The Pentagon’s ‘Improved’ AR?

By John Farnam

US Military M4A1 Rifle
US Military M4A1 Rifle
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( At a cost of 120m, the Pentagon is converting its current inventory of M4s to the new “M4A1.” Slightly thicker barrel, genuine full-auto capability (not the ridiculous “three-round burst”), ambidextrous manual safety, and a few other minor, mostly cosmetic, changes.

Of course, 120m is chump-change by federal standards, but it seems that firearms-design engineers aren't being assigned the task of producing the best weapon for a set of operational parameters.

Rather, they're being told to make an existing platform tolerate doing things way outside its original design envelope.

One thing the M4A1 will have to do is digest the new over-pressured, gun-breaking M855A1 ammunition, code-named “EPR” (for “Enhanced Performance Round).

Making the above all that more difficult is the full-auto feature. Full-auto fire breaks automatic rifles faster than any other activity.

The ambidextrous safety lever will be blocked by the registered trigger finger, left or right-handed, making taking the safety lever from “on” to “off ” a frustrating task, whether one is left or right-handed!

I'd conjecture that personal and personality factors are at work here. I wonder how many actual experienced combatants were ever consulted.

A friend comments:

“This situation seems analogous to the development and adoption of the Lewis Machine Gun during the World War I era.

Col Isaac Newton Lewis designed and produced what was then the best, and first, “light machinegun.” It represented a stroke of genius! It was tested by the Army officially, with excellent reports, and unofficially, when Col Lewis arranged a demonstration while it was mounted atop an Army Wright Type B Pusher Aircraft in 1912.

Belgians immediately recognized its superiority and adopted it shortly before the German push across Flanders in 1914. The British as well. Both militaries found that the Lewis Gun vastly exceeded even their most optimistic expectations, and thus bought and deployed as many, and as fast, as they could get them manufactured and delivered. The British found that Lewis Guns were at least as good as their own ponderous Vickers MG, and cost a good deal less.

However, American BGen William Crozier, Army Chief of Ordnance at the time, personally disliked Lewis. Not hard to imagine, as Lewis had a reputation for having scant patience with fat, pompous nincompoops, of which there were many in the top-heavy Army.

In addition, the concept of a “light machinegun” was new to American military thinking at the time. By contrast, war-weary Europeans seized upon the concept much more quickly!

Crozier casually dismissed all the glowing reports on the Lewis Gun, and decided to retain the obsolete M1909 Hotchkiss (Benet-Mercie) instead, by comparison a cumbersome, awkward, unreliable clunk!

Always more progressive, the USMC procured Lewis guns anyway, in 1916 (being manufactured at the time for Britain by Savage Arms). When Marines landed in France, Lewis Guns, with which Marines had trained, were mysteriously withdrawn, without explanation, and replaced with the French “Chauchat,” (CSRG), a flimsy, temperamental piece of garbage! More than one young Marine died while frantically trying to get his moody, malfunctioning CSRG running. Everyone who used the CSRG hated it!

Simultaneously, Germans had in their inventory only the American-designed Maxim MG08, a “heavy” machinegun, that was jury-rigged into the clumsy, thoroughly inferior MG08/15. They captured Lewis guns whenever they could and happily used them, in preference to their own weapons! By contrast, and like everyone else, they regarded captured CSRGs as little more than scrap metal!

Clearly, then as now, it is whom you know, not what you know, and the safety and best interests of American fighting men is the last thing anyone ever thinks about!”

My comment:

The Russian invasion of Finland in 1939 (“The Winter War”) gruesomely demonstrates the way a small force of righteous and determined men, armed only with rifles, can embarrassingly frustrate a much larger, even mechanized, force.

Precise rifle fire from well-trained Operators, using guanine battle rifles, is still the deadliest force in warfare, even today!

When we finally decide to decisively win wars once more, American Infantrymen and Marines will need real battle rifles too, not just MP weapons.

“Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise costs nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke


About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

  • 7 thoughts on “The Pentagon’s ‘Improved’ AR?

    1. Larry, the M855A1 WILL work in any AR15 but the increased pressure chambers warrant caution with thinner barrels and non mil-spec bolt lugs. If you have an “H-BAR” or hardened barrel like a Noveske, this is not an issue. It’s like the .223-vs-5.56 (and .308-vs-7.62×51) debate, they will fire in both but you have to have a better barrel and bolt to fire the higher pressure round safely (and proper throat reaming like a .223 Wylde).
      Sadly, they did NOT address the main issue… RELIABILITY. The direct Gas Impingement system of Stoner’s design is reliable BUT requires regular maintenance… more so with dirty powders and sand/dust environments. Here, proper TRAINING is the issue, not gear.
      But there’s better out there… the Remington ACR (aka Bushmaster ACR aka Magpul Masada) which is only $100 or so more per unit than the M4. It has a piston system similar to an AK and out performs the Stoner design in harsh conditions.
      Hell, even Eugene Stoner saw the flaw in that DIGS system and created the AR18 which several of the worlds best rifles are based on (L85A2, AR70, G36, etc).
      TRAINING… the main factor… whether it’s cleaning or trigger control, IT NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT! This is not Hollywood, you don’t fore from the hip jerking the rifle back and forth and all the bad guys out to 1000m drop.
      You teach “short, controlled bursts” and trigger discipline.
      Funny, when I was in Israel 7 years ago taking a CT course, a couple instructors joked about Americans needing a mechanical device to control their automatic fire. I put a bet that I could dump a 30 round mag from one of their M16’s putting out perfect 3-round bursts ALL on target… they accepted… I didn’t have to buy a beer the remainder of that course! LOL!
      It’s all in the training! ~RLTW 3/75

    2. Something you have all seemed to over look, the new M855A1 ammunition won’t work in civilian arms, with the Feds choking off standard ammo, they are trying to obsolete civilian weapons using the .223 round. Your minor cosmetic change is likely anther stab at disarming gun owners.

    3. Okay, if you are calling it an AR-15 that is a civilian rifle. Only M-16’s are military. You are having the same problem the media and gun grabbers are having in identifying weapons and calling Ar-15’s assault rifles when they are not.

    4. Dave, I heard the same critique of the Thompson SMG. Although very heavy for the caliber, within 20 minutes of firing it, I could control “full auto” fire, with judicious manipulation of the trigger, so as to put the majority of rounds into 10″ circles at distances out to 40+ yards.

      The M-16, in its’ original form, was capable of the same. Granted, under the stress of confrontational gunplay, precise muscle control can go out the window, but training as you would fight tends to lead you to fight as you train.

    5. I had to bristle a little at the statement “genuine full-auto capability (not the ridiculous ‘three-round burst'”

      Years ago I trained troops on the M-16, and full auto was a real problem. For one thing,full auto is a total waste of ammo. Only Hollywood gives soldiers unlimited ammo. I saw very few shooters who could keep more than 4 or 5 rounds of a full mag on target. The rest sprayed into the air, begging the enemy to kill the shooter.
      You put your finger on the second problem, but fail to note your own inconsistency: “Full-auto fire breaks automatic rifles faster than any other activity.” The original M-16 allowed unlimited full auto, with poor results. The three-round burst permits auto advantages with less strain on the rifle and more control in delivering fire.
      What commander wants his men to break guns and run out of ammo? Unrestricted full auto works fine in movies, but in real life a little control saves lives.

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