More talk about a new assault rifle

Army Starts Down Path of M4 Replacement


The Army recently issued a solicitation to industry asking for a view of what’s out there to replace or refine the M4 carbine and M16 rifle.

The solicitation, issued Aug. 22 by Program Manager Soldier Weapons through PEO Soldier, asks industry for their ideas on “the enhanced carbine and subcompact small arms technology.” The solicitation asks for industry to look specifically at performance and production capacity at this point — ignoring the main gripe about the M4’s susceptibility to jam due to its gas operated system.

It notes that calibers other than 5.56 are allowed, and it also notes a “subcompact” weapon when asking for production rate info on submissions.

Of course, the XM8 might be worth revisiting. The HK416 is probably going to get some attention, as well. And the Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) will certainly be in the running. The latter two are already in use with US Special Forces.

Here’s a picture of Murdoc with a Mk16 SCAR-L at this past spring’s SHOT Show:


All three of these rifles waxed the M4 in dust chamber testing late last year. Not long after this test, the Army announced that it was looking at a number of M4 carbine upgrades, including a better magazine. I haven’t heard anything more on this since then.

UPDATE: Meant to mention that, as far as a subcompact personal defense weapon goes, you could do a lot worse than the TDI – KRISS Vector. .45 and virtually no felt recoil. What’s not to like? (Pic of short-barrel version here.)

Besides, you could then argue that a .45 SMG means 9mm pistols have to go to remove 9mm ammo from the logistics line. Win – win.


  1. Maybe someone could contribute a Magpul Msada for testing as well.
    The thought occurs to me that while we regularly compete for accuracy, we do not have similar competitions for adverse condition reliability.

  2. I will post what I posted in the defensetech blog:

    m a big fan of the Magpul PDR. Its a bullpup rifle, and the guys from Magpul seem to solve most limitation of bullpup, like easy changing of the ejection port and such.

    Put a 16.5″ barrel on it with a 6.5mm grendel and you will have still shorter than a M4 that can easily do the job at 800 yards.

    But frankly, I know what will happen. They wont find the project “revolutionary” enough, and will renew their deal with Colt…*sigh*

  3. Go with the HK 416 but in 6.8 mm. This combination won’t be expensive and it will take care of business !

  4. How about we just announce its Army looking for a new rifle month and have generals go down main street throwing out hundred dollar bills. Say about 50 million worth. Then announce that M4 is a world class rifle, Senator Dodd threatens the army and Colt demands an exclusivity deal…

    Oh sorry, that already happened…

    Lets just say, that I think its more likely that Cubs wins the world series then the army picking a new rifle.

  5. Well the XM8 almost got past the nonsense into service so it could be possible.

    Anyway the Magpul PDR could be useful for vehicle crews but I doubt it could be effective as our main assault rifle. Generally the Army does not like bullpup designs anyway, and unless such a bullpup design included a major leap in technology I doubt one could enter service.

    Right now I think we should adopt an improved version of an existing design using ammunition in the 6mm range, probably the 6.8x43mm SPC. Meanwhile we can continue looking into caseless, telescoping, and flechette ammuntion. If we decide to switch we can use the LSAT program as a starting point for such an assault rifle. Advanced recoil control systems such as those on the German G11 and Russian AN-94 should also be looked at.

    And then someday we can get to gauss rifles, railguns, and lasers!

  6. Here we go again – feels like 2004. Take it from a guy who has fired them all (evaluator at Blackwater among other places) and been neck-deep in the carbine wars too recently for my own good: there isn’t anything on the market today with enough demonstrated improvement over the M4 to be worth the $2B investment it would take to re-gun the Army. If we want to improve the troops’ chances in this fight, that money is better spent on MRAPs, counter-IED tech, and soft-side non-lethals. Changing our rifle won’t impact the outcome of either of our wars one iota, though it will make politicians and manufacturers feel good.

    Dust test … misleading. Total failures mean little in isolation, especially given that the weapons were cleaned every few hundred rounds. What was the distribution of the failures? A weapon that malfunctions a few times early in the cycle is actually worse than one that malfunctions little early and a lot late, for example. And you don’t pick a weapon based on one test, particularly one that severe. Ever seen a dust test? Uses more dust, finer, than the worst Saudi shamal. Challenging, but not operationally representative.

    XM8 … outperformed by M4 in side-by-side testing pretty much everywhere but the dust test. Failed DT (twice). Government doesn’t even own the rights – sure you want a re-skinned G36?

    HK416 … good weapon, and a logical extension of the M4 platform. But is the juice worth the squeeze? Spend $2B for a PIP’d M4? Why not spend half that and just PIP the M4?

    SCAR … also a good weapon, but the same question as the 416. And SOCOM continues to have teething problems in development from what I hear.

    All of the above shoot the same bullet … does change the gun and leave the ammo the same make sense? And for the 6.8 (or other caliber) fans out there … what about the industrialization cost of that ammo swap? We make about 1B rounds of 5.56mm a year just at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant alone. What’s it cost, and how long does it take, to switch the plant over and ramp up? Gotta factor that into the equation. Then there’s the new LMG you need to maintain some form of squad commonality (or are we going to change the carbine caliber and keep the SAW?). How many 6.8mm LMGs have you seen lately? And what do they weigh, given how overloaded the SAW gunner already is?

    And the KRISS .45 … what are you smoking? It’s an answer to a requirement no one has, unless it’s a firefight in a phone booth. Those compact weapons need more range that you’ll get out of a pistol round – and the KRISS “recoil reduction” technology is nothing to speak of. I fired both early prototypes and later models, with no recoil reduction to write home about.

    The government will regain the M4 rights from Colt 2009 (the result of a lawsuit the government lost when it accidentally passed on some Colt proprietary technology to a third party). At that point, PIP the M4 and compete the production – when they did that with the M16A4, FN won and the price dropped to half that of an M4.

    I desperately hope something good comes of all this, but right now it looks like the same stuff recycled for political and economic reasons, and not for what is in the best interests of the soldier.

  7. I’d say it’s worth spending a few billion dollars even if the new guns are only say 5% better than the old ones. The US government wastes a lot more money than that on projects with a lot worse payoffs. I’m sure there are other places the money could be spent but when the rubber hits the road it’s the individual riflemen who are the tip of the spear. Enhance their performance even a bit and you enhance the army’s performance as a whole, and the army costs a whole lot of money to keep operational. It seems like it would be worth it to me.

  8. 5%? How are you measuring “better” in a repeatable, reliable way that translates to increased operational effectiveness? Given off-the-shelf technologies, which is all you’ll get under the current solicitation, the differences are likely to be none — statistical equivalence in performance.

    Don’t forget that for 99.99% of the troops (a subset of SOF operators being the exception — but you don’t given the whole Army new weapons so the elite of the elite can perform better), the currently fielded weapon and ammo are already far more capable than the soldier. Doesn’t much help to put a 1 MOA gun in the hands of a 10 MOA trooper. Those same billions invested in improved training (techniques, support, facilities, ammo, time) may be a far more measurable improvement.

  9. Frankly, was the M14 a big improvement over the M1? Basically the same weight, power. The only major difference was the mag capacity jumping from 8 to 20. It would be easier to create a 20 mag for the Garand…
    We all know that in the realm of guns, changes are very gradual and mostly fine tuning. In that sense, a gas piston that can easily double the reliability of the gun, and also allows it to be shot even if the receiver is under water is quite a big step forward.

    10 MOA troops…right, so an AK-47 accuracy would be more than overkill for them, why sticking with those fancy and expensive M4s?

    Im a big fan of the 6.5 grendel. But I know there is a lot that can be done on the 5.56, but we still keep on hearing the same bullocks, “the M885 is good enough”. But yeah, in the end I believe that both SCAR and HK416 are worth. Or even the Colt M5, or simply a gas piston conversion in the current guns.

  10. One big problem with the SCAR, logistically is that it doesn’t use parts in common with any other current platform. At least the ACR/Masada (American made, don’t let the name fool you) concedes to using the same bolt pattern (minus gas system cutouts so that its more robust), barrel, and trigger components, with improvements to lighten it up, and make it more robust/reliable (gas piston, light weight polymer construction with metal rails for the bolt carrier and quick change barrel lock up). Its evolutionary, not revolutionary. The 416 and the M5 are also evolutionary, just not as far evolved. They still have some of the weaknesses of the M4/M16 that the ACR was designed to overcome, however they would be a good step in the right direction, and still use existing or modifications/upgrades of existing components.
    One other benefit to the ACR platform is the ease of converting it to another caliber should the military decide to ditch the 5.56 (doubtful, I know, but one can hope). Not only can it be converted by a simple bolt and barrel swap (done without tools) but it can also be fitted with different mag wells for use with non AR pattern magazines. There is also 7.62×51 Battlerifle version in the works, which SHOULD be compatable with “AR-10” pattern barrels (just add the bolt on piston). BOTH designs get rid of the AR buffer tube, unlike the HK and Colt offerings.
    Who knows, maybe Bushmaster has been delaying the ACR so that they have the “testing” rifles ready for the Army in time for this little frakus.

  11. Those gunpundit links are dead at the moment.

    For what it’s worth, apart from being heavier than is usual these days, it strikes me that the French got it just about right years ago with the FAMAS. I’ve sometimes wondered if it would be practical to rework its delayed blowback system with the Remington 51’s hesitation lock system, i.e. make it lighter and hopefully not compromise its reliability etc. (we have phosphor bronze now, so metal fatigue wouldn’t be so important). Maybe with the Owens gun’s inverted magazine…

  12. Ah, I’ve always been a fan of the FAMAS…btw, any belive this new rifle would have a chance of being bullpup? I mean, if people had courage to try diret impingiment back then, why not bullpup that actually makes sense?

  13. Remember the good old days when posters on Murdoc would get all fired up over the M16/4 and the XM8? I fear that time has not been kind to our optimism.

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