M4 Carbine Replacement Competition about to get underway

The Army kind of backed in to adopting the M4 Carbine as its standard infantry small arm. What happened was, the standard weapon was the M16A2, but the special operations community really wanted a carbine version, which eventually became the M4 (there have been carbine versions of the M16 series of weapons almost as long as there have been M16s). Pretty soon, a few other infantry units decided they too wanted M4s, as they were lighter and handier than the M16A2. Rangers, Airborne units, and Bradley crewmen really didn’t like having to deal with the longer, clumsier M16A2. As time went on, eventually, pretty much everyone ended up with the M4, and the M16A2 kind of faded out of the picture as far as the infantry was concerned.

But as the Army found itself fighting two wars, the shortcomings of the M4 started getting a lot of attention. It’s not a bad weapon, but it does have some issues. We’ve talked about the M4 series a few times, here, here, and here. It is not the most durable piece around, and it’s light weight, short barrel, and 5.56mm ammo mean that it really struggles to shoot well past 300 meters.

In light of these shortcomings, the Army as wanted to hold a competition to decide on the next standard infantry small arm. The last few times the Army tried this, it was the typical bloated procurement disaster. Between the H&K G11 caseless ammo carbine, the XM29 OICW and other programs, the Army never came close to finding a realistic alternative to the M16/M4 family.

Now, instead of trying to design a wonder weapon, the Army is going to toss the problem in the laps of the gunmakers, and see what they can come up with.

Army weapons officials are in for some tough questions from gun makers about to compete for the chance to replace the service’s M4 carbine.

In just two weeks, Program Executive Office Soldier will hold an industry day designed to help small-arms companies understand what the Army wants to see in the upcoming and much-anticipated improved carbine competition.

The Army released a draft solicitation Jan. 31 to announce the endeavor, but long-arm manufacturers began preparing for this event more than three years ago when the M4’s performance came under scrutiny from Soldiers and lawmakers alike.

Companies are already expressing concern over the guidelines competitors will have to follow to participate.

One issue causing anxiety is the lack of clarity over how the Army will test rifles that can shoot more than one caliber of ammunition.

Well, we’ll just have to see. It’s odd that one of the biggest knocks on the M4 is the 5.56mm round, but there is absolutely no incentive for the bidders to enter another caliber. The increased cost to the bidders will strongly argue against it, and it doesn’t really sound like the competition rules will add points for better performance in a weapon based on the ammo.

5 thoughts on “M4 Carbine Replacement Competition about to get underway”

  1. It’s funny, the 50’s era Army fought tooth and nail for the M-14 against the M-16. Stoner would have LOL’d at the irony, they /want/ the M-4 but there are better rifles out there. DGI is not the best thing for sand. heck, Turkey, Taiwan, Norway et al have gas piston stoner style weapons.

    Let’s hope that this takes off and we get the best.

    1. You’re probably right. Alas. I like the G-3 myself, but would like to something in the range of 6.5-7mm. Won’t happen though.

  2. I would like to see the HK491 or whatever it is, basically the M4 with a gas piston, win the competition. Funny that, for the entirety of my army career, I have seen “the replacement for the M16” and then “the replacement for the M4” and have yet to see the family of weapons be replaced.

  3. Hopefully it will be the new Colt. I have heard form an insider in the military that the Colt CM901 has been ran through the harshest testing as of yet and the Soldiers in Afghanistan that are actually using it are thrilled with it. They are running it in the 7.62 and actually wouldbe thrilled with it if it did not adapt with 5.56 uppers as there is no need for a 5.56 round when this new Colt is more accurate, less recoil and is lighter than the current M4. I am betting for no training time on a new weapon that the Colt wins hands down.

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