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By Paul McCain

The great crew out at Asymmetric Solutions USA in Farmington, Missouri brought out some of their more, let’s say, “professional grade” weapon systems the other day and I was around to watch and try out one of their full-auto M4 Carbines. One of the instructors described it as a “bastardized” HK 416 with assorted goodies including a high tech IR light/laser thing-a-ma-jig (my words, not his), an Eotech optic and a cool prototype titanium suppressor from Gemtech. The rifle’s made up of an HK416 upper and an LMT select-fire lower. [Insert sound of brakes screeching here]. Wait? Did I say, select fire? Why yes, indeed, I did . . .

John, one of the lead intructors at Asymmetric, demonstrated it for us and handily sent three- and five-round bursts down range like a guy who has done it before, because, well, he has. A lot.

A couple of guys who were there attending Asummetric’s tactical pistol class that day got to give it a try for the first time, too. Of course, the response was fairly predictable. Big grins and a well deserved, “holy crap.” What more is there to say? Well, let me try.

First, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to pull the trigger on a select fire M4. Would it run away? Would I spray bullets off into the ever-after endangering every living thing in a two mile radius? How about recoil? Surely it couldn’t be that bad, right? After all, it’s basically a high powered .22LR. Well, sort of. You get my point.

The video shows how smoothly the rifle operated and how quietly it ran with that sweet suppressor. When I took my turn, I was mercifully not on video. First I put a few rounds down range in semi-auto mode just to get a feel for her. Nice. Very nice. That suppressor is awesome. I could do this all day.

OK, time to move the switch over to fun mode. Easily done. Ready to go. Square up to the berm. Lean forward. Aggressive stance. Nice forward grip. Arms in position. All systems go.

Slowly pull that trigger and…bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam! Eight shots rip off before I can get my finger off the trigger. Wow. The gun rocked me back more than I thought it would. Accurate? Hardly. Fun? You betcha. But I was surprised at how uncomfortable it was. Not a pleasant experience for my trigger finger and hand. Come to find out that the full auto trigger group is slamming pretty good in there and you sure feel it. That was the biggest surprise for me.

The next burst was more controllable: three rounds. Finger on, finger off. Easy peasy. Still not terribly comfortable. Shots seemed to group around the same general area. OK, got it. Squeeze off a few more, and…time to change the magazine. New mag in. Squeeze off a few more, do it a few more times. New mag time again. Wow, that was fast. Too fast.

No way full auto is a practical way to use the M4 Carbine. A 30-round magazine is just way too low-capacity to feed this hungry beast on full giggle. Give me one of those 60-rounders, if you please. Nah, on second thought, I’d just rip through that in a few seconds and at about $30 a pop for a mag full of good ammo, no thank you.

Still, I decided to have some more fun and squeeze of a long burst. All set, lean into it and pull the trigger and…the muzzle rise was ridiculous in spite of my best effort to keep it down. And so I stopped before spraying bullets into the adjacent county.

And that’s the biggest takeaway. Full auto is great for having fun, but not much else. One can imagine situations where suppressing fire using full auto may be necessary as long as you had a group of other people with you doing the same thing to cover you when you run dry. Which will be nearly instantly.

The better and most obvious use would be in very short, controlled bursts. Three rounds? Five rounds? Then again, with a practiced finger and a good trigger, you can squeeze off shots very quickly (and more controlled) in semi-auto. Not much point in even a “burst” mode setting, as far as I can tell.

In speaking with combat veterans at Asymmetric they — to a man — said that during their careers they never went full auto in a fire fight. Semi-auto was the way to go for them. More precise. More reliable. More accurate.

Would I do it again? You bet I would. Especially if I was using somebody else’s ammo.

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  1. I had a huge grin the first, second and third time I ran a mag through a friend’s full auto M-16. And yes, the bullets were sort of all over the place.

    • From what I have read of WW II and Korea when GIs wanted close-quarter full-auto suppressive fire they would turn the weapon (usually a Tommy gun) 90 degrees and let fly. The muzzle climb in that configuration actually helped and the rounds did not go into anti-aircraft mode.

  2. The trick is to pull the front handguard away from you while pulling the pistol grip into your shoilder – almost like you are trying to rip the gun in half.

    I had my first full auto experience this weekend with a short barreled m4 and my 30 round group all fell into an eight inch circle at 15 yards with only 2 fliers.

  3. With practice there is no reason not to hold a full auto mag dump on a silhouette at reasonable distances (15 yards or there abouts) and large portions of it much further out. That said, you found the sweetness of select fire already, it’s in controlled bursts. If the sights are on for the first round you’ll likely get 2 or 3 hits for your trigger pull and that’s the real power of it. . . multiple rapid hits.

    Of course the down side is it eats ammo at an alarming rate and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with how much is left in the magazine. It’s one of those things that’s really for suppression and movement, sometimes useful at close range and the rest of the time just sort of there, that position one click past the 2 you actually use.

    Oh, and it’s called a ‘giggle switch’ for a reason! 🙂

  4. having shot my first M16 recently, i was decently suprised at how controllable it is. burst fire is easy to keep within the A group of that competition target (not sure if IDPA/IPSC/USPSA, were not my targets) just through the irons with all the gas in my face too.

    here is a short video of it.

  5. I don’t remember the M16 as difficult to control in Auto. It was not a rare thing to do from a chopper under certain circumstances, such as your M60 died or you had to be in the cargo bay for some reason. Guys just go for the mid-length and carbine-length guns, and SBR’s. The shorter the gas system the worse it behaves on Auto, not to mention on Semi. Short guns are cool, though, especially if other people can’t readily have them. Nothing kills cool worse, of course, than having a suppressor on a long rifle, an M16 versus an M4, for example. I confess, by the way, to buying a CAR15 with an 11.5 inch barrel from a drunk SF sergeant when we were working for them frequently. Why buy (well, threw in my M16, too)? It was cool. And easy to use moving around in a chopper. And because it was cool. The guy who made me give it back became famous in SF, but for other reasons. Now? I only use rifle-length gas system AR’s.

    Agree that there isn’t much use for Auto if you’re a one-man band, or using firearms defensively. Burst mode (built-in or finger-controlled) makes hitting distant targets more probable in military settings. Auto? Suppression, if you have others to take up the slack while you reload.

    I can’t believe that people with combat experience never used Auto in a firefight. That seems incredibly odd. Close up it is very valuable. At a distance bursts are very valuable. Ah, all the guys had those lame issue rifles with Burst only, no Auto mode. Got it.

    • Interesting insight. The rifle I was shooting and on the video had a 10.5 barrel, so I’d imagine a full size M16 would be easier to control and manage. Thank for your service, sir.

  6. I disagree. Military applications of a firearm will differ from civilian self defense just due to the ranges involved. Your average military shootout doesn’t occur at point blank range, so accuracy is more valued, hence the specialized use of machine guns. However most defensive encounters are at extremely close range and all you’re looking for is minute of bad guy within 4 yards or less with as much bullets through the bad guy as possible. Shoot low into the hips and let the muzzle rise into the chest, they’ll drop instantly. (W E Fairburn was a big proponent of machine guns for self defense BTW) All of this machine guns are not worth it is a horseshit excuse trying to make us feel better about the Hughes Amendment.

  7. I would love to own a full auto gun. But now retired I could only afford to buy the gun and pay the transfer tax… The cash to feed it would be gone far to quickly.

    In past several .22 rim fire full auto gums have been made but they have been crafted almost one at a time items and not mass produced and hence very expensive…. My ideal would be a belt fed (cloth belt I guess) water cooled half scale tripod mount gun….

    I guess I could get a set of the .22 rim fire Gatling gun plans with the drum mag plans then do a form one and fit an electric motor to it… But that would push my machine shop skills to the limit and beyond… The only gun I have made from scratch ( asside from the barrel) was a one off falling block single shot rifle in 45-70 and that mini Gatling gun looks like it requires clock and watchmaker machine shop skills.


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