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For all the billions of dollars Americans have spent defending Iraq from, uh, bad people, you’d think they could suck it up and equip their Army with American-made M-16s. I mean, we’ve already supplied them over 10,000 of the things. But noooooo. “The Iraq Army has determined that the M-16 was more accurate than the Kalashnikov,” reports. “But officials said the Army concluded that the AK-47 was more reliable in the searing Iraqi summers.” Crap.

The M-16’s reliability issues were Vietnam-era problems attributable to poor maintenance. With proper cleaning and lubrication, you’re good to go.

The question before us was simple: How do the reliability complaints about M-4s and M-16s we hear in the States line up against what we see and hear in the field, where the war is being fought? Put another way, could we verify the troops’ reported dislike of the rifle because of its reliability, and demonstrate the nature of any problems behind the reported disaffection?

The answer was a surprise: The M-4 and M-16 were not seen to be suffering from reliability problems, at least not among people whose paths have crossed ours.

Simply put, in observations in many firefights in harsh conditions, and in the experiences of Army and Marine grunts queried this year, the issue of rifle reliability seems much less pressing than it has appeared in accounts of widespread worries about or dislike of the M-4 and M-16.

Here’s the real deal re: the Iraqi Army’s reluctance to buy M-16s.

Officials said the U.S. military has imposed restrictions on the use of the M-16 to the Iraq Army. They said the Iraqis were required to register each M-16 to ensure that they are not sold or given to Al Qaida or other insurgency groups.

Once again, culture eats strategy for lunch.

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