Military Tech

Will this space-age rifle replace the almighty M4?

Did you know that the US military’s primary rifle system, the M4, is based on a 64 year old platform? Old as it may be, it is continuing its dominance on the battlefield today. Like all good things, however, the age of the M4 will eventually come to an end.

Martin Grier, an inventor working out of Colorado Springs, has spent hundreds of thousands of his own dollars on producing an effective replacement. His suggestion to replace the M4? The Ribbon Gun.

L5 Action Shot
Action shot of the L5 prototype (note that this model was designed for five rounds)

The Rifle

This futuristic beast is now being marketed by Forward Defense Munitions (FDM), and is quite an interesting piece of work. First of all, for the L4c and L4m production versions (civilian and military respectively), there are four barrels (or bores, as he and his company refer to them). These bores are drilled out of a single block of metal, providing an entirely new type of weapon.

Why four bores? I’m glad you asked!

First off, it functions as a standard rifle in the sense that you can fire in a semi-automatic fashion, with one bullet leaving the barrel with each depression of the trigger. However, the Ribbon Gun also has the “Power Shot” capability, which allows the shooter to fire four bullets at once (sorry civilians, L4m only).

My first concern was aiming. As a shooter, surely the bores would each have slightly different points of aim and points of impact, right? While I haven’t gotten my hands on one, it seems that some reviewers are claiming that the point of impact for each barrel is not far off from each other. I can only imagine that comes down to how it’s zeroed, but you might not have many options for the zero distance with the bores set in stone (or steel in this case).

The Trigger

Onto the second interesting part of this rifle system: the trigger mechanism.

L5 Receiver Shot
Side shot of the L5 prototype

Instead of the traditional approach of a trigger affecting a spring assembly, which in turn sends the firing pin against the primer to fire each round, the Ribbon Gun utilizes the trigger to activate electromagnetic coils that ultimately drive the firing pins. This electric trigger is what allows the shooter to engage the Power Shot mode to send four rounds downrange on a single depress.

The Magazine

Last but not least, the magazine. To support this new type of trigger mechanism, the rifle accepts “Charge Blocks”, as designated by FDM. Essentially, these are four-round magazines that support the electromagnetic trigger functionality. However, you can load between three or five blocks for the L4c and twelve blocks for the L4m into this weapon, giving you a capacity of up to 48 rounds without needing to reload.

L4 Charge Block.png
L4 Charge Blocks

The problem here? People will still call them clips. The second problem? They’re currently filled by the factory. Your thumbs will hurt less, but I imagine the cost for a day at the range is rather high. This is only temporary, however — Mr. Grier mentioned that “the L4c Charge Blocks are reloadable. They use normal primers, propellant and projectiles” which will allow the reloaders among us to reload the blocks more than a hundred times each, according to recent testing.

This will be a fun project to watch. Mr. Grier also stated that the L4m prototypes will be distributed for field testing in the second half of 2019, a timeline that should hold onto the excitement. I am always a supporter of improving the old – we’ll see if this rifle will unseat the M4 from its current throne.

Images courtesy of Martin Grier, Forward Defense Munitions

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