Colt's latest attempt to obstruct the Army M4 contract denied by the GAO

Colt recently filed another complaint with the Government Accountability Office in further attempts to block competing vendors from supplying the US Army with new rifles. They do not want to lose their position as the primary M4 supplier to the Army, and they’re pulling out all the stops to prevent being undercut by the competition. 

Shortly after signing Remington to the US Army’s $84 million M4 contract, Colt filed a complaint with the GAO, claiming that the contract did not properly calculate the royalties owed to Colt for each rifle. The GAO agreed, and the Army re-opened the bidding for the contract to supply them with much-needed M4A1 carbines. 

GAO sealColt since filed a second complaint with the GAO, and while the details of their filing are unknown, it matters little as the GAO has denied their second claim

Vendors will continue on with the current bidding schedule, and hopefully get back on track to supplying the military with the M4A1s they need to replace their aging M4s and M16s still in service starting in 2013. In order to keep things fair, all vendors have had to make their first bids public, acknowledging the fact that Remington’s bid was revealed by the GAO inquiry.

The plan to roll out new rifles dates back to 2008 when the Army started looking into ways to improve or possibly replace the M4. That could have been Colt’s intent all along, in order to be able to come in for less than all of the competing vendors. 

The M4 Product Improvement Plan eventually settled on updating the M4A1 and fielding it to all troops. Although the M4A1 is more than a few years old it’s also extremely well-established in the military, and replacing existing rifles with it means no additional training requirements nor any teething issues rolling out a new main infantry small arm. Also, it’s very cost-effective. The cost per rifle Remington originally contracted for was just $673. 

“The M4 series has served Soldiers well throughout more than a decade of sustained combat. Yet, it is critical for the Army to continue to strengthen the 500,000 M4s in the inventory since the M4 series will remain in the field for years to come regardless of the outcome of the carbine competition. The Army is pursuing a two-phase PIP to keep the M4 inventory strong. Phase I upgrades the Army’s M4s to the Special Forces’ M4A1, while Phase II explores future improvements for the M4A1 Carbine to deliver enhanced reliability, durability, ergonomics and zero retention.”

The main advantage of the M4A1 is that it fires in full-auto rather than in a three-round burst. On AR-type firearms, the way the three-round burst mode works is with a ratchet that, on ever third shot, engages with the disconnector halting continued fire. This effectively gives the trigger two different pulls, one when the disconnector is in the stop notch and one when it isn’t. Even though a mil-spec trigger isn’t the best in the world, it’s still better than two different mil-spec trigger pulls.
A Green Beret fires a M4A1 carbine at a range in Iraq.
Accuracy is at the forefront of the PIP, so removing the three-round burst fire control group is a must. Part one of the plan is to get M4A1 into the hands of soldiers, and part two includes a handful of upgrades including a free-float quad rail. In the end the Army hopes to have every soldier carrying accurate, modern rifles with many other improvements. From the Military Times:

“We are modernizing the entire fleet of M4s to the M4A1 configuration, which includes a heavier barrel, a full automatic trigger assembly and ambidextrous fire controls,” said Col. Scott Armstrong, who runs Project Manager Soldier Weapons. 

We’re glad that the GAO has overturned this latest attempt by Colt to muscle the bid out from beneath Remington, not that we aren’t a little bit impressed by their tenacity in landing the contract. We aren’t happy about possible future delays in rolling out the new carbines. These weapons are needed in the field, and what was an exploratory interest in M4 upgrades is turning into a multi-year knock-down, drag-out battle stateside for the money and prestige this contract represents.

One interesting solution that has been rumored is dividing up the contract among two or more of the bidders. That way Colt continues to be America’s first name in infantry rifles and the troops and the taxpayers both get what they deserve. 

Photo credit American Special

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