The Army awarded Remington Arms Company an April 20 contract to make tens of thousands of M4A1 carbines. By outbidding Colt Defense -- the original maker of the M4 -- Remington may end up being the only winner in what many gun makers have labeled as the Army's well-intentioned but doomed effort to arm soldiers with a better carbine.
On the upside, the award means that more soldiers will go into combat with the M4A1, a SOF version of the carbine that features a more durable barrel and a full-auto capability. The Army's decision to dump the three-round burst setting will give soldiers a more consistent trigger and better accuracy.
It's part of the service's dual-path strategy to improve the individual carbine. Army weapons officials recently completed phase one of the service's Improved Carbine Competition and will soon announce which companies proved they have the infrastructure and production capacity to turn out thousands of new weapons. Gun makers that advance to the second and third phases of the competition will have hundreds of thousands of test rounds fired through their prototypes before the Army announces one winner.
Many small-arms firms believe the endeavor is a waste of time since the Army has shown no interest in new calibers or features that would increase modularity. In the end, the winner of the competition will likely lose when the Army conducts a business-case analysis comparing it to the new-and-improved carbine that emerges from the parallel effort known as the M4 Product Improvement Program.
Questions have already started to surface over just how successful the PIP will be since the Army recently canceled a search for an improved bolt and bolt-carrier assembly. Companies such as LWRC International, Remington and Smith & Wesson that competed for the bolt and bolt-carrier assembly portion of the PIP were notified by the Army April 10 that none of the submissions offered enough improvement over the M4's existing bolt and bolt-carrier assembly. It will be interesting to see if similar efforts to improve components such as the selector-switch assembly and the forward-rail assembly suffer the same fate.
For now though, congratulations to Remington for winning a contract to make 24,000 M4A1s. More orders are likely to follow since last summer's pre-solicitation detailed a requirement for 70,000-100,000 M4A1s. This has been a long, tedious road since the Army launched its improved carbine effort in late 2008, but Kit Up!, is going to follow it all the way to the bitter end.