Army Outmaneuvers Congress, Cancels Improved Carbine Competition Before They Can Intervene

The companies who had entered rifles into the Improved Carbine Competition have been notified that the program has been canceled. The Army never wanted to run the competition in the first place, and has tried many times to cancel it, but congress kept intervening. Last week the House Armed Services Committee passed a budget amendment to prevent the Army canceling the program, but to become law it would have needed to pass in the Senate, which would take a few months. Seeing their window of opportunity, the Army moved quickly and cancelled the program. I have no doubt that the Army is dismantling  everything to do with the program, salting the earth if you will, making sure that this program cannot be resurrected. Given the recent DoD budget cuts, I cannot see how congress are going to justify starting this program up again. reports

“Based upon Army analysis, test results may have been affected by interaction between the ammunition, the magazine and the weapon,” the release states. “The Army’s existing carbine requirement assumed use of the M855 ammunition; the weapons tested in the IC competition all fired the next generation M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) currently in fielding. The use of the M855A1 round likely resulted in lower than expected reliability performance. These effects are unique to testing conditions and are not known to affect the reliability of any weapon in the operational environment.”

Army officials, however, decided “not to pursue a new carbine competition … following careful consideration of the Army’s operational requirements in the context of the available small arms technology, the constrained fiscal environment, and the capability of our current carbines,” the release states.

The Army’s announcement occurred despite a recent House Armed Services Committee budget amendment aimed at preventing the Army from canceling its improved carbine competition without conducting Phase III of the effort.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in.

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.


  • Disgusted

    They should have upgraded, they’re way overdue. I bet all those generals have the latest iPhone, hypocrites….

    • MacK

      I would disagree that they are due for a new service weapon, atleast one based on the requirements set aside by this ICC.

      • Disgusted

        I didn’t expect my opinion to be shared by many on this site. I feel like the same politics which I hate that are flooding this industry have also seeped their way into the Armed Forces. Everyone’s just too damn conservative.

        • qubi

          The way I see it, we should be thanking the Army for stopping such a useless expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Who do you trust more on this issue- real military professionals who understand operational requirements, or Congressmen/women getting under-the-table kickbacks from the firearms industry?

          • Roe

            When it comes to spending money, neither.

          • bob

            “…or Congressmen/women getting under-the-table kickbacks from the firearms industry?”

            Exactly why I don’t trust Colt in the slightest. Why am I supposed to believe that they don’t do a little palm-greasing to make sure soldiers keep getting their mediocre carbines?

          • Robert Thorne

            These military professionals who understand operational requirements are nonexistent. I’ve been in the Army 3 years now and the only people I trust to do anything right are civilians. Its all a matter of perspective.

  • The Rifleman Next Door

    My idea is to issue every GI a 20″ free-float piston upper with a decent medium-range optic (like a fixed 4-power ELCAN or the Browe combat optic) to accompany their current-issue weapon in the field. Give each GI a scabbard to sling it along so it’s handy when their M4 overheats, jams, bends, the aluminum tube melts, or the 14″ barrel just can’t reach out far enough.
    This way, our fighters can quick-change uppers in the field without having to reinvent the wheel.

    • Andrew Duffey

      WIth all the crap a soldier has to already carry the last thing they want to add is half of another rifle. Cool concept but not practical.

    • Brian W Cowell

      I do not know if you have ever used the M4 platform but it is way more reliable than most people think. As an armorer in the USMC I got to receive feedback from fellow Marines and the M4 is perfectly fine. the only real problems you get are from the magazine. Range is also comparable to the M16A2/M16A4 platforms even out to 600 meters. I had my own 14.5 1/7 gov profile barrel AR and I was hitting torso sized targets at 700 meters.

      • Joe Schmoe

        I concur.

        I had at least 15,000+ rounds fired in the military out of my M4A1’s that were in horrible shape to begin with (I don’t think they ever had a part changed since being introduced) and using ammo in all kinds of shape (Including M193 and SS109) and shooting in even worse conditions (dust, rain, mud, etc). I can count on my two hands the number of times I had the M4A1 jam on me that wasn’t directly attributable to the magazines.

        The M4A1 is a fine platform, it’s the regular magazines and feeding that are shit.

    • kris

      free-float piston upper? really, because for long range work they really need a piston to screw up barrel harmonics. Maybe in the next Tom Clancy video game. Pistons only really offer something in shorter stiff barrels that see extreme firing schedules and have suppressors that can increase internal temps and fouling.

    • Samson

      This forum commando has played too many video games.

  • Michael Pham

    Politics as usual, but the reality we face, and it is hard to say this as a gun enthusiast, is that we are nearing the zenith of mechanical design in infantry firearms. Serious improvements will have to involve changes in cartridge design, propellant design, or advances in metallurgy. Advances in optics and sights can easily just be put on current rifle platforms.

    Are there better weapons than the M4 and M16 series of rifle? Arguably yes. But they aren’t better enough to warrant replacement. I mean what do they offer?

    A lower failure rate? Sure, but failure rates can be kept low in the field with proper maintenance, and a lot of the current problem is that the current issued weapons tend to be well worn.

    Quick change barrels? Beyond the need of the average rifleman, especially one issued with a carbine. Riflemen really shouldn’t be using automatic fire in most cases anyway.

    Caliber change option? Useful only in limited circumstances, and in practice troops expecting a need to use captured ammunition simply carry the captured weapon. And it’ll probably increase the weight of the weapon, nevermind having to carry around the extra barrel and magazines.

    Theoretically higher accuracy? Test samples are invariably selected by manufacturers to be the most accurate of the batch, and the M4 is no slouch in the accuracy department. And once again, current issued weapons are simply worn. Any new weapons will be more accurate.

    Bullpups? A bullpup design is a tradeoff, and an entirely separate argument.

    • Joe Schmoe

      I agree.

      Other than going bullpup, there is little revolutionary difference any current rifle platform can offer over the M4 within reason and reasonable price.

    • dp

      To comprehend where we are today is necessary to understand technical history. More specifically, in time of converting from black powder to smokeless cartridge, it was immediately clear that the new one will be far superior. In all ecompassing drive for ‘performance’ (which really was not that required) the bullet caliber have gotten substantially smaller. Soon after however (with advent of mobile warfare) the error was admitted and everything went of assault rifle direction. However, the first wrong (or questionable at least) step was kept (by inertia in thinking more than anything else) and we arrived to micro-calibres. Lately it was found thru real use, that they do not do their job reliably and repeatedly as theory was so vehemently promising. This left us where we are now – stepping around in small circle.
      What is needed IMHO, is to go back to the spot where we left good-old fashion full size bores in range of 9-13mm. It is known how they work on pistols, right? They kill securely at most practically useful ranges. Look at other aspects which, due to technical progress in general, were achieved and can be considered positives. Put it all into pot, mix it, stew it a bit and observe result. The case-less or telescoping ammo on its own does not change anything in substantial way.

      • RocketScientist

        The weight/size of loaded rounds and the ballistic
        inefficiencies of such large-caliber projectiles make them inappropriate
        for use as a general-purpose rifle cartridge. There is a reason that the vast
        majority of rifles made for hunting and military applications in the world have
        been around .30-caliber or smaller. Larger bore rounds do have great potential,
        but their ballistic performance limits them to short ranges (where they perform
        wonderfully in pistols and pistol-caliber carbines). To make them practical at
        longer ranges you must increase their aerodynamic efficiency (generally
        longer/heavier bullets) or their velocity, or both. The result is much higher
        recoil and larger/heavier rifles (to handle the demands of a more powerful
        cartridge and tame recoil). Rifles such as this can be extremely effective but
        are mainly limited for obvious reasons to stand-off roles like sniping and
        anti-materiel. What you advocate is an entire army equipped with .50 BMG

    • dp

      Now, the second part: the real cause of no-progress in face of obvious deficiency. It is…. you guessed it: the user. Or better – the procurement process. Those guys (and I am talking partly from my own experience) often do not have clear vision and do their work in repetitive, learned way; 95% administrative – 5% technical. While the past generation had their rear end steeped in say Enfield rifles, the new will do the same with mindset on what is current. It always worked that way. Why to change something, if there is risk involved, right?! You screw up and you are out – who wants it.

      To many of them (if not majority), the technical progress seized at the moment they left active service. Without being too personal let me just suggest this: people in procurement never had to worry about their worm spot and why would they? So they do what they are use to. No creativity needed, no formulated demand is expected. Result: status quo. In contrast – people working anywhere else have to struggle for their living in ongoing initiative and with pro-active attitude. Am I unfair ? – you decide.

    • dp

      And to top it up, here you have a man who you all recognize and who ACHIEVED something: Jim Sullivan, the Master designer

      • Mike F Di

        Dont Forget Gene Stoner was Head Design guy..but yes Mr Sullivan NEVER gets his credit due, for being at Armalite/Fairchild, and his immense input for a reliable rifle we all enjoy now

        • dp

          Absolutely, true!

      • HSR47

        There’s a lot of FUD going on in that video.

        The obvious message of the video is that he M16 is obsolete. To make this point, they spout tons of absolute nonsense. For example, they talk about how it “hasn’t changed much in 50 years,” yet they make absolutely no mention of the M2 Browning which entered service in 1933, a full 80 years ago.

        They talked about how the AK is “on it’s third generation” yet we’ve gone through multiple iterations of the M16, from the experimental variants, to the M16, to the M16A1, A2, A3, and A4. I’ve even heard occasional rumors that the USMC is looking into an A5. The platform went from an integrated carry handle rear sight, to a railed upper with a removeable carry handle, to the current standard of magnified optics and flip-up iron sights.

        They implied that the AR platform suffers from tons of stoppages, but the only time I’ve ever seen an AR-pattern gun have failures as bad as they imply was with an improperly assembled gun (the gas block was loosened to swap handguards, and was tightened too far forward on the barrel), and the issues went away entirely when I fixed the underlying cause.

        Realistically, as long as an AR15-pattern rifle is mechanically in spec, sufficiently lubricated, and relatively clean, it will run like a top. Pretty much all guns are like this.

        Also, I love how they pushed the angle that the M16 is a jam-o-matic, and then advanced the betamag as some kind of great thing we should adopt… We didn’t adopt the betamag because they’re fucking jam-o-matics. I could see arguing for more widespread adoption of things like the Surefire 60, or 50-round X15 drum, but not the Betamag.

        Lastly, I love how they touch on the lack of individual tinkerers/innovators in the realm of U.S. Small Arms development, yet fail to even sniff at the underlying root cause of that deficiency: The NFA/GCA provisions making it nearly impossible for an individual to tinker with new machineguns in his garage. Given current government policies, you practically need an 07 FFL to experiment in such manner, and further government policies effectively make this prohibitively expensive (especially the mandatory ITAR compliance fees), essentially relegating R&D to large scale manufacturers. Given the different financial considerations of large corporations, they are highly disinclined to bring highly innovative designs to market due to being beholden to a group of risk adverse persons who are unlikely to understand the finer points of any given design.

        Seriously though; if you look at major U.S. based small arms production, you’ll see that there was tons of innovation prior to 1934, a significant amount between 1934 and 1968, very little between 1968 and 1986, and almost zero between 1986 and today. I argue that federal gun control statutes have effectively killed domestic innovation in the small arms market.

        • dp

          I take your point. I do not identify myself fully with what is in the video, but see it as an alternative point of view from man I hold in respect. Regarding restrictions in licensing of “tinkerers” I sympathize with you 100%. The law is on side of big makers, there should be no mistake about that. This is not what America was supposed to be about; the opportunity should be for all the same. Thanks for your response!

          • HSR47

            “Regarding restrictions in licensing of “tinkerers” I sympathize with you 100%. The law is on side of big makers, there should be no mistake about that.”

            From where I sit, it seems that the laws are on the side of the government, and only large private entities have the resources to fight their way through all the bureaucracy. It’s really just semantics though, as the effect is largely the same either way.

        • dp

          One more note: they talk about jamming. It will not be any secret to anyone if I say that almost sole culprit here is not the rifle but cheesy aluminum mags. Let’s remember, the first thing the HK did – replaced them for steel. Same did the FN. This POS cannot stand (with that paper-like thickness) rigours of battle; dent the feed lips and you are done. Nothing wrong with material as such (look at Vz.58 mag) but thicker material needs more space which is not there.
          Yet, military insists on GI style mags to carry on into the future. Too bad.

          • HSR47

            You’re right: USGI mags do, in fact, suck. It seems to me that the only motivation to stick with them is cost.

            As far as upgrading to something newer, given their all-or-nothing approach to the ICC, I find it unsurprising (but still disappointing) that they’re seemingly unwilling to upgrade piecemeal.

            What Army brass seems to fail to understand is that you can roll out new hardware incrementally, and it isn’t that big a deal. Start issuing it to soldiers going through boot camp, and gradually roll it out that way until it saturates the army. It’s not that difficult a concept.

    • Criticalthinkingiscritical

      Survivors from the battle of Wanat might disagree with you regarding the need for quick change barrels.

      • John_C7

        If you need a quick-change barrel for a standard infantry rifle, you’re screwed already. Leave that to the guys with the SAW or LMG. If such an extreme degree of automatic fire is required, there ought to have a rain of artillery coming down around the perimeter

      • Joshua

        Soldiers from COP Keating would disagree with Wanat. Did I mention Keating was a much longer and fierce battle? Yet no weapons failed at Keating.

  • David

    Yeah, let’s stay with the useless 5.56! We are the U.S. damn it!

    • LRB

      Were are using 5.56 NATO for the same reason we use 9mm. Because it is the NATO round, not because we are the U.S.

      • Pete Sheppard

        Bear in mind, though, that we imposed the 5.56 on NATO, like we did with the 7.62. The Brits came up with a .270 round back around 1950 that did everything the new 6.5 and 6.8 rounds are supposed to do, but the US didn’t play ball.

        • Jim Nanban

          We imposed it by actually producing it in sufficient quantity to supply all the NATO members several times over; the other NATO members couldn’t with their favourite little boutique rounds, that’s why we didn’t “play ball.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go to war with a supply chain than not.

      • Ben 10

        time to abolish nato, it has outlived its usefullness, Serbia 1999 proved nato has become nothing more than another mafia.

    • Kyle

      5.56 does it’s job. I’m not saying it’s the BEST for the job or anything, but it does it’s job as a military cartridge.

      • Robert Thorne

        not at range in between windy mountains 2000 ft up in a carbine platform…

        • Jim Nanban

          Then the forces being employed are not being employed correctly for the operational environment.

          • Robert Thorne

            Said every soldier ever… lol

  • PCP

    Frankly I think the US military, and other military forces, should run similar competitions every couples of years just for the sake of giving the companies an excuse to develop new stuff; who knows maybe they would eventually develop something worthy all the trouble.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      I absolutely agree.

      They won’t and the reason is because if they actually found something much better, they would be obliged to switch to it. That might mean buying one less new-fangled plane or one less ship or a few less tanks. Them is were is the prestige lies.

    • Criticalthinkingiscritical

      Or at least run meaningful competitions with much looser requirements.

      I might be mistaken about how this most recent competition worked but I am under the impression it had a long list of very specific requirements for the submitted firearms.

      A contest where the manufacturers are told to provide a long gun that fires any standard NATO round, is less than X weight, has X effective minimum range, is X accurate, and is X% reliable but otherwise can be of absolutely any design would be much more useful.

      Instead of having the military dictate the design details leave that up to the manufacturers to encourage innovation. Then based on the competition results pursue more in depth testing if one of the firearms shows significant potential improvements over the currently used weapon.

    • Nathaniel

      As we’ve seen, companies will just submit the designs they already have or adapted AR-15s.

      If we had some kind of X-Prize for small arms with a corresponding set of goals, that might be a lot better.

  • LRB

    Until further developments are made to caseless or polymer cased ammunition, the M4A1 in its current configuration is adequate for the everyday rifleman in the US Army. 5.56 is the NATO round and until we move away from it, it is hard to justify the massive expenditure to replace the M4 with a rifle that is slightly to marginally better. Remember that replacing the M4 would require more than just the individual weapon system, but armorers, schools,tools,manuals and the re-training of Army armorers,etc. The acquisition of weapon systems is not something as simple as selecting off the shelf. While we could argue specifics and parameters of each of the weapons submitted for this competition were better than the M4, overall you would find they were marginal improvements that were more based on competition among the entrants and cosmetic. The average solider doesn’t need a monolithic rail, piston system, quick change barrel and integrated optics. And yes while some Armies such as the Netherlands have adopted the Hk416, remember that their militaries are a fraction of the size of the US and that makes acquisition tougher. If it aint broke dont fix it. For once I agree with the decision of Big Army. -Current US Army NCO, and OEF veteran.

  • JasonM

    it’s the (I)ndividual (C)arbine (not Improved). That said, there are a couple interesting things from the testing that was done- 1. None of these new guns demonstrated [enough] improvement over the M4 platform to warrant adoption, and 2. Testing use of M855A1 is cited as part of why the competitors failed testing, but the MIL still claims that M855A1 has no adverse affects on current weapon systems?

  • allannon

    the only reason I can see to go to the logistical trouble and economic cost (retraining, as well as purchases) of adopting a new carbine is if they phase out 5.56mm. And even then, there are several very good intermediate rounds designed to shoot from a rebarrelled AR.

    If we were using weapons manufactured out-of-country, I’d have a different opinion (for the purpose of making our own), but that’s not a concern here.

    There are some issues that need to be resolved, but from what I’ve heard from guys who have been there and done that, they could be resolved with new and largely drop-in components of current systems.

  • Samson

    What I don’t understand is what they are actually trying to accomplish or have happen… Is it that the Army wants to exclusively maintain the M4? The Marine Corps issues the M16A4 to almost everyone combat-wise (an M16 with the 20″ bbl, a nice full-length quad-rail handguard, and I believe the RCO ACOG) … and the M4 to an assortment of officers, support troops, etc. The Army issues the M4 Carbine now and has for awhile (along with M68 CCO or Aimpoint CompM2/M3/M4 depending on your unit priority ) …. We have seen the 3 Wars (Afghanistan/Iraq/Global War On Terror) both increase weapons and technology and increase problems with said weapons and therefore diversity… The rifle round had to change, the 5.56 isn’t good enough, we need the 7.62, we need the old M14 now, but the M14 isn’t good enough, we need it to be an enhanced version, We need the SCAR, we Don’t … etc. WHAT IS IT The Army wants? If I was any sort of in charge i would be ALL ABOUT HK 416 / HK 417. Make a deal, give us a complete contract assortment fulfilling our needs. HK 416 5.56 in 10.4″, 14.5″, and 16″ depending on unit and mission, and the HK417 in 16 and 20″ … we would have all bases covered. I just don’t understand what the Army is trying to do. Passing on the HK XM8 I understand, it was whack. THe Bushmaster ACR, also quite whack, it’s not the Magpul Masada we thought it would be. But FN M4s and some SOPMOD packages aren’t the cutting edge … that ain’t whats really good.

  • Chris

    I Agree with a lot of people, we don’t need to replace the m4 series. We just need an upper receiver improvement. Like a piston system, which is better than direct gas impingement, and a new caliber. The 5.56 is a piece of crap. 300 blk or 6.8 spc would be perfect. This would be cheaper than producing a whole new weapon. Screw the whole NATO ammunition compatibility.

    • John_C7

      300 BLK is worse as a general purpose round than 7.62x39mm, 6.8x43mm has far more potential.

    • Jamesy

      Can’t say that changing what isn’t actually “broken” is worth all the money, training (squaddie/armourer) and hassle. Does the 6.5/6.8/300blk make THAT much more difference in the situations these weapons are to be used?.. i would wager, not for the effort at this time with the current tech available..

      We have Squad marksmen with the 7.62×51, the Saw gunners and the gpmg (or us equivalent) for the ranges and situations where the 5.56 isnt ideal. flexibility and specialization. After all logic (not used often enough) shows that no one round or weapon CAN do it just isnt feasible..

      I wouldn’t be against a slightly longer barrel! for better ballistics (hell especially in the mini me para we use (UK))

      Now would a universal interchangeable round between all weapon systems be good for logistics? very likely! but far from ideal in use..

      Would we ideally want our boys in the field to have the very best kit money can buy?! i don’t doubt it.. the deal is, the difference between what is around now and what they could have, really isn’t as big as some people make out. And the price to make this happen is just too high for the rewards..

      The trade off is money vs tiny change. and when it works as well as you need…. until the different in performance is high enough? or the need is ACTUALLY great enough.. isnt happening.

      The best you can expect is something like us british did with the L129a1 (lms 308 mws) and get a UOR for something to fill in the gaps.

  • kzrkp

    the carbine program cancellation isn’t a surprise with the budget, but how they blame it on the participants like a scorned girlfriend is hilarious. also cost saving argument is a joke, replacing current M4s with the newer model to meet the new requirements will have similar price will worse results. so political. it’s funny to look back at the trials that got us the M14 over the FAL because of Springfield mucking with the trials, so little has changed.

  • Vermin.308Winchester

    I am hanging my hat on improvements in battery technology
    allowing infantry portable magnetic accelerators or “rail guns” to
    take hold. like the typhoon from Crysis 3

    • Robert Thorne

      Thats more like Metal Storm then a rail gun. Quoting video games on a firearm’s blog is kind of tacky, no matter if I whole heartedly want the same thing….

      • Vermin.308Winchester

        The typhoon has stacked projectiles like metal storm tech however they are propelled bye a magnetic accelloratetor. The “kvolt” is based on Teslas death ray design from the 1920’s the weapons are entirely original to the game and they warrant disscusion. The concept of man portable magnetic aclorators is not new their is an episode of the twilight zone set in the futre featuring a hunter with magnetic accelorator rifle life mimics art and anti video game sentiment helps no one love of firearms often begins digitally for this genoration

        • Chrome Dragon

          Capacitor technology’s not there yet. It’s close – graphene sheets are essentially the perfect material for building a capacitor – but we’re not capable of producing a compelling railgun assault rifle.

          Superconducting rails and projectiles would also go a long way toward addressing design issues, but until we come up with a room-temperature superconductor that’s out, too. We’d end up with a weapon with a short service life that needed barrel changes distressingly often. By accepting rail arcing as inevitable, and embracing the arcing in the form of a plasma armature, we can recapture perhaps 25% of the energy that’s “wasted” on making (white-) hot air into projectile KE.

          It’s still going to have the “barrel” life of a squeezebore, but it could make a pretty epic anti-materiel rifle.

        • Robert Thorne

          You sir have looked into this, I commend you. I am an avid gamer. Own crisis, but am hooked on fallout.

          • Vermin.308Winchester

            Ah do you own crysis “1” or crysis 3? I ranted at you about “anti-video game sentiment” becuase you said discussing fictional guns was tacky I get liking fallout

          • Robert Thorne

            Crysis 2&3, I’m a PS gamer so I missed out for the longest time. Looking back, I made a fairly critical statement. You were only talking about “fictional” firearms and not the game in question. My bad yo

  • Kirk

    Here’s the thing with all this: The entire system of small arms procurement needs to change.

    The underlying mindset that we have is that every single weapon we buy is going to the last of that type we’ll ever need, so we keep seeking this Holy Grail of the “perfect, ultimate weapon…”. That’s not the way things work, in the real world.

    Weapons are fungible commodity items that wear out. We know this. You can more-or-less predict when a given “fleet” of weapons is going to wear out, based on use. We know we’ll need to buy more, eventually, no matter what. Yet, our procurement systems do not reflect this fact, at all. We keep waiting for things to utterly break, and then we hold some highly politicized high-stakes “competition” where we’re going choose the next “ultimate weapon”. That’s why, despite the fact that we’ve essentially re-capitalized the individual weapon fleet in the US military at least four or five times since the 1950s, we’re still issuing a variant of the M16, with all of its well-known and arguable flaws.

    Same thing is evident with regards to the machine gun. We knew, at least as early as my first enlistment, that the M60 MG fleet was a wasting asset, and that we’d eventually have to replace it by buying all-new weapons or going to another MG. Did the small arms procurement system take any pro-active steps? Nope. The M240 was back-doored into becoming the standard ground-mount MG without any real development or testing, which would have likely demonstrated back then that the damn thing was too heavy for light infantry operations in mountainous terrain. Instead, the Rangers and Marines had to work around the system to get the gloriously flawed M60 replaced.

    The whole system is nucking futs, in my opinion.

    We need to be doing evolutionary development and testing. The “next system” ought to already be developed, tested, and ready to go to production the moment it becomes economically worthwhile doing so, instead of incrementally buying a less-than-adequate system whose flaws are manifest and many, simply because it was the one that they decided on back in the early 1960s. At some point, replacing the QWERTY keyboard’s installed base becomes desirable, and we need to acknowledge that fact. And, like it or not, the M16 family is the QWERTY keyboard of the small arms world. If you were starting off from a clean sheet, it’d never become the standard under today’s conditions.

    There ought to be a continuous, evolutionary approach taken to all small arms programs. How would that work? Say for an example, we take the current M16/M4 fleet. We know how many we have on hand, when they were built, and how long they ought to last before finally needing replacement. Say that that is predicted to be ten years out. Start the replacement process now, by carefully evaluating how we are using these weapons and get a cross-section of the state-of-the art at the moment. Test, evaluate and then determine what features we really need to include and/or copy from existing weapons on the market. Do not even consider including anything “transformational”, like caseless or the telescoped cased cartridge–That’s another track, and one that should be kept totally separate from the sort of thing I’m talking about here. Once you’ve got your “market comparison” and requirements from actual field use dialed in, either pick the market leader and/or design what fits the need. This should be do-able within one or two years, leaving 8 more years of service life remaining. Once the baseline design is finalized, take and put it out for procurement to manufacturing, and pay for a limited production run which you can equip a small training unit with, in order to test production and actually field the weapon for use. Then, once you’ve validated everything and let the feedback flow back, which realistically ought to be a three-four year process, you have your next weapon ready to go, and at least four years before you need it. At that point, it’s a waiting game for the people monitoring the health of the current fleet to tell you “Hey, these things need to be replaced within the next two years…”. At that point, you go to volume production, and you’re ready to go. Once the next generation system is in use, start over again.

    Weapons are fungible commodity items, and they wear out. We need to start acting like that, and develop procurement systems that acknowledge the facts.

  • Mike F Di

    all they *NEEDED* to do was upgrade to 6.8SPC for SPEC OPS…
    Whooo-oops, they did that already. and the hard chargers love that set up.
    For regular troops…in most cases the 6.8SPC would be a logistics nightmare, but would address the 14.5″ barrels short comings…namely, it’s TOO SHORT!!! of that we all the ballisitics of a cartridge never designed for under 20″ barrel length, and other “improvements” to Gene Stoners excellent weapon system.
    I adore the 5.56MM and most of my armory is those weapons systems in that caliber..that said, even I own a 308 SEMI for the reach and touch somebody times.

  • zeraa777

    Ah, US military – spends hundreds of thousands testing new weapons, establishes silly requirements for succession so that nothing will actually succeed.

    Result? M4s and money wasted. So what was the point (I’m not even being facetious – I’d like to know the reason why so many of these projects just sort of petered out, to the point where even the Army seems tired of it)?

  • Ben 10

    any new improvements in rifles will come from the civilian/private sector, not the military. if you want better killing power in the m4, just use hollowpoints. end of story.

  • Nicholas Mew

    Are soldiers allowed to carry other non standard rifles that fire 5.56 or are they stuck with crappy M4’s?

  • Robert Thorne

    As an infantryman, I’d be happier with a full size rifle over a carbine. We don’t fight out of our trucks and the M16 platform is attributed improved ballistics over the carbine M4. It may be too much to ask for an AR 10 , but I can see no problem adopting it. For anyone who things 7.62 is to heavy, try lugging my M240L around as a maneuver element. It is doable and a rifleman wouldn’t even carry the same number of rounds. Also, we can have interchangeability of rounds again…

    • Lance

      Try M-14 EBR!

      • Robert Thorne

        Its actually quite light, but dem rails. Rails everywhere and the stock is awkward as hell, would love a fusion of the ebr with a McMillan composite stock.

  • Chris

    This makes it seem the Army rigged the whole thing from the start or kept moving the goal post so it would fail.

  • Nathaniel


  • Lance

    Think this was politics and crap from the get go glad to see the Army do it right and canceled this boondoggle. It was a waste of $ and time and fact was HK and FNs plastic wonder guns offered nothing over the M-4A1. Bullpups have serious disadvantages over conventional rifles and barrel change is not a option in a firefight so nothing was gained nothing was loss over this. Good riddance to Tom Colburns SCAR love affair.

  • Tony Williams

    Given that the Army has been developing the M4A1 in parallel the competition always was a waste of time, since no new 5.56mm gun could be so much better to be worth the trouble and cost to change.

    The only change which could make a real difference would be a new calibre. The Army allowed other calibres to be considered in the competition – but only if 250,000 rounds of the ammo were supplied by the company. So in theory we could have had rifles in 300 BLK, 6.8 Rem or 6.5 Grendel taking part, but of course no-one bothered.

    In any case, that was a back-asswards approach to the issue. If the army was seriously prepared to consider other calibres, they should first have defined the performance they wanted, then held a competition solely to select the calibre which best met the performance criteria, then followed it with a competition for rifles in that calibre.

    Interestingly, the House of Representatives passed a measure in December last year which requires the Secretary of Defense to instigate a study on small arms and small calibre ammunition including a comparative evaluation of the standard small-calibre ammunition of the Department with other small-calibre ammunition alternatives, with a report back to the congressional defence committees no later than 30 September 2013. Whether that will produce anything useful is another matter, but at least it’s an opportunity to look at the whole issue.

  • dp

    I wish to have another take on the subject (and must WARN you) – this is gonna be utterly critical towards your ICON. I keep reading how “great platform” the AR15 is. I disagree – it is NOT. For many it will be short of shock and I understand: worn in habit is like iron shirt.
    First problem came at start: AR15 was designed to be “a temporary weapon”. In other words it was NOT conceived with clear vision for long term service. Second: some of its elements are pulling one way while others are pulling exactly opposite. How is that? Because of main housing (top receiver) restriction being bore just 1″ in diameter, forces light carrier-bolt assembly including cut-outs to be way too light. This leads to excessive opening speed and energy which has to be dealt with by heavy and cumbersome buffer assembly. This assembly effectively prevents from desirable folding buttstock. Third: no sound reservoir of momentum to operate system. Gas pressure in tube fizzles out to fast. You have to accomplish many functions very fast and that leads to system which is hard to optimize and which is finicky on tolerances and finishes. I do not want to go to extent of talking DG impingement; it just adds to the problem. Piston version solves the AR15 conundrum, but just partially. Fourth: impractical structure with two receivers. Why? Most rifles have a receiver per se and trig-mech housing attached. By splitting into two you have to forge (wow) and machine TWO units. That by itself sounds like non-sense.
    Further more and contrary to intent, the end result was NOT “light weapon” at all. Case for comparison is Vz.58. This weighs in just 2.7kg empty, M16 3.4kg – so tell me how “light” actually M16 is? It is medium in that respect, at best.
    I mentioned my admiration for work of Jim Sullivan. This is NOT for playing second fiddles to Eugene Stoner, BUT for creating more advanced and better weapon which became universal benchmark – the AR18. Of course, AK line is certainly also better, as J.S. correctly said. What to do now? Nothing – exactly as DOD had done. Let the error to ‘rot out’ on its own. No more investment in bad pedigree.

  • CJ

    Unless there is a major shift in ammunition, there is no reason to make any major change in small arms. Continuing technology upgrades to the current arms is expected. The current M4 is an upgrade to the original AR15. If you want to make the argument that it’s not, fine. But keep in mind that every improvement done to the AK series, was motivated by the desire to make it more like an AR.

    The desire for a new military small arm was initiated by politicians, not by the military.

  • S O

    The answer is simple: Write a law tasking the FBI or ATF to run a carbine competition, and the Army gets forced to introduce the competition winner as replacement for all AR-15 style weapons within eight years of the announcement of the winner.

    (The competition could be for prize money, in exchange for the government’s ability to issue licenses to other producers than the designer.)

  • Cameron

    I think there’s an important question of efficiency. Is it more efficient to keep adjusting to the current platform or to decisively move into a new one?

    For now, I think the answer is sticking with the current platform. Undoubtedly politics are involved, but if the new platform was, at the end of the day, going to spit ~30 5.56×45 rounds, is there a huge difference on the ground? The soldiers I know say the M4 runs fine when run properly, and my own Daniel Defense AR-15 has been bulletproof.

    This is not to say politics didn’t weigh heavily here. They always do. I laugh at people who murmur things about politics in the Beretta M9 decision due to personal distaste for the pistol, when those politics aren’t nearly as plainly evident as the politics involved in Colt’s M4 contract

  • idahoguy101

    Just replace the current M4 upper receivers with new ones from HK. Have Colt do it under contract and call it the M4A2. Then our troops will finally have a more reliable carbine with a gas piston and everybody can stop placing political games

  • Fredo

    So I’m guessing that unless guns like the Remington ACR that were specifically intended for the ICR competition find large enough contracts in other markets (other countries or LEO), then it’s possible that civilian sales may not be enough to ensure they’re not pulled from production altogether.

  • Bill Allen

    GOOD. The Army should know if it needs a new gun or not. To do otherwise is a waste of taxpayer money.