Workhorse rifle failing US troops in Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by RhodieBKK, May 22, 2010.

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  1. After nine years of operations it might have been a worthwhile exercise to have listened to
    a few of the Old & Bold in the first place.

    Independent Article 22/5/10

    Workhorse rifle 'failing US troops in Afghanistan'
    By Julius Cavendish In Kabul
    Saturday, 22 May 2010

    The US military thinks it may have got one of the basics wrong: its guns are not good enough. A US Army study found that the M-4 rifle, the workhorse weapon of America's troops, is ineffective at ranges of more then 300m because bullets lose the velocity necessary to kill an enemy.

    Although the dense vegetation and warrens of mud-packed houses in parts of southern Afghanistan lend themselves to close-range fighting, there are also many battles where Taliban fighters make use of the heavier calibre of their AK-47s to ambush Nato and Afghan soldiers from afar.

    The AK-47's 7.62 mm round is effective at more than 400m. And the AK-47 is extremely durable, as are most of the other marks of Kalashnikov weapons. "You can dip it in the river, drop it in sand but it still works," an Afghan security contractor said.

    In comparison, the M-4 fires a lighter 5.56mm round. "The 5.56mm calibre is more lethal since it can put more rounds on target," Colonel Douglas Tamilio, a programme manager at the US Army's centre for small arms development, told the Associated Press. "But at 500m to 600m the round doesn't have stopping power."

    Nato sources said the alliance's soldiers use the M-4 "because it's a close-in weapon, since we anticipate house-to-house fighting in many situations". The M-4 worked well in Iraq, where much of the fighting was close-quarter battles in cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah. But in Afghanistan, some Taliban fighters will open fire at ranges of close to a kilometre. Taliban snipers held up US Marines and their Afghan comrades during Nato's operation to clear the farmlands of Marjah, in central Helmand, this year.

    Among the solutions the US Army is proposing, is that nine soldiers in each infantry company carry the new M-110 sniper rifle, which fires a 7.62 mm and is accurate to more than 800m. Infantry companies already include sharpshooters with M-14s, and weapons teams carrying grenade-launchers and light machine-guns.

    Another idea is to design a rifle with a heavier calibre than the M-4, trading in some of its high rate of fire for greater range. But some experts argue that the 5.56mm round is maligned by the US Army report. Instead, they say that the M-4's failings are the result of its shorterbarrel, which makes it easier for soldiers to wield as they scramble in and out of vehicles. The M-4 is a compacted version of the M-16 rifle, a more cumbersome weapon. "Unfortunately, weapon engineers shortened the M-16's barrel to irrational lengths," Martin Fackler, a ballistics expert, said. The British Army uses the 5.56mm SA-80, backed by the 7.62mm "gimpy", the general purpose machine-gun with a high rate of lethal fire.

    But in the labyrinth of vineyards and orchards in Kandahar province, where much of this summer's fighting is expected, range is unlikely to be an issue. The dense vegetation lets insurgents get within 200m before opening up on Nato troops, well within the M-4's range.
  2. At least the USMC were sensible enough to stick to the longer-barrelled M16.

    All the best,

  3. same lesson we learned with our new designated marksman rifle then? It's not really the guns fault, more the ammunition chambered?
  4. Do the Taliban use the AK47 or the 5.56 derivative of it? An honest question.

    Does this mean the US will go back to the M14, or will struggle on until they have developed another 7.62 weapon?
  5. M4 has a similar length barrel to the minimi LMG ( the version we bought) so that must have similar problems of range.
  6. I'm wondering about this. What kind of tricked AK-47 are they using for these long range ambushes? A Tabuk might suffice. I think not. Now if they were talking about getting shot to pieces out beyond 400M by chaps with SLRs or even septuagenarian SMLEs I'd understand the groaning more.

    The 7.62x39mm used in an AK-47 is similar to a redneck 30-30. Works very well at normal combat distance but it's got a drop of over 40 inches at 400 yards and the energy is rapidly dropping off. This isn't an ideal long range round and the surplus ammo that's often used in them makes things even worse.

    The AK-47s gas system and wobbly tolerances are designed in to provide a very rugged almost zero maintenance weapon not pinpoint accuracy. As I recall the old AK-47 typically shot into 4 MOA. That's OK for the 200M range the Red Army routinely practiced at. 400m is a real stretch right at the end of the effective range for the standard weapon.

    It's also got to deal with targets wearing body armor these days. For seeking out soft spots at a distant you'd be better off with a very accurate weapon like the one the Muhj really prized back in the day: the 5.45x39mm AK-74 or an old skool M-16 for that matter. It's true the chopped down M-4 has a shorter effective range (just 40M shorter than the AK-47) but its routinely got better sights on it and is still inherently more accurate than the old warhorse.

    I recall dashing chaps nonchalantly water-skiing past AK-47 armed snipers back during the civil war Beirut. Are devious Pashtun hillbilly gun smithing really improving the old AK-47 that much or is it the talibs ISI training, well maintained beards and rigorous pre-spray Deobandi prayers? Or is it all just hype.
  7. M110 :? It'll be hell man-packing this! :lol:
  8. The Taliban's Long Range Rifle is the Lee Enfield. Apparently.
  9. M110 - this one:
    It'll certainly be lighter than the M4s that they have now:
  10. Fairly sure the AK74 uses the 5.45mm, which has similar, if less effective characteristics than 5.56 NATO.
  11. This whole article appears to talking tat.
    The Taliban are using the AK47 at ranges over the effective 300M of the M4? What planet is the author on? The AK is a lot of things, but a accurate one shot, one kill ranged weapon is not one of them! "Foliage" as an issue for range, what is that all about? Foliage, would seem to imply issues with seeing the enemy. Ergo the ranges would drop away to well with the 300M range.
    Another thread on here recently, had a NY Times report about Taliban snipers (included video footage too). Unlike this story it was amply researched and offered documentary evidence. The ranged weapon that the US Marines there were encountering, was thought to be Lee-Enfields in most cases.
    It is hardly realistic to compare ANY assault weapon, to a full power rifle, as each was designed with differing objectives in mind.

    This is the same historical rant about needing "longer ranges" for service weapons that has been bubbling up since the 19th Century. The debate is over, Assault Rifles won the issue. I am no apologist for the M4/ M16 family, they are weapons that are conceptually a generation behind the L85.
    I dearly love to shoot my L1A1, but as a WEAPON, the L85 is clearly superior in the respects that matter in action (namely rate of fire, weight of the ammo that you will fire etc).
    As to the "Designated Marksman" concept, that does make sense to me, and has again been covered in my better detail in other articles/ threads on ARRSE. It will, no doubt, require some form of Battle Rifle, but to imply that the AK is it, is ludicrous in the extreme!
  12. Apart from the bit in bold I'd generally agree. How do you think the L85 is conceptually superior to the M16/M4?
  13. I've no idea what "conceptually superior" means in this context, but I've played with the M4 a few times and never been a fan. It feels like a toy and isn't 'natural' to hold and fire like the L85.
  14. If most of your experience is with the L85 you will find other rifles feel awkward, In fact, the ergonomics and balance of the L85 are appalling compared to practically anything else - people just get used to it.
  15. The USMC were using the longer barrelled version of the Minimi (SAW) whilst we were there, packed a better punch than our Para versions.