Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Colt's Manufacturing Company and FN America have each been awarded $88.6 million by the U.S. Army for the production of M4 and M4A1 carbines.
The purchases, announced Thursday by the Department of Defense, are modifications to existing contracts, with production expected to run through September 2020 for both companies. Army fiscal 2019 and 2020 operations and maintenance funds have been obligated in the full amount for both contracts.
The M4 carbine is a standard-issue weapon in use by the U.S. military and in many other nations. It is chambered for 5.56mm and is capable of single-shot and three-round burst operation. It is generally loaded by NATO standardized STANAG 30-round magazines.
Modern versions of the M4 usually have rail mounts that are able to mount a variety of accessories such as optics, thermal sights, bipods, foregrips and lasers.
The M4 carbine is a development of the AR-15 and M-16 series of full-sized rifles, featuring a shorter barrel, adjustable stock and lighter weight. It has faced criticism from users for jamming in dirty environments without constant maintenance and lack of range and stopping power.
It has also been praised by troops for its light weight, ease of handling and high accuracy for a carbine, making it an effective weapon as long as it is well maintained. The M4A1 is a fully automatic version of the weapon employed by Special Forces and other units, but is otherwise identical to the standard M4.
The U.S. Marine Corps plans to replace all it's M16s and M4s in infantry units with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, a Heckler & Koch variant of the M4 with a more reliable gas recoil system, longer barrel and capable of fully automatic fire. It will also replace most Squad Automatic Weapon light machine guns in service with combat units.