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The Republican senator that pushed the Army to search for a replacement for its M4 carbine is now questioning the service’s recent decision to kill the improved carbine competition.

Sen. Tom Coburn recently sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh over the Army’s June 13 decision to halt the competition before holding the final phase of the effort.

“I am most disappointed to hear that the Army has decided to cancel the Improved Carbine Competition without ever having given soldiers the opportunity to field test the weapons to determine if there was a marked improvement to the current M4,” Coburn wrote in a June 17 letter.

“The Army continues to prioritize the modernization of other non-essential equipment over its small arms leading one to question why — if the rifle squad is the foundational element of the Army, and small arms are the rifleman’s primary weapon — would we not takes steps today to ensure that we are equipping our force with the most effective small arms and ammunition available?”

Coburn wants the Army to tell him which programs the Army plans to reprogram the IC money into. He also wants the Army to explain why the service’s near-term small arms strategy doesn’t include an effort to assess a medium-caliber round for increased battlefield capability.

In 2008, Coburn put a hold Pete Geren’s nomination to Secretary of the Army until he agreed that the Army would look at what industry had to offer to see anything was better than the M4.

No one can say that the Army didn’t do that. The service launched a competition that attracted a lot of gun companies, eight of which made the cut to have testers shoot thousands of rounds through their weapons.

The Army also made the decision to upgrade the M4 to the M4A1, the special operations version of the weapon that’s been in use for just over a decade. It has a heavier barrel and a full-auto trigger. The Army’s decision to dump the current three-round burst trigger will give shooters a more consistent trigger pull and lead to better accuracy, weapons officials maintain.

Having said that, I sure would like to know how close Adcor Defense Inc., Beretta, Colt Defense LLC, FNH-USA, Heckler & Koch, Lewis Machine & Tool, Remington Defense and Troy Defense came to reaching the magic 3,592 Mean rounds per stoppages requirement. The Army says none of them could meet it, but how did they do ompared to the M4A1, which achieved 1,691 mean rounds between stoppages when it the tested using the new M855A1 ammunition.

Of course the Army has no plans of releasing this information, but I’m sure it will come out. I have never understood why the Army is allowed to hold small arms competitions in secret. I’m sure there are many reasons. I just think the Army should have to post the results.

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