Vortex Optics XM157 Overview: The Next Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control (NGSW-FC)

Authors Industry News Mitchell Graf Optics/Sights
Vortex Optics XM157 on rifle with rocks

Last year the Army awarded Vortex Optics the contract for the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control program to include the design and production of the XM157. The contract for the NGSW-FC includes a provision to build up to 250,000 XM157s during the next decade at a starting price of around $2.7 billion. While Vortex is obligated to meet the initial Army demand, they plan to sell to civilians as soon as they are contractually able to.

So what is the XM157 or the NGSW-FC? Well, the FC is the fire-control or XM157 optic system that will be used for the next-generation squad weapon. From the ground up, the XM157 is a 1-8x30mm optic that features Vortex’s revolutionary “Active Reticle®” technology. At its heart, it works just like a standard low-powered variable optic or LPVO, but encompassed in the housing is the fire-control system that sets this optic apart from everything else available today. The XM157 is what many call a “smart scope” due to its integration of a digital display overlay, laser range finder, ballistics calculator, atmospheric sensors, compass, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and Intra-Soldier Wireless. However, the XM157 still works in a zero power state due to its core utilization of a standard 1-8x FFP optic with an etched reticle. This provides an analog image with a digital overlay for calculated holds.

Vortex Optics XM157

This new optic will allow soldiers to quickly and accurately engage targets at a distance. While this new optic works great at 1X like other LPVO’s for close-quarters engagements, it is going to revolutionize how targets are engaged past a few hundred yards. With the press of a button, the XM157 will range a target and immediately display the appropriate hold in the reticle dependent upon the saved ballistics profile and the current atmospheric conditions. Simply aim at the target, and press a button either on the remote pressure pad or on the side of the scope itself.

Hands-on with the XM157

I was given the opportunity to get hands-on with the XM157 and it was quite impressive. After pressing the ranging button, it took less than a second to overlay the calculated drop in the display of the scope. I could range the furthest objects visible from where I was positioned hundreds of yards away even with the rain coming down.

The XM157 is factory set to display the wind holds for a 90-degree 10MPH crosswind on either side of the center aiming point. These overlayed points will account for any cant of the rifle from shooting at an angle as well. Twisting the rifle around while looking through the optic I was able to watch the displayed holds rotate around to give me a true impact location for rounds that would be fired.

Vortex Optics XM157 reticle
*Not an actual picture through the scope. The screenshot is taken from the Garand Thumb overview video

The etched reticle provides useful information while not overcrowding the field of view. The glass clarity also looked great with edge-to-edge clarity. However, I was not allowed to take any pictures of my own, so you will just have to imagine it for yourself.

Another awesome feature is that the XM157 utilizes an Active Reticle® that is not dictated by fixed points on an etched reticle. Because it uses a display, the XM157 can overlay any desired information. As time goes on, and technology changes, newer software will be able to be downloaded to keep the XM157 up to date with the newest evolving threats.

Vortex incorporates two different enablers into the XM157, one of which had the rangefinder attached. They mentioned the ability to use a camera that could pair with the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System. This would allow the XM157 to link to helmet-mounted systems to allow the user to see through the scope without actually peering through the optic. Pairing with devices such as the IVAS would allow soldiers to shoot from behind cover while sticking their weapons around the corner and seeing through the optic via the wireless heads-up display.

Currently, this optic will still work with traditional PVS-24/30-night vision clip-on systems, but Vortex hinted at the ability to add a thermal overlay or other types of sensors to the XM157 to give more functionality at night.

While weight was not disclosed, the XM157 with the range finder removed felt slightly lighter than a Trijicon VCOG 1-6 with a Larue Tactical QD mount. It also felt slightly lighter with the range finder mounted than a RAPTAR sitting on top of a NightForce 1-8 in a Badger Ordnance mount. I have heard people complain about how heavy this system looks, but when configured to match similar systems, it is very comparable, while being more effective. Incorporating a ballistics calculator into the display instead of a reading via a Wilcox RAPTAR mounted somewhere on the rifle is much quicker and seamless while simultaneously saving weight.

Embedded below is a great overview of the system and some first impressions from Mike actually shooting the system:

The future is now, and while the XM157 is mostly an assembly of existing technologies, the incorporation and implementation of all of these varying components make for an effective and lethal package. While I didn’t have the opportunity to shoot with this optic, I had the chance to get hands-on, and ranging targets was effortless. Vortex Optics is making some big waves with the XM157 and for good reason. Just like the ACOG revolutionized quick-effective engagement distances past a few hundred yards, the NGSW-FC is extending that distance even further while providing accurate holds for anything within the effective range of the NGSW platform.

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    • Harvey Waller October 29, 2023, 11:53 am

      When is it available for the public?

    • geometry dash lite October 16, 2023, 11:08 pm

      Really good, but I still like AWM better

    • Thomas Taylor October 7, 2023, 10:57 am

      Need to know when the xm157 scope is available for purchase

    • Jackie Ow July 29, 2023, 4:34 am

      Can it tell the difference between being at the bottom of the Dead Sea vs. being on top of Mt. Everest, that is to say does it compensate for the local density of Earth’s atmosphere?

      Does it compensate for humidity, which interrelates with atmospheric density?

      What level of gamma radiation begins to cause it any problems?

      What level of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) is the top level it can withstand?

      What is the top height of being dropped onto concrete that it can withstand?

      What levels of cold and heat can it withstand?

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