USMC To Upgrade M-16 and M-4

Although a new weapon system is certainly not expected anytime soon, it looks like the USMC may be getting some upgrades to their current M16A4 and M4 weapons to make them even more effective on the battlefield.

According to this article over at MarineCorpsTimes.com, some of the top marksmanship experts in the Marine Corps have a list of relatively small and inexpensive upgrades that could increase the effectiveness of Marines on the battlefield.

These upgrades, which mostly come from the civilian market and competition-level rifles, would have the effect of drastically improving performance without the expense of procuring, testing, and outfitting the Corps with an entirely new rifle - and especially important consideration as all the military branches must balance combat effectiveness with budget and manpower reductions.

Some of the components that are being considered include trading the flash-suppressor on the rifles' muzzle for a compensator. Compensators are designed to improve a rifles handling - especially for follow-up shots on a moving target - at the expense of a larger flash and increased noise. An upgrade to the trigger, to keep the force required consistent from shot-to-shot is another improvement that would improve the weapons accuracy. Currently the M4 and M16A4 have 3 unique trigger pulls as a result of the rifles select-fire ability. This upgrade would likely require the most research to develop a new trigger or even get rid of the 3-round burst in favor of a consistent semi-automatic pull.

An improvement for left-handed Marines would include an ambidextrous charging handle and bolt catch release. The weapons already have ambidextrous magazine releases and select-fire levers, so those would not need to be changed. An upgrade to the reticle in the optics, and barrel upgrades, either a free-floating or heavier barrel would also help improve accuracy and consistency for longer distance shots. Improved 5.56mm ammunition, as well as the potential adoption of hollow-point rounds for pistols, will also be considered.

These and potentially other upgrades will be reviewed over the next several months, and they will likely be a topic of much conversation at the Combat Marksmanship Symposium that will take place in October.