They Fielded The Sig XM5 For All The Wrong Reasons

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 2 months ago

It always happens.  When the small Green Beret team was ambushed in Niger, Maj. General Bob Scales escalated his whining about the M4, demanding that it be replaced with a piston AR (a point completely irrelevant to anything that happened in the engagement).  The engagement was poorly planned, ill-conceived, and undermanned.  There was no QRF anywhere near them, the team was too small, they had no light or medium MGs (and certainly no heavy MGs), and I could go on with the failures.

But it’s the gun.  It’s always the gun.  It’s never the stupid Colonels and Generals who plan the missions.  It’s always the gun.  True to form, the reason they fielded the Sig XM5 was to bring battlefield superiority against – wait for itthe PKM.  It’s never the planners who put FOBs in the valleys between mountains and waste time even doing that, allowing the enemy to mass forces and field fighters that outnumber our troops by ten to one.  It’s the gun.  It’s always the gun.

No battle rifle can compete with a crew-served, belt-fed medium MG.  There are always answers to medium MGs, such as: taking the high ground, overwatch, QRF, CAS, using our own medium and heavy MGs, and maybe re-introducing a role for the long-forgotten grenadier (the M203 is not a sufficient replacement for the M79 in terms of range).  These things mean rethinking doctrine, weapons systems, TTPs, and training.  But they don’t want to do that – it’s always the gun.

If you want somewhat increased penetration and distance with the AR platform, I’ve already told you what to do.  Switch uppers to the 6mm ARC.  It’s a simple change, and would be the cheapest and most effective remedy for what is currently really a very small problem.  And in-between remedy for this would be to return the 20″ barrel Eugene Stoner originally designed.

But for whatever reason I cannot fathom, the U.S. Army has some sort of sordid love affair with Sig.  And for whatever reason I cannot understand (unless someone has pictures on active generals in the DoD complex), they always need a new rifle.  So here it is, all 13 lb of it.


  1. On November 24, 2022 at 12:33 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel Smith

    Re: “It always happens. When the small Green Beret team was ambushed in Niger, Maj. General Bob Scales escalated his whining about the M4, demanding that it be replaced with a piston AR (a point completely irrelevant to anything that happened in the engagement). The engagement was poorly planned, ill-conceived, and undermanned. There was no QRF anywhere near them, the team was too small, they had no light or medium MGs (and certainly no heavy MGs), and I could go on with the failures.”

    “But it’s the gun. It’s always the gun.”

    Very well-said, very well indeed!

    The 1986 FBI Miami shootout, a gun battle which has been termed by some as the “OK Corral of the 20th Century,” has become one of the most-analyzed force-on-force encounters of the last half-century. In brief, two fugitives and known felons, Michael Platt and William Matix, who were wanted for a string of violent crimes, including murder and armed robbery – met up with a rolling (vehicle) stakeout containing a team of eight FBI agents.

    This is what the military would term a “meeting engagement,” i.e., two armed forces on the move encounter one another and engage in combat.

    The subsequent shoot-out saw the perpetrators Matix and Platt killed, but not before they killed two agents and wounded five others.

    In the aftermath of the incident, the Bureau came under considerable scrutiny, not all of it favorable. FBI training and doctrine were examined and found wanting by a number of LE authorities and other experts.

    Feeling the heat, the Bureau’s leadership blamed…. not their tactics, techniques and procedures… but the weapons with which the agents were armed, a mixture of revolvers in .38 Special and .357 Magnum and self-loading handguns in 9x19mm (9mm Parabellum), plus two 12-gauge shotguns.

    The Miami shootout was largely responsible for the FBI’s adoption of handguns chambered in 40 S&W instead of the previous types/calibers/cartridges used.

  2. On November 24, 2022 at 1:31 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Re: “But it’s the gun. It’s always the gun. It’s never the stupid Colonels and Generals who plan the missions. It’s always the gun. True to form, the reason they fielded the Sig XM5 was to bring battlefield superiority against – wait for it – the PKM. It’s never the planners who put FOBs in the valleys between mountains and waste time even doing that, allowing the enemy to mass forces and field fighters that outnumber our troops by ten to one. It’s the gun. It’s always the gun.”

    General Scales and the fiasco in Niger are not the only incidents of this kind to have happened, unfortunately. The SEAL Team now famous for “Lone Survivor” -both the book by team member Marcus Luttrell and the subsequent film based upon it – suffered its fate of being almost wiped out due to similarly flawed mission planning and a host of mistakes made by the senior officers.

    Scales and many of his colleagues suffer from what I call the “cult of special operations”… see if you agree:

    By now, it is common knowledge even among civilians that the training and selection processes for the elite special operators of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) are among the most-demanding in the world, whether one is speaking of Army Special Forces Detachment Delta (Delta Force or SOF-D), the U.S. Navy SEALs, or Mar-Soc (Marine Recon, Raiders, etc.), just to name a few examples.

    These men and others like them in peer forces around the world, such as the fabled British SAS, are the fittest men in their respective militaries, and also score off-the-charts in terms of intelligence, adaptability, and other traits important to an elite soldier. These individuals, once they make it through selection, maintain a ridiculous ops tempo which is relieved only by training and more training during their so-called “down time” when not in the field on the job.

    Given these realities, it is perhaps not hard to understand why these men have become, for lack of a better description, “bigger than life” not only in the eyes of the general public, but their fellow members of the military, including senior officers and policy-makers.

    Operation Red Wings – which took place in July 2005 – saw a small recon-scouting team of four SEALs inserted into hostile territory in the Korangal Valley region of Kunar Province, Afghanistan. They were searching for Ahmad Shah, an important regional Taliban leader.

    The clandestine mission was blown (i.e., discovered by the enemy) when they were discovered by local herders, but instead of scrubbing the op, the team continued with their mission, and was eventually surrounded and cutoff by Shah and his men. There, on the slope of a mountain called Sawtalo Sar, the Battle of Abas Ghar (as it is now termed) was fought, in which three of the four team members lost their lives, including Lt. Michael Murphy, the team leader.

    These men fought as well as any could, but they were inserted without reliable communications, with inadequate back-up and fire-support, and inadequately armed and equipped. Facing an enemy which outnumbered them and who was armed with RPK machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 82mm mortars, as well as AK47 assault rifles.

    Lacking any crew-served base-of-fire weapons, mortars, and rocket launchers of their own, and not able to request fire-mission support, the valor of the team was not enough and they were – with the exception of Marcus Luttrell – wiped out. And when SEAL Team Ten attempted a rescue, albeit too late, their helicopter was shot down and all aboard were killed.

    Breaking down this action rightly is the task of those closest to the battle and within the armed forces involved, but as a civilian and military historian, I cannot help but notice a few things that don’t make sense…

    Granted that the team was supposed to be clandestine and secretive, and was not looking for trouble in the form of a fire-fight, so to speak, why was the team committed with such light weaponry? The only way a small team such as that one can hope to hold off superior enemy numbers long-enough to be extracted is for them to possess the ability to lay down a sufficient volume of fire to keep the opposing force at bay.

    The answer is the “cult of special operations,” i.e., too-many senior officers assumed that these guys were supermen and didn’t need or want back-up, heavy weapons, etc.

    It is inexplicable that the team chose to continue the mission after being detected. They should have aborted and cut their losses. However, at the very least, someone with experience and enough rank should have seen fit to equip Marcus Luttrell, the team medic, with a pharmacological means of restraint, i.e., a drug capable of temporarily knocking-out and immobilizing those Afghans long-enough for the team either to ex-fil or leave the immediate area.

    The team could also have elected to take them along, to ensure they didn’t inform the Taliban or eliminated them. Since the last option wasn’t an option, we’re back to the others.

    It is a fiasco of the highest order and a tragedy that this team was not provided with reliable fire-support from either local fixed or rotary-wing assets, UAVs in the region, or the like. If you are going to send such a small team in, and you aren’t going to arm them to the teeth, you’d better have some fire-power on call… that is, unless the higher-ups were prepared to write those men off.

    Some might say that they “did” have those things, but obviously not in time or sufficient quantity to save their lives. Someone dropped the ball somewhere.

    Again, the “cult of special ops” rears its head. These men are such legendary warriors that they don’t need such things.

    I get it that special ops types are type-A risk-takers and given their status, they get the toughest missions. The kind from which you might return home in a body bag. If they were regular dudes, they wouldn’t try out for the SEALs in the first place…

    Yet, as General George Patton once said, you don’t win wars by dying for your country; you win them by making the other guy die for his.

    If a dumb civilian and all-around pogue like yours truly can find fault with the planning of these missions, something is badly wrong. We need to do better, and we owe to young men like the brave men of Operation Red Wings.

    That team should not have gone out without at least one DM/sniper, one medium machine gun, and at least one rocket launcher or mortar plus rounds for them. And the team should have been larger, at least eight men or even twelve. That’s still small-enough to remain stealthy, but large-enough to protect itself more-effectively.

    The other approach would have been to forget small-team special ops, and either flood the zone with troops, or go entirely dark and use native Afghans as recon scouts, since white men stick out like a sore thumb in that part of the world anyway.

  3. On November 24, 2022 at 4:16 am, dave in pa. said:

    a long time ago, like 1978. I think it was. I was with a team testing the 84 mm rocket launcher. the carl G. we loved it ! it had close to a dozen different rounds you could use too
    light weight, compared to the m67,90mm we used at the time.
    when the generals came out to see it, the army guys couldn’t have cared less !
    the two marine generals. god bless them. got down in the dirt and fired them with us.
    asked questions and even took notes !! it was a much better weapon system than anything we had at the time. but the fix was in. they issued the dragon a bit later on.
    image my amazement to see the carl G being used by our troops in 2005 or so.
    funny how shit like that works ? I wonder who made money on the stupid one shot dragon
    and how fast it got dropped from use. and you also right about the old m79 launcher
    a good man with it could lay down a lot of rounds fast, much faster than the 203 !
    the idea of one weapon to do everything is stupid.

  4. On November 24, 2022 at 7:53 am, Joe Blow said:

    Your blood and treasure is needed to buy their cocaine and vacation homes!!! Hookers don’t fu*k for free!

  5. On November 24, 2022 at 9:00 am, PGF said:

    Great video and very educational.

  6. On November 24, 2022 at 2:06 pm, Camelfinger said:

    Gotta say, my only complaint with the AR platform is the direct impingement, dirty gas residue on the moving parts requiring a more detailed cleaning at shorter intervals. After all, piston guns have worked for ages. In the early ’80’s as part of the airborne unit in Italy, we had some Air Force guys attached. They had these super cool short barrel CAR 15’s or such. Oh Boy did we all want one! We could look cool too!! What the Army does not teach at all, is ballistics. So in our ignorance, we would have short changed ourselves if we could have even further. The M-16A1 was the wrong weapon for Germany as it was even with the 20″ barrel. That was 7.62 (M-14) country for sure.

  7. On November 24, 2022 at 2:13 pm, Biff said:

    Georgia Boy, I recently read a book called Code over Country by Matthew Cole. He sheds some light on some Navy SEAL activities. He has a bit about Red Wings. Some interesting thoughts about that op. In particular that Team 6 turned that down due to the issues you raised.

  8. On November 24, 2022 at 4:07 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    You should watch the series of YT videos done by Tim at MAC. He takes a BCM rifle and runs more (what is it up to now) more than 10,000 rounds through it without cleaning it, without a single FTF/FTE. The high pressure gas cleans the system.

    That whole issue is a complete myth. As is the notion that battle rifles are the main source of casualty to the enemy in warfare. Crew served weapons are where it’s at to inflict casualties.

    The Stoner system is just fine. If you want more distance, switch to the 6mm ARC. Give me a DI rifle any day. Minimal moving parts, and I’ve never had one to fail in the thousands and thousands of rounds I’ve put through them.

  9. On November 25, 2022 at 1:04 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Biff

    Re: “Georgia Boy, I recently read a book called Code over Country by Matthew Cole. He sheds some light on some Navy SEAL activities. He has a bit about Red Wings. Some interesting thoughts about that op. In particular that Team 6 turned that down due to the issues you raised.”

    Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll be sure and check out the book you mentioned.

  10. On November 25, 2022 at 1:17 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Camelfinger

    Re: “Gotta say, my only complaint with the AR platform is the direct impingement, dirty gas residue on the moving parts requiring a more detailed cleaning at shorter intervals. After all, piston guns have worked for ages.”

    In addition to Hershel’s comments about BCM – which I can confirm are true, by the way – I saw something by Viking Tactics founder and former SOF-D Sergeant Major Kyle Lamb, about in-field maintenance of AR platform rifles. He recommends keeping a segmented cleaning rod in your kit, as well Break-Free CLP and a bore-snake device as well as patches and a small container of gun oil.

    (The cleaning rod is optional for in-field cleaning, but is along to assist in knocking out stuck or torn cases)

    When Lamp runs high-round count exercises at his training facility, some of which simulate battles, he keeps his AR in fighting shape by periodically (during a lull and behind cover, of course!) running the bore snake down the bore with some CLP on it and then if needed, a pass with small amount of oil. He opens the receiver into its two halves, and dumps out the bolt-BCG and quickly wipes them down with a rag and then applies some more CLP. He can also quickly squirt some lubricant on the other reciprocating parts as needed.

    Boom, done, quickly reassemble and back into action. The whole thing from start to finish can be done with practice in under two-or-three minutes.

    Recently, i.e., over the last couple of decades, BCM and other companies have made remarkable advancements in coatings for high-wear metal parts like bolts, BCHs, barrels and the like. This is how Bravo Company was able to keep that carbine running for such a long time and at such a high round-count. High lubricity and better wear performance, better cooling, etc.

    Herschel, what is most-impressive about BCM’s torture test is not that the carbine ran dirty – but that the torture test didn’t burn out the gas tube. That’s a frequent failure point for AR rifles/carbines that are running dirty and hot. Did they solve that problem? I don’t know, but maybe, since the carbine ran….

  11. On November 25, 2022 at 1:49 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Regarding the Sig XM5, how are those “small-stature” soldiers in the army, a.k.a. female soldiers, going to take to this new boat anchor? Not well, one imagines. This issue along, the all-up weight of the rifle and its accessories plus magazines and ammo for it, means that Big Green probably isn’t planning on issuing the weapon generally. Support troops and rear-echelon personnel will probably retain 5.56×45 AR-pattern carbines.

    As Herschel noted, the army wasn’t thinking clearly about this problem. The answer wasn’t a new rifle, but new automatic rifle or light machine gun. Something capable of matching enemy base-of-fire weapons in range and hitting power…. or even exceeding them.

    The Marine Corps recently adopted the H&K M27 ITR (Infantry Automatic Rifle), which is chambered in an intermediate cartridge, namely 5.56×45 NATO, and it appears to be an excellent weapon so far, but it is early on and there isn’t enough real-world data on the system to make a definitive judgment. But early returns seem positive.

    The weapon does not solve the need for a SAW in a true rifle caliber, something shooting .308-caliber (7.62×51 NATO) or the like. But it is a start in the right direction.

    As always, the Army pays lip-service to light infantry and the TTPs used by them, but when it comes down to it, the DOD/Pentagon always loads everything but the kitchen sink on the poor overburdened grunts. Meaning that even if they are PT studs, they’ll need transport to the AO – vehicle or airborne – which in turn means they are not “light” infantry, but mechanized infantry or regular line infantry.

    It isn’t as if the army doesn’t have the institutional knowledge and memory – so what the problem is, I don’t know. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in WWII fielded some of the finest light-infantry of the 20th century, elite units excepted to do great things, and they did – many times over, in fact. The Ranger Regiment is also an elite formation; they were started as a sort of American copy of the famed British commandos, and became every bit as expert as their counterparts in the airborne. Although the Rangers didn’t always function as true light infantry, they often did.

    And later came U.S. Army Special Forces, a.k.a. the Green Berets, and later still, SOF-Delta.

    History often provides answers or clues for them, if we are wise-enough to search the past for what we need to know. These units and others along the same lines in Korea, Vietnam, etc. and into the present, can help the army learn how to field true light infantry, if they indeed wish to do so.

    “Light” does not necessarily mean under-armed, either. Airborne forces dropped into Europe with riflemen with M-1 Garands, to be sure, but also men armed with M-1 carbines, Thompson SMGs, Browning Automatic Rifles, Springfield M1903 rifles (usually for unit marksmen or snipers, if called for in the TO&E), M1919 Browning air-cooled medium machine guns, 60mm mortars, and bazooka teams. About the only thing they didn’t have was a flame-thrower, and that was probably on call if needed. They also were equipped with demolition charges – including plastique explosives, and ordinary fragmentation, smoke, and white phosphorus grenades.

    These men were real light infantry, or could function like them. Those familiar with the history of Easy Co., 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division, know that the 2nd Battalion set a record for a forced march at speed, during their training, by marching fully-equipped, from Camp Toccoa, GA, to Atlanta, Georgia, a distance of 115 miles.

  12. On November 25, 2022 at 12:20 pm, Big Country Expat said:

    I did a fisking of the XM-5 disaster-in-the-making back on my old blegg that Google nuked. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned thus far here or in the vidya is the ammunition. I realized this is a MAJOR issue when I saw the Forgotten Weapons vidya, ( Per Ian McCollum the ammo this boat-anchor is going to use has two types of rounds.

    The Training Ammo is going to be a full brass-cased Low Pressure 135gn 6.8 round which, per the money quote from Ian is “…this contributes to the rifle being very pleasant to shoot, having a relatively soft recoil.” It’s cheaper and going to be used primarily to prevent wear and tear on the barrel in the training environment.


    The ‘War Shot’ is going to be a High Pressure hybrid-case (dual metal, steel/brass) 135gn round with an 80,000 PSI Chamber pressure. That’s a HELL of a lot more ‘oomph’. According to Ian, all the folks who’ve -so far- tested the XM-5 (Garand Thumb and himself), it’s all been with the lighter training rounds. No idea what the bigger round does to the recoil, but I’m guessing it’s a LOT more comparatively speaking.

    As a former Infantryman, I can say without a doubt, this’s one of the dumbest things I’ve seen the DotMil do in a looooong time. If you train with a lighter recoil round, what happens to accuracy in a wartime situation? Shooting a ‘kinder, gentler’ round means that firing the bigger meaner hotter round, your accuracy and zero go right out the window…

    So much for any improvement if you can hit sh*t amiright?

  13. On November 25, 2022 at 12:27 pm, Big Country Expat said:

    Edit to the last line:
    So much for any improvement if you can’t hit sh*t amiright?

  14. On November 26, 2022 at 12:23 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ BCE

    Re: “As a former Infantryman, I can say without a doubt, this’s one of the dumbest things I’ve seen the DotMil do in a looooong time. If you train with a lighter recoil round, what happens to accuracy in a wartime situation? Shooting a ‘kinder, gentler’ round means that firing the bigger meaner hotter round, your accuracy and zero go right out the window…”

    I’m just a dumb civilian and all-round pogue, but I can still see what a fiasco this thing is…. and if yours truly can see it, it must be bad! Isn’t “train as you fight” solid advice for the soldier? Having been a military historian for so many years, I can already tell you some of the stuff that’s going to go down….

    The logistics people will, sure as the sun rises, get the low-pressure training ammo and the high-pressure combat ammo mixed up, and send the wrong kind to the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    The fancy new hybrid-case tech Sig is promoting in the 6.8 Fury is intriguing, to be sure, but that’s not the same thing as saying it is ready for prime time. Brass and brass alloy cases may not be sexy, but they work – and have worked for well over a century. Why fix what isn’t broken?

    Sig was more-or-less forced into developing the hybrid case technology because of the sheer idiocy of Big Green’s requirements for the new rifle: a 13-inch barrel, and a permanently-affixed suppressor, plus the external ballistic performance requirements down-range.

    A thirteen-inch tube is ridiculously short in a general-issue rifle. What iodit dreamed that one up? Probably someone with lots of god braid on his cap and rank on his shoulders, right? Other than door-kickers and other CQB specialists, no one needs a barrel that short.

    Because such a short barrel was specified, Sig had to innovate to make the performance requirements specified, including cartridge pressures 20-25% higher than the existing standard rifle/GPMG loads used, such as 7.62×51 NATO.

    A short barrel would lend itself to a giant muzzle flash, which you don’t want – day or night – since it makes it easier for the enemy to spot you. Recoil was probably brutal, too, which does not aid accuracy or getting your sights realligned after a shot.

    An eighteen or twenty inch tube would have obviated most of the R&D difficulties of the original proposal, and allowed the existence of off-the-shelf solutions already in use – but the DOD/Pentagon wasn’t having it

    Much has been made of the substantial improvement in exterior ballistics offered by the new 6.8mm (.277-cal.) projectile, but its performance is not as good as that of 6.5mm (.264-cal.) bullets, which in the 115-145 grain range, have good-to-excellent BC and SD numbers. The new 6mm ARC cartridge – which is in .243-caliber – also offers many benefits and attributes the fancy new kid on the block does not.

    To name two existing cartridges, 6.5 Grendel and 6mm ARC, both require a simple swap of uppers, barrels, and bolts-BCGs; both cartridges function within the existing 2.260″ OAL restriction of the AR15. Both offer performance on par with or superior to .308-cal. projectiles in use now by the NATO alliance, and certainly offer a substantial upgrade to weapons in 5.56x45mm NATO.

    The 6.8 Fury, on the other hand, will require an AR10-sized frame, and is thus heavier and bulkier than its predecessor. By the time one factors in an ammo basic load, magazines, the fancy new Vortex optic, and bipod and can, you’re looking at something that weights as much as an old Browning Automatic Rifle.

    Oh, just asking for a friend: How is Suzy the soldier going to like trying to carry that thing??

  15. On November 26, 2022 at 12:24 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Re: “What iodit dreamed that one up? ”

    Who’s the “idiot” now??? LOL…

  16. On November 26, 2022 at 8:11 am, blake said:

    From a logistics standpoint, the XM5 practice round versus the war round: The logistics train is going to be filled with spare parts, based on known failures from the practice round.

    And, when other parts break, in battle, because the war shot is hotter than the range round, the logistics train won’t have those spares.

    This rifle is stupid on so many levels it’s not even funny.

  17. On November 28, 2022 at 9:59 am, Latigo Morgan said:

    The way Sig is winning every contract, one would start to wonder if they don’t have their own “Epstein Island” somewhere that military procurement officers visit.

  18. On March 9, 2023 at 8:48 am, McChuck said:

    Sig won this contest because their rifle, LMG, and cartridge (remember, this was a contest involving all three as a package) were much less dumb than their two competitors. The fault really lies with the idiots at the five sided puzzle palace who ordered the competition to be held in this manner. At least they drew it out to three years instead of the 8 months the competition was originally supposed to be held in.

    Everybody knows the real answer to this problem (and 5.56×45 is a known problem) was switching the uppers to a slightly larger caliber. The 6 ARC would be great, the 6.5 Grendel would be very good. Even the 6×45 would be an improvement.

    If they really wanted an AR-10 platform, they could have just gone with the excellent and versatile .243 with an 18 inch barrel. Need to penetrate armor? 55-62 grain FMJ with a solid steel core moving over 3,500 fps at 100 yards.

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You are currently reading "They Fielded The Sig XM5 For All The Wrong Reasons", entry #33229 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published November 23rd, 2022 by Herschel Smith.

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