LAS VEGAS — As Army leaders look to the service’s next standard issue rifle or carbine, a lot of options are on the table.
One such option has been around awhile but still strikes many U.S. troops as a futuristic form of the rifle they think they know.
This past fall, officials with the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence’s lethality branch laid out several concepts being considered for the Army’s Next Generation Squad weapon and likely new designs for the ultimate replacement for the M4.
Some of those include major advancements to the fire controls and a likely change in caliber. But one was a possible bullpup design.
The bullpup has been around for more than half a century, and it was adopted by some foreign militaries. It reverses the design of the standard rifle or carbine by putting the action and magazine behind the trigger, automatically shortening the length of the rifle considerably.
A bullpup-designed weapon matches the length of its standard rifle counterpart only when an external suppressor is added to it.
The weapon puts its weight near the shooter, reducing fatigue and allowing for a steadier aim.
During the media firing range day at this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas representatives from Israeli Weapons Industries, or IWI, encouraged shooters to fire the weapon one-handed with the butt stock securely placed in the shoulder.
The weapon easily maintained a steady aim in the one-handed firing position.
IWI provides its Tavor X95 assault rifle to the Israeli Defense Forces. The bullpup weapon in 5.56 mm has a 16.5-inch long barrel but only a 26-inch length. That’s four to seven inches shorter than the M4, which comes in at 30 to 33 inches, depending on whether the stock is retracted.
The company also makes 7.62 mm versions of the rifle.
IWI is far from the only bullpup designer. Smaller companies such as K&M Arms, an Arizona-based company, has a suite of bullpup weapons in 5.56 mm, .300 Blackout and 7.62 mm, with barrel lengths ranging from 7.5 to 20 inches.
The decreased length makes the weapon more portable and easier to maneuver. If paired with an integrated suppressor, this type of design provides a smaller shooting package with advanced suppression.
Some concerns shooters have with bullpup designs are the limited weight balance that can throw off accuracy, especially in automatic modes.
Other concerns include retraining shooters for physical actions and muscle memory in tactical, fast-paced shooting scenarios. The bullpup design reorders some of the controls long-time shooters consider standard.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.