By LCpl Scott Whiting
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - The United States Marine Corps explored many options to replace the currently employed M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and found an upgrade with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The IAR has been extensively tested by the Marine Corps since 2010. They examined the pros and cons of the rifle, and after confirming the benefits of issuing it, some battalions were recently outfitted with the weapon in Afghanistan.
Infantry Training Battalion - East also implemented training with the weapon in the last few months. Company D’s basic riflemen, who will use the weapon most with their job responsibilities, familiarized themselves with the IAR Jan. 9 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“We went to the IAR because it is more precise when aiming, and it also has the ability to fire at a semi-automatic rate,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Bare, infantry course chief for ITB – East. “The SAW was fully automatic at all times, which can limit its uses. The simple change of it going from a light machine gun to an automatic rifle offers more mobility and maneuverability within a rifle squad.”
Switching from an approximately 17-pound light machine gun to an approximately 8-pound rifle will make moving with the weapon easier, since it weighs close to the same as a standard M16A4 rifle.
The option to fire the IAR as a semi-automatic will give riflemen the ability to engage farther targets with more accuracy than firing on fully automatic does.
The IAR uses a 30-round magazine, reloads and fires the same way an M16 does, but a big difference is the safety switch on both sides of the IAR. The M16 has a safety switch only on the left side of the rifle, beneficial only to right-handed shooters. The IAR also does not have a three-round burst option. Instead, Marines can switch between the semi-automatic and fully automatic rates of fire.
Even though the IAR is similar to the M16 on the outside, the inner-workings vary drastically. “There’s a lot of internal difference between the two,” said Bare. “As much as (the IAR) looks like an M16, the rifle itself has many changes to it. Once you actually break it down to the different parts and operating systems, you notice some distinct differences. The M16 itself uses gas tubes, and the IAR uses a short piston. The bolts and buffers are different as well. The (IAR) is truly meant for an individual to employ precise fire at a high volume when necessary.”
Bare said the goal is to eventually replace SAWs within squads and fire teams with the IAR, but the SAW is still a useful weapon in certain situations and still has a purpose overseas.