Visit virtually any gun blog, and one of the most contentious issues is the 5.56mm Colt M4 carbine. Thousands of people will argue against it and push for the adoption of another weapon, and often another caliber.
Oddly, however, surveys of active soldiers are almost universally supportive of the M4. Of course, most soldiers, even Infantrymen, have little experience with military small arms outside of their own issue weapons. Still, the level of satisfaction suggests that while the M4 may not be perfect, it isn’t so egregiously flawed as to require immediate replacement.
And another little secret is that while other nations developed their own 5.56mm weapons about the time the US lead NATO to shift from 7.62mm to 5.56mm as the standard rifle round, many have quietly adopted the M16/M4 platform, at least for certain applications.
Israel equipped its soldiers with the indigenous Galil rifle, but has since seen most of its troops shifted to the M4.
In the mid-1990s, Canada, then equipped with a variant of the FN FAL rifle in 7.62mm, worked with Colt and the US Marine Corps to develop their own version of our 5.56mm M16A2. Introduced into service as the C7 rifle, it and the carbine C8 series (very similar to our own M4) have been the standard service rifle of the Canadians, and have been adopted by several other NATO members, such as Norway, Denmark, and even Iceland.
When the US lead the shift to 5.56mm, Britain developed their own rifle, the fairly exotic looking SA80.
It has not been particularly successful competing in the small arms export market.
Britain steadfastly claims the SA80 (L85A1 in UK service) is superior to the M16/M4 family.
But the truth is, special operations forces of Great Britain don’t like it, and never have. And they’ve been buying C8 carbines from Canada.
One of the great strengths of the Colt rifle is that it can be customized in an almost unlimited number of ways.
Our friends across the pond at Think Defence have two posts on the Colt in British service (where it’s known as the L119A1).
The upgraded, customized version will be known as the L119A2.
I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Great Britain quietly, slowly makes the Colt the de facto standard weapon over the next few years.