Update on the Army M4 Carbine-replacement competition.

Army Times has an update on the next-generation carbine competition. I still think it is all a farce. The fact that the M4 Carbine is not even competing, only confirms my suspicion.

[ Many thanks to Lance for emailing me the link. ]

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.


  • MrMaigo

    Why waste so much money testing so many AR15s?

  • SpudGun

    The last section of the article was the most interesting with regards to the winner giving up technical rights and allowing two other additional manufacturers to produce the chosen carbine.

    This is surely a win-win for Colt and FN – if the M4 wins then it’ll be business as usual and if a new design is chosen, they will, more then likely, be the two additional manufacturers.

    I know that a lot of the smaller manufacturers are pessimisstic about the validity of the trialling procedure, but there are always knock on effects from performing well. Case in point – the Beretta 92 / Sig 226 – both of which sold by the bucketload after reaching the finals of the pistol trials back in the day.

  • If you read closely, you’ll note that no Request for Proposal has been issued yet. Thus, no submissions have actually been made, nor has any testing begun. The only thing that they’ve done so far is issue a Request for Information.

  • I think the last line of the article is telling. I think the Army is sick of the proprietary TDP being part of the mil-spec so that anyone who bids has to pay Colt for the privilege.

  • Trango

    If that’s true, and it certainly looks like it is, what the heck is Remington going to do with ACR and all of the time and money spent getting it “Army” ready? The price tag is still a bit high for most standard LE agencies. Feds or Allied country maybe?

    P.S. this is the U.S. Army we are talking about. We won’t see a new infantry rifle platform for another couple of decades, if that…

  • New Hampshire State of Mind

    It’s a shame that we have a procurement process in which, when ever DoD bureaucracy collides with special interest politics the warriors on the ground get caught in the middle and losing end. Even though there are at-least half a dozen domestic and foreign arms manufactures who currently produce a much better rifle both in reliability, accuracy etc. (pick your favorite) This dysfunctional process extends to even body armor that isn’t the latest generation(L4+, L5) body armor that some European nations issue to their grunts (CIA does).

  • Lance

    I agree its a farce sine the Army is going to buy 12,000 M-4A1s this year plus 12,000 conversion kits threw a contract in the next three months this year. Next year 25,000 more M-4A1s and 65,000 more conversion kits will be bought next year. I don’t see the M-4 leaving since were buy brand new ones and alot of new conversion kits for it. Example: You didn’t see the Army in 1936 upgrade and buy thousands of M-1903s while developing and adopting the M-1 Grand.

    There is a new competition in a few months by the army for a new bolt carrier and piston conversion kit. It’ll be interesting to see what the industry makes to make the M-4 more durable.

    Another reason not to be too serious about the Individual carbine competition is that the Army already sabotaged the open caliber conditions in the contest. The test will use 5.56mm M-855A1 ball ammo or 7.62X51 M-80 ball only NO 6.8mm or 6.5mm will be allowed unless the comapny pays for it. Over the million rounds will be fired and that’s alot of money for any company period which most will avoid by making there weapons in 5.56mm or 7.62mm. If anything caliber is the first thing to change if the Army is serious about adopting a new weapon and 6.8mm and 6.5mm are the front runners by experts for that reason.

  • SoulTown

    Well, they did say the M4 is like a reigning champion… BTW, I figure the chances are slim, but if SR-16 wins, I’m gonna have a field day with the piston/op-rod worshipers.

  • Vitor

    Nice to see the SR-16 (representing DI system) and XCR.

  • jdun1911

    The US military wants something different than Stoner DI(AR15), Stone Piston(AR18), and kalashnikov(AK) that will suppress the AR15 in all categories, inexpensive, and fast to produce. I seriously doubt that will happen because small arms mechanical technology has hit a brick wall.

    Anyway every decade we have at least two carbine competitions and they all ended the same way. Nowhere near to justify the logistical nightmare that comes along by switching the main infantry rifle/carbine.

  • Nathaniel

    Just because the M4 is not competing does not mean they won’t be testing M4s. What I got from the article is just that bidders aren’t allowed to present M4 Carbines to the competition (which means Colt).

    However, the mandatory use of M855A1 looks to me to tilt the balance in favor of Colt, since they’ve had the specifications for longer.

  • Richard

    3 out of the 5 rifles look like M4 wannabe’s. From what I am seeing I would have to agree that we will not be getting a new rifle to replace the M4. Not only is the Army not serious but it looks like the manufactures are not serious as well. Why replace an M4 with another version of itself. I think that the manufactures are just as much in the wrong as the Army is on this whole thing. At least FN and Remington have something that at least looks a little different.

  • The problem is in the details. Back when Congress supported Colt, (the ACR competition in the 80’s) they told the army 50% better than the M-16.

    10% better gets you a good mention

    20% a promotion

    30% there are trophies for that.

    50% better, you are a god among your fellow engineers, your design enters into textbooks.

    The leadership may try to set the bar so high that nothing can win…

  • Vitor


    It seems the Remington ACR for law enforcement and military is 1500 bucks.



  • Druid

    Following these various threads on M-16 vs M-4 vs etc. it becomes apparent that while there is always a better weapon for whatever mission is at hand the forest cannot be seen for the tree right in front of us – the 5.56 M-16 / M-4 is kinda mediocre as any kind of firearm (but a damn fine for varmits).

    Think of the gladius, a crappy little sword, nothing more than a dirk or big bowie knife. Sure, a rapier, cutlass, great sword, battle axe, katana were better for almost any imaginable scenario…

    But the gladius was part of a system of which the little pig sticker was icing on the cake.

    The 5.56 M-16 / M-4 is the same sort as the gladius – and the powers that be are beginning to recognize that combined arms are not quite what they were intended or used to be or that the ROE are not what they should be…

  • iMick

    I feel the the current trend of replacing compactness for lethality with current traditional 5.56 platforms is more of the issue than the merits of DI vs Piston etc.

    I wish the yank aversion to bullpups would subside enough to allow one into a competition like this, if just to see the results. Not debating the merits of the two platforms but simply on the fact that if you stick with 5.56, it is arguably only proven most effective when launched from a 16-20″+ barrel, which to me says the best comprise on the 5.56 would a bullpup based solely on lethality. Regardless of its pluses/minuses its hard to argue against the bullpup is the most efficient 5.56 platform based solely on the 5.56 cartridge and compactness (which doesn’t necessarily equal handling). Remember, 5.56 and a more compact weapon were the primary design tenets of the M4.

    Then again a cartridge change would make all this moot 🙂 6-6.5mm FTW!

  • Lance

    Don’t forget too that the test the army is making for any new weapon seems less to a rifle test more automatic sustained fire. Like the Marines with the IAR. Bet the top shoot will be heavy barreled IAR type weapons like the M-6A4 and the H&K 416 with barrels can sustain high rate of automatic fire as well.

  • Lance

    Ohh the only thing I think that can start a full rilfe carbine replacement like most of the historical changes in the army is a new caliber. Like when we went from 45-70 to 30-40 Kreg we switched rilfes, same as we went from 30-40 Kreg to 3006. Only with 3006 we switched rifles with the same caliber M-1903 to M-1, but that was due to a huge technological leap from bolt action to semi-automatic. Then we went to 7.62mm then to verious 5.56mm weapons now. Since we (USA and NATO) still use select fire asssult rilfes in 5.56mm now there is little tech leap to warrent new platform. A change in caliber is the only way to get a new platform. Agree Jdun1911??

    The LSAT program is the only real design which in the long run replace our 5.56mm weapons with either teliscopic or careless ammo, but thats still over 10 years away from perfection.

  • Nadnerbus

    As far as price tags go, I think any company that got a commitment for an order in the tens of thousands to hundred thousand plus for their carbine could find a way to amortize the costs out and get the unit price down to the 1300 to 1500 dollar range.

    If caliber modularity is a backdoor requirement for this, the SCAR and ACR have a huge lead. I know no one in the military has even hinted at moving away from 5.56, but everyone familiar with the argument knows that a different caliber is the single biggest thing you can do to increase the effectiveness of the weapon. Both the afore mentioned can be switched over relatively easily if the brass ever decides to finally make the damn change.

    It’s a long shot, I know, but there might be more to this than meets the eye.

  • Lance

    Sorry but theres a cash punishment of buying none 5.56mm for any company who makes a none 5.56mm weapon. Col Tamilo said also they wont be looking for a multi barrel system though it will not be counted down if a design had one just a 14.5 or 16 inch barrel will be used perminetly. I think the Army just bought a new 5.56mm M-855A1 round It wont go aaway anytime soon. I dont see 5.56mm going away especially do to this. But you are right if any new caliber is selected then a real new comer will be seen.

  • jdun1911

    I do agree that new type of ammunition do drive the US military to adopt new infantry rifle/carbine that chamber it.

  • Brandon

    Glad to see KAC and LWRC on the list, but I don’t know if they’ll get a fair shot. The Marines excluded everyone except Colt, FN and HK for the IAR competition (if I remember correctly)
    Looking forward to seeing what Colt throws in the mix, but the Request for Proposal hasn’t even been put out. Will they require the electronic round counter they want on the improved M4 program? Considering the Joint Combat Pistol asked for a pistol that didn’t exist at the time and then canceled it a few months later makes me think this is moot anyhow.

  • charles222

    LWRC’s rifle for the IAR comp got nixed because it was a piece of junk that started falling apart.

    The FN IAR was nixed because of ergonomics issues and probably the price of replacement parts-the SCAR was turned down by the Rangers because of how pricey spare parts were.

  • jdun1911

    KAC is one of the supplier for the military. They are not underdog by far. They make a crap load of money out of the US military.

  • IBoloIII1

    Its no secret that the politicians who make the final call on new systems dont actually care about providing soldiers with the best possible weapon; just a passable one that keeps Colt and FN happy and keeps the public from criticizing the government for providing us with shoddy weapons that get US soldiers killed.

    Solution: the Barrett REC7. Its got all top of the line features (piston os, free floating barrel, 6.8 caliber) plus its msrp of 2519.99 can be cut in half by bulk ordering and only buying upper recievers because they are already compatible with M4 lowers that the army has plenty of. Best of all, since Barrett has only a limited production capability, its a win-win to outsource to Colt and FN.

    While the we probably wont see a jump to a better caliber for another two decades or so, im still hoping that the military will take a look and notice how much better of a weapon system could be fielded with a minimal amount of effort and cost. Does anyone else agree or am i just an idealist?

  • charles222

    It’s pretty debatable that a piston in an AR is a “top of the line” design feature. If it’s decided a piston is a must, I’d say the ACR or SCAR are the primary frontrunners.

  • i see what you did there

  • Lance

    I really doubt a multi barrel rifle will be adopted, the ARmy said it wont be needed so FN and remington will not be the front runners!! I think the M-4 upgrade will make a fine new carbine for the Army.

  • charles222

    Same here, Lance. I’ve carried an M4 for almost eight years now; the basic internals and ballistics are fine-it could be make more user-friendly, though.

    I’m not sure why the full-automatic feature is abruptly being introduced. The basic combat load isn’t enough to really make that all that useful, so unless the Army changes the basic combat load to about twice the number of mags I really don’t see the full-auto feature being particularly heavily used.

    The biggest things are ambidextrous controls, a more beatup-able buttstock, and a better rail system-I’ve noticed that the lower rail handguard can have a tendency to shift around, which isn’t all that great.

  • charles222

    As for the ACR if it’s cut out of the competition-*shrugs*. All HK sold militarily for years was the G-3 and MG-3, and the MP-5; it didn’t stop them from having a pretty extensive line of rifles that didn’t see huge contracts.

    The ACR’ll become a niche weapon that sees users here and there, like the Ultimax, IMO.

    And if it doesn’t, Remington’ll just stop making it. :p

  • charles222

    Guh, post # 3. The “yank aversion to bullpups” is actually more a world-wide aversion to bullpups. The SA-80’s been a miserable failure; the AUG has also had a less than enthusiastic response from the Australians, who’re replacing it with the M4. The Chinese have one, the Israelis have one, and the French have one. Annnnd…they’re about it. The majority of NATO/former Warsaw Pact nations have stuck with the conventional layout; so has the majority of the planet’s militaries. We even played around with the bullpup concept during the ACR program and that ultimately turned out to be a waste of time and money. And again with the OICW program; that ultimately went nowhere besides a splitting of the designs-one of which will be a bullpup, but it’s a grenade launcher.

    Bullpup is for people who want to look cool, not be tactically effective. Kindly explain to me what a left-handed firer-or worse yet, a right-handed firer who has to switch to non-dominant-side firing in the middle of a firefight-is supposed to do.

  • Daniel

    Charles, I’d say use a cartidge deflector.

    Think the TAR co-design, the SAR-21 deflects the cartridges at a high angle forward, there was a clip on youtube, SAR21 shoot, that showed the cartridges being kicked out at a high angle to the front.

    Of course, the fact that is IS that close to the face being fired left side means that people will always worry. Hell, I would worry too, but if push comes to shove, I think I might chance a left hand shoot with a system like that.

    BTW, think a bullpup IS tactically effective, especially as seeing the barrel length has a chance to get up to spec instead of being an over chopped down length that the round can’t work at max effectiveness.

  • charles222

    That’s why you develop a new loading that’s effective out of the barrel. Like, you know, MK 318 SOST or M855A1, both of which are optimized for shorter-barreled weapons.

  • Chad

    Someone ought to submit a 6.5 platform and supply the ammo. It is the only way to score a “knock out blow”. You automatically win in accuracy, range, and lethality.

  • Some Guy

    The Army just needs to step up to the plate is all. Their willing to spend 25,000 dollar on 12,500 XM25’s, for a total of 312,500,000 dollars. Their willing to upgrade their 150,000 dollar HumVEE’s to 750,000 dollar MRAPS. Every Stryker is a million dollars, every M1 Abrams is 4-6 million dollars, and every Apache is 18 million dollars.

    But God Forbid they double the price of the cheapest weapon in their entire arsenal. Let’s just say it’s 1000 dollars.

    If EVERY single unit in the Entire Army was issued a new Carbine/Rifle, for 2000 dollars a pop, or 1.112 million people, it would cost the military roughly 2 billion dollars. Sounds expensive, but a million new rifles is roughly the equivalent to 110 Apache Helicopters.

    The thing is, that, only around 250,000 of these units are combat troops, and even less than that are actually infantry, let alone actually fighting. And just like the M-4, only the main combat units need to be issued the front line, highest grade weapon.

    It would be half a billion dollars to get all of our main combat troops armed with this weapon. Because our main strategy is to use rangers, cavalry, mechanized units, Special forces etc., or basically highly trained units over mass military invasions…

    It would basically cost less than 25 Apache helicopters to get a new 2000 dollar carbine/assault rifle fielded to all of our combat units.

    But how about we be even more reasonable.

    So, there are two grenadiers per squad, with a total of 9 units per army squad. The Army plans to purchase 12,500 XM25’s. There are also two SAW units per squad. That means that, for every XM25 the Army purchases, 2.5 units will need an assault rifle or carbine. If it’s 2000 dollars per rifle, than, you need 2.5 times as many rifles as XM25’s, so, you would need roughly 31,250 new rifles. This would be roughly 62,500,000 dollars. Pretty expensive, but considering that that’s the price of roughly 4 Apache helicopters, and roughly 1/5 the price of an XM25 (that is, 2.5 rifles), it would hardly make a dent in the military’s budget.

    12,500 x 4.5 = 56,250, so we can estimate that there are approximately 56,250 combat infantry; or at least, 56,250 spots that need to be filled. Maybe around 40,000 combat infantry.

    But let’s assume that there is a need for 100,000 rifles; possibly for training, possibly for replacements, possibly for use with our friends in other nations and in the Iraq army (oh yeah, Iraq Army = our army now mmhmm. :P). That would be still only be 200,000 million dollars, compared to the price of XM25’s, which is more than that for roughly 12,500 weapon, and compared to tanks and whatnot…

    The point is, if we’re willing to spend millions upon millions of dollars for lots of other weaponry, why is our least expensive, and most widely distributed primary weapon not up the same standards that the rest of our weapons are? It would be relatively inexpensive to give our soldiers the best/an amazing infantry weapon, yet it would have a massive, profound effect (110 Apache helicopters compared to 1 million infantry…) when compared to the smaller levels of vehicles and various technology advances.

    How can we not have enough funding for our primary weapon, when it’s less expensive than a few dozen of our side weapons, and it would increase our efficiency, by possibly several times that of our current standing, on a scale that’s not in the hundreds, but in the tens of thousands?

    It just doesn’t make any sense.

    IMO, adopting any of the newer rifles, at complete random, would produce such an advancement in efficiency that hardly any competition needs to be administered. It’s basically down the HK416, or Mk. 16; both of which are pretty amazing weapons. If the XM8 is improved upon (Like I know it can be, and like I know it has been) correctly, such as adding a forward assist, a better collapsible stock, removing the integrated scope, given picanty rails, and made to fit STANAG applications…

    It might just be one of the best assault rifles in the world.

    And here’s the thing- HK416’s and Mk. 16’s are being offered for the same price as M16’s and M4’s to the military- roughly 1000 dollars- yet they are vastly better. Why not just adopt and use one?

    Money isn’t an issue, and the logistics are relatively easy to get over, so the real question is, why aren’t we doing it?

  • Lance


    You just got it wrong about the price the HK 416 and Mk16 are vasly more expensive by $500 to $1000 more and the fact these upgrade programs for other Army weapons are being cut out from spending for the army since the DOD is being slashed in there budget over half. The Mk-16 have many problems with poor parts and the Mk17 have been going threw updates since they break in the feild. The fact is they both dont really a offer a massive improvement over the M-4 they are .22cal peashooters and tghe M-4 is just as accurate as they are. You have to clean them more often but any solder should clean his wepon as much as possible. So the M-4 isnt going away sorry.

  • Logan

    @ lance

    So realistically your saying we will use the m4 for 30-40 more years?

    What is the primary rifle of the
    Air force

    And how many more years will they use that rifle

  • Gijoe

    The rifle will be a 7.62 . I would bet my right arm on it. Or a ACR or SCAR type rifle. Fighting in Afghanistan at very long distances has caused many problems and I am now carrying two weapons on patrols , my M4 and a Enhanced M14 with a collapsing stock so I can engage the enemy at distances. We will have Scar 17(Mk17) rifles for all frontline troops by august I heard but it’s only a rumor. Hope so !! We need it!

    • kylelee105

      they are testing hk416 uppers on m4 lowers so it will be a 5.56 and what are you talkign about a 7.62 has waaay too much drop at long distances

  • Lance

    Sorry GIJoe BUT the competition will be a 5.56mm weapon the army rigged it to shoot M-855A1 ball only. And the fact is no one using SCARs So thank fully your rumors might be wrong. With the budget getting cut even a 5.56mm replacement looks to be a sterch.

    DSOnt believe every rumor you hear.