Three Rifles That Could Replace the Army’s M4A1 Carbine

According to the U.S. Army Chie, the Army is “taking a hard look” at a new German assault rifle and some other designs to replace the existing M4A1 Carbine.

The M4A1 Carbine is currently issued to U.S. Army combat troops all over the world. A descendant of the original M16 rifle,this M4A1 Carbine has a 14.5″ barrel, is chambered for the 5.56-millimeter round.He weighs approximately 9 pounds when fully equipped with lasers, optics, foregrips, and some additional attachments.

One possible weapon that may come as a nice replacement is the Heckler and Koch 416. Very similar to the M4A1 Carbine, the 416 differs in using a gas piston system in which hot pressurized gas which is generated by burning gunpowder drives a piston that ejects empty brass casings, chambers a new round, and then cycles the gun’s action. Used by the Marine Corps as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, with several issued to each squad, this rifle is liked by everyone which is more than enough to consider issuing them to all marine infantry. Also, the HK416, is the new official rifle of the French Army.

Arguments for: Unlike the M4A1 Carbine, which injects the dirty, hot, gunpowder gases into the gun’s action, the HK416 vents the gasses outward. The end result is a rifle that runs much cleaner.

Heckler and Koch 416

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Arguments against: The Heckler and Koch 416 is still a 5.56-millimeter firearm, so the Army would need to focus on continuing so they can make the diminutive round not only capable of penetrating future armors but also causing lethal injuries, which is an increasingly difficult task. Also , a gas piston rifle is slightly heavier and costs three times as much as one M4A1 do.

Second possible replacement

AR-10 rifle is another possible replacement of the M4A1 Carbine.This rifle is a derivative of the civilian AR-15 rifle, which is functionally identical to the M4A1, except the ability to fire fully automatic. Also, it is slightly larger and heavier than the AR-15 and is chambered for the 7.62-millimeter round. Well, the Army’s version would be capable of fully automatic fire.


Arguments for: The 7.62-millimeter round this rifle uses, is larger than the current 5.56-millimeter round and is more likely to both penetrate the body armor of enemy soldiers and incapacitate them. Also, the larger round is more effective against enemy troops in vehicles and covers. Finally, adopting an AR-10-type rifle would mean the entire infantry squad carrying the M240 medium machine gun and use a single type of ammunition.

Arguments against: The heavier round also means more recoil, therefore is more difficult to control firing fully automatic. Also, soldiers will be able to carry fewer rounds on them. As lastly, the Army would have to get rid of billions of 5.56 rounds it has stockpiled, although, it may compromise by having truck drivers and support personnel continue to carry the M4A1.

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Third possible replacement

Lastly, the Army may finally enter the plastic age and adopt a new carbine developed by Textron, under the Army’s Lightweight Small Arms Technology program. This rifle uses specially developed bullets. Unlike all the regular rounds, the 6.5-millimeter bullets are completely encased in gunpowder and polymer, reducing their overall length.

Textron's LSAT

Arguments for: The new 6.5 mm round has 300 % more energy that the current 5.56 mm round, which translates into greater penetration. Just like the HK416, this last possible replacement rifle is also a piston design, so it too will need less cleaning and more firing time to overheat.

Arguments against: The new 6.5 round is heavier and bulkier than the current 5.56 round, meaning soldiers can carry fewer rounds. Textron’s LSAT rifle is also almost a pound heavier than the M4A1 Carbine, although the company hadn’t yet tried to optimize the weapon’s weight. Also, the Army would have to buy billions of 6.5 rounds and distribute them troops worldwide.

If none of these arguments above don’t sound compelling enough to warrant a completely new rifle you are not alone in thinking so. Small arms development has largely plateaued, and although advances like the new 6.5 round bring new advantages, also bring some old disadvantages – particularly weight issues. Maybe the Army in the Age of Trump could do something big and bold by replacing the existing M4A1 Carbine and adopting a totally new rifle and bullet, it would be safer  doing nothing at all, except maybe fielding a new armor penetrating 5.56 bullet.

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