The Reliability Of The Eugene Stoner Design

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 2 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.

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  1. On December 12, 2014 at 1:09 am, McThag said:

    The only failures I had in the Army of an M16 was when we used blanks. Mostly failure to feed.

    Now that I am out I’ve never had a problem with mine and the problems my buddy had were his putting the gas-block on wrong. Once that was corrected, all has been well.

  2. On December 12, 2014 at 11:39 am, Redleg said:

    Granted my service ended when the GWOT was still young but I had myriad malfunctions with my M16A1 & M16A2 over almost two decades of military service, even when it was properly cleaned. Granted they were old Cold War relics and had been used very hard over the years which I believe was probably a big portion of the problem, not to mention the fact that the magazines were heavily used as well, but I had enough routine malfunctions with my early version M16s back in the day from the qualification range (where I still managed to qualify expert every time except once owing to aging eyes that required glasses to rectify) to all forms of training that I have very little faith in the platform as a result.

    Due to that fact I bought an AK instead back in 1988 and I hit steel out to 300 meters (actually 438 yards as that is where my steel silhouette is set up) consistently with it…even still today and I have never had a malfunction…even when it actually had sand in the action (bolt carrier group) and NOT just poured on top with the dust cover closed and covering the ejection port like in the video. I’m sorry but that was just show for those who don’t know the difference. I’d like to see him make the same video and do the same thing with the dust cover open when he pours the sand on top and see that sand trickle into the bolt area. I bet the results would have been different.

    Perhaps the newer versions (M4 & A4) have remedied all the problems I encountered back in the 80s, 90s, and very early 00s but those are my personal real world experiences and they are nowhere near the reliability demonstrated in the video nor talked about here on the blog. If I had an extra $1,500 for a nice (is that even enough for a nicer/higher end one?) modern AR platform I’d get one and check it out for myself…unfortunately that isn’t my financial situation right now so I’ll have to stick with the AK, M1a, & FAL that I own until the day I hit the lotto.


  3. On December 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm, oughtsix said:

    Closed dust cover, mag in place, locked and loaded…

    A somewhat suspect protocol (sarc/), not to mention the snark attitude of the dude with All The Right Gear and, apparently, money to burn.

    How about reliability after an emergency horizontal butt stroke? Shit happens in combat no matter how well you train… I have a very high degree of confidence that my M1-A will deliver at both ends.

  4. On December 23, 2014 at 11:41 pm, Pat Hines said:

    Closed or open, the dust cover is almost certainly irrelevant. Here’s an additional test of the AR, pitting it against the AK.

    I’ve never owned an AK and never will. The AR is far superior to that clanking antique.

  5. On December 24, 2014 at 12:08 am, Pat Hines said:

    Another test.

  6. On December 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    I knew someone would mention/complain about, the ejection port cover being closed. That being said, someone, maybe, if memory serves, someone, maybe Mosby or Max Velocity, offered any AK owner to bring their gun, they would dump both in mud, etc, and shoot for accuracy and reliability. Can’t find the link right now.

    I’ve rarely seen an AR malfunction, save worn magazine followers not locking the bolt back, except for one rifle with the gas block installed incorrectly. those didn’t get full auto use, and were maintained properly, and by the same individuals. I have seen AR’s run for 2000 or so rounds without any cleaning or maintenance.

    There’s a You Tube video of an M4 being run full-auto without apparent failure until the hand guard catches fire. Looks pretty reliable to me.

    Incidentally, someone’s making new AK followers that supposedly hold the bolt open on
    the last shot. Think I saw it at The Firearms Blog. Might be worth a look for AK users.

  7. On December 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    You can’t find the link because it disappeared. At Mosby’s place. Great post, too bad. I looked for it long and hard. Gone. Inexplicable.

  8. On December 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm, Grandpa said:

    It was Mosby, and link or not, I’m pretty certain if you want to challenge him and his LMT AR platform, I’m sure he’ll run his gun against yours. As an fyi, my Marine experience was with several different weapons. Several friends have AKs. I don’t care for them, at all. I understand cost being an issue, but all the “reliability” yap about ARs was from late 60s to early 70s. I’m saddened by the deaths in Afghanistan, or anywhere, but you cannot place blame on an inanimate object. 350 rounds in 30 minutes is more pilot error than not. I know that sounds harsh, but in “school” we were taught the importance of shot placement. And if you suspect high rates of fire may degrade weapon performance, then aimed fire and control MUST take precedence over spray and pray. In CQB, AR over AK every time. And for you keyboard snipers, my longest shot for record was just over 1,000 yards. M40. Grandpa won’t tell you again.

  9. On December 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm, l2a3 said:

    I disagree in the statement that the AR platform is more dependable than the AK. Yes I have had more failures to load with the AR while in the military from ’69-’91. I was trained as Army Small arms Repairman in ’69, on the XM16 as well as anything from .22 thru 50 Cal.Small Arms and up to including the 4.2″ and 106 Recoilless rifle and anything in between. I had less failures to load using the M-14. I will say 90% or more of the failures to load were induced by the magazine, (FTF, BOB,) and failure to eject with the rifle (extractor and ejector problems.) Yes most of them were well used and approaching their “life” limit but they stilled worked and that was good enough for Uncle. (Maintenance funds were removed and used to fund operation).

    You need to keep in mind we are discussing different weapons and different cleaning SOPs at a different time periods. eg. With the M16, never needs cleaning to just a very light coat of oil and wipe it off, to soak the mother and leave it wet. Also we were using different lubs and cleaners, eg. light grease, bore solvent with light oil (3-in-1), graphite, LSA, the first version of CLP, then the 2nd gen. CLP, Firepower, then TW-25, Mobile 1 and ect.

    So I’d have to say using todays weapons with the current PM you would be fairly correct in the statement of reliability But I have never seen ANY M-16 take the abuse and lack of care that is imposed on an AK series rifle and retain the AKs reliability to function.

    99% of Military weapons are reliable IF the proper operator care (cleaning and lubrication) is provided to it. (as well as GI ingenuity, as Oiling the PIG (M-60) with engine oil or using a C ration can help the ammo belt with feeding the “PIG”). Just my observations.

    And in Germany, in the ’80s, Several German and American soldiers discussed that if balloon went up we would trade rifles, M-16s for G3s. (We had more faith in 7.62x51mm over the 5.56x45mm ammo) and they liked the light weight of the M-16s compared to the G3. It seemed like a win-win situation to us, although I am happy it never happened.

  10. On December 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm, Highlander said:

    I heartily disagree. I spent thirty years utilizing the AR platform and found it to be a very accurate piece of junk. Once into a combat situation it requires an huge amount of time to keep it, and the magazine, functioning….and don’t get into anything that lasts to long either. Now I know that there are many improvements in civilian models that should be introduced to the standard military platform but unless we find a new government I am not seeing anything like that happening…they don’t care much about the cannon fodder. And, no, I am not a huge fan of the Kalashnikov, although it has the advantage of functioning after eating a ton of sand and mud.

  11. On December 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Yea, after all that video showed just how much maintenance is necessary to keep it running — or not. And my own AR fails all the time — or not.

    And my own son’s several million rounds training and in combat suffices for me.

  12. On December 12, 2014 at 6:03 pm, Lapua said:

    Every time I’ve seen an AR jam it has been because its dry as a bone. Keeping them lubed is no chore, hell you can dribble the contents of dipstick into it in a pinch. I use motor oil to lube mine….high speed reciprocating machine driven by combustion. I’ve taken AR’s from friends that jammed at the sand pit, pulled out the bolt carrier, held it in a rag, dumped oil from my car trunk into it, slimed it up, slid it in, and never jammed again.

    The AK is more reliable. Its fact. It has looser tolerances that give higher reliability without lubrication and lower accuracy.

    However, the AR is functionally just as reliable with even a modicum of acceptable lubrication with literally any slippery lubricant that you have on hand. Even cleaning is secondary….only reason they jam when dirty is usually because someone applied the same theory they use in lubing their bolt action deer rifle to lubing their AR.

    Keep it wet, and it will keep going.

  13. On December 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    The part that should be wet is inside the BCG. There are good dry lubes for everything else.

    Use what you know, and like what you use. There’s a number of good platforms out there.

  14. On December 13, 2014 at 1:39 am, Mark Dietzler said:

    I highly suggest that people look up Filthy 14, a BCM mid length carbine which had well north of forty five thousand rounds put through it. It went through at least two bolts that I know of, numerous extractors/extractor springs, but continued to run like a sewing machine until being sent back to BCM for analysis. Important caveat: it is ran dripping wet with SLIP EWL. And was never cleaned, other than wiping off the bolt to change extractors.

    It was loaned out as a student gun for carbine classes, and was therefore ran pretty hard over the three years it was in the field.
    The AR series will run reliably, if properly maintained, well lubricated, and used with serviceable magazines, which IME is the #1 point of failure in military guns. The military loves to hold onto mags, for some reason, even after the feed lips are spread out of spec and all the finish is worn off.
    All you guys who had problems with yours, if you had replaced the bolt with a new one, lubed it until it was dripping, and used good mags, the rifles you had problems with probably would have worked well for you.

  15. On December 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    Here’s a link to a bolt that will run in high shot count before cleaning scenarios:

  16. On December 15, 2014 at 11:28 pm, Snakepit6336 said:

    Great video

  17. On December 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm, Redleg said:

    I just ran across an interesting article on this subject today by MG Robert Scales:

    “During my 35 years in the Army, it became clear to me that from
    Gettysburg to Hamburger Hill to the streets of Baghdad, the American
    penchant for arming troops with lousy rifles has been responsible for a
    staggering number of unnecessary deaths. Over the next few decades, the
    Department of Defense will spend more than $1 trillion on F-35 stealth
    fighter jets that after nearly 10 years of testing have yet to be
    deployed to a single combat zone. But bad rifles are in soldiers’ hands
    in every combat zone.” – Major General (ret.) Robert H. Scales in Gun Trouble [at]

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This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Guns and was published December 12th, 2014 by Herschel Smith.

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