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U.S. Army Cancels Carbine Replacement Initiative

The M4-style carbine should continue its steady role in law enforcement.

May 31, 2013  |  by - Also by this author

U.S. Army Rangers train at Fort Benning, Ga. Photo via Edward N. Johnson/Flickr.
U.S. Army Rangers train at Fort Benning, Ga. Photo via Edward N. Johnson/Flickr.
Law enforcement often benefits from the trickle-down effect when it comes to military technology and weapons. U.S. service branches often implement high-priced technology first that then flows into police service.

Examples of this trend include night-vision, thermal imaging, and the AR-15 rifle. The full-length AR-type rifle has now become widespread in police work. The same can be said for the M4-style carbineits shorter-barrel-length sibling. The M4 carbine traces its lineage to the M16A2 battle rifle—it's a shorter, lighter weight version. Typically, the M4 carbine fires 5.56mm NATO ammunition and has a barrel no longer than 16 inches. The law enforcement version takes .223-caliber rounds.

The M4 has become the U.S. Army's standard-issue combat rifle, and it's also a popular choice for SWAT operators, patrol officers, and federal agents. And it looks like law enforcement will continue to choose it for some time to come.

News broke earlier this month that the Army canceled its Improved Carbine competition. In other words, soldiers will continue using M4s rather than the next-gen carbine Army leaders hoped to hand to their troops.

The Army has reportedly spent $1.8 billion over several years developing the next carbine, reports Bloomberg. Testers have fired hundreds of thousands of rounds through carbines submitted by gun makers such as Heckler & Koch, FNH-USA, Remington Defense, Adcor Defense, and Colt Defense.

Political headwinds in Washington, D.C., appear to be grounding the initiative. The Pentagon plans to reduce Army ground forces to 490,000 by 2017 from about 560,000 in 2011, a top official told a House committee considering defense cuts.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will most likely reprogram the $49.6 million requested in the proposed fiscal 2014 budget to buy 30,000 improved carbines, reports Military.com.

So for now, military soldiers, as well as law enforcement officers, will have to make do with the M4 carbine for close-quarter battle and other engagements. That may not be such a bad thing.

Tags: AR-Type Rifles, Military-related, Patrol Rifles, Tactical Rifles


Comments (20)

Displaying 1 - 20 of 20

Rick @ 6/4/2013 4:10 PM

Actually the military M4 is chambered for 5.56 and not the .223. The author doesn't realize that the calibers are actually two different calibers; the 5.56 is military and the .223 is SAAMI (cilivian). The standard M4 can fire the .223, but if you attempt to fire a 5.56 round through a rifle chambered for .223, you're asking for problems.

Jay Adams @ 6/4/2013 5:23 PM

Why not buy the Israeli-designed Tavor? Same caliber, but in a more convenient "bullpup" configuration. Fires the same round, same performance, even uses M-16/M-4 magazines. And less prone to malfunction than the "M" designs. Israel has used the M4 as its standard rifle for many years, and is now transitioning to the far superior Tavor.

AJ @ 6/5/2013 3:55 AM

I believe the US Army program was looking at the HK416 piston driven upper receiver replacement system for the M4/M16 problem plagued Stoner designed gas tube upper. It would be interesting to see if HK's bid was competitive vs. the other manufactures replacing the M4 all together with a new designed weapon. The M4 is a nice weapon but has a tendency to overheat and must be kept ultra clean to be reliable in its current configuration.

Troop @ 6/7/2013 2:34 AM

After the current administration is done, our soldiers will be throwing rocks at the enemy.

DJ @ 6/10/2013 4:55 PM

Just FYI. If you read the barrel on a US Armed forces M4 it has printed 5.56=223 NATO

WebEdPaul @ 6/10/2013 6:12 PM

@Rick @DJ Thanks for the heads up on that error. We've corrected it.

D. Edward @ 6/22/2013 8:16 PM

It has been mentioned in a previous comment that an AR-15 / M4 platform type rifle can handle 5.56 mm ammunition as well as .223 ammo, but that a .223 caliber rifle isn't safe to fire 5.56 mm ammunition. In many cases, this may be true, but there are a number of commercially available rifles that can handle both 5.56 mm and .223 ammo. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Dept. uses the Ruger Mini 14 semi automatic rifle, and this rifle can safely handle the higher pressure 5.56 mm ammunition. Some of the Remington 700 bolt action rifles that come with a heavy barrel contour can also handle the 5.56 mm ammo without any problems. If in doubt, it is always best to contact the manufacturer of a particular weapon just to make sure.

Ofc Pyatt @ 6/26/2013 7:12 PM

Boo!! This is a very bad decision on part of the military.
The Gas Impingement design is obsolete and has a legacy of reliability issues unless it's babied by keeping it very clean and using lots of oil.....JUNK!
Our soldiers deserve a better rifle....and there are several that are FAR better.
The current gas impingement M4 design is obsolete!!

S.D. in LA @ 6/26/2013 7:27 PM

IMO, the problem isn't with the gun, it's the caliber.

Jim A @ 6/26/2013 7:33 PM

The military version of the M-4 is marked with .223 / 5.56 because it will shoot either. It does not mean they are equal. If you are looking at an AR rifle, my suggestion is you look for one that will handle the higher pressure of the 5.56. My Remington 700 Police heavy barrel will handle either, but not all AR's are built to handle either. They "might" handle the higher pressure, but the only way to find out that there is a failure is to have it blow up in your face.

Greg @ 6/26/2013 7:56 PM

http://www.bushmaster.com/firearms/xm-15.asp

Almost all current patrol rifles are 5.56 NATO round capable also... maybe not some of the cheaper AR-15 variants found at Academy... but just about any of them sold for LE purposes should be... examples: http://gtdist.com/SearchResults.aspx?SubCat=RIF&SubSub=AUTO&Category=GUNAM

James @ 6/27/2013 5:58 AM

S.D. in LA
The problem is not just the gas impingement system, it also suffers from a sub par caliber for medium to longer ranges as we see in the middle east. Since the 1960's my argument has been they need to look at a ballistics similar to that of the .243 Winchester. Either by developing a new round, or using the .243 itself. The ballistics of the .243 are near perfect for multi theater scenario use. It can handle longer ranges needed in Afghanistan and has much more knock down power similar to the venerable 7.62 X 51 (.308 Winchester) plus a flatter shooting ability, greater barrier penetration ect. But Politics and the cash grabbing ( who makes the money) interfered once again. Oddly enough the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel try to reach that .243 Win ballistics despite the claims otherwise. Anyone who doubts this can see the Military ramping up larger bullets weights for the 5.56 but still can not get close enough to the .243 Win's ability. So now we are left using multi caliber engagements in Afghanistan with the M-14 making a comeback. The .243 Win would have stopped this insanity by producing a battle rifle with enough punch to have the stopping power needed at close, medium and long ranges and only needing the more extreme long ranges left to the .50 or some similar caliber. This would have filled many needs and could be fit into a bullpup design that incorporated something like the scar style quick change barrel system to facilitate short, or long ranges with a simple barrel change that takes a few minutes in field without a tool bag.

Also there is enough room in the .243 to shorten the case length if needed and reinvent it to a slightly shorter case with the same benefits it always had.

This would help Police roles by providing a rifle capable of anything up to and including sniper use. Why the .243 has not been seriously looked at is beyond imagination and common sense.

Bob @ VA @ 6/27/2013 7:42 AM

There are a number of inaccuracies in the article, including the title. The Army didn't "cancel" the program. Brig Gen Ostrowski, the PEO Soldier, emphasized: “The Army is not cancelling the IC competition, the Army is in the position where it must conclude the IC competition.” The distinction gets around proposed congressional language that may direct the Army to "complete" the competition and not cancel it.

Also, the Army never wanted the competition in the first place. It resulted from congressional pressure, mainly Sen Coburn (R,OK), to modernize our small arms. Many European countries and Israel have gone to updated rifles and carbines, while the US Army is stuck in the 1960's. The M4 technically fielded in the 1990's, but the general design is the same as the M16 from the 1960's. While the IC competition was concluded because none of the competitors met the Army's reliability spec, the M4 does not come close to meeting that spec either.

For the very technical, the M4 is a carbine, not a rifle. Currently, the M4A1 is replacing the M4 and will replace the M16 across the Army, providing a single solution to all soldiers. The goal is to be an all-M4A1 carbine Army.

Bob @ VA @ 6/27/2013 7:43 AM

[comment continued]

The Israeli Tavor is an interesting and effective design. I found it accurate and reliable, although I didn't care for the trigger. However, a bullpup design has its own challenges. Most importantly, it requires significantly different training and actions to clear stoppages while in combat shooting positions under fire (i.e., prone or low profile). The Israelis overcame this by converting entire units as they rotated duty, so that no unit had a mix of weapons and no soldier had to revert to an M4 after converting to the Tavor. Very smart approach.

While the carbine's operating system drives reliability, caliber remains the core issue in effectiveness. The 5.56mm has not been effective in a host of scenarios from CQB to longer range engagements, and for a number of reasons. The new M855A1 round mad

Chief P @ 6/27/2013 7:44 AM

The M4 is a fine weapon, has been for years and will continue to be. It has served me very well in my Military and LE career and will continue even under hard use. No reason to fix something that is not broken. Those worried about the GI system need not worry as it is really not a flaw or a big deal especially for LE.

The option to use a piston system rifle exists even for the Military s Colt is still fulfilling their orders and they make both.

@ Tavor, not sure about far superior but they are nice. As a admin level police officer and as far as LE are concerned I can at our department prices but almost 3 M4 style rifles for the price of a single Tavor which is still new to the US market compared. Further the M4 style rifles/machine guns we have are fine, rock solid and have no need of being replaced.

Chief P

Bob @ VA @ 6/27/2013 7:46 AM

[comment finished/fixed (I hope)]

While the carbine's operating system drives reliability, caliber remains the core issue in effectiveness. The 5.56mm has not
been effective in a host of scenarios from CQB to longer range engagements, and for a number of reasons. The new M855A1
round made some improvements, but it's still a varmint round. As James said above, the M14 was brought back into service as the Enhanced Battle Rifle to provide a more effective squad-level weapon for the fight. Only the designated marksman carried
them. The 5th Special Forces Group developed the 6.8 SPC, which is very effective, as a 5.56 alternative that could work on the existing M4 platform with just a bolt and barrel change. However, the Army has a great deal of money and pride invested in the 5.56 and will not consider changing. The competition penalized any Individual Carbine entry that used a "non-standard" round - 5.56 or 7.62 - and no 7.62 would be able to meet the weight requirement. Hence, all entrants put forth 5.56 carbines. Surprise, surprise.

Small arms are religion amongst those with opinions. Those in power define the core beliefs, and they have placed the M4A1
in 5.56mm on the alter for all to worship. Changing the Army is like changing Jupiter's orbit with a JATO bottle.

Chief P @ 6/27/2013 7:47 AM

@ Bob I do how ever agree with the caliber issue. I would love to see a much more effective caliber for the service weapons used by our military.

David Samson @ 6/27/2013 1:25 PM

To comment on the Israeli TAVOR bullpup design. It's performance is roughly the same as the M4 ... same caliber and barrel length. The TAVOR, being a bullpup, is handier to store, deploy, and handle. More important to my mind is that by all accounts it is more reliable and less finicky than the M4. The Israelis had tremendous battlefield experience with the M16 and M4 and when they started looking at alternatives, reliability under harsh conditions was a major requirement. The TAVOR is expensive right now; as a colleague pointed out, about 3x the price of an M4. However, I'd point out that the price includes an extremely good integrated Aimpoint style sight. Also, the TAVOR is relatively new and when it starts coming in, in quantity, the price will drop.

SWAN @ 6/27/2013 6:09 PM

Looks like the "Ranger's in Action" demonstration at Victory Pond. The demo displays fast rope/SPIES, a few explosions, slide for life, log walk-rope drop, hand to hand, rappelling and is generally a great display of Ranger capabilities. This photo is of a fire team that "inserts" by F470 Zodiac from around the corner. If you are ever in the area, I recommend seeing it. It is held approximately once every month or so.

PR24 @ 7/27/2013 9:22 PM

The pouges in DC will always have the "not designed here" mentality. They'll never adopt the Tavor because THEY didn't design it. The Brits did the same thing with the SA80/L85 bullpup of domestic design. What a goat rope that was! H&K had to rework the innards & now it's the L85A1 & works well enough. The Aussies on the other hand were smarter. They got licensing from Steyr AUG and built their own AUG (F88) down unda. Proven design that works & saved millions of Aussie dollars.

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