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TTAG has reported the U.S. Army’s ongoing sloth re: equipping troops in Afghanistan with rifles capable of effective range. And now, finally, they’re doing something about it. reports that the Army is sending M14 Enhanced Battle Rifles to forces in Afghanistan. The new weapons are supposed to be accurate to 800 yards (731.52 meters). That’s around 530 meters greater than the non-enhanced M14 rifle (200 meters). The M14 Enhanced is designed to eliminate the “range gap” detailed in Major Thomas Ehrhart’s widely-read 2009 study Increasing Arms Lethality in Afghanistan.

A report which asserted that 50 percent of Army engagements in Afghanistan occur with the enemy attacking at 300 meters or beyond, while more than 80 percent of soldiers in an infantry company are equipped with weapons that can’t touch the enemy beyond that range.

The positive impact of the new weapons is not assured. Only 5000 examples are headed in theater; two per squad. The troops receiving the gun will only get three days’ training. The rest of the squad will not receive training on how to incorporate the rifles into existing strategy. And the rifles are more difficult to maintain.

Other than that, the new M14’s good to go.

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  1. The "M14 Enhanced" looks to be the Navy's Mk14 Mod 0 Enhanced Battle Rifle, which has been in use by the SEALs and the Coast Guard since 2004. I don't think there's any question the rifle has been battle-tested and is field-ready. The Marine Corps' M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle, which is itself an updated version of the Marines' own Designated Marksman Rifle, is fairly similar. Both are as capable as the Mk14 Mod 0 EBR. Realistically, I doubt the Mk14 Mod 0 EBR is that much harder to maintain than an M16A4.

    As for the 5000 being delivered, two per infantry squad sounds about right. The odds of the Army having more than two marksmen per squad who could fully exploit the capabilities of such a weapon strikes me as low, and that's due to a training and doctrinal issue, not a supply issue. Army rifle qualification standards only require shooting on targets up to 300 meters, but in the hands of any Marine an M16A4 is capable of engaging point targets up to 500 meters with open sights because that distance is the Corps' qualification minimum (I know because I am one). The maximum effective range of the M16A4 is 550m for point targets, so the claim that soldiers can't engage targets beyond 300m is bogus; they can't hit targets beyond that range because they haven't been taught how to shoot. Fielding the "M14 Enhanced" strikes me as a matériel papering over of a problem in the Army's training and doctrine.

  2. Thanks for that comment and your service. I suspect you're right about the weapon's origins. I have removed the text referring to the weapons' "battle readiness." I also believe you're right about the Army's training being the root cause of these issues of range and accuracy. Ehrhart's study highlights the fact that each squad is supposed to have a designated marksman. He flags the fact that this strategy is not being implemented properly in training or execution. (So to speak.) So, basically, the Army is trying to implement an existing strategy with existing weapons, rather than reevaluating the M14, its ordinance or their training procedures. As far as I can tell.


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