Mark Westrom, President of ArmaLite, Inc. took over ArmaLite back in the early 1990s, taking the company into the 21st Century with a gusto, and he’s never shied away from speaking his mind on carbine development and innovation (or lack thereof). Westrom was an Army Ordnance Officer in the ’70s and a competitive rifle and pistol shooter for the Army and Reserve. He also published impressive research and shooting courses on Rapid Semiautomatic fire and its effects.

Here are his thoughts on the move to replace the AR-15/M16.

The political snarl has become so deep that the Army is soliciting a new carbine to take a look at everything available. The solicitation is being stimulated by commercial and political pressures, and I doubt if we’ll see anything new. It’ll be too expensive. I’m going to make a prediction. The prediction is that while one rifle or another may have a feature that is liked, in the end a few minor changes will be made to the M16 and M4 system, and that’ll be as far as it goes.

None of the new firearms being proposed does what the M16 did in its day. The M16 led to a new marksmanship doctrine and provided a substantially new combat capability. The M16 provided an intense, close-in fighting capability. Merely changing from one compact system to another compact system doesn’t give you any fundamental change. The weapons systems being considered only offer a suspect or theoretical difference in performance. The reliability of the M16 when in good condition—cleaned and lubed—is so high, I don’t believe that it’s worth the money to change to a new weapons system. You would have to see a substantial improvement in performance, and the performance with the M16 and M4 is very good.