Blast From The Past: The ACR Program (DTIC)

We’ve posted about the ACR Program here on TFB before, but there’s a lot of information available on the subject through DTIC. The Advanced Combat Rifle program was begun in the late 1980s as a research and development effort which would eventually lead to the next U.S. service rifle, replacing the M16. The intention was to field the new weapon, whatever it would be, before the end of the 1990s. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the ACR program withered, and the successor to the M16 in U.S. Army service became the M4 Carbine, another derivative of the Colt AR-15.

With so many documents available on¬†DTIC, it’s difficult to single out just one. Therefore, I urge readers to follow the link and start reading!

A basic overview of the Colt ACR program can be found in the excellent video briefing posted in the link above:

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Actually, there are very few reports regarding the ACR available for download at DTIC. You’ll note that most of the search results are merely journal citations.

    • Hmmm, that’s interesting. I have a couple documents on the ACR program that I thought I got off DTIC. Maybe those links have expired? Either way, I’ll find more info to add to this post for folks.

      • Small Arms of the World has several ACR documents in their members-only archive.

  • In some ways, the current LSAT is a variation on the scheme. The basic concept was also used in the rejected Ares AIWS and over a decade earlier in a Hughes caseless design.

  • Blake

    I like the lines on the rifle in the pic; what is it?

  • It’s not related. That’s the AAI ACR, which is one of the final evolutions of their SPIW project. There were three other competitors, Colt, Steyr, and H&K.

  • They were being very optimistic. One of the things the ACR program showed is that none of the rifle mechanisms provided a major advantage in hit probability over the M16A2. The biggest improvement was found in the addition of optics, which led directly to the now in-service ACOG, as well as the M68 CCO.

    • That much is true, most relatively rifles are capable of hitting out to 400m+ but its the modern rifle optics that give soldiers the capability to consistently hit accurately at those distances.

      • I don’t think that capability really is there yet. I think people are routinely overestimating the actual maximum effective range of riflemen. A realistic assessment given what I know would look more like the average rifleman being effective to 100m pre-optics, and maybe 200-300m post.

  • aka_mythos

    The notion that ACR would replace the M16 by the 90’s was preceeded by a goal of the ’80s, before that the 70’s, and before that the 60’s. That is to say they always had to sell it as “in arms reach” for anyone to take these concepts seriously.

    It’s important to remember that most of the technologies cited for ACR were derived from concepts and prototypes developed originally for the late 50’s early 60’s SALVO program that continued through a number of on again off again programs. The M16 was born out of the need for a stop-gap while those concepts were ironed out and developed. ACR was to a degree the hope that one of those technologies would have matured in the intervening years, but there was a failure to realize that with the M16s adoption there was little R&D money from the Government and little reason for companies to whole heartedly pursue them on their own.

  • It was a 100% improvement in hit probability on the very sophisticated range they were using to test exactly that. It was pretty well quantified. Nothing came close.

    • Jean Luc Picard

      In that specific case, a beam weapon would perform better, just because you can have a nearly constant beam with the highest rate of fire. But Unfortunately todays technology doesn’t allow to have a combat practical infantry laser rifle to be efficient …

      • Good lord that would take a lot of power! I’m giving her all she’s got, Cap’n!

  • gunslinger

    holy minecraft blocks