Army is saying goodbye to the M249 Squad Automatic Rifle after thirty years

Staff Sgt. Martin Esquivel, assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 18th Military Police Brigade, performs M249 squats during a break at Saber Strike 18. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Frank Brown Jr., 18th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs)

Start saying your goodbyes to your beloved M249 SAW- the US Army has selected six companies to design the next generation of Squad Automatic Rifles.

Of all the weapons in the US Army’s inventory, few are as divisive as the M249: soldiers either love it or hate it, depending on who you ask.

Entering service in 1984, the SAW has been a regular cast member in America’s wars across the globe, with countless upgrades and modifications during its lifespan.

However, those days are coming to an end after the US Army announced the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program, a contest to develop an accurate, robust and futuristic replacement for the SAW.

“It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality,” a Prototype Opportunity Notice on the matter read. “The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.”

The NGSAR of the future has very strict requirements: it must weigh no more than twelve pounds, be no longer than thirty-five inches long, and be able to fire 600 rounds per minute for fifteen minutes without needing a barrel change.

In addition, the weapon needs to be relatively accurate: the PON demands that a soldier “firing standing with optic at a 50-meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target.”

The weapon won’t be the only part of the system that needs to lose weight, as the army also wants to replace the brass-cased ammo of current use with something twenty percent lighter.

According to, Textron is one of the companies selected to compete, and they will likely be suggesting the use of caseless ammunition for the weapons system.

It is unknown at this time what caliber the Squad Automatic Rifle of the future will employ.

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