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Army, Marines rate weapon success
Stars and Stripes ^ | Sunday, July 13, 2003 | Mark Oliva

Posted on 07/13/2003 2:53:59 PM PDT by demlosers

U.S. forces rolled over the Iraqi military in just weeks.

The plans seemed flawless, and the courage of the soldiers and Marines unflappable.

But with the dust settling — and the adrenaline rush of battle now subsiding — military officials are finding some weapons performed as advertised. Others, however, let troops down when they needed them most.

Army and Marine officials recently released after-action reports compiling what was right and what was wrong about the small arms with which troops squared off against Iraqi forces. Soldiers and Marines rated the rifles and pistols they carried into battle, and not all got perfect scores.

Soldiers and Marines relied on variants of the M-16 rifle. The M-16, in service since the early days of the Vietnam War, was highly criticized then as unreliable, often jamming during firefights. Soldiers who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan also complained the M-4 variant, a shorter version of the M-16, lacked what they needed in combat.

In Iraq, reviews were mixed.

Most soldiers carried the M-4 into battle in Iraq and “were very satisfied with this weapon,” according a report from the Army’s Special Operations Battle Lab. “It performed well in a demanding environment, especially given the rail system and accompanying sensors and optics.”

Marines carried the older and larger M-16A2 rifles, but a report from the Marine Corps Systems Command Liaison Team stated: “Many Marines commented on desire for the shorter weapon vice the longer M-16s.”

One Marine told the team that the shorter rifle would have been better in confined urban battle. Some also said the smaller rifle would have been easier to handle when climbing in and out of trucks and armored vehicles.

“Several Marines even opted to use the AK-47s that had been captured from Iraqi weapons caches,” the Marine report stated. “Others were trading rifles for pistols to go into buildings to allow for mobility in confined spaces.”

Marine Corps officials announced late last year that infantry forces would soon switch from the M-16A2 to the M-16A4, a heavier-barreled version of the long rifle with a rail system like the M-4. Stocks of the weapons, however, arrived in Kuwait too late to be fielded and sighted for battle. Most stayed in storage, but some weapons were delivered to Marines under a plan to initially field one per squad.

A number of M-16A4 rifles, fitted with a 4X scope, were given to Marine rifleman. The combination, Marines said, allowed them to “identify targets at a distance, under poor conditions, and maintained ability to quickly acquire the target in close-in environment[s].”

But not all soldiers and Marines were enamored with the performance of their rifles. Complaints centered on lack of range and reliability problems.

“The most significant negative comment was reference [to] the M-4’s range,” the Army report stated. “In the desert, there were times where soldiers needed to assault a building that may be 500+ meters distant across open terrain. They did not feel the M-4 provided effective fire at that range.”

Safety was another concern. The M-4’s bolt can ride forward when the selector switch is on safe, allowing the firing pin to strike a bullet’s primer.

“Numerous soldiers showed us bullets in their magazines that had small dents in the primer,” the Army report said.

Reliability complaints also found fault with the oil soldiers and Marines used to clean their weapons. In the dusty, sandstorm-plagued battlefields of Iraq, weapons became clogged with sand, trapped by the heavy oil, called CLP.

Several Washington Post articles recalling the night the 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed recounted moments when soldiers in the convoy, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch, battled their weapons to continue fighting Iraqi irregular forces.

“In the swirling dust, soldiers’ rifles jammed,” one article reported. “Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, from suburban Wichita, began shoving rounds into his rifle one at a time, firing single shots at enemies swarming all around.”

“We had no working weapons,” Sgt. James Riley told The Washington Post. “We couldn’t even make a bayonet charge — we would have been mowed down.”

The Army’s after-action found more soldiers unhappy with CLP.

“The sand is as fine as talcum powder,” the report stated. “The CLP attracted the sand to the weapon.”

Unlike the soldiers’ reports after Afghanistan, Marines in Iraq said the 5.56 mm round fired from the M-16 “definitely answered the mail” and “as long as shots were in the head or chest, they went down.” The Marine reports said many were initially skeptical of the small rounds’ performance against the heavier 7.62 mm round fired from AK-47s. There were reports of enemy being shot and not going down, but most were referencing non-lethal shots on extremities.

Still, “there were reports of targets receiving shots in the vitals and not going down. These stories could not be described, but are of the rare superhuman occurrences that defy logic and caliber of round.”

The report said Marines asked for a heavier-grained round — up to 77 grains.

The M-16 series of rifles fires a 55-grain bullet, a projectile that weighs slightly more than three-and-a-half grams. Some servicemembers believe a heavier-grained bullet would carry more energy downrange, creating greater knockdown power.

Both soldiers and Marines also noted problems with the M-9 9 mm pistol.

“There was general dissatisfaction with this weapon,” the Army report said. “First and foremost, soldiers do not feel it possesses sufficient stopping power.”

Soldiers asked for a tritium glow-in-the-dark sight for night firing.

But soldiers and Marines alike railed against the poor performance of the M-9 ammunition magazines.

“The springs are extremely weak and the follower does not move forward when rounds are moved,” the Marine report stated. “If the magazine is in the weapon, malfunctions result.”

Soldiers complained that even after they were told to “stretch” the springs and load only 10 rounds instead of the maximum 15, the weapons still performed poorly. Lack of maintenance was determined not to be the cause.

“Multiple cleanings of the magazine each day does not alleviate the problem,” the Marine report stated. “The main problem is the weak/worn springs.”

Still, Marines wanted more pistols to back up their rifles, especially in urban environments, according to the report.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 556; 762; aftermathanalysis; ak47; army; banglist; iraq; iraqifreedom; m16; m16a2; m16a4; m4; m9; marines
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To: Prodigal Son
What about the SAW? It fires the same round (I believe) as the M-16, but is rated effective out to about 1000 yards.

I defer to those who have lugged the 22 pounder around.
41 posted on 07/13/2003 5:10:15 PM PDT by Blueflag (Res ipsa loquitor)
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To: bandleader
How many grains of unique??????
42 posted on 07/13/2003 5:11:02 PM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: Shooter 2.5
Interesting question, I wouldn't know. Isn't that a question for great grand papas?
43 posted on 07/13/2003 5:14:31 PM PDT by demlosers
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To: tortoise
If shooting ability for a given cartridge size was a measure of manhood, my 110-lb girlfriend must have a johnson that drags on the ground.

LOL! Now there's an image for us to consider...

44 posted on 07/13/2003 5:14:54 PM PDT by Future Snake Eater (Where's the money, Lebowski?)
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To: bandleader
You're shooting some wimpy loads .... my Rugers in 45Colt will throw a 360gr round at 1200 fps. Not too many guys are going to be getting up from that .. (like zero)
45 posted on 07/13/2003 5:25:44 PM PDT by Centurion2000 (We are crushing our enemies, seeing him driven before us and hearing the lamentations of the liberal)
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To: Blueflag
The reason the SAW is effective out to that rate is because it's spraying out a high volume of fire. Technically, the M16 is good out to that range if you can see what you're shooting at and can see where the rounds land. The maximum range of the M16 is over 3500 meters. Effective range is only 550 though. The 50 Cal has a max range of over 6 kilometers but the effective range is 1800 meters. That's over a mile. The thing with the 50 is, you can legitimately aim at things that far away and hope to hit it.

The barrel for the 50 is almost 4 feet long. This accounts for most of this accuracy. The thing with the M4 is- you're losing barrel length. That's what makes it less accurate than the M16A2 at range.

46 posted on 07/13/2003 5:26:18 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: demlosers
I can hear it now. If that squirrel gun can't drop a horse at 1200 yards, what good is it?

Seriously, I think they were overjoyed to get rid of the single shots.

I had a Trapdoor that had knife blade marks on the inside of the receiver where the previous owner had to pry the copper cases out of the chamber. I didn't know what the marks were until I read about the Seventh Cavalry having the same problem.
47 posted on 07/13/2003 5:27:54 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: Gringo1
Yeah, the military needs a 7.62 rifle more than ever.

If range and accuracy are the primary concern, they would be better off with a 6.5mm. Hell, they could just neck down 7.62 NATO. Flatter trajectory, way more effective range, and better penetration in the same size package.

7.62 is really the wrong answer to just about any problem the military has these days. Like the 9mm, the only reason it is around is due to legacy issues. There are reasons those cartridges have been dumped in various times and places. We don't need to move backwards, we need to move forward.

48 posted on 07/13/2003 5:33:15 PM PDT by tortoise (All these moments lost in time, like tears in the rain.)
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To: Centurion2000
You're shooting some wimpy loads

You forgot your sarcasm tag.


49 posted on 07/13/2003 5:33:55 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: demlosers
"Reliability complaints also found fault with the oil soldiers and Marines used to clean their weapons. In the dusty, sandstorm-plagued battlefields of Iraq, weapons became clogged with sand, trapped by the heavy oil, called CLP."

There are myriad excellent substitutes for oil as a lubricant on firearms and trust the mule-headed military brass to be the last in the world to be aware of it. Did they think Iraq was NOT going to be dusty?

One such is trade-named "dri-kote" which is does not attract dust and is an excellent colorless lubricant. One good application of it and dust and grit just bounce off of those tightly toleranced parts. However, if today's army is anything like my training outfit, a soldier would be court-martialed for using it.

I would expect that most of the weapons problems can be traced back to bureauocratic paralysis and lack of professionalism in the upper echelons of the military services.

50 posted on 07/13/2003 5:37:14 PM PDT by nightdriver
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To: tortoise
You're absolutely correct!
51 posted on 07/13/2003 5:37:16 PM PDT by Gary Boldwater
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To: Shooter 2.5
"They showed firing pin marks on the primers, neglecting to say that the non-existant problem started in 1936."

Usually this is caused by the rifle being designed with no return spring on the firing pin. The casual movement of the pin is often enough to make a small dent in the primer, but nowhere near strong enough to fire the primer.

I like the idea of an M14 or two in a squad.
52 posted on 07/13/2003 5:37:58 PM PDT by OldEagle (Haven't been wrong since 1947.)
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To: demlosers
Why do we have weapons that leave dents in the primer of unfired rounds?

Don't they know that's a bad thing?

53 posted on 07/13/2003 5:43:13 PM PDT by Jhoffa_ (BREAKING: Supreme Court Finds Right to Sodomy, Sammy & Frodo elated.)
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To: OldEagle
Those firing pin marks scared me when I first saw them so I bought some Mil Spec primers.

Ten years later, I still haven't used them after getting used to the marks.

I found that Winchesters are pretty good and I use them for everything.

A friend e mailed me and asked for my pet M1A load. It's AA2520 with 168 grain Sierra MatchKings, Remington Brass and Winchester Primers. Sorry, I don't post powder charges.
54 posted on 07/13/2003 5:46:12 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: bandleader
"Standard load for the .45ACP is a 230-grain bullet and about 10grs of Unique(what I use)."

Sounds a wee bit hot to me. I'm told that the military load is 6 grains of Unique. I used to use 7.5 grains of Unique and really shortened the life of the recoil springs of my 1911. The brass would eject straight up instead of out to the side with that load.

55 posted on 07/13/2003 5:46:13 PM PDT by nightdriver
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To: Prodigal Son
Barrel length has no effect on intrinsic accuracy. The only benefit of a longer barrel is a longer sight radius with iron sights. Actually that's not entirely true, you also get reduced wind drift and bullet drop from higher velocity - but going from a M16A2 to a M4, it's not enough to matter.

That's probably the problem - M4 iron sights are no good at a distance.

56 posted on 07/13/2003 5:48:16 PM PDT by CGTRWK
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To: OldEagle
I like the idea of an M14 or two in a squad.

It's a bad idea logistically. Much better to just configure an M16 for longer range use; the military .223 has about the same effective range as a military .308 out of a given barrel length, but the rifles they are using aren't configured for it. With a different selection of ammunition, a 20" barrel will keep .223 accurate and supersonic past 1000 yards.

I'd say forget the M14 -- too expensive -- and just put a suitable optic on some 20" M16 upper. That will give you all the accuracy and lethality you need out past 800 meters or so, and with minimal logistical overhead or cost.

57 posted on 07/13/2003 5:49:28 PM PDT by tortoise (All these moments lost in time, like tears in the rain.)
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To: Armedanddangerous
The 9mm round is very popular with Eurofags. What we have to understand is the basic difference in the role of handguns for Americans. Americans consider the handgun a defensive tool against armed adversaries. The Europeans have traditionally used handguns to execute unarmed prisoners and civilians. For them a .22 would work.
58 posted on 07/13/2003 5:52:07 PM PDT by Comus
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So I'm going to get the same accuracy out of a 4 inch barrel as a 40 inch one? Maybe. I think I'd take the longer barrel myself if I wanted to shoot far.
59 posted on 07/13/2003 5:56:47 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: tortoise
Marines have a 'deticated marksman' or two per platoon, I believe.

The use recycled Army M14 sniper rifles -rebarrled- and some high end optics, cost effective firepower.....
60 posted on 07/13/2003 6:06:12 PM PDT by ASOC (pistol is good, shotgun is better, but you just cant beat a ground radio/B52 combo sandwich)
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