By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2023
“His rifle…knocked a man down with one shot, and in combat, one shot
was all you got. You shoot a guy, you want to see him go down. You
don’t want to be guessing for the next five hours whether you hit him,
or whether he’s still waiting for you in the weeds.”
— Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down, 1999
Since April 2009, the FN SCAR-H Mk 17 battle rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO (.308-caliber) has been in service with U.S. special operations forces, proving to be enormously popular with the U.S. Army Rangers, U.S. Navy SEALs (now their standard weapon), Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), and in smaller quantities with the U.S. Army Special Forces, and even Delta Force. The compact SCAR-H CQC (“Close-Quarters Combat”), with 13-inch barrel is the preferred model, and currently holds first place as the “World’s Most-Powerful Assault Rifle!”
In the meantime, however, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM, or just SOCOM) officially announced in 2018 that they would begin acquiring FN Mk. 17 carbines and FN Mk. 20 SSR sniper rifles in 6.5mm Creedmoor (6.5CM, or 6.5x48mm, but actually 6.72×48.8mm) as their new, standard rifles, because, when tested against the venerable, 7.62x51mm NATO sniper cartridge, the 6.5CM chambering performed the best by far, doubling hit probability at 1,000 meters, increasing effective range by at least 40 percent, reducing wind drift by 30 to 40 percent, and retaining 30 percent more energy, all with significantly less recoil than standard, 7.62mm rounds. So, USSOCOM has since been switching from 7.62mm rifles to those chambered for 6.5CM, mostly by simply changing barrels.
Further complicating the weapons and ammunition acquisition process is the fact that the U.S. Army officially decided on April 20, 2022, to adopt 107,000 superb, brand-new SIG Sauer MCX Spear M7 battle carbines in 6.8x51mm (.277 SIG Fury) to replace existing Colt M4A1 carbines in 5.56x45mm NATO with its combat forces. Like the FN SCAR-H Mk. 17, the new Spear sports a short, 13-inch barrel and folding stock. SIG Sauer offers it in the standard 6.8x51mm chambering, but also in 7.62mm NATO or 6.5mm Creedmoor, depending upon the desired user specifications.
A 27-month military study showed that the 6.8mm round is more lethal at distances beyond the effective range of the 5.56mm, and more accurate than the 7.62mm. Thus, the 6.8mm round provides significant improvements in range, accuracy, and overall lethality.
In December 2021, even before the Army’s decision to adopt the SIG MCX Spear M7 carbine, SIG introduced a smaller, more-compact version of the versatile and innovative Spear, called the SIG MCX Raptor. It’s essentially a Spear M7 with an ultra-short, 7.87-inch (200mm) barrel and shorter flash hider, and like the Spear, it’s also produced in 6.5x51mm, 7.62x51mm, or 6.5CM, again, depending upon user specifications. This currently makes the new Raptor the shortest assault carbine in the world in all three of these powerful rifle calibers! Muzzle velocity from this barrel length averages 2,070 feet per second for a 7.62mm, 150-grain bullet, which is still quite powerful.
FR Ordnance International, Ltd., in the United Kingdom, previously produced the MC51 machine carbine, a derivative of the Heckler and Koch G3A4 battle rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO, with 9.1-inch barrel, for the British Special Air Service (SAS) commandos and Special Boat Service (SBS) naval commandos.
This was previously the record-holder for shortest 7.62mm battle carbine in the world, and it is apparently still marketed by Imperial Defence Services, Ltd., although the SIG Raptor is the new king of mini battle carbines. All MC51s have been retired from active service, due to horrendous muzzle flash and recoil. The SBS used a suppressor to mitigate some of the flash, but it was still a difficult weapon to handle.
Recent testing of the Raptor proved that this is not a problem with the new weapon. Recoil and muzzle flash/muzzle blast are both manageable, even with the shorter barrel, since the MCX uses a recoil bumper and very effective, dual recoil springs around guide rods to handle recoil forces. And, with the shorter SLX suppressor attached to reduce the noise, flash, and muzzle blast, the SIG Raptor is the same length as an unsuppressed Spear M7 carbine, but quieter and more compact.
There’s still no official word on whether the Army has adopted the Raptor as well as the Spear, but it certainly seems highly likely, especially for the special operations community, where compact, portable, and very powerful weapons are at a premium. If so, it may receive the military designation of M7C (Compact), or possibly M8 carbine.
No matter what the caliber selection, the SIG Raptor is clearly not a long-range, sniper rifle like the FN Mk. 20, nor a designated-marksman weapon, nor a full-sized, battle rifle, nor even an intermediate-sized assault carbine like the Mk. 17 or Spear M7. Instead, it’s in a unique category of its own, as a full-power, ultra-compact assault weapon for very-close-range combat, with absolutely decisive, one-shot, knockdown power!
Perhaps the greatest potential users of the SIG MCX Raptor are the U.S. Army Special Forces (“Green Berets”), who currently prefer the Mk. 18 assault carbine in 5.56mm. with a 10.3-inch barrel. Delta Force and SEAL Team Six still use the suppressed HK416 (10.4-inch barrel) or HK416A5 (11-inch barrel), because this weapon is preferred for close-combat indoors, since it penetrates enemy body armor without excessive muzzle flash or blast. On the other hand, a very short, very powerful weapon for use mostly outdoors may be exactly what the Special Forces need, and special operations helicopter crews may certainly desire a hard-hitting, very compact, survival weapon, as well.
For greater accuracy and quieter operations, the Raptor certainly accepts the Army-specified, Vortex Optics/Sheltered Wings XM157 Fire Control System scope and SIG SLX762-QD or SLX-762C-QD (compact) factory suppressor. The XM157 integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic (1-8x30mm), backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay. The SIG SLX suppressors come in two lengths, either 7.4 inches or 5.2 inches, in either direct-thread models or Clutch-Lok QD (quick-detachable) models, and the SLX762 also serves the 6.8x51mm or 6.5CM chamberings just as effectively.
Overall, the new SIG MCX Raptor is quite an astounding handful of intense firepower, and an ultra-compact, full-power, battle blaster for close-range combat when the enemy must absolutely, positively, be put down with the first shot, every time!
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his website at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com