Army Scraps Additional Upgrades to M4 Carbine

Photo: Military Times.


The United States Army has elected to halt additional upgrades to its standard M4 carbine, ArmyTimes reported this week.

The new upgrades would have included an extended Picatinny rail; a floating barrel; a flash suppressor; a brownish color for new parts to help camouflage; removable iron sights; and an optional sniper-style single-stage trigger specifically for squad marksmen.

“The Army issues market surveys all the time to assess if there’s any new technologies that it might want to look at. In this instance, there weren’t,” Picatinny Arsenal spokesman Pete Rowland said in an email. “Case-closed for now.”

The new upgrades were part of a program known as M4A1+. The program was intended, according to the ArmyTimes, to “improve ergonomics and accuracy.” But after reviewing proposals, the Army determined it was not worth the effort.

The good news for infantrymen is that the Army is still moving ahead with another program—known simply as M4A1—designed to upgrade the Army’s older M4 carbines to M4A1’s.

M4A1’s have been used in special operations since 1994. They feature a heavier barrel that better withstands extended use; ambidextrous safety controls; and conversion of its three-round burst mode to fully automatic.

Now the Army is replacing—base by base—its older M4’s with M4A1’s, an initiative that is currently 25 percent complete and is projected to finish by 2020.

According to the ArmyTimes, the impetus for the change began in Afghanistan when M4 barrels warped during extended firefights. The new barrels are designed to manage fully automatic fire over an extended period of time.

The M4, in turn, was introduced in 1994 to replace the longer M16, which was first adopted in 1964.

The M4A1+ program offered some slight improvements to the M4A1 platform and was designed to “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine… without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation.”

Lt. Col. Terry Russell, project manager for individual weapons at Picatinny Arsenal, said the Army was “very confident that these already do exist, or that (companies) can develop them for us in short order.”

The benefits of these improvements, it seems, did not outweigh the costs. Soldier Systems published a complete list of the proposed upgrades and noted that the M4A1+ program sought a “turnkey solution from a single vendor” rather than procuring each component from the best manufacturer.

The program could have been scrapped for any number of reasons, but one explanation could be that the Army could not find a single vendor capable of producing each of these components for the right price and performance standards.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over two years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Boss June 17, 2016, 4:34 pm

    “I’ll say it right now, aimed rifle fire is, and has always been more effective than full automatic rifle fire. ”
    Spoken like someone who has never been a firefight.
    “Battlefield marksmanship has “improved” to the spray and pray philosophy.”
    You mean “cover fire?”

    WWII, no human wave attacks daily as in Korea. How many rounds were expended the piles of enemy dead as the live ones attacked over the top.
    Vietnam, gunships, door gunners, puff the magic dragon(spooky), quad 50s, strafing, an enemy that had full auto (AK-47, etc.)
    “50,000” number refers to 5.56×45, even that is in doubt. No one really knows how many we really killed.
    So, I reckon it just luck these bumbling Marines and soldiers attacked a fortified position, usually outnumbered 2 to 1 at minimum, with bullets so thick you could see the individual bullets at times, just sprayin an prayin and overran the NVA position and did it over and over again.
    Boss 2/4 3rd MarDiv
    All in all, without any context, the statistic seems to serve no purpose except to make misleading rhetorical points. -airbornelawyer

    “Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side.” Nehemiah 4:18

    • Joe McHugh June 17, 2016, 9:23 pm

      Boss, You asked if I meant “cover fire” when I described the spray and pray mentality of the average soldier or Marine. There are at least two times that full automatic fire is desirable, namely to produce a beaten area where a heavy machine gun is producing a cone of fire on enemy troop positions to persuade the enemy to keep their heads down during a fire and maneuver attack, and the sudden face to face confrontation in room-to-room. or jungle fighting. Actually, a slide-action shotgun loaded with buckshot would be a more ferocious weapon for combat in the corridors and doorways of urban structures.

      If you think that the noise from rifle fire will keep the enemy from shooting at you, why not use strings of fire crackers to produce the same effect? According to your theory, the full automatic fire of enemy shoulder fired weapons would also cause the American soldier or Marine to hide behind cover until the noise died down. “Hey, I can make more noise than you do, so you might as well surrender now!”

      The American military analysts updated the M-16 A1 to the M-16 A2 in several ways. One of these was to limit the full automatic fire feature to a three round burst cycling for each pull of the trigger. Exhaustive studies and testing preceded this major model change that affected millions of U.S. military infantry rifles. Now, experts like you and the wise men in the Pentagon share the sagacious idea of changing all of these rifles back to the profoundly wasteful full automatic fire option. It’s as though a colonel experienced an epiphany and rushed into the general’s office shouting something like this: “Our fighting men could overwhelm the enemy if we only change the burst fire option to full automatic!” And the general, being exactly as obtuse, takes “his” idea to the Secretary of Defense who also becomes just as enthusiastic because he is precisely as dense as the general and colonel.

      The only problem that might pop up, is the need for hundreds of more trucks, or helicopters to move the extra ammunition and replacement rifles for the ones that reach their life cycle counts. Admit it Boss, you always liked the sound of string firecrackers, didn’t you? Gunfire noise doesn’t discourage the enemy soldier, seeing his buddy catch one between the eyes does.

  • Canemah June 17, 2016, 10:15 am

    Contact ranges in Viet Nam in general were from 3 to 300 meters, beyond which the 5.56mm round was as worthless as tits on a boar hog. In the wars we are engaged in now, house to house aside, the contact ranges are much greater. In the present environment, for a shoulder fired rifle, there is no substitute for accurate aimed fire with a round capable of reaching out and touching someone up to 500 meters and beyond. The 7.62 would do the trick and also help with the supply issues and in-the-field ammo resupply of different calibers (the original argument for the M-14, M-60, 7.62 Nato).

  • Joe McHugh June 17, 2016, 7:25 am

    What is it about the American military “experts” that causes them to become deaf, dumb, and blind to past experiences on battlefields? The ratio of each enemy soldier killed by the total number of fired bullets in WWII was 25,000.
    The count of total bullets per enemy soldier in Korea 100,000.
    The count of total bullets per enemy soldier in Vietnam was 200,000.
    See a pattern here? Battlefield marksmanship has “improved” to the spray and pray philosophy. America was once regarded as a nation of marksmen. We are now regarded as the best dirt killers in the world. This is both tedious and painful to say, but it’s not the number of shots that counts, it’s the number of hits that counts in combat.

    The two main improvements of the M16 A2 over the M16 A1 was a heavier barrel and the three round burst limitation verses the extended fully automatic fire feature. It finally dawned on the Military planners that full automatic fire is counterproductive to the desired results, i.e. dead enemy soldiers. Now the new military planners once again think that more bullets in the air equals more casualties among the enemy. I suspect that there is a fifth column movement to burn all of the history books pertaining to past military best practice.

    I’ll say it right now, aimed rifle fire is, and has always been more effective than full automatic rifle fire. Notice that I did not include machine gun fire? Machine guns have a different role in combat, they are more defensive in nature. In WWI the generals on both sides discovered that mass attacks against machine guns are exercises in mass suicide. However, Machine guns are too heavy and to ammunition hungry to be mobile enough for the ground attack.

    Do we really need to spend a truck load of ammunition, (200,000) to kill one enemy soldier?

    • george spence June 17, 2016, 9:52 am

      i for one know that most troops should only have sim- automatic arms.i have hunted all my life ( 70 years ) i only use single shot
      weapon’s .back from buffalo hunt, used single shot 45-70. had to make sure clear shot be for firing. i think troops will have more kills,as that is the reason for fighting.

      • Leonard June 18, 2016, 12:29 am

        Get back to us when those Buffalo start shooting back…

    • Richard June 17, 2016, 12:49 pm

      The M-14s in Vietnam could only fire full automatic if it had the selector switch attached, and most did not, except for the squad automatic weapons man (one per fire team) and he was issued an M-14 with a heavy barrel and a rear handguard with the selector switch. Then came the M-16 where every snuffy had the ability to shoot automatic and they did, the three shot burst was the best thing the military came up with for the M-16.

      • Rodney June 18, 2016, 2:06 pm

        Or unit in Vietnam had M-14’s and all of ours had a selector switch on them. I fired mine one time at a test range (local dump) I couldn’t hit anything on full auto. That was the only time I fired on full auto. However the M-60 was a different animal!
        Our Quad’s was a game changer! Before we were given the selector switch they were a semi-automatics.

  • Dan F. June 17, 2016, 7:06 am

    None of this is necessarily a bad thing. Any upgrades needed by this rifle can certainly be done at Unit level without the bureaucratic , politicized process that somehow always ends in paying Colt some ungodly sum for a rifle that most people build in their garage nowadays. Want a heavy barrel and a free-float tube? Corporal Snuffy the company armorer has a wrench.

  • REM1875 June 17, 2016, 3:48 am

    Who needs improvement when you have the perfect rifle- on paper, on the desk of someone who has never even fired one?

    LMAO we are going to upgrade them by making them selectable to full auto? Now where did they get that idea? (1964 original M-16’s)
    If they were not so arrogant they might rephrase the word “upgrade” to “go back to the original design concept”.

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