The United States Army has concluded its Individual Carbine competition to replace the M4 family of firearms without a winner, according to a news release put out by the Army’s Program Executive Office yesterday. The release explained that none of the firearms submitted for testing scored high enough in the second phase of evaluation to continue further review.
The second phase rated the candidate carbines on accuracy, reliability, and durability, in addition to other criteria. The release specifically mentioned that none of the potential replacements “demonstrated a significant improvement in weapon reliability—measured by mean rounds fired between weapon stoppage.”
The decision came down not long after a 2014 budget amendment, which would have mandated the Army complete the third phase of testing, was approved by the House Armed Services Committee. The Army’s conclusion of the competition now effectively sidesteps the congressional maneuver, which still would have not come into effect until October at the earliest.
Several industry and military commentators have expressed a lack of surprise at the decision, viewing the competition as one that was doomed from the start. The act of replacing the Army’s small arms mainstay with guns that likely would have offered little significant improvements over the M4A1, coupled with the government’s budgetary belt tightening, was not something that experts viewed as probable nor cost-effective. Rob Curtis of MilitaryTimes.com summed up this perspective in his post on the news:
[…] but in the end it came down to one thing, really; the gas operated M4 platform is a reliable and accurate weapon. No whiz-bang piston could offer enough of a performance gain in aggregate to justify the massive expense involved in fielding a new carbine for the entire Army.
Notable submissions that were being tested in the competitions second phase include the FN FNAC (a SCAR-L with a non-reciprocating charging handle, among other features), the Heckler & Koch HK416A5, a variant of the Remington ACR, the Adcor Defense BEAR Elite, the Beretta ARX-160, and Colt’s Enhanced M4 (a modified piston-driven design).
The Army will now continue with its plan of replacing M4 carbines and M16 rifles with M4A1 carbines for all service members.
Image by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day, U.S. Air Force, released in public domain