There’s No Reliability Problem with the M4/M16

So says Kit Up! friend and veteran war correspondent C.J. Chivers in his latest post on the M4/M16 family of rifles.

In a thorougly researched and well-constructed post on the New York Times’ At War blog, Chivers does some great journalism by deconstructing the argument of the M4/M16’s reliability track record.

With detailed notes from conversations with over 100 Marines and Soldiers in combat, Chivers shows that most of the gripes about the M4 and M16’s reliability cannot be substantiated by on-the-ground research. Marine Gunners, Army weapons maintainers and others Chivers spoke with come back with little data to support reliability problems — make sure you hear this loud and clear: RELIABILITY problems.

He even asked Kit Up! to help provide specific information on Soldiers’ gripes about the M4 and we had to admit they were not backed up by actual hard data on failures or fouling in a fight.

Chivers doesn’t go into the caliber/stopping power debate just yet, but he will. Suffice it to say there’s no evidence from the field that the M4 has problems jamming, failing or going tits up in battle when used within its design limits. That’s not to say there haven’t been magazine problems — which the Army has tried to fix with a new magazine and the Corps seems to be optioning the ever-popular Magpul P-Mag.

Read Chivers’ excellent piece and be sure to help him out with data if he’s on the wrong track (but let us know too please!)…

  • Mang

    Peeping that article right now; great to see the media continue to take an interest in this.

    Hey, where’s a good place to read informed gossip on the Mk16 SCAR cancellation? Help the helpless, KitUp readers.

  • Anthony

    Truth be told there aren’t that many problems with the M4 or M16. Even an AK breaks. You just need to clean the thing every once in a while. You get what you give, you keep it working it’ll keep you working. Caliber isn’t the issue it’s the twist rate and ammunition. They called the M16 the Meat Axe in Vietnam for a reason. As for the magazines…. burn ’em. No anti tilt follower, constant failure of welds and springs they are some garbage. Hence the reason they are about 3 bucks at a gun store. Aside from all the garbage I’ve just spewed if they were REALLY THAT BAD why not just buy and issue a different weapon system all together. I could name four that are the same cost, or close to it (give or take) but have all this fancy folding this and ambidextrous that.

    • 556m16

      Where can I get a magazine for $3? What $500-$600 weapon system is better for the military.

  • Bob

    The M4/M-16 platform is a good one. The bugs have been worked out over the past 40 years. The biggest problem is the 5.56 cartridge. In its 55gr guise it had a good record out to about 150 yards when fired from a 20″ barrel. Not so good at longer ranges, with heavier bullets and out of short barrels. The platform is a good one, but it needs a heavier cartridge. Either the 6.8 or the 6.5 Grandel would solve most of its problems.

  • Carney

    Bob: BS. There have been REPEATED barrel failures in the summer time in Afghanistan and guns jamming because of dust. On top of that, the 5.56 loses a lot of energy being fired from an M-4. Taking off those 4 inches of barrel makes the round ineffective. There’s tons of documentation on this.

    • Bob

      You didn’t read what I said. I stated that except for the m193 round the 5.56 sucked.

  • Marine Corps

    Give me a M4 any day of the week cause I don’t have a problem with the 5.56 cartridge. By the way, I would also like a 1911 and 12 gauge shot gun and Iam good to go in any War Zone!

  • InsertNameHere

    Question: If the M4 is so bad, then why do the majority of PMC’s I see, who surely have their own choice of weapons, use the M4?

    • Dustin

      Because an M4 is around 1200 where as a scar or Masada are over 3k.

  • Kimble

    My choice is able would be the M14A2. Can not go wrong!

    • GWB

      Except perhaps trying to clear a house with it. Not exactly the perfect CQB weapon is it? Certainly better suited for the longer ranges in astan but not exactly the best for Iraq’s more urban areas is it?

    • Bob

      Or when it jams up from sand, mud or dirt. I have had that happen. Don’t forget you have to keep the carbon scrapped out of the gas piston. Been there, done that and have a t-shirt to prove it. The M14 aint perfect.

  • retiredjumper

    Never had a problem myself in 29 years (6 combat tours) with the M16/M4. Did put a slight bend in a barrel during a jump but the weapon still fired… would have been good around corners!
    Reliability: Friend (A Team leader) in Afghanistan put 63 30 round mags through his M4 in a 24 hour running gun battle. His team members fired more than that. No problems at all.

    Stopping power: Never saw a failure to stop… although we trained to double taps (your controlled pairs). The ability to hump 3 times the rounds as 7.62 more than outweighs the difference in stopping power.

  • Tom

    ANYTHING is reliable “when used within its design limits”!!

    The problem with the M16/M4 family has always been those “design limits” although there are fewer complaints today because we are well into the second generation of Soldiers, Marines, and officers who have never known anything better and who believe that a weapon which works reliably only immediately after complete cleaning and lubrication is adequate.

  • Jack

    the M-4 is an awesome tool of war. I have used it for 15 years in the Army and never had any issues with it. I have noticed that alot of FOBBITs going to the chow hall have really dirty weapons. Maybe thats where all the weapon issues are from. Just follow the 10 level instructions keep it clean, lock, load and repeat

  • John

    InsertNameHere: I think this is because the PMC’s atleast these days buy their guns in the country they arrive in because of the difficulty of getting your prefered gun to the country you are in.
    So most of them just go to the nearest gun shop and get an alright gun wich appears in most cases to be the M4

    • Medic35

      Really? You think with the billions of dollars floating around the PMC industry they would have a hard time getting the weapon they want? Pretty sure you’re and idiot. I doubt the contractors of Blackwater and other companies just walk down to the local Guns R’ Us in Iraq to pick out their weapon.

  • Jim

    There is a very detailed article on the M-4 and a history of the M-16 problems in this month’s Naval Institute “Proceedings.” Well worth seeking out and reading.

    The bottom line of the article is that M-4’s which are not used like machine guns are generally reliable.

    They did report that M-4’s with stuff hung off the barrel (tied to, or mounted on) as well as remanufactured M-4’s show a higher history of stoppages. Likewise, using dry lube is better than wet lube like CLP or break free. Also, magazines that get dented may be contributing to stoppages.

    The models with heavier barrels seem to hold up under sustained rates of fire better than the lightweight models. As Bob said above, a high sustained rate of fire is not what the M16/M4 was designed for. Will have to go back to the article for the exact #, but if you fire more than 200+ rounds on auto, stopping only to change clips, you’re asking for a malfunction. It was designed for 13 rnds/minute, sustained rate of fire, or one rnd, every 4.5 seconds or so.

  • If cropping 4 inches from the barrel has severely reduced the velocity or the round….then I believe the problem is a slow burning powder…..switching to a faster burning powder should insure that it is used up while the bullet is still inside the barrel….slow burning powder will burn at the muzzle and create more flash after the bullet has left the barrel…. With such a light bullet,,,the powder should burn in the first 16 inches of barrel length… This something which should be tested and then addressed to the ammo manufacturer….

    • Bob

      Teh M4 barrel is 14.5 inches, not 16″ It probably would be better if if was 16″, The powder used in the 5.56 is generally fairly fast. Besides fast powders don’t work well with heavy for caliber bullets. 62 gr and up are heavy for a .22 caliber. Shorten barrels enough and you no longer have a rifle/carbine you have a long barreled pistol.

  • rollo

    One thing which must be considered by this study is who is giving the reliability data on the M4; are they REMFS or are they frontline troops actively engaged in combat? The M4/M16 platform design is still a very good design inspite of the age of the design. Here are a few things which may be consider; 1. the M4 should have a heavy chrome-lined 16″ barrel, 2. the 5.56×45 mm NATO round should be increased to 65 grains or possibly 69 grains, 3. all internal moving parts should be made of milled titanium with looser fitting tolerances, 4. whether gas or piston operated the gas tube should also be chrome-lined with the piston rod made of milled titanium, 5. maitain the single to three-round burst select fire system. Sure the weapon will be longer by 1.5 inches, heavier up to 7.5 to 8 lbs, and a bit more expensive to manufacture but it will be a beefier and a far more reliable weapon capable of taking the heat extremes caused by continual firing and making far more accurate and lethal shots out to 500 meters. Plus with the titanium parts, chrome-lining, and loose tolerances there should be a decrease in the possiblity of the weapon malfunctioning caused by fowling or dirt and debris.

    • Riceball

      Correct me if I’m wrong but as I understand part of the reason for the AKs (relative) lack of accuracy is due to the loose tolerances of its construction. So if you were to loosen the tolerances of the M16/M4 then wouldn’t you effectively negate or at least reduce any benefit to accuracy that you’d gain from the longer barrel and heavier round?

  • GySgt. F. L. Roussea

    I was the Chief Armorer on the AR15 (M16) Project in the Marine Corps, at the completion of the Test Project that had several problems with Ammunition and AR15’s. In the Testing between the M14 and the AR15 the results were so bad the Men were using comments like; “I’s Swell, Made by Matell” (the advertisemnt for Matell at the time) and another; “I know why they call this the AR15, it takes 15 Armorers to keep it working”. When the Congress was investigating the M16, I was sent home and told not to return to the base until ordered to. That was an Order, you know what happens when you violate an Order! When I went to Vietnam I saw many men carry AK’s because they didn’t trust their M16’s. I could go on but why, they’ve kept the lie gpoing for 50 years. Want to read something interesting, go to Google and ask for; :”Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer”. New data on the M4 and Cartridge. GySgt. F. L. Rousseau

  • Bob

    I would rather have a accurate rifle, that needs a little bit of maintence and care, than a rifle like the AK, that you can abuse, but are lucky to get a hit on a man sized target at 250-300 yards. Also, the AK is not very ergonomic or easy to shoot singe aimed shot. It is a spray and pray weapon designed for a peasant army.

  • Dustin

    Rifles like the scar and Masada are way way cleaner running and easier to clean. I’ve never had a malfunction in my M4 since I keep it clean but after a few mags I can expect about an hour or more of hard scraping and cleaning. also the aforementioned rifles are both more easier to shoot, adjust and get a proper cheek weld and sight picture.

  • Dustin

    Bottom line the US Military needs a rifle tailor made for combat, not adapted over years of problems. I love my M4 but I’d take the Scar or Masada any day, they’re more comfortable to shoot and id love to be able to just wipe it down and clean it. Which is also what makes it so reliable.

    Also one more thing I trust my rifle clean, but what if, god forbid, theres a huge 4 day La Drang valley type of battle, I have zero confidence that my rifle will run perfect for something like that, but I do believe one of the other options would. The US has been spoiled by fire supremacy, untalented enemies, and always being somewhat near support and as a result fairly short engagements. but we forget about the fights like The Battle of the Bulge, or like I said La Drang Valley. if you knew you were going into that what would you honestly want? Being so arrogant as to think that situation cant happen to us will get a lot of people killed, and in fact people have been killed with a jammed M16. Even the Israelis have replaced it, because they recognize that good enough isn’t good enough and they could envision the possibility of another 6 day war.

    • Bob

      Keep it clean and maintain some fire discipline and it will not let you down. Ia Drang and Battle of Bulge were not 24/7 combat. People had the opportunity to clean their rifles. My dad fought in the BofB and one of my uncles was in 1st Marine Div from 42-45. Both have told me they needed to clean/oil their M1s on a daily basis, and they never went through the amount of ammo that some people put through a M4/M16 in a day. For one thing they could not carry that much 30-06 and the M1 was an 8 shot semi-auto, no 30 round mags or burst fire capability. The only thing the M4 needs is 1.5 inches more barrel length and it and the M16 need a bigger cartridge, ie: 6.5 or 6.8

  • Dustin

    You can say you would trust it, but I have 3 kid I intend on watching grow up, would you be that on it? Would you be your children? What would you want to send you children to war with? Ask my wife or my mother if they think good enough is good enough.

    Malfunctions are like bullets, they don’t have to be common, it only takes one, and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

  • Mike

    Out of the box the AK isn’t very ergo, nor very accurate. However, it would be unfair to say it is “inaccurate” as the ranges it was designed for (~300m) it does the job very well. Also, it isn’t like the AK has stood still in terms of improvements and the ability to accessorize it with all sorts of modern-day equipment. You can change grips, trigger, add rails, stock, recoil buffers, foregrips, brakes, optics, red dots, you name it. Also, different variants of the AK rifle shoot differently and one version can be more accurate than another. All this talk of the AK being a “wildly inaccurate sprayer” is only true to a certain extent. There has been a ton of testing by the Russians and other NATO countries on the accuracy of the AK platform, and for what it was designed for, it does that job very well across the board. Are there more accurate rifles? Of course. Is the M16/M4 more accurate? Generally so, but in direct contrast the AK isn’t as inaccurate as a lot of FUD out there claims it to be.

  • Dustin

    I think your missing my point, like i said ive never had a malfunction in thousands of rounds, but cleaning the M4 takes quite a bit of time and attention and in those situations do you wanna be the one with your pants down? In La Drang if you read Gen. Moores book ALOT of M16s went down, and since the enemy didnt give them advanced notice before a wave i wouldnt think it wise to break your weapon apart and start scraping carbon off your bolt. and like i said i want to be 100% confident in my weapon and im not, in that situation. Like i said i love my M4 but something better would be, well better and ive shot the civi scar and read up on the masada/acr and those are way better in oppinion, everything from feel, to follow up shots, and especially cleaning, i would be willing to clean that in combat because you just wipe it down, but i think it would be fine if i didnt.

  • ryan bowen

    for all you people that have never fired or even held an m16 i spent 2 years in Afghanistan and with proper maintenance is a great rifle and for the dumb asses that said using a rifle that was built 50 years ago is stupid hears some facts for your dumb ass m16a1 and the m16a2 are different rifles a1 was Vietnam era and was full auto and jammed often the a2 was after and was not full auto and was a much better rifle its not my favorite rifle but its a decent one i for the most part carried an hk mp5 in 45cal and a benelli 12gauge full auto shotgun but i used an m16 on many missions when i had to but we did more of urban combat where a shorter barrel is better for CQC i was 3rd ranger bat with a detachment of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Italy

    • Riceball

      Do you think you could at least use periods and commas in your comment, Ryan? It’s bad enough that it’s almost all lower case but being one long run on sentence makes it even harder to read.

  • Doc

    Actually, john is pretty close. No, i dont have first hand experience, but it does make sense for them to have weapons issued to them at whatever base of operations they are quartered in. Usually, the smaller PMC companies issue M4s or Kalashnikovs. The bigger companies such as Blackwater tend to have more variety simply because they can afford to give their employees whatever they want. InsertNameHere: another reason why PMCs use M4s could be because that the M4 was what they were trained on and are most familiar with, as most are ex-military.

  • Riceball

    For what it’s worth and as much as I’d like to see a newer/better rifle replace the M16/M4 I will admit that in my (limited) experience in the Marine Reserves (no deployments) I’ve never had my rifle fail me, of course that was on the range so that’s nowhere near as telling as those who have actually used there’s in action. The only time I’ve ever had problems with my M16 was during boot camp or MCT and firing blanks but that was probably more of an issue with the blanks than the rifle, the stupid things didn’t have enough power and I ended up with a bolt action M16 where I had to pull the charging handle to eject the shell and chamber the next round. Come to think of it, I actually managed to stove pipe a blank shell inside the chamber of my rifle because of the faulty round too.

    • Spc.Poole

      Your blank adapter needs to be tighter.

  • Jim Ives

    I carried the M16A2 in the first gulf war all over southern & western Iraq. The full 20 inch barrel. Can’t say I ever had a problem. I do however agree with many that a 62 or 72 grain bullet should be used. The 55 gr. is a little light. In a addition my MOS was Armament Repair Tech. CW3 so we serviced all of the weapon systems in the theater. I carried a M14 in VN a very good weapon but heavy Ist MAW 65-66

  • Spc.Poole

    I was taught that the way you get on top of a fire fight is to put more lead down range than the other guy. Now if I remember the bros at Wanat were out gunned 4 to 1 or something like that. Now sorry to the people that think in a high tempo fire fight you can just fire a round every 2 or 3 seconds. You wont be getting a nice ride home. In that kind of fire fight you need a weapon that can take the pounding. Stop blaming every like thing that goes wrong on the troops. Ive seen failures in a field training blot over rides (the round misses the blot face and ends up jammed above the bolt by the gas tube. And no it can not easily be fixed), broken gas tubes, firing pins, firing pin springs and burned hands from the hand guards. The brass seams to think that every thing that goes bad its the troops fault.

  • Spc.Poole

    Big problem with the AK when fired is that the barrel will flex in its mounts. This is why the rounds will wounder and cause a larger shot group. Then the other problem is that the blot is very heavy and dos not have a buffer that works as well as the M16 or M4 buffers do. This cause the muzzle to jump.

  • Spc.Poole

    Now if we could just get other people to think like that.

  • Dylan

    I’m an U.S. Army OEF X vet. Most of this talk of the M4 being unreliable come from civilian military enthusiasts, rear echelon personnel, geardos, and straight up fanboys of competitor rifles based on misinformation or ignorance (some of those people fall into more than one of those categories).

    The only problems I have seen with the M4 was once at a range from someone who had an uncleaned rifle (carbon, dirt and dust mix). The only malfunction I’ve ever had firing this weapon is the standard issue magazine. The DoD should stop wasting money on an M4 alternative and spend that money buying (not researching) proven popular magazine alternatives (such as Magpul).

    • Dylan

      The M4 should only be further improved instead of wasting money on a whole new unnecassary weapon. A few improvements the M4 are as followed:

      * a free floating barrel

      *a bolt catch on the right side of the rifle

      *An improved charging handle (preferrably on the left of the rifle as a opposed to the rear), (for sustained fire & extra weight in the front to keep the weapon steady)

      *come with a forward grip with a bipod

      *short-stroke piston for cleanliness.

      without those improvements however, the M4 is the idea battlefied weapon.

      • Dylan

        Where I put “*an improved….(for sustained fire & extra weight in the front to keep the weapon steady” that shoud read:

        *An improved charging handle (preferably on the left of the rifle as opposed to the rear

        *A heavier barrel (for sustained fire & extra weight in the front to keep the weapon steady…..

        • fenton

          free float the barrel would be nice. Moving the chargin handle would sacrifice upper reciever rigidity and would cost you accuracy, as well as leave a gapping hole in the side of the reciever for dirt. Barrel cant get much heavier without it holding heat and not dissipating it. But free float barrel would be nice. Also, why isnt the forward assist on the left side?

    • Dylan

      Just to add some more:

      How can someone who’s never fired the alternative say something is “clearly superior?” Also, there is nothing wrong with the 5.56 as a Soldiers standard weapon. However, I do believe that it should always be backed up by 7.62 weapons to reach and and touch the enemy because all engagements in Afghanistan were great in distance.

    • fenton

      roger that. ive shot thousands of rounds through ar varients both in combat and in training. M4 and m110 and i have alot of love for this system. Dylan is 100% correct any problems with the rifle is strictly operator error or sometimes the faulty standard issue mags. 5.56 is a great man stopper in its mk262 77 grain varrient thats very hard for regular army to get. 62 grain m855 wich is common in the reg army does have severe limitations out at the usual ranges in afg. Like dylan said, stop wasting money time and your breath. Give us good magazines, and 77 grain ammo. Done.

  • Lance

    The problems with the M-16 went away in the 1980s with the M-16A2. The main thing to to keep your rifle working is simply clean it once your back to base.

  • pHilo

    So, I guess the people with Jessica Lynch’s crew just didn’t know how to operate the weapon properly. Nor did any of the thousands of others who have had documented cases of jamming in situations: operator error, I get it! If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem: clearly some of these weapons are better than others. If not all Combat troops are being given the newer, most improved and jam-proofed weapons, then we should know about it. The old army practice of using old equipment for less critical crew is showing right through.

    Mine jammed, and so did many of my comrades, and then many did not. This does not make it a “No Reliability Problem” weapon, not by a long shot. If they want to tighten machine tolerances, and chrome-plate the insides, and follow the other recommendations that have been known for years, then more power to them, but don’t lie to us about reliability issues. Just fix the darned things.

  • pHilo

    I agree with many of your points although I don’t understand the need for titanium. I may also be that TIGHTENING rather than loosening machine tolerance may be the solution, since most of these weapons seem to work just fine. It is more likely that it is the aberations that are malfunctioning, therefore an increase in manufacturing standards is indicated. I believe you are absolutely right about the inside of the receiver needing some sort of coating to prevent residue build-up. I’m pretty sure the aluminum can be chromed or some some other solution can be arrived at without switching to titanium.____Your bullet weight is exactly right: 65 to 69 grain is proving ballistically superior to the present alternatives, including the 77 grain. The M4 is not intended for 500 meter engagments, but the 65 -69 grain bullet is still the best bet.

  • SpanishInquisition

    I’m a civilian, but I have a technical job where I see daily the same BS about “proper maintenance” about machines that should be able to keep working against all odds.

    If the M16/M4 needs to be always clean or lubricated to be reliable due to the DI system, then it’s an inferior design in comparison to any other rifle that needs less maintenance.

    There is the assumption that US troops will always have an infinite supply of lube. This BS may be fine for the current US armed forces engaged against materially inferior foes. But what happens when you don’t have the time nor the lube to keep your M16/M4 in working order? What would happen if would you have to give M16/M4s to barely trained troops in a total war scenario? It seems that US forces haven’t found themselves enough times in those situations to learn the lesson that reliability should be the 1st concern in any machine that deals with life and death.

    I guess some more soldiers or Marines must die first in some isolated hellhole, before the people responsible realize that the money spent daily in so many tons of lubricant should be better spent in a new rifle or (piston?) upgrade kit to M4/M16s that doesn’t need it in the first place.

  • Jay

    The only reason M16 and it’s versions have been kept for so long, is too much pride and ignorance. Is just too hard for the army to admit the whole thing was a big mistake. This pig headed attitude killed a lot of good men. :(
    In other countries people that get so many good men killed are sent to prison or worse.
    In US they get a medal.

  • superman07

    I have only 9 years active duty, 4 of them as a unit armorer. That said I have 20k plus rounds fired as a civilian from the platform,

    5.56 223 6.8 7.62×39 458 socom plus others. Never had reliability issues with any of them not mag / ammo related.

    Some people just want a bigger better solution for a non issue. Some civilians buy crap guns and blame the platform for manufacturer QC issues.

  • Dustin

    thank you common sense isnt actually that common.

    i just reread it and realized how bad my spell check function re-edited my comment lol im really sorry i do know how to use propper grammer.

    its supposed to say….
    You can say you would trust it, but I have 3 kids I intend on watching grow up, would you bet that on it? Would you bet your children? What would you want to send you children to war with? Ask my wife or my mother if they think good enough is good enough.

    Malfunctions are like bullets, they don’t have to be common, it only takes one, and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

  • Kevin

    I think the the article is here

    You can get someone to write a report trashing any weapon. Here’s the hate for the M1 from the USMC: “A grave indictment of the Garand’s dependability”.,9171,…

  • KitUp had an article on it, Mang…

  • Mike

    The Masada I designed, now called the ACR, has a lot of features borrowed from the AK-47, but primarily from the AR-18. There is little known about the history of the designer of the M16, Eugene Stoner. Stoner built the AR10 in 7.62 NATO first, then down sized it for the Army trials to .222 then .223 or 5.56mm. The small straight wall cartridge with it’s small tip bullet on a large shoulder is a major problem with feeding and jamming. The Russian M43 cartridge which is 7.62x39mm is the bullet the AK-47 fires is a very tapered wall cartridge with short shoulder and large bullet. It feeds very well even when not lined up with the bore as it is much more coned shaped and will angle naturally towards the chamber. NOTE: The 6.8 and 6.5 Grendal are all direct decedents of the M43…This and the robust all steel AK-47magazine with the very solid box shaped mag follower makes it the most reliable feeding system you can buy or build. My design work for Magpul on the enhanced follower borrowed heavily on this fact and my influence on the Magpul Pmags comes directly from this well designed and robust Russian magazines built for the AK-47.

    • Mike

      Back to Eugene Stoner. Frustrated with the problems of the M16 he influenced the M16a1 but went on to design his genius, the AR18. Forgotten by history and overlooked by the military brass already stuck on the M16, the AR18 became the foundation for the Daewoo, HK G36, HK 416, XCR, XM8, SCAR and my Masada, now the ACR. Eugene took a hard look at the M16 and the AK, FAL and the MP44 and created the AR18. The AR18 is short stroke piston design, full ambidextrous and compact with rear folding stock. The solution was built during the height of the Vietnam war, 1966. So the answer came and was forgotten. The SCAR the Ranger’s are fielding is the AR18 basically. We have come back to Stoner and is genius, not away from it. For those die in the wool M4 infectuidos I recommend these changes to enhance the system. Go Piston and go chrome and nitrate coating on all parts. A previous post recommend this and I whole heartily agree. the simple answer on caliber is this. It is all math and physics, you get what you put out. If you shoot light bullets (easy to carry) you get light hits. I mean even though you are going up against flesh, you have to have penetration and flight control. Factors like wind, debri, glass, dust and you name it effect the flight of the bullet. Snipers shoot heavy bullets for this very reason, plus the ballistic coefficient of weight, length, diameter and shape all contribute to the effectiveness of the flight. Velocity is not accuracy, velocity is not lethality. the combination of many variables applies here. The bullet x weight x velocity = terminal effect. ……Bullet x velocity x twist x weight = Accuracy…. NOW when we compare accuracy and effective leathalness of one caliber against another each will have it’s sweet spot for ultimate accuracy and ultimate terminal effect, matching these two qualities to produce the ultimate round will be a give and take. The M43 gave a lot on accuracy to get more on lethality. But I have weapons that shoot 1MOA with the M43 factory loaded rounds. Making a AK47 Accurate is like making a Remington 700 bolt action accurate, Hone the trigger system, free float the barrel, take all the crap off the barrel and blue print the action. Use solid stocks and purchase or fabricate CNC gas tubes, scope mounts and re-crown the barrel. The AK47 as issued is nothing like this and that is the majority of the poor influence on the inaccurate claims on the AK47 system.
      What will make the M4 kick but even more? Piston system, Chrome everything, bigger bullet, sand groves in the receivers, Quick change barrel system ( got a barrel problem, no problem, field change it ), New spring return system in receiver to allow for folding stock (much more compact) and keep the full auto mode. Current 3-round burst is problematic with it’s crude gear system. For 3-round burst to be effective the rate of fire must be picked up from 450rpm to 1200rpm at a bare minimum. That will keep the M4 stable in the future.

      • Mike

        About a new caliber? Well let’s face it. >223 is effective on flesh, but not on flesh after it has to travel through a hard surface. The bigger you make a .223 bullet the slower it travels, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Russians field a a cartridge based on the M43 by simply replacing the 7.62 bullet with a 9mm bullet and it is their premier urban sniper round, specifically designed for lethal sound suppressed target engagement.
        We should move to a larger case cartridge with faster burning propellants with a heavier bullet for better lethal longer range engagements that retains a superior accuracy. I don’t believe 6.5 or 6.8 is the answer, I feel they are a little to large, but are much better than the 5.56/.223. I feel that there is a better platform for a new cartridge and I am currently working on it. It will be lighter but more lethal. It will be propitiatory. Heavy bullets for snipers or SAW’s and lighter bullets for rifleman. You can do this. Or supply Sargent’s are not monkey stupid, we can do this. The Chinese have now done this. They have a new cartridge and it is exactly what they are doing. It is 5.8, almost 6mm. It is overall smaller than the M43 and a soldier can carry more rounds than the M43. it’s sniper bullet is capable of repeatable first shot kills out to 1000 meters. This is were we need to go. We need not to just keep pace with enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but with potential enemies and those that may field Chinese weapons and those China may sell to.
        Mike -RLTW!!

        • TangoDown

          Enter THE .300 BLACKOUT..the next generation NATO round.

  • gyrfalcon

    I wish I could rate your comment higher… The M16/M4 has a lot of really good design points but claiming it’s “reliable” is laughable if you compare it to other weapons systems (especially the AK). I’m sure a lot of soldiers who use it like it a lot and will defend it to the bitter end though. Just like R. Lee Ermey on Lock N’ Load when it was a clear looser.

  • gyrfalcon

    “I would rather have a accurate rifle, that needs a little bit of maintence and care, than a rifle like the AK, that you can abuse, but are lucky to get a hit on a man sized target at 250-300 yards.”

    Are you arguing for the M14 or the M16 exactly? The AK can engage a man at 300 yards just like the AR can…do they issue AR’s with free-floated barrels now?

  • gyrfalcon

    You just pointed out the problem with the M-16… “simply clean it once your back to base”. It’s been too long since troops have been forced to be out in the field for extended periods of time.

  • gyrfalcon

    “I’m an U.S. Army OEF X vet. Most of this talk of the M4 being unreliable come from civilian military enthusiasts, rear echelon personnel, geardos, and straight up fanboys of competitor rifles based on misinformation or ignorance (some of those people fall into more than one of those categories).”

    Personally I’m sick of current military/vets who think they’re subject matter experts on a rifle because they carried it for a few years while they were in the service. Sure you have hands on experience with the rifle, but how many other weapon systems do you have in-depth experience with? How many military weapons do you own and shoot an a regular basis? Bring you M4 up to Alaska sometime and use it in extreme cold, or drag it through some sand/mud while crawling… Rifles GET DIRTY, and they’re NOT reliable if they fail to function when dirty.

    Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

    • crackedlenses

      Looks like the thing with the supersoldier world travelers who apparently have tested a whole gauntlet of rifles is that if the rifle will jam when used like a machine-gun hours on end, or if it can’t be used while frozen in mud or after being run over by a tank, then it’s not reliable and should be scrapped. Too bad we can’t outfit all our troops like specops…..

      • gyrfalcon

        The super solider specop types like the M4’s so they can play dress up barbie with accessories like the AN/PEQ-2A and ACOG. Weapons like the AK47/74 have proven their reliability and longevity on the battlefield.

        • crackedlenses

          Yes, yes we all know that. And yes, we have heard the horror stories of people ditching M4’s for AK’s in tough spots. But, wouldn’t piston fix most of the reliability problems?

          • gyrfalcon

            Army is already fielding HK416’s… Direct impingement is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s all about design philosophy and implementation. For example the M4 is milled aluminum where as the AK is stamped steel. Aluminum is lighter, but it doesn’t respond as well to abuse and stress like steel. The US Army seems to believe if they adopt a new design like the SCAR or XM8 they need to be committed to it forever like a wife.

  • Because it’s light and they’re lazy….just like me.

  • billy

    Sir, you are correct. it’s typical military leadership ways to always blame the grunts on the ground for everything gone wrong.
    it’s never the peaces of crap equipment they send them into the field with.

    m16 must be sort of good, or half the world wouldn’t use it, thats obvious.
    but, after such a long time it’s certainly not the best anymore.
    if you want to have the best army the most important thing is the rifle the man on the ground uses.
    so, replace that stuff, for instance take an example from Israël they’re replacing the M4 with something far better…. it’s normal after so many years

  • RangerP

    Truer words have never been spoke. “I have noticed that alot of FOBBITs going to the chow hall have really dirty weapons.” Amen, brother.

    My M4 never failed me in Iraq for all of 2005. Though I do love the PMAGs, I didn’t have problems with the aluminum after logic dictated that I should probably WIPE DOWN ammo once in a while. If a magazine goes unused for a while, ammo will fuse together. Also, a lot of ammo was reissued, so bear that in mind too. Don’t lube ammo, but hitting it with the same with damp from solvent cleaing rag you use for the rest of your weapon once in a while makes for better feeding.

  • JR

    Sustained suppressive fire is a lot different from deliberate aimed fire. When you are knee deep in combat you do what you can with what you have. Not to mention the fact that the insurgents in “the Stan” almost always attack from the high ground in locations that make it hard to return effective, well aimed fire.

  • JR

    Seriously, who cares how long the weapon has been in service? If you put an M4 in the arms room and take it out 10 (or 20, or 30 or whatever) years later, it hasn’t gotten any better over time. It’s not like a fine wine or something. Using the longevity of a particular platform is NOT evidence of reliability or superiority. When you talk about weapon reliabilty, you have to ask the question: reliable in comparison to what? You can’t use anecdotal evidence from the field or surveys of combat Soldiers or any other subjective criteria because most US combat Soldiers don’t have experience with any carbine or rifle other than the M16/M4. They simply don’t have any accurate frame of reference from which to make reasoned judgements. I’m sure that Chivers feels really good about himself for interviewing a whopping 100 Soldiers and Marines, but that really means nothing. You could interview a million soldiers for all I care. The key statement that sums up the whole problem with M16/M4 reliability is: “Suffice it to say there’s no evidence from the field that the M4 has problems jamming, failing or going tits up in battle when used within its design limits.” So what are the design limits? Can you rely on the enemy to attack you in a way that allows you to only respond within the “design limits” of your weapon systems? You had better hope so. I have a better idea. Lets forget about trying to defend this weapon system or that weapon system and quit arguing about whether the M16/M4 is reliable or not. The question to be asking is whether or not there is something better out there. If the answer is “yes” then there should be no question about where the Army’s next weapon purchase should be.

  • Buck

    Funny how so many have totally ignored the journalism that Mr. Chivers did on the reliability issues of the M4 in favor of going on with the innaccurate mythos they’ve heard. It’s pretty easy for people who have actual working experience with “the black rifle” to see through the line of bullshit some keyboard commando with no real world experience wrote.

  • soldier68

    West’s past is just that…past. In his public response to this matter….he recommended the same disciplnary action as you stated…Article 15 (non-judicial) and a public apology and an apology to the Marine Corps….

    • hamchuck

      The place was Wanat, I believe. It’s also mentioned towards the end of Sebastion Junger’s book, “War”, the companion to “Restrepo”.

    • Bob

      If the internals melted then there was a lot of paniced full auto or sustained rapid fire going on. The M4 is a carbine, not a machine gun. Aimed semi-auto fire is more effective than spray and pray, and easier on rifle/carbine innards. When your barrel is red hot and things start to melt, that should tell you to slow down and take aim. There have not been any reported human wave attacks in the Stan.

    • 556m16

      Internals melting, dude that is crazy, never happened. Some ak fanboy / armchair warrior made that up. I would love to see any internal part on a ar platform that has melted. You can not produce any evidence that any aluminum of steal internal part of the ar platform has melted because it never happened. What these idiots that have no ideal what they are talking about are referring to is the battle of walnut where some soldiers used there weapons outside of there design limits which caused the barrels to get red hot, droop and bust. Ever heard of the M4A1 with the heavier barrel? I love how some dude that has never even seen the internals of a ar platform post stupid shit like this while they yank off with there cheap century arms ak. Take a heavy machine gun that has quick change barrels and use it outside the design limits by not replacing the barrel when it gets hot like it was designed & guess what, the barrel will get red hot and bust, duh, gees what idiot came up with melting internals?

  • Joshua

    you have no idea what your talking about.

    the SEALS use the H&K416 during maritime missions since clearly a piston is the best choice when dealing with water.

    during land missions SEALS get M4’s or MK18’s, Army is still using the standard M4, soon to be M4A1, Rangers use M4A1’s with the SOPMOD Block II package.

    honestly the DI system is fine, its not as fragile as many thing, Wanat is a prime example of improper use of rifles as well as failure to properly fortify a base.

    keep your rifle cleaned and lubed and it wont fail you. the standard combat load is 210 rounds, the M4 will easily fire that before needing to be cleaned in very harsh environments.

    seems to me like the only ones with issues are the couch commando’s and journalists. me ive never had my M4 fail but then again i would clean it every night and lube it every morning.

    but what do i know, im not a super secret ninja squirrel couch commando

  • Joshua

    you should know, even a piston will have the same issues with barrels overheating.

    it doesnt matter if its DI, piston, or blowback a barrel still sees the same amount of heat and friction.

    the M4A1 would have faired far far better in wanat, since the M4’s used have a .gov profile(which under the handguards is very very thin) the new M4A1’s use a HBAR profile which will go according to colts torture tests about 900 rounds before the barrel will give out, the .gov profile went 400 in the same testing

  • Jim

    Awesome comments!! Thanks Mike.

  • Buck

    What people overlook about Wanat is that half of the rifles that failed there were 249s. Honestly, don’t believe any of this crap you read about the M4 unless you have a known name assigned to it. You know, somebody like C.J. Chivers or McNabb, Bellavia, Luttrell etc. Treat the anonymous internet posts as the cheap talk it is.

  • Chad (retired)

    I fully agree that are main rifle systems are old… by any standard… The army is only fielding the HK416’s to special operations units. What would be nice would be a simple and inexpensive fix, change it out to piston operated, (just the top half of the rifle). I have shot over 4000 rounds (and a lot of money) through my piston system with only one failure, and it was the cheap round that failed not the rifle, the design is “classic” and “any military member can grab one and go”. I will not name the rifle manufacture but it has not failed. The weapon was run through numerous dust, dirt, and mud tests and still fired, that’s why I bought it.
    If I hear one more person say that the shorter the barrel makes a difference I think I am going to go nuts. The answer is yes and no., Do your homework people, most of the cases unless you are a sniper (FYI, most snipers carry a carbine, a handgun, and a sniper rifle, so they are covered oh yeah they run in teams…..) it simply does not matter. Most shots are shorter than 150 meters, feet, football field, etc. If you can’t hit a target “spraying your M4 then maybe your need to get retrained”
    I know I am going on a tangent and I feel for all of our family member that are still over there (as I am not anymore) are in “good hands” as long as they maintain there weapons. (clean and lube), We (military and associated people) need to call to our government and let them know that this is unacceptable for our members of our armed services to have inferior weapon, maybe and hopefully if they can hear it from civilians, retires, soldiers, wife’s, husbands, than something would change, and hopefully for the better. I am drained of hearing about one of military, civilians, and or contractors that is killed due to faulty materials. (For you that don’t understand cheap bullets, rifles, parts etc.)

  • Robert

    Afghanistan: SpecOps teams M-4’s and other heavy cal. weapons were jaming – team picked up AK’s and fought off the ********. Team leader surveyed said that it was the “lube” that has been giving them the most problems as they are issued ClP Vietnam type lube meant for a wet and hot enviroment. New lubes have been and are been sent to the troops that are proving very efficient, far less jamming – SLP2000, TW-25B, Militec – 1, Gun Butter, KG lubes, and the list goes on. Many family’s and organizations have sent modern high tech civilian lubes to Marine and Army outfits with outstanding performance far outstripping or out lubing military CLP’s.
    Secondly: It is now well known that the upgrades needed to adjust for the short action and gas operation are the 5Coil ejector spring, a heavy buffer and upgraded heavy buffer spring which together nearly eliminate all malfunctions of the M-4 – keeping in mind many malfunctions are caused by bad magazines with lips spread to wide from over filling mags (i.e. 31 rounds in a 30 round mag or leaving aluminum or thin steel mags loaded for too long causing the lips to widen and then giving double feeds.
    Some of the top lubes for use in our American/USA enviroment are:


    However, most knowledgeable shooters use one of the best lubes known – Mobile 1 20/50 motorcycle oil in hot weather and drop the weights as the weather gets cold just like you would a car – down to 10/30 or 20/20 for real cold weather. Mobile-1 and other comparable motor oils have the highest “cling” factor and highest lubricity of any oils.

    Last is “ED’s Red” = Equal Parts (#1 Kerosene, Odorless Mineral Spirits, Dextron II Transmission Fluid) – This mixture surpasses the CLP’s of the military. Cleans, Lubes, and protects from rust for up to a year. Dextron II replaced Whale Sperm Oil Transmission Fluid at the beginning of WWI – not enough whales lol – but the properties of Dextron II which equal or surpass the Whale Oil are premier weapons lubes – think how its used in your car under extreme heat and friction conditions.

    So with the proper lubes matched to the climate and with the buffer, buffer spring, and with the 5ring ejector spring (BravoCompany – all their new M-4’s are built stock with the upgrades as are Knights Armament) – with these changes the M-4 is super reliable.

    Note also: Best dirt eliminator/degreaser is Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaner (WalMart 2.99) which is the exact same as Gun Scrubber/12.50.

  • Buck

    It comes down to this; one set of data is based on what happens in the wars and another set of data based on what happens in games and in the minds of the phoney Vietnam vets who invent whole personal military histories despite never physically leaving the lower 48 states in their entire lives. The set of data that suggests the Stoner design is consistently reliable comes from the real soldiers on the real battlefield. The “plastic jamtastic” wags base their information on very old information, so old that it is very wrong. The Armalite 15 design is not perfect but its reliability is much, much better than gun-virgins think it is. If you assign criticism of the AR15 based rifle to known names in the industry you’ll see that in their collective experiences their M4s worked quite well overall, by names I mean like; C.J. Chivers, Larry Vickers, Andy McNab, David Bellavia and even Ryan Conklin. When you subtract the anonymous internet poster who had some nameless associate who was in Iraq or Afghanistan and his M 4 jammed so often he immediately dropped it and used a captured AK47 you are subtracting ********. So what did this guy do, drop his gov’t issued carbine with expensive sight systems on it in favor of an unknown AK 47? I’m sure that would go over well with military administrators, enjoy your courtmartial . Also, what about the ammo? I know, he carried both the M4 and AK47 ( right~sarcastically ). Vet your sources of information if you want to get an accurate idea of how poorly or how well the weapon performs.

    Also, if you look further into the infamous “extreme dust test” where the M4 finished last, look a little deeper into the test results and protocols and the extreme dust test seems skewed to favor Heckler and Koch weapons. Most people don’t realize there were more than one test. In fact, there was a previous identical test where the AR system had only a little over 300 rounds in 60,000 rounds fired from 10 different AR rifles. That’s considerably less than the “winter extreme dust test” where the M4 FTF 883 rounds out of 60,000. Also, the M4s were old issue armory pieces while the XM8 and FN SCAR were handbuilt and prepared with the test in mind before the army ever tested them and if you really wanted to you could invalidate one weapons performance by making sure that it was tested using the most worn out magazines and the rifle itself needed an overhaul. I believe that information is from Combat Tactics, written by David Crane, again another known name.

  • mike garus

    The “IF” rifle: IF you keep it clean, IF you use the right magazines, IF you use the right lube.
    Simple solution: TEST IT against all other modern designs, whatever comes up the winner. USE that!

  • We are convinced I’ve read this same sort of declaration anywhere else, it must be gathering popularity while using public.

  • The 5.56 cartridge is garbage. Read the tests from the Aberdeen testing grounds, “Blackhawk Down”, and numerous references to its lack of real stopping power.

    A friend of mine in Vietnam shot a VC 6 times in the chest and the guy kept coming. The VC shot him one time with an AK-47 and my friend almost died. He returned to Vietnam with an Ithaca pump shotgun and a 45 auto- he refused to carry an M-16. Changing the name doesn’t make the calibre any better. Some guys in Vietnam, US troops, tied up a goat and shot it 9 times- the goat was still standing. With so many verified references why do we still endanger our troops with such a crappy cartridge and inferior rifle?

  • .357Magnum

    The 5.56 has proven itself for 50
    years on the battlefield and with law enforcement. Objectively. talking to several combat veterans who used this
    round and the medics who treated the enemy shot with it, the general opinion is that the 5.56 is very effective and lethal. You can choose to talk to individuals who put their life behind the round (soldiers) or gun enthusiast morons who like to shoot oil barrels on You Tube with their junky AK imitations. Personally I own a 5.56 chambered M4 and using Winchester 64 grain Super X .223 ammo have taken SEVERAL Bucks 120-200 lbs within 125 meters with ONE shot. All dropped except on who ran 100 yards and collapsed ( my fault with a mediocre shot). Deer are much tougher than thin skinned humans lol. So unless you have served (I have not) and really used an M4/M16 in battle then SHUT THE &$&&!!! UP.

  • jeff

    You want to issue a retraction to this article in light of current events? Also, apologize to the families of the men who died needlessly.

  • Buck

    The article is not a retraction and it is not even from the New York Times. Also reading the article carefully one sees the critics of the M 4 are employees of rival weapons makers who would benefit greatly by replacing the M 4 with their product and there is also a mention a significant amount of veterans who have great confidence in the M 4. That and like a thousand internet videos where guys torture their AR 15s with mud and dirt etc. but their rifles keep firing tell a different story. Always remember some of the sources of information are bias for financial reasons.