Army Cancels Carbine Competition

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 4 months ago

The Army has cancelled their competition to see which firearm will replace the Colt M4 series of rifles.  The Army has said that it was cancelled because all of the rifles failed the reliability standard of 3,592 mean rounds without malfunctioning.

After correction of the ammunition and other problems associated with the M-16 as it was initially deployed in Vietnam, this series of rifles has been effective and reliable.  To be sure, there are still detractors, the most recent problems concerning overheating of the barrel and failures associated with discharging a high number of rounds in a short time frame.

During the Battle of Wanat several M4′s had failures to feed (or failures to eject).  But the real problem with this battle wasn’t that several rifles experienced failures.  It was that the unit was placed in such a far-flung outpost without force protection or adequate troops to establish security and effect their mission.  No rifle can ameliorate bad strategy, and our war fought by the social planners and COIN experts was bad strategy.

Afghanistan has been called the war of the infantry half kilometer, as it involved longer distances than the urban warfare and CQB in Iraq.  Bob Owens mentions the cancellation of the carbine competition, and then launches into advocacy for a larger caliber, specifically the 6.5 Grendel.  This is old hat for Bob, as he has been advocating for a while now that the Army replace the 5.56 mm round, but continue to use the AR-15 platform.

But it should be remembered that with proper training, the AR-15 platform and 5.56 mm round are effective at long distances.  My son Daniel, a former Marine, routinely scored at the top of his Battalion, and they all had to qualify at 500 yards (using iron sights).  Travis Haley reminds us all how effective this gun and round can be.

Haley was shooting 5.56 mm ammunition from a Bushmaster (specifications can be found here, here and here – Haley was using a 20″ barrel, which is the major difference between the rifle he was using and the M4).  The comments to the video indicate that the targets may have been  closer than 800 meters (perhaps 600 meters), but this is far enough away to need high powered glass.

Even though the 5.56 yaws in flight (even with boat tail ammunition), it is a highly effective long distance round, while also being ideal for CQB (albeit designated marksmen and snipers may choose to carry different weapons and different calibers).  But Colt lost the contract to supply the M4, and sometimes manufacturers become complacent after so many years of sole sourcing.  In fact, my biggest problem with the competition isn’t that it’s over.  Rather, it’s that the best never participated.

And the winner of the U.S. Army competition to replace the M4 carbine is … the Army’s new and improved M4 carbine.

At least that’s the outcome gun makers attending Shot Show 2012 predict for the completion of the service’s improved carbine competition.

The Army is nearing the end of the first phase of the competition, now referred to as the IC. The service will soon announce which companies can advance to the second phase, when Army testers will start shooting hundreds of thousands of rounds through the prototype weapons.

Phase one has had nothing to do with evaluating test prototypes, but instead has focused on weeding out companies that may not have the production capacity to make thousands of weapons per month. This has become a bitter point of contention that has driven away some companies with credible names in the gun business.

“I’m not going to dump half a million to a million dollars for them never to review my rifle,” said Steve Mayer of Rock River Arms, standing amid his racks of M4-style carbines at Shot Show, the massive small-arms show here that draws gun makers from all over the world.

I have no dog in Bob’s fight over caliber, but my opinion is that the current platform and caliber are fine.  What’s needed is better training (even if not everyone can be Travis Haley), drills on shooting uphill (for those Marines and Soldiers who will deploy to terrain similar to what we saw in N2K), and lack of politics so that our men can get the best and most reliable rifles in their hands.  I have one.  It’s not so much to ask that Soldiers and Marines have them too.

If the Army chooses some other system than direct impingement, then so be it.  But it should be remembered that for everything you gain, you loose something.  I’ve held rifles that cycle ammunition from piston drive, and the front end is heavy.  It would affect CQB, and my son doesn’t even like the weight added from the quad rail on the front end of mine if it is used for CQB (my rifle is DI, not piston).

In the end, nothing can do everything, and the genius of Eugene Stoner is still with us today.

  • http://mcthag.blogspot.com McThag

    I want the Army to adopt the M4 in 6.8 so that ammo and mags get cheaper for me!

    OhandIthinktheroundisbetterthanfivefivesixtoo.

    I was in the Army during the changeover from 1:12 barreled M193 guns to 1:7 barreled M855 guns. There was nothing dangerous about firing the wrong round with that change over and the magazines were literally identical.

    But it was a logistics nightmare getting the troops with the M16A1 the old ammo and not accidentally giving them the new.

    6.5 and 6.8 both need different magazines from 5.56 and they look identical. So you could accidentally ship a magazine that’s not going to work in addition to ammo that won’t chamber.

    I like the alt rounds a lot but would hate to wade through the mess that the change-over would entail.

  • Jean

    The M16 rifle series has been good weapon system. It has been very effective in the QCB and urban environment. It is also effective in long engagements provided the Soldier/Marine is trained properly and has an understanding of ballistics. The rate of fire and portability of ammunition IE weight is also a huge plus. No man is an island and the “Army of One” is a dumb idea. Fire teams, Squads and Platoons need to have the proper mix of weapons. That includes SAWs, a least one 7.62 rifle and grenade launchers. Any weapon that is not maintained will fail in an extended fire fight. You can not engineer out poor discipline or sloppy field craft.
    To paraphrase Storming Norman- It’s the people not the equipment. He went on to say that he could have taken Iraqi gear and his people and still kicked their butts.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Army,Guns and was published June 23rd, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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