The M4/.223 debate continues

Aviation Week reports that last week the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, Brig. Gen. Mark Brown weighed in on the M4/.223 issue:

“I don’t think we need an unhealthy, discordant debate over the current carbine because I don’t think the current carbine is a long-lived solution anyway. However, the M4 carbine has been continuously improved. It has 68 substantial engineering design changes and about 380 total engineering design changes, so it’s become a modular system. It’s very accurate, it’s the most accurate of the carbines, it’s the lightest of the carbines, and it’s the shortest of the carbines. We’re very pleased with it, and we expect it to be the Army’s carbine of record, for a little while.”

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Pingback: The Future of the M4 Carbine « The History Man()

  • “it’s the most accurate of the carbines, it’s the lightest of the carbines, and it’s the shortest of the carbines”

    What he meant to add to that was “that we currently issue”.

    By way of comparison, the SA80 has an overall length of 30″ with a 20″ barrel. The M4 with a 14.5″ barrel is 33″. And I know which one is the more accurate.

    Wow. I like the way too that he brings up all the minor engineering changes to the platform as if these, in any way, can make up for the primary failing of the weapon- it’s calibre. No mention either of swapping over to a piston system- a simple change which would dramatically improve performance. Another of the weapon’s major failings.

    Great way to keep issuing an outmoded weapon to the troops at the tip of the spear.

  • You are right. I think when Colt’s contract expires (2009?) they will suddenly introduce a “revolutionary” piston system.

  • Morgan

    I used an M4 in Afghanistan and Iraq and an HK 416 upper on an M4 lower in Iraq.

    I had one malfunction with the M4 when I opted to go very, very light on the oil. I had no other problems with it.

    I only fired a little over four magazines out of the HK, aside from zeroing etc., and it never malfunctioned.

    I can’t compare accuracy because the HK barrel was a little over 10″. They carried about the same. It is easier to take apart an M4 because you don’t need any tools. You need a screwdriver for the HK, but I can’t believe that can’t be fixed.

    The M4 got a heck of lot dirtier in the upper receiver where it counted. So, while I didn’t have any problems, I am sure the HK would be more reliable.

    I’d go with the HK.

  • @ Morgan:

    Thanks for your comment. Its good to hear the experiences of someone in the field.

  • Jcamelo

    Morgan: You served in afghanistan?!? Well then hats off to you sai!

    BTW just cuz you served in afghanistan doesn’t mean I have to agree with you, because the M4A1 is probably one of my favourite guns, under only the G36c and MP5-Jv.

  • Jcamelo

    Oops I meant the MP5-J not MP5-Jv.

  • Miller


    You don’t have to agree with me. I wasn’t trying to achieve any high ground by stating I’d used the weapon(s) in combat.

    I brought it up because the testing referenced earlier in the string was done under conditions that were supposed to represent and extreme form of the conditions in southwest Asia. That simply makes my experience – under actual conditions – relevant to the debate.

    The most important characteristic of any weapon I would choose is reliability. While I can’t say I have absolute confidence that the AR-15 types of rifles will fire every time when you pull the trigger in any type of conditions, I can’t say my personal experience indicates to me that they are unreliable.

    I think these weapons jam most often because of a combination of bad magazines, dirty upper receivers and bolt carrier group and dirty ammunition.

    We had someone walk up to a checkpoint, manned by two men, and shoot and wound of the men. Our two men got off a total of three shots before both rifles jammed. The reason was because their magazines and ammunition were filthy.

    I conclude that what “they” say is right. If you take care of the weapon, it will take care of you.

    On the other hand, the bad guy was dead right there.

    But that is another debate, isn’t it?


  • Miller, thanks for your insight. Especially with your experience.

    Jcamelo, please do not write inflammatory statements on my blog. This blog is for discussion not arguments.

  • Miller

    Steve, I didn’t find Jcamelo’s comments inflamatory. I value his opinions, and I hope I hear more from him. But I can imagine that you, who deal with a lot of stuff every day, need to set your own standards.

    More interesting, I’d agree that there are “better” assault rifles out there. I own an M4 because I know how to use it, ammunition is easy to find and not that expensive, parts are available and so forth.

    Considering that, just imagine if you already owned a million of them together with all the stuff that goes with them. Would you just get rid of them because there is something “better”?

    Off hand, I can think of several reasons why you wouldn’t. You have huge inventories of ammunition and spare parts. You have a lot invested in training programs, appropriate ranges and experience. And, you have a lot of weapons that are still useful.

    I’d be interested to hear what others can come up with. And how much “better” does the replacement have to be before you do (oh, forgive me, I can’t help myself) pull the trigger on the change?