Marine Corps to issue more powerful firearm to some

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, June 29, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps is upping the firepower for many Marines and sailors now carrying pistols.

Under the old policy, pistols were issued to all officers, staff noncommissioned officers and Navy billets — although the Corps stocks extra rifles for servicemembers in combat zones who go outside the wire, officials said.

Now many of these servicemembers will be issued carbines instead of pistols.

Staff NCOs; warrant officers/chief warrant officers; Marine officers from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel; and sailors at E-5 and below will be issued the M-4 assault carbine instead of the pistol, the new policy says.

The M-4 is essentially a shorter and more powerful version of the M-16 rifle, which is issued to most Marines.

Marine officers at the rank of colonel and above, all Navy officers and all enlisted sailors E-6 and above will keep their pistols, the policy says.

Marines who are now issued the M-16A2 rifle will eventually get the newer M-16A4.

But there are exceptions to the weapons change.

“The M-9 pistol will be issued by exception only to those personnel for whom the issuance of a rifle or carbine would directly prevent accomplishment of their primary duties,” said Lt. Col. Pat Beckett, of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Some Marines who face “unique operational circumstances,” such as helicopter aircrews, will be issued an M-9 pistol and a rifle or a carbine depending on how much space they have to store their weapons in an aircraft, Beckett said.

The new policy came after Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway tasked a group to come up with a new way distribute weapons such as the M-4 and M-16A4 as widely as possible to the Marine Air Ground Task Force, Beckett said.

“The transition will be taking place over time in accordance with acquisition plans,” Beckett said. “The priority continues to be units/individuals deployed or preparing to deploy in support of OIF/OEF.”

The change from pistols to carbines for many Marines does not show that the Corps is unhappy with the M-9, Beckett said.

“The ongoing war has shown the tactical benefits of increasing availability of (M-4) and the variety of associated weapon accessories,” he said.

Still, most Marines will still use a version of the M-16, Beckett said.

“The M-4 carbine will be the alternate weapon for those whom the assignment of an M-16A4 would pose a safety hazard or prevent accomplishment of their primary duties,” he said.