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 canceled.
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 inhumane 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.