Archive for the 'AR-15s' Category



Army Seeks Gun Industry Help On M4 Carbine

BY Herschel Smith
3 months ago

The U.S. Marine Corps led the way.  At the time I said this:

Recall that I told you “that Rock River Arms, Knights Armament, LaRue Tactical and Daniel Defense isn’t the Colt produced under milspec for the Army and Marine Corps (these are all superior to the Colt M-16 and M-4)?”  And recall that John Jay and I have both discussed Milspec and what it does (and doesn’t) mean?

It should also be pointed out that there are many things that can be tweaked on the Stoner platform (Milspec design) that can make it much more reliable than the Colt.

Fouling in the M4 is not the problem. The problem is weak springs (buffer and extractor), as well as light buffer weights (H vs. H2 or H3). With the abovementioned drop-in parts, the M4 is as reliable as any weapon I have ever fired, and I have fired probably every military-issue assault rifle fielded worldwide in the last 60 years as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (18B). An additional benefit of the heavier spring/weight combo is that it transmits the energy impulse of the firing cycle to the shoulder over a longer duration, lowering the amount of foot pounds per second and dramatically reducing the perceived recoil. Follow-on shots are easier to make effectively, and much faster, especially at 50 meters and beyond.

I reliably fired 2400 rounds (80 magazines) on a bone dry gun, and I would bet that is a lot more than any soldier or other armed professional will ever come close to firing without any lubrication whatsoever. So, disregard the fouling myth and install a better buffer spring, H2 buffer, enhanced extractor spring and a Crane O-ring (all end user drop-in parts). With normal (read “not excessive”) lubrication and maintenance, properly-built AR-15/M4 type rifles with carbine gas systems will astound you with their reliability and shootability.

The high quality AR-15 manufacturers know all of this and generally make their parts better than Milspec.  But now the Army wants in on the game.

The Army is asking the gun industry to build new components for its soldiers’ primary weapon — the M4 carbine — a move that experts say is a tacit admission that the service has been supplying a flawed rifle that lacks the precision of commercially available guns.

At a recent Capitol Hill hearing, an Army general acknowledged that the M4’s magazine has been responsible for the gun jamming during firefights.

On the federal government’s FedBizOpps.gov website, the Army announced a “market survey” for gunmakers to produce a set of enhancements to essentially create a new model — the “M4A1+.” It would include a modular trigger, a new type of rail fitted around a “free floating” barrel and other parts. The upgrade is supposed to improve the rifle’s accuracy and reliability.

The Army last year took the significant step of beginning to convert the basic M4 into the special operations version, the M4A1, with a heavier barrel designed to better withstand the heat of rapid fire.

The Washington Times reported in 2014 on confidential prewar tests that showed the barrel was prone to overheating. The Times also quoted active-duty soldiers who said the M4 is inferior based on their experience in battle. A Green Beret said he takes the extraordinary step of rebuilding his M4A1 on the battlefield by using components from other gunmakers — technically a violation of Army regulations.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, an artillery officer and decorated Vietnam combatant, is one of the M4’s most vocal critics. He also believes the 5.56 mm M855A1 ammunition — an environmentally sensitive, or “green,” round — is wrong for the gun.

Gen. Scales said the Army’s new solicitation is further proof of the carbine’s shortfalls.

“It’s another attempt by the Army to make the M4 look good,” he said. “If the Army wants to improve the M4, fine. But it’s not a weapon suitable for high-intensity, close combat in extremes against an enemy who is basically matching us in weapons performance in a close fight. Everybody knows the weapon has flaws.”

Mr. Scales said the M4’s basic shortfall is that it uses gas, or direct, impingement to extract and expel its shells as opposed to a piston system. A piston firing mechanism is in the prolific AK-47, which runs cleaner and cooler but is considered slightly less accurate.

This article is a complete mess.  It goes from things that we’ve discussed before that should be obvious (such as a floated barrel to avoid interference with [natural frequency] barrel harmonics by fixed points), to old battle philosophy (such as the notion that Solders and Marines today shoot Carbines fully automatic as if they are some sort of area suppression weapon like a SAW – seriously, this is thirty or forty year old battle tactics, the stuff of Vietnam rather than the professionally trained fighters of the twenty first century).

It ends (for me, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to read any more) when that loud mouth, washed up old coot General Scales started begging for the piston system again.  Good grief.  He weighs in against the Eugene Stoner platform for CQB, which is ironically the situation in which it is the best weapon on earth by far.  My message is clear.  Just stop.  The main stream media needs to stop being a day late to the story.  We’ve already worked this one over until it’s bloody.  General Scales needs to go home and stop advocating for whatever armament company he’s working for today.  The Marine Corps and Army need to stop telling the world what they are going to do about non-existent problems with their weapons.  They have diarrhea of the mouth.  Wanat and Kamdesh were not caused by weapons problems.  They were caused by the idiot general who deployed Platoon-size U.S. forces to ensconce themselves in valleys to fight off Battalion-size Taliban forces who had the high ground.

But what does need to happen is with the Marine Corps and Army.  The procedures need to change to allow the armorers the freedom and latitude to arm the men with the weapons they need.  If they want Magpul magazines (with the no-tilt follower), then they should get them instead of the ridiculous Milspec magazines with the follower that binds and sticks (yea, it’s happened to me too).  If a free floated barrel is better (and it is), then change the Military specifications to allow a free floated barrel and replace them all.  If stronger buffer springs are better, then replace them all.  Just go do it.  Adapt, improvise and overcome.  Don’t be bureaucratic pointy-heads.

And something needs to happen with Patriots too.  We should all learn from the intransigence of the Army and Marine Corps.  If there is a better part, buy it.  Test it.  Work your weapons systems.  Learn them.  Practice with them.  Procedures are good insofar as they help you.  If they become a hindrance, defenestrate them.  You control them – they do not control you.

And by the way, around these parts we speak the name of Eugene Stoner with hushed reverence.  Do otherwise at your peril.

Prior:

Army And Marine Corps On M855 Ammunition

Marines To Get Rifle Makeovers

Blaming The Gun For The Battle Losses

The Reliability Of The Eugene Stoner Design

AR-15s In The News

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 1 week ago

The Washington Post:

“Daesh has M16s and M4s, and we only have Kalashnikovs,” said another police officer, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. He said he had fled his home in Ramadi’s Soufiyah neighborhood with his wife and 1-year-old child. “I don’t think I will ever see my house again.”

In the eyes of the Iraqi Police, the Stoner platform wins.  In my eyes too.

The Hill:

Police in Washington, D.C., have been referred materials for a possible investigation into two Republican congressmen who posed for a picture with an assault rifle in a House office building.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) last week tweeted a picture of himself and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the leader of the House’s Benghazi investigation, holding an AR-15.

Having the AR-15 in the District could be a violation of the city’s strict gun laws, and the city attorney general’s office has referred the matter to police, a spokesman told The Hill.

“The matter has been referred to the Metropolitan Police Department for further investigation,” he said.

Buck said in the tweet the assault rifle is his and the picture was taken after Gowdy “stopped by.”

Buck told The Hill the rifle is “inoperable” and that he received approval from U.S. Capitol Police to bring it to his office, where it is on display in a locked case.

“I have a very patriotic AR-15 hanging in my office. It hangs directly above my Second Amendment flag,” Buck said.

“While safety protocols call for all guns to be treated as if they are loaded, this one isn’t. Further, a close inspection of the only public photo of the rifle will show that the bolt carrier assembly is not in the rifle; it is in fact in Colorado.”

“It is a beautiful, patriotic paper weight,” he added.

If it’s a paperweight, it’s useless.  Get one that works.  And both Congressmen should have told the D.C. attorney general to blow it out his ass.

Army And Marine Corps On M855 Ammunition

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 1 week ago

Military.com:

But the Marine Corps and the Army’s decision to use two separate types of 5.56mm ammo is not a simple oversight.

The Army adopted the M855A1 in 2010 after years of struggling to find a lead-free replacement for the Cold-War era M855.

In recent years, troops also criticized the M855, saying it often delivered ineffective results on enemy behind battlefield barriers such as car windshields.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have maintained. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing. It penetrated 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials said.

The Corps had planned to field the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that some of the bullets did not follow their trajectory or intended flight path.

The earlier design of the M855A1 featured a bismuth-tin slug which proved to be sensitive to heat, prompting Marine officials to stick with the M855 and also the Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.

Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a more effective bullet, Marine officials have said.

I confess that until this article I didn’t know that the Army and Marine Corps were using two different types of ammunition.  If I’m not mistaken, the SOST is an open tip bullet with a lead core and copper shank.  It expands much like a hollow point should.

Saying that the better penetrating capability of the M855A1 through car windshields was the reason for transition from M855 to the M855A1 (with copper slug instead of lead) is like a recapitulation of the reasons for transitioning from the FMJ lead ball to the M855 in the first place.  It’s more likely that environmental concerns caused the Army to transition to the M855A1.  I cannot think of a worse excuse.

I will also remark that when I learned of the copper slug in place of the lead ball for M855A1 my thoughts immediately went to barrel wear and loss of rifling.  It appears that this is in fact a legitimate concern.

So in summary, the SOST is much like the .223 pointed soft point for game hunting, except that it has a copper shank.  If a reader would like to weigh in on the effects of the copper shank, please do so (in an educated fashion – and do not allow this to become yet another worthless argument over 7.62 v. 5.56).

Finally, don’t forget the main reason for the lethality of the 5.56 mm round, which is the fact that it is frangible and immediately fractures into pieces leaving multiple tracks through ballistics gelatin.  See the excellent paper Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56 mm Performance In Close Quarters Battle.  It appears that the Army has forgotten the simple things.

ATF Wants To Go After All 5.56 mm Ammunition, Not Just Green Tip

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 3 weeks ago

Recall when we speculated about why the ATF had decided to hold its “green tip” ban in abatement?  Well, the questions are answered.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Thursday raised new concerns about surplus military ammo used in popular AR-15 rifles and pistols just days after pulling back on a proposal to ban the ammo because it could threaten police safety.

In a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, ATF Director B. Todd Jones said all types of the 5.56 military-style ammo used by shooters pose a threat to police as more people buy the AR-15-style pistols.

“Any 5.56 round” is “a challenge for officer safety,” he said. Jones asked lawmakers to help in a review of a 1986 bill written to protect police from so-called “cop killer” rounds that largely exempted rifle ammo like the 5.56 because it has been used by target shooters, not criminals.

His agency’s move to ban the 5.56 M855 version was condemned by the National Rifle Association and majorities in the House and Senate and as a result was pulled back though not abandoned. At the hearing Jones said that nearly 90,000 comments on the proposal were received, many negative.

As a result, he said that the ATF will suspend rewriting the “framework” used to exempt armor piercing ammo from sale or use. “It probably isn’t going to happen any time soon,” he said. Jones also said, “We are not going to move forward.”

The 5.56 M855 round, he said, is military surplus, typically has a green tip and was used in the M-16. There are several versions of the 5.56. The M855carries a bullet that can penetrate police body armor, though shooters often debate that.

The ATF singled it out for a ban because more AR-15 style pistols that can shoot the ammo are being produced and presumably could be used by criminals in police shootouts. The AR-15 can also shoot the less lethal .223 round, which was not targeted by ATF in the ban proposal.

My God, this is one messy article.  There are too many confused issues to sort through in a short amount of time, but I’ll mention just a few.  The 5.56 mm cartridge and the .223 cartridge are very similar but not identical, with chamber leade being the main difference.  There isn’t enough of a difference to distinguish between 5.56 mm and .223 for purposes of this article.  This would be of interest in the gun community for things like slight differences in muzzle velocity, chambering, shooting a cartridge in a gun specified for another, etc.  Presumably, the author of the article inserted this confusion and not Mr. Jones.

But Mr. Jones did indeed insert obfuscation and confusion, and then asked the Congress to use that confusion to add to the regulatory and legal burden placed on citizens.  There is no reason to debate the issue of green tip, despite the URLs the author inserted into the article.  As I’ve explained:

Common 5.56 mm ammunition will penetrate soft body armor, all of it, period.  Kevlar will not stop 5.56 mm ammunition (lead ball) shot at 3200 FPS.  Nor will soft body armor stop most rifle rounds.  Soft body armor is [routinely] tested for 9mm pistol ammunition, not rifle ammunition.

ESAPI (enhanced SAPI plates, or the ceramic ballistic plates worn in ballistic plate carriers) are designed to stop rifle rounds, and are specifically tested for M855.  No cop today (or anyone else for that matter) wearing Kevlar is protected from any rifle round (unless it is from something like a pistol caliber rifle), and the existence of M855 or lack thereof doesn’t change that.  Likewise, a cop (or anyone else) wearing ESAPI plates is protected from rifle rounds, including the M855, and the existence of the M855 round or lack thereof doesn’t change that.  Finally, even ESAPI plates must stop a certain percentage of rounds (so there is some probability of fracture and penetration even with tested and specified rounds regardless of type).

So you understand, don’t you, that the M855 ban has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with LEO safety, the liar in the White House notwithstanding?

Banning green tip does nothing to prevent anyone from using a rifle round (shot from any weapon) to penetrate soft body armor, and wearing ceramic ESAPI plates protects against both frangible 5.56 mm ammunition and green tip ammunition.  Furthermore, a so-called 5.56 mm “pistol” is nothing more than a SBR (short barrel rifle) with a barrel length of less than 16″ and no stock.  It isn’t concealable.

So speculation of course ran wild as to the exact intent of the ATF.  Are they stupid?  Do they not really understand the technical issues they are dealing with?  But today B. Todd Jones answered those questions.  They are concerned about all 5.56 mm cartridges.  Of course they are.  But that .270 pointed soft point, shot from a necked down 30-06 cartridge from my bolt action deer hunting rifle?  Yes, that’s the one.  It will penetrate soft body armor too – lead ball, soft point, all of it.  So will lead ball 30-06.  So will lead ball .308.  So will lead ball 7 mm.  Virtually all rifle rounds (except .22LR and .22 WMR) will penetrate soft body armor because kevlar is specified to 9 mm rounds (as regards mass and velocity).

Jones knows that.  The ATF at large knows that.  What Jones is telling the Congress is that he wants their help in banning rifle ammunition.  Rifle ammunitionAll of it.  They will start with 5.56 mm ammunition, green tip, lead ball, pointed soft point – all of it.  Then they will make it clear that all other rifle ammunition is as lethal as 5.56 mm ammunition, so they need a ban on that too.

Here’s a warning flag to all the Elmer Fudds out there who only care about your bolt action hunting rifles, and think this stuff about AR-15s is all just a bunch of made up theater to bother pampered folk like you.  They want your rifles and ammunition too.  You do understand that, don’t you?

Josh Sugarmann On The M855 Green Tip Ban

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 4 weeks ago

I know, about now you’re thinking “what can Josh Sugarmann teach me about M855 green tip ammunition?  Not much, except that it pays to understand just what the enemy thinks.  It’s also important to know just how behind the times they are in understanding what we think, but more on that in a moment.

This is despite the fact that ATF is only doing what the NRA and other members of the gun lobby consistently argue should be done: enforcing the gun laws already on the books. Opponents also allege that no law-enforcement officer has been shot with one of the cartridges fired from a handgun. Testing the veracity of that assertion is challenging, but the whole point of the ban on “armor-piercing” ammunition is to prevent law enforcement and first responders who rely on body armor from ever having to face assailants wielding handguns loaded with armor-piercing rounds.

Yet left unstated is the fact that ATF’s proposal, as detailed in a new report from my organization, the Violence Policy Center, is the direct result of the gun industry’s own actions.

Facing a continuing decline in household gun ownership, the gun industry is constantly engaged in efforts to create new product lines to sell to a shrinking consumer base. In recent years the industry has aggressively marketed AR-15 assault pistols that use common rifle ammunition, such as the 5.56-by-45-millimeter round used in AR-type assault rifles.

So it’s possible that Josh doesn’t really understand anything about rifle ammunition, or perhaps he does and is playing dumb (or lying) in order to deceive his idiot readers at Huffington Post.  But just to make sure you understand, let’s cover this for a moment.

Common 5.56 mm ammunition will penetrate soft body armor, all of it, period.  Kevlar will not stop 5.56 mm ammunition (lead ball) shot at 3200 FPS.  Nor will soft body armor stop most rifle rounds.  Soft body armor is [routinely] tested for 9mm pistol ammunition, not rifle ammunition.

ESAPI (enhanced SAPI plates, or the ceramic ballistic plates worn in ballistic plate carriers) are designed to stop rifle rounds, and are specifically tested for M855.  No cop today (or anyone else for that matter) wearing Kevlar is protected from any rifle round (unless it is from something like a pistol caliber rifle), and the existence of M855 or lack thereof doesn’t change that.  Likewise, a cop (or anyone else) wearing ESAPI plates is protected from rifle rounds, including the M855, and the existence of the M855 round or lack thereof doesn’t change that.  Finally, even ESAPI plates must stop a certain percentage of rounds (so there is some probability of fracture and penetration even with tested and specified rounds regardless of type).

So you understand, don’t you, that the M855 ban has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with LEO safety, the liar in the White House notwithstanding?

As for the notion that gun owners are demanding that existing law be enforced, who is doing that?  No seriously, who is doing that?  Not me.  Are you?  If so, why?  Okay, perhaps the NRA has used that stupid argument, but we want open, constitutional carry in every state in America, and we want the Hughes amendment repealed, as well as prohibitions on things like SBRs in the NFA repealed.  That’s just a start.  We don’t want the existing laws to be enforced.  Every federal gun law is a violation of the constitution.  Every one.

Sugarmann then shows us a screen capture from the Rock River Arms web site.  Perhaps this will be good advertizing for them.  One can only hope.  Sugarmann ends with his usual propaganda that gun sales is down and ownership is increasingly focused on a smaller and smaller percentage of people.  Whatever.  If Josh wants to think this that’s alright with me.  The less they know about us and our beliefs, the better.

Read also Kurt Hofmann:

One (presumably very much unintended) argument against banning “armor piercing” handgun ammunition for private citizens came a while back from a very surprising source–the Violence Policy Center. As that group’s director, Josh Sugarmann, was cited in the U.S. News & World Report:

Gun control advocacy groups like Sugarmann’s say the body armor worn by the shooters in Newtown [which wasn’t “body armor,” anyway] and Aurora undermines the argument made by gun advocates that shootings can be stopped by someone with a handgun.

In other words, Sugarmann seems to be arguing that armed private citizens would have a reasonable chance at stopping mass shootings, if only they were not denied handgun ammunition capable of defeating body armor.

Yea, he is arguing first that guns are of no use against body armor so why would ordinary citizens have guns?; and second, there are millions of rounds in circulation that can defeat body armor, so they must be banned.  Sugarmann doesn’t care about consistency.  He’s just parroting the latest talking point.

Marines To Get Rifle Makeovers

BY Herschel Smith
5 months, 2 weeks ago

Recall that I told you “that Rock River Arms, Knights Armament, LaRue Tactical and Daniel Defense isn’t the Colt produced under milspec for the Army and Marine Corps (these are all superior to the Colt M-16 and M-4)?”  And recall that John Jay and I have both discussed Milspec and what it does (and doesn’t) mean?  And at Western Rifle Shooter’s Association I have had this discussion in even more detail.

While some features of some AR-15s (that don’t match Milspec) are positive, like the Wylde chamber which is highly acclaimed), some not so much. For example, RRA uses red Loctite on the Castle Nut, a feature many guys who do their own build don’t like much.

Listen, as an engineer (PE), I can tell you how I would approach it. I would take several rifles from different lots and measure the crap out of each and every tolerance (including head space, chamber, leade, etc.) before passing the design and saying it met my specifications. If I say that some specific part used SS304, I would send that part out of rifles with different lots to be melted down, and a spectrographic analysis done to determine if the Mn, Cr, Co and other elements were within tolerance. One slipup means the whole lot gets rejected.

And that’s the way the mechanics and engineers at the Picatinny Arsenal will approach it too. Milspec means something very specific, good in some instances, perhaps not keeping with current design improvements in others, but simply meeting the original order specs sent by the engineers.

Well, the Marine Corps is upgrading their rifles.

If the Marine Corps’ top marksmanship experts get their way, Marines are going to get a rifle retooled with an array of upgrades that will make them deadlier shooters. They recently directed the study of a number of significant changes to the service’s weapons, ammunition, shooting curriculum and ranges and have approved new competitions.

Most eagerly anticipated are recommendations to study overhauling M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines with a host of new features, including a new trigger and barrel, all of which will be a hot topic at the next Combat Marksmanship Symposium in October.

[ … ]

Current M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines could get a significant overhaul with mostly inexpensive components already available to consumers. The upgrades would drastically improve accuracy and function without incurring the expense of procuring an new rifle.

Those updates could include a free-floating barrel, rifle compensators, new reticles for the Rifle Combat Optic, more ambidextrous controls and a new trigger group. With significant advancements in rifle technology for the civilian shooting market over the past two decades, those are all features commonly seen on competition rifles and those carried by elite operators.

[ … ]

Standard-issue M16A4s and M4s use hand guards and rail systems that are directly connected to the barrel. As a result, any force exerted on an accessory like a rifle sling used to achieve greater stability also exerts force on the barrel. That can ever so slightly bend or pull the barrel off center relative to zeroed optics. The movement can translate into big variances over distance. The longer the shot, the further the external pressure exerted on the barrel will throw it.

A free floating barrel is achieved by using a hand guard and rail system that does not contact the barrel at any point. So any force exerted on a sling or other rifle-mounted accessory attached to the rail system does not translate to the barrel which contacts the rifle at only one point – the upper receiver. That ensures the barrel and optics which are also mounted to the upper receiver point in precisely the same direction.

“Free floating barrels have been seen in the competition world since the ’90s,” said Layou. “In combat you are not able to apply the same sling tension every time. You are shooting in different positions at different targets. So it’s not a training solution, it is a material solution needed to reduce barrel flex.”

This is a very odd way of explaining it.  Rifle optics can be set up with the assistance of a bore sight to zero at about 25 yards (which zeros the 5.56 mm at 100 yards too without BDC), even given the small undulations in the barrel.  That’s not really the issue.  The issue has to do with the fact that if it is not a free floated barrel there is a hinge point, or a fixed point beyond which the barrel cantilevers.

This point interferes with the natural frequency of the barrel and thus alters the harmonics of the system.  The vibrations send the projectile off directions other than the direction of the bore (at static conditions) without the vibrations from the explosion.  With an anchor point for the barrel, this smooth sinusoidal wave of vibrations becomes an interrupted mess of multiple competing and non-metered or oddly-patterned waves.  The point is this: barrel anchor points = bad, free floated barrel = good.

As I said before, purchasing something Milspec isn’t always the best option, and in most instances today with the progression of technology since mid-twentieth century, it leads to inferior design and manufacture.

WeaponsMan also has a good article on Making an M4 Run Like A Gazelle.

Long Range Shooting From A Bench With Jerry Miculek

BY Herschel Smith
5 months, 2 weeks ago

I like to provide training videos when I can, and since I can’t train you to do much, Jerry Miculek has to stand in for me.

AR-15 Torture Test

BY Herschel Smith
6 months, 2 weeks ago

We’ve covered the AR-15 and its adherents and detractors in The Reliability Of The Eugene Stoner Design and Blaming The Gun For The Battle Losses concerning the battle of Wanat.  In the test shown below, this AR-15 endures a test of greater than 800 rounds in a short duration of time.

Blaming The Gun For The Battle Losses

BY Herschel Smith
6 months, 3 weeks ago

Robert H. Scales wrote a piece for The Atlantic entitled Gun Trouble, with the catchy subtitle as follows: The rifle that today’s infantry uses is little changed since the 1960s—and it is badly flawed. Military lives depend on these cheap composites of metal and plastic. So why can’t the richest country in the world give its soldiers better ones?

Scales then proceeds to rehearse the history of flaws after the initial rollout of the M-16 in Vietnam, well known flaws (and failed to mention others, such as the fact that the chamber and barrel weren’t chrome-lined in the initial stages of production).  He pans the 5.56 mm NATO round, and ends up recommending two (what he considers to be) improvements.  First, he wants a larger caliber round, and second, he wants a gas recirculation system rather than the current DI system in use in the Eugene Stoner design (He fails to mention that the gas recirculation system weighs the front end of the rifle down and makes it more difficult to maneuver in CQB such as room clearing.  This is a point made to me by my son, who didn’t even like my quad-rail on the front end of my RRA rifle due to its weight).  Scales points to Wanat as proof positive that American lives are being wasted by a bad design.

The M4, the standard carbine in use by the infantry today, is a lighter version of the M16 rifle that killed so many of the soldiers who carried it in Vietnam. (The M16 is still also in wide use today.) In the early morning of July 13, 2008, nine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it less effective at long ranges than the older M16—an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges.

In spite of the high number of kills in the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Scales calls the 5.56 mm a “varmint round.”  We’ve seen all of this before, much of it coming from experience many decades ago.  But we’ve seen testing that simply shows much of the bad press for the Stoner design (and good press for the Kalashnikov design) to be false.  Recall the testing done on the Knights Armament rifle, and reader Pat Hines sends two more examples here and here.  The point is granted that Rock River Arms, Knights Armament, LaRue Tactical and Daniel Defense isn’t the Colt produced under milspec for the Army and Marine Corps (these are all superior to the Colt M-16 and M-4).  Furthermore, recall that we’ve discussed what it means to be milspec and what it doesn’tNot milspec isn’t always worse, and milspec isn’t always better.

Still, my own son Daniel tells me that he never had any problems with either his SAW or an M-4 when he used that in training and in Fallujah, Iraq (while still claiming that my RRA rifle was better than the Colt he used).  The biggest problem with Scales’ argument isn’t that it doesn’t rely on hard evidence regarding quality battle rifles today (and it doesn’t, and some AR-15s are better designed and manufactured than the M-4 it must be admitted).  The biggest problem with his argument is that it blames the wrong culprit.

My coverage of the Battle of Wanat goes back to before the Cubbison report, from 2008 until recently.

Analysis Of The Battle Of Wanat

Investigating The Battle Of Wanat

The Contribution Of The Afghan National Army In The Battle Of Wanat

The Battle Of Wanat, Massing Of Troops And Attacks In Nuristan

Second Guessing The Battles Of Wanat And Kamdesh

And many other articles.  I am proud to have contributed in some small way to the Wanat report still on file at Fort Leavenworth (on page 255 three of my articles are cited).  Specifically, it was published by the Combat Studies Institute Press, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center.

The kill ratio was indeed lower at Wanat than has been noted at other engagements, but the fact that Soldiers had to put 400 rounds through their weapons in such a short time frame is indicative of a different problem than the gun.  First of all, with all due respect to the Soldiers who were there, fire control and long distance optics would have been a valuable commodity.  When training his “boots,” my son worked first, middle and last on rate of fire and fire control.  And use of a larger bore weapon wouldn’t have helped barrel temperature (have you ever shot a large caliber weapon?), and would certainly have hurt the ability to regain sight picture after firing due to significant recoil.

Use of DMs with M-14s or bolt action sniper rifles would have helped (the Marines make use of such tactics), as would have training in shooting uphill (to which very few units train – I know this from conversations with Army trainers).  But the biggest problems with Wanat were associated with command choices that could have been done differently.  Vehicle Patrol Base Wanat (it was a VPB rather than a FOB), took entirely too long to set up, allowing enemy massing of forces, something I’ve noted on a number of occasions in Afghanistan (it’s a favorite tactic when the Taliban think they can greatly outnumber their opponent).

Furthermore, terrain was critical in that the U.S. troops didn’t control the high country surrounding the VPB which was in a valley.  One Marine Captain commented to me as follows:

The platoon in Wanat sacrificed control of the key terrain in the area in order to locate closer to the population. This was a significant risk, and I don’t see any indication that they attempted to sufficiently mitigate that risk. I can empathize a little bit – I was the first Marine on deck at Camp Blessing back when it was still Firebase Catamount, in late 2003. I took responsibility for the camp’s security from a platoon from the 10th Mountain Div, and established a perimeter defense around it. Looking back, I don’t think I adequately controlled the key terrain around the camp. The platoon that replaced me took some steps to correct that, and I think it played a significant role when they were attacked on March 22nd of 2004. COIN theorists love to say that the population is the key terrain, but I think Wanat shows that ignoring the existing natural terrain in favor of the population is a risky proposition, especially in Afghanistan.

The force was simply too small (platoon size versus virtual battalion size Taliban force), and they were simply outgunned.  It’s remarkable that they didn’t have even more casualties.  Blaming the gun we deployed with the Soldiers is the easy thing to do.  It’s also the wrong thing to do, and it’s disingenuous.  Blaming the men who made the decision to deploy the way they did would be the hard thing to do because it gets personal.  But at least it would be honest.

See also:

Battle Of Wanat Category

War is Boring, The M-4 Carbine Is Here To Stay

Dan Morgan on Wanat

WeaponsMan Part 1 and Part 2

The Firearm Blog

The Reliability Of The Eugene Stoner Design

BY Herschel Smith
7 months, 3 weeks ago

BBC:

Things were just starting to improve when the firm was hit by Western sanctions.

With Russian military stores full of the famously durable Kalashnikovs, and dwindling orders from abroad, the company had turned its attention to civilian firearms markets.

In January it finally secured a foothold in the biggest of them, sealing a lucrative deal to supply up to 200,000 rifles a year in the US.

But in July, Kalashnikov was placed on a US list of eight arms manufacturers sanctioned for Russia’s role in fomenting the crisis in Ukraine. The deal was halted with under half the initial order delivered. It was added to an EU list in September.

“Of course I was upset, because I didn’t understand why we’d been sanctioned,” Kalashnikov director Alexei Krivoruchko told the BBC, arguing that the firm was no longer wholly state-owned since he and another Russian businessman had invested in a 49% stake.

Also, he points out, it primarily produces firearms for the civilian market.

“The US was a key market for us, one that we planned to develop,” Mr Krivoruchko says. “It’s a big loss, there’s no point saying otherwise.”

There are now some 200 models of Kalashnikov, still produced at the original factory in Izhevsk, two hours’ flight east of Moscow.

So let me explain it to you Mr. Krivoruchko.  Your government did indeed foment big trouble in the Ukraine, but that has nothing to do with the sanctions.  You see, you’re a Russian capitalist businessman, while our President, Mr. Obama, is an American communist and doesn’t want his people to have guns.  Do you understand now?

Readers have known for a long time that I am no fan of the Kalashnikov design.  I hate to hear and feel the clank … clank … clank … rattle … rattle … rattle … when I shoot an AK.  And I don’t like to miss.  But it’s much more reliable than the Eugene Stoner design, you say.  Wrong.  I know all about the presumed failures of the M4 at Wanat and Kamdesh, and I still claim (like I did at the time) that the failure there had to do with ensconcing too small a force without good force protection, control over the terrain, good air support, and a clear mission.

I have never had a single failure with my AR-15, and for those of you still unconvinced, Uncle sends us to Gun Nuts Media, who gives us this.

KAC SR-15 MOD2 Sand Dump Test AFTER 15,000 rounds without cleaning… from Ballistic Radio on Vimeo.

And thus we speak the name of Eugene Stoner with hushed reverence around these parts.  And if you own an AR-15, it’s likely that you’re much happier with your rifle than German Soldiers are with the H&K G36.  Then again, you know how I feel about H&K.

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