America’s Soldiers Deserve a Better Rifle

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Mon, May 5 - 9:00 am EDT | 4 years ago by
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Lines of Departure

We Can Put a Man on the Moon, but…

Call me, “Tom.” The picture? It’s a dozen years old.

Tom KratmanI’m a retired infantry officer, lieutenant colonel, a recovering attorney, and a science fiction and military fiction writer for Baen Publishing and Castalia House. I’m also a political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.

Currently I make my home, with my wife and a couple of children, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Yes, I’m a curmudgeon. I came by it honestly; I acquired it with age.

I’ll be taking up the military and foreign affairs portfolios for EveryJoe, though not necessarily exclusively. Those are the things that interest me. Those are the things I’m reasonably knowledgeable about. And, for reasons I hope to make clear over the next several months, those are things that ought to concern everybody else, too.

“Wow; that’s just like a real rifle, only smaller.”
Captain Sam Swindell, sneering comment to a Special Forces Team, themselves making a fashion statement with their M177s, Rhein-Main Airport, 1997

Here, on the 40th anniversary of the month I enlisted into the Army, it seems apropos to note that the United States Army and Marine Corps are still carrying versions of the same rifle I was issued at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 1974.

What a success story; an American classic. America, F&%k Yeah!

Except it’s not.

First, a little history…

Think for a moment about another American classic, the Ford Edsel. You know, the Edsel? The byword for commercial failure? The murdered by then Ford Vice President Robert S. McNamara Edsel?

Interestingly, not only was our current, super-efficient, streamlined, ever victorious and all conquering Department of Defense (Ahem; you guys know I’m not being serious there, right?) designed by that same Robert McNamara, but this was also the same man who tried to inflict what turned out to be a fine heavy bomber, the F111/FB111, on the Navy, as a fighter for – you can’t make this stuff up – carrier operations. Not that the F111 turned out to be a bad plane; it was, in fact, impressive. But it didn’t belong with the Navy, which canceled its participation as soon as McNamara was safely out of the way.

McNamara seems to have been gifted with the reverse Midas Touch, where most everything important that he touched turned to crap.

And it was he, the man who tried to make the Navy take a heavy bomber, who also inflicted the M16 on a mostly unenthusiastic and unwilling Army.

It was never a great rifle. It had its good points, sure, notably its weight and the weight of its ammunition, plus soft recoil. But for combat performance, reliability, ease of maintenance? Meh. And the tumbling of the bullet in flesh, and some of the ghastly wounds inflicted, for both of which the M16 is famous, are largely functions of the bullet design, not of the rifle.

And we still have it, 40 years after I joined the Army and more than 50 years after Robert Strange (I told you; you can’t make this crap up) McNamara ordered production of the M14 rifle stopped, thereby leaving little recourse to adoption of the M16 by the Army and Marine Corps.


At least the Marines have adopted an improved version, rather than the Army’s firearms equivalent of Devo. Devo? De-evolution?

Source: Photo Courtesy of PEO Soldier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh, yes. The M16 was no great shakes, but the current Army version, the M4, while lighter and more compact than the M16 rifle I first carried — hence, just ever so cool, indeed, too cool for words, and what a fashion statement! — is also even less capable than the full sized rifle.

Some reports from Afghanistan suggest it is inherently less reliable, in sustained combat, as well. (Wanat, depending on whose story you read.) I’d call that ” de-evolution.” That said, even the full length M16, firing the 5.56mm, is hardly adequate to combat at some of the ranges experienced both in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that is the big reason why we must have a new rifle firing a better, longer ranged round than the 5.56.

The attempted replacements

In the last 40 years there have been a number of attempts at replacing the M16 family. All, prior to 2008, have failed or been rejected. All were too ambitious.

For example, the rifle project for the 1980s, the Advanced Combat Rifle, demanded a 100% improvement over the M16. A 100% improvement? That means that we will never have a rifle that’s 99% better. I’ve read that it only cost $300 million by the time it was canceled. What a bargain.

A little aside here, when something calls for nothing less than a 100% improvement in a weapon, be very skeptical. Does that mean 25% more accurate, 25% lighter, 25% cheaper, and with 25% better aesthetics for public relations?

Would 100% better PR be enough? Or is 100% more accurate necessary? What if it were 100% more accurate, but twice as heavy? And if it cost a hundred times more? All in all, wasn’t it really just an attempt to set a goal nobody could measure? I suspect so.

In any case, in killing the ACR, the Infantry School reported that rifles had reached their peak and only exploding bullets could improve matters. Never mind, of course, that this begged the question of whether the M16 family was that peak. Also, Fort Benning wasn’t serious about the exploding bullets, actually; they’re illegal. As for rifles having reached their peak, no, they haven’t and the only way someone could claim they had was by discounting any improvement that was less than a doubling. More on that a bit later.

OICWSomeone, however, apparently took that exploding bullet idea to heart. The next attempt was the OICW, the Objective Infantry Combat Weapon, a combined rifle and (semi) smart, fairly flat shooting, 20mm grenade launcher. This effort, while not reaching the previous attempt’s stated goal of 100% improvement in the rifle, still managed to chop the length of the rifle barrel down to something that even an M4 could sneer at, while allowing for the launching an utterly and preposterously inadequate 20mm grenade, albeit with great accuracy.

On the other hand, OICW did at least manage a more that 200% increase… in the weight… before being killed… after spending… well… nobody seems willing to admit what was spent. One suspects that the sunk and lost cost of OICW was just staggering, beyond belief.

And you know what’s really scary there? This is scary: The French PAPOP-2 seems to actually do most of what OICW was supposed to, without either castrating the rifle or making it a joke in poor taste, and while tossing a 35mm grenade that is actually pretty lethal, while keeping the weight within something more or less tolerable. That’s right, the French. Savor the taste of that one for a while.

Ah, but OICW wasn’t a complete waste. After all, we took the Heckler and Koch rifle that had been part of it and made it the M8… oh, wait. No, we killed that one, too. Bu-bu-but, we did get the grenade launcher… oh, wait. No, the Senate killed that, citing unreliability. They may as well have killed it for its ridiculous weight — so heavy the Rangers have refused to take it on mission — and preposterous cost, at $35,000 for the launcher and $55 a round.

“Fifty-five dollars a round? We sneer at mere cost.” Yes, well, what $55 a round meant is that they’d have been too expensive for the troops to train with, in maneuvering live fire, as units. If we’d been lucky, the designated grenadiers would have gotten enough ammunition for a familiarization and an annual qualification, as individuals, which really doesn’t do much for the team. And war is, after all, a team sport.

So what have we ended up with for all the money and time spent? We’ve gotten dead ends, junk, and burdensome paperweights. This is unacceptable. Our soldiers both need and deserve something better than outdated and underperforming weapons. They need something that will get the job done. And they don’t need misconceived, overpriced junk that’s too heavy to port and too expensive to train with.

Next week, we’ll talk about some promising new technology — and why it probably won’t reach the troops.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through

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  • Ori Pomerantz

    Lets do a cost/benefit analysis. But instead of doing it as the US (a country can’t really think or make decisions), do it as politician/bureaucrat X (a natural person, who really has decision making capacity).

    There are two variables that X cares about:

    1. Bribes (oops, was that my outside voice? I meant campaign contributions, post retirement jobs with defense contractors, future jobs as a lobbyist, etc.)

    2. Keeping X’s job and position.

    Combat performance obviously affects #2. If a foreign entity were to conquer the US, neither the Pentagon not Capitol Hill would be viable employment options. Furthermore, if the government were shown to be incompetent, for example because the US military is incapable of stopping the Chinese invasion of California, X’s job is also lost. However, this is a Boolean thing. As long as X’s group isn’t extremely incompetent, the risk is very small.

    Expenditures, OTOH, are the main factor that affects #1. This is a much more linear function, with higher expenditures leading to better results. It is much more tempting to optimize for the factor that produces visible results, rather than the invisible one.

    Would a form of free market work here? Generals in the Pentagon can easily convince themselves that an inferior weapon is better. But company commanders get to see actual results. Self-deception is a lot harder that far down the scale. What if company commanders were to be allowed to choose whether their troops get M-16s, French POPOP-2s, Israeli Tavors, etc.? If would make logistics even more complicated, but it might end up with better infantry because the decisions will be made closer to the ground.

    • Tom Kratman

      It would make log too complicated, Ori, even if we went with interoperability (i.e. everything in a common caliber).

    • Ori Pomerantz

      Any level between company and the entire US military where it would be feasible? Or is it that any level where this might work is too remote from the actual front line, and therefore it wouldn’t be any better than the current decision making process?

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t see it working. I do see it complicating things quite a bit and I do see some prime opportunities for bribery and corruption.

    • KenWats

      You say that like it’s a bad thing…

    • Geodkyt

      Ori, there is no level at which it works. Heck, the Brits, Aussies, and Canadians decided they couldn’t afford “parts weirdness” at the national levels – which is why, even though they use different small parts, the L1A1, SLR, and C1 versions of the FAL are all interchangeable for fit and function. So any armorer from any of those three nations could repair any rifle from any of those nations.

      Other than a tanker (who need to negotiate rather tight hatches), technician whose job means ANY longarm gets in the way (including most officers above Second Lieutenant… Although if a colonel gets his weapon dirty, it’s officially a bad day) so smaller guns are better, etc., there is NO reason to mass issue carbines. SF had a valid call for some, but the parawhoopies throwing a temper tantrum until they got “the cool guns” (and the rest of the Infantry pointing out that Airborne is just Infantry with a shitty commute, so THEY should get carbines if the 82nd did) cascaded into the current stupidity of carbines for grunts. (Meanwhile, the truck drivers and such who have a MUCH better claim of need get stuck with full length rifles until last. But Fort Useless, I mean, Eustis, doesn’t have the pull Fort Benning has.)

    • LilWolfy

      What does 180fps muzzle velocity buy you in terms of terminal effects, and is it worth keeping a 20″ rifle? The answer is no. I would never consider using a 20″ rifle again as a rifleman, let alone a DM. It’s just not needed, not with 5.56, and not with 7.62 NATO.

      I can back my argument with cold ballistics charts, or a lifetime of experience with terminal effects on target from both, which jive with each other quite well. All the articles claiming that 14.5″ barrels lose so much velocity compared to a 20″ failed to do one important thing: chronograph the two side-by-side.

      Heck, I think many of the duty positions in an Infantry Platoon should be carrying pencil barrel 11.5″ carbines in 5.56 NATO:

      Platoon Leader
      Combat Medic
      Squad Leaders (Should have option for AOR & METT-TC)
      All attachments, to include the Combat Engineers, JTACs, K-9′s, etc.

      Ever clock an 11.5″ carbine with M855 before? You’re looking at ~2800fps mv. It impacts steel plates with authority even at common distances of 200m. A lot of the guys above should never be thinking about firing their weapons, and they are outside the wire more than FOBBITs ever will be.

    • Don Meaker

      There was such a system once. French regiments had their weapons selected by the Colonel and his officers. That system was replaced by Bureaucracy, in an attempt to obtain logistics commonality.

  • Brandon Bowers

    And that is why after lots of experiments and testing. I went back to the Garand. Big round, really good penetration [concealment cover], ammo is everywhere [even during ammo famines], a proper clip (8 rounds), extremely handy … it will do the job.

    • Tom Kratman

      I’m going to cover something next week that really showed promise.

    • Neil

      Perhaps the original FAL concept, with the experimental British .280 cartridge? I’m a big fan of 7.62×51, but it’s a bit more than is absolutely required for a combat rifle, while the 5.56 is too small for a rifle (though it makes a dandy carbine round).

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      I don’t like what it keeps doing to my thumb. Maybe an M1A?

    • Brandon Bowers

      Google Holbrook Device. aka … the Thumb Saver :)

    • Geodkyt

      FAL or AR10, if you want common choices. G3/CETME/HK91 family, if you can guarantee you’ll only use cases with known metalurgy compatible with the CETME’s rather rouh treatment for casesin firing and extraction. The M1A is actually INFERIOR to the Garand in everything except magazine capacity. The rifle works DESPITE the White gas system, and the Springfield Armory (no relation to the defunct US Govt one) produces inferior receivers. (Actually, the “cheap Chinese Clones” had better receivers, although their QA on the bolts was at best spotty.)

    • Brandon Bowers

      Part of the reason for selecting the 30-06 was demonstrated during the ammo famine of 2013. 308 ammo soared to 1.50/round where you could find it at all. 30-06? never spiked at all and was still plentiful to be found. Logistics is a serious consideration for a citizen.

    • guest

      I was under the impression that the Garand design does not, as a rule, tolerate ammunition loaded to any specifications other than 1930s .30/06 M2 Ball–a bullet of about 152 grains, loaded to no more than 2700 ft/sec from a 24″ barrel, using IMR4895, IMR4064, or a powder very, very close to one of those two in burning rate–no faster than IMR3031 and no slower than IMR4320, according to the old burning rate charts. Commercial .30/06 ammo is almost universally loaded with much slower powders to maximize velocities in long-barreled bolt-action rifle and, due to the much changed pressure curve, specifically the much higher pressure at the gas port, tends to bend or break the Garand’s operating rod in rather short order. Unless you are using an adjustable gas nut, of course, but even then, I was under the impression that Garands still did not like most commercial ammo due to the exposed lead at the tips of softnose type hunting bullets hanging up on a feedramp designed for full metal jacket.

    • guest

      If you want a Garand with a detachable box mag, a Texas gunsmith named Clayton Smith used to make them:

      He used Armscorp USA M14SA receivers and assembled a Garand parts kit with a 7.62x51mm NATO barrel onto them, less the Garand internal magazine of course. Those receivers are no longer available, as the manufacturer is now defunct.

      I am given to understand that he served in the Marines as an armorer 2006-2010 and has only recently reopened his shop.

    • Shootist

      The Garand was grand. The 8 rnd (can’t reload til empty) mag was shit.

    • Firehand

      From what I’ve read, the original Garand design used a .280-caliber cartridge and a ten-round box magazine that could be reloaded by either individual rounds or from a charger; but the Army decided it didn’t like the idea of changing cartridges, and someone decided having that magazine sticking out the bottom was a problem(can’t remember why). So it was decreed from on high that it would have to be redesigned to use the .30-06. Which made it wider, heavier and brought us the en bloc clip.

    • Brandon Bowers

      Actually it was the 276 Pederson that used the en bloc clip but held 10 rounds. If you wanted a 10 round garand you can always look into a custom 6.5-06 barrel.

    • LilWolfy

      6.5-06 is a necked-down .30-06, with the same .473″ case head. If you chambered a Garand in 6.5-06, it would still use the same 8-round en-bloc clips.

      The .276 Pedersen Garand was a different rifle. It was much lighter, shorter, smaller, handier, less recoil, better balanced, and had more magazine capacity. The Army had officially adopted it, until MacArthur killed it.

    • Rick Randall

      The .276 Pederson made no logistical sense (mountains of .30-06 already in inventory, every other rilfe and machinegun in the infantry company in .30-06, etc.) Plus, like the British .276 Enfield of 1913, the .276 Pederson was a barrel eroding sonofabitch. Barrel replacement costs would have likely killed the .276 Pederson alone, if the other two issues had magically gone away.

    • LilWolfy

      What is your source for the idea that .276 Pedersen burns barrels? A 140gr or 150gr at 2400-2600fps from a 51mm case with a .450″ case diameter and a 7mm projectile should have a barrel life comparable to the 7.62×51 NATO, which is exceptional.

      M1906 ammunition was issued differently for almost all the weapons in the inventory anyway, especially belt-fed M1919 and Garands (clips).

      I suspect, but have yet to prove, that MacArthur was privileged to FDR’s plans, and knew that war was coming enough in advance to kill the .276 Pedersen. It was a much better cartridge for a rifleman and the Garand, and Garand had the foresight to make prototypes in both chamberings.

  • Alexander Macris

    The M-16s we used at West Point jammed in virtually every training exercise we ever had. It left me with such bad memories I purchased a Romanian surplus AK-47 as my rifle of choice. Colonel Kratman’s article makes me think I made the right choice bypassing the AR-15/M-16.

    • MichaelZWilliamson

      Every AK I’ve handled jammed eventually. That includes Soviet made military rifles in excellent condition. And if it was due to crud in the gas block, the AK turned into a club, not even a single shot.

      I never had a problem with any issue US weapon. I suspect yours was suffering from years of trainee abuse.

      Both have their pluses and minuses. Nothing is perfect.

    • Alexander Macris

      You have definitely had more experience than me. I’ve only handled this one. It hasn’t jammed…yet.

    • MichaelZWilliamson

      Corrosive ammo can cause rust in the gas block, trapping the piston. If the bolt carrier doesn’t move, the rifle doesn’t shoot. The field fix is to “kickstart” the AK by kicking the bolt handle. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need a hammer.

      The DI Ar series, if they have a gas system failure, become bolt actions and can still be shot.

      The AR is more modular, the AK sometimes more reliable. But: this AR carbine is now over 40K rounds without failure.

    • Tom Kratman

      One of the design problems with the AK is a tendency to overheat, driven largely by the wooden forestock cutting off air to the barrel. (Never mind what it does to your non-firinng hand when the wood starts to smolder, which it will.) My team sergeant and I scrounged about half a million rounds of 7.62×39 and a fair number of AKs in Kuwait in 91, and then the company ran an OPFOR weapons familiarization for reservists at a police range in Kuwait City. Had no trouble with dirt or carbon. But once they started to overheat, it was jam city. But that was a problem for us and what we were doing. For the Soviets, or a Russian mech company doing an assault, they won’t go through enough ammunition to have a problem before they’re in at grenade and then bayonet range.

    • Alexander Macris

      *takes notes and learns*

    • RustyShackleford1911

      The AK would NOT have solved the problem at Wanat with the rifle overheating. What did the Army do to address this? They specified a heavier barrel for a better heatsink(and restored unrestricted full auto fire). Throw more weight on instead of better training in proper fire discipline and the concept of acquiring a sight picture before pressing the trigger. There is a time for suppressive fire and it ain’t all of the time. And you couldn’t get me shoot Arab-Made 7.62x39mm ammo if there was a winning lottery ticket taped to the bottom of the mag.

    • Tom Kratman

      AK has one serious design flaw IMNSHO, the wooden forestock that prevents ventilation of the barrel. The wood will start to smolder at some point in time, which point tends to come more or less quickly. Jams follow right along with that. I’ve _seen_ that happen. It wasn’t a problem for the Russkis, because they didn’t plan on the troops firing all that much, ordinarily, and had systems, tactics, and techniques in place so that that was a reasonable expectation.

    • LilWolfy

      The AK’s major flaw is the entire design, from a Western standpoint. It doesn’t facilitate high volume training that well, across a wide range of conditions, which as you point out, didn’t matter to the Soviets. As long as they could make as many of them as possible to put into the hands of as many motorized infantrymen, who might blow through a mag or two on final assault after echelons of fire, nye problyem.

      For a well-trained soldier who needs to spend a lot of time on the range burning through case after case of quality ammunition, the M4 is peerless in my experience, and that includes high volume sessions in arctic conditions, which I do regularly with coalition nations.

    • LilWolfy

      Wanat was not a weapons failure, it was a leadership and intelligence failure, combined with a force structure and operational employment failure, mostly committed by officers who didn’t have to man the silly concept of a Combat Out Post.

      The enemy targeted the most casualty producing weapons with accurate fire in the initial stages of the assault, just like the VC/NVA did in Vietnam, then sent in the assault elements to attempt to take the objective.

      To blame the M4 at Wanat is like blaming the control stick of an airplane flown by an amateur pilot who refuses to look at the weather forecast before flying into a storm.

    • RustyShackleford1911

      I am assuming since you live in Blacksburg that you have been introduced to Bill Alexander.

    • Tom Kratman


    • RustyShackleford1911

      He invented the 6.5 Grendel. Alexander Arms is located at the Radford Arsenal.

    • Tom Kratman

      Oh, I know who he is, I’ve just never been introduced to him.

    • ChevalierdeJohnstone

      If I had a blog I would linkbait like crazy the fact that Col Kratman and Rusty Shackleford are talking about guns. SO SOMEBODY WITH A BLOG DO THIS

    • Tom Kratman

      I think someone did., for example, seems to have – at least some of them – decided I’m the antichrist. And a moron, too. Oh, yeah.

    • Tom Kratman

      Hmmm..answered this once and it disappeared. No matter. Someone has. Why, according to one blog, I am apparently a “joker,” a “moron,” implicitly corrupt for working for some competitor company, and apparently a poor writer. I am, of course, _most_ humbled by this.


    • RustyShackleford1911

      And I am going to disagree with you on chopping the full-length down to M-4 length. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks. I used to shoot high-power on the State Guard Team, I loved full-length rifles. CQB training changed my mind. It is significantly easier to work tight spaces with an M-4 sized weapon, CQB training was a clarifying moment for me. There is a reason you see SF Assaulters running short barreled variants.

    • Tom Kratman

      Two keys points there: 1) CQB is not all that we do, a rifle that will hit at 460 is still effective for CQB, while the reverse is not true. 2) SF assaulters operate differently in general.

    • RustyShackleford1911

      That is true Tom. However, we do more Urban Warfare than engage hostiles at over 400m. That’s what mortars, machine guns and designated marksmen are for. The world is becoming increasingly urbanized and the balance is likely to shift even further in favor of Urban Warfare capabilities. You will never make one rifle do everything without compromising its design. Better to live with the limitations or bite the logistical bullet and issue more DMRs.

    • Tom Kratman

      In a nine man squad, how many are going to carry M16s with erectile disfunction and how many are going to carry DMRs? And don’t forget the MGs. So are we then getting to where we aren’t equipped in adequate numbers for either? Should we be issuing grease guns or, better still, buying Sterlings from India for CQB and issuing them as needed?

    • RustyShackleford1911

      A DMR per squad should suffice considering you have other ranged weapons at your disposal like MGs. I just fail to see the urgency in concerning ourselves with long range threats when the primary arm of our likely opponents for the foreseeable future is the 7.62×39, a cartridge and rifle that makes the M-4 look like a championship contender at Camp Perry by comparison.

    • Tom Kratman

      Among other reasons, because we’ve so overloaded the troops that the only chance they have of getting the bad guys, outside of a village or city, is by having more range. But that’s not all. Military Math: If you need X at the objective, whether X is trucks, tanks, rifles, whatever, you must start with more than X. And then there is friction, which isn’t just about the complexity of the organization, but more about fear and the things you force your enemy to do because of fear. Fear of, say, a rifle firing 6.5 Grendel at 5-700 meters is going to be greater than fear of an M4 firing 5.56. Fear of lots of grendels., plus MGs, is going to be greater than fear of M4s plus MGs.

      And you _know_ that they have more than just AKs.

    • Hoosier Steve

      A very interesting discussion. Colonel I refer you to A Soldier’s Load And the Mobility Of A Nation by SLA Marshall many years ago on the tendency even in the 40s to overload a troop. I know that he is in bad repute these days, but he had his points. PS I am looking at your photo above and wondering what 2nd LT is about to get a motivational talk, or perhaps someone get explained the benefits of Article 15 over a Special Court.

    • Tom Kratman

      Steve, there are not one but two copies sitting in a bookcase less than five feet from me. I think there’s been a serious effort to undermine Marshall for decades. Yet the core of the thing still rings true. If you nose around you can find a study from 03 or 04 on what the troops are carrying in Afghanistan. It’s ridiculous. No, that’s not strong enough; it’s criminal.

      I think it was my S4′s turn that day.

    • Bill Befort

      Glad to find someone (even in a two-year-old blog post) who is skeptical about Marshall’s “discrediting.” This topic would bear lengthy, detailed exposition and comment.

    • Tom Kratman

      That was the next one, wasn’t it?

    • Bill Befort

      This website is a very recent discovery for me. If you mean there’s another post in which you addressed that topic (Marshall etc.), please let me have the link — I looked around but haven’t found it so far.

    • Tom Kratman
    • LilWolfy

      I’m a huge proponent of the 6.5 Grendel, and own several of them. It made .308 irrelevant for me, aside from spotting it in my courses. The Designated Marksman, known as the Squad Sharpshooter back when our Army still had somewhat half of a brain left when it came to the MTO&E, is not a TO&E slot again in an Infantry Rifle Platoon.

      The Army just has yet to equip him with a purpose-built DMC and optic/ammunition system, and even worse, there is not much in the way of a solid DM Training program with ARTEP and unit-level support. The AMU has done an outstanding job of supporting the program because they know the true value of it, but big Army has a lot of room to grow and support their own doctrine in this regard.

      The question comes down to this: Do I equip every other swinging richard in an Infantry Platoon with a cartridge that he is not capable of exploiting, while reducing the soldier’s basic load at the same time? More importantly, why are we always talking about the individual service rifle or carbine, when my LMG’s and DM Rifles are where we make our money in terms of producing casualties with small arms?

      LMG’s need to be addressed the most, because we have another colossal abortion of a weapon filling that role, namely the M249 SAW, which is heavier than the true brainchild of Kalashnikov: the 7.62x54R PKM.

    • Rick Randall

      If one was to go with the mix of DMRs and carbines in the rifle squad, I would submit that the *rifleman* in each fireteam should have a DMR, the grenadiers might be better off with the carbine, and the team leaderleader and squad leaders maybe a carbine.

      But, I rarely found a place where the extra 5.5″ of barrel on an M16 was a show stopper – in tight quarters, the *stock* created more of an issue. Full length uppers on carbine stocked lowers would have fixed that.

    • Tom Kratman

      Most people missed the gravimen of this series. The short version: while not a huge fan of the AR family, what I really want is for the army to stop wasting money, set its sights lower, and push the LSAT through to procurement.

    • Rick Randall

      I agree that the Army should just finish the LSAT idea. In fact, the guns are pretty much worked out now (although I can guarantee that, even if they just stuck with the idea of 5.56mm projos, the type-classofied end result would look different.)

      But, until the Army commits to moving forward with a wholesale replacement buy, there is little motivation to do the next two steps – settle on the projo, based on achievable and desired exterior and terminal ballistics (I’m betting on something like an 85-100gr 6.5 boat tailed spitzer along the lines of the M855A1 projo), and firm up the exterior details of the carbine and LMG versions.

      We could roll this out in under five years, without a crash program. If we wanted to. But I don’t see anyone doing that in the current budget climate.

    • KenWats

      Fun fact: My battalion still had M3 grease guns in the 90s-2000 (I believe for our M60 chassis crews, although I believe most TCs carried M9s, drivers M16s). Of course, I never saw anyone take them out on a range and fire them. I never saw us fire a live HEP round for the CEVs either (I would have paid money to watch).

    • Tom Kratman

      I had Grease Guns in my second company command, a mech HHC, for the M88 crews, in 88. Personally, I like the Sterling.

    • Rick Randall

      I’m really torn between the Sterling and the Thompson M1928 as my favorite SMG. . . but if I had to carry one anywhere, it would be the Sterling hands down. Plus, being able to get really low in teh prone is a plus. . .

    • LilWolfy

      What are the differences in practical on-target terminal effects between a 14.5″ barreled M4 cranking the M855 at 2920fps, vs. an M16A2 at 3100fps? Nothing worth the 20″ barreled abortion of a rifle, I can tell you that.

      Almost every 5.56 real world terminal effects I have seen were from 14.5″ barrels, to include the Commando barreled SAW’s, and it was always very brutal. The barrel length exception was the first kill I ever witnessed very detailed results of, and that was with a 20″ Daewoo K2 on the DMZ in Korea in the summer of 1996. A carbine would have done the same, since it was so close, but the NorK’s head was canoed nonetheless.

      I’ve seen M855 from a commando SAW go through walls, skip off a SAPI plate, then destroy a dude’s arm. I saw the x-rays, and the patient post-op. He looked like Frankenstein, and two titanium rods held his fore arm in place where the radius and ulna used to be.

      I’ve seen avulsive tissue damage as a common wound effect from 5.56 at close range. At distance, once frag threshold has been exceeded, both 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO make tiny little holes in people. M855 will penetrate certain barriers better, while M80 blows through others with more authority, especially concrete, cinder blocks, mud walls, and more dense barriers made from natural materials. M855 will smoke thinner man-made mediums nicely, as well as trees…cuts through most trees like swiss cheese.

      For reaching out, 5.56 NATO in the M855 form loses gas fast, so beyond 200yds, there isn’t as much energy on target, but it still makes a hole. Most soldiers can’t make effective hits beyond that distance anyway because they don’t train enough, thanks to the Train Fire marksmanship system, which is really a bare bones, conscript-grade gem of incompetence dumped on the Army after we had a really nice system in 1949.

    • MichaelZWilliamson

      And if you shoot an AR long enough, eventually the bolt lugs will break. Eventually.

      Of course, they’re still using materials specified in the 1960s. There are better options available.

      What the good Colonel is not noting is that almost every problem the M16 family has had is due to Army SPECIFICATIONS against engineers’ recommendations.

      The M14 was abandoned because it was a monumental failure–it was supposed to replace all the issue small arms. It was supposed to replace the BAR, and didn’t, the M3A1, and didn’t, the M1 carbine, and didn’t. It replaced only the Garand at 3X the unit cost, had a crankier gas system, and was uncontrollable in full auto…which both FN and the British had warned would happen.

      The Garand had problems the Army created over John C’s design criteria. The Trapdoor was retained in service long after repeaters were proven to be better.

      There is no design on the planet that can survive the Army’s acceptance process.

    • Foolish Pride

      The M1 was a great weapon despite its flaws, but yeah by the 1950s using it as a base for further development was a mistake.

    • Lawman45

      20% of humans are left handed and more are left eyed. None of them can reliably (or safely) use the M1 or M-14. Ask someone who has tried.

    • JustMyOpinion

      Because of visual impairment, I shoot Left handed – I own a couple of M1s and a Springfield M1A(Semi-auto M14 equivalent) and have never experienced issue firing either

    • Rick Randall

      Know plenty of left handed shooter’s who don’t have any major problems with the M1 or M14. I haven’t noticed any problems when firing my M1 lefty, either.

    • Tom Kratman

      Dunno. The BM59 is pretty well regarded.

    • Rick Randall

      BM59 was also designed in what, a couple of months? And originally was a Garand _conversion_, so there’s a HELL of a lot of commonality in tooling.

      Whereas the M14 took YEARS of development, and has almost no tooling commonality (one of the “selling points” Springfield Armory used to talk down the FAL) with the Garand.
      The BM59 is what the M14 _should_ have been. But the FAL and AR10 are both better rifles than the BM59. (The G3 is better, if you are a military user who has spec control over the ammo production as well.)

    • chrisgale

      Question out of curiosity to the Col and Mike: any idea why the ANZACs standardized on the Steyr? We did have access to Stoners, but when the FAL was retired we went to the AuSteyr. Which, from memory, is left and right handed.

      Our SAS squads, however, use whatever the hell they need.

    • Rick Randall

      I believe they were sucked in by the shorter overall length of a bullpup, the optical sight, and the possibility of quickly adapting it to be the sqad LMG, much as was done with the SLR/AR (L1A1/L2A1) combo (although they are not easily swapped back and forth by changing the quick change barrel, they are pretty much the same weapon in most parts.)

      Note that Australia dumped the idea of a rifle based LMG and went with the Minimi (M249 SAW), and the current version of the Austeyr doesn’t have a quick change barrel.

    • chrisgale

      Both use separate LMGs.

    • Rick Randall

      Um, not sure what you mean by that. The SLR rifle and the AR LMG are just variations of the same design. The differences, while being armorer level changes, are fairly minor – the heavy barrel with bipod, and the full auto trigger group.

      As for the AUG, when Australia first looked at it, the only difference was the barrel. Take an AUG with the rifle barrel, and swap it for the LMG barrel that has a bipod. It was only in later Australian development that they eliminated the quick change barrel feature.

    • chrisgale

      NZ uses the Steyr and the Minimi as a light machine gun

    • Rick Randall

      Yes, the fact that you *can* use the AUG as an LMG by installing the LMG barrel doesn’t mean you *have* to use it that way. Both Australia and New Zealand quickly figured out that rifle based LMGs generally suck compared to real LMGs.In both cases, AFAIK, between the time where they had basically (if not yet formally) decided to adopt it, and the actual purchase order.

      But it was a *huge* selling point when they first were looking at it, even if they decided to go with a proper LMG in the end. The AUG was pimped as the One Weapon System for replacing all rifles, carbines, LMGs, and SMGs, with a simple barrel swap. Minimize training and parts inventory, etc. And like just about every other moduar weapons system, once users actually decided on it, they generally realized they were going to set it up in one configuration and leave it that way.

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s not entirely fair either. Anything designed to do two things is going to do each of them about half as well. Trying to get the M14 to do too much was a mistake, yes, but as a rifle, once used a bit, with the flaw recognized and fixed, it was okay and I would say better, tactically, than the M1.

      But yes, there is something frigging pathological about the Army’s, and every other service’s, R&D and procurement systems.

    • Longwalker

      Having had experience with both the M1 & the M14, I wanted a rifle with the better characteristics of each. The box magazine was better than the eight round clip and the ability to fire semi and full auto was a step in the right direction. However, the 7.56 round was not as good as the 30.06. The Army did test a modified M1 – with a box magazine and semi & full auto capability in the 30.06 caliber but decided to go with the NATO round. The modified M1 would have replaced the old M1 and the AR.

    • Wake27


    • LilWolfy

      Have you ever dealt with combat endurance, or factored it into the equation with .30 Cal M1906 ammunition versus modern intermediate cartridges? A unit with late 1800′s designed battle rifle cartridges gets hosed every time, unless they are able to break contact and get a miraculous resupply.

      The same applies to 7.62 NATO, which basically duplicated M1906 performance in a slightly shorter action, using higher pressures (and increased wear on the weapon). There aren’t really any noteworthy characteristics of either rifle as a solid battlefield instrument, especially in context of the post-WWII development of firearms. Both of them made the same mistakes in what they were chambered in, after tons of battlefield data was analyzed…then ignored.

    • Antiquus

      Yea, anytime there’s a large procurement for the military, there’s some brasshat trying to get his next star involved. The amount of politicking goes up exponentially with rank.

      Frankly when it comes down to weapons in the hands of soldiers and marines, the approval of NCO’s should be required without possibility of coercion from an officer.

    • LilWolfy

      The M14 is an example of how not to design a service rifle, and this was already obvious to many in the late 1950′s-early 1960′s because of failure to meet manufacturing schedule, let alone meeting any type of QC standards. This left thousands upon thousands of soldiers, especially in Europe, with beat-up Garands that had literally seen service in two wars, and were well beyond their service life. The Garand itself is not the magnificent instrument Patton described it as, although many are fond of its historical position.

      The M14 is not an infantryman’s rifle. It is an Army Ordnance Corps engineer’s attempt to make the Garand relevant in the post-WWII era, where the US failed to adopt a sensible weapon system for both service rifles and squad support machine guns, the M60 being the other colossal abortion in the dynamic duo of incompetence.

      I have lived with and deployed with all of these weapons systems as an enlisted 11B and NCO, where the logistics aspects of weapon longevity, reliability, weight, soldier’s load, and training took on more in-depth meaning to me. As a kid, I had read and heard the argument that the M14 was superior to the M16, but deploying with both changed my mind.

      Afghanistan is rare in that you have a high altitude mountainous environment, with a lot of channelized avenues of approach that are ideal for far ambushes, which are commonly initiated with IED’s, PKM’s, SVD’s, & DShK’s. ISAF units need to be able to tailor the force and train for engaging at distance with the LMG’s and DM’s. The issued service rifle or carbine isn’t going to fix a soldier’s inability to engage at distance if he doesn’t know how to compensate for trajectory and wind, and can’t hold 1.5 MOA of accuracy or better out to 600yds, and 1 MOA or better out to 1000yds. That takes a very specialized rifle, optic, training regimen, and ammunition combination.

      The AR15 was not McNamara’s infliction on the Army, and he didn’t get involved until Curtis Lemay asked for the AR15 to be adopted as the USAF’s service rifle, since the Army had cut spare parts and higher maintenance support for the M1/M2 Carbine. Read The Black Rifle if you want the most detailed story of what happened with that whole episode.

      The Small Caliber High Velocity Rifle concept was a minority fringe of engineers in Army Ordnance who had looked at cartridges dating back to the late 1800′s. The 6mm Lee Navy is the most obvious example of an early SCHV rifle that was actually adopted by the Navy and Marines in 1895.

      Much of this thinking went into the desire to get away from .30 bores with the .276 Pedersen in the 1930′s, a true infantryman’s cartridge for that era that was killed by MacArthur. Fast forward to 1957, and realize that it was CONARC who solicited Armalite and Winchester to prototype SCHV rifle competitors with a .224 bore diameter. Stoner was a 7.62 enthusiast, not very fond of the idea of turning his beloved AR10 into a varmint rifle. Robert Fremont and Jim Sullivan actually designed the AR15 around the .222 Remington.

      The only reasons McNamara got involved with the AR15 are because of Curtis Lemay, and then the Army sabotaging the trials between the M14, AR15, and AK47. If it was such a bad weapon, units around the world who actually can choose their individual weapons would not be going to the M4 as a default, with many of them using its predecessors from the Colt Commando series dating back to 1963 (Brits/Aussies).

      Assigning blame on McNamara for such a successful weapon doesn’t jive well with the facts in this case. He carries a lot of responsibility for several colossal abortions in his career, especially the conduct of the Vietnam War, but the M16 isn’t around because of McNamara. It continues on because of its success and the inability of any manufacturer or designer to offer an improvement.

    • Foolish Pride

      Sounds like your experience with the AK hasn’t lived up to the legend.

      I do wonder if the AK’s reliability has long been exaggerated though. I assume that they are common enough that if one breaks, you can get another.

    • Don Meaker

      The worst jam I ever had was my M-14 at West Point. The firing pin came out of the bolt and inserted itself into the trigger mechanism, hard enough that the rifle couldn’t be disassembled.

    • RustyShackleford1911

      Most likely bad Magazines, Blanks or a combo of the two. 5.56 blanks don’t feed for shit and I have NEVER seen good mags in any training company.

    • Robert Stokes

      Any gun jams, I hated the M16 when I was issued one at the tail end of the Vietnam era, However today it is superior to the AK-47 in every way, there is no comparison. I used an M16-A2 to win my distinguished rifleman badge at Camp Perry, #2107. That is shooting at 200, 300, and 600 yards against the worlds best riflemen, military and civilian. I also own several 6.5 Grendel AR’s and I can tell you that it is a step up from the 5.65mm and an optimum compromise of weight handling and logistics. The AR is superior to any prod rifle if it is intelligently used and maintained, and yes, it can be effectively maintained in combat.

  • MichaelZWilliamson

    Well, the presented information isn’t wrong, not quite accurate. Here’s the entire, sordid timeline:

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s not quite complete, either, since it misses McNamara’s baleful, ignorant, arrogant intervention in closing down the M14 line. Between the two, however…

    • James

      Why would he close it down when he could just make them get a new rifle?

    • Tom Kratman

      Clever bureaucratic infighting.

    • James

      So…the usual then.

    • Tom Kratman

      In a way. It’ s like this; all the services are _intensely_political organizations. That one of the reasons why politicians in uniform get stars, to defend their own service. A direct approach from McN would have had any number of Army and Marine general officers talking – strictly off the record, to be sure – with their bestest buddies in the House and Senate. Next thing you know, McNamara’s been castrated and it’s us today bitching that we’re still using the M14, rather than the M16, which never got off the ground, after so many decades. Why? Because congress would simply intervene and direct in ways that couldn’t be gotten around. I won’t pretend to understand all of Mc’s thinking here; he was not only devious but so far out there – and I don’t mean that as a compliment – that he was hard to fathom. But broadly speaking, that’s about rigt.

    • James

      Ah I understand now. And all of this of course gets us to where we are today. Jesus what a mess.

    • sotarrthewizard

      And, of course, that doesn’t even include the internal infighting within the services. The Airedales vs the Nukes in the Navy. The Fighter Pilots vs any OTHER Pilot in the Air Force (and once upon a time, the BOMBER pilots were in charge. . . .). Foot infantry vs Armor vs Arty vs SpecOps in the Army. Don’t know the Corps well enough to know the divisions, but I’m sure they are there. . .

    • jdkchem

      In the Corps it’s infantry and support. Infantry used to win those battles now I’ll just say only a buffoon makes an air winger Commandant.

  • Doc

    Hello Col. In your opinion what is the best battle rifle in use in the world? And for the average American to buy?

    • billyoblivion

      The best battle rifle will be select fire, and unless we can get 300+ liberty minded representatives, 70 liberty minded senators (good luck on that) and a President who takes his oath seriously, THAT ain’t going to happen.

      Frankly the “average American” SHOULD buy a quality AR:

      1) STANG magazines are plentiful and cheap.
      2) Spare parts are incredibly common
      3) MilSurp ammo is (usually) plentiful and cheaper than 7.62×51.
      4) The .223 round is probably the most studied and examined round in history.
      5) There is a HUGE market and aftermarket for it. You can get anything from a 10 inch barrel (if you want to pay the stamp) to 24 or longer. You can get a fixed butt stock, adjustable, or with piston rod, a folding. different for ends, different calibers (although you sacrifice 2 and 3, and maybe 1).
      6) Trainers (you DO take tactical training classes occasionally, don’t you?) are very familiar with it and a LOT of what is taught is (unfortunately) AR centric, and even if it isn’t most trainers have more experience with that rifle, which means better training for you.
      7) If something goes bad wrong and during that problem your AR turns into a club the rifle you find next is most likely to be an AR–here in America.

      Let’s face it, how many weeks are you going to spend in and out of muddy jungle water? How many hours are you going to spend on patrol in heavy dust only to get in a 12 or 18 hour firefight with heavily armed opposition?

      In short, how many battles do you expect to get in with that rifle? where it’s NOT starting out clean and well lubed either in a nice gun case or safe? (Understand that I’ve got 3 battle rifles (Sig556, AK, PTR91) in the safe, so I’m not knocking the impulse, just helping to clarify the problem space and the solution set).

      Also the average American *can* use TAP or hollow points or whatever. He can pick the rifling to match the bullets he’ll plan on stocking.

      There’s a plethora of civilian ARs out there, some crap, some good. Find a good one (which probably won’t be cheap), and go spend money on boolits and training.

      Or buy a couple different ones for different problems. This is America, you’re not limited to one.


    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t think I’m qualified to say what’s the best rifle. Indeed, I think if I said it would demonstrate that I was _not_ qualified, since “best” also partakes of things like terrain, mission, and demographics – _yes_, demographics. I can say which cartridge I like best; 6.5 Grendel. BUT, and it’s a big but, as shown, Grendel is less than it could be because it was made to fit a magazine that could fit an AR lower. I’d like to see a longish 6.5mm matched to a casing – might even be a plastic telescoped casing; check next week’s column – holding enough powder to get just that little bit more than Grendel gives (and it gives a lot).

  • Don Meaker

    My patent, 6,079,138 offers a 24 inch barrel in a 28 inch rifle, with no gas system to foul, no operating rod to jam.

    • akulkis

      Looks like a good patent, Don. I would build some models in 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and something in the range of 6.5mm ~ 6.8mm (5.56mm is too easily deflected by minor vegetation, 7.62mm has too much recoil for a standard-issue rifle).

      Unfortunately, All NATO rounds suck for anything other than belt-fed machine-guns. NATO rounds hav been American-picked rifle rounds (too big, and then too small), and European-picked pistol rounds (too small). What we should have gone on is European-picked rifle rounds (6.6~6.7mm) and American-picked pistol rounds (.45 ACP). Ahh well.

  • koblog

    And we had to have a rifle the wimmins could carry and shoot….

    • Geodkyt

      Considering that when the M16 was adopted, females didn’t even GET weapons training, I’m throwing the BS flag.

    • Tom Kratman

      I’ll second the BS flag as far as original acquisition goes. I am not convinced that consideration of women and what they can comfortably carry didn’t play a part by adopting the M4. It might not have, or not consciously, anyway, but it’s completely plausible to me that it probably did.

    • Firestorm

      Thirding(?) the BS flag. Though I will note that the US had many small-framed, third-world allies who’s M1 Carbines were starting to show their age and who may have not been comfortable with the M14. One good thing about the M16 is that any Viet or Salvadorian 13-year old can pick one up and fire it for as long as it takes to jam.

    • Tom Kratman

      I think that was one of the selling points, way back in the 60s, actually; that the AR was more usable for Asian and much deadleir, which it is, than the .30 carbine.

    • Rick Randall

      That _WAS_ a specific selling point. Also relevant — the M16 entered US service via the USAF SAC, which was looking for replacements for its M1 and M2 Carbines.

    • LilWolfy

      The biggest deciding factors for adoption of the AR15 in the early 1960′s were:

      * M14 production was way behind

      * The Army was responsible for small arms higher level maintenance and spare parts procurement. They had totally dropped the M1/M2 Carbines in terms of support, and these were mainstays of USAF Security personnel. The Air Force found the M14 totally inadequate due to weight, length, and recoil, so they began looking for something else. They were informally introduced to an experimental Army program called SCHV, which had been shot down over and over since the late 1800′s, until finally gaining enough traction to generate some viable prototypes in 1957.

      * The AR15 was loved by a lot of units that actually shoot their weapons, including the SAS, SF, Squeals, SBS, foreign armies, air mobile, and airborne units.

      As to the M4′s widespread adoption, Mogadishu was huge in that regard. Ranger Regiment and almost every other unit in SOCOM still had M16A2′s at the time, as you will recall. The Squeals had some Colt 727′s, and there were a few for RTO’s, some key leaders, and Karl Gustav gunners in Battalion, but M16A2′s were really the main service rifle even in the SOF community.

      As soon as the Regimental AAR was disseminated from Mogadishu, 75th Regiment dumped the M16A2 like Elizabeth Tailor dumped husbands, and M4A1′s became standard over night. In 1994, there was a major overhaul across Regiment. NCO’s and soldiers who PCS’d to all the Airborne and Light units started to kinda whisper about it, and by 1997, most light units started getting them in the Scout Platoons. It was something I had been mentioning in the SEP for a long time, but figured the Army would never do it because it made too much sense for us. I was shocked when I finally had one in hand, never to be cursed with the M16A2 again.

      M4 adoption was a very demand-based phenomenon, with the trickle-down from JSOC>Ranger Regiment>JRDF units>Big Green Pickle Machine. Same goes for NOD’s and PAQ-4/PEQ-2/DBAL for every Infantryman. 180fps of muzzle velocity loss had really zero effect on things, to be honest. An M4 still exceeds fragmentation threshold of M80 ball from a 20″ rifle, so nothing to see here folks if we’re talking about actual terminal effects vs. magazine articles written by chairborne QB’s.

    • akulkis

      CSS units are still issued M16A2s.

  • Hank Seiter

    Should have adopted an 18 inch barrel version of the FN-FAL from the start. Sure it had some teething problems, but so did the M-14 or any other service rifle for that matter. The original AK-47 was a piece of crap because the Soviets didn’t have toaster stamp metal technology down so it had to start with milled receivers (which made the AK heavier) and finally went to the stamped AKM after they were able to steal the technology to properly temper and harden the stamped lower receiver.

    I own an M-1 Garand, M-1A (beautiful rifle with national match barrel), civilianized AK, FN-FAL, H&K 91, FS2000, IWI Tavor, variations of AR-15s from full-size to carbine, a 6x45mm AR-15, AR-10 and LAR-8 (my second choices) and several variants of the FN-FAL. The American military establishment should have stuck with the 7.62x51mm and I don’t care if female soldiers can’t handle a major combat battle rifle. If they can’t handle it, they can clean latrines or push paper.

    Not only do the military mental midgets fight the last war, they rarely embrace evolutionary weaponry like the FN-FAL in the early 1950s. It shot a major caliber, was absolutely reliable, had smooth recoil, was a little heavy with loaded magazine but an 18 inch barrel with an effective flash-hider/muzzlebrake would have been the perfect choice and it would have weighed less than 9 pounds. Like I said, some variant of the AR-10 would have also sufficed with a little added weight in the barrel and buttstock for balance and controllability in full-auto. Off a built-in bi-pod the AR-10 would have been marginally controllable in full auto and it shoots a major caliber with an effective kill range of 800 – 1000 meters.

    • Geodkyt

      Well, Springfield Armory sabotaged the FAL (and later, the AR10) by cheating on the tests so the M14 looked better, while lying about the cost so the M14 looked dramatically cheaper, and the US contractor responsible for redrafting the metric drawings for production in American units screwed up the process by trying to do straight mathematical unit conversions, causing tolerance stacking. (But, the US Army made the same drafting errors in WWII, which is why us troops never got a .30-06 and later 7.62mm MG42).

    • Lawman45

      The “Springfield Armory” mentioned above was a US Army facility (NOT the commercial firm of the same name that today makes the semi-auto M1A). They lied and the Army bought the lie because the Fabrique Nationale – FAL wasn’t invented here.

      The Belgian FAL was eventually adopted by over 90 countries and continues to be the main battle rifle of many today.

    • Rick Randall

      True — I sometimes forget a lot of people don;t know that the commercial gun maker known as Springfield Armory has NOTHING to do with the Unow-defunct US Government facility by teh same name.

    • LilWolfy

      FALs have been mostly phased out, even in the 3rd-world holes where it was so popular. Proliferation of lighter weapons has displaced it significantly.

    • LilWolfy

      The Army Ordnance Corps didn’t really sabotage the FAL, they just left it in the corner and claimed it wasn’t suitable because they had already decided in advance that their abortion of a rifle would win. One of the officers who was involved recently had his life history recorded on audio, and described what they did to the FAL that way. “It was left in a corner and nothing was really done with it.”

      The AR15 was later sabotaged several times, both up in Alaska, and later down at Fort Benning, and it still beat the M14 in terms of reliability, accuracy, and ability to qualify with.

    • Tom Kratman

      There were actually two batteries of tests that I know of. I don’t necessarily trust either of them. One showed the M14 much superior. The next one, after McNamara, showed it no better, in the aggregate, and sometimes inferior. But the Army that rolled over, greased its collective butt for, and then lied on an historically heroic scale about, Project 100,000 is not to be trusted to speak the truth about anything. Hmmm..come to think of it that Army is _still_ lying about disastrous personnel policies and anything else convenient.

    • LilWolfy

      I trust my experiences with both weapons over several decades. The M14 action is open for everyone and everything to enter and have their way with her. The AR15 is closed and doesn’t allow debris to enter very easily. The only time I have seen M4′s shut down was in the middle of an insane dust storm, but then again, you couldn’t close the empty action on our sniper systems or our breaching shotguns, so basically any mechanical device with two or more articulating parts failed.

      Other than that, the AR15 family of weapons has always run near 100% for me, whether I was in the extreme cold or humid summer in Korea, the jungles in Panama, the rain forests of Washington, normal weather in the Middle East, and the arctic conditions in Scandinavia, where I frequently watch AK variants crap the bed in any high volume course.

      The M14 chokes if it even gets near beach sand, and the action allows small debris to fall down through it into the magazine, which acts like a garbage receptacle, only to be recycled as the follower attempts to push the cartridges back up into the action.

      It takes a gifted and dedicated armorer to support as well, who needs much more specialized training. Accuracy is anything but, unless you count 2 out of 10 of the short life of glass-bedded NM M14′s, which we had in 2 of my Scout Sniper Platoons, before the bedding is shot out. Most will string on you with heating due to the pencil barrel profile, combined with a grotesque design of a gas system and Garand op rod. The 1930′s wants its rifle back.

      Optics mounting solutions are best approached with a welder and a steel section of 1913 rail, since the US Springfield Armory, Winchester, H&R, & TRW never got dimensional uniformity down on the receivers. Safety location on the Garand/M14 is inherently poor.

      Magazines are heavy and wear through your mag pouches quickly due to the angles and follower design. You can’t carry enough ammunition to make it through more than maybe one or two bases of fire or bounds if following US doctrine of firepower. Mag changes are anything but rapid. Profile of the rifle is such that very few soldiers are suited to carry and fire it.

      The AR15 is much more reliable than the M14 in my experience, is inherently more accurate, has superior ergonomics, is easier to maintain from micro to macro levels looking at logistics, and increases hit probability significantly. The only roles the M14 played for us was as a Sniper Support Rifle, or DM Rifle after they hand-selected maybe 20% of the National Match rifles in inventory.

      If I had my way, we would have had a 6.5mm Enfield in the AR10 in 1955, but Armalite got invited a little too late to the service rifle submissions in the 1950′s, and then pulled that ridiculous stunt with the composite barrel that burst during the H2O bore obstruction tests. The .30 cal nazis had their way with cartridge development, and once again, the infantryman was bent over by bean counting weenies who would never have to carry or engage the enemy with the weapon.

    • LilWolfy

      7.62 NATO should have never been born. If you run some units toe-to-toe with an intermediate cartridge, versus 7.62 NATO, you’ll quickly see why. It has nothing to do with females not being able to shoot a “real man’s rifle”, because “real men” can’t qualify with the M14 in sufficient numbers as is.

      The FAL was originally chambered in 7.92×33 Kurz, then .280 British. Chambering it in 7.62 NATP to appease the Army Ordnance Corps was one of the worst small arms decisions ever made, especially since the US ditched the 7.62 NATO as a rifle cartridge within a few years of its adoption.

      There are several design flaws with the FAL, as much as I like them, that make it inferior to the AR10 and AR15. Its biggest strength is the adjustable gas system. Besides caliber, the biggest flaw is the rear sight being part of the lower receiver group, while the front sight is on the upper. Charge handle and bolt release are very nicely located. Accuracy is well below a Stoner DI rifle.

  • Daniel Schwartz

    Thanks, Col. Kratman, and thank you for your service!

    I find myself wondering how you feel about the Tavor. I’ve never fired one, and they look klunky as hell to me, but people who have used them seem to love them.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t like bullpups. Just don’t. It’s unreasonable prejudice on my part, and the legitimate argument against them, reduction of sight radius, doesn’t hold water if they mount a scope. But I still don’t like them. I’ve read the Israeli rank and file don’t like the Tavor, and can recall Brit Marines and Brit Army looking longingly at our M16s, because they detested everything about their own bullpups.

      Oh, and no thanks necessary. The rest of the country was paying taxes for me to have the time of my life. Thank them.

    • TBR

      My personal experience with Israelis only covers the Navy, but those I saw armed still used a M16 variant, though it did not look as short as the M4.

    • Tom Kratman

      Probably a 16A1.

    • Tom Kratman

      Probably a 16A1.

    • Neil

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable. It’s flat-out stupid to hold an explosive-laden chamber next to your ear and light it off.

      There are reasons to do it, of course, and ways that it can be done. I’m somewhat tempted by the Kel-Tec BFR, for my own reasons. But the design trade-offs required to make it ambidextrous, with a decent trigger, etc. cause them to be relatively complicated.

      And you’re still setting off explosives next to your ear.

    • Neil

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable. It’s flat-out stupid to hold an explosive-laden chamber next to your ear and light it off.

      There are reasons to do it, of course, and ways that it can be done. I’m somewhat tempted by the Kel-Tec BFR, for my own reasons. But the design trade-offs required to make it ambidextrous, with a decent trigger, etc. cause them to be relatively complicated.

      And you’re still setting off explosives next to your ear.

    • Firestorm

      Something I’ve often wondered about bullpups is how useful one of them would really be in a bayonet fight. Yes I know, no one from the last 50 years should even consider such a thing, but to me it still matters.

    • Tom Kratman

      Ardant du Picq wrote about this quite a bit, 140-odd years ago. For the last several hundred years, there haven’t been much in the way of bayonet _fights_, qua fights. There have been bayonet charges; indeed a Brit unit – I want to say a platoon out of the Argyles, but I’m not certain of that – had a charge in Iraq that worked. Those aren’t particularly uncommon, but generally speaking the recipient of a bayonet charge tends to run away. Why? Because bayonets are about terror, which terror is nehanced by the way they really are used, whern they’re used, which is killing _everything_ that can’t run away, most especially the wounded.

      Cue gasps of horror from the International Community Of The Ever So Caring And Sensitive.

      Had a conversation at Carlilse Barracks with an Aussie JAG, who had been a grunt at one point in his life but was by this time a member of said ICOTESCAS. It was a great joy to explain that a) Aussies and Canadians are about evenly split in their record of battlefield atrocity, and both records are long and intense, and b) if he’d go to the post conference room he’d find a large painting of a bayonet charge in Korea for which the company commander received the Medal of Honor….but if he dug a little he’d find that the bayonets were used to finish off the wounded…and the goats, dogs, chickens, and donkeys…everything was killed.

      The look on his face was precious. It was shortrly after that that the group I worked for effectively banned me from talking to foreigners.

      All of which goes to bullpups and bayonets. If the objective is terror, then the shorter bullpup is perhaps less terrifying. But I don’t like bullpups., anyway, so to hell with them.

  • An_A_C

    Speaking of the Navy, McNamara inflicted a “more efficient” ship design process on the navy that resulted in the largest ever “destroyer” with the smallest payload. By that I mean fewest weapon systems per ton of ship or per cubic foot of ship. He also gutted the Navy’s design bureau. It took twenty years to build it back up to the point where the Navy could design a modern, effective surface ship or submarine.

    McNamara did more harm to the US military capabilities than the KGB ever dreamed could be done by sabotage.

    • Corky Boyd

      McNamara wanted to get rid of aircraft carriers and let the USAF handle all air combat operations. But reality hit when the navy could conduct far more sorties from yankee station 80 nm offshore than the air force could from Thailand which required enroute refueling.

      The F-111 commonality program (TFX) came because both the air force and navy needed new swing wing fighters. McNamara’s pea seized brain didn’t understand that the air force’s concept of a fighter was a small nuclear bomber that could fly sustained low supersonic speeds on the deck. It was to be a follow in to the F-105. The navy needed a fleet air defense fighter that could engage multiple targets with 80 -100 nm air to air missiles. The only similarity between the two concepts was the were called fighters by each service.

      The result for the navy was an aircraft that was too heavy when fully fueled and armed to use the deck edge elevators. So much or the arming would have to be done on the flight deck rather than the hanger deck. Even worse, when fully armed with Phoenix missiles, the F-111 was overweight for landing and would have had to jettison a couple of million dollar missiles to land.

      Fortunately Grumman had been designing on its own what was to become the F-14 and was ready with prototypes about a year after McNamara resigned.

    • Tom Kratman

      There’s an old Latin saying that translates, “Of the dead nothing but good.” I am inclined to disagree with that where McNamara is concerned. He was walking filth, of whom nothing good of any significance can or ought be said, and his memory should be damned wherever possible as a warning to other’s like him. And those others still walk among us.

  • roo_ster

    Sig sg 550 and variants chambered in 6.5 grendel or similarly performing 6.5mm cartridge and call it a day Infantry combat arms std issue is the 20in bbl variant. Support get the 9in bbl variants.

    Rechamber the m249 in the same 6.5mm cartidge. The downrange ballistic performance improvement may be such that many m240 gpmg variants could be replaced with a 6.5mm m249.

    • Tom Kratman

      Wait for next week’s column.

  • Grumpy Old Badger

    Polk – 1974? Son of a gun:me too: A-1-3, North Fort, August through November – OSUT, then Benning for Jump School (44th Co.). Although instead of Panama, I went a little farther north to an Airborne Company at Ft. Rich. AK. When I finally did make Panama, 8 years later, I found that I was in total agreement with you about the climate and the women-folk.

    I used both the A1 and A2 models of the M16 while on active service and really didn’t have any quarrels other than the usual maintenance grips that have been expounded upon by folks more qualified than me: I figure you work with the tools you’re supplied.

    Also, as a veteran of the cold war, I had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to “familiarize” with various NATO and Warsaw Pact weapons. I wasn’t overly impressed with the overall construction, fit, and ballistics of the usual Warsaw Pact Infantry weapons, and thought for the most part, they were comparable to ours, abet in different calibers of course. (Although they weren’t quit as finicky as ours were after a
    couple of hundred rounds had been put through them).

    On the NATO side of the equation, I thought the German G-1 was a lovely, but relatively awkward handling rifle, and that the quick shooting MG 34 took a bit of time getting used to. I also have some definite thoughts about the Brit, French, and Italian weaponry that I “played” with, but this isn’t the forum to discuss that.

    As an aside, I did NRA sanctioned service rifle, and high power competitions back in the 90′s with the a service grade M1, a “tuned” M1A, and a couple of different “flavors” of the AR, and still posses examples of each to this day. By my way of thinking, each firearm is a tool to be used as the circumstances warrant. Granted, competition vs combat conditions are entirely different “sand-boxes”, sometimes dynamically so.

    That being said, your comment about needing a system that isn’t an overpriced, underpowered piece of junk is dead on target. I still remember hating the M-60 MG (That damned Pig!) more than any red-headed step child. I “humped” that useless POS boat anchor for over a year as a young trooper. It was heavy, it jammed at the most
    inopportune moments (double feeds were a SOB) and when it did “run” as it was
    supposed to (rarely!), you had to change out the barrel every couple hundred rounds as accuracy went to Guam because of over-heating issues.

    I look forward to your opinion about the new technology and why it probably won’t reach the regular troopies.

    • Tom Kratman

      What battalion were you in when you made it to Panama?

      I’m not the only one of whim this is true, but I never really got comfortable with an A2. It just felt wrong and I never shot it as well as an A1. (Note: my assigned 16 when I first got to Panama was a five serial number job with the vixibly chromed bolt and the Buck Rogers 3 prong flash suppressor. Accurate it was not but I have to admit it was reliable.)

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Unfortunately, I was never permanent party, I did a bunch of time with the 82nd, and ended up doing Kindle Liberty a couple of times, and the Jungle school twice (different unit each time) before the invasion.

      I was very fortunate to be part of the advance party on a couple of those trips so I was able to put the “Airborne NCO Mafia” into play and find out where the best places for entertainment were. As you know, the various communities within the military can be rather small when you get down to it. You’re always running across folks that you have served with in the past.

      I found Panama; once you got away from the usual “separate the soldier from his money as quickly and as efficiently as possible” part of
      the various towns, was a lovely place. To my mind, it was like Berlin in the early 80’s, beautiful women, more places to eat than you could go to in a month of Sundays, and a great nightlife if you wanted to play in that sandbox. The very best part was you could experience it all without the north German weather whistling down from the Baltic.

      Ah yes, the 3 pronged flash suppresser M16, great for opening cases of C-Rats, but it played hell with the weapon holding it’s zero, much less being able to do anything other than “spray and pray.”

      There were a couple in the arms room of my first assignment, but I was never fortunate enough to be a lowly rifleman and carry/qualify with one. I was a big, strong (and some say dumb) fella back then, so my PSG assigned me as a 90mm RR Gunner right out the gate because I was tall enough to jump that bad boy; and then a year later as a 60 Gunner (I distinctly remember him saying “think of this as an opportunity to excel, high-speed” both times) .

      When I finally had enough rank to have the 16 (A1 and later the A2) as my primary weapon, I won’t say I never had problems shooting well, but if I adhered to the basic principles of marksmanship, had a good zero, and jammed my nose into the charging handle in a specific fashion, and in a specific place, I could generally put rounds where I wanted them. I only missed qualifying expert once in 23 years, and I blame that on the overgrown lane I was on.

      Having said that, we both know that the Army Markmanship program, outside of the AMU, for the most part, was a pretty hit or miss transaction. I will say I really didn’t become what I consider to be a more than adequate shooter until I got serious and started shooting competitions on my own dime. A KD range, and shooting beyond 300 meters brings into play certain skills that the Army didn’t have the time, or money, to teach your everyday grunt: the Marines felt differently of course, to their benefit.

    • Tom Kratman

      You missed a helluva time then. Lemme tell you why: Each of the three line battalions in Panama got more ammunition, 4.2″ and below, than the _entire_ deuce. We used it to live fire at least 13 times a month, with no safety considerations to speak of. Only place I’ve ever been where you could tell Range Control to pound sand and get away with it. And we used KD ranges, too.

      Panama was a great place to be a soldier, generally, and the women were…well…go here:

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      I know, I have buds that served down there in the Airborne Battalion (the 08?) that to this day, give me grief of never doing a tour in the zone. Ah well, I was fairly fortunate in my assignments and liked the “Eighty-Duece” well enough because we went places other than the “back yard.” If you were lucky (or depending on how you look at it – unlucky), there were times when you would fill your laundry bag with all kinds of neat stuff on your way to Green Ramp before you went someplace new.

      Yes, I’ve been to your site in the past and saw the pictures of your lovely wife. I also believe I’ve purchased, and read most, if not all your various works, and look forward to acquiring your newest.

      One last thing before I go Colonel, having been to your website, seen the interview you did for Black 5, and read most of your work, I think I can identify the character(s) you identified most closely with. I going to go out on a limb here and say that you likely would have been an SOB to work for in our former profession. I’m also going to modify that assertion a bit and state that you were likely a very competent SOB. Having said all that, I would like to think I would have enjoyed (when I wasn’t pissed at you) serving in one of your commands.

      I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming articles on this site.

      Cheers from a former, moderately competent, Airborne Infantry

    • Tom Kratman

      It had been 1st _Battle_Group_ of the 508th. Then, at some point, way back, it changed to 3/5. Then it was 3/5, with only A company on status. Then it was 2/187th, still with A Co on status. Then 1/508, with, I think (this was after my time) the whole battalion back on status. Frankly, if I had to pick best battalion in Panama, it would have been 4/10, pure leg, but so far from the flagpole that you could train without too much distraction.

      I think I can say with a straight face that I took some getting used to. This – (free, by the way) – is pretty much the short version of how I trained and why I did.

    • Grumy Old Badger

      Great – I just downloaded it and look forward to reading it. Thanks.

    • Tom Kratman

      Eventually I’ll expand it to book length. For now it’s more philosophy and less how to. Also more up to date than Collins’ Common Sense Training.*

      Funny little set of concidences there, actually. Collins and I were both 10 Infantry rats. Our first overseas assignment was, for both of us, Fort Davis, CZ. We’re both from Boston. And we both went to Boston Latin. I personally find that amusing.

      *I say “more up to date,” but if the Army returns from the current campaigns, as I suspect it has and will, unable to fight a conventional war for beans, then he may well be more up to date for the Army as it is and will be.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Interesting set of coincidences between the two of you. I knew Sherman and the Howard AFB much better – Ft. Davis was on the Atlantic side, was it not?

      I took a quick look at Amazon to see if that title was available and it was. Dang, another book to add to the “must read pile.” If for no other reason than I still maintain an interest in “professional reading.”

      I hope you’re wrong about the the (in)ability to fight a conventional war, but I greatly fear you are correct.

      I feel sorry for the NCO’s and the Officer’s at the Company/Battalion level. The majority of them don’t have the experience, and the training for that matter, in conventional warfare that was available in the 80′s. They can’t be blamed of course, as they’ve been involved in what I would have described as a Light Intensity Conflict for the last 10 years (Is that terminology still used today?) I don’t include the intial invasion of Iraq of course, but that was a long time ago in the overall scheme of things.

      I played in the Light/Airborne Infantry arena for the majority of my career and this type of conflict (LIC) is well within that communities purview. To fight, and win in a conventional setting envolves a different skill set that as a Company Commander in a Mech. Inf Bn. you are obviously more aware of than I.

      Ah well, I’ve been retired from the military for almost 17 years now and it’s definately not my problem anymore, (to old, fat, and broken) but I can’t nelp being concerned about the direction our military appears to be headed.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yeah, I think it’s a riot. And I’m pretty sure that each of those factors, in both cases, had their part to play in being training fanatics.

      Davis was on the Atlantic side, yes, holding 4/10 Infantry, 1097th Boat, and a slice of personnel support (admin and finance). There was also Gulick, w/ 3/7 SF and School of the Americas, plus Sherman with JOTC.

      LIC was Low Intensity Conflict. Ya know, I don’t know if they use the term anymore, officially, or if it’s all been subsumed in COIN. That was one of the other things we lost when we gave up the Canal; the 193rd was the Army’s test bed and doctrinal source for COIN.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Shoot – looks like discuss ate my last post. Ah well, still looking forward to your next article. I wonder how close our opinions will turn out to be on what the proper weapon and round we should be arming our Grunts and Super Grunts with.

      I will say I have a moderate affection for the 6.5 Grendell cartridge myself. I did a number of “roll your own” experiments with various “flavors” of 6mm a few years ago when I hung out with some folks that play in the bench rest arena. Didn’t stay long as those folks didn’t appear to mind replacing burned out barrels about as often as the rest of us change our socks. (I swear to Cthulhu I’m only exagerating a little bit)


    • Tom Kratman

      You may be surrprised. But when you read next week’s, and if you’ve read Carnifex, note some interesting similarities.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Crap – now I’ll have to dig out my copy and reread it over the weekend. I have so many things in my “to read pile” it’s embarrassing. Gee, thanks man. It’s been awhile, but I don’t remember the basic issue firearm being anything really esoteric. Ah well, we’ll see.

    • Tom Kratman

      It’s split between an interlude and an appendix. The F-26 and M-26 LMG. I _know_ there was no consultation or piracy there, but the similarities, while not perfect, are eerie.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Great – thanks.

    • ScottM1A

      I loved Ft Rich although it wasn’t Venchezna which is where I asked to go. I liked AK enough to stay for a few years after before moving back home.

  • Lawman45

    Do you like the Israeli Tavor?

  • Dylan Boyle

    COL Kratman,

    Thank you for an interesting and insightful article, I look forward to seeing more of your work.

    As an aside, I hope your enjoying Blacksburg! I am graduating Tech and the Corps of Cadets next week and wouldnt have traded my 4 years here for anything in the world!

    • Tom Kratman

      Congratulations. Good luck. Are you going into the service?

      My feelings for Blacksburg are…schizoid. I know, intellectually, that it’s a great town, one of the best places to live in America. But emotionally, I practiced law here, hated nearly every minute of that, and so I would leave this place in a heartneat except that the wife really loves it here.

    • Dylan Boyle

      I will not be, the combination of being a political science major who switched from engineering, and blowing out a knee led to me leaving NROTC.

      Im moving up to NOVA to take a job with Booze Allen after graduation.

    • Tom Kratman

      Happens, and the services are not going to spend any money or risk spending any until they already have quite a bit invested in you.

  • Jum1801

    Funny: except for the feeding problems and jamming because of a lack of robust chambering, as well as the tiny-capacity 20-rd mags, which were eventually corrected, the problems mentioned in the article are EXACTLY the ones encountered with both weapon and cartridge during not only testing, but for years afterwards in the field in combat conditions. To this day I recall how shocked I was in 1967 to read the remarks of so many of our soldiers who complained of a lack of confidence in their “Barbie rifle” M-16, and its “pipsqueak” 5.56mm round. These same US soldiers in Vietnam spoke wistfully of their enemy’s primary small arm, the 7.62x39mm AK-47. They praised the round as being powerful enough to kill with one shot, and the weapon as virtually indestructible. They viewed the AK-47 and the 7.62mm short round as far superior to their fragile, fussy and underpowered M-16s.

    I see little has changed. The government still hasn’t even beefed up the M-16/M-4′s barrel and action to the point it can withstand the sustained firing daily encountered in Afghanistan. Plus it is simply insanity to go to war with a rifle you that won’t shoot from 6 feet under a mud pit, or using a round you wouldn’t even trust to make a 1-shot kill of a 100-pound deer. The Marines resisted longer than the pother branches, hanging on to the full-powered 7.62x57mm M-16 until beginning phasing it out in1969, but even they bowed to the pressure.

    So almost 50 years later we’re still back where we were in Vietnam: with a plastic rifle that can’t take rough handling and hard shooting, which uses a POS round that’s a glorified .22, that you need a dozen of to be sure you put a bad guy down for good. It’s no surprise that our troops still lack confidence in both.

    • RustyShackleford1911

      “I see little has changed. The government still hasn’t even beefed up the M-16/M-4′s barrel and action to the point it can withstand the sustained firing daily encountered in Afghanistan”
      It isn’t supposed to, it is a RIFLE, not a SQUAD AUTOMATIC. The problem at Wanat was a training problem and a command problem, not a failure of the rifle. The M-4 is NOT a SAW nor was it designed to be one.

    • LilWolfy

      The grass is greener until you put an AK through its paces in volume. They are pieces of garbage really. The M16/M4 will fire after being submerged in mud, and will blow most of the debris away from the action, not that any of it gets into the action easily in muddy conditions.

      5.56 terminal effects are much more devastating than steel core 7.62×39. I’ve seen several of both, and know a lot of guys with AK holes in them that hardly did any damage, even bullets that entered in a key hole pattern. Don’t know many guys who survived 5.56 without major life-changing injuries. Only one was able to stay in the Army, and we think rock or projectile fragments went through his arm, not the full projo at speed, because it was so minor and clean. Another SAW gunner fell off a rock shelf and let loose an unintended burst, sending something through the guy’s arm. Everyone else died or had horrible wounds.

  • schmuck281

    I enlisted in the Army in 1967 and was trained with the M14. I loved that rifle and when later presented with the M16 my reaction was, “When it’s Mattel, It’s swell.” Actually that was just about everyone’s reaction. In Vietnam the M14 was prized and cursed by the Marines. Now I understand that SEALS use a modified version.

    By the way, I just recently discovered Tom Kratman and am halfway through the second book of his Carrera series. I now count him as one of my favorite fascist pigs. Like me.

    • Tom Kratman

      Actually, fascist doesn’t mean anything anymore except that a liberal is losing an argument to you. If anything, I’m a minarchical, small r republican, timocrat. When you get to volume three you’ll see what I mean.

  • blofeld42

    It isn’t all that hard. A rifle/carbine based on AR-18 action with piston, high ballistic coefficient bullet in the 90-130 grain range, and a machine gun that uses the same ammo. You’d wind up with a heavier rifle but a lighter machine gun and machine gun ammo. The machine gun would be good out to 1000+ m and you wouldn’t have to cart around both 5.56 and 7.62.

    • Tom Kratman

      Wait for next week.

  • Jason75

    My Dad told me that the L1A1 SLR was well regarded by forces in Vietnam when the ANZACs were carrying them. It might have been heavier than the M16, but it put a very acceptable hole in things it was pointed at.

    Something chambered for 7.62 NATO, built to be as robust as possible, and as reliable as a Japanese car. I’d shy away from anything electronic, Murphy’s law says anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment. A purely mechanical system you can train someone to repair in the field, electronics not so much.

    Something like the M14 would do the job. Is the AK-47 as inaccurate as scuttlebutt says it is?

    • Tom Kratman

      According to my former law partner who held the OPFOR weapons portfolio when he was MI in Germany, they are not as innaccurate as legend has it, but they are usually unzeroed when we get them and we rarely or never zero them. I know my own was acceptably accurate, but I wasn’t going to win any competitions with it, either.

    • guest

      Soviet Army “zeroing” procedure is rather different from what we may expect as Westerners.

      For the SKS, RPD, RPK, or AKM, the recruit would set the rear sight at the rearmost “P” 200m battle-sight position and attempt to confirm zero at 20m, with the assistance of someone who had the special tool that was the only way to adjust windage and elevation (both done at the front sight). Then the recruit would set the rifle’s elevation to 300m and shoot one three-round group at 100m. Group center would be measured and elevation and windage adjusted, if necessary, to put the group center 25cm high. Then the recruit would put his rear sight back on the battlesight zero setting and never touch it again.

      An AK74 or RPK74 was zeroed in exactly the same manner, except that battlesight zero was checked at 25m and the rear sight slide would be set to 400m, for the same 25cm high at 100m recheck.

      And that was it. Probably the frontline Sov infantrymen, at least, in GSFG and at the front in Afghanistan had performed these procedures with their own rifles. When you start talking about the rest of the Soviet Category I units, maybe not. And if it’s the Category II units, or the Category III reservists, or the illiterate peasant conscripts in some Godforsaken Arab country, I would not be surprised if they were issued uniforms and rifles and sent to the front without ever having fired a shot.

      Soviet Army rifle qual course described in detail, to be read while recalling that in the Soviet military establishment there were quite frequently vast gulfs between “official truth” pertaining to training standards and what the troops actually did in between outings to help with the potato harvest:

  • derfelcadarn

    If as a “soldier”you cannot kill the enemy using a Moisin-Nagant rifle you ain’t no soldier. The weapon does not a soldier a make.

    • Tom Kratman

      So we should equip you with a pilum and send you to deal with the Taliban then?

      You’re right, at one level, but the implication of what you’re saying, that weapons don’t matter at all, is clearly wrong.

    • guest

      Not trying to defend the other guy’s statement, but we are all starting with the perspective that in modern (post-WW2) fire-and-movement infantry tactics, the rifle is a secondary weapon, yes?

      By which I mean that for infantry units of the squad size up to company sized, the vast majority of ammunition expended, whether by round count or by weight, is going to be through an assortment of belt-fed weapons. On the offensive, the LMG teams lay down a base of suppressive fire and the riflemen form a maneuver element, fix bayonets, and close with enemy positions to assault them at close quarters. On the defensive, the riflemen are there mainly so that the enemy can’t outflank or overrun the LMG teams. And in larger actions, it’s mortar fire, 150mm+ artillery, and air support that do most of the killing.

      As such, as long as the guys with the 240s and SAWs have ammo, decent firing positions, and targets, the riflemen could be armed with trapdoor Springfields or Krags for all the difference it would make in terms of wars won or lost (WWII and Korea would have come out exactly the same way if US troops had been armed with Krags and Lewis Guns, true?), though of course casualties would surely be higher. It’s the small unit actions, where a squad or a fireteam is lost, cut off, surrounded, or was assembled ad-hoc from little groups of paratroops who happened to land fairly close together behind enemy lines, and the SAW team are dead, out of belted ammo, or landed twenty miles away, where we begin to see the modern infantry rifle start to make a difference in outcomes.

      All of which doesn’t answer the question of what an infantry rifle for the new century should be, of what we want it to do.

    • Tom Kratman

      I was talking to an SF type of long acquaintance over the weekend. Given the restricitions imposed on the troops in Afghanistan, in terms of supporting fires, I’d suggest to you that the rifle has acquired an unusual degree of importance there. So no, a Krag won’t cut it.

  • Rufus T. Firefly

    The French PAPOP-2? Should American infantrymen have a bullpup design foisted upon them?

    I remember being told (a bit before the Colonel’s time) that the M16 was a lighter rifle designed for arming our smaller Asian allies. I noticed the NVA and Viet Cong were hauling around some pretty heavy Russian iron, so that didn’t seem plausible to me. Visionary that I am, I decided the Mattell-toy was adopted so the girls could play. It took longer than I expected, but here we are.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t like bullpups.

      No…I don’t think females played a part back then. It’s just…pardon the malapropism…fortuitous.

    • Rick Randall

      More that the M16 had lighter RECOIL than the Garand and M14 (a consideration for small statured Asian allies), while still offering dramatically improved performance over the M1 and M2 Carbines (which is why the Air Force wanted it for SAC guards).

  • King Richard

    Having gone into combat with the French Army and the FFL I do not understand the sneering disregard many Americans have for their forces and military technology.

    • Tom Kratman

      French engineering is….odd. It’s not bad, per se, but they look at things differently, have too much taste for elegance, and come up with some odd solutions. Still, it almost always makes sense if you look at it just so.

      An example that really has stuck with me over the years is the magazine for their old MAS-49/56 rifle. Suberb damned thing, it was like it wasn’t built so much as carved out of the solid. But there’s a oddity there; the magazine catch/release is on the magazine, not the rifle. It was probably an extra ounce or so of steel per magazine doing it that way. To us it would make no sense at all…

      But if you’re going to have this superb magazine that might as well have been carved out of the solid, you don’t want people throwing it away, or losing it. That magazine release, done the way the French did it, puts the soldier’s non-firing hand around the base of the magazine, so he can grasp it and return it to the puouch, rather than dropping it to the ground and losing it.

    • King Richard

      Their approach to combat was much the same; a little flashy, hard for others to interface with (unless they, too, were French speakers, I noted) but effective, even elegant. Personally, I prefer the SCAR family of rifles as main weapons and the 5.7mm group as officer’s sidearms and crew firearms

    • Tom Kratman

      Wait til next week.

    • King Richard

      Oh, I will.

    • richard40

      I think French soldiers and equipment have always been pretty good, even in WW2. French Generals and political leaders on the other hand…

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Like the Brits, was it Churchill that commented: “Lions lead by Jackasses” or someone else?

  • Mike Maiorana

    The problem isn’t so much the weapon as it is the round. The 5.56mm just doesn’t cut it. There are several better alternatives in intermediate calibers such as the 6.8mm spc. That way you can save money by keeping the basic platform but have more stopping power at range. And if they replaced the gas tube with a gas piston system they would have a more reliable weapon.

  • zebradun

    There are many American’s, veterans and not who think the US military are going to turn their weapons on us citizens at the orders of the administration in power be them the Evil ones or the stupid ones.
    Perhaps the US military doesn’t need the 100% best whiz bang kill O’ zap rifle just to shoot American’s with.
    Using a Better rifle just to kill the Tea Party, and Rancher Bundy with doesn’t strike them with a good idea.
    The US forces are running war game drills rounding up Right wing militants and terrorist aren’t they?
    This is like the colonist of 1776 arming the redcoats with better Brown Bess muskets in their eyes.

    • Tom Kratman

      Last thing I’d worry about; the combat troops would mutiny first.

    • Firestorm

      Yeah. If you’re wanting to forcibly conquer your own people, you can’t trust any army that was in place before you were. What you need to do is set up a parallel army of some kind. That may sound weird to us Americans, but if you look at real life dictators it may well be more common than not.

      There’s a lot of ways to do it. Either find people from elsewhere in the government who will be more loyal to you than to the citizens (Alphabet Soup Boys plus IRS auditors equipped with guns and told to collect their revenue the hard way), or hire a bunch of outsiders to work as mercenaries for you (several million sub-saharans dressed in UN Blue and sent to fight “Christian Extremists”, or do like the Union in the Civil War and put a uniform on every immigrant you can get your hands on).

      I know of someone who wrote a book about it a few years ago, but can’t remember his name.

    • ScottM1A

      Matthew Bracken and while the first book was barely tolerable I couldn’t finish the next two or the new series.

    • Firestorm

      Actually, I was thinking Tom Kratman’s State of Disobediance, what with the Surgeon General et. al. being pitted against the Texas National Guard.

    • James

      I’d love to see that army come and try to do much of anything but die if they tried that anywhere near a large military base. Yes come to the south and try that. Between a populous gleeful at the thought of killing said invading army and the amount of weapons here not to mention the real military kicking their asses for any of a variety of reasons it would be literally bloody murder.

    • Firestorm

      It would undoubtedly be unwise for such a force go up against armed Americans in anything approaching a fair fight… so they wouldn’t. They would avoid pitched battles, deal with any strongpoints through overwhelming firepower (carpet bombing, chemical weapons, germ warfare, tac-nukes if need be) and then they’d busy themselves murdering, raping and terrorizing the sheeple plus whatever remnants of a resistance movement still wants to fight. All this after a few years of Biafra-style engineered famine.

      In any event, I don’t think it would ever be necessary for the system to launch a major assault on patriots/gunowners/conservatives. It wasn’t necessary, post-”reform”, in Rhodesia or South Africa, or Australia or Britain, or increasingly-dhimmi’d Europe (with the sole exception of 1990′s Serbia). Mass-media and compulsory education is doing more to kill us out than open warfare ever could.

    • James

      You realize the our military would wipe the floor with them and at the same time they would have to deal with guerrilla fighters behind the lines and millions of National Guard and milita fighters.

      So no none of that would be happening.

  • Arch

    In 1962, as a plebe at Annapolis,we all had to qualify with both the M1 Garand and the Colt Model 1911. The Garand is heavy – 11 lbs with a full 8 round en bloc clip, cleaning kit and a sling – but it was lethal to 440 yards. The “combat zero” procedure was center the windage and come up 8 clicks. At 25 yards, the pattern should be centered at +1.75″. That gives you +3.4″ at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards. If you aim at a center of mass, it should kill. Clicks are each 1 MOA.

    Debriefing Japanese and German infantrymen after WWII, they testified that advancing against an American platoon equipped with M1 was suicide. On Iwo, Japanese soldier thought all the American troops had machine guns.

  • politicalfundingsux

    take 100 combat veteran NCO’s together and let them tell us what is needed and then have the political guts to fund it and make it happen.

    • Luke Falk

      Ask that question that way and you’ll get at least 101 different opinions.

  • Firestorm

    “Some reports from Afghanistan suggest it is inherently less reliable, in
    sustained combat, as well. (Wanat, depending on whose story you read.)
    I’d call that ” de-evolution.” That said, even the full length M16,
    firing the 5.56mm, is hardly adequate to combat at some of the ranges
    experienced both in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that is the big reason why
    we must have a new rifle firing a better, longer ranged round than the

    Didn’t the Soviets have the same problem when they were there? They actually liked the ergonomics of their new AK-74s, but did not like its performance at range (to say nothing of the AKS-74U), and many Red Army soldiers unofficially reverted to the old AKMs to help deal with Hajis taking potshots at them with their ancient Enfields.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t know about that. I have read that, in some units, at least, they upped the Dragonovs from one per platoon to two per squad.

    • RustyShackleford1911

      IMO, the Soviets got that one right. And Firestorm, it is much easier to get hits at range with the 5.45 over the 7.62×39. Much flatter shooting. I have even tested them side-by-side. The 7.62×39 shines at close range on light cover, it does not excel at range.

    • Tom Kratman

      Probably, given their army. A bit like the French, everything the Soviets did made theoretical sense, given their circumstances.

  • seans

    The three biggest problems with the M16/M4 family of weapons is magazines and the M855 round and the training of lower level troops. Having seen the effects of M855, the MK262, and the MK318 in combat, having people critique the M4s stopping power who have never seen a effective modern round yet still critique the weapon still astounds me. Upgrading the M4/M16 family with a free floating rail will give great improvements to the weapons accuracy. I have seen first round hits/kills past 600 yards with the MK18MOD1 using MK262. As for reliability, the biggest problem I have seen is improper lubrication, mostly overlubing. I don’t clean my rifle until it jams when training, and I average around 2500 rounds between stoppages with a suppressed MK18. And Wanat was not a weapons failure, it was a leadership and training failure.

    • Tom Kratman

      As I said, “depending on whose story you read.”

      The Navy’s opinion is here: To say it exonerates the M4 is going too far: “Though weapon stoppages certainly played some role in the outcome of the engagement, no disaster such as the one that occurred at Wanat is the result of a single failure, a single mistake. Rather, the Battle of Wanat was the result of a chain of tactical mistakes, lapses in judgment, failures to hold the human terrain, and failures of leadership.”

      Conversely, the Army’s story, basically “it’s all the fault of the M4,” smells fishy:

      Both POVs seem to agree that the M4 was something less than optimal.

      Let’s suppose that, indeed, the Mk18Mod1 can get reliable first round hits at 600 meters using 262. At what range could you get reliable first round hits with a 20 inch match barrel and ammunition suitable to it? At what range if you were firing 6.5 Grendel?

    • seans

      Well of course the army is going to do anything possible to whitewash Wanat, due to how many mistakes were made above the O4 level. And as for the guns performances, they tried to use their rifles as if they were belt feds, they got the predictable results. As for anybody saying we are getting outshot in Afghanistan, people aren’t getting pinned down by AK fire from 500 yards out, its PKMs, DShKs, RPDs. Trying to compare 5.56 to that is asinine. Of course a medium machine gun is going to outrange a rifle.

      The biggest problems are with the M4 is the end user. Guys are not properly trained, do not get enough ammo to shoot, and are given crappy mags and ammo. The rifle is good, the lower level shooter just aren’t. What people want when they bitch about the M4 is some super rifle that gets rid of any need to have a competent shooter. But unfortunately that doesn’t exist.

      And if you are considering a no wind, known dope and barometrics, probably about a 1000 yards. But considering most sniper schools(been to two), state that 600 to 700 yards is about as far as you can go depending on the round with a guaranteed first round hit. As for the 6.5? Who you talking about, the average army grunt or me. The army grunt isn’t going to hit anything further with that round than he couldn’t hit with 5.56.

    • Tom Kratman

      See answer to RS,above. Some won’t. Some will.

    • Rick Randall

      Also, the 14.5″ barrel of the M4 isn’t there because it’s a good idea.

      It’s there because that’s the barrel length you get when you use an XM177-length gas system (so Colt didn’t have to change the handguard molds*), with a barrel long enough the bayonet lug actually works.

      The only reason the infantry has the M4 was LCF — Looks Cool Factor. Hell, the damned thing is only 5.5″ shorter than an M16. . . if you put the same stocks on them. There is NO reason to issue the M4 to line grunts.

      * Colt took the XM177, extended the barrel to 16″ to comply with the NFA for civilian sales

    • RustyShackleford1911

      At what range can Pvt. Snuffy get hits with even the perfect rifle and ammo combination when he can’t even exhibit modicum of proper fire discipline to manage his ammo and keep his weapon from overheating? there are still fundamental training issues to be resolved either way. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the average grunt to get reliable hits much past 300m, even on a static, non-camouflaged target that isn’t shooting back.

    • Tom Kratman

      Back in the 1860s, the Austrians ran an experiment. They used zeroed and unzeroed rifles with both trained marksman and untrained. Interestingly, with an untrained marksman, hits were more likely with unzeroed than with zeroed rifles. I’d suggest that, while there are a few naturally nerveless individuals who are never bothered by much of anything, when someone is shooting back nobody but for those few is a trained marksman. After all, we cannot duplicate in training the conditions of a firefight, hence we cannot train it, and the standards we may have are meaningless because we cannot simulate the conditions.

      However, Marine Corps “This is my rifle” notwithstanding, it isn’t only the hits that count and not all hits are deliberate. We suppress at range. We hit by chance at range. We inflict friction and fear at range. We get benefit of the sound of a passing bullet. We get benefit of the ricochet’s ping off a nearby rock. We get benefit of the scream from the occasional fluke hit (they’re almost all flukes and always have beem).

      You’ll get more of those things, at more range, with a 6.5 Grendel than with a 5.56. There’s also something else that we could have, and soon, that would have the advantages of a Grendel, or a 6.9 SPC, or a .308 and less weight than a 5.56. See next week.

  • YankeeZulu

    Funny, every officer “goes along to get along” until he retires. Then he writes books and articles, and occasionally appears on TV to rant about all the fucked up things and how it should be fixed. Where the fuck were you when you could have made a difference, pal? Pathetic… every single one of them.

    • Tom Kratman

      Really? You are intimately familiar with my career then? And how I went along to get along? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


    • Tom Kratman

      Here we go, mindreader, on why the safety program is bull:

      Just going along to get along, ya know.

    • Tom Kratman

      And here’s where I deliberately, with malice aforethought, openly, tauntingly, compromised the then defense exam for IOAC so they couldn’t use the thing anymore:

      Just more going along to get along.

    • Tom Kratman

      And here’s how I trained my companies:

      Still sound like going along to get along to you?

    • Tom Kratman

      And, in summation, moron.

    • Tom Kratman

      ANd here’s another one, calling bull on the Army’s fixation with tech:

    • Tom Kratman

      Now just who the hell are you?

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Just a troll, come to shit on this conversation. FI-DMN

      I’ll be surprised if you get a response.

    • Tom Kratman

      A troll and a coward, I figure. Though if I had a real name for him I’d call him brave indeed.

    • Grumpy Old Badger


      Oh, and I just read your article on “Depth In Initial Positioning.”

      I find it vaugely humorous that some of the issues you brought up in that article are much the same (though not in the same detail as your article) that I brought up in the response (that was eaten) I made in an earlier thread concerning “LIC/COIN” and Conventional Maneuver Warfare utilizing Mech. Inf. & Armor.

    • Tom Kratman

      30 years ago, no less.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Hey, I was just regurgitating stuf that an on the ball Light Fighter SSG in 85 already knew :-)

      re: coward? Maybe, my 17 yo daughter could likely get a name for us if I bribed her well enough. I will agree on asshole though.

    • Tom Kratman

      Nah, let the little worm hide.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Fine – that being said, I’m done for the day. I’m going to shut down the computer and I’ll catch up on this thread tomorrow.

      Oh, my response that was eaten said something to the effect that when Light Infantry had to confront other forces, especially Mech or Armor, it had to position itself in such a manner that It could bring the “pain” on the aggressor, displace, and do it all over again somewhere else without exposing itself to retribution if possible. Fairly easy (just disregard what Clausewitz said on the subject of easy) to do in MOUT, Jungle, or other terrain not suited to the bad guys being able to roll right over top of you. (pretty close to what you said if I’m not mistaken)

      I also said that I was still pissed today how my buds in Division were used in Gulf War 1 as speed bumps initially. I understand why it was done politically, but I’m still angry about it. I had rotated out, back to Alaska, before that deployment and was mad because I wasn’t there, but glad at the same time, if you know what I mean.


    • Tom Kratman

      Even in open terrain, given time, light infantry can make it a nightmare to attack.

      And, yeah, I know what you mean.

    • Grumpy Old Badger

      Agree again, depending on how much time they have to fortify their positions (primary, secondary, supplementary) prior to an attack and the support they have on call.

    • Tom Kratman

      You know, someone can use a pseudonym online, no problem. And someone can be an asshole under his own name, online, no problem. But when someone uses a pseudonym to be an asshole, I call, “coward.”

    • Tom Kratman

      You might get a kick out of the one on compromising the defense exam. This is how it came to pass:

      See, there were, on the defense exam, in IOAC, a series of five questions covering how infantry gains depth in the defense. The answer they wanted was through initial positioning _only_, though FM 100-5 said initial positioning and maneuver, and I answered, for reasons somewhat different from 100-5, initial position and maneuver, as well. But unless you answered the question as the school demanded, you were also going to “get wrong” the next four questions. The infantry school was dead wrong.

      So my five answers are marked wrong. I turn in a 17 page, single spaced reclama, citing, “1. Bullsh*t. 2. Official doctrine. 3. History. and 4. You’re idiots.” The defense committee tells me to pound sand. I appeal. I forget the title of the colonel who told me to pound sand. I appealed that, too. “Pound sand, Captain.” I challenged the defense committee to wargame it, me against their best instructor. “Pound sand.”

      So I said, and this is pretty much exactly what I said, (vowels redacted) “Fine. But guess what, motherf*ckers? I am going to compromise your f*cking test, openly, plainly, and in a way you can’t do a f*cking thing about. You may have f*cked me with this bullsh*t, but you’ll never get to f*ck anyone else and _I_ am going to f*ck _you_ right back.”

      And I did. And mine was the last class to have to take that test; they had to redesign and rewrite it.

      I stopped writing for them when Col. Garland refused to publish an article that was, essentially, “The ARTEP is bullsh*t, too.”

  • KenWats

    You know, if you look at all of the major systems that we have attempted to procure (and in some cases procured) for the US military and try to draw a common thread through the Navy’s LCS, Army’s FCS, the F-35, the Comanche, and others- all were billed as “transformative” and “revolutionary”. All tried to incorporate as much bleeding edge technology as possible and all have either bitten the bullet or have significant teething problems. Why are we not changing our focus to more evolutionary designs? Could we not get a lot more buck rogers for our bucks? With an evolutionary design, you (should) have a better appreciation of where your problems are going to lie and (hopefully) have ways in mind to deal with them. Evolutionary designs, I guess, aren’t as sexy to sell.

    • Tom Kratman

      Note that demand for a 100% improvement in a rifle before it was worth procuring. Whatever a 100% improvement means.

      I’m still trying to figure all that out. Honestly, I don’t ever expect to have it all figured out. But I _strongly_ suspect a defect in our entire culture and system of government.

      For a new rifle, I think I’d be happy with a new upper with a 16-18 inch barrel firing 6.5 Grendel. Though even the stubbier barrels firing Grendel show fair ballistics. And…maybe not have a carrying handle on the upper but put a scope on. And it would be a nice little _evolutionary_ change.

  • American Yeehawd

    The SCAR is a good rifle, a quantum leap over the M16 series of rifles? Probably not. However the .300 AAC Blackout is a good round, packs double the punch in the same physical size with only a barrel change vs the the 5.56 but only out to 500 yds or so. Then there’s the 6.8SPC, basically a wildcatted .270, this requires a barrel, BCG and magazine change but has better long distance ballistics.

    Part of the problem is the same dance the DOD has been performing with most weapons systems. Build one system to do all things. It’s the same issue when discussing the A-10 vs the F-35 for CAS. Unfortunately what works in downtown Fallujah may not work so well at 1000m in Afghanistan. An M-14 .308 packs a nice punch but I’m not sure I’d want to haul it and the ammo load up and down the Hindu Kush but it would be nice when I need to shoot through a truck door in a CQB fight.

    Maybe there’s not one caliber that does it all, maybe there is one platform however and if you can switch barrels for a given mission, or alter the platform for the mission parameters, maybe that’s as good as it’s going to get. Me, if I were in a tight spot I’d want the Warthog instead of a billion dollar aircraft that can supposedly do it all… with 180 rounds. Often the KISS approach is the best.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t know if it’s even used as a phrase anymore, but we used to say “rolling armsroom,” because we had so many more weapons than we could man, and so many different types, that we could more or less pick and choose for a particular mission from what the supply sergeant, or the 113, was hauling around. Example, every mech platoon had 5 M60s. In the attack you didn’t really want more than two, and often not that, since you had 4 x M2 on the tracks in support, but once it cam time to dig in, 5 x M60 could be nice.

      I could see us having a number of weapons in the company arms room that didn’t require a whole lot of training to use, say a couple of SMGs and 12 gauges (or – Heresy! Blasphemy! – 20, because the felt recoil is so much less and recovery time between shots so brief) per squad for close quarters, a DMR per squad, that kind of thing.

      That doesn’t eliminate the question though, of better caliber for the standard rifle. 6.8SPC? I could see it, but I personally lean a little more toward 6.5.

    • Seans

      I am guessing you haven’t had much actual dealing with the SCAR have you. The MK16 was a failure, the MK17 isn’t much better, and the MK20 is a absolute disaster. People think the SCAR is so awesome cause of its cool name and adoption by SOCOM, but they don’t here all the problems that come from it. The reason its being used is there is no other option for a Battle Rifle currently. The MK14s are being slowly withdrawn (and there wasn’t many to begin with), and only the SMUs have access to the HK417. The sooner the SCAR is abandoned the better.

    • Tom Kratman

      My son in law, 3rd SFGA, carries a SCAR heavy and thinks rather well of it. Like anything else frearms related, of course, this is largely a theological question, and everyone but me is a heretic, an infidel, and a blasphemer… hehehe

      That reminds me: Someone, in defending the 16 family, here or on some other site, commented on how special operations forces all over the world use the 16 family. It’s true enough of course. And someone can understand why they do, as soon as that someone understands why the US Army, USMC, and British Army took to wearing spiked helmets after 1871 or so.

    • Seans

      The SCAR heavy has a lot of reliability problems. Guns either work or they don’t. We had 5 SCAR H go down of deployment out of 10, they had to be shipped back to stateside, 2 of the replacements had catastrophic failures in combat. If that was just our platoon, I would probably had written them off to a bad batch of guns. But this is pretty much par for the course with the SCAR. I have read enough reports from fellow platoons to know that they is a large scale problems with the SCAR. I have talked to enough FN reps to know that they don’t know why either. And the SCAR had one of the most bullshit evaluations ever. The majority of tester did not like the gun. And the guy who is pretty much responsible for the SCAR H adoption in NSW which translated into all of SOCOM, went on to working for FN. There were and are better battle rifles already on the market, SIG and HK all had better rifles. Again why you don’t see the SMUs using them, they stick with HKs.

      Now my question for you, are your main complaints with the M16/M4 weapons, the rifle themselves, are 5.56 in general? Cause we are honestly not going to have a paradigm shift in rifle technology anytime soon. As for ammo, if you could get caseless, or polymer cased, you would be on to something. And I see you keep mentioning the 6.5 Grendel. The 6.5 is a good round, but I rather have .300. You got a round that is capable of being quieter than a MP5SD, and capable of engaging out to 1000yards, all with the same rifle.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t know, but what I _suspect_ about the SCAR is the Volvo problem, which is to say, anything made in low numbers, which is to say practically hand built, is going to have a lot of variance between one and another. This could explain not only your 50% failure rate, my SiL’s success, and your 50% (yes?) non-failure rate.

      I like the 6.5 Grendel at range, especially. (Note, in one series of books I’ve got a sniper team per rifle platoon, using, in effect, 1 x .51 Whisper and 1 x .338 Lapua.) For ammunition, generally, wait for next week. I could be convinced of the .300, I suppose, but just like the Grendel, when the #1 design consideration is “fit a mag that fits an AR,” I presume that ballistics have been compromised more than I like. Except for special purposes, not a huge fan of a quiet round.

      I’ve got a few complaints with the 16 family, and with the M4, in particular. Don’t like the carrying handle; don’t like the additional problem it tosses into marksmanship. Don’t really like direct impingment. Really don’t like it when I contemplate the future possibility of an existential war, and all that means to quality control, when considering direct impingment. Don’t really like the 7 lug bolt, though I concede it has certain advantages. Don’t like the shortened barrel and inferior ballistics of the M4, in a place where there are a lot of longer ranged shots. As I mentioned earlier, a longer barrel can still be used in CQB, but a longer shot from a shorter barrel is problematic.

      Don’t like green ammunition. Don’t like anything green. Don’t like anything liberal. Indeed, the liberal instinct for societal destruction is unerring; their dedication to that destruction total; and the energy they bring to the program of destruction inexhaustible. Anything, therefore, that they want or think is a good idea should be opposed on principle.

    • Seans

      Okay, the SCAR is not a low volume “hand built weapon”. They have a large amount of sales going. And FN doesn’t know what the problem is currently. Probably has to do with the fact that they tried to make a rifle do everything. Even though your SIL had “success”, ask him how many battle rifles he has dealt with. Most SOF had nothing other than possibly some MK14s until the SCAR came around. Again the SMUs who can choose what ever they want, ditched the SCAR immediately. And the .300 is capable of both supersonic and subsonic. That’s the beauty of the round. Its why you are going to see it replace 5.56 in a few years in the SMUs if Sig can get they new rifle running. And I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want a quiet gun all the time. Being loud really gives you nothing. Unless you got peltors on, you aren’t going to be hearing well after the opening salvos. I rather have the enemy have a hard time figuring out my exact positions, and me not being deaf on my end, then trying to scare somebody with noise who can’t hear anything going on from they own shots.

      As for the carrying handle, both the M4A1 and M16A1 come with a full length upper rail. So that issue is gone. Okay, what issues do you have with DI? Cause lets see, its lighter, and more accurate than a gas piston. I will give gas pistons the ability to run longer dry and dirty, but unless you don’t plan to clean your gun every 2000 shots, really not going to make a difference other than shooting immediately after a OTB. Doing CQB with a full size rifle is far more dangerous than using a Carbine length for long range shots. CQB punishes mistake much quicker than ranged combat.

      And was that last paragraph even relevant?

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s plausible, too. Looking at the production numbers of wiki (best available to me at the moment), I suspect I was right about the early program, with 340 Ls and 156 Hs, but by now, given those numbers (which are still low, in the big scheme of things, but big enough that–) they should have the production down pat. So, yeah, probably too much of making something do two things and it being half as good at either.

      I wouldn’t want a quiet gun all the time because, though I suppose I am…was…techinically…part of the SOF community (low end of the gene pool, though, if so), I am much more about conventional and COIN (via Panama) infantry in heads up, “windpipe slitting, brainpan spattering” mid intensity combat. (They call it high intensity now, but high intensity used to mean nukes. I’m disinclined to change my vocab for current linguistic pieties.) There, a firefight is in good part a moral exercise and, in fact, more noise is good. It isn’t all about being sneaky Pete. You’re thinking as an individual, I gather SOF, fighter. a member of a fairly small and fairly intense team. That’s a small part of war, though it may loom large at the moment. Note that, with an infantry company in a fairly intense firefight, there’s enough crap flying, going bang, etc., that identifying someone’s location from sound is kind of iffy, presupposing even that someone will put his head up to try.

      No, CQB you drop a hand grenade or five in first – or, what the hell, a satchel charge – then go in and finish off the stunned and wounded. No, their merely being wounded is not a sufficently good reason not to kill somebody.

      You asked me what I didn’t like about the family. I told you what. If they’ve dumped the carrying handle, good. Doesn’t really change the other things I don’t like.

      It’s relevant because we were talking about ammunition, or is .300, 6.5, and 6.8 some new code I’m just too old and out of date to get? I was also leaving it open to you to note that some of the problem with the M4 just might be PC ammo. Don’t know that it is, but it might be. I’ve read some hints that green bullets are not well received.

    • Tom Kratman

      Addendum: there is an historic exception to the more noise is good rule, the nighttime raid, and especially the trench raid. But for the latter you don’t shoot at all.

    • Seans

      Okay slitting throats is straight 80s/Hollywood tactics. Its not quiet, not even quick, and its straight messy as hell. You speak to a firefight as a moral exercise. Have you been in one? A supersonic bullet is still going to crack, just cause you can’t hear the gunshot doesn’t mean you are not going to hear a bullet missing by feet. And effective fire is effective fire rather it is loud or not. And every report I have read from our intel reps tell us the TB hate not knowing where the shots are coming from, it scare the hell out of them.

      As for CQB, fragging every room is pretty much impossible in most circumstances. Ask the marines about Fallujeh. You try to clear more than a few building and you are going to run out of grenades. If you can bring down the house great, but than you aren’t doing CQB. You would have to have some amazing ROEs for that. And I think you are honestly overestimating them. I have been on target where a barricaded shooter took all of our grenades, was around 40. He was still alive and fighting after that. Would a satchel charge or T-Bomb have worked, yeah probably, but no way would the guy who tossed it have came out okay.

      I asked you can you explain what about the DI system you don’t like. I was trying to ascertain how much of a weapons guy you are. My background before becoming as a shooter, was a armorer, than why being a shooter, early on had a role similar to a 18B, was able to attend a armorers course, and have gone to two sniper schools in separate services. What I have found in my career so far is most military members are complete idiots when it comes to actual performance and specs of guns. I have found most people can’t tell me the performance differences between gas piston and d.i. That most people don’t understand that longer barrels do not just mean greater accuracy. That barrel length is a trade off accuracy and range, that they do not both increase equally as you add barrel length. So I want to understand what makes you a expert in small arms, that you can state that the M4 needs to be replaced (I could concede caliber, but the MK262 and MK318 are amazing, but unfortunately they are generally only found with SOF). Cause right now, they really is no rifle around that can be built in large qualities that is going to give you just across the board better performance in the amount that would justify transitioning to a new rifle.

      As for the Army’s new eco friendly round, the M855A1. Its a pretty shit round, can’t defend that. I personally refuse to shoot it in my rifle, having a round that is pretty much right around proof loads isn’t that good of a idea in my opinion.

      And for the record, I appreciate the fact that I get the sense that you do give a shit.

    • Tom Kratman

      No, it’s just a poetic expression from, if memory serves, Byron. Yes, I am aware that one doesn’t generally do it, except perhaps by mistake.

      Grenades? Logistic exercise. If the Corps didn’t produce enough, someone forgot to check the manual for Class III usage in MOUT.

      My problem with DI is what I hinted at with the twin mentions of existential war and drop in QC, and the seven lug bolt. No matter what, DI is putting some carbon laden gas into something that is finer than most rifles’ bolts. Is it a problem if you clean the rifle every day? Not normally, though if QC drops enough and if some of the more idiotic types in procurement come to the fore…well, never mind, that, of course, has _never_ happened…but it also can be a problem, even if you just cleaned it this morning, and you have one of those really bad days. I’ve never had a day that bad, but people have.

      I don’t know anything about you but let’s just concede right off that, while I’ve been shot at, you’ve been shot at more.

      That said, I can probably read a ballistics table as well as anyone else. There’s only a small drop in claimed accuracy (though, ever since, say, Project 100000, one has to be a little skeptical of anything any service claims..and I am). I am a little more concerned with predictable yaw and fragmentation. I’ve seen some claims that the 5.56, and not necessarily just the 855, fired from the M4, is less reliable for both. Of course, fragmentation is never a deliberate plan, since the Hague Convention says no…except that cartridges have been rejected precisely because the projectile didn’t frag.

      There’s another trick here, too. I am not only a grunt of fairly long experience, but I was also a lawyer – reasonably good one – for fair number of years. I’ve conceded you’ve been shot at more. It should not be hard, all things considered, to concede that I know how to structure an argument better.

      So are you sure; sure beyond a shadow of a doubt, sure beyond any question, that there is no rifle we could have that’s better than an M4?

    • Seans

      Fallujah had 50,000 building that need to be cleared, considering the types of building they were clearing, and most of the shooters were barricaded and often times needed multiple grenades, that’s a lot of grenades. So if you can enter every room with a bang, that’s awesome If it can be supplied.

      I never said that no rifle is better than a M4. I said that there was no rifle around that could give you across the board better performance that would justify transitioning currently. What is the metric at which you justify replacing a weapon service wide. I agree 100% better is worth it, even 20%, but no guns around even give you 10% better across the board. The SCAR was a flop, XM8 was too. About the only thing that has worked is the HK416s and HK417s. And they were just designed to solve the problems of shooting suppressed with a short barrel. And they completely different problems than D.I.s. And when I refer to the M4, I refer to the design itself, not the caliber. If you said just upgrade the caliber, I would be more agreeable. But again my problem is that the majority of shooters don’t know how to maintain their rifles, and can not even come close to shooting near the rifles actual performance level. So replace the mags, upgrade the rails to free floating, and use either MK262 or Mk318, and you just dropped malfunctions by 80%, and now have far better accuracy and stopping power. The MK262 is open tip and the MK318 is a “hollowpoint”(non SOF can thank the lawyers on that one, and we never actually signed that part of the Hague Convention). So their ability to yaw and expand are nowhere dependent on speed as the M855 is. I still can’t tell if you are just wanting to replace the entire series of weapons, or just want a better caliber and longer barrel?

      As for the bolt having problems with carbon? Your barrel is going to be burnt out far sooner than you would be having bolt and lower problems. As for bad days? I go 2500 rounds between cleaning on average, and that is a suppressed 10 inch which gets way dirty than any M4. And the only part that really needs to be cleaned is the firing pin, which takes about thirty seconds. The military for the most part is taught to just soak the M4 in CLP, which is not needed, and in some places just going to cause more malfunctions. Soaking your M4 is a great way to get your gun clean if you have to keep it white glove clean, but not needed for keeping it reliable. So not sure what type of bad day you are talking about that you would shoot over 2500 rounds and not have a few minutes to rejock at some point.

    • Tom Kratman

      Whatever the market will bear. If you need a half a million grenades, and the effort is what amounts to a _national_ main effort, then a half million grenades are what should be supplied. Though, of course, there will be rooms you don’t need to clear, there will be buildings that can and should simply be blown up, and “build a man a fire and keep him warm for a night; set a man on fire and keep him warm for the rest of his life.”

      I think there is or could be very soon, yes, a much better rifle. Maybe even twice as good and about half as heavy, counting the load of ammunition. That’s why I wrote this part, which is part one of a two part deal.

      I’d shut up about it with an upgrade, yes, with a better calliber and – oh, i could compromise on a 16 or so inch barrel, I guess. For a while. Except, see above. And, looking over the .300 Blk, I could become a fan. What’s the weight per hundred?

      Though the tranzis go way overboard in what they call customary law of war – indeed, the way they try to work treaty ratification in as customary defies logic – the ban on expanding bullets probably is within it. That said, for COIN it should be fairly easy to call it “police work” and get around that. And, personally, I think that if we said it was to prevent harm to non-combatants via overpenetration that it would then meet the test of proportionality and necessity. Then again, I’m not a JAG; I’m a grunt with a law degree.

      If you say so, but I’ve had bolt build up, firing ball, on considerably less than 2500 rounds. Now, if you tell me that we have a new gee whiz propellant (and new gee whiz propellants do come along from time to time) then fine. Or if you tell me that QC at the factory has gotten better, then fine,. Or if there’s a case that the ammunition we fired in the 70s, 80s, and 90s was just trash…Otherwise I have to work with what I have.

    • Seans

      Well this is probably the last comment for the day. Okay so you say twice as good and half as heavy with the ammo. Tells me you are probably talking about the LSAT program. Again having a twice as good rifle is going to be pretty much impossible. There is a difference between rifles and the ammo. You can have a twice as good round, but the rifle is still going to be the same. You are not going to get anything major out of any mass produced rifle anytime soon.

      For the 300, the round is on average twice the weight as 5.56, it depends on if you are using supersonic are subsonic rounds. 300 should only be adopted if the military is willing to go with integrally suppressed weapons. Thats the beauty of it, if you aren’t wanting to shoot it suppressed, then I feel like the 6.5 would be the weigh to go. The sub sonic versions are quieter than a MP5SD, and the supersonic can make hits to the 1000yard line. And since suppressors are getting lighter and better, why not(I know you feel noise has value, but I have yet to see it)? Considering most suppressors give you better accuracy and more fps at the muzzle, bout the only true loss is a gain in weight and shift in the weapons balance.

      And 16 is about as big as I would go with a modern assault rifle. Maybe 18 for DMR, but I would have to see a ballistics table for it, and would want to know if a better propellant is going to happen in the next 5 years. But modern propellants have gotten rid of the need for anything bigger in a intermediate cartridge. As I said before, longer barrels do not give you more accuracy. If I can hypothetically get the same muzzle velocity out of a 10 inch barrel as I can a 20 inch barrel, the 10 inch will be far more accurate. So the balance has to be figured out between how much better the bullets external ballistics are going to be, due to barrel size and muzzle velocity. I am more than willing to lose 100fps with a two inch muzzle loss for the increase in accuracy I get from it. The range at which it will go transonic is not going to matter for any assault rifle. So with current propellants needing to use less barrel length every couple years to achieve the same muzzle velocity, shorter is better in my opinion.

      And yes propellants have come along with since the the decades you are talking about. If you use those decades ammo I would def expect performance problems well before 2500 rounds. Comparing the current M4/M16 to something decades ago is just not fair. The gun has made remarkable improvements in the last decade alone, not to mention the last three.

    • Tom Kratman

      Let’s leave that there until you read the next column, and we can pick it up.

      Except that twice the weight is just too heavy. So, yes, 6.5.

  • oldsoldier54

    Tom, great topic and will be interesting to see the input, especially from recent vets. Seems like the sights are figured out i.e. the illuminated inverted chevron coupled with 1-4 power magnification mounted on the picatinny rail with a thermal/ir add-on in front with irons for back up. Action questions are direct impingement less weight but more dirt or piston driven, more weight but less dirt? Free float barrel, yes. Adjustable length stock, yes. Bayonet mount, yes please for riot control or that someday bayonet charge, we are riflemen dammit! Barrel length 11, 14,16, 20 or 24, with a quick change lever it could be unit/mission specific just mind your head space. Now the toughie, caliber. 5.56 improved i.e. crimped 77 gr for all, 6.5, 6.8, 7mm or 7.62 mm. Keeping the short case length helps keep the weight down but not enough testing with the 77gr and others to know the “right caliber”. AMU and USMC kick butt at Camp Perry with irons and 5.56 is accurate but first round hit bad guy take downs with the 62 grainer stock ammo have been less than impressive. Hopefully Odierno won’t be allowed to waste as much as in the past and we get good development cooperation from USA, USMC, USN and USAF. I will keep watching to see others thoughts.

    • Tom Kratman

      For a product improved AR, I’ve got a lt of good reports on 6.5 Grendel, though, as mentioned here and there, it’s going to be suboptimal because the length is driven by the demand to fit a mag that will fit an AR lower. Seans almost had me sold on the .300 blackout until he mentioned weight. And while the performances for the 262 and 318 are fairly impressive, I think they may be a war crimes trial – or at least a shot in the arm to enemy propaganda – just waiting to happen.

      Tomorrow I’ll be addressing what I _want_ for the troops.

  • Someone Else

    Ironically, a $55 per round grenade would be cheaper than the M433 is.

    Also, interestingly, you forget to mention that other military units love the XM25 to bits and that the army is still sneaking it in via back doors.

  • Lothaen

    How can you justify another costly expenditure of money on a new rifle when something as simple as switching the 77 gr SMK has shown to dramatically increase the lethality of the 5.56 cartridge?

    Instead of screaming about a new weapon system, why aren’t we using the best available components for the current weapon system?

    Furthermore, how long until manufacturers are able to progress this new system into something as versatile and modular as the M4/M16 platform?

    Due to the platforms availability in the civilian marketplace, hundreds of company’s have devoted resources to lightening, strengthening, and perfecting the platform to a level of polish and control-ability that no other weapon system has ever had the luxery of.

    Introducing a new system without studying the current iterations of the platform on the civilian and military side of the coin does a great disservice to the taxpayer and the soldier.

    I cannot agree.

  • bob

    If the M4 is “so ineffective”; why are all of the SOF dudes going to even shorter barrels? They can choose to use .308 rifles, yet they still carry the “puny” 5.56 cartridge. And they continue to choose AR based platforms, even though they have access to others.

  • Afghanistan Combat Infantryman

    There is a reason every cool guy who can carry anything, carries an M4 OR an MK18 (which has an even shorter barrel than the M4). Now, maybe the SAS/SFOD-D/Sayerets/SEALs care more about looking cool than fighting wars. Or maybe, just maybe, the M4 is the best weapon system out there. The lesson from Wanat is if you don’t maintain your weapon, it may not work when you want it to.

  • tmaca

    OK, I’m a bit late this discussion has been up fopr a while. But I’m one of the probably few people around and still interested in this topi who has had experience with both the M16 and its predecessor, the M14. I learned on the M14 in 1967, and first saw an M16 at the Overseas Replacement Station at Ft. Lewis on my way to Vietnam in ’69. We called it the Mickey Mouse rifle. I went to Vietnam as a truck driver. So what do i know about a combat rifle? Well, I’ll mention a couple facts. First, I have a Purple Heart. Second, an E5 in the 62nd Trans Co, 7th Trans Bn, my company, for actions performed a few months before I got there, ended up with the Medal Of Honor. Posthumously, of course. If driving line haul resupply to the FBs in ’69 wasn’t a combat job, nothing was. there’s a reason some military historians have labelled that period the “convoy wars”. And the only protection” we had in those days were a steel pot and a flak jacket that wouldn’t stop anything more than fairly light shrapnel, and the sand bags we used to put on the floor of the truck. The Army back then didn’t see any point in armoring trucks and jeeps in any way.

    Anyway, somehow or another our arms room happened to have one M14, the version with a pistol grip added and a selector switch installed, allowing full auto fire. Without going into details, I managed to get that M14 issued to me, instead of “my” M16 whenever I checked put my weapon.

    Without even getting into the unbreliBILITY OF THE m16

  • tmaca

    By the way, one wonders whether McNamara had anything to do with the M14 being the first US military rifle that was never offered for sale to the public. Keep in mind that, back then, all of the restrictions on full auto weapons that we have today did not yet exist. Also, ATF has been a lot harder on the M14 type rifles than it has on the M16. For example, they shut one company down using the “or easily converted” wording of the machine gun law, convincing a federal judge that an M14 type rifle which could be converted to fire on full auto, but only with a full day’s work in a complete machine shop, by a professional gunsmith, was, in fact a machine gun.

  • Jackie Moskol

    Stop whining about the M4A1….First off, those at NSW/USASOC/JSOC/whatevers all have access to the weapon systems they need. If they want their M1A/M14 back, they can get it….Not only that, but I know a TON of PMC/priv sec contractors who worked with TITAN, DyneCorp, Xe, etc who ALL have been MORE THAN SATISFIED with not only the HK416 Compacts, but even MORE SO with the slightly extended-railed SCAR Mk 16 (not the heavy, but the lighter platform for those not in the know). They suppressed it, added a stub foregrip, a bipod, and either an Elcan Specter or a Aimpoint M4 and were MORE than happy with the results with such an amazingly modular (and NEVER-JAMMING weapon system in the dusts of Mexico, where we worked–as well as places like Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq etc where THEY had worked previous to meeting me). I was honored to hang with such awesome, humble dudes who never plugged any particular manufacturer, and most said FN, HK, and LWRC were their favorites (next to their “go-to” weapons for the end of days….i.e the SOPMOD AK-47/74, the Wilson Combat Paul Howe AR, and the DD M4A1—while sometimes mentioning the numerous LWRC SPRs as well).

    So don’t write off the M4. It’s still a great weapon….me personally? I like a modular AR that has the reliability of an AK so I’d probably try to find some as-of-yet unfound platform that works like a 416 Compact but can change uppers to fit the Soviet round. Then, I’d put a mini-can suppressor, a vert foregrip and bipod, and a EOTech w/3x. That would be all I’d need to live through the end of days. I’d collect 77gr (as much as I could get from Black Hills), then when out of that, I’d scavenge all the 7.62×39 from the slain I could. That would work just great for me….and if all else failed, I’d try to find an old school Stoner SR-25 suppressed just in case the aforementioned couldn’t be found (sorry, it’s still my favorite system out there, and the same’s been said by many of my Special Mission Unit acquaintances)

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