LAS VEGAS — Attendees at a range day during one of the largest gun and outdoor shows in the world got a first look at a machine gun one manufacturer hopes can replace the M240, 7.62mm machine gun for Special Operations Command.

Sig Sauer held a demonstration fire with its recently unveiled .338 Norma Magnum, belt-fed machine gun this week as part of the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade show here. It also comes in 7.62mm.

The weapon, the Sig Sauer Lightweight Machine Gun or SLMG, weighs in at 20 pounds and, with a foldable stock, is significantly lighter than the current M240B, 7.62mm machine gun.

In addition to SOCOM, the company also hopes a variant of the weapon will be in the running later this year to replace the Army and Marine Corps’ Squad Automatic Weapon.

The company’s first foray into medium machine guns, the SLMG tackles some age-old machine gunner problems.

Cory McQuilkin, defense product manager for Sig, said the weapon was designed to be fed and charged from either the left or right side. That way it can be configured not only for dismounted ops but in vehicle, aircraft or tank setups.

It is suppressor ready and has an adjustable gas block to match the right pressure for the suppressor.

So far, testing hasn’t shown any change in rate of fire when using a suppressor, McQuilkin said.

Another shift that machine gunners would notice immediately is the move to a mid-gun feed tray. That shifts the sometimes unwieldy feature of belt-fed loading and clearing away from the face and fingers, clearing room for the gunner to better manipulate the weapon.

The cover can be used when not fully opened, and another variant has a version of the feed tray that opens sideways rather than straight up to give a different profile.

Sig developers are also working on a drum type magazine that could be added to the weapon for an option other than belt-fed.

But a different weapon of similar design is likely to be the candidate for the Army’s prototype competition, which is set to release final design criteria by the end of the month.

That program is asking industry to provide a 6.8mm light machine gun that cuts the weight but increases the range and lethality of the light machine gun within the squad.

Army officials also want an advanced optic with an integrated range finder, ballistic computer and disturbed reticle as part of the package.

The .338mm caliber has received some military attention recently, with the Special Operations Command weapons development office deciding to replace both the M240 and the .50-caliber M2 Browning machine gun in some units with its Lightweight Medium Machine Gun program, using the .338 Norma Magnum caliber.

In that program, SOCOM wants a weapon that can fire between 500 to 600 rounds per minute and hit targets at the 2,000-meter range.

Within those parameters, the weapon could not only replace the M240 in most tactical scenarios but also provide enough reach and firepower in vehicle, boat and aircraft mounted .50-caliber machine gun configurations.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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