SOPMOD M4 Carbine

03/26/04

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Special Operations Peculiar Modification to M4 Carbine (SOPMOD M4)

Special Operations improves M4 carbine

Written by SGT. Nelson Mumma Jr.

FORT BRAGG, N.C., (Army News Service, Sept. 14, 1998) -- It's a lethal weapon made even deadlier. The U.S. Special Operations Command improved the M4 Carbine, the primary weapon for most Special Forces soldiers and Rangers, by adding accessories and modifying its design.

"The whole intent was to make this weapon more effective from close range engagements to extended ranges," said Capt. William A. Smith, U.S. Army Special Operations weapons systems integrator. "These changes will increase its operational effectiveness through improved target recognition, acquisition and hit quality during day and night."

The M4 Carbine is like the M16A2, but is more compact and features a collapsible stock. It weights seven and a half pounds, fires 5.56 millimeter rounds, and has a maximum effective point target range of 500 meters and an area target of 600 meters. The Carbine will eventually replace all the M16 series rifles, selected M9 pistols and all 45-caliber M3 submachine guns.

To upgrade the weapon for special operations' soldiers, USASOC, working with the United States Special Operations Command, created the M4 Carbine Special Operations Peculiar Modification Accessory Kit, which provides the following items:

4 X Day Scope: Allows soldiers to judge range and then fire more accurately beyond 300 meters;

Reflex Sight: Designed for close range engagements. Only one sight, as opposed to the normal two sights, needs to be aligned with the target. The shooter can keep both eyes open while using this accessory, allowing more rapid engagements;

Visible Laser: Places a red aiming dot on the target, much like what is seen on television. This is best used in buildings and close fighting;

Infrared Pointer / Illuminator: Used at night and can only be seen with night vision goggles;

Visible Light: This is a high intensity rail mounted flashlight and is best used in buildings. The light works well with the visible laser by illuminating then pinpointing a target. The visible light is used mainly to discern friend and enemy in close fighting;

Backup Iron Sight: This is like a typical M16A2 sight and is used by itself when other sights aren't needed;

Forward Hand Grip: Helps stabilize the weapon and helps keep the hand away from the hand guards and barrel, which become hot during use;

Sound Suppressor: Significantly reduces noise and flash, making it more difficult to discern the direction of fire.

Rail Interface System (RIS): Attachment point used to accommodate the SOPMOD accessories above. The RIS is comprised of a series of rigid grooved rails, that replace the normal or stock hand guards. The RIS grooved rails are of the Picatinny type or Mil Spec 1913. All SOPMOD accessories, except for the sound suppressor, are designed to fit the RIS. These rails are created with tremendous rigidity to improve zeroing capabilities. The RIS was designed and manufactured by KAC (Knights Armament Company).

"Now, I can stick any one of the sights on, zero it to the weapon, take it off and put into my rucksack, put it back on later and it maintains its zero," Smith said. "That's something we haven't been able to say about many of our sights in the past."

Another improvement is a quick release mechanism on the M203 Grenade Launcher attachment. The M203 barrel was shortened from 12 to nine inches for better balance and handling.

"Most of the items aren't high tech. It's just making a convenient kit of interchangeable items that are easy to use, fairly inexpensive and available to all the operators," Smith said.

The program to improve the M4 Carbine began in 1995 at USASOC and is a joint-service effort. Cost for fielding the M4 accessory kits to date is $25 million and includes accessories for 8,000 weapons. Despite the improvements, there is more to be done. "This is an ongoing process," Smith said. "In October we're going to get a group of operators together from throughout the command, mostly Rangers and Special Forces soldiers ... and find out if there's anything better out there and what we can do to improve the weapon. When it comes time to start replacing these weapons, in about the year 2001 or 2002, we'll try to do even better. "It's a continuous program to try to make the carbine as good as it can be for the soldiers."

SGT. Mumma is with the U.S. Special Operations Command's public affairs office.

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