Skip to comments.M-16 Rifle May Be on Way Out of U.S. Army
Posted on 11/22/2003 1:50:36 PM PST by Ex-Dem
BAGHDAD, Iraq - After nearly 40 years of battlefield service around the globe, the M-16 may be on its way out as the standard Army assault rifle because of flaws highlighted during the invasion and occupation of Iraq (news - web sites).
U.S. officers in Iraq say the M-16A2 the latest incarnation of the 5.56 mm firearm is quietly being phased out of front-line service because it has proven too bulky for use inside the Humvees and armored vehicles that have emerged as the principal mode of conducting patrols since the end of major fighting on May 1.
The M-16, at nearly 40 inches, is widely considered too long to aim quickly within the confines of a vehicle during a firefights, when reaction time is a matter of life and death.
"It's a little too big for getting in and out of vehicles," said Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, which controls Baghdad. "I can tell you that as a result of this experience, the Army will look very carefully at how it performed."
Instead of the M-16, which also is prone to jamming in Iraq's dusty environment, M-4 carbines are now widely issued to American troops.
The M-4 is essentially a shortened M-16A2, with a clipped barrel, partially retractable stock and a trigger mechanism modified to fire full-auto instead of three-shots bursts. It was first introduced as a personal defense weapon for clerks, drivers and other non-combat troops.
"Then it was adopted by the Special Forces and Rangers, mainly because of its shorter length," said Col. Kurt Fuller, a battalion commander in Iraq and an authority on firearms.
Fuller said studies showed that most of the combat in Iraq has been in urban environments and that 95 percent of all engagements have occurred at ranges shorter than 100 yards, where the M-4, at just over 30 inches long, works best.
Still, experience has shown the carbines also have deficiencies. The cut-down barrel results in lower bullet velocities, decreasing its range. It also tends to rapidly overheat and the firing system, which works under greater pressures created by the gases of detonating ammunition, puts more stress on moving parts, hurting its reliability.
Consequently, the M-4 is an unlikely candidate for the rearming of the U.S. Army. It is now viewed as an interim solution until the introduction of a more advanced design known as the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or OICW.
There is no date set for the entry into service of the OICW, but officers in Iraq say they expect its arrival sooner than previously expected because of the problems with the M-16 and the M-4.
"Iraq is the final nail in the coffin for the M-16," said a commander who asked not to be identified.
The current version of the M-16 is a far cry from the original, which troops during the Vietnam War criticized as fragile, lacking power and range, and only moderately accurate. At the time, a leading U.S. weapons expert even recommended that American soldiers discard their M-16s and arm themselves with the Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle used by their Vietcong enemy.
Although the M16A1 introduced in the early 1980s has been heavily modernized, experts say it still isn't as reliable as the AK-47 or its younger cousin, the AK-74. Both are said to have better "knockdown" power and can take more of a beating on the battlefield.
I entered the US Army in 1969.
At the time the M-14 was still in the inventory and I trained with it at Ft. Campbell and qualified with it during Infantry AIT at Fort Polk.
I didn't see an M-16 until I got to VN, to the Americal Division, and that was in the hands of a Navy guy.
I carried an M-14 for most of my tour and when I left the Americal to go down south, I "willed" it to a friend, who I found out later, willed it to a friend, who, unfortunately, was KIA and the weapon was damaged beyond repair.
It was a heavy bastard, but it out-shot everthing else any one had, except for the pig.
And since the pig and my 14 used the same ammo, we stayed close to one another.
The only other weapon that could reach out and touch Charlie the same way my 14 could, was in the hands of the snipers and they wouldn't part with one of them for nothing.
I am convinced that the only reason my 14 and my old slabside .45 never jammed was because the tolerances were so much. 'Cause God knows I never had the chance to clean either one of them in the manner and with the frequency the book recommends.
In between cleanings, I just poured the CLP on and hoped for the best.
Must of worked, 'cause here I am.
This will definitely be an improvement from those bulky m-16s.
M-4s, properly lubed, should get us through near-term CQB situations. As far as a "next generation" replacement, the OICW seems to be far from perfect. It is heavy, bulky, and armed with a 10" barrel firing 5.56mm that will greatly reduce range, accuracy and terminal ballistic performance. The OICW's 20mm top-exploding projectile has yet to prove its utility, particularly in urban CQB.
Still looks like the M-16.P
Hudson: Let's just bug out and call it even, OK?
Ripley: I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. That's the only way to be sure.
My HBAR is havin an identity crisis !
One has to wonder if the new HK factory in the US and SIG's new 1911A1 Clone (granite series) has something to do with over the horizon contracts.........
Stay Safe !
The main reason for moving away from the larger cartridges to the 5.56mm is that a soldier can carry roughly twice as many of the smaller cartridges for the same weight. This, along with the realization that most combat engagements took place within 200 yards (thus making the superior long-range performance of heavier bullets unnecessary), were the main reasons for adoption of the M-16.
The AKs are more reliable functionally, but are less accurate and have less impressive terminal ballistics, despite claims of "knockdown power".