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Thread: Army Taps Industry for M4 Replacement

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    Army Taps Industry for M4 Replacement



    September 17, 2008Military.com|by Christian Lowe


    In a move that could reverse years of Army small arms policy, the service is asking industry to send in ideas for a new combat rifle that could replace the M4 carbine.In late August, the Army issued a solicitation to the arms industry asking companies to submit proposals that would demonstrate "improvements in individual weapon performance in the areas of accuracy and dispersion ... reliability and durability in all environments, modularity and terminal performance."

    And in a dramatic gesture that could throw the door wide open to a totally new carbine, the service did not constrain ideas to the current 5.56mm round used in the M4."We're at the point now where we're going to go out and compete," said Richard Audette, project manager for Soldier weapons at the Army's Picatinny Arsenal. "We're looking for anyone that has a world-class carbine," Audette told Military.com in a Sept 15 interview. "We're interested in any new technologies out there."Audette couldn't remember an Army weapons program that opened up the competition to ideas so diverse; he cited the M240 request in the 1990s and M9 solicitation in the 1980s as examples of broad requests, but they stuck with specific caliber ammunition.

    The Army's abrupt change in direction -- after long stating it would stick with the M4 until there was a "leap" in technology that would far surpass current carbine performance -- comes after nearly two years of pressure on the service to re-examine the M4 and entertain a nearer-term replacement.Some in Congress have called for the Army to hold a "shoot-off" with several other carbine designs alongside the Colt-built M4 to demonstrate the state of the art in today's military arms market. Sen. Tom Coburn (R - Okla.) briefly held up the nomination of Army Secretary Pete Geren in mid-2007 to force the service into side-by-side comparisons of M4 competitors in extreme dust conditions.

    Many argue the M4 is more susceptible to fouling due to its gas-operated design, and say other systems are less maintenance intensive.The move to broaden the competition is also calendar-driven: the so-called "technical data package" of the M4 -- essentially the blueprints for the design -- are up for release in June of next year.

    That means the Army can rebid the M4 to any company that can make it, potentially driving down costs and boosting production capacity.

    And as if that wasn't enough, the Army is also in the midst of re-writing its carbine requirements document, which will spell out specifically what the service needs for its primary weapon. Audette said the ideas sent in as a result of his solicitation will help inform officials at Training and Doctrine Command as they update the Army's carbine plan."If there's some new technology out there, they want to be able to write a requirement that will not limit the Army to something they could possibly have," Audette said.

    The Army is leaving itself open to carbine ideas that could stray from the nearly 40-year policy of using 5.56mm ammunition for its rifles. Recent developments in ammunition calibers have bolstered critics who contend the 5.56 round has too little "stopping power" and passes through its target without incapacitating him.

    Army officials have repeatedly stated that knockdown has as much to do with marksmanship as ballistics, arguing that if you shoot more accurately, you'll drop your target on the first shot.But several "boutique" rounds have been making inroads with weapons developers both in and outside the government. The 6.8mm and 6.5mm round are increasingly popular, as is the old-school 7.62mm round -- which Special Operations Command plans to incorporate into its new carbine program."We want to know about everything that's out there, regardless of caliber," Audette said. "If you've got a 6.8, we're interested in that and seeing what that brings to the table."

    The solicitation also asks for ideas on a "subcompact" weapon that Audette says should basically be a smaller version of the carbine; this one would be more suitable for vehicle crewmen and aviators, who have to maneuver the weapon in confined spaces but don't need the same range capability that a foot Soldier would.The Army wants to know about production quantity, asking industry in the late-August solicitation to submit information on "minimum and maximum monthly production rates" for their carbine and subcompact guns.

    Currently, Colt can churn out as many as 10,000 M4s per month."We don't want to spend 20 years producing 1,000 carbines per month," Audette said. "If we choose a new carbine we want to have a production capacity in place so that we can ramp up and get a lot of these out the door."Industry sources say the Army solicitation isn't just smoke and mirrors to satisfy critics of the M4. They say a competition will likely occur next summer between different weapons and the best gun will win. If that does happen, Soldiers -- and potentially their counterparts in the other services -- won't likely see their new carbines until 2012, after all the testing and evaluation is done. The Army currently has a requirement for 450,000 M4s, though that number could climb if the service decides to replace all M-16s with the smaller M4, Audette said.





    "That means the Army can rebid the M4 to any company that can make it, potentially driving down costs and boosting production capacity."
    Does this mean, JUST for the Military ?



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    Despite years of shooting the M4 in an Infantry role, I fired the FN P90 (and own one) and I prefer it for urban environments. It's short, ambidextrious (so the lefties don't have to relearn to shoot), and it fires a round that has good punch but not as much over penetration.

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    Regular Member Sonora Rebel's Avatar
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    Gee... kind'a like an AK? Ok... take an AK... rig the bolt carrier to engage a stock buffer... eliminate the lip thing on the loadingport for the magazines 'n use 7.62x39mm. Put a handle on it to keepyer mitt from catchin' fire forward of the breech. Call it somethin' else... but it will work.

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    Regular Member Deanimator's Avatar
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    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    Gee... kind'a like an AK? Ok... take an AK... rig the bolt carrier to engage a stock buffer... eliminate the lip thing on the loadingport for the magazines 'n use 7.62x39mm. Put a handle on it to keepyer mitt from catchin' fire forward of the breech. Call it somethin' else... but it will work.
    All you need is a piston upper for the M4. The M16 series has the best operator controls EVER. Chamber it for 6.5Grendel and you have he best combat rifle in the world.
    --- Gun control: The theory that 110lb. women have the "right" to fistfight with 210lb. rapists.

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    Deanimator wrote:
    All you need is a piston upper for the M4. The M16 series has the best operator controls EVER. Chamber it for 6.5Grendel and you have he best combat rifle in the world.
    +1 on that.

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    personally i think the ak has horrible ergonomics especially for me being a real big fella. might be ok for little people, but for me its a pain to shoot and even harder to shoot accurately from a decent distance.

    personally i can shoot my mini14 much better, and its a small rifle too...

    this isn't meant to be a M16 vs Ak vs whatever post but i do not think the AK is the end all of combat rifles and never really has been and its been extremely over hyped for a very long time.

    we all know its reliable :celebrate

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    MetalChris wrote:
    Deanimator wrote:
    All you need is a piston upper for the M4. The M16 series has the best operator controls EVER. Chamber it for 6.5Grendel and you have he best combat rifle in the world.
    +1 on that.
    I need a tinfoil hat. Deanimator is stealing the ideas out of my head.

    Edit:
    Or 6.8 SPC. The folks trying to sell 6.8 say it has really good terminal ballistics at ranges less that 350 yards and that the skinnier cases mean the bolt can be more robust than Grendel.

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    forever_frost wrote:
    Despite years of shooting the M4 in an Infantry role, I fired the FN P90 (and own one) and I prefer it for urban environments. It's short, ambidextrious (so the lefties don't have to relearn to shoot), and it fires a round that has good punch but not as much over penetration.
    +3, gotta agree whole heartedly on this one. Glad to see another Infantryman here. You're absolutely right. The P90 has a good range out to about 250 - 300m (if memory serves correctly), VERY flat shooting (from experience), and great ballistics.

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    Change the upper with what is said above and you haveagood weapon. With good PM and love the M-4 is a good weapon as is. Our "enemies"will be using Aks an there variantsfor years to come. WhatIhave seen overseas is the lack of operator maintenance with weapons of every sort. Any weapon will not function without good maintenance. Another government boondoggle! They get money for a "NEW WEAPON" and spend it else where. If it go's bang when you need it? Good weapon!

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    MetalChris wrote:
    Deanimator wrote:
    All you need is a piston upper for the M4. The M16 series has the best operator controls EVER. Chamber it for 6.5Grendel and you have he best combat rifle in the world.
    +1 on that.
    +2 on that!When I was in the 10th Group, I was issueda 10" CAR 15 that was extremely light and portable and accurate out to 300 meters. If it was chambered for the 6.5 Grendal, it would have been the best carbine in the world IMHO.

    It would be nothing to produce 10" Grendal uppers with a gas piston for Tankers and SF types and 14" uppers with piston for the regulars. Make the entire system modular and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Perhaps that makes too much sense?
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    ODA 226 wrote:
    Make the entire system modular and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Perhaps that makes too much sense?
    Of course it makes too much sense when it comes to saving Taxpayer dollars

    Why do you guys prefer the 6.5 G over the 6.8 SPC ?

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    Dustin wrote:
    ODA 226 wrote:
    Make the entire system modular and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Perhaps that makes too much sense?
    Of course it makes too much sense when it comes to saving Taxpayer dollars

    Why do you guys prefer the 6.5 G over the 6.8 SPC ?
    I'm a big 6.5mm fan in general, including the 6.5x55mm Swedish. 6.5mm has (with the right bullet) excellent ballistic coefficient and sectional density.
    --- Gun control: The theory that 110lb. women have the "right" to fistfight with 210lb. rapists.

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    Dustin wrote:
    ODA 226 wrote:
    Make the entire system modular and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Perhaps that makes too much sense?
    Of course it makes too much sense when it comes to saving Taxpayer dollars

    Why do you guys prefer the 6.5 G over the 6.8 SPC ?
    Never had the opportunity to shoot the 6.8 SPC, but I'll reserve judgement until I can!
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    It's a lot like waiting for the Chinese Democracy album. All I can do is laugh when they say they're working on it, because it never happens.
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    Regular Member ODA 226's Avatar
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    Michigander wrote:
    It's a lot like waiting for the Chinese Democracy album. All I can do is laugh when they say they're working on it, because it never happens.
    Actually, SPECWARGROUP and DEVGRU are testing this round right now.
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    Deanimator wrote:
    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    Gee... kind'a like an AK? Ok... take an AK... rig the bolt carrier to engage a stock buffer... eliminate the lip thing on the loadingport for the magazines 'n use 7.62x39mm. Put a handle on it to keepyer mitt from catchin' fire forward of the breech. Call it somethin' else... but it will work.
    All you need is a piston upper for the M4. The M16 series has the best operator controls EVER. Chamber it for 6.5Grendel and you have he best combat rifle in the world.
    OhYea! +1 !!

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    My vote goes to the Bushmaster ACR...........and multicam.

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    And of course when they do come up with a replacement, it will be available for purchase to the general public, right? I mean, Heller did affirm the individual right to keep and bear arms for purposes of maintaining the unorganized militia, right?

    Sorry, I'll stop applying commonsense...

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    How about the .50 Beowulf? Sounds like a good idea to me!

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    I like the ACR but I think you can get all of its advantages just by adding parts to a normal M4. That way the govt wouldn't end up having to sell obsolete M4 uppers and lowers that they can't use anymore on the civilian market for real cheap. No wait, yes I love the ACR.

    As for Beowulf/.458 SOCOM:
    Plus- nice knockdown (contractors have apparently been using these to disable vehicles in Iraq)
    Minus-limited range, heavy, takes up a lot of mag capacity, kicks harder than 6.8 SPC.

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    In the midst of two full scale operations too suppress radical religious sociopaths, the military is highly unlikely IMO to completely retool it's entire weapons system. It was a nightmare in the 60's replacing the M14 (a mistake if you ask me). If we do anything, we'll rechamber to a mid 6mm cartridge, and put a piston in the M4. Until we end our engagements in the middle east, which won't be soon, (even if we elect the moonbat) we don't need to go through the trials of fielding a completely new weapon system.

    The M4 is good enough for now, I work on them everyday. Most of the trigger pullers I know want a different round, but they like the weapon.
    If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training. You will become a minister of death, PRAYING FOR WAR...

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    I really hope they go to a new caliber.

    I would be a very happy man to see all that surplus 5.56 unloaded onto the market!

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    ScottyT wrote:
    I really hope they go to a new caliber.

    I would be a very happy man to see all that surplus 5.56 unloaded onto the market!
    Hey, at least the food for your SBRs isn't used by practically every third-world military and rogue faction in existance...

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    Grendel article:

    http://www.65grendel.com/

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    ODA 226 wrote:
    MetalChris wrote:
    Deanimator wrote:Â*
    All you need is a piston upper for the M4.Â* The M16 series has the best operator controls EVER.Â* Chamber it for 6.5Grendel and you have he best combat rifle in the world.
    +1 on that.
    +2 on that!Â*When I was in the 10th Group, I was issuedÂ*a 10" CAR 15 that was extremely light and portable and accurate out to 300 meters. If it was chambered for the 6.5 Grendal, it would have been the best carbine in the world IMHO.

    It would be nothing to produce 10" Grendal uppers with a gas piston for Tankers and SF types and 14" uppers with piston for the regulars. Make the entire system modular and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Perhaps that makes too much sense?
    If the Army requested it, I'm sure it could be done. But they didn't. Instead, they're asking for salesmen to make their pitches!

    What the Army is doing might yield a decent carbine, but it won't be cost-effective.

    I'm sure we won't end up with anything modular. More likely it will be proprietary right down to the ammunition :quirky

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