Archive for the 'AR-15s' Category

Blaming The Gun For The Battle Losses

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 1 week 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
10 months ago


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.

AR-15s,Guns Tags:

Opinions On Single Point Slings

BY Herschel Smith
10 months, 2 weeks ago

Mountain Guerrilla:

Single-points have been popular for a long time, and I’ve been a fan. I ran one for a long time. I think the biggest selling point for single-point slings, for most people, is the cool-guy CDI (chicks dig it) factor. Guys see Chris Costa, or Travis Haley, or Kyle Defoor running them, and want one. The reality is, I HATE single-point slings. Every time I drop the gun, whether to transition to my sidearm (doesn’t happen nearly as often as a lot of training courses make it seem like does), or to go hands-on with someone, the f****** rifle nails me in the nuts.

Kyle Lamb, American Rifleman, December 2014:

A general-purpose AR just isn’t complete without a sling.  If you plan to carry a rifle or stabilize it while shooting, you must have a sling.  I use a quick-adjust, two-point type, the VTAC sling.  It allows the user to carry the carbine muzzle down as well as quickly cinch the rifle tight to his chest or loosen it for shooting or transitioning.  The sling can be slightly tightened while building a shooting position to greatly increase stability.  If you choose to use a single-point or three-point sling you will lose the ability to also have the built-in shooting aid.  The single-point lets the rifle dangle, merely there in case you have to transition to your side arm.  I find that less-secure configuration may also allow it to crack you in the family jewels or on the knees, depending on the adjustment.

My son Daniel and the rest of his company threw away or modified the mandated MC-issue three point slings to make them whatever the Marine wanted (even braiding 550 cord to make their own slings), in most cases a single point sling.  At the time they were preparing for Fallujah and a lot of CQB and room clearing, and needed the ability to raise the weapon and engage the sight picture via a “reflex sight” very quickly and efficiently.  Up and down and side to side and use of hands was very important.

The NRA claims the AR-15 is not a military weapon. Nonsense!

BY Herschel Smith
11 months, 1 week ago

News and views from the North:

The Second Amendment had been obsolete and inconsequential for more than a century. But in the last half a century, the Second Amendment is viewed as a sacrosanct document by the National Rifle Association leaders and gun advocates. Many regard it as their 11th Commandment.

[ … ]

The NRA leadership say it does not tolerate “infringing.” However, the federal government in the 1930s, passed the National Firearms acts with the assistance of ( hard to believe) the NRA. These laws “infringed” upon the Second Amendment and the right of the people to have submachine and military type arms. Who is to decide what are military guns — the NRA or the U.S. government? The NRA claims the AR-15 is not a military weapon. Nonsense!

We must step back, and realize that we are quite fortunate that our rights are being “infringed” upon. What kind of world would it be if we did not have laws to control our right to travel, to drive a car, to drink liquor, or smoke tobacco, or the right of freedom of speech in a crowded theater?

Gun rights also need to be “infringed.” It’s hard to find one right that isn’t. We want and need our rights to be infringed for the security and safety of ourselves and our children.

The writer is a resident of Sandy Hook who apparently wants his freedoms to be curtailed, and since he must endure this for the sake of his sense of security, he wants you to endure it too.

I agree with him.  It’s ridiculous to define the AR-15 in such a way as to conclude it’s not a military weapon, if only they would give us selective fire capabilities, huh?  But as for what defines a military weapon, he wants to know who gets to decide?  Well, I can answer that question so that we won’t sit around and squabble over trivialities.  I get to decide.  Anything that has ever been or could ever be used in the course of fighting is a military weapon.  That means bolt action guns (the Army and Marine Corps still use bolties for sniping), shotguns (the Marine Corps used shotguns for room clearing in Now Zad, Afghanistan), cross bows, long bows, clubs, knives, handguns of all sorts (and I hate that I can’t find any examples of revolvers used recently in OIF and OEF, but I do like me some good revolvers), slingshots, and fists.

As for the fact that some kids were shot at Sandy Hook, that’s really too bad.  I didn’t perpetrate the crime, and I am in no way responsible.  If you want to move to a place that’s even more controlling than the U.S., I would suggest China.  I don’t know how long that will last.

Jerry Miculek On AR-15 Grip And Stance

BY Herschel Smith
11 months, 4 weeks ago

Via John Richardson, here is Jerry Miculek on AR-15 grip and stance.

I always watch and listen carefully to Jerry explain anything.  He is an extremely successful competitive shooter.  However, I have never seen him use (or advocate use of) what I’ve called the “aggressive plates forward” stance.  Jerry puts his left leg forward (almost like a modified Weaver stance).  My son Daniel taught me the aggressive plates forward stance which was and is in common use in the USMC.

Also, I see Jerry using the hand-forward C-clamp grip, although not as exaggerated as Chris Costa uses.


I have also seen Travis Haley use a modified version of this grip.  It appears that this grip technique is in common use among competitive shooters, and sometimes when trying to acquire long range stationary or semi-stationary targets.  But this technique isn’t in common use among the U.S. military.

According to my son Daniel, it’s especially not in use when performing room clearing or other close quarters battle, where raising the weapon with a reflex sight (such as an EOTech) is the most important aspect of target acquisition rather being able to sweep from side to side.

I Don’t Need An Assault Rifle To Shoot A Duck!

BY Herschel Smith
1 year ago

Raw Story:

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D) on Wednesday defended his call for gun safety laws by joking that his Republican opponent might need a military-style assault rifle to shoot ducks, but he didn’t.

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Nolan had told CBS News that an assault weapons ban was just “common sense.”

Nolan’s opponent, Stewart Mills, and the Minnesota Republican Party have pointed to the statement as evidence that the congressman wanted to limit gun rights.

“Stewart, what I said on CBS Face the Nation was that I don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck,” he explained at a debate for Minnesota’s 8th District on Tuesday. “And I don’t. Perhaps you do. Maybe you should spend more time at your shooting range.”

“The fact is, right now, you can only have three shells in your gun when you’re shooting ducks,” Nolan continued.

On Face The Nation, Nolan said:

… an assault weapons ban is “common sense legislation.”  “I’m a hunter. Believe in second amendment rights. But you know what? I don’t need an assault weapon to shoot a duck,” Nolan said. “And I think they ought to be banned, and I think we need to put a ban on the amount of shells you can carry in a magazine, and I think we have to strengthen our background checks.”

So I’m doubting that Mr. Nolan is really an avid hunter like he says.  In fact, given the duck hunting with assault rifles, shells in magazines and so forth, I’m concluding that Nolan doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

Thales Australia On New 5.56 mm Ammunition

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago


Thales Australia has disclosed it is developing a new family of high-lethality small arms ammunition, including a 5.56 mm round that the company says outperforms 7.62 mm ammunition at all ranges.

The so-called F9 technology is scalable in calibre, from 4.6 mm up to .50 calibre, and is being developed in collaboration with an undisclosed overseas partner, Graham Evenden, Thales Australia’s Director of Integrated Soldier Systems, told IHS Jane’s on 20 August.

The initial focus is on 5.56 mm ammunition. Trial batches use a projectile developed by the overseas company, low toxicity, optimised propellant from the Thales-operated Mulwala propellant and explosives plant in southern New South Wales, and cases produced at the Thales-owned Benalla munitions facility in northern Victoria.

The design of the 5.56 round involves yawing in flight (even for boat tail ammunition) such that impact tends to fragment the round leaving multiple ballistic tracks through tissue.  UPDATE: This is a correct and functioning link to the paper entitled Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56 mm Performance In Close Quarter Battle.  Warning, this is a PDF supporter by a very slow server.

Color me unpersuaded until I see test results.  But I’m interested, if someone from Thales Australia wants to contact me and give me more detail.

Confidential Report On Army Carbine Competition

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

Washington Times:

A competing rifle outperformed the Army’s favored M4A1 carbine in key firings during a competition last year before the service abruptly called off the tests and stuck with its gun, according to a new confidential report.

The report also says the Army changed the ammunition midstream to a round “tailored” for the M4A1 rifle. It quoted competing companies as saying the switch was unfair because they did not have enough time to fire the new ammo and redesign their rifles before the tests began.

Exactly how the eight challengers — and the M4 — performed in a shootout to replace the M4, a soldier’s most important personal defense, has been shrouded in secrecy.

But an “official use only report” by the Center for Naval Analyses shows that one of the eight unidentified weapons outperformed the M4 on reliability and on the number of rounds fired before the most common type of failures, or stoppages, occurred, according to data obtained by The Washington Times.

[ … ]

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, fought a long battle with the Army to persuade it to look at other carbines. He said Army National Guardsmen back from the wars told him the gun was unreliable and jammed frequently. All of Mr. Coburn’s work crumbled last year when the inspector general essentially sided with the Army by giving it a justification to cancel the Improved Carbine competition.

The probable takeaway from all of this is that the Army is in a sloppy love affair with Colt, and nothing will ever replace it.  Colt lost the contract for M4s almost two years ago, and due to pressure from various lawyers, government entities (GAO) and others, they reopened the bidding and testing process.

Then it closed, with no selection of a new firearm.  You know what I think about H&K (their attitude to customers, “you suck and we hate you“).  I really don’t care much for who won the competition because I think it was badly framed to begin with.

Phase one has had nothing to do with evaluating test prototypes, but instead has focused on weeding out companies that may not have the production capacity to make thousands of weapons per month. This has become a bitter point of contention that has driven away some companies with credible names in the gun business.

“I’m not going to dump half a million to a million dollars for them never to review my rifle,” said Steve Mayer of Rock River Arms, standing amid his racks of M4-style carbines at Shot Show, the massive small-arms show here that draws gun makers from all over the world.

But you, dear reader, can have whatever you want for the right price.  The government doesn’t (yet) have the authority to tell you not to buy a Rock River Arms AR-15, or LaRue Tactical, or whatever you want.

And let’s try to keep it that way.  Weapons are best vetted and tested in the civilian market anyway.  The Army and Marine Corps uses what they’re given.  We have the right to use what we want.  We are the most picky users who give the best feedback.

If some reader wants to pick at this issue until he gets hold of this report, we would all be interested to read it.

Man Uses AR-15 To Stop Home Invasion

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 5 months ago


VANCE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) — A homeowner in Vance County opened fire on a man who kicked in his door Monday morning.

It happened about 9:45 a.m. as the homeowner, Jonathan Haith, was sleeping in his home in the 2200 block of Thomas Lane.

“Somebody was you know knocking on the door at 9:15, 9:30 in the morning,” said Haith. “I wanted to roll over and stay in the air conditioning, and I just ignored it.”

When the door knocks lasting 15 minutes were followed by a boom and a thud, Haith grabbed his AR-15 semi-automatic from under his bed and slowly crept into the hallway.

“I peeked around the corner, saw a tall, slender black gentleman standing over me with a pistol,” said Haith.

When the intruder shot at Haith with a 9mm and missed, he fired back. The bullet pierced the suspect’s stomach and shoulder.

“That was my round,” said Haith. “Evidently, it went through his body and struck the wall.”

Pandemonium followed, and the intruder scurried out. An apparent getaway vehicle spun out of Haith’s yard to pick up the intruder, who had collapsed outside of a day care up the street.

By that time, Haith had dialed 911.

“Once-in-a-lifetime incident that I hope doesn’t happen again,” said Haith.

The Vance County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t officially released any details of the incident.

According to Haith, both the driver and the shooter were taken into custody. He says the intruder who he shot was last listed in critical condition at the hospital.

Yea.  Once in a lifetime.  That’s may be what Mr. Stephen Bayezes thought too, but I guess it’s nice to have the accuracy of a rifle combined with the capability of repeat fire when your life is at stake – once in a lifetime or not.

And I thought those awful “military-style” weapons had no place in the home?

AR Rifles Gain Popularity Among Modern Hunters

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 5 months ago

D.S. Pledger:

Traditionalists still might scratch their heads when they see a deer hunter toting an AR-style rifle, but it’s a sight that is becoming more prevalent each fall. I’ll admit to being a little put off by those black rifles initially. In fact, I believe I wrote a column a number of years ago questioning why in the world anyone would use a military-style rifle for any kind of hunting. Times have changed, though. Today they’re becoming mainstream—and for a lot of sound reasons.

Here’s are the facts.  All weapons are “military-style” weapons.  Scoped, bolt action rifles are still used by designated marksmen and military snipers today.  Revolvers were used up through World War II by officers.  1911 pistols are in use today, and in fact the U.S. Marine Corps recently issued a brand new contract for 1911s.  Shotguns were used for room clearing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on and on the list goes.

It’s stupid to object to the civilian ownership of “military-style” weapons, and it always has been stupid.  Every weapon can and has been used by the military for different functions.  Eugene Stoner – God bless him, genius and great man that he was (you guys know what I think about him) – gave us a wonderful shooting platform.  It’s his platform that has evolved and given us so much in the way of a good, reliable, well-functioning, and precise machine.  As an engineer, I admire precision machinery.

But I’m nothing if not agreeable.  I appreciate the honesty and sincerity expressed by Pledger.  This is different than a gun writer who authors articles and reviews for decades observing the subtle changes, sees the encroachment on our rights, and then pens an article that could have been written by the Brady Campaign.  I think y’all know who I’m talking about.  Pledger is moving in the right direction.

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