More Marine M4s

No More Pistols? (subscribers only)
Many U.S. Marine Corps Leaders To Carry M4

marine m4 carbineThe Marines, for the most part, have stuck with the M16 rifle over the shorter M4 carbine, and are well into a Corps-wide transition to the M16A4. But Defense News recently reported that more M4s are on their way, though not to replace rifles:

The U.S. Marine Corps on June 22 announced a major shake-up in weapon assignments, saying that staff sergeants and up, as well as second lieutenants through lieutenant colonels and chief warrant officers, will now be issued the M4 carbine as their T/O, or –table of organization,” weapon — the weapon associated with their rank. Marines in those pay grades were previously issued the M9 pistol, which colonels and up will continue to carry.

Privates through sergeants will still be issued the M16A4. Assignment of automatic rifles will not change.

Sailors E-5 and below who are with Marine units will be issued the M4. The remaining pay grades will still carry the pistol.

This is probably more of a condemnation of the M9 9mm pistol than an endorsement of the M4. Though most of the Army has shifted to the M4 due to the lighter weight and more maneuverability of the shorter weapon, the 5.56mm round, already questioned over its “stopping power”, loses a lot of steam when fired from the M4’s barrel.

Commander’s discretion will allow Marines previously issued M9s to continue to carry the pistols in addition to their new carbines.

Though additional training and qualification will be required initially, it seems to me that M4 training and qualifying will save time over the pistol option in the long run. Not to mention that the added capability the M4 brings when compared to the handgun will probably save lives.

Question: Why don’t they go with the collapsible stock on the M16? Wouldn’t that address at least some of the concern over weight and weapon length while keeping the better barrel?


  1. A folding stock on a full sized M16 would be better than a collapsing stock. As for the loss of stopping power when you put 5.56 through a shorter barrel I don’t know. I carried an M4 last push because I was a 240G gunner and while it was nice because its shorter and lighter, in my first fire fight I remember very distinctly thinking ‘God I wish I had my old A2 right now!’ And the reason for that is accuracy, the truth is that we found the M4 to be much less accurate with regular ball ammo – but when you put hollow points through it accuracy improves dramatically. Everyone in our company that had a M4 (16 of us) was issued one box of hollowpoints (20 rounds). Thats all we got and it didn’t last long.

  2. In all honesty, I think a ‘Dissipator’ configuration might be the best compromise. It doesn’t lose as much oomph out of a 16 inch or 18 inch barrel, you can rig it with a full length sight radius, and still mount optics and its almost as short as the M4…but hey what do I know. Actually something closer to the SCAR or the Magpul Masada would probably fit the bill even better with its folding/adjustable/telescoping stock and modular length…but again, just my talented amature status kicking in…

  3. The M4 has a 14 inch barrel I believe, and the M16 has a 22 inch (again I think). That is eight inches of length difference right there, and the collapsible stock only knocks off something like two and a half inches from total weapon length. For clearing a room, I would think it would still be too long. Maybe a compromise barrel length at eighteen inches or something, I dunno. You can’t really do a folding stock on the AR design because of the buffer tube assembly. It is a rigid part of the rifle and sticks out six inches or so from the back of the receiver, effectively limiting the collapsible stock length to same. Really, the whole M16 and M4 system isn’t great for clearing structures. A submachine gun like the MP5 is better for maneuverability but lacks penetration, as well as range for outdoor shooting. Its just one of those compromises you have to make when you buy one weapon to fill many rolls.

  4. (Smacks head) The buffer tube! Yeah I forgot about that. Although it would have been nice to have MP5s, for some reason we were blessed with plenty of Mossberg 590s – which are wonderful for clearing rooms that might have baddies. I’ll agree that the black rifles are good rifles, but I don’t know that anything is more effective at 8 feet than 00 buck except maybe a flame thrower… In any case the reason staff NCOs and officers are getting these rifles isn’t so they can be the first man in the stack, the M4 is lighter and more manageable than the M16A4. If they are actually engaging target it will most likely mean some very bad has happened and they’re gonna want more firepower than M9 can provide.

  5. The Shaw play ‘Arms and the Man’ goes on at great length about how useless pistols are in combat, and states that issuing them is sheer vanity. He was writing before US involvement in the Philippines brought out the Browning design, of course. As far as actual combat goes, he was spot on – but he didn’t know the first thing about soldiering; fighting is actually the last thing a soldier does. The traditional use for pistols, the reason why officers were usually allowed to keep them if their unit surrendered, wasn’t to shoot the enemy. It was to shoot their own men. As Montaigne observed, echoed by Frederick the Great, the secret of military discipline is that the soldiers should be more scared of their officers than of the enemy. (The version I first heard had ‘…of the sergeant’; continental European languages use the generic term ‘officer’ to include NCOs as well as commissioned officers.) The wikipedia article on conscription quotes Trotsky to the same effect, though at greater length. Anyhow, the question that arises from this news is, do those who ordered the change know this? Is the US army considered not to need this traditional back up, or have they simply not thought it through?

  6. The M16 has a 20′ barrel. The M4 has a 14.5′ barrel. All of the ‘Dissipator’ configured AR rifles I’ve seen were built on 16′ barrels (16′ being the minimum length allowable without paying the $200 NFA tax on Short Barreled Rifles) If I’m reading that right, are they saying Marine officers and senior NCOs were going around in combat carrying only pistols? Because that doesn’t sound right. Even as a staff officer (Army) as a LT and CPT, I carried either an M16A2 or M4, depending on what my unit had in the arms room. Even as a Bradley platoon leader I carried a rifle-the only pistols the company even had were for the CO, 1SG, supply sergeant, and armorer. The Canadians use a version of the M16 with a full length barrel and a collapsible stock, and I built my wife an AR in that configuration (she’s a foot shorter than me, so the collapsible stock lets us both shoot it). The long barrel still makes it awkward for room clearing (yes, I’ve done it in my own house, just to see) and nose heavy, a trait which would only get worse if you add stuff like tac-lights and PAQ-4s/PEQ-2s. If you want the velocity benefit of the longer barrel with the size of the M4, a bullpup is about the only way to go. And you still have the shorter sight radius using iron sights. Although almost all Army combat troops have CCOs now.

  7. In my experience, decent officers and NCO’s already carried a rifle and / or shotgun in the field if they could. My old company commander always had an M-16. My old gunnies had shotguns and / or M-14’s. In the Gulf, the guys stuck with an M-9 picked up and kept the first AK-47 they could get their hands on.

  8. Heartless Lib, I think the Marines’ reasoning was that an officer has many, many other things to be doing in combat and if he lets himself get into a rifle duel he’s narrowing his perceptual field and not leading his unit. This of course is really more a matter of training and stress inoculation (something that I think the USMC is good at). It’s true that when you get shot at you usually act first to shoot back before you think about what you really need to be doing. That’s why units rehearse actions in danger areas and actions on contact, as well as immediate action drills, so thoroughly. Even if the PL or CO’s main weapon is his RTO and his ability to maneuver his elements, he’s safer with a long gun if his HQ takes direct fire. He’s also better protected against snipers; every sniper on earth knows that the guy with the handgun and the radioman following him around is the one to shoot. So for a variety of reasons, this looks to me like a good move by the Marines. Now, IANAM, but I respect them; they’re good at what they do, and the officers are generally more intellectual than Army guys, too many of whom majored in football.

  9. Though additional training and qualification will be required initially, it seems to me that M4 training and qualifying will save time over the pistol option in the long run. Not to mention that the added capability the M4 brings when compared to the handgun will probably save lives.’ Negative. EVERY Marine is qualified on the M-16 and re-qualifies every year (unless exempted from yearly qual for whatever reason). There would be no additional training needed since the M-4 (for all intents and purposes) is the same weapon. I can’t see that the Corps would have a given Marine qualify with their M-16(A4) and then also qualify w/ their M-4 (as a replacement for their M-9). More than likely, for practicality, they’d only qualify w/ their M-4 since they wouldn’t carry both the M-4 and the M-16 (as opposed to the M-16 and M-9).