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Weapons: M-4s All Around
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August 7, 2008: The U.S. Army is now distributing the M4 Carbine to support troops and commanders in units not operating in the combat zone. The M16 is still the standard infantry weapon, but the shorter M4 is replacing it in situations where weight and size is a factor, and long range shooting isn't. In some cases troops who were previously armed with a pistol, now have a more powerful M4 to tote around.


The M-4 has been around since the early 1990s, when a special version of the M4 was adopted for use by SOCOM (Special Operations Command). SOCOM often takes the lead in developing new weapons, or versions of existing ones (like the M4, a modified M16 design). Once SOCOM has demonstrated that a new item works in combat, the army and marines are inclined to consider adopting it as well.


The M4 is much more compact than the M16, not just because of the shorter barrel, but because of the telescoping stock. This makes the M4 much easier to use by people in vehicles, or for combat support people who must carry around, but rarely use, a rifle. The M4 is 33 inches long and weighs 6.9 pounds (with a 30 round magazine.) In contrast, the M16 weighs 8.5 pounds and is 39.5 inches long. The M4 has a 14.5 inch barrel, while the M16's is 20 inches.


The other main difference between the two weapons is that the M16 is more effective at longer ranges (over 300 meters), because of its longer barrel. But combat experience in the 20th century demonstrated time and again that most (over 90 percent) of the time, your average infantry soldier did not need a personal weapon that was optimized for long range shooting. Almost all combat took place at shorter ranges. It was more effective to have specialized weapons (light machine-guns and larger caliber sniper rifles) for the long range stuff, and a lighter and handier weapon for close in work.


For years, there have been controversies over the wounding power of the 5.56mm bullet used in both the M4 and M16, as well as the reliability of the firing mechanism for both rifles (which have 80 percent compatibility of components). The army has surveyed the troops several times, and conducted many tests, to try and settle these disputes. The basic finding is that 89 percent of the troops had confidence in the M4, but did have complaints about jamming and the hitting power of the 5.56mm round. Changing to a new weapon would cost several billion dollars, and none of the proposed candidates, as far as the generals were concerned, had a dramatic advantage over the M4 (and could end up introducing new problems.) So, for the moment, the M4, a smaller version of the 1950s M16 design, remains. The U.S. Marine Corps is sticking with the M16 for most of its troops, but has junior grade officers carrying the M4 instead of a pistol.



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Thomas    Why is it 90% of the time that you donīt use rifle range.   8/7/2008 11:24:08 PM
My take on this issue is that those foolish enough to challenge dug in infantry in standing up in open country have died.
 
It is a bit like WC Fields that was asked what there was in the bottle he was drinking from. He answered: "Snake repellant!"
"But we don't have any snakes here!!" "Precisely! It works!"
 
It has been a long standing discussion pistol/submashine gun/rifle/mashine gun/heavy mashine gun.
While not wanting to badmouth mashineguns - those contraption do have a way of cutting down their derogorators - the M-16 to me is a reasonable compromise between submashineguns and rifles, with a function as mashine gun in a tight spot.
 
Critique has been uttered about the hitting power of the of the 5.56 mm, but there are more angles to it.
 
1. It is much easier to keep supplies of 5.56 coming than 7,62 mm, 9 mm - especially as the proverbial screw-ups will send plenty of 9 mm to rifle companies.
It is a generals argument, as the foot soldier wants the biggest, baddest m********* here right now - though he doesn't want to carry it.
Worse than not getting your favorite ammo is NO ammo.
 
2. The M-16 offers the hastily trained rifleman an extended range from 200 m to 300 m partly due to the manageable recoil. Of course a well-trained marine can get results with a muzzle loaded thunderstick, but training a marine or soldier to that standard is costly and takes time and limits the intake to physically fit (to very fit) young men. At the moment the west get along with very few troops. But these troops have the ultimate task of training the rest of us in case the need arises, thus they will have to be proficient in the weapon that the average soldier can handle effectively. We might thus - in order to preserve the option of a general mobilisation (an option that will not be taken up, because it exists) - let our troops fight weapon, that from their standpoint are a second best solution. This is a again a generals argument - but known to marines - if not all soldiers.
Furthermore I've seen little old ladies - with white hair - litteraly - that was afraid of guns use an M-16 with some, though not good, effect. The softer troops in supplies and maintainance get to little rifle training - and anything that will make them better able to take care of themselves - if they by accident (and they do happen) get involved in a shootout - frees infantry regulars from the duty of securing supply lines.
Worse than debatable hitting power is NO hits.
 
3. If the M-4 gets rid of the pistol/submashinegun distinction I'm all for it. Especially if the magasines are interchangeable so an officer can toss a magazine to the soldier that is firing a lot and getting results.
 
The M-4/M-16 combination dissolves a lot of strategic and operational problems in a tactically defensible way. And as the advantages of light infantry get more into focus with Iraq and Afghanistan (applicable in other scenarios as well): I.e. their supplyability and great operational mobility. All that strengthens that is wellcome.
 
The problems that remain:
In my - perhaps outdated - experience all shooting instructors tend to view every weapon as a rifle. The mashine gun is an unwieldy rifle, the submashine gun is an inferior rifle and the pistol is a perverse rifle.
If we could shift focus, so as to train in different combat forms with this more or less standard weapon. The 300 yard precision shot, the spraying of multiple short range target, the covering fire, etc. a better result could be achieved with the same training effort.
As the flat trajectory of the M-16 takes away a lot of the distance evaluation there should be room for going into other details.
 
Secondly: With the lower range of handgun problems solved. What do we do with the mashinegun situation? The massive firepower of the mashinegun cannot be sufficiently substituted by rifles - however nice the M-16 is in a tight spot. The MG-42 and its derivatives is indubitably a powerfull weapon. The heave ½" mashinegun is indeed powerfull, but very bothersome in a light company.
Can a new compromise be struck, as the 7.62 cartridge in the future will serve solely as a LMG round and the hardhitting HMG needs a truck to stabilise and carry? The HMG often, due to its unwieldiness, doesn't get into possitions where its power really could make a difference.
We are here up against one of the biggest technological challenges: It is not difficult to build small arms; but it incredibly difficult - boardering to impossible - to make better small arms than those in the inventory-
Technological pr
 
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CJH       8/9/2008 12:50:28 PM
I still wonder whether the late Jeff Cooper's "Thumper" type of carbine would be useful.
 
IIRC, that was a carbine with ghost ring sights that was to be chambered in 44 Automag. It was to be short and with a telescoping stock, I believe.
 
I suppose one could carry a pistol or carbine using the same ammunition.
 
 
 
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