May 23, 2019
By David Fortier
The days of 7.62x54mmR PKM armed foes standing on equal footing with US machine guns is coming to an end. FN America recently announced they will be unveiling their prototype for the newest variant of the MK 48 machine gun chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor at the 2019 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC). The new caliber will provide improved exterior ballistics and penetration, especially at medium and long ranges, compared to legacy 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm NATO cartridges. More importantly it will also provide overmatch to Russian and Chinese 5.45x39mm, 5.8x42mm and 7.62x54mmR systems.
Adopted as a USSOCOM program of record in 2003, the FN MK 48 Mod 0 was developed from FN Herstal’s prototype 7.62x51mm FN MINIMI. It was part of a continuing effort to reduce the weight and improve the maneuverability of machine guns for US forces following the demise of the 7.62x51mm M60 series. While FN Herstal’s rugged 7.62x51mm M240 series provided an improvement in reliability over the Vietnam era M60, it came with a hefty weight penalty. FN’s MK 48 Mod 0 was originally intended to provide a compact and lighter belt-fed machine gun in 7.62x51mm NATO to improve the mobility of the gun team. Upgrading it to 6.5mm Creedmoor is a logical progression following USSOCOM’s qualification of the caliber last year.
USSOCOM’s adoption of the 6.5mm Creedmoor came as a bit of a surprise to many. It had originally appeared as though the .308 Winchester based .260 Remington would be adopted. The 6.5mm Creedmoor was originally conceptualized as a competition cartridge for use in NRA High Power. The genesis of the cartridge was a conversation between former National Champion Dennis DeMille and Hornady’s Senior Ballistics Scientist Dave Emary. DeMille had come to prominence on the USMC Rifle Team and later became VP of Product Development for Creedmoor Sports, which led to the cartridge’s name. Dave Emary, a contributor to our sister title Guns&Ammo, is widely recognized for his contributions to cartridge designs. The use of long and very efficient .264-inch projectiles with respectable Ballistic Coefficients and sectional density provide the 6.5mm Creedmoor with impressive for caliber exterior ballistics.
Performance is similar to Sweden’s stalwart 6.5x55mm cartridge which dates from 1891 and soldiered on until 1995. It’s interesting to note the Soviet’s developed a 6.5mm cartridge for Biathlon competition which is also similar in performance to the 6.5mm Creedmoor. Largely unknown in the US it was developed and fielded in the 1950s. Designated the 6.5x54mmR, it was basically a necked-down 7.62x54mmR loaded with long, efficient .264-inch FMJ-BT match bullets. Due to its parent case being the 7.62x54mmR, weapon platforms in this caliber, such as the PKM and SVD, would be relatively easy to rechamber to 6.5x54mmR. It will be interesting to see if Russian Special Operations respond with a domestic 6.5mm cartridge of their own, such as the 6.5x54mmR, or simply field a suitable foreign design, such as the 6.5mm Creedmoor.
The prototype FN MK 48 Mod 2 6.5mm Creedmoor features the latest upgrades for FN’s series of light and medium machine guns. These include a stock adjustable for length of pull and cheek height, a more robust feed tray latch which ensures the feed tray cover locks into place during reloads, an improved locking charging handle, double-notched sear, handguard with accessory mounting points at 3, 6 and 9-O’clock and an upgraded bipod.
For more information, visit www.FNAmerica.com.