Makers Of The Famous Minigun Give Us Our First Look At A .338 Magnum Gatling Gun

There is a growing interest in .338 caliber machine guns, which offer greater range than 7.62mm types, and this one would provide a high rate of fire.

byJoseph Trevithick|
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Dillon Aero has revealed that it is working on a new Minigun-style machine gun chambered to fire .338 Norma Magnum ammunition. U.S. Special Operations Command is separately testing more traditional machine gun designs in this same caliber, which has previously been more commonly associated with sniper rifles.

The Arizona-based gunmaker posted a picture of the still-experimental prototype on its official Facebook page on Jan. 15, 2020. The company says it will show the gun publicly for the first time at the upcoming 2020 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, which opens next week. Dillon Aero is best known as one of the few remaining manufacturers of versions of the iconic 7.62mm Minigun machine gun, which General Electric first designed and built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

Though Dillon Aero has not yet released any specifics about its .338 Norma Magnum weapon, it is clearly another electrically-powered Gatling gun-type machine gun. While the Minigun has six rotating barrels, the .338 caliber design only has five. Miniguns, and other modern Gatling guns, typically have rates of fire of thousands of rounds per minute. 

Dillon Aero

Dillon Aero has not said if it developing the weapon in response to a requirement from a prospective customer, but it is perhaps not surprising that they are experimenting with a design that fires this particular ammunition. Since 2017, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been eying adopting a new, more traditional light machine gun in .338 Norma Magnum. Since then, the command has been evaluating designs from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems and Sig Sauer.

The aim of SOCOM's program is to acquire a gun that can effectively engage targets beyond the range of its existing 7.62mm machine guns, but that is also lighter than the .50 caliber M2 machine gun. The M2 presently provides longer-range firepower, but its weight and bulk largely limit it to applications where it is mounted on vehicles, watercraft, and helicopters and preclude it from use by small teams during dismounted operations.

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However, the lightweight .338 Norma Magnum machine guns that SOCOM is testing now could also replace 7.62mm weapons, including the Minigun, in certain vehicle, boat, and helicopter door-mounted applications, as well. The .338 caliber ammunition would offer valuable added range no matter how the guns are employed.

A Gatling gun-style .338 Norma Magnum machine gun would provide that same ability to engage targets at extended distances, while also offering the benefits of a thousands-of-rounds-per-minute rate of fire. Miniguns are already in widespread use within the U.S. military, especially with special operations forces, and elsewhere around the world, in both ground and aircraft-mounted applications because of the large volume of fire they can put out. Though Miniguns and other similar weapons use up large amounts of ammunition quickly, they can also rapidly suppress opposing forces or help break up sudden ambushes, as well as just quickly saturate entire areas during raids and other direct action and combat rescue operations.

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Dillon Aero also makes Minigun-armed gun pods for helicopters and light attack aircraft, another good role for a .338 caliber gun of this type. The range limitations of 7.62mm are even more pronounced in this context and a longer-range weapon would allow rotary and fixed-wing aircraft to strafe targets from further away or at higher altitudes, helping to keep them more separated from threats on the ground. The more powerful Norma Magnum ammunition is also more accurate at those extended ranges, which could be important for gun runs on enemy forces situated very close to friendly units or innocent bystanders, especially in dense, urban environments.

Dillon Aero's Minigun pod on display mounted on the company's Mission Configurable Aircraft System (MCAS) armament system., Joseph Trevithick

Dillon Aero is almost certain to reveal more about this interesting new design after it public debuts at SHOT Show next week. It already appears to be indicative of growing interest in machine guns of all types in the .338 Norma Magnum caliber.

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