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“During my 35 years in the Army, it became clear to me that from Gettysburg to Hamburger Hill to the streets of Baghdad, the American penchant for arming troops with lousy rifles has been responsible for a staggering number of unnecessary deaths. Over the next few decades, the Department of Defense will spend more than $1 trillion on F-35 stealth fighter jets that after nearly 10 years of testing have yet to be deployed to a single combat zone. But bad rifles are in soldiers’ hands in every combat zone.” – Major General (ret.) Robert H. Scales in Gun Trouble [at theatlantic.com]

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206 Responses to Quote of the Day: M4 Mayhem Edition

    • The problem with saying the M4/M16 is unreliable is that, amazingly, it’s still an anecdotal statement at this point. A solider can say their M4 malfunctioned, and then of course they’re going to (rightfully) lose confidence in their weapon, and they, and likely their fellow soldiers who witnessed it are also going to lose faith in the weapon as well and think of the M4 as unreliable. But what does the malfunction actually mean? Why did it happen? Who says that the allegedly more reliable alternative wouldn’t have malfunctioned in the same exact circumstances?

      What we need is scientific testing. There is that 2007 dust test where the M4s malfunctioned at about 4x the rate as the other rifles. But in the same test done a few months prior, the M4s malfunctioned only very slightly more than the other rifles. And after that Colt hired an independent tester to do the same test and again, the M4s malfunctioned only very slightly more than the other rifles. So which is right and which is wrong? Why weren’t the results repeatable? Were all guns using the same magazines? Were the magazines defective? Did they try using PMAGs instead? Were all of the rifles brand new?

      The truth is no one can say the M4 is any more, or less, reliable than other rifles until we see more scientific tests that actually proves this. Until then it’s he said, she said. This isn’t to say that what he says or she says isn’t valid; it’s just that you can’t draw any conclusions from it other than the fact that his M4 malfunctioned. It means nothing else. Otherwise you’re just basing decisions on feelings rather than science and facts.

      • Oh for fck sake I saw first hand how shitty they are and how they malfunctioned in the dessert. Cav scouts who took great pains to keep them clean and they still jammed. The m16 family of MBR’s issued to our troops have always been and will for ever be shit.

        • Fair enough. But what’s to say an HK416, XM8, or any of the other alternatives short of an AK (and even then) would fare any better?

        • Oh, for christ’s sake, I saw how they worked in the desert. They’re fine. Is there a better rifle? Sure. Should we buy better rifles? Absolutely. Is this a bad rifle? No, it’s fine.

          This article has a lot of self contradictory statements. It’s really poorly written.

    • I can agree with him in this regard: the m16s that were available to all the units I served in we’re wore out, beat up, and had tens of thousands of rounds through them. They were not crap, they were in crappy shape and needed to be replaced.

      Solution: sell the old rifles to honorably discharged vets. Use proceeds to supplement the replacement of old rifles.

      Call your congressman. Then call him again. Rinse, repeat.

    • We got a few main infantry weapons right. The M1, the M1903, and our muskets from from before the Mexican War were on par with what other countries were using.

      The M14 is a great rifle, but I own a M1A and it’s too big for every soldier and I can’t imagine the full auto recoil. The Krag is a nice rifle too, but it’s not on the same level as a Mauser in terms of strength and versatility of the action.

      Keep in mind, guns cost money. That’s why we stuck with the 1861 and Trapdoor Springfields and the M1 pattern for the M14.

      • My ship had two F/A M14s and the rest were S/A. The recoil wasn’t bad, but they had a bad tendency to jam (at least the two we had did).

      • Don’t forget M1 Carbine. A great little gun for what it was, and no-one had anything similar. All it needed was a slightly beefier round, and it’d be an actual assault rifle. Instead, they made the abortion that was M14…

    • Garand could have been that much greater – and a world’s first – if the Army didn’t insist on .30-06 over .276 that it was originally designed for. The same mistake they would later make with 7.62×51.

      Honestly, looking at the history of American military firearms post-WW1, it’s basically a sad story of the ingenuity of designers struggling to get past the hopelessly conservative top brass, and the government looking to pinch pennies. Even M16 was a great rifle as originally designed… it took McNamara’s repeated attempts to cut corners (ditching chrome plating and cleaning kits, downgrading to cheaper powder etc) to ruin the initial rollout, and then the stupidity of UMSC in ditching the original assault rifle concept and making M16A2 into, effectively, a range rifle best used for firing from the bench at distant targets (and then govt penny pinching again and forcing that abomination onto the Army, despite the latter’s objections).

  1. Never been in the army, no idea if he’s right or not. But I think calling the M-1 Garand a lousy rifle is kind of a loser’s game.
    I can certainly see the logic in saying they’ve been continuously given the WRONG rifles for the situation. I can also see that we might need a lot more rifleman training. But lousy?

    • We would get a lot farther if we trained our troops a helluva lot better in marksmanship than bought a bunch of new rifles. Most of the active duty folks I’ve trained are pretty bad at shooting. We need to step up to a higher level of marksmanship training in all of the branches.

      • I was in the AF, but heard training in the other services was not that much better. Hands on firing range training was extremely rare, to say the least. I think in 20 years I was ordered to the range around 5 times, twice for M-16 and 3 times for .38 Spl. One friend was an Army chopper pilot, 3 tours in Vietnam, 6 years total, went to the range 4 times. Marksmanship training would be money well spent, IMHO. And, once discharged, would raise the nation’s awareness of The Truth About Guns, for lack of a better expression.

    • After over 40 years with a mediocre main battle rifle, at some point the brass needs to take responsibility for the fact that they’ve decided to have the army they have.

    • A sensible argument when a war starts.
      …But a few decades on, you’re obviously going to war with the military you want if you haven’t bothered to upgrade.

      So the question becomes why?

    • Might want to read the article. In Vietnam, an artillery officer turned into an infantry commander without a moment’s warning. Scales is pretty well respected, and he has done his own share of killing. I don’t have numbers of silver stars, etc., but they’re out there somewhere.

      • Yes, but. Except for the basic layout and operating system, today’s M4 shares almost nothing with the M16 that MG Scales carried in Vietnam.

  2. I can understand why he would say that with rifles like the 1873 Sharps, Krag, and smooth bore muskets being common at Gettysburg. On the other hand, the M1, M1903, M14, and M16/M4 have all been absolutely excellent rifles.

    I do agree with him about the F35. 1 trillion dollars would buy a whole hell of a lot of conventional aircraft, or hell, you could probably develop and build a successor to the A-10 Thunderbolt II as well as a couple new conventional fighters.

    • The USAF brass HATES the A-10 for some reason, but every time they try to kill it, a situation comes up that the A-10 is perfectly suited to handle.

      It must be infuriating and I love it.

      As for the F-35, it’s a clear example of trying to do too much at once. It’s ideal for the USMC to replace both the Harrier and the Hornet, but it’s only marginal and an overpriced mess for the Navy and Air force, because of all the compromises that neeeded to be made for the STOVL capability that their versions won’t even have.

      • My theory is that the A-10 practically requires getting shot at to perform its CAS duty, and every military strategy is trending toward fighting such that you don’t get shot at. Effectiveness doesn’t factor in the equation. What they need are drone A-10s –you can bet they’d love those…

        • Getting shot it as why the A-10 is so tough.

          Honestly due to better optics, and communications close air support doesn’t need to get down in the mud all that often. Yes the A-10’s gun is impressive, and seeing it zoom overhead might help morale. But there have been several blue on blue incidents by A-10s and helicopters precisely because they were down in the mud. They didn’t see VS-17 panels and other indications of friendly forces because their perspective moves too quickly at low level.

          I used to be a “We have to keep the A-10” guy, but more and more I believe that helicopters are better suited for the down in the mud part of the A-10s mission. And that we wouldn’t lose too much capability by retiring the A-10 as long as we keep the F-15E or similar high capacity strike aircraft in inventory.

        • PPGMD, I can’t agree. The F-15 was well established when the A-10 was determined to be necessary, there are still plenty of F-15s and the A-10 can still do things that none of them can. I heard the brass and many fighter pilots hate the A-10 because they want to pose for the chicks in front of an Arabian purebred stallion not a pack mule. The A-10 is faster and carries more than an attack helicopter, slower and more capable of actually seeing what is going on on the ground than an F-15, and (I think) more survivable than either. AF tanker aircraft are not capable of refueling helicopters, and while I’ve heard some helicopters have ejection seats now, I don’t know how much I’d trust them. I was a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam, in a POS civilian aircraft which took off every day more than 25% above the max gross weight listed by the manufacturer, and without an ejection seat, going into actual shooting combat at very low altitude with instructions to jump out the door if shot down. Thanks.. The A-10 always struck me as the ideal FAC aircraft, not sure it has ever been used as such. Low, slow, survivable, ejection seat, short runway, high visibility from the cockpit, it has it all. The F-15, OTOH, was designed to be an air superiority fighter, then had parts cobbled on to allow it to marginally fit other roles. If they are going to junk them, I want one of those guns.

        • Larry,

          The Marine Corps offered to take the entire fleet of A10’s off USAFs hands and turn them into two seat FAC aircraft (the OA-10) the first time the USAF proposed eliminating them for exactly the reasons you cite.

          The USAF wants fighters and bombers and has no interest in CAS. “Not a pound for Air to Ground,” is an Air Force fighter jock saying.

          Nothing is going to convince me that 1 F35 is worth 2 Rafaels/Eurofighter Typhoons/Saab Gripens, and it’s clearly inferior to 3 Su-27s of any model. The Russians have a better all around fighter in the Su-27 than we have in the F-35, and at a much lower cost per unit. The Su-25 is better at CAS than the F-35 will be. It would actually make economic sense to force the Airforce to produce Su-27s and Su-25s under a license agreement than to continue pouring money into the white elephant project “Joint Strike Fighter”,

        • Larry,
          You obviously didn’t read my post. Getting closer doesn’t mean seeing more, it actually makes it harder to see as things move by too quickly. A-10 pilots are no different thank fighter pilots so they like to mix it up they often go in for gun runs.

          OTOH a F-15E primary air to ground weapons is Paveways and JDAMs. Which means though the A-10 might eye ball the convoy, the F-15E will get a good look with their targeting pods. They have a much better view of the battlefield. Unless you take the gun out of the A-10 this will always be a problem, the circumstances that require a gun run over a bomb are much less common with precision munitions.

          This results in less friendly fire incidents.

          As far as the F-15E cobbled together. The F-15E is an excellent strike platform. The only reason that early F-15s didn’t have the gear for bombing was that mantra during development “Not a pouch for air to ground.” The US is the only F-15 operator that didn’t setup their F-15s to do strike missions.

          The A-10 has a lot of myth surrounding it, and it certainly is a good aircraft, but I believe that with the widespread use of precision munitions it’s days are numbered.

          Now lets talk about helicopters. Air to air refueling is something that a helicopter can do, it is just not common since helicopters are forward deployed. Only the units commonly working with SOCOM, which are all cargo aircraft, have the ability to refuel air to air. SOCOM has gotten around this limitation by arming the MH-60, and it is impressive.

        • Larry The Airfarce is repurposing the A10 as a FAC as an interm step to AGAIN try to scrap them. As only 2 or 3 FAC birds (always another redheaded stepchild for the boys in blue) they are mothballing most of the A10.

          The ONLY reason that the attack chopper was “invented” was because the AF refused to do CAS in Vietnam (and still today(. As above, chicks/metros at the airport Embassy Suites dig the Arabian, the mule not so much. As a side benefit, the hotrod fighter needs lots of maintenance so only one sortie perday (compared to the mule) so that leaves lots of time for parteeeee. Why think takes Obuma/AF to surge 30 sorties over ISIS/ISIL in 2 weeks?

          A slow moving NOE fixed wing is IDEAL for CAS. drop bomb ON TARGET and “rapidly” go get more bomb and repeat. Going quickly for more is just one area where choppers don’t cut it. See also maintenance and operating costs. The best you can say about and Air Force bombing wet dream is they hit the ground most of the time with the ordinance of the aircraft. Tactical or “Strategic” True of WWI, WWII or today. (Former S3 Air for IN BN).

          Don’t know the old general and generally wouldn’t give a crap what a cannon cocker though about a infantryman’s rifle. And he overstates the problem. Note that DOD/US Army Filed Artillery has had at LEAST their share of dumbass aborted R&D save the world black holes for $. And yes the AF F___ is a travesty. As a side note there was a brief shining moment in the 70s when the US developed and FIELDED appropriate mission specific aircraft (A10, F15, F16, B1) vs a endless parade of half assed camels

          The central problem is the Army (and the country) have not figured out that we have a tiny number of grunts (and DATs (tanker) and Cannoncockers (Field Artliiery) defending our nation. TINY and that included the Jarheads. And still have the mindset that every soldier must receive the same equipment. The fat mamma postal clerk (yesI’m thinking of a specific unit I interacted with once) to have the same boots, ruck, fartsack as the grunt humping up Mt Kilimagaro after Osuma bin Obuma’s Uncle. We STILL can’t issue the combat arms guys state of the art (in OD green) packs/boot/bags (disposable) while giving the REMFs whatever crap is in the back of the warehouse. Send weeks counting empty 5.56 cases while the AF looses multimillion $ _____. Can’t even issue interchangeable uppers for the M4/M16 series much less have an “arsenal” of mission specific tools at the beck/call of the infantryman. Some fhis came to fixing itself during the early days of Iraq/Afgan. but now back to the same old as Obuma closes down the US military. And no, I don’t think the current rifle (evenif 50yr old) is worst thing in the world. Certainly more than good enough for the REMFs. Good enough for the pointy end of the spear? NO.

        • USAF hates drones, and anything that involves unmanned aircraft with a passion. The idea of having anything flown by a fat guy with a joystick in some underground base somewhere goes contrary to their “Top Gun” mythos.

        • PPGMD, the thing about precision munitions is that those are expensive. 30mm rounds are (comparably) much cheaper. Also, my understanding is that A-10 is also much cheaper and easier to service than a helo.

          Overall, it’s a great plane precisely for the kinds of wars that US wages these days – asymmetric warfare against ragtag forces that don’t have much in terms of anti-air. For its original role as a tank killer, it’s probably not as good as helo (it did well in Iraq in that role, but they were not exactly a strong opponent). It’s actually an emerging trend in many armed forces in the world to readopt slow-flying, often turboprop (more fuel efficient) straight wing airplanes for CAS in similar circumstances.

      • My theory is that Lockheed (who makes the new F35 “multi-role” F/A plane) is pushing for it’s demise since it undermines the F35’s sales and their competitors handle all the upgrades on A-10s. I think it’s all political. If the USAF drops the A-10, I think the USMC and Army should resurrect it within their own branches.

        • “I think it’s all political.”

          If you mean it is all about funneling obscene amounts of cash to the “correct” vendor, then I agree completely that this entire debacle is political.

      • The A-10 was a happy accident for CAS. The Air Force didn’t want a dedicated attack plane in the 1970s anymore than they do today, but they were in a major pissing contest with the Army following Vietnam. As some of you older dogs probably remember, the Army was fielding a ton of aircraft during the war, a lot of it armed, and the Air Force started to claim they were undermining their combat role. So a lot of restrictions were placed on armament and operating capabilities and so on, and the Army called them on it. Fearing reprisal in funding, the Air Force quickly turned the A-10 program into production in an action of “See? You don’t need all these airplanes, we have the best attack aircraft in the world in development!”
        The fighter mafia, despite being instrumental in getting us out of the “multi-role” requirements that hindered the century series fighters, were always resistant to low-speed dedicated attackers.
        Fast forward 50 years, and we’re right back to the same stupid one plane, twenty job roles, and shoe-horning older planes to fit the roles these wonderplanes can’t do.
        Likewise, the Harrier does a specific job, and actually does it pretty well, and it has a pretty impressive combat record, but without supersonic capability, it’s always been in the crosshairs. It doesn’t matter that thanks to the RAF’s short-sightedness, it’s one of the cheapest strike fighters the USMC has ever used, it’s just not sexy enough for the budget. Every brass’s favorite kind of CAS is the kind that gets done from 30,000 feet at mach 2. Everything else is too close to real fighting and not sexy.

        • “Fast forward 50 years, and we’re right back to the same stupid one plane, twenty job roles, and shoe-horning older planes to fit the roles these wonderplanes can’t do.”

          Can you say “F111”? Same song, different verse, similar outcome, from an earlier time. Bureaucrats never learn.

        • Just as Garrison says, we’re back to the F-111 – in so many ways. The multi-mission, multi-partner aspect of it makes it doomed to failure, just as the F-111 was.

      • The F-35 was bought/pushed through by influential politicians that had constituents that made money off of them. They do their job, funneling money to those constituents. Actual battlefield practicality of the purchase isn’t important to them.

      • ever heard of an a-10 ‘ace’? you can’t survive a dog fight in an a-10, heck, you probably can’t even engage in a dogfight with high-speed interceptors (or multi-role planes). the fighter mafia is running the air force, and they don’t want an airplane that can’t win them accolades and glory for shooting down the other guy (not withstanding most shoot-downs are done at long range by air-to-air missiles…so much for dog fighting).

        another factor that drives air force decision-making is the constant fear that one day the air force will be re-absorbed into the army. this has been a constant motivator since the birth of a separate air force. having an aircraft dedicated to supporting (better than any other platform) troops-in-contact is a constant reminder of the potential for someone to question why the a-10 shouldn’t be given to the army (note, the air force is hell bent on destroying the a-10s once removed from inventory). indeed, what is the justification for ‘tactical’ air force? the marines do a super job of using their jets in support of ground operations, and have a successful record of beating the enemy at air-to-air combat, as well.

    • Actually no you can’t. People who say this have never worked in this industry. I’ve been doing this for twenty years, and the reason for the trillion dollar spend has nothing to do with the capabilities of t the weapon being designed. It is the cost of doing business with excessive amounts of secrecy and government oversight. If you were to design the A-10 today, even starting with the original blueprints, it would be hundreds of billions of dollars simply because of the endless meetings and status reports and testing required by the .gov for even the tiniest part. I have literally spent several man-weeks generating teams of paper to answer some moronic government employee’s inane question about why a single line of a specification was written the way it was. Engineers cost money. Four or five engineers answering just that question ate up tens of thousands of dollars, and that was hardly an isolated incident.

      If we the people want to get off this train-wreck of ever-escalating cost, we would have to go back to the way things were in the forties. Vendors show up with what they have in their labs, and the government buys what’s on the table or they don’t. Of course you wouldn’t get top of the line anymore, but it would be lots cheaper.

      • I disagree, and agree with you.

        The changes to military procurement to the competitive fly off was important, as it prevented companies from selling big promises and way under delivering. For example in Boyd’s book his gives an example where he was presented with specs, and he noticed that if you continued the curve in one of the charts the aircraft would generate thrust via aerodynamics. These fly offs cost money, I am willing to bet that at least a portion of the $1 Trillion is for the development of the X-32, which competed against the X-35 (which turned into the F-35) for the JSF contract.

        OTOH the government has taken it too far. Lockheed Martin still probably pays for a warehouse to store all the records from the F-16 development program. That unnecessary cost is passed on to the government. There are numerous other examples, such as GE selling engines to the USAF at 10% more than their commercial customers due to the costs of having DOD inspectors stopping stuff constantly. And the commercial customers get a warranty that the USAF doesn’t.

        Honestly I think we need to find a way to balance it. Provide oversight so the government gets their money worth, but not so much that it balloons costs to astronomical levels.

        • You also need to keep in mind that the government pays for risk because of the way it funds programs. Funding efforts at one year increments causes the developer to charge more so they aren’t left holding the bag at the end of the year when Congress defunds a program. The government also tends to allow mission/capability creep to continue even when the design is to far along to accommodate those kinds of changes.

          It is insane to me that programs like the F-22 had their RFP issued the year I was born (1981) and the first operational aircraft didn’t hit the inventory until I had been commissioned for three years. As someone who works in government acquisitions from the GOV side I am shocked we ever get anything done.

        • pyratemime,

          That is certainly a factor. I remember reading about the F-117, and how Lockheed took a huge risk by shouldering a cost overrun at the beginning of the program with the hope that they would make it up on the back end (which they did after they optimized production of the aircraft to lower costs). But OTOH they were a black program outside the usual political funding games.

      • I believe Custer’s Calvary unit was equipped with Spencers…and perhaps other Calvary units as well. Perhaps that’s where the confusion comes from.

        Re-equipping the whole Northern army with Spencers or Henrys sounds like a great idea. But there was no way the government could afford to do it. The war effort was already costing the government dearly. Throw in tooling up factories and ammo plants to the new specs…wasn’t gonna happen.

      • Forgive my lack of clarity… but the “,” before “and” makes the item preceding it a separate item. I didn’t say all of those rifles were in Gettysburg, I said “and smooth bore muskets in Gettysburg.” Which is what many of the Irish volunteer units were still using, even though they were 2 years into the war at that point.

        The M1873 example was meant to be understood as post Civil War, (you know, because it was adopted in 1873) used while fighting the Indians who were on horse back, very mobile and had rapid firing repeating rifles. A classic example of this is Custer’s last stand. While armament wasn’t the sole reason for the massacre, it didn’t help.

        The Krag-Jorgenson example shouldn’t need explaining, but a rifle that you load with loose rimmed rounds against the Spanish equipped with clip fed Mausers? The Army saw the error fairly quickly adopted the M1903 soon after that debacle.

        • Deuce –

          I too often assumed that the soldiers that served in the Plains and Southwest Indian Wars were not properly equipped to battle the various tribes, many of whom were carrying Henry and Winchester model 1866 lever action repeating rifles.

          However, at the time the U.S. Army adopted the Model 1873 Springfield “Trapdoor” Carbine, the new model Winchester 1873 (the gun that won the west) could only be chambered with pistol cartridges and was vastly underpowered when compared to both the carbine (caliber 45/55) and full length
          rifle versions (45/70) of the 1873 Springfield.

          In addition, Calvary troopers were trainded to fire their carbines dismounted in a kneeling position, allowing them to take advantage of the longer range and accuracy of the full power cartridges.

          Were I in their position, I would have preferred the combination of the 1873 Springfield with the 1873 Colt Single Action Revolver, as I would have weapons that could fight at both long and short range.

          Side note: Winchester finally designed a rifle in 1876 that could handle high powered rifle cartridges, but is was not until 1886 that they developed a rifle that could chamber the 45/70.

    • Gettysberg was fought in 1863. Pretty sure they didn’t use Krags, Otherwise known as 1892 model Springfields, nor did they use 1873 manufactured Sharps.

      There were some smoothbore muskets in use there.

      • An “1873” Sharps would be a model 1863 paper cartridge rifle converted to fire metallic cartridges. The rifle we know and love (A la Quigley Down Under) is the Sharps model 1874.

    • The F35 is going to be mediocre at beast. Every time we’ve tried a jack of all trades type anything they end up being mediocre nothings. Honestly we would have been better scrapping the F35 and keeping the F22 as expensive as that aircraft was.

      • Yep. The Bell P39 Airacobra from WWII comes to mind. The idea had promise, but the plane sucked. At Guadalcanal, we had guys flying the damn things against Japanese zeroes.

        • P-39 did better at low altitudes and did well in ground attack roles. The plane seemed to do better with the Russians. It really was never as good as the P-40 which most allied air forces preferred. Of course later designs eclipsed both.

        • Aircobra was flown by pretty much all the top Soviet aces on WW2, and they racked up a very impressive kill count on them (more than anyone else ever did on any American aircraft, including American pilots). I wouldn’t call that “sucks”.

      • Well, sort of. Given state of the art technology, it could be better. But let’s recall, there are not a lot of others building new combat aircraft at all, and the F-35 is probably going to be far superior to aircraft designed in the 1980s.

    • Except the F-35 is not a replacement for the A-10. It is a replacement for the aging F-16 force just as the F-22 was supposed to replace the F-15 except we aren’t building enough to do that. The Marine Corp is using the F-35 to replace the Harrier force that is reaching the end of its service life.

      • It may have not been designed as such, but USAF is now using F-35 as the reason why A-10 is “no longer needed”.

        • the f-35 gun (which will not be fielded before 2019) is supposed to fire at 3,000 rounds-per-minute, while carrying a total of 180 (that is not a typo) rounds. so much for replacing the a-10.

  3. I think “lousy ” depends on your reference frame. Anything made for a purpose is a series of compromises: you can never have it all. Specifically for a M4
    – want a handy barrel length? Lose velocity, therefore lose terminal effect
    – want to carry lots of ammo? Utilize a smaller, therefore less powerful cartridge
    – want a lightweight and simple operating system? Accept some issues with fouling

    This ignores the simple economics of the equation too. Even if you could design the perfect rifle for each branch of the US military, the cost to purchase, issue and retrain millions of soldiers would cost billions of dollars. Coupled with a change in caliber or projectile cost, you have billions more in expenses. What about the existing M4’s and ammunition stockpiles? Realistically, it would be destroyed at a cost.

    The unfortunate truth is that economics is the main driver for these choices

    • Stu – your observations about the M4 are right on. While I never used a Vietnam era M16, my current AR 15 with a 20 inch barrel meets all my needs for coyote hunting, target shooting and should enable me to defend my home if necessary. As for reliability, it is easier to clean than my Ruger 10/22 and has never given me any reason to doubt that this is a rifle I could depend on. Yes, I could go out and get at longer ranger .308 AR 10, but I really don’t want to carry around another 2 pounds of rifle.

      The only concern I would have with an M4 is if I was deployed in a war zone such as the mountainous regions of Afghanistan with a 14.5 inch barrel versus a handful of bad guys with bolt action Lee Enfields 303’s. Outside of that, I cannot think of a better rifle / ammunition combination than the current M4 / 5.56.

    • And dont forget the many myriad details of the logistics to stockpile and deliver a new round, that is not NATO common. What is the practical advantage of .300AAC over 5.56 in CQB, and/or 7mm in longer DM role?

      I don’t pretend to know, on the operator level, but I would guess the the procurement process would have go to many millions of weapons to get to the $1000 average unit cost of the modular rifle described, with Tracking Point type aiming device.

      More/better tactics and multi-role multiple mission scenario specific training, and jr leadership development for the US Army, like the what the USMC does, goes a longggg way in uniit combat effectiveness…thats no diss on the USArmy, just a reading of history of combat.

      Another way to look at it is if you spend all your budget on the coolest gun, but have no money to afford the bullets, your effectiveness goes away. And training is perishable, per one operator I respect. So spend money first on your your people’s weapons use, if the weapon or variants are already 90% good. There are no 100% solutions now, for one rifle to rule them all.

      Maybe when that new plasma raygun comes out, tho… and I expect to hear about it first, on TTAG.

      • A switch to a gas-piston design and a medium cartridge (6.5, 6.8 or 300 blk) would do the trick. It’s not out of the question, just needs a government to actually spend the money on the change. It’s always simple, just comes down to $.

        • But it’s totally unnecessary. What advantages does a larger caliber offer over the 5.56, what disadvantages? Keep in mind that the individual soldier’s rifle is not the primary casualty producing device. Belt fed, crew served weapons, direct and indirect fire support create far more casualties than a soldier with a rifle. People are still stuck on this paradigm from pre-WWI where a soldier with a rifle is the primary casualty producing device.

          As for gas pistons, why? They aren’t anymore reliable than a well built DI gun. All a gas piston gun does is put the carbon somewhere else while introducing more moving parts that will eventually break. Then you introduce issues like carrier tilt, broken or bent operating rods. Not to mention the extra 2 pounds it adds to the rifle. Is this gas piston gun going to have an adjustable system for adverse conditions? Or will it be self regulating?

          About the only place a gas piston has on an AR is if you have a barrel that’s under 13″ and your are suppressing it.

        • @Hello World, I’ve seen standard DI guns run a couple thousand rounds in 2 day courses. Sure, they malfunctioned, so did the AK’s. Most anything will malfunction when covered in thick mud. However none of those required more than a rack of the charging handle to clear. There were no catastrophic malfunctions. The M4 as it is now, is about as reliable as it gets. The reason those soldier’s rifles had issues at Wanat is because they fired a few thousand rounds in an afternoon. That will cause issues with any rifle, even the mythical AK.

          I have friends who have multiple tours overseas, wanna guess which rifle they have at home, now that they are out of the Army?

          As far as caliber, it doesn’t need to be changed. If anything the issue was the projectile which the new M855A1 is supposed to fix. Caliber doesn’t make up for bad shot placement. The guys that are surviving getting shot by 5.56 would be surviving being shot by a 6.5. Not to mention the cost of changing over. Wanna know where that money could be better spent? Giving soldiers more than 2 trips to the range a year.

        • It’s not worth abandoning 5.56 when it hasn’t been used to its full potential yet. What they do need to do is move over to heavier (75-77 grain) bullets, and specifically work on a bullet design that provides reliable fragmentation. Probably use Mk 262 as a starting point, but the result should be cheaper (should be possible if match grade accuracy requirements are dropped).

        • Deuce, when have you last seen a bent op rod on an AK or any of its derivatives (SG550, FNC…)?

          And yes, what gas piston does is put the carbon somewhere else. Which is kinda relevant when “somewhere else” is not BCG. Accumulation of carbon in an AK tube is basically harmless – it gets scraped off by the piston action, and you’d need an extreme amount of it to actually impede the piston movement; there are no small parts there for it to get into and clog. OTOH, a bolt – especially an AR bolt – has all kinds of things, like, say, the extractor, that do suffer from carbon fouling and reduce reliability.

          The other problem with directing gases to the bolt is that it heats it up, burning off the oil that much faster (and what’s not burned off gets the carbon gunk, reducing its efficiency). Again, BCG is exactly the part of the rifle where you want the oil to stay there and stay efficient for as long as possible.

  4. I think he means crappy magazines and rifles that haven’t been maintained. My buddies in the army hated their old M16s that had been handled by private bubba for years, but as soon as they got new M4s everybody was more than pleased. Likewise, the first thing they did was throw away the crappy mags and buy PMAGS.

  5. Same stuff I’ve been reading for 40 years, recycled and regurgitated for people who are new here (i.e., readers of The Atlantic).

    The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it less effective at long ranges than the older M16—an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges.

    Really? A basic tenet of the assault rifle concept is a shorter, lighter rifle is more practical because the overwhelming majority of engagements are at shorter ranges. How often is an engagement beyond 300 yards? Still, I’d rather have an M4 than an AK.

    • ” How often is an engagement beyond 300 yards? ”

      600 yard fights were not at all uncommon in Afghanistan. When you’re taking fire from a DSHK parked in some rocks with a huge valley between you and it, you kind of want the range.
      That said, the entire squad has no need for that kind of range, one DMR should be fine to handle it.

      • If someone wants their rifle to have serious terminal ballistics at 600+ yards, then they need to shoot a punishing caliber. The venerable .308 is well below 2,000 fps at 600 yards and .30-06 is only a few fps faster. In other words those rifle rounds are rapidly approaching handgun ballstics at 600+ yards. (And keep in mind that full metal jacket spire pointed bullets do not make devastating wounds at 1700 fps unless you manage to pierce the target’s central nervous system.)

        If you want a decisive round at 600+ yards, I suggest .300 Winchester Magnum as a minimum and .338 Lapua or similar are even better. If we could shoot expanding bullets that don’t need to punch through armor, then the standard .30 caliber rifles would be reasonably effective as well out to 800 or so yards. Either way, you need optics and lots of practice to shoot effectively at those ranges. This is a convincing argument (in my opinion) to have two members of each platoon who have proper equipment, training, and practice to shoot at those ranges.

        • At 600 yards I would suggest the ballistics of 10 5.56 rifles firing semi auto to conserve ammo, keeping your enemy’s head down until somebody shows up with a Mk 82 500-lb bomb.

        • No, they don’t.

          US troops, especially Marines, used to engage targets for effect for many wars and many battles out to 800+ yards when they were using a .30-06 in either a Springfield or a Garand. The ’06 works and works well out to 900+ yards in military ball ammo.

          The recoil isn’t punishing, unless you’re one of the people who believes you need a muzzle brake on an AR-15 to help reduce recoil.

          With a 1903A3 and iron sights, I can hit a man-sized target at a known distance of 600 yards, in calm winds, on the first shot, from a cold bore, and I don’t consider it a remarkable accomplishment at all. It is just what the rifle and the round were capable of. It isn’t a big deal. Really. And maybe that’s because WWII Marines were the gruff guys who taught me how to shoot when I was a kid, and that’s what they expected. As one guy was fond of saying to me when I complained about ANY gun being the problem in not hitting a target: “Kid, there’s nothing wrong with that gun that a new shooter won’t fix.”

          I have an AR-15 wearing an ACOG with BDC in it. I can put rounds onto a man-sized target at 500+ yards, but I can tell the rounds are starting to drift much more dramatically than the .30-06 rounds, and now even slight winds start to become an issue. .223 ballistics simply suck – the 55 or 62 bullets’ Bc’s are simply too low for long-range work. Period, full stop. Things get better with a 77gr SMK bullet, but the .223 doesn’t start to perform well at 600+ yards until you get to bullets over 80 grains, and you can fit those into the magazine.

          If I had to engage someone at 600 yards, I’d put aside the mickey-mousery of the .223 and pick up my ’03A3 and get to work. The .308/7.62×51 will work well, but it becomes marginal at 900 yards, about to go sub-sonic. I’ve hit targets on the first shot with my M1A, again with iron sights. It is hardly a punishing recoil impulse. For laying prone, I’d take the ’03A3 every time. It is a bit damning that a rifle and round of a basic design 100+ years old is far better at long range shooting than what the military fields for infantry small arms today.

        • Larry,

          That is actually a decent tactic if the squad/platoon can count on air support. That being said, something tells me that they would not always be able to count on air support. Having two squad/platoon members who are effective to 1000 yards seems like a huge asset.

        • Dyseptic gunsmith,
          My great uncle was a Marine in WW 1, One of the survivors of the forgotten battle. He told me that they routinely trained to shoot at over 1000 yards with their M1917s. The sights are graduated to 1600.
          I agree with you that the 30-06 or 308 are supurb performers and every platoon should have several. I’d go with one per squad.
          What we need is an Army of Audy Murphy’s. Carlos Hathcocks, and Alvin Yorks. We only get them when they learn how to shoot their musket while still short of a jack rabbits Knees.

        • Yes, it’s true that old rifles had sights graduated often to 1500 or even 2000 meters, and soldiers were actually trained to use them at those ranges… but only against “group targets” (i.e. a mass of enemy soldiers), not individual people. Needless to say, in the era of trench warfare and later mobile warfare, it’s not a useful feature, which is why it has been dropped.

          Anyway, for long distance DMR type shooting, perhaps the military should just adopt .243.

    • Yes, the Taliban figured out that M4s are next to useless at 600 yards and would ambush our troops with their 7.62×54 machine guns just passed that.

      Also, the 5.56FMJ rounds the military has used have had a sketchy record at best. They all need about 2500fps on impact to tumble and break up. The original 55gr made a relatively massive wound but when they settled on a uniform NATO round the Europeans balked because it was ‘inhumane’ so they went with the 62gr green tipped stuff which was an OK round but between the heavier bullet and the shorter barrels the round won’t reliably tumble passed 150 yards or so. The new round is supposed to be better, but unless they go with an expanding bullet in violation of a century plus old agreement we never signed the performance will always be compromised.

      • Nice history, except it is wrong.

        M855 was developed due to the SAW/Minimi. During NATO standardization of 5.56mm, they wanted a 5.56mm round that would penetrate light steel at 600 meters when shot out of the Minimi. M855 was developed for that spec. Which developed the M856 tracer to match M855’s ballistics with a 800 meter burn time. Which resulted in the 1:7″ twist since that is what was required to stabilize the extremely long bullet of the M856 tracer.

        • Well, I wasn’t there but that’s what I’ve read. I’ve also read everything you said. Yes they wanted a round capable of penetrating a steel helmet at 600 yards and yes they had to go with a faster twist rate, but none of that makes what I said untrue. Please explain where what I said is untrue.

        • It had nothing to do with M193 being inhumane. It had everything to do with the Europeans wanting their light machine gun using the same ammo as their assault rifles.

          And that they expected their light machine gun to have certain performance parameters due the way that machine guns are employed.

        • I don’t think this is the only place I’ve read this, but if it’s on wikipedia it must be true, right?

          ‘In 1977, NATO members signed an agreement to select a second, smaller caliber cartridge to replace the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge.[7] Of the cartridges tendered, the 5.56×45mm NATO was successful, but not the 55 gr M193 round used by the U.S. at that time. The wounds produced by the M193 round were so devastating that many[8] consider it to be inhumane.[9][10]’

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5.56%C3%9745mm_NATO

        • I would take anything posted to Wikipedia with a large grain of salt. Particularly when the citation is low grade secondary source like a magazine.

        • Well, like I said I wasn’t there but Europeans are funny that way. (I’m not wasting any more time searching for other sources either way.) Still, the main idea I was trying to convey is that M855 and M193 both tend to not tumble on impact anymore after 150 yards or so when fired from a 16″ barrel, leaving a wound similar to being stabbed by an ice pick. I take it you didn’t have an issue with that.

        • For the M193 or M855 is tumbling alone is bad. Both rounds the designed wounding mechanism is fragmentation.

          But regardless, even with a 20″ barrel the optimal range is only extended another 60-70 yards. The round can fragment outside that velocity range, it just isn’t reliably.

          Honestly the fix has nothing to do with ballistics, but training. Not even equipping everyone with a SR-25 rifles will fix it. You don’t take a belt fed machine gun on head to head with rifleman. You need people that can make precision hits at the distances that the machine guns are engaging you. Which means often means that they have to have skills beyond an average infantry soldier these days, into DMR or sniper distances.

        • Well sounds like we’re in agreement on just about everything but the fact that the Europeans are a bunch of squeamish wimps then.

        • Europeans and squeamish wimps in the same sentence? Don’t come to the Balkans, Finland or Eastern Europe in general if you want that view unchallenged.

        • Petomane, note that this sentence is just a general statement of opinion as of today – it says “many consider”, not “many considered”. And it states separate from the sentence that precedes it, so it’s not really related.

          Also, if you look at the citations, none of them are from the time period before M855 was adopted.

        • Fragmentation is a function of bullet stability and not just velocity. Basically, if a 5.56 bullet tumbles, it is likely to fragment at the cannelure. But the more stabilized it is, the less likely it is to tumble when it hits. The original Stoner design had a 55gr bullet fired from a 1:14 twist barrel – that made the bullets basically just stable enough. Not a super precise arrangement, but perfectly adequate for an assault rifle, and it produced extremely reliable fragmentation and horrific exit wounds, all documented in early testing. But then army insisted on a more precise cartridge, so they changed the twist to 1:12 to stabilize the bullet better – which still worked fine. With 1:7 twist though, 55gr and 62gr are both way overstabilized for tumbling, and so velocity became the sole fragmentation-inducing mechanism (which resulted in shrinking distances of terminal efficiency). OTOH, a heavy bullet, like 77gr Mk 262, tumbles very reliably even out of 1:7, and hence fragments much more consistently and at greater distances.

    • When I was deployed all we did was search and seizure, so it was shoguns and M4s, all day long. And both worked fine, given the task at hand.

      That being said, given the choice, I’d rather have an AK nine times out of ten.

  6. I used to read the Atlantic until I got sick of their propagandizing and emotionalism and exaggeration. After all I have NPR for that already. /sarc.

    The article is a propaganda puff piece. For example “Any lost edge, however small, means death.” Really? Exaggerate much?

    Light on fact and rich in hyperbole, the most important take away is that some Generals are gearing up to buy some new guns and they are going to do it by propagandizing and drawing on “history” to “prove” their point that there is this terrible injustice going on.

    The real story relates to what are they up to with the propaganda. Seems to me they are selling this:
    ” The optimum caliber for tomorrow’s rifle is between 6.5 and 7 millimeters. The cartridge could be made almost as light as the older brass-cased 5.56-mm by using a plastic shell casing, which is now in final development by the Marine Corps.”
    and looking to place this “a new rifle will cost more than $2 billion.” with some cronies.

    • The Atlantic was a great magazine until Michael Kelley died in Iraq. It was Left-wing, but thoughtful. Now it’s just typical Progressive screeching. It’s a shame.

    • +1. That was my initial reaction, thinking, “The Atlantic”!? whats the catch? must be one of odumbos corporate sponsors behind it, Hannauer, Gates, Bloomberg looking for the smart gun tech…

      But on the face of it, Get n Scales is makijg same arguments many have made, since M16 deployed in Vietnam.
      And I was actually surprised at some of the knowledge of commenters, there, too.

      PS: yes, +1 John M, Michael Kelley was a bright light and a huge loss. Not seeing his like, as the nature of ISIS dominated battlefield is deadly to journalists on the ground, but there are others coming up in the wings, MichaelTotten among them, and the veterans from the sand box, blogging now, too many to honor by name here, but worth a review by TTAG.

      http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blogs/michael-j-totten

    • +1. I once subscribed to The Atlantic. But too many thoughtless, one sided narratives, especially around election time, drove me away.
      Regarding the ideal caliber being between 6.5 and 7mm, that was actually considered in the 1920’s before the Garand was developed in 30.06. And of course, the M4 (in 5.56) is a compromise, especially in areas where long range engagements (>300 m) will be common.
      Instead of a new rifle, improve marksmanship training (look at US Marines, General), add DSM’s with 7.62 rifles, and dump the Army’s individual replacement system with one that stresses unit cohesion over a 2 year period.

      • I think you mean RECHAMERED the M1 for 30.06. Why? Story is that at the time we had warehouses full of the old stuff and MCARTHUR (remember the most over rated US General of the last 100 years) insisted on the change.

      • John Garand (a Canadian, BTW), originally chambered the Garand rifle in the new .276 Pedersen cartridge. It would have been superior in long range ballistics to the .30-06.

        The Army, looking at the pile of .30-06 ammo we had, and the big black hole of .276 Pedersen ammo that we did not have, and seeing even in the mid 30’s that we were going to be in another war, made a logistics decision to stick with the ’06 round. Money was very tight in the Depression, and the US armed forces were being run on a shoestring at that point. Isolationism was running very high, and the taxpayers were not in favor of spending money on military gear or foreign adventures.

        • Thanks for the correction / clarification. I had always thought that 30 cal animals were too much for most engagements and vaguely recalled that the Army had (long ago) thought along similar lines.
          You’re correct about the history. Changing to new calibers is costly – something that would have been very unpopular in the depression.
          While there may be good arguments for a replacement / additional cartridge between 5.56 and 7.62, the logistics, training and added complexity are big issues.

          Off topic: One area where the Marine Corps did recently blow it was in converting their M1 tanks from 105mm to 120mm. Extra punch per round, but 15 fewer rounds…

  7. I’ve never had problems with my assigned M16A2 or M4s. They have all worked but I keep them fairly clean. The rifles I’ve seen issues with are basic training rifles. They are so beat up and poorly maintained due to the high amount of trainees. Plus, an M16 costs the government right around $500 and an M4 a little bit more than that. The optics an mounts cost almost as much or more. I shot an M4 with an ACOG and messed around with an Elcan Spectre. My assigned weapon has an Aimpoint Comp M2. All of these optics are more than the price of a new rifle. I also use my personal PMAGS in the rifle or my personal GI mags.

    Now, does he have data that the M4 sucks? Or is it his opinion?

    • I’m in the army. The rifles at basic were complete and utter garbage..at least at Fort Benning. The M4, is a good rifle, especially for the cost.

      IMO, the army should keep the M4, but switch to the FAXON Long Stroke Piston upper, change to the 300AAC Blackout, possibly a shorter barrel with a compensator.

      By using that upper, it allows for a side folding stock, too. Would be better suited in really close quarter combat situations.

      • I watched a Hickok45 review of the ARAK rifle the other day. Very interesting design but pricey at $2300 or so. A stock like a HK or Nordic Components Compact Retractable Stock would be better than a side folder. That is if the BCG does not need to cycle into the buffer tube during operation even without a buffer and spring. I don’t know enough about the design of the ARAK yet.

      • There are a bunch of different wildcat rounds out there that would work well. 300BLK is a nice round but it does have some limitations. The good thing with it is it only requires a barrel swap. There is another round that is similar but uses a .277 bullet like the 6.8 which is the .277 Wolverine. It looks to be an interesting round and only requires a barrel swap also. No new bolts or magazines.

        • The advantages of the .300 Blk which I am aware of are that it fires a 220 gr subsonic cartridge reaching near full ballistics from a bbl around 9″, ie, it is good for a suppressed SBR. And I have one of those, not just blowing smoke. I am NOT aware of any inherent advantages over 5.56 relating to a normal rifle, esp sufficient to recommend changing over the entire Army arsenal. I’d guess that it would make both 5.56 and .300 Blk cheaper for me to purchase, which would certainly be nice, but otherwise I can’t see an advantage.

        • .300 BLK out of a non-suppressed rifle is basically a 7.62×39 equivalent – slightly better in terms of flight ballistics, but not enough to warrant attention. So it’s better in any scenario where 7.62×39 is better. Arguably that would be heavy brush where ranges are generally under 100m or so (like, say, many parts of Europe – there’s a reason why Finns still use 7.62×39, for example).

          As a general-purpose round, 5.56 is better with the right bullet design.

  8. Every gun has bad examples. All of our service rifles were promulgated in sub-optimal trials. The Garand was a fine rifle in its day and is still a fine rifle but it lacks some modern features. Ever try to scope a Garand?

    The M14 was in improvement and also a fine rifle for it’s day. I have a Garand and M1A and like them both.

    I did use the M16 in the Army and I did not like it, and don’t like it to this day. it’s a great bayonet platform, I’ll say that, but the majority of inventory in my unit were of average accuracy, and I’m glad I never had to rely on one to protect my life. These rifles were regularly and well maintained but tended to suffer from reliability issues. I have seen this manifested in civilian market AR15 guns as well, in what can best be described as optimum conditions. There are plenty of people championing the AR15’s are reliable now and I don’t doubt there are examples out there capable of great reliability. Service rifles are not put together with all top shelf parts though and as a result the rifle we have, being more of a precision instrument than its predecessors aren’t the stellar “10,000 rounds with no malfunctions” type of guns. There are also a fair number of unreliable examples out there and there are rifles out there incorporating some of the AK’s design into a more ergonomic platform that are capable of better reliability and don’t cost significantly more in the long run, while maintaining the majority of the precision we have come to expect. Why we haven’t at least given serious consideration to competing rifle platforms available now is a good question.

    • What is the need to scope a Garand?

      For that matter, I fail to apprehend the “need” to scope a M16 or M4. The sights on both are perfectly acceptable, IMO. I prefer the sights on the Garand/M14/M1A, especially with the NM sights (front post and rear elevation fine adjustments), but there’s really nothing wrong with the iron sights on the M16/AR-15 platform.

      • Militaries are going to optics because for the average Joe, will probably be more effective. Iron sights with the right guy can be effective.

      • The average shooter can shoot much better groups with a scope. A scope also greatly improves target ID. Heck, I use good scopes plenty of times to see if a swath of brown 100 yards away is a deer hide or just part of the landscape. Scanning, scouting, and sniping are optics advantages.

      • I know you are a gunsmith and all but you do have to admit that a scoped rifle is better than one without a scope. I personally use iron sights (diopter sights) but I do recognize that a red dot or a scope is superior, especially during a firefight or something where adrenaline flows. Heck, in my homeland we and the enemy used SKS and AK rifles with whatever scopes one could get (RPG scopes in some cases) as sniper rifles (urban environment). The improvement is especially dramatic in rifles with not so good iron sights (AK and SKS rifles for instance).

    • M14 was an improvement over Garand, yes, but it was outdated even before it first appeared on the drawing board. The new standard was StG 44 and AK-47, and pretty much everyone except the US military have known that already (which is why most European militaries were investigating intermediate rounds). But US brass didn’t understand that idea, so instead they came up with a new full size rifle round, and a new rifle to go with it.

  9. Being an Army 11B in the 80s and 90s we certainly knew the limitations of the M16 and those lessons were likely learned at the cost of the lives or our predecessors. Anyone who has used one in harsh terrain and/or for long periods of time between serious maintenance will certainly be able to describe all of the flaws of the platform. I’m not so sure that this is a failing of the government to provide a good weapons platform. I’m sure they were sold that this was the better platform. I believe that what the writer suggests happen, is actually happening, though the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly and those weapons platforms that are being used by the elite forces are likely either going to show up in the 11B ranks, or are already showing up there now.

    What I’ve seen in the 11B ranks today are certainly way better than what we had when I was in. The writer’s viewpoint was an interesting one though, and I’m all for pushing for bringing home more soldiers safe and sound.

  10. The issue isn’t the rifle, the issue is the ammunition used and the penance for following a stupid treaty over a century old.

    The AR platform has killed plenty of people over the decades using the less effective FMJ. Give our boys JHP and it will be fine.

    • A stupid treaty we never signed and doesn’t even apply to insurgencies. The treaty was designed to give the conscripts of dictators a fighting chance to survive their 30 caliber gunshot wounds. Conscripts rarely get up and continue their attacks to reach paradise and get their 72 virgins.

  11. I believe most casualties are inflicted by expolsives, either mortars or artillery. I think something like 90-99% of rifle fire is just to keep their heads down.

  12. Army should go back to 7.62 NATO. We find ourselves fighting in cities as often as distant mountains. A 16″ barrelled 7.62 nato rifle solves a lot of those issues. Give each squad a M249, problem solved.

      • The M249 is 5.56, the 240 is 7.62 NATO. The M249 technically has a effective range of 800-1000 yards against an area target. The rapid rate of fire compensates, to an extent, the small size of the 5.56. Since gunners can carry a lot of 5.56, the M249 is a nice firepower option.

        • If I am in a firefight, I would prefer the 7.62 NATO, thank you very much. At least until I run out of ammo. OTOH, anyone who has ever held an ammo can with 820 rounds of 5.56 in one hand and another with 400 rounds of 7.62 NATO in the other will hesitate and stutter before he decides just what he wants for a particular application. All is not as simple as it sometimes seems. Like, are we taking a Jeep, or are we walking?

        • Well yes, I’d rather have a 240 in battle but I’d rather huff the 249 if I had to get there on foot. But then that was the whole premise of the 5.56 in the first place. I can definitely see where a 249 in each squad would come in handy but I think I’d want a sharpshooter with a scoped M14 as well. Anyway, I think technology will soon be minimizing if not eliminating the need for long range rifles. Pop a drone in the air and drop a bomb on their heads from 2 miles away. Seems like the safest alternative.

    • Some pretty astute comments at the Atlantic article by people with recent real world experience.
      One said it was time for the SAW to be retired, I recall.

      Note. I Am Not An Operator, (IANAO) and defer to those who are.

    • Lol, I think you mean a M240, which many many squads switched to carrying in Afghanistan. But the damn thing is adding about 30 lbs in payload per gun to carry the same amount of ammo as a typical M249 loadout. Toss two of those in a squad, and suddenly you’ve increased the load for a group 10-12 guys by 5-10% a piece (but that will likely not be distributed equally) in high altitudes, hills, and loose rocky terrain, not too fun to hump around.

      Secondly, the 7.62 x 51mm NATO round is an extremely efficient cartridge, produces low barrel wear, and has relatively high energy at the ranges you would typically engage in urban combat, but has very poor energy drop off at long range, just like 5.56 NATO.

      What really needs to happen, in my opinion, is that the 5.56 is here to stay for the M4, and whatever infantry rifle comes after it as long as there isn’t some monumental breakthrough in small arms technology, but the m240 and m249 should be phased out to a high BC 6.5mm ‘ish round that will out perform the 7.62 at range. That should bring the loadout much closer to m249 weights, with the reach (or better) than a m240 loadout. Once you can accurately engage with your LMG’s at long range, you fire and maneuver under LMG cover to your effective range with the rest of your squad.

      I feel that the right combination of cartridges that the military should use is 5.56 NATO, 6.5mm and .338 Lapua or Norma. Those 3 rounds would replace the current lineup of 5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO, 50 BMG. They offer the same or better range than what they are replacing at a lower cost and weight per round. Benefits could be further increased by creating improved case geometries and materials to lower weight and cost.

  13. Being a general (or a police officer or whatever) hardly makes one an expert on rifles (or jeeps or paper clips). What is the general’s qualification as any sort of authority on the subject?

    • I just read a quote that goes something like this (the book is not with me at the moment, so I have to paraphrase): Patton didn’t know s#$* about tanks. He knew how to fight with them, but the technical stuff was beyond him.

      The question at the time was whether to start accepting the 76mm Sherman. Patton’s commanders were against it because they were using tactics with the 75mm Sherman that nullified the strength of Panther in combat and they didn’t want to have to retrain their units on the new tank. Patton backed them up, eliciting the above paraphrase.

      • That was flawed thinking. The 76.2 would have made the same tactics even more effective and would have given frontal shot capability inside 500 yards.

        • Yes, it was. But at the time “everyone” thought that most of the German armor in Western Europe was destroyed; Berlin by Christmas and all that. Once they started running in to the heavier armor of the Germans (King Tiger 2, TD Panther, etc.) they changed their tune.

        • ” . . .given frontal shot capability inside 500 yards. . .”

          The 76.2mm was not an effective upgrade for exactly this reason. The German Mk1V L75mm tank guns could penetrate the Sherman’s frontal armor at easily twice that range, the Panther’s further than that and the Tiger’s 88mm’s further still. The British 17- pounder, fitted in the “Firefly” Shermans was markedly superior and was the only Allied tank gun that could successfully engage German armor, including Panthers and Tigers, at their combat ranges and penetrate their frontal armor. The Brits offered the 17-pounder design to the US but Army Ordinance turned it down in favor of the 76.2 “easy eight”. Even the 90mm US main gun wasn’t as good a main gun as the 17 pounder.

      • I think this came up in the discussion following the Fury movie review. The bottomline was manufacturing and logistics. We could make and ship more Shermans, to overwhelm the superior tech of the Panzers, by numbers and speed, at hat particular time, given weapons development and manufacturing lead times.

        That it involved a trade off in lives was one of the many truly difficult decisions that could only be made in a true world war. I wonder if the Democrat leadership has the moral clarity and integrity, and military xperience to make that informed decisions today. Well, actually, thinking about Obama, Carter, before him, and HRC or Fake Indian as the current favorites by the Atlantic type thinkers, I know quite well the answer. And I hope voters remember what matters in 2016, that the one thing POTUS can do well, or not, in the Executive is foreign policy and War. Thats how its supposed to work, per the Constitution…

        • Exactly.

          The Germans fielded a dizzying array of tanks, and it bit them hard in logistics as their lines became extended. Sure, their tanks were often superior to everything else in a one-on-one engagement… but WWII was a war of manufacturing capacity, and to quote Joe Stalin “Quantity has a quality all its own.” And it did. The long lead times to make a German tank, their absurd number of variations and parts requirements eventually neutralized the advantages they had.

          Everything about the German manufacturing sector prior to WWII was quality, obtained by lavishing skilled labor on their products. Just take apart a Luger made prior to 1942 and marvel at the machining. Just think of how many dozens of man-hours it took to make those pistols. It still boggles my mind today. Heck, take apart a Mauser 98k and marvel at it. Look at the machined bottom metal, all in one piece. Compare it to a Springfield ’03A3 – with its two-groove barrel, and stamped sheet metal trigger bow/magazine. The ’03A3 could shoot better than any Mauser could, but it was cheaper and faster to produce by a considerable amount of time.

        • DG:

          It was Trotsky who coined the “Quantity has quality all its own” not Stalin.

          There is even better quip attributed to an US Mustang pilot during WWII. When asked what was more important quality or quantity he responded “Quality is preferred to quantity especially when applied in superior numbers.”

  14. There are economies and economies; what we get depends not just on money, but on time, scale and perceived advantage.

    The Ferguson breach-loader was far superior to the Brown Bess, and had it been deployed in numbers we’d all likely be drinking tea instead of coffee. However, per unit the cost was far greater, it took longer to produce and there were already plenty muskets in arsenal.

    Considering design cycle, too-many-fingers and all the compromises, we by and large do rather well.

  15. My experience with AR platforms , Colt, Bushmaster, Sig Sauer both new and used has been an unmitigated disaster. FTF, FTE on all of them, even after work in periods, good maintenance and using good ammo. ( I know, Ar’s can be reliable, just not for me)

    The only rifles I own in .556 is the Max II Daewoo, flawless, with thousands of rounds with no failures. (Side folding stock, long stroke gas piston, adjustable gas system, fixed eject block; the Daewoo would be a good selection for our military’s primary carry weapon.) My VEPR, AK reliability with Inch group accuracy. I also have an adapter for the VEPR where I can use AR mags.

    • I think that a lot of people defending ARs fall into the trap of saying “yes, but”. It usually goes like that: “yes, but if you keep it clean and well-maintained, it’s very reliable!”. Which is very true, but most other infantry rifles of our day are reliable even when they’re not regularly cleaned and maintained, and sometimes that can be a necessity at a particularly messy battlefield.

  16. The General is correct. The Union Army could have been equipped with Sharps breech loading rifles and Spencer and Henry repeaters. Instead they were equipped with a muzzle loader. In the post civil war period the army got single shot breech loaders, the Indians got Winchester ’73s. The Krag was ok but not as good as the Mauser which is why we promptly copied it after the Spanish-American War. It wasn’t until the the US Army got the revolutionary M-1 Garand that they got the rifle they deserved. Too bad they didn’t get an MG-42 to go with it until the late 1950s. The WWII US infantry squad had the right rifle for mobile warfare but didn’t have the machine gun. The Germans had the machine gun but had the a late 19th Century rifle to go with it. The M-14, or as it should have designated the M-1-A1, was the last quality rifle issued to US troops.

    We have had the M-16 family for so long most of us have forgotten how inadequate it is. The entire premise behind the M-16, which was based on flawed analysis by S.L.A. Marshall, has turned out to be wrong Fully automatic fire is not very effective using US and NATO battle tactics. Spray and pray only works for the Soviet style massed forces. Even the Russians don’t use those tactics anymore. It also negates the logistical advantage of a smaller cartridge. Even the Short burst capability negates the logistical advantage of a smaller cartridge. The weight argument is bogus as well. The WWII and Korea generation were smaller on average than today’s soldier yet they didn’t seem to bothered by the weight of an M-1 There are more disadvantages to the 5.56 NATO round over a larger round than there are advantages. It lacks range, penetration and lethality. There are other calibers that are far superior to the 5.56 that could be used with the AR platform. The AR-15/M-4 is a nice civilian rifle that is useful for self protection and varmint hunting. We can do better by our infantryman than give him a varmint rifle.

    • tdiinva,
      I don’t think the economy of switching the Union army to a repeating or breech loading rifle was viable during the war. After the war it was a crime not to arm troopers with Henry’s, Winchesters or Spencer’s. But the generals were afraid the troops would “waste” their ammo with repeating rifles. Given the spray-n-pray attitude during Viet Nam, maybe they were correct. But the answer would have been to make sure the troops had enough ammo, not handicap them with single shot breech loaders.

      One historian I’ve read suggested that Custer was so used to the fire power of a Spencer armed troop that he didn’t take the threat of Sitting Bull seriously. An interesting thought…

      • Just read a book on the History of the Indian Wars. Custer was expecting a much smaller force than he ended up confronting. He probably would have won the battle had the intelligence estimates been correct. He faced three time the strength that he expected.

        It may be true that the economics did not support a new rifle early in the war but by 1864 it was feasible.

        • Custer was told by his Crow scouts that the force he was tracking was huge – or at least, much larger than Custer kept supposing.

          Custer dismissed the estimates of the Crow scouts. When Custer gave the commands to engage (still before they knew the full size of the camp), the Crow scouts changed into their death shirts. They knew what was going to happen.

          At this point, Custer dismissed the Crow scouts completely, cutting them loose from their duties. As a result, those four scouts lived to tell the story of how Custer ignored them.

          If you ever get to the area between Sheridan, WY and Hardin, MT, go look at the battlefield area. Go a bit further and look at the surrounding terrain.

          When you do, you’ll reach the same conclusion I did: Custer was a gold-plated moron.

      • This is true. Of the 25,000 rifles ordered, only 10,000 were produced, and they cost three times what the ’61 Springfield cost, a rifle produced in vastly larger numbers. The Springfield was the apex of large production military muzzle loader design, accurate to 300 yards with Minie balls, which was more than sufficient for the style of military maneuver and volley fire of the day where individual marksmanship was necessary only for the snipers. The Henry’s, by contrast, were a .44 cal rimfire pistol cartridge that did not have the range of the Sharps or the Springfield, and were comparatively wasteful of ammunition in a day when resupply was always difficult. The loadout for battle for the Springfield was only 20 rounds.

        • The spencer, otoh, was delivered to the union army in numbers above 90 thousand. Most of those were cavalry carbines but some were full length infantry rifles complete with bayonets.

          The only repeaters the confederate forces fielded were battlefield pickups. And having to scrounge your ammo from enemy supplies is not the way to fight a war.

    • >> Spray and pray only works for the Soviet style massed forces. Even the Russians don’t use those tactics anymore.

      “Spray and pray” was never a Soviet doctrine for riflemen, ever. There is a reason why the AK safety, for example, goes safe -> full auto -> semi. It’s because it’s much easier to push it all the way down, and so semi is effectively the default, and you have to make a conscious effort to stop midway through to get full auto. Soviet combat training has also generally emphasized single shots over bursts.

      Last time Soviets did preach “spray and pray” for anything, was back in WW2 days when they armed entire platoons with PPSh. And that was more a function of what they had than some innate doctrine. A PPSh in “pray and spray” was cheap to feed, and more efficient than Mosin in close range (~100m) work, which was pretty common in urban warfare like Stalingrad, and in dense forests of Belarus.

  17. We might also want to look into how poorly (or not) the average grunt actually keeps their weapon.

    The DI gas system generally requires a rifle that is at least relatively clean and lightly lubricated to function well. As long as those two conditions are consistently met, alongside regular and consistent armory maintenance and refurbishment, the M4/M16 family is not a terrible weapon by any means. With a proper bonded bullet, good powder selection, and better BCG and bore coatings we could mostly solve the current issues with lethality (especially at range) and reliability. (I really like what LWRC did for their ambidextrous control scheme, too.)

    That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to start mucking around with different calibers or gas systems, either. The 6.5 Grendel and 6.8MM SPC are excellent intermediate cartridges, both capable of delivering power equal to and greater than the AK (in either x39MM caliber) at all ranges and certainly be far more accurate and controllable in the M4/M16 rifle.

    • So instead of a better rifle, we just need a better soldier?

      That’s funny, the Russians recognized what kind of soldier they were designing for and made an excellent weapon for them.

  18. I see that some say the M4 is great and with proper maintenance there is no issue with reliability. During a battle, who in the hell has the time to clean their rifle? Realy, do you want to worry about cleaning a rifle when you are under fire, get a clue. Perhaps an improved version of the mini-14 is needed. Look at the potential. With a the magazine removed and bolt back, you have a hole from top to bottom to quickly address any issues. The rifle is small and tough. I know, it does not look scary enough.

        • We got rid of the M-14 because it was a crappy select fire weapon in an era where we thought spray and prey was effective, and we fired blindly into the jungle at close range. Something that never happened when we were using the M-1 Garand in the jungles of the Pacific. /sarc. Now we have squad level designated marksman using — fanfare — the M-14 because we aren’t fighting in the jungle and you can see 1000+ yards. Not only that, the built up areas don’t have hooches made of wood and the 5.56 just bounces off.

        • 1000+ yard battlefields aren’t all that common around the world, either.

          I suppose they are so long as US keeps involved in Middle East politics, but remember that Cold War arms design was all about repelling a Soviet invasion of Europe or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or Japan… all places with some moderate to dense vegetation. 7.62×51 doesn’t make much sense in any of those.

          For an all-purpose rifle, 5.56 is a better match. Something like 6.8 would be an even better match, and would reduce the need for dedicated 7.62×51 DMR weapons in theaters like Afghanistan.

    • I love my late series Mini-14. But I don’t think it would hold up well in the field. For one thing it’s way too picky on magazines (and yeah, I know…it could be fixed). Also, after cleaning it a few times, I’m not all that convinced the guts would hold up well to a massive amount of shooting.

      • Agree. It’s a civilian rifle designed for civilian use. I have a Remington 750 and with a 20 round magazine it is a poor man’s M-14 that is good for 40 rounds a minute before it overheats and jams.

    • If one goes into the fight with their rifle cleaned and cared for, there is no need for additional in fight cleaning. The Average Joe is not going to fire 10,000 rounds in a fire fight. Most times its limited to his basic load or a lot less. The M-4 is more than adequate for the average soldier when maintained. With no maintenance, every rifle is just a club. (or ammo)
      The perfect weapon is a wet dream we all have, but then we wake up and we still have the one we got because, like the perfect wife, the perfect rifle does not exist.

  19. All interesting comments – but – there is presently no other design that is significantly better enough to replace the M4, considering costs and training. The key word is significant, that whatever replacement should exhibit at least a demonstrable 30 percent improvement over the present system to be considered. Otherwise, it’s simply not cost effective to change. This would be the reason we still field the M2 HMG and the B-52 bomber, with various improvements and upgrades.

    • We field the M-2 because no one has built a better heavy machine gun. We keep the B-52 flying because it is just a truck to launch cruise missiles from or to drop lots of bombs in a benign environment. There are lots of better options than the M-4 out there.

      • 1. XM806, initially cut from procurement in 2012 because of cost, lately on again – off again. 2. B70, B1, B2, all cut from procurement or advancement to replace the B52 because of cost. Lately to be replaced by the “2037 bomber” sometime around 2040 or 2045, whatever that may become. 3. Name it – that offers an actual significant improvement – they tried the FN SCAR for a while, and it’s gone… Keep in mind, the military isn’t going to buy it unless it’s leaps and bounds beyond what’s on the shelve.

        • How about getting some ROI for all that money that US dumps on Israel to maintain their military, and adopting the Tavor? It seems to have had a good track record with one of the few armies in the world that actually uses it for real-world fighting, and they had several years to iron out the kinks.

          And CTAR-21 with its 15 inch barrel is several inches shorter than M4 with its stock collapsed. Very nicely balanced, too – with all the heavy bits in the stock, it has a very solid feel when shouldered, and much easier to keep that way for a long time than comparatively more front-heavy M4, even though the latter weighs less overall.

  20. I definitely wouldn’t want an M4, or anything chambered in 5.56, for the long range firefights encountered in Afghanistan. The 7.62 x 51, .338 Lapua, and .50 BMG would be a whole lot better. A little extra weight would be worth the long range punch.

    A Smith M&P 10 doesn’t weigh M&P much more than an M4. Granted, a heavier barrel would be needed, and ammo would weigh a lot more. At ranges past 500 yards it would all be worth it.

    • +1. I watching d an update to Restrepo on Netflix, and was struck by the loadout of those young troops, even on patrol out and back from that firebase. Clearly, we can do better lightening weapons and ammo, along with everything else. Thats where nimble tech and acquisition, on SOCOM model, is the lesson learned, vs the top down one size fits all bureaucratic, and political programs of past, like the F35 cited.

      Can Congress adapt? Not likely, when its the political process of requiring parts and manufacturing to be based in as many districts as necessary to share the wealth, with all the lobbying and corruption that goes s with it.

      One part of the stuff ry not told in this article, which now that I think abiut it, in my suspicion of the Atlantic as part of the pandering, self preening as the smartest of the Elites on the Progressive side is that this article probably IS politically motivated.

      After all, Obama just formally announced officially ending His War, the Longest in American History, as a victory.
      Over the Taliban, who have already retaken districts and moving into more.

      So, imho, this is more of he StateRunMedia and the various subsets, aggregators and echoe chambers, and the outright Journolistas of TPM, and MM, and sympathizers as embeds as ditors and reliable propagandists, who are following instructiins, to talk about someting, anything, other than this WH abject failures in foreign policy and use of the troops…

      Sorry to be so cynical, Atlantic but you broke it, you own it…and that would be your “brand” ever since sucking up to Hope and Change…

  21. The only problem with the AR is mechanical fragility. Ergos and accuracy are among the best. People complain about the bullet, but the fact is the small caliber intermediate cartridge has been copied by Russia and China since the USA put it forward. They use 5.45mm and 5.8mm bullets respectively.

    Explain to me why the USMC has adopted the M27 IAR from HK as a replacement for belt fed LMG weapons yet neither they nor other branches are putting it forward as a replacement for DI rifles with a lower rate of fire. USMC is apparently considering it for a DMR role, but it seems to me like this should be the kind of rifle every soldier is using.

    • AR ergos are generally good, though I’d say that the T-shaped charging handle is far from perfect. A left-side non-reciprocating charging handle in the front of the gun, a la Tavor or AUG, is better, IMO.

      Regarding Russian 5.45, I can assure you that its adoption has also had its share of associated complaints about bullet lethality. Kalashnikov himself strongly disliked the round, and he had many followers. Much like the 5.56 debate in US, the 5.45 vs 7.62×39 debate in Russia still rages on.

  22. Thank you Sir for speaking out. It would be a wonderful idea to arm each service member with their own, new, primary and secondary weapon to utilize for the full 8 year obligation. Then if they reenlist renew their weapons. But, also, allow them to retain said weapons when they exit their term of service. In doing so, you would also have a well armed standing militia that are fully trained, and most likely nowadays, have combat experience. Squad and specialty weapons can be treated differently but should be held to a higher, more exacting standard.

  23. The M-4 is a very accurate rifle which is perfectly reliable when properly cared for.
    The M-4 is a very lightweight rifle, which counts when you are staring up at the mountain you need to climb to get to your OP, or are thinking about the journey back from the village you are going to to the base you are leaving from, all on foot.
    The M-4 is more modular than any rifle on earth.
    The last few “replacements” for the M-4, the ACR and the SCAR? The ACR is problem filled and SF are seeing the limitations of the SCAR and going back to their M-4’s.
    Piston uppers are available…and heavier…and contain more moving parts to wear out and break, and exhibit recoil characteristics I just can’t get used to due to the additional mass of the op-rod moving.
    5.56…well I agree…although I like 5.56 I like 300 BLK better…the advantages of the 300 BLK at ranges where most (not all) combat occurs and the ability to make a barrel only change to the weapon are clear advantages over 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel. Using .308 in a widely distributed method clearly disregards the disadvantages of magazine capacity, ammunition weight, rounds that can be carried on ones person, and using a round whose operating envelope mainly falls outside of the normal combat envelope.

    In summary, a change to another rifle…quite unlikely and unnecessary. Nothing out there justifies the cost of changing. Now a change to caliber…possibly, and I think it should be 300 BLK.

    But I’m sure our resident expert on everything will be along shortly to tell me differently. Where are you tdiinva?

    • I think you’re going to need to review for me the advantages of .300 Blk over 5.56 at, what are you talking about, 500 yards? ‘Cuz I don’t know of any. What .300 bullet weight are you discussing, and what bbl length?

      • Putting aside the huge minority of firefights in the valleys of Afghanistan where combat can range from 200-500 yards (and where crew served machine guns are king and most riflemen stand around behind barriers making sure no closer targets present themselves) the vast majority of combat ranges from 0-250 yards. The 110 and 125 grain 300 BLK projectiles perform superbly at these ranges, especially at the Achilles heel of the 5.56…barrier penetration. According to the US Army’s own test standards the max effective range of the M-4 is 500 meters while the max effective range of a 300 BLK 125gr projectile fired from a 16 inch barrel is 460 meters while carrying 200 more ft pounds of energy with a larger bullet.

    • >> The M-4 is a very accurate rifle which is perfectly reliable when properly cared for.

      That’s exactly the catch. M4 is more demanding that pretty much any other assault rifle (possibly with the exception of SA-80) when it comes to “properly caring”.

  24. I keep seeing “when properly cared for” and “justifying the cost”, are you kidding? Excuse me, Mr. Enemy, can you stop trying to kill me with your reliable AK, while I properly care for my M4 to make it reliable? Excuse me, Mr. Dead US soldier, we could not justify the cost of a more reliable rifle, it is just easier to ship your body home and burry you with honors.

    • I have no time for troops who cannot properly keep a weapon clean and functioning. Trust me, in all but the extremely rarest of circumstances you have adequate time to break down an M-4 a few times during the day, clean it, lightly oil it, and reassemble it.

      What would you prefer the conversation to be. “I’m sorry Maam, but your son didn’t have the upgraded body armor when he was shot, so he died. You see, Larry was so keen on your son having the latest in super secret thousand dollar rifle technology, that only half his company was issued the newest body armor because the rifles were just so expensive. Don’t worry though, the rifle wasn’t damaged”.

      Look…I can do it too.

      • >> Trust me, in all but the extremely rarest of circumstances you have adequate time to break down an M-4 a few times during the day, clean it, lightly oil it, and reassemble it.

        As I recall, some guys deployed in Iraq were complaining that breaking the weapon down for cleaning often exacerbated the problem, because they’d end up with more sand in the weapon, and that would immediately clog all the freshly added oil.

    • A M-4 doesn’t have to be cleaned during any firefight. An individual isn’t going to be able to expend enough ammunition during even a prolonged firefight to require maintenance.
      As long as you properly clean your M-4 during non combat time, you don’t have to worry about cleaning during combat.
      1,000 rounds of 5.56 still weighs too much to carry that many rounds.

  25. Up to and into the civil war American small arms were on a par with any other nations. During the civil war we actually pulled ahead by virtue of the Henry and Spencer repeaters. Breach loaders that were repeaters and used self contained cartridges were far ahead of the rest of the world.

    Unfortunately we gave that advantage away almost immediately at the end of the war. Infantry units that had been equipped with the full length Spencer rifle and their cavalry brethren had their repeaters changed for single shots.

    As a result of the civil war nations scrambled to equip themselves with breech loaders at the time we Americans were divesting ourself of repeaters. Instead of keeping our advantage we looked around for a way to convert muzzle loading rifled muskets into breech loaders.

    This gave the American soldier an interim weapon, basically a conversion of a muzzle loader, that was supposed to only serve until a better replacement was approved.

    For nearly 30 years the army used variations on the allin conversion muzzle loader. Only to finally replace them with the Krag.

    The Krag was in service for a short time, probably the shortest of standard weapons, because of numerous shortcomings painfully discovered during the Spanish American war. At the same time as the Krag the Navy and marines were using a straight pull 6mm. The Lee Navy.

    They were both replaced with the 1903 springfield. From there until the end of the m14s day Americans were equipped with weapons that were equal to or better than the rest of the worlds.

    Now we come to the m16. My personal experience with the m16 is more than 4 decades gone and truthfully, my feelings are so mixed in with the realities of that time that I doubt I could give a completely honest or unbiased account of the rifle.

    In my day we spent time, money and effort to aquire back up handguns because we distrusted and even hated the m16.

    • And that period of history (from the ’03 to the M14) was the result of a small group of professional military men at the Army armory system. People can read about them in detail in the writings of Major General Julian Hatcher, United States Army. A more dedicated man in the field of small arms for our troops is difficult to find in American history. MGen Hatcher gives credit where credit is due, and you can read all about it in his books – not only his famous “Hatcher’s Notebook,” but also (and especially) in his “Book of the Garand.” In “Book of the Garand,” the reader gets a real insight into how and why we produced such competent small arms in the period spanning 1900 to 1955 or thereabouts.

      When McNamara and his “whiz kids” killed the armory system in the 60’s and we went to outside contractors for small arms development, that was it, we were done. Now our small arms R&D and production is captive to defense contractor interests, and the needs of the infantryman are low in consideration.

      • But look at how much money McNamara saved us by specifying a rifle with no chromed parts, no stick powder, no cleaning kits and then switching to cardboard coffins for our Vietnam War dead.

        What a great guy he was.

  26. Man this will piss the AR fanboys off especially when you dare question their “perfect” rifle. This is also coming from someone who also owns a few AR’s myself but it is not the end-all be-all rifle people make it out to be otherwise every army on the planet would drop what they currently own and go for it maybe even asking Uncle Sugar to send them some since our government loves to waste money on our dime.

    When Jim Sullivan, one of the engineers behind the AR said he wishes his son would have an AK over an AR when he was in Iraq how can you fully trust the system beyond the sterile environment of the U.S. when your own engineer doesn’t have confidence in its own capability? If the AR was perfection incarnate then why would Mr. Stoner keep going with his Stoner 63 and the AR-18 to the point of even competing against his own design in field trials overseas?

    I will give credit that the AR was a huge leap in firearms technology but it failed on the premise that every soldier is a gun-lover seeing their gun just beyond as just a tool. Like police, not every soldier is a gun person and to effectively use the AR you have to be a gun person otherwise it is failure waiting to happen.

    • Jim Sullivan is a crazy old man…a crazy old man with rifle and magazine designs that compete directly with the established rifles and magazines currently being used by the military. He has a giant financial interest in denigrating the current M-16/M-4. I no longer trust his opinion and neither should you.

    • There is no such thing as a perfect rifle, as the design requires trade offs.
      There are even marginally better rifles available, but a 5% improvement isn’t worth the cost of refitting and training.
      For the military to adopt a new rifle it would need to be substantially better then the current rifle, and none of them are yet.

  27. Then comes the argument that we NEED every troop to have a battle rifle, a rifle that weighs from 50% more to double an M4s weight with cartridges similarly over weight thus shorting our troops on ammo when we see tens of thousands of round expended for every dead combatant, or heavily over loaded troops in a battlefield that demands speed and mobility.

  28. I just wish the M1 didn’t cost 10 times what a 91/30 does. I would buy one. I have a Mosin and I really like how good it shoots.

  29. IMHO, buy a whole lot of HK416 uppers and swap the tops.

    95% problem solution. Now to sort out the magazines.

  30. For those of you who are younger, you need to go back and do some detailed research on how many contracts have been let for research into a new rifle “platform” or “system” over the last 25 years. Dozens.

    None of them have displaced the M16 “platform” or the 5.56 round.

    Our NATO allies will not consider a new round. Part of this is history, because the Brits did their homework after WWII and were pushing for a round in the 6.5 to 7mm range, of moderate power. We brushed aside their research and went with the “gravel belly” idea that a manly man needs a .30 cal round to be a real long range shooter, actual ballistics be damned. So we crammed the 7.62×51 down NATO’s throat in the 50’s.

    Then along comes Vietnam, and we got involved with the AR-15/M-16 through the side door of military procurement. The M-16 came in through the Air Force, not the Army. We converged on the 5.56 round, and NATO was forced to adopt yet another “single standard” round. Now the NATO countries who aren’t filled with gun cranks like the US is were furious, not in the least because the issues of ammo weight, recoil, lack of ability to make a 9lb assault rifle that could be controlled with a full-power .30 round were not news at all to the Brits. They realized all of this post-WWII, this is what drove their research into a 6.5 to 7mm, about 100 to 120 grain bullet at about 2500 fps … and they told us… and we ignored them.

    So… here we are, realizing what people who actually shoot seriously have known for a long time: The .223 isn’t a long range cartridge, and it lacks power at longer ranges because the low Bc’s are bleeding off energy rapidly. This isn’t news, this is history. If I wanted to make a long-range, select-fire rifle in an M4-sized package, I’d use 6 or 6.5mm pills, from 105 to 123 grains, launched at about 2600 fps. Anyone who has read a reloading book or bullet chart knows this. It isn’t obscure information. Never has been.

    But the brutal reality is this: We’re not going to adopt a new standard rifle or round, because we won’t be able to get NATO to adopt anything new, until and unless such time as we simply drop out of the farce that is NATO today. It will cost us too much to do anything substantive to the M16/M4, and we’re out of money as a nation. Get used to the M16/M4, they’re going to be here for quite a while longer…

    • I still think the military should look at something in a heavier caliber and I question spray and pray. The AR-10 might be something to look at.

    • You’ve damn near described the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.8 SPC to a lesser extent. I’m not sure if a 5.56 case necked up to a 6.5 would have enough capacity and strength to provude that power level at safe pressure levels.

  31. I just finished reading “The Gun” by C.J. Chivers; in my opionion it is an outstanding book on the development of weapons from the Gatling to the AK-47. I highly recommend it ;His style of writing and his anotations and bibliography are not based on opinions but facts and history…

  32. To understand why the M-16 is a bad rifle for the troops, you have to understand how the military, especially the Army, takes care of them.

    Any AR owner KNOWS pretty much how to maintain their rifle, and knows what to do/fix/replace at the first sign of something amiss.

    The following probably doesn’t happen to civilian guns:

    Use of steel cleaning rods.

    Use of steel tools, whatever is at hand to scrape carbon.

    Use of whatever means necessary, whatever chemicals necessary, and whatever force necessary to get a rifle white glove clean for inspection or turn in.

    Thousands of rounds of blank firing.

    Firing up to and many time beyond overheat.

    The company level armorer (you) not having good access to parts, nor any training on their replacement.

    Trying to explain to a second or third party repair depot the problem you are having, with in many cases, no means to test fire the weapon after repair.

    Your lube is CLP. Your solvent is CLP. Your protectant is CLP. Officially speaking, and that is what is available by the supply chain.

    Sometimes, the rifler rifle is cleaned, stored dry, and fired the same way. DRY. Why? Forgot the CLP. Want faster cleanup later. Lube causing carbon leaching a week later so you get dings when the CO inspects the Arms room.

    Sometimes non availability of new bore and chamber brushes, patches and other cleaning materials.

    used, untested and perhaps hosed magazines.

    A rifle that has the receiver covered with ANAD (Anniston Army Depot) depot rebuild stamps.

    Never mind environmental issues. The M-16 is a decent weapon, just not up to the abuse that the Army requires soldiers to put it through.

    In my time in the Army, I was issued 13 different M-16A1’s. Only one, ONE would I have bet my life on. I now own 3 AR-15’s. All gas impingement. All dead nuts reliable, including the Century Arms A-1 configured rifle. And I have the time, the right stuff, and the right parts to keep them that way. And nobody looking over my shoulder of second guessing my maintenance either.

    • This!!
      It’s not the rifle system, it’s the inane military system that rewards bad maintenance. No matter what rifle is adopted you have that same issue.
      I’ve never had an issue with any of my AR platform weapons, even when abused, but that abuse is not of the “inflicted because of stupid inspections that have no bearing on combat”

  33. Half of the M4s problems would go away with a piston kit. The other half would go away with better support and maintenance training at both the armory and field levels…….And yet, it is still the most versatile weapon system that has ever seen service.

  34. A) this was an excellent article. It’s a shame you selectively quoted it to support your own argument and probably your own gun collection.

    B) someone please point me to exactly where he slammed the M1 Garand. I actually read the article, it’s not there.

    C) If you’re still arguing 50 years after its invention that the m16 and its derivatives are a good rifle compared to modern alternatives, you’re an idiot. Pure and simple. In any caliber. Gas pistons are superior in extended combat. Longer barrels are more accurate in long range combat. Heavier bullets impart more damage at longer distances with greater accuracy. The M4 straight up sucks balls. And so does its cartridge.

    We lead NATO. if they want to continue their slavish devotion to a terrible round for combat, let them. We should do what’s right by our soldiers, not what’s right by our allies. Do the right thing, and everything else will fall in line. It’s not like they’re making an investment in men and material anywhere remotely close to what we are anyway.

    • You are, of course, right.

      The problem is that policymakers inside the Beltway see NATO as still being important. The truth is that NATO is now a fiction, and a poor one at that.

      When I was but a pup, I worked for a defense contractor on a NATO comm project. I got to see how our “allies” view the collective defense agreement obligations vs. how the US military views our obligations. It made me highly skeptical of their actual ability and even their desire to repel Ivan if he ever came through the Fulda Gap.

      But by now, 30 years later, we can all agree that the Europeans have been going through the motions and pretending to care for one reason: To enable them to reduce their defense spending to a bare minimum, which allows them to lavish their public treasuries on welfare benefits to support their burgeoning populations of third world immigrants and their own loose women pumping out bastards. These are considered more important than acting in their own defense to their policymakers.

      The smart move by the US would be to withdraw from NATO (especially now, before the coming issues with the Russians heat up to require another response from us) and allow these European twits to come face to face with their own feckless priorities.

    • Uh, uuummmm, like….isn’t the NATO rifle round the original .30-06 foisted on the alliance by the US? Wasn’t there a whole other-world debacle where FALN was dismissed because it wasn’t a .30-06 cartridge/bullet? Doesn’t excuse hiding behind the US as a fiscal policy, but the US had the chance to move forward, but wanted to retain the M-1 Garand and M-14 Garand-super. But rifles built for long range shooting on the plains of Europe proved problematic in close-quarters (urban/jungle). Any attempt to build an all purpose rifle will fail at something. Look on YouTube for action video of the US Embassy defense in Saigon in the ’68 Tet Offensive. One should note US soldiers holding their M-14s above their heads and over the surrounding walls, emptying mag after mag of un-aimed fire. The need was a “wall of lead”, not precision distance shooting. The shooting may not have been effective (I don’t really know), but when absolute rate of fire was needed, the M-14 was hopelessly out-classed by the M-14.

  35. “To enable them to reduce their defense spending to a bare minimum, which allows them to lavish their public treasuries on welfare benefits to support their burgeoning populations of third world immigrants and their own loose women pumping out bastards.”

    That kind of reminds me of someone, somewhere….

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