The M4A1 Carbine

The M4/M4A1 5.56mm Carbine is a lightweight, gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, selective rate, shoulder fired weapon with a collapsible stock. Equipped with a shorter barrel, collapsible stock and accessory rails it provides soldiers operating in close quarters with improved handling and the capability to rapidly and accurately engage targets at extended range, day or night. A shortened variant of the M16A2 rifle, the M4 provides the individual soldier operating in close quarters the capability to engage targets at extended range with accurate, lethal fire. The M4 Carbine achieves over 80% commonality with the M16A2 Rifle and will replace all M3 .45 caliber submachine guns and selected M9 pistols and M16 rifle series


After the military conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf and Somalia, the need for a shorter version of the M16A2 again appeared. Colt engineers shortened the barrel back to 14.5″, contoured the barrel to mount the M203 grenade launcher, and added a collapsible, sliding buttstock. They also created a new upper receiver using a modular sight mounting system for use on a sub-variant. In August 1994, both variations were adopted. The United States Carbine, Caliber 5.56mm NATO, M4 uses the new barrel and collapsible buttstock, but was first issued with the standard M16A2 upper receiver and sights to streamline production, though it now is made with the new modular upper receiver.

The M4 Carbine is similar in design and functioning to the M16 family of rifles, thereby greatly simplifying training, supply, and maintenance. Compared to the M16A2 rifle, the M4 Carbine is 1.3 pounds lighter, 6 5/8 inches shorter with buttstock extended, and almost 10 inches shorter with the buttstock collapsed. The basis of issue plan replaces on a one-for-one basis all caliber .45 submachine guns, selected caliber .45 and 9mm pistols, and selected Ml6A2 rifles. Infantry personnel receiving the M4 include platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, radio-telephone operators, and mortar gunners. The pistols carried by Infantry commanders, executive officers, and operations officers will not be replaced.

One of the ARNG central readiness requirements is individual weapons modernization. The ARNG still has 34,951 obsolete M16A1’s in its inventory. Obtaining ammunition for these rifles has become increasingly difficult, particularly for deployed units. The M16A2 and M16A4 are also being fielded to replace the first generation rifle and use the same heavier ammunition as the M4 Carbine.

The M4 is issued to units and personnel with a requirement for an effective but compact, highly portable/slingable “hands free” weapon. It is ideally suited for use in close quarters and/or by soldiers who operate from vehicles with limited stowage space. The M4 can mount the optics and lighting components of the Modular Weapons System (MWS) giving it significant additional capabilities. It has become the weapon of choice for the Global War on Terror and homeland security. Any M4 Carbines purchased for priority units already modernized with M16A2/A4’s will cascade those weapons to replace the much older A1’s in other ARNG units.

Though the XM-8 Modular Assault Weapon System, if procured, is expected to cost about the same as the M-4, fielding to the Active Army is unlikely to begin before FY-08.

The FY2006 current ARNG requirement for M4 Carbines is 60,943 rifles at a cost of $1k each. On hand are 15,975 with ARNG fielding suspended IOT push the entire weapons production to units in or deploying to Iraq. 22,648 Carbine’s are programmed (Modularity) for the ARNG, leaving a shortfall of 22,320 weapons. Excess production capacity is available after FY- 05 and approximately 1000 weapons per month could be delivered on a new contract.

Funding this program will allow the Army National Guard to deploy and operate with maximum effectiveness on all fronts of the Global war on Terror. It contributes to the soldiers ability to defend him/herself and, with the MWS components, significantly increases the soldiers ability to rapidly engage targets in all environments. It is essential that the M16A1’s be replaced as soon as possible. The M16A2 and A4 fieldings are funded, but alone will not displace all the A1’s. Failure to fund the M4 fielding will increase risk to the soldiers, increase costs of pre-deployment cross-leveling and will degrade the ARNG’s ability to train for and execute its federal and state missions.


~ by tdubbers on December 16, 2009.

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