Decades before the U.S. military transitioned away from the M16 assault rifle in favor of the lightweight M4 carbine, the Army eyed an unusual-looking replacement for the Vietnam-era rifle: The boxy Heckler & Koch G11, the very same weapon that would appear years later as a futuristic energy rifle in the batshit crazy 1993 sci-fi action comedy Demolition Man.
The U.S. Army is an armed force with a truly global reach. At any given time, America’s premier land power operates on several different continents simultaneously, from hot, dry deserts to humid jungles and sprawling cities. Its infantrymen carry a weapon whose lineage dates back to Vietnam but which has been constantly improved to become the weapon it is today. Rugged, simple and accurate, the M4 carbine is the standard infantry weapon of not just the Army but all of America’s ground forces.
For decades, troops have been complaining about the limitations of the M16 rifle and M4 carbine, both of which are hindered by the same flawed operating system that makes the weapons jam easily. But after years of ignoring small arms in favor of expensive aircraft and warships, the Pentagon is taking a long, hard look at how to give the Army 11 Bang Bangs and Marine grunts a better weapon.