The M4 is the new AK.

Solider Systems reports that Malaysia is seeking permission to federate the production of M4 rifles, which they produce under license from Colt Defense, across Southeast Asia. An M4 clone, the CQ 5.56, is already produced by China and exported all over the world.

One of the most compelling points of the plan to federate the production of the rifles across partner countries is that 85% of the parts will be locally produced. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi explained “Only the main technology and equipment come from United States. Colt also gave us the right to sell M4 to ASEAN countries. “Asean partners will be given the opportunity to share production. Although M4 will be made in Malaysia, its components will be produced by ASEAN countries.”

I think by now the AR-15 and M4 Carbine are being produced by more countries than the AK-47 / AK-74 / AK-1xx.

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.


  • Quintin

    “I think by now the AR-15 and M4 Carbine are being produced by more countries than the AK-47 / AK-74 / AK-1xx”

    I’d love to see some data on that. I’d wager you would be wrong, no offense. The AK is cheaper and less sophisticated to produce.

  • armed_partisan

    Ha ha! Remember how when you were a kid, and Matel Hot Wheels cars all said “Made in Malaysia” and you thought “Where’s that?” You know how when the M-16 came out, people said it was a Matel toy? Now, the M-4 will be made in Malaysia.

    It’s not really ironic, it’s just… I dunno. I’m bored!

    AR is better than the AK, so it only makes sense that eventually it will surpass it in production numbers (if it hasn’t already) but that doesn’t mean that either design is going away. Ever. Like, 300 years from now, there’s still gonna be working ARs and AKs in private hands, and if I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a Coke.

  • SpudGun

    I know the blog is ‘guns not politics’ but the worldwide distribution / adoption of M4s seems to be targeted at Western friendly regimes, with our ‘enemies’ still prefering their AK variants.

    Thanks to China’s capitalist friendly policies, they are probably being perceived as less of a threat to the rise in home grown Islamic extremism and the lighter M4 will put down an unarmored target just as well as an AK.

    Generous aid / trade packages from the US are also probably playing a pivitol role in the globalization of the M4. But this is all conjecture and I have no hard facts to back it up.

    Nevermind the Internet Commando AK vs AR arguments, it appears to be happening on a global scale.

    • SpudGun, from what I have seen and read, they actually they love the AR-15. Warloards are often photographed running around with a M16A1 captured decades ago.

  • cottage cheese

    “I think by now the AR-15 and M4 Carbine are being produced by more countries than the AK-47 / AK-74 / AK-1xx.”

    …probably because ready made AKs come so cheap it would be somewhat more expensive to manufacture them…remember a factory is not a particularly low budget affair.

  • snmp

    ASEAN countrie who build AR15 /M16 (or parts) : Philippines (Licence Elisco Tool and Manufacturing & others), Vietnam (M16 & CAR15 parts by states Arsenals), Singapore (ST Kinetics) and now Malaysia

    Others countrie who build AR15 : USA, Canada (Colt Canada), Belgian (FN herstal), China (Norinco), Taiwan (piston AR15 clone), south korea (Daewoo), Germany (H&K, Oberland ……), UK, Ukrain, Iran, Jordania, Turkey, Sudan …..Pakistan

    Prduction of AK : Russia, China, Vietnam, Jodania, Egypth, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Israel, South Afrika, Cuba, Venezuela, serbia, USA, Albania, Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Macedonia, North Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, sudan

  • Lance

    The M-4 is a good weapon. I cant wait to see the new version the Army is working on. With new bolt and carrier it make the M-4 more reliable and lethality.

  • Jae Senn

    Malaysia plans to rope in Thailand and Indonesia as a part of the M4-manufacturing partnership, and sell the rifles in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia themselves. In addition to that, they plan to sell it to other countries in Southeast Asia like Brunei and the Philippines.

    However, the Malaysian Minister of Defense merely said that they’ll bring up the idea at an upcoming regional defense conference of some sort, and it’s not an accepted and green-lighted plan yet.

    Personally, I guess the Minister of Defense has some less-than-competent advisers around him.

    Indonesia has been using their indigenous Pindad series of rifles for quite some time now, and have always ridiculed Malaysia’s lack of know-how to have their own locally-developed assault rifle. Indonesia’s pretty proud of their homebrew Pindad SS2 assault rifle, and it’s the standard issue rifle in their military.

    Thailand on the other hand have always had a much more flexible and lenient approach towards firearms for military, law-enforcement as well as civilians. Their armed forces acquire so many different types of weapons for their various military divisions, and they even have multiple small arms types within a single division. Not long ago, they have just acquired a whole bunch of Israeli Tavor TAR-21 rifles to replace their aging M16A2 rifles. They *might* buy Malaysia’s M4 rifles if they participate in the manufacture of it and only if the price is good, because the Malaysian company that is producing the M4, SME Ordnance, is selling it to the Malaysian Ministry of Defense for approximately US$2300 per rifle which is pretty steep.

    Malaysia wouldn’t bother selling it to Singapore because they’ve been traditional rivals (since Singapore is often referred to as a First-World country surrounded by Third-World neighbors, of which sharp contrasts are always drawn between it and the slightly more backward Malaysia). And of course, Singapore, like Indonesia, is also fiercely proud of their locally-developed indigenous assault rifle, the SAR-21. Unlike Indonesia’s Pindad SS2, Singapore’s SAR-21 have received praises and have even been labeled as one of the 5 best assault rifles in the world many years ago.

    Vietnam uses AK-based rifles and they also manufacture Norinco-based M4/M16 knock-offs domestically, so I don’t see any possibility that they might be interested in the Malaysian-made M4. Myanmar have their own EMERK-based MA series of indigenous assault rifles and to a lesser degree, AK-based rifles.

    Cambodia, like Vietnam, also uses AK-based rifles, particularly the AKM. Recently, they have taken up the Chinese QBZ-97 bullpup assault rifle, so I don’t see any possibility that they’d be interested in Malaysia’s expensive M4. Laos is a poor country and their ill-equipped army only has AK-47s, and even those are cheap Chinese Type 56 AK clones.

    Philippines manufacture their own M4 under license, just like Malaysia, so I totally do not see the point in the Philippines choosing Malaysia’s M4 over their own.

    That leaves only Brunei as the potential buyer for Malaysia’s M4. However, their armed forces is tiny and they are still using their M16s and L1A1s. If Malaysia were to sell M4s to Brunei, it would be a low-volume sale and quite likely as a part of a trade agreement as is the case with most Malaysia-Brunei sales and trade exchanges.

    This is not the first time that Malaysia has tried their hand at small arms manufacturing. Their previous effort at manufacturing Steyr AUG A1 spanned a decade, and despite full technology transfer from Steyr-Mannlicher and having a comprehensive production line, Malaysia wasn’t able to develop the competency necessary to improve upon the rifle (as the Australians have done to produce the Austeyr) or even to develop an indigenous rifle.

    I personally believe that this short-sighted ambition of Malaysia is stillborn and will fall flat.

  • jpcmt

    “I think by now the AR-15 and M4 Carbine are being produced by more countries than the AK-47 / AK-74 / AK-1xx.”

    You think? Any idea how many countries produce each rifle? I’d like to know.

  • rex

    Combined Service Forces of ROC Army in Taiwan already produced M16 clone back in 1976. Paraguay is one of the customrs.

  • snmp

    @Jae Senn
    Vietnam built part for AR15 (that’s not norinco parts, they do not buy weapon to their aggressive neighbour (teritorial conflic in north of vietnam and for islands). Their are many gossip about ARTRA AR15 could be build base on vitenames parts.
    Vietnam army make qualification for many soldier for SKS, AKM & M16/CAR15 rifle

  • Benjamin

    I highly doubt that Malaysia would be able to sell the M4 in great quantities to ASEAN countries, except perhaps to Thailand.

    As said above, many ASEAN countries already produces the AR and parts of it. Moreover, not many countries have great use for the AR/M4 in their armed forces. For general issue weaponry, most countries would stick to the guns they already have or are producing indigeneously.

    Cambodia – AKM and AK variants, they apparently produce a black AK.

    Vietnam – AK variants. Although it seems that they are also buying AR knockoffs from China (according to an earlier blog post).

    Thailand – M16A1, M16A2, HK33, and apparently TAR-21. Although, many reports in the news about Thailand feature M4s.

    The Philipines – M16A1 features heavily with the armed forces.

    Indonesia – Their standard issue is the Pindad SS. From a Singaporean point of view their armed forces are extremely confusing. Their special police and the Detachment 88 are seen to be using the Pindad, M4 as well as a strange AK variant with a Galil-style stock.

    Singapore – The M16A1 (called the M16S1 locally) has long stop being issued for a few years already, thus it is unlikely that it is also being produced. Most services are reliant on the SAR21 for the assault rifle role. The commandos and STAR are known to use the M4 in small quantities, and the elite Naval Diving Unit the Colt Model 653, strangely with an EOTech attached to the carrying handle.

  • ragnarok220

    Steve, US also manufactures civilian AKs.

  • Destroyer

    I would question the accuracy that the M4 is produced more than the AK, though im not surprised that it has replaced AK’s in many country’s inventories. The wars in iraq and afghanistan have led to the production of many M4’s and M16’s, not to mention familiarity with a otherwise “western-exclusive” firearm. “legitamite” AKs produced in Russia tend to cost just as much as a M4 now, which personally, leads me to favor the M4 anymore.

    needless to say, the M4, for what it was designed to be, is an excellent weapon. In the proper hands with proper maintenance, it is reliable, accurate, and effective. From my experience it is reasonably rugged, though its smaller parts can break when handled roughly (in defense of this, these smaller parts are easy to replace and are widely available).

    I am pleased to see the influence an american design has on the world of small arms. Ill argue that i do not favor direct impingement designs, though they do have their advantages (such as accuracy and less moving parts) and disadvantages like anything else. I am also excited to see the development of a improved M4 carbine for US troops.

  • Jae Senn

    @Benjamin – Thailand might buy it if they’re a part of the manufacturing consortium, because Indonesia is proud of their Pindad and is not likely to replace it. Thailand doesn’t have an indigenous rifle program or an established small-arms manufacturing base yet.

    Other than Thailand, the other customer would obviously be Brunei. Everytime Malaysia needs a cash injection, somehow Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah would make a “diplomatic visit” to Wisma Putra, so I guess Malaysia’s relations with Brunei is a pretty cordial one.

  • Benjamin

    @Jae Senn – Yes, I do agree that the other more feasible customer would be Brunei.

    Their current standard issue now is the M16 and L1A1. If they were to have a change of weapon, for ease of training they are most likely to go for the M4.

    Its rather strange that, despite the extensive military ties with Singapore, they haven’t considered buying the SAR-21.

    Malaysia’s ties with Brunei are quite cordial, but since they have territorial disputes I suppose their military ties are not the best.

    Brunei, as you mentioned, regularly visits Malaysia whenever they need a cash deposit. And usually after the visit the territorial disputes noticebly quietens down for a while.

  • charles222

    Out of curiosity I looked up the numbers built for M-16s to AKs, and yeah, it’s not even close; 8 million M16s to 75 million AK-47s (and another 25 million “AK variants'” according to wikipedia). This isn’t really a surprise given the sheer number of countries producing AK-47s after the Soviets stopped issuing the design as their primary rifle; it includes:

    Albania, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the PRC, the German Democratic Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iraq, India, Iran, Macedonia, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Serbia, Sudan, Vietnam, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia. I didn’t include Israel, Finland, and South Africa because their ‘AK’ variants are pretty distant relatives; it’s almost like calling the FN-MAG the M1918A3 BAR. :p

    it’s also pretty telling that the only countries outside the Warsaw Pact( who were obviously going to be using their controlling power’s rifle) to adopt the AK were Warsaw Pact-aligned nations, or in the case of Venezuela, crazy people. The AK’s widespread adoption has alot more to do with Cold War politics than anything else if you ask me.