There are several global trends that will drive and constrain the military rifle market. These include increased modularity, digitalisation, growing presence of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies, weight reduction and lethality. With the growing ability and availability of attachments, rifles are becoming increasingly modular, allowing soldiers to adopt a “plug-n-play” model with weapons. A variety of attachments can be added to weapon platforms to meet mission and environmental requirements. Modularity is being achieved through the addition of picatinny rails to a weapons body. It has become standard for rifles to be sold alongside a variety of attachments such as suppressors to reduce a rifle’s signature when firing. Rifle platforms of the future will also increasingly become modular in regards to calibre types. The ability to quickly swap a weapons barrel will grow in popularity amongst armed forces. This allows the role of a weapon to be changed to suit engagement requirements.

As the battlefield becomes increasingly digitalised within a “battlefield of things” where systems talk to one another, there will be a growing need for weapons to follow suit. There are already requirements for weapons to have fire control computers integrated within the weapon system; a case in point is the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) programme. It is likely that this will heavily impact the sniper rifle market, allowing any soldier to become a marksman with aim assistance technologies. Furthermore, weapon systems will be required to link up and talk with other worn soldier systems as digitalisation grows. As COTS technologies from the commercial rifle market increasingly enter the defence industry and the size, weight and power (SWaP) properties of systems decrease, digital technologies will increasingly enter the market. Technological developments, especially within the areas of metamaterials, digitalisation, optics and directed energy, will become increasingly disruptive as well.

Weight reduction is still the primary issue faced by many rifles due to the growing number of equipment that soldiers are expected to carry. With lessons learnt from Afghanistan and Iraq, questions over the effectiveness and lethality of the 5.56mm North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) round at range are beginning to emerge. It is likely that the United States will adopt a 6mm intermediate round. Forces that use the 5.56mm NATO round will most likely follow suit, triggering a large number of rifle modernisation programmes and increased competition. Current market players will have to adapt in order to cater to the change in calibre. There will most likely be a growing requirement for 7.62mm calibre weapons to meet engagement requirements in the short term. Metamaterial sciences and new projectile forms will heavily affect the market, with innovation coming from commercial and non-traditional players.

This report will delve into the key issues and findings of the market identifying the current drivers and constraints on the marketplace, the competitive landscape and evolving market share in greater detail. It will also explore these issues to generate a forecast for the global market, identifying future opportunities across the assault rifle, light machine gun, general purpose machine gun, designated marksman rifle and sniper rifle markets.