Army Looking for 7.62 NATO Interim Combat Service Rifle

A soldier training with an M14 7.62mm Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR). The Army brought back the M14 in limited numbers to extend the range of marksmen in Afghanistan. (Photo: Army)

The U.S. Army is soliciting a contract for a new rifle chambered in 7.62 NATO. They’re calling it the Interim Combat Service Rifle or ICSR.

The request is for up to 50,000 rifles to be used for specific missions against combatants wearing a new kind of body armor.

The decision to seek out a new rifle has some people scratching their heads as current 7.62 NATO has similar problems with body armor and weighs significantly more, even with hybrid polymer cartridges.

This may be apparent even to the ARMY. With “interim” right in the name of the solicitation, and such a relatively small number of guns in the request. The window for solicitations is also very small. The Army wants companies to respond by September 6 of this year. This doesn’t leave companies a real option to develop a gun specifically for the contract — it will have to be an off-the-shelf rifle.

The Army needs the gun to be semi- and full-auto-capable with the new M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round, or EPR, a scaled-up version of the 5.56 NATO M855A1 EPR.

The EPR round is a real barrel-burner, and the military is already exploring different armor-piercing options. (Photo: Army)

The FN SCAR is a leading contender for the contract, but there are many companies making AR-10 variants that could pass the test. With the increased popularity of self-loading .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO rifles there could be serious contestants in the running.

Other requirements include compatibility with optics, pointers and suppressors. Some features are not required but welcome including ambidextrous controls, folding and telescoping stocks and backup iron sights.

Critics of the M4 and M16 family of rifles have been easy to come by. Recently Gen. Mark Milley, retired, testified against the 5.56 NATO cartridge to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The 5.56mm round, we recognize that there is a type of body armor out there, that it doesn’t penetrate,” said Milley. Milley pressured the committee to switch to 7.62 NATO and select a gun that could be used in place of infantry rifles and machine guns alike.

See Also: Is This the End of the Line for 5.56 NATO?

Unfortunately, the 7.62 NATO EPR cartridge has the same limitations as the 5.56 NATO version. The Army is working on a new type of armor-piercing projectile for 7.62 rifles that can also be produced in a 5.56 variant.

It could be that the tall requirements and extremely short window for solicitations are the Army’s way of stopping outside pressure to replace the M4. In many ways switching to 7.62 NATO represents a step backward for the Army.

Testing the rifles using EPR cartridges could be another sign that the Army just wants to shut this move down. The last big push to solicit an M4 replacement was the Individual Carbine Competition, which ended in failure in part because of the 5.56 EPR round. The overpressure EPR cartridge directly lead to performance issues with guns built to run standard 5.56 ammunition.

The Army is currently investigating cartridges in the 6mm and 6.5mm families for AR-pattern rifles. Some of these cartridges only require a new barrel and sometimes other easily-replaced components and work with in-production rifles.

Cartridges like 6.5mm Grendel and Creedmoor are quickly spreading across the commercial market for self-defense, hunting and long-range shooting. These types of cartridges are flat-shooting and have excellent penetration properties.

Time will tell what direction the military takes, and if it’s the right one.

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Billy D Richardson July 27, 2018, 10:56 am

    In 1965/66 I carried the M14 while in Vietnam and burned through thousands of rounds of ammo and NEVER had a jam or misfire. I dragged that rifle through the mud and the muck during monsoon season and every time I pulled the trigger my weapon fired. You can tell me all day long about how inaccurate the M14 was/is and I will tell you that is NOT true. If your M14 was inaccurate, maybe you just couldn’t shoot straight. The M14 was and still is as accurate and dependable as any weapon on the market. I have many guns but I have a 60s era M14 that is as accurate and dependable as the M1A1 I have and they are both awesome weapons. If I were going into battle today I would gladly take an M14 as my primary weapon. I do agree the M14 is heavy but most 20 year olds can deal with that. An M14 helped bring me home.

  • Auggie Will August 23, 2017, 3:55 am

    I’ll carry the extra weight!
    The M-14 is a great rifle that is well known to be able to reach out and touch someone at ranges the M-4 can not.
    The truth be known when the Army was looking for a new rifle (To replace the M-1) it came down to the M-14 & FN FAL.
    Politics played its part into making it a one-sided affair.
    The Government with special interest people looking over there shoulder were not going to buy a rifle made outside the US.
    They will now, just don’t drop it or it will fire!
    Politics should never be part of the process, our people should have the best weapon systems that can be fielded!
    On another note, I have never heard of anyone telling Congress we need a new Pistol as the Colt 45 will not get the job done?
    Politics at work again!

  • Mike Watkins August 13, 2017, 5:12 pm

    In late 1967, all of my Marine Corps boot camp rifle marksmanship training was with an M-14. I have no idea how many rounds each of us fired but it was probably several hundred. We learned–from experience–both we and the rifles were capable of hitting targets at 500 meters. We also learned that bullet–presumably 147 gr.–was more than adequate to kill or incapacitate at 500 meter and more. I never had a jam, ftf, fte, etc.

    I went to Nam in early ’68 and was assigned to an infantry rifle company. (Charlie 1-5). By then Marine infantry had switched to M-16’s. During my tour (plenty of combat) I experienced numerous jams of several kinds. We all did. Most of them occurred at rather inconvenient times. We also believed, although that 55gr. bullet might well hit our target at 500 meters, it would have lost enough energy to have minimal lethality. Also by the time I was using my M-16, the issues with improper powder selection, no issue of cleaning kits or cleaning instructions, and corrosion in the barrels/chambers had been corrected. Yet the jams did not stop.

    Now I play with AR-15’s, really enjoy them, but they still jam more than anything else I’ve ever fired. And even at 77 gr. the round is anemic compared to just about any 30 caliber.

    Should I ever have to go to war again, I certainly hope it’s with something bigger and better than an M-16/M-4. Should my son or grandson ever have to go to war, I will SCREAM TO THE HIGH HEAVENS in protest if the brass issues him some damned 5.56 mm baby boomstick.

  • Ronald c Brabbin August 12, 2017, 5:28 pm

    build a rifle exactly the same enlarged mechanism as the M1 carbine chambered for 7.62 with M2 full auto select.

  • ArkiePaul August 11, 2017, 8:55 pm

    I cannot believe that anyone really believes that the M14 was “unreliable” or “inconsistent”. Or that anyone loved the M-16. I was issued an M-14 and trained with it for 3 years. I loved it. I had an M-16 my last 5 years in the Corps. I was frequently disappointed in it and its performance. There was simply no comparison between the M-14’s reliability and performance at great range (500 meters) and the M-16. I also knew a few Marines that tried to hide from their NCO’s so that they would not have to swap their M-14 for the M16 while in Viet Nam. Of course they were not successful but their actions speak volumes. And to answer”Z” you would use stripper clips which were also used in bolt action battle rifles in bygone times.

  • Deerhttr August 11, 2017, 7:52 pm

    I was in the Army from 64 to 67. Used the M14 and thought it was a great gun. I remember the Drill Instructor in basic training putting the butt of a m14 to his groin area and pulling the trigger on a 20 round magazine to show how little it
    recoiled. The rifle was a little heavy but that was a long time ago. They can make them lighter now. A person can get carried away with the weight issue. I never had a problem with it. Felt invincible when carrying it. It was powerful.
    No “special” ammo needed. I own an AR15 and enjoy shooting it. It is a “neat” rifle. If I was going into combat tomorrow
    I would grab a M14 not a M16. When someone is trying to kill you a person wants everything possible going for them.
    In my mind the M16 just doesn’t cut it when compared to the M14.

  • MikeGolf August 11, 2017, 5:08 pm

    There are a couple of mistakes that need clarifying, for one GEN Milley is not retired and is still the Chief of Staff of the Army.
    Also – to all of the M14 fan boys, the M14 is an outdated and heavy design (11.24 lbs). Even with EBR upgrades, which increased the operational weight, it is not what the Army wants. It is looking for an updated design that lightens the Soldier’s load and delivers the capability to deal with a specific threat.
    The HK417 is more in line with what the Army is looking at. ( or the the Knight’s Arm M110K3 ( Both of which are lighter than the M14, deliver accuracy and have improved reliability.
    For those that are 6mm or 6.5mm or such fan boys, look at the Solicitation, the Army is looking for a non-developmental system or Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) item and then develop something new. So you may have to wait a few years for a new rifle/carbine to fire that new 6mm type of round, but it will not be the ICSR.

  • Kivaari August 11, 2017, 4:46 pm

    85% of casualties come from artillery. Almost none from rifle fire. Keep the M4 with M855A1 ammunition. Want more issue the M16A2/3/4.

  • Kivaari August 11, 2017, 4:37 pm

    General Milley is not retired he is Chief of Staff. It was Gen. Scales that is retired, he is a lobbyist for HK.

  • Vic vapor August 11, 2017, 3:03 pm

    I thought the argument for the 5.56 round was that conditions in VAN required a smaller lighter cartridge to cut down lugging weight in the swamp. Another commenter mentions that our fine fighters are willing to lug the cartridges needed to win. I know even my puny buttocks would rather carry 7.62 so that someone could feel them maybe 600 yards out when the time came…. give our fighters a fine rifle to do just that.

    • Kivaari August 11, 2017, 5:50 pm

      There is more to the M16 story than just packing more ammo, although that was a great reason. The M14 rifle was consistently a poor performer. The M14 was known for being inaccurate and unreliable. It was cancelled because the makers could not deliver a consistent rifle. The majority of troops that got the M16 loved it. The M16A1 improved upon it and it has now shown itself to be a great service rifle for 50 years. We don’t need a new rifle.

      • Michael Keim August 12, 2017, 3:24 pm

        The M14 was not inaccurate or a poor performer or unreliable. I used both in the army. The M14 never failed where as the M16 was unreliable in those days. I shot expert with the M14 and that was with targets out to 500 meters. Marine sniper’s spotters also carried M14s. I’ve used both weapons and own both. I also build ARs. I’ll grab an M14 instead of an AR everytime.

      • Pseudo August 12, 2017, 7:27 pm

        I read your reply? So I would like to just let you know it is not April Fools! Or, dat must be some dam fine KoolAid you be on.

  • Tripwire August 11, 2017, 1:19 pm

    When I was a young Marine we were issued M1’s later we switched to M-14’s The only full auto rifle was the formerly called “Barman” who became the “ARman”. The Corps preached “Aimed Controlled Firepower” meaning we took cover and actually AIMED at our target. Then they send all these young studs to Nam and give them a plastic toy with a giggle switch. Really? giving an 18 year old a rifle with full auto is like giving him an ice cream cone and saying don’t lick! he is gonna lick that thing! What good is lighter ammo when they burn thru it super fast and then are out of the fight?

    Also when did our military become a bunch of weak pussies that needed a much lighter weapon? They didn’t! It’s all about money to the defense contractors. Our troops fought over the entire world in WW2 with a 9.5 combat rifle and beat every enemy who came at them.

    Would some Marine fighting on some island have preferred an M1 that had a 20 round magazine? bet your sweet ass he would. But arming them with something that can’t shoot thru leaves isn’t the way to fight a war.. The issue isn’t the troops it’s the DC beltway scum bag Senators and Congressmen who sell out to lobbyist that push for all this new crap. Ask the troops! talk to the actual war fighters not some General sitting in a nice office.
    I have a friend who is in SF and has made many deployments who said IHO the SCAR was a piece of shit, so talk to the guys who actually used one in combat and hear what they say. As for me I always loved the FAL but that’s just me.
    You can’t tell me a young 18 year old who made it thru Marine boot camp can’t handle the recoil or weight of a real battle rifle.

    • Pseudo August 12, 2017, 6:20 am

      I used both and fired both in full auto and single shot modes. Give me the M14 in fact I even both one from Rock Island and love it. It even has the original wood stock. I even purchased the non operating selector snd rod assembly and installed to give it an original appearance look.

      As to your comments about 18 year olds and the weight, it is just not them but others as well.

      The pussyification of the USA.

  • Bob Heard August 11, 2017, 12:19 pm

    How many M-14s do we still have in stock?

  • Bob August 11, 2017, 12:07 pm

    There is something called the “Geneva Convention”

  • John August 11, 2017, 11:17 am

    We cant afford to keep upgrading weapons in this country. They should have kept the .308 years ago. I was 20 buying my first rifle and went .308 after my research and still buy them. Galil, Scar, RFB, Custom built AR308.

  • American USMC August 11, 2017, 10:27 am

    There may be a better design than the M-14 . The Military tried the FN Fal-58 Harrington Richardson produced 5000 to test against the M-14. The winner is well known. What I want to find more about is the enemy combatant NEW BODY ARMOR.

  • John August 11, 2017, 8:53 am

    I carried M-14 back in the sixty,s Great rifle for long range, has been modified greatly by springfield armory great to see government going back to.M-4 great for close range and house to house cleaning but M-14 could also be modified to do the same only better

  • singleshotcajun August 11, 2017, 8:36 am

    We seriously need to take a hard look at 6.5 Grendel,its sneaky and with a 20 ” barrel all of your wildest dreams will come true 😉

  • Ro Gal August 11, 2017, 8:21 am

    You are absolutely right! A few minor mods to the current Springfield rifle AND more importantly a lethal variant of the 308 FMJ round is all it takes.

  • Infidel762x51 August 11, 2017, 7:40 am

    Didn’t they learn from the green tip fiasco? If it penetrates armor it usually isn’t a reliable stopper. Maybe they should be looking at rounds with a high sectional density projectile like the 6.5 Grendel or something similar.

  • Kyle Newman August 11, 2017, 6:21 am

    Screw getting a new caliber. Sure there are better, but why spend billions replacing when you can spend a lot less by just improving. The first order of business is to re-evaluate how we employ our weapons. Sure the enemy might have body armor that needs to be defeated, but why should that even be this big of a problem? We are America. We should have overwhelming firepower. The enemy should fear our weapons, everything about our weapons. We say “oh yeah this 7.62 should mess them up”, and then we use some more FMJ bull shit. Why are we still using this crap so much? Which would freak you out more, knowing american soldiers and marines were shooting fmj at you? Or knowing they were shooting ballistic tips at you? We need to balls up and tell whoever says they make the rules or war to shove their regs up their ass, and we need to start shooting something at the enemy that maims the crap out of them no matter where they are hit. That also puts them out of the fight faster than a fmj. They might be wearing body armor, but after they see their buddy next to them practically lose an arm from a shoulder hit with a hunting bullet, or see their guts explode out their lower back from a direct hit, they will probably become less bold and less motivated. If we change calibers it’s just going to be same kind of bullet, different diameter. This means you’ll hear the same complaints on the battlefield.

    • William Kotila August 11, 2017, 8:09 am

      Easy to tell you’ve never been in a gunfight.

      • Early Times August 11, 2017, 9:42 am

        I may not agree with everything he posted but he did make some valid points. Where are your valid points, Mr gunfighter?

    • joe August 11, 2017, 8:59 am

      Why would they care about the cost? It’s your money, and they’re happy to help out their buddies in the defense industry that will give them 6 and 7 figure salaries when they retire from the military.

      It’s a racket – one that requires us provoking every country we can to keep the funds flowing.

      • ~ Occams August 11, 2017, 10:40 am

        Well, well. Someone’s awake. Nice to see.

        As far as ‘our enemies’, we have none – just what the ‘Axis of Evil’ – US/UK/Israel – manufactures to sell Endless War 9now a well-proven FACT ISIS belongs to the Axis of Evil; Created, armed, trained, and funded…with US soldiers dishonoring their oath and fighting WITH ISIS in Syria).

        Any of you paying attention? Know who DOESN’T have a Rothschild Central Bank bleeding their nation dry? The only 3 left on the entire planet?

        Iran, Syria, and N Korea. And Putin kicked out our dear Mr. Rothschild and his bank….


  • Robert August 11, 2017, 5:39 am

    The M-14….Already developed, some have been “modified”……WHY look for another rifle? Springfield Armory make three models….Full length, an 18 inch barrel and a 16 inch barrel…….ONE key advantage……TOPPING OFF MAGAZINES…….The idea of individuals loaded down with “full” magazines and going into a combat situation….Firing and emptying magazines, means the individual will have to reload those magazines…..Meaning the carrying of extra ammo to refill the magazines…..Being able to “top off” magazines allows the rifleman to NOT have to reload empty magazines…..Situations could be such that troops may not be able to RELOAD magazines…….Being able to just top off the magazine may be the better to stay in the fight.

    • Z August 11, 2017, 11:26 am

      Would you please clarify a few points? How is loading individual rounds into a magazine through the ejection port supposed to be better than exchanging an empty magazine for a full one? Where exactly is this loose ammunition coming from? In your scenario is a soldier carrying a rifle with a fixed magazine and hundred rounds of loose ammunition in some sort of container? How is that supposed to work in firefight? That sounds like some Call Of Duty bs. where you tap a button and voila, you reload a couple rounds.

  • William August 11, 2017, 5:19 am

    Why choose an odd Caliber when the thirty Caliber, has proven it’s self over and over for the last hundred years! The best barrels are thirty Caliber because barrel makers, make/sell, more thirty Caliber barrels than any other! That’s where they put their best tooling, thirty Caliber! Thirty Caliber bullets can be bought, from one hundred grain on up! The selection is endless! Even the Russians got it right, with the AK-47. A thirty Caliber barrel will last three times longer than a twenty Caliber barrel! Small diameter barrels heat up much faster, and destroy themselves! Our Army brass have been screwing around with small barrels/bullets long enough!

    • Kivaari August 11, 2017, 5:41 pm

      Even the Russians use a .22 caliber rifle.

  • Buck August 11, 2017, 5:14 am

    The M14 is a good rifle make it weigh less like differant smaller flash superuser and different butt plate . Liter poly stock . Buck Christian 100% disabled Vietnam veteran right wing republican lifetime member NRA

    • Wade August 11, 2017, 6:33 am

      They would be better off with the M14 with a 19 1/2 inch barrel and a fiberglass stock and l would use the steal butt plate, the bayonet for the 22″ barrel will fit which gives you a great weapon should you run out of ammo. They tried some of these in the 60’s and the 19 1/2 inch barrel is long enough to burn all the powder. Another advantage with the M14 is you can load the magazine still in the rifle, you fire 5 or 6 shots you can take a 5 round clip and you can load them thru the top of the rifle. In the late 70’s we had armor piercing for the M60 machine gun, they just need to load it on 5 round clips. They should make enough M14’s to arm everyone and then you only need 1 caliber ammo. They should also go to the .45 caliber pistol with .45 +p ammunition that the Marne Corps Special Operations were using.

  • J Zamora August 11, 2017, 4:23 am

    POF revolution or of course the scar h. The POF is unproven though. Leave it to big green to spend to much on the H&K I bet!

  • Jim August 7, 2017, 9:55 pm

    Sounds like they need to go back to the BAR maybe in an updated version. The 30-06 round would be my choice if I needed more penetration ,knockdown power and accuracy at long range.

    • Joglee August 9, 2017, 11:51 am

      Dumb idea.

      We now have 7.5lb 7.62 battle rifles available and with the concept of eventually moving to a 6mm round we have bullets that far exceed both 7.62 and 30-06.

      • Eric August 11, 2017, 4:17 am

        The M14 is repeatedly pulled back into service. And for great reasons. Just reissue the modern M14 with polymer stocks and newest optics accessories. Done and won. Straight knock down power and full auto, select fire, semi auto selectable.

        • Mike August 11, 2017, 6:57 am

          Yep, m14 is the rifle. With a few upgrades for weight reduction, nothing beats it…
          I passed on buying a 5.56 many times. I love my M1A. It loves me.

      • BobD August 11, 2017, 6:52 am

        Not so fast. The 6 or 6.5 mm cartridges are admittedly great calibers, but they cannot match the performance of the 30 caliber at typical combat engagement ranges. Some tout the 6.5 as better at distances over 1000 yards, but your average infantry grunt will not be engaging at those distances. We often try to match our desires to achieve .5 MOA groups at 1000 yards with the requirements of the military; apples and oranges.

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