Skip to comments.U.S. Army Agrees That The M-4 Sucks
Posted on 11/28/2009 2:11:52 AM PST by myknowledge
The U.S. Army has finally addressed years of complaints about the M-4 and M-16 assault rifles. The M-4 is a short barrel M-16, and has become very popular with the troops. The army has asked the Department of Defense for permission to spend a few hundred million dollars on upgrades for its 400,000 M-4 assault rifles. The big change is replacing the main portion of the rifle with a new component that contains a short stroke piston gas system (to reduce buildup of carbon inside the rifle) and a heavier (by five ounces) barrel (which reduces barrel failure from too much heat, which happens when several hundred rounds are fired within a few minutes.)
Much of this goes back to the decades old argument about replacing the recoil system in the M-16 assault rifles. This came to a head (again) two years ago, when the army ran more tests on its M-4 rifle, involving dust and reliability. Four weapons were tested. The M4, the XM8, SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) and the H&K 416 (an M4 with the more dust resistant components of the XM8 installed).
The testing consisted of exposing the weapons to 25 hours of heavy dust conditions over two months. During that testing period, 6,000 rounds were fired from each of ten weapons of each type. The weapons with the fewest failures (usually jams) were rated highest. Thus the XM8 finished first, SCAR second, 416 third and M4 last. In response, the army said it was satisfied with the M4s performance, but was considering equipping it with a heavier barrel (to lessen overheating) and more effective magazines (27 percent of the M4s 882 jams were magazine related.) The army noted that the M4 fired over 98 percent of its rounds without problems. That missed the point that the other rifles had far fewer jams. In combat, each jam is a life threatening situation for the soldier in question. The army had been forced by Congress to conduct the tests. Congress was responding to complaints by the troops.
The XM8 had 127 jams, the SCAR 226 and the 416 had 233. Thus the M-4 had nearly eight times as many jams as the XM8, the rifle designed to replace it. The M4 had nearly four times the jams of the SCAR and 416, which were basically M4 type rifles with a different gas handling system. Any stoppage is potentially fatal for the soldier holding the rifle. Thus the disagreement between the army brass, and the troops who use the weapons in combat.
In dusty places like Iraq and Afghanistan, you have to clean your M16 and M4 rifles constantly, otherwise the combination of carbon (from the recoil system) and dust in the chamber will cause jams. The army and marines both decided to stick with their current weapons, rather than adopt an easier to maintain weapon, like the XM8 or H&K 416, because of the billion or so dollars it would cost to switch rifles.
If the issue were put to a vote, the troops would vote for a rifle using a short-stroke system (like the XM8, SCAR or H&K 416). But the military is not a democracy, so the troops spend a lot of time cleaning their weapons, and hoping for the best. The debate involves two intertwined attitudes among senior army commanders. First, they don't want the hassle, and possible embarrassment, of switching to a new rifle. Second, they are anticipating a breakthrough in weapons technology that will make a possible a much improved infantry weapon. This is likely to happen later, rather than sooner, but the generals kept obsessing over it.
Earlier efforts to just get the troops a more reliable rifle have failed. Back in 2005, the U.S. Army's design for a new assault rifle, the XM8, was cancelled. But now the manufacturer has incorporated one of the key components of the XM8, into M4 rifles, and calls the hybrid the H&K 416. Heckler & Koch (H&K) designed the XM8, which was based on an earlier H&K rifle, the G36. SOCOM is using the 416, but no one else is (except for a few police departments).
The XM8 (like the G36 and 416) uses a short-stroke piston system. The M16s uses the gas-tube system, which results in carbon being blown back into the chamber. That leads to carbon build up, which results in jams (rounds getting stuck in the chamber, and the weapon unable to fire.). The short-stroke system also does not expose parts of the rifle to extremely hot gases (which wears out components more quickly). As a result, rifles using the short-stroke system, rather than the gas-tube, are more reliable, easier to maintain and last longer.
H&K developed the 416, for SOCOM, at the same time the XM8 was being evaluated by the army. SOCOM got the first 416s in 2004, a year before the army cancelled the XM8. The 416 looks like the M4, for the only thing that has changed is the gas system that automatically extracts the cartridge after the bullet has been fired, and loads the next round. SOCOM can buy pretty much whatever they want, the U.S. Army cannot. SOCOM listens to what its troops want, the army often doesn't.
The army is also making three other changes, as part of the M-4 component replacement. There will be improved trigger pull characteristics, a stronger (less likely to fail) rail on the top of the rifle (for fitting scopes and other accessories), ambidextrous controls (to make life easier for lefties) and a round counter (in the pistol grip) to track the number of bullets fired over the lifetime of the rifle (makes for better data on how rifles perform over time, and for scheduling the replacement of components.)
Heckler & Koch XM8
IMI Tavor TAR-21
I'd go for the Remington ACR.
Forgot the AK47 in the list...... pinged to later read after work.
Just adopt the freaking FN SCAR or ACR already. I favor the SCAR, but the ACR may be more politically friendly.
Imagine that, firing the same ammo as your enemy while still using a U.S. made weapon.
Yep, the AK-47’s Garand style action just works.
I bet they just replace the M-4 upper with a short stroke piston design.
Us civilians can always buy a Ruger mini-14. Mini-14, get it? M14 made small.
The AK design does not meet military accuracy requirements in its original design.
Oh, you can 'accurize' an AK, but it loses its reliability as a result.
It is time for a new weapon system, not a repeat of something (the AK) that is over 70 years old.
My son who has the opportunity to work with most of the above named weapons enjoys the 416.
I do a couple of deer hunts a year for Veterans with most of them being Iraq or Afghanistan Vets and Im always amazed at how many of them would have preferred having a M-14. Theyre biggest complaint was the 5.56s inability to penetrate the dirt walls.
U.S. Army Agrees That The M-4 Sucks
Strategy Page ^ | November 25, 2009
The U.S. Army has finally addressed years of complaints about the M-4 and M-16 assault rifles. The M-4 is a short barrel M-16, and has become very popular with the troops.
Here's an idea - recoup a lot of that "billion or so" by selling the old rifles via the CMP.
Tell the ATF to sod-off.
This is totally emotional. ANYTHING FOR OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN COMBAT.
The problem with the Mini 14 is that it isnt really a accurate rifle. Plus the fact it is chambered for.223 and not 5.56, a small but important detail.
I propose a “skeet” test.
Taka a couple dozen Taliban, launch them into the air, and we’ll see how good these rifles are. :)
-—”I love the peasants, I love the people...PULL!!!!”
(History of the World, Part One)
So can the SCAR. Not a unique feature.
A buddy of mine was able to shoot the SCAR recently. He’s a writer for a major shooting magazine. He said the SCAR was extremely accurate, but too heavy, and the charging handle was on the wrong side.
This is a guy who has his own HK 416 too, so he knows what he’s talking about. He said the SCAR could be tweeked to be a fantastic battle rifle.
the Mini is very inaccurate at distances where M16s and M4s have no trouble getting the hits at all.
It's a sad reality of history that we just don't seem to have many wars in really nice places. I mean yes, the Japanese bombed Honolulu and the Nazis did a little street fighting in Paris but by and large wars tend to be fought in places with severely depressed real estate values. (One reason why some of us in California are rather nervous these days.)
But OK, here's a plan to get over the one gigabuck price tag for a new infantry weapon:
As I understand it, the M4 is a fine little carbine as long as you don't need to live with it in the dirt and mud for extended periods of time. Just make Class 3 licenses as simple and inexpensive to get as a C&R and sell the M4s to people through the CMP at a price comparable to that of the new wonder weapon that gets issued to the troops.
It is time for a new weapon system, not a repeat of something (the AK) that is over 70 years old.
I agree, but in the types of situations in which the M4 or M16 is being used, is the extra accuracy more important than the weapon working when it needs to work? Maybe it is time for the military to reassess its weapons needs for situations like these, even if it means using an old, but clearly effective, design.
Granted, I am a laymen when it comes to military things, but it just really angers me when I see our troops dying for such a stupid reason as the weapons not working when they need them to work. It just seems like this type of situation is completely preventable.
First, our military is one of the few to do such studies on effectiveness of its weapons.
You don't read the numerous reports of AK users running out of ammo because the system is essentially "spray and pray".
The opposing forces that deploy the AK do not track how many of their troops are killed because they could not hit the enemy before the enemy picked them off with their superior accuracy.
Yes, the M4 has failures, but in every war, the opposing troops have taken higher losses than our troops have taken. That does not mean we should settle when something superior is available, but it does not mean we should go backwards to an inferior design that has lost to our system in every war.
"The 416 looks like the M4, for the only thing that has changed is the gas system that automatically extracts the cartridge after the bullet has been fired, and loads the next round."
Ummmmm, isn't that what any "self-loading" rifle like the M-16 or M-4 already do? Pick up a fresh round from the magazine after each shot and load it into the chamber? The gas piston thing might be an improvement, but the rifle overall function isn't really changed, is it?
First, only certain forces are allowed to deviate from the M4 and those forces usually want to blend in with the crowd.
It does not mean the AK is a better choice than the M4.
Yeah, I’ve heard that accuracy complaint, but I wonder, mine appears to be accurate enough for the intentions. The chambering for 223 vs 5.56 it doesn’t seem to know about ... why should it care? Ruger marks their new SR 556 with both cartridges. So do a lot of the ARs I have looked at. I feed it mostly white box 223 ammo though, the rest are reloads.
It’s just a knock around defense gun. Plenty of police use it, it is handy light and simple. With a folding stock, very compact. When I bought mine it was cheap, now not so much so. But it’s advantage is it doesn’t look AR.
“Us civilians can always buy a Ruger mini-14. Mini-14, get it? M14 made small.”
Mini-14... The Ruger piece of junk. Sorry, as a civilian I don’t like settling for junk.
Well my junk is deadly ...
The reliability of the AK is well documented, but so is the fact that you can’t hit the broad side of a barn from the inside with it...
That's what she said...
Sorry, couldn't resist...
Simple is better ... And now the lovers of that crappy US Gun are finding direct gas tubes designs are better too. You have to wonder what took people so long to figure out the AR variants were so sucky -— LOL.
The Swiss have the SIG SG 550 family of rifles, based on the AK design but using 5.56 NATO ammo.
“Well my junk is deadly ...”
So is a plastic knife.
So is a plastic gun ... LOL
But my SST Mini-14 goes bang every time you pull the trigger.
“So is a plastic gun ... LOL
But my SST Mini-14 goes bang every time you pull the trigger.”
It’s not the “go bang” part, but the .223 chambering vs 5.56 and general low quality/accuracy coupled with Bill Ruger’s support of gun control. I’m glad you’re happy with your Mini. The AR is vastly superior to it in every way... for at least my purposes.
The 5.56 is a whole other problem, not related to the weapon itself.
Changing the weapon will be easy, changing caliber (which is nearly equally important) is an even greater problem due to our NATO allies.
And isn't that why they have different manufacturers? I find no problem with the chambering for 223, most new ARs are marked for both, and as to accuracy no complaints here.
However Bill Ruger did do the gun control thing, which wasn't very pretty. Now you can get Ruger factory mags and all manner of improvements.
I still think blowing hot gas and carbon into the rifle's action was dumb from the start. Garand had a much better design.
I admit, it used to be cheap, which was one of it's more endearing qualities. Now not so much so, but I have switched to 12 ga as my main defense gun.
“And isn’t that why they have different manufacturers? I find no problem with the chambering for 223, most new ARs are marked for both, and as to accuracy no complaints here.”
ARs are marked for both because it’s safe to shoot 223 in a 5.56 rifle, but not to do the opposite. NATO standards exceed SAAMI pressure limits.
The Mini-14 is, at best, a short range rifle.
“I still think blowing hot gas and carbon into the rifle’s action was dumb from the start. Garand had a much better design.”
Direct impingement can lead to better accuracy and, unless you are shooting poorly burning ammunition, it’s not THAT much carbon. Piston systems need cleaning too. I have to periodically clean the piston on my M14 with special tools (drill bits, actually).
Yeah, all rifles need cleaning, my M1A(M14 variant) and couple of M1 Garands, needs a bit of cleaning at the gas piston periodically, but solvents do the trick.
And how short is short range, out to 200 yards is about all most can shoot accurately anyway — especially under duress. When hunting it’s laughable what the scoped rifle crowd misses. And — Just look at the number of police gun fights where tens of rounds are fired and no one is hit.
Hence the switch to short barreled shotguns for me. In city areas, it’s all you need. And in the swamps of Florida, probably even less attention to range, and more attention to snap shooting.
If I had a choice the new Ruger SR-556 looks good. But not the price.
“Yeah, all rifles need cleaning, my M1A(M14 variant) and couple of M1 Garands, needs a bit of cleaning at the gas piston periodically, but solvents do the trick.”
You need the drill bits to clean out the M14’s gas lock and piston. Lots of carbon builds up in there.
“And how short is short range, out to 200 yards is about all most can shoot accurately anyway “
200 yards is short range. 600 yards is medium range. 1000 yards is long range. An AR is capable of good accuracy out to at least 600 yards, but that requires ammunition unsafe in something like the Mini-14. Most military 5.56 is unsafe in the Mini-14.
“And Just look at the number of police gun fights where tens of rounds are fired and no one is hit.”
They don’t practice or train.
Find something to shoot at 600 yards in city surroundings. Even the boats that go by are closer than that.
I used to practice at a 600 yard range, it wasn't simple to hit a 3 foot target at that range, much less the bullseye. And when stressed, it was even worse at 200 yards. After living in Colorado, that makes the real range problem very obvious. I contend that if most can deliver a kill shot to a target at 200 yards, they are quite good at it.
Not bragging, just fact — I was able to bullseye with powerful scopes off a rest at 200 yard range under field conditions, but not necessarily under harder hunting conditions. Off a bench, I easily could do under 1 inch groups at 100 yards with handloads tuned for the rifle. In the field, bullet drop and windage becomes big problems in the open range when hunting. Snipers are to be revered.
As I aged, the accuracy went down, who doesn't have that problem.
But I still don't like ARs, just because ....
“There has been a lot of discussion about branding the mini unsafe with 5.56 ammo, but little proof it really is.”
The very LOADING allowable for 5.56 is up to 20,000 psi higher than SAAMI, so yes, there is proof. Now, it may or may not damage the rifle, but it still can exceed the pressure it was designed for.
“Find something to shoot at 600 yards in city surroundings. Even the boats that go by are closer than that.”
I don’t live in a city. I hate cities.
“I used to practice at a 600 yard range, it wasn’t simple to hit a 3 foot target at that range, much less the bullseye.”
It is if you practice and have a good rifle and ammunition.
“Not bragging, just fact I was able to bullseye with powerful scopes off a rest at 200 yard range under field conditions, but not necessarily under harder hunting conditions. Off a bench, I easily could do under 1 inch groups at 100 yards with handloads tuned for the rifle. In the field, bullet drop and windage becomes big problems in the open range when hunting. Snipers are to be revered.”
I regularly hit 600 yard targets with an AR-15 in the 10 ring using iron sights prone with a sling in high temp conditions and variable weather and on the clock. I can do that with an M14 too. Not bragging, just fact. There are countless competitors better than me at it, too.
Bullet drop and windage are why (1) the sights are adjustable and we have tables and (2) windage is helped by having a spotting scope, but flags, grass, and trees will get you there.
“But I still don’t like ARs, just because ....”
I was an M14 shooter and thought the same of mouseguns. I learned from losing to them.
You appear to be a good shot. I am afraid my old eyes cannot do it anymore.
“You appear to be a good shot. I am afraid my old eyes cannot do it anymore.”
I’m just fair-to-middling.
Focusing on the front sight post is usually the biggest problem as we age. There, the M14 has a slight advantage with a longer sight radius. Ring-and-ring iron sights (”match” rifles) or shooting F-Class (optics) are the usual fixes to continue shooting at medium range targets. It can be done. It requires effort, practice, and suitable equipment, but it can be done and it is easier than you think. Truly great marksmanship skills like Gallagher’s or Tubb’s probably can’t be taught, but at least expert-level marksmanship can be. If push comes to shove, take your Mini-14 to an Appleseed event. The limitations of that platform will not be an issue (they shoot at VERY short ranges), but the fundamentals taught apply at longer ranges.
Too many are never actually taught to shoot. Most hunters, many in law enforcement, and a lamentable chunk of the military fall in that category.