Marine Corps Brass Approve Replacing M16 With M4 Carbine

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

In the Marine Corps, every man is a rifleman, but it seems the days of the full-length rifle with the USMC may be coming to a close. The M4 Carbine, pending approval by the commandant, will likely become the general issue weapon of the Corps, replacing the M16A4 for the infantry, Marine Corps Times reports:

Marine leaders have made the momentous recommendation to ditch the iconic M16 in favor of the M4 carbine as the new universal weapon for infantrymen.

The recommendation to swap the venerated rifle that has served as the grunt’s primary implement of war since Vietnam now sits on the commandant’s desk, pending his final review and a decision. But, the swap appears imminent and if approved will relegate the M16 to a support role. It follows a similar shift already underway in the Army.

With the endorsement of several major commands already supporting the switch — including Marine Corps Combat Development Command; Combat Development and Integration; Plans, Policies and Operations; Marine Corps Systems Command; and Installations and Logistics — final word is possible in weeks or months.

“The proposal to replace the M16A4 with the M4 within infantry battalions is currently under consideration at Headquarters Marine Corps,” according to a jointly written response from the commands provided by Maj. Anton Semelroth, a Marine spokesman in Quantico, Virginia.

The change would be welcomed by infantrymen who say the M16A4 was too long and unwieldy for close-quarters battle in Iraq or vehicle-borne operations in Afghanistan. They tout the M4 for its weight savings, improved mobility and collapsible butt stock, allowing the rifle to be tailored for smaller Marines or those wearing body armor.

“I would have to say my gut reaction is it’s the right choice and will do a lot of good for the guys in the infantry,” said Sgt. Nathan West, an explosive ordnance technician with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, who carried an M4 on dismounted patrols and vehicle-borne operations during two deployments to Afghanistan as an anti-tank missileman.

“The M4 is a great weapons system that has done everything I have ever asked of it,” he added.

The proposed switch also gets the thumbs up from senior marksmen such as the 1st Marine Division gunner, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Vince Kyzer.

“The carbine is a great weapon system for its time,” he said. “…It will increase the war fighter’s lethality and mobility.”

Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force fire M4 carbines during marksmanship training in Qatar. All Marine infantrymen could soon be issued the M4 in place of the M16A4 service rifle. (Photo: Cpl. Christopher Q. Stone/Marine Corps)

Ultimately, if the move to the M4 is approved by Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, the M16 would be used exclusively by support personnel in communities like logistics or admin. Once approved, the swap could happen as fast as unit armories can issue weapons because the 17,000 M4s needed to outfit infantrymen who don’t already use one are in the current inventory, said Barb Hamby, a Systems Command spokeswoman. Thus, officials described the move as an “improved capability for the infantry at no additional cost.”

Wider adoption of the M4 is part of an overall small-arms modernization strategy that will look at incremental improvements, based on existing technologies as funding becomes available, according to a Marine official who said more details will likely be revealed in the months ahead.

For now, here is what Marines need to know about the infantry’s next likely weapon of choice — the M4 carbine.

Interestingly, there is no mention of the M4A1, which the Army is currently in the process of upgrading existing carbines to.

The article cites the collapsing buttstock, lighter weight, and improved performance of Mk. 318 as the primary reasons for the switch.

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at

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  • LCON LCON on Jul 31, 2015

    The Heart of the M4 is still a M16A2 only with the loss of 4.5 inches of barrel and a telescoping stock. Really as long as they are using 5.56mm this is no world changing event. The only questions I have are how the Marines will spec there M4's wil they just use the Existing Marine M4 currently in issue and simply expand force wide or will they follow the Army in making more changes?

  • Pranqster Pranqster on Aug 05, 2015

    "an overall small-arms modernization strategy that will look at incremental improvements, based on existing technologies as funding becomes available"

    Translation: insignificant changes based on old technology as cheaply as we can do it.

    Not very innovative if you ask me. The US should be looking at bullpups like the Tavor especially considering the nature of close quarters conflicts these days.