The AR-15: Heavier than it Used to Be
Jon Stokes 06.04.14
Tactical Life is running a really good, brief overview of the history and evolution of the AR-15 platform. I covered much of the same ground in my Wired article on the same topic, but the TL piece is done more from a gun nerd perspective.
I found the following insight particularly interesting:
The most striking difference in comparing [the modern M4 to its predecessors] is weight. As with everything American, the M16 has put on a few pounds since its introduction back in the 1960s. While the M16A1 and CAR-15 are both remarkably lightweight and maneuverable platforms, the contemporary M4, when fully loaded with electronic bling and a sound suppressor, is much closer to an M1 Garand or Thompson submachine gun in the weight category.
This weight gain is one of the more interesting aspects of the modern AR. Take a look at the famous “Bin Laden” gun, which is decked out with about $11,000 worth of add-on gear. I’d love to know how much that thing weighs fully loaded. I’m certain it’s well into M1 Garand territory. Of course, the 416 is more compact and maneuverable than the M1, and the ammo weighs significantly less.
But I’m pretty sure that the equivalent gun in 2025 will be a lot lighter since the AR is currently going through another round of weight reduction thanks to carbon fiber and advanced alloys.
There are at least two sub-4-pound ARs that are in development right now, and there will probably be many more such efforts in the next few years. Carbon fiber is an especially big win for the platform since it is not only extremely light and extremely touch, but it also stays a lot cooler under sustained fire than any metal.
On top of the shrinking weight of the AR itself, almost all of the add-on components on the above-linked 416 are candidates for technologically-driven shrinkage. Of course, we could end up just adding more and more stuff to the AR, negating any weight savings.