice, clean, arms-room every night for babying?
 
"Finally, no need for head space and timing.ever"

But then what expression will we use for a user induced error?

 
Bah! After these overly complicated pieces of crap start frequently malfunctioning en mass the Army will be breaking out and re-issuing the Ma deuce, assuming that the high command is'nt stupid enough to dispose of all the M-2s. Simple and rugged is what's needed in the field as John Browning and the Russians understood long ago.

And 265 rounds per minute? Hell, a hand cranked 1861 Gatling Gun has a higher rate of fire! Has the Army higher ups forgotten that the purpose of a machine gun is to crank out the maximum amout of rounds in the shortest period of time?  265 RPM might be fine if you want precision shootin but how about in defensive fields of fire? You want mass fire then, not precision.

I'm a former Mech Trooper who used the M-2 a lot and I aint impressed with the XM-312.
 
Huck:

From a Mech Inf point of view, more rpm the better. From a Light Inf point of view, lower rpm better.

MMG and LMG to do the high volume work. Rounds are lighter, easier to carry larger loads of em. HMG for light vehicles, that extra range when required, and hard targets in buildings or bunkers. High volume rpm in a HMG that is humped in means the gun simply runs out of ammo that much faster.

From what the man replied above with, I tend to assume that the M2 it going to stay around anyway. If you've got a truck to carry the ammo, the higher rpm is doable. But if you're carrying it all on your back, lower rpm is good.
 
I am about sick and tired of the Pogues and REMFs that can't figure out Headspace and Timing. It is not that hard. It is a simple mechanical process and if you understand the reason behind it, it actually makes sense. The primary reason is that this way you can install ANY M2 barrel in the inventory on ANY M2 reciever.  People that can't understand the process should not handle the weapon. This weapon was fielded in the 1920's and if people could figure it out then, why not now? Playstation and X-Box is alot more complicated than Headspace and Timing. Change is good, but this is a case where we should look long and hard before we do it. This weapon has served extremly well for a long time.