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.

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New Combat Rifle Enters the Fray

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the whole issue of small arms, particularly with the effectiveness of the Colt M4 carbine. The Army’s reliability study demonstrated that if well lubed, the M4 performs largely without fight-ending stoppage. But there’s continued argument over the knock-down power of the 5.56mm round, the reliability of the M4 if constant care isn’t possible and on the whole issue of whether or not there’s a better operating system out there.

The debate is just reaching a critical point, with the Army recently caving to pressure from Capitol Hill and agreeing to hold a “sandstorm test” between its M4 and a couple other carbines that fire on a different operating system many say is more reliable. With the end-strength increase in the Army and Marine Corps and the overall focus of budget attention on land forces, momentum may be building to issue a new infantry rifle as the Army and Marine Corps build new brigade combat teams and infantry battalions.

There’s no one in the DoD officially saying this yet, but a lot more people in high places are asking previously taboo questions on whether it’s time to throw the stoner design to the side.

We’ve already taken a look at three of the most popular competitors to the M4: the XM8, the H&K 416 and the FN SCAR – or Mk-17 and Mk-16. Well, a buddy passed along another interesting entrant into the “new carbine” world (that’s not to say there aren’t others out there, but this one’s the new kid on the block) which seems to meld all the best aspects of the previous three rifles into one.

Made by Longmont, Colorado-based Magpul Industries Corp., the Masada does have that “first person shooter” gamer nerd look to it. But look at the specs and it seems the Masada has some interesting aspects that would make operators give it a second look. One thing I noticed was the two interchangeable lowers – one for 5.56mm, the other for AK-47 7.62×39 ammo. So for shooters “going native” in the AO, this could be the ticket – of course, as long as you have a compatible barrel.

The rest of the specs look pretty standard, but it’d be interesting to get feedback from DT readers on some of the more deeply technical stuff. Take a look at the brochure and see what you think.

There are also a couple of cool videos of the weapon being test fired.