Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When You Really Need To Reach Out And Touch The Taliban

General Dynamics unveiled their new lightweight medium machine gun in .338 Norma Magnum at the 2012 Joint Armaments Conference in Seattle yesterday. It is intended to bridge the gap between the 7.62x51 and the .50 BMG cartridges.

More pictures of the LWMMG taken at the Joint Armaments Conference by the GearScout blog can be found here.

From the General Dynamics Armaments and Technical Products press release:
Identifying an unmet warfighter need, General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products conducted its own research and development program to develop the LWMMG in just over one year. The weapon is designed for low-cost production and for maximum effectiveness at the small unit level, where weight and lethality are decisive factors.

"The LWMMG is an affordable weapon that closes a current operational gap, providing .50 caliber-like firepower in range and effect at the same weight and size of currently fielded 7.62mm machine guns," said Steve Elgin, vice president and general manager of armament systems for General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products. "Weighing in at 24 pounds and featuring a fully collapsible stock, the LWMMG offers superior mobility and portability in both mounted and dismounted operations."

General Dynamics' LWMMG also offers a distinct advantage in both extended and close-in fighting by using the highly efficient .338 Norma Magnum cartridge for increased accuracy and lethality out to 1,700 meters, a distance currently gapped in the operational capabilities of warfighters.

"By employing the larger .338 NM round, the LWMMG delivers twice the range and dramatically increases lethality above the 7.62 round," said Elgin. "In addition, the LWMMG goes beyond providing suppressive fire and gives warfighters the ability to attack point targets at significantly extended ranges."

The LWMMG has a firing rate of 500 rounds per minute, a maximum range of 5,642 meters, and is equipped with quick-change barrel technology. In addition to use by dismounted infantry and on ground vehicles, the weapon can be used as the armament system aboard helicopters and littoral craft, providing greater range and effectiveness for those platforms.

"The LWMMG is a well-designed machine gun ideally suited to provide long-range lethality to U.S. and allied forces," Elgin said.
According to the fact sheet put out by GDATP, one interesting feature of this new machine gun is its recoil mitigation system which makes shooting the .338 Norma Magnum feel like shooting the lighter weight 7.62 round.

The Armaments and Technical Products Division is headquartered in Charlotte, NC. However, the new LWMMG is actually made in Saco, Maine along with their crew-served machine guns.

Specifications of the new LWMMG are below:
Caliber                                                 .338
Weight                                                  24 pounds
Length                                                  49 inches
Rate of fire 500 rounds per minute
Ammunition                                        .338 Norma Magnum
Projectile                                             300gr Sierra HPBT, FMJ, AP
Muzzle Velocity                                   2,650 feet per second
Barrel Length                                     24 inches
Max Effective Range                         1,860 yards (1,700 meters)
Maximum range                                6,170 yards (5,642 meters)
Mount                                                  M192 tripod, or various
                                                          vehicle mounts

UPDATE: A comparison of the .338 Lapua and the .338 Norma Magnum can be seen in the picture below. It looks to me that the Norma Magnum with its longer bullet should have a better ballistics coefficient.


  1. Given the repeated reported issues with the M-60 relating to run-aways and cook-offs, why wouldn't they make this in 7.62x51? Either instead or as well.

    I suppose you would have to paint them different colours if the same gun came in two calibres though.

  2. @Sendarius: Block upgrades fix issues in existing hardware. This is not commercial space where a failure/issue in a selected product opens the door to competition. Federal programs are such a bitch to propose, award and maintain that you cannot just "buy a better one." So the solution to issues is to stay with what you got and make it work.

    So the best way to get the sale is to propose something that "fills a gap". Hence, the reason GD will push this as a gap-filler in lighter-weight long-range and probably some anti-materiel (equipment killer) at less-than-long range. They will surely claim that it won't have the vehicle-stopping power of a .50 at long range, but it will stop the type of non-armored vehicles seen at some engagement distances (think: delivery trucks at 500 yards), and in a much lighter package (ammo + gun). Whether it is true or not (and I am not qualified to say they would be as my expertise is not small firearms), the claim lets them market this not as a replacement, but as solution to an unsolved problem. That's how the system works, like it or not.

    I have seen defense programs of all scales ECP'd (extended scope, etc.) and re-awarded that were dismal failures. Usually the reason is that the incumbent claims they can fix the problem faster than the government can procure a new solution. In 7 out of 10 such cases I see, the incumbent wins. We can complain, but the simple truth is that the DoD cannot just buy things. There are myriad reasons why, but oversight and transparency demand certain processes that just do not exist in commercial spaces. I can buy from anyone for any reason (I run a company), but the government must maintain rules and procedures aimed at "fair" practices. The ultimate irony is that the largess in regulation - aimed at including more firms - has limited bidding to only those firms that can understand and meet the onerous burdens placed upon them by the process. See "Federal Cost Accounting Standards" and "Systems Engineering Process" for more examples.

    So if you want to sell a new gun to the DoD, it better be a NEW gun that doesn't do what other guns do.

    1. As a side note, the time it takes to put a new system into place is so long that by the time this is fielded we will be out of AF. So it's chances of touching the Taliban are small, at least at the large-unit level.

      Vendors are shopping new stuff for the DoD because the DoD identified several "gaps" that need filling long-term. Short of foreign-sales (not likely) and some small-unit trials, this gun would not see general service for maybe 5-7 years. And that is rushing things.

  3. @Patrick: Thanks for the insights into the DoD's weapons programs. And I agree that any new weapon may be too late for our soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan other than SpecOps.

  4. In the Norma Lapua comparison I believe they both use the same bullet, just seated deeper in the Lapua case. Both cartridges are based on a .416 Rigby parent with the Norma being shorter and with less taper and sharper shoulder. Still, you lose about 6.5% case capacity compared with the Lapua which may be negated by the need to seat bullets deeper to maintain OAL.