Senator Questions Army’s Carbine Decision


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.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox has been a defense reporter since 1998 and is an associate editor for He traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq numerous times from 2002 to 2008, covering infantry units in combat. Matthew was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

20 Comments on "Senator Questions Army’s Carbine Decision"

  1. Rusty Shovel | June 20, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Reply

    Is Sen. Coburn grandstanding? Perhaps. Does he have my vote? Yes.

    The Army would rather spend a billion dollars on shiny "rules of engagement" study guides and "how not to harass" seminars.

    Get real. Better boots, better weapons, better soldiers…everything else is new-age fluff.

  2. Lately the question should be does he have any skin in the game? Lately there is a lot of crap out ther because of favors. Is this another one?

  3. Seems I remember reading some news reports about coburn having some talks with HK about opening a factory in his state to make the "new and improved new US service rifle" Giving new jobs to potential voters. Im sure if FN or Colt moved to his state, he would not make a peep about it.

  4. Tom Colbern is the one who started this ICC crap to began with. He got money from FN to do this. Now that the Army found the real conclusion that there really isn't a 5.56mm weapon much better than the M-4A1. I do find it interesting if he want a new caliber.

    Over does not matter anymore ICC is dead and now its just people who get money from other companies whining they cant deliver more money to there doners.

  5. I'd like a new caliber regardless of how twisted the method to get it is.

    There are a lot of good calibers coming out in the past five years or at least have seen some spotlight time. I think the 5.56 is inferior and was a joke in Afghanistan. The 7.62 NATO is probably a bit too big to be "universal" for everyone to use. Better rounds and bigger rounds. When they switch, sure, get a new rifle with it.

  6. The senator has no clue what to do and is making a political point!! To field test, you must make a bunch of the weapons and issue them. That costs MONEY!! If at this time it is decided that the cost vs gain isn't worth it then save the money or don't you want that Senator? Are some of the Gun makers in your pork barrel state Senator?? or are you just being a political pest??

  7. SSG SKYGOD 225 | June 21, 2013 at 9:02 am | Reply

    I suppose the US Army "holding small arms competitions in secret" is allowable by the precedent of the Obozo adminstration pressuring both houses of Congress to pass the ACA/ Obamacare to pass that act into law with it being kept "secret" until it was voted in…

  8. Buried in the article, the senator was also questioning why the Army was not working on a replacement medium caliber round to replace the 5.56 and provide greater lethality on the battlefield. The Army did "improve" the current 885 round. They made it green and twice as expensive, without making it twice as effective. Seriously, the 5.56 needs to be replaced with a more effective round. Something between the 5.56 and 7.62 Nato.

  9. Bruce Parker | June 21, 2013 at 10:37 am | Reply

    If there is to be a new caliber in the M-4 platform, then the .300 Blackout is the obvious choice. The cartridge uses the 5.56x45mm shell casing and thus the BCG and buffer assembly are interchangable. The other plus is that 5.56mm magazines also work with either cartridge. This round has the terminal ballistics of the Russian 7.62x39mm in a package made for the M-4 platform.

  10. Coburn need to stay the h-ll of Army business. Provide funds, thats what you do Senator, and you're not very good at that. Thats the problems with teabaggers, they try to tend to everybodies business but their own.

  11. Switch barrels aren't the nightmare they once were. We have the ability to create a multi-caliber switch barrel combination so that unit armorers could issue 5.56 for short to mid range use and just for example the .300 AAC Blackout or similar for more CQB punch and suppressed operational needs. Or even a longer range larger caliber than the 5.56 for better mid -range punch. Several calibers will fit the current magazine/bolt & chamber size of the M4/M16 family.

    I'm not suggesting we need a replacement but if we do, why not test a switch barrel. FN already makes and sells superb quick change barrel machine guns to US forces now with great success so we already have base data for the logistics issues which are a major priority.

  12. Small arms should be prioritized although I seriously doubt there is anything using current technology that can dramatically outperform the M4 carbine (to the point where it is worth replacing it). I think it would be nice to see them also emphasize training and small arms maintenance. A weapon, any weapon, cannot be used to its full potential if the soldier carrying it is not proficient in its use and it is properly maintained.

    Boosting the budget for small arms training and maintenance would show real commitment to the warfighter

  13. I about Matt's question on how ICC went in test performance. I do know that one man whose a commenter (Since you asked for know I wont use his name) on this bog posted months ago IC best finalist was a rifle who used DI still. That means LMT or Troy where the only two possible contenders. That mean a upscalled AR was the best candidate not any fancy piston guns.

  14. Some one needs to watch over the Army. It has not shown that it can manage the taxpayers money. Under our form of government, the military gets it's money from congress and has to answer to congress how it spends the money. Sen Coburn is from Oklahoma, and I have not heard of any firearms manufacturers having a plant in Oklahoma.

  15. As long as 5.56mm is the standard cartridge, its a huge waste of money to replace the M4. When the services decide to go to 6.5 Grendel, then we can talk about a pistol rifle replacement…

  16. *piston

  17. Until there is something LEAPS and BOUNDS better then the M4 that is what we will have. The Ideal cartridge is something along the lines of the 7×46 Murray. But to get that you would need a new platform. We should have gone with the mk318 SOST over the 855a1. The Grendel is all good and well as well as thr 6.8SPC. But until NATO adopts either its pipe dreams

  18. I wish Coburn would shut up.

    He has no military experience, he has no first hand experience with firearms. His information comes from Soldiers who call him to complain. He loves to harp on Wanat and the 507th without understanding why their weapons failed the . At the same time he ignores, or is oblivious to the numerous success stories of the M4 like what happened at The battle of Kamdesh. He also ignores that SOCOM has fielded weapons to replace the M4 only to eventually realize they offer no true tangible upgrade over the M4A1.

    He has alsl tried to make deals with H&K about setting up shop in his city and gets a lot of information about the M4 from H&K, which I know the person who feeds Coburn his information, and this person is so very wrong on how things work. It is part of the reason Coburn is so in love with Vietnam, Wanat, and the 507th.

    What the Army did was right. No rifle could meet those demands.

    Fact is nothing out there is a significant upgrade over the M4A1.

    PS sorry for typos on my mobile atm.

  19. The burst control on the m4 should have been removed a long time ago,the m16 rifle is a good system.

  20. Am M-4 in 6.5 or 6.8spc would. Maybe a gas piston upgrade also answer the questions.

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