Soldiers at War Modify M4 to Boost Reliability


U.S. Army soldiers at war in Afghanistan have made personal modifications to the M4 carbine to improve its effectiveness, according to a news report.

Army Senior Warrant Officer Russton Kramer, a longtime Green Beret, said he and fellow Special Forces soldiers buy off-the-shelf triggers and other components and overhaul the M4A1 commando version of the assault rifle, according to an article by Rowan Scarborough, a reporter for The Washington Times.

“The reliability is not there,” the Silver Star recipient told the reporter. “I would prefer to use something else. If I could grab something else, I would.”

The two-part series is the latest to investigate the reliability of the Army’s standard-issue carbine made by Colt Defense LLC. The weapon has been upgraded by the service in recent years, but remains in essence a shorter, lighter version of the Vietnam-era M16.’s Matt Cox, a frequent contributor to Kit Up, last year broke the news that the Army nixed plans to hold a competition to replace the rifle despite interest from such gun-makers as Heckler & Koch, FNH-USA, Remington Defense and Adcor Defense Inc., in addition to Colt.

The decision stemmed in part from a “careful consideration of the Army’s operational requirements in the context of the available small arms technology, the constrained fiscal environment, and the capability of our current carbines,” Cox reported at the time.

The issues Kramer touched on are familiar to other soldiers.

Clinton Romesha, a former Army staff sergeant who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the battle at Combat Outpost Keating in 2009 in Afghanistan, said he was disappointed when he heard the Army ended the competition to find a potential successor to the M4 gas-operated system.

“When you start hearing all the chatter, ‘Hey, we’re looking to get a new product, we’re looking to upgrade something that’s been around since the Vietnam War,’ you get a little excited,” he said in an interview with at last month’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas. “But when everything just dried up and went away, it was kind of a disheartening feeling as a soldier to see that — to see good products out there that weren’t available to you.”


Now out of the military and working as a representative for Adcor, among other firms, Romesha praised the company’s A-556 Elite rifle for its piston-operated system, free-floating barrel, forward ambidextrous charging handle, and polymer dust cover that seals the system from dirt and debris, among other features.

“There’s nothing more important for a soldier than to know when he’s carrying his weapon system, it’s going to work,” he said. “What they developed here is a platform that every time you squeeze the trigger, it’s going to go bang instead of click.”

But Romesha, who also served two tours in Iraq, said the Army has a history of acquisition missteps — not just with guns and bigger pieces of equipment, but also with items as small as boots.

When he and his fellow soldiers initially arrived in Afghanistan, they were left with “putting the old tan leathers on and breaking them in for three weeks just to get them comfortable enough to go hiking up and down the mountains.” Luckily, he said, their brigade commander, “went out of his way” to get them Merrell hiking shoes.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • john dierking

    As if this is so surprising. Mods have been done as long as I have been paying attention. The AR has more aftermarket mods available than is believable. Some are better than others. Anything that improves a American’s ability to survive and win should not be interfered with by bureaucracy.

    • Jeff

      As an Armorer I spent a lot of time and money our of my pocket making M-16, M-4 and other weapons perform better for my guys, it’s nothing new and will always continue. I would like to see a program where armorers get involved with new weapons from the start so there could be less or maybe no field improvements to weapons.

  • Dave C

    Your article title is based on a paraphrased quote from one guy, and the only component actually mentioned in the paraphrase is the trigger – as if the trigger were the source of a reliability issue?

    The rest of the article laments the end of the IC competition. This one needs a new title. The one it has misses the point.

    • JCitizen

      I’d imagine many who have been there and done that would agree. I too, got excited about this possibility. I’m thinking there hasn’t been a rifle since the ’03 Springfield that has been so long in service – but even that comparison isn’t much, because back then, there were huge changes in HBMGs, LMGs, and other small arms, in inventory.

      As disappointed as I am, I really don’t have a hero to recommend here, because nothing I’ve seen has really been tested in a rough enough environment. There are a lot of good designs out there; but I’d have my druthers as far as features.
      1. Removable barrel for heat. (trouble is, that generally sacrifices accuracy) But not all models would need that.
      2. Same instant break down and easy disassembly – I’ve used better arms than the AR-15/16 family for that.
      3. Sorry, but I got tired of cleaning direct gas impingement designs in the Army. They make me wanna puke!
      4. Can’t have enough rails for mounting.
      5. If it has to be a permanently mounted barrel, make it free floating and heavy.
      6. Keep an inventory of uppers that are a different caliber without radically changing the mag well or feed design.
      7. Belt fed upper choice for SPEC/OPS would be nice.
      8. Get the damn rifling twist right for heavy bullets!! Or at least get a happy medium.
      9. The rail requirement would help take care of attachments like grenade launchers or “smart bullet” launchers. I’m not sure a hybrid weapon is all that wise, even if it does bowl your socks off!
      10. If it is too heavy use Titanium; we need to catch up to the civilian market, where it is proven that is!
      11. If it is too heavy use the new “plastic” framing. Hey, this IS proven – I’ve seen Glocks last 10,000 rounds – no hiccups!

      I actually think this can be – and should be accomplished by only slightly modifying the original design, so uppers and lowers can be mixed and matched by the armorers in the field. Especially if the mission changes, and some new factor comes into play. I hate to use the now tired term “modular”, but I got no better one! This would also save the taxpayer some money, and may even goad congress into considering these changes.

      • GPaulsen

        You should check out the ARX-160 – it’s a step in the direction you are describing.

        • JCitizen

          Uh – Yeah! If it weren’t .22 caliber it would. I don’t remember the 5.56mm variant model number, but I keep hoping Beretta will offer it in the US!

  • mr happy

    “now out of the military and a working as a representative for Adcor” tells me all I need to know about this article.

    • Balais

      Exactly since I know at least 5 other systems I would rather have than Adcor when it comes to gas piston ARs.

      Adcor is really not that great. Im tired of them being inflated.

  • Condor

    It may surprise some to learn the AR design, by Eugene Stoner, was never intended to be a military weapon, but was designed for and offered to the SWAT community. This was the AR10, in .308 Win. When sales lagged, they downsized it and offered it to the Army. It was termed the XM16A1E1 until final adoption. Also, the “carrying handle” was actually the housing for the charging handle and survived the redesign. The M16 was hyped as the rifle that didn’t need cleaning, and it didn’t, until some ass, for economy reasons (the lowest bidder, remember), changed to a dirty propellant and the slide was on. So, any cleaning problems are caused by using a dirty powder, not the design of the system. Any reloader knows this. A changeable barrel would perhaps be a good idea, but not for special ops. Too much to lug around. Accuracy wouldn’t be harmed at all, because the bolt locks into the barrel, not a receiver. This was Stoner’s main innovation, and one reason the system is so light. Finally, it’s time for a new weapon. It’s time. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the burst feature. Training, if effective, and that’s a big if, will reduce the tendency to waste ammunition. The powers that be have been fixated on this since at least the magazine cutoffs of the Krag and Springfield rifles. Get a new rifle. Why keep fixing and propping up this one?

    • jose

      Never intended to be a military weapon? The SWAT community? SWAT wasn’t even an acronym at the time the AR10 was under development or manufacture. You need to brush up on your history, and not just on that, but basically premise of your post.

      • sickunclesam

        I thought the same thing when I read his comment.

      • condor

        Everything in my post is historical fact. I’ve served in two combat zones, the last Afghanistan ’02-’03. I’m amazed you don’t know this stuff. Ask around, or (horrors), read some books. I keep forgetting the Army has a REALLY shitty unit memory, and sorry, but your post is a good example of that. Every so often, the Army rediscovers and reinvents the wheel, example sniper training. That’s why you failed to learn the knowledge I passed along to you. It’s really not your fault. You can figure out from the dates that my comments were dictated by personal knowledge, not hearsay, that I lived during these events. I served from ’66 to ’69, ’91 to ’05. I was on six different rifle and pistol teams in as many different commands, was a shooter and coach, was a grunt in Korean DMZ when it was hot, and in Afghanistan. The AR10 was in fact pitched to what passed for SWAT teams (in .308) and was then redesigned and downsized to become the M16. You didn’t address my other comments, perhaps because hey were outside your realm of knowledge, and that’s ok. But you need to deep six the attitude that because it happened before you came along, or you didn’t see it personally, it never happened. Read some books, talk to some older gun people or vets, you’ll see.

        • Army Of One

          There was nothing even close to SWAT in 1956. The concern was to develop a lighter weight, full power rifle that used the new 7.62 NATO round for the US Army. The competition narrowed down to the M14, the FAL, and the AR10. The Pentagon didn’t like the mostly plastic, aluminum, and unproven, AR10, and the FAL was not made in America.

          The rifle was “pitched” to armies around the world, but with less than 10,000 total made, they didn’t get too far (even Castro had a few). But never pitched to any Police organization anywhere.

          Oh…by the way. The original Air Force rifles were designated “AR15”. They didn’t officially become M16’s until 1963 as the XM16E1, when the Army adopted them and sent to to Vietnam. The A1 version was not adopted until 1967, and it wasn’t an “X” rifle either.

          I don’t know where you got your info…..but you couldn’t be more wrong. Which also makes me question your time line for service.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Having carried an XM16E1 while assigned to the 101st, I have to correct you on a couple of points.
            First, the XM16E1 was the result of a product-improvement effort after the M16’s shortcomings (as issued by the Army) became highly publicized. The 2 biggest factors in the M16’s failures were a combination of woefully misinformed training (e.g., troops told that the rifle was “self-cleaning”) and a cost-driven decision by Ordnance to change the cartridge propellant (resulting in greater powder residue/fouling and higher barrel pressures, which upped the cyclic rate 30-50 percent). After troop trials, the XM16E1 was type-standardized as the M16A1.
            Also, the Pentagon was fine with the AR15 — it was the Army’s Ordnance Board was hostile. The Ordnance Board was as protective of the M14/M15 as it had been of the M1 Garand, and actively discouraged further evaluation of .223/.224 caliber carbines despite initially putting out RFPs for a selective-fire carbine replacement capable of penetrating an M1 helmet at 1,000 yards.
            Other than that, you got the gist of the history right.

        • jose

          “Everything in my post is historical fact. ”

          Whiskey Tango Foxtrot !?!?

          • Dan

            He’s probably like that fat E-7 at Lewis who told me it was against the Geneva Convention to shoot a .50 cal at somebody. The professional NCO corps of the US Army can mix more half-truth and disinformation in with documentable history than any other group I know of.

          • Yellow Devil

            That happened at Fort Knox as well.

        • 1LT INF, ret

          If you consider the Portuguese army to be a SWAT team, then your “not meant to be military” claim might make sense, but that’s a darned big “if” to swallow. As I recall, the Dutch tried selling the AR-10 throughout NATO, but FN had beat them to the punch with the FAL (even the Germans used FALs until they could gin up a locally designed replacement with the G3).

        • seans

          So you were a grunt in Afghanistan and you were almost 50 years old, going to call bullshit. And some of the worse knowledge on guns and how they work comes from the older generation and grunts in military.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            He probably was full-time Guard for his second round (Balkans and SWA), and do note (to his credit) that he did *not* claim to be kicking in doors during this millenium.

          • W_R_Monger

            I had thought his time line was qiute skewed as well. I enlisted in 1981 at age 18 and got out for the last time in 2006. In a 25 year span I had accumulated 17 years of service (I would get out for a few years and forget why I left in the first place, reenlist and then I’d remember and get back out when that service commitment was complete, did this five times). 1966 to 2005 is quite a stretch, 40 years. There is a limit to how old one can be to reenlist. In 1990 he was, by Army standards, too old to re-up after an absence of more than 20 years. I was told way back when (in 91) that if my time lapsed more than 10 years I couldn’t reenlist even though I was prior service. Still, he may have gotten a special dispensation. I tried to enlist in 91 but I was told that they weren’t taking prior service just yet, keeping them in reserve or something like that. I was allowed back in in 93.

    • 1LT INF, ret

      Why keep fixing it? How about the fact that it happens to work pretty well — it may not be as idiot-resistant as the AK design, but it’s also more portable and more accurate than an AK.
      Personally, I think that the AR-18 was a better basic design than the AR-15, but “Old Soldier” Douglas MacArthur inadvertently ruined that option — when the Army first started having problems with the M16 and wasn’t so heavily invested in it, the AR-18 was proposed as an alternative but the Japanese constitution prohibited providing us with even a handful of rifles for testing (Howa was the only licensed manufacturer for the AR-18 at the time).
      Also, I will vouch for your detail about the carrying handle/charging handle relationship – the charging handle was redesigned because the “upside-down trigger” would get too hot to use because of heat transfer from the end of the gas tube and barrel.
      But the M16 did need cleaning, even before the powder change, and especially in the jungle. Cleaning and proper lubing is necessary to keep any piece of machinery operating reliably.

    • sftrooper 06

      When I got to my first unit – the 101st – as a 2LT in 1978, we still had six XM16A1E1’s in our arms room. All our weapons, from M16s, to the mortars to the M-60MG (pigs!) were all old and shot out. I hope that our military is not currently in the “worn out” mode.

    • condor

      My bad, my post was unclear. I was a grunt in KOREA,’66-’69, NOT Afghanistan. In reply to all, I was in error on the progression of events. The ORIGINAL target of the AR10 design was as an Air Force survival rifle, then they entered the competition to replace the M1, THEN they went after the SWAT market, 1965-1969. The thrust of my original comment, that the AR10 was not originally intended or designed to be a military battle rifle, I absolutely stand by. Yes, the AR design was and is excellent. They should bring it back in 7.62, and make the M16 substitute issue. The M16 has a number of features that improve its shootability, but just ask yourself, would I go to war with its alter ego, the Mini14? Hmmm….

      • 1LT INF, ret

        But Mini-14s have worked great in countless “A Team” re-runs…

      • 1LT INF, ret

        Humor aside, you’re still confused as to the origins and marketing of the AR10 — I think you’re confusing the AR7 (collapsible .22 LR semi-auto which can float) with the AR10. At least, that’s the only way I can see you making a “survival rifle” connection.
        Armalite (and subsequently Colt) initially marketed the AR10 as an infantry battle rifle, and saw that there was no market because the Belgians got there first (as in the U.S. and Italians are the only NATO nations which didn’t field an FAL variant).
        While they were trying to sell AR10s to second- and third-world militaries, the AR15 project produced a lot of customer interest, culminating in the Air Force buying AR15s to replace their inventory of worn-out M1/M2 carbines used for base security (perhaps significantly, the Air Force at this time seemed to go out of their way to distance themselves from anything to do with the Army).
        Lastly, please forget about “the SWAT market, 1965-1969” — it did not exist. Only a handful of police departments had formed SWAT teams or tac squads prior to 1970, and even then most designated SWAT officers had it as an additional duty. With military contracts being awarded for hundreds of thousands of rifles at a pop (the Army bought 100K XM16E1s, and that was just to test them out thoroughly), a market for a couple hundred rifles is not going to excite any corporate big-wig’s primary focus.

        • JCitizen


      • jose

        Dude, just stop.

      • Army Of One

        And you would still be wrong. Armalite was first tasked to develop a survival rifles for aircrews, and this was the AR7, a small collapsible .22 rimfire semi-auto rifle intended for small game. Nothing about this rifle and the AR10 are in any way compatible.

        To be more clear: Fairchild Aircraft and Armalite Corp. were military contractors, who had no interest in domestic sales of fighter/bomber aircraft, or experimental full-auto weapons to police departments

        Again, the AR10 was developed in conjunction with a request from the Pentagon to replace the M1 Garand. After extensive trials with weapons from around the world, the M14 won the debate on account of being an American design. The AR10 failed in testing, while the FAL exceeded all expectations, but was a foreign design. The FAL went on to become the “Right Arm of Freedom” for over 90 countries, while the AR10 did not, and the M14 was replaced within 10 years.

        The Mini14 is a Garand based rifle, and in no way competes with the proven combat record…or the ego… of the M16.

      • seans

        The original target was a Air Force survival rifle? No it wasn’t. Dude stop going to Wikipedia and scanning the documents, actually try reading them. The AR-10 was rushed to compete with the T-44 and T-48. The AR-5 and later the AR-7 were the Air force survival rifle, and if you think they have similar you need to let me know what you are smoking. You already stated that it was designed for swat, now you are backtracking and stating it was designed for the Air force. How bout just admitting you have no clue what you are talking about.

    • straps


  • Doc_robalt

    I served with Romesha and he’s right it’s extremely sad to see the Corp find a problem and solve it right away. But yet the Army finds a problem and spends millions apon millions and gets no real results or drops the research and keeps what we got. We were lucky to get the gear we did get. If not our deployment would have sucked. As far as the M4 goes, I could care less if it were a DI or Gas Piston. But if we are gonna keep DI then at least upgrade us to a mid length.

    • What does this have to do with the Corp? What problem are you referring to?

      BTW, guess what the Corp issues NCO’s, officers and MARSOC? Yep, M4’s…

      • Doc_robalt

        The Copt knew they needed a plate carrier, looked at options fielded one. Corp wanted replacement for saw, got IAR. The army wanted plate carrier, fucked around for over a year and selected one of the shitiest ones on the market. The Army wanted replacement for saw & 240b and instead of sticking with the mk46/mk48 they kept the saw, switch to M4A1, and the 240L a machine gun you can’t mount on vehicles. The corp has even gone far enough to improve their plate carriers and are looking for a fully scalable system where the army is just concentrating making female armor. The point is the Army gear selection guys are fucking retarded

        • sickunclesam

          No doubt the army has issues but all one has to do to see the corp is no different is look at the F-35b and the osprey. Both disasters in terms of cost and time involved to field. The truth is that all the services suck at procurement.

        • The Army was slow on plate carriers. The IAR is an experiment in progress. Google why the BAR and the M14 were taken out of the squad automatic rifle role.

          After that you are as wrong as a $3 bill.

          The Army was never looking for an M240 or SAW replacement. They did lighten the M240 for light infantry hence the M240L (something the Marines haven’t done). The M240L is issued in very limited numbers to light infantry units who also maintain M240B’s for vehicle mounts. The M240L will fit on an M240 vehicle mount. The SAW was actually improved up to the Mk 46 standards (which is why the Ranger Reg’t (part of SOCOM) leveraged the Army buy and is equipped with new generation SAWs (which are cheaper than Mk46s).

          As for female armor you might want to check out the “smaller size Marine armor” which is code for FEMALE (or do you think the Marines are all of a sudden recruiting smaller guys?).

          Check out the link below (and my post in the comments) for other examples of successful Army innovation and equipment fielding. All the branches have successes and failures. The Army gear selection guys aren’t retarded but keep talking,,,

          • Zach

            “The M240L is issued in very limited numbers to light infantry units who also maintain M240B’s for vehicle mounts.”

            Incorrect. Im in a Cav Sqdrn and we have them. Theyre nice and CAN be mounted on a gun truck, but good luck shooting it as effectivley as a 240B cause the buttstock is too short.

          • What unit? Are you in a Cav Sqdrn of a light infantry unit? A RSTA BN of an INFANTRY Brigade Combat Team?

            If so, the unit is a light infantry unit. Are Cav units in the 82nd not in an airborne division which is also a light infantry unit?

        • 1LT INF, ret

          Sorry, but I think that the Corps got recto-cranially inverted with the IAR.
          What use is a squad automatic with inferior ballistic performance (same round out of a 20-percent shorter barrel) compared to the rifles carried by the other guys? How is it supposed to provide suppressive fire at or beyond the limits of aimed rifle fire?

          • Well considering they are keeping the SAW also it would make sense that the whole effort was a sly way to get the HK416 issued.

          • Joshua

            Yoy actually are not far from the truth Maj. The Corp did look into replacing the M16 but deemed it to costly, and after seeing how long it took to get their IAR found it would take HK har to long to get the machining necessary to completely replace every M16 in inventory. i was told 15-20 years.

    • Riceball

      Which corporation would this be because you do know that corp. is an abbreviation for corporation and that the Marines are a corps.

  • Steven S

    The designs submitted in the Individual Carbine Competition had marginal improvements at best over the M4. We are better off upgrading our fleet of M4s instead of replacing them with a new rifle at the moment. We won’t get the bang for the buck if we did replace them. Along with a period of budget cuts, this whole venture is a bad idea.

    I think it’s clear that the next major step in firearms will be cased telescoped ammunition. For which new weapons like the LSAT will be based around it. This kind of tech is expected to mature in about 5-10 years and will take about 5-10 more years to manufacture enough to satisfactory inventory levels.

    Just my 2 cents

  • This is such a hot topic that no matter which side of the fence you fall into you’re bound to draw fire. I’ve spent countless hours trying to resolve this issue in my own mind and have come to the conclusion that the only thing wrong with the M4/M16 platform is that there is no systematic way of conducting effective maintenance of the weapon. It is also a more laborious weapon to clean than other systems. The DoD is an institution as such they have to apply sound business reasoning to the problem and like any business, they need to show more than just a marginal benefit when considering a capital investment the magnitude of phasing out the M4/M16. Not only do you have to fund for the weapon system but you also need to consider investment in parts, training and logistics. Contrast that management analysis with the fact that what you have is sporadic concerns about reliability that are mostly subjective. That’s the reason that I enthusiastically supported the shot counter technology. Candidly, were I be tasked with that decision I would have a shot counter on every weapon issued without exception. That technology would provide a systematic means for dealing with weapon system maintenance. There are a multitude of collateral benefits such as more clearly assessing ammunition load out requirements and individual soldier training. It’s an effective way of collecting data as opposed to opinions. It may very well confirm the need for a new rifle and carbine a decision can than be made on fact and not whim. May be the problem is localized to the Commando variant of the M4. On a lighthearted note, carbines are like socks or skives everyone likes something that is a little different. The same holds true for optics. An individual can individually make those choices but institutions need a high level of standardization.

  • Stefan S.

    Used a Noveske Afghan upper and the issued lower had a Geissele trigger in it. But is was in a unit that ended in “Group”. Weapon mod regulations didn’t mean shit neat the Paki border!

  • bart

    The Army should make a list of approved rifles soldiers are allowed to buy with their own funds since there is no money in the budget for upgraded weapons.

    • Hammac

      And be allowed to keep them when we ETS! And to satisfy the sensitive nice nasties, have the trigger group replaced to a semi only group.

    • Jeff

      Do you carry the spare parts and ammunition needed for a whole war or does supply have to maintain a stock of parts for every weapon ever devised?

      • jason

        He said a “list of approved rifles” not every weapon ever devised.

      • Josh

        that’s to easy, simply put AK-47 variant chambered in 5.56 on the list of approved weapons and then you don’t need any extra parts. I have a WASR-10 that has had 10,000 rounds ran threw it with very little cleaning and I have run it threw sand, mud, and water and it has never needed any parts.

        • seans

          You realize that 10000 rounds is not a lot of shooting. You tell me you did 50,000 rounds in a year without a loss of accuracy from the barrel being burnt out, then you got a point. And M4s can go around 2000 rounds without lube before they begin to malfunction, so it is still not impressive on a AK to go 10000 with minimal cleaning.

    • Bub

      M1A….and not even joking

  • Lance

    The reason the ICC died and rightly so was all it was FN trying to get that SCAR POS adopted for everyone and her political allies in congress pressured the Army to do it. They looked they all at best were marginally better so it failed so now the Army is upgrading the M-4 with improvements see what turns out the competition for a FF barrel assembly will end this year see what they pick. As for solder getting personal gear for there weapons sorry that been around since time began. I read that Vietnam solders bought there own cleaning kits 4x scopes and made there own sling swivel’s for better carry. Not new that solder make there own weapons best suit them.

    This whole article is more SCAR lover crying the blues.

  • Just the press trying to create a controversy to sell papers or business trying to create business.

    The Scarborough article doesn’t get specific on which studies it implies its talking about likely because the studies that were done have been gone over with a fine tooth comb. The direct impingement systems were 1-2% more reliable with the M4 already in the high 90’s. The article cites sensational weapon failures at the battle of Wanat. What they don’t tell you is that any assault rifle fired on full auto like they were at Wanat would have failed.

    Many approach the issue of what should be the issue battle rifle with a BFF weapon in mind and try to make the case for it. That’s not how it’s done. If one looks at our evolution from the Springfield-Garand-M14-M16 there has been at least a very significant if not doubling in performance in the areas of lethality, reliability or weight. There is no battle rifle in existence that gives that kind of technological leap in existence today.

    The weapons competitions that did not result in a change aren’t always waste. They provide industry motivation to push the technological frontiers. They also serve as occasions to gather performance metrics to counter the BFF weapon debaters and silence the Congressman trying to get a gun deal for the local industry.

    Much ado over nothing.

    • Leland64

      Agreed. No select fire rifle or carbine can with stand mag after mag of full auto fire for an extended period. Gun barrels melt, bolts come apart, rounds cook off and so forth. Machine gun barrels turn cherry red and any gun will eventually fail if its sustained rate of fire in exceeded for some time. Question: Have any of the available M4/M16 style carbines/rifles been tested to the point of failure in a controlled environment? If so, what were the results? How must sustained full auto abuse (mag after mag, no cooling, no cleaning) can any of them take take?

      • Leland – yes, M4’s have been tested to the point of failure (it’s how they come up with the max rate of fire and max sustained rate of fire numbers). Can’t give you a link but I haven’t googled it either.

      • 1LT INF, ret

        If you go to the news article that inspired this post, it repeatedly quotes some “consultant” with his knickers in a twist because (back in 2002 or 2003) the Army “ignored” his recommendations for improved reliability — and the consultant’s test method was load magazine, hold trigger back, drop magazine, and repeat until gun fails in some way. For example, he touted as a major reliability issue that the standard M4 gas tube failed due to overheating after only 800-plus rounds of his abuse.
        Has anybody heard any reports M4 gas tubes melting in a fire-fight?

    • Joshua

      Look into the battle at COP Keating, twice as many insurgents as wanat, a longer battle, and not one weapon failed, no M4’s, M249, M240….nothing, just a M2 that ate an RPG and a few M203’s that took rounds through them.

      • FWIW, the absolute BEST read on Keating are the final chapters of Jake Tapper’s “The Outpost”. HIGHLY recommended!

        • Doc_robalt

          The only thing that “failed” was the barrels over heating, but that’s more of lack of realizing what your doing than the weapon system it’s self. A lot of our guys were too busy shooting and then saw the barrels turning bright red.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Actually, magazines have been the most common failure point, with worn-out springs and deformed magazine lips being the prime cause of failures to feed (dented and deformed ammo comes in a distant third).

            And all the issues with magazines are more inherent in the Army’s neglect to buy new M16 magazines until well into the wars than any design flaws in the M4.

          • Doc_robalt

            Well we got issued PMAGs so we didn’t really have any issues with standard magazines.

          • Yellow Devil

            I agree, at least anecdotally. My experience from weapons failures usually stemmed from poor or old magazines. Swapping out the mags usually did the trick. This is from experience in both Active and Reserve side.

    • Joshua

      What DI ssystems are you reffering to?

  • Slag

    I’ve always hated the 5.56 round, it lacks the range & knockdown of the 7.62. One commenter stated about IMPs (Injection Molded Plastics) like Glock, he’s correct about plastic being lighter & unlike wood, it’s also resistant to humidity caused swelling. My vote would be to reintroduce the M1A from Springfield Armory. Or better yet the M1 Garand with synthetic stock & a box magazine in 30.06. A proven round for distance, accuracy & knockdown!

    “In my opinion, the M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” ~ Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. to Chief of Ordnance Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., (January 26, 1945)

    • seans

      What rounds where you shooting. Were you issued the MK262 or MK318 or were you just shooting the standard M855. Either of those two rounds are miles above the M855. And range distance and accuracy are just factors of a rifle, if that is all you care about out of a semi auto rifle just rock Barret 50, but tell me how that works for you.

    • orly?

      1. M1A rifle = M14 rifle

      2. M1 Garand rifle with box magazine = M14 rifle

      3. As much as I would love to actually see an attempt to modernize the M1 Garand (with clip rather than magazine) for more than one reason, I am not sure there will be much of a market for it.

      Therefore I don’t think we’ll see it unless something big happens.

      • JCitizen

        One of my TAC NCOs said the M14 failed for them in the jungle. I don’t remember what he said broke on them at that time. He actually loved the new Mighty Mattel, but then they cleaned the crap out of them to assure they’d survive the next ambush, and they always packed as many loaded magazines as they could pile on a body! They weren’t going to have time to load them in a firefight.

    • Jon

      We switched from the 7.62 to the 5.56 for a reason. Given equal trajectory, point of impact, and range, the 5.56 is capable of greater internal damage than the 7.62 due to the tumble effect upon penetration. The 7.62 may cause a larger wound cavity, but it goes straight through and even slips past things like major arteries. It’s possible that the expansion of the wound cavity can tear the vitals, but the bullet itself will only do the damage from the head of the projectile. The tumble effect causes by the 5.56 turns the projectile end over end, which causes a greater transfer of energy from entry to exit and utilizes the a greater amount of surface area to shred internal organ. The same argument can be used expanding projectiles or even wadcutters as defense rounds versus ball ammunition. Range is an issue for any weapon and projectile combination, including the M1 Garand/.30-06 and M14/7.62. The M14 isn’t just an M1 with a box magazine feeding system, there were also internal design changes and improvements. Reverting back to a heavier ammunition as a standard rifle would also make the loadout heavier for troops to carry the same amount of ammo or require the carrying of less ammo for the same weight. Let’s not even discuss weapon length issues and close quarters. The M14 is still in use today by the military as sniper and Designated Marksman rifles. All of these trade-offs were discussed when the Army began testing rifles for the replacement of the M14.

      • Canadian

        You are speaking in generalities. The 7.62 can do the same thing with different ammunition. It’s about the specifics of the actual bullet, not just the general size of the round.

        That said, the 7.62×51 is larger than most soldiers need. A 6.5 or 6.8- or just a 75 or 77 grain 5.56 would clean up most of the accuracy and range issues.

        • JCitizen

          I’ve seen bullets do all kinds of weird things, it can be shocking if one does some extensive testing. I’ve seen miserable performance from any of the known military rounds from 5.56mm to 12.7mm, depending on conditions and type of target, angle of impact, etc. It is actually not surprising people survive hits, from any caliber, after taking a hard look at it.

    • Slag – Have you carried a basic load of 7.62 ammo for a couple of dozen miles?

      • 1LT INF, ret

        I have – without a “spray and pray” option, you don’t need to tote hundreds of rounds, so the standard load was only 5 magazines (2 in each pouch plus 1 in the rifle).
        That said, I’m perfectly willing to go with the lighter *rifle* and round in most terrain — as in M16 rifle, not M4 *carbine*, because I know how much that cute little 16-inch carbine barrel costs in terms of ballistic performance and mechanical reliability.

        • Canadian

          Do you really know how much? Because with proper ammunition, it makes no measurable difference. The specifics of the individual round are the issue.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Think a ~280 fps (or 86 mps for you traitors to the One True English system of measurement) loss in velocity for going from an M16-series rifle to an M4 carbine, using M855 ammunition. That corresponds to a 10-percent drop in velocity at the muzzle — or, to look at it another way, starting off with about the velocity the round still has at 100 meters coming out of a 20-inch rifle.
            There’s a short but informative article on the subject over on Small Arms Defense Journal (I don’t know if posting URLs is permitted here).

          • Canadian

            Again, you are talking muzzle velocity, not terminal ballistics. Even in the M855 round, faster isn’t always better. The round is too light to do significant damage beyond 300m, in fact 150-200m is the range it was designed for. Longer barrel doesn’t make enough difference for a 62gr round. The problem is the weight of the round, and I will argue, the round itself. I have SEEN 800m hits on a man sized tgt with a carbine off of a bipod, however, even with a longer barrel- it’s beyond what the round was designed for.

            Western armies need to decide how far they need their soldiers to effectively engage, not just be handicapped by the dictation of politicians about a specific rifle calibre, politicians who don’t understand terminal ballistics.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            And you are missing the point — if you’ve got one type of ammo issued, then the only thing that will change is the velocity of that little metal bit coming out the muzzle (although its spin rate might also be affected, if somebody was too dense to tighten up the rifling to compensate for the lower velocity).
            You are also equally mistaken about the genesis of the M855 round, which is derived from the SS109 round developed as a longer-range 5.56mm capable of being used in light machine guns for suppressive fire out to a kilometer away. Read up on it, sonny, you might learn something you didn’t know before.

          • Canadian

            I’m not speaking about the genesis of anything, you are. My point is that the difference between a 20″ barrel and a 14.5″ barrel is negligible with modern optics, modern ranges, and modern tactics- and the M855/SS109. It’s just the wrong round. If you want more punch, you need a heavier/different round not a longer barrel. I also don’t buy the “kilometer” rating for the SS109. Cite me a source and I will stand corrected, otherwise anything I have seen was the intent for a round out to 600m. Yes it goes that far, but he terminal ballistics are the shits.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Well, if you want sources, FN USA’s sales brochure claims an effective range of 800 meters against point target, but that’s a marketing document not a mil-sourced requirement.
            However, at &lt> you can find the following list for “Maximum Effective Range” of the M249:
            Bipod/point: 600 m
            Bipod/area: 800 m
            Tripod/area: 1,000 m
            Grazing: 600 m
            It’s also significant that the M856 tracer has a specified burnout range of 900 meters, identical to the burnout range for 7.62mm NATO tracer.
            And &lt> features some results from the U.S. Army’s early 1980s SAW testing, with specific mention of a requirement for an effective range against point targets of 600 meters and an effective range against area targets of 800 meters (effective being defined as a 30-percent hit probability at that range).

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Also, although I don’t have a citable source, back then residual kinetic energy was the accepted standard for lethality. If I recall correctly, 60 foot-pounds of energy was considered sufficient to create a lethal wound, and I can recall reading an International Defense Review article in the 1981-82 time-frame which touted the 5.56mm SS109 as retaining sufficient energy to be lethal at 1100 meters and therefor suitable for LMG use.
            (Do keep in mind that non-lethal wounds are just fine for military purposes, as taking 1 or 2 additional enemy troops out of the fight while they’re treating/evacuating a wounded soldier a kilometer away is even better than dropping a single soldier at that distance.)

          • Army Of One


            And if you really were an Infantry officer, you should be ashamed to have posted that monumental load of crap learned from endless renderings of stale myths, rumors, and flat out lies. I suppose you also “know” we can’t use .50’s against personnel? That even a near miss from a .50 will tear a mans arm off?

            EVERY PROJECTILE designed for combat, is designed to kill…PERIOD. You don’t designed laser, or GPS guided 1000lb bombs to obliterate the enemy and his immediate surroundings, then hand out ammo that will only wound.

            If you had bothered to actually be IN a firefight and witnessed men getting wounded, you would have noticed that they either: 1) Ignored it and returned fire. 2) Self aided and returned fire. 3) Was buddy aided briefly and returned fire. 4) Was quickly dragged to relative safety by one Soldier who quickly returned to the fight, then was attended to by a medic, and either returned fire or was finally out of the fight. Very rarely, does anybody leave the fight while it is still ongoing.

            You also confuse the role of the machine gun. It is NOT a point fire weapon, although many situations do require first round hits within reasonable short distance. The 249 can do this, marginally, to 600m. But to 800m and beyond, it is an area denial weapon that MAY actually hit the target you are somewhat aiming at. The beaten zone is far too wide after 800m to pick a single man-sized target and make deliberate hits, regardless of what super special bullet you are using.

            A .22 rimfire can kill you at 1000m meters, doesn’t mean it’s a 1000m cartridge.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            First of all, I’ve always considered firefights to be like bar fights – something I’m okay with being elsewhere when one breaks out.

            Second, I’ve known the roles of the machine gun probably longer than you’ve been able to read. Judging by your nom de plume, I’d almost be willing to bet that I learned the difference between grazing and plunging fire before you were even a twinkle in your daddy’s eye. If you actually read my posts, you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere that I’ve referred to a machine gun as a precision-fire weapon.

            Third, *IF* you check out the 2 documents I cited, you will find that they are official documents, one a training guide and the other a 30-year-old, hand-typed unclassified analysis of the Army’s initial evaluation of the Minimi.

            Lastly, I’m an old-school soldier with some beliefs that you, an apparent member of the “We Be Warriors!” crowd, probably don’t understand, among them:
            1) The first and greatest purpose of an army is to make the other guy look over the fence and decide “Not today.”
            2) If the army fails in its primary mission, then its purpose is to convince the other side that they are ready to quit, not to kill them all. Wars of annihilation are something better avoided.
            3) The army does not exist for the benefit of the soldier.
            4) Soldiers are like high-value ammunition — you don’t want to waste them, but they are expendable.
            5) There is no more democratic organization than an infantry squad (or platoon) in combat. Every time your troops move out to engage the enemy, you just won another vote of confidence.
            6) “Soldier” is not really a proper noun, despite the Army’s attempts to elevate soldiers’ self-esteem by treating it as one.

            Oh, and about that uber-macho “EVERY PROJECTILE designed for combat, is designed to kill…PERIOD.” — have you ever thought why “non-lethal” CS canisters were so popular for clearing tunnels during the South-East Asia unpleasantries?

          • Army Of One

            I apologize for going off.

            I’ve 26 years in and retired. You could say I’m old school also, as the 249 was brand new when I went to Aberdeen PG.

            We think and know alike, perhaps that is why I blew off too much steam. My wife reels me in on occasion also.

            By “projectile”, I do not mean “Tactical object launched, because I cannot hand throw it that far or as accurately”.

            My handle predates the Army, it was taken from a cheesy 1993 Dolph Lundgren film, and given me by my PLT SGT.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Apology accepted, and I probably shouldn’t have been so quick to lump you in with the “ for the Warfighters!” crowd..

            My reason for mentioning CS wasn’t to tout it as a non-lethal combat projectile, but to point out how much more useful it was to “use CS to persuade” VC to come on up and surrender than to lob down explosives or send in a tunnel rat.

            I have to ask: Do you remember the cheesy clothespin-style bipod we used to issue the designated automatic riflemen (pre-M249), to magically transform their M16A1 into a squad automatic?

          • Army Of One

            For nostalgia reasons, I have one bipod and the pre-ALICE clip, bent wire hook pouch too!

            Mid, maybe late, ’80’s, informed my command, after a very brief range session with them issued to everyone, that if they were not tossed in the landfill soonest, that I would deadline every weapon in the Battalion because of the Park they so quickly scraped off the barrels to the bare steel.

            Back of the 151 was soon full of crappy bipods.

          • W_R_Monger

            This was all originally about reliability and not stopping power.

            The reasoning for the caliber (or as you might put it “the calibre”) change was to allow for more ammo to be carried per soldier and also, and this was the big one, so that the round was more controlable. the larger rounds weren’t something that just anyone could fire effectively as it had a large kick. could you imagine a small man or woman firing more than a few rounds from any firearm utillizing a .308 (7.62X51)? I personally love that round but that’s just me i suppose…

        • 1LT INF, ret

          Actually, , my first rank started with the letter “P”, not “L”, but regardless I never really cared for being more lightly armed than the guys I’m supposed to be leading — if they’re toting 14s, I’ll carry one as well, even if I’m not planning on using it. Consider the lesson of the Brit platoon leader in the Falklands campaign who had to resort to using one of those sharp pointy things fastened on the unfriendly end of an L1A1 during a night attack on Mount Kent(?).

          And I’m not advocating for getting rid of the noisemaker switch, just saying that when you’re conditioned to only getting one bullet per trigger squeeze, you’re not going to fall for that “stream of bullets” myth (brought to you by the same minds who still claim that a single 9-pellet load of 00 buckshot can sweep a room). Even after the M16 became standard issue, we were still taught to use semi-auto only, and I can remember being issued 40 or 60 rounds for week-long training exercises and most of us still having unexpended rounds to turn in after the exercise. What is that line the Marines used to chant? “It’s not the noise of my firing but the hits that count”?

          Your comment about operating “for weeks away from supply” is sophomoric in the extreme. If you can push rations up, you can push bullets with the beans — and no non-SF patrol is going to operate for more than a few days without a ration resupply.

          • 1LT – ” I never really cared for being more lightly armed than the guys I’m supposed to be leading — if they’re toting 14s, I’ll carry one as well,” A 1960’s experience might explain it but what Infantry platoon is carrying M14’s instead of M16’s? Having less ammo because “that’s the way we did it” logic is limited. The civil war soldier carried 40 rounds…

            BTW, an M14 EBR designated rifleman’s basic load today is seven magazines (140 rounds)

            Sophomoric in the extreme? I was keeping things simple for you. Sometimes you can’t get supplies in or have very limited space and weight counts. While one can eat enemy rations (or none at all) one can’t use enemy ammo in your weapons…

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Having done some time doing logistics, I can assure you that bullets will get priority over beans if resupply capacity is constrained.

            Can you offer any instances in the occupation of Iraq or the fighting in Afghanistan where any unit went more than a week without resupply? If they did, what did they use to power all those spiffy electronic and electrical devices hung all over their rifles?

          • “Can you offer any instances in the occupation of Iraq or the fighting in Afghanistan where any unit went more than a week without resupply?”

            Of course not. That’s my point. Do you think units will always be operating from fixed facilities? We’ve learned some bad habits.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            I won’t disagree with the “learned some bad habits” generalization, but you definitely misunderstood my point.

            I’m not so concerned about fixed facilities as I am about secure lines of communication (or supply). In Iraq and Afghanistan, the non-linear battlefield meant that effectively all offensive operations required exterior lines of communication (i.e., beans, bullets and bodies had to transit unsecured territory to get to (and from) units in contact. From a logistical perspective, that is the most challenging environment for supporting sustained combat operations — with the worst-case scenario being a unit in heavy contact with no way to get support in (e.g, the experience of the Number 2 Para in Arnhem during Operation Market Garden — 4 days in a target-rich environment with only 2 days worth of supplies)

            Yet, even with no secure supply routes in Iraq or Afghanistan and a shortage of competent logisticians, as far as I know there were no non-SF units which went more than a few days without receiving fresh rations, batteries and bullets.

          • It was not uncommon for COPs to not have routine aerial or ground supply. Check out Wanat, “War” by Junger (COP Restrepo didn’t get supply very often) and “The Outpost” by Tapper (COP Keating).

            The Iraq and Afghan experiences while not unimportant often take a central role in the discussion of a battle rifle yet the conditions were at times fundamentally different and may bear little resemblance to future battlefields. We should try and avoid fighting the next war like the last one (while not forgetting universal lessons) and instead determine what is the most likely type environment and conditions we expect our Infantry to fight in and select a weapon accordingly. The battle rifle is a compromise across many factors.

            As for difficult supply situations you can include the Ia Drang and LZ X-ray.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            LZ X-ray was not a “difficult supply situation”, it was a numerically inferior unit surrounded and cut off from for several hours. When you trickle-feed a short battalion into the low ground next to an enemy regiment, no amount of resupply is going to prevent losing 80-plus troops during the ensuing engagement. The unspeakable truth is that most heroism is the result of having to compensate for an ill-advised (or just plain stupid) command decision.

          • LZ X-ray was not a “difficult supply situation”?

            The pilots flying the aircraft in with ammo and to evacuate the wounded would disagree. So would the numerous awards given to those pilots as well as the purple hearts given to the crews and their next of kin. From MAJ Crandall’s Medal of Honor citation, “As Major Crandall flew back to Plei Me, his base of operations, he determined that the ground commander of the besieged infantry battalion desperately needed more ammunition… His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded.” When the LZ is so hot aircraft have to stop coming in it’s obvious to the casual observer that it’s a “difficult supply situation”.

            Gen Moore thought ammo, medevac and water were supply issues in that battle. (I’ve had the privilege to sit in an OPD by, and listen to Gen Moore. I think he’s a credible source.)

            There are plenty of great lessons to be taken from the Is Drang. It was definitely a “difficult supply situation” among many other things.

        • jose

          FYI, the M4 has a 14.5″ barrel, not a “cute little 16-inch carbine barrel……”

          I am beginning to question more and more of your commentary.

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Guilty on the 14.5- versus 16-inch mistake. In another forum, I had been suggesting a friend look for a 20-inch upper instead of a carbine-length one, so I had 16 inches on the brain.

            I would also point out that if you read a little further, I did correctly refer to the difference in muzzle velocity between a 14.5-inch barrel and a 20-inch barrel.

            I try very hard to keep my facts straight, and to preface any that I’m uncertain of with a reasonable caveat.

      • JCitizen

        I ended up doing a lot of crew served duty, and had to sometimes hump several boxes of ammo of different calibers up and down the mountains. I guess I was lucky, because I was stout enough, I actually enjoyed doing it. I might have had four of those old cardboard boxes of 7.63x51mm belted for the M60, and at least two boxes of 12.7mm for the BMG, and my M16A2 with M203 attached strapped on my back. Thank God they hardly ever issued the 40mm ammo very often, but I kept the vest full most of the time, just to help me sleep. I really could have cared less about which I carried, and the larger bore sizes made me feel safer.

        The one thing that was damn easy to haul was the 5.56mm boxes. But then we had no “Minimi” issued to our unit, so we had no crew served for that caliber. I never messed with them until I joined an armor unit.

  • I1ULUZ

    There is no such thing as knock down power. Unless the rifle almost knocks down the shooter it won’t knock down the receiver of the round. Unless it’s a head shot or hits the spinal column, death will happen ONLY after enough blood is lost to starve the brain of O2. When the USSR invaded Afghanistan it was the first time the 5.45X39 round was used, Due to empty space just behind the tip it will yaw once it hits something causing a very large wound cavity which will cause the person to bleed out rapidly. The AR-10 was designed and tested with an aluminum barrel with a steel sleeve, to keep the weight down, it failed during testing, before Stoner could get the replacement the Army went with the M14. Fairchild sold Colt the Armalite design and it was downsized to the new .223 Remington round. Like others have stated, beancounters changed the powder and caused the fouling issue. As for a 30.06 might as well throw a stick at them. Ammo is heavy and not accurate in the least bit. Specwar get the HK 416 for a reason, HK is more than happy to sell just the upper as a direct replacement for the M4 uppers. It’s why they build a US factory, it was not so they could build $2100 MR556A1 uppers or $3500 MR762A1 rifles to sell to civilians. Mil-spec for a M4 is 3 MOA, 5.56 ammo is 4MOA. Anyone who knows anything about shooting would NEVER buy an AR (Armalite Rifle) type rifle if they were told it would not group better than 3MOA no matter what. But Congress is forcing the Army to keep upgrading their M1’s to keep the factory open in Lima Ohio, spending millions they don’t have and don’t want to spend while solders need a better primary weapon. That boarders on criminal misuse of funds. .

    • jose

      All 416 uppers purchased by DoD that I have seen were built in Germany. Every one. That being said, I wouldn’t own the Teutonic Turd. Heavy, more parts, proprietary as in ONLY available from HK (imagine that), slightly less accurate, bulky, and so on.

      Keep a solid DI rifle maintained and lubed and it will run like a raped ape.

      • Dan

        Amen. The 416 gets its reputation because of who uses it and the fact that the average person will never touch one.

      • I1uluz

        Most of time at our local outdoor cilivian range if a shooter is having a problem it’s 2 things, they just got it and it’s dry as a bone. I tell them to go in and buy some Frog Lube. Figure they can’t hurt themselves if they over do it and the smell won’t turn them off from using it. I’ve got a few piston rifles, rather clean them than my DI rifles, Faxon ARAK-21 (interesting idea if you need to be able to change out barrels on the fly), Adams Arms x2, MR556A1 upper, Sig 556R, Sig P556, and an Osprey system (they just moved down the road from Dam Neck from FL) Also have a couple of .308 ARs, AR-10T and a JPE AR .308 My guess is look at who was going to loose money as why the testing was stopped, there will be a lobbyist who had a large sum of money visiting a couple of congressmen/senators from where Colt has it’s factory. Nothing new, look at the M14/AR10 purchase, now we have the M110, which is a dressed up AR10. The AR10 was not good enough in the early 60’s but great now 50 years later. It’s all about politics not weapon performance.

        • seans

          Seriously. You state that the AR10 wasn’t good 50 years ago but is know cause of politics. How about computers? Engines? You ever think maybe the M110 is better now than the AR-10 was back into the sixties due to the fact that the weapons have come a long way from the sixties? And overlubing a rifle is fine for the range, but causes tons more problems than running the gun bone dry does is in the real world. The majority of people who shoot the AR-15 just don’t understand anything about the gun. And all the HK barrels are made in Germany.

        • Army Of One

          “”Nothing new, look at the M14/AR10 purchase, now we have the M110, which is a dressed up AR10. The AR10 was not good enough in the early 60’s but great now 50 years later. It’s all about politics not weapon performance.””

          The original 1950’s tested AR10 had a sleeved barrel (steel liner and aluminum jacket), which exploded during testing. Before a fully steel barrel could be designed and fitted, the testing had long concluded. Nothing to do with lobbyists, just engineering that exceeded material science. The FN-FAL exceeded the given criteria, and actually beat the M14 in scoring totals, but FN was not going to be allowed to build a factory in America (NIMBY), so the T48/M14 was adopted. The FAL went on to arm over 90 countries (and still is in a few), while the M14 was replaced in less than 10 years.

          Today’s M110, is an over engineered AR15, and only mildly resembles the manufacture mold of the original.

          • JCitizen

            HA! The 1st second I saw M110, I thought you were talking about my old self propelled Betsy! 8″ bore and tons of raw beauty!

    • Joshua

      4MOA? Last I checked I was getting 1.5MOA from M855A1 from my M4A1. At the 6,000 round mark my M4A1 has opened up to 3MOA with multiple lots of M855A1, still plenty accurate for the most part. We do usually rebarrel at that point though just to maximize accuracy.

    • Arclight 68

      Your just wrong about how a rifle round causes death. The shock wave of the bullet causes nearly instantaneous catastrophic trauma far from the point of impact. It’s like someone set off a big firecracker inside you. A chest hit with a high-power round (even a 5.56 mm within 500 yards) causes nearly all of your vital organs to stop working all at once. Dead before you hit the ground, much less bleed out.

      Also, think about this: If I let you shoot at me with an M-16 from 1200 yards away, and you hit me, there’s a good chance I’d survive it. If I did, and it was my turn to shoot with my antiquated M1rifle, and I hit you, there’s a good chance you would become instantly incapacitated per the description above. This limitation in the M-16’s effective range is why the M-14 and other large-caliber weapons have been pressed back in to service in Afghanistan, where the battle is often mountain-to-mountain.

      The M-16’s I have shot will hold 2-3 minutes of arc at 600 yards, which is the maximum effective range. The USGI Garand is a 4 MOA gun typically at that same range. But the best Garands and M-14s can hold under 2 minutes at 800 yards. That’s good enough to hit a man-sized target somewhere in the chest every time for a trained rifleman. And the Garand will kill instantly all the way out to 1200 yards or more. Accuracy isn’t everything. It just has to be good enough, with sufficient power. In the Civil War, getting accidentally hit by a .58 caliber musket round that took a curve-ball path to your shoulder could rip your arm completely off, and then yes you would bleed to death. They were fearsome weapons, even though they were unable to intentionally hit the broadside of a barn beyond 100 yds. But the effective range was such that volleys of muskets would rake holes in lines of advancing troops at much greater distances. The idea there was to put so much heavy lead in the air that marksmanship wasn’t the deciding factor.

      In our Army today, we have both poor marksmanship AND low power. I guess that’s why God still permits this great country to be served by a Marine Corps….because every Marine is a rifleman, and SOMEbody has to show the rest of the military how it’s done!

      • ILT INF (RET)

        An excellent summation of wound ballistics as taught in Hollywood Screenwriters School…

  • Condor

    This is a little off-topic, but would some of the recent combat vets comment on an RDX round for the .50 Cal. Is this true, and how did it perform?

    • seans

      Its a awesome round if you can get it. But there are limited supplies even in the Stan.

      • JCitizen

        I’ve never fired the MK211 RAUFOSS, but the plain old green tip stuff is pretty awesome!

  • Balais


    1.) A well greased M4 works. It is utterly reliable.

    2.) Merrell hiking boots!? I can think of 8 better brands for Afghanistan. I oughta know since I’ve damn near tried them all.

  • Balais

    Ill also add:

    for fucks sake…Adcor!?

    Tell me what adcor’s POS can do that a well built Colt or BCM wont do. PLEASE do pray tell!

    I’ll be eagerly waiting.

    • Joshua

      He is paid by ADCOR, if you ever listen to him in interviews he always repeats the same spiel that ADCOR does about their awesomesauce guns and how cool it is to have 6 patents on one gun.

      • Balais

        Funny thing about that, I’ve owned a Adcor piston gun. I know the system inside/out.

        Wasn’t particularly impressed with it. :D I certainly wouldn’t take it with me to Afghanistan if i went again.

  • Airborne_fister

    When I was in Afghanistan. I had our supply guy put my personal upper on the military lower. It worked great. Since the only part that is tracked is the lower he brought both. Had a 203 mounted under my military upper and I wouldn’t trade carting my sbr ever again

    • jose

      When you were in Afghanistan, why would it require the “supply guy” to put your “personal upper on the military lower”?

      Also, what upper might that be?

      • Airborne_fister

        I have a s&w m&p 15. With an Adam arms piston kit. a surefire muzzle break. So I could out my soccom suppressor on. So to answer your question. A little of everything. The reason our supply guy had to carry it was because when we flew over none of us until manas had our rifles. Only our pistols. Or Csm was pretty cool and figured that we didn’t need them until we landed in bagram.

  • Joshua Ewald

    I think changing from the M16 is the best idea. We need a better weapon for the military. I personally didn’t get to carry the M16 or M4 while I was deployed, I was selected to carry the M249. HOOAH

  • Carlton

    The M4 is a good carbine. The problem is that our Generals don’t understand the difference between a carbine and a rifle. Infantrymen should carry rifles.

    • 1LT INF, ret


    • defensor fortisimo

      I would expand on that point simply to say carbines and rifles have different purposes. The problem comes from attempting a one size fits all solution, rather than dealing with the situation at hand. To go off topic slightly, it’s the equivalent of “universal camo,” you have some situations where it will excel, and some where it’s simply out of it’s element.

      • Lance

        Word Up. At least the USMC dose and hence the M-16A4.


    There is a reason why we do not use multiple weapons in combat. It goes all the way back to the civil war and industrialization. Parts need to be interchangeable in order to be able to do expedited repairs in the field..

  • Garandman

    Any M4 made to MILSPEC is exactly the same weapon no matter whose name is on it. The same issues arose in Vietnam with the M16 which led to the M16A1 (the addition of the forward assist). Then another improvement was made and voilà the M16A2 emerged. Soon afterwards the M16A3 that had a 3 round cyclic trigger on it where the operator had to retrigger after it burst three rounds. When the SITREP changed and the mission was clearing houses and battle in close quarters the M4 was born. They took the M16 and shortened the barrel and installed a calapsable butstock to accomodate combatants whose mission was to clear buildings and caves. This led to a refit of shorter stocks and barrels which also led to fortunes for new arms
    suppliers. With all the posturing among polititions and arms dealers, no one gave any thought that just shortening barrels would cause less pressure and cause the weapon to malfunction. Mr. Stoners design worked just fine if you kept the damn gun clean

    • Riceball

      A minor correction here: the 3 round burst was introduced with the M16A2, not the A3. I think that the A3 introduced the removable carrying handle but I can’t say for sure but it was definitely not the 3 round burst capability.

      • 1LT INF, ret

        Also, the M4 predates the latest unpleasantries — it was developed and standardized in the late 1980s, for soldiers who were manning crew-served weapons (such as mortar crews) and whose primary duties were in vehicles (e.g., pairs of M4 carbines were used to replace the pairs of M3 submachine guns which tank crews were issued for emergency use).

        • JCitizen

          I remember playing with XM-177s in the 70’s as a class 3 dealer, but never ran into the M4 later in my career. I just never belonged to a unit with them in MTOE.

  • IronV

    Hard to take the emotion out of this issue… But at the end of the day, the cost of any improvement or change has to be justified by positive, statistical impact. The plain truth is that while some incremental benefits have been identified in testing alternatives, none offers enough improvement, enough of the time, to justify the cost. That’s just a fact, Jack…

  • Sarg

    The thing I never liked about the M-16 ( I retired before the M-4 was born) was the fact your
    shooting at an bad guy with a 223 round and he’s shooting back with a 308 round.
    I would be willing to bet if you give the G.I. a choice they would pick the M-14 over the lighter

    • 1LT INF, ret

      You really think all the guys who complain about their M4 getting hung up on junk while they’re dismounting under fire would ask for a ’14 with its extra foot of overall length?

    • Army Of One

      While .308 in diameter (actually .311), most certainly NOT .308 Winchester in performance.

      They may be throwing bigger rocks, but we are throwing faster and much more accurate rocks.

  • RattedHalo

    The issues about M-16 variant reliability have been going on since its introduction. Colt LIED about its capabilities, performance and reliability then spent huge amounts of money covering the problems up via PR and other techniques. Classic Military-Industrial Complex behaviours that Eisenhower wisely warned against. To no effect. Meanwhile the AK-47 goes bang whenever you pull the trigger irrespective of the environment. any attempt to replace it is met with an overwhelming counter-attack by Colt et al and the sheep it has sucked in or paid-off (we can see it in the comments here even). Now we have US military people fixing the issue themselves, when it is the job of the country to give them the best weapon they can get whilst enviously looking at Aussies wandering around with their Steyr’s and others with their G-36’s.

    • seans

      Right cause no AK has ever jammed in the history of guns. Colt lied about its reliability? How bout the army not using the right gun powder, or not giving instructions how to clean it, ect ect. Why is it every time I have got to work with any partner force SOF who’s home country rocks something other than the AR platform, their SOF guys run M4s or HK 416s.

      • Hotel55

        I was going to ask something similar. Is it just U.S. M-4s and M-16’s that (allegedly) have issues? Or is every other user (Canada, British SAS, Israel, among others,) singing the same tune? In fact, I think the Australian SAS uses M-4s too (if memory serves me right)

        • Lance

          No the M-16 works fine shot many no problems them. As long as you maintain your weapons its far more accurate modular and faster shooter than a old AK is. There have been stories of AK malfunctioning its a good gun but in BAD hands in ignorant Taliban shooter who never cleaned it period they can fail too.

          • JCitizen

            Fer sure, all you have to do is look at high speed film of an AK on full auto, to see why they are basically a spray and pray weapon. The whole thing bounces, bends, and rocks! I got to admit though, I had a Finnish Valmet M-62 that was deadly at 600m, because it was very solidly built, and the Finns new how to built a rifle! It had a solid machined receiver, and the rest of it was more like an Israeli Galil; it weren’t a bad weapon at all! Even the ammo was very accurate, but it wasn’t Russian, and I can’t remember which arsenal it came from. Pretty good rifle, from my experience, despite being an AK variant.

        • Canadian

          The issues are that it works if you clean it properly- HOWEVER, there are better designs for which “clean it properly” means something different.

          My C7 and then C8 worked fine in Afghanistan. I didn’t have to clean it much, and it always worked. However, in training, after crawling around in the mud en route to the objective- they are stoppage city.

          HK416 has resolved this, saved the platform- and should be the standard.

  • Robbie

    My understanding is that the synergy of the A1 improvements and the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round are the 95% solution to the M4’s reliability and effectiveness issues. It would be interesting to get an objective review of how both are performing…………

    • Joshua

      Both performing well, Though M855A1 does lead to slightly less parts life. It reduces parts life by about 10% or so. By 6,000 rounds the barrel has opened from 1.5MOA to 3MOA so we usually rebarrel then, and replace the bolt to match. By the time your barrel has 10,000 on it its hovering near 5MOA.

      I have not seen any broken bolts within that 6,000 round range and have seen multiple pushed in fire to destruction tests hit 9,000-10,000 before breaking lugs with M855A1, though I would not want to take a bolt with over 6,000 on a deployment so its just easier to replace both at the same time.

  • mash68w

    Ive honestly never had a serious issue with either the M16/M4. In all the thousands of rounds ive fired in all the sandy conditions. The majority of failures ive seen are due largely to old magazines.(esp the old 30r with black followers) The other failures i attribute to soldiers just not spending enough time with their rifles and understanding how to maintain them.Once saw a cook pouring water down the barrel of his rifle to clean it.You’d think this would be an isolated indecent but you should see some of the window lickers in the army these days

    • LTuohy

      Pouring boiling water down a rifle barrel is one of the best possible ways to clean it, as long as a. the water is hot and b. you run enough patches through to make sure it’s absolutely dry. I learned that trick from a man who carried an ’03 Springfield and an M1 Garand and used it myself on the exceptional M14 (which would fire no matter how filthy it was anyway) and the M16 and M16A1, which would fire if you spent more time cleaning them than any other activity you performed during an average day in the bush.

  • Stefan S.

    Sorry weapons have evolved since the first club was created. The M-4 is the pinnacle of weapon evolution? GMAFB! Yet the Politicians with Stars in the Pentagon still think that a 50 year old weapon can’t be replaced? Treason is letting young men and women die in combat because politics and bribes keep a rifle that clearly is antiquated the inventory!

    • Stefan S.

      oops meant “in the inventory”

    • Army Of One

      Nobody said anything about the “pinnacle” of weapons development. However, that 50 year old design has constantly evolved.

      All testing of hopeful replacements, have shown only a marginal (if any) gain in predicted performance. I want a MASSIVE gain in ACTUAL performance before I switch out rifles. Until then, I will stick with 50 years of evolved and combat proven M16’s.

    • Joshua

      Yeah… one is dying in combat because of the M4, sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Snuffy

    Cause upgrading the M4 is certainly going to happen, especially with the Sec Def proposing gutting the Army. Get serious. The M4 is here to stay, especially in the peacetime military. And all those “wartime modification” will also go by the wayside as the peacetime police ramp up in the Army. (Shout out to the guy who had the Noveske upper – that’s ****ing legit). Also based on what I have seen a HUGE majority of issues with military equipment in general is it is just old and worn out, not necessarily designed incorrectly.

    • Joshua

      It’s already happening, The M4A1 is phasing out the M4 and the FRAK is on its final down select. The M4 is getting upgraded, its a done thing.

  • Robbie

    Continuing to rant against the M-4 is a waste of breath. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fine weapon and the recent shoot-offs demonstrated that there isn’t a leap-ahead replacement available right now. The money to buy a marginally better weapon is better spent elsewhere.

    Similarly, endlessly rehashing the same old tired arguments that rely on issues from the M4/5.56’s now very long histories while ignoring the very significant recent improvements in the M4A1 and the M855A1 is just willful blockheadedness. Together, both A1 upgrades are making a major synergistic upgrade to the weapon system that some of you need to step off of your soapboxes, recalibrate your minds and just accept.

    This isn’t your Daddy’s M4 any more……….

  • Caesarjd

    Served in combat with the M4 and M9. Both are decent range weapons. My first experience with the M9 was on the range, when firing the pistol the slide traveled down range when the slide lock broke. The parkerized M9 magazines were another issue, one we used dremels in the field to fix. I still hoard original Beretta magazines and add 15% overstrength springs to ensure they’ll function. That’s not say I don’t trust the M9. It tends to go bang. Not a fan of the safety, and typically carried it hammer down, off safe, round chambered as a combat advisor. I didn’t trust my fine motor skills to work the safety in a close engagement, particularly knowing that the 9mm +p+ ball ammo I carried was going to pass right through my target. He’d eventually expire but the absence of a JHP left me wanting. The M4 is fine for short engagements, in relatively clean environments, but that’s not always how the enemy plays the game. Run 6-7 magazines through an M4 in rapid fire, when it’s 140 degrees outside, are you’re going to start having issues, no matter how meticulous you’ve been in its maintenance, the rifle shits where it eats (heat/carbon), it’s that simple. My M4’s in combat always sported CAA grips, and overstrength (15%) buffer springs. I also polished the trigger assemblies. Yet I had no illusions that if required to provide sustained fire for any period of time the best bet was to pick up a haji’s AK (we always kept several in the trunk).

    • seans

      I am curious, if you are only getting 7 mags before problems how much lube are you using on your gun?

      • Joshua

        Given his mods like polishing the trigger, heavier buffer springs, ect I would say he probably ran it bone dry, or with a dry lube.

        • Army Of One

          So you didn’t like the safety on the M9, but you were OK with the hammer sitting on a live round? Yeaaaah, ok. The slide lock has nothing to do with keeping the slide on the pistol. How about: You failed to rotate the takedown lever into it’s locked position?

          Polishing the “trigger assembly” on an M16 does nothing for reliability, other than destroy it. The sear contacts are surfaced hardened, so if you “polished” any of it, you removed this hardness which would immediately lead to rapid and excessive wear…..and a runaway or jammed rifle.

          You complain a lot about your weapon reliability, then go out of your way to destroy any reliability it had. And, made yourself look the fool for destroying government property.

          Way to go, hero!

          • 1LT INF, ret

            Aw, Army, be nice to the kid…
            He probably ust got carried away singing to himself, “I polished it up, I polished it so bright! And that’s how I got to be the SecArmy!”

    • Ak’s up in da trunk

      Another proof positive firearms expert here.. 1.) The slide lock on an M9 does nothing more than hold the slide back, either by the magazine (LRHO) or from manually setting it. 2.) There were some issues with the older Checkmate M9 mags, but problem is fixed. No need to go F***ing with your mags with dremels and aftermarket springs. 3.) Modifying your M4 grip with a cheap ass CAA does nothing for your heat/ carbon gripe, either does your buffer spring alteration, which you def shouldn’t be f***ing with. 4.) Your Haji AK story sealed it for me…
      For 10 points, tell me where specifically on the “trigger assembly” you would polish for function and for bonus points tell me the system of operation of the M9 and M4…. If anything, it will get you in the books and off the Xbox for your firearms/ operational knowledge base.

  • Rancid

    The M16 Platform is a good weapon system. That being said there are equally as good and some better systems to be had; FNC and Tavor.
    Over the Counter Items can improve the M16 family. Why do we continue to send our Military into Harms Way with Good Enough, mil.spec.?

    • seans

      You ever shot a TAVOR, or have you just read about them, they are not all they are made up to be.

  • Not an Expert

    Funny, the people that cry the loudest about the M4 are the rear echelon types or the “weapons expert” who bases his opinion on an article he read in a super tactical magazine, or a sales rep for a new competitor. I am not an expert, but as a 45B, I learned the insides and outs of the weapon system, as a 11B, I learned how to operate, clean and maintain the weapon in adverse conditions, as an 18B, I learned what I had to do to keep a bunch of guy’s (who shot alot) M4’s working without the logistical support in certain areas. Bottom line: it is a good combat weapon. DGI system of operation is what Stoner used for his design, short stroke piston/ gas tappet tech was out there ala M-14, M1 carbine, FAL etc. A study of basic physics will tell you that if you transfer the heat end energy from firing the weapon to another place on the weapon, you encounter your own set of issues. The casual weekend shooter may not notice the issues, but try doing a week’s worth of SFAUC style flat range shooting and problems will arise. As for mods; shooters preference is one thing: throwing on a different grip, stock, rail or trigger doesn’t change much more than the ergonomics. Bolt/bbl lockup and bbl configuration is where you get your accuracy. I am not a colt rep, or a traditionalist in any sense, but let’s not wast money on stupid crap that will break in the field just because it looks cool. We have been doing way too much of that and now we are gonna start feeling its effects in our own bank accounts. I’ve spent time at Crane during the pre-fielding of the Mk16 abortion, I will say that the staff had some very political answers for my questions and the others in our group about certain design issues of the weapon. They ALL sounded like FN sales reps. Instead of spending millions more on new shiny stuff, let’s take care of the stuff we have and improve it, until a real technological breakthrough occurs in the firearms industry.

    • seans

      The fact that you called the MK16 a abortion tells me everything I need to know about you. How dare you insult the SCAR family of weapons, the greatest guns to come into existence according to everyone who has played call of duty, and all the tactical magazine editors who have shot less than 300 rounds from it.

    • 1LT INF, ret

      And shame on you for implying that infantry weapons should be maintained!

      Heavens to Mergatroid,, next you’ll be telling us that a light coating of CLP might reduce some of that metal-on-metal friction….

  • holman

    toss it and start using captured ak 47’s.

    • seans

      Caused those obviously worked so well for them.

  • 1LT INF, ret

    Not trying to troll (honestly), but has anybody besides me noticed how much is wrong with the soldier’s shooting position in the photo at the top of the article?

    • Army Of One

      Yes! His firing hand is not far enough up on that pistol grip. It should be tucked up hard against the receiver. And, his resting elbow should be anchored at the front of his knee, NOT on top of his leg. His body should be turned more forward, presenting more body armor to incomming rounds.

      He could use more finger on that trigger too.

      • 1LT INF, ret

        You’re making me feel reaaalllly old-school.

        That stock should be comfortably extended instead of fully retracted (notice how sharply bent his elbow is). More importantly, his supporting hand should be well forward on the hand guard, not the magazine well — not only does that provide a less-cantilevered support for the forward part of the weapon, it also makes bracing (not resting) his elbow on the front of his knee more natural *and* moves his support hand away from the hottest portion of the weapon. (Oh, and it also eliminates the tendency to put back pressure on the magazine, which can shift the alignment of the magazine lips enough to cause failures to feed with marginal magazines)

        As pictured, he’s making just about every possible mistake to maximize how much that muzzle wobbles with every twitch of a muscle.

        Can anybody tell me if this is typical of marksmanship standards in today’s Army?

        • seans

          Yep, had a infantry squad attached at support to my site, some of the guys had fired less than 200 rounds total in there career before deploying.


    Certainly sounds a lot like cronyism is still alive and well for the Faker in the WH and his buds….WATCH YOUR BACKS GUYS…

  • Arclight 68

    The biggest problem with the M4 can’t be fixed with a field mod…in a bad fight, the thing gets so hot you can’t use it anymore. That’s when the bad guys rush your position and kill you.

    • 1LT INF (RET)

      Arclight, your claim strikes me as being in the same category as that hoary old criticism of the Garand’s en bloc clip: According to countless armchair warriors, the “ping” of the clip being ejected would signal to the enemy that your rifle was empty and he could rush your position while you’re reloading.

      Even assuming that you could overheat an M4 while using aimed fire, how exactly would a hypothetical enemy ever intuit that your weapon has overheated to non-functionality? And if you’re not aiming, then who cares if your weapon is still capable of spitting bullets — you may be adding noise to the engagement, but you and your weapon are useless in terms of effectively engaging the enemy.