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February 25, 2014

Horrible: US Troops Forced to Modify Their M4's Themselves, To Avoid Jams and Other Failures, Despite a Well-Documented History of the Weapon's Flaws

Andy says that problems with the M4/M16, specifically those regarding the need for cleaning, have been well known since... Vietnam.

But more recent reports have faulted the weapon's performance as well.

Documents obtained by The Washington Times show the Pentagon was warned before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that the iterations of the M4 carbine were flawed and might jam or fail, especially in the harsh desert conditions that both wars inflicted.

U.S. Special Operations Command in 2001 issued a damning private report that said the M4A1 was fundamentally flawed because the gun failed when called on to unleash rapid firing.

In 2002, an internal report from the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey said the M4A1 was prone to overheating and "catastrophic barrel failure," according to a copy obtained by The Times.

The linked Washington Times article quotes troops buying their own trigger mechanisms and own magazines in order to decrease the chances of failure.

“Realistically speaking, there’s been loss of life that is unneeded because there was a dumbing-down of the weapon system,” said Scott Traudt, who advised the Army on how to improve the M4 a decade ago.

...

In an independent overall survey of soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 percent reported that the M4 jammed during battle, and one-fifth of those said the stoppages made a “large impact.”

An Army historian alleges that reports of the M4's faulty performance in battle were covered up. That seems a bit overstated, as the argument, it seems, is about whether the weapon's "design flaws" contributed to its failure in action, or whether it due to the weapon being used for a high rate of fire (I assume for an extended period). This seems to me to be just another way of saying "design flaw," I think. Though I guess the Army can say the weapon performed as expected if they train people to not use the M4 for sustained rapid fire. But, while I realize all weapons have limitations, sustained fire during a long engagement is a common enough occurrence that the weapon should have been better designed to not have this flaw.

This story also mentions the poor magazines issued with the weapon:

"The Army never looked at the type of magazines that were used," he said. "That’s what we found would cause a lot of failures. If you used the standard old Army tin magazines that had been used in a couple of deployments, they really wore down and would cause a lot of jams just because of failure to feed and the springs were worn out in them.

"They just don’t get replaced readily, and when they do, they still get replaced by a standard-issue magazine that just isn’t a very good magazine at all."

To improve the M4 on the run, Chief Warrant Officer Stafford said, "A lot of us went out and bought our own magazines. They worked far better."



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posted by Ace at 11:27 AM

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