[Guest Post] Care And Feeding For your M4 / AR-15

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[ Guest post written by Charles222 ]

As most of this blog knows, I’m an 11-B/light infantryman in the United States Army. I’ve carried a number of M4s in the eight years I’ve been in the Army, and I guess this is my non-sarcastic attempt to share some of the things I’ve learned about them with the populace at large …

The authors M4 during his 1st deployment.

The first thing: the whole myth about “clean your M16/M4 twice a day or else” is just that, a myth. I think that came out of the massive issues the original M16s had due to the wrong propellant going into the M193 round; I’ve certainly never abided by that rule and can’t think of anyone else who does. On average I clean mine (when we’re overseas, anyway, and have them with us all the time) about once or twice a month. And that cleaning process is honestly pretty short and simple: First, I run a barrel snake down the barrel a few times until the bore is bright and shiny-this is the only part I ensure is shiny, because dirt in your barrel affects accuracy of any rifled weapon. Second, I scrub out the star chamber-this is easily the most time-consuming part of cleaning the M4 due to how small an area it is. But it’s very important not to let gunk cake up in there; I’ve never seen it happen, but I can imagine it getting nasty enough for the bolt to be unable to seat properly with a chambered round, and then, well, KABOOM. Third, I wipe off the interior receiver walls and run a q-tip around the trigger mechanism, and run a CLP rag over the bolt-lightly; it doesn’t need to be swimming in oil. Fourth, I clean off my optic’s lenses with some optic cleaners-I use the ones people use on their glasses; they make my ACOG just incredibly bright and clear, even more so than usual.

And that’s really about it, besides barber-brushing the exterior, which I only do because 1) it keeps people who outrank me off my back and 2) I like how it looks anyway. It’s not a necessary step to ensure proper function. The entire process takes between five and ten minutes, or out to twenty if I feel like I need to spend more time on it. And this process will make your M4 more than clean enough to function reliably.

The authors M4 during his 3rd deployment

And speaking of reliability-there’s been a lot made of the Battle Of Wanat and various M4s ceasing to function after firing thousands of rounds. While I was not a participant in that action, I can tell you that I’ve seen M4s fire thousands of rounds without breaks for cleaning and continue to function-mostly from younger soldiers who couldn’t shoot to save their lives out at the qualification range on Stewart. Granted, there were breaks between qualification rounds that allowed the weapon to cool down, but these weapons were not cleaned in any way and continued to function. Personally, I’ve only had one M4 that had significant issues; the guy who had it after me also experienced serious problems. We eventually figured out what had happened; the soldier who had had it before me had removed the trigger mechanism and messed around with it somehow, which led to the near-constant double and triple feeds myself and my buddy experienced with it. Don’t mess with the trigger unless you seriously know what you’re doing.

The only other time I’ve seen M4s have problems with functioning on a widespread basis was a trip to the range in Kuwait to adjust zeroes from US weather to Middle East weather-remember this if any of you ever go hunting or whatever overseas; the humidity level and so on will be different and this can affect your zero. Anyway, we were given ammunition of British manufacture that our M4s just did not like at all, due to the ammunition we were given not being made to NATO standard, if I remember correctly (this was about 5 years ago). The cases were thicker and this led to lots of failures to extract. I find this kind of hilarious because, well, what’s the point of ammunition standardization if a NATO member country is making ammunition that doesn’t match the specifications?

As for the M4’s lack of long-range effectiveness and hypothetical killing power vs. 7.62mm NATO-I’ve only got a few things to say about that. Afghanistan is a distinctly novel tactical situation; over half of the world’s population lives in urban settings where average ranges would be measured in feet, not yards, and that number is just going to keep going up. The battlefield that any US or anyone else’s service weapon is going to be employed in is going to be an urban one, not long-range duels in the desert. I think the longest shot I’ve ever seen taken in Iraq was about a hundred meters with a SAW. As for killing power-frankly, 7.62mm NATO is overrated. The 147-grain FMJ is a highly accurate and long-ranged round, but on my last deployment, I saw an Iraqi civilian take a round through the neck. The round missed major arteries and his spinal column, and simply entered & exited the neck without any sort of tissue damage whatsoever. In other words, 7.62mm NATO’s killing power is very highly overrated these days, and it functions by the same rules as 5.56mm does-unless you get it solidly in the center of mass or head, the odds of it killing whomever it hits is unlikely. Also, the range of this engagement was maybe 50 meters, so it’s not like the round was out of kinetic energy. I think the crux of the problem is the FMJ bullets that both 7.62 and 5.56 are saddled with, plus an over-obsession with accuracy vis-à-vis killing power. As an example-the early M-16s had incredibly loose rifling; Stoner suggested a 1 in 14 twist, and Colt ultimately went with between 1 in 16 and 1 in 18 twists. The combat reports with these early rifles have to be seen to be believed; one Marine Lieutenant in Vietnam went so far as to say ‘ Taking prisoners is highly difficult due to even minor wounds becoming fatal.’ This can be read about in the book ‘American Rifle’, an overview of the evolution of American rifles (surprise, right?) from the Revolutionary War to today. However, obviously, with such loose twists the M16 did not have much of any long-range accuracy, and ultimately the Army and Marines overreacted and went with the super-stabilizing 1 in 7 inch twist. While this makes for an extremely stable and accurate round that is quite good at penetrating armor, it robs the M16 of a lot of it’s killing power, which was derived from the round being unstable in flight. Rounds like the Mk 262 and M855A1 can help overcome this issue-at least, I know M 262 can; haven’t heard any combat reports with M855A1.

One big thing the M4 has going for it is ease of use. With more and more soldiers and marines lacking prior firearms experience due to the changing makeup of the military, this is a big deal. The M4 is very simple and easy to be effective with; when the most complicated aspect is remembering which direction your optic’s windage & elevation knobs should be turned in, this is decidedly beneficial when instructing new soldiers in it’s use, especially in wartime -on two of my four deployments, we received a large influx of brand-new private literally weeks before we were supposed to deploy, and the M4’s simplicity saved a LOT of time in getting them halfway skilled before deployment. We could spend an hour or two showing them around their rifles before concentrating on the really important things like battle drills and individual movement. The M4 is beautifully uncomplicated and user-friendly; it’s simple to strip and there’s no guesswork at putting it back together-unlike, say, my M1 Garand; the first time I stripped that it took me a good hour to put it back together even with the manual’s help.

Another key attribute is the M4’s compactness and light weight; in my four deployments, I’ve searched way more buildings and people than practically anything else, and having a weapon that I could just sling across my back while I was doing this made the task of tearing somebody’s house apart while looking for contraband somewhat easier-at least, as easy at it can be when you’re roaming around in 40-odd pounds of armor. You can have your weapon out of the way while still being fairly quickly accessible; to contrast that with the other Infantry team-level weapon, the SAW, which I typically wound up setting down on the floor to help search because it simply got in the way too much.

The authors equipment in Iraq

Something else important that people either seem to forget or deliberately ignore-the M4 does not function alone. It, along with every other weapon in the military, functions within a system. It fills the primary weapon slot which should cover the vast majority of engagement possibilities; given that things have not changed since the German studies in World War 2 which showed that the huge majority of engagements are at under 400 meters-and there’s a study that shows that the average combat range in Iraq today was under a hundred meters, and frequently at 20-30 meters-the M4’s perceived lack of range is not as much of a handicap as frequently believed, particularly when you consider the nature of warfare that Iraq (and most urban battlefields) presented. The vast majority of combat in Iraq featured vehicle-based patrolling; while this presents a level of vulnerability to IEDs and the like, the amount of supporting arms it makes available is quite nuts. On my first deployment to Iraq, we typically moved with three uparmored Humvees-two with M240s and one with a .50-cal. On my second trip here, before our mission shifted to long-range air assaults with no vehicles, we typically rolled with either four or five (and occasionally as many as six) uparmored Humvees, with usually 3 M240s and 2 .50 cals, and occasionally a truck with a long-barreled SAW on it. When considering the M4 in relation to the other weapons available to the patrol, it becomes pretty clear that engagement with M4s is going to be the least likely option, and that M4s are going to be getting used at extremely close ranges where their size and maneuverability are distinct assets. This is also becoming the case in Afghanistan, with the mass fielding of the Mk. 14 EBR to units there (the goal is six for every infantry platoon) along with the platoon’s integral M240Bs and eventually XM25s, and of course, the organic mortars every infantry company has. The M4 is supposed to be your close-in, majority-of-engagements weapon; the M-14s and M240s are your long-range firepower for the (rest-of-world, anyway) rarer occasions when long-range fighting occurs. The M4 is not a do-everything rifle, nor was it ever meant to be; that’s not how the Army works.

The author with his M4

You may get the impression that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the M4. That’s not quite correct; I do think there’s some ergonomic improvements to be made-in particular, the buttstock could be a whole lot less fragile. The buttstock is basically the same pattern that was introduced in the late 1960s with the XM-177E2, and there’s been seriously better collapsing stocks introduced since then. The rail system could also be improved; it was obviously designed as a drop-in piece to replace the old plastic handguards, and a one-piece along the lines of Daniel Defense’s RIS II would be an improvement. And honestly, that’s really about it, besides an ambidextrous magazine release.

I hope this piece has been informative for y’all.



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  • Cliff Elam

    That was very useful.

    Thank you for your service.

    -Cliff

  • Spade

    Just one minor thing. IIRC, the M16A1s had a 1:12 twist that was used to stabilize the original 55 grain M193 ball that was used at the time.

    When DOD decided to switch to the M855/SS109 it wasn’t about accuracy but long range penetration through body armor. Which the M855 does better mostly because the M855 has a steel penetrator. The M855 is heavier and longer and needed a faster twist rate because of that so the DOD went with 1:7 for M16A2 and after (my personal M4gery is a 1:9).

    The nasty wounds due the original M16 were probably due to the terminal performance of the 55 grain M193.

    That’s off the top of my head, so parts of that could be wrong.

  • Brian

    Great read, thanks for your service!

  • drewogatory

    Now this is a guest blog. Best piece I’ve read here in quite some time. Excellent work.

  • Tyson Chandler

    Great post…thanks for the first hand knowledge and using it to dispel many myths surrounding the M4. Your perspective is worth more than a million gun magazine articles and discussion forum postings from so called “experts”. Thanks also for your service to our country. God bless and stay safe.

  • drewogatory

    As a lefty myself, I find the Buffer Tech Norgon Ambi-catch to be the best solution I’ve found for a low profile release with a standard lower, although I haven’t tried the Troy. I actually like the Power Custom as well but it’s strictly for competition, the large paddles have no fence of any kind.

  • crisara722

    interesting, well it good to hear that form a real solider and not some internet commnado, i honestly though the M4 was doing horrible in the field, i used to believe all the mainstreem information about this carabine, but your post was very instructive now i have a diferent point of view about this particular weapon

  • charles222

    Spade: The terminal performance of M193 came from it’s inherent instability, which the 1:14 (American Rifle: An Autobiography) twist Stoner intended was designed to cause and the 1:16 to 1:18 twist Colt built the actual production weapons with exacerbated.

    Thankyou for the positive feedback everyone. :)

  • Lance

    Good Blog I think some common sense from you in this blog can show light that every weapon isn’t perfect but operated right can be a great weapon. I should point point it was a M-4 or CM 901 that killed Osama Bin Ladin or Osama bin Wasted? :)

  • Erwos

    The point about the vast majority of firefights being at under 100m (and often at 20-30m) is something that some Internet commandos need to sit down and really contemplate.

  • Stella

    Perhaps the very newly adopted bullet designs have been successful, but 5.56 incarnations seem to offer barrier performance or terminal lethality, rarely both. Some level of “barrier blindness” is extremely desirable as a military round should be expected to defeat common urban obstacles (like auto glass) and still perform on soft targets behind.

    Assuming one could pick from any bullet design or intermediate cartridge, I doubt anyone here would in honesty select M193, M855 or Mk. 262 for this purpose, nor be unwilling to admit that with the vogue of ever truncating barrels that relying on an utterly velocity dependent round is unwise (or at the very least inflexible).

  • Spade

    Charles,

    Pretty much all the M16s used by the military in Vietnam were 1:12. 1:14 got canned pretty quick due to round instability in cold weather and only the USAF ever got those.

    Best terminal performance from the M193 comes from the fragmentation of the round, and that’s velocity driven.

    http://ammo.ar15.com/ammo/

    You don’t want “inherent instability”. There’s no point to it.

  • crisara722

    confirmed i just spoke with a colombian anti-drug police commando know as “jungla” he has been using the m4a1 since 2006, 3 diferent rifles, and he havent had a single malfunction with them, even when he recognize that its not as relaible as a GALIL SAR he likes its ligth weigth, exelent ergonomics and good accuracy “i can shot anything from 50 cm to 300mts with this carabine and it takes less than 4 seconds, if i miss, well i just shot again, if the target still firng at me, well i just shot as many times as its needed, thanks to the unexistant recoild ands the holograpic (the way they call EOtech sigths its like shoting a .22″…and guess what, his mayor complain “the stock looks like some sort of toy, it feels fragile iv seen some of them breaking apart disabling the hole weapon, i would preffer a solid steel stock or something”

    1 day 2 positive commentaries about the m4, whats a coincidence…

  • RollTide

    Very good post. I am happy to hear my taxes are paying for the best equipment available for the best soldiers. I have seen tons of m16/m4’s in civilian use and never seen a failure not caused by human error. Thanks for your service and the post!
    I would like to hear your thoughts on the 1911 vs the beretta…. Maybe another day!

  • vereceleritas

    I’ve never been to Iraq but I’m in actually in Afghanistan right now and unless you’re clearing buildings, most firefights here are 300M and beyond. Most of Helmand province is flat open desert so if the enemy is engaging you from 100M or less, somebody royally f**ked up. Even when insurgents set up ambushes, they like to keep you at a distance because they know they can’t beat us in a straight fight. I guess it all depends on your AO but its not uncommon here for patrols to take accurate PKM and SVD fire from 600-800m away. As far as problems with the M4, I agree with the author. The problems with it are overblown in my experience and a lot of the ergo issues are personal preference. I would prefer a longer foreend rail, better stock, and ambi controls but some guys like it just the way it is.

  • Lennie

    WOW! That was really interesting. Hey, I like this guest post thing. Thanks for it and your service.

  • foxtrot

    Thank you for your service. Excellent post. It’s good to hear all the positives about the m4 from a professional soldier. Stay safe, keep up the good work! God bless our troops!

  • Peter Ek

    Excellent blog post! Thank you, just regarding the difference between UK and US rounds, this is covered here (and is factual as far as I know);

    http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?186129-Difference-between-UK-vs-US-5.56-rounds

    SUBJ/NAVY AND MARINE CORPS AMMO INFO NOTICE 041-05. IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE RELEASE OF UK (UNITED KINGDOM) 5.56MM, AMMUNITION FOR TRAINING AND COMBAT, STORAGE AND SHIPMENT TO EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST// REF/A/DOC/NAVSUP P-801/01APR2005// AMPN/TW024-AA-ORD-010 1 APRIL 2005// POC/xxxx xxxxx/GS-11/-/TELSN 430-xxxx/TEL:717 605-xxxx /TEL:FAX 430- Xxxx/EMAIL:[email protected]//

    RMKS/LAST AIN XMITTED 121940ZMAY05

    PAGE 02 RULSAMB1850 UNCLAS

    REQUEST FOLLOWING INFORMATION BE GIVEN THE WIDEST DISSEMINATION. TO MEET A CRITICAL SHORTAGE OF 5.56MM AMMUNITION, THE ARMY HAS PURCHASED UNITED KINGDOM 5.56MM AMMUNITION, THAT WERE ALL PRODUCED BETWEEN 1997-2001 AND ARE THE UK’S NATO STANDARDIZED 5.56MM AMMUNTION. THERE ARE THREE UK CONFIGURATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED AS INTERCHANGEABLE WITH THREE US CONFIGURATIONS. THE CONFIGURATIONS ARE SUMMARIZED BELOW:

    UK- CTG. 5.56MM BALL, L2A2,
    CARTON PACK – NSN 1305-99-978-3163 AZ42

    UK- CTG. 5.56MM BALL, L2A2,
    BANDOLEER – NSN 1305-99-978-3427 AZ40

    UK- CTG. 5.56MM CLIPPED, 4 BALL/1 TRACER L2A2/L1A2,
    BANDOLEER – NSN 1305-99-978-3426 AZ41

    THE RECIPIENTS WILL PRIORITIZE THESE MUNITIONS TO BE ISSUED / USED FIRST. EACH OF THE THREE UK 5.56MM CONFIGURATIONS WAS COMPARED AGAINST THE CORRESPONDING US 5.56MM CONFIGURATION FOR PERFORMANCE, SAFETY, AND RELIABILITY BY THE SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS AT ARDEC TO ASSURE INTERCHANGEABILITY. BASED ON THIS REVIEW IT WAS DETERMINED THAT ALL THE REQUIREMENTS, STATED BY THE UK AND NATO SPECS, WERE MET AND THAT THE ONLY CRITICAL ISSUE IDENTIFIED WAS A UK FINDING THAT STATED A PROBLEM WITH FAILURE TO CYCLE MALFUNCTIONS EXPERIENCED WITH CARBINE, 5.56MM, M4 (1005-01-231-0973) RIFLES DUE TO DIFFERENCE IN RIFLE DESIGN BETWEEN THE M16A2 5.56MM RIFLE AND M4 5.56MM CARBINE. UK AMMUNITION SHALL NOT BE USED IN THE M4. THIS AMMUNITION WAS RELEASED FOR FULL USE IN THE M16A2 RIFLE AND M249 SQUAD AUTOMATIC WEAPON (SAW) AND IS ACCEPTABLE FOR USE IN WEAPON ZEROING AND QUALIFICATION FOR THE M16A2 AND THE M249. THE UK 5.56MM AMMUNITION IS A BALLISTIC MATCH FOR THE 5.56MM: M855, BALL ROUND (THE UK AMMUNITION DOES NOT HAVE A GREEN TIP, BUT IT SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH THE M193, 5.56MM BALL ROUND). ONCE REMOVED FROM THE PACKAGING THE UK 5.56MM AMMUNITION IS DISTINGUISHABLE FROM U.S. MADE 5.56MM AMMUNITION BY THE HEAD STAMP, WHICH INCLUDES BOTH THE NOMENCLATURE L1A2 FOR THE TRACER CARTRIDGE AND L2A2 FOR THE BALL CARTRIDGE, THE LETTERS RG, DENOTING THE MANUFACTURER, AND A RED PROJECTILE TIP ON THE TRACER CARTRIDGE. THIS AMMUNITION WILL COME PACKAGED IN THE U.K. STANDARD PACKAGE (METAL CAN), WHICH IS SIMILAR TO THE U.S. STANDARD AMMUNITION PACK FOR 5.56MM AMMUNITION. IT WILL BE MARKED WITH THE UK STANDARD MARKINGS AND NOMENCLATURE, INCLUDING THE NATO STANDARDIZATION SYMBOL “CLOVER LEAF.� THE US ASSETS WILL BE TRACKED BY THE UK NSNS AND THE NSNS WILL BE TRACKED BY THE ASSIGNED PSEUDO U.S. DODACS.

    FIRING UK AMMUNITION WILL INCREASE THE FREQUENCY OF WEAPON CLEANING REQUIRED. ANY MALFUNCTION/PROBLEMS EXPERIENCED WITH THIS AMMUNITION SHOULD BE REPORTED THROUGH NORMAL AMMUNITION REPORTING CHANNELS.//

  • http://www.thegunzone.com/556dw.html Daniel E. Watters

    charles222: The official twist rate for the M16 was changed from 1 in 14″ to 1 in 12″ in 1963, before production of the US Army’s XM16E1 even began. USAF M16 that had already been issued were rebarreled. Alex Rose’s comment about twist rates in “American Rifle” refers more to the AR-15 delivered to ARPA’s Project AGILE for field trials by ARVN troops. The variation in twist rates was used to explain the dramatic wounds claimed by Project AGILE staff. The basis for Rose’s claim is derived from a footnote in McNaugher’s “The M16 Controversies”.

    “One interviewee exceptionally knowledgeable of the M16’s history has suggested that at this early stage of production Colt’s ability to meet barrel twist specifications may have been poor, and the weapons sent to Vietnam may have had twist rates falling even lower than the 1 turn in 14 that Eugene Stoner had engineered into the weapon.” (p108)

    Note that McNaugher’s source submitted it as a possibility, not a definitive claim as Rose represented it.

    Readers of Ezell and Steven’s “The Black Rifle” may remember that a large number of the original Colt AR-15 barrels were subcontracted from Winchester. In the mean time, Robert Roy supervised installation of Colt’s new button rifling equipment. With button rifling, the nominal twist rate is effectively determined by the machining of the carbide button. The button is then either pushed or pulled through the drilled barrel stock, engraving the rifling grooves.

    In 1968, the authors of the Aberdeen Research & Development Center’s Technical Report #1 “M16 Rifle System Reliability and Quality Assurance Evaluation” commented:

    “Examination of the operations of twist of rifling indicated several matters which could be pertinent. The method of cutting the twist of rifling is such that one could expect a non-uniform twist. Further, the method of gaging is questionable in assuring that the requirements for twist are met. The cutting is done with a “button” tool where the cutting edges are at an angle. A power rod is used to push the button through the barrel and cause the twist to be inscribed. This method would appear to be subject to non-uniform cutting due to bore diameter and metal variations and due to the non-uniform linear movement of the ram, particularly near the ends of the barrel. In the gaging operation the twist of only 12 inches of the barrel (in 20 inches of the barrel) is examined and the measurement made only establishes whether, over the total of 12 inches, the twist is one, but this does not assure either a uniform twist throughout the barrel or the rate of twist near the muzzle of the barrel.” (p361)

    So the folks running Colt’s rifling machines really didn’t have a choice in barrel twist rates, but it is possible that the rate may have varied due to mechanical vagaries. However, variations in twist rate may not explain the Project AGILE wound claims. In his book “The Gun”, C.J. Chivers suggests that many claims of Project AGILE report on the AR-15 were fraudulent.

    Also, the claim that Stoner chose the 1 in 14″ twist for its wounding properties is likely revisionist fiction. The same twist rate was already factory standard for the .223 Remington’s parent, the .222 Remington, as well as the .220 Swift.

  • Martin (M)

    Great post from someone who really understands his weapon.

    Funny thing about the M4s failing at Wanat is illustrated by your description of all the support weapons that accompany the riflemen in Iraq. Support weapons were glaringly absent at Wanat. The two mortars had to be abandoned because of incomplete earthworks. The TOW was destroyed straight away. And finally, the M2 was put out of action by having the top cover holed by enemy fire while reloading. That left a couple of SAWs and M4s, which suffered from the high rates of fire. A couple of MGMs would have made all the difference.

    In most cases, there’s nothing wrong with the AR platform.

    In Afghanistan, I do agree that there is a need for 7.62 because of the ranges and actual conditions involved. The fact that these weapons are available, in AR form no less, and haven’t been employed by the US military leaves me gob-smacked.

  • charles222

    Yeah, we had lots of failures to cycle; our platoon sergeant at the time went apeshit and had me (I was the platoon armorer then) fill out a 5988 form for every last weapon in the platoon. We avoided that ammo like the plague after that.

    I don’t get what the issue really was, though; 5.56mm NATO should be…well…standardized right? lol.

  • Lance

    I agree once I shot some British ammo I bought in my A2 and it didnt funtion too well. Its a same Radway Green made very good 7.62mm NATO ammo in the past. I guess the L-85 like crappy 5,56mm amoo to feed right.

  • subase

    Well I would just like to add that the stopping power of military ammo is largely dependent on it fragmenting in the body. For that to happen the bullet needs a certain amount of tissue density to fragment. The neck obviously didn’t offer this level of tissue density so the bullet didn’t fragment and just went straight through. In the case of our malnourished enemies, they are so skinny that that the tissue density was missing there too, and the same thing happened. That’s where the complaints for the 5.56’s stopping power lies. The military has recently attempted to rectifiy this with it’s new socom bullet.

    The M4’s fragility is it’s main deficiency. For civilians using you weapon as a blunt weapon in hand to hand is a real possibility and that’s what turns me off the M4. Too much aluminum and polymer in the wrong places.

  • Brandon

    Very thorough report of your thoughts sir. I will have to take an opposite stance on your point of not needing to clean m4’s frequently. I have personally fired 60 shots (20 on 3 seperate occasions) and not cleaned mine for a month and the carbon build up around the gas rings was atrocious.

    Thanks to direct impingement, these gun operate filthier than just about any weapon I’ve ever used. To me, cleaning immediately after every use it a necessity. Its not like a piston system that will sort of work out the carbon and keep functioning. When I clean mine, I break it down all the way to removing the extractor because powder fouling gets literally everywhere. I’m just not so sure its wise to recommend such infrequent cleaning on this rifle.

  • Ted N(not the Nuge)

    Great post, the only thing I’d add to the list of improvements is an ambi-safety for us poor lefties.

  • Destroyer

    First of all, i respectfully disagree with the author’s mentality about care and feeding of the M4. This frame of mind was developed in the military and has infected the Army on a massive scale. It is no surprise that weapons are not as effective as they should potentially be and that personnel are not as proficient as they should be.

    first things first. The M4 requires more care than once a month. The idea of somebody operating in the middle east caring for their primary weapon once a month is absolutely asinine to me. Would you bet your life on once a month weapons maintenance? the M4 needs to be dusted off and lightly lubricated. Proper lubrication should be done only with a couple of drops of miltech (i abstain from using CLP) on the bolt carrier and bolt. anything more will attract more dirt then dry, creating a glue-like residue. The optics need to be wiped off at least three times a week and cared for and the barrel cleaned as well (with a bore snake).

    2nd thing. Failures of the M4 are mostly caused by magazines and improper maintenance. The magazines (green follower) have a tendency to bind the rounds, causing failure to feeds or double feeds. they are also poorly constructed, leading to swelling and failure of the feed lips. An easy substitution for the GI spec magazine is the Magpul Pmags (for the money, they are the best). They feed reliably, are more rugged than aluminum magazines, and are inexpensive compared to metallic magazines. Improper maintenance of the M4 is mostly caused by over lubrication. Soldiers dumping copious amounts of lubrication on the bolt and inside of the weapon only attracts the same amount of dirt. Familiarization with the weapons system is key to overcoming any malfunctions that occur.

    3rd thing. the 7.62mm’s killing power is not overrated. it is proven. To no surprise to anyone, they are longer ranged than 5.56mm rounds and M14’s are being pressed back into service as designated marksman rifles. I don’t think i need to get into the discussion of 7.62 vs 5.56mm because everybody knows the difference between the two rounds. The 7.62mm NATO creates massive hydrostatic shock because of the lower velocity of the bullet itself and the size of its projectile when compared to the 5.56mm. Even a hit in the lower limb or soft tissue in the center of mass is sufficient to stop a target. The 5.56 can achieve this with one bullet once in a blue moon.

    In the M4’s defense, it is a simple, lightweight, reliable (when taken care of PROPERLY), and modular weapon system that is highly ideal for a mechanized, 21st century military force. Most engagement ranges are up close to about 100 meters, making the M4 a perfect rifle for the modern urban battlefield. The M855 green tip round is less than ideal, though this is being remedied with the M855A1. From my experience, the 77 grain Mk 262 Mod 0 round is an impressive one. It creates more hydrostatic shock than a green tip and is highly effective at dropping man-sized targets, even with one bullet. They consistently expand more and fragment than the green tip, making them excellent anti-personnel rounds. Consider also the Mk 262 mod 0 is a match round, making it extremely effective and reliable when fired from a M4.

    A M4 loaded with a lot of Mk 262 rounds in polymer magazines would be taken to any god forsaken piece of dirt by me.

    I believe that the M4 can be improved upon significantly, such as making it more user friendly (ambidextrous), rugged, and reliable (with a gas piston system). I am strongly opposed to the opinion that gas pistons are misapplied to the M4/M16 platform. if a key technology makes a weapon more reliable and effective, than it should be taken into consideration.

  • andrew

    Destroyer, there is a lot of misinformation in what you have posted. I have treated both 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 wounds, and 7.62×51 ball is not very impressive. I have also yet to see this mythical “hydrostatic shock” that you keep going on about. I have also yet to see the mythical “Hit ‘em anywhere with caliber X and they go down right away” that you also seem obsessed with.

    Militec is another thing, it does not work in all environments, and the manufacturer is too busy playing the PR game to improve their product…

    Either you are a boot, or you have not been in the military. There’s just too much internet rumor and superstition in your post for you to have a substantial amount of real world experience.

  • charles222

    Subase: Ask somebody to allow you to muzzle-thump them with an AR. I’ve had this done to me in training with armor on and it hurts. It also did not damage the M4 in any way, shape or form.

    Also-I should have made my stance on cleaning a bit more clear, I suppose; yes of course clean after it’s been fired. But two times daily when you haven’t fired in months is ridiculous and unnecessary; I suppose that was my main point there. I’ve stuck to twice a month through four deployments now and I’ve never had a weapon misfire besides on my first, which was traced to a prior user attempting to modify the trigger mechanism on his own.

  • Lance

    Ive carried a A2 and shot it over a few hundred rounds and then didnt clean it for a month it worked just fine. Id take my advice and data from the men I know who are in the service in the feild in combat.

  • subase

    The muzzle thumping is fine but there’s also the stock thumping, magazine thumping and using the midsection of the rifle thumping. Steel rifles and fixed stocks or strong folding stocks can do that all day. Granted it’s a moot issue in the military nowadays with transitioning to your secondary (pistol). But I think in the civilian world it’s something important to keep in mind considering the average distances of violent encounters. Incidentally HK416’s other big selling point apart from it’s reliability in dirt is it’s increased ruggedness and strength.

  • charles222

    Most soldiers are not issued pistols; not in the US Army, anyway. A more rugged stock is on the M4 PIP to-do list anyway, although I’d go with a muzzle thump over a buttstroke any day of the week simply because a muzzle thump to the face or sternum is much more likely to be lethal-AWG gave my platoon a bit of instruction on muzzle thumping and they stated that unless we wanted to kill the person in question, muzzle thumping in the face is not as good an option as squarely in the chest-which hurts like hell WITH plates in, let alone with just clothes on. Not to mention that a muzzle thump is probably the easiest movement with gear on-it’s all linear, while a good buttstroke requires some amount of rotation. Also much quicker.

    As for trying to hit someone with your magazine…lol no.

  • cc19

    Thanks for adding yet another thorough, first-hand, detailed article on the AR system. All the naysayers of the platform have yet to provide anything of equal value in their argument outside of useless anecdotes.

  • charles222

    Thankyou cc19. :)

  • Destroyer

    “Destroyer, there is a lot of misinformation in what you have posted. I have treated both 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 wounds, and 7.62×51 ball is not very impressive.”

    well have you actually compared a 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO round side to side? or the kinetic energy difference created between the two rounds? I call BS on your “treated 7.62mm rounds” contention since units around the world recognize the difference between 30 cal and 22 cal cartridges when used against human targets. deficiencies were noted in vietnam, the wars in iraq/afghanistan, and by elite russian units in chechnya (who favor 7.62 AKs over the 5.45mm standardized ones due to over-penetration issues with the latter). In afghanistan, 7.62mm weapons are popular due to their longer effective ranges. Ask any combat soldier about the effectiveness of the 7.62mm NATO round. is it perfect? not by a long shot. In defense of the 5.56mm round, it is effective against human targets with the right cartridge. The mk 262 round makes the 5.56mm rifle highly effective.

    Misinformation? Please prove to me otherwise. Pointing and yelling “disinformation” without anything to back yourself actually does nothing to drive your point home.

    “I have also yet to see this mythical “hydrostatic shock” that you keep going on about. I have also yet to see the mythical “Hit ‘em anywhere with caliber X and they go down right away” that you also seem obsessed with.”

    hmmmm. well, shoot any deer or other game with a 223 and a 7.62 (308) and compare the damage done to the insides. The two cartridges are significantly different in their kinetic energies, ballistic properties, and even size. “mythical hydrostatic shock? are you kidding me? perhaps you have hydrostatic shock and “stopping power” terms mixed up.

    There is no Hit ‘em anywhere with caliber x and they go down right away even mentioned anywhere in my post. I don’t know where you saw that from (I am enlightened for you to show me), but there are plenty cases from the recent wars what 7.62mm NATO does to the human body. Sparing the gruesome details, the 7.62mm is well-known to do its fair share of damage, far more than a M855 5.56mm round.

    “Militec is another thing, it does not work in all environments, and the manufacturer is too busy playing the PR game to improve their product…”

    And never did I say militec is the end all product in gun lubrication. It is a significantly better alternative than CLP and any grunt would agree with me on that. There are entire online arguments dedicated to the best lube, so ill spare everybody’s time, but anybody with any field experience knows how much CLP is hated.

    “Either you are a boot, or you have not been in the military. There’s just too much internet rumor and superstition in your post for you to have a substantial amount of real world experience.”

    I am not here online on this blog to discuss my military past. There are other places for that and if you want to discuss that, then go elsewhere. Ironic that you bring up internet superstition and rumor, all of the skeptics of hydrostatic shock obtain their information from the internet. As far as your ‘treating 7.62 and 5.56mm wounds”, im not even going to get into that. enough said.

  • andrew

    Destroyer, I am an FMF Corpsman and I spent a year in Anbar province during a very violent period. My statements are based on that experience.

  • Lance

    Only a handful of special Russian Resere troops have AKMs any more all Spetznaz fores have AK-74 or Ak-105 in 5.45mm 7.62×39 is almost fased out of ex Soviet member countries service. AK-74 is standerd in that part of the world.

  • Destroyer

    like i said before, im not getting into the “well i was here during this time and did this…” argument.

    The fact is that the 7.62 NATO has a higher kinetic energy than the 5.56mm. Everybody knows that. I have not seen nor heard of any complaints about the 7.62 NATO round’s ability to incapacitate or kill human targets, though the same cannot said about the 5.56mm round (which is limited, in my opinion, by the capabilities of the standard M855 green tip rather than the caliber itself; the Mk 262 rounds are highly desired because of their accuracy and displacement of kinetic energy).

    On the note of the Spetsnaz; they use a wide variety of small arms and the scale of preferable ones cannot be measured by westerners due to the lack of information coming from the Russian side. I even recall pictures of Spetsnaz using AKMS rifles during the Beslan school siege. AKMs are still favored by these units in Chechnya because of the capabilities of the 7.62x39mm round in close combat. Of course the 5.45mm round is used also because it has been standardized since the 1970’s. What is interesting is the “special purpose” subsonic cartridges based off of the 7.62 casing…

  • andrew

    You are welcome to believe what you wish. The underwhelming performance of 7.62 ball ammo remains what it is. Feel free to continue bloviating about what you learned on the internet.

  • Lance

    Most Russian units dont have AKMs sorry a few do but most of those are Tanker units and or reserve units most use AK-74s and 5.45 is a good cartage the Afghan Muslims feared Russian units armed with AK-74s than they did with units armed with the same AKM they used.

  • Destroyer

    your comments are inaccurate lance. first of all, Russian tanker units (or other units that are confined to vehicles, such as truck drivers or helicopter pilots) are typically armed with the U variant of the AK74 because it is shorter. here is a interesting article and one of many documents about what was carried by Soviet troops in afghanistan http://www.dragunov.net/interview.html

    second, the mujahideen didn’t fear the 5.45mm “poison bullet” enough because they knew the range of that round was typically 300 meters, so they took longer range shots with Enfield rifles or heavy machine guns (similar to what the taliban are doing to US forces in Afghanistan). They are also closing in at close enough ranges to deny airstrike or artillery advantages to infantry units (again…similar to what the taliban are doing to US forces). The 5.45 has a higher tendency to fragment/tumble than the 5.56 and certainly more than the M855 green tip, though existing problems with “stopping” human targets arose.

    but please believe what you want. There are plenty of documentaries about the 5.45mm and 5.56mm round in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and other conflicts if you want to educate yourself.

  • Chase

    Thank you so much for your service, and thank you for this weblog post. You’ve showed us all a little of what I and many other civvies wonder about all the time, namely, what it’s REALLY like to use our nation’s basic weapon in combat.

  • charles222

    Thanks for the kind words, Chase.