M4 5.56mm FAILS in combat

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by Brokor, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member


    In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

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    <!-- end: .hd --> [​IMG] <cite class="caption"> AP – FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2006 file photo, Staff Sgt. Cristopher Davis of Pensacola, Florida, cleans his … </cite>

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    <!-- end .related-media --> <cite class="vcard"> By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer Richard Lardner, Associated Press Writer </cite> – <abbr title="2009-10-11T16:01:50-0700" class="recenttimedate">1 hr 51 mins ago</abbr>
    <!-- end .byline --> WASHINGTON – It was chaos during the early morning assault last year on a remote U.S. outpost in Afghanistan and Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M4 carbine had quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn't work either.
    When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.
    Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?
    Despite the military's insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times.
    A week ago, eight U.S. troops were killed at a base near Kamdesh, a town near Wanat. There's no immediate evidence of weapons failures at Kamdesh on Oct. 3, but the circumstances were eerily similar to the Wanat battle: insurgents stormed an isolated stronghold manned by American forces stretched thin by the demands of war.
    Army Col. Wayne Shanks, a military spokesman in Afghanistan, said a review of the battle at Kamdesh is under way. "It is too early to make any assumptions regarding what did or didn't work correctly," he said.
    Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren't new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.
    The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives.
    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a leading critic of the M4, said Thursday the Army needs to move quickly to acquire a combat rifle suited for the extreme conditions U.S. troops are fighting in.
    U.S. special operations forces, with their own acquisition budget and the latitude to buy gear the other military branches can't, already are replacing their M4s with a new rifle.
    "The M4 has served us well but it's not as good as it needs to be," Coburn said.
    Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of the Army office that buys soldier gear. Still, the rifle is continually being improved to make it even more reliable and lethal.
    Fuller said he's received no official reports of flawed weapons performance at Wanat. "Until it showed up in the news, I was surprised to hear about all this," he said.
    The study by Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., hasn't been publicly released. Copies of the study have been leaked to news organizations and are circulating on the Internet.
    Cubbison's study is based on an earlier Army investigation and interviews with soldiers who survived the attack at Wanat. He describes a well-coordinated attack by a potent enemy that unleashed a withering barrage with AK-47 automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
    The soldiers said their weapons were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic, which allows hundreds of bullets to be fired a minute.
    Cubbison acknowledges the high rates of fire during the two-hour battle may have led to the failures. But he says numerous problems occurred relatively early in the engagement.
    He also said the enemy forces were "experienced, numerically powerful, highly skilled, adequately equipped (and) tactically accomplished."
    The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.
    Cpl. Jonathan Ayers and Spc. Chris McKaig were firing their M4s from a position the soldiers called the "Crow's Nest." The pair would pop up together from cover, fire half a dozen rounds and then drop back down.
    On one of these trips up, Ayers was killed instantly by an enemy round. McKaig soon had problems with his M4, which carries a 30-round magazine.
    "My weapon was overheating," McKaig said, according to Cubbison's report. "I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about a half hour or so into the fight. I couldn't charge my weapon and put another round in because it was too hot, so I got mad and threw my weapon down."
    The soldiers also had trouble with their M249 machine guns, a larger weapon than the M4 that can shoot up to 750 rounds per minute.
    Cpl. Jason Bogar fired approximately 600 rounds from his M-249 before the weapon overheated and jammed the weapon.
    Bogar was killed during the firefight, but no one saw how he died, according to the report.


    I know for a fact that the M4 rifles are not the best we can use in combat. Even when we cleaned ours perfectly all the time, the thought of using them in a heated battle would cross my mind. Thankfully, I never had to fire more than a few rounds. Thankfully, we still have crew served .50 cal M2 and M240's.

    So, what's the next weapon? Will we continue using these M4's until the new UN troops become the world's army, or will the USA find a real combat rifle?
  2. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    so what ever happened to the 3 shot burst mod??
  3. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    The biggest problem is too few troops vs. too many Tangos. We have been too long going into combat operations with small units, and expecting our 'superior' weapons and technology to make up for it. It doesn't. We need to either field enough troops to do the job, and be able to hold these forward positions, or we need to get the heck outta Dodge! :rolleyes:
  4. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    I vote to move back to the M14 or go with the Fal
  5. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    hmm, astute observation, makes perfect sense[applaud]...
    "Arclight" anybody???
  6. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I think that article is mistaken, only SF and other special teams have full auto. As for Regular Army, the only M4 variant I am aware of is the 3-burst, semi type. And we never train for the use of the 3-burst. Essentially, our troops are being set up for failure. The 3-round burst mode is helpful for laying down suppressive fire, will conserve ammo, and keep your rifle cooler...but it's not full auto, man. I see more jams than anything else on the M4 weapons. As a company armorer, I had to routinely enforce the standard to all platoon sergeants to make sure that all soldiers cleaned their weapons before coming to me with a jam issue. 9 times out of 10, the problem was solved not only with cleaning the M4, but also with crew served weps as well. The SAW (M249) and the M4 will jam up real quick when they are used unless heavily lubed. Problem is, in a sandy environment -oil is like a dirt magnet.

    We need a combat rifle that has more tolerance within the chamber, like an AK variant with a quality barrel and possibly a few upgrades. That would be my weapon of choice. The AKM is an excellent rifle.
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    "Conventional wisdom" said that you need a nine to one numerical superiority to take down an entrenched outpost (read as FOB) but that was before RPGs. Sounds to me like we are short staffed, even including the ANA as part of the count.

    Quigs, what about the G32? Looks like just the ticket for structure clearance. And how about the M-60 for out doors work?
  8. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

  9. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I especially like it when he pops open the Beck's at the end. [winkthumb] [beer]
    Although, there are numerous issues outstanding; for one, the extractor spring itself can be too stiff or too worn, resulting in double feeds and jams.
  10. RouteClearance

    RouteClearance Monkey+++

    What has happened to the Gas Piston AR derivatives that HK has developed along with almost every other major arms manufacturer. With all positive reports that the U.S Army's Delta Force had with the HK 416's, before they were forced to give them back up.

    The one serious issuse with the "Direct Impingment" gas system on the AR style rifles is massive heat build up after firing full auto or even the three shot burst mode. The gas piston uppers have completly eliminated that.

    Also a major issue with the M4's is that they have to be heavily lubed. While I was deployed, I used a dry teflon lube on my M4 every day. It was actually a bicycle chain lube that I bought before my mobilization, and even though my weapon did reach a high temp during the engagemnts, it did not fail me once, but a dry lube was frowned on by the "Brass" years ago.

    I will though have to agree with Quigly about readopting the M14 back into service. Going back to the 7.62 Nato cartridge will increase our "superiorty" exponentialy over the 5.56.
  11. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    " craps where it eats" the very best description of the stoner's weak spot..
  12. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I received a few of the new M14's while in Iraq. We got 3 for the company, 1 for each of the platoon's DM's. They are nice to look at, but even with the synthetic stock, the thing was HEAVY. It was also a PAIN to break down, requiring an allen wrench (which actually can strip the screw, as I found out from one of the grunts) to take down the weapon. In fact, there are 6 allen screws on the fore, and a few more as well -it's the only way to break it down and field strip it. That said, if they could make a better model which wasn't so heavy and could be easily disassembled -I would go for it right away. I really don't like the mentality the military has adopted which keeps its primary combat rifle requirements under 300 meters and super lightweight. Their statistics are only STATISTICS -if even one scenario doesn't fit the statistic, such as the one I posted above, then what the heck are they doing employing a sub-par weapon? Contracts, brokered deals? Saving money? Whatever the reason, I don't agree with keeping the M4, it has long outlived its purpose...whatever that was.
  13. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    Mine is heavier than the M4.but not that bad.
    My 14 didn't need an Allen wrench?
    Are you talking about taking the flash suppressor off or taking the gas plug off?
    For that any wrench will work.
  14. SoCal09

    SoCal09 Monkey++

    I've been out for a couple of years, but when I was in Haiti and Iraq we had the first SAM-R full auto M16. Worked great. Denser barrel for rapid fire. Never had a problem as long as it was cleaned properly.
  15. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    No, I forget the model M14 we got, but they were awesome looking...they just couldn't be taken apart to clean without an allen key.
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