It’s an iconic weapon whose guttural “thump-thump-thump” inspires confidence that whatever it’s shooting at is going down – in a big way.
But for the first time since World War II, the Army is working on a fundamental redesign of the venerable M2 .50cal machine gun, cutting its weight in half, increasing its accuracy and making it a lot easier to shoot for Soldiers on the move.
Dubbed the XM806, the new version of the “Ma Duce” is being developed in response to the Army’s concerns about the weight and mobility of the current M2.
Talk about taking a diet – the XM806 with its specially-designed tripod weighs a little over 60 lbs. That’s compared to the current M2 Heavy Barrel which comes in at a portly 120 lbs. But the General Dynamics-made XM806’s advantages go deeper than its waistline, Army officials say.
With recoil 60 percent less than an M2, the new lightweight .50 allows Soldiers to fire the weapon with tactical optics, making for a more accurate shot within the first few rounds.
“Safety is improved through a manual safety and a quick change barrel that eliminates the requirement for the operator to adjust headspace and timing,” Army officials added. “The reduced recoil permits the mounting of an optic for greater lethality through increased first-burst accuracy and control.”
Officials say the XM806 will not replace all the Army’s M2 machine guns, but will instead be fielded to light infantry units such as the 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain and 82nd.
It is still unclear how many weapons the Army will buy, but if all goes according to plan, the service will begin fielding the bantam-weight .50cal in late 2012.
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