I can’t mention the L85 without somebody telling me that “It’s shit and needs to be replaced”.
Let me address this with one very key point right now, because if you knew enough to be qualified to really put forward a worthwhile viewpoint on this subject you’d have understood this already. If you want to understand the over-arching key to this issue please read this piece over at Soldier Systems Daily:
I’m quite happy to bet every penny I have to my name right now that whichever new calibre/cartridge the US military selects (and various testing is going on currently as part of that) the rest of NATO/ISAF/’the nice guys’ will follow suit, as will many, many other people. It happened with 556 before and the firearm industry in the USA leaves it as basically the only nation in the world (certainly in the west) with the infrastructure of everything that’s needed to develop and select the new standard round to a sufficient level of overall quality as far as the end result goes. H&K may be popular and in Europe, but all they’re really doing is iterating on current weapons for the most part. The MP7 was one of their most innovative weapons but everything I’m reading suggests even that has been phased out and potentially replaced by a rifle from Q, LLC – a company I’d wager is substantially buoyed by (and far more viable as a result of) the existence of the US civilian firearms market. Similar story with FN.
Replacing a general issue service carbine or rifle is a long, tricky, very very expensive process that 99.9% do not understand at all. I don’t pretend to understand it fully by any means myself. But the key word here is expensive and cash-money is very high indeed on the priority list right now, to put it extremely lightly.
Will the timelines mentioned in the article be kept to? Probably not if we look at procurement programs in general, but unlike fast jets it is comparatively quick to develop new small arms. Emphasis on the word comparatively of course, but none-the-less the fact remains. I won’t pretend to know exactly what will happen and when, but a new calibre is almost certainly coming quite soon and spending out a fortune on rifles, optics, slings, rail accessories, training materials, training ammo, range time etc etc etc for another 556 rifle at this current point in time is the equivalent to tipping piles and piles of money in to a giant furnace – money you borrowed from one of those borderline-legal not-a-loan-shark companies at 2500% APR. The next big thing just is not available right now, it doesn’t exist yet, therefore we can’t buy it and I’m confident in saying that sticking with the current option is the only sensible and viable solution taking key relevant factors in to account.
There’s been a lot of talk from top US generals about a feeling of lack of ability to respond to soviet x54R weapons and there’s more than a few past examples out there of the US prioritising money in to new equipment vs training on the current equipment. So again, strong impetus there for something that carries energy farther than 556 does without going all the way back to 762×51 on a permanent basis for every service member.
If you’ve paid much attention to the rise of 6.5 Creedmoor amongst US civilian shooters and you understand some basics about trajectories, transonic transition, carried energy, wind effects etc you’ll know what the appeal is behind a 6.X calibre round on paper. The carbine isn’t the only area this is going on either, there’s plenty of noise around an FN MAG replacement/upgrade in .338NM (Norma Magnum), which itself is basically a slightly tamed .338LM (Lapua Magnum). The former being a round which would extend effective range of light machine guns and without dragging this post on even longer is, I would say, just ‘better’ for use in anything but a precision rifle vs Lapua Magnum.
None of this is even getting in to polymer cased ammo, but sufficed to say that new standardised round is a big old train and it’s steaming in to the station at high speed. It’s not Virgin Trains either, so if you lay the tiny leaf that is an iterative 556 gun on the track, that ol’ girl most definitely ain’t stopping.