TEXAS- Soldiers of the 1st “Dragons” Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Carey, command sergeant major for United States Armed Forces Command, got a first hand look at new weapons systems with a live fire July 29.

Weapon engineers, from Program Executive Office Soldier, spent time talking with “Dragon” troopers and received feedback about the design of the weapons. The engineers started the morning with a brief review of the weapons followed by a question and answer session.

Some of the new systems included the XM 320 40 MM Grenade launcher, the Lightweight .50 Caliber Machine gun, and M26 12 Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun System.

The new XM 320 grenade launcher comes with improved features designed with light weight material composition for improved durability and new sighting system designed to lessen interference with rifle and carbine sights. The new grenade launcher also eliminates the need to re-zero after reattaching to a weapon.

The XM 320 grenade launcher will start fielding in Feb 2009. Some of the weapon’s multi-systems are still in the design stage and will require several years before they are used Army wide.

One of the systems in the experimental stage is the Lightweight .50 caliber Machine gun. This weapon system is a variant of the Enhanced .50 caliber Machine Gun. The new design system can fire all of the current .50 caliber ammunition in the inventory. It has a significant reduction in weight and recoil force. The new design reduces the recoil by at least 60 percent and also allows for a vehicle to become more lethal but still maintain the light weight.

Lt. Col. Mike Ascura, product manager for Program Executive Office Soldier, says the new .50 caliber is still in development.

“The .50 caliber we are seeing today will not be seen Army wide until 2012,” said Ascura. “We are building it for Special Forces now and in the near future for infantry schools.”

Hand picked field artillery units will continue to test the products before the weapons are released to the infantry schools.

Spc. Jared Smith, San Diego, Calif. native and gunner for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st BN., 82nd FA Regt., shot the weapons and gave his opinion on the new designs and seeing the weapons go Army wide.

“I like the improvements, especially the range spotter” said Smith. “This is definitely something we need.”

Carey looked over the new systems and got a feel for the weapons and their systems when he took his turn on the firing line with the new lightweight .50 caliber.

This is by far the best of what has come out of this extended war, said Carey. “These weapons are going to measure our successes in seconds, and those seconds will add up to victory in the continuing war on terror.”

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