In the enormous1 part one of the series, we reacted to a brain-dead article published in The Atlantic by a retired Major General, who has, since his retirement 20+ years ago, been a lobbyist for defense firms and TV talking head. (Before he got his stars he was an artillery officer). We may have more to say about our brain-dead GO in a subsequent post, but we think we raised some good points about his article. We weren’t the only ones. He also ticked off Nathaniel Fitch at The Firearm Blog, and we heard, also the guys at Loose Rounds (you know, the ones that fire M4s at 1000 yards and make the steel ring? Those guys?), and no doubt there are other places in the gunosphere flaying him. The point of today’s increment is not to make the rubble of the General’s small-arms expertise do a dead-cat-under-155-battery-closed-sheaf-fire-for-effect bounce, but to discuss the technical limits of a shoulder weapon in sustained automatic fire.
Because today is a travel day, this article was mostly-dictated for speed. Therefore, we fear we have some typos we haven’t found. Let us know in the comments.
Sustained Auto Fire and Heat
Many of the problems the M16A1 had in Vietnam, and even in adoption and acceptance prior to Vietnam, were caused by the heat of sustained autofire. It was particularly problematical after powder changes made a dramatic impact on the cyclic rate of the rifle. Indeed, Colt got a contract mod allowing weapons that had a much higher sustained rate than originally specified to be accepted.
Thermal waste is a huge problem for gun designers, and it’s been jamming automatic weapons since Maxim’s day. The heat is generated by the combustion of chemical powder in the chamber in barrel, but also by the metal-on-metal contact between bullet and barrel, which swages the impression of the rifling into the bullet and imparts a spin of hundreds-of-thousands of revolutions per minute to the bullet. The friction between bore and bullet is a significant contributor to barrel heating.
If you were in the service, you were made to memorize something about your rifle being a “shoulder-fired, magazine-fed, air-cooled, selective-fire…” weapon. The “air-cooled” seems like a historical artifact now; the last liquid-cooled small arms were the 1917 Browning machine guns, which were last used in World War II. All modern small arms of all nations are air-cooled. That means that the air around the barrel must carry the heat of the barrel away. Meanwhile, for each round, the barrel gets hotter, because firing’s ability to load up the temperature is greater than the cooling system’s ability to remove heat. (The original M16A1 had a patented passive design for convection-driven airflow, removing the heat from the holes at the top of the handguard and drawing new air in at the bottom. Designs since then have made efforts to maintain that cooling, with little success).
Because this post is long, and involved, we’re going to split it. Ahead, we describe the bad things that happen when barrels get hot; the results of M4 cyclic rate tests (including instrumented and well-documented tests to destruction), and Click “more” for the next three thousand or so words, a few pictures, and pointers to where you can find some of the math.
Bad Things Happen When Barrels Get Hot
The peak temperature area in the barrel is usually about three to seven inches forward of the chamber, depending on caliber (according to the references, on 5.56 mm rifles, it’s about four inches). This is where the thermal stress is at peak, and it also has to support all the rest of the barrel (and anything that may be attached to it, from a Surefire to an M9 bayonet), so when the gun is going to fail, it’s probably going to fail near here.
As more rounds are fired, more heat builds up, because it is being added at a higher rate than it can be radiated away. As the temperature rises, bad things happen:
- You have a risk of propellant cook-off. Weapons that fire from closed-bolt are especially prone to cook-off. At a critical temperature, the powder or primer will self-initiate. As the temperature rises, the amount of time a round has to sit in the chamber to heat-soak to the point that it self-initiates declines. At first it takes minutes, then seconds, then rounds can actually cook off before the automatic firing train fires them, and finally, they can cook off out of battery. Usually other damage disables the weapon by this point. This article at DTIC shows some of the tools the .mil has to model heat transfer, and compares predicted cook-off data to observed, unfortunately in a large-caliber small arm (30mm Mk44 vehicular cannon). They generated this equation (after Visnov) that shows :
Time to cook off (minutes) = 10.129 x 1025 x (cook-off Temp – degrees C) x 10-10.95
The cook-off temp is a constant for a given powder, and can be experimentally determined by heating the powder on a steel plate.
In the test, they did not maintain continuous fire but bursts of fire according to a firing table, then followed by letting a round sit in the chamber. Their cook-off times in live testing ranged from about 10 to about 30 minutes testing. Note that brass provides better protection from cook-off than aluminum cases, which in turn provide better protection than steel.
In another experiment, Hameed et. al. built a “Chamber simulator” and developed working chamber temperature-time curves for producing cook-offs in a 7.62mm brass case with Bullseye powder. They found that below 170ºC chamber temperature, cook-offs were unlikely, and that by about 240º, the cook-off time was down to seconds.
- It can cause failures to extract. This actually led to a change in the formula for Black Hills MK262 Mod1 ammo, as reported by Shooting Times:
[A]n improvement to temperature sensitivity came along in 2005. [Black Hills President Jeff] Hoffman said the last change came after Black Hills technicians noticed some failures to extract (FTX) in their test M4 and short-barreled rifles, and that it was the most difficult problem to solve.
“We initially thought the FTXs were possibly related to higher port pressures,” Hoffman said. “The M4’s port pressure is around 25,000 psi, much higher than the SPR due to the location of the gas port on the respective guns. We looked at brass, powder, everything.”
It finally came down to chamber temperature. The test specification called for the ammo to be baked at 125 degrees for two hours and not exceed pressure limits when then chambered and fired. When Black Hills engineers started firing test guns far beyond the specified rate of fire, the chamber temperatures got much hotter than 125 degrees. In an extended firefight, soldiers could heat up their rifles with a few mags, and then during a lull in fighting, a chambered round would sit in a 200- or even 300-degree environment. That significantly increased chamber pressures and induced failures to extract.
“After we figured it out, I was surprised that it hadn’t come up before,” Hoffman said. “We’ve gone from bolt rifles to eight-round Garand clips to closed-bolt, select-fire rifles. SF guys never had an issue because they are trained to fire two or three rounds per target and very rarely go full auto.”
It only took Black Hills 75,000 rounds to sort out the problem—a chunk of the 250,000 rounds Hoffman figures the company fired developing and lot-testing the load. Finally, the round was issued. Interestingly, the ammo always did meet specs, even the ammo that Black Hills engineers felt needed improvement—they just found a way to make it better. The Navy began changing test specifications based on what Black Hills learned—and shared—during development and testing. The improved round was a hit, no pun intended, with operators in-theatre, and usage went through the roof. Not only did the ammo perform well for its intended purpose—long-range shooting—but did equally well in short-barreled rifles like the M4 (14.5-inch barrel) and MK 18 (10.3-inch barrel), which leads to a discussion of lethality.
- It can cause the barrel itself to fail next time it is used. At a very high temperature, the barrel is heated until it loses its temper, which can cause an invisible (and undetectable by gaging) failure of accuracy. This was first noted with aerial machine guns in WWII, as we noted here before.
- If continued, it can cause the barrel to fail catastrophically whilst firing. Stripped of its heat treatment and heated to the metal’s plastic temperature, the barrel droops. At first, rounds extending through it will sort of “hold it up” but soon it will be unable to contain the pressure and will burst.
- If the barrel doesn’t fail first, heat can cause the gas tube to fail. Weakened by high temps, the tube lets go.
Any gun can cook off. The USN famously cooked off a 5″ on the destroyer USS Turner Joy in 1965 during a Vietnam War shore bombardment, killing three sailors and wounding three more.
Results of M4 Cyclic Rate Tests
Colt has, in fact, tested M4s at cyclic rate to destruction and has made these tests public. C.J. Chivers, a former Marine, has reported on these tests in a long and readable report for, of all things, the New York Times. That report was Part II of a previous report on M4 manufacturing there. We were unable to extract the Colt videos from the Times page, but it’s very much worth reading, anyway.
After the Colt tests, the Center for Naval Analyses did a report. We don’t have the report, but Kirk Ross at the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine did an excellent and thoroughly-documented synthesis of the then-known information, including the CNA report and the Colt tests, a DOD survey of weapons users, and SOPMOD program office documents. Ross’s article is an excellent short piece on these issues and we strongly recommend it.
A lot of what we know about the M4 under duress comes from mid-1990s research. In the 1990s, as the then-new M4A1 carbine began reaching special operations units that shot them a lot, they began blowing them up. In June, 1995, 10th SF Group had two cook-offs. In September, the 1st Battalion of the 1st SFG reported multiple problems, including cook-offs. In May, 1996, 7th Group blew one up in its then-home-station of Fort Bragg. In August, 1996, 3rd Group blew one up on an African JCET; one USSF was injured by gun shrapnel. 5th Group and the 1st Ranger Bat also blew up guns around this time, and that began to worry SOF soldiers and leaders — and the armament procurement guys. The Army resolved to test M4s to destruction to determine what was going on. The one thing they knew was that the destroyed guns had been fired a lot, primarily full-auto fire at cyclic rates, often “burning up” excess ammunition at the end of an exercise (wasteful, but the Army makes it very difficult to turn back in unused ammo, and the Air Force is snippy about transporting it).
In 1996, ARDEC’s Jeff Windham conducted tests-to-destruction to determine whether, as then rumored, M4 barrels were more prone to failure than the M16A2 barrel. These were early M4A1s with the M4 profile barrel (like the one we carried in Afghanistan), and the M16A2 controls in the test were modified to fire full-auto by subbing in M16A1 fire control parts. The guns were fixtured and fired full-auto. The intent was to fire one of each fully-instrumented weapon to failure. Initially, an M16A2 was destroyed:
The M16A2 was fired continuously using 30 rounds bursts. Shown in Table I are the rounds to failure, time to failure and maximum barrel temperature of the barrel. Muzzle flash increased and there was a distinct change in the sound of the weapons firing approximately 30 rounds before the barrel ruptured. There was also noticeable drooping (about 1 inch at the muzzle) of the barrel just prior to the barrel rupture. The barrel ruptured at 491 rounds with an approximately ½ inch hole in the top of the barrel about 8 inches in front of the chamber. The barrel was bent approximately 5 degrees and bulged in several locations along its length (see figures 4, 5, and 6). A plot of barrel temperature versus time at each thermocouple location is shown in figure 7.
Given the hypothesis that the M4 would die before the A2, Jeff fixtured the sacrificial M4A1 and set up 18 magazines, containing 540 rounds, and then fired them. But while the barrel was ruined, it didn’t actually burst:
The M4A1 Carbine was fired for 540 rounds. It was thought the M4A1 barrel would rupture well before this point, therefore only 540 rounds were loaded for firing. This weapon’s barrel was noticeably bent and bulged at the end of the test (see figure 8). A plot of barrel temperature versus time at each thermocouple location is shown in figure 9.
A second M4A1 Carbine was fixtured for testing and fired until barrel rupture. Muzzle flash increased and there was a distinct change in the sound of the weapons firing approximately 30 rounds before the barrel ruptured. There was also noticeable drooping (about 3/4 inch at the muzzle) of the barrel just prior to the barrel rupture. The barrel was ruptured at the 12 o’clock position approximately 4 inches in front of the chamber. The rupture was approximately 1V4 inches long and 5/8 inches wide. The barrel around the rupture was bulged out about 30 percent larger than its normal diameter. The barrel was bent at the hole approximately 3 degrees (see figures 10 and 11). A plot of barrel temperature versus time at each thermocouple location is shown in figure 12. There was an approximately 30-second delay in firing of this sequence which can be seen in the temperature plots. This delay allowed additional cooling of the weapon and may have increased the number of rounds to rupture by 30 to 60 rounds.
Here is the Table 1 from the report. The other figures and tables referenced in the quotes are in the report, which is linked in the Sources below, although the photo reproduction is of very low quality.
SOCOM sent a safety message as far back as 1996, presumably based on Windham’s research (although we didn’t notice if they said that) about cook-offs with sustained fire. It is reproduced in this archived ARFCOM thread. We recall receiving this message with a red-bordered safety cover sheet. The thread poster has good advice. Here are a couple of lines from that message:
Sustained firing of the M16 series rifles or M4 series carbines will rapidly raise the temperature of the barrel to a critical point.
Firing 140 rounds, rapidly and continuously, will raise the temperature of the barrel to the cook-off point. At this temperature, any live round remaining in the chamber for any reason may cook-off (detonate) in as short a period as 10 seconds.
Sustained rate of fire for the M16 series rifles and M4 series carbines is 12-15 rounds per minute. This is the actual rate of fire that a weapon can continue to be fired for an indefinite length of time without serious overheating.
The sustained rate of fire should never be exceeded except under circumstances of extreme urgency. (Note: a hot weapon takes approximately 30 minutes to cool to ambient temperature conditions).
Cook-offs out of battery result from a round which cooks off when the bolt is not locked or a round which cooks off as the user is trying to clear the weapon.
Burst barrels result when the weapons are fired under very extreme firing schedules and the barrel temperature exceeds 1360 degrees Fahrenheit. When the barrel reaches these extreme temperatures, the barrel steel weakens to the point that the high pressure gases burst through the side of the barrel approximately 4 inches in front of the chamber. This condition can result in serious injury.
That is, of course, exactly the failure mode in the first M4 video at Chivers’s report. And this is from a message from 1996, so SOCOM’s weapons experts knew it almost 20 years ago, and more than 10 years before Wanat.
600-700 degrees F is where cook-offs begin, and that’s reached in as few as 140 rounds on rapid semi-auto fire.
Here’s a table with some key temperatures for you:
|Temp F||Temp C||Rounds||Comment|
|230||110||30||semi-auto M855 in M4|
|278||137||30||full-auto M855 in M4|
|600||316||140||semi-auto; threshold of cook-off|
|700||371||?||frequent cookoffs, barrel weakened|
|1360||737||~500||semi or full, catastrophic failure|
|© Weaponsman,com 2015|
How to Deal With Heat Limits
The Training Answer: First, every GI should see those Colt test videos and know what his gun can, and can’t, do. While the Black Hills guys were correct in noting that SF/SOF guys usually manually fire single shots or short bursts, even most of them don’t know what happens when a gun goes cyclic for minutes at a time. A good video explaining “why you can’t do that” would be a strong addition to training, not only for combat forces, but for support elements who may find themselves in combat and feel the urge to dump mags at cyclic rate.
The Morale Answer: Every GI should see the same done to AKs as well. There is a myth perpetuated by pig-ignorant people (like General Scales) that the AK series possesses magical properties and that the American weapons are crap. In fact, nobody I know of at the sharp end is at all eager to change, perhaps because the laws of physics and the properties of materials apply just as firmly to a gun originally created by a Communist in Izhevsk as they do to a concept crafted by capitalists in California. If you’ve ever fired an AK to destruction, you know that it grows too hot to hold, then the wooden furniture goes on fire, then, if you persist on firing it full-auto, it also goes kablooey. Not because there’s anything wrong with this rifle, but the laws and equations work the same for engineers worldwide.
The Systems Answer: As you can see from the Colt videos, if you clicked on over to Chivers’s article, thickening the barrel nearly doubled the rounds to catastrophic failure on cyclic. An open/closed bolt cycle might have practical benefits. They wouldn’t show up in sustained heavy firing like the destruction tests, but they might show up in how a weapon recoups from high temps, and open-bolt autofire would eliminate cook-offs, at least. But any such approach needs thorough testing.
The Wrong Answer: Replacing the M4 with something like the SCAR or the HK416, something that is, at best, barely better, that is much more maintenance intensive, and that, contra Scales’s assertion that his undisclosed client’s weapon is “the same price,” is twice (SCAR) or three times (416) the money. (The 416 mags are the best part of the system, though).
It would be interesting to duplicate Jeff Windham’s M4A1 destruction tests with AKs and with other competitors, like the 416. Scales says a piston system like those (never mind that each one is a very different design) would not fail under the conditions seen at Wanat. We’ve seen from the information here, that the failure of firearms under high rates of fire is driven by the physical problems of waste heat and metallurgy. Our prediction is the laws of physics apply in Russia and Germany as well.
Did Weapons Cause Deaths at Wanat?
We’ve talked about how the weapons fail, when they fail, today. But in the previous post, we were looking at this in the context of a very important question: did weapons deficiencies cause deaths at Wanat? We reached our conclusions. In The Atlantic, Major General Scales, the undocumented lobbyist and long-retired talking head, reached the opposite conclusion, and asserted that the nine fatalities that day resulted from, specifically, M4 failures. We are not sure whether his problem is lack of familiarity with the material we’ve presented here, or whether it’s an integrity issue, but we think we’ve rather conclusively made the point that any honest answer comes back, “No.”
But it’s worth noting what the other investigations decided.
- The historical investigation, both the Cubbison and the final, come up, “no.”
- The RAND report does not fault the weapons. It does suggest some theoretical future weapons developments, such as miniguns or thermobaric weapons, and points out the dead-space problem without making a specific suggestion of how to address it.
- The Army 15-6 investigation, came up “no,” and said so explicitly.
- The DOD Inspector General investigation, that was extremely critical of the leadership of the company, battalion and brigade, did not mention weapons as a factor.
And so we’re not really in bad company, even though were on the other side of a Major General on this.
1. A good web article is about 300 words. A good newspaper column is about 700 words. Because we have faith in our readers’ ability to follow pieces of greater length and complexity, we frequently go to 1000 or even 2000 words (although our mean comes in around 600). That article was 3,129 words. And well illustrated, too.
Chivers, CJ. The Making of the Military’s Standard Arms, Part II. New York Times (online): 12 Jan 2010. Retrieved from: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/m4-and-m4a1-guns/?_r=1
Department of Defense. MIL-STD-3029: Department of Defense Test Method Standard: Hot Gun Cook-Off Hazards Assessment, Test and Analysis. Washington, DC: DOD, 23 July 2009. Retrieved from: http://everyspec.com/MIL-STD/MIL-STD-3000-9999/download.php?spec=MIL-STD-3029.022917.PDF
Guthrie, J. Reviewing Black Hills’ MK 262 Mod 1 Ammo. Shooting Times: 21 Mar 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.shootingtimes.com/ammo/special-forces-to-civilians-black-hills-mk-262-mod-1-review/
Hameed, Amer, Azavedo, Mathew, and Pitcher, Philip. Experimental investigation of a cook-off temperature in a hot barrel. Defence Technology.Volume 10, Issue 2, June 2014 (28th International Symposium on Ballistics), Pages 86–91. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214914714000385
Ross, Kirk. What Really Happened at Wanat. Proceedings Magazine, July 2010. Vol. 136/7/1.289. Retrieved from: http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2010-07/what-really-happened-wanat
Smith, Herschel. The Captain’s Journal. Multiple posts on Wanat linked to his Battle-of-Wanat category. Basically, Hersh has beaten all this ground years before (and we’ve even cited his reports here, before). Retrieved from: http://www.captainsjournal.com/category/battle-of-wanat/
Windham, Jeff. Fire To Destruction Test of 5.56mm M4A1 Carbine and M16A2 Rifle Barrels. Rock Island, IL: Engineering Support Directorate, Armament Research, Development And Engineering Center. September, 1996. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA317929 (Abstract: http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA317929).
Witherell, Mark, & Pflegl, George. Prediction of Propellant and Explosive Cook-off for the 30-mm HEI-T And Raufoss MPLD-T Round Chambered in a Hot Mk44 Barrel (Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle – AAAV). Watervliet, NY: Army Research Laboratory/Benet Labs, March 2001. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a388280.pdf
Wanat General References from Part 1
Combined Joint Task Force-101, “Army Regulation 15-6 Investigation into Battle of Wanat (Redacted, Unclassified Version)” (Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan: 21 October 2008.
Cubbison, Douglas R. Occasional Paper: the Wanat Operation (first draft). US Army Combat Studies Institute, 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/battle-of-wanat/correspondence/documents/2-Army-Historians-Report.pdf
DOD Office of the Inspector General. Oversight Review of the Reinvestigation into the Combat Action at Wanat Village, Afghanistan. Arlington, VA: 22 July 2010. http://www.dodig.mil/ai/reports/roi-wanat508.pdf
Staff of the US Army Combat Studies Institute. Wanat: Combat Action in Afghanistan, 2008. Leavenworth, KS: US Army Combat Studies Institute, 2010. Retrieved from: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/Wanat.pdf found at: http://usacac.army.mil/organizations/lde/csi/pubs.
Steeb et. al. Perspectives on the Battle of Wanat: Challenges Facing small Unit Operations in Afghanistan. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/occasional_papers/2011/RAND_OP329z1.pdf
Original comments are reproduced below for completeness
70 thoughts on “The Big Lie About Wanat (COP Kahler), Part 2 of 2”
- Stefan van der Borght
How about an addon handguard for static defence, using thermoelectric cooling?
Ok, not light, hence not for patrolling, but lighter than water jackets (and water), and not cheap; but if you cut a few essentials like VA/ACA/TSA services, golf and shopping vacations, subsidies for renewable scams, foreign aid to folks that hate everyone, and the UN budget, I’m sure some enterprising ‘Merican could come up with something to make a good thing even better. I wonder if a more powerful intermediate round (hello, .280, welcome back from the cold) and some training in marksmanship (and tactics/logisitics for the bright sparks that set up the Wanat party) might avoid such near-disasters, or make them harder to achieve; but I can see problems with that too. Maybe just bring the folks home, build a decent fence, and let the world’s nutters entertain each other.
Can’t work, the physics is against it.
Thermoelectric cooling is energy intensive.
You’d need a huge set of batteries, we’re talking car sized at least to be able to run it any decent length of time, and a huge heatsink to dump the heat from the hot side of the peltier thermoelectric coolers.
The heatsink would have to be gigantic because the hot side of the peltier thermoelectric cooler must not only remove the heat from the barrel but also waste heat generated from the inefficiency of the peltier thermoelectric cooler itself.
Short of Star Trek tech you’re not going to make it work.
Now integrating a heatpipe directly onto the barrel along the length of it on the other hand is something that would be doable not only because of its effectiveness (competes with watercooling in terms of heat removal capabilities) but also because they can be made cheap and light with no moving parts as well if the muzzle blast is used to pull air through the heat exchange surface.
This two-part article was a fine read. I’ve read Chiver’s book, The Gun, and its lengthy trek to the history of the AK-47’s development and use. The part of this article mentions how every G.I. should be shown similar videos and given reports of AK’s that failed during sustained cyclic fire. But the 600 pound gorilla in the corner wonders why other manufacturer’s weps are not being tested to destruction like the M4 has been? With no one testing them, be they H&K’s, FN’s (including the SCAR), as well as all the others that can be listed, one wonders how they would fare when fired to destruction.
The Brigade, Battalion, and Company officers were reprimanded for what happened at Wanat, but it was not career-ending though I’m sure their upward mobility was hindered. This is the other 600 pound gorilla… the location of the COP. Having never served, what do I know? Then again, when you are literally in a bowl with elevated positions all around you, even with HESCO all about, how can you expect to defend yourself in such a location? If memory serves, the TV show 60 Minutes told the story about the Wanat battle. In it is showed the soldiers complaining about their location, how indefensible it was, that they had to resort to using hand shovels to create the HESCO (ever did a lot of digging with a hand shovel? I have, it’s a bitch) and little to no logistical support and ultimately little to no support from command once they were attacked.
Sounds like this was kinda like what happened with the battle at Ia Drang in 1965. Someone in charge put our soldiers in a cr*p situation and wanted to see what happened… or… whoever was in charge of having them put there didn’t give a sh*t.
Back to the 60 Minutes story, an independent investigation was conducted outside the USA (US Army) with conclusions that the commander responsible for the COP at Wanat disagreed with, so much so, that he came before the parents of the soldiers killed/wounded, to explain his side of what happened. He didn’t do this of his own volition, he was ordered to explain to them his side (perhaps military form of penance?). After his stomping about, doing the typical US Army Colonel thing of smoke and mirrors to “dumb civilians”, one of the dead soldier’s fathers stood up to the colonel, explaining to him that he too was in the Army, a retired colonel himself, and methodically explained to the active duty colonel how much in and how far up his head was up his anal groove. Ultimately the active duty colonel was not visibly fazed. Then again, his son wasn’t 6 feet under either.
I’m sorry, I have gone back and researched the date of the 60 Minutes story, nor the participant’s names, but suffice it to say, if anyone has a clue and has read a few basics of how to deploy your troops, know this:
Fighting uphill is a bad idea.
Being fired upon from above is a bad idea.
That much I know.
It’s too bad that back then, during Wanat, their commanders were not aware of those two facts that have been around for centuries.
PS. Please don’t flame me, I know I’m not an expert on these matters, but I do know some things and this all boils down to where our soldiers were positioned, not their weapons. They and their weps were put into a situation that was untenable and indefensible and yet they fought valiantly and killed many of their enemies.
If there ever will be a perfect wep it will be a death-ray and then again, I’m sure that will overheat and fail when it’s used well beyond specs.
- Daniel E. Watters
You might want to find a hard copy of the latest Small Arms Defense Journal (Vol. 7 No. 1). There is an article by Jim Schatz that is pushing many of the same talking points as Scales. It kinds of makes one wonder if it wasn’t coordinated.
I will have to read that. Small arms reformers are like hydra heads; you take one down, two spring up in their place!
*A note about my use of the term “reformer”. It was made very evident to me when discussing the subject with my father that not all circles assign the negative connotation mine do to the term “military reformer”. Why this is so is not yet clear to me, but I do not consider all people seeking to reform in the military to be bad. For me, though, the term has been eternally tainted to become a term of derision thanks to all the Mike Sparkses of the world.
- Hognose Post author
It is associated with a certain group of Boyd acolytes who received the Gospel According to John, but some of them are close to the sort of “we hate everything” approach of the far-left “defense think tank” outfits like the Soviet-line “Center for Defense Information” and the anti-military group that later became the “Project On Government Oversight.”
Is Mike Sparks the guy with the “combat reform” website, who’s still flogging the M113 twenty years after they took their last ride to an AT range on a tow truck?
- Hognose Post author
- Hognose Post author
I must have it here, I’m a subscriber. But I’m on the road for the next week.
That is interesting, coming from Jim Schatz, of the Because-You-Suck-And-We-Hate-You Ernst Mauch era at HK USA.
Some of this stuff seems to generate itself, like mildew or rust. Remember when the Afghan thing kicked off, and by November 2001 you heard stories about how guys were getting killed because their M4s failed, and they were clamoring for M14s? Complete with what was purported to be emails from SF teams in the field? That was all well-coordinated too, and made up by some ARFCOM dwellers who gargle M14 Kool-Aid.
I like M14s well enough, but it was a really fraught program, and given the choice to carry one, I didn’t. My buddy Brian did. I used to rag on him about it, but he wanted to have good terminal ballistics if we needed to make a 1000-1200m shot. His reasoning was sound.
My favorite hobby in this world is pointing out to The Old M14 Boys Club, why the M14 is such a turd
I have a pre 86 national match wood stock m1A1, bought in new. Its a fine weapon. It provides a certain level of confidence when I use it like no other rifle I own. Its far more accurate than I am, it puts rounds down range, like 5 -600 meters like nothing I ever pulled the trigger on. But it is heavy, the ammo far more so, those big magazines take up a lot of real estate on my load bearing gear. In a static position I’d use that rifle hands down over another rifle, stack up enough ready mags and fight like there’s no tommorrow with it. Keep a Last resort load on my gear.
In comparison to my Mforgery for humping it and moving combat, that AR is a game changer, especially with a mil spec optic like an Aimpoint. Those red dot sights transformed the AR into a real serious man killer. If you can put that reticule on a target, when you pull the trigger, that’s where the bullet goes. And fast, it swings onto a target like an M14 can not, unless your kingkong or superman. I love both rifles, but if it drops in the pot, that AR is the rifle of choice in no uncertain terms.
Those may seem like minor or debatable attributes, but in my experience its my solid personal determination.
If there is one difference between the two which I consider crucial, its ammo load. It doesn’t take long to burn through 300 ready rounds on your load bearing equipment in heavy combat, the old axiom you can’t have enough ammo is the golden rule there. A big advantage in my book. You hit a man anywhere with a 5.56, you at least are going to disrupt his aim on you, and it makes a just to be sure round that more feasible when you can double or triple your ammo load and things are getting really sporty and there is no supply train or chopper to resupply you.
But still, that M14, it just feels like a real rifle, like no AR can. Substantial and it fits up to your cheek like your woman. I never liked the twang from the op rod and spring, but it gives me a sense of shooting it. The AR kind of don’t notice the buffer anymore. And the powder smell when shooting the M1A1 is gratifying in a strange way. Must be the different powder from the 5.56.
Totally different weapons. Its apples and oranges for the most part.
Though if I suppose, for theoretical sake, if a guy was to go after a relatively small number of enemy knowing he could have the advantage of terrain, distance, and surprise, and able to boogey to safety in a moments notice, the M14 would be a suitable choice.
I guess its all how you think.
- Hognose Post author
GI powder was the same in both guns, IIRC. WC846.
You’re right about ammo, and remember that ammo weight & bulk has knock-on effects all down the supply chain. Need more trucks, more choppers, more airlift sorties and rail cars, more warehouse space, more money. Not a factor when you’re building your own Post Rule Of Law loadout, but a pretty big deal for a large organization with lots of people.
By the way, here’s a great essay by Daniel Watters on how and why the USG changed from IMR 4475 to WC846 in the M16.
Cool! That has to be an interesting read. I remember something about change of powders and the fouling issues it led to. Often wondered about the truth behind it. It sure seemed to cause a lot of problems.
WM, talk about variables and unintended consequences of changing propellants like changing underwear, whew! Consequences sure got away from everyone quickly. Has it ever been resolved, or did the change to the 62gr bullet throw in a new set of variables?
The acid issue reminds me of something, didn’t 2 engineers a couple years back develop a new method of recycling old military powders which was unique for its ability to recycle certain powders thought unrecoverable? I think they are Hercules engineers if memory serves.
- Hognose Post author
The AR platform rifle is solidly reliable today. Then, my 1960 AR-10 is solidly reliable, too.
- Hognose Post author
VERY interesting stuff. In the 80s, we briefly had 50 round magazines for the Galil. The idea was that with the bipod and the larger magazine, we could use it like a light machine gun for cover fire, with the advantage of having the same ammunition for regular rifle use. That idea didn’t last long. We never got a clear report on it; but I seem to recall being told that even a robust weapon like our Galilim couldn’t take that kind of abuse for long. We stuck with the FN MAG as our light machine gun, and forgot silly ideas like overusing our rifles by design. Although a lot bulkier and heavier, it went out with just about every squad. I guess the SAW is meant to be a solution to that problem.
Of course, when confronted with absolute necessity, one does what one has to do and prays that the equipment will hold up to the abuse or the enemy will fail sooner.
- 2000£ of Education
As a serving member of the 2-503d (The platoon sergeant with the QRF, William Stockard, was my first first sergeant), I can confirm that guys here don’t attribute the failures at Wanat to the M4.
Rather, the casualties are viewed as a result of the conditions of OEF VIII: a determined enemy in tough terrain with insufficient aircraft support. And that’s where you get a deployment with three medals of honor in one battalion.
After reading your article, I told my old platoon sergeant, also a veteran of that deployment though not in Chosen company, that a retired general was blaming the M4 for Wanat. Without knowing any other context, he asked if the general was trying to sell a new rifle. Thus speak the guys at the pointy end.
- Hognose Post author
Thanks. Nothing better than to be on the same sheet of music as the guys who were there. One of my old team sergeants’ son is a platoon sergeant in the Deuce and he has see a truckload more combat than most of the SF guys I know (even ones with big gongs, like the DSC). Not that even one round isn’t uncomfortable when it’s aimed at YOU.
- Hognose Post author
- Hognose Post author
I had a Valmet and ran it with 50-round Galil mags for a while. (Actually, they were South Effrican R4 mags). It always worked fine with the 50s or the 35s. The Galil AR mag adapter needed to be filed to fit the Valmet (I can’t remember why but it may have been for clearance on the stock catch). I was surprised to read online that Galil mags didn’t work in Valmets. In my M76FS they always did!
- 2000£ of Education
- Tom Stone
3,000 words is fine.
6,000 words would also be fine if you need that many to cover a subject.
Extraordinarily well done. Thanks (that includes yet another “oh, for the love of God” look at the Kahler terrain).
The anti-Stoner platform people are basically down to propaganda, very good job with your presentation you not only rhetorically drubbed them you intellectually informed within the same posts. And from what I remember an artillery officer should damn well know what maximum rate of fire is and why it is that way.
Superb article, Hognose. You won’t mind if I return the favor and repost it, do you?
- Hognose Post author
Be my guest, Nathaniel, just give me credit and a link and I’m happy. Thank you for asking.
- Hognose Post author
- El Cid
Damned fine work Hognose. I’m an AK fan but the idea that M4s are some weak sister is bloody daft. I would love to know who Scales is shilling for.
My take away, aside from the very interesting story itself and the practical limits of the M-16 spelled out in useful terms, reinforces the value of deliberate aimed semi auto fire.
The 140 round semi auto threshold is pretty surprising. At what rate or how many rds in time? As quickly as possible while maintaining a reasonably accurate rate of fire, or instinctive spray and pray? 4 30rd mags is a lot of boolits if all you have for ammo is what is in your loadout.
- Hognose Post author
That’s basically 140 rounds as fast as you can rip them off, a lot slower than, for example, the 950 rpm of an A1, but a lot faster than people who are carefully aiming at precise targets fire.
There’s a lot more material in the links. One of the most interesting things in Jeff Windham’s report was the metallurgist’s report. Unfortunately the color graphs did not survive the DTIC fiche process, but the narrative suggests that the metallurgist found changes in the metal of the barrel, and that similar changes occurred to some of the field-damaged barrels (these are from the 1995-96 SOF failures, not from Wanat) that were sent in for post-failure analysis.
These were all early M4A1s with the “government profile” barrel. The heavy later SOPMOD barrel can also fail but will run longer before it does.
A bit ago heard somebody at Green Mountain Rifle Barrel came up with an M4 survival kit. Something about a special barrel/alloy/profile/extension and a bolt. Rye .mil didn’t buy into it. I wandered over one day for some barrel blanks, asked into it, the fellow who came up with the survival kit was out on personal leave. Couldn’t get any definitive answer with the fellow I asked about it. Never followed up on it.
I did buy one of their 14.5 inch, chrome lined M4 barrels recently, it has a thicker and longer chamber area. The alloy is the high vanadium version. I know from forging knives vanadium is a beneficial alloying agent, it produces a very fine grain, and in alloy like W2 it feels less plastic under your hammer when forging it at around transformation temps than say a high carbon like 1095. More like O1, which has a high vanadium content also, though it has a lot of chrome too. I find both W2 and O1 are fine knife alloys. Expensive, but they respond well to packing on the last forge heat before hardening and tempering. Even in the annealed state my blades seem pretty rugged. I know that is mostly all anecdotal, and I’m no metallurgist, my intuition tells me vanadium is a very good alloying agent for such things. W2 is like hens teeth these days. I got a few lengths of it back in the 80’s on a deal with a few other bladesmiths from a small mill who did a small run for us. I often wonder why W2 fell out of vogue. It lends itself to a wider transformation range, which is nice for forge hardening by eyeballing the color and transformation shadow. I understand it had certain heat resistance properties too. Maybe that’s why GMRB uses a high V content alloy in their AR barrels.
- Hognose Post author
Interesting comments, and maybe a road trip is in order when I’m back in New England. Certainly some phone calls. My only experience with their barrels is with pencil barrels for A1s, high quality, accurate barrels. In fact, everybody’s barrels are much improved from the 1960s, which makes sense as neither metallurgy nor metal-forming technology stand still, and the AR, like the C-130, is a child of 1955 technology.
Vanadium is fairly magical stuff. Alloyed in very small amounts (under a quarter of a percent) it makes a lot of positive property changes in steel. That’s where about 90% of the world’s vanadium goes, although it also has some uses as a chemical catalyst and in storage batteries.
- Hognose Post author
Read Jeff Windom’s pdf, a little surprised there wasn’t more detailed examination of the barrel alloy, like a metallurgy sample, the kind where a section is sawn polished and microscopy is employed. The PDF photo is not to clear, but you can see how the grain size is all over the place, certainly something caused by a high heat gradient through the barrel wall at or above transformation ranges. Even if it didn’t burst, not much strength remaining in steel with crystal structure like that. Looks like cast iron, or the samples from the titanic hull., or a cheap ass Chinese made chisel when it breaks. Chromemoly is a fantastic alloy, even invented over a century ago, nobody has developed an alloy to beat it. It has so many excellent characteristics it may never be improved on much more than by small increments.
Speaking of alloys, makes you wonder how non corrosive alloys like 416, which Blackhole Weaponry uses in their barrels. Though they employ polygonal rifling, and I can’t say, but maybe there is less friction heat with that style of rifling?
I know from being an aerospace welder, non corrosives have high heat properties far exceeding chromemoly alloys. Some, like the 300 series actually anneal after every year cycle, some can sustain 1300 to 1500 deg F for rather long times, and still maintain structural and alloy integrity. Though they can suffer from alloy migration at near solution temps, and the edges of the heat effected zone is of the greatest concern, understandably so. 400 series are more like carbon alloy than corrosion resistant alloys. They are used in high wear components such as oil spray bars in the hot section of a jet turbine, used to lubricate the main bearings.
Cobalt alloys are interesting, have super wear and strength properties, in normalized state they have fairly interesting hardness/ductility modulus, might make good barrels. Probably a bitch to deep drill, like titanium. Some nickle alloys, like hasteloys, they precipe harden like almost tool steel, yet have superior high heat properties to almost any other metal, except maybe for Stellite and carbide. Maybe that’s why it is used in 50cal barrel liners? Isn’t Boron used in the M1 Abram’s main gun bore? Got to be some serious friction heat with that big arse sabot screaming down those barrels. Lot of surface area in 100mm plus circumference.
Speaking of barrel lining, wonder why there wasn’t an examination of the chrome lining in the M4 destructive testing?
If the barrel is getting hot enough for the alloy to become plastic and rupture, be interesting to know what the bullet components are doing. Lead alloy after all melts at what, approx 480F, and copper anneals beginning around 750F? That little 55gr, 62gr bullet doesn’t have much thermal mass, and once the barrel is heated past the ability to absorb friction heat, I’d think the lead inside the jacket would be liquid state. Would the comblock steel jacket/steel penetrator bullet design have dual purposes of lethality and ability to remain stable at high barrel heats during high sustained rates of fire? Serendipity or design? Those Russians are renown for rugged weaponry. They are known for a very different engineering approach from western weapons engineering.
- Hognose Post author
It also helps to explain why the Army has messed with 90-round snail drums, and Beta C-mags, and always come back to the basic 30-rounder. It kind of hits a sweet spot for firepower, weight, and control.
Thanks, that’s pretty well defined. I can see that, don’t take long to go through 5 mags even one pull at a time.
Bet those barrels are hot enough to change the crystalline state of the steel alloy. Funny things happen with the alloys, migration, and carbides jumping around too.
I have been pretty busy, will follow the links, sounds pretty interesting.
Was kind of mind wandering about this entire essay, you mentioned a couple of salient cause and effect conditions. One is the friction heat from the bullet/ barrel interface, about how that is a considerable contributor to heat building up. Imagine the intensity, how much he’s there must be at the molecular level on the surface of the lands and grooves. That heat has to go someplace, into the bullet, radiate outwards through the barrel, but at some point you must get a cascading failure effect, where at a particular saturation temperature of the barrel it isn’t dumping the heat quickly enough, and the heat effected zone at the barrel/bullet interface must be incredibly high. Like an exhaust valve in an engine. That brief moment in time at high rpm’s when the valve face and seat contact, it cools the valve down keeping it from melting. No friction there, but there is gas heat transfer, the exhaust gases have to go around the valve while its open. The piston transfers heat from its crown down through the rings into the cylinder walls to. There is friction heat at the ring/wall interface too. Over load the designed in heat transferring capabilities and the metals begin to fail. Its a crude analogy, but the physics are physics. My point is, if everything is super heat saturated in the M4 barrels, imagine what the temps of the few molecules or alloy crystals at the contact points of bullet to bore must be? If they are hot enough, might even be a trade of metals between the bore and boolit jacket. I’m saying hot enough and the metal is liquid or even vaporized at microscopic levels. Isn’t long before there is a cascading failure of the components at the micro. Never mind at the macro, it begins someplace.
- Hyok Kim
Drums have never been known to be as reliable as stick. As Germans and Russians have found out eventually, during WW1 and WW2, respectively.
- Hognose Post author
This was an interesting article indeed. Great job Hondo.
Good weapon insights too, even with an open bolt system the M249 failed. Granted it failed due to bolt welding and not cook off but it does get some credence to all those MGs of a bygone era that all lock at the rear of the bolt and are inline locking. Anybody have any experience with the PK for its destruction testing? I would have figured that the caming action would have been able to break the M249 bolt free. Also could someone explain how a MK19 jams? I thought Pull feed was supposed to the eliminate the possibility of that happening.
This is greatly simplified, but here we go.
You run into these main areas/parts on the MK19 that cause problems: the vertical cam that makes the round slide down onto the bolt face, the feed lever on the feed slide cover and the cover pins that hold the feed slide cover on the receiver.
The cam gets fouled by pieces of the cartridge case sticking to it, caused by the friction of the case as it’s being pulled along it by the bolt in recoil. Enough case crap on it and the round just won’t slide down.
The feed lever is attached, at it’s pivot point, to the cover (by what could most easily be described as a spring clip loaded ‘knob’) and connects the feed slide, which pulls the linked ammo into position, to the primary drive lever which is moved left and right by the bolt in recoil . If the ‘knob’ fails, the lever will fall from the cover and usually come loose from the drive lever.
The cover is attached to the receiver by two pins on either side. The pins are kept in by small ears on them that are engaged when the pin is rotated. The little ears break off, the pins slide out by the gun vibrating in recoil, the cover comes loose and the lever does too.
Those are the ‘big three’ that I dealt with the most. There’s a host of other parts that are less prone to breaking, but if they do, the gun stops as well.
another superb article., I have enjoyed these two a great deal and will be using them often for my own arguments with the ignorant,. It sems these days I would rather read your work over my own website!
I just wanted to add a couple of other thoughts, I would like to have seen colt repaet that firing test with M4s using the Block I KAC RAS and now the Block II FF rail made by DD>. the M4 stock handguards with the heat shield make it easier on the hands, but clearly do not allow better venting of the heat. I am sure everyone has seen the Crane powerpoin of how the RAS caused early failure on MK18s BCGs etc. But I have a strong hunch that the M4s in the videos would have likely went a little further if it had a RAS on it with those huge venting holes. then again maybe it wouldnt,,,
lastly. I saw you gave me the go ahead to repost in the comments of Part 1, so iI am going to re post both parts with credit back to you of course. thanks for that
“I am sure everyone has seen the Crane powerpoint of how the RAS caused early failure on MK18s BCGs etc.”
Nope, not here. Primarily because I really didn’t have any in inventory.
Any link to the PPT.?
But tell me more about this ‘early failure’ of the MK18s bolt carrier group attributed to the RAS.
Link to the PPT?
Im sorry it took me so long to respond.
The idea was the RAS , since its not FF, adds stress that after time and heat will cause bolt failures on a faster rate. not some huge difference, but there
I am sorry I dont have it saved. but it can be found in PDF pretty fast and easy using google. its several years old
Damn good article. As someone said above, you could double it and still hold our attention.
I know why this keeps coming up (someone schilling for someone else) but it gets old as hell real fast. If this comes up on a forum that I follow, mind if post a link back to both articles?
- Hognose Post author
Be my guest!
- Hognose Post author
Thanks again for another excellent series– the time and effort you put into these posts shows. It’s good to see some hard evidence about Wanat and the broader issues of M4s jamming. It seems the hardcore anti-AR group is (per usual) grasping at straws.
Given that infantry training may never rise to the level a lot of serious shooters would like to see, what do you think about modifications that simply reduce the cyclic rate of the weapon, and beef up its sustained-fire capability? In Forgotten Weapons’ interview with James Sullivan (https://www.full30.com/video/9b50f8a825ab510b4c227c7b32a76bc1), Sullivan discussed some incremental improvements he’d been making to the AR platform. I think they were an open/closed-bolt FCG (like you mentioned), a heavier barrel, and that reduced cyclic rate. Between those, and a heavier-profile barrel, his claim is that the gun can run for 600 rounds at near cyclic-rate fire with no ill effects. Twenty 30-round mags is quite a bit of ammo.
- Hognose Post author
Didn’t Sullivan also do the Ultimax 100? That thing was genius on stilts. I’m not sure they ever got all the bugs out if it, but when it was on, it was really on.
He sure did. And for whatever it’s worth, the constant-recoil system he pioneered with the Ultimax 100 he also applied to his product-improved M4. According to the Forgotten Weapons guys, recoil is nearly non-existent.
And so do you have personal experience with the Ultimax, then? If so, I’d love to hear your impression of it.
- Hyok Kim
“Given that infantry training may never rise to the level a lot of serious shooters would like to see,…….”
I thought these soldiers were pros. A lot of serious shooters are amatuers.
- Hognose Post author
re topography, mini-Dienbienphu. Or would have been, absent the airpower altogether
- Glenn Haldane
Technology aside, for me the most interesting statement in this excellent essay is this:
‘ SF guys never had an issue because they are trained to fire two or three rounds per target and very rarely go full auto.’
That is the way I was trained to shoot. Fortunately, I have never been under fire at all, never mind in conditions such as at Wanat, so I hesitate to criticise. But is there not a simple training lesson here?
Fascinating stuff, and somewhat surprising too. Intuitively I would have thought the round count to cookoff much higher than 140, and the maximum sustained rate of fire much higher than 12-15 rpm. And this information just raises tons of questions for me. Such as what are the rates for other rifles? And what measures might improve or worsen over-heating other than those already mentioned? Would wetting a barrel with a water spray bottle actually help?
I have an old FM for the M14/M14a1 rifles which has some interesting numbers for rates of fire. “Rates of fire. These can be maintained without danger to the firer or damage to the weapon.” The FM then goes on to list various rpm based upon semi-auto or automatic fire and the time length of firing. Oddly claiming for automatic fire of 30 minutes or more a rate of 20 rounds per minute, whereas semi-automatic fire of only 15 rpm for the same time! Why would the sustained rate be lower for semi-automatic fire? Perhaps that’s because the M14 has a solid handguard and the M14a1 has a ventilated handguard?
Which reminds me of two bits of trivia. One was an article I remember reading from a 1939 issue of Infantry Journal magazine about the ‘new’ M-1918a2 BAR, and another was about the history of the M-15 automatic rifle. Over-heating of the BAR was improved in the M1918a2 model by cutting back the forend to expose the barrel. The M-15 automatic rifle (intended to replace the BAR) had a heavier BAR weight barrel but still badly over-heated. However replacing the solid wooden handguard with a ventilated plastic handguard relieved heating so much that a standard weight M-14 barrel was considered adequate, leading to cancellation of the M-15 automatic rifle.
Also, I can’t help but compare the sustained rate of fire of the M4 to the aimed rate of fire of some bolt action rifles since the rates are so similar. Can a SMLE fire at a sustained rate of 15 rpm without over-heating? (I suspect the answer is no, not with all that wood insulating the barrel)
Almost sounds as if those old guys who put fins on their mg barrel designs had an inkling of what they were doing. Increase the surface area = increase the heat dissipation maybe?
I ran into a guy at the range a few years back with a water cooled 1917 who said it took 2000 rounds to boil off the water in the jacket and jug (don’t know the quantity). Expensive to do that these days!
Here’s a youtube link of an M4 on cyclic until the gas tube burns through and hand guard catches fire:
About 15 years back I read of an interesting AH-64 crash. End of gunnery+left over 30mm = a bad decision. The crew fired about a 300 round burst IIRC when the barrel burst and severed both the mechanical AND the back up fly by wire linkages and they promptly had a slow speed crash. They walked away but aircraft was destroyed.
- Hognose Post author
That YouTube appears to be from the Colt tests to destruction, not the ARDEC ones.
Water-cooled MGs are very impressive in their ability to sustain high rates of fire indefinitely. The Vickers seems to be quite legendary in this regard:
Notice the story about 5 million rounds, nonstop. That’s over 120 tons of ammo.
Seems like there ought to be a place, somewhere, for a gun that can perform that well.
I’m not sure, but I believe the Gardner Gun was the first water cooled firearm. Not a machinegun, but about as close as you could get using black powder.
- Hognose Post author
There is a fabulous cautionary aspect to this article. Aside from running your AR platform within its limitations because that is just good ole good rifleman practice, what happens in shtf conditions, there is no access to a depot or commercial sources of parts and repair. Like an insurgency fighting a tyrannical state for example. Knowing how and why to get the most longevity out of weapons is a mighty good bit of knowledge to have. Especially with the AR platform, as it seems to be a very popular rifle these days. I can imagine caching bolt assemblies, gas tubes, and barrels, would be a wise investment. After all, the rest of the AR system is relatively robust.
It certainly is an easy to maintain weapon, easy to carry, super accurate, light weight, deadly, individual fighter ammo loadouts are like nothing seen in the history of the rifle, and part swapping is fairly simple with reasonable mechanical skills. Then you get just the commonality of its use across so many aspects of society. Brings a whole new meaning to battlefield pickup.
Taken in whole, its a fantastic rifle design.
I think an essay like this WM has produced would be something a crafty man would value and save back for future reference should the need arise.
An outsider looking in here. The Maggiesfarm people linked to the Atlantic article, (spit!) and generated comments like, “Crap rifle” and “Unchanged since Eve” I posted a link to the two part post here, but the fact free bad mouthing continues. Blue Falcons and shitbirds!
Hognose, I visit regularly. Keep your powder dry and have lots of powder.
- Pingback: The Big Lie About Wanat | Western Rifle Shooters Association
Built two AR’s using these: http://www.jprifles.com/1.4.5_hs.php for shooting hogs in South Texas.
High round counts sometimes. Swap guns ou often to allow for cooling.
Good for barrel cooling, but doesn’t address the gas tube heating right there at the port.
When you speak of the HK 416 magazines, are you referring to the steel HK magazines?
I like the M-14 is it better? Maybe in some ways but fired like these weapons were it would fail also and you wouldn’t hit anything near as much. The M-14 does best on a position that is static and can be engaged at long ranges, it’s ability to penetrate and reduce enemy fortifications by rifle fire alone. The Garand style action is easy to clean and maintain.
The M-16 best feature is it’s platform, straight line stock,the ability to make fast accurate follow up shots, on small helmet sized targets from the muzzle out to the standard engagement range of an assault rifle.
The AK is simply the tactics of a larger more lethal PPSH 41 able to literally swamp your target area with bullets. Hand a conscript with two years active service made mandatory or some ill trained guerrilla and freedom fighter a weapon that is easy to use, point it and fire.
The idea being if you can be taught how to efficiently piss holes in the snow you can be taught to shoot an AK.
All of these weapons are lethal and efficient, all have minor points that make them better and worse than each other.
None are indestructible if pushed beyond normal limits and I would not feel less well armed if I was given any one of the three, my tactics would simply change to adapt to each ones specific plus sides and cancel the disadvantages.
Yeh well, I hated my M-16A1when I was in the Army in the 1970’s .It was JUNK! I have owned three box new AR-15’s (Colt match target HBAR, Bushmaster “L” series, and S&W) They were JUNK! I traded them off for an M-1 NM and will never buy carry or use another AR. The 5.56 is the last round I want to use to kill anything larger than ground hogs at 200 yards. It is a wimp round that won’t kill white tails at 200 yards. Anyone that believes it is a “long range battle rifle” is an IDIOT. The Stoner/5.56 is the one weapon I KNOW will fail me when I need it the most. All you gun sheep have fun with the range Barbie, but I won’t be pissing away any more time or money on what I believe to be the worst weapon money can buy.
I used the FNC1 in the army, we had a bunch of C1’s and the heavier C2 squad auto’s at the range, we had 25,000 rds of 7.62 and all of the gun scheduled to be replaced by refurbished ones, so we shoot the shit out of them. The forestock of the C1 caught fire and then the gun failed to function and that was in semi-auto. the C2 with the heavier barrel was in full auto, they went to the barrel was glowing and then the gun stopped function. All functioned after they cooled down again. As we were shooting both, we had to adjust the gas pressure to maintain function.
Having fired my personal AR and FN together, I would have to say that more heat comes back through the direct impingement system than through a piston system (not to mention carbon) Similar with my SKS. With the 1980’s combat load of ammo, likely we would have been found dead with our bayonets fixed as we would have run out of ammo long before. I cannot fathom why watercooled guns are not kept for defending FOB’s/Platoon houses. I guess everyone thought the USAF/cavalry was going to save them?
- Hognose Post author
One of the alternatives to watercooled is the Minigun, the electric Gatling made by GE (and in 7.62,by Dillon). We never saw an M134 in the early oughts, but SF teams were running with them on GMVs (SF HMMWV version) a few years later. I think they’re available to lots of Big Green units, too, but I don’t know that for a fact.
One problem with a minigun is that its rate of fire is so high it can burn through a 5-ton load of ammo PDQ. Of course, there’s no reason you couldn’t gear it down for a long fight. That would, in fact, be trivial, compared to some of the other solutions.
Even water cooled guns have sustained fire limits. At some point the heat overwhelms your design’s ability to manage (radiate, dissipate) it.
- Hognose Post author
“Every GI should see the same done to AKs as well”
Yes they should. There’s a video floating around Youtube somewhere of a guy firing an AK on full-auto until the handguard catches on fire. If memory serves, it didn’t take all that long.
But regarding your final point: I have a lot of respect for someone who can keep ahold of the rifle while their left hand is getting roasted by the handguard-on-fire.
- Hyok Kim
“The Wrong Answer: Replacing the M4 with something like the SCAR or the HK416, something that is, at best, barely better, that is much more maintenance intensive,…………….”
How do you know this?
“… and that, contra Scales’s assertion that his undisclosed client’s weapon is “the same price,” is twice (SCAR) or three times (416) the money. (The 416 mags are the best part of the system, though).”
If his client is undisclosed, then how do you know his client’s weapon is SCAR or 416?
Btw. Prices for mass produced small arms could go down significantly once a major order comes from a major nation. Companies can change the price they charge if they win a major contract.
- Hognose Post author
Q1: Hands-on time with both weapons. My old unit has had SCARs. Except for the 10″ 7.62mm SCAR-H which finds a niche in CQB, they generally prefer the M4A1. I own a 416. I haven’t shot it enough but I suspect that it will have a shorter service life than an M4. SOF likes them in part because they’re a really decent suppressor host, and the M4 has issues in that department.
Q2: It’s a reasonable guess. And the SCAR order from USSOCOM was larger than most countries’ armies’ orders, and they still cost about double what Uncle pays for an M4A1.
However: a very big factor in the cancellation of the SCAR-L (5.56) side of the contract after it was partially fulfilled was a quirk of American military budgeting. SOCOM thought that the SCAR-L was better than the M4 but not much better. (Not every unit liked them. One Ranger sergeant major instructed his men to make every effort to break them). And in the USA, if special operations use weapons that are the same as other Army units (like M4s), Big Green (the institutional Army) pays for them out of general Army budgets. If they buy special-ops-peculiar weapons (like SCARs), they have to come from SOCOMs MFP-11 budget. Choosing M4 over SCAR lets SF etc spend its money on other toys, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the rifle.
- Hognose Post author