Army Updating Procedures Because Of Misfiring M4s

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 2 weeks ago

Stars and Stripes:

The Army is updating procedures for use of the M4A1 automatic rifle after a soldier recorded cellphone video of his weapon firing when it shouldn’t have.

The video, recorded in late March, shows the soldier operating a rifle that has been converted from a standard M4, which can fire a maximum three-round burst, to the fully automatic M4A1, according a safety message sent to troops on Tuesday.

The soldier places his carbine’s selector switch between “semi” and “auto” and squeezes the trigger but it doesn’t fire, until the switch is moved to “auto” and immediately discharges a round, the message says.

The Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, first warned soldiers about the problem in March and April.

The M4A1, previously used exclusively by Special Operations troops, is now the Army’s primary individual weapon.

Inspectors were able to replicate the malfunction depicted in the soldier’s video in about 10 percent of the weapons they checked, defense industry journal Soldier Systems reported.

Testing also revealed that carbines from a different manufacturer malfunctioned when switched from “safe” to “semi-automatic,” the journal reported.

The latest safety messages concern M4s and M4A1s, as well as M16A2, A3 and A4 rifles. They order personnel to change the way they check functions on the weapons and perform immediate action drills to diagnose weapon stoppages.

Um … what?

What?

There is no reason a shooter should intentionally misplace the selector switch between modes, but then again in the stress of battle anything is possible and this failure mode is entirely plausible.

The genesis of the problem appears to be a feature of the gun not a part of the original specification, and it seems to me that this is a huge, huge problem.

They don’t need to send this problem to armorers.  They need civilian gunsmiths to tackle this and work the problems out, and that should have done that before deploying the modification.

I’m also not clear as to exactly why they need fully automatic anyway.  This gun can never be an effective area suppression weapon.  Not for long anyway.

Good grief.


Comments

  1. On May 31, 2018 at 11:35 pm, I R A Darth Aggie said:

    Thanks for the post. It confirms something I thought was true – the M4 does not have a full auto mode, tho it does have a variant that does.

    Which is not surprising, since most generals of all armies think the troops are busy wasting ammo.

  2. On May 31, 2018 at 11:58 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    If I’m not mistaken it’s always had a 3-round burst mode, although my son never used it when he had an M4 (much of his time later on he had his SAW and didn’t carry an M4). He thought the 3-round burst mode was unnecessary, wasteful and not as controlled as simply putting three rounds on target using his trigger finger, which he could do as fast as the burst mode. Two shots to the chest/neck, one to the head using the recoil of the gun to lift it slightly.

  3. On May 31, 2018 at 11:59 pm, J said:

    As a Armorer, I have my thoughts. Which I’ll keep to myself, for obvious reasons
    But I will be taking mine out to see if I can replicate either of these…”Problems”

  4. On June 1, 2018 at 12:02 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @J,

    Feel free to say what you want rather than keep thoughts to yourself. And let us know if you can replicate this failure mode.

  5. On June 1, 2018 at 6:52 am, H said:

    I’m also not clear as to exactly why they need fully automatic anyway. This gun can never be an effective area suppression weapon. Not for long anyway.

    I’ve never gotten sufficient confirmation of this, but I’ve read that the 3 round burst mode changes the trigger weight of semi-auto fire in a “progressive” way, it cycles through 3 different weights.

  6. On June 1, 2018 at 8:25 am, Gryphon said:

    Captain – like with Computers, “It’s an Undocumented Feature, not a Bug”..

    Sarc Aside, Why wasn’t this ‘feature’ Discovered in Testing when the Weapons were Modified? Shouldn’t all plausible Failure Modes, (particularly Anything that could be Operator-Induced) have been Investigated and Cleared?

    I think You are correct about the need for Civilian Technical Oversight of things like this, rather than the Incestuous relationship between ‘Military’ and the ‘Industrial Complex’.

    Having shot a Friend’s (Taxed) M-16A1, the Carbine on Auto is an Ammo-Waster, and for Close-In, Riddle ’em with Bullets stuff, the MP-5 or even the .45 Grease Gun is more controllable, IMO.

  7. On June 1, 2018 at 10:55 am, moe mensale said:

    My simple mind says that the selector switch grooves were cut incorrectly.

  8. On June 1, 2018 at 1:34 pm, Longbow said:

    They need to teach Joe to keep his booger hook OFF the trigger until his sights are on target!

    Jeez, there is NOTHING wrong with the rifle.

  9. On June 1, 2018 at 4:50 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ H

    Re: “I’ve never gotten sufficient confirmation of this, but I’ve read that the 3 round burst mode changes the trigger weight of semi-auto fire in a “progressive” way, it cycles through 3 different weights.”

    If the info I’ve seen is correct, M16s and M4s with the three-round burst feature do not reset if only two shots are fired before the trigger is released – which means a single shot is fired next time the trigger is pulled, followed by a normal three-round cycle, and so on. This set-up, it seems to me, would be disconcerting – especially if one wasn’t used to it.

    The whole idea of a three-round burst limiter is foolish, in my humble opinion. If your grunts are getting on and staying on the trigger too much and not exercising disciplined fire, then that is – first and foremost – a training issue, and not an equipment issue.

    Well-trained men rarely empty a full twenty or thirty-round magazine at a single pull of the trigger; they instead exercise fire discipline to place short 2-3 round bursts on target, while simultaneously allowing the weapon to cool between fires. And a really good man on a well set-up weapon can tap off anything from single shots to doubles, triples, quadruples, you name it.

    As far as Big Green – the U.S. Army – is concerned, either train your men properly and then trust them to use their equipment and weapons responsibly – or don’t. But don’t blame training shortcomings on the gear; that’s a total cop-out. As Hershel has often suggested, the Army ought to adopt the marksmanship training regimen used by the Marine Corps. It works, and has worked for a very long time.

    The core problem is that providing funding for additional firing ranges, ammunition and training isn’t all that sexy – or all that profitable – to the folks down at the Pentagon/DOD. They’d rather go after another aircraft carrier, stealth aircraft or something like that. That’s what’ll get you that long-sought next promotion and swag from the defense contractors.

  10. On June 2, 2018 at 7:57 am, Talktome said:

    Never used that 3 round burst nonsense, and as far as I recall, zero training emphasis at any point in my military career. Kinda odd when you think about it – there is a training program for everything, just about.

  11. On June 2, 2018 at 8:09 pm, bob sykes said:

    Was this a problem on the M16? It had a full auto mode, and I bet everyone used it.

  12. On June 3, 2018 at 12:30 pm, JFP said:

    Speaking of misfires, an alleged FBI “only one” has a ND while dancing in Denver:

    https://twitter.com/RyanHaarer/status/1003084052226822153

  13. On June 3, 2018 at 8:46 pm, Aged Warrior said:

    Full auto is to gain, or regain, fire superiority. Training takes care of the rest! Oh, wait! The military has cut back on firearms training by 75%! i carried an M-16/M-4 for 35 years. I never had a problem with figuring out when to use what selector position. But when I went through boot camp, I easily fired 15,000 rounds. Second boot camp, I fired 25,000 rounds. 3-5 thousand rounds a year thereafter, programmed the selector switch correctly. (mostly out of my wallet)
    I fired a whopping 100 rounds before deployment to Afg. I was allowed 60 rounds of practice in my following two tours.
    250 rounds of practice, every two weeks is a minimum get by. Accuracy quals don’t include weapons handling skills, or tactical trigger time.

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You are currently reading "Army Updating Procedures Because Of Misfiring M4s", entry #19372 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Army,Firearms,Guns and was published May 31st, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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