U.S. Army Cancels Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) Program

By Dave Dolbee published on in News

Last week, The Shooter’s Log ran a throwback article on the Top 5 Combat Rifles of All Time. The debate was lively to say the least, but the one overarching theme was a feeling that the 5.56 simply did not have enough punch. The U.S. Army seems to agree. So, last August, the Army announced the Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) program. The ICSR was tasked with replacing the Army’s M4 carbine with a 7.62 mm rifle. A month later, the program was cancelled.

Multicam in Afghanistan

The ICSR was tasked with replacing the Army’s M4 carbine with a 7.62 mm rifle. A month later, the program was cancelled.

In truth, much criticism of 5.56 is misplaced. That is not an argument for the 5.56, just an observation that most readers’ criticism does not match the Army’s. Like most readers, the Army is concerned with the power of the 5.56×45, but not in the way most who have offered comments seem to believe. The 5.56×45 has plenty of lethality. NATO required a 62-grain bullet to ensure it would penetrate a steel helmet at 600 meters. The original 55-grain tested was considered in humane and believed to do too much damage. The 5.56×45 is lethal to be sure.

The Army’s desire to abandon the 5.56×45 in favor of a 7.62 mm round was two-fold. First, the army wanted a cartridge with greater stopping power at a longer range than the 5.56×45 offers. It also needs a round that provides better penetration through modern body armor. This fact echoes critics’ claims that “The 5.56×45 does not have the distance or lethality needed for modern small unit tactics, especially after upgraded body armor has been shown to be able to defeat the 5.56 mm round.”

However, as the program’s title declared, the 7.62 mm was only supposed to be an “interim” solution. The U.S. Army has another program that is actively developing an intermediate caliber round and rifle combination that would fall between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm, giving soldiers greater range than their current weapon and greater power and penetration.

If you were tasked with coming up with a new rifle round for soldiers that fell between the 5.56×45 and 7.62 mm, what would you choose? What rifle, or rifle characteristics, would you mandate? Share your answers in the comment section.

SLRule

Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (67)

  • Elton P. Green

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    Yep, that would work. It already does work and its called the .260 Remington. Several companies already make brass and ammunition for it. It will fit M14/M1a actions and AR10 actions. It will fit any short action rifle with a standard bolt face. It is a necked down .308 Winchester casing utilizing the 6.5 cal. bullet (.264). It is the ballistic twin of the 6.5 Creedmoor, with a little more case capacity. On a different note, those of you who are fans of the AKM/AK47 type actions, the Israeli Galil in its larger version uses the 7.62X51 Nato, is highly accurate, uses an improved AK action, and is adaptable to any standard cartridge of the .308 family. The FN as suggested above is also a viable option. None of the cartridges that will fit in the M16 length actions will meet the criteria of penetrating body armor at 300 meters and beyond while giving incapacitating wounds at 300 meters and beyond. The 6.8 and the 6.5 Grindel are just the best that can be made to fit inside an AR15 platform. They remain light for caliber and defecient in mass and energy for penetrating body armor at distance, and have a noticeable lack of wounding capability at distance when compared with anything using a short action case such as the 7.62X51 or the .30 Thompson Center which is the parent of the 6.5 Creedmoor. The 7.62 X39 is also similarly limited by bullet mass, velocity and bullet weight. Remember the criteria: penetration of body armor at 500-600 meters and incapacitating wounding at the same distances.

    Reply

  • Garland Vance

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    It don’t take a genius to figure this one out. A 6.5 projectile fired from a case the capacity of the 7.62, short and fat.
    Think bench rest weapon goes to war.
    The 6.5 is proving its superior ballistics every day at long distances. The 6.5 JDJ chambered in a Thomson Contender has killed everything on the planet. I can attest to the 6.5 abilities at great distances to hit the target. Just select the type of projectile for the job and work up the best case design and you will have the perfect tool for the job.

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  • Mario

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    25-06 would be the ultimate AR!

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    • Chet

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      The 25-06 is a bit too long for cycling rates. While I am a fan of the 30-06 and feel it is the best hunting round the military proved years ago that the 7.62×51 meets the specs with a shorter throw.

      Reply

  • Elton P. Green

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    I’ve read a number of the new comments on this subject, and again most of the comments are on the lines of how to get the M16 platform to perform like an AR10/M1A/M14. I have with me two different reloading manuals for various cartridges, which range from 17 cal. up to Browning Cal. 50 Machine gun. In the 223/5.56 X 45 cartridge alone, one manual lists over 200 loads, going from 35 grain bullets up to the Sierra 90 grain projectile. The 90 grain projectile is so long that it takes up a significant portion of the case capacity, and will get no more than 2550 fps out of a 24 inch barrel. The bullet requires a 1 in 6.5 inch twist in a 24 inch barrel. The M16 A3 has a 1 in 7 twist and a 20 inch barrel, which means that this loading loses at least 100 fps. In a short barreled M4 with a 16 inch barrel, it would be doing good to break 2350fps at the muzzle. Setting the bullet out in the casing won’t work either, because it must fit inside a standard length magazine and magazine well. The 6.8 won’t meet the penetration and wounding criteria at 500 to 600 meters either. The 6.8 Spc wouldn’t meet the criteria, either. The best the load data can do with the heaviest bullet the casing can handle without compromising its powder capacity is 2600 with a 115 grain Sierra. The 6.5 Grendel is also limited with the requirement to fit inside an M16 magazine. The heaviest bullet it will handle is 123 grains and that just breaks 2500fps. All these velocities are for 24 inch barrels, and all are MAXIMUM charges. In a 20 inch barreled standard M16A3 all these rounds lose about 100 fps. and around 200 fps in a 16 inch barrel. The only way around this is to have a larger cartridge and a longer overall length action so that the platform can accomodate heavier bullets. The key to penetration and wounding outside 300 meters is mass. Example: A 22-250 will generate around 1570 ftlbs per sq in. The 45-70 with a factory 405 grain bullet at a factory velocity of about 1300 fps will generate about the same energy at 1540 ftlbs per sq in. The 22-250 round will not even get a 600lb bear’s attention while the 45-70 bullet will probably go through him length-wise. The heavier bullet retains its energy and penetrates at distance. I would not go lighter in caliber than .308 and lighter in weight than 168gr. for the penetration at distance and wounding at distance, with a preference toward the 175 grain Sierra, but if the Army is going to go to a different caliber and meet or get near to meeting these criteria, I would recommend the 260 Remington with 140 to 147 gr. bullet or the 6.5 Creedmoor in the same bullet weights. Anything smaller or lighter will not have enough mass and energy retention to penetrate a vest outside 300 meters or create enough blunt trauma to the wearer of the vest to incapacitate him. Example: the 5.56X45 firing a 77gr. bullet at 2800fps from a 24in. barrel has a MV of 1300 fps at 600 yards (551 meters) and energy of about 280 ftlbs. This is effectively the same as shooting a man in a vest with a 22 longrifle round at 25 yards from a rifle. The 45-70 at 1300fps at the muzzle has a retained velocity of only 830fps at 600 yards, a trajectory like a rainbow, and retained energy 620 ftlbs. The 6.5 bullet at 2700fps (.260 Rem. or 6.5 Creedmoor) has a velocity at 600 yards of about 1900fps and energy of about 1140 ftlbs. The 7.62 Nato has a max muzzle velocity of about 2750fps with a 175 grain bullet (24 in. barrel), a velocity of approximately 1820fps and 1280 ftlbs at 600 yards. Nothing that shoots in the M16 will be able to shoot flat enough and have the sectional density or mass to get penetration or good wound characteristics at 600 yards. It requires a different platform and a different round to do this. And the best combination of low recoil and high downrange energy is still the 7.62, with both the above 6.5’s as the best alternatives.

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  • Rick

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    I built a 7.62X39 with the same size AR lower.The barrel is 16″ with a 1.10 twist and it weighed in at 6.62 lbs. that is basically the same round we are competing against in the middle east. This caliber is battle proven in AK platform for decades. With tighter tolerance barrels and and ammo production in the AR platform it could a very economical intermediate battle rifle.

    Reply

  • Duane

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    The 6.8 SPC is an excellent choice for the ICSR option. The round has already proven itself with operators in all types of environments. 80% stopping power of the 7.62 with excellent ballistic characteristics and will work with all current multi caliber mil-spec rifles in inventory. Just a barrel and mag change would bring them the punch they need.

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  • BK

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    The FN FAL is a very reliable rifle and has been made for years

    Reply

  • RudeJon

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    .243 Winchester … easily necked up to or down from 7mm-08 or .308 on the cartridges from which it is based. Less weight in 1000 rounds and should save on existing magazines and minimal tooling changes for existing barrels and chambers. Easily lethal on human targets and arguably for any North American game.

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    • Chet

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      The 24 cal or 6mm leads are limited to bullets under 105 grains. 6.5 mm allows a larger range of bullets and has proven itself over the years in ammo calibers such as the 6.5v55 Swedish, 6.5 Arisaka,, as well as the European sporting round 6.5x57mm. To me the 6.5 Creedmore needs longer time in service as a hunting/target rifle round. The 260 Remington has proved itself in hunting rifles with a larger choice of bullet weights. I am still a fan of the 7.62×51.

      Reply

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