The M16, the controversy just never ends


Dr. Dickie
February 21, 2007, 11:05 AM

When even highly trained infantrymen like Self have problems with their M4 it is a sign there might be a problem with the weapon, not the soldier.

Oh boy, and you thought the M92 drew flack. Opps, I mean M9.

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February 21, 2007, 11:09 AM
Did you mean to say: "Oh boy! And you thought the M9 drew flack?"

Dr. Dickie
February 21, 2007, 11:18 AM
Yep, I did.

February 21, 2007, 11:30 AM
Wow, so we're going to whiz more money away on something that doesn't adress the issues.

February 21, 2007, 11:35 AM
So what are the issues?

February 21, 2007, 11:37 AM
There will always be controversy about the general issue military weapon no matter what it is. When they go "one size fits all", there are going to be certain applications where something else works better sometimes. It is just the nature of the beast. When there are many, many, many millions in use here and around the world, there are going to be some anecdotal stories of malfunctions. That is just how it is, and that wouldn't change no matter what platform they are shooting, and no matter what cartridge they are shooting.

Personally I think the days when something other than the M16/M4 is the general issue rifle are still quite a ways off. At the end of the day, it still performs 99% as well as anything else would.

Dr. Dickie
February 21, 2007, 11:43 AM
So what are the issues?

Basically, the blow-back system in the AR15 causes carbon build-up in the receiver (bolt and bolt carrier). H&K re-designed the system with a piston that is supposed to up the reliability and wear and tear.

February 21, 2007, 11:49 AM
So what are the issues?

Tight chambers, and the bolt itself. Never had an issue with carbon fouling in the chamber. The moondust/ silt/ sand however had a way of working into every crevice, and creating a hard white coating that was next to impossible to remove. We carried babywipes for more than just bathing, they worked quite well to remove said crap.

February 21, 2007, 12:05 PM
Bureaucracy is the enemy of mankind! :mad:


there's no money to upgrade the M16/M4 becasue the funds are needed for sexual harassment training. :rolleyes:


though the training motto is "improvise, adapt, overcome" there's no room for such "out of the box" thinking and problem solving at the desk brigade level.

February 21, 2007, 12:06 PM
So was his failure to extract a result of the case being stuck in the chamber or the bolt sticking? If the former, how does a different gas system fix that?

That story at the very end is about a truck driver. There is no information on how well his rifle was maintained or anything.

Is there a weapon that a soldier can leave alone and not touch indefinitely yet still work reliably when he needs it?

February 21, 2007, 12:07 PM
What about all the stories from people (including members here) who had no problems whatsoever with their M16?
This article reads like an HK sales brochure.

Vitamin G
February 21, 2007, 12:25 PM
Is there a weapon that a soldier can leave alone and not touch indefinitely yet still work reliably when he needs it?

You mean an AK?:neener:

February 21, 2007, 12:31 PM
I knew someone would mention that. No I don't mean that either. Maybe a 30-30 lever gun.

February 21, 2007, 12:35 PM
A lever gun seems like it would get gunked up pretty quick. You can't just pull a pin and pop out the bolt carrier/bolt to wipe down either.

High Planes Drifter
February 21, 2007, 12:58 PM
A rifle is a tool, nothing more. I want our troops to have the best, most reliable tool available. We all should want that for our troops. If it means abandoning the AR platform in leu of something else, so be it. The article quoted someone as saying that it would take a billion dollars to completely replace the M4. A billion dollars to the federal government isnt that much. It sounds like alot to you and me, but to the government its really not that much. If they find a better weapon, shame on them for not getting it to the men on the front line.

I knew someone would mention that. No I don't mean that either. Maybe a 30-30 lever gun.

Surely you arent suggesting the military issue Marlins and Winchesters.?

February 21, 2007, 12:59 PM
“We think that somewhere around 2010, we should have enough insight into future technologies to take us in a direction we want to go for the next generation of small arms,” said Radcliffe, director of the Infantry Center’s Directorate of Combat Developments at Fort Benning, Ga.

“We will have M4s and M16s for years and years and years and years,” he said.“We are buying a bunch of M4s this year ... and we are doing it for all the right reasons, by the way. It’s doing the job we need it to do.”

Study the history of US Army Ordnance and you'll discover that putting the right rifle for the job into the hands of the troops has NEVER been a priority of the Army. Politics is the number one factor in choosing a particular weapon. WWII and the Garand was the one and only time they got it right.

Don't Tread On Me
February 21, 2007, 01:10 PM
I don't see how a piston upper will make the AR platform any more reliable in the sand.

This is a bait and switch. The article largely speaks of sand being the major problem and the complaints of soldiers. It also speaks of powder fouling issues. However, the solution is the 416 - which is implied will solve the sand issues in addition. This is false. The tone of the article, as well as the HK marketing strategy is to portray the 416 as the solution by getting rid of the carbon fouling in the action. Unfortunately, that isn't the M16's problem.

The article admits that gas impingment averages 5,000rds before stoppage. While the piston is better, no one is going to shoot 5,000rds without a cleaning or without oiling inbetween. Load out is like 240rds or something. Even with 3 load outs, you're no where near that.

It is already known that the AR platform is weak in the desert. This has been proven. Even when cleaned fanatically, it still manages to produce a higher than normal failure rate. To have a reliable rifle in the desert, you need a rifle with very large clearances. A rattle trap. Basically, and AK. If you read up, you'll hear that even the beloved M1 Garand and Carbine had failures in the South Pacific in the sands of beaches....Sand environment is by far the worst of all. That makes it especially tough for the M16.

We also know that the M4 is a more abusive system than the M16 in regards to gas. This leads to less parts life, but is NOT a failure of the gas system. As far as extraction is concerned, H-buffers and enhanced extractor springs largely deal with that.

February 21, 2007, 01:14 PM
Personally I think the days when something other than the M16/M4 is the general issue rifle are still quite a ways off. At the end of the day, it still performs 99% as well as anything else would.

I agree. I've used a M16/AR15/M4 since 1968 in the military and law enforcement and the multitude of problems people report have somehow avoided me. There were times I would clean my rifle several times a day but it always worked.

I question the AK supporters and their claims of being "riflemen". Most AKs I've fired/seen shoot basketball size groups at 200 meters and that's with a good shooter. Yes the Ak is rteliable but to achieve that you need a lot of slop in the action. It fits Soviet design technology where "perfection is the enemy of good enough".

Bartholomew Roberts
February 21, 2007, 01:38 PM
Talk about an H&K propaganda piece...

My first question is how does the HK416 prevent the problem Self experienced (a case being stuck in the chamber so solidly that he broke a cleaning rod in half trying to ram it out)? How did the direct impingement system contribute to that problem?

I can't think of any aspect of a gas piston or direct impingement that creates that particular problem to me. The only thing I've seen similar to that is when somebody grossly overloads a cartridge with powder and it expands to the shape of the chamber.

Second question is the one Don't Tread On Me asked - how does this design stop sand from getting into the bolt lug/chamber area when it basically uses the same M16 design it criticizes for this part? If sand gets into this area and can't get out, it is going to have the same result regardless of whether it is a piston pushing the carrier key or a blast of hot gas.

Also, is it worth a billion dollars to change a weapon that goes 5,000 rounds without a stoppage and no cleaning to a weapon that goes 15,000 rounds without a stoppage and no cleaning? Are soldiers currently firing 5k rounds between cleaning? Is the problem severe enough that it needs a billion dollar fix?

The article quoted someone as saying that it would take a billion dollars to completely replace the M4. A billion dollars to the federal government isnt that much. It sounds like alot to you and me, but to the government its really not that much.

Of course it isn't that much to the government, that is because they get that billion dollars by taking it from you and me. Now I don't mind paying it to give our soldiers top-of-the-line equipment; but I do mind paying an extra billion for minimal capability. I can't carry 5k rounds on my person, let alone 15k. If a soldier will still be cleaning more frequently than every 5k rounds, I don't see what the extra billion buys us.

I also thought it was funny that they blamed the failure of the XM29 program for not providing the big leap forward without noting H&K's role in that failure.

The H&K416 might well be a great weapon and even worthy of that extra billion. You certainly couldn't tell from this article though whether that is the case.

February 21, 2007, 01:46 PM
Surely you arent suggesting the military issue Marlins and Winchesters.?
No, those are American guns...more likely Japanes Browning BLR's.

February 21, 2007, 02:29 PM
Note that the Marine Corps Times has a tendency to be a bit colorful. They sell them in the checkout lines at the PX, so eye-catching/controversial covers are pretty popular. I'm not saying it's a tabloid or anything, but it's not exactly The Marine Gazette (which has its own issues).

The most over-the-top issue I saw was one in 2004 where the cover article said something like:

"THE LETHAL NEW M16 ROUND: and why the brass won't let you have it!!!"

Long article about fragmenting rounds in combat, but with a cover-picture not far behind ExtremeShock graphics.


February 21, 2007, 02:31 PM
What Bartholomew Roberts said. I'm startled to hear that the guys who are trying to sell the HK 416 and the retired general that was a lobbyist for the XM8 think that the M4 is broken. Almost as surprised I am to find out that the retired general who runs Colt and makes the M4 thinks that the M16/M4 isn't broken . . .

Don't Tread On Me
February 21, 2007, 03:11 PM
Yes, the whole gas-fouling and sand issues being mixed together and being blamed on the gas system is HK marketing.

That's why, even in that article, there is huge discrepency between what top experts and officials have to say on the matter. There are those who look at things in a scientific and practical way, and those with special interests. A general who lobbies to get an HK rifle might sit on their board of directors one day. This is a conflict of interests, but hey, that's politics.

So, that's why you have one guy saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and another ready to replace the entire arsenal with the rifle they endorse, which is most likely from a company that is promising them some sort of kick backs later on.

Eleven Mike
February 21, 2007, 03:19 PM
Study the history of US Army Ordnance and you'll discover that putting the right rifle for the job into the hands of the troops has NEVER been a priority of the Army. Politics is the number one factor in choosing a particular weapon. WWII and the Garand was the one and only time they got it right.

And even then, some say they should have used the .276 (or whatever it was) instead of changing the Garand to .30-ought.

Surely you arent suggesting the military issue Marlins and Winchesters.?I think the point is that any self-loader will have malfs, especially in the hands of "pogues." If you really want to eliminate them, go to a lever-action or something else worked manually. It really would be funny if the twenty-first century M1 Carbine (light, handy weapon for non-infantry) turned out to be a 336. :p

February 21, 2007, 03:39 PM
I question the AK supporters and their claims of being "riflemen". Most AKs I've fired/seen shoot basketball size groups at 200 meters and that's with a good shooter. Yes the Ak is rteliable but to achieve that you need a lot of slop in the action. It fits Soviet design technology where "perfection is the enemy of good enough".

My gosh, won't that internet BS just limp off and die already? That is about as wrong as most of the "facts" about the M16 you find on the internet. Most modern production AKs from Russia or Bulgaria will shoot 2 MOA. Just because a slapped together US gun, made from used Romanian parts, is 10 MOA doesn't mean that the AK can't shoot.

And I don't believe any hype about HK products. Ever. The only points I'll give HK is that they have the most aggresive marketing department in the gun industry.

Eleven Mike
February 21, 2007, 03:42 PM
The only points I'll give HK is that they have the most aggresive marketing department in the gun industry.No compromise, right? :)

February 21, 2007, 03:51 PM
Surely you arent suggesting the military issue Marlins and Winchesters.?

Not really I guess. What I was asking is: What can you issue to a truck driver who rarely uses or cleans his weapon, but still needs it to work? I am not sure anything would. As noted above, a levergun would be hard to clean. The story at the end of the article was what I was thinking about.

February 21, 2007, 03:59 PM
This just in, from HK's marketing department:

In a world of compromises, some people put the bullets in the magazine backwards...

But it doesn't matter, because our gun is on the cover of the Rainbow Six video games. Look how cool that SEAL coming out of the water looks... If you buy a $2,000 SOCOM, you will be that cool of an operator too. And chicks will dig you.

At HK, we stuck a piston on an AR15, just like a bunch of other companies have done, dating back to about 1969. However ours is better, because we refuse to sell it to civillians. Because you suck, and we hate you.

Our XM8 is the greatest rifle ever developed. It may melt, and it doesn't fit any accesories known to man, but that is your fault. If you were a real operator, you would love it. Once again, look at Rainbow Six, that G36 sure is cool isn't it? Yeah, you know you want one.

And by the way, check out our new HK45. We decided that humans don't need to release the magazine with their thumbs. If you were a really manly teutonic operator, you would be able to reach the controls. Plus we've fired 100,000,000 rounds through one with zero malfunctions, and that was while it was buried in a lake of molten lava, on the moon. If you don't believe us, it is because you aren't a real operator.

By the way, our cheap, mass-produced, stamped sheet metal guns like the G3 and MP5 are the bestest things ever, and totally worth asinine scalpers prices, but note that cheap, mass-produced, stamped sheet metal guns from other countries are commie garbage. Not that it matters, because you're civillians, so we won't sell them to you anyway. Because you suck, and we hate you, but we know you'll be back. We can beat you down like a trailer park wife, but you'll be back, you always do.

Buy our stuff.


HK Marketing Department

Corey ACP
February 21, 2007, 04:11 PM
Larry, as usual, you have nailed it. Anybody who has ever dealt with the "elite" at HK can only agree with your comments....

February 21, 2007, 04:12 PM

Sniper X
February 21, 2007, 04:15 PM
Not really I guess. What I was asking is: What can you issue to a truck driver who rarely uses or cleans his weapon, but still needs it to work?

an AK

February 21, 2007, 04:16 PM
That was great! :D :D

February 21, 2007, 06:36 PM

Because you suck, and we hate you

Too funny... but not funny "haha" but funny "true"

Bartholomew Roberts
February 21, 2007, 06:46 PM
You forgot the part about H&K's legendary service department. I think they were probably the prime driver in Emergency Response Teams changing from MP5 subguns to AR15 patrol rifles.

February 21, 2007, 07:54 PM
you just made my evening C. Thanks. :D

Cato the Younger
February 21, 2007, 08:31 PM
Dear Sir,
Why must you crush a young man's dreams this way. I have a buddy from high school that is in Force Reacon, and a sniper. He claimed to me that it was the 26 mile marches with full gear, the dive training, and sniper school that made him what he was- although he didn't use the term "operator," that is what many would call him- and he is quite modest and quiet. Little did he know, that I would be able to be just as hardcore an operator once I saved enough money-
With that HK SOCOM, I totally, for only $2K (?) could pown him- and with less sweat
And doesn't buying a rifle labeled a "Marine Sniper" also automatically make me as good a shot as he is, not to mention give me ultratactical mall-ninja skills.
Oh why, why do you do this to me...I was going to spend all my student loan money to buy your Zombie Outbreak Survival kit, but now, I am but a shell of a man.
I guess I will just have to accept that I must actually be an operator "i.e. go through the training" and not just buy the equipment to be ultratactical- my lowly Springfield XD will have to serve me for now, in wimpy 9mm Luger, and my non-tactical Smith and Wesson Highway Patrolman- although maybe I could take some Krylon paint to the finish to make it a "tactical tiger-stripe" pattern.

just my 2 cents.

Full Clip
February 21, 2007, 08:57 PM
I thought that was a pretty good story but it got off track. I'll break it down:

February 21, 2007, 09:19 PM
There is a reason we have very few M14's in service today and that is because of combat load and giving the best rifle the masses can handle. I don't like the 5.56 personally. I think its underpowered. HOWEVER, its the light recoil, low weight of the rifle and the increased combat load that continues to make it the primary weapon.

Being a volunteer force, you need a rifle that john or jane q. public can carry and shoot reliably. If the russians had a sight like this, they'd be complaining about the AK and drooling over the M4.

Any gun will jam. Its a machine with moving parts being used in adverse conditions. Any bullet will kill. You just either have to hit them in the right place and understand the the religous zelots out there already regard themselves as dead when entering combat. They will continue to fight until dead or incapacitated.

If there is one problem with Army Ordinace its that there are a bunch of full bird colonels trying to gain a star by creating the next "big" item. Likewise with corporate america, unless we slap a NIKE sticker on the stock, there is little incentive not to charge top dollar for anything.

February 21, 2007, 09:44 PM
Just to fuel the flames...why dont we go back to the m14?

February 21, 2007, 09:48 PM
It is really amazing that we're robbed of over $715 billion ( a year for military expenses (and that's not counting the Aid to Dependent Dictators), yet the expendable cannon fodder have to use 1960s weapons.

Guess it's just a matter of priorities.

Jeff White
February 21, 2007, 09:51 PM
The military Times newspapers were bought by Gannet Publications several years back. They are the same people who bring you that fine example of accurate reporting and deep indepth stories called USA Today.

They have since lost a large part of their subscriber base. I subscribed to Army Times for over 20 years. I dropped the subscription a year after I retired, not because I was no longer interested in what happened in the Army, but because the quality of journalism had dropped so much. Gannet is aware that their quality and editorial bent has cost them readership because questions on the surveys they have sent me with renewal offers came right out and asked if that's why I dropped my subscription.

As for the HK 416 being so much better then the M4, you have to remember that we're talking apples and oranges here. The HK 416s are mostly shorter barrels then the 14.5" barrel on the M4, the piston operating system does fix the problems associated with making those short barreled weapons run. However you aren't going to give every soldier or Marine a 10" barreled carbine. The loss of terminal effects from shooting M855 or MK262 ammo from the short barrels at distances greater then 100 meters isn't a good tradeoff.

I'll know that the HK marketing people are working overtime if we see a big article in Armed Forces Journal about the HK416. That was the marketing plan that tried to foist the XM8 on the US military.


February 21, 2007, 10:00 PM
The reason we don't go to the M14 is recoil and combat load. Average load is 100 rds of .30cal vs. 200 rds of 5.56. Similarly, the recoil is much less. Remember, its the whiz kids that started this. X soldiers carrying Y1 rounds firing Y2 rounds is expected to kill Z enemy. X*(Y1*Y2)=Z

February 21, 2007, 10:49 PM
"Plus we've fired 100,000,000 rounds through one with zero malfunctions, and that was while it was buried in a lake of molten lava, on the moon. If you don't believe us, it is because you aren't a real operator."
Right. I saw that test with my own eyes. The Glock didn't perform too badly in the Lunar Lava Tests - until we tried the thicker lava of the Janssen Crater in it. It was like pouring concrete in it. Thinner lava, of the Hawaiian area, doesn't noticeably impair operations.

February 22, 2007, 10:41 AM
That story at the very end is about a truck driver. There is no information on how well his rifle was maintained or anything.

It's worth noting that every weapon system issued to the 507th failed during that ambush, up to and including JMB's own M2 .50 cal. That says a lot less about weapons systems, I think, than about a command environment that was not exactly emphasizing basic soldier skills/responsibilities in a combat zone.

February 22, 2007, 10:55 AM
HorseSoldier, thanks for saying that better than I did. That is what I was trying to get at regarding this article. I got the impression that soldiers who were not front line combat troops were not well trained or practiced at weapon maintenance and that is something the Army has had to change in this war since everyone is a potential combat soldier.

February 22, 2007, 11:00 AM
Great story Correia! Though I feel compelled to write that I am in no way biased against the Stoner rifles. Just about everything we had fell victim to the moon dust, even my pea shooter in the first picture:D Cleaning and PMCS is nice and all, but I wasn't about to tear down my pea shooter in the middle of a long drive up Tampa or Jackson.

February 22, 2007, 11:37 AM
I like the pics! I think .45guy has solved the rifle debate. Just give everyone SAW's. :evil:

February 22, 2007, 12:00 PM
45guy, that first picture with the camels... the story just about writes itself... :D

"Look out Jimbo! They're coming right at us!"

February 22, 2007, 12:12 PM
Oh I have some great pics, great indeed.

Prince Yamato
February 22, 2007, 01:14 PM
Three cheers for Correia defending AK accuracy. You know, I think the people who complain about an AK's accuracy, never bothered to adjust the sights on it. Also, while I understand lack of accuracy at great distances, call me crazy, but isn't such accuracy difficult to achieve in a heated firefight anyway regardless of weapon. Granted, I've never been in combat, but I'd think that at typical urban engagement distances (sub 100 yards), AKs and ARs have relatively equal accuracy levels.

February 22, 2007, 05:11 PM
I'll have to dig around some, but I have a bunch of pictures at sunrise, and sunset. There was constantly so much poo suspended in the air that you could look right at the sun. It was kind of like having two horizons, a poop brown, and a blue one. Neat looking no doubt, but all that poo got into everything, including ears, eyes, nose, weapons, etc.

February 22, 2007, 05:21 PM
MAny AK's in civvy hands in the US are kit built and therefore not the best of the best. I have to say, however, that AR's tend to be more accurate than AK's because the AR's have closer tolerances, which also makes them "appear" less reliable.
The 7.62x39 cartridge's grapefruit trajectory is also a bit of a problem for accuracy - nice thing about 5.56 is that the bullet pretty much goes where you aim it out to 300 yards or so. It is a level shooting cartridge.
As for the article, I have to say a lot of it is a load of bunk - I've fire a bunch of FAL's, AK's, SKS's and a load of AR's in my time. The AR's didn't give anything up in ways of reliability and like any other weapon, if you don't clean it, it will jam on you - DGI or no...

February 22, 2007, 05:55 PM
Why don't we just adopt the AK47/AK74?

February 22, 2007, 06:08 PM
Adopt a Commie gun? What are you crazy?
Lots of Americans have adopted it in one form or another.

My Vepr is pretty accurate and I have been pleased with my 5.45 rifles. The main problem with accuracy on my 5.45 rifles is that they are built like "assault rifles" with short stocks and such and are not really set up to test bench accuracy. My WASR 2 is decently accurate considering the sights are crude and the action sounds like the bolt is on a bed of gravel. My Tantal build has a wire stock that falls short of making it a good target gun. I may change that.

The main thing I like about the AK's is the consistency and toughness in the magazines. The variability of mags for AR's is annoying. I guess it is because most AK mags were made by govt arsenals to standard specs rather than 3rd parties who are trying to save a few cents a mag by cutting corners.

February 22, 2007, 06:13 PM
Why don't we just adopt the AK47/AK74?

Because they're inferior, slower handling weapons with a control layout that is best suited to chimps and orangutans, but not human beings, and an obsolete sight layout.

Whatever else one can say about the AR, its control layout is nearly perfect for a gunfighters weapon. The AK is decidedly less so. By the time you got the ergonomics of the AK sorted out satisfactorily, you're pretty much looking at a new (or at least very heavily modified) design, so you might as well just go with an entirely new design like the HK 416 or the FN SCAR, etc, that addresses what shortcomings the AR has while retaining (and, in some ways improving on) its strengths.

February 22, 2007, 06:15 PM
Is there anyone on here who even owns an M16?

I mean, besides me?

February 22, 2007, 06:19 PM
Here's the infamous poo horizon. Bear in mind this stuff is fine as talc. There's not a whole heck of alot you can do when you're rolling around in the back of a 5 ton dump with your A## hanging out for the world to see/shoot;)

February 22, 2007, 06:24 PM
Is there anyone on here who even owns an M16?

Have owned three ARs along the way (still have two of them), plus have had an M16 or M4 as my issue weapon for most of the last 13 or 14 years (+/- time on a Bradley crew with an M9 as my MTOE weapon).

February 22, 2007, 07:41 PM
Had my choice of weapons in Iraq - briefly pondered an M4 because I'd never used one before, but went with an AK instead. Reliability in a combat weapon is my primary concern, not pinpoint accuracy.

'sides, an M4 wouldn't have helped me hit the head that was popping up and down on the overpass above (while doing 80) anyway ;)

Eleven Mike
February 22, 2007, 11:32 PM
Whatever else one can say about the AR, its control layout is nearly perfect for a gunfighters weapon.

Amen. Much as I hate portruding pistol grips and ARs, I must allow they're very easy to use.

Bartholomew Roberts
February 27, 2007, 07:06 PM
Some letters to the editor from Colt and the author of "Black Rifle II" that shed a little more light on the subject.

Dear Editor,

Until the cancellation of the XM8 program in 2005, Army Times and its staff writer, Matthew Cox, strongly promoted the HK XM8 for its adoption as the service weapon for the US Army. In his recent feature article, “It’s better than the M4, but you can’t have one” Mr. Cox attributes cancellation of the XM8 program to “a sea of bureaucratic opposition.” Mr. Cox fails to mention a DoD IG report on the Acquisition of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (D-2006-004) dated October 7, 2005, which addresses the XM8 Program and is found at This DoD IG report clearly stated the rationale, which indicated the XM8 offered no potential efficiency over the present weapons systems, as well as including mismanagement by those persons responsible for the program, both of which clearly may have been a strong consideration in the cancellation of the program. Another related and informative DoD IG report is Competition of the 5.56 Millimeter Carbine (D-2007-026) dated November 22, 2006 and is also found at Now, promoting the HK 416, Mr. Cox references unnamed experts, misrepresents data for comparison between the HK 416 and M4, misleads readers by using findings in a 2001 SOCOM report on the M4 and a Marine Corps test of the M4 in 2002 but he does not inform the reader of measures taken immediately by the Army and Colt to eliminate those problems, uses quotes to imply the M16 and M4 are the same weapon used 42 years ago, which they are clearly not, and bases his argument for adoption of the HK 416 for the entire US Army on use by a group of elite operators within SOCOM who rightfully develop their own kit of weapons and modify them to their needs. His stated rationale is based on unsupervised tests made on a rifle made in Germany.

Additionally, his writing very wrongly alleges that Army leadership is not providing our men and women in uniform the best weapon available and, more disturbing, his article irresponsibly raises a concern to the Soldiers, Marines and Special Operations Forces in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families that their service weapon is not reliable. This is absolutely not a true statement and could cause serious morale issues to those engaged in day to day combat operations and to those in leadership positions in these units. To go further I would question his loyalty to those in uniform and his lack of real credibility, truthfulness and personal integrity in writing an article of this nature.

The M4 speaks for itself as to its combat credibility. Before its introduction into the US Army inventory in 1994 it was subjected to the full range of functioning and environmental tests required by the US Army test and evaluation process. Later, as a result of the 2001 SOCOM report on the M4, referred to by Mr. Cox, the US Army and Colt immediately conducted a joint effort to rectify the problems raised. This effort took until spring 2002 and manufacturing changes were implemented at Colt by fall 2002. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps conducted their own test of the M4 with weapons produced prior to the fall 2002 manufacturing change and they experienced similar problems as SOCOM. These issues were also resolved with the manufacturing changes implemented thereafter. From fall 2002 to today, government quality deficiency reports for the M4 have been nearly non-existent and that is attributable to the joint effort between the US Army and Colt to solve the problems raised in the 2001 and 2002 reports. Additionally, regarding reliability of the M4, from fall 2002, US government inspectors at the Colt plant have overseen the firing of nearly 4,000,000 (million) endurance rounds with only three endurance gun failures: one in January 2004, one in July 2005 and one in August 2005. The government quality assurance representative at Colt holds the documents supporting this testing. In June 2006, Colt had the opportunity to endurance fire an HK 416. At 3,000 rounds, a broken firing pin spring was found in the HK 416. Without a spare part, the endurance testing was ended. Other findings in those 3,000 rounds of firing were frequent loosening of the hand guard retainer screw and the cyclic rate of fire was over 1,000 rounds per minute. The gas piston system in the H&K 416 is not a new system and was initially rejected by the Army for the M16 in the 1960’s. Colt Defense has the present ability and expertise to manufacture in great numbers piston system carbines of exceptional quality should the US Army and other US Services initiate a combat requirement for this type of weapon. Attached is an email written to Mr. Cox by a recognized weapons expert, Mr. Chris Bartocci, author of Black Rifle II, who provides background on the M16 and M4. Anecdotal examples of fouled weapons are not taken lightly, yet the information is not helpful if the type of fouling is not clearly defined. In a desert environment, for example, sand and dust have the same effects on a weapon, whether it has a gas piston system or a gas impingement system. This issue is completely different from a debate over a gas piston system operating cleaner than a gas impingement system. Is a gas piston operated weapon less vulnerable to the effects of the desert than a gas impingement system? If so, where are the results of the controlled tests. Additionally, there are a number of reasons for fouling of weapons to include the reliability of the ammunition and reliability of magazines. The M16 and M4 have undergone major enhancements since introduction of the M16 into the US military inventory in the 1960s. These enhancements have improved functioning, reliability, maintenance and versatility for the individual Soldier and Marine throughout the years. Currently, there is a government funded operational evaluation being conducted for SOCOM by Colt and Ultra Chem Technologies (UCT) for greaseless operating parts on the M4 to improve maintenance, functioning and the wear of select parts of the weapon. In closing, at the 2006 Laboratory and Industry Day sponsored by the Chief of Infantry and Commanding General United States Army Infantry Center & School, Fort Benning, Georgia, the M4 Carbine was listed by the Commanding General and included in his brief as one of the many success stories in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

James R. Battaglini
MajGen, USMC (Ret)
Chief Operating Officer
Colt Defense LLC


I just had the opportunity to read your article "It's better than the M4, but you can't have it" regarding the HK416 compared to the M4. I have to say I was quite disturbed. My name is Chris Bartocci, I am the author of Collector Grade Publications title, Black Rifle II. This is the definitive history of the product development and procurement of the M16/M4 carbine from 1985 to present. I am also a contributing editor to Small Arms Review magazine as well as many other publications. My area of expertise is the M16 family of weapons and am quite familiar with the HK416. I am also very familiar with firearms design and trouble shooting (particularly the M16/M4 family of weapons).

I do not feel you portrayed the facts of the service of the M4/M16 rifle correctly and in fact it is quite disturbing. This is very much the propaganda that H&K has been pushing since they came up with the idea that the direct gas system was flawed and they had the century old magical piston system which they claim is new. Please let me give you some background that you might not be aware of nor the people you interviewed for this article. First the M16 rifle was designed to give decreased weight and ability to provide aimed and accurate semi as well as automatic fire. During the development phases, the conventional piston system had been around for more than 50 years, the same way the H&K system is now. The Army during the war in Vietnam tested all these weapons side by side and it was found the AR-15 outperformed all of them in accuracy and reliability. Being rushed into service, the Army disregarded the orders of the Secretary of Defense to put the AR-15 through a development process and got it ready for the troops in the field. Problems began with malfunctions when the ammunition propellant was changed and chambers corroded due to the Army not finding it necessary to test ammunition that had been changed from its spec nor to chrome plate the chamber, which is a significant reliability enhancement that became a Mil-Spec after the war in the Pacific during WW2. Every small arm in the U.S. inventory had it but the AR-15.

During this time, the AK47 was already known already for its reliability in adverse conditions. So the Army asked Colt to develop an M16 that would utilize the piston system (AK-type same as HK416). Colt developed their model 703, which was the same type piston system. This is in the late 1960's. After the congressional hearings on the M16 program came out, and the Army was accused of being "borderline criminally negligent" on their entire handling of the M16 weapons program, the rifles were modified to work with the newly manufactured 5.56mm ball ammunition. This included a change in the manufacturing process and design of the buffer, chamber, bolt and some trigger components, and the piston system was dropped by the Army. After the "bugs" were worked out and the new M16A1 came online, the reliability increased and troops who went to Vietnam after 1969 encountered little trouble. My point is that the piston driven AR is an old concept that the Army rejected in favor of the direct gas system currently in use in the M16. They found no significant increase in reliability due to the use of the piston system. The M16/M4 would go on to be the most combat proven 5.56mm rifle and carbine in the world seeing service in every climate in the world. From the jungles of Southeast Asia, the deserts of the Middle East and the Arctic of Canada and Alaska. All have been chosen by armed forces in the regions including Canada (Arctic) and Israel (Desert). For one to call the M16/M4 operating system "Obsolete" is untrue and unprofessional. This system has worked in combat reliably for more than 40 years. It worked then and it works now. I do not hear anybody calling the M1911 obsolete after more than 100 years of service. It works as well now as it did then. For something to be obsolete would mean it was replaced with something better, the Army has tried several times and goes back to this system. It is only obsolete to a faction that is trying to dislodge the weapon from service and get theirs adopted. The only way to constitute a change is to claim the current equipment is flawed. This is basic marketing.

Colt developed the M4 carbine in the late 1980's with it being finalized in 1995 and type classified as the first general purpose carbine since the M1 carbine of World War 2. It was designed for troops that needed more power than a pistol but could not carry a standard rifle. Colt was given restrictions by the Army to mandate significant amounts of part interchangeability with the current M16A2 rifle. The Army was more concerned with interchangeability than reliability and Colt had to work within this framework. As the carbines began to circulate, it was not the truck drivers, tankers and maintenance people who were carrying them, it was front line special operations forces operators. Those who would later go on record calling this weapon flawed because the 6 pound carbine would not function as a high volume of fire, light support, belt fed weapon they required. They also went on record saying they use this weapon well beyond its design parameters. This does not mean this weapon is flawed, it means it was not designed for what they wanted to use it for. Regular Army units loved the M4 carbine, over the M16A2 and A4. That is why Colt has received additional contracts since the wars began. The regular troop use them as intended.

You made mention of the SCAR program where Special Operations Forces adopted (although not fielded) the FN rifle. Some additional pertinent information is that the reason for the SCAR program had much to do with SOCOM wanting to be their own project manager and have the ability to make changes to the weapon specific to them. This is something they could not do with the M4A1. The M4A1 is a procured weapon by the Department of Defense from Colt and is subject to mil-standards and the technical data package. You mentioned the government inspectors at Colt, which is part of this. As the M4 and M4A1 are adopted, these are the standards Colt must meet, no more and no less. Any change or modification must be requested by the Department of Defense, not SOCOM. For example, SOCOM had issues with barrels bursting when used under extreme firing sessions and they made the claim the barrels were flawed. When Rock Island Arsenal investigated they found that the firing schedules from 540 to 596 rounds per minute were fired within 3 and 3.5 minutes and heated the barrels up over 1300 degrees, which is their transformation temperature. The round count that resulted is more ammunition than a combat soldier would even carry. Machine guns change barrels due to this heat. Rock Island found that this had not occurred in any place other than SOCOM and that it was cause by abuse of the weapons and would not act on any changes from Colt. Another major issue SOCOM had was maintenance. They had no real maintenance schedules to replace worn parts so they ran weapons without round counts and maintenance until they broke. As General Keys mentioned about the extractor spring that is how difficult it is to get the Army to make changes. The Army would not make changes to the weapons if they worked for them. SOCOM could not request the changes needed due to them not being the procurement agency. This led to animosity and friction between Colt and SOCOM. Colt has had many improvements they have made to the government over the years to improve the weapons and they were shot down every time.

When the SCAR trials came out, SOCOM was the procurement agency and they would have full control of the weapon and changes it may need in the future. Colt had submitted 3 entries into that as well. Two were direct gas rifles and the other a piston operated mechanism. Based on my research, all the Colt weapons served well and passed the trials as did the FN. In the end, the FN candidate was selected. The Colt piston system rifle is the ONLY piston driven M4-platform weapon to ever complete an official SOCOM trial, not the HK416. This weapon was not in the competition. As of right now, the M4A1 is the weapon of choice for SOCOM with the exception of Delta who procured the HK 416 on their own. Also based on my research there is a possibility the SCAR program could be cancelled as well.

As for the combat reliability of the HK416 over the M4, well, the M4 has been on the battlefield all over the world for more than a decade and is used by some of the most elite units in the world to include the legendary British SAS who use a Colt Canada made SFW, which is a M4 derivative. Based on my research and discussions with several of the finest engineers in the industry, there has never been any military comparisons between the two systems to determine which is better. More importantly, the criteria set for by the Army for the M4 has been met and the Army has said on record that the M4 has exceeded the government specs by 3 times. The specs and "improvements" of the HK416 are self-made specs that have nothing to do with the Army. For example, the crown jewel hammer forged barrel of the HK416, Colt has offered hammer-forged barrels to the U.S. government for more than a decade since their licensee, Diemaco (now Colt Canada) has manufactured them. The Army told Colt no as they found no evidence it would be an improvement over the current barrels. The stronger bolt of the HK416, Colt proposed to the government a redesign of the M4/M4A1 bolt/barrel extension to cope with the higher impact of constant automatic fire and the U.S. government rebuffed. Colt has offered this technology before, actually all of it. They offered the piston system, the hammer forged barrels, improved life bolt and much more. The Army says they are satisfied with the current production weapons.

The stories you depict in this article from the field are very misleading. First, I have heard many stories from the sand box that are the exact opposite. Troops claim their M16 and M4 work just fine and I have heard some amazing stories of long distant shots taken with M4 carbines. ALL weapons malfunction in that environment if not maintained. There have been complaints surfaced about the M9 pistol, M249 Saw and many other weapons. This sand jams AK's. The soldiers in question, you do not know the condition those weapons were in. How dirty were they? Were they worn out? Did they have defective magazines? The malfunctions described, particularly the failures to extract, are normally caused by corroded or damaged chambers which any weapon would have. Without knowing the circumstances and why the weapons malfunctioned, it is not responsible to claim it is a flaw in the weapon design.

There is something I want to caution you against. During the war in Vietnam the reputation of the M16 far overstated the actual malfunctions. What it did was hurt morale of the troops. It made troops lose confidence in their weapon.. Opinions were formed before they even pulled the trigger. It hurt morale worse than the actual amount of problems. With an article like this, which is basically an H&K sales pitch based on their claims the M4 is flawed, you are doing the same thing to those troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hurting their morale and confidence in their weapon when the groups that are having the problems abuse the weapon admittedly and use them beyond their design intent. That is dangerous. If you are looking to buy oil for your car and you walk into a store and buy Quaker State and it runs in your Grand Am, perfect. Now a race car driver puts that same oil in his race car and it breaks down and causes engine problems. I ask you, is that oil the problem or maybe that high performance engine needed a different kind of oil to serve its purpose? This is what you are looking at, the difference between SOCOM and the rest of the military.

I am writing you this based on my concerns for the fallout on the troops in combat who will read it and get very misinformed about their equipment and make them feel unjustly that they have substandard equipment when in all actuality they carry the world standard that all modern military rifles are compared. If I did not know better, your story would scare the hell out of me.

If I can be of any help to you in reference to this issue, please feel free to contact me.

Chris Bartocci author, “Black Rifle II”

Don't Tread On Me
February 27, 2007, 07:19 PM
Yep, saw that on

But the AR haters will never let fact get in the way of things.

They said what we said, the original article was a steaming heap of HK marketing.

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