2015 saw a milestone in the Corps’ In its push for small-arms modernization, the Corps reached a milestone in 2015 with the formal adoption of the M4 carbine as the universal weapon for Marine infantry, but further changes are in the works for the year ahead.

2016 will see continued movement towards a leaner, more efficient fighting force under the Corps’ Small Arms Modernization Strategy, which seeks to keep the warfighter on the cutting edge ahead of the curve from now to the mid-2020s.

"These modernization efforts, which focus on improved lethality and mobility, ensure the individual Marine and Marine rifle squad have the most reliable and relevant weapons systems available," said Maj. Anton Semelroth, a spokesman for Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Leading the way this year is the update of the infamous M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun, the military’s primary heavy machine gun since the 1930s. Conversion kits will hit the fleet beginning in the spring, the third quarter of fiscal year 2016 with completion slated by the end of 2017.

These will update the weapon to the M2A1 and include quick-changing barrels and fixed headspace and timing. With the current M2, gunners have to use a gauge to set the headspace and timing with every barrel change; if inaccurately set, this can lead to malfunction or even life-threatening failure.

The M2A1 will also have a flash suppressor, reducing muzzle flash by 50 percent, which will lessen night vision goggle blinding during nighttime engagements.

Also on tap for this year is a new light-weight tripod for medium crew-served machine guns such as the 7.62mm M240. It’s scheduled to begin replacing ement of current tripods this fall, according to Semelroth.

At about 16 pounds, it shaves about 19 percent off of the weight of the legacy tripod, offering increased capability and mobility.

In 2016, tThe Corps will also take a close look at allowing custom-painted camouflage rifles for all Marines in the coming year. It’s conducting a limited-user evaluation this fiscal year to assess how high-temperature paint holds up under field conditions. The study will determine see to what extent the camouflage reduces observable signature and withstands the rigors of environmental conditions.

The results of the evaluation will directly lead to developing specific policy for the Corps on painting weapons.

Marines are also in the middle of a two-year study on the issueing of suppressors to all rifle squads, and currently are assessing unit live-fire and maneuver training exercises.

Sound suppressors make it difficult to determine a shooter's location and greatly improve command and control during small unit engagements, especially loud indoor gun battles.

However, they also require additional cleaning, heat up over sustained fire and increase back pressure, which can lead to extra wear or malfunctions for weapons, especially short-barreled rifles.

Finally, the Corps is closely following the Army's development of the Modular Handgun System to replace the 9 mm Berretta M9 pistol, the oldest-serving weapon in the U.S. military.

Over the next year, Marines will participate in an Early Warfighter Acceptance event, which will assess and evaluate various vendors' submissions for the Army MHS.

There has been no decision on whether a MHS would replace the M9 service pistol, but Marine Corps officials have acknowledged that it's likely the Army's selection will be adopted by the other services.

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