The Colt company developed various carbine versions of the basic AR-15/M16 rifle since 1970s. These carbines were intended for all markets - military, law enforcement, civilian. US Military (and some other armies, most notably - Israeli Self-Defense Forces) had adopted the Colt CAR-15 Commando and XM-177 carbines during the 1970s and 1980s. But early in 1990s the old idea of replacing the pistols in the hands of the troops with some more effective, shoulder fired weapon, rise again in the heads of the US Military. In fact, this idea can be dated back to the US M1 Carbine of 1941, but good ideas never die. So, in the 1994, U.S Army adopted the Colt Model 720 selective-fire carbine (basically, a shortened M16A2 rifle), as the US M4 Carbine. This weapon was intended to replace in service some Beretta M9 pistols, as well as some aged M3A1 submachine guns and some M16A2 rifles. New weapon was much more handy and comfortable to carry, than the long M16A2 rifle, so the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) put its eye on the M4 as a possible universal weapon for all Special Operations community. For this purpose M4 was latter modified with the M16A3-style flat-top receiver with integral Picatinny-type accessory rail instead of the M16A2/M4-type integral carrying handle. This modificatin retained the M4 index. The only difference between the M4A1 and M4 is that its trigger unit of M4A1 is modified to fire full-auto instead of the three shots bursts in M4. Specially for the SOCOM M4A1s US Naval Surface Warfare Center developed a M4 SOPMOD kit, that consisted of the M4A1 carbine equipped with Rail Interface System (RIS) instead of the standard handguards. The kit also includes a variety of the add-on goodies, such as various sights (ACOG 4X telescopic, ACOG Reflex red-dot, detachable back-up open sights), laser pointers (visible and infra-red), detachable sound suppressor (silencer), modified M203 40mm grenade launcher (with shortened barrel and improved sights). The kit also included a detachable front grip and tactical light.At the present time, the M4 carbine is used as a front-line weapon by US Army, Marine Corps and SOCOM operators in Iraq and Afghanistan. Combat experience with thos weapon resulted in update program, which will, as of now (mid-2010) following steps. First, Army wanted to install heavier barrel to allow more sustained firepower, combined with full-automatic mode of fire instead of 3-round burst, and ambidextrous safety/selector switch. Second stage will see improved rail adapter and a new, improved bolt carrier, and a possible third stage will include change of operating system (most probably, from direct gas to the gas piston).
At the present time, the Colt company still is the prime M4 carbine manufacturer for U.S Armed forces, but many other companies build similar "milspec" weapons for other US and foreign customers, such as government and private security organizations, law enforcement etc. To name just few, M4-type carbines are manufactured by Bushmaster Firearms, Olympic Arms, THOR Global Defense Group and others
Like all variations of M16, The M4A1 can be equipped with many accessories such as night vision devices, suppressors, laser pointers, telescopic sights, bipods, grenade launcher or M203 and M320, the M26 rifle Mass, and all compatible with the Picatinny rail. Other common accessories include AN/PEQ-2, Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, and M68 CCO. EOTech holographic weapon sights are part of the SOPMOD II package . Visible and IR (infrared) lights of various manufacturers are also commonly associated with various mounting methods. As with all versions of M16 the M4A1 accepts an accessory blank-firing attachment (BFA) for training purposes .
Despite being more successful than its predecessors, the M4A1 still carries some problems M16 As the frequency with which accidents occur when the mechanism is subjected to dirt common in the jungle environment, and the complexity of this mechanism, which makes it very laborious process of disassembly and maintenance. Nevertheless, it is relatively inexpensive, so it is used by various organizations in many countries.
- Afghanistan: Only used by Afghan Army Commandos. M4s sold in 2006 as part of a package of military sales . Additional M4s were sold in 2008 as a package of military sales .
- Australia: Used by the Special Operations Command .
- Bangladesh: Used by commands paramilitary Blangadesh, Dhaka Metropolitan Police SWAT teams and Special Warfare Diving And Salvage
- Bahrain: M4A1s sold in 2008 as part of a package of military sales .
- Belize: M4s/M4A1s sold in 2006 as part of a package of military sales .
- Brazil: Used by some divisions of Brazilian Army, Used as the standard rifle Military Police and Civil Police of some Brazilian states and Splits as Special Police BOPE, CORE, GOE and GATE.
- Canada: Used by the Canadian Army, manufactured under licence as the Diemaco C8.
- Colombia: Used by the Colombian Army.
- Ecuador: M4s sold in 2008 as part of a package of military sales .
- El Salvador: M4s sold in 2007 and 2008 ( additional) as part of a package of military sales .
- Georgia: Special forces police, armed forces, mostly Army forces and special .
- Greece: Used by Ekam Operators
- India: M4A1s sold in 2008 as part of a package of military sales .
- Indonesia: Used by Detachment 88 counter-terrorism Police Squad Operators
- Iraq: Used by the Iraqi Army. Main weapon of the Iraqi National Counter-Terrorism Force.
- Israel: Sold in 2001 as part of a package of military sales to Israel.
- England: Used by SAS and the British Army.
- Jamaica: M4s sold in 2007 as part of a package of military sales.
- Japan: M4s sold in 2008 as part of a package of military sales.
- Jordan: M4s sold in 2007 as part of a package of military sales.
- Macedonia: M4s sold to the 2008 Foreign Military Sales package.
- Malaysia: Manufactured under license by SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd .
- Nepal: M4s sold in 2005 as part of a package of military sales .
- New Zealand: Used by NZSAS Operators.
- Panama: M4s sold in 2008 as part of a package of military sales .
- Philippines: M4s in 2008 sold as part of a package of military sales .
- Poland: Used by the Polish police force Grupa Reagowania operacyjne - Manewrowego (GROM).
- Portugal: Used by the Marines special forces DAE (Special Actions Detachment).
- Thailand: M4s sold in 2006 as part of a package of military sales.
- Tonga: M4A1s sold in 2008 as part of a package of military sales.
- Turkey: Turkish Army:Maroon Berets.SAT(Sualtı Taaruz,SAS(Sualtı Savunma),Polis Özel Harekat
- United Arab Emirates: Purchased 2.500 M4 carbines in 1993.
- United States: Rifle Used as standard in general for all U.S. armed groups such as the American Army, U. S. Navy Seals, SWAT, FBI and some cops like the Police in Los Angeles
- Yemen: M4s sold in 2006 as part of a package of military sales.
- Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
- Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
- Overall length: 838 mm (stock extended); 757 mm (stock fully collapsed)
- Barrel length: 370 mm
- Weight: 2.52 kg without magazine; 3.0 kg with magazine loaded with 30 rounds
- Rate of fire: 700 - 950 rounds per minute
- Maximum effective range: 360 m
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