M27 Down Range Evaluation
By Miles Vining
In a previous issue of Small Arms Review, the author discussed the Low Rate Production (LRP) M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) that had been trialed in various units throughout the Fleet Marine Force. Having covered training experience and initial issue of the weapon, this article will cover how the LRP M27 fared in its true testing environment, Afghanistan. From late May to December 2011, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. There the battalion conducted counter insurgency operations and assisted in providing security and stability throughout the region. 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii was deployed in the Area of Operations south of 1/9 and was similarly equipped with the M27 IAR. Profiled in the June issue of Marine Corps Times, they were the first Marine infantry battalion to deploy with the M27. Readers must note that this covers the Low Rate Production M27s, of which there were only 458 produced for down range evaluation. Although these M27s are still in service with the Marine Corps, there were a number of design changes that have been made and this article does not reflect those design changes. It is very specifically about the LRP rifles and shall not be confused with the rifles currently in service throughout the Marine Corps. There are many differences between the LRP version and the current version, all of the issues addressed in this article have been changed in the current service version.
In May of 2011, Commandant of the Marine Corps officially confirmed the replacement of the M249 SAW with the announcement of a purchase of 4,476 M27 IARs. The M27s will replace current SAWs on a one to one basis, with infantry companies retaining some SAWs for supplementary purposes. The M249 served the U.S Marine Corps well since its adoption in 1984. In recent years, issues of reliability and portability had taken their toll on the weapon in its use within the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. After holding the Infantry Automatic Rifle competition,...
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