The AR platform has served as our country’s battle rifle since 1962, first as the M16, which was used during the Vietnam War. Over time, the platform evolved, and newer variants like the M4 Carbine and M16A4 rifle have been used extensively in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It has proven to be an excellent rifle, but, like the M1 Garand (also an excellent battle rifle), the AR will be superseded with the next generation of battle rifle. Numerous U.S. military trials, starting in the 1980s with the Advanced Combat Rifle program, have been conducted to find a replacement.
Next-gen combat-style rifles are defined by their modularity. Their components are designed to be easily installed or removed. Also, they often make use of ultra-modern materials such as polymer and aluminum in their construction that offer strength and light weight. Also, barrel systems are often fully free floated and designed for quick release so they can be swapped out in minutes in the field.
Ease of use and individualized customization are additional next-gen rifle features. Stocks can often telescope for a custom length of pull for operators of all statures, and the cheekpiece may adjust for obtaining a perfect cheekweld. The stocks also often fold, so deploying from a vehicle or aircraft is less complicated. Controls are often ambidextrous, so the weapon adapts to the shooter—not the other way around.
Taking advantage of today’s cutting-edge design and materials, these combat rifles offer users a truly modern take on the concept. Here is a look at the next generation of civilian-legal, semi-auto carbines inspired by this technology.