LAS VEGAS — The Marine Corps recently selected a Vista Outdoor company to build a barrier penetrating 5.56mm round that’s especially useful for potential urban combat.
The contract with Federal Cartridge Company, a Vista subsidiary, puts more than $41 million behind the effort, which is expected to run into 2023.
This comes after Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress last year that the body armor penetration in the existing 5.56mm stocks was lacking, and he worried about overmatch with potential adversaries such as Russia and China in the small arms fight.
The new setup makes changes to the bullet to help it retain lethality after penetrating “intermediate barriers” such as windshields or doors.
Jesse Whiteside, senior director of government and military sales for Vista, talked with Military Times at this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show here.
“It’s basically the construction of the bullet itself. There are no real exotic materials,” Whiteside said. “It’s designed so that a significant chunk of it is there to defeat barriers.”
Whiteside couldn’t discuss too many details of the contract, which is categorized as “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity.”
Back in 2015, in an interview with The Firearm Blog, Sal Fanelli, former supervising engineer for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, said that advancements in 5.56mm were putting it on par in performance with the standard 6.8mm round being considered the time for as an intermediate caliber option.
The Army narrowed its search for an intermediate caliber by selecting 6.8mm late last year as part of its Next Generation Squad Weapon program.
The company also won a contract in 2017 to provide a “frangible” 5.56mm round for use at Army training ranges. The same type of round is designed to lessen the chance of ricochet, so it is sometimes used by special operations forces for that purpose.
That round, the AA4 Mk 311 Mod 3, was scooped up for a $52 million contract back in 2017 that should produce an estimated 100 million rounds by 2022.
In recent years the Army and Marine Corps have been pushing for more advancements to squeeze more out of the 5.56mm round, which has been the standard caliber since the 1960s.
Those efforts have been seen as a way to bridge the gap between the existing weapons and ammo stock as the Army and Marine Corps pursue a shift to the 6.8mm caliber round in a new Squad Automatic Weapon and new rifle or carbine for close combat units.
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.