August 8, 2002
Marines set sights on new basic rifle
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – While most of the Pentagon's procurement
efforts focus on exotic, high-tech equipment for future wars, the
Marine Corps is conducting an intense study on a replacement
for its most basic, but perhaps most important, weapon – its
After six weeks of concentrated testing, a team will give Marine
leaders a recommendation on which of two possible weapons
should replace the M-16A2, an improved version of the
Vietnam-vintage assault rifle.
It is a serious issue for a service that proclaims "every Marine a
"The M-16A2 has been around a long time, so we're taking a look
at replacing some of those weapons," said Lt. Gen. Emil Bedard,
the deputy commandant for plans, policy and operations.
"We've just conducted a fairly extensive series of tests at Camp
Lejeune" in North Carolina, Bedard said.
He added that a report will be submitted to the commandant,
Gen. James L. Jones, "very shortly."
The two weapons being tested, the M-4 and the M-16A4, are
modifications of the current rifle and are not great technological
leaps forward in themselves. But they allow the use of a number
of high-tech devices that would improve the Marine
infantryman's basic weapon.
The M-4 is a shorter and lighter version of the current rifle. It is
particularly effective in the constricted conditions of urban
fighting and can be modified quickly with a variety of electronic
or special optical sights for improved accuracy at night.
The M-16A4 is slightly shorter than the current rifle and can use
the same advanced sights as the M-4.
Capt. Chad Walton, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Systems
Command at Quantico, Va., said the two weapons were tested on
19 basic infantry training requirements, including in urban and
Bedard said the widespread failures of newly issued British army
rifles in Afghanistan demonstrate why "we wanted to do
extensive tests before making a recommendation."