Change of USMC attitude towards carbines

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Dan Lamothe at Marine Times reports that Marine command are keeping an eye on the Armys carbine competition …

Marine officials still plan the service’s infantry weapons around the 5.56mm M16A4 service rifle, but “that doesn’t mean we can’t be getting smart” about other options, said Lt. Col. Mark Brinkman, head of the infantry weapons program at Quantico, Va.-based Marine Corps Systems Command.

“The thought process for us is very similar to what’s going on in the Army,” he said Feb. 1 at the Soldier Technology U.S. conference in Arlington, Va.

More here.

Marine with M16A4

Last year the now retired Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, stated that the Marine Corps would always be using a rifle and would not switch to a carbine. I wrote that this attitude was incredibly shortsighted. It sounds like the new Commandant, Gen. James F. Amos, has a healthier attitude towards firearm innovation.




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.


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  • William C.

    Personally I see nothing wrong with the Marines attitude of sticking with full length rifles for the most part. As a largely infantry-focused force that extra reach could be useful. There is certainly room for some carbines in their inventory however.

    I just wish they had gone back to full-auto instead of the rather unpopular three round burst when they switched to the M16A4. The Army should have done the same when they moved to M4 carbines too.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a M16A5, but they might as well start to transition to a new weapon system for that money.

  • charles222

    The M16A4 sucks big-time in one key area: Adjusting to different soldier sizes when body armor is being worn (which is, you know, all the time now.) The fixed stock doesn’t do you any favors if you’re short or just happen to have shorter arms than most. All the added muzzle velocity in the world won’t help you if you can’t get a steady position on the weapon.

  • DJ

    Haha, let the Army spend all the money to do the testing and then pick from their results…

  • http://www.newpacificinstitute.org/jsw Kyle Mizokami

    In a related vein, General Amos spoke in San Francisco Tuesday evening and the subject of the IAR came up. Amos sounded like he was a big fan of it and said he was an aviator who was able to quickly put rounds in a circle the size of a pie plate at 500m. He also said four battalions were fielding it in Afghanistan, that it was a potential replacement for the M249…and for the M16 as well. That caused a stir. I’m guessing it wouldn’t replace every M16, maybe one per fire team.

  • Lance

    I still think they will use M-16A4s over any Carbine the Army chooses. The A4 has better track record in the feild than the M-4. And with BIG budget cuts coming I doubt the Army will replace any M-4 overnight.

  • Lance

    Gen Amos also stated he liked the M-27 could the Corps just adopt the 416 who knows.

  • Laftrick

    20 inch barrels are carbines.

    Unless they significantly improve propellants, going shorter significantly degrades performance, particularly with heavier bullets.

    Designing a new rifle system for the war you are currently fighting gives a 50-50 chance it will suck for the next war. With the current platform, if the barrel is too long just have new barrels fitted by armorers.

    Frankly you have a hard time convincing me that 4″ of barrel is going to make that much difference in the usefulness of the weapon.

  • Rohan

    M16 replacement competition Mark 20. Another waste of money to find a non-replacement for the M16 family.

    When will the US Military break the hold Colt has and buy a new weapon AND a new caliber.

  • snmp

    5.56/223 with short barrel have the same tactical accurancy than 7,62Tok in PPSH41 or .30 in M1 carbine.

  • Colin

    They should just adopt a bullpup, say, Kel-tec’s 556 RFB thats in development (Steve any word on that project?).

    All the issues people have with bullpups (e.g. rails, ambi this or that), have been solved on different rifles. It just needs a company to put it all together in one package…

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Colin, no word on that.

  • http://thetruthaboutguns.com Foghorn

    Speaking of shortsighted ammunition decisions, it’s a little known fact that the ranges at Marine Corps Base Quantico forbid the following calibers of ammunition unless under direct supervision of the Weapons Training Battalion:

    – 5.45×39
    – 7.62×25
    – 7.62×39
    – 7.62×45
    – 7.62x54r
    – 9×18

    Hmm… What do all these calibers have in common… I wonder…

  • CFLASH

    I recall in the earlier m-16 v m-4 debate, Conway mentioned the “melee value” (i.e. value as a cudgel) of a full-size rifle on the battlefield. I remember as a young officer when we transitioned from the 1911 to the 92-F there were a number of older Marines who lamented that the pistol whipping value of the Beretta was poor compared to the 1911. The alloy frames tended to crack when used in “non-ballistic scenarios”. I like that the Marines still consider the ass-beating characteristics of a weapon.

  • http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ Tony Williams

    I’m not at all sure that the carbine would be an improvement over the rifle: you get a shorter effective range, which is not at all what’s currently needed in Afghanistan.

    Of course, if the Marines are going to be carrying a goodly number of 7.62mm rifles and MGs as a matter of routine, so the 5.56mm guns are only needed for close-range work, that would be different.

    Interesting that the Army is planning to upgrade the M4 by giving it a heavier barrel and an auto switch rather than the 3-round burst, thereby making it much like the Marine’s M27 IAR….

  • Caseless

    The Marine Corps really should put out their own requirements for a new carbine. e.g. ambidextrous bullpup with 20″+ barrel length.

  • El Duderino

    “Every Marine is a, err, carbineman?”

    Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    I don’t like the trend, but I’ve been out for 10 years. The M16A2 was my friend, I find now that while carbines are fun to shoot they aren’t necessarily more effective.

  • Lance

    I just wrote to one of the articles authors and I got a email back say the USMC is NOT repeat NOT replacing the M-16A4 and the articles main attempt is to tell the USMC may go with other carbine or go with the Army’s improved M-4 to replace or augment the current USMC M-4s. So this ain’t BIG BIG news nothing is changing too much for at least several years.

  • slntax

    ugh why is it one or the other? doesnt anyone believe in right tool for the right job?

  • Lance

    Spending cuts, I dont see replacement being affordible after the President slahes the budget.

  • charles222

    The A4 has better track record in the feild than the M-4.

    Calling bullshit on this one. The A4 was vanishing from the Army by the time of the invasion of Iraq-the only combat arms soldiers even still carrying it were lower-priority soldiers in mech units; the entire 18th ABN Corps besides 3rd ID had the M4. That same 18th Abn Corps that provided virtually all of the conventional-forces muscle for the vast majority of the current war in Afghanistan.

    Furthermore, I’ve carried an M4 on literally hundreds of combat missions and patrols. I’ve also known dozens of fellow soldiers who carry one. They’re all pretty damn happy with it.

    But don’t let your MW2 experience be overshadowed by a 90% approval rating given by literally hundreds of thousands of deployed soldiers, you go on and talk about how horrible a weapon the M4 is.

    As a side note, just about any Military Times newspaper, be it Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Navy Times, is about a step up from reading tabloids and believing them. They’re typically full of crap that’s not true, and I’d agree that the A4 probably isn’t leaving the Naval Infantry arsenal any time soon.

  • SoulTown

    @ snmp

    Can you back it up? I am also not sure about the term “tactical accuracy.”

  • Dano

    There’s really no argument here. The only complaint current Marines have with their M16A4’s is the LOP on the traditional POS A2 stock. Most civy shooters prefer the adjustable carbine stock to fit body size, the Corps needs to replace the A2 stock with something just as accommodating. The Canadians found a good compromise with a 20″ upper and retractable lower.

    WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR OUR MILITARY BRASS TO UNDERSTAND?

    Whoever stated that missing 4″s of a 5.56 barrel is trivial needs to do more terminal ballistic studying.

  • snmp

    @SoulTown

    The effective range of accurancy for a size of human target for regular (average) soldier.

    Carbine M1/2 & PPSH41 that’s around 200 meters, the M4A1 is not far
    of this range

  • Jim S

    @charles222:
    On MW2, my favorite weapon was the M4. Until I unlocked the FAL mind you. Level 28 could not come fast enough :D

    Mind you that they are also spending time clearing buildings and getting in and our of vehicles. As much as I LOVE a full sized battle rifle, there is a practical issue to be dealt with too.

    I would like to see them go with M4 carbines with a sprinkling of DMRs (semi-auto .308 with some pretty glass on top, preferably with ACOG written on the side) to deal with threats beyond the normal capabilities of the .223/M4.

  • charles222

    …Which is exactly what we do now. ;) Furthermore, the Army is shifting more and more towards the ACOG as standard glass instead of the 68 due to small-unit buys with commander funds; this effectively makes 300 metres easy and 400 meters not out of the question.

    Your “average” Army soldier who actually shoots for a living (aka the infantry) does not consider 300 meters particularly demanding-as an example, the M240/M249 ranges typically *start* at 300 meters and go all the way to 800. Machine gunners are not known for getting to follow the four fundamentals of firing once they actually start shooting (that would be me three or so years ago :p) and I’ve never known anybody who couldn’t achieve an adequate score with a functioning range.

  • Lance

    @ Jim S the Army is buying 7.62×51 rifles IE M-110 and are upgradeing M-14s from standerd to EBR status.

    @Charles222 I agree with you theres alot of hype and seculation on what the Military is doing most of this goes nowhere there have been 4-5 attempts in the past to replace the stoner system by advanced piston guns the ARC program in 1989-90 was a BIG one and the Military choose the M-4 and many say the same since the Army program is rigged to 5.56mm again and that the Army is also building new and better M-4s with new gadgits on them. It will take a caliber change to change platforms.

    Several members here and some Military times editiors I wrote to say the same thing. This is all hype lie any major weapons program dose. IE XB-70, XM-8, XAH-56, and the pre M-1 tank the failed XB-70 MBT. They all had hype and got nowear.

    In a era of vastly shrinking budgets even Remingtons VP said he really doubts that any new design will win and he has Remington ready to win contract to win makeing M-4A1 for future use.

    Agree Charles222 and Jdun1911?

  • jdun1911

    charles222,

    Yes the A2 does suck when wearing body armor. The last time I heard the Marines is thinking about replacing the A2 with Vltor A5 stock.

  • dnaples

    just read an article on how the M4 had failed in several of areas it was tested in .even after it was modified it still was not a reliable weapon.think it is about time the military went in a different direction. H&K and FN?

  • SoulTown

    @ snmp

    Well, I find that extremely hard to believe. As far as I know, the acceptance criteria for M4 is 5 MOA. Not impressive, but a human sized target at 200 meters? You need to start backing things up, mate.

  • Chris

    @snmp

    Except for the fact that average soldiers regularly hit 300m targets using M4s at qualification ranges all over the world.

  • http://annarborgunguys.blogspot.com Kasey Thompson

    The range of a M4A1 is 200m, wha? I’m not even sure why you’re talking about the A1 model though.

    A M4, of any sorts, can hit targets reliably out past 500m with a proficient user – to which 99% of our military is.

    The real benifit of the M16A4 is the extra 5.5” of barrel which produces around a plus 150-200 feet per second. Ballistically speaking that could be a little or a lot depending on range of the shot and type of target.

    The down side of the M16A4 is also that extra 5.5” and the A2 style stock. As someone said before me, the A2 doesn’t lend well for different size/types of people and wearing body armor. Its a well known fact that the A2 was crafted to be used to be fired in a bladed stance, opening up the weak spot – an exposed/non SAPI protected armpit/side. The Canadians realized this and crafted the C7A2 which is their 20” rifle with a M4 style collapsible stock. Silly looking, perhaps. Effective for its purpose – you betcha.

  • AnointedSword

    I am all for Research and development. I do agree with some of you that we do need a bigger round on hand in our teams. I do believe most can still use the 5.56 round (still hard to beat for most duties) though. The bottom line is our training has to be good no matter what size the bullet. If we have guys that are cracking under pressure and not hitting targets…that is a much bigger problem than a bigger or smaller bullet. With that said, I would rather the military use the 5.56 over a 308 if it means more training for our guys. For example, I remember reading a Rogue Warrior book and Dick Marcinko said that the first year he trained his team (Seal Team), they shot more ammo than the rest of the Navy for that year. Training is vital, I would rather shoot a 9mm well than a .45 poorly. Like it our not, budgets are a vital variable when looking at what weapons our guys use. I would rather have training over size any day.

  • http://mcthag.blogspot.com/ McThag

    The M16A4 was pre-vanished from the Army inventory; they never issued any.

    They went from M16A2 straight to the M4.

  • Henry03

    6x45mm with a new barrell :O
    why not

  • PMI

    @Charles222 – The stock fix is in the pipeline once the VLTOR stock gets approved.

    And yes all of the actual recorded metrics show the M4’s are less reliable than the A4s (although not by a massive margin unless run really hard).

  • William C.

    Has the weight increase due to the addition of rail interface systems, optics, flashlights, lasers, and etc. been a factor in the switch to carbines? It seems the M4 carbine isn’t much lighter than a M16A1 when you factor in all of that.

  • snmp

    @SoulTown, @Chris

    in training or sport condition 300m or better is not problem, but in combat stress you could miss jumbo in corridor. In plus, 223R/5.56 need have not enough speed for have effective hit.

  • Lance

    Dnapples

    The tests you shown here years ago and the M-4s wernt cleand or lubed. The FN rilfe has its own problems and H&K is a M-4 with a piston. The USMC is buy them for a squad auto.

    @Mcthag
    The Army did buy a few A4s but never adopted many of them. And The A2 is still used by the Army as well as other services.

    Did you read and agree with e on my last post Jdun1911 and Charles 222?

  • SKSlover

    My opinion is that they should switch over to a bulpup carbine, chambered in the more powerful 6.8mm. Give it a longer barrel, a more reliable operating system, and your good to go.

  • jdun1911

    Henry03,

    Why not?

    It’s called logistic.

    SKSlover,

    The US military is a huge institution. Changing anything that is large in scale will be a nightmare and takes decade to finish. You can’t sprinkle fairy dust and make it work overnight.

  • SoulTown

    @ snmp

    No. Please stop.

  • Lance

    @ Jdun1911

    I agree, But I dont think they will go away from a stoner based system while they still use 5.56mm ammo in any form. If they adopt a new cartidge then a new plat form is fesable.But since 5.56mm isnt going away I dont see the M-4 going away. And I think the Improvements they army is installing ie piston system I think the few complanits it dose have will go away.

  • Henry03

    jdun1911

    ok-ok i know it. But 6×45 is workin with 5.56 too :)
    or not?

  • Frost

    I saw someone mentioned a bullpup. So im gonna say this right out: dont even think about issue your boys with bullpups.

    Its a reason, why the French, Israeli and UK elite forces doesnt use them.

  • SKSlover

    How are all changes made? Of course it would take time. As the old saying goes, You perfect the art of fighting the last war just in time for the next.

  • Riceball

    @William C Full auto went out with the M16A2 not the A4.

  • William C.

    Henry03 I have my doubts that the improvement provided by switching from 5.56x45mm to 6x45mm is enough to consider such a switch. While converting or buying new weapons for the caliber wouldn’t be too difficult, the change in ammo production this requires would be problematic to say the least.

    If we switch to a new cartridge it has to be something with enough of an improvement to make the cost worthwhile. Yet with the way the DoD works I doubt will see a caliber switch anytime soon unless LSAT or another small arms ammunition development is successful.

  • Lance

    @ Jdun1911

    Seriously Jdun1911 I don’t see the USMC leaving the M-16A4 platform anytime soon since Marines train and do combat so much differently from the Army. The fact is the Marines will improve the A-4 like the Army will improve and modernize the M-4. Whats your opinion?

  • jdun1911

    Henry03,

    You can make 6×45 work on an AR15 as long as the casing and overall length does not exceed the magwell. All it is needed is a barrel and BCG change or just replace the entire upper with a 6×45 upper.

  • michael

    SKS, you don’t need a longer barrel with the 6.8. The army could adopt a 14″ barrel and be done with it. That’s one of the nice features to the 6.8

  • SKSlover

    Why don’t we just switch to the Ak? haha, joking…

  • jdun1911

    Lance,

    I never said that the Marine will be switching to M4. Marine have M4 in stock but overall they will stick to rifle. It’s the Marine’s tradition. Anyone that goes against military traditions will run into incredible resistant.

    The Marine are light infantry (mechanized) and they base their doctrine around it. Hence the tradition of carrying a rifle. While big Army has well almost everything, from light to heavy to whatever.

    The Marine and Army should go their own ways because it provides flexibility.

    One last thing on military traditions. The older the tradition the harder it will resist changes. Unless it is immoral I think I have better thing to do than waste my time fighting it.

  • Chris

    @snmp

    You have no idea what you are talking about. The M4 has been in continuous combat for almost 10 years now and has been utilized at 300m and beyond by many many individuals, especially with the addition of ACOGs to line units several years ago.

  • Tyler

    You act like the length of barrel is some arbitrary decision. A 14.5″ (m4-length) barrel costs an M16 about 10% of it’s muzzle velocity. A rifle-length barrel retains fragmentation velocities (where 5.56 is actually effective) at 150 meters. An M4 can’t achieve this past 50 meters. The opinion of General Conway is DEAD ON.

  • charles222

    mcthag-yes the Army did issue the M16A4 widely; 3d ID still had them until post-invasion of Iraq, as did most of the mech guys I saw on my first deployment to Iraq in 2005. That’s mostly changed now.

    It’s good the Marines are getting a collapsible stock. The fixed one simply does not work with body armor being mandatory.

    Also-Everyone needs to keep in mind that Afghanistan as a universal model for infantry combat is about as likely as Japan re-conquering the Marianas. The vast majority of people today live in heavily populated urban areas, not isolated desert and mountain villages. Afghanistan is a case for specialized tools that aren’t particularly relevant in most countries. Iraq is the future of the infantry, not Afghanistan.

  • Lance

    MCthang

    Only a few units had M-16A4s untill they were replaced by M-4s in 2004-7. The Army still has a large number of M-16A2s in service. Army determined that the A4 had no real advantage ver the A2 so they standerised on the M-4 for ICBs and A2s for all other armed personel.

    As for the A4 for USMC i dont see it going away antime soon especially in time of budget cuts. if anything a A5 varinet will come like Viltor had advertsied for the USMC last year.
    Fixed stocks may be riged in body armor but they are more stable thts why the USMC stayed with them, and will for some time.

  • Logan

    @ LANCE

    How many more years do you think the marines will use the A4 primarily

    How many more years do you think the army will use the M4 primarily

    Oh also why does the army always try to replace the M4

  • Lance

    @ Logan

    Its all ploitics. Senator A gets bribes from HK FN Ruger ECT then Senator B gets money from Colt LWRC then both try to gfet there current gun either stay or replaced. Its all about mony. Most complants about the M-4 are from lazy solders who dont take care of ther weapons.