Army Seeks COTS M4 Upgrade Package

Why do they let “regular media” reporters attempt to write about firearms? This isn’t right at all.

The Army is asking the gun industry to build new components for its soldiers’ primary weapon — the M4 carbine — a move that experts say is a tacit admission that the service has been supplying a flawed rifle that lacks the precision of commercially available guns.

At a recent Capitol Hill hearing, an Army general acknowledged that the M4’s magazine has been responsible for the gun jamming during firefights.

On the federal government’s website, the Army announced a “market survey” for gunmakers to produce a set of enhancements to essentially create a new model — the “M4A1+.” It would include a modular trigger, a new type of rail fitted around a “free floating” barrel and other parts. The upgrade is supposed to improve the rifle’s accuracy and reliability.


Adding fuel to the fire is long-time M4/M16 critic, retired Major General Robert Scales.

Gen. Scales said the Army’s new solicitation is further proof of the carbine’s shortfalls.

“It’s another attempt by the Army to make the M4 look good,” he said. “If the Army wants to improve the M4, fine. But it’s not a weapon suitable for high-intensity, close combat in extremes against an enemy who is basically matching us in weapons performance in a close fight. Everybody knows the weapon has flaws.”

Mr. Scales said the M4’s basic shortfall is that it uses gas, or direct, impingement to extract and expel its shells as opposed to a piston system. A piston firing mechanism is in the prolific AK-47, which runs cleaner and cooler but is considered slightly less accurate.

Let’s cut through the crap.

The Army is not looking to “build new components” for the M4 carbine. The actual request is for COTS (commercial off the shelf) upgrades so that “mil-spec” M4s start performing as well as the many “better than mil-spec” (BTMS) guns on the commercial market. Civilian gun companies driven by customer demands for more accurate, durable, and reliable AR-style firearms long ago figured out the best way to correct deficiencies in the M4’s design.


While gun shop commandos and retired generals can attack the direct impingement system all they desire, people who actually run these weapons hard (tens of thousands of rounds a year) know just how good they can be. Properly-built BTMS AR-15 rifles have gone more than 20,000 rounds without cleaning. ARs are a mature weapon system, and the military’s problem is that they are simply, woefully behind the curve when it comes to keep up with small arms technology, as they have been throughout American history.

I will, however, concede that Scales may be on point with his criticism of the M855A1 cartridge. The “green” bullet doesn’t perform nearly as well as the 77-grain Mk262 OTM rounds, and since the Army stole the M855A1 design, we’re forced to pay royalties on every bullet they buy as a result.

In a dream world, I’d suggest that the Army ditch the M4 carbine upper, and the “upgrade” would feature an entirely new upper, featuring the adoption of a 18″barrel rifle with a mid-length gas system, and a cartridge in the 6mm-6.5mm family that would provide better short range terminal performance and more consistent mid-range accuracy.

Of course, I know that is likely a pipe-dream.

What isn’t a fantasy is the reality that the Army M4 is going to be with us a very long time, and the military needs to get off their butts and make the system work. Its a damn shame that the many of the 5 million AR-15s in the civilian market for plinking targets are so much better than the much smaller number of M4s in Army service.


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