Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rare Weapons- XM-214 Microgun 5.56 NATO

General Electric developed the XM-214 Microgun in the late 1970's in an attempt to make the lightest practical high volume of fire machinegun. . It was based on the successful GE 7.62 NATO M134 Minigun The XM-214 was primarily intended from to be mounted onboard a light helicopter. However, plans to use it on Jeeps and APCs as an anti-ambush weapon and even on infantry tripods for possible use as base defense weapon.

The XM-214 was put together into something called the "6-pak" system, a self-contained weapon that consisted of the gun, firing motor, rechargeable battery good for some 3,000 rounds of continuous fire, electronic control box and special ammunition containers that held 1,000 rounds in two belts. The total weight of the "6-pak" system with 1,000 rounds was 85 pounds, which makes it technically man portable (by a team of 2 or 3, hopefully) .

The XM214 Microgun is an externally operated weapon which uses electrical motor drive to operate its action. The gun operates on Gatling principle, that is it employs a rotary cluster of six barrels, each with its own bolt group. Bolts are moved back and forth behind each barrel as their operating roller passes an internal curved track machined inside the receiver cover. Typically, the topmost barrel in the cluster has its bolt fully open and the bottom barrel in cluster has its bolt fully closed during the firing cycle.

It turned out that the 5.56 cartridge did not have the range or power to be an effective heli-borne weapon or as an anti aircraft gun. Additionally, the rather primitive battery by today's standards hurt the weapon as batteries have tendency to fail or run out most inopportune times.The system was found to be unsuitable for infantry use as the battery unit was very environmentally sensitive as well as lacking sufficient battery life.As a mounted infantry weapon the Brass decided that it had an excessive rate of fire for most infantry applications and if you let a 18 year old use this thing he would likely go through about 1000 rounds opening a C ration can.

Since the gun operates on external power, it is immune to misfired rounds, which are ejected during the normal cycle of operation. The XM-214 is fed through the now standard flexible chute and disintegrating metal links. It was normally fed with two 500-rounds containers, connected to feed switch which automatically switches over to full container once another one is empty; this was to allows for continuous fire, as the empty container would be switched out by the assistant gunner while the Microgun still feeds and fires from another ammo box.

The XM-214 was not adopted in any real numbers by the US Department of Defense and GE removed the weapon from its offerings in 1997. Now for what you have all been wondering: Yes, it is possible that you might be able to pick the weapon up and Jesse Ventura-style fire it.However, the recoil impulse is said to be around 99 lbs on average, with peak recoil being over 220 lbs, so you might look cool but would likely be incontinent later in life from all the shaking this thing would do to you.

I think that this weapon should be resurrected though, mounted on the back of a Stryker or other armored vehicle and with a battery that could be counted on, it would make a extremely effective rear defense weapon. Since it would be normally used against infantry, the somewhat anemic 5.56mm might be a good compromise in weight versus power, enabling the vehicle to carry 2 to 3 times the number of 7.62 rounds.

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