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canebrake 10-21-2012 01:13 AM

Colt Again Blocks Army's Advanced M4 Plan
Colt Again Blocks Army's Advanced M4 Plan

The Army’s push to field Special Operations Command’s version of the M4 carbine hit another roadblock recently when the weapon’s designer, Colt Defense LLC, filed a second legal protest of the service’s attempts to select a new gun maker to build the compact weapon.

This is the second time in five months that Colt officials have protested the Army’s handling of its effort to upgrade the service’s fleet of M4s to M4A1 carbines. Colt won its first protest of the Army’s selection of Remington Defense to build its M4A1s and its miscalculation of royalties Colt would receive for contract awards on the M4 design.

The Government Accountability Office’s July 24 ruling forced the Army to rework the original solicitation so the vendors that fell into the competitive range could submit new price bids. All gun makers involved were forced to reveal their previous price bids for the $84 million contract to keep things fair.

Colt officials then filed an Oct. 9 protest with the GAO three weeks after the Connecticut-based gun maker received the Army’s amended Sept. 21 solicitation, according to industry sources and the GAO.

Colt officials declined to comment for this story and it remains unclear why Colt issued a second protest.

This is the latest wrinkle in the Army’s drawn-out effort to improve the carbine that most soldiers take into combat.

Army weapons officials launched its plan to radically improve the M4 carbine about a year after senior leaders announced a plan in November 2008 to search for a possible replacement for the M4.

In the beginning, the M4 Product Improvement Plan officials briefed to Congress included potential upgrades such as a heavier barrel for better performance during high rates of fire, replacing the current gas system with a more reliable design, improving the trigger pull, adding an improved rail for increased strength and ambidextrous fire controls.

Roughly three years later, the improved carbine that will emerge from the effort is the M4A1, a weapon that has been in the special operations inventory since the mid 1990s.

“We are modernizing the entire fleet of M4s to the M4A1 configuration, which includes a heavier barrel, a full automatic trigger assembly and ambidextrous fire controls,” said Col. Scott Armstrong, who runs Project Manager Soldier Weapons.

Right now, the Army has no plans to improve the reliability of the M4 platform’s gas system. Weapons officials looked at upgrading the bolt and bolt carrier group but abandoned the effort.

“There were 11 [vendors] that competed in that; they went through nearly a year of testing,” Armstrong said, explaining that plan was to down select a few candidates after one phase and make a selection at the end of the second phase.

“None of the offers completed the first phase or outperformed the current bolt and bolt carrier group on the M4A1 configuration. Areas that the competitors really fell short in were reliability, durability as well as high temperature and low temperature conditions. The M4A1 bolt outperformed [the competition] in all of those areas,” Armstrong said.

He explained the decision to terminate that effort saved the Army $2 million.

The Army is also considering designs for an improved forward rail, or free-float rail system -- a design that has long been proven to increase accuracy. Weapons officials plan to down select to three vendors in early 2014 and could select a winner by fall of that same year, Armstrong said.

“If that technology is mature enough and outperforms the current M4A1 configuration, primarily in zero retention, then we would consider it and the Army would have to make a decision as to whether the performance improvement is worth the cost to the Army to further change the configuration of the M4A1,” Armstrong said.

The Army has fielded more than 6,000 M4A1s to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., this summer, Armstrong said, who added that the service plans to begin upgrading existing M4s to M4A1s with special conversion kits next summer.

It is unclear what Colt is protesting this round or how it will affect the future contract award date and fielding schedule for M4A1s. The potential loss of M4 and M4A1 sales would be a huge blow to Colt’s financial outlook.

“It’s a matter of Colt’s survival, so they are going to tie it up as long as they can,” said one small-arms industry source who asked to go unnamed.

Any company has the right to protest a government contract award. Once a protest is filed, the process is frozen until the GAO makes a decision. Additional protests involving the same issue typically don’t carry as much weight and do not prevent the process from moving forward, industry sources said.

But Army officials said the issue will likely have to be resolved before a new M4A1 contract will be awarded.

“Agencies do not normally award a contract prior to the resolution of the protest,” said Don Jarosz, a spokesman for the Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.

mag318 10-21-2012 05:27 PM

Very interesting. It still amazes me that this has been the longest serving service rifle platform. When I enlisted in the USAF in 1966 we trained with them in Air Police school. The Air Force thanks to Curtiss Lemay was the first to adapt the AR15. The early one we got had green stocks and were stamped AR15 with no FA. Even if the M16/M4 is replaced it had a helluva run.

trip286 10-21-2012 05:38 PM

I'm surprised too. We have NOT reached perfection. I'd like to see something else, just because I know it can be done. And, FWIW, I don't think the SCAR or the ACR is the answer to my question not asked either.

Whatever happened to the XM8?

v757b 10-22-2012 07:14 PM


Originally Posted by trip286 (Post 984523)
Whatever happened to the XM8?

I dont think anyone could take that gun seriously. :D

Old_Crow 10-22-2012 07:27 PM

If colt started making revolvers again they wouldn't be dependent on the army. I can't see why a manufacturer ditches a product when they can dominate a market

Gloves 10-23-2012 07:45 AM

Should I be mad at colt for blocking progress or ???

Any reason why the army isn't looking for a bullpup?
I always thought those would be next.

Sniper03 10-27-2012 10:10 PM


A little inside scoop! It was amazing as Sabre Defence Industries had received a substantial part of the Military M-16 20" Rifle Contract. And was moving in on some of the M-4 Contracts when the SHTF for them! Isn't that amazing! I could tell a lot of true stories about the big bully in the industry if you know what I mean!
Crow regarding your comment they could have a good share but due to their greed they put themselves out of the competitive pistol market years ago! They not only had the 1911s but they made a couple of good revolvers also.



JonM 10-27-2012 10:18 PM


Originally Posted by Gloves (Post 986498)
Should I be mad at colt for blocking progress or ???

Any reason why the army isn't looking for a bullpup?
I always thought those would be next.

the soldiers should be grateful to colt that the remington junk m4 arent being issued yet...

FullautoUSA 10-28-2012 10:26 PM


Originally Posted by v757b

I dont think anyone could take that gun seriously. :D

I don't know for sure, this is just my estimation, but, I cant imagine that it ran anywhere near as well as the M16, M4, Scar, or ACR. What I don't understand is why we arnt using those new FAL's "Paratroopers", they have a folding stock and some of them have quad rails, one thing the FAL has is reliability, they're ridiculously reliable and they're accurate. But I think that the M16a4's are extremely reliable as well, why doesn't Colt just put a shorter barrel, a collapsable stock, and a carbine length hand guard on one of those that way our soldiers won't have to deal with the unreliability of the M4's.

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