A new U.S. Army video shows how today’s standard infantry weapon, the M4 carbine, is being updated to perform better on the battlefield. The Army is gradually converting its entire inventory of M4s to the improved M4A1 standard.
The M4 carbine is the standard issue weapon for the U.S. Army. Introduced in the early 2000s, the rifle has performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a 2006 report prepared for the Pentagon, 89 percent of soldiers polled said they were satisfied with the performance of the weapon, the highest rating for all Army small arms.
Even so, there is room for improvement. A weapon like the M4 designed for a wide variety of environments and operating conditions—from the Arctic wastes to the high, hot mountains of Afghanistan—has to incorporate some tradeoffs. A light weapon is easy carry on patrol, but that means a lighter barrel more prone to overheating in sustained firefights. A weapon that restricts the user to semiautomatic and three-round burst nixes fully automatic fire, but helps conserve ammunition on distant battlefields.
The new M4A1 standard addresses these issues and others. Where the original M4 was capable of semi-automatic and three-round burst fire, the M4A1 trades burst fire for fully automatic. The carbine is fitted with a heavier barrel that can better withstand prolonged, full automatic firing.