Current-Generation Soldier Weapons

Army, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Current-Generation Soldier Weapons


The Army's M9 9 mm Pistol is the 9 mm model 92F/FS Beretta. The semiautomatic single-action/double-action weapon operates on a short-recoil, delayed-locking block system. It is the primary sidearm of the U.S. military, replacing the .45-caliber model M1911A1. The M9 has a 15-round staggered magazine with a reversible magazine release button that can be positioned for either right- or left-handed shooters. The system weighs 41 ounces when fully loaded.

Along with the large-scale fielding of the M9, the Army has a second pistol, the Mil 9 mm Pistol, in selected inventories. Manufactured by SIGARMS (SIG Sauer P228), the Mil is slightly smaller than the M9 (the Mil is 7.1-inches long × 5.4-inches high versus 8.54-inches long × 5.51-inches high for the M9) with a magazine capacity of 13 rounds versus 15 for the M9. Originally selected for use by military police investigators and the Criminal Investigation Division, the Mil has seen expanded fielding, including intelligence units and some special operations applications.

The Mk 23 Mod-0 Offensive Handgun Weapon System is used by selected Army special operations elements. The .45-caliber, single-action/double-action pistol has a 12-round magazine and weighs approximately 2.6 pounds with an empty magazine. Optimized for close-quarters battle environments, the complete system also features an attachable multimode aiming light module and a sound suppressor module.

The MP5 Submachine Gun is used by multiservice special operations forces. Fielded in many compact configurations, the 9 mm submachine gun features selector options for single-shot (semiautomatic), fully automatic or three-round burst fire. The system can accommodate a 30-round magazine, sound suppressor, flash suppressor, grenade launcher and ancillary aiming/sighting devices.

The M16A2 Rifle is a lightweight, aircooled, gas-operated, low-impulse rifle. An improved version of the M16A1, the M16A2 incorporates improved ergonomics in the pistol grip, stock length and handguards. An adjustable sight provides improved hit probability at extended ranges. A muzzle compensator, three-round burst control and a heavier barrel with a one-inseven twist significantly improve the overall combat effectiveness of the M16A2. The new barrel twist rate provides compatibility with the heavier M855/M856 5.56 mm rounds used in the squad automatic weapon (SAW).

The M16A4 Rifle, now in production, features a performance identical to the M16A2. Physical differences between the two weapons include a removable carrying handle with an integral rail-mounting system on the M16A4. An M16A3 version with a full automatic capability was developed to meet Navy and Air Force requirements but is not planned for Army inventories. The M16A4 is the basis for the modular weapon system.

The M4/M4A1 Carbine is a shortened lightweight version of the M16A4 rifle with a telescoping buttstock. It allows a soldier operating in close quarters to effectively engage targets at extended range. The M4/M4A1 has more than 85 percent commonality with the M16A4 rifle and will replace the M3 .45-caliber submachine gun and selected M9 pistols and M16 rifies. The M4 carbine, like the M16A4 rifle, fires in either semiautomatic or threeround-burst automatic mode via a selector switch. In addition, the M4/M4A1 carbine has a removable carrying handle with a sight mounted on an integral Picatinny rail on the upper receiver. When the carrying handle is removed, any accessory device with a rail grabber, such as an optical sight, can be mounted on the weapon.

The M4A1 carbine is essentially the same as the M4 with one exception-it has a different trigger mechanism that allows the weapon to fire in either semiautomatic or full automatic mode via the selector switch.

The Modular Weapon System (MWS) program began in 1993 as a soldier enhancement program (SEP). After the program's successful completion, multiple mounting surfaces were provided for the M4 and M16 weapons as a nondevelopment item. …

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