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http://www.kansascity.com/444/story/1502088.html

Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight
By RICHARD LARDNER
Associated Press Writer

In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn't work either.

When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?

Despite the military's insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times.

A week ago, eight U.S. troops were killed at a base near Kamdesh, a town near Wanat. There's no immediate evidence of weapons failures at Kamdesh, but the circumstances were eerily similar to the Wanat battle: insurgents stormed an isolated stronghold manned by American forces stretched thin by the demands of war.

Army Col. Wayne Shanks, a military spokesman in Afghanistan, said a review of the battle at Kamdesh is under way. "It is too early to make any assumptions regarding what did or didn't work correctly," he said.

Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren't new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.

The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a leading critic of the M4, said Thursday the Army needs to move quickly to acquire a combat rifle suited for the extreme conditions U.S. troops are fighting in.

U.S. special operations forces, with their own acquisition budget and the latitude to buy gear the other military branches can't, already are replacing their M4s with a new rifle.

"The M4 has served us well but it's not as good as it needs to be," Coburn said.

Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of the Army office that buys soldier gear. Still, the rifle is continually being improved to make it even more reliable and lethal.

Fuller said he's received no official reports of flawed weapons performance at Wanat. "Until it showed up in the news, I was surprised to hear about all this," he said.

The study by Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., hasn't been publicly released. Copies of the study have been leaked to news organizations and are circulating on the Internet.

Cubbison's study is based on an earlier Army investigation and interviews with soldiers who survived the attack at Wanat. He describes a well-coordinated attack by a highly skilled enemy that unleashed a withering barrage with AK-47 automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The soldiers said their weapons were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic, which allows hundreds of bullets to be fired a minute.

The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

Cpl. Jonathan Ayers and Spc. Chris McKaig were firing their M4s from a position the soldiers called the "Crow's Nest." The pair would pop up together from cover, fire half a dozen rounds and then drop back down.

On one of these trips up, Ayers was killed instantly by an enemy round. McKaig soon had problems with his M4, which carries a 30-round magazine.

"My weapon was overheating," McKaig said, according to Cubbison's report. "I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about a half hour or so into the fight. I couldn't charge my weapon and put another round in because it was too hot, so I got mad and threw my weapon down."

The soldiers also had trouble with their M249 machine guns, a larger weapon than the M4 that can shoot up to 750 rounds per minute.

Cpl. Jason Bogar fired approximately 600 rounds from his M-249 before the weapon overheated and jammed the weapon.

Bogar was killed during the firefight, but no one saw how he died, according to the report.
 

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I don't know about you but to me this is an outrage It smells just like when they first brought out the M16 in Vietnam.
 

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I'm pretty familiar with the M4 design (it's my duty weapon), and the biggest problem is alot of troops do not maintain it correctly in desert-type conditions, or they just don't have the needed equipment on hand to maintain the weapons (proper cleaning kits, etc...).

My issued M4 has thousands of rounds through it (close to 10,000 rounds - combo of blank/live FMJ ammo). I have yet to experience a malfunction. I will admit that I'm a little more picky about maintaining the weapons that are assigned to me than others. Another key factor is paying attention the schedule for replacing certain parts on weapons (i.e. the M9 has some parts that need to be replaced every 5000 rounds or so in order to remain serviceable IAW military standards).

The weapon system works, and works very well if maintained correctly.

Here's my issue M4 "Jen":

 

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If I recall correctly, weren't there some command and logistics issues that came into play there that would have just as much if not more to do with the entire situation than weapons failures?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm pretty familiar with the M4 design (it's my duty weapon), and the biggest problem is alot of troops do not maintain it correctly in desert-type conditions, or they just don't have the needed equipment on hand to maintain the weapons (proper cleaning kits, etc...).

My issued M4 has thousands of rounds through it (close to 10,000 rounds - combo of blank/live FMJ ammo). I have yet to experience a malfunction. I will admit that I'm a little more picky about maintaining the weapons that are assigned to me than others. Another key factor is paying attention the schedule for replacing certain parts on weapons (i.e. the M9 has some parts that need to be replaced every 5000 rounds or so in order to remain serviceable IAW military standards).

The weapon system works, and works very well if maintained correctly.

Here's my issue M4 "Jen":

Don't they issue the proper cleaning equipment? And do they not train theses folks that their weapon is their life?
 

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They (the military) does provide excellent training, and they issue good cleaning kits, but logisitics re-supply issues are always a tricky thing in the war theater.

Plus, the training received is very good, but the issue is how well the individual members retain and use that training. Admittedly, I am much more picky in regards to weapon maintainance. It's just the way I am (you should see my home weapons...lol). Not everyone is the same. Some people put less emphasis on weapons cleaning than others. It's just human nature for alot of people.
 

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The question that comes up for me is since the ak47 has proven itself to fire in ANY condition and require little to no maintenance why does the US military not equip their soldiers with ak47's in such an environment? I understand the m4 is more accurate from farther distances but in this desert warfare the ak47 seems like a more capable weapon. Our troops have the training to make these weapons more much effective than the insurgents. Not to mention the armor piercing capabilty of the 7.62x39 round. Or at least have both on hand. Just some thoughts...
 

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Special Forces groups are getting the SCAR which shoots either 5.56x45 (SCAR light) or 7.62x51 (SCAR heavy) it is a very capable weapon and its maintenance is a lot easier do deal with.
 

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It is only a matter of time before production will permit all troops to have them.
 

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This is shameful.

The situation has been going on since Nam and happens a lot more than any one would like to know. How many GIs have died thanks to Mr. Stoner's creation and Mr. McNamara's forcing it down the military's throat? Ive no idea but it is way too many.

A MBR (or more correctly carbine) is NOT a piece of equipment that should ever require the kind of excuses provided for this thing over that last five decades. I feel great sympathy for the troops as they have no choice of weapons but when was the last time you heard of enemy troops dieing because the AK-47/74 failed. You haven't....you never will either.
 

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The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

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Having a white hot barrel is more than an extreme condition. No gun is going to work then. No way to solve that problem that doesn't add weight to the gun. About the only practical thing would be a kwik change barrel. I think I read once that some odd WW2 era smg had this feature.
 

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You are correct in that post.

An overheated barrel is an overheated barrel regardless of the firearms it's in. A rifle is just a tool, and every tool has it's limitations. Even AK rifles have tons of weaknesses (i.e. accuracy being the main one).

One thing I would like to see would be the AR changing over to a piston driven design instead of the current gas impingment design. That would keep the heat more towards the muzzle and away from the bolt assembly where it does the damage.
 

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You are correct in that post.

An overheated barrel is an overheated barrel regardless of the firearms it's in. A rifle is just a tool, and every tool has it's limitations. Even AK rifles have tons of weaknesses (i.e. accuracy being the main one).

One thing I would like to see would be the AR changing over to a piston driven design instead of the current gas impingment design. That would keep the heat more towards the muzzle and away from the bolt assembly where it does the damage.
There are piston driven ARs they just cost more...
 

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Have they fixed the carrier tilt issues with the conversion kits or other piston driven ARs yet? On that thought, if switching to a piston why not just go with a rifle that was designed with one from the onset?
 

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Because of the massive cost of replacing nearly every weapon on the field, plus all of the confusion associated with the turnover, from training differently, transporting the new weapons in and the old weapons out, phasing out the M4 and M16 parts for whatever the new rifle uses, the ammunition... And of course dealing with all the soldiers who swear their rifle is the best thing since sliced bread, and resenting having to give it up for an untested one.
 

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Because of the massive cost of replacing nearly every weapon on the field, plus all of the confusion associated with the turnover, from training differently, transporting the new weapons in and the old weapons out, phasing out the M4 and M16 parts for whatever the new rifle uses, the ammunition... And of course dealing with all the soldiers who swear their rifle is the best thing since sliced bread, and resenting having to give it up for an untested one.
Oddly enough these were the exact same arguments against the AR in the 1960s. The M-14 had problems, many still exist on the M1A you can buy today, it is heavy, does not like mud at all and completely unsuitable for automatic fire. But it was a rifleman's weapon and the troops didn't want it changed because they will form a love/hate relationship with their weapon. Originaly presented to the the Army as a 308 cal AR-10 testing just was let us say flawed. McNamara literally forced the change out of arrogance.

I say we pull whats left of that damned TARP and Stimulus fund and get this situation nailed down. It would be no real feat to design a simple, reliable, low recoil, low maintenance, accurate combat rifle using existing 308 (my bias). As long as these bozos want to spend money let em save a few GIs doing it. Hell we could just improve the FAL or HK for that matter, but personally I would not spend a damn dime on an AR.

As for the AK being inaccurate there is nothing inherently wrong with the design to prevent 4MOA or better from the rifle. You would be floored by what people can do with a well made one in 308 or 223 cal with off the shelf ammo, 2 MOA is common. For those who dont know 4MOA is a head shot between 100-200 meters. Not exactly inaccurate.
 

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You are correct in that post.

An overheated barrel is an overheated barrel regardless of the firearms it's in. A rifle is just a tool, and every tool has it's limitations. Even AK rifles have tons of weaknesses (i.e. accuracy being the main one).

One thing I would like to see would be the AR changing over to a piston driven design instead of the current gas impingment design. That would keep the heat more towards the muzzle and away from the bolt assembly where it does the damage.
I don't think 360 rounds over some period of 30 minutes is excessive or exceeding any spec. Yes it will be hot as hell to touch but not overly so except that heat in an AR goes to the wrong damn place. Ive fired though eight 30 round mags in a Saiga x39 in about 15-20 minutes and actually damaged the hand guard slightly but the heat did not impact the receiver to the point of being uncomfortable to reload. Man I miss cheap ammo.
 

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Stuff like this makes me angry. The M4 may be a great weapon, but IMO it's not well suited for military use. The Russians have the right idea for making a weapons system: one that works. While the M4 may not have much recoil and have lots of technical superiorities, the AK will outlast it every time. IMO, losing a little accuracy for almost 100% reliability is well worth it. After all, what good is being able to shoot a fly at 100 yards if your weapon won't fire. I'm not necessarily saying the US Armed Forces should switch to the AK, but we need something that is just as robust. An easy to operate, easy to maintain, easy to use weapon is what we need.
 

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Galil was supposed to be a good compromise between the reliability of the AK and the accuracy of the AR. I do think that our military needs to be using a .30 cal round; it's just been proven to be an effective man stopper. .223 has proven the exact opposite, especially with the ball ammo the military is forced to use.

I think the SCAR-H is a good MBR, and the military needs to get back to that idea......every soldier is a rifleman, first and foremost. Instead of spraying bullets, make each shot count, and make sure our guys out in the field have a reasonable faith that if they do their job and put rounds on target that their weapon will fire and the round they are using will put the enemy down, for good.
 
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