USMC M38 DMR Not Ready For Battle

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 7 months ago

TFB:

Despite the document’s overall upbeat tone, it does not present a picture of a system “ready to field”. The optic chosen for the test was the Leupold Mark 4 2.5-8x36mm variable power scope, part number 60150, one mounted to all 9 weapons via a LaRue mount. This particular opticis a strange choice, being a virtual antique by today’s standards (the optics themselves are leftovers from the Mk. 12 SPR program of the early 2000s), and having a mix of mil reticle and MOA adjustments. This latter feature means that an operator cannot make adjustments in the same increments as what is shown on the reticle.

[ … ]

Reportedly, the reason for choosing this optic (the 3-9 version of which is slated for use with the M38 which descended from this test) was simply that they existed in inventory at the USMC logistics base in Albany, left over from 2000s-era Mk. 12 SPRs. This raises the question of exactly what logistical pipeline the M38 will depend on for replacements. If the Leupold scope cannot be procured somehow, then the M38 as a system is unsustainable at the start.

The appendices of the document indicate that the rifle system is far from optimally reliable when equipped with the tester-preferred KAC sound suppressor. Guns in the “Bravo” test group, all of which were equipped with that suppressor, experienced bolt over base malfunctions indicating an extremely high cyclic rate and marginal weapon reliability in the suppressed configuration.

I looked up the Leupold Mark 4 2.5-8x36mm variable power scope and surprisingly found that it had been discontinued and was unavailable.  From an engineering standpoint, it’s nonsense to assert that the entire system is unsustainable if the scope cannot be procured.  The author goes on to explain that the specification cannot be changed, and that the scope is an integral part of the specification.

This is one reason why our military loses wars.  Logistically speaking, it’s a beast.  Only the brass can override specifications, and then only after being studied, presumably at Quantico.  Again, this is nonsense given that there are so many good options for scopes.  My son had better scopes when he was in the Marine Corps as a SAW gunner and DM in the infantry.

The real problem comes eventually, and it is the H&K gun itself.  You mean that H&K is overpriced trash?  Why yes, I think that’s what we’re saying.  You mean that it’s best not to dick around with the Stoner design because modifications means changes in design performance and unintended consequences?  Why yes, I think that’s what we’re saying.  You mean that there is no real need for a piston gun rather than the DI design Stoner built?  Why yes, I think that’s what we’re saying.

A commenter says this after the issue of the battle of Wanat is brought up.

You mean Wanat where the worst possible tactical decision was made to place a base there combined with the worst possible rules of engagement resulted in a situation where the US Army won the battle anyway while inflicting disproportionately higher casualties on the attacking force?

Perhaps the commenter has read my multiple analyses of the battle of Wanat.  As s brief reminder, the big Army’s idiotic notion of COIN meant that the brass negotiated with the tribes for more than one year on the location of the COP, leaving time for the Haqqani forces to deploy to near Battalion size strength, left OP Topside poorly manned (where the vast majority of casualties at Wanat were taken either at Topside or trying to relieve Topside), deployed men in low terrain and thus didn’t control the high ground, left men without CAS, and deployed in a location not amenable to the logistics chain.  And the kill ratio still favored US forces by a wide margin.

Remember what one military reader told me about this battle.

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.

Robert Scales will still blame the rifle for the battle because he’s invested in the outcome of the decision.  But the gun was a Colt, and we are all aware that Colt had begun to suffer QA problems by this point because of reliance on military contracts.  When you don’t field your gun to civilians en masse, you are insulated from problems with the system.

Colt was low bidder.  If the gun had been a Rock River Arms, Daniel Defense or FN, the guns would have worked until the barrels melted.  Presumably Scales would still have blamed the gun.

I suppose that the USMC fever dream of a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle or some other new gun won’t happen if they’re having trouble with fielding new scopes to their DMs.


Comments

  1. On April 30, 2018 at 9:05 am, Ned said:

    Why is early 2000 tech even being considered? Perhaps there’s a DI hater in procurement somewhere.

  2. On April 30, 2018 at 9:49 am, Gryphon said:

    Typical .gov / .mil procurement clusterfck… Don’t always attribute Problems as Malicious Acts, when Ordinary Stupidity will Suffice.

  3. On April 30, 2018 at 12:00 pm, bob sykes said:

    I presume the Creedmoor will be a bolt-action rifle. Maybe a SMLE or ’03 upgrade.

  4. On May 1, 2018 at 9:22 am, BigCountryExpat said:

    OK Couple of things:
    1) To establish my bonafides: I was an US Civilian Contractor for over 12 years. I’m a master gunsmith and was the US Army Reserve’s Depot Level AMSA Repair Armorer for 2 years for the entire state of Florida.
    2) Your statement and ALL of the assumption about Wanat and the weapons being “Colt”… the majority (90%) of the US Mil built weapons are actually FN. No kidding. M-4/M-16s (if you find them) M-249 and M-240s… ALL FN. The interesting thing is FN has been making and building FNs for the dot Mil for a long time, and the majority of the mass-produced FN M-4 / M-16 variants are -trash-. LOUSY… As in “I personally would never own an FN built M-4 variant.”
    3) The FN receivers usually had the most wear, worst finish, and even the engraving on the sides looked like it was done by a 12 year old with a hand-held engraver.
    4) In ALL of my units I serviced, 99% of the permanently deadlined weapons I had were ALL FN made.
    5) FN civilian side M-4 AR variants might be a Higher Standard, but the mass produced FN for the DoD are crap.

    As an interesting aside, to give you an idea of what a HIGH quality weapon was, I actually found a M-4 with an original Hydro-matic Manufactured receiver in its 10,000th incarnation. Hydro-matic was a GM subsidiary that during a 4 year period from 1965-1970 that made M-16A1s, and this particular M-4 had one of those receivers, still rock solid and functioning 40+ years later.

    I’d be curious to see if the after action report from Wanat stated the manufacturer of the failed weapons… but just wanted to throw that out there…

  5. On May 1, 2018 at 11:06 am, Bram said:

    I had a Colt M16A2 in the Marines in ’91 and it was an unreliable piece of crap.

    Later I was in the National Guard and made sure I was issued an FN rifle. Seemed to perform better although I never dragged it through conditions that bad. As it was a tighter rifle, it did hold zero better on the sights.

    If I’m going to stick to a Stoner design, I pick the AR-18.

  6. On May 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Big,

    Let me see what I can dig up. I’ll look in the Cubbison report and if I don’t find it I’ll go from there to other potential sources.

  7. On May 1, 2018 at 3:03 pm, Unknownsailor said:

    A few years ago, one of the guys in my office onboard the USS John C Stennis came by to shoot the shit for a bit. He was TAD to security at the time, and had his M-16 with him. The lower looked a bit weird, not the black I was used to but more of a dark grey. After looking at it, low and behold, I was looking at a genuine XM-16E1 marked lower receiver that had been built into an M-16A3. No fence around the magazine release.

    That was the second in-the-field white rhinoceros siting I had in my career. Many years before, while doing an UNREP on the USS Kitty Hawk, I saw an ordnanceman pulling line launching duties walk by with an M-14 that had that very distinctive pistol grip stock for the M-14A1.

  8. On May 1, 2018 at 3:48 pm, Fred Seymour, Jr. said:

    Lewis Machine and Tool

  9. On May 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm, GenEarly said:

    As a historian I’m a bit curious; Who is sitting in Wanat today? and does it really matter anymore?

  10. On May 1, 2018 at 9:06 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @GenEarly,

    But leaving aside the issue of why we were (and are) there, what happened, how we fought them, who we fought, etc., are you not capable of treating the issue of weapons and tactics clinically and learning from their experience in order to make yourself smarter as you move forward?

  11. On May 3, 2018 at 10:17 am, Shark said:

    GenEarly: Come on, Hillary Clinton, stop hiding behind a nom-de-plume…

    In case you need it spelled out…yes, it matters.

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You are currently reading "USMC M38 DMR Not Ready For Battle", entry #19098 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Firearms,Guns,Marine Corps and was published April 29th, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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