The military variant of the SIG Sauer MCX Spear, the winner of the United States Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon competition, has been designated as the XM7. Previously named the XM5, the name was changed to avoid a trademark conflict with Colt’s M5 Carbine. This 6.8x51mm service rifle is slated to replace the Army’s aging M4A1. The new weapon is reported to be accurate and powerful thanks to SIG’s precision engineering and its new full-sized cartridge, supposedly designed to penetrate level IV body armor.

However, the United States isn’t the only one gearing up for the battlefield of the future. Across the ocean, America’s near-peer military rivals in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are making headway in their own next-gen rifle program. The QBZ 191 is steadily replacing the PLA’s Bullpup QBZ-95, which had only been in service since the 90s.

In the near future, an invasion of Taiwan could possibly see US and Chinese forces go head to head against each other, and these two rifles could be battling it out amidst the ruins of Taipei.


The XM7’s 6.8x51mm has very impressive ballistics and an extremely high-pressure round. At 80,000 psi, it exceeds the chamber pressure of even the .338 Lapua Magnum (60,000 psi). SIG claims that at 1,000 yards, the 6.8x51mm will drop an entire six feet less than a 6.5 Creedmoor and hit its target with 25% more energy. This round is meant for long range and can achieve a velocity of 2,950 fps when fired out of a 16-inch barrel thanks to its insanely high pressure, achievable only because of its special stainless steel case coupled to its brass body. This hybrid round is supposed to be capable of achieving single MOA accuracy at a hundred yards, exceeding the standards of many service rifles in the western world today.

5.8 rounds should not enter a target like this.

The Chinese QBZ-191 uses the Chinese 5.8x42mm round. Designed to be a small, lightweight cartridge with power exceeding the AK-74’s 5.45x39mm, the 5.8x42mm is used in nearly all of China’s small arms weapons, including its sniper rifles and light machine guns. Unfortunately for the QBZ-191, this round may occasionally keyhole, which is a result of either an inadequate twist rate in the rifling, an undersized round, or a generally unstable bullet. The target in the picture was shot at very close quarters, and with a keyholing issue, the QBZ-191 cannot be expected to reach targets at the ranges it’s designed for. The rifle fired used in the image may be defective, or it may have been using defective ammunition, but if this is a consistent problem in China’s new service rifle, it is truly an inferior product.

Winner: XM7


“Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.” This oft-repeated mantra in the United States military simply translates to: “it’s bad for a soldier to carry lots of stuff.” This was one of the main concerns when the M16 with its lighter 5.56x45mm rounds was rolled out to replace the M14 with its more powerful, but heavier 7.62x51mm rounds. A soldier with an M16, while sacrificing some firepower, could carry more ammunition than a soldier with an M14. Since the M16 did away with the traditional wooden stock which was still prevalent at the end of the 1950s, it was also lighter than the M14, which resulted in less fatigue for the men carrying them.

The Army has apparently forgotten why they adopted the M16 in the first place. The XM7, with its suppressor and a fully loaded magazine weighs 11.24 lbs, a pound heavier than the old wooden M14. Its magazines are similarly limited to a maximum capacity of 20 rounds, impairing a soldier’s ability to provide extended suppressing fire just like the M14. US Infantry in the field would walk around with 6 additional 20-round magazines not counting the one in the rifle, weighing 8.4 lbs. This gives a fully loaded XM7 rifleman a total capacity of 140 loaded down with 19.64 lbs, not including his armor and assault pack. By contrast, an M4A1 weighs a meager 6.34 lbs with a combat load of 210 rounds in seven 30-round magazines, which weighs 7.4 lbs for a total of 13.74 lbs.

By contrast, the QBZ-191 weighs about 6.6 lbs. With a chest rig loaded with 7 magazines weighing approximately 10.5 lbs, this gives the Chinese soldier a slight weight advantage over his American counterpart with a combined combat load of 17.1 lbs. The QBZ-191 will also be able to provide better suppressive fire thanks to its 30-round magazine as well as an option for it to be outfitted with a 75-round drum.

Winner: QBZ-191

Attachments and Optics

The XM7 was never meant to be a bare-bones rifle. Meant to be deployed with a suppressor and its unique XM-157 optic, this is truly the weapon of the modern, high-tech American warfighter. SIG designed its SLX suppressor to meet Army standards. Its internal multi-flow path allows gasses to exhaust at a faster rate than traditional baffle-style suppressors, resulting in 70-80% less toxic fumes flowing back at the shooter’s face. The XM-157 optic seems like something out of a video game. Designed by Vortex as a next-generation universal fire control optic, the XM-157 is a 1-8x optic with a first focal plane display and a laser rangefinder. What makes this digital scope interesting is that with the push of a button, the optic will calculate the range and ballistics data of a target and display a drop point for the soldier to place an accurate shot. All this is done in a fraction of a second, making the XM-157 “the optic that aims for you.” Vortex, a company that has most of its products coming from factories in China, has taken great care to make sure that this US Military scope has 100% of its materials made in the United States. It also comes equipped with an atmospheric sensor, compass, and thermometer, which it uses in its ballistic calculations. Thanks to the amount of technology involved in this optic, it is possible, in theory, to make first round impact on any target at almost any distance.

A view through the XM-157’s automatic ballistic computer, via GarandThumb

The obvious concern about an electronic optic is its reliance on batteries in the field. The XM-157’s battery can supposedly last for weeks, and in the event of an EMP attack or battery failure, the optic can still function as a traditional LPVO even without its fire control system.

The QBZ 191 on the other hand has a variety of low-tech but dependable optics such as the QMK-171A, a 3x short-range scope that fills the same role as the American ACOG with 1x less magnification, the QMK-191 3-8.6x medium range optic for its DMR variants, and the IR5118 for thermal applications.

While the IR5118 is better than the cheapest thermal scope on Amazon, it pales in comparison to civilian products on the market like the Pulsar Talion XG35. With a detection range of 1913 yards, the Talion XG35 can see objects twice as far as its Chinese counterpart, which has a maximum detection range of 1000m. The Talion also boasts greater magnification and a battery life of 7 hours versus the IR5118’s 3. This long battery life makes the Pulsar unit much more suitable for long periods in the field, while the IR5118, a device meant to be used by recon teams who could spend several days out in hostile environments, would die after a mere 3 hours of use.

Winner: XM7


While it’s more expensive, has less ammo capacity, and weighs more than the Chinese QBZ 191, the XM7 has outperformed its rival in almost every aspect. In a hypothetical engagement between Chinese troops and American forces, the XM157 optic would prove to be the game changer on the battlefield with its automatic ballistic calculation. This feature alone can justify the smaller loadout for precision firing at long range.

At short ranges, the QBZ-191 will be superior with its larger magazine and a higher rate of fire. Par for the course for China’s conscript army, this rifle’s simple optics with no electronic components are better suited for the type of ranges typical for urban combat, typical of a future hypothetical war in Taiwan.

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