The Marines Just Took A Big Step Toward Broader Adoption Of The Beloved M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle

Gear
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M38 Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months.
U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory

The 5.56mm M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle has remained a favorite rifle of the Marine Corps for the better part of this decade. Based on the Heckler & Koch HK416 assault rifle and adopted in 2011 to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, it’s widely considered more versatile and accurate over a longer range than the average weapon — so much so that the Corps has even discussed replacing every infantry Marine’s M4 carbine with an IAR variant in coming years.


Now, it seems the beloved M27 is getting a deadly update. The Corps is reportedly testing a specialized version of the IAR, the M38 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, according to photos published by the Department of Defense. (Distinct from a sniper, who is typically trained to operate independently, the squad designated marksman moves with his infantry fireteam and fulfills its sharpshooting needs.) Adapting an M27 variant for that role could be a major step towards broader adoption across the Corps.

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M38 Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months.U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory

DoD photos published in early December show Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment conducting live-fire weapons exercises with the M38 at Camp Lejeune on Dec. 8. Soldier Systems first surfaced the photos late last month, identifying the weapon’s optics as a Leupold TS-30A2 Mark 4 2.5-8x36mm Mid-Range/Tactical Illuminated Reticle Scope, a vast improvement over the fixed 3.5x magnification of the Trijicon TA11SDO-CP Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) sights atop the M27s that the Corps has previously tested.

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M38 Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months.U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory

The new optics aren’t the only added muscle tacked onto these IARs. Each M38 appears to be decked out with a suppressor to cut muzzle noise. The Marines have already experimented with suppressing all the weapons in a deployed infantry company, so they know it can be done. But in an era where  Secretary of Defense (and mythologized former devil dog) James Mattis says more conventional troops will be doing more special-ops-style work, there are other interesting possibilities, too. Last June, the Corps carved out an “uber squad” in Camp Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines for a 18- to 20-month experiment with... suppressor-equipped M27s, as well as Ops-Core helmets typically reserved for U.S. special operations forces.

So is the Corps turning all Marine infantrymen into operators? Not exactly. But the Marines sure seem interested in giving more of them the flexible capabilities that a 17-year-old, broadening War on Terror so often demands.

“In Iraq, the daily routine of patrolling in dense urban areas demonstrated a need for fast, but precision rifle fire against fleeting targets,” Joseph Trevithick writes in The War Zone. “In Afghanistan, militants often initiated engagements beyond the effective range of standard infantry weapons, especially those without magnifying optics. Repurposing the M27 with a new scope is a relatively easy way to provide this type of capability.”

Related: T&P;'s Coverage Of The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle »

And don’t forget: It’s still, like, a squad machine gun, even if it doesn’t immediately look the part. Some of the first Marine automatic riflemen to receive M27s noted, for example, that the M27’s upper and lower receiver profile blend in nicely with everybody else’s M4s — so “if you come into contact, the enemy won’t know who the machine gunner is,” one satisfied grunt told Marine Corps Times back in 2012.

So maybe there’s a new corollary coming to the old maxim, “Every Marine is a rifleman”: With the M27/M38, it’s possible every rifleman is a machine-gunner and sniper, too.

The Marine Corps and Heckler & Koch did not immediately respond to request for additional information. We will update this story with new details as they become available.

WATCH NEXT:

A Purple Heart and Silver Star (Atlanta Journal-Constitution photo)

An Army veteran from Columbus claimed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a deployment in Afghanistan that earned him a Purple Heart and Silver Star.

As a result, he collected $76,000 in benefits for the mental condition.

He admitted Wednesday, however, that all of that was a lie.

He was not deployed to Afghanistan, never suffered PTSD and never received the two honors, which are among the highest bestowed for military service.

Read More Show Less
Rep. Duncan Hunter (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

SAN DIEGO — Days after Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a federal felony related to a yearslong campaign finance scandal, he has finally stated explicitly that he will resign from his congressional seat before the end of his term.

"Shortly after the holidays I will resign from Congress," Hunter, R-Calif., in a statement. "It has been an honor to serve the people of California's 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years."

Read More Show Less
A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak boat crew displays their new 38-foot Special Purpose Craft - Training Boat in Womens Bay Sept. 27, 2011. (Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen)

A collision between a Coast Guard boat and a Navy vessel near Kodiak Island, Alaska on Wednesday landed six coasties and three sailors to the hospital, officials said.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Jamarius Fortson)

The Navy has identified the two Defense Department civilians who were killed in a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy photo)

A shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida has left four people dead, including the gunman, law enforcement officials said at a Friday news conference.

The shooter and two victims were killed at the base and another victim died after being taken to the hospital, said Chip Simmons, deputy chief of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Another seven people remain hospitalized, including two sheriff's deputies who engaged the gunman, Simmons said at Friday's news conference. One was hit in the arm and the other was shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover.

Read More Show Less