Congressmen quiz SecDef on M4

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Earlier this month Congressmen Ike Skelton and Solomon Ortiz sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs. In the letter they ask what is being done about the M4 since the Battle of Wanat report. They subtly point out that some Special Forces do not use the M4.

The full letter can be view after the jump.

[ Many thanks to False for emailing me the letter. ]

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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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  • Fred

    The other parts of the letter are just as important in my mind as well. I never thought of the rucks being that bad, but I was in engineer units my entire career, so I never carried them often (both construction and combat mech., useless without our trucks or tracks.)

    The boots are pretty important too. Afghanistan tears them up something fierce. I have a pair somewhere in my army stuff that literaly had holes through the rubber after about 4 months there and ended up buying 2 pairs out of my own pocket to get through a 12 month deployment.

    Glad to see that questions are being asked and options are being put forward.

  • Lance

    I thought the army told him already they are upgradeing the M-4 with a piston and heavy barrel which sould help stop the few malfunctions that already occor. Not all SOCOM forces use M-4s but alot still do and some refuse to goto the FN POS that some general wants to impose on them.

  • Ken

    None of this is surprising.

  • elcajones

    It would be simple and, cheaper to issue our service men and women, AK’s there proven more robust, cheaper and, to include our military has written extensively on the AK-47. When I was overseas, my M4 failed on me often, till I taken a AK off a Sunni, after I demoralized him, it has served me well!

  • Lance

    Not going to happen The army will never adopt a AK type since its a Russian design. However the changes the Army will do to the M-4 will help stop the few jams the M-4 suffer from. Agree Steve??

  • Bill Lester

    I wouldn’t call 882 stoppages in 60k rounds* “a few.” Would [i]anyone[/i] here carry a pistol that jammed an average of 1 in 68 rounds? Would you even keep a recreational plinker that unreliable?

    *Referring to the 2007 Army dust test at Aberdeen.

  • Lance

    Yeah the M-4 didnt go therw a fixed dust test in 2007. But it has 90% troop aproval and is far better than the FN junk thats out there. The up grade with a piston will add to its high troop rateing.

  • elcajoneson

    More than likely tho the armory won’t upgrade the piston and, the barrel upgrades to infantry. They will only be upgraded to special operations personnel. So basicly either way all the service personnel will be f**ked, unless the service personnel will start getting smart and take the enemys weapon. for those whom object, and the other previous user whom said cause there russian, has no clue. most special operations personnel will use foreign and domestic firearms. he must be unaware, most of you all will differ with my mentality, most people here whom shun al’s prob shun other foreign weapons too.Those whom obsess on the m4’s and AR’s or most likely wanna be Special ops with the excessive accessories and, vertical hand grips. in my experience working overseas, I to used many weapons foreign and domestic.

  • Blackwater

    Just because the M4 has a high troop approval rating doesn’t mean it’s the best weapon for them. Despite common knowledge most soldiers aren’t weapons experts. They train on whatever they’re given and that’s all they really care about. And most become loyal to the weapon issued to them out of national pride.

  • ElCajoneson

    Blackwater you are correct, it is interesting tho Special Ops, including our contractors “psds” whom work overseas, train on various weapons. theres this notion when I worked overseas, soldiers where trained on one system they loved the m4 etc. If I was, a CO in the service I would inquire about it learning various weapons, or simply i would have my unit train with Gabe Suarez, jim fuller, and or with james yeager so they learn more tactics and weapons, from what they learned with there speciality in the armed forces. giving them a better advantage on the enemy

  • Bill Lester

    “And most become loyal to the weapon issued to them out of national pride.”

    There’s A LOT of truth in that brief statement.

    As for the troop rating survey and the oft touted ratio of overall satisfaction, the 19% of soldiers who reported stoppages in the M4 and M16 rarely gets mentioned among the Stoner cheering section.* Of that number, 18% of M4 users said their weapons were useless for most of or all of at least one firefight.** Finally, 28% of the survey’s respondents said that they experienced a failure to empty magazines without stoppage in up to 25% of their engagements.***

    Like so many surveys, the devil is in the details. Details like these are less than inspirational.

    *(Figure 4, Soldier’s Perspective on Small Arms in Combat)
    **(Figure 5, ibid)
    ***(Figure 6, ibid)

  • Lance

    Strange to see that some who hate the SToner system says that the Stoner system is junk for our solders. Most solders have gone threw classes on other weapons like the AK-47 and so on and many still lik ethe M-4. It seems every time theres a question about a american wapon the Euro gunlovers come out and say how american guns suck and we need to suck up to forigen compaies.

    Id take a M-4 over any FN piace of crap! H&K makes M-4s and so dose SIG so do they suck now too? The point is the Stoner system is going to stay for a while and sorry you euroguns are just the same pea shooters in 5.56mm. If we went to a new caliber then its logical to get a new gun.

  • ElCajoneson

    orginally, i have know assumption that i hate m4’s, ar’s and orginal m16a1 what i depise is people whom go over board with accessories, they mimic the SF look. to me i dont care if it is a m4, mini m14 or friggen m249 saw as long as it gets the job, done but when it fails you gotta take up something else especially shooting ropa cabesas ” afghanis or sunnis.” I observed a Law Enforcement swat guy whom depended to much on accessories, when his accessories failed with his 4moa red dot, he screamed like a two year old because his batteries went dead and, was to lazy to use the iron sights and depended to much on his vertical grip. this leads me to believe many depend to much on accessories, it looks pinchie joto. till then screw paeq’s, vertical handgrips maybe 4moa, use the 30 round magazine as a vertical grip, use the iron sights more, so people dont fall into the wanna be Sf complex

  • Bill Lester

    It’s a shame that some AR fan boys don’t realize just how low on the priorities list replacement of small arms really is in today’s “Big Army.” They confuse the fact that we still use M4’s, therefore making them the de facto “best” in the fan boys’ eyes, with the Pentagon not giving a crap about such things. The Army O-8’s and above are much more concerned with stuff like next generation AFV’s, ATACMS missiles and Excalibur arty rounds. They’re competing with the Navy, Marines and Air Force for scarce funds. New rifles aren’t even on the radar scope. On the rare occasion the upper echelons of Army bureaucracy are forced to compare the M4 to other designs, it comes out at the bottom of the test. Every time. But does the Pentagon seriously consider the winners? Nope. Because they have other issues they see as more important procurement priorities.

    Flag waving fervor also appears to cause some of this nearsightedness. Horror of horrors that U.S. infantryman should carry a rifle not invented here!* Sorry, I think it’s a lot more patriotic to equip our troops with the best weapons available, regardless of origin, than to issue American-designed carbines that regularly place behind several other furrin’ weapons.

    *I guess it doesn’t matter when it comes to pistols (M9), LMG’s (M249), GPMG’s (M240), mortars (M120 and M252) and anti-tank weapons (M136/AT4, FGM-172 and SMAW). All originated in Europe or Israel. What is so special about rifles compared to other infantry weapons?

  • BOCAT 9

    C’mon guys, this debate is getting old. Is the M4 the best weapon in the world? No. Is there some magic rifle out there so much better that it merits the expense of replacement? I seriously doubt it. Let’s face it: military small arms design plateaued years ago. Although one could rightly point out advantages inherent in certain design features of weapon A over weapon B, the fact is that all modern configurations are limited by the laws of physics. We have reached a state in engineering and material science where firearms are about as good as we can make them. If one wishes to make a rifle more robust, for example, one will pay a penalty in weight. If one wishes to make it more powerful, there will be a penalty in recoil and so on.
    Under the crucible of combat the debate becomes academic and may as well be “how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin?” Adherents to specific weapon systems tend to form their views based upon familiarity and personal experience. Talk to any WW II or Korea vet and odds are, they will espouse the superiority of the M1 Garand over any personal arm before or since. I grew up with the M16A2 and went to war primarily armed with the M4. I’ve also carried (to a lesser degree) AKs, M14s, M500 shotguns, and MP5s. I felt confident with all of them because I understood the salient advantages and limitations of each system and modified my employment of those systems accordingly. Iraqis often lamented that our superior technology gave us the advantage in battle, to which I would reply “OK, let’s trade. I guarantee that the result would be no different.” The difference is not that the M4 is inherently superior to the AK or the M240 to PKC (PKM) etc… it is that my soldiers maintained their equipment meticulously and were constantly drilled in its employment. Bottom line: training is key. Understand that NO weapon is 100% reliable and that NO bullet will stop your enemy every time.
    Furthermore, the assumption that weapons used for Special Operations Forces are somehow “better” by default is flawed. SOF weapons tend to be optimized or tailorable for specific mission requirements. A grunt in the line often has no idea what tasks he will be called upon to perform from day to day. He requires a weapon that possesses the flexibility to cope with this fact and as a consequence must accept that his rifle probably won’t excel in any particular task.
    So am I a huge fan of the M4? Not particularly. My biggest complaint is that proper maintenance is comparatively time consuming (a huge planning factor in priorities of work). But until someone comes along with something that is a revolutionary improvement in combat performance, I won’t lose any sleep at the prospect of again carrying it into battle.
    Oh, and for the love of God, guys, learn to spell!

  • Destroyer

    I disagree with the idea that small arms technology has plateaued. I also disagree that FN makes pieces of junk.

    Yes, the M4/M16’s direct impingement design is obsolete and has been since the 1950’s. Get over it AR15 fanboys! gas piston technology is, as of now, the most rugged and reliable means to operate assault rifles and is here to stay (unless somebody patents a laser gun). Yes, the europeans make fine weapons designs…most notably the Swiss SIG, Belgian FN Herstal, German H&K, and Swedish Bofors. Its a shame that fanboys immediately dismiss brilliant designs for what i can see as no reason (other than childish jingoism) and dismiss how the M4/M16 can be improved or (god forbid!) replaced.

    “Flag waving fervor also appears to cause some of this nearsightedness. Horror of horrors that U.S. infantryman should carry a rifle not invented here!* Sorry, I think it’s a lot more patriotic to equip our troops with the best weapons available, regardless of origin, than to issue American-designed carbines that regularly place behind several other furrin’ weapons.”
    *I guess it doesn’t matter when it comes to pistols (M9), LMG’s (M249), GPMG’s (M240), mortars (M120 and M252) and anti-tank weapons (M136/AT4, FGM-172 and SMAW). All originated in Europe or Israel. What is so special about rifles compared to other infantry weapons?

    Thank you Bill!!! I don’t care if US troops are equipped with the (OMFG!) AK47; as long as it enables them to come home in one piece and beat their enemies in close combat, god speed to whatever decision a patriot may make.

    In the army times, the brass said the XM8 wasn’t adopted because they wanted a domestic design and the XM8 design was drastically different than the original OICW (which was ((is)) inviable). In my opinion, that is a bunch of cronyism garbage and the troops should be equipped with the best weapon available. According to the dust-sand test, the XM8 outperformed the M4, HK 416, and FN SCAR. If Colt wants to keep their contracts so bad, then retrofit to produce a better rifle! (capitalism is a biznatch when you take cronyism and corruption out of the picture)

  • Bobby

    They should give LWRC a contract. :I

  • Casey

    Yes, LWRC and the 6.8…simply. I find it horribly ironic that even Stoner, himself, realized the short-comings of his original design. He created two piston driven replacements (AR-16 and AR-18), but by that time he was no longer with Armalite, who already had the contract for the m16. The Army aquisitions officers didn’t really care about what they were giving troops; only fulfilling contracts.