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Force Recon gets a new rifle (and handgun)

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A few months ago, we detailed some Force Recon rifles we saw being used in some icy cold-weather training. It was interesting that Force Recon, which is such an elite community within the Marine Corps, would still be wielding the M4A1 over the URGI or even the M27 that the rest of the Marine Corps carries. While the M27 is a great infantry rifle, the modern Force Recon community might consider it large for its activities. So, imagine my surprise when browsing photos through DVIDS and stumbling across Force Recon with M27s. 

Force Recon’s new rifle 

Well, newish. However, the M27 makes a ton of sense. With the Marine Corps combat arms moving to the M27, it makes sense to standardize as much as possible across all combat arms elements. Force Recon has likely been issued the M27, but alongside the longer, 16.5-inch upper receiver, it has received something known as the URG 11-inch Recon Weapon Kit. 

These new uppers are HK416A5 upper receivers mated to M27 lowers. The M27 is based on the HK416. The HK416A4 uppers come in the 11-inch sub-compact variant we see here and in 14.5-inch, 16.5-inch, and full-length 20-inch barrels. 

M27 rifle

The URG 11″ Recon Weapons Kit was first announced quietly in the Marine Corps “FISCAL YEAR 2021 AUTHORIZED INDIVIDUAL WEAPONS, OPTICS, MODULAR ATTACHMENTS AND MODIFICATIONS FOR ANNUAL RIFLE AND PISTOL TRAINING.” (That’s their emphasis on all caps, not mine.)

The HK416 series is a bit of a mix between the American M4 and the German G36. At first glance, the rifle has features and ergonomics very similar to the AR15/M16/M4. To the untrained eye, it’s just another entry into the AR market. Yet, when you dissect the rifle, the upper reveals a short-stroke gas piston system taken from the G36. 

The HK416A5 upper not only shortens barrel length but introduces an adjustable gas block to make the weapon adjustable for optimum use with a suppressor. Suppressors are very handy tools for special ops troops like Force Recon, and having a rifle optimized for suppressor use makes a ton of sense.

Related: Silent but violent: The history of suppressors 

What’s the deal with the HK416

Outside of standardization with the rest of the combat arms of the Marine Corps, what’s the difference between Recon’s new rifle and the old M4A1? First and foremost, the short-stroke, gas-piston system has advantages compared to the direct impingement system of the M4A1. 

One of its biggest advantages is that it runs cooler and cleaner than the old M4. When firing many rounds and Recon’s new rifle will run cooler and cleaner. The short-stroke gas piston system deposits less carbon inside the gun, making it less reliant on maintenance. Yet, one small downside to the short-stroke gas piston system is a little extra weight. 

Marines Force Recon ship boarding

The HK416 is a more accurate weapon. In terms of MOA (Minute of Angle), the M4A1 runs between a two to four MOA gun that’s also stuck with a rail system that imparts pressure on the barrel. HK claims accuracy down to two MOA per rifle and uses a free-floating handguard to ensure the user does not put pressure on the barrel and negatively affect accuracy.

In my experience, the Marines with M27s repeatedly outshot the standard M16A4 and M4 on qual days. It’s an accurate platform and has been adopted by forces like DEVGRU and CAG for a reason. Force Recon will be well served. 

Related: This LVAW is SOCOM’s overpowered answer to the SMG

All about the accessories 

Military rifles are a lot like Barbie dolls. It’s all about accessorization. However, we don’t see a huge departure from the accessories on previous Recon rifles. The new Recon rifle is set up perfectly for close-quarter combat. 

Across the top, we see EOTech holographic sight, also known as the SU-231A. This holographic weapon sight is perfect for a short carbine and provides a sight that’s easy for quick and rapid-fire shots at ranges from two to 200 yards. 

Force Recon ship boarding

Force Recon Marines also have the PEQ-16, which offers both visible and IR lights and a rather weak white light. To work with that weak white light, we also see what appears to be Surefire Scout lights. These offer a ton more light than the PEQ-16s. 

Last but not least, we have what appears to be PMAG GEN M3 widowed magazines. It’s all very modern and perfect for the Marine Corps’ Recon commandos. 

Oh, the handgun 

Besides the new rifle, Recon carries the New SIG M17/M18 handgun. We see a few in holsters that replace the old M9s and Colt M45 pistols. It’s a much more modern pistol for these commandos. It’s not entirely new since the SIG won the MHS contest years ago now, but it’s nice to see them dripping into the Recon world. 

Marines Force Recon training with Norwegian troops

Overall, the new rifle for Force Recon is a modern, modular platform that gives them a leg up on the old M4A1 and allows for more standardization across the Marine Corps combat arms. It’s not a surprising choice, and it’s a wise choice for sure. Maybe it’s a sign Force Recon isn’t the red-headed stepchild of special operations anymore. 

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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.