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U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) will receive lightweight machine guns that fire the .338 Norma Magnum (NM) round which is lighter and delivers 4x the punch of a 7.62 bullet at longer ranges.

The service expects to field the .338 Norma Magnum weapon by early fiscal year 2023. It’s going to be ammo fielded for all of SOCOM’s forces as a machine gun and sniper round and for the Army in their Advanced Sniper Rifle program, Army Col. Joel Babbitt — program executive officer for SOF Warrior and all things individual gear for Special Operations Command, was quoted as saying by Military Times during the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference on Wednesday.

The colonel said that shooters are seeing better effects on target from the .338NM than from the .50 caliber. There’s better penetration and accuracy. “We’re killing, not just suppressing the target,” Babbitt said.

A .50 caliber machine gun or the M2 can weigh nearly 90 pounds but the prototypes they’re seeing for the Lightweight Medium Machinegun (LMG-M) are tipping the scales at 22-25 pounds.

“What you’re doing is putting .50 caliber effects in an M240B,” Babbitt said, in reference to the current medium 7.62mm machine gun.

The colonel said some of the test shooters are requesting a single shot switch on the machine gun because they’re hitting the target on the first shot.

And the velocity of the round is doing more damage than the current medium machine gun can manage.

“You cannot only rip up the enemy infantry but you can rip up the Armored Personnel Carrier they rode in on as well,” Babbitt said.

Also on the .50 caliber side, Babbitt said progress with the lighter .50 caliber polymer casing and linkages has considerably improved how they can use that round, especially in their small helicopters. With the polymer option, helicopters can go fully fueled and loaded which translates to an extra 30 minutes loiter time on target and more bullets in the bandolier.

SOCOM expects to procure the 6.5mm Creedmoor round to replace the 7.62mm sniper support rifles they currently have. It reportedly gives shooters 1.5 times the range of the current 7.62mm.

In 2019, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing won the contract to provide the Advanced Sniper rifle, a main gun, bolt-action weapon that can be configured to fire three different rounds, depending on the mission – .338 NM, .300 NM and 7.62mm.

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