“Every Marine is a rifleman.” It’s a phrase that is oft repeated by Marine Corps leadership in reference to the fact that every member of the United States Marine Corps trains in the basic use of rifles and basic infantry tactics.
However, not every Marine is part of the infantry, and the current Marine Corps Commandant wants to increase the infantry’s lethality.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller plans on doing that by replacing the M4 rifle as the standard issue rifle for the Marine Infantry (MOS 0311) with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, a select fire rifle based on the Heckler & Koch HK416.
The rifle shares many characteristics with the M4 platform, and some key differences. According to a recent report from Marine Corps Times:
“Most Marines like it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times. Neller has not made a decision as to whether he will put any additional IARs in infantry squads.
“Everything I have seen suggests that the M27s we have been using for some time have been the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons in our rifle squads,” Neller said in a statement.
The Marine Corps started fielding more than 4,000 M27 IARs back in 2010, initially thinking they would replace the M249 squad automatic weapons. But ultimately the Corps decided it needed both weapons, and the IARs use among grunts has been limited.
Now Neller is looking at the IAR as a high-performance service weapon for all riflemen in the infantry.
The rifles can cost 3-4 times more than standard M4 rifles however. Which is why Neller is only calling for them to be issued to the infantry, not all Marines in other MOS’s. They would continue to utilize the M4 along with the Corps’ other weapon systems.
“I am considering it, but we have to balance improved capabilities and increased lethality with cost,” Neller also said in the interview with Marine Corps Times.
While the M27 shares similar controls and the same magazines as the M4, the heart of the weapon is fundamentally different. The current M4 uses a method called direct impingement to cycle the firearm while the M27 uses a short stroke piston to accomplish the same. The action is similar to that used in the AK family of rifles, which are often cited for their reliability in adverse conditions.
The Marine Corps also considers the M27 to be combat effective 100-150 yards farther than the M4, although some have debated those numbers.