Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of people say “You know what the AR-15 market needs right now? More M4 profile barrels.”
Actually, no, I haven’t heard people say that.
And yet, it seems that every new carbine length upper or rifle in the last year or so has the M203 cutout in the barrel. Even the Bushmaster ACR, which cannot possibly mount an M203, sports the cutout for said purpose.
So why are companies offering products that no one is really asking for? I do see many people clamoring for lightweight barrels and midlength gas systems. Of course, the entire AR market isn’t on the internet. But Joe Gunowner, unless he wants something that kinda looks like the military M4, might choose something else if M4 type weapons didn’t dominate the racks at every gun store in the country.
I’m relieved to see that Spike’s will be offering lightweight versions of their LE upper, and they’ve already sold plenty of midlength LEs.
Bravo Company has come out with the 16″ lightweight midlength and the 14.5″ midlength uppers.
Daniel Defense is introducing, or has introduced, 16″ and 14.5″ midlengths.
But it seems that, when carbine gas systems are being discussed, the M4 profile reigns supreme.
What advantages does it offer? Well, for the hundreds of thousands of civilian M203 owners out there – oh, wait a second. No, we don’t need the cutout in the barrel for the M203 grenade launcher.
The cutout does provide a visual breakup for the barrels of 16″ rifles, as opposed to the 14.5″ versions used by the military. It doesn’t seem as long, at least to some.
However, we’d all be much better served from a functional standpoint if the extra steel in front of the FSB was moved behind it. The barrel will generally get hotter under the handguards, so a barrel that’s thicker in the hottest portion will outlast a barrel that’s thin at the hottest portion under sustained full auto fire.
Don’t care about full auto, or even rapid semi auto, shooting? How about balance? With the weight moved under the handguards, the rifle won’t feel as “tipsy” – it’ll feel a little more stable with the weight concentrated close to the center of gravity.
Although taper profiles, such as the Noveske N4 Light, are a more complicated machining task, it would be fairly simple to make the area under the carbine handguards just slightly thicker, while at the same time making the barrel past the FSB .625″ or so.
Of course, we’d have to break the institutional love affair with the M4 profile barrel first.