In Defense of . . . The M16/M4

Over at Shooting Times, Guns of the Enemy in Afghanistan briefly describes the AKM, Dragunov SVD semi-automatic sniper rifle and PPSh-41 submachine gun. The article concludes “Questions about the U.S. military’s firearms are valid and worth discussing, but to make the case that the problem is the enemy’s weapons outgun ours is pretty hard to take at face value. No matter what the shortcomings of the 5.56 NATO round out of a short M14 barrel are, no U.S. troops are looking for ancient AKs or Lee-Enfield copies to use instead.” To which commentator Jim replies “Your inability to understand that the AK is in many ways superior to the underpowered and failure prone M16/M4 series ensures that nobody with any intelligence or experience in the issue will ever take this seriously.” At which point Commentator Steve Adelmann lets Jim have it, with both rhetorical barrels . . .


I’m not sure whether your opinion regarding this article was shaped by personal experience or by what you’ve read and heard, but that doesn’t really matter. We’re all entitled to express our views and I thank you for doing so. If you did serve in defense of our country, I thank you for that too. Personally, my opinion on this subject is shaped by multiple tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as previous combat operations in Central America, the middle east and Europe, spread over 21 years. I was a Special Operations Soldier for 2/3 of that time and could choose virtually any firearm in my unit’s extensive inventory each time I was launched into harm’s way. The only time in 10 combat tours of duty that I did not carry and AR-based rifle or carbine was when I needed a compact 7.62×51 for mountain sniper duties in the days before accurized carbines were available in that caliber, or when clandestine needs required something more “discreet”. I could have carried the best AK-variants available on any mission but I chose members of the AR family instead. Why? They went “bang” when I pulled the trigger, I hit my targets when I aimed at them and they ceased being threats when hit. I could not have asked for more from any firearm. Did I ever feel outgunned? Hell yes, but only by RPGs, IEDs and mortars, not AKs. I continually bet my life on our skills, equipment and intelligence as well as the knowledge that the bad guys had little chance of hitting me and always came out OK. If you’ve been “over there” and dealt with the indigenous populations’ AK skills—especially if you tried to train them—you should understand that logic. If your opinion were based in fact, our Special Operations forces that have the authority to procure and employ the right firearms for the job would all be carrying AKs. They’re not. With the exception of a small number from one particular SF unit that tried to get .308s and failed then moved on to 6.8 SPC (and failed), those with actual gunfights under their belts are not looking toward the AK family for relief. Many logical discussions have been had over whether or not it’s time to look at an enhanced cartridge or new chambering for our standard issue rifles and carbines. I suspect that with the Army and Marine Corps looking at new carbines and rifles altogether that the cartridge issue will resurface along the way. In the meantime, our troops will continue to give good account of themselves overseas with their M16A2s, A4s and M4 variants as well as the SR25 family of .308s. It’s very easy to highlight the few negative events that have been reported and even exaggerated. Ironically, very few of the thousand-fold positive AR experiences ever see the light of day. But that’s just one retired Operator’s opinion. I fought for your right to disagree and would do so again.

Steve Adelmann
SGM, USA-Retired

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