Small Arms Failures Contributed to Wanat Debacle

#1
Having seen dead Americans in fighting holes with cleaning rods in the barrels of their M-16 A1 trying ot clear stuck cartrdge cases as the were killed, this makes me angry to think we are still having issues with small arms like this.

Small Arms Failures Contributed to Wanat Debacle



We're reporting a pretty hard-hitting story today on the conclusions of an Army official report on the Wanat battle showing that the small arms used in the battle showed significant levels of failure, malfunctioning and jamming "at high cyclic rates of fire." The weapons include the M4 and SAW.

Defense Tech doesn't have the final version of the report compiled by the Army Combat Studies Institute at Leavenworth. But we did find a draft version and went through it to find all references to M4s, small arms and the reported malfunctions.

Basically, the most damning conclusions are compiled in the recommendations section of the report. There are a few instanced specified in the report of an M4 fouling, and one where the M4 fouled and the Soldier picked up a SAW and that was jammed up as well.
In one instance, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips had multiple M4 failures:

Staff Sergeant Phillips poured out fire, as recalled by another Engineer Specialist loading for him, “ [SSG Phillips] went through three rifles using them until they jammed.”

SSG Phillips recalled: “My M4 quit firing and would no longer charge when I tried to correct the malfunction. I grabbed the Engineers SAW and tried to fire. It would not fire, so I lifted the feed tray tried clearing it out and tried to fire again. It would not.”

As you know, Defense Tech as been at the forefront of the debate over whether a better solution to the current M4 configuration is out there. It's pretty clear that the gas impingement system is maintenance intensive. And I recall all too well when I confronted PEO Soldier officials with a hypothetical instance very similar to this during a brief I had at the Pentagon on the dust tests conducted on multiple carbine types at Aberdeen. I posited the battle of Fallujah, where Marines and Soldiers were fighting for days on end with barely enough time to eat or sleep. Keeping your weapon clean is arguable as important as eating, some crusty old gunnies and sergeants first class would argue, but if the carbine you're carrying is so maintenance intensive and you've got better options out there that can stand up to more abuse, how can you tell that trooper if his gun jams in that situation it's all his fault?

Well, it looks like the Wanat battle, at least in part, may have brought up that issue...but has it?

According to the report, the Soldiers had kept their weapons religiously maintained. It looks like the single point of failure might have been the high cyclic rates they were operating under and the M4 just wasn't able to catch up.

Some GWOT and U.S. Army veterans queried by the author have suggested that this could have been caused by improper weapon cleaning. However, numerous Chosen Few NCOs interviewed for this study have been vehemently adamant in stating that weapons were meticulously and regularly cleaned, and rigorously and routinely inspected by the chain of command. Other GWOT veterans consulted have noted that the high rates of fire sustained during the two hour intense engagement phase at Wanat could possibly have contributed to these failures. However, numerous weapons failed relatively early in the engagement (particularly a number of M-4 rifles and at one SAW at the mortar pit), and in any event the maintenance of cyclic rates of fire was critical to restore fire superiority, and to prevent positions (particularly at OP Topside) from being overrun by determined, numerous, and hard pressed insurgent assaults.

The report goes on to suggest that the PEO Soldier work to find a solution to this problem.

We could go on for hours on this, and I thinks it's appropriate to do that in a forum like this. I'm digging through my old notes, but I'm pretty sure that "high cyclic rates" were addressed in the dust test, and the M4 came out near the bottom of the pack on that amongst its competitors. The Army keep saying that surveys have shown that 94 percent of Soldiers say they're satisfied with the M4. But as I replied when confronted with this straw man argument, isn't it hard to say whether you're truly satisfied with a weapon unless you have some experience with other options -- umm, like the special operations forces do? And what do they prefer? The HK 416 and the SCAR, which are both less maintenance-intensive, gas piston operating systems.

What does this say about the Corps' program for the Infantry Automatic Rifle? Why replace a good portion of your automatic weapons with one that only has a 30 round magazine? And, I could be wrong on this, but aren't M4s assigned to straight leg infantry units configured to fire in three-round bursts and semi auto? Only special operators have ones with a full auto switch? If this instance shows anything that a counterinsurgency strategy demonstrates, it's that small units will likely be confronted with superior numbers of bad guys and will need to pour out the lead when the you-know-what hits the fan. And what about weapons tactics training? There's a scary line in the report that quotes one of the Soldiers saying he was unprepared for such an Alamo style fight. You'd have thought since Blackhawk Down we'd be teaching how to hold off wave attacks with superior fire.

There are so many more actionable lessons to the drawn from the report, and I encourage DT readers to scour through it again. But kudos to the AP reporter who brought this out and one has to wonder whether the Army will work toward a more rugged solution as it explores options to the M4 this year.

http://www.defensetech.org/
 
#3
The lads at the sharp end will always end up as the scapegoats. Not following prescribed cleaning procedures, poor weapon drills, etc. After all, there couldn't be anything wrong with the weapons themselves, could there?

P-T
 
#4
Well, the Sergeant says he fired 12X 30 rd Magazines= 360 rds in a few minutes.

According to FM3-22.9 & TM 9-1005-319-10 the Maximum rate of Fire on burst is 90 RPM, after 140 rds the chance of a cookoff is substantially higher.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/3-22-9/c02.htm#2_1

http://www.brokawarms.com/library/firearms/riflem16m4/army_tm_9_1005_319_10.pdf.

Many of the US Army M249 SAW's are approaching the 23 year mark in their lifetimes and just plain wearing out. IIRC there is a rebuild program ongoing, that removes the magazine feature and revamps the bolt and reciever rails, but like the 1911, and M60 the guns are coming to their end of useful lifespan. and its not just the 249, in Baghdad 9 of our 10 M2HB had originally been Watercooled M2's rebuilt in 1943 to HB config. receivers didnt pass Shop B testing in Kuwait, but with 2 days before going over the berm we took them back as there was no replacements and drove on
 
#5
Goldbricker said:
Well, the Sergeant says he fired 12X 30 rd Magazines= 360 rds in a few minutes.

According to FM3-22.9 & TM 9-1005-319-10 the Maximum rate of Fire on burst is 90 RPM, after 140 rds the chance of a cookoff is substantially higher.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/3-22-9/c02.htm#2_1

http://www.brokawarms.com/library/firearms/riflem16m4/army_tm_9_1005_319_10.pdf.

Many of the US Army M249 SAW's are approaching the 23 year mark in their lifetimes and just plain wearing out. IIRC there is a rebuild program ongoing, that removes the magazine feature and revamps the bolt and reciever rails, but like the 1911, and M60 the guns are coming to their end of useful lifespan. and its not just the 249, in Baghdad 9 of our 10 M2HB had originally been Watercooled M2's rebuilt in 1943 to HB config. receivers didnt pass Shop B testing in Kuwait, but with 2 days before going over the berm we took them back as there was no replacements and drove on
Thats because the tw*ts that build the weapons write the manuals rarely have to use them in real anger.
 
#6
Cabana said:
A bad workman always blames his tools ;)
Perhaps. My comments were assuming there may be something more than "user error" at play. Also, while not excusing any leadership failures that may have contributed to this sad episode, there is a limit I believe as to how much blame we can place on the soldiers themselves in terms of the proper functioning (and I still contend questionable lethality) of our small arms, particularly the M-16/M-4 platform.

If you will indulge another Vietnam observation, the severe problems with the M16A1 in terms of bore fouling and failures to eject (due to lack of hard chrome plating of the bore) were certainly exacerbated by anything less than scrupulous and near-fanatical cleaning of the weapons and ammunition. This high maintenance (a bit like SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED) is difficult enough to achieve in garrison.

In, however, the humid climate of Vietnam, coupled with the ubiquitous dirt, grime and mud that covers every infantryman wherever he is deployed within minutes of his arrival (I find that you can always tell from looking at warriors how long they have been in the field by checking the extent of grime and never-healing cuts on their hands), this standard was simply unachievable, even with the best leadership. Even if the troops did manage to generally keep their weapons relatively clean, in many firefights they would become fouled (or as perhaps as importantly the magazines and ammo) within seconds, making them very vulnerable to stoppages.

To some extent, even with the various improvements to the platform over the years (remember this rifle is basically over 40 years old), short of upgrading them with a short-stroke piston operating system like the HK 416 and other similar systems, this rifle is still IMHO too prone to malfunction in the operating environments for which it was intended.

In any event, it will be interesting to see what comes of the investigation.
 
#7
Goldbricker said:
Many of the US Army M249 SAW's are approaching the 23 year mark in their lifetimes and just plain wearing out. IIRC there is a rebuild program ongoing, that removes the magazine feature and revamps the bolt and reciever rails, but like the 1911, and M60 the guns are coming to their end of useful lifespan. and its not just the 249, in Baghdad 9 of our 10 M2HB had originally been Watercooled M2's rebuilt in 1943 to HB config. receivers didnt pass Shop B testing in Kuwait, but with 2 days before going over the berm we took them back as there was no replacements and drove on
If there is a common gripe I hear from returning Marines (other than desiring a heavier caliber rifle--especially those coming back from Afghanistan) it is that their SAWs needed replacement--either with new ones or something else as good or better. They tell apocryphal stories of barrels that are smooth bores and of repeated breakage of receiver parts from age-induced fatigue (a bit like all my leg joints.)
 
#8
Mr_Deputy said:
The early Vietnam M16A1 problems were real. I think most weapon experts on here will acknowledge that in a flash. I've read alot about that conflict as it fascinates me - alot to learn from it - and in many late 60's photos you can clearly see rods taped to some weapons for ejecting rounds by hand in the even of a blockage and in first-hand accounts many a 'strac' or well drilled soldier (ie with a well maintained M16) had problems with the weapon even early on in a contact/firefight. The chrome lining solved some of the problems, more cleaning kits some more. It has never been perfect.
Even after the chrome bore upgrade, I saw more than one dead GI with a cleaning rod in the muzzle. :evil:
 
#9
jumpinjarhead said:
In any event, it will be interesting to see what comes of the investigation.
I'd like to think a future with fewer avoidably-dead soldiers. Not holding my breath, though.
 
#10
As I said on the other thread in the intelligence cell, the M4 is more prone to overheating due to the position and size of the gas port compared to the M-16.

I also noted that I seem to remember that the M4 was originally intended for vehicle crews and remfs rather than for front-line infantry use, hence it was never intended to put down the volumes of fire for the sustained periods that we are talking about here.

A separate gas piston does, of course, ameliorate heating issues...
 
#11
Idrach said:
jumpinjarhead said:
In any event, it will be interesting to see what comes of the investigation.
I'd like to think a future with fewer avoidably-dead soldiers. Not holding my breath, though.
Only if the son of royalty (official as in the UK or unofficially as in the US). Very few Americans are even aware we are fighting 2 hot wars and politicians only mention it when forced to or when trying to gain some perceived ideo/political advantage over the evil opposition.
 
#12
our Mini's we're / are fecking useless for jamming, some people put it down to the excessive wear on the extractor pins/claws (trying to get these replaced was impossible), that coupled with the dust made for something incredibly unreliable despite the continued cleaning of the things.
 
#13
pacestick said:
our Mini's we're / are fecking useless for jamming, some people put it down to the excessive wear on the extractor pins/claws (trying to get these replaced was impossible), that coupled with the dust made for something incredibly unreliable despite the continued cleaning of the things.
Same with the US variants!
 
#14
Just to throw some numbers into the debate. From Defence Industry Daily, late Dec 2007 update of an extreme dust test using large amounts of lubricant

The M4 Carbine is the Army’s existing weapon.

* 882 jams, 1 jam every 68 rounds, again using heavy lubrication. In addition all 10 of the M4 barrels needed to be replaced, and a number of their parts were replaced during the test. None of the cold hammer forged HK416 and XM-8 barrels needed replacement.

The HK416 is a modified M4 carbine, which can be and has been converted from existing rifles. Used by US Special Forces.

* 233 jams, 1 jam every 257 rounds, 3.77x more reliable than the M4.

FN SCAR is US special Forces’ new weapon, designed by SOSOCM. It just went into production in late 2007.

* 226 jams, 1 jam every 265 rounds, 3.85x more reliable than the M4

XM-8 is a developmental rifle. It’s an advanced version of HK’s G36, a rifle in wide use by many NATO armies. The US Army cancelled the XM-8 weapons family 2 years ago.

* 127 jams, I jam every 472 rounds, 6.95x more reliable than the M4

The failure of M4 barrels at 6,000 rounds confirms SOCOM objections that date back to the Feb 23/01 report “M4A1 5.56mm Carbine and Related Systems Deficiencies and Solutions,” which ended up concluding that “M4A1 Carbine… does not meet the requirements of SOF.” The barrel replacement also increases the rifle’s life cycle costs when compared with the 10,000 round advertised barrel life, as additional barrels are sold to the Army for $240 each. A longer, heavier M16 barrel, which is a competed production weapon, cost $100 by comparison. While the dust test is indeed an extreme test, the 10,000 round requirement is under “all conditions” – not just ideal conditions.
Am i correct in thinking that the HK416 has a drastic drop in jams and it being mechanical similiar to the M4 showing that the design is ok, but the manufacture is not? Or is the HK416 a heavily modified version rather just a retooling? It would be interesting to know how the M16 could compare in this test as its meant to be much more reliable to the point the US Marines will use only it.
 
#15
stoatman said:
.

A separate gas piston does, of course, ameliorate heating issues...
I take at a gas piston can afford to rattle - you don't need tight tolerances for it to work - so even if it heats it doesn't stick?

For all the weight in (presumably) an aluminium piston you'd have thought it was worth it.
 
#16
Pacifist_Jihadist said:
Just to throw some numbers into the debate. From Defence Industry Daily, late Dec 2007 update of an extreme dust test using large amounts of lubricant

The M4 Carbine is the Army’s existing weapon.

* 882 jams, 1 jam every 68 rounds, again using heavy lubrication. In addition all 10 of the M4 barrels needed to be replaced, and a number of their parts were replaced during the test. None of the cold hammer forged HK416 and XM-8 barrels needed replacement.

The HK416 is a modified M4 carbine, which can be and has been converted from existing rifles. Used by US Special Forces.

* 233 jams, 1 jam every 257 rounds, 3.77x more reliable than the M4.

The piston system is of the G36 design but also helping is the HK416's cold hammer-forged barrel with a 20,000 round service life.

FN SCAR is US special Forces’ new weapon, designed by SOSOCM. It just went into production in late 2007.

* 226 jams, 1 jam every 265 rounds, 3.85x more reliable than the M4

XM-8 is a developmental rifle. It’s an advanced version of HK’s G36, a rifle in wide use by many NATO armies. The US Army cancelled the XM-8 weapons family 2 years ago.

* 127 jams, I jam every 472 rounds, 6.95x more reliable than the M4

The failure of M4 barrels at 6,000 rounds confirms SOCOM objections that date back to the Feb 23/01 report “M4A1 5.56mm Carbine and Related Systems Deficiencies and Solutions,” which ended up concluding that “M4A1 Carbine… does not meet the requirements of SOF.” The barrel replacement also increases the rifle’s life cycle costs when compared with the 10,000 round advertised barrel life, as additional barrels are sold to the Army for $240 each. A longer, heavier M16 barrel, which is a competed production weapon, cost $100 by comparison. While the dust test is indeed an extreme test, the 10,000 round requirement is under “all conditions” – not just ideal conditions.
Am i correct in thinking that the HK416 has a drastic drop in jams and it being mechanical similiar to the M4 showing that the design is ok, but the manufacture is not? Or is the HK416 a heavily modified version rather just a retooling? It would be interesting to know how the M16 could compare in this test as its meant to be much more reliable to the point the US Marines will use only it.
 
#17
Pacifist_Jihadist said:
Just to throw some numbers into the debate. From Defence Industry Daily, late Dec 2007 update of an extreme dust test using large amounts of lubricant

The M4 Carbine is the Army’s existing weapon.

* 882 jams, 1 jam every 68 rounds, again using heavy lubrication. In addition all 10 of the M4 barrels needed to be replaced, and a number of their parts were replaced during the test. None of the cold hammer forged HK416 and XM-8 barrels needed replacement.

The HK416 is a modified M4 carbine, which can be and has been converted from existing rifles. Used by US Special Forces.

* 233 jams, 1 jam every 257 rounds, 3.77x more reliable than the M4.

The piston system is of the G36 design but also helping is the HK416's cold hammer-forged barrel with a 20,000 round service life.

FN SCAR is US special Forces’ new weapon, designed by SOSOCM. It just went into production in late 2007.

* 226 jams, 1 jam every 265 rounds, 3.85x more reliable than the M4

XM-8 is a developmental rifle. It’s an advanced version of HK’s G36, a rifle in wide use by many NATO armies. The US Army cancelled the XM-8 weapons family 2 years ago.

* 127 jams, I jam every 472 rounds, 6.95x more reliable than the M4

The failure of M4 barrels at 6,000 rounds confirms SOCOM objections that date back to the Feb 23/01 report “M4A1 5.56mm Carbine and Related Systems Deficiencies and Solutions,” which ended up concluding that “M4A1 Carbine… does not meet the requirements of SOF.” The barrel replacement also increases the rifle’s life cycle costs when compared with the 10,000 round advertised barrel life, as additional barrels are sold to the Army for $240 each. A longer, heavier M16 barrel, which is a competed production weapon, cost $100 by comparison. While the dust test is indeed an extreme test, the 10,000 round requirement is under “all conditions” – not just ideal conditions.
Am i correct in thinking that the HK416 has a drastic drop in jams and it being mechanical similiar to the M4 showing that the design is ok, but the manufacture is not? Or is the HK416 a heavily modified version rather just a retooling? It would be interesting to know how the M16 could compare in this test as its meant to be much more reliable to the point the US Marines will use only it.
The gas piston is from the G36 design and also helping is a cold hammer-forged barrel with a 20,000 round service life.
 
#18
Pacifist_Jihadist said:
Just to throw some numbers into the debate. From Defence Industry Daily, late Dec 2007 update of an extreme dust test using large amounts of lubricant

Am i correct in thinking that the HK416 has a drastic drop in jams and it being mechanical similiar to the M4 showing that the design is ok, but the manufacture is not? Or is the HK416 a heavily modified version rather just a retooling? It would be interesting to know how the M16 could compare in this test as its meant to be much more reliable to the point the US Marines will use only it.
The 416 has a gas piston rather than direct gas. That's it.

The M-16 is more reliable than the M4, but not as reliable as the 416 -- again, it's the piston.


Gobby idiot -- it's a steel piston, and it improves reliability because you're no longer squirting hot powder gases into a cavity formed by the bolt carrier and the back of the bolt. Plus, both your gas plug and gas sleeve heat at the same rate so have less tendency to seize than a hot steel carrier in a somewhat less hot aluminium receiver.
 
#19
stoatman said:
you're no longer squirting hot powder gases into a cavity formed by the bolt carrier and the back of the bolt. Plus, both your gas plug and gas sleeve heat at the same rate so have less tendency to seize than a hot steel carrier in a somewhat less hot aluminium receiver.
This is why I don't usually shoot my M4--takes me hours to clean. Next purchase is a piston conversion.
 
#20
jumpinjarhead said:
stoatman said:
you're no longer squirting hot powder gases into a cavity formed by the bolt carrier and the back of the bolt. Plus, both your gas plug and gas sleeve heat at the same rate so have less tendency to seize than a hot steel carrier in a somewhat less hot aluminium receiver.
This is why I don't usually shoot my M4--takes me hours to clean. Next purchase is a piston conversion.
The SLR piston was (IIRC) a length of aluminium - and I could never understand why it didn't really seem to get that dirty. Now that I come to think about it, though, I wonder if the particulate had actually been combusted at the point where they bleed the gas off, right near the end of the barrell? Mind you, the gas plug was a total b*stard to clean, so that can't be the reason.
 

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