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Guns Failed in the Afghan

October 12, 2009

We have mostly stayed out of the argument over Afghanistan, but this recent news of US weapons failures is a bit shocking. From the AP:

In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips’ M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn’t work either…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?

Guess who the Army blames:

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.

Yeah, the troops’ fault. Maybe on occasion this is true, but seems we’ve been hearing tales of this nature since Vietnam, on the troubles with the M-16 and its modern derivatives like the M-4 carbine. Long past due for replacement IMHO, and I would suggest off the shelf, before we get another multi-billion dollar, decades long procurement program that will probably give us something worse than the current rifle.

Tip of the Hat to Eric L Palmer!

37 Comments leave one →
  1. B.Smitty permalink
    October 15, 2009 10:15 am


    I think going with a PDW and beefed up section weapons is a radical and interesting idea.

    However, I have a feeling (at least in the US) it would meet with a massive, institutional backlash. There still is a lot of concerns about the lethality of 5.56mm rounds, let alone even smaller 5.7mm rounds.

    Reintroducing a GPMG and/or dedicated GL into the squad/section might quell some of the fears, but it would be a long climb to acceptance.

  2. Jed permalink
    October 13, 2009 9:22 pm

    Interesting how the discussion has polarised around assault rife calibers. There is only one comment about suppressive fires. There have been a number of papers presented lately through the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) web site on infantry weapons, the increased load infantry are expected to carry and most recently on the role of suppressive fire.

    The British army has had a thing about aimed small arms fire ever since the ‘rifelmen’ of the Napoleonic wars, I am pretty sure we were the first to fit optics to all infantry rifles as standard (SA80). However studies from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, apparently backed by Iraq and Afghanistan experience show that an infantry man with an assault rifle rarely engages an enemy over 100 meters / 100 yards away and if they do, they rarely hit anything ! So, the RUSI papers suggest, platoon weapons; 7.62 gpmg’s, 40mm grenade launchers and 58 / 60mm mortars are what really kill the enemy, that and directed fires from heavier mortars, artillery and of course rotary and fixed wing air.

    One of the papers actually contends that instead of worrying about the super ballistic properties of 6.8mm etc, the average infanteer should just carry a “personal defense weapon” like the 4.7mm HK7 or the 5.7mm FN P90, while one four man team would carry a six-shot 40mm grenade launcher, and the other a lightweight 7.62mm MG, with all team members carrying additional 40mm, and 7.62 belt and lightweight 66mm anti-personnel / anti-materiel rockets (plus of course all the laser rangefinders, ROVER terminals, GPS, radios, extra batteries etc….). Apparently a P90 with 350 rounds weights less than an SA80 with 150 ! The section designated marksman might have a SCAR H or similar if required. One of the authors notes, that if your Taliban you don’t know or care if your being suppressed by 5.7 / 5.56 / or 7.62 if its being applied properly.

    So, perhaps we are not thinking enough “out of the box” – I for one having carried an SA80 with a paltry (but standard) 150 rounds wonder why on earth the coalition troops of all countries have not issued large amounts of the Aitcheson AA12 assualt shotgun, along with FRAG-12 HE rounds – the gun has no lube and one version has been used for testing for years without ever being cleaned ! If you have never heard of the AA12 look just search for it on YouTube :-)

    I bet a few of these things would have helped the unfortunate individuals who fought so bravely at both FOB that have recently been over run.

  3. October 13, 2009 5:09 pm

    From my small observatory, it seems to me that the Army does not have a workable system for the development and fielding of effective small arms. The reason appears to be that there is too many intra-service agencies – all fighting over their own turf – that have too much say in the process. The Army needs is a real “trigger-puller” with 3-stars on his collar to tell these competing agencies to get with the program. If they cannot or will not, department heads need to be fired or relieved. Alas, I don’t see that happening.

    On the other side of the house, the Navy’s Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Indiana, seems to be having a lot more success in fielding and promoting effective weapons for Navy Special Operations operators. Some of these successes: The Mk 12 Mod 0/1 SPR (special purpose rifle made from the existing M16/M4 stocks), the Mk 11 Mod 0/1 Sniper’s (a Knight’s Armament Company SR-25 precision rifle with M16 ergonomics and 7.62 NATO caliber), the Mk 14 Mod 0/1 (remanufactured M14 for accuracy and optics), The M14 DMR (designated marksman’s rifle – in-use by the USMC), the Mk 18 Mod 0 (an improved M4 carbine for Navy SEALs), the Mk 16 Mod 0/1 and Mk 17 Mod 0/1 SCAR, the Mk 46 Mod 0/1 5.56 NATO light machine gun, and the Mk 48 Mod 0/1 7.62 NATO general purpose machine gun. The aberration seems to be the USMC that seeks to replace part of its belt-feed M249 SAW machine guns with the Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR).

    The IAR is one step forward and about three steps back. The IAR takes the standard M4 carbine, adds a new, stronger butt stock, a heavy barrel with gas piston operation, and the capability to take a quick attach-detach suppressor. The IAR has a Mil-Std 1913 rail upper receiver, and rail handguards.

    The IAR is supposed to be capable of sustained full-automatic fire. However, it does not have a quick-change barrel – Strike One – the M249 SAW does. It also does not have a belt feed, but is fed from a magazine – Strike Two – the M249 SAW can use both M16 magazines and belts without any change of parts.

    If you need sustained, suppressive fire, you need a belt-fed gun with a quick-change barrel. The IAR is simply not capable of filling either role, but it is better than the M4 carbine it replaces. What the Marines need is the Mk 46 Mod 0/1 that can do the sustained fire role – or rebuild its current M249 SAWs to Mk 46 Mod 0/1 reliability standards. As a matter of fact the U.S. Army would do well to rebuild their M249 SAWs to Mk 46 Mod 0/1 reliability standards.

  4. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 4:10 pm

    MG, Interesting. Thanks.

  5. October 13, 2009 3:53 pm

    It is not advisable to produce the 7.62×51 NATO round in a reduced power loading because of the interchangeability issue. That is, both reduced power and standard power are the same in form, fit, and function except for some probable color coding on the bullet. Remember Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible moment.”

    The Spaniards tried this approach with the CETME rifle. Spanish CETME rifles were designed for a reduced 7.62×51 NATO loading, while the German-produced G3 rifle took the full-power 7.62×51 NATO loading. (Note: CETME and Heckler and Koch/Rheinmetall collaborated on this roller-locked rifle program.) The CETME had to be redesigned to take the full-power round because interchange with other NATO ammo caused the reduced-power CETMEs to break parts and gave over-pressure problems such as premature unlocking.

    Going the other way, introduction of the reduced-power 7.62 NATO cartridge into guns designed for standard-power rounds affects the power to work the action reliably. A reduced-power 7.62 NATO round actually promotes malfunctions and unreliability. In my book, reduced-power loadings are suitable for manually operated actions and not the current self-loading ones designed to operate on the standard NATO round.

    Understand that the 7.62×51 NATO caliber is a Main Battle Rifle caliber and not an assault rifle caliber. The 7.62×39 is much smaller, is an Intermediate Battle Rifle caliber, with a much smaller powder charge. The 7.62 NATO is designed for long ranges, up to 1,100 meters (1,200 yards) for the M118 LR (long range) sniper round; the M80 ball round is 500 meters (550 yards). The 7.62×39 caliber is designed for ranges of about 300 meters (330 yards). The difference between the two is the recoil impulse generated. The recoil impulse of the 7.62 NATO is about twice that of the 7.62×39. Increased recoil means control problems in full-automatic when applied to a rifle of 9 pounds or so. That’s the same problem the select-fire M14, FN FAL, and G3 rifles have to this very day.

    Bullets for the 7.62 NATO and 7.62×39 are not the same either. The 7.62 NATO M80 ball round uses a 147-grain, boattailed, .308-inch bullet. The M118 LR special ball round uses a 175-grain, boattailed, .308-inch bullet. The typical 7.62×39 M43 ball round uses a 123-grain, flat-base, .310 to .311-inch bullet. The case of the 7.62 NATO round is 12 millimeters longer than the 7.62×39 and the volume and shape of the NATO case is larger and quite different. The shorter 7.62×39 round will not feed from a magazine designed for 7.62 NATO.

  6. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 3:03 pm

    MG, would existing rifles chambered for 7.62×51 need to be modified to fire 7.62×39?

  7. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 2:53 pm

    “If you want a controllable .30-caliber class cartridge, you don’t have to make the 7.62 NATO in a reduced power loading – all you need do is adopt the 7.62×39.”

    MG, but then you’ve still got the problems associated with introducing a new calibre cartridge, whereas if you make a reduced power 7.62 Nato cartridge you don’t.

  8. October 13, 2009 2:40 pm

    Regarding caliber switch and the subsequent logistics: the United States has never bothered to consider what effects caliber changes have on its forces or its allies. The Americans did this twice in the period of twenty years in the period 1946 through 1966,

    First, the Americans bludgeoned NATO to adopt the T65E3 cartridge (a product improved .30-06) as the 7.62 NATO. At the time, the U.S. Army was fixated on the concept of a light rifle (like the M1 carbine) that fired a full-power cartridge (like the M1) and act as an automatic rifle (like the BAR). That the physics are impossible never kept the Army from spending millions of dollars trying to make this fantasy work. In the end, most of the new wonder rifles – the M14 – were issued with full-automatic fire locked-out. The BAR replacement – the M15 – was made obsolete on the day the M14 was adopted and the M60 belt-fed machine gun assumed the full-automatic support role.

    The reality of the 7.62 NATO is it’s a superb full-power machine gun cartridge and sniper round, but it can never fill the intermediate caliber role demanded of the assault rifle round. Strike one.

    Second, the Americans got involved in Vietnam and ran into enemies armed with a true assault rifle using a controllable intermediate caliber (7.62×39). The M14 was too big, too heavy, and not controllable in full-auto fire. The M60 was big, heavy, but controllable. The Americans selected the AR-15 as their intermediate caliber assault rifle and adopted it as the M16 about 1965-1966.

    By 1968, the world situation was America was using the 7.62 NATO in Korea, Europe, and else where, but the .223 Remington (aka 5.56 NATO) was only in-use in Vietnam. What happened to the common caliber for America and its allies?

    Adoption of the M16 in .223 Remington was a problem for NATO. NATO was wedded to the 7.62 NATO for its rifles and machine guns as a “common caliber” at American assistance. Now the Americans introduced a new caliber and had it branded the 5.56 NATO. During the years 1975-1980, the European NATO countries adopted the 5.56 NATO for their infantry rifles, and the 5.56 NATO was a common caliber.

    The 5.56 NATO cartridge ballistics have been pushed about as far as possible. The strengths and weaknesses of the caliber are known. That is why the 6.8×43 SPC cartridge was developed to address the weaknesses of the 5.56 NATO by the special operations community and Remington. The real reason why the Army is dragging its feet about caliber change is institutional inertia and the desire to spend its money on bigger ticket items.

    If you want a controllable .30-caliber class cartridge, you don’t have to make the 7.62 NATO in a reduced power loading – all you need do is adopt the 7.62×39. The 7.62×39 M43 cartridge works quite well for its purpose. The 6.8×43 SPC is superior to the 7.62×39 and the 5.56 NATO but the Army’s bureaucrats won’t adopt it.

  9. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 1:27 pm

    Another perhaps crazy idea. Would it be possible to use a 7.62 round with a lighter propellant load, making it less powerfull, and therefore more controllable, but without the burden of a new calibre?

  10. Defiant permalink
    October 13, 2009 1:04 pm

    As mentioned before, 6.8 offers less Ammo/weight ratio and needs new logistics parallel to the 5.56 needed in afghanistan. The soldiers need new training with the new caliber as well.

    Btw, even a gas piston system wouldn’t have helped the soldier in the quote. He fired 12 magazines in half an hour, probably a lot full auto, while m4/m16 are designed for 15 shots/minute sustained rof. This may be a little higher for gas piston systems, but would probably end the same way in that soldiers situation.

  11. Heretic permalink
    October 13, 2009 10:49 am

    HK416 in 6.8 SPC sounds like an ideal off the shelf solution that would solve all kinds of problems. What’s standing in the way of implementing it?

    Parochial politics.
    Bureaucratic inertia.

    You know … the usual things that get warfighters killed …

  12. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 9:54 am


    The M16/4 would be upgraded to HK416, but in 7.62 calibre, with a underslung carbine/rifle in 5.56 calibre.

    5.56 for suppressive fire.
    7.62 for range and stopping power.

  13. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 9:15 am

    Re above:

    The 7.62 underslung carbine/rifle attachment would be rather like the 5.56 underslung carbine/rifle attached to the (cancelled?) XM29.

  14. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 9:08 am

    OK, just free-associating for a minute.

    Given that the US Army probably wouldn’t want to change the ammo calibre, how about having a dual calibre rifle, using 5.56mm and 7.62mm.

    The 5.56 would be fired by the HK416 upgraded M16/4. The 7.62 would be fired from a underslung carbine/rifle attachment, under the accessory rail rather like a UGL attachment.

    Some of the unit would be equipped with underslung 40mm UGL’s and others with underslung 7.62 carbine/rifle.

    Thus avoiding the headache of introducing a new calibre.

  15. Defiant permalink
    October 13, 2009 8:33 am

    A stronger propellant is more expensive and increases barrel fatigue, as well as contributing to overheating problems.
    Another problem of 5.56 is tht it’s rather slow from the short barrels used in m4 and other carbines. 5.56 was to be used with the m16 barrel length (18″+?) not with the 14″ or shorter carbine barrels. The short barrel decreases muzzle velocity, which the small round needs to be effective (cavitation…), this is reducing stoppping power. Solution would be using a bullpup design in order to reduce weapons length (for urban combat) while keeping barrel length, or a new round with better ballistics (like 6.5 grendel).

  16. William permalink
    October 13, 2009 8:13 am

    As well as the cost effective idea of a HK416 upgrade, how about also improving the existing 5.56mm cartridge by using a more powerfull propellant.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    October 13, 2009 7:44 am

    “This is a disadvantage in supressive fire.”

    After all the vast majority of infantry fire is off this type. It is common misconception that it is about “aimed” shots.

    In a strange way the large scale gunfights in classic westerns are quite accurate! :)

  18. Defiant permalink
    October 13, 2009 5:12 am

    Replacing the rifle is not much of a problem (if you do not care about political issues), replacing the main caliber however is, especially in wartimes. 6.8 could probably replace 5.56 and 7.62 calibers, from the ballistics 6.5 grendel is even better but i read it’s not good for belt feed. But both calibers are heavier than 5.56, and the magazines are usually only loaded with 25 shots. This is a disadvantage in supressive fire.
    There’s also lsat in r&d which offers further weight advantages, but this will probably take more than a decade to reach maturity.

  19. Distiller permalink
    October 13, 2009 4:33 am

    Another remark: After that fire fight the outpost seems to have been abandoned, and the Taliban control the region now …

  20. Distiller permalink
    October 13, 2009 3:57 am

    HK demonstrated a 416 in 6.8SPC with a 16.5″ barrel back in 2005 already. No interest from the forces.

    The other thing I wonder is, if an episode like that makes them reevaluate the idea to introduction an infantry automatic rifle, which seems to me the battle rifle through the back door.

  21. October 13, 2009 2:43 am

    Mr. Reddick has touched on the second thing that I would do to cure this rifle mess. We need to replace the 5.56 NATO with the 6.8×43 SPC (Special Purpose Cartridge) also known as the 6.8 Remington. The 6.8 SPC is very similar to the .280 British cartridge developed after World War 2. The .280 British or 7×43 cartridge was a very flat shooting intermediate caliber assault rifle cartridge. Unfortunately this superb “optimal” caliber was killed by politics when U.S. Army Ordnance Corps bludgeoned the NATO allies into adopting the T65E3 cartridge as the 7.62×51 NATO.

    The .280 British (or 7×43) was a very well-behaved and effective intermediate caliber cartridge. It was accurate in both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire in light rifles. The 7.62×51 NATO has never been accurate in full-automatic fire in anything other than a 20 to 30 pound light machine gun – it is simply too powerful for the assault rifle role.

    The 6.8×43 SPC was developed by the Special Ops community and Remington to be lethal, effective, and fit with in the magazine envelope of the M16/M4 rifles. The 6.8 SPC has over twice the mass of the M855 62-grain 5.56 NATO bullet. It delivers about 2.5 times the energy on the target as the 5.56 NATO. And, we could make the caliber changeover with current legacy systems very easily. For the M16/M4-series rifles, all that is needed to make the conversion is a new barrel, new bolt assembly (bolt carrier remains the same), and a new, steel 6.8 SPC magazine. This magazine looks very similar to the current 30-round aluminum 5.56 NATO magazine, but it is specifically designed to feed the 6.8 SPC round. Going to a steel magazine also cures another of the M16/M4-series rifle problems – its aluminum magazine.

    My perfect rifle for our warriors would be a gas piston operated rifle like the SCAR or H&K 416 in 6.8×43 SPC caliber. That would be the perfect combination of lethality and affordability. Of course, the U.S. Army isn’t interested and they will trot out the usual list of excuses of why such things cannot be done.

  22. October 13, 2009 12:26 am


    It’s too bad that we don’t have a -deployed- rifle & MG cartridge with superior performance as compared to weight. Something in the .24 to .25 caliber range (commercially offered as .243/.244 & .256/257 cals.) with superior ballistics to the -relatively- anemic 5.56 x 56 mm cartridge (.22 caliber) would greatly benefit the troops. Improved ballistics over extended ranges and improved penetration would be really beneficial (I was a ballistics -nut- back in my days in college). Even an extension into the realm of .264 & .277 calibers perhaps should be investigated. There is no reason to fixed upon just the 5.56 mm (.224 cal.) and 7.62 mm (.308 cal.) variants of weapons’ bores for small arms.

    A cartridge duplicating the performance of .243 Winchester, but in a smaller, more compact, and lower weight package would be close to perfect (IMHO). Taking that concept up to .257, .264, or .277 calibers would certainly improve long-range performance. Although, load-out weights might start to approach what occurred for those troops previously equipped with the Browning Automatic Rifle or the M-14. Given modern body armor and other weight-burdening systems then I have to think that an 80 to 100 grain .243 caliber (6 mm) round might be the best compromise for any extended range assault rifle / battle rifle.

    “FNH-USA is marketing a variant for civilian shooters but the price tag is . . . breath-taking.” Yeah, I can just imagine. I’ve seen other H-K semi-autos in gun shops over the past few years and their prices were extraordinarily interesting! I do think that I’ll stick with my little AC-556K for now (it’s long been paid for).

  23. October 12, 2009 11:36 pm

    Mr. Reddick is correct.

    The SCAR comes in two flavors: (1) the Mk 16 Mod 0 in 5.56×45 NATO and (2) the Mk 17 Mod 0 in7.62×51 NATO. Both rifle systems are equipped with quick-change barrels that allow for three different lengths of barrel to be fitted to suit the mission. Both rifles have the Mil-Std 1913 “Picatinny” rail that allows the mounting of various optic equipment, a quick-attach 40mm grenade launcher (replaces the current M203), forward pistol grip, folding bipod, infra-red laser and laser designators, etc. Both Mk 16 and Mk 17 are designed to take a quick attach-detach suppressor.

    The SEAL and Special Boat Teams received their first SCAR rifles in 2008 and the 75th Rangers has taken delivery of theirs. Other communities in the Spec Ops world are getting theirs now or will very soon. From everything that I have seen or read on the SCAR, it is a very advanced and well-designed weapon. FNH-USA is marketing a variant for civilian shooters but the price tag is . . . breath-taking.

    I had heard that FNH-USA had proposed a 7.62×39 caliber variant of the SCAR, but I believe this has been put on the back burner until the Mk 16 and Mk 17 versions have been delivered to the users.

    One of the things that I like is the folding butt stock of the rifle is designed for the use of optics. The butt is adjustable for pull and has a cheek piece that is adjustable for height.

    Again, we also have the ability to upgrade the current legacy M16/M4-series rifles to make them more reliable at a fraction of the cost of procuring completely new systems. Conversion of existing stocks of M16/M4-series rifles to a gas piston operated HK 416-type is a very sound idea because much of the logistics support is already in place and the impact on troop training and maintenance is minimal. Will the Army do something this logical? Based on past history, most emphatically no.

  24. October 12, 2009 10:52 pm


    It would appear that the “Light (SCAR-L, Mk 16 Mod 0)” is already in use:

    “After some delays, the first rifles began being issued to operational units in April 2009, and a battalion of the US 75th Rangers will be the first large unit deployed into combat with 600 of the rifles in 2009.”

    I do like that there are versions of it being offered in both 5.56 x 45mm and 7.62 x 51 mm (along with a 7.62 x 39 mm possible / potential variant). Whatever ammo stocks you’ve got, then just load up and shoot…


  25. October 12, 2009 10:07 pm

    The FNH-USA Mk 16 Mod 0 SCAR is now going into service with U.S. Special Operations Command. This rifle is a gas piston operated weapon. The H&K 416 is also a gas piston operated weapon. Both are reliable and the reason is because they have junked the direct gas impingement system of the M16/M4-series rifles. This has been a well-knowm and totally ignored weakness of the rifle since the first M16s were adopted for general use about 1966.

    If you want to give our warriors an immediate solution to this problem, you need to attack it on two levels.

    First, get the SCAR into the hands of all our special operations warriors.

    Second, embark on a conversion program of all legacy M16/M4 rifles in inventory to bring them to H&K 416 standard. Conversion is done by replacement of the upper barrel and receiver groups with gas piston operated uppers.

    All that is needed: (1) replace the current bolt carrier (the bolt assembly remains the same); (2) replace the barrel assembly of the M16/M4 with that of the H&K 416. This is a self-contained unit that contains all the necessary operating parts.

    The other parts – handguards, flash suppressor, barrel nut, spring, handguard retainers should remain the same. You can fix the problem in a very short period of time – if you want to.

    As far as the M249 SAW goes, the solution there would be the Mk 46 Mod 0/1 light machine gun (a product improved version of the SAW) now in use by Navy SEAL teams. Whether the product improvements could be incorporated into the M249 I don’t know, but that would be one of the first areas that I would investigate. If the improvements could be done, then they should be done without delay. Otherwise, replace the M249 with the Mk 46.

    The bottom line is we cannot afford to put our warriors lives at risk by making them use equipment that is prone to reliability problems.

  26. October 12, 2009 9:22 pm

    MG and Heretic are plugged into an ongoing and enduring disgrace. We know the US Army shit the bed in 1861/2 and have been doing it pretty regularly ever since, with a few exceptions. The M16 and the M4 suck. I do not understand the politics which undergirds the profound failure which never seems to get much attention — certainly not enough to get it fixed. These are not sexy contracts but they are huge and they are repeated — especially ammunition. Find the Congressogres who control these expenditures, start there and work up or down the chain.

  27. October 12, 2009 8:51 pm

    Go to the following URL for some more information about the battle for FOB / COP Keating in which there were multiple small arms failures for US Army troops:

    The fourth entry (#34) for this particular page has another report referring to what happened with COP Keating. It’s educational regarding how things developed out of a -planned- pullout.

    Then, entry #42 provides two video guided tours of COP Keating. It took some incredibly clever tactical ‘genius’ to site that base in a river gorge overlooked by surrounding mountains. That whole FOB / COP was nothing but a disaster waiting to happen.

    The only good news out of this near-debacle is that the local Taliban commander appears to have eaten a missile strike in a mosque from which he had been directing his battle. He’s thought to have masterminded other, similar attacks. If he and many of his followers are now dead, then perhaps these carefully crafted sorts of massed attacks won’t be re-occurring (yeah, I know… fairy-tail wishes).

  28. B.Smitty permalink
    October 12, 2009 5:51 pm

    Didn’t the XM8 fail for other reason? It was billed as the M4/16 replacement a few years back.

  29. Heretic permalink
    October 12, 2009 5:26 pm

    Wikipedia: HK416

    Pay close attention to the Evaluation entry of the article, which I have seen in other sources:

    In July 2007, the US Army announced a limited competition between the M4 carbine, FN SCAR, HK416, and the previously-shelved HK XM8. Ten examples of each of the four competitors were involved. Each weapon was fired for 60,000 rounds in an “extreme dust environment.” The purpose of the shootoff was for assessing future needs, not to select a replacement for the M4. The XM8 scored the best, with only 127 stoppages in 60,000 total rounds, the FN SCAR Light had 226 stoppages, while the HK416 had 233 stoppages. The M4 carbine scored “significantly worse” than the rest of the field with 882 stoppages.

    The M4 had more than 3.75x the stoppage rate of the 3rd most reliable weapon in the evaluation test … and was dead last in reliability of the 4 choices.

    So what did the army do?
    What do you think?

    They decided to spend a half-a-billion dollars on another M4 contract …

  30. October 12, 2009 5:08 pm

    The South Korean armed forces use two different rifle designs produced by Daewoo. One mixes design features of the AK-47 / AKM family along with features borrowed from the M-16 / M-4 family of firearms. That Daewoo design uses the same ammo & magazines as used in the M-16 family, but with an action more similar to the highly reliable AK family.

    Perhaps we should be examining some of these small arms in use by our close allies. Some of them may be superior to what’s now in use with US forces.

  31. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 12, 2009 4:57 pm

    Thank you MG. I admit I’m not well read on the subject, so this is an eye opener.

    I wonder if tanks wouldn’t start or if jets powered down in mid-flight, would this get the attention of the powers that be in DC?

  32. October 12, 2009 4:08 pm

    That the M4 and the M249 failed when needed most is no surprise. We knew the M249 had problems with fine sand and dust in Gulf War 1. The M4 carbine has had similar problems since it became common usage in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I have been saying this for a long time. The institutional powers within the U.S. Army are simply incapable of fixing this because they are inept. They are academics, pointy head scientists, and politically-connected uniforms that have either never or rarely heard a shot fired in anger. If they did, they’d soil their tidy whities.

    These are the very same kinds of people that gave the U.S. the fiasco of the M16 rifle when it was first introduced to service in Vietnam. The people have changed, but the chaos, where no one is responsible and accountable, has stayed the same and grown more arrogant (and stupid).

    The short form of the M16 debacle in RVN: (1) the M16 was the first U.S. service rifle issued without a cleaning kit — because it was supposed to be self-cleaning due to the use of DuPont IMR powder; (2) the Army changed from IMR powder to ball powder because it was cheaper and this powder carboned-up and caused jams; (3) the ball powder raised the cyclic rate and caused more parts’ breakage (when the rifle worked); (4) the Army eliminated chrome plating of barrels and chambers to save money and this contributed to the fouling and jamming.

    No one was ever held accountable or responsible because there were no direct trail to follow. Too many people had their inputs into this stew. The M4 carbine and M249 problems are no different.

  33. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 12, 2009 3:24 pm

    Joe, I suspect you’re right, but who else can make the decision?

  34. Joe K. permalink
    October 12, 2009 2:47 pm

    Army ain’t the best voice when it comes to these matters.

    I still remember the controversy surrounding the Dragon Skin body armor which questioned both the capabilities of the vest but also the Army’s supposed “testing” process.

    It’s the kind of stuff that makes you wonder how much of the defense budget goes to the troops and how much goes to the contracts.

  35. Anonymous permalink
    October 12, 2009 1:36 pm

    HK416 no question.

  36. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 12, 2009 12:55 pm

    There you go West! And I also thought about the USN torpedoes early in WW 2, when the Navy Dept. said it was the sailors’ fault!

  37. west_rhino permalink
    October 12, 2009 12:36 pm

    Do I remember the same gripe when the M-16 was introduced?

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