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)

  • Dave

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    7-TCU is a no-brainer ! The only change needed is a barrel change. BCs greatly increased for more lethality at distance, diameter increase exponentially increases terminal performance, zero recoil increase and a very low increase in ammunition weight = no brainer. When you hear stupid, think government.

    Reply

  • Fred

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    It’s probably being driven by politics.
    Especially after recent events.
    I deal with DOD Aquisitions 40+ hours a week. These caliber / projectile arguments will go on forever. instead of taking something commonly used, they’ll probably come up with something new that will cost billions in new tooling and guess who will pay for it? A decade or 2 later, they might just do like the FBI just did and go back to an old round. And we will pay for it again.

    Reply

  • Joseph

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    Develop a rifle with the ergonomics of the M4 and the cartridge of the M14

    Reply

  • Luis E Rosado

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    6.8 SPC. It would require a barrel change and not a new rifle. Also mags to fit the slight difference and fit of this round. And the R&D is allready done for this round. Its also already in production.Only a slight reduction in rounds count,and lighter than 7.62.

    Reply

  • Ronn

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    The 6.5 Grendel is a perfect choice, lighter than 7.62 NATO, better range and accuracy than the same. With 3 uppers all bases will be covered, close quarter, snipe and infantry purpose. This will out class the 5.56 and save tax payers money.

    Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    As far as lethality is concerned any of the 6 bullet diameter are great but let’s get real when we talk accuracy and the everyday grunt.
    At present our NATO round is good in an expert’s hands and scoped is damn deadly and taking environmental conditions in considerations very accurate up to 600 meters.
    Our 30 cal NATO is lethal and accurate to 800, but still with it scoped one needs a special degreed base to reach out further., and once againndamned few grunts especially in combat are lucky to hit the proverbial barn door with it.
    As one of Viet Era grunts it was only because of my PRE service skill that I easily qualified expert, and could reach out to 600 easily with peep.
    Club of an M 14 tho was most assuredly more accurate than those M16’s.
    DAMN lot of little yellow fellows died even with the I’d up rounds and weapon.
    Today’s m4 battle rifle has killed way way many more than in Nam and way way less US casualties per killed.
    Body armor: what enemy are we fighting that has body armored even at Kevlar 3?
    He.. we are fighting militia civilians not national troops.
    Our armor can take anything that any major nation weapons fire under the 300 Lap.
    CERAmic plates such as those developed in Netherlands even dissipate the blunt force of our old 30 06 armor piercing , while saving weight
    C’mon now how large is the target when trying to use peep and front site post at 600 meters?
    Which military NATO 55 or 62 grn with current m4 twist rate is most accurate with mil spec rnds?

    Reply

  • Walter

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    Why re-invent the wheel. Go back to the M-14.

    Reply

  • Dwight

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    Redesign the bolt in the m4/m16! Go to a 7.62×51. This will be used by our infantry and let spec ops carry for the mission!

    Reply

  • Gary Tillman

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    I would suggest either a 6.5 mm or 7 mm which would fall in between the 5.56 and the 7.62 (6.59 actual median). Both are relatively flat shooting bullets. The 6.5 has greater sectional density for equal weight bullets, but the 7 mm can used heaver bullets for more penetration. I have used the 7 mm for many deer and elk with fantastic results.

    Reply

    • Elton Green

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      Mr. Tillman and Mr. Smith both have the right idea. Penetration is a combination of velocity and mass. A heavy for caliber .223 bullet isn’t going to have the penetration potential that a heavy for caliber 6.5 or 7mm bullet has. At 500 meters (545 yards) a bullet fired at 2700 fps with a BC of around .5 is doing around 1800fps. Penetration is going to depend more on mass, density and inertia than velocity. A bullet of less than 130 grains and small diameter is not going to penetrate well, and it won’t get the wound channel that a larger caliber bullet will. The .300 Blackout starts with too low a velocity and too light a projectile for the criteria laid out. Remember, the criteria are: penetrate body armor at 450-550 meters and retain enough energy/velocity to create incapacitating or killing wounds at that distance after penetrating the armor. Also, there is a lower limit to the effectiveness of the heavy for caliber projectile. A 90 grain .223 bullet is only massive when compared with other .223 projectiles and some of the medium caliber (.243/.257) projectiles. As an example of what I’m talking about, I shoot a .35 Whelen. My projectiles weigh 225 grains and 250 grains. They are moving 2725 fps and 2685 fps 10 feet from my rifle muzzle. At 500 yards the 250 grain bullet with a BC of .42 is doing 1750 fps and has 1640 ftlbs of energy. Blunt trauma alone will incapacitate the target whether or not the armor is breached. The mass of the bullet causes greater energy delivery. The 225 grain Sierra at 2725 fps delivers a velocity of 1700 at 500 yards, and 1700 ftlbs. The mass of these bullets combined with their inertia would insure a high wounding capacity at distance even without armor penetration. The impact would break ribs, crack sternums and rupture soft organs such as spleens and livers. It would do this without penetration of the armor. Its a simple physics equation. The heavier the bullet, the greater the inertia/retained energy. So a 6.5 140grain bullet is always going to be more effective at distance than a 5.56/.223 bullet, given comparable starting velocities. Also, while we’re discussing this, we’re talking about a cost effective way to meet these criteria while being accurate enough for a good rifleman to register hits at 500 meters. The smallest caliber that will do this is the .264/6.5mm in the short action cartridges. 6.5 Creedmoor and .260 Remington, or the 6.5×55 They would also be the easiest on trainees due to lower recoil for required penetration at distance. The 7mm-08 would also work, using a 150 to 165 grain bullet. I would not recommend steel cored bullets due to accuracy issues and lower density. Steel or Titanium tipped bullets might be ok, but they would be more expensive. However, the Army has new platforms for the 7.62×51 round which are accurate with match grade ammunition to 900/1000 meters, and with the 175 grain competition bullets that Speer, Sierra, Nosler and Hornaday make, velocities at the muzzle of a 22 inch barrelled M1A or M2010 (AR10 without the problems) are around 2550 to 2600fps. The bullet is supersonic to around 900+ meters, has greater mass and thus more inertia, penetration and wound potential at 500 meters than any of the smaller calibers. And we already have plenty of weapons for it. I would just order the new AR10 type rifle that is being fielded in 7.62 Nato currently with barrel lengths of 18, 20 and 24 inches and use a 168 to 175 grain bullet. Also, to hit at 500+ meters, the ammunition will have to be match-grade. But if we must change calibers/rounds, the round must have a heavy enough bullet and a large enough caliber to have enough mass to get penetration at distance, it has to be able to launch a heavy (140grain or greater)projectile at at least 2550fps from a 20-22 inch barrel, and it has to be accurate to at least 600 meters, with a recoil low enough to be user friendly and a weight of 7.5 to 8.5 lbs. None of the rounds that are compatible with the AR15 will meet these criteria. For compatibility and ease of manufacture, I’d go with the 260 Remington or the 7mm-08 because the only change needed in an AR10 type rifle or an M1A/M14 is a barrel sleeve/new barrel. And the cartridge for either of these rounds is just a necked down 7.62X51 so the ammunition is easy to make.

      Reply

  • Joseph Reale

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    I bought the SIG 716 Patrol about 2 years ago. I think it’s perfect because it’s an identical AR system in 7.62 NATO. Mine is the OD version. Everything that one is use to, accept the mags are different size.

    I’m a big fan of the TAVOR now as well, but that would have to be made into 7.62 as well. Currently it’s 5.56 and 9mm.

    Reply

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