The one of most popular assault rifles, and for many special forces operator, a first pick. The M4 carbine is a family of firearms tracing its lineage back to earlier carbine versions of the M16, all based on the original AR-15 designed by Eugene Stoner and made by ArmaLite. It is a shorter and lighter version of the M16A2 assault rifle, with 80% parts commonality. The M4 has selective fire options including semi-automatic and three-round burst (like the M16A2) while the M4A1 has a “full auto” option along with three-round burst.
The M4 and variants fire 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition (or .223 Remington ammunition) and are gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed, selective fire firearms with a multi-position telescoping stock. Original M4 models had a flat-ended telescoping stock, but newer models are now equipped with a redesigned telescoping stock that is slightly larger with curvature at the end. The M4 is similar to much earlier compact M16 versions, such as the 1960s-era XM177 family. Some of those visual designs are obvious in both weapons, however, most of the similarities are not very noticeable.
As with many carbines, the M4 is handy and more convenient to carry than a full-length rifle. The price is slightly inferior ballistic performance compared to the full-size M16, with its nearly 6″ (15 cm) longer barrel. This becomes most apparent at ranges of 300 yards and beyond. Statistically, however, most small-arms engagements occur within 100 yards. This means that the M4 is very much an adequate weapon for the majority of troops. The marginal sacrifice in terminal ballistics and range, in exchange for greatly improved handling characteristics, is usually thought to be a worthwhile compromise.
While the M4′s maneuverability makes it a candidate for non-infantry troops (vehicle crews, clerks, and staff officers), it also makes it ideal for close quarters battle (CQB). The M4 was developed and produced for the United States government by Colt Firearms, which had an exclusive contract to produce the M4 family of weapons through 2009; however, a number of other manufacturers offer M4-like firearms. The M4A1, along with the M16A4, have mostly replaced the M16A2; the U.S. Air Force, for example, plans to transition completely to the M4. The M4 is also the standard rifle for U.S. Air Force Security Forces members whether at home station or deployed abroad. They maintain a yearly qualification on it.
The United States Marine Corps has ordered its officers (up to the rank of lieutenant colonel) and Staff Non-commissioned officers to carry the M4A1 carbine instead of the M9 handgun. This is in keeping with the Marine Corps motto, “Every Marine is a rifleman.” United States Navy corpsmen will also be issued M4A1s instead of the M9.
VARIANTS OF THE M4
The M4A1 carbine is a fully-automatic variant of the basic M4 carbine intended for special operationsuse. The M4A1 has an “S-1-3-F” (safe/semi-automatic/3-round burst/fully automatic) trigger group while the M4 has an “S-1-3″ (safe/semi-automatic/3-round burst) trigger group. The M4A1 is used by almost all U.S special operation units. The M4A1 is especially favored by counter-terrorist and special forces units for close quarters combat because of the carbine’s compactness and firepower. These features are also very useful in urban warfare. Although the M4 has less effective range than the longer M16, many military analysts consider engagement with a non-specialized small arm above a range of 300 meters (330 yds) to be unnecessary. It is effective at ranges of 150 meters (160 yds) or less and has a maximum effective range of about 500 to 600 meters (550–660 yd).
In the last few years, M4A1 carbines have been refit or received straight from the factory with barrels with a thicker profile under the handguard. This is for a variety of reasons such as heat dissipation, which is useful due to the complaints of high-heat production from test soldiers, which occurs during full-auto and accuracy as a byproduct of barrel weight. These heavier barrel weapons are also fitted with a heavier buffer known as the H2. Out of three sliding weights inside the buffer, the H2 possesses two tungsten weights and one steel weight, versus the standard H buffer, which uses one tungsten weight and two steel weights. These weapons, known by Colt as the Model 921HB (for Heavy Barrel), have also been designated M4A1, and as far as the government is concerned the M4A1 represents both the 921 and 921HB.
SOPMOD BLOCK I
USSOCOM developed the Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) Block I kit for the carbines used by units under its jurisdiction. The kit features an M4A1, a Rail Interface System (RIS) handguard developed by Knight’s Armament Company, a shortened quick-detachable M203 grenade launcher and leaf sight, a KAC sound suppressor, a KAC back-up rear sight, an Insight Technologies AN/PEQ-2A visible laser/infrared designator, along with Trijicon’s ACOG and Reflex sights, and a night vision sight. This kit was designed to be configurable (modular) for various missions, and the kit is currently in service with special operations units.
SOPMOD BLOCK II
A second-generation SOPMOD kit (now known as SOPMOD II) is currently under development, with many different manufacturers competing for the contract. Notable bidders include Knight’s Armament Company, Atlantic Research Marketing Systems (ARMS), and Lewis Machine & Tools. Daniel Defense has won the contract for the RIS-II, the next generation of rail handguards.
Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm
On the 20th February 2019, FN Herstal was awarded a major contract for thousands of assault rifles, by NATO’s Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA) on behalf of the Portuguese Army. The contract is for the 5.56x45mm caliber FN SCAR L assault rifles. Included in this contrat, FN will also supply other guns, namely the FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 light and medium machine guns respectively, and the designated Marksman Rifle SCAR-H in 7,62x51mm.
The NSPA, is the main logistics and procurement agency of NATO and is able to handle and support procurement for member nations. NSPA described the contract as a ‘major milestone’ for the agency. The contract was signed by FN’s sales director and NSPA General Manager.
NSPA made a short statement:
“NSPA awarded today a contract to Belgium-based FN Herstal, one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of small caliber weapons. This is for the Agency a major contract to produce FN SCAR® assault rifles and FN MINIMI® machine guns as new standard issue weapons for the Portuguese Army’s.
The contract includes the manufacture and supply of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO caliber FN SCAR® assault rifles, FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI® 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 Tactical light machine guns, and all related accessories.
The Portuguese Army’s standard issue service rifle is currently a Portuguese license produced variant of the Heckler & Koch G3, while the MG3 and HK21 are used in the General Purpose and Light Machine Gun purpose. The exact size of this new contract and its worth have not yet been announced, but In 2017, when the program was released, the acquisition called for 11 000 assault rifles in 5.56x45mm. The value of this weapons package procurement would be €42.8 million ($50.3 million).
This is a major acquisition for the Portuguese Army as the old G3 Battle Rifles are outdated, even in its class, and are obvious not adequate for the assault role. This purchase does not only manage to replace the G3 Battle rifle with one of the best current assault rifles, if not the best, but it will allow that the Portuguese Army to change the fire dynamics of it´s small units, increasing firepower and combat capabilities and being able to have more Hit probability on the enemy.
QBZ-95-1: China’s Super Assault Rifle
The QBZ-95-1 is issued with a bayonet and, along with six WY-91 hand grenades, forms the firepower of the average PLA soldier. Each nine-man PLA squad has two fire teams, with one grenadier per fire team. The grenadier carries a QBZ-95-1 equipped with a 35-millimeter under barrel grenade launcher similar in concept to the long-serving U.S. Army M203 grenade launcher.
One of the most widely issued—but least known—infantry small arms is the QBZ-95-1 assault rifle. The QBZ-95-1 is the official rifle of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its various sub-branches, including the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps. Unorthodox in appearance, the bullpup QBZ-95-1 also fires an unusual 5.8-millimeter cartridge. The result is a unique weapon symbolic of China’s attempt to go its own way in the world of military small arms.
China was one of the largest land powers of the twentieth century—though not exactly the most powerful. The People’s Liberation Army, both before and after the end of the Chinese Civil War, was predominantly an infantry army with millions of trained ground troops. After the civil war, China’s “People’s War” military doctrine stressed defensive wars, in which invaders were lured deep into the Chinese interior and then destroyed by a combination of regular and guerrilla forces.
The 1991 Gulf War, in which a rapidly moving U.S.-led coalition swiftly destroyed a larger Iraqi Army (often equipped with Chinese weapons) was a seismic event in Chinese defense thinking. The People’s Liberation Army was thoroughly revamped, and part of that revamping was the introduction of a new generation of infantry small arms. Older weapons, including the Type 68 and Type 56 assault rifles were retired.
In their place arrived the new QBZ-95-1 series of assault rifles. The QBZ-95-1 is a uniquely Chinese rifle, with a futuristic look that was a clean break from older, Soviet-inspired weapons. The weapon is officially known as the QBZ-95-1 5.8-millimeter assault rifle, with the initials standing for “Light Infantry Weapon, Infantry, Automatic.” The basic ammunition load for PLA troops is 300 rounds, carried in ten 30-round magazines.
The QBZ-95-1 is a bullpup weapon, meaning the action and magazine are all located behind the trigger group. This creates a more compact weapon: although the rifle is just under 30 inches long, it has a barrel with a length of 20 inches, as long as that on a M16A4 assault rifle. That’s 5.5 inches longer than that on the M4A1 carbine and should be good for a slight range increase over the American infantry carbine.
The QBZ-95-1 uses a short stroke, gas piston design, the same as used in rifles such as the M1 Garand and AK-47. In that respect, China’s infantry rifle still maintains its Soviet heritage. Its rate of fire is 650 rounds a minute. The weapon uses iron sights integrated into a carry handle running along the upper portion of the receiver. Although some rifles have been observed with optical sights installed on the carry handle, the already high height over bore of the mounting site makes add-on optic integration less than ideal.
Unlike U.S., NATO, and Russian assault rifles that use 5.56 or 5.45-millimeter cartridges, the Chinese weapon uses a locally designed 5.8×42 round. Exactly why China chose to develop an entirely new round is unknown, although it could be for security reasons. The 5.8-millimeter round offers improved ballistics performance over the U.S. Army’s 5.56-millimeter M855 round when that round is fired from the M4A1 carbine. This may be a function of the slightly larger round, pushed by slightly more propellant out of a longer (20” vs. 14.5”) barrel.
The QBZ-95-1 is issued with a bayonet and, along with six WY-91 hand grenades, forms the firepower of the average PLA soldier. Each nine man PLA squad has two fire teams, with one grenadier per fire team. The grenadier carries a QBZ-95-1 equipped with a 35-millimeter underbarrel grenade launcher similar in concept to the long-serving U.S. Army M203 grenade launcher. The grenadier also carries an additional fifteen rifle grenades. A heavier QBB-95 light support weapon features a bipod and 75-round magazines for laying down suppressive fire.
Despite the increasingly mechanized nature of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s infantry arm is still, as it is in other armies, the “Queen of Battle.” The QBZ-95-1 is a powerful and reliable, although slightly dated, weapon that was emblematic of the military revolution that began in China in the early 1990s and continues to this day.