The 5.56mm M-16 has been the USA’s primary battle rifle since the Vietnam war, undergoing changes into progressive versions like the M16A4 widely fielded by the US Marine Corps, “Commando” carbine versions, etc. The M4 Carbine is the latest member of the M16 family, offering a shorter weapon more suited to close-quarters battle, or to units who would find a full-length rifle too bulky.
In 2006 an Army solicitation for competitive procurement of 5.56mm carbine designs was withdrawn, once sole-source incumbent Colt dropped its prices. The DoD’s Inspector General weighed in with a critical report, but the Army dissented, defending its practices as a sound negotiating approach that saved the taxpayers money. As it turns out, there’s a sequel. A major sequel that has only grown bigger with time.
The M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field. In recent years, the M4 finished dead last in a sandstorm reliability test, against 3 competitors that include a convertible M4 variant. Worse, the 4th place M4 had over 3.5x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. Was that a blip in M4 buys, or a breaking point? DID explains the effort, the issues, and the options, as the Army moves forward with an “Individual Carbine” competition. But will it actually replace the M4?