The New Zealand Herald has reported that the 9,040 LMT 5.56x45mm MARS-L rifles purchased by the New Zealand Defense Force have suffered critical parts breakage in certain components of the rifles, specifically the firing pins, bolt carriers and inside the trigger mechanism (the specific part is not mentioned in the article). According to the article, issues came about with a number of rifles that were seeing constant use in training. After an initial assessment and following warranty agreements, LMT has replaced the parts in question on every rifle that was bought by the NZDF in addition to updating the inspection protocols under which the rifles have been adopted.
LMT possibly scored the rifle deal of the last decade, being the comparatively small specialized rifle company that beat out the likes of hardened and much larger competitors such as Beretta, CZ, FN Herstal, Steyr, SIG Sauer USA, and Heckler & Koch. More importantly than that, the company’s rifle being adopted as the national service rifle of a country’s armed services is no small accomplishment either.
The MARS-L started seeing field use earlier this year in both 16-inch and 18-inch variants being bought. Currently, it is issued to NZDF soldiers downrange in Iraq, supporting the fight against the Islamic State. LMT’s selection for the rifle trials was in August of 2015, and it was revealed that the MARS-L had been selected later that month. Initially, the order appeared to be for 8,800 rifles, but this looks to have been upgraded to 9,040 rifles.
Editor Note 9/27/2018: LMT reached out to us after this posted and wanted to provide some clarifying information:
LMT Defense Responds to The Firearm Blog Post
Milan, Illinois – September 27, 2018 – In 2015 Lewis Machine and Tool, LMT, was awarded the New Zealand Defence Force, NZDF, contract for the MARS-L rifle. This included the LMT monolithic rail platform rifle in 5.56 with the all new ambidextrous features. While this was the official release the Modular Ambidextrous Rifle System, the rifle had long been in the works and was in fact in final testing review stages. This rifle passed all testing to Mil-Spec standards, LMT standards and ultimately to NZDF standards. The rifle was thoroughly tested by a team of NZDF staff at LMT facilities and tested again in New Zealand.
We have long strived to provide the best customer service in the small arms industry. To this end we have provided NZDF with a warranty commensurate with international standards. However, we would like to clarify some misperceptions that may have been reported in the press. We recently did in fact replace all the firing pins in the NZDF MARS-L rifles that have been delivered. Although these rifles were under warranty, we would have replaced the firing pins regardless, out of an abundance of caution. A handful of firing pins [less than one tenth of one percent] were reported to break or have higher than expected wear after a high round count. We did a thorough analysis of the situation and determined that some firing pins were not tempered correctly by our heat treater. We therefore decided that in order to ensure all rifles had the highest quality firing pin we replaced them all. While replacing these firing pins it was determined there was a small quantity of selector switches and carriers [also less than one tenth of one percent] that showed some premature wear. These have been replaced to provide excellent customer service. We feel this is representative of the value we place on the partnership we have with NZDF.
We believe in exceeding our customer’s expectations and often exceed requirements of our warranty. Just meeting a warranty statement is not how we treat valued customers. We are proud of the product we have provided the NZDF and will stand by our product and be partners with them for the entire life cycle of the MARS-L. The feedback we have gotten from NZDF leadership and soldiers has been very positive and we will continue to provide the same level of responsiveness and customer service to keep it that way.
We uphold the highest level of customer service throughout the entire industry. We expect the best from our products and we know our customers do as well.