US Army Considering “M4A1+” Upgrades

Cavalry Soldiers get a view from above

The US Army has issued a request for information for new upgrades to the M4A1 rifle, seeking a new “M4A1+” standard. From Soldier Systems:

Yesterday, the Army Contracting Command issued a Sources Sought Notice in support of PEO Soldier’s Program Manager Individual Weapons seeking information to “identify sources/vendors with experience in small arms manufacturing and associated technologies (corporate knowledge, technical expertise, facilities, manufacturing equipment, and product acceptance test hardware) capable of the production of…Non-Development Items (NDI), for improvements to the M4A1 Carbine.” While it’s not a pre-solicitation (yet), it’s very exciting stuff seeing the Army leverage all of the commercial off the shelf advancements made to the Black Rifle in recent years.

Collectively, these NDI improvments are being referred to as M4A1-Plus (abbreviated as M4A1+) components. Here’s where it gets a little sticky. According the the RFI, it is anticipated that the M4A1+ components will be evaluated as a system. Sounds like they dont plan on seeking best of breed but rather a turnkey solution from a single vendor, although if this makes it through there may end up being some horse trading this component for that. Of note, although the Enhanced Trigger Module is included in this RFI, it will be procured seperately. Additionally, sounds like Black is out and Brown is in for the M4, at least for the rail system, which will conceptually be much more like what is currently available commerically than the current system, designed back in the 90s.

The RFI goes on to state that the offered M4A1+ system must install on/interface with stock M4A1 Carbines. “The M4A1+ components will seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine (to include but not limited to the barrel, gas tube, upper receiver, bolt and bolt carrier) without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon. The M4A1+ components shall be compatible with current M4A1 ancillary equipment without modification to the ancillary equipment and/or the equipment’s mounting brackets. This ancillary equipment includes but is not limited to optics/sights, aiming/pointing devices, training devices, slings, and rail covers.”  Considering the Army is wrapping up its current upgrade to the M4A1 comfiguration that all makes sense.

I highly recommend our readers click through and read the whole text of the Sources Sought Notice, which is replicated in the Soldier Systems article.

The “M4A1+” is a part of the dual path strategy outlined by Colonel Armstrong, Program Manager of Soldier Weapons, in 2012. The fielding of the M4A1 and subsequent improvements to it constituted one path towards improving the infantry rifle, and the Improved Carbine competition constituted the other. The latter failed to establish any competitor as providing a meaningful improvement over the M4 during the second phase, and was called off in early 2013.



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 can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Jack C.

    I swear I recall them saying something similar to this idea YEARS ago. Anybody know what I’m thinking of?

    • Anonymoose

      Did it involve every arms manufacturer from around the globe and their grandmas trying to cram a short-stroke piston into an M4A1, powered rails, and some clearly Halo-inspired idea to add a round counter?

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Ah, piston retro-fit kits… That was a great time! All those 3D youtube animations!

  • Riot

    ah yes the; “no weapon offers significant benefits over the M4” spiel followed quickly by “the M4 needs a substantial and costly overhaul”, routine.
    All this because they bought a dodgy hack job because colt lost the M16 contract and needed a get around.

    • Did you read the bit about the dual path small arms improvement strategy? This has been in the works since before IC was held.

      • Riot

        Yes and it is just a deliberate prior statement. The IC was always going to be cancelled just like the others, they just repeated what they had said after the others before this round so they could have a prior statement to use to deflect criticism.

        • Is the IC an excuse for the upgrades, or are the upgrades a result of the IC? I’m not following your logic.

          • Riot

            Neither. Saying both will happen before the IC even starts is better than saying upgrades will happen after you’ve cancelled the IC.

          • What about the possibility that the Army was pursuing two parallel lines of development in case one didn’t pan out?

            It doesn’t shock me that IC turned out the way it did. Did others really think the results would be all that different? These weapons all fundamentally work the same way, and it’s a very mature technology. Not surprising at all, I think, that IC turned out the way it did.

          • nova3930

            I say this from a spot working in military procurement. People forget that one of the criteria in military procurement programs is always cost. An entire program can run to completion an no selection be made, even if there is a performance improvement, simply because the PM determines that the performance increment is not worth the cost incurred. I strongly suspect that’s what occurred with IC, some or all of the entrants had performance improvements, but not enough to justify a total re-equip of the force.
            In the case of this announcement, the Army is asking for information on non-developmental items, ie they’re asking industry “What do you have off the shelf that could make our rifles better.” A COTS solution for an M4 upgrade could likely be had for relatively cheap and provide significant benefits to the user. Stocks, grips, handguards, sights, etc etc are all items that could be easily integrated into existing rifles at very little cost. It really almost sounds like they want to bring SOPMOD to the entire force.

          • I agree; what I find revealing about IC is that no other rifle performed better across-the-board than the M4. The gains to be had there were pretty minor.

            I don’t know why the Army looking for COTS improvements to the M4A1 has everybody so riled up.

          • nova3930

            Simple, their sacred cow didn’t get chosen to replace the M-16 family. They think that after 40+ years there just has to be something better than the M-16 family and their cow is it. While there are probably solutions that do better than the M-16 in certain situations, they don’t provide the broad utility that the M-16 does, which is what you need in broadly issued system. At the end of the day the M-16 family has done a pretty darn good job killing people, on nearly every terrain this planet has to offer at a fairly reasonable cost. It’s not perfect but nothing ever will be and right now it fits the cost/performance ratio that DoD desires. I’m a big believer that we won’t see an entirely new individual arm issued until there’s a leap forward in tech. Caseless/Semi-caseless ammo, directed energy or something along those lines that is a real game changer…

          • Lance

            All that IC was was the SCAR lover attempt to replace the current rifles with the piece of Belgian plastic crap. Face it SCAR lover where pushing it from the get go. Army said correct the M-4 can be improved if they had to make improvements.

          • roguetechie

            I’m wondering about that too Nathaniel, especially when the Russians are doing a refresh on the AK 74 and or several other nations refresh and replacement programs!

            I tend to agree with you on the M16 having served very well, and as I dig further into my upgrade and design process that is my own attempt to create a radically improved AR15 I see the reason for many of the compromises that were originally made in the design!!

            At least a few hours a day I sit at my desk with AutoDesk up on my laptop and a fan of netbooks hard copy manuals digital mikes and various gun parts covering the rest of my desk while I consult the small arms design handbook swearing and punching numbers into my graphing calculator then scribbling some more notes . …. The size of the job I’ve undertaken sinks in a little more.

            Do I still believe i can do it? Oh HELL YES

            It’s just Gonna take a few more bites to eat this elephant lol.

          • Roguetechie, it really hits home when you try to design something better, doesn’t it? I’ve taken up that task a couple of times, but never gone full term with it, since you’re increasingly eking out a diminishing improvement. But it’s still a great hobby, and it’s essential to understanding the sort of design compromises modern small arms have to make.

            I think the AR-15 is still shaking off the monkey on its back from the late ’60s in Vietnam. Every time a gun malfunctions, it’s gotta be the design’s fault, and the grass is always greener on the other side.

            The truth is, though, even a humdrum ol’ civilian 6920 (that is, like an M4 circa 2001) performs really well when put through its paces. I think a higher standard of reliability is achievable, but I also think I have a pretty good idea of what would be required to achieve it, none of the competitors to the M4 have implemented more than one major mechanical improvement in this respect. So it’s no surprise they don’t perform better.

            Best of luck on your rifle design! Knock ’em dead!

          • Do you have a website to look up some of your improvements?

          • roguetechie

            John,

            I just got a big chunk of my tooling operational very recently and even then it’s going to be a few months of building the tools that make the tools before I get to make too much in the way of first round stuff that I can use to start making sure the changes actually work when combined and put on a real rifle!

            Don’t get me wrong I have lots of respect for the guys who post every stage of their projects, but I’m not one of them. (this has quite a bit to do with a compulsive attention to detail and a burning desire to have my debut effort described in the gun media as coming out of nowhere… Surprising and Brilliant… Etc ad nausea haha)

            Plus the AR project may not be the first project of mine you guys end up seeing…

            As for a hint there … George Kellgren may have to watch out…. He’s not the only guy who knows how to make cool toys that fold ..

          • Kivaari

            I simply don’t understand why so many people bat up on the M4A1. It seems to me that they work. I still don’t get the piston/DI argument considering how well the DI guns work. Are the special operation troops buying the double priced M4s because they are better, or simply because they get more of a budget to play with?

          • nova3930

            SOCOM is a special procurement case. Per soldier, their budget is high and logistically they can afford to supply the limited number of troops with ammo and spare parts for a wide variety of weapons. SOCOM can procure a wide variety of weapons an allow their troops the flexibility to select the optimal weapons for the mission at hand. From a budgetary and logistics perspective you just can’t do that with big army.

          • Joshua

            The M4A1+ requirements are coming about due to the IC results and because of the SCO.

    • n0truscotsman

      “substantial and costly overhaul” compared to what?

      Buying an entirely new rifle?

      • Riot

        Yes actually considering it includes replacing the barrel.
        And most definitely when its been done before.

        • Replacing the barrel is a heckuva lot cheaper than buying an entirely new rifle.

          • Riot

            Not when you throw in new trigger groups, rails etc.
            And its been replaced twice.

          • CommonSense23

            So what gun do you think would be a good replacement at this point for the M4

          • Riot

            Whatever won out on reliability tbh.

          • CommonSense23

            So the SOPMOD M4 then.

          • Joshua

            Oh you mean the rifle that broke twice as often as the M4A1.

          • dan citizen

            G3. There, problem solved.

          • Lance

            G-3 YUCK!!!! Go with M-14 EBR!

          • dan citizen

            I believe the G3 is the best battle rifle ever fielded, because this is a fact.

            The M-14 EBR seems like a good rifle, I’ve never fired that variant though.

          • Joshua

            I would say MARSOCs M110K1’s would beat the G3.

          • Lance

            Pls show a picture.

          • Kivaari

            Hasn’t there been continuing stoppages in all the 7.62mm AR-types?

          • Joshua

            Early on yes, the AR-10 now has a well proven track history. LMT and KAC are the leqding two AR-10 rifles.

          • Kivaari

            I’ve never shot one and have no desire to, thanks to a repeatedly broken neck. I have ONLY read about it, briefly commented on by C. Kyle. In talking with a known expert (at least to me) they have all had problems. I simply like the M4, more so if fitted with a mid-length upper.

          • Ed

            M-14 is a good rifle alot softer on recoil.

          • It’s irresponsible to recommend the M14 for service use in the 21st Century.

          • n0truscotsman

            No because everybody knows that it is more reliable than that cheap mattel poodle shooter, that for every 5 rounds i need to kill with 5.56 I can use 1 round of 7.62, that its 7.62 is designed to kill rather than wound, and it can take down a man 1000 yards away with MOA irons.

            And the 1911. Because why shoot twice when you can only shoot ’em once?

            😛

          • Kivaari

            Heavy, bad triggers, no hold open, very heavy ammo but more reliable than the M14.

          • dan citizen

            – PSG1 trigger for designated marksmen, it’s a drop in.
            – Crappy trigger don’t matter for grunts
            – Bolt hold open? New fangled foofery
            – IIRC fourth most popular military rifle worldwide AK, AR, FAL, G3

          • Kivaari

            Match triggers do not belong on infantry rifles. Better triggers belong on all rifles. Bolt hold opens are better than no hold open device. I would suspect not many armies world wide are buying many FAL or G3 rifles. At one time 50 years ago the FAL was near the top. Not any more. It was interesting to see the action in Tunis, where government forces were using AUGs. Few places are buying those anymore.
            Personally, I never found an HK91 that produced good groups. When an open-sight AKM can outperform the M91, I wonder why anyone buys the HK 7.62mm rifles. I had old model Mini-14s that shot better groups than the M91 or M93. I had two M94 SBRs, that shot 100 yard groups like the M91.
            And that is from someone that actually likes the HK rifles. I never figured out where all the sub-MOA 91s and 93s came from.

          • dan citizen

            I think the PSG1 at best only hovers close to an MOA. What I like about the G3 is that the accuracy I got did not change significantly with ammo, nor did ammo have to be constantly tweaked and changed to do it’s job.

            I just don’t think it matters though, I’ve seen too many soldiers poking their guns around walls to fire, or shooting with their eyes closed. The bottom line is I have never seen or heard of a battle won or lost over infantry weapons fine accuracy.

            What I hear plenty of is these modern wounding calibers doing just that.

            We once adopted a light rifle, then weighed it down with unnecessary gizmos. If I’m going to carry something that weighs the same as a garand, I want it to hit like one too.

            And I know the FAL and the G3 are often mentioned together, but it’s hurtful. The FAL has lousy ergonomics and spotty full auto functionality.

          • Kivaari

            The failure to work on full auto in 7.62mm NATO rifles is a given. No such rifle needs to have FA. Ergonomics are pretty basic to the shooter. I always found the FAL to handle better than the G3. Ammunition weight is just to high and too bulky for the big guns. Put a G3 alongside an AK, and they are actually similar in size.
            An M4 is about ideal in size and weight. The M16A2-4 is a big and heavy rifle. It has its place as a DMR when fitted with a good optic.
            Personally I would be happy to have a semi-auto rifle. Except when needed for fire and movement by fire TEAMS, the FA feature is pretty much unneeded. Our soldiers did pretty well with M1 rifles and carbines. In civilian law enforcement the FA feature is needed even less. I loved the MP5 we were issued. I had promoted the gun for our patrol cars. We got them. We trained with them, more than most military units. Only special ops guys used them more. FA is great fun.

          • dan citizen

            I found automatic fire very controllable and quite useful in the G3,

            As for too heavy ammo, balderdash. I saw men doing with 5 rounds of 7.62 what took a magazine full of 5.56, if it could be done at all. I do not buy into the “wounding round” theory, it looks good on a general’s desk, but it looks like crap from the ground, especially considering many current foes do not follow western practices regarding wounded.

            Enemies have this nasty habit of hiding behind things, I prefer to shoot them through the thing, rather than waste ammo putting divots in it until my guys can sneak around and hopefully be the one that prevails.

            Soldiers will always complain about gear weight. Ammo is not a place to cut corners. If US soldiers got their ass beat for wasting ammo, then more shots would be hits. In my experience, soldiers that blow through their ammo will do so if they carry 100 rounds or 1,000.

          • Kivaari

            Ammo wastage is an issue since the first military firearms were used. Training and training hard is needed. You have a valid point about that issue. It is not solely the weight of the ammo. The bulk is another issue. Everything must be computed using weight and space needed. Like 9mm v. .45, where twice the amount of 9mm occupies the same space required for .45. It is a real issue for TEAMs. In many, probably most, encounters between our warriors, we have weapons to take out enemies using barriers protecting them from rifle fire. A 40mm grenade, a LAAW-type missile, mortars or air support make the difference. Both arguments have validity. I favor the M4 carbine. The BIG picture favors soldiers having the M4, with support weapons like the M240 and M249. The red forces use mostly inferior 7.62x39mm rifles. They have support from 7.62x54mmR machine guns. It means we have parity in hand held weapons. We usually prevail because of superior soldiers and better support weapons. We would probably do better if training was intensified.

          • dan citizen

            Though I myself prefer the G3, I really like the clear way you outline why you prefer the M4, and the various support weapons.

          • Kivaari

            The old line about wounding an enemy soldier never held much water. What armies found real quickly after shifting to small caliber FMJ ROUND NOSE AMMUNITION is they did not kill well. By 1900 most armies were developing a more destructive bullet design. First cam e the spritzer (pointed) bullet. Most with a flat base. Those showed a huge improvement in killing effect. Even Italy in the 1900 era knew the 6.5mm poled nice clean holes. An Italian Army doctor studied it and came up with a solution, only to be ignored for decades. Armies found boat tailed bullets flew farther, and they did. They were also more stable when passing through tissue. The remedy was to install a fiber or aluminum cone in the nose of the bullet. Thus shifting the c/g to the rear. By 1910 many armies adopted the spritzer shape. The Brits came up with the Mk7 and wounding ability really went up. The Italians again too late and too little, developed the 7.35mm (an opened up 6.5mm case) and the wounding factor (read wounding as killing) went up. The Soviet’s 5.45mm does the dame thing. In the nose of that bullet is an air pocket. Upon hitting tissue the bullet tumbles. Unlike the M193 or SS109 (M855) which tumble. At ranges under 200m those bullets tend to break apart and make nasty wounds.
            Many of our “new” 5.56mm ammo using heavy bullets are hollow point. Due to the small opening and heavier jacket they react like a conventional FMJ. It is why they are lawful in international conflicts. The shape and weight do improve the external ballistics, and that is why the small bullets can be used to much greater distances. A hit at 600m with a bullet is much better than a miss by any other bullet.
            Out to 400m it is easy to hit with either round, and the 7.62mm NATO certainly makes a big impact.

          • n0truscotsman

            Wrong.

            You know the kalashnikov is the most obvious choice

            The german refugee spanish knockoff is no match for the mighty war machine forged within the sacred, ancient walls of Izhevsk from the coveted hammers and sickles of the proletariat.

            🙂

            (Before I escalate an impending flame war, please consider that comment purely tongue in cheek before you begin the rabid hunt for my IP address)

          • dan citizen

            I think it is reasonable to say that a well trained military could field the AK platform and do alright.

            It has weak points, but it is undeniable that it is functional, reliable, and fires an effective cartridge.

          • n0truscotsman

            There you go with being rational now. and calm. 😉

          • As opposed to a rifle with totally new receiver architecture? Yes, it absolutely is still cheaper.

          • Riot

            Like hell – just because US civilians pay a premium on receivers for legal reasons doesn’t make them ridiculously expensive to manufacture. And H&K made the 416 because that excuse was used before.

          • H&K designed the 416 because SOCOM asked them to.

            If it’s just a premium charged to civilians, then why is the unit cost of a SCAR-L higher than that of an M4?

          • Riot

            I dont know the unit cost of the scar but I know the m27 with its longer heavier barrel (and being “commissioned” so to speak) is under two thousand compared to the M4s $1100 and the 416 is cheaper than the 27. You would also save money on the LR and attached parts with that option. So cost isn’t the reason – esp with the M4 being bumped up again.

          • Whoah, where are you getting a unit cost of $1100 for an M4? Last I heard, they were under the $700 mark. Heck, I can go buy a 6920 from the local gun shop for $966!

          • Riot

            Thats what they were bought at. Thats colts rate for militaries.

          • FN won the 2012 contract with a bid of $641 per rifle. Reportedly, Colt bid quite high on that contract ($1200? Makes no sense to me given the prices for their civilian guns, but w/e, it is Colt), but that’s irrelevant because both Remington and FN bid under $700 for the M4. That’s what an M4 costs.

          • Riot

            H&K marks up to civilians, Colt marks up contracts.
            They are notorious for corruption – that is how the M4 started in the first place like I said in the beginning.

          • The M4 started because of an Army request that turned into the SOCOM request. Nothing about the design speaks of corruption to me.

            Here’s the source you were looking for for the $1100 figure, BTW. That is high; no wonder Colt’s going broke.

          • Riot

            The M4 started because colt lost the m16 contract to FN, suddenly there is contract to colt for what is a short M16. If it weren’t wheel greasing by colt (which is how they got high cost contracts) a short M16 would have been asked of those building the M16 or been an open contract.

          • The original XM4 (Colt 720) was a short M16. At SOCOM’s request it incorporated additional features (e.g. flattop) and was held to higher requirements, leading to things like the improved buffer, M4 feedramps, and the “fat” double heat shield handguards.

            So the M4 has pretty much from Day 1 been an SOF baby.

          • Kivaari

            Remember. it all started with the XM177. A lifetime ago.

          • Oh man, you’re making me shift in my seat, just talkin’ bout those fine old grey guns…

          • Kivaari

            Colt has always thought their name was important enough to overcharge for their guns. When Pythons sold for $110, a Combat Magnum was $85 an M&P $65. Well, SP1s were about $110 a helluva bunch more than an “real” M1 Carbine at $40 (often with M2 guts).

          • idahoguy101

            SOCOM dumped the SCAR-L. Kept the SCAR-H. The HK416 is seems to be gradually becoming SOCOM’s standard carbine as M4s wear out.
            But Big Army has nixed adding a gas piston to the M4A1.

          • Joshua

            I would like to know where you got this?

            The only ones using the HK416 is Delta and DEVGRU. Everyone else, including all of the SEAL teams and all of the SF teams use the M4A1/CQBR or MK18(Navy).

          • working4change

            Gas piston is more parts to fail and heavier.
            Besides thr upper is rebuilt many times in the life of a rifle. Gas or piston in the initial unit means NOTHING.

            HK416 is an M4 once a soldier gets his rifle near all start making mods to fit them. Grips, stocks, iron sights, optics lol they can change day to day. You setup you upper for the job and switch as needed. Mmy rifle I have 6 uppers, BeoWolf, 7.62×39, 16″ 5.56 and 22″ 5.56. Each has its uses and optics for the job. Of yeah a 2nd 16″ just for plinking and 22lr for fun.

            plus backup lower and 2 stage for hunting.

            they all work on M4, HK416/417, or AR15s you cant do any of this with a SCAR. The SCAR is just snother option, but never a replacement.

            no other system is as easy to fix/swap parts. If mine get damaged a budd

            besides barrel get worn out fast if you shoot the new Crap “green” ammo. Cuts life cycle of barrel in half.

          • Joshua

            It wasn’t even SOCOM, it was SFOD-D and it was requested for a sub gun length 5.56 rifle before the Mk18 or CQBR was finalized.

            It was never envisioned to replace the M4, and it only did so in two units.

          • working4change

            Scar-l is an import…. FN will always cost more due to political BS!

          • Kivaari

            Does anyone know, is it economical to replace the barrel and upper receiver at the same time? It seems that by the time a barrel is worn out, the upper is likely significantly worn. Simply swapping upper units seems a reasonable thing to do.

          • According to some sources I’ve seen, this may become SOP with the new M855A1 round. I don’t imagine it’ll be that big a deal, considering the upper’s a pretty cheap part.

        • n0truscotsman

          M4s are being produced at a bit over 600 bucks for contract price, so what other rifles are in production/service right now that are:

          A.) measurably superior (in terms of class 1-3 stoppages, accuracy, parts life, etc)

          B.) cheaper

          ?

          Im very curious now.

        • working4change

          Only becayse of the new pos m855a1 ammo cutting barrel life in half just to be “green” when lead is not and never been an issue. There has never been one single case of lead poisoning in any water supply from ammo.

          the rest are cosmetic changes near all M4 already have done by the soldiers on rheir own dime. They just want to control 100% in a one size fits all. They will spend 10x the cost of what soldier have already done and much it will be replaced anyhow.

          every few thousand rounds barrels are changed…. no good reason to do it any other way then providing new better barrel to the existing m4 for their next replacement.

          Frankly it’s just another reason to spend extra cash that helps their friends and gets them more Election money but in the end is a net loss for the country. Pay more for what we already do. Its insane!

    • Vitsaus

      The fanboys are masters of double think. “Its perfect” until some branch or another admits that various specific improvements are needed then suddenly “now its perfect” until about 10 years later some other flaws are addressed then “now for reals its perfect” ad nauseam. Disguised as “modernization” what we really have is Uncle Sam paying for costly operations for a beloved pet that should have been euthanized some time ago. Imagine the platform used in a conflict more the size of WWII or the Korean war, where troops are cut off from resupply for protracted periods of time and operating for days on end against an enemy that is more or less equally equipped and supported? What flaws might be revealed under those circumstance? What apologism will we see then?

      • Who here is saying the M4 is perfect?

        • Kivaari

          I am still trying to figure out why so many people are hating the M4.

          • Uniform223

            phallic object measuring…

          • Kivaari

            Pretty much as I see it. The M4 is one of the finest weapons in use. They are better than any AK rifle I’ve used. Including the Galil and Valmet. As good as those were they needed fixing from simple things like aperture size to no bolt hold open. The selector on the Galil is or was the best on any AK. I saw enough Galils with cracked receivers to know it wasn’t as tough as some claimed.
            I was fortunate to talk with Nehamia Sirkis about his time with Galali to know what went down. The AK is a reliable weapon, and like all box magazine fed rifles they stopped working in the desert if the mags were not protected. I used them in extremely wet environs, and they do very well there. I used the AR platform in similar conditions and amazingly they worked well.

          • A modern M4 is a remarkably reliable rifle. I don’t think it’s the best possible rifle, but of guns actually being made I’d say it is up there. It got a lot better when they went back to S-1-A trigger groups, too.

          • Kivaari

            I never felt the burst feature was a wise choice. With a little more training, no one needs burst systems.

          • I don’t think the burst feature itself was so bad as the mechanism used to do it. Atrocious!

          • Kivaari

            The handful of parts was my point. Just more things to go bad.

          • It’s shaken out that doctrinally, the rifleman will be using semi-auto fire just about all the time, anyway, and that there are times when full auto is needed. Couple that with the troublesome A2 burst mechanism, and it’s a no-brainer to go back to S-1-A trigger groups.

          • Kivaari

            Having FA as a feature of the rifle is OK by me. I’d like to have FA features, but I certainly can get by with SA. As you know most soldiers are encouraged to conserve ammo, and the better trained ones do. The fire and maneuver tactics rely on the belt fed guns. I’m ok with it. Most rounds sprayed out by individual riflemen for the most part hit nothing of importance. Spraying them out on semi-auto would probably achieve the same effect. I know I can hit better using SA fire than spraying with a machinegun.

    • Joshua

      Modern FF rails cost less than the current KAC RIS/RAS. Modern triggers like the newly acquired by SOCOM SSF offer significant parts life increase that makes them cost less, 15,000v100,000 parts life on the trigger offsets the price increase.

      Buis can also be made cheaper now days. So do tell where this costly overhaul is when everything can be had for cheaper overall than current M4MWS items.

    • RealitiCzech

      This is standard acquisition practice (well, it’s supposed to be standard). Improving the current system is always the first choice, as it’s usually the cheapest and simplest method unless the original system was just a horrifically bad design from the start. A new rifle is going to have a lot of undiscovered issues*, it’s going to be a headache teaching all the armorers how to deal with it, how to dispose of the old rifles, etc. You’re not supposed to go with a new system unless it has capabilities the current system doesn’t (plasma rifle), offers significant (the most important word) improvements over the current one, and it’s similarly priced or cheaper.
      Because of that, I doubt that an AR replacement will be coming around anytime soon. The closest thing to significant improvement is a bullpup, which gives you more velocity for less length and the ability to fire one handed far more easily – but it has its own issues (non-adjustable length of pull, problems with certain firing positions, ambi usage, etc).
      I suspect a Tracking Point style of system is far more likely to be adopted than a SCAR or 416 – but that will take years of improvement, ruggedization, and a lower price. Tracking Point should allow for more accurate hits at longer range, thanks to automatically adjusting zero for you – I could see those results being very positive indeed for an average shooter trying to hit targets at unknown ranges.

      *The AR series runs so well because it’s been issued to millions of troops serving all over the place over the span of a half century, and a lot of problems have been fixed during that time.

      • iksnilol

        A bullpup can have an adjustable stock. You can either use spacers (not so fast) or have an honest-to-goodness adjustable stock (like the VHS has). And ambi usage is better than the regular ones if you go with something that has forward ejection and ambi controls.

        NOTE: Not a bullpup fanboy but I dislike it when people see problems and opportunities.

        • RealitiCzech

          The VHS has an adjustable stock? Very clever. And yes, bullpups like the F2000 eliminate ambi issues and the buddy-getting-brass-in-the-face issue quite nicely. Bullpups definitely have a lot to offer.

          • Kivaari

            The only printed material I have read on the 2000 was it was inaccurate. I wonder if that has improved. I only handled one once and like the others it was awkward. Short with a long barrel keeps the velocity up, and that’s a good thing. It seems that almost every “improvement” is offset with negatives.

      • I sincerely hope the M4 gets replaced very soon… By something truly better.

        Great post, Czech!

  • Cornelius Carroll

    Honestly, one of the best upgrades they could make to the M4 from a durability/reliability standpoint would be the KAC E3 bolt and barrel extension. Just IMO.

    • Yeah, I agree.

    • Alucard

      Or just a different gun.

      • M4s are boring, time for a new gun.

        • Lance

          I knew it again going for your Euro rifle.

          • Joshua

            Sarcasm

        • Kivaari

          That’s probably the real reason. Government thrives on design contracts. It’s so costly to create a new weapon. Forty five years ago, while I was in the Navy, we were using the 5″-54 that was designed in 1939 but delayed because of the war, and the 5″-38 was a known and proven system. Then the larger guided missiles on the Long Beach were essentially designs from 1944-45. Continuing to improve existing designs simply makes sense. Some things as simple as replacing the canister style and very complex missile magazine systems with simple vertical in the deck launchers made the SM1-SM3 system much better and more reliable. The point being is the M4 is a good rifle, and with some changes will compete against just about every new design thrown into the path of the gun buyers for the military. Simplify existing designs with COTS features may simply be the smartest thing to do.

        • Alucard

          I agree 1000%

    • Joshua

      One part on the E3 bolt has one major flaw that makes a certain part break at 5,000 or so rounds.

      The bolt in the M4A1 has a replacement requirement of 10,000 rounds under SOCOM firing schedules.

      • Cornelius Carroll

        Really? I had not heard anything along those lines for the E3 bolt. What brakes? Any links? I’m curious now.

        • Joshua

          The extractor. While designed better the more forward placement of the retainer, requiring a spring greatly reduces the strength of the extractor.

          It had a habbit of,breaking at the spring cut area during hard use.

          The bolt however, went to around 30,000 rounds before breaking.

          In a civilian setting you would never see an issue.

  • barry504

    I wonder why they won’t consider a nickel boron or nitrided bcg as part of the upgrade?

    • n0truscotsman

      It was my understanding that the army DID test those components and found them no more reliable than the old style. This is from two anecdotes on the active duty side, so take that for what it is. I dont have any documentation or reference material.

      • Civilian tests seem to indicate this as well. No real improvement.

    • Joshua

      None offered an improvement, it was tested.

      • Barry

        Dang! So why am I shelling out more money for this “upgrade”? They got me hehe

        • Joshua

          They are easier to clean…..it matters to some.

  • DI Guy

    Que the “****’s where it eatseats” piston fanboy nonsense.

    • iksnilol

      My problem is more with the design of the bolt than the “defecates where it eats” problem. If the bolt had a simpler shape then it wouldn’t be such a hassle to clean.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Ugh… I don’t even… Nevermind.

      • Bolt’s not any harder to clean than an AK’s.

        • iksnilol

          No, just no. You got 7 locking lugs on an AR + a gas system which ensures that crud gets everywhere.
          An AK has two locking lugs and a gas system that vents excess gas before it can gunk up the interiors.
          Not saying the AR is bad. Just saying that the A1 is better as a bolt action.

          • Mate, I’m literally sitting in a chair right this second that has an Arsenal SLR-104FR and a Colt 6920 standing up against it. I think I have a pretty well-informed opinion of which one’s bolt is harder to clean. Lugs ain’t all there is to it.

          • iksnilol

            You have a well informed opinion, so do I. Though I guess what is “hard to clean” is pretty subjective.

          • Here you go, pictures of my SLR’s and 6920’s bolts. Of course, the AR’s bolt is dirtier; DI and it hasn’t been cleaned in well over two thousand rounds (no need) – the SLR is new with only a couple hundred through it. What was in contention was whether the bolt lug configuration of the AK is easier to clean than the AR-15. It’s clearly not significantly easier; the AK has 12 surfaces that need cleaning, the AR has 14. I’m measuring this by how many areas a single toothbrush stroke could cover, mind.

            http://i.imgur.com/FIJONkm.jpg

          • I gotta say thanks, though. That’s the first time I’ve broken open my AR in, uh, a while. It looks fascinating on the inside. All the contact surfaces are bright white, and the rest of it is positively caked in crap. It smells like a gunshot, too.

            Definitely the way a well-kept AR bolt carrier looks. 😉

          • nova3930

            Keep a quality AR properly lubed and they’ll run for a darn long time before they actually need to be cleaned. Crap mags, out of spec crap parts and lack of lube cause 99% of all AR malfunctions.

          • Kivaari

            That fits well with what I’ve contended for years, that 95% of gun smiths work is simply cleaning the parts. Things that should be done by the individual soldier.

          • I’m sure I lubed my AR at some point in its history, but at this point there is no visible lubricant inside it. Still runs fine.

          • Uniform223

            The AK BCG is just easier to take apart rather than the AR bolt.

          • Kivaari

            I found a tooth brush works well to clean the lugs and bolt face.

  • ColaBox

    So their acknowledging after market parts finally? If that’s the case there is PLENTY to choose from. But if their referring to a substantial upgrade to the entire operating system then im not sure what they can make improvments to here. How about switch to billet receivers, drop the delta ring, strengthen the BCG, and…hell, why not trade up to .308 by this point? James Sullivan had some good ideas with his new AR15 in a post a few months back but there hasn’t been much discussion or acknowledgement to anything he’s said.

    • I don’t see what would be gained by switching to .308.

      • marathag

        The opportunity to change back to an intermediate round after it’s found that the 308 is still too powerful, and the guys in the ’60s were not stupid in choosing it.

    • Kivaari

      Keep the ammo small and light weight. 5.56mm does the job.

  • 45b20

    As a former 45B-H I would be interested to see what sort of in theater repairs and failures are being experienced on the ground and how they differ from what I experienced 40 years ago. My single lasting impression of the A1, A2 was that it was far larger than the cartridge called for due to the buffer tube, which to me is the M-16/4’s weak spot, and one that I would like to see eliminated.

    • There are benefits to the buffer tube arrangement (better weight distribution, easily augmented moving parts group mass), but a folding stock would enhance the rifle for certain applications, sure.

      • Joshua

        I will never get the desire for a folding stock. We’re not shooting out of our humvees and we are not rolling our windows down.

        • It’s not something I find particularly useful, but if you were airborne or mechanized, I could see it being convenient.

        • Kivaari

          Folding stocks make little sense. The adjustable LOP stocks make sense to accommodating the various thickness’ of your gear. When we were buying the MP5s I recommended the A2 fixed stocks to avoid the desire of some to collapse the stock and shoot from the hip.

        • iksnilol

          Folding stocks are more practical. Collapse the stock and you can more easily transport the rifle.

          A friend of mine in Bosnia managed to CC an AK due to the folding stock. He wore a coat and folded the stock, used the sling to make the rifle go along his side. Though that isn’t really a millitary concern.

          For millitary use, it is practical if you are in a vehicle. With the widespread use of red dots, firing without the stock is still effective at 100 meters and less. It is also more practical to make the rifle less cumbersome to carry if for people who don’t shoot too much.

          Doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can have an adjustable stock that is also folding.

          • Joshua

            Basically POGues and Civilians have use of a folding stock.

          • iksnilol

            Not quite.

            In house clearing and close quarters a folding stock provides quite the advantage. I have seen enough room brooms without stocks (or with folding stocks) to know that they have an advantage. Also, you still are in vehicles. Vehicles (especially millitary vehicles) are usually cramped.

            If folding stocks were as useless as you would like them to be, then almost all millitary rifles wouldn’t have them.

  • Lance

    No piston will be included. Overall new trigger and possible new butt stock maybe added. Some want a free floating barrel assembly but Id say that’s not a good idea not due to performance but you cannot take a free floating barrel apart in the feild for cleaning under the tube. Handguards may be less accurate but cleaning is easier.

    If and I say again if they upgrade them again why not call it a M-4A2 or A3 not just keep calling the M-4A1.Over the M-4 will stay a DI weapons im glad they seem to drop the optic only gas block crap some thought about in 2013. Overall the budget may not allow the upgrades the nerds at PEO solders always makes RFIs when BIG army wants new vehicles.

    • CommonSense23

      Why would you need to clean under the rails in the field?

      • Lance

        Try jumping into a mud puddle or forging a river. Smacking a bad guy with your rifle and getting blood under your hand guards.

        • How does that impede the function of the weapon?

          • Grindstone50k

            Maybe it’s less about function and more about what the Sgt wants to see white-glove clean?

          • I wouldn’t know about that, but it certainly would be quite the Sarge who would immediately demand you break down and clean your handguards right after smacking a guy so hard his blood splattered all over the inside of them.

          • Grindstone50k

            Plus blood tends to oxidize steel faster than water.

          • Joshua

            Blood also destroys aluminum, it is the only thing that is a 100% necessity to clean asap

        • CommonSense23

          Okay, and why would I need to clean blood under my hand guards in the field. And have swam across rivers, and thru surf zones with my rifle. Functioned fine and never needed to get under the rails.
          What needs cleaning under the handguards in the field that would effect the weapon.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Lance has never shot or even held a gun in his life. Trolling this site since the dawn of time.

          • CommonSense23

            That’s pretty obvious but it is entertaining to read him try to explain some of his more insane statements.

          • Lance

            Pretty obvious you never been in combat either.

          • CommonSense23

            Why is that? Cause I know there is no reason someone would ever need to clean under the rails in the field.

          • Lance

            No the fact you have to goto attack mode because I disagree with FF assemblies. Takwe it your a tacti coler and you must have rails FF barrel assemblies and Optics only ARs. Read the opposite in combat. Think the race guns you champion wont work as well in combat.

          • CommonSense23

            Never ran a race gun. Just a MK18MOD1 that was issued.

          • Lance

            Used a A2 rifle at work.

          • CommonSense23

            Where did you work?

          • Lance

            Contractor for USCG West Coast.

          • Kivaari

            I am old, M1 rifles and M16A1s, while in the Navy and army. MP5A2 and M4 carbines in police use.

          • CommonSense23

            Attack mode? What cause I see no need to have fixed sites that are easily damaged. When you can have back up fold down iron sites that are better protected and can be changed quickly if damaged.

          • Joshua

            FF rails do have proven benefits besides zero retention.

          • “I disagree with you, ergo you’ve never been in combat.”

            Hah!

          • Lance

            ergo?????? What the heck your talking about.

          • Latin word for “therefore”, mate.

          • Lance

            SHot more weapons than you think you can say I never killed anyone but. I have carried and shot more rifles than you have, Ergo.

          • You are awfully familiar with what I have and have not used before.

          • Kivaari

            That’s like reminding the kids that the old duffer slowly crossing the street may have been there and done that. We don’t know what burdens others carry.

          • iksnilol

            It doesn’t work that way, “ergo” isn’t a name. Ergo = therefore. And you don’t put “therefore” at the end of a sentence.

          • Lance

            Shot more than you mouth off.

          • Lance

            Because grit and mud can get into your chamber threw the hole for your gas tube in the receiver.. In tropics NOT desert you may also get rust and corrosion inside your rails.

          • CommonSense23

            You really do now nothing about maintaining a AR in the field do you.

            First the vast majority of the military doesn’t even have the technical skills to take off their gas block. That’s even if they were allowed to which most aren’t.

            Second, so what if it rusts a little on the rails. That’s a problem that can be handled back when you give the weapon a detailed cleaning. Not something to deal with in the field.

          • Lance

            No but you can clean them with the hand guards removed. You cannot do this with a ff rail system.

    • n0truscotsman

      “Some want a free floating barrel assembly but Id say that’s not a good idea not due to performance but you cannot take a free floating barrel apart in the feild for cleaning under the tube”

      I already addressed this issue with you previously.

      There is no way the traditional hand guard set up is easier to clean. This is especially true with the knights rail system. When considering the A2 style, at worst, free float tubes are about as easy.

      Using the 416 for example, the only thing you have to do to remove the rail is remove the rail screw. The rail then will be able to slide off when you pull it forward. This gives you full access to the gas system and barrel. Easy peasy.

      Daniel defense rails are easy to remove too, even with additional rail screws. Again, you are given full access to the barrel and gas tube.

      There is no need to remove in the field unless you have a broken gas tube, or, in the case of the 416, you absolutely need to clean the gas system. Hell, you have have blood and mud and anything else in between encased inside the entire free float tube and the rifle will still fire.

      • The 416 rail is really, really good; probably the best part of the rifle.

        • Joshua

          The barrel is the best part of the rifle, between material choice and the tapered bore it is probably the best barrel on the market.

          • Wouldn’t know about the barrel; I’ll take your word for it.

          • n0truscotsman

            Yeah I second that.

            HK is famous for the quality of their barrels. For a rightful reason.

            and I honestly believe the standard rail for the 416 is over engineered and unnecessarily heavy. Its built like a I-beam.

          • Brian

            Care to talk about the well-documented problems with the longrunning gripes about melting G36 barrels, then?

          • n0truscotsman

            The problem is not with the G36 barrel, but rather, the reinforced polymer receiver encasing a steel trunnion which heats when the rifle is fired. Result? POI shift. Polymer behaves differently than alloys when heated.

            Nothing to do with the barrel.

  • Comrade

    Failzero BCG, maybe

    • Kivaari

      They look like over-polished parts with a nice coating to make clean up easier. Is there more to it?

  • Brad Ferguson

    Kind of tragic to spend the money on this type of Band-Aid. When you’re not sure if the Military is going to the case less round.

    • Joshua

      LSAT is a long long ways off, caseless is even further.

      I imagine 40 lasers will come before either LSAT or caseless get finalized.

      • LCON

        less then 40 but still not before 2020 for LSAT CTA but that’s the LMG and LGPMG the Carbine development is at least 5 years behind that so may be 2025. Of course Once you Make such a big change you might as well Go whole hog and use some of there bullet like 6.8 or 6.5mm. so maybe 2030 for full service of a LSAT carbine

  • ghost

    Huh?

  • sultan of swing

    the AF’s F35 costs $400B and can’t fly while the Army gets stuck with the POS M4 and can’t spend a few billion for a better rifle

    • Joshua

      Different budgets and the SOPMOD M4A1 is the premier general issue small arm.

    • Lance

      Because there is no better rifle.

      • Ping Fa

        No, there are better weapons. It’s just that too many bureaucrats have a lot of money on nobody ever admitting it.

  • Lance

    That’s MARSOC not regular Marines though

    • Joshua

      That’s why I said MARSOC had the M110K1’s.

  • Uniform223

    Is that a KAC SR-25EMC?

    • Joshua

      The Military version. Those were purchased as upgrade kits for the M110 to bring them to K1 specs.

      It was a new upper, suppressor, and stock assembly.

  • LCON

    The Cost of changing totally to a new weapon in the army;s mind does not equal the benefits yet. They may down the line If the army decides to Adopt LSAT technologies.

    Now in terms of what is happening here the Army doesn’t see any major change in the works for the next 10 years but they see lots of little ones. What they are doing is looking to there contractors to show them there offerings so they can keep M4A1 up with all the latest goodies. THIS IS NOT A NEW RIFLE!!! it’s swapping the asset deck for a MP3 player.

    “offered M4A1+ system must install on/interface with stock M4A1 Carbines. “The M4A1+ components will seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine (to include but not limited to the barrel, gas tube, upper receiver, bolt and bolt carrier)”

    Translation A new Upper Receiver kit.
    New Coatings favoring Coyote,
    New Trigger Group ( not included)
    likely a new rail interface and sights
    new stock and possibly new pistol grip
    all of which is easily already on the market for Civilians Now the army wants to give it to the “War fighter” they might also throw in wanting totally ambi controls for the bolt release and magazine drop.
    So what would it look like? not much different from what is already down range not a POF or SIG MCX but SR16 or DDM4
    Barrel length would likely stay the same although likely to be thinker I don’t see any indications that the Army will push for a Composite barrel or any fancy barrel options.
    DI will likely stay although there may be some piston offerings I think the biggest Question will be length keep the Current Carbine length of move to the Mid length With a low profile gas block but keeping some form of bayonet lug. and a new Muzzle break.

    M-LOK or KEYMOD? The rail across the top of the Upper will be a continuous M1913 from front sight to charging handle ( which will likely not change) but the rest of the rail interface will move to either Keymod or M-lok The army seems to have no preference and is willing to look at both.

    Existing buffer tube will likely remain untouched with any number of mil spec stocks on the market.
    Best guess on offerings Daniel Defence DDM4, KAC SR16, Colt ACCM, FN 15, Barret Rec 7 gen II

  • John

    If you want the United States military to drop the M-16 platform, build a laser gun. It’s that simple.

    • LCON

      power and price DEW at the infantry level is a Fantasy. to power it you would need a massive power pack basically your grunt with a truck driving behind him and the price would be astronomical.
      LSAT Cased Telescope Ammo is the best bet but it’s only at Tech readiness 7 it needs to move to level 9 before you see it in the hands of Troops. This move by the Army is filler till LSAT Carbine is ready to hit Technology readiness 8 and then start fielding

  • n0truscotsman

    They do clean up nicely. Ive previously ran fail zero bolt carrier groups and they were always easy to clean (and they would also stain from their shiny metallic coating too, which I didn’t like).

    They sounded like a very good concept theoretically, although I noticed no difference in reliability.

  • Dale Bensen

    Funny how the US Army claims that the M4 is perfect and that it doesn’t need any upgrades, and then they suddenly need to get upgrades now that their platform has been proven in competition to not be as flawless as they boasted, but still, of course it doesn’t need upgrades, because it’s already perfect, so therefore the thing to do is upgrade it more.

  • zeus234

    What the hell happened to the M-16 ? Good weapon OK the 20 rnd mag kinda sucked but easy fix.