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Fear the REAPR – The Ohio Ordnance machine gun

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SHOT Show is a yearly firearms trade show that brings together a ton of people and is where gun companies can meet with distributors, gun shops, and even military procurement folks. A variety of new weapons premiere at SHOT and in 2024 I saw the Ohio Ordnance REAPR.

The REAPR, which stands for Recoil Enhanced Automatic Rifle, is a belt-fed medium machine gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum but could be converted to 7.62x51mm. The REAPR is part of a new generation of medium machine guns that aren’t often talked about. These new machine guns are an answer to military solicitations that the standard 7.62 NATO can’t satisfy anymore.

The original solicitation for a belt-fed medium machine gun in .338 Norma Magnum came from SOCOM and the Marine Corps. The solicitation had listed several requirements, including: 

  • Be chambered in .338 Norma Magnum; 
  • Weigh less than 24 pounds;
  • Have a rate of fire between 500 and 600 RPM;
  • Be compatible with rail-mounted systems;
  • Include a suppressed barrel; 
  • Include a tripod;
  • Mount to M240 mounts;
  • Be accurate enough to engage vehicles at 2,000 meters

This solicitation has since faded away, likely in light of the NGSW program. Another solicitation for a similar weapon was put out in 2021, but it’s not likely to be awarded for the next several years. 

The REAPR inside and out 

The purpose of the REAPR is to provide a machine gun that sits between the medium machine guns in calibers like M240 and the heavy machine guns like the M2 .50 BMG. It remains light enough to be used dismounted but is still accurate and capable of reaching out to .50 BMG ranges. The REAPR uses a roller-delayed operating system that’s not novel but is uncommon for a belt-fed machine gun. 

(Ohio Ordnance)

The gun has a firing rate of 600 rounds per minute and utilizes a quick-change barrel system. Reportedly, the operator can swap the barrel can be swapped with a single hand. In contrast, on guns like the M240, to change the barrel quickly and efficiently you need both hands and often a partner. On the REAPR, users can swap barrels with the bolt locked to the rear or the front – this is a nice feature that cuts precious seconds from barrel changes. 

The gun itself is quite thin and looks less bulky and painful to carry than the M240. As a former M240 mule, I never had a comfortable way to carry the gun. The REAPR weighs 26.8 pounds and is 51.7 inches long. However, the design has some unique features to help keep things short: the stock can fold, for example, and the gun can break down into three pieces very quickly and be toted in a pack if necessary. 

The REAPR broken down and fitted in a backpack. (Ohio Ordnance)

The feed tray is a patented system that can slide out of the gun’s side. This allows the user to load the gun without flipping the top cover up and harming the optics on top. Feeding can also be swapped to the left or right of the gun. The REAPR’s controls are ambidextrous. It can use any AR-type pistol grip. Its stock is custom-made from a company called B5.

As the gun is made to fill that general-purpose machine gun role, there are also options for vehicle and aircraft mounts that replace the stock for a spade grip.

The gun can also be fitted with a suppressor. The use of suppressors may confuse some. Machine guns are loud, and even when suppressed, they remain pretty loud. However, a suppressor will pull the volume down and likely help reduce muzzle flash, which makes it tougher for the enemy to locate the machine gun from long distances. As a machine gunner, I can tell you it’s easy to pin down the position of a machine gun, and their weight and size make them less maneuverable than other weapons, so they are easy targets – the suppressor helps with that.

Related: The rise and fall of the submachine gun

The next machine gun? 

A firearm that weighs a little over 26 pounds is pretty hefty, but it should be noted it’s lighter than the M240 by a few pounds – and fires a much more powerful round with the .338 Norma Magnum. This round was originally designed for long-range precision fire. It is capable of chucking a 300-grain projectile 2,700 feet per second. The REAPR can pierce military-issued body armor up to 1,000 meters. 

It outperforms the old 7.62 NATO in every way. The 7.62 NATO throws a 147-grain round at 2,8000 feet per second and has about 2000 fewer foot-pounds of energy. The REAPR is a weapon that will be capable of defeating a wide variety of cover and could easily disable thin-skinned vehicles at long ranges. 

(Ohio Ordnance)

This machine gun would have been an excellent weapon in Afghanistan, where combat became a distance game. The REAPR would have made the Taliban switch gears quickly, and their PKMs would have been easily beaten by the REAPR. 

While it’s easy to assume the military is prepping for last year’s war, the REAPR is relatively lightweight, and its powerful cartridge offers a real performance enhancement. As of this writing, there are no plans or contracts for the REAPR, but SHOT presented a rare opportunity for the average Joe to observe a potential upgrade to the world of machine guns. The show allowed us to take a deep dive into the gun, and for me, that’s always fascinating. 

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.