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)

  • IAC.

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    The question is also whether the AR-15 rifle is kept.
    If kept, there are off-the-shelf 6.5mm rounds that would only require a barrel change; bolt and mags stay the same.
    If an AR-10 base is adopted, 7mm rounds come into play.
    6.8 looses aerodynamics down range.

    Reply

  • Elton P. Green

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    Well, you list two criteria in your article, range and penetration with lethality. In particular, penetration of newer types of body armor at distance. Both criteria are met by sufficient velocity and density of the projectile. But as the range increases, velocity drops off, so penetration and lethality depend more and more on density, or the mass of the bullet.
    If we review bullet density for the various calibers, there are three sweet spots where bullets are dense and heavy for caliber, thus retaining penetration and velocity at distance. By the way, the .308 isn’t one of them. They are the 6.5mm/264 family of bullets, the 7mm/.284 family of bullets and the .338 family of bullets. Looking in my Lee reloading manual. the 260 Remington and the 6.5X55 Mauser can be loaded with up to a 160 grain bullet. Maximum velocities range from 2550 to 2580fps. Sierra shows their 142 grain Matchking in .264 to have a sectional density of .291, and a BC of about .600. The Nosler Custom competition shows their 140 grain offering to have a BC of .529. Speer also makes a 6.5 140gr. Spitzer. Sectional density is .287, with a BC of .487. It loses a little to the other two bullets due to being a flat base. These bullets reach a velocity of between 2750 and 2800fps in the two rounds listed above.(the 260 Remington is a ballistic twin of the 6.5 Creedmoor.) Hornaday makes a 147 grain 6.5 with a density of ..301 and a BC of .697. The 7mm/284 cal. bullets are also heavy for caliber, but are not short-action cartridge friendly, and the .338 bullets are also heavy for caliber, which is why the .338 Lapua is so popular with long range shooters, but the heavier bullets in this caliber are not at all friendly to short action rounds. The 6.5/.264 cal. rounds however, have a happy combination of being very shooter friendly(low recoil) in the short action cartridges and good velocity with high weight/BC/density bullets, which means they will give greater penetration at distance while keeping a reasonable trajectory and staying supersonic out to at least 950 meters. Both the Creedmoor and the .260 Remington would easily fit into any of the AR10 or 700 Rem. Short action platforms and would be easily adapted to the M1A.(the cartridge bolt faces are the same). They would also be low recoil rounds so troops could be trained to shoot them with accuracy more easily than heavier calibers. Both these rounds give a much higher penetration and retained velocity at distance than the .243, 6.8 or the .223/5.56mm rounds, which would make them more effective on body armor and more lethal at distance. If we’re not going back to the .308, which in my book is the most effective short-action round, especially in the 168-175 grain range of bullet weight, then the 6.5 Creedmoor or the .260 Remington is the way to go. But if I were Army Ordinance, I’d probably go with the .260 Rem. round, because the only change from 7.62 X 51 is necking down to .264/6.5mm. It would require almost no re-tooling.

    Reply

  • Larry Castle

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    I agree with the stupid administrators / politicians. I had a sniper rifle made when the 243 was considered a wildcat round, but I never ran into a situation where it didn’t do what I needed it to do. I have seen the ballistics on the 257 and 270 etc. and while they are good, I don’t know how they would preform for what the military needs. seams in the wars we are fighting now long range one shot is needed more than in the jungles in Vietnam where you have many targets at close range and it is a shoot fast or die situation.

    Reply

  • Steve May

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    That work has already been done….it’s called the 6.8mm

    Reply

  • Bruce miller

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    M-14. 20 clip. If you are going light it takes an 8 round striper clip. Can be used full auto. (Think mini BAR)

    Reply

  • Onederer

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    I would pick the 6.5 Creedmoor round. It’s flat shooting and has gained quite a following. If adopted, then more probably the cost of the round would definitely drop, making it more affordable for the civilian population.

    Reply

  • Bill

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    A reduced size FAL, chambered for 6.5 Grendel.

    Reply

  • Larry Castle

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    I would take a round such as the 243 winchester, it is flat shooting, low recoil, short cartridge and will punch though just about anything in front of it out to 700+ yards, I would also put a 1:9 twist in the barrel. I could be chambered in the M16 upper / lower with little modification, I can be fitted to just about any other weapon, saw, 700 remington etc. and would span the full range from sniper to crew serv.

    Reply

    • Spencer

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      I tend to agree with a comprise on a caliber between 6mm to 7mm. Back when they first started using the 5.56, it seemed to me, the only advantage was more capacity in a magazine allowing a soldier to carry more rounds. Idiot administrators always believe they know more than those with feet on the ground. The 257 Roberts or the 250 Savage would also be a decent compromise. The single biggest reason for the 5.56 would be for use in a jungle or other close quarters. One size that fits all isn’t always a good answer.

      Reply

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