Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why the U.S. Military has never understood the Assault Rifle. Part VI


The M4 Carbine.  In the 1990s the Special Operations community was finally fed up with the M16A2. After using compact weapons like the H&K MP5 9mm SMG, the wisdom of having an intermediate cartridge compact assault rifle became obvious. The AK-47 fit the size and performance envelope much better than the M16A2.  Colt developed the M4 Carbine in response to this requirement.  This design was a not entirely new.  Carbine versions of the M16A1 had existed since the 1960s. 
Colt CAR-15 Rifle c.1978
 The weapon was quite popular in Vietnam and a civilian semi auto version was marketed in the late 1970s.  To those “in the know” the CAR-15 was an excellent weapon, very compact and powerful. The shorter barrel made the CAR-15 very maneuverable.  The collapsible stock and short barrels, anywhere from 10 to 16 inches, were the major changes from the M16A1.  The M4 looks very much like the old CAR-15, the M4 does have a removable carry handle with A2 type sights, a 14.5 inch barrel. 
M16A4 and M4 Carbine in Iraq
The adjustable butt stock has six positions, which greatly help fit the M4 to individual soldiers, especially while wearing body armor.  The Army and Marines quickly adopted the M4 for general issue in the early 2000s.  The M4 established an outstanding record of success in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Law enforcement quickly followed suit and the popularity of the M4 skyrocketed.  The ability to configure the M4 for specialized missions and the wide variety of sights and accessories makes it the most versatile assault rifle available.    
M4 Carbines in Iraq
The M4 Carbine is the signature weapon of the Global War on Terror.  It seemed the services were content with the performance of the M4, however the old arguments of weapon range resurfaced.  The environment in the Middle East provided the opportunity to engage enemy targets at longer ranges. While the M4 performed these acceptably well.  There was a requirement to provide long range firepower. At first, upgraded M14 rifles were used in the designated marksman role.  Gradually, a M16 based rifle with the modularity of the M4 Carbine was designed and fielded.          

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