Army Opens Competition for M-16 Replacement

Army opens competition for replacement of M-16, M-4 (Army Times)

The Army will hold an open competition among arms makers to select a replacement for its M-16 rifles and M-4 carbines. The March 4 pre-solicitation notice, posted on the Internet, means the Army̢۪s XM-8 program will have to prove it can outperform the rest of the small-arms industry before soldiers carry it into battle. Army weapons experts have been working on the Heckler & Koch-made XM-8 prototype as an unopposed replacement since late 2003. It was part of a longer-range effort to perfect an over-and-under style weapon, known as the Objective Individual Combat Weapon or XM-29, developed by Alliant Techsystems and Heckler & Koch.

The XM-29 fires special air-bursting projectiles and standard 5.56mm ammunition. But at 18 pounds, it̢۪s still too heavy to meet requirements, so Army planners decided to perfect each of XM-29̢۪s components separately, allowing soldiers to take advantage of new technology sooner. The XM-8 is one of those components. It features a compact model for close quarters, a standard carbine and a designated marksman/squad automatic rifle model with a longer, heavier barrel and bipod legs for stability.

The March 4 “Pre-solicitation Notice for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon Increment I family of weapons,†invites small-arms makers to try and meet an Army requirement for a “non developmental family of weapons that are capable of firing U.S. standard M855 and M856†5.56mm ammunition.


The OICW Increment I is intended to replace current weapon systems, including the M-4, M-16, M-249 squad automatic weapon and selected M-9 pistols for the active Army, the notice states.

Interesting. One wonders, though, about staying with 5.56mm ammo, roughly equivalent to .22 caliber. While it has the advantage of being the NATO standard, its stopping power is less than ideal, especially given that the modal type of engagement appears to be in an urban setting where one shot, one kill is necessary.

Update: Modern Firearms has more on the technical specs of the XM-8, along with several photos of the weapon in its various configurations. Here’s the basic model: has a lot of information as well, including this:

The XM8 Lightweight Assault Rifle will reduce the 21st century soldier’s load and increase his mobility – two very important aims of the Army’s Objective Force Warrior and Land Warrior initiatives. The progress made to reduce weight and improve performance on the XM29 program is key to the decision on accelerating the development of the XM8, which is integrated with the Army’s efforts to transform to a more lethal and rapidly deployed fighting force as part of its Objective Force.

The XM8 weighs 6.2 pounds, vice 7.9 for the M16A2 (both minus ammo).

Army Times purports to have a video of the XM-8 in action but it keeps crashing Firefox for some reason.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    And if we went to 7.62 we can use the ememy’s ammo too.

    not that anyone important is listening….

  2. BigFire says:

    You might also want to check out Murdoc Online. He’s got lots of post on XM8.

  3. ken says:

    There is, of course, nothing wrong with current weaponry except that it has become too much of a commodity and therefore all the profit for the manufacturer has been squeezed out.

    So if we go with an entirely new system just think of all the money and profits involved!!!!

    Wow, and it might even work – ten years later when all the bugs get worked out. Now why exactly should taxpayers go further into debt for this?

  4. James Joyner says:

    Ken, Your expertise in the quality of military weapons would be what, exactly?

  5. Murdoc says:

    Paul: The 7.62×39 that the bad guys prefer is not the 7.62 NATO (7.62×51) that we use for some weapons.

    7.62×51 is too powerful for an assault rifle. 7.62×39 is too wimpy for general use as American troops see it. Though inside and in alleyways it’s fine.

    A lot of folks like the 6.8 SPC as a good compromise. Others prefer the 6.5 Grendel. Almost everyone agrees that the current 5.56 NATO is not the long-term answer.

    And for those following BigFire’s link, either search for “XM8” on my site or go straight to the X Weapons category. (and thanks for the plug, BigFire)

  6. LJD says:

    Nothing wrong with 5.56mm. It’s plenty deadly, just ask the resident of Fallujah. The philosphy is that lead is heavy, and a troop can carry more rounds of 5.56 than 7.62.

    Perhaps in the urban situations we should be looking at short range, pistol cartridge submachineguns. The MP-5 comes to mind.

    James, don’t mind Ken. He’d rather spend the money on kool-aid for the masses.

  7. Poor 5.56 stopping power is the reason the 6.8SPC is currently being sought as a replacement in certain scenarios. I agree with Murdoc in thinking the 6.8SPC is a good compromise round.

  8. Murdoc says:

    LJD: There’s no doubt that our troops have been very effective with the 5.56. But that’s not the same thing as saying that there’s nothing wrong with the round. Many troops have been complaining for over a decade about the lack of “stopping power” with the 5.56, especially when fired from shorter-barrel M4s.

    I don’t disagree with your submachinegun idea, though. Not one bit. Some US troops have been spotted using old Russian PPSh SMGs in Iraq.