US Army Ends Search for M4 Replacement

The US Army's search for a replacement to the M4 carbine has ended before even reaching the final phase of testing.

The Individual Carbine competition, which began in late 2010, was entered into by several major firearms manufacturers: Adcor Defense, Beretta, Colt, Fabrique Nationale, Heckler & Koch, Lewis Machine & Tool, Remington, Smith and Wesson and Troy. Testing was to be divided into three phases:

  • Phase I: this tested the weapon's ability to mount accessories (on Picatinny rails), as well as each manufacturer's ability to produce a sufficient number of weapons. Because the winner of the competition was required to provide blueprints to two competitors (so each would make 1/3rd of the necessary order) Colt pulled its CM901 from the competition, so as not to reveal any of its trade secrets. Other companies that left the competition during this phase were Smith and Wesson and Lewis Machine and Tool.
  • Phase II: this phase tested the weapon's accuracy, reliability and durability. The weapons in the phase were:
    • Fabrique National FNAC
    • Heckler & Koch HK416A5
    • Remington ACR (modified)
    • Adcor Defense BEAR Elite
    • Beretta ARX-160
    • Colt Enhanced M4

    These tests began in May 2012, and where scheduled to last between 12-18 months, and produce three contenders for Phase III.

In early May, 2013, the Army announced that it was considering cancelling the Individual Carbine competition due to acquisition of M4A1 carbines through 2018, budget concerns, and possible personnel reductions.

On June 6th the House Armed Services Committee unanimously passed an amendment to the 2014 budget that would prevent the Army from cancelling the Individual Carbine competition before user evaluations (typically done in Phase III). This amendment also required a business case analysis and reports to Congressional defense committees before any final decision is made.

On June 13th the Army announced that it was officially ending the Individual Carbine competition, stating that none of the weapons tested had met the minimum scoring requirements to advance past Phase II. The Army has not released any information about how various weapons performed in the test, or how their performance compared to the M4A1. The amendment passed by the House Armed Services Committee would not have taken effect (assuming the budget passes) until October 2013, so the Army did not violate any Congressional directive.

For the foreseeable future, the Army will continue to convert its M4 carbines into the improved M4A1,

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