About that M4 Controversy

This one has been flying around the internet today. OMG! The Army is in a conspiracy to keep the M4 carbine and shut down tests of any other possible small arms!

A competing rifle outperformed the Army’s favored M4A1 carbine in key firings during a competition last year before the service abruptly called off the tests and stuck with its gun, according to a new confidential report.

Yeah, well, that’s not terribly surprising. There’s no official word which competing rifle outperformed the M4A1. Rumor Control says it was the FN SCAR series.  

Of course, an FN SCAR tends to cost about twice as much as an M4A1. That’s not an insignificant issue.

Frankly, absent a really radical difference in performance (not reliability, but performance) investing money in an entirely new small arms platform is a very small return investment.

Consistently, surveys of US troops- Infantry troops- have found that they like the M4, are satisfied with the M4, and find it reliable. There simply isn’t a big demand signal from the field to replace the M4 platform.
I’ve fired the M4, but always carried either an M16A1 or M16A2. In a dozen years, I never had a single malfunction with a Colt M16 that wasn’t a magazine problem. Not one.

FN did have a contract to build M16A2s. They were awful. I had repeated problems with them. It wasn’t long before Colt won back the contract. One wonders if the poor quality control of FN rifles lingers in the minds of the Army when looking at future purchases.

If you want to look at a small arm that has consistently had issues with jamming and reliability, look at the M249 SAW family. They’ve been tinkering with it for 30 years, and it still loves to jam.

11 thoughts on “About that M4 Controversy”

  1. When I was at Kandahar in 2010, all of the SEALs staying at Camp Brown happened to be carrying FN SCARs in 7.62mm. The ones I talked to said they loved the SCAR for the ops they were doing at the time. So, when I got back, I put in an order for a semi-auto SCAR Heavy and spent around 3 grand all together. It’s a great rifle and I have a hard time understanding why the U.S Army doesn’t just make a command decision and adopt it. It’s been tested in theater, it shoots either 5.56 or 7.62 and it’s made in the U.S. at FN’s American plant. But, since we’re apparently pressing forward with the completely ridiculous idea of using women in infantry and SOF units, then hell, might as well keep a lightweight rifle that fires a bullet with little to no recoil…

  2. better we spend the money on new uniforms…. 😉

    the FN-MAG has a good rep, but i wasn’t around the M-240 long enough to see what people thought of the US Army version. hell, my CA ARNG unit at the time still had M-3 grease guns and 1911A1s up until the turn of the century, and i never did see an issue M16A2 before i retired out in 03.

      1. I never saw any M1C/D, but I remember our active duty tank battalions toting around M3s in the mid-1990s. Sadly, I never got a chance to fire one. All us Infantry folks had to settle for shooting M231s.

    1. The “grease gun” was my personal weapon as a 19E in the TNARNG. I got to run several mags through mine and I liked the piece. I also shot the 1911 and M-16A1.

      It seems that auto/Semi-Auto weapon’s main vulnerability is the mag feed lips. I used to keep a couple of sorry mags for my 1911 just for training purposes. I never knew when they would cause a jam and would allow me to go through the jam drill under actual conditions.

      I’d prefer to see the Army go to a weapon firing something in the 6.5 to 7mm class, than go back to a .30 cal round.

  3. Fabrique Nationale having arms manufacturing issues comes as a complete surprise and I’m not being facetious here. Owned a FN build SLR chambered in 7.62 semi and never had an issue except for two items: 42″ long, and with sustained firing the fore end screw that held the handgaurds on backed out…thread lock took care of it but still. That was temporary Loctite.

  4. Re magazines being a problem; in my Guard unit, we were using many of the same magazines from when I got in in ’89 to when I got out in ’12. New magazines got added when we’d bring them back from deployment and add them to the storage footlockers. Still had a fair number of 20-round Colt mags mixed in the in ’12, and most 30-rounders had green or black followers.

    Worked as an ad hoc unit armorer for several years when we transitioned from A1 to A2 models made by FN. Biggest function problems were due to lube issues. Most soldiers weren’t shooters on their own time, and believed they either needed to drown the bolt carrier in CLP (observed many individuals taking the large squirt bottles and giving the assembly 3-4 shots then back into the receiver) or no lube at all. Reason being “If I don’t lube the hell out of it, it jams” and “if I lube it it gets dirty/gets grit in it and jams”.

    Trying to teach where and and how much lube to apply was a constant battle. Use to just strip bad mags for parts and throw away what didn’t work.

    1. I spent 12 months as ad hoc armorer in the HHT of 2/278th ACR in the early 80s. We were still using Vietnam era mags. When we started getting malfunctions I started doing the same as you did. The CO wondered what was happening, but not being a shooter himself, he didn’t understand what was going on.

      Funny thing – I didn’t find out until my last drill that I was supposed to be the TAMS clerk. They never did tell me what that was supposed to be and all I did was work on weapons and help the supply Sgt.

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