No winners in Army rifle replacement shoot-out

Weapons makers can't come up with a better option than the existing M4 as the cost of new carbines comes under scrutiny.

By Jason Notte Jun 17, 2013 10:13AM
A United States Marine holding an M4 Carbine during a combat operation in Marjah, Helmand Province of Afghanistan on Nov. 12, 2012 (© Ed Darack/SuperStock/Corbis)If there isn't a better option out there, don't replace the one that's working.

After soliciting weapons makers Heckler & Koch, FNH-USA, Remington Defense, Adcor Defense and Colt Defense for replacements for its M4 carbine rifle (pictured), the U.S. Army determined that none of the alternatives it received is worth the money. In its own words, according to, "no competitor demonstrated a significant improvement in weapon reliability."

That has to be somewhat disheartening for the folks at Colt, which made the original M4 so well that it wasn't able to surpass that weapon and cash in. But it's great news for the Army. The original plan involved laying out $49.6 million in 2014 to buy 30,000 new carbine rifles.

Instead, the Army will spend $21.2 million next year to buy 12,000 fully automatic Colt M4A1 rifles -- a special forces version of the M4 -- to replace the original's three-shot bursts -- and will attempt to repurpose some of that $49.6 million.

That's if Congress will let it. Lawmakers and the Pentagon's Inspector General have been leery of the carbine replacement program, with the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in March citing concerns that "DoD may not have an established need for this weapon nor developed performance requirements … such as accuracy, reliability, and lethality."

The Army counters that the committee's testimony contains misunderstandings about improving the rifles. It countered that the Army established its requirements three years ago. That may not matter, however, as the military as a whole has faced huge cuts as a result of the recent sequester. As the global economy struggles to steady itself, military spending worldwide slumped for the first time since 1998.

The M4 is a decade old, and the Army insists it's ready for an update. As American car buyers, house hunters and even consumers have figured out, however, sometimes you have to make do with what you have during tough economic times.

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Jun 17, 2013 1:00PM

21.2 mil. comes out to over 1700.00 per.

Smith&Wesson sells their AR-15 on their LE only program (LAW ENFORCMENT) for under 800.00 with 5ea. 30 round magazines.

Jun 17, 2013 2:43PM
Jun 17, 2013 4:08PM
$21 million for rifles used by military. Obama's trip to Africa; $100 million. What's wrong with this picture?
Jun 17, 2013 12:53PM
There is no need for new M4 carbines. The Great Leader has restricted use of the present one to fire only after the bad guy has wounded you.  It has already been replaced with the ; "stop that Mr. bad guy or I will slap you aside the head".
Jun 17, 2013 1:10PM
Ain't this a crock?! The best gun out there period was the XM8 from H&K. That program was cancelled in 2005 but had the least amount of stoppages of all the rifles tested. Ironically, the M-4 had the most stoppages and is still being produced and used by our military.  Politics at its best.
Jun 17, 2013 2:58PM

The old AK-47 or some variation has been around since the early 50's. The M4 is an old M-16 second generation and is tried and proven, all the bugs and kinks have been worked out of it as proven by colt or the other arms makers not being able to make something better.


We need to save where we can and not waste, the M4 is still the best personal weapon on the battlefield. No need to switch to an expensive overhaul and replacement program that will cost billions.

Jun 17, 2013 2:41PM
Wow evidence of actual intelligence and a little respect for the taxpayers coming from the DoD.  Never though I would live to see the day.
Jun 17, 2013 5:18PM

If I read this correctly,the full autos are"carbines" and the semi auto's for civilians are "assault rifles"

Humm,,,go figure!!!

Jun 17, 2013 4:45PM
I actually liked the idea of the M-4 with a 3 round burst. I've never fired it, but I NEVER set my old M-16 on full auto in combat (Nam). Only the first few rounds were accurate and the rest was a waste of ammunition. Only full auto I  ever liked was the  M-60 mounted in the door of my Huey. The M-16 (and the AK-47 I had hidden under my bunk) were for backup.

The sole remaining superpower is not reliably defended by "however, sometimes you have to make do with what you have during tough economic times."

Jun 17, 2013 4:02PM
Jun 17, 2013 3:48PM
I see the current batch of M4's being used in Syria!
Jun 17, 2013 4:21PM
The purchase will include spare parts, manuals, training, plus other support in an acquisition such as this.  You can't just divide the money by the number of items.  A purchase this size is far more complicated than you can imagine.  In addition, as has already been pointed out, the specifications for durability this rifle will have to meet, are far superior to anything being sold for law enforcement or the civilian community. 
Jun 17, 2013 5:19PM

Congress, Pentagon brass, manufacturers, D.O.D. bigshots; what does  the soldier have to say?

We should have first rate weapons; our troops deserve no less.

Jun 17, 2013 5:08PM

Old soldier saying (that happens to ring true): "Always remember that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder."   

Jun 17, 2013 5:15PM
They had ar carbines in the military since the Vietnam war
Jun 17, 2013 5:41PM
My Company was the last to be issued the M-1 in 1963 which was later replaced by the M-14.  Given my druthers, I'd take the old M-1 over the shiny new M-14 any day.  Sometimes I think the military treats equipment like kids with toys - when they get bored with what they have, they buy something new and different.
Jun 17, 2013 5:37PM

the Marine Corp used the m16a2 for much longer than a decade until, finally, it received the m16a4. the m16a4 is nothing more than a m16a2 with a picatinny rail system on it and the rear windage site/elevation is removable. beyond that, the rifle is fine.  The biggest problem I see with many rifle manufacturers is that they are "gimmick based": that is, whatever they are trying to sell the military isn't worth the money.


the military would invest in a rifle that can meet all of its desires: ease of use, lethality, accuracy, reliability and utility. utility seems to be the one that manufacturers are stuck on. many manufacturers want to offer a rifle that can perform the functions of a machine gun, a combat rifle and a sniper rifle all in one yet still retain the features above.

Jun 17, 2013 5:56PM
They said the M14 was too heavy but it was accurate and had stopping power, Coast Guard and snipers still use it.  They said the M1911 (Colt .45 pistol) was passed it's prime, now troops buy their own if they can.  Youth and skill are no match for old age and treachery.
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