When you read a headline, “Army quits tests after competing rifle outperform M4A1 carbine,” you might think that the Army took a cloak and dagger approach to canceling the tests simply because a rifle outperformed the M4.
Let’s take a look.
As The Washington Times reported, a competing rifle actually did beat the M4A1 variant in a couple of different fields of reliability. This was not a test the Army actually wanted to do, but was pushed by Congress — and I doubt that many in Congress has ever pulled a trigger for a living.
The Army and the military in general are littered with what troops constantly call the “good idea fairy.” These fairies usually have a product that is supposed to be the next wonder gear but it is often heavy, expensive and useless. So it’s hard to make a lot of people support a change in gear, especially when an outside source like Congress is pestering it. The Army even cheated midway through the contest by changing the ammunition used for testing without warning the different rifle developers.
But what does all this have to do with prepping and survival? Well, I doubt the logistics of arming over a million soldiers is your concern. A single person learns much faster than an organization. The question, though, is what is the best rifle out there? For people looking to buy their first defensive rifle, it’s an important question.
The AR 15  platform is one of the most popular rifles in American for defensive and recreational purposes, but it’s 50 years old. Not many people are driving 50-year-old vehicles on a daily basis, yet the ever-adaptable AR 15 doesn’t show its age when topped off with the latest and greatest tactical gadgets, gizmos and wizzows. Still, it’s 50 years old.
The eight rifles the Army tested were not revealed, but it’s safe to assume the FN SCAR, HK 416, Adcor B.E.A.R. Rifle, ARX 160 and Remington’s Adaptive combat rifle were all part of the show. They represent the latest designs and technologies in weapon designs, and most have learned from the success of the M4 and built on it.
The HK 416 has seen service with the United States Navy Seals, and most assume it was the weapon that put Osama Bin Laden’s lights out. The 416 is identical in controls to the M4 and is near-identical in appearance. The pistol-driven 416 is incredibly reliable, and has been adopted in an enhanced model as the M27 IAR for the Marine Corps. It’s reported to be extremely accurate and doubles as a suppression-based weapon and a designated marksman’s rifle. In my opinion it was probably this rifle that beat the M4.
FN SCAR is most famous for the amount of special operation forces carrying it overseas, from Green Berets to Air Force Para Rescue. The FN SCAR has served in a lot of missions we’ll never hear about. The SCAR is a lightweight, modular weapon that features a folding stock and excellent controls. FN made the machine gun I carried in Afghanistan and it was the most reliable piece of kit my squad had.
The ARX 160 has been adopted by the Italian military, as well as the Albanian Special Forces and some police forces in Mexico. While it is a relative newcomer it has met favorable reviews and has been adopted by a few militaries.
The B.E.A.R. is an American-designed and built piston-driven AR that is another newcomer to the market, and has been popular with police and civilian shooters. The ACR was originally designed by Magpul but later sold to Remington. I have no mercy with Remington and highly doubt this rifle was the winner
Now, if you already own and have invested in an M4-based platform I’m not saying your choice was wrong. The platform is very viable and very capable of being an excellent defensive weapon. There are a lot of reasons to own an M4 — especially when it comes to logistics.
But if do not own a modern sporting rifle, perhaps you should consider a different weapon than an M4. Both the SCAR and HK rifle have 5.556 variants, and 7.62 x 51 variants for a bigger punch, and the ACR can be adapted with multiple calibers without much work or expertise, using just a kit.
The AR-15 platform is just a bit dated and has begun showing its age as more reliable weapons are stepping into the spotlight to fulfill the defensive rifle role. Some folks do find it hard to let go of a specific weapon they’ve trusted for so long, but often this keeps a military or an individual from truly seeing the potential for an improved system.
However, rushing into a new weapon system was what helped create the debacle in Vietnam with the M16, a scar on its reputation that still holds to this day. I suggest you choose a system that is being utilized by a current military force — like the HK 416 and FN SCAR. The biggest downside is the price on these systems. You pay for the cutting edge in design.
My local gun store said the release of the Tavor to the American market has driven down the prices of SCARs by a few hundred dollars. This is a trend we can expect to keep repeating itself over and over.
What do you believe is the best defensive rifle? Leave your reply in the section below: