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Weapons: The Mob Calls For M-4 Tests
   Next Article → COUNTER-TERRORISM: Israeli Rules in Afghanistan
May 28, 2008:  At the recent International Infantry & Joint Services Small Arms Systems Symposium, attended by senior U.S. infantry officers, as well as top executives from manufacturers of military rifles and accessories, there was a general call for a competition to see if the current M-4 (5.56mm) assault rifle was the best weapon for the job. SOCOM has already selected another 5.56mm weapon (SCAR) to replace its M-16s and M-4s. The president of Colt (a retired U.S. Marine Corps general), the manufacturer of the M-4, pointed out the lack of complaints from the troops, and high ratings in user surveys. But the consensus seemed to be for a comprehensive competition to settle the issue once and for all. Since September 11, 2001, there have been growing calls to reconsider the type of assault rifle, and ammo, used by American troops.

 

Next Article → COUNTER-TERRORISM: Israeli Rules in Afghanistan
  

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onceagrunt       5/29/2008 1:25:59 PM
There's a flaw in the argument that the "lack of complaints from the troops" indicates there's no problem with the M4.  The vast majority of the troops have no significant combat experience with rifles other than the M16/M4, so what basis do they have to say the M4/M16 is better or worse than a G33, SIG550, HK416 or whatever. If the only snall arm you've used in combat is the M4, then the performance of the M4 is the norm.
 
It seems to me pretty well established at this point that replacing the direct impingmenet gas system of the M16 family with some form of piston would significantly inprove the reliability of the weapon. It boggles my mind that Colts hasn't either developed their own or licensed the best of the other developers' designs and offered the DoD a cut rate deal on replacement uppers with a gas piston system.
 
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Horsesoldier       5/29/2008 8:11:53 PM

 
There's a flaw in the argument that the "lack of complaints from the troops" indicates there's no problem with the M4.  The vast majority of the troops have no significant combat experience with rifles other than the M16/M4, so what basis do they have to say the M4/M16 is better or worse than a G33, SIG550, HK416 or whatever.
 
The M4 is generally quite well thought of by the SF ODA guys I work with.  There's nothing in the foreign weapons set in our arms room that can match or surpass the ergonomics and handling speed of an M4, though weapons like SCAR and the 416 are definite attempts to keep the pluses and lose or diminish the minuses of the design.

It seems to me pretty well established at this point that replacing the direct impingmenet gas system of the M16 family with some form of piston would significantly inprove the reliability of the weapon.
Based on experience with the HK 416, there seems to be a trade off between reliability and and accuracy.  The 416 is still plenty accurate for combat use, but it seems to shoot groups about twice as large as a standard M4 (hovering right around or over 4 MOA with green tip).
 
Definitely reliable, though -- especially if one ditches the HK steel mags in favor of the Magpul P-Mags. 

It boggles my mind that Colts hasn't either developed their own or licensed the best of the other developers' designs and offered the DoD a cut rate deal on replacement uppers with a gas piston system.

I think Colt had their first gas piston version of the M16 submitted for review by the US military as early as 1969 or 1970.  The military simply wasn't interested after they sorted out the early operational problems with 5.56mm ammo and gunpowder and such.
 
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RockyMTNClimber    Mob Mentality   5/29/2008 9:24:11 PM
The "mob" in this case is the congressman who are in the pockets of "special interests" and the "special interests" themselves (read: competitors) who want a piece of this contract.
 
I wish Strategypage writers would write a balanced piece on this subject or at least spend some time doing real journalistic research with it, but they won't.
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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violentnuke       7/3/2008 5:06:38 AM
The M4/M16 design is a bit ahead of its time, actualy, and "simply" needs to be improved. It's very compact, simple and integrated a repeating firing system. The gain in weight is greatly apreciated by doing away with the piston. In theory the carbon was supposed to act like non liquid graphite lubricant. It does work that way until the carbon build up goes too high or out of control. Fouling also occurs at the bullet pin strike area where the bullet might not sit well in the bolt face. However, putting oil or liquid lubricants which attract sand is the worst thing you can do. And, guess what, this is what idiots in the army require. The M16 is not made to be baby butt oil cleaned, but idiot zealous sergeants who know nothing and pretend keep insisting the troops do so. Only those troops going in combat without the pressure of "group think" know how to fix this problem. In dry mud/sandy area, there is a need for DETERGENT agents, such as car coolant, but this NOT to lubricate but rather to act as a detergent. Some pros even mix car coolant/strut-oils and alcohol based TW25 lubs (or ubiquitous but hated CLP) so as to get that "nice slide" with dust control capability. 
 
Also the M16 is extremely accurate and that means very tight tolerance and a propensity to jam or not work properly if there is some hard dust or if the bolt does not slide uniformly with a regular layer of graphite. It's a give and take on what one wants, and this has nothing to do whether a piston pushes the thing or not. The British have had a worst problem with their bull pup than the US with the M16 for that matter. HK could not fix their problem. The Canadians have also kept the original chrome coating on the M16 (that the army did cheaply away with during vietnam resulting in catastrophic jams) and theirs works very well.
 
Also the issue is that of bullet weight. Light bullets simply will not work in it because they do not allow a strong enough build up of gas to rotate the bolt and drive it out. With heavier bullets, a M4/M16 will never jam. At shooting meets, it so happen that it's actualy the 7.62 M1As which have more problems than the M16s. The army uses 55gr bullets which are at the limit to make the gun work. Anything less than that, like 50 or 54 gr, and you start getting jams. Again, the army is going on the cheap there (just as with the army Beretta mags which jamed Berettas, a very reliable handgun otherwise).
 
If the army had better brains, did not indulge in collective group think and crooked deals with bad dealers of bad parts for cheaps and took counsel from private amateur shooters who study the rifle and tweak it, they'd go with 60gr sawed canlured penetrating bullets and there would be no problems at all getting both penetration and stopping power poison bullets back into action. A little bit of cheap research with the 5.56 would go a long way to solve many of the M16's non-problems.
 
Now, the real problem with the M16 is catastrophic jams. Regular piston rifles with the piston "soldered" to the bolt have the reload handle acting on the piston and not at the bolt like the M16. Thus, when a jam occurs, all the soldier has to do is push the piston and the bullet pops out. With the M16 the jamed bullet risks, on the other hand, of popping out in between the reload bolt catch and the bolt itself as the two separate in the chamber. This means that when you pull back to reload you further jam the bullet lodged in between the bolt and where the handle catches the bolt to push it back. It takes a good 30s of banging the rifle to fix that problem whereas on a G3 style rifle it takes half a second.
 
All Colt has to do is refit the reload handle to the side and ahead instead of in the back and use a light rod instead of a piston in order to prevent any casing interference with the reloading process in case of bad case ejection. You don't have 30 seconds in combat, and you might as well use bolt action then. I do not know why no one has fixed that problem, it's so simple. That alone would make the M16 just as light and virtualy jam free with high accuracy.
 
All other talk of fouling by gas at the rear is not the real problem.
 
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flamingknives       7/3/2008 1:16:56 PM
HandK did a very good job of fixing the SA80, and the US has had nearly twice as long to sort out their rifle.

The Armalite is a fair enough system, but single sourcing it from Colt isn't necessarily the best plan.
 
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Horsesoldier       7/3/2008 5:57:33 PM

Also the issue is that of bullet weight. Light bullets simply will not work in it because they do not allow a strong enough build up of gas to rotate the bolt and drive it out. With heavier bullets, a M4/M16 will never jam. At shooting meets, it so happen that it's actualy the 7.62 M1As which have more problems than the M16s. The army uses 55gr bullets which are at the limit to make the gun work. Anything less than that, like 50 or 54 gr, and you start getting jams. Again, the army is going on the cheap there
 
If the army had better brains, did not indulge in collective group think and crooked deals with bad dealers of bad parts for cheaps and took counsel from private amateur shooters who study the rifle and tweak it, they'd go with 60gr sawed canlured penetrating bullets and there would be no problems at all getting both penetration and stopping power poison bullets back into action. A little bit of cheap research with the 5.56 would go a long way to solve many of the M16's non-problems.
 
M193, 55 grain, ammunition, was replaced 20+ years ago by M855 62 grain ammunition, with the adoption of the M16A2 (55 grain was slowly phased out with the retirement of M16A1s -- I don't think anyone, even in the National Guard, is still shooting A1s and 55 grain ammo at this point).  We've also got some 77 grain ammunition in the system now, too, for sniping use.  While I find the M16A2s and M4A1s I've been issued along the way to be very reliable weapons, there does not appear to be any difference in rate of stoppages between 55 grain, 62 grain and 77 grain ammunition in my experience.
 
In short, I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about here.
 
Also the M16 is extremely accurate and that means very tight tolerance and a propensity to jam or not work properly if there is some hard dust or if the bolt does not slide uniformly with a regular layer of graphite. It's a give and take on what one wants, and this has nothing to do whether a piston pushes the thing or not. The British have had a worst problem with their bull pup than the US with the M16 for that matter. HK could not fix their problem. The Canadians have also kept the original chrome coating on the M16 (that the army did cheaply away with during vietnam resulting in catastrophic jams) and theirs works very well.
 
L85A2s work well, from all accounts I've heard.  Including accounts from end users in the British military who've taken them down range.
 
US M16s and M4s have been chromed since 1967 or 68.  Only the early Vietnam era rifles omitted the chrome chamber and barrel lining.
 
Regular piston rifles with the piston "soldered" to the bolt have the reload handle acting on the piston and not at the bolt like the M16.
 
???
 
Off the top of my head, the AK-47/et al, Sig 550 series, FAL and vz.58s are all gas piston operated weapons, and all of them have charging handles that operate on the bolt carrier, not on the piston.
 
The M16/M4 charging handle is located in a different location . . . but also operates on the bolt carrier.  Being a non-reciprocating handle (a feature it shares with the FAL) means you can't use the charging handle as a forward assist . . . but we've got a forward assist on all models made after . . . 1968?  Something like that, anyway.
 
 
 
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Nichevo       7/21/2008 11:56:26 PM
I will reiterate my question from the 6.5 mm SSK topic.  Everybody is pretty OK with lethality of the 5.56 mm under optimum conditions, yes?  At sufficient velocity the bullets all have lethal terminal ballistics in gelatin and man?  What are the tradeoffs of the 55/62/77 gr bullet weights, if someone can explain succinctly? 
 
AIUI, qualitatively if not qualitatively, the heavies a) do better on armor, b) better out of short barrels, c) better at long range than the 55 gr, but only the old Vietnam-era round makes 3200 fps (and AFAIK only it makes 3000 fps) and that is the bullet that was alleged to come in at the knee and exit the shoulder, that they told bubbemeises about its tumbling in flight (keyholing, IOW) and chopping you up like a buzzsaw.
 
In fact, my reading (interview of the author in a comic book, The 'Nam, ha) tells me that the VC feared the "Black Rifle" and put bounties on them and their bearers ('when they were doped up...it might not put them right down, but they would be running the other way.'  I cannot currently remember the issue and have doubtless butchered the quote but convey the essence). The beef with it is that it was unreliable, at least at first; and presumably some stuck with the M14 or what came to hand, Thompsons or M3s or the funkier SMGs (or perhaps AKs as needed, though that is always said to be exaggerated).
 
It was popular also because suited to the saller-statured indigs, and the fine M1 Carbine of course was obsolete.  Would anyone here rather carry a .30 carbine into battle in AF or Iraq, or into a stairwell anywhere, rather than an AR type?

 So in all cases I would prefer the hypervelocity wound mechanism of high speed rifle bullets.  Chiefly we seem to be at odds because the ballistics are reduced by range or short barrels or both. 
 
Why don't we just pack more and hotter powder in the 5.56 case and Super or Magnum it?  Increase case length 1mm if you like to keep it out of old barrels, and get them gradually into the mix.  Or keep it in the same case and OAL, but thicken the case and use a much more powerful powder in general, and in particular one designed for short barrels, as with the Speer Gold Dot loads for the .38 snubbies?  Will the AR in 5.56 take some overloading? 
 
As long as everything is at least downward compatible, though, you at least minimize familiarity issues with a new weapon.  Like replacing a PD's .38s with .357s. Old stuff will get shot up fast, old barrels can be replaced one at a time, the timing altered by some clever low-cost arsenal mod.  But say you get even 100-200 fps out of the new loading, aren't the bullets more likely to deliver the goods?
 
As for the Conventions, if the West Germans and the old Yugs can design bullets accidentally or purposely to fragment lethally in the body, and get away with it, I don't see why we can't.  Screw 'em.  After all, designing a bullet to be bulletproof is quite a challenge.
 
Or is what we really want a .50 BAR type?  A suitably modded Barrett with a 20 round clip would be a fanatical assault weapon and would serve 80% of missions vs. an M2 which of course is a two or three man job.  Right?  Once we put the ballistics of a .50 BMG into the servicemember's hands, can we all agree that stopping power is no longer the issue with failing to achieve hits stops and kills?
 

Perhaps even other avenues are required.  We read in John Ross' book of something called the Thunderzap round for pistols, made of pure nylon, milled from bar stock (apparently if you reload you can try it at home!), that exits a revolver at well over 2000 fps and while only good at short range, is utterly lethal at this range.  Maybe some compromise between nylon and lead can be achieved to make a killer CQB round.  If house-to-house is at distances of seven yards, load up with a clip of the stuff and get spectacular close-range one-shot stops; switch to green tip, etc., as circumstances (e.g. range) dictate.
 
 I just don't know what people want.  The 5.56 is considerably more powerful than the .44 Magnum, and kicks like a puppy sticking its nose into your shoulder to get attention.  It weighs less than anything else will.  None of the ACR types are lighter.  Maybe a bullpup kit and a 24" barrel would give more bang for the buck/bounce to the ounce, omitting bullpup issues?  I'm sure that if I were shot with a .223 I would be very unhappy.
 
 
 
 
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violentnuke       7/23/2008 5:05:12 AM
I was refering to the fact that an improperly ejected 5.56 case in the M16 can lodge between the bolt carrier and the charging handle's "neck" that hooks into the gastube/boltcarrier of the M16. When that happens, pulling the charging handle back in order to clear the weapons further lodges said casing and causes catastrophic jams that can take a few minutes to fix. The current training emphasising the SPORT procedure can worsen this particular sort of jam instead of solving it.
 
This does not occur on the G3, for example, because the bolt carrier extends to the piston area, ie. where the G3's charging handle operates (on the side and ahead of the chamber, and not right in the chamber as with the M16). An improperly ejected casing thus can be easily moved out by pulling the charging handle back. There SPORT procedure will work.
 
All that is needed for the M16 to retain its lightweight features while improving reliability is to extend its bolt carrier in a similar way without adding a couple pounds of gas piston complexity to it.
 
----
 
The M855 is indeed 62gr, but I was refering to the fact that the army uses for training the regular cheap 55gr ball, and that causes the soldier to mistrust his weapon because it makes it more prone to jamming. Heavier bullets mean higher and longer pressure times in the gas system and thus more power to actuate the bolt and eject cartridges, resulting in lesser likelyhood of jam due to dirt or due to failure to properly eject.
 
In fact, when training with blanks, the adaptor is used to prevent the gas from ejecting and simulates bullet inertia enabling actuation of the M16's gas system.But, even then, jams are actualy more frequent than with the 55gr bullet.
 
-----------
 
The cost of heavier bullet, given the same energy of detonation, is lesser exit velocity, but that does not reduce the overall energy upon impact. Quite the contrary, higher density means energy is kept longer, penetration is better and destruction/fragmentation enhanced. Lighter bullets may seem to have flatter trajectory initialy, but as they shed energy more quickly, over longer ranges the heavier bullets are better. This is probably why the special forces and snipers use 77gr or so.
 
I think shorter barrel simply warrant the usage of higher but shorter detonation pressure spikes resulting in lesser loss in terms of rarefaction waves behind the detonation. THat might be achieved by doing away with a gas system altogether (using impigement only as is used in semi-auto handguns and Benelli shotguns) and replacing that with higher pressure tolerance. It's less energy but compensated by higher power (more energy per seconds). That would mean that the M4 would require less propellant of reacted gas but one detonating more violently.
 
-----------
A design theory:
 
The power of the AK round is in its ability to "cause" the US soldier to have to carry heavy 7.62 calliber armor. Even then, though, without armor, having us carry 7.62 rounds wound be prohibitive in terms of weight. It is not so for the third world enemy because he only carries a few rounds anyways and will either shoot and scoot or die in a suicidal like attack. This attack must be effective, hence the 7.62 calliber. A wounded soldier is just as much out of commission as a dead one, so to speak, especialy for them. The method of shoot to wound does not apply to them.
 
The AK rifle is also easy to maintain as parts can be home forged and its loose mechanism makes it capable to handle non professional methods. It's the round that is hard to manufacture, with a tappered neck, so that the tinpot dictators can control their troops firepower and armies - just like the Soviets or Saddam limited fuel supplies to their pilots.
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BullPup are not actualy real professional weapons, imo. The reason being is that to change the magazine, you have to take your eyes off the target, since the well is under the armpit or so. Also ambidextrious tactical shooting from left and from right, tree to tree is highly limited since the soldier cannot quickly change shoulder, resulting in higher exposure.
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As for caseless ammo, it was actualy invented during the civil war by making lead bullets with a hollowed butt containing the powder. I suppose it's a structural integrity and distribution of propelant challenge. It looks simpler as far as design is, but complications occurs due to the lesser integrity of the system. This system is appropriate though, perhaps, for gattling gun applications or the so called "metalstorm" system which actualy uses s
 
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doggtag       7/23/2008 8:17:47 AM


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BullPup are not actualy real professional weapons, imo. The reason being is that to change the magazine, you have to take your eyes off the target, since the well is under the armpit or so. Also ambidextrious tactical shooting from left and from right, tree to tree is highly limited since the soldier cannot quickly change shoulder, resulting in higher exposure.

------

But how many current battle rifle configurations actually allow for ambidextrous operation?
Israel's new Tavor being the immediate example I can think of, off hand.
 
But there are, to my knowledge, no left hand models of M4/M16 series, or other nations' similar battle carbines, that eject out the left side instead of across in front of the face of the firer shooting off his left shoulder.
 
Would designing the weapon with ambidextrous feed (just as easily put a clip into the left or right side, at a slight angle like M249 SAWs could do), and eject spent casings out the bottom?
It might even ease clearing jams if the cartridge in question was allowed to succumb to gravity and just drop out upon pulling the charging mechanism, rather than needing the weapon to be tilted over or even dug at to extract a fouled-up round.
Perhaps just such a design would allow the weapon to be cleared much more readily than current designs, allowing the firer to barely even lose sight picture if he/she needn't maneuver the weapon altogether for clearing.
 
Plus, ejecting casings downward means your nearby buddies aren't having to contend with your brass compromising their fighting abilities, flying out sideways from your weapon as happens now.
 
Thoughts?
 


 
 
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Heorot       7/24/2008 2:04:19 PM

The French bullpup FA-MAS (the Bugle) has two ejection ports at the top, one ejecting to the left and the other to the right. The plastic cheek piece can be clipped to cover either port. The only other change required to convert from one handedness to the other is to remove the bolt and move the extractor claw to the other side.

The changeover requires no tools and can be done in the field in just a few minutes.

It is reputed to be very accurate if a little heavy at just under 8 pounds empty.
 
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