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)

  • BJ

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    6.8spc. It’s already been verified to be a great round in the M4 platform. Very few mods needed to get it in mass production.

    Reply

  • Col K

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    A heavy-for-caliber bullet would provide better range and penetration, regardless of which cartridge is selected or developed. If the desire is to keep the combat load as light as possible, then updating the 5.56 cartridge would seem like the best solution, rather than adopting a larger, heavier round. In the current AR15 platform the 5.56×45 can be loaded with a projectile that weighs about 77 grains. A heavier bullet in the 90 grain range has the potential to provide greater “punch”, but it is not currently feasible unless the receiver is stretched. This would create a bulkier, heavier rifle, which is undesirable. Alternately, a larger diameter case could be employed so that the bullet could be set back inside the case, while simultaneously allowing sufficient room for enough powder to produce the required ballistic performance. The primary drawback here is the likely reduction of magazine capacity by 10-15%. A third alternative might be feasible if a long projectile could be seated deeper inside the case. This would require improved powder performance to offset the reduced powder capacity. In theory, the extra weight of the 90 grain projectile might be offset by employing lighter casings made of polymers or exotic metals, or possibly even semi-consumable cases. This third approach may prove technically unfeasible or cost-prohibitive, but I suspect some research in this area is contemplated, if not already underway.

    Reply

  • Heisel

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    .277 wolverine (6.8×39)

    Reply

  • Randy Donk

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    I would choose the 300 Blackout, loaded with 110 gr bullets, it is equal to, or superior to the 7.62×39 and has more energy @ 500 meters than the 5,56 nato. loded with 230 gr bullets, subsonic, it is a perfect choice for surpressed fire, and with a simple barrel swap, the M-4 is converted.

    Reply

    • Z

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      Interesting comment except that it completely ignores the fact that regular army infantry don’t use suppressed rifles and without utilizing that express purpose there numerous other cartridges that provide superior ballistics to the 300 blackout.

      Reply

  • roger hicks

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    I think the 6.5 grendle would be a good contender. there are already ammo made by several companies, including wolf. so ammo would not be a concern. the round have more penetrating power then the 5.56 and its accurate out to 500 yards or better. there are parts available and the base receiver can still be used just change out the barrel and you’re good to go.

    Reply

  • Jim Gillam

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    I don’t think there should be an in between choice. My vote would be straight to 7,62. When they dropped the M14 for the M16 that did not go over well as history tells us. Anyway 7.62 all the way and i would bump up the SAW to a larger caliber to balance out the squad’s firepower. With all the technology out there they could come up with something for the SAW. Just trying to help. I know i would want more knock down power.

    Reply

  • Gary McCray

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    I have a bolt action chambered in 243 as well as 308 and had an AR15 in 223.
    The AR is very fast handling and fast on target and the slightly heavier 308 versions are too.
    The 223 however does stay on target noticeably better during successive firing.
    I actually find that the 243 is a generally superior cartridge to the 308.
    The 243 is a necked down 308 and delivers noticeably superior ballistic performance adding 100 or even 200 yards beyond the 308s effective range.
    Meaning the 243 is a bit more accurate at any distance than the 308 as well.
    Blast and recoil of the 308 and 243 are similar.
    If you want to go to a cartridge heavier than 223 that still doesn’t cause recoil problems for normal infantry soldiers, the 243 would be an excellent choice.
    A side bonus is that facilities making 308 are very easy to modify for making 243.
    Going to anything bigger than the 223 does mean you really need to train soldiers how to hit what they are aiming at on single fire.
    Full auto on either the 308 or 243 is not easily tamed by your average soldier.
    Probably the main advantage of the 223 is that you can actually keep the rifle aimed pretty much where you want it on full auto.
    Easily for burst and with practice on full.

    Reply

  • Gary Lee

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    308 hands down

    Reply

  • Mike Schmidtberger

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    Critical thinking is a big focus these days. Well, here is some critical thinking in regards to lethality. Our equipment investments are only an advantage to us If we are the only ones to have them. If the enemy has advanced body armor that we have to develop rounds and individual weapons to defeat, the enemy is doing the same for their troops. They will make that ordnance available to the smaller players of the world. In turn, we will make more advanced and heavier armor. In turn, they will devise better penetrating ammo. It may soon be coming to the point that body armor is decreasing lethality. I know that when it comes to picking up out of a hole and hauling tail to another fighting position, body armor with ESAPI and DAPS drastically reduces speed. It also inhibits ones ability to ground-and-pound in hand-to-hand combat. As well, it hinders ones abity to hastily evacuate a vehicle that has caught on fire, get to a covered/concealed position in a hurry and take up a fighting position. If rounds are going to continue to evolve in their penetrating lethality and the plausibility that a Soldier’s armor is going go be penetrated anyway, at what point do we stop wearing body armor and return mobility and lethality to the individual? Maybe that way, if a Soldier survives the war and various deployments, he or she will return with half a spine that is still able to support their upper body and allow him or her to function as a working and productive member of society free of neck and back pain from all the spinal compression that results from wearing heavy body armor for months on end.

    Reply

  • james lee

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    If the military is going to stick with the AR-15 Platform, my preference would have to be the 6.5 Grendel. The cartridge is smaller than he .308 and will stay supersonic past 1000 meters with the 123 grain bullet. Match barrels behind a good shooter can hold sub MOA groups at that distance. Switching the bolt and barrel along with a slight magazine change on the AR-15 would be a cost savings compared to switching to an AR-10 platform. A lot of good calibers have been mentioned in this forum. The Grendel would be my preference if my life was on the line.

    Reply

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