In an announcement released Nov. 29 on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, the Army is asking all rifle makers who want to compete in the upcoming Improved Carbine search to test their weapons on the services potent new M855A1 cartridge and to make sure their guns can work with the M28 shotgun and M320 grenade launcher attached.
According to Lt. Col. Chris Lehner, the program manager for individual weapons, the new round is only available for government purchase, so in the interest of fairness to all those companies who have 5.56 designs, the service wanted to make sure all the candidates could fire the new round without encountering serious problems.
The first iteration of Familiarization firing will be on a 25yd and 300yd range (one or more days on each range). A third, 100m indoor range, may be available (availability pending the final count of vendors participating).The service is also inviting manufacturers to confirm their designs are compatible with "enablers" like the H&K-made M320 grenade launcher and the M26 magazine-fed shotgun. But this is not a firing event and is not restricted to 5.56 rifles.
The so-called "familiarization shoot" than "compatibility tests" will be conducted at HP White labs in Street, Md., from January - May of next year. But the important thing is that all companies who want to participate MUST REGISTER BETWEEN DECEMBER 6 to DECEMBER 10 by calling HP White and getting in the lottery for a time and date.
Interested vendors must register through: H.P. White Laboratory,Inc., Ray McBride, Lester Roane, or Frank Barile at 410-838-6550 December 06 - 10, 2010. All other inquiries please contact: The U.S. Army, ArmyContracting Command (ACC) Joint Munitions & Lethality (JM&L) ContractingCenter, CCJM-MA, Bldg 10, Attn: Pete Snedeker, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ 07806-5000 at email@example.com. This is a special notice only and is forplanning purposes only.In a conversation with Lehner to fill out the details of the announcement, I asked whether the 5.56 only test shoot is a forecast that the Army wants a 5.56 replacement for the M4. He explained that this was merely a way for manufacturers to shoot their rifle with the round now being used by most Soldiers in the field -- the 5.56x45 M855A1 cartridge. Other rounds like the 6.8 and 7.62 are already commercially available. There is no prejudice toward the 5.56 for the improved carbine program, he said.
And to make it even more fair, Lehner has arranged for a follow up test shoot for vendors who needed to tweak their designs in light of their weapon's performance in the initial trial with the M855A1 round. In other words, if your gun screws up firing the new bullet, you have a chance to change some barrel twist, retool the bolt or add some length and reshoot.
As Lehner put it:
We want these guys to have a stress free environment where they can shoot our ammunition, they don't have to worry about the government looking over their shoulder [since it's at HP White] collecting information on them and then they can make their tweaks, and then they can come to the competition.Make sure to read the entire announcement on the Army's Improved Carbine vendor familiarization shoot and compatibility test and make sure to register your bang stick by December 10 .