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 is a reporter at He can be reached at
  • Rusty Shovel

    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.

    • Lance

      On rifle not really there isn’t much of a better weapon than the M-4 in the 5.56mm category. If you want a new weapon get a new caliber. If we stay with 5.56mm stay with the main platform for it.

    • Dan

      Infantry equipment is so far down the list of equipment that is strategically useful. It hardly even makes a difference tactically.
      Meanwhile, having your troops be trained in rules of engagement so they don’t mow down villagers because they’re mad is strategically useful.

      • Josh

        Troll much?

        A well supplied (and trained) infantry is the difference between strong on paper and strong on the ground.

    • Billywhat?

      And why wouldn’t you question them? These are the same kind of people that want to get rid of the A-10 because they believe fighters like the F-16 can do their job. Only a complete retard with his head so far up his behind if he blinks he tickles his liver would make such decisions.

      • Lance

        I agree the JSF and Falcon cannot loiter and carry as much ammo or as armored for CAS missions. major pitfall of the Clinton and Bush era strategy thinkers.

        • Martin M

          And the F-16 ($20Mil ea) is to be replaced by the F-35($200Mil ea, 10x the cost!). The USAF has always hated the A-10 because it is not a space age fighter jet. Remember, the AF is run by fighter pilots (Fighter Generals). McPeak destroyed SAC because of the internal fighter pilot (TAC) envy of the nuclear forces (SAC). Nothing but problems since. The Army and the Navy have their own misplaced priorities. Such as using multi-million dollar missiles to destroy mud huts, and multi-billion dollar destroyers to chase down pirates in dinghies.

          • Lance

            Because the Navy and AF think we be fighting Desert Storm forever and we dont need air superiority (F-22s demise) fighters and CAS planes.

    • Randy

      Kind of like the 100,000,000 dollars they have spent on trying to replace an ineffective camo pattern that they spent 100,000,000 dollars on; only to decide to use a pattern they owned the whole time… Something stinks…

  • Ben Branam

    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?

  • shawnmt6601

    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.

    • Sean

      I agree. They all have an agenda. Unfortunately, the soldier and the American people aren’t on it.

  • Lance

    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.

    • Jay

      You mean like Colt hired the former Joint Chief of Stuff as prize for killing the competition?

      • Nance, Elliot

        The same Colt that would gain nothing from the competition being killed? I mean they don’t make carbines for the Army anymore and having a chance to win the competition would sound better than getting nothing but royalties.

      • Lance

        Why FN and Remington are making the M-4 for the Army now.

    • John

      How much money did FN give him? Where can I find that info?

  • Darius137

    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.

    • M&P next

      Agree. I would like to see a .270 Win. cal. reworked so we get a bigger mass of projectile but we keep a rectiligne recoil. The 7.62 NATO cant go in everyone’s hand, its either M60 machine gun or Sniper rifle.
      The infantry rifle’s round has to penetrate small walls or doors like the AK47 round, but its gotta be smaller and lighter.

      I think if we get a short and light .270 Win. cal. it would suite the battlefield.
      Exactly like the .40 S&W for pistols, its a short and light 10mm.

      Forget the 9mm, Man will keep firing at you.
      Forget the 5.56 NATO, Man will hide behind a door.

      Next U.S. All military units pistol: S&W M&P .40S&W
      Next U.S. All military units rifle: SCAR or M5 (16 in barrel) in .270 Winchester* Shorten and Lighten

      • James

        Lots of new calibers have come out over the years that fit what you are suggesting. The one that comes to mind off the top of my head is the 6.8 SPC. It was developed with SOF input and can be loaded with rounds up to 110 grains and the OTM round is a barrier blind expanding bullet that has been signed off by the military legal authorities as not being in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Another choice is the fairly new 7.62×40 by Wilson Combat. Of course there is the 6.5 Grendal. I’m a fan of the 6.8 SPC because it has successfully made it from being a wildcat round to a being widely available commercially. The are numerous companies building barrels, uppers and complete rifles along with ammo being made by several companies. The Grendal and Wilson rounds are better in several areas compared to the 6.8 but last time I looked they were still proprietary rounds with both ammo and parts only available through their respective developers. It is my opinion that the 6.8 would be a better choice because of the greater pool of manufactures that could compete in a compition plus there are already SAAMI specs for the round so there would be no issues with sourcing ammo and parts from multiple vendors.

        A few more quick advantages of the 6.8. There are at least a half dozen manufactures of 6.8 rifles with both direct impingement and gas piston systems available. In fact at one point Barrett has made both. Also I think Bushmaster has both available. So rounding up a few rifles for a competition against other 6.8 rifles and against the 5.56 and other calibers would be straight forward. Additionally the 6.8 can use standard mags with a different follower installed and there is only a 5 round loss in capacity. There are 6.8 specific mags that hold 28 rounds in a magazine that is the same dimensions (IIRC) so ammo loads are minimally impacted and there is no need to develop new magazine pouches to accommodate a new and larger magazine. Finally conversion to any new round based on the current M4/16 is there would be minimal retraining needed and cost could be kept down because the current rifles could be converted using new uppers, bolts, and magazine followers or even just new barrels, bolts and followers if a DI system was adopted. Plus costs could be kept down by having the armoures do the work. Of course adopting a new round is unlikely to occur let alone in a cost effective manner so this is all academic, but if our procurement system ever does get fixed there is a cost effective way to increase the lethality of the US battle rifle.

        • M&P next

          James, the 6.8 SPC is exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you!
          I think the 95 grains FMJ (6.2 g) Barnes has best cost effeciency and velocity because it still needs to be a fast and light bullet in order to reach moving targets at reasonable range, approx. 120 yards.
          Changing caliber is most definetely something to consider if we want an adequate response against 7.62×39 soviet bullets world wide.
          It should ve been done years ago. Why think of a military style 22lr when Eugene Stoner made his Plastic rifle? Its war we’re talking about, not shooting squirrels with grandpa’ !

        • Marc

          6.8 SPC lacks range, the same problem 5.56 has. To fit long, ballistically efficient projectiles to close the range gap it would need a new rifle+magazine, everything else is just a compromise like 6.5 Grendel.

          • rick

            Marc, the 6.8 has plenty of range for the average soldier. Most can’t hit anything past 250 meters anyway. Go look at the range scores. The 6.8 will shoot accurately past 500 yards in the hands of decent shooter and have enough power to put a man down. I read a report that said the average range in a fire fight through most of the US military history is ranges under 300 yards.

          • Jim

            Maximum point blank range matters too though. Slower rounds like 6.8 don’t fare very well in that category. If you think they’re bad at range now, imaging when they’ve got to compensate for drop much closer in, and have to be more accurate with their range estimates to be on target due to a more curved trajectory.

      • Rick

        6.8 SPC II is the way to go, kind of like the +P in pistol cartridges. I built a M4 in 6.8 SPC II great out to 600 yards (swings a ram metal target well) and have even had regular hits on the 1,000 yard range (man type target) and could hear the metal ring. Not much more than 25 inch drop at 1,000 with the SPC II and still within scope dope with initial sight in at 200.

  • John D

    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??

    • top dog

      He probably got some contractor in his home state he want to get the job.

    • Lance

      He doesn’t care he got camping money from FN several years ago he tried to make it up for them. Since the SCAR is not better than the M-4A1, it luckily failed. He is just whining like a toddler now.

    • michael day

      he is being a political pest for self gain ,, hells bells income taxes where created to sustain our military and there are more fingers in the pot then there are pieces of gold to go around , I served for 21 years and not one year went by that funding was not cut nor some stupid worthless thing was not pushed down our throats that cost millions or even billions ,, I so agree it costs money way too much money for every new thing pushed our way so glad you are sober john we need more like you to stand up against the true military waist and fraud

  • SSG SKYGOD 225

    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…

  • moondawg

    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.

    • majr0d

      Many have said this. None discuss the weight/basic load considerations.

      You also may want to check this out.
      Penetration by M855A1 is more than twice M855. In fact it even penetrates steel better than 7.62mm

      • moondawg

        If you are talking the rounds effect on humans, penetration is not always a good thing. Small hole in and small hole coming out. For incapacitation, you want a round that breaks up inside the body and has multiple pieces going in different directions, or at least is tumbling like crazy on its way through. Use armorer piercing of material, and ball for people.,

        • majr0d

          Did you look at the link? Penetration applies to concrete, steel & body armor. Performance against ballistic gelatin is better than M855 and more consistent (M855A1 doesn’t rely on yaw like M855).

      • FormerSFMedic

        I’ll admit, the 855A1 is pretty impressive on soft tissue. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the projectile is made of 2 pieces and isn’t known for it’s ballistic coefficient. I won’t say much more. Apparently, it’s supposed to be classified. If it were up to me I would just put the data out there for whoever.

        The penetration capability is a moot point in my eyes. The 855A1 penetrates about as well as it’s predecessor but at longer ranges. In recent conflicts, penetration hasn’t been a big issue and in my opinion its an issue that’s focused on too much. We’re not dealing with a lot of body armor and when the enemy takes cover we have other systems available to effect the barrier they choose to hide behind.

        With all that said, the 855A1 IS more devastating on tissue and DOES penetrate hard barriers at longer ranges. However, the advantages of the 855A1 cartridge are NOT worth the drawbacks. The last thing I would want is a cartridge that increases chamber pressures to dangerous levels in guns that are barely maintained and improperly tuned. I would also not want a cartridge that has a 4.5 moa accuracy standard issued to troops that don’t shoot well in the first place.

        • Joshua

          As long as they keep making M855A1 like they are now accuracy should be fine. It holds around 1.75-2MOA which is very good. The pressures can certainly be an issue on poorly maintained rifles, but so far I have not heard of any issues due to the increased pressures.

  • Bruce Parker

    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.

    • Lance

      Or 6.5 Grendel.

      • Rusty Shovel

        +1. The 6.5 is superior to 5.56 in every way except loadout weight–and that difference is miniscule. Blackout doesn’t reach out far enough to be a universal cartridge.

    • moondawg

      Like the 7.62×39, the 300 Blackout is a short range cartridge. It would be better to have something that will at least reach out to 500 meters. With current optics there is no reason soldiers can’t shoot beyond 200-300 meters. Well there is a reason, the Army doesn’t teach real marksmanship, and usually doesn’t teach shooting beyond 300. That is where the 6.5 Grendel comes it, it is good as far as the 7.62 nato can shoot..

      • majr0d

        It’s not just the Army. The Marines do a little more but not much. If you look past basic marksmanship training and at yearly qualification standards no branch really emphasizes anything past 300m.

      • FormerSFMedic

        The .300BLK is NOT a “short range” cartridge. The .300BLK is more than capable of effective hits out to 500m. At that distance the .300BLK has substantially more energy than the 5.56 while delivering a .308 caliber projectile. The .300BLK would be suitable for service and troops would likely see a big increase in terminal effectiveness. The myths surrounding the .300BLK have been debunked over and over again.

    • William_C1

      The .300 Blackout? Just be sure to avoid all low flying aircraft and helicopters in the area with that trajectory! 6.8x43mm is downright superior as a combat cartridge.

    • Geodkyt

      Um, the terminal ballistics of the 7.62x39mm M43 aren’t anything to write home about, compared to M193, M855, or M855A1. Add in a trajectory MUCH closer to a rainbow than 5.56x45mm, and you have a less effective round that MISSES more often in combat.

      As a hunting round, with modern hunting ammunition, and no need to EVER take a shot outside your comfort zone, it’s great. As an entry or CQB round (especially suppressed) with modern expanding ammo, it’s great.

      As a general issue infantry rifle round? Pass, thanks.

      • Geodkyt

        BTW, I mentioned7.62x39mm M43 because the guy above was comparing the .300 Blackout to it, as if that was a selling point in a military round.

  • top dog

    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.

    • BRASS

      Actually you have it backwards; on two counts. First: The US Constitution placed the responsibility for oversight directly on the congress, particularly the US Senate with the primary funding to come from the House of Representatives. Second: It’s the Democrats and particularly Liberals who have made a living interfering in everyones lives. The hundreds of thousands of duplicative and superfluous regulations forced upon us citizens and taxpayers have overwhelmingly come from the left side of the isle. The right of whom the so called Tea Party is a part have historically been the sole voice in the wilderness for deregulation and less funding for intrusive legislation. Recorded history is very clear and detailed in this regard.

      • Lance

        No Top dog has it right ICC was Colbern’s baby from the start and it was a waste. None of these weapons in 5.56mm offered anything a world better than the M-4 or M-16. SO when it comes to weapons or vehicles congress should have no say on the matter just the men who use them. Congress can dictate on other matters like policy and regulations.

      • Paralus

        Both parties stick their noses into way too much: The Democrats into your pocketbook – the GOP into your private life.

        with that said, Coburn wants to see if there is a better weapon than the M4. We were all gung-ho to adopt the XM8, so there was a better solution the Army wanted, but the war ate up the funding AND now the Sequester did.

        Is the M4A1 with the heavier barrel and full-auto going to be better than the XM8? Or the HK416? Or the SCAR? Now we’ll never know.

        But when you change the ammo and the manufacturer’s access to it AND set a goal that it had to be 100% than the M4A1, I have a to wonder if it isn’t rigged to be nearly impossible to achieve.

        If the requirement to fielding a better mousetrap is 100%, I gotta think innovation would be difficult for anyone.

        Is 100% improvement the small-arms equivalent to Moore’s law? If so, then:

        Was the Garand 100% better than the 1903 Springfield?
        Was the m14 100% better than the Garand?
        Was the M16 100% better than the M14?
        Was the M240 100% better than the M60E3?
        Was the Beretta M9 100% better than the Colt M1911A1?

        • defensor fortisimo

          The M4A1 doesn’t melt into a pile of plastic on the floor, so yeah by definition it is better than the XM8

        • donM

          5.56mm round works better at higher velocity. Army needs a bullpup so that you can have a shorter rifle with a longer barre.==> Higher velocity.

      • greenmonster

        Well said!!!

    • Joe Bagodonuts

      You are an idiot. Teabaggers want know it alls like you, off their back, so they can mind their own business without having to pay for you.

      • milman 6

        What an intelligent response.


    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.

  • Paul

    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

    • Lance

      100% right. way weapons have been used by none caring solders on maintenance on there rifles pistols SAWs made them misfire and jam. I think amlot of money should be made not at waste like ICC was but to train solder to mandatory care for there weapons 100%

      • moondawg

        That also means that the soldiers NCOs need to be constantly on their men about maintenance, cleaning and lubing. I remember back in the late 60s our team sergeant, was a holy terror on M-16 maintenance, cleaning and lube. We never once has a 16 jam up or freeze up, even though we went through a lot of ammo on occasion.

  • Lance

    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.

  • moondawg

    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.

    • Lance

      Colbern has no military experience and no gun experience in life so NO he should not look after the Army. He gotten money from FN if he won a ICC contract then he make them move to OK. Im glad his sinister plan failed.

  • Brok3n

    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…

  • brok3n


  • Jarrad

    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

    • Marc

      NATO standardization agreements were no hindrance for 5.56×45 either.

      • moondawg

        Or the 7.2 Nato/.308 Win for that matter. We shoved both down Nato’s throat.

        Besides, except for the U.S., Nato is pretty much a toothless tiger.

    • moondawg

      7×46 Murray is an awesome round. To bad it will never be adopted, or even seriously looked at by our military.

  • Joshua

    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.

    • Lance

      Im with you for 100%

      I think we is now the only politician who is crying over this. He started this crap five years ago. He lost to get FN plastic junk gun to win and he doesn’t like it. Time passes M-4A1s get good reviews and he leave office next year. He will shut up anyway. Im still curious what will a easy to disassemble Free Floating rail system the army will add to M-4A1s next year will look like.

      PS the reason M-4s failed at Wanat because of poor training done by the army. Solders panicked and used there rifles as a SAW which make any rife fail. No air support or artillery till too late is why the battle went bad. Maybe we can can this women in combat crap which makes more whips infantry people and make people shoot better for training.

  • don declue

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

  • Rob

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