Tag Archives: M4A1 Carbine

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Could the Army Ditch Brass for Plastic?

The hybrid polymer-cased cartridge, developed by Texas-based True Velocity as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program, is compatible with legacy firearms as well.

The 6.8mm TVCM composite case design, coupled with the Army’s 6.8mm (.277-caliber) common cartridge projectile, was originally developed and optimized for use in the NGSW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle submissions submitted to that military program by General Dynamics-OTS. It performs better ballistically than 7.62 NATO and weighs 30 percent less.

However, using what True Velocity characterizes as a “switch barrel” capability, they have demonstrated it can work with much of the Army’s currently fielded small arms including the M240B belt-fed machine gun, the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and the M134 minigun.

Which could mean that, even if NGSW tanks, there could be a revolutionary advance in the ammo used by U.S. troops in the near future.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig Shows off Planned Army Future Weapons

Sig Sauer, as I’ve covered a few times in the past couple of years, is one of the three teams who are in the running for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons, a group of guns using the same 6.8mm caliber that is set to replace the M4 and M249 families. Further, they are the only one that is solely a firearms company and plans to do everything in-house as opposed to the other two teams which are made up of several sub-contractors. 

Their submission:

Sig’s MCX Spear series carbine aims to be the Army’s NGSW-Rifle, replacing the M4. Standard features include a fully collapsible and folding stock, rear and side charging handle, free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, fully ambidextrous controls, and a quick-detach Sig Next Generation suppressor. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Sig’s Lightweight MMG is a belt-fed general-purpose weapon intended to become the Army’s NGSW-Automatic Rifle, replacing the M249 while hitting the scales at 40 percent lighter and with a round that has double the effective range of 5.56. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Both platforms use Sig’s 6.8mm hybrid ammunition, which is billed as offering a significant reduction in weight over traditional ammo while offering better performance and greater penetration while using a 121-grain bullet. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Further, Sig thinks they are positioned to pull it off, a move that, when coupled with the fact that their P320 pistol has been adopted as the M17/M18, would give the company the Pentagon small arms hat trick with the exception of 7.62 caliber platforms.

Sig: Next-Gen Weapons Delivered to the Army

Sig Sauer this week announced it has completed the delivery of the company’s Next Generation Squad Weapons system to the U.S. Army.

The company is one of three contractors who in 2019 got the nod from the Pentagon to continue with the NGSW program. The sweeping initiative aims to replace the Army’s 5.56mm NATO small arms – the M4 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Sig’s program consists of an in-house-designed lightweight high-performance 6.8x51mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition, NGSW-AR lightweight machine guns, NGSW-R rifles (based on the MCX carbine), and next-gen suppressors.

They certainly look the part and, if selected, would give Sig the small arms hattrick as their P320s have been adopted as the DOD’s standard handgun to replace everything from the USAF’s lingering K-frame 38s to the Marine’s M45 CQB railguns and everything in between. At that point, the only man-portable system used by the Army not made by Sig would be the M240 and M2, which FN still has a lock on.

More in my column at Guns.com.

NGSW? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The current NGSW field 

The U.S. Army is full-speed ahead on an initiative to select a new series of innovative 6.8mm-caliber Next Generation Squad Weapons to phase out its 5.56mm platforms for combat troops. However, it would seem the Department of the Army is hedging their bets with traditional systems just in case things don’t work out like planned such as in past ambitious programs for futuristic small arms.

In April, FN won a 5-year $119 million contract for new M4/M4A1 Carbines from the company’s South Carolina factory– where 500 of the shorty 5.56s roll out every, single, day.

And this week, Big Army likewise issued a $78 million award to FN for more M249s, the squad-level U.S-made variant of the FN Minimi light machine gun that has been standard since 1982.

Just google the Individual Carbine (IC), Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW), or the Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) programs to see why keeping the legacy infantry arms in production until things work out is a good idea.

The army advanced combat rifle ACR prototypes.

Welcome (back), M16A4

The humble original M16 was originally Armalite’s AR-15, and was first ordered for military service with a contract issued to Colt Firearms in May 1962 for the purchase of early Model 01 rifles to be used by Air Force Security Police.

Note, these guns had waffle-pattern 20-round mags, no forward assist, a thin 1:14 twist barrel, and the early three-prong flash hider.

Fast forward to the XM16E1, which became the M16A1 in 1967, and you started to come closer to the standard Army/Marine rifle used in Vietnam and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. It used a forward assist and a 1:12 twist barrel.

By 1983, the M16A2 came about, it had a thicker barrel in front of the front sight, a modified flash suppressor (closed on bottom), a new polymer buttstock (lighter and stronger), faster barrel twist (from 1:12 to 1:7), and a spent case deflector for left-hand users. Considered downright vintage by the Army and Marines, the Navy still sports them these days.

M16A2- check
M9 in drop leg holster- check
Body armor- um, about that……

By 1998, the M16A4 was in play, primarily for the Marines, which had a removable carry handle, a Picatinny top rail to allow for optics, short rails on the handguard for accessories, and a 20-inch barrel with a 1:7 RH twist rate.

Note the size difference between the compact M4 Carbine, top, and the full-length M16A4 rifle, bottom. (Photos: Department of Defense)

Since the GWOT kicked off in 2002, the big shift over the years has been to move from the full-length M16 family to the more compact M4/M4A1 carbine, with its collapsible rear stock and stubby 14-inch barrel, leaving the increasingly old-school style rifle as something of a relic today. Heck, the Army for the past couple years has been very actively working on replacing their 5.56 NATO rifles and SAWs with a new 6.8mm weapon. 

Now jump to 2020, and the M16A4 is now apparently the Army’s designated rifle for Foreign Military Sales to equip overseas allies in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Nepal.

Colt and FN are competing in a contract to supply as much as $383 million smackers worth of M16A4s by 2025.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

FN Still Cruising Along on M4 Contracts for Another 5 years

South Carolina-based FN America beat out a crowd of other vendors to land a whale of a military contract for new M4s.

The company was awarded a $119,216,309 firm-fixed-price contract for a mix of two 5.56 NATO-caliber weapons– the M4 Carbine, NSN: 1005-01-382-0973, and M4A1 Carbine, NSN: 1005-01-382-0953. The contract, awarded by Picatinny Arsenal on behalf of Project Manager – Soldier Lethality (PM SL), was made public last Thursday and stemmed from a March 2019 solicitation for which six bids were submitted.

I visited the company’s Columbia, South Carolina facility, last summer and FN said at the time they made roughly 500 M4s every day.

After they’re test fired, they’re disassembled, cleaned, then reassembled and given a 101-point inspection. Then, they’re literally dipped in preservation oil and packaged 50 rifles to a large wooden crate.

Gonna be a lot more crates over the next several years.

More details in my column at Guns.com