Comments: It Isn't The Gun, But The Cartridge

It is both. The M-16 family of weapons, including the first carbine version, used in Vietnam were minimally acceptable, and with the first model, the M-16, marginal at best. It was, however, an improvement on the M-14 which was uncontrollable in full automatic fire. At close range the AK family of weapons is superior due to its heavier bullet. It is more reliable and simpler to maintain. The 7.62 NATO round is a modernized version of the .30-06 round. That was designed for a bolt action rifle, with strong recoil. No modern rifle has yet to fully control it in automatic fire nor control recoil. It is yesterday's solution to yesterday's problem of the limited magazine capacity of the M-1 Garand. An intermediate cartridge is the superior choice.

The M-16 family, including the variations of the M-4 carbine, is highly susceptible to malfunction from fouling, debris and heat, especially after firing 400+ rounds. Its is a weapon system that needs constant cleaning even in combat. The M-4 weapon system failed completely at the recent battles in outposts in Afghanistan.

It is also an obsolete design. The direct gas impingment system is inferior to other systems, including piston systems.

A more modern design, incorporating a bullpup pattern where the magazine or feeding mechanism are either above or behind the trigger mechanism should be the goal of the new weapon system. The new system should also be that, a system, which means quick change barrels so the receiver system should be able to be changed from CBQ length barrel to carbine length, to rifle lenght, to a heavy automatic rifle barrel.

Obviously the 5.56 cartridge was sufficient at close range, but hardly ideal. However the 6.8 SPC is inferior to the 6.5 Grendel. A new cartridge should be based on that.

Also, trying to stuff a new cartridge in the M-16 system is foolish, as magazine capacity is inferior to a new weapon system that could have 30 or more rounds of ammunition while using a M-16 magazine with a new cartridge restricts the number of rounds to less than 30.

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Posted by Tarheel Repub at June 3, 2010 08:19 AM

In terms of accuracy and ergonomics, the AR-15 family is exceptional. It is lightweight and has so little recoil and muzzle flip as to make it a weapon system adaptable to virtually any soldier. And while the 5.56 cartridge is less than optimal as a man stopper, soldiers can carry a great many of them, far more than any 7.62 cartridge.

However, it does suffer from several primary design flaws: the direct gas impingement system does indeed lead to rapid fowling and requires almost constant cleaning and maintenance. The weapon, particularly in a light barrel configuration, can rapidly overheat in the thick of battle, rending it useless. The largest problem is the 5.56 (or .223) cartridge itself. It can be an effective manstopper, but it can reasonably be argued that it is less effective in that role than the various .30 caliber-ish intermediate cartridges being bandied about as a replacement, most of which can also be shoehorned into 30 round magazines and the AR-15 frame. The ultimate problem with the standard cartridge is that it is range limited and very likely to be adversely affected by wind drift as the range lengthens.

Thus the M-4 works very well in urban combat, and at ranges of up to 200 yards, but not so well in other circumstances, such as the longer range combat of Afghanistan. But the ultimate problem here is that for those ranges, we're talking about needing a full sized battle rifle (as opposed to intermediate assault rifle) cartridge like the .308, which requires a much larger and heavier rifle--a full sized battle rifle like the M-14 or FN-FAL or H&K G3 with a longer barrel--than the M-4.

The solution might well be not the complete replacement of the M-4 system (certainly it can be improved), but the adoption of an improved .308 weapons system for longer range combat.

Posted by mikemcdaniel at June 3, 2010 09:14 AM

The solution is pretty simple. Instead of issuing M4s for Afghan deployments issue M16 A4s, that gives you an additional hundred or hundred and fifty meters of lethality. Additionally, instead of issuing SAM-Rs to the DMs Issue MK 11 MOD0s. Then pull the M60E3s out of mothballs and issue them to SAW gunners. Two DMs per squad, three medium machine guns that do not need to be crew served, and you are good.

Posted by Matt at June 3, 2010 10:28 AM

This 6.8 makes sense. My father who was trained as sniper in Vietnam said that the .264 Win Mag was the most efficient cartridge he ever shot, and most agree that its BC is one of the best. So the 6.8's .277 diameter is about the same, and the short action should maximize capacity.

One advantage of smaller rounds is that you have higher capacity in the weapon and on the person. Maybe you can carry 30%-50% more .223 ammo than 7.62.

Also, a platoon or patrol should carry a mix of weapons just like previous soldiers carried the M1, a .30 cal saw, and a BAR for different needs. If I'm holed up in a house surrounded, then I want the .223 capacity. If I'm shooting long range then I want the higher energy bigger caliber regardless of recoil.

Posted by Jim at June 3, 2010 02:16 PM

Silly people. According to the ATF, a much less expensive alternative for our military would be to simply buy Airsoft plastic pellet guns, and inexpensively convert them into fully-automatic weapons of death.

/sarc

Any change in ammo or weaponry during this administration will be to the detriment of our military. Looks like we're stuck with the M4 for another 2 years...

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