The Army has been looking to replace the M4 carbine – a variant of the legendary M16 rifle – and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon through the Next Generation Squad Weapons Program.

Now, according to a report by The Firearm Blog, MARS Inc. is teaming up with Cobalt Kinetics to produce both the assault rifle and a light machine gun variant of the NGSW.

A profile view of the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics light machine gun, showing it with a suppressor.
A profile view of the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics light machine gun, showing it with a suppressor.

According to MARS, the rifle and light machine gun use a proprietary 20-round box magazine and a proprietary 70-round drum magazine. Both the rifle and light machine gun are select-fire systems that are chambered in a new 6.8mm short magnum cartridge that weighs 140 grains and which has a muzzle velocity of 3,200 feet per second.

The rifle is capable of penetrating targets 1,000 yards away with one MOA accuracy.

From left to right, 5.56mm NATO, 7.62mm NATO, and the 6.8 short magnum.
From left to right, 5.56mm NATO, 7.62mm NATO, and the 6.8 short magnum.

The Army initiated the program a few years ago with a goal to equip primarily combat soldiers with a weapon and round that has greater range and lethality than the 5.56mm-chambered M4 and M249 SAW.

It is unclear why MARS and Cobalt released their NGSW rifle, as the Army down selected three companies on August 29 — General Dynamics, Textron and Sig Sauer — for the next stage of its NGSW program.

The MARS rifle is a carbine-length system with a 13-inch barrel that weighs eight pounds. The light machine gun has an 18-inch barrel.

Both are equipped with a central power source for accessories like red dot optics and low-light sights, and both will also feature a “central command” system to track everything from the direction a soldier fires the rifle to how many rounds are left in a given magazine — plus the ability to send that information to commanders in order to facilitate the timely resupply.

Profile view of the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle without the suppressor.
Profile view of the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle without the suppressor.

Both the rifle and light machine gun also feature what is known as “shifted pulse recoil” systems. According to the release from MARS, these systems work by distributing the recoil impulse over a period of time while the bolt is slowed down by a spring and buffer system.

As a result, the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle can fire the 6.8mm round and have no more kick than a rifle firing 5.56mm NATO rounds, the companies claim. Both of these systems can also operate with suppressors, and their recoil systems mean that they could operate more reliably with them.

With a suppressor, the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle is actually more reliable than it is without one.
With a suppressor, the MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle is actually more reliable than it is without one.

By comparison, the 6.8x43mm SPC round is commonly available in modern multi-purpose semiautomatic firearms available from a number of manufacturers. But that bullet typically comes in at a weight of 113 grains and has a muzzle velocity of 2,600 feet per second.

The MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle can effectively engage targets 1,000 yards away.
The MARS/Cobalt Kinetics rifle can effectively engage targets 1,000 yards away.

MARS and Cobalt Kinetic are also planning to release a version of the rifle for the civilian market in the early months of 2020.