Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coming Back Around...

The failures of the M4 in a desert environment has been s theme that comes around and around. This time, it seems to be coming around with a vengeance. From Breitbart this AM:
Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?

Despite the military's insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times.
[...]
Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren't new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.

The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a leading critic of the M4, said Thursday the Army needs to move quickly to acquire a combat rifle suited for the extreme conditions U.S. troops are fighting in.

U.S. special operations forces, with their own acquisition budget and the latitude to buy gear the other military branches can't, already are replacing their M4s with a new rifle.
There are rifle tests going on right now, my little cherubs and seraphim tell me, and I've heard of a bunch of high end troops training with SCARs.

UPDATE

The Firearms Blog is talking about Remington's upcoming new product announcements this week, which may include a civilian version of the ACR:
Don't quote this as fact, but I think there is a good chance we will finally see the launch of the civilian Remington / Bushmaster / Magpul ACR at this seminar.

Why do I think this?

Firstly, Remington unveils their exciting new products at this event. In October 2007 we saw the launch of the Remington R-15. October last year was when the .30 Remington AR cartridge was launched.

Secondly, a few months ago Magpul said we would see the rifle unveiled late this year.

And my final reason for thinking it will be unveiled this week is that a semi-automatic version of the ACR is already in the hands of a civilian. At the recent AAC Silencer Shoot, AAC (now owned by Remington) auctioned off an ACR. The proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project.

23 comments:

nj_larry said...

Reading the entire AP story sends chills up my spine. This analysis is based on the recent fire fight that took place in Afghanistan. Not only did the M4 fail but the M249 crapped out after 600 rounds. It surely indicts the AR addicts argument of it being the be all end all.

Required reading is the Arthur Miller play "All My Sons".

Gullyborg said...

My thought is always "follow the money."

Real troops using the M-16 and M-4 in real battle conditions have been calling it a poor weapon since the early days of the Vietnam War. Yet, despite over 40 years of bad press and plenty of other quality battle rifles to choose from, the military is STILL using the same flawed AR design.

WHY?

Who is making money off this? And I don't just mean companies like Colt. I mean, who in the Pentagon, who in the Capitol, etc.?

Seriously!

In the interests of full disclosure, I have owned two Colt AR rifles. They were fine... from the firing line. I never took them into combat. Maybe they would have worked well. Maybe they would have been problem rifles. I'll never know. But if I had to bet my life on the reliability of my service rifle, I wouldn't choose to go into a hot zone with either one of them.

clark said...

Too busy fighting the next war to fight the last one - a SAW when the fixed position need is water cooled machine guns, and a few 60 mm and up tubes. Don't hang the troops out piecemeal in the back of beyond without artillery and heavy weapon support to include AC130. The article says nothing useful about the choice of individual weapon for maneuver.

Anonymous said...

From the comments in the article:
"the barrel turned white hot"
"12 magazines in half an hour"
These guys were firing sustained fire which no "assault Rifle" is designed for. The problem of jamming comes from overheated weapons because the Army troops resorted to spray and pray.
The cause of the problem is a lack of fire discipline among the troops. Not a problem with the weapon.
During 3 years in the Marines and 3 years as a unit armorer in the National Guard I saw 1 case of a bent sight post, and 1 M 60 that got run over by a truck, every other problem I saw or experienced was due to the nut behind the trigger.
Tom Bogan

Anonymous said...

I too think teaching the Army to shoot would probably fix this problem.
The Army has been training it's troops to find and fix the enemy and then call in Arty or Air suppt.
This is what happens when you train one way and the Politicians pull the rug and say no Arty etc.
The Marines may have their faults but this kind of thing isn't one of them.
Heck I was RAF and if i'd fired 360 rounds my CO would want to see the bodies stacked like cord wood.

Dave S. said...

"But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic"

I thought the M-4/M-16A2 were semi and three-round burst only?

I have no idea, after years of conflicting reports, whether the M-16 is a good combat rifle or not. My utterly inexpert opinion is that the M-16 is the best police rifle, and the AK is the best combat rifle.

Dave S. said...

From the article:

"Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller"

"Fuller said he's received no official reports of flawed weapons performance at Wanat. "Until it showed up in the news, I was surprised to hear about all this," he said."

"The study by Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., hasn't been publicly released. Copies of the study have been leaked to news organizations and are circulating on the Internet."

It's grain-of-salt and wait-and-see time.

Anonymous said...

Tom Bogan "During 3 years in the Marines and 3 years as a unit armorer in the National Guard"

I honor your service but I would like to hear from the armorers in Afghanistan today. The last 8 years has been a unique experience on very challenging terrain.

Clark Kent said...

A lot of tires to kick on this one, it would seem.

First, is the reporting reliable, and what, if any hidden agendas might be behind some of the reporter's sources.

Bottom line for me, tho, is that this puts more high visibility pressure on our commander in chief to put down the basketball and make a damned decision!

George said...

I was at a shooting school this past week and roomed with a SEAL.

He told me the Navy was issuing the SCAR to the teams to be used in the field next month.....They want to put it through its paces and see how it goes from there......

Anonymous said...

I have never been in a military combat setting so my comments come from behind a different color. The AR or M4 platform by its very nature is a very accurate rifle that requires a lot of maintenence. You have to keep in mind that with every pull of the trigger you are spraying the face of your bolt carrier and bolt with hot oil and unburnt pieces of powder and general gunk from the gas tube. The ammo all on its own can jam an AR up right quick when loaded with dirty slow burning powder. The only real advantage the platform has ever had on other designs is weight. Now I can't speak for anyone but myself but when the only con to deal with is weight and my personal fitness is all I would need to fix in order to cope, well I think the answer is clear.

Chas said...

"Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s..."

Yeah, but the 10 percent that were dissatisfied had to complete the survey posthumously.

Bill Lester said...

"...a well-coordinated attack by a highly skilled enemy that unleashed a withering barrage with AK-47 and rocket-propelled grenades."

"The soldiers said their weapons (M4's and M249's) were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic...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."

Just as in Vietnam, our enemies don't seem to have the problems nor need to make excuses about their weapons like we do with the M16 family.

The best firearms decision I ever made was to ditch my M4gery for a 5.56mm Kalashnikov. There is no better personal weapon if SHTF.

Anonymous said...

According to Defense Tech Army Rangers have been issued FN SCARS as of May of this year here is the link http://www.defensetech.org/archives/004859.html

Michael Bane said...

The Rangers are running training with the SCARS as we speak...haven't had a chance to talk to anyone about them yet.

The problem is finding the will and dollars to convince the Big Army to change rifles. Obviously Cerberus/Freedom Group has set itself up as the Big Dog should will and money become available (the only conceivable financial strategy that matches the 3-headed dog's buying spree).

mb

Anonymous said...

The direct-gas impingement systen is an imperfect design. Hanging your hat on "maintenance" as the key to keeping it fuctioning is a dream! The defenders of this design need to get over that. There's no mystery as to why "piston" actuated versions are becoming popular.
But, let me digress a bit here. I am an engineer. I made my living designing things that worked even under the most severe conditions and in the most severe applications. I will tell you that there is a BIG difference in the design philosophies of the East (a. k. a.: "Soviet") and West (a. k. a.: "us", as in US).
The East designs their weapons systems to perform with little, or no maintenace. We design ours for not only high maintenance, but"special" maintenance. We also limit system exposure to, let's say "allergens".
As an example, Soviet jet aircraft are designed to both take off and land on dirt air-strips. They put "rock-catcher" screens and filters on their engine air intakes. Our planes are designed for paved runways and low tolerance for even wind-blown debris. If you drop one of ours in the dirt, you'll be truckin' it out, not flyin' it. Soviet aircraft also have a higher flight-to-maintenance ratio than US planes. They expect that their planes will not be maintained when in battle. Their planes are in the air for more hours and in service less time than ours too. Their components are more robust and can take more battlefield "hits". They can also take more hits from in-use exposure to harsh environments. Their aircraft designs aren't perfect, but these basic design philosophy differences have BIG benefits.
The most relevant example of their different weapons design philosophies is shown in the battlefield reliability of the Kalashnikov Rifle vs. our M-16 platform rifle. Theirs is a simple design, made on simple equipment, in simple factories, assembled by regular people. Ours is complicated, build on special equipment, made out of special materials, assembled with special tools, by highly skilled people. Their's typically gets no maintenance, while ours requires everything from special cleaning routines to pissing into your rifle if all else fails.
The complaints against our design have been going on since it was deployed. Not many of the complaints have been de-bunked.
I was never a soldier, but I knew many who were. Not one of them has said that they cherished their M-16. All they wanted was a rifle that worked. One of them said that as soon as he could pick up an AK from the field, he carried that as a back-up, all at the risk of discipline from his CO.
Now, based on actual data, let's support making a good decision in behalf of our troops. Which real expert will step forward to argue in their behalf?
Life Member

Anonymous said...

The grass always looks greener. The highly acclaimed HK416, which many thought was a the be-all, end-all, crapped out in combat as reported in the Shooting Wire/Tactical Wire some months ago. Nobody knows yet if the SCAR survives but everybody seems to think it will. Well just as no plan survives contact with the enemy, no infallible rifle survives contact with the desert.

You can quote all the testing specs you want but nothing replaces actual in-theater combat use where Murphy's Law supersedes the laws of physics and engineering.

jpr9954 said...

Rather than rely on the AP's selective reporting, I tracked down a draft copy of the actual report:

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

It goes into detail on the weapon failures. The report also discusses the lack of fire discipline shown by some of the soldiers.

Larry said...

Okay let me clear things up for some of y'all. The M4 is a select fire weapon with a 3xrd burst being its highest rate of fire. The M4A1, which is issued to Rangers and SF has full auto.

Secondly, the enemy had the favorable terrain (from what I understand), the initiative, and a 3 : 1 ratio (generally seen as a good ratio against a deliberate defense). Some of they boys may not have had good trigger discipline, however, we don't know what they saw and if the eny was breaching the wall I'm sure I'd be shooting as much as possible and getting my men in the position to turn back the assault.

I've had an M4 stovepipe on a 70 degree day at the range. Those are ideal conditions, so I can only imagine what might go wrong under sustained fire.

Hopefully this story picks up steam because as y'all know there is no way to make the Army move unless it gets a lot of press.

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Anonymous said...

The entire M16 family of weapons has always been shit. I don't like them or trust them or any of the various crap rounds we have been issued for them over the years. I know the range commandoes love them. Nobody else does, especially those with combat experience and with other weapons. Same for the Beretta pistol. Interesting that both weapons were forced on the Marine Corps which resisted taking them until they were told to do so.

Anonymous said...

"These guys were firing sustained fire which no "assault Rifle" is designed for."

You have obviously never been in combat or in a situation like this. Marines will do the same thing under the circumstances. Been there and done that. Ever heard of an FPF? The M16 rifle is crap.

Anonymous said...

"Rather than rely on the AP's selective reporting, I tracked down a draft copy of the actual report:
http://www.battlefieldtourist.com/content/battle-of-wanat-historical-analysis-rough-draft-release/
It goes into detail on the weapon failures. The report also discusses the lack of fire discipline shown by some of the soldiers."

Doesn't mean shit. The Army has put out a ton of reports and studies blaming their troops for the failure of the M16/A4. Thats how people get promoted by supporting the status quo and the right message at the cost of the troops.