The US Army isn’t wasting any time. They announced plans to hold a competition to see if they could find something better than the M4A1, which is currently replacing the standard M4.
The details are a little fuzzy, but the competition for solicited companies and take place over a two-year period. In that time the Army will test rifles, produce the ones they like and then field-test them before awarding the winner.
In March or April the Army will host an open house to establish the ground rules so-to-speak and answer questions. The submission deadline should be a few months after May and then testing will begin.
What we do know is as of now there are no caliber restrictions, but we’re putting our money on 5.56mm because it has been the US standard for nearly 50 years. However, 6.8 SPC, a cartridge between 5.56mm and 7.62mm, is becoming somewhat common for carbines. The Army said interchangeable barrels and calibers aren’t necessary, yet, some of the possible contenders already have that feature.
It must be effective for more than 500 meters.
It must have a “high incapacitation percentage,” so it can’t crap out after a few mags.
And, it can have either a gas-operating system or a piston-operating system. In case you didn’t know a piston-operating system works similarly to gas, but instead of gas pushing the bolt back directly, the gas pushes a piston that pushes the bolt. There’s an ongoing debate as to which is better.
During the testing phase, the Army plans to shoot more than 2 million rounds and fire each rifle until it becomes basically a club. Bores shall be smooth and triggers shall be loose. Pushing each rifle to its breaking point will allow the Army to see how it functions and wears over time. In case you didn’t know, the US military likes to keep rifles well beyond its breaking point and use them for training.
The Army is having the competition because troops have raised concerns about the M4’s performance on and off the battlefield. Reports have said firefights in Afghanistan can get up to ranges of a thousand meters and the primitive AK-47 has been more effective. And when exposed to dirt or dust the M4’s functionality reduces greatly.
Like I said in before, the submissions will compete against the M4A1 and its not giving up without a fight. Immediate modifications to help remedy its problems are a heavier barrel, automatic fire and ambidextrous controls, but it too will undergo testing to improve the bolt and gas system.
As word has it, the Marines are watching the Army’s experiment closely to see the future of their service rifle.
You know the basic requirements. What do you think a good replacement will be? Post your thoughts in the comments section.