26 October, Marine Corps Base Quantico- Commandant General Robert Neller has approved a proposal to replace the M16A4 with the M4 carbine as the standard rifle issued to infantrymen and security forces.
The Corps now has until September 2016 to phase out all M16A4s.
Responsible for the proposal for the upgrade is Chris Woodburn, the deputy Maneuver Branch head for the Fires and Maneuver Integration Division of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
“We get improved capability at no cost, a smaller and more compact rifle that shoots better for infantry” says Woodburn, who is also a retired Marine LTC.
In what may be a first for any government undertaking, the switch to the M4 will come at no cost to the taxpayer.
Around half the Corps is already issued an M4 as their personal weapon, meaning more so than having to sign a contract to buy more rifles, this is a redistribution effort.
The swap will ultimately provide around 17,000 infantrymen currently without an M4 with one.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the M16A4 and the M4 is size- the M4 utilizes a 14.5-inch (MARSOC and JSOC variants aside) barrel and comes in at 10 inches shorter overall.
The smaller, more compact package is the logical choice given the nature of modern warfare- no longer are wars fought in forests and across open fields, urban terrain and close-combat are the ruling battlefields of the day.
Even more specific to the Corps is shipboard operations; with a shorter weapons package the unofficial technique of “short-stocking” can be eliminated.
Although arguments have been raised by those in the Marines about the accuracy of the M4 relative to the M16A4, with new ammunition the Corps is looking to make standard the M4 outperforms the M16 all the way out to 600 meters.