On Monday, the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division published a presolicitation notice for a new upper receiver SOCOM can mount on their M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) to convert it from firing 7.62×51mm NATO rounds to the newer 6.5mm intermediate precision rounds.

The change, SOCOM believes, will enhance both the operational range of the weapon, as well as its accuracy for the war fighter. To that end, SOCOM announced plans to pay SASS producer Knights Armament Company $15 million to produce and deliver what they call the 6.5mm Creedmoor Conversion Kits.

“Knights Armament Company has offered to the Government an improved, capability upgrade to the upper receiver assembly for the M110K1 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS). The new upper receiver is 6.5mm Creedmoor (versus 7.62mm, CLIN 0001 on current contract) and provides longer distance shots and increased range.”

This announcement means SOCOM now has plans to run the same 6.5mm rounds in both the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and in a new automatic weapon that is planned to replace 5.56x45mm chambered weapons like the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The 6.5mm rounds would offer such a platform increased range and accuracy while not loading the operator down with as much weight as a 7.62-chambered automatic weapon would.

Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Using the same ammunition for multiple weapon systems employed by special operators comes with a number of advantages. First, there are the obvious logistical upsides regarding procurement and supply chain. But the benefits extend well into the fight, where operators may be conducting long-duration missions that require carrying ammo for multiple weapon systems, or in firefights where operators may need to be able to exchange ammunition on the fly.

While $15 million may seem pricey, it actually represents a significant savings over purchasing entirely new weapons for the new round. Instead of going through the lengthy test and procurement process, SOCOM can simply purchase conversion kits for existing platforms. Doing so is also faster than developing a new weapon system.

The 6.5mm Creedmoor round was selected after SOCOM surveyed 25 different potential cartridge replacements for the 7.62x51mm NATO round. The test showed that soldiers firing the 6.5mm round were around twice as likely to hit targets at ranges up to 1,000 meters. The tests also revealed a 33% increase in effective range with the 6.5mm, along with less felt recoil. SOCOM ultimately decided on the round after it also passed a reliability test in both FN SCAR-H and M110 SASS rifles, confirming that it was at least as reliable as existing ammunition options.

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