I'm going to start a thread here that I just KNOW is going to prompt fire and brimstone. I have one M-4gery (semi-auto flat-top short-barrel AR in 5.56mm). I may soon have another. One is assigned to my 16 year old daughter. The next one will go to my 18 year old daughter. I like the little carbine for a couple things, and a couple things only. It is chambered in a standard caliber easily obtainable and it is light and handy, just the sort of weapon for slight-statured youngsters and especially female youngsters.
Things I don't like about McNamara's rifle and the 5.56mm round it chambers:
The system, to put it bluntly, craps where it eats. This is the principal cause of over forty years of weapons malfunctions from South Vietnam to Iraq. Men have died because of it, when their finely tuned and equisitely fitting actions became fouled with a combination of burnt powder and environmental detritus -- mud or sand -- and turned them from full-auto rifles into single shots, or worse, clubs. My son so distrusted the M-4 he was issued during OIF-1 that he tried to get his 101st superiors to let him carry an AK-47. Request denied. He settled for an M-4 with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher slung underneath. He KNEW the M-203 would work.
I never liked the recoil spring in the plastic stock, making the action far too susceptible to catastrophic failure. The fixed stock version of the AR-180 (I used to own a Costa Mesa Armalite) seemed to me to be much more sensible -- reliable piston action and even if you broke the folding stock off, you still had a working firearm. They were far cheaper to produce, as well.
I was always a fan of the full-sized cartridges -- .30-06 and 7.62 NATO -- and the absolutely reliable weapons chambered for them: the M-1, the M14, the FN/FAL and the H&K 91. What is cover to a 5.56 turns into mere concealment for a 7.62 NATO or .30-06.
In addition, the larger cartridge is able to out-range the smaller by a considerable margin, thus giving you a leg up on the "three hundred meter war."
All of that said, the fact is that the M-4 is here, and here to stay for a while, thanks to that iron rule of bureaucracy -- "This is the way we've always done it."
These observations were prompted by CAMPYBOB, a moderator over at AssaultWeb.net, who posted this article from Army Times back on 6 July:
Army acquires rights to M4
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jul 6, 2009 17:53:53 EDT
As of July 1, the Army has taken control of the design rights to the M4 carbine from its sole maker, Colt Defense LLC. Translation: With an uncertain budget looming, the service is free to give other gun companies a crack at a carbine contract.
The transition of ownership of the M4 technical data package marks the end of an era and Colt’s exclusive status as the only manufacturer of the M4 for the U.S. military for the past 15 years.
In late November, Army senior leadership announced the service’s intent to open a competition for a new carbine this fall in preparation for the June 30 expiration date of Colt’s hold on the M4 licensing agreement.
The Army is slated to finish fielding the last of its 473,000 M4 requirement some time next year.
Army weapons officials maintain that it’s good to have the option of inviting other gun companies to compete to make the M4 as it is now, if the need arises, said Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for soldier weapons.
“We probably won’t do anything with it right now. ... We have what we need,” Tamilio said. “The good news is we will own it now; that gives us the flexibility to do what we need it to do.”
Small-arms companies waiting for the chance to compete for the Army’s next carbine view Colt’s loss of the M4 TDP as a new beginning for the industry and for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Now that the sole-source era is over, we hope to see free and open competition of any interim or long-term solution for the service rifle or carbine for the American soldier,” said Jason Schauble, vice president of the military products division of Remington. “Now there is a chance to get something better in the hands of the soldier. Why not do it? If Colt wins again, God bless them.”
Colt officials didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Some in the small-arms industry say Colt’s 15-year control over the M4 is a natural part of the gun-making business.
“If a company designs and develops a product, they don’t do that for fun; they have a whole factory of people to feed,” said George Kontis, who is now the vice president of business development for Knights Armament Company but has worked for multiple small-arms firms since 1967.
“This is not anything new in history. It has always happened this way,” he said.
The next competition
For now, the Army is planning to begin a competition in October that could produce a new carbine by sometime in 2012, but there are no guarantees, weapons officials maintain.
Before that can happen, the Army’s updated carbine requirement — the document that lays out what the service wants in the future weapon — still has to clear the senior Army leadership and win joint approval, he said.
Funding is another uncertainty, he said. The Army can’t begin the request for proposal process this year if the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill doesn’t include the start-up costs for the venture, Tamilio said.
“I don’t need a lot of money,” Tamilio said. “I think it’s less than $10 million for fiscal year 2010. ... It’s obviously tied into the president’s budget in 2010.”
Colt still owns the TDP for the M16 rifle, but its status as the sole supplier for the military ended in the late 1980s, when FN Manufacturing LLC won its first contract. The Army still uses versions of the M16, but stopped buying them when it decided to field M4s to all deploying combat units in 2006.
The M4 became the subject of congressional scrutiny in 2007 when lawmakers expressed concerned about whether soldiers had the best available weapon.
In November 2007, the weapon finished last in an Army reliability test against other carbines. The M4 suffered more stoppages than the combined number of jams by the other three competitors: the Heckler & Koch XM8; FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR; and the H&K 416.
Army weapons officials agreed to perform the dust test after a July 2007 request by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Coburn took up the issue after a Feb. 26, 2007, Army Times report on moves by elite Army special operations units to ditch the M4 in favor of carbines they consider more reliable.
U.S. Special Operations Command decided to move away from the M4 in November 2004 when the command awarded a developmental contract to FN Herstal to develop its SCAR to replace its M4s and older M16s.
In November, gun makers from across the country attended an Army small-arms industry day in November designed to give weapons officials a look at what is available on the commercial market. There, Army Secretary Pete Geren announced that he had directed the Army’s Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., to update the carbine requirement in preparation for a search for a replacement for the M4.
“If there are no significant issues, I think [the updated requirement] can move through” the Army validation process and receive the blessing of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, Tamilio said.
If that happens, the Army plans to release a draft request for proposal to the small-arms industry in October and a formal RFP early next year, weapons officials maintain.
The first round of testing will likely begin late next summer and last though summer 2011.
Once a weapon is selected in late fiscal 2011, weapons officials hope to have operational testing and a full rate-production decision by late summer in 2012, Tamilio said.
One of the most critical parts of this process will be the three to five months between the draft RFP and the release of the formal RFP, when the industry has the chance to digest and understand what the Army wants in a new carbine, he said.
“Those discussions we have with industry will be vital to getting the real RFP on the street and that should really make for a solid competition,” he said.
Now, frankly, one of the neat things about the M-4 is all the gizmo's you can hang on it. It is the ultimate modularized infantry weapon. This poster gives you an idea:
Yesterday, I received a complimentary copy of the latest Army Times in my post office box, with an article on the cover titled Pimp Your Carbine from their regular column, Gear Scout.
Pimp Your Carbine
27 July 2009
Want to become a more effective rifle operator, or just spend a bit of that re-enlistment bonus on something less dangerous than a motorcycle? GearScout is here for you. We went to the units with deep pockets and 50,000 yearly round counts per man and asked them what they ran on their carbines.
We gave an open-ended survey to active-duty and recently retired career operators and trainers to get their desert-island list of carbine upgrades. We compiled the results using a point system and came up with this wish list, ranked in order or what they would add to their weapons first.
Operator’s Choice #1: Sight
The red-dot reflex sight has become the reticle of choice for close-quarters battle. Accurate under stress to about 300 meters, the sight goes with the carbine-length M4 like milk goes with cookies.
Operator favorite: Aimpoint Micro T1 ($650). When the Micro T1 came out at SHOT Show a few years back, it started showing up on everything: soldier's rifles, competition shooter's [ostols, probably even kids' slingsshots. Weighing in at only 3 ounces, it's 42 percent lighter than the M68 and the lightest battle sight out there. One set of batteries will last as long as five years continuously using a medium intensity setting.
Operator’s Choice #2: Light
You can't hit what you can't see. Better to flood a shadowy recess with a momentary blaze of light to look for bad guys. Suoer-bright rail-mounted LEDs with remote switches allow rapid identification of a target without affecting your weapon grip or readiness.
Operator Favorite: SureFire M600C scout Light ($425). The scout Light is the lightest (3.5 oz.) and most compact rail-mount light available in its brightness range. It's a simple, single-brightness LED that will light up a target at 150 meters while still providing good peropheral light. It runs on two CR123s for a couple of hours.
What they said: "Curing close-quarter battle, most buildings will have limited visibility inside, even during the day. A white-light illumonator, combined with the proper training, allows the war fighter the ability to maneuver on the enemy and rapidly enagege the threats accurately."
Operator’s Choice #3: IR Target Designator
U.S. troops do their best work at night, thanks to formidable low-light tech that lets you see the enemy before he can see you. Night vision goggles by themselves are a pain to use with optical sights. An infrared pointer lets you ID and aim in through NVGs and engage targets in total darkness.
Operator Favorite: Insight Technology advanced Target Pointer, Illuminator, Aiming Light. available only to military and law enforcement. The An/PEQ-15 delivers a visible laser pointer along with an IR pointer and IR illuminator that make a deadly combo when used with NVGs. The IR pointer is slaved to the visible laser for easy aiming. It runs from a CR123 for six-plus hours and, best of all, it's about half the size of the older AN/PEQ-2.
Operator’s Choice #4: Extended Rail
The 1913 Picatinny rail is the defacto mounting system since devices can be quickly and solidly attached or removed using cam levers or thumbscrews. Items are indexed using set spacing on the rail, and most items will retain a zero after remounting.
Early handguards were short and rail-less, meaning you needed expensive custom mounts for front-mounted accessories. Later came a short bolt on rails that gave a common mounting system and more real estate, but the rails were clamped around the barrel and that affected accuracy.
Recent rail systems are longer and free floating, meaning they attach to the barrel nut instead of the barrel. This single point of contact means no matter how many gizmos you mount on your heater, the weight won’t cause any barrel deflection or point-of-impact shift when shooting with a supported handguard. New alloys mean the guards can extend the usable area of a handguard considerably without effecting weight, stability or heat transfer performance.
What they said: “A free-floating handguard improves accuracy by isolating the barrel from external pressure. It provides a solid mounting platform for other accessories, keeps the front end light and feels more like a rifle than a giant Lego brick.”
Operator Favorite: JP/VTAC Modular Handguard ($175)
Ditch the cheesegrater and use all that space on your extended handguard to actually hold your carbine instead of a foregrip. The tubular handguard with user-mounted rail sections mean you mount small sections of rail where you want your devices and leave the rest light and clean.
Daniel Defense RIS II ($400)- One of the few free-float rail systems that offers a removable bottom rail that allows the mounting of an M203.
LaRue Tactical ($250-$300)- LaRue is a traditional-style handguard with a pin-indexed barrel nut and rails that hug the barrel for a lower profile.
Operator’s Choice #5 Sling
Too many service members consider a sling an afterthought, not really part of the primary weapon. But our operators told us a good two- or one-point sling can have a profound effect on the effective use of your carbine. Modern military operations call for an adaptable sling that accommodates fast roping and climbing while allowing quick and effective weapon presentation. No way this is going to happen with a Vietnam-era three-point sling.
One-point slings are popular because they keep your primary at the ready and allow lightning-fast transitions to your pistol. Adjustable two-point slings give you the ability to present quickly while making it easy to sling a rifle across your back and snug it down for climbing or fast-roping.
What they said: “As everyone knows, if you are moving with a single-point sling and don’t have at least one hand on the carbine, eventually you will catch a hot barrel in the legs or groin — and try climbing a rope or wall and see what kind of circus that turns into. The three-point sling is the best-kept secret in spec ops, and the secret is that it sucks.”
Both the VTAC Sling ($35-$41) and the Blue Force Gear VCAS ($45-$105) were popular in our survey. Both two-point slings come from operational experience gleaned while working behind the fence at Ft. Bragg. The major difference is the adjustment system. The VTAC has a loose tail that you pull to tighten and a stout, spring-loaded buckle tab you pull to loosen. The VTAC is designed to snug up during engagements to make a more stable shooting platform. The VCAS has no loose tail and uses a custom sliding buckle on a loop to gather or loosen the sling. Both slings offer a balance of adjustability and simplicity that have proven equally popular across SOCOM.
Operator’s Choice #6 Trigger
When it comes right down to it, a shooters most intimate point of contact is the trigger. So it makes sense that some of our participants tossed the stock-heavy GI triggers and installed precision two-stage jobs that enhance the feel and accuracy of their weapon. Two-stage means you pull through the first stage up to the break point, then snap through to fire. Upgraded trigger groups provide a more consistent and predictable break, but some aftermarket triggers are too light — great on the range but dangerous in combat. Do your homework on this one.
What they said: “Geissele SSA trigger, the best there is. Non-adjustable, drop it [in] to enhance hit probability, especially in the mid-range under stress.”
“Most factory triggers are not that good out of the box. No one makes a better, more reliable trigger group than Geissele. They hold their products to exacting standards.”
Operator Favorite: Geissele SSF ($250)
Hard to find and harder to pronounce (Guys-Lee), this is a drop-in, two-stage trigger with no adjustment. The pull is set at the factory and remains constant for the life of the trigger. The SSF is designed for combat and has been praised for its simplicity and durability. The SSA ($175) is the non-select fire version of the drop-in trigger .
Operators Choice #7 Back Up Iron Sights
Although you can find photos of cracked, shot and crushed Aimpoints and EOTechs that refused to die, one day those iron sights are going to save your butt. There’s only one trait to consider here: Reliability. The rear sight will likely be folded obediently beneath your optic until you really need it. At that point you want it to flip up without extra button-pressing or knob-twisting. You also want it to be able to hold a zero and not pop up when it’s not needed. Same goes for the front, but some guys roll with a non-folding front sight so they can aim over the top of their optic for really close fights.
What they said: “If your primary sight uses batteries, eventually it will have an electrical problem. I hope that when it happens, it’s not when you’re fighting for your life. But if it is, BUIs and training will hopefully allow you to prevail.”
Operator Favorite: Troy Folding BattleSight set ($250)
Troy was widely chosen as the backup iron sights of choice. They stay closed until needed and flip up easily with no controls. Folding requires a hefty button press so they won’t fold until you want them to. Once they are open, it’s going to take a 1000 lb accident to shear the cross bolt holding the sight up.
Made from aluminum and stainless steel, they should last as long as your rifle. Mount them on a Picatinny rail, use a bullet tip to adjust in .5 MOA clicks and know they are there when you need them.
Operators Choice #8 Mags
Crappy magazines are one of the largest source of stoppages in combat rifles. Some guys swear by standard USGI mags and others won’t let anything but polymer in the mag well. The USGI mag is simple, but the alloy construction leaves the feed lips susceptible to damage from a drop or long-term wear. Once the lips bend out, it’s double-feed city. But they’re metal and they’ve been around forever. The other camp points to the reliability of the polymer mag, with feed lips that won’t bend out of shape and that keeps those rounds feeding smoothly.
What they said: “I shot over 40,000 rounds of carbine last year and the PMAG never once gave me an issue. I did absolutely nothing to maintain them.”
Operator Favorite: PMAG/MagLevel PMAG ($14.95/$17.95)
PMAGs were the only mags that our respondents brought up. At least three things distinguish the PMAG from the USGI mag: The polymer construction is tough. They’ve been dropped and driven over and still continue to feed smoothly. The unique self-leveling follower keeps things trucking upward inside the mag. The MagLevel version shows you how many rounds you or your battle buddy have left with a quick glance at the orange level indicator on the mag’s side.
(End of article)
Of course these mods add thousands of dollars to the cost of your rifle and by the time you hang all of them on the M-4, you're toting a weapon that weighs more than the M-14 series. (That said, if you find some of these laying on the trail and their former owners are past caring, you should at least know what they look like.)
Spaceage gimcrackery aside (and I must confess my eyes are so bad, I must now use an Aimpoint red-dot to hit anything), the rifle, as I said, is here to stay, probably until they come up with Captain Kirk's phaser rifle. Therefore, everyone should familiarize themselves with the system, its ins and outs.
To put on, take off and otherwise service all those doo-dads, you'll need some tools. This enables you to do all that without packing a toolbag.
AR-15/M16 MULTITASKER TOOL
Pocket-Packable Multi-Tool With Everything You Need For Field Repair & Adjustment Of Your AR-15
Rugged, compact, fold-open tool contains an amazing array of tools to service your AR-15 and many popular add-on accessories, all in a package that’s barely 4" long when folded and fits in pocket, backpack, range bag, or the included nylon belt pouch. You get a castle nut wrench for collapsible carbine stocks, adjustment tool for four-prong A2-style front sights, 3/8" box wrench for accessory mounts from LaRue Tactical and others, angled carbon scraper with radiused tip, file with chisel-tip carbon scraper, 440C stainless Tanto-style blade with liner lock safety, extended-length needle-nose pliers, wire cutter, and a bit driver with five, interchangeable double-ended bits. Comes with 2 slot-head, 1 Phillips, and 5 hex-head bit tips, plus T10 and T15 Torx® head bits. Bits have a ball-detent locking system to ensure they stay securely in the driver. The Multitasker is made of hardened, tool-grade stainless steel, with a scratch-resistant, matte black hardcoat finish for exceptional strength, and grip panels of durable G10 fiberglass composite with checkered surface pattern for a firm grasp.
SPECS: Stainless steel, matte black finish, with G10 fiberglass grips, matte black. 4-1⁄8" (10.5cm) OAL folded; 6-7⁄8" (17.5cm) OAL extended. Includes 5 double-ended driver tips with rubber storage sleeve and black 1000 denier nylon belt pouch.