SIG Sauer Academy

US Army Considers M4A1+, Seeks COTS Improvements for Carbine Enhancements

Yesterday, the Army Contracting Command issued a Sources Sought Notice in support of PEO Soldier’s Program Manager Individual Weapons seeking information to “identify sources/vendors with experience in small arms manufacturing and associated technologies (corporate knowledge, technical expertise, facilities, manufacturing equipment, and product acceptance test hardware) capable of the production of…Non-Development Items (NDI), for improvements to the M4A1 Carbine.” While it’s not a pre-solicitation (yet), it’s very exciting stuff seeing the Army leverage all of the commercial off the shelf advancements made to the Black Rifle in recent years.

Collectively, these NDI improvments are being referred to as M4A1-Plus (abbreviated as M4A1+) components. Here’s where it gets a little sticky. According the the RFI, it is anticipated that the M4A1+ components will be evaluated as a system. Sounds like they dont plan on seeking best of breed but rather a turnkey solution from a single vendor, although if this makes it through there may end up being some horse trading this component for that. Of note, although the Enhanced Trigger Module is included in this RFI, it will be procured seperately. Additionally, sounds like Black is out and Brown is in for the M4, at least for the rail system, which will conceptually be much more like what is currently available commerically than the current system, designed back in the 90s.

The RFI goes on to state that the offered M4A1+ system must install on/interface with stock M4A1 Carbines. “The M4A1+ components will seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine (to include but not limited to the barrel, gas tube, upper receiver, bolt and bolt carrier) without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon. The M4A1+ components shall be compatible with current M4A1 ancillary equipment without modification to the ancillary equipment and/or the equipment’s mounting brackets. This ancillary equipment includes but is not limited to optics/sights, aiming/pointing devices, training devices, slings, and rail covers.”  Considering the Army is wrapping up its current upgrade to the M4A1 comfiguration that all makes sense.

Here is the meat and potatos of what the Army is seeking including some specific info for potential vendors. If you want to participate, make sure you visit the actual notice on FBO.gov for instructions and deadlines.

REQUIREMENTS

The M4A1+ components shall provide a synergistic effect to enhance Soldier and weapon system lethality, survivability, and operational effectiveness. Specific M4A1+ attributes/capabilities are as follows:

a. Accuracy/Dispersion (Precision): The system accuracy for the M4A1+ shall be 5 quote mark mean radius at 300 meters throughout barrel life (required) and shall be 5 quote mark extreme spread at 300 meters throughout barrel life with .9 probability (desired) and shall be 10 quote mark extreme spread at 600 meters throughout barrel life with.9 probability (desired). Note: The precision measurements are ammunition and M4A1+ specific, without attached under-barrel weapons. Extreme spread measurements will be both vertical and horizontal.

b. Improved extended forward rails: The improved extended forward rails shall provide for a MIL-STD-1913 compatible rail that is fixed at the 12 o’clock position, with numbered attachment points. The rail must also provide for the attachment of modular, MIL-STD-1913 enabler(s) attaching capability on the hand guard. The improved extended forward rails shall provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel, and for a design/redesign of the under-barrel weapon systems/module interface to use the MIL-STD-1913 compatible rail surface on the hand guard as the attachment point(s), instead of the barrel.

i. Length: The length of the improved extended forward rails shall be twelve (+/- .5 quote mark ) inches.

ii. Mounting surfaces: The improved extended forward rails shall have sufficient removable mounting surfaces of varying lengths (e.g. 3 quote mark , 5 quote mark , 7 quote mark ) to allow selective, simultaneous mounting of standard U.S. military accessories (e.g., lasers, illuminators, slings, bipods, vertical grips/grip-pods, etc.).

iii. Zero Retention: The improved extended forward rails mounting surfaces will allow for zeroed accessories/enablers to retain zero with 90% confidence (excluding optic/enabler malfunctions) no more than 1 Minute of Angle (MOA).

iv. Color: The improved extended forward rails shall provide for reduced visual detection via a neutral (non-black) color and shall be of a rough, dull, non-reflective, coating/finish that retains paint. The color range will be Coyote 498 not lighter than Light Coyote 481, IAW FED-STD-595 #20150 not lighter than #20220; flat dull finish.

v. Protective Materials (coatings): The improved extended forward rails shall be corrosion, abrasion, impact, as well as nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) contaminants and decontaminants resistant. The improved extended forward rails shall be protected from corrosion in all environments and weather conditions, including marine, high humidity, rain, and desert conditions.

vi. Low Profile Gas Block: The extended forward rails shall include a low profile gas block. The gas block will be compatible with current M4A1 heavy barrel and gas tube.

vii. Forward Sling Mount: The extended forward rail shall include a forward sling mount compatible with 1 quote mark sling.

c. Improved back-up sights: The M4A1+ shall include a removable back-up sight(s) to be used in the event of damage to the primary sight. These back-up sights (front and rear) shall stow down/away to reduce interference with the mounted primary sights and flip up to enable Soldiers to engage targets out to 300 meters. The sight aperture(s) shall provide for both near threat (to 200 m) and for longer (to 300m) engagements and shall allow for windage and elevation adjustments; 600 meters w/o degrading threshold capabilities.

d. Improved flash suppressor: The M4A1+ shall incorporate a barrel flash suppressor / muzzle brake designed to reduce the day and night firing signature and night vision device blooming effect of the weapon to be less than the current carbine without loss in system performance. The improved flash suppressor will have a blank firing adapter (BFA) compatible with M200 blank ammunition. The BFA shall minimize injury if a live round is accidentally fired with the BFA attached.

e. Improved charging handle: The improved charging handle shall provide for an enhanced (enlarged) grasping surface area that also allows for gas, lubricant, and debris deflection. The charging handle design shall include an extended latch capability for improved hand/finger grasping access and enhanced operating leverage/operation for both left- and right-handed shooters. The improved charging handle must be compatible with current standard optics, electro-optics and the improved BU sights (required). .

f. Weapon Weight: The M4A1+ will weigh less than 8.0 pounds un-loaded without accessories/enablers.

g. Reliability: The reliability of the M4A1+ shall be equal to or greater than the current capability when both systems are fired under the same conditions.

h. Enhanced trigger module: The enhanced trigger module shall provide for a single-stage trigger, free of creep, with consistent trigger pull weight within the range of 4.0 to 5.0 pounds. The enhanced trigger shall allow for operator selected semi-automatic and full automatic fire. The trigger shall be capable of installation/replacement by the field level maintainer. (Note: Creep shall be interpreted to mean any perceptible rough movement between the time the trigger slack is taken up and the hammer is released). NOTE: The enhanced trigger module is intended to be procured separately from all other M4A1+ components.

Production capacity estimates.

i. Request information on minimum and maximum monthly production rates for potential M4A1+ components, and the lead times to achieve these production rates. This capacity should be above and beyond any of the vendor’s current production orders or current sales. If additional equipment is required to achieve maximum monthly production rates, so state.

VENDOR QUESTIONNAIRE

The purpose of this questionnaire is to obtain information from industry to assist in market research. Firms/companies are invited to indicate their interest and capability to satisfy the above requirements by identifying the following items:

1. Company Name

2. Company Address

3. Company point of contact, phone number and email address

4. Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code

5. Major partners or Suppliers

6. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. Identify if the business is considered a small or large business, based on the NAICS Code.

7. Include pricing information for the requirements noted above as a system utilizing sub-paragraphs a – g. Also it is requested to price each subparagraph, a -h, by separate components Pricing information for the enhanced trigger module (requirement i, above) should be provided as a separate component and not included in the quote mark system quote mark pricing requested earlier.

8. For each requirement identified indicate whether production is in house or out sourced.

9. Include monthly production rate for the proposed system, as well as the maximum monthly production rate.

10. Identify manufacturing, managing and engineering experience of like items of equal or greater complexity.

11. Identify existing facilities, equipment and workforce (identify what percentage would be supporting this new effort and what additional resources would be required).

12. Please provide any additional comments.

RESPONSE INSTRUCTIONS
Firms/companies are invited to indicate their capabilities by providing specifications, brochures, manuals, reports, demonstration video and other technical data as well as identification of current customers and a rough indication of pricing. Any pricing data should be sent, if available, and at no cost to the U.S. Government. In addition, if any firms/companies would like to submit sample hardware they may do so but there is no requirement to be responsive to this Market Survey request. If any firms/companies do submit sample hardware it will be at NO COST to the U.S. Government. Any samples provided in response to this Market Survey will be retained by the U.S. Government.

This Market Survey is a Request for Information (RFI) ONLY and should NOT be construed as a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a commitment by the U.S. Government.

The Government reserves the right to reject, in whole or in part, any private sector input as a result of this market survey.

If a company has an existing commercially available or non-developmental item that meets these requirements, please provide brochures or other information relative to the performance, maintenance, and physical characteristics (e.g., size, weight, etc.) of the product.

Respondents are advised that the U.S. Government will not pay for any information, sample hardware or administrative costs incurred in the response to this RFI. All costs associated with responding to this RFI will be solely at the interested party’s expense. Not responding to this RFI does not preclude participation in any future RFP or other solicitation (if any are issued).

This is a market survey, not a pre-solicitation notice. There is no formal solicitation available at this time. No award will be made as a result of this market survey. If a formal solicitation is generated at a later date, a pre-solicitation notice will be published. Respondents will not be notified of the results of this survey or results of information submitted. Should the decision be made to proceed with the M4A1+ Program, vendors will be afforded an opportunity to participate in a compatibility check. The compatibility check will provide vendors with access to the M4A1 weapon as well as ancillary equipment.

64 Responses to “US Army Considers M4A1+, Seeks COTS Improvements for Carbine Enhancements”

  1. Rick says:

    AKA Army solicits M4A1 SOPMOD Block 2 replica.

    • DSM says:

      I was thinking the same thing. DD rail, KAC rear sight and either a KAC or Geissele trigger.

      • KRW says:

        It reads to me like they are considering something more modular than the RIS II, such as a slick-sided rail (not the 12:00, which is clearly stated to be 1913) that allows for removable rail sections with RTZ capability (e.g., side-mounted LAM). This leads me to think of something like the Geissele MK1 or KAC URXIII but with RTZ.

        • SSD says:

          According t the RFI, they are NOT looking for a traditional rail system with 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock Picatinny rails.

          • KRW says:

            Not trying to be a pain, but it DOES seem like they want 1913 across the top:

            “b. Improved extended forward rails: The improved extended forward rails shall provide for a MIL-STD-1913 compatible rail that is fixed at the 12 o’clock position, with numbered attachment points….”

            Am I incorrect here?

            But I agree that the RIS II would not meet the M4A1+ requirements. That was to what my original comment was directed.

            Cheers.

          • SSD says:

            Ok, maybe I should have clarified a lot more since I can see how you’d misunderstand what I was saying. Traditional rail systems from the 90s had Picatinny rails at the 12,3,6 and 9 positions. That’s not what they want. They have specified that they want 12 o’clock Picatinny rail (which I’ve mentioned already elsewhere). They want the ability to attach rails as needed elsewhere. But, they aren’t looking for Key Mod or M-Lok by name either.

  2. Geoff says:

    Umm … Who let a gun guy be in charge of the guns?

    • Justin says:

      I lol’ed.

      This is exciting stuff to see from the army. Let’s hope the army follows through.

  3. mike says:

    Good thing civilian ownership has been what it has in the past 11 years to provide incentive for the firearms industry to put forward these improvements to choose from!

  4. Steven S says:

    I like how the M4s are going to be finally upgraded, but I hope they do not lose sight on the LSAT program under budget constraints.

    Btw, if I am reading this right, the rails of the M4A1+ will be a different color besides black, but the rest of the rifle won’t. :/

    • SSD says:

      You’re reading it right. As far as I am concerned LSAT is the latest of a series of “check’s in the mail” program s going back about 50 years.

      I expect to see some variant nor the M4 for the next 50 or so.

    • tictac says:

      With all of the attention on effective camo, it does seem a bit counterproductive to have a solid black rifle.

      Paint jobs aside, I hope the Army goes through to completion, its been a long time coming.

      • SSD says:

        They aren’t buying new guns.

        • Lcon says:

          We have seen Working LMG LSAT’s but I have never seen a LSAT Carbine beyond a Mock up, Heard rumors of it but until there is a actual working one. Heck the Canadians Have a Working LSAT type carbine. but until we see a LSAT carbine on the range spitting out Copper and throwing Polymer M4A1 is in the Soldiers hands.
          And even if they did suddenly push LSAT Carbine to full force they would still likely be trying to feed M4 bit on it.

  5. Erik says:

    I find it interesting that Army released this after the Marines state they are looking for COTS improvments for their rifles.

    • SSD says:

      But they released it. The Marines are still just talking.

      • Erik says:

        Very true. Pardon my ignorance on how this process works, but with what’s been released by the Marines, I had assumed that they had already started a T&E process with some products. If they haven’t, should we be expecting to see a similar RFI in the near future(read: next decade)?

        • SSD says:

          From the Marines? They may do that but usually, they do their homework, decide what they want to buy and then write a requirement centered around that item.

          • CAVstrong says:

            That seems like an awfully effective, logical and practical way to do things. Makes my Army Brain hurt.

  6. Craig says:

    About time. One thing I picked out that isn’t great though, looks like they are wanted to maintain the carbine length gas system, swapping that for mid-length and throwing a VLTOR A5 on the back would reduce wear and tear on components and soften/smooth out felt recoil.

    My humble suggestions would be:
    VLTOR A5 system
    mid-length gas system, change the contour of the barrel and use the BCM low-pro gas block)
    Geissele SSF trigger and 13″ Super Modular Rail MK4 M-LOK (or a keymod rail of some sort)
    BCM Compensator, charging handle, pistol grip, and stock
    KAC BUIS

    • Craig says:

      As much as I love my BCM KMR (I have three) I don’t think it is quite Joe Proof, I don’t know if they have improved the top layer surface treatment to prevent flaking off (I’m sure a blast of Cerakote would fix that) I know I have read of a few instances of material breaking off, in fact on one of mine a corner of one of the top picatinny rail sections broke off. Not sure how or when it happened, don’t really care as it doesn’t effect function, but might be a sign that the KMR is not up for combat. Perhaps its a deal with AlMg alloy, not sure.

      • Kaos-1 says:

        Sorry , but this keymod/m-lok stuff would never cut in the harsh environment of military use. We dummy cord everything to our weapons . Cause if it’s gonna fall off, it’s gonna do it at the worst time. Nobodies gonna dummy cord a key-mod rail section to they’re weapon , then dummy cord the attachment to that rail section.

        • seans says:

          How would it not. If you dummy cord your laser to the thru the slots for the keymod/mlok and it comes off it is still attached to the weapon.

        • Seamus says:

          The main reason we had to dummy cord everything was because we were not allowed to lock tight anything down because of monthly cyclical inventory and idiots who didn’t have a concept of a zero.

    • Alex says:

      Agreed with MLOK or Keymod not being joe proof.

      I think the DD s2w barrel would be a good choice.

      • Craig says:

        I think M-Lok or Key-mod is fine, I think they are joe proof, I was just simply referring to the KMR not being so, due to the aluminum magnesium alloy and the special surface treatment done to it that makes the black paint/dye prone to flaking off at the sharp corners. I would rather take either system than a rail system where you just screw rail sections into already placed threaded holes, unless they are steel inserts, I see joe stripping the threads out of the aluminum in no time.

  7. Kaos-1 says:

    I’ve been saying it for years, all the Army needs to do is go with a mid-length gas system . There’s they’re main improvement/reliability issue right there. Everything else they want is purely cosmetic .

  8. Chris says:

    Hell, why not just buy everything from Bravo Company? Get them to make sights and the rifle would be great. The complication I see is the keymod rail though. DD may be the rail of choice.

  9. Chris says:

    I only say that as they are affordable, ergonomic, and are some of the most comfortable and proven parts out there.

  10. Thomas 67 says:

    “d. Improved flash suppressor”

    They should consider this:

    http://soldiersystems.net/2015/02/27/sneak-peek-surefire-flash-hider/

  11. JSGlock34 says:

    Sigh. And what happened to the M4 PIP Forward Rail Assembly Kit? I thought KAC submitted a rail for that program (URX IBN). Free float rails are nothing new – let’s just pick something and get on with it. Issuing Block 2 SOPMOD uppers would be a fine start.

    • SSD says:

      Real estate happened to the Rail PIP. Notice this go around they are looking at gas blocks? That front sight triangle has to go in order to give enough room on the 12 o’clock rail for a sight and thermal stacked one in front of the other.

      • Seamus says:

        Bayonet lug?

        Think they will have a cut out on the 6 o’clock position for it or ditch the bayonet entirely like they ditched bayonet training from Basic training?

      • JSGlock34 says:

        Sure, glad to see we’re getting rid of the triangle FSB – it is an anachronism. But it was an anachronism when they started the FRAK program…the RIS II is over six years old now. There are components in the system already as well as a plethora of COTS solutions. There have been numerous PiPs to enhance the M4 that have gone nowhere…would like to see one of these programs actually result in enhancements that get into the hands of the soldiers.

  12. Snake says:

    Block IIs for everyone!

  13. Roy says:

    A low-profile gas block and a 12 inch rail can only mean one thing: is the army abandoning the bayonet and the evil bayonet lug?

    • bulldog76 says:

      but but if they do that how can i give the enemy the cold steel

    • bulldog76 says:

      or they are making a rail mounted bayonet :O

    • CAVstrong says:

      I have heard a Brigade commander ask my Troop Commander why we didn’t have bayonets for a team live fire range. Because they improve accuracy….

      • Seamus says:

        Army basic training got rid of Bayonet training about 2 years ago. They rationalized that it was pointless. I personally disagree but the Brass had their way and probably used that time in the training schedule to have the recruits engage in a singalong and talk about global warming and their feelings, you know important things!

        • Leonidas24 says:

          I went through Benning in 2007 as an 11B and there was no bayonet training back then. Then of course when I deployed in 2008 to Iraq we were required to deploy with our large box of M9 bayonets and maintain an accurate inventory of them, but never issue them to anyone in the company. From 2007-2010 I never touched a bayonet, much less removed one from the sheath.

  14. CAVstrong says:

    So my question now is, when will the M4A1 be fielded to the entire army? My BDE got them prior to our 2012-13 deployment and the unit we just ripped with for this deployment still doesn’t have them.

    • Bussaca says:

      Never.. thats the answer..

      To “generalize”, (from my experience) they have 100 M4’s for the entire army.. and when one unit deploys, they strip weapons from units NOT deploying, and re-allocate them where they’re needed, so the same 100 rifles keep in service thru 50 differant units, getting little refit, and repair..

      The AMSA shop just keeps a box of left overs from all the other dead-lined rifles, and when they go down they just piece together another rifle to keep numbers up..

      My unit has had M4’s about 7 times in 12 years, for about 4-6 months a piece.. just enough time to issue weapons cards, and go to the range once with them.

      Another unit deploys, and we’re back to some spray painted FN lowered muskets..

      This is the US army.. we only think 4 years ahead.. whats a 10 or 20 year life cycle?

      • kris says:

        Every unit I have ever been in maintained it’s rifles perminantly. I have never seen or heard of what you just described happening. Are you in the guard or some sort of CSS unit?

        • Siege says:

          I can only assume he was joking. Our guard unit doesn’t even do anything remotely close to what he just said, all of our m4’s, 240’s, 249’s,.50’s and mk19’s are kept and maintained in our unit by us. Sounds like some strange duffleblog weapon-hell that he just described.

    • Chris says:

      Check the basis of issue plan for the M4 on FMSweb.

  15. Seamus says:

    Seems to me like the Army is interested in basically a whole new upper, especially since they are talking coatings and reliability?

    While I agree with SSD that they appear to look for a turn key solution I imagine that changing gas blocks, flash-hiders, hand guards, and triggers for tens of thousands of rifles will take some time. So I wouldn’t be surprised if while the rifles were already striped they would be Cerakoted (or something similar) as well. While there is no specific mention of this in the proposal it would make sense. (although if it makes sense that nearly guarantees that the Army won’t do it)

  16. Ethan says:

    …..BCM recce in 14.5………

  17. CoyDogTactical says:

    Arsenal Democracy is all I have to say….problem solved….

  18. Stefan S. says:

    More lipstick on a pig. Let’s not field a new weapon, let’s keep modernizing the accessories on an almost 60 year design. Sorry, not one of those kool-aid drinkers that sees Eugene Stoner’s design as an anomoly that never will be obsolete. We stopped using the M-1 Garand didn’t we?

    • SSD says:

      I’m curious to know about this leap ahead wonder weapon you have in mind.

      • bulldog76 says:

        ssd hes talking about the uber top secrets delta ranger seal classified weapons that are better than the ar ….

        • Steven S says:

          LaZeRs….

        • Maskirovka says:

          I love that tired old saw “60 year old design” when people bash the AR platform. The internal combustion engine is older. The rocket engine is older than that. The AR of the late 60s is not the AR of today any more than the Model T engine is the same as what’s in my Toyota.

      • Seamus says:

        Well we did have a competition to get a whole new rifle. Basically the Army torpedoed it as well as rewrite the Wanat report to cover up some of the failings of the M4. If they are willing to do that then there is no way in hell we are getting a new rifle.

        I do wonder though that if this does happen what the price tag difference would have been between (the old M4 + A1 advancements + new COTS) vs if we had just purchased a new rifle. Leave it to the Army to be penny wise and dollar stupid.

  19. Henrik says:

    If Nato is still wants to keep 556 there will have to be a transition into a bullpup sooner or later (I know the current ones suck). But it will have to be done.

  20. Chris says:

    So the Army’s idea of a better basic combat weapon is Mall Ninja up the M4A1.