More reports on M4 limitations. Do the Marines have the right idea?

A leaked US Army report about the Battle of Wanat criticizes the reliability of the M4. On July 13, 2008 200 Taliban fighters attacked 48 US and 24 Afghan troops. Outnumbered 2.7 to 1 the M4 Carbines, which the troops were carrying, could not function reliably under the sustained fire they were required to put downrange. Fox News reports:

The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

“My weapon was overheating,” McKaig said, according to Cubbison’s report. “I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about a half hour or so into the fight. I couldn’t charge my weapon and put another round in because it was too hot, so I got mad and threw my weapon down.”

Snowflakes In Hell, via Michael Bane’s blog, correctly points out that assault rifles are not machine guns:

No assault rifle is going to stand up to sustained automatic fire. They aren’t machine guns, and even a machine gun needs to have its barrel changed out if it’s been firing a lot.

The M4 has a very short 14.5″ barrel and a relatively lightweight barrel profile. This allows the barrel to heat up much faster than a longer and heavier rifle or machine gun barrel. When the barrel of a closed-bolt gun gets very hot, cook-offs,when a round is ignited from the heat in the chamber, become a significant problem … not to mention the fact that a soldier cannot fire a gun that is to hot to hold!

The Marines have been criticized by many for their plans to introduce an Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) into the mix of weapons issued to their troops. The IAR is not intended to replace the SAW but would be deployed alongside it, giving some riflemen a light weight weapon that can sustain automatic fire.

FN IAR. Switches from closed-bolt to open-bolt when automatically when barrel temperature increases.

The Army would do well to look into the concept.

At the end of last year the Marines announced they were awarding contracts for the development of IAR prototypes to Colt, H&K and FN. Since then I have heard nothing about the IAR.

There are discussions about the M4 failure at Wanat over at Snowflakes In Hell, via Michael Bane’s blog and SaysUncle.

Many thanks to Jerry, Caedis, Lee and Lance for emailing me links about this story.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Check out Michael Yon’s comments on the efficacy of the M4 on Twitter too-

    http://twitter.com/Michael_Yon

  • Michael Bane’s link goes to sayuncle.

    • Matt, thanks. I have fixed the link.

  • Jared

    Isnt this kind of old news?

    Is the AR system less that robust and picky about maintenance? Yes.
    Is it made worse by a short barrel? Yes.
    Is the 223 a marginal stopper? Yes.
    Is it made worse by a short barrel? Yes.

    Everybody who pays attention knows this.

    Maybe the M4/223 makes sense for foot-patrols in the mountains, but there’s no reason a trooper at a fixed base shouldn’t have access to a M-14 or or a Garand or some other robust reliable battle rifle.

  • Matt Groom

    This is why I have long advocated for side arm to be issued to every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine. Having an M9 to transition to when your weapon gets too hot to shoot or has a malfunction keeps you in the fight, albeit in a defensive fashion. It works a lot better than a bayonet. traditionally, it’s when you’re in a defensive position that you put the most rounds down range.

    And don’t tell me it costs too much. If the military would allow service members to carry their own 9mm pistol that met certain specifications as many police agencies do, then there wouldn’t be a problem.

  • jdun1911
  • jdun1911

    I just read Michael Yon Twitter. Anyone that faced a drug out terrorist will know the only thing that can stop him is two bullet in the head. No 50 cal no 30 cal in COM. Those won’t stop him nor the smaller 5.56. Two bullet not one and if he is moving put another one in.

    Here is an interview with a Marine that went house to house clearing drugged terrorists. It doesn’t matter what you throw at them, drugged out terrorists will keep going until their brain stop functioning.

  • Big Daddy

    How many more lives is it going to take for the Army to adapt a piston weapon with the 6.8mm round. The 6.8mm round is designed for a 16″ barrel or shorter, the 5.56 is NOT. Even the 7.62 NATO round is no more powerful than the 7.62×39 when shot out of a short barrel.

    I am no expert but I can read data.

    Also, I was in the Army and carried the POS M-16…..M203 and even at that time an archaic M-60 which did not even have a quick change barrel. I liked my M-3 grease gun better and the 45 was a great side arm.

    I will also say the Army has no weapon flexibility and does not readily give small units extra firepower, the bean counters are in full force. They have not adapted the M-32 and did not adapt a fine piece of weaponry that Barrett came up with, the XM-109. The Marines went back to using the inexpensive yet effective M-72 law which counters the RPG very well in small unit encounters.

    I saw many people put down the Milkor 20mm Neopup as not having a place in the infantry unit. It does not do anything special or necessary. Yeah maybe except hold back a larger unit from over running your position. Do you think that if those guys had a few of the weapons I mentioned including the MK48 7.62 NATO lightweight GPMG things would have been different? Or even how about those lightweight 50mm Israeli commando mortars. Something other than an M-4 and the POS M249 which now also has a short barrel making it a pea sprayer instead of a pea shooter.

    The story never changes with the army, time and time again we read the same reports coming from war zones since Vietnam about the inadequate weapons of the U.S. Army. The Marines get it and do their best with limited funds to arm their troops correctly. They even broke out their old M-79’s because the M-203 could not be fired from the cupolas of the Hummer.

    The 5.56 needs an 18″ or more barrel to work. The modern 5.56mm NATO round is inferior to the original 5.56mm round in it’s killing ability although it’s more accurate, that was the trade-off. The 6.8mm round does both better with a 16″ barrel.

    Every combat troop should also carry a sidearm in case their weapon does overheat or malfunction, you need SOMETHING to shoot back with especially if you are carrying the M-4 or M-249. Or do we revert back to bayonet charges?

    One or two less of the not even in service F-35 would pay for a complete overhaul of the infantry arms of both the Army and Marines. Does the SCAR work? Well good if it does make it in 6.8mm and get it to everybody. If the soldiers are not combat soldiers and are in the rear, give them a UMP in .40 cal along with some SCARs. Also make the sidearm .40 like most agencies with enough funding have already done. Adapt the Ulimax 100 or FN IAR in 6.8mm to supplement the M-240. Who cares what NATO does they never back us up in a fight anyway.

    That Neopup in 25mm looks like a good idea with special fusing to go off over head. The stuff is out there on the market why doesn’t the U.S. Army buy it? They spend billions on stuff that doesn’t work. Just like the idiotic idea that one cammo design will be good anywhere in the world…..duh, never happen. The Israeli army found out cammo does not even work and never bothered to use it. Now those guys know a thing or two on how to make the most with the least.

  • Lance

    The M-4 is a good weapon BUT in the way of the M-1 Carbine somthing for cooks clerks and NCO use. It was never ment to be a standard issue infatry rifle. That was alway suposed to be a M-16A2 or M-16A4. the Marines and Navy (Seabees) know this and have used M-16s and have had NO problums with them in combat. The Corps has stated that they will use the M-16 for at least the next 10 years and has a Marine favor rate well over 80%. I see the Air Force useing M-4 for its APs since they dont get into front line infantry engagements often. So I think the Army should just buy M-16A4s and issue them to the grunts on the ground.

    As for the IAR I hope the Colt design wins and it seems Colt has a good shot at it.

    In a note to Steve can you add the pics of the colt design also to this intsead of the FN SCAR “P.O.C.” since the rumor is that the Marines like the AR style pattern IARs anyway. Just asking!

  • Bobby

    The US military needs to adopt the LWRCI M6A2 in 6.8, and Glock 22 in .40. We’d have less failures. I like the AR-15 platform. But it’s not meant to be used, abused, used, and abused again. Piston guns are (quality ones like the M6 rifles.) meant for that. Give Colt the IAR contract and LWRCI the infantry rifle contract. Or LWRCI both M6A2 and M6A4 IAR. Give Glock a military contract too while their at it.

  • KP

    I’d agree with Lance. The M4 is basically the modern equivalent of the M1 carbine. It’s better than the M1 carbine considering ballistics and shared ammo with M16. The M1 was supposed to be a weapon of utility. Better than a pistol, lighter than a rifle. The M4 isn’t a poor weapon but they need to use the right tool for the right job. The army switching to the M4 exclusively is baffling, the Marines have it right. A heavy barrel is against the design of it, it’s supposed to be light. I love the IAR concept. IARs and M16A4s for riflemen, M4s for guys with special equipment. Good grief, is it really that hard for the Army to figure out? :S

  • Carl

    It seems to me that if you want as much bang (barrel length, velocity) as possible in a compact weapon (compactness is the point of the M4 over the M16, right?), you should choose a bullpup weapon.

  • jdun1911

    The AR15 will not go white hot for one simple reason, the gas tube will melt long before it get to that point. If the gas tube melt your AR15 will be single shot.

    IIRC 150 rounds per minute is where the cook off start to appear.

    Let assume that the guy magazines is loaded 30 rounds. The max in standard GI mag.

    12 x 30 = 360 max possible rounds.

    360 rounds /30 minutes = 12 minute per round. That’s nowhere near the cooking point of the M4. I think a lot of you shoot more rounds then 12 per minute at your local out door range.

    It is absolute piss poor reporting.

    Steve,

    I doubt Big Army will go for IAR. Military traditions plus Marine and Army are different in how they wage warfare.

  • jdun1911

    doh, I mean 12 rounds per minute. I fail at poof read. I blame it on my English teachers, all of them.

  • jdun1911

    For those people that aren’t going to read through the ten page of AR15.com thread.

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=939798

    On page four, Merrell pointed out how bad the journalism is. They could have gotten away with this 15 years ago but not today with the free flow of information. Unfortunately you got dumb ass now thinking that they are expert on firearms repeating this kind of non-sense.

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=939798&page=4

    In a nut shell the author of that piss poor article copy another report and replace the SAW with the M4 and added a lot thing that wasn’t there.

    • jdun1911, thanks for the links.

  • jdun1911

    BTW Steve, I didn’t mean you as a dumb ass. Just pointing out that a lot of people will now repeat the piss poor report on internet forum.

    Here is the original article that these so called journalists copied.

    http://www.battlefieldtourist.com/content/battle-of-wanat-historical-analysis-rough-draft-release/

    • jdun1911, awesome I had been looking for the report and could not find it.

      I knew exacly what you mean’t. I was not offended. Anyway, as I said in my post- if a weapon is abused, it aint going to function!

    • jdun1911, I will post a link to that report as a separate blog post.

  • jdun1911

    Like I posted, the AR will cook off at around 150 rounds per minute IIRC. If you press the issue the gas tube will melt shutting the the semi/auto feature and turning the rifle into single shot.

    AR15 will never get white hot. The hottest color it will go will be red (cherry red) before it stop functioning.

    On page three Merrell posted that white hot is 1400C 2552F. At 2600F 4150 steel will melt.

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=939798&page=3
    http://www.7now.com/tempering_steel.htm

    Cook off means that the rifle will keep on shooting without pressing the trigger due to heat for those that don’t know.

    • jdun1911, LOL, that is funny. Puts the white hot rumor to rest for good 🙂

      I will mention that in the post.

  • jdun1911

    Around 140 rounds per minute is the cook off for the AR. So I was kind a close. Indefinite length of time at 12 to 15 rounds per minute without overheating.

    Yeah it bug me that I forgotten the cook off for the AR.

    ——–
    GROUND PRECAUTIONARY MESSAGE
    ACALA #97-03
    DATE: R 051413Z NOV 96
    CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED (1nn)
    SUBJECT: GROUND PRECAUTIONARY MESSAGE (GPM), 97-03 5.56MM M4A1 CARBINE

    1. DISTRIBUTION: {MENU} THIS IS A GROUND PRECAUTIONARY MESSAGE THAT HAS NOT BEEN TRANSMITTED TO SUBORDINATE UNITS. SOCOM COMMANDERS WILL IMMEDIATELY RETRANSMIT THIS MESSAGE TO ALL SUBORDINATE UNITS, ACTIVITIES
    OR ELEMENTS AFFECTED OR CONCERNED. RETRANSMITTAL SHALL REFERENCE THIS MESSAGE. SOCOM COMMANDERS WILL VERIFY RECEIPT WHEN RETRANSMITTING THIS MESSAGE BY SENDING AN INFO COPY OF THE RETRANSMITTAL TO DIRECTOR,
    TACOM-ACALA, AMSTA-AC-ASIR, ROCK ISLAND, IL.

    2. PROBLEM DISCUSSION:

    A. SUMMARY OF PROBLEM: SEVERAL INCIDENTS OF COOK-OFFS, IN AND OUT OF BATTERY, AS WELL AS BURST BARRELS, HAVE OCCURRED WITH THE 5.56MM M4A1 CARBINE. THESE INCIDENTS HAVE RESULTED IN INJURIES TO WEAPON USERS. THESE INCIDENTS RESULT FROM FIRING NUMEROUS ROUNDS WITHIN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME WITHOUT ADEQUATE COOLING.

    (1) COOK-OFFS OCCUR WHEN A LIVE ROUND IS LEFT IN THE CHAMBER OR IN CONTACT WITH THE CHAMBER OF A HOT WEAPON AND HEATS TO THE POINT THAT THE PROPELLANT IS IGNITED.

    (A) SUSTAINED FIRING OF THE M16 SERIES RIFLES OR M4 SERIES CARBINES WILL RAPIDLY RAISE THE TEMPERATURE OF THE BARREL TO A CRITICAL POINT.

    (B) FIRING 140 ROUNDS, RAPIDLY AND CONTINUOUSLY, WILL RAISE THE TEMPERATURE OF THE BARREL TO THE COOK-OFF POINT. AT THIS TEMPERATURE, ANY LIVE ROUND REMAINING IN THE CHAMBER FOR ANY REASON MAY COOK-OFF (DETONATE) IN AS SHORT A PERIOD AS 10 SECONDS.

    (C) WHEN THE WEAPON HAS REACHED THE COOK-OFF POINT (OR TEMPERATURE) A ROUND SHOULD NOT BE LEFT IN THE CHAMBER FOR ANY LENGTHY PERIOD OF TIME. THE WEAPON SHOULD BE CLEARED AND THE BOLT LOCKED TO THE REAR TO ALLOW COOL
    DOWN.

    (D) SUSTAINED RATE OF FIRE FOR THE M16 SERIES RIFLES AND M4 SERIES CARBINES IS 12-15 ROUNDS PER MINUTE. THIS IS THE ACTUAL RATE OF FIRE THAT A WEAPON CAN CONTINUE TO BE FIRED FOR AN Indefinite LENGTH OF TIME WITHOUT SERIOUS OVERHEATING.

    (E) THE SUSTAINED RATE OF FIRE SHOULD NEVER BE EXCEEDED EXCEPT UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF EXTREME URGENCY. (NOTE: A HOT WEAPON TAKES APPROXIMATELY 30 MINUTES TO COOL TO AMBIENT TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS).

    (F) THE USER’S MANUAL (TM 9-1005-319-10) FOR THE M16 SERIES RIFLE AND M4/M4A1 CARBINE STATES, “THAT IF A MISFIRE OCCURS IN A HOT WEAPON, REMOVE THE ROUND FAST (WITHIN TEN SECONDS). IF THE ROUND CANNOT BE REMOVED
    WITHIN TEN SECONDS, REMOVE THE MAGAZINE FROM THE WEAPON, POINT THE WEAPON IN A SAFE DIRECTION AND WAIT FOR 15 MINUTES.”

    (G) CAUTION SHOULD BE TAKEN BY THE USERS TO KEEP THEIR FACE AWAY FROM THE EJECTION PORT WHILE CLEARING A HOT WEAPON.

    (2) COOK-OFFS OUT OF BATTERY RESULT FROM A ROUND WHICH COOKS OFF WHEN THE BOLT IS NOT LOCKED OR A ROUND WHICH COOKS OFF AS THE USER IS TRYING TO CLEAR THE WEAPON.

    (3) BURST BARRELS RESULT WHEN THE WEAPONS ARE FIRED UNDER VERY EXTREME FIRING SCHEDULES AND THE BARREL TEMPERATURE EXCEEDS 1360 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. WHEN THE BARREL REACHES THESE EXTREME TEMPERATURES, THE BARREL STEEL WEAKENS TO THE POINT THAT THE HIGH PRESSURE GASES BURST THROUGH THE SIDE OF THE BARREL APPROXIMATELY 4 INCHES IN FRONT OF THE CHAMBER. THIS CONDITION CAN RESULT IN SERIOUS INJURY.

    B. PARTS, ASSEMBLY, OR COMPONENTS TO BE INSPECTED: NA

    3. USER ACTIONS. {MENU}

    A. TASK OR INSPECTION SUSPENSE DATE (IF APPLICABLE): N/A

    B. REPORTING COMPLIANCE SUSPENSE DATE: N/A

    C. INSPECTION PROCEDURES: N/A

    D. CORRECTION PROCEDURES: RANGE PERSONNEL AND USERS SHOULD AVOID EXCEEDING THE MAXIMUM AND SUSTAINED RATES OF FIRE DESCRIBED IN THE USER’S MANUAL FOR THE M16 SERIES RIFLES AND M4 SERIES CARBINE. USERS SHOULD BE TRAINED ON
    THE CAUSES AND HAZARDS OF COOK-OFF. BETWEEN FIRING SCHEDULES, ADEQUATE WEAPON COOLING TIME SHOULD BE ALLOWED

    • Thanks Jay. Where does that memo come from?

  • Lance

    jdun1911 has a really good point. This new report seems to be twisted and got the facts wrong.

    I think theres a two pronged agenda here. First the liberal media is always trying to make the US military and US weapons makers look bad. Like in the 1980s the media quoted that the US M1A1 Abrams tank was a gas gussler which had a short range and was out of place in modern war. And the 120mm gun it had was was still was too small compaired to the Soviet T-72s and T-80s 125mm. However when the Gulf War came the M1A1 proved itself as the best tanks in the world and had no problum destorying T-72s which proved to be a inferiour tank to all US tanks. The media never spoke poorly of the M1 ever again.

    The M-4 carbine has 90% approval by US troops and ive talked with many Solders and they speek highly of the carbine. Like I said before its not being used as it was made for and has since had a few mishapes. This is not new. My father served in the US Army in the late 50s and the M-1 was still the standerd issue rifle. He and others told me they had a heck of a time with them to get them to work in basic training. They were either worn out or had a bad part. Years later via 2001 he bought a like new M-1 and has never had a problum with it. Sometime its the indivual rifle which can malfunction or have a company armorer who dosnt do a good job. The case is the same for the M-4… Theres alot of them in service and not al of them are taken care of properly and or armorerd right and they malfuntion. The media dosnt look into this they just see another way to smear part of the Military and US defence companies. The same as with Dragons Skin Armor vs Penatrator Armor which the media preferince for Dragons Skin went no where. Penatrator armer is still used and has no real complants (becides weight , but every armer vest is just as heavy) about it it was a media smear.

    The other prong is pure POLITICS! There are poloticans like via Senator Tom Colburn who get money from european firearms makers like FN and SIG. To say thank you they push to make contracts and to make money for these guns they make. Colburn gets money from FN. So he pushes for the plastic FN SCAR to be abopted and makes FN to be a sole provideder of guns for the US Armed Forces. The SCAR he champoins has its own issues like a weak but stock which brakes easily and poor lower wich is light but not strong. And which many Spc Ops groups still dont use it much. Theres more but thats another issue. SO every time a report or a man who dosnt like AR based weapons wrights a article he’ll have a press confrence and make a BIG stink about how Colt M-4s are bad. He never reads that 90% of troops like the weapon, only the 7-10% who dont like it. And every gun has its haters every gun! Notice the report only has one sentence on how the M-249 has alot of problums and never mentions that FN is the sole maker of the M-249.

    Theres always flaws with every firearm. But I look at the fact almost every military man ive ment has a M-4 or M-16 they like. I think many look into the new articls a bit too much.

  • swisshegemonist

    Based on the numbers alone, the Muj had the greater than 3 to 1 classic ratio to displace the Army force (with ANA “sepoy” support)…marginal cyclical rate of 7.62×39, firing from above, and getting some critical hits with RPG…there still had to be something else at play here…poor securing of ammo cache…what else was to be expected, short of trying to get to transport, buttoning up and high tailing it out of the position?

    M4 @ Wanat/Kamdesh, Nuristan = Martini-Henry @ Isandlwana?

    4 to 1 odds, Khyber Pass Copy-equipped AK force, plus ubiquitous bushel basket fulls of RPG-7s?

    Formula for disaster, not barring CAS or overwatch support.

  • Casey

    I absolutley agree with Bobby about a transition to LWRCI M6A2s and M6A4s in 6.8mm SPC. However, I don’t think a transition to a .40 would solve the M9s short comings, because if 9mm is the equivalent of .38 then .40 wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I would propose the USP45.

    • dhopper122

      The basic reason the Us military uses the 9mm, is that it is the standard side arm round of NATO troops. And, as such, NATO adopted the 5.56/.223 for their issued rifles. With this being said, I think the best reason for NATO getting away from the 9mm and going to the .40/10mm is that there is such a lack of power in the round itsself. Yes, there have been quite a few people killed by the 9 mm, but many have survived, as well. And I cite here an article I know to be true as I read it in the “Stars and Stripes”. This, for those that dont know of it, is the news paper of the military. There was a quite impressive article, where an American soldier survived being shot, point blank, in the face by an Iraqi military officer. Bad ammunition, no one will ever truly know. But, thank God this soldier survived, only to loose a tooth that was hyrdostaticly forced from its socket by the bullet.

      http://www.snopes.com/photos/military/teeth.asp

      A picture is worth a thousand words. The pictures are towards the bottom of this article.

  • Casey

    Oh, and here’s one for Steve. There are a number of weapons you can send to hell and back that won’t ever let you down. Unfortunately, for the fighting men and women of our armed forces, none of those are among the ranks of direct impingement ARs. Our soldiers deserve the best, the best is available, but they’re just not getting it. I’m won’t make any remarks as to who is to blame (General Mark Brown), but “good enough” just doesn’t cut it these days.

  • Casey

    I really should proof read my posts BEFORE I submit them.

  • Lance

    I disagree with Casy. Theres no real 5.56 rifle thats so much better than a M-16. The German and British force have had there G-36 and L-85 weapons jam on them. Ive read about Soviet troops dureing the Soviet war have there Ak-74s jam in combat as well theres no clear gun which wont jam in the dust of afghanistain. A piston AR could help a bit but a European gun which some people here lover so much like a G36 or Sig552 have had problums with dust as well. The marines have had few if no complantes about 20inch M-16A4s. There is no perfect gun which will never jam. Anyone who thinks a gun is perfect in anyway is selling you beach front property in Arizona.

    Agree Steve?

  • jdun1911

    Steve,

    I did a google search on AR15.com. From time to time that information pop up on forums.

    swisshegemonist,

    There was a guy on the AR15.com thread that was nearby and was listening to the radio when the SHTF. Those guys did have close air support (CAS) and all the air assets that was require for the entire fight. What they didn’t have was more men.

    Casey,

    No weapons send to hell and back will work. It’s isn’t my opinion it is a fact. If the weapon is abuse enough it will fail. Period. There is no better rifle in the battlefield then the AR. If there is I would be all over it.

    Lance,

    I agree. There are a lot of people that do not understand how the AR works or why the US military is in love with it. They all think the US military high command has some grand sinister plan and hence do not want to replace the AR. The US military is in love with it because it is the best rifle in the world.

    Another thing people do not understand is that small arms has more or less reach it mechanical limits. All those new weapons on the block are recycle from older weapon system design. New body old soul.

  • Redchrome

    Small arms design may very well have reached certain limits; but no one has put all the good ideas together yet. There cannot be a ‘perfect’ rifle; each has its compromises. However, we can do a lot better than some of the broken-by-design items we see widely touted by people who don’t compare the mechanics and failure modes of the designs.

    I have better things to do than argue on the Internet these days, so I’m going to restrain myself from doing so. I’m going to go out this weekend (like I do on most weekends) and teach people to shoot. I challenge everyone else to do the same. Go take your chosen rifle to an Appleseed Shoot, put 800-1200 rounds through it in a weekend, and see where and if it fails. This is nowhere as bad as a battlefield; but if you act conscienciously you’ll learn from the experience anyway.

    • Gregory Allard

      If you can find that much ammo for your rifle

  • Redchrome

    The thing that really bugs me about the article (apart from the hyperbole and technical inaccuracy) is the figure that ‘90% of the troops think their rifle is good’.

    90% of the population probably think their car is a good design. Doesn’t mean that it is. 9% of the deployed soldiers probably couldn’t diagram a single reason why an AK47 is more reliable than an M16 (as opposed to repeating hearsay). As such, asking them if they’re satisfied with their rifle is somewhat dubious.

    It is a common mistake for people to think that just because someone uses a tool, that they understand that tool and can make meaningful comparisons between it and similar tools. Secretaries use computers, but aren’t often computer geeks. Doctors use knives, but aren’t usually bladesmiths. Police and soldiers use guns; but this is far from making them gun experts.

  • Redchrome

    typo above. should be “99% of the deployed soldiers probably couldn’t diagram a single reason why an AK47 is more reliable than an M1”

    This is not to impugn their abilities as soldiers or even shooters; just saying that being a soldier does not make you a gun geek.

    Feel free to prove me wrong; I want to be proud of our soldiers. Just remember, the plural of anecdote is not data; and the sort of people who read this blog are not even 1% of the population.

    • I just updated the post with clarification about the rate of fire:

      I just want to clarify a point mentioned by commenters below. If the solider fired his 12 magazines evenly over a 30 minute period he should have had no overheating problems (assuming the Army GPM info is correct). What we do not know is the period of continuous fire. As Bram, who has seen combat, said “Time moves very differently while under fire. It’s impossible to judge how fast those soldiers were actually firing.”.

      Lance, I agree with you.

      Michael Bane put it well “As is far too often the case, the wars were fighting refuse to pay any attention to the specs.”. The issue is not “Is the M4 the best weapon”, but “can any 14″ carbine stand up to that kind of abuse?”.

    • I fully support the troops have the best weapon possible. I think the real issue is deciding what a replacement, if any, should be capable of doing. For example, sustained rate of fire, mean time between failure (in hot, desert, snow, arctic, tropical etc conditions).

      Remember, the Army is running a comparison of the M4 vs. many other possible replacements: http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2008/11/25/list-of-possible-m4-replacements/

  • As I said nearly 11 months ago, the event hosted by the Army last year was just a “show and tell” session, not a formal submission for testing. A formal Operational Requirements Document (ORD) has not been approved yet for any M4 carbine replacement. Until there is an approved ORD, there will be no solicitation. Until there is a solicitation, there will be no trials.

    • Daniel, thanks for the correction. Now that you mention it, I do remember you saying it (my memory is not great).

    • Gregory Allard

      How hard is that?

      • Clearly, it has happened within the last five years since I wrote my post.

  • Casey

    For Lance, I would like to make it clear that I did not propose a replacement rifle in 5.56mm for the M16/M4. I proposed a 6.8mm, and yes you have a point. Any weapon can jam, but for Lance and jdun1911, my post about “hell” is relative to the amount of abuse other weapons (including ARs) can take compared to the M16/M4. For jdun1911, I would agree that the AR design has the potential to become the best on the battlefield. The AR is certainly the most versitile and accurate assault weapon on the battlefield, but the reliability issues apparent with the direct impingement gas system used in and the lack of kinetic energy delivered by the 5.56mm round has to be addressed. There are American companys that have addressed and solved both of these issues, and have taken the AR design to the next level of its evolutionary process.

  • Casey

    “direct impingement gas system used in (the M16/M4 family of rifles)”
    I only notice these things after the fact.

  • Bobby

    ”I absolutley agree with Bobby about a transition to LWRCI M6A2s and M6A4s in 6.8mm SPC. However, I don’t think a transition to a .40 would solve the M9s short comings, because if 9mm is the equivalent of .38 then .40 wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I would propose the USP45.”

    If you propose a .45 then lets go back to 1911s (Springfield Armory Operator) or Glock 21.

    I stress Glock. Here’s why:

    High magazine capacity.
    Cheap.
    The most reliable and durable pistol ever. IMO.
    Accurate.
    Super ergonomic.
    More accessories.
    Light.
    Easy to maintain.

    USP design is great but not the best.

    My main gripes:

    Too heavy.
    Not enough rounds in magazine.
    Not enough assessories.
    Expensive as hell.
    More bulky than even a Glock.

    Also…

    In my honest opinion I think the AR-15 DI platform isn’t the best in the world. It is just the stepping stone for the best Assault Rifle platform.

    Piston AR-15s in higher calibers are the best IMO.

    I’ve put my M6A2 through a carbine course multiple times.

    No failure with quality parts and ammunition.

    • HSR47

      Regarding pistols:

      For the most part, caliber really only matters if you’re shooting FMJ ammo; Modern expanding bullet designs largely negate the difference between common defensive calibers.

      That being said, due to our adherence to certain old international treaties, our military is largely restricted to shooting only FMJ ammunition. As such, larger calibers are generally better.

      Therefore, I agree that transitioning back to .45 would be wise.

      That being said, I believe that the 1911 would be a poor choice: They’re large, heavy, have relatively low capacity, they’re significantly more expensive to build and maintain.

      Still, I doubt the military will ever adopt a Glock pistol as the standard issue sidearm due to it’s lack of a manual safety. I don’t really consider this to be a negative, but the people in charge do. Therefore, the Smith and Wesson M&P in .45 is probably the most logical alternative. As a platform, it’s relatively well established, it’s a reliable design, and the price is fairly economical.

      As far as piston vs direct impingement in the AR15 platform, it doesn’t make a big enough difference to be worth the switch. Why bother retrofitting the stockpile of M16 rifles and M4 Carbines when you can simply replace them with something that is better all around for close to the same cost?

      The AR15 pattern rifle is fantastically ergonomic, but there is still a lot of room for improvement in that regard.

      Shoehorning a piston system into an AR15 is just about as dumb as having two drivetrains on a car (so-called “hybrid” gas/electric systems), and for the same reasons.

    • Kivaari

      A problem with Glock and HK .45s, is they are too large for many people. I can not use them with any speed simply because I can’t reach the trigger. Same for the M9, it is too large. I’d take a Glock 17 in the lesser caliber, simply because it fits my hand and I can hit with it. You have to hit the target to take advantage of the larger caliber.
      Using slow fire the .45s shoot well. Our department moved from G21s to G17s and everyone showed improvement. The .40 did not exist when we did that. After I retired they went to G22s.

  • Leethal

    I’ve two words for the piston pushers: carrier tilt.

  • I’ve put about 100 rounds out of a 7.62 HK G3 in about a minute. It got pretty hot but it still worked okay!

  • Bobby

    Carrier tilt wont happen with LWRC, Ruger, or Adam Arms Systems. Granted you need a different carrier.

    • HSR47

      The problem here is heat, not fouling. The primary difference between piston and direct impingment AR15 operating systems is that the former largely keeps the bolt cooler and cleaner. Still, all other factors being equal, the barrels should heat up at the same rate as rounds are fired.

      Keep in mind that the article quotes a soldier who claimed to have fired an average of one round every five seconds for half an hour. Try that with any 5.56 rifle and you will run into problems.

      Do the same with an AK47 and you’ll probably light the handguards on fire.

      • Kivaari

        Our sheriff’s department had Ruger AC556 rifles. After three 30 round magazines, they would cook off. It didn’t take long.

  • Windy Wilson

    Umm, when it comes to fighting and the tools for fighting, the only time I can think the Marines were even close to wrong was when they initially didn’t want the M-1 Garand at Guadalcanal. And there was a strong argument for the Marine’s postion at the time.

  • destroyer

    The M16/M4 is not the best assault rifle in the world. The reason why the US military hasn’t replaced it is because they are waiting for a significant improvement in technology (whatever that means). In my opinion, the G36 is a fine rifle and those supposed “jamming problems” experienced in afghanistan are just blog BS with no verification whatsoever. Similar to the SIG rifle series.

    do weapons jam? absolutely. Is the M16/M4 some wonder weapon that is the best in the world? no. Are there better replacements out there? yes.

  • 101abn

    Understand I am talking history here. I always made sure my fire team in Vietnam kept the M16s on semi. Auto was “panic” mode. It was not that we saw a lot of our targets, but my reasoning was, why empty a 20 rd magazine on one spot? In semi mode, well spaced fire on target area was more effective. The “hose” effect most likely prevented any heat problems. Those first M16s had problems enough. I understand outnumbered and outgunned, but, keeping up a high rate of fire, direct and cover, is just as possible on semi. A dedicated auto weapon is much better otherwise. Put a selector on an infantry weapon and it will be overused, and the weapon will fail.

  • Deej S

    get an ak….or even a psl, youll be glad you did

  • Jay

    Do the marines have the right idea? Before reading the article, I thought, definitely. The USMC does more practical stuff than the Army.

  • Regular guy

    Another shameless use of a tragedy to sell something. The problem with this example is the break-down of the ROE, no real organic fire power in the platoon, and incompetence in the JOC’s in theater.

    1. If a mission commander briefs a fires plan; he has no idea if it will be allowed by “Leaders” too far from the fight if called for.

    2. Platoons cannot carry enough 7.62 or 5.56 ammo to sustain a long fire fight. The issue in theater is as an example; do you have a single bee or the entire hive today? The reasoning for point number one. Some Major in the JOC will assess if his PL is or is NOT in that big of a fire fight to avoid being responsible for collateral damage.

    3. No amount of 5.56, 7.62 or 6.8 solutions will fix what happened that day based on point number two. If the enemy can shoot an RPG 900m and a PKM 1000m; what do you think they will do knowing we don’t have the ability to return fire at that range to answer that threat within the platoon?

    The real issue here that our Infantry combat developers are avoiding is the removal of a cannon caliber weapon from the platoon, similar to our enemies RPG. This would allow a platoon to sustain its self until more help arrives. Offense and defense in layers used to be the logic in the old days of common sense. If my recoilless asset fires 900+m; I can control the fires of my riflemen and machine gunners until the enemy is within effective range of his weapons. No battle rifle will hold up to the current tactic of “Spray and Pray” for very long, no matter what the caliber is. Our soldiers can only engage just over 400m effectively with a good optic. This is the real issue! The enemy understanding this, magically prefers 500-600m or more to shoot from. The old M3 Carl Gustaf shoots a 6.8lbs 84mm round 1300m with a kill radius of over 10m. It weights 21lbs or 6lbs lighter than a M240B, shoots 400m farther than the RPG and our own M240B. The new Carl Gustaf weights 15lbs with the same range and lethality. This would give organic overmatch to the platoon and reduce its dependency on artillery, air support and it will eliminate the decision needed from the incompetent guy worrying only about himself and collateral damage to defend itself.

    • whskee

      Valid points and well put. On the M3 Carl Gustav, we have had them in SOCOM inventory for quite some time. I never left the wire without one. I’ve strongly advocated it getting pushed out to conventional units, and I heard recently that it is in fact being opened up for regular use. It’s a mother to lug around but I think having 2 M3’s and 2-4 XM25’s (aka Punisher) would bring some serious relief under contact.

      http://www.army.mil/article/72402/

      http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2011smallarms/Thursday12439Stucki.pdf

    • Kivaari

      Very well presented. Although I was infantry for a short time, soon becoming a REMF, I studied enough to know that spraying your ammo is not effective.
      Not having reach with a mortar or recoilless rifle does limit your defenses.
      It seems that a lack of leadership is the biggest problem.
      On July 4, 1970 when serving in the navy we were called out to support marines 20 miles south of Da Nang. Arriving on station, neither of our two 5″-54″ naval rifles would function.
      It was “embarrassing” being unable to assist the Marines. I was much less stressed out, than the Marines getting attacked. It took a little while before AF planes arrived and started dropping napalm and HE on the enemy forces. Without the ability to direct air power, the Marines would likely have been overrun.
      Technology can and will fail, right when you need it.

  • Cody

    Sounds like we have a fire discipline problem here. Is this the return of the pray and spray doctrine? Firing your weapon at an unsustainable rate is begging for problems. Oh, so what are you supposed to do when your combat load of ammo is expended? Blame it on the tiny 30 round magazines?