Snapped a few photos of the LE901 upper and the 901 MARC upper while we have them together to give everybody an idea in the size difference between the two.
Colt 6720 5.56mm upper on the 901 lower.
Howard’s recent article about the M16A4 and its numerous disadvantages sparked a firestorm of discussion and criticism. I utilize rifles in all my shooting and have a few M16A2 style clunkers myself…but I am here to offer some discussion on the future of the rifle length platform and who can take advantage of it. So Where does the modern fighting rifle fit in the world of AR15’s?
M16A4: Not So Modern
Let’s get this away right out front: the M16A4 is not a good example of a modern fighting rifle. Every bad thing about the platform Howard touched upon is absolutely right. From the A2 stock to the outdated KAC rail system, the weapon is a rather heavy for what it does. We cannot define a modern fighting rifle based on what the Marines use, just as we cannot define a modern fighting carbine as a vanilla issue US Army M4. As civilians, we don’t have the barriers to building a rifle that will suit our needs and purpose; as cool as it is to build civilian M16 series clones, it usually ends up being a poor choice in a defensive weapon. Let’s start by changing the configuration.
Outfitting an M16A4 style built with modern components significantly reduces its biggest two handicaps: Weight and Length.
Ditching the A2 stock is the first step in keeping a rifle length system useable
I updated my A4 rifle with a Vltor A5 stock years ago. The system is now useable with body armor and is a good update to any rifle length system. The rifle can run with standard buffers as well (I would recommend starting at H2) and needs very little attention. Performing this one upgrade is a good start, but can make the weapon muzzle heavy. Solution? Shorten the barrel or add a lighter hand-guard system… or do both.
Shortening the barrel from 20 to 18 inches and equipping the rifle with a modern rail system shaves off both weight, and length. Shortening the barrel to 18 inches and equipping the rifle length system with a modern lightweight rail such as a Daniel Defense Lite Rail 12.0 or a BCM KMR does wonders for the handling of the rifle.
The biggest advantage of a rifle? M193 still works well for self-defense. Here is my 18 inch rifle with Criterion barrel.
The 20 inch barrel is a long pipe and modern defensive loadings diminish the need for reliance on velocity as a fragmentation mechanism. I recognize this fact, but logistically I also recognize the availability of M193 and how easy to obtain it is. Keeping the 20 inch barrel or updating to an 18 inch barrel still keeps the benefit of fragmentation as a wounding mechanism for the common as dirt M193 loading.
M193 is still humming along at around 3200 to 3250 fps out of an 18 to 20 inch barrel. While it is agreed that modern defensive loadings are preferred to M193, the ability to stockpile and train with 55gr fragmenting FMJ for a good price is a benefit in its own right. With Winchester PDX running near $1.40-1.49 a round vs $ .42 cents a round for Federal M193 then it begins to turn the table in favor of logistics. It allows you to train with the same round you can use for self-defense. While I have a magazine loaded with 69 grain OTM available for self-defense, I keep more M193 on hand due to cost and availability.
Not Just a Shorter Rifle
Keeping in mind the changes above, a rifle length system can be far more versatile than the stock M16A2 and M16A4 clones. There are a few extra advantages to modernizing a rifle setup, especially for new shooters.
Anyone who has tossed a quality compensator on a 20 inch gun knows how easy it is to keep these rifle length systems flat. Giving a rifle to a new shooter interested in AR’s is a good move, since the concussion and recoil will be kept to a minimum while the handling of the weapon will be excellent.
Is it any wonder why 3 gun competitors love to shoot 18 inch rifles? They handle well and stay on target. While 3 gun setups may be a far cry from a defensive rifle, it doesn’t take much to adapt the beneficial characteristics of a 3 gun rifle to a AR15 set up for home defense.
While my opinion may differ from a majority of internet opinion, I believe that proper forethought into how you set up a rifle can elevate it from “the old musket” to a weapon that can go toe to toe with modern carbines, and in some ways outperform them. The modern upgrades available to carbines are directly beneficial to the rifle while preserving its smooth shooting characteristics.
Bonus: I didn’t even have to mention sight radius or bayonets for this article.
Brian – www.thenewrifleman.com
Article submitted by guest writer Mitchell Wakehurst
You can find his website on home and business safes at http://citysafes.com.au
How safe is your safe?
Humans instinctively feel the need to safeguard everything he holds dear from loss, theft and damage. In response to these security needs, most homes and business establishments are equipped with strong safes and vaults to protect cash, jewelry, and other valuables from robberies and calamities. However, as quality, performance, and efficiency of home and office safes technology improve, so does the ingenuity of robbers in safecracking. Letting our guard down is never an option if we wish to avoid grief and regret. In addition, choosing an excellent safe has never been this crucial. If you search the internet, you will find a wide variety of safes with upgraded features like fireproofing, waterproofing, hi-tech locking mechanisms, and other enhanced aspects. Given these myriad of choices, it is baffling to find the safe that answers all your security needs.
The most difficult puzzle of getting the right safe
Despite the invention of the locking system, which was the basis the concept behind safes, there were and still are a lot of dark and gray areas to consider. Among these are the following:
> Durability ‒ This is a vital component in ensuring the overall safety of what you have locked inside the safe. Is it insulated enough to stand raging fires? Consider if it could stand forced entry such as use of crowbars and other tools. The safe’s weight also matters: a heavier one would be obviously difficult to carry.
> Size ‒ This would help you decide based on the availability of space wherever you intend to install your safe. It also helps you come up with a list of important belongings to put inside this safe.
> Convenience ‒ This is another important aspect to guarantee the selection of the best safe. Check how the combination of locks works: is there any backup key in case of a lock out? Consider also the ease of installation (eg. Bolts, and tools needed) and functionalities (eg. LED light to illuminate its contents).
> Level of immunity ‒ This may be somewhat related to durability but focuses more on the extent of the safe’s vulnerability. Watch out for bolts, hinges, and other features that could compromise your safe’s security.
> Customization ‒ Imagine a safe custom-built to give all the features you could ever ask for. Customizable safes may appear to be more expensive than ready-made ones, but if you can have all the features you want or at least tweak the safe to fit your needs, it is a worthwhile investment at the end of the day.
With all these factors in mind, you need to connect each of them with the following:
> What do you plan to keep in your safe?
> Where do you intend to install your safe?
> How long is your safe expected to provide safety?
> What level of safety must be achieved by your safe?
> What is the main purpose of your safe? Is it even necessary?
Lock your valuables inside your safe but never your mindset from anticipating the worst. You have done your part when you have brilliantly prepared for all imagined risks or dangers by carefully selecting the safest safe you can find.
Magpul MS1 slings: The MS1 got rid of my complaints about Magpul slings (unwanted single point hardware & open loop adjuster) and combined it with a smooth sliding adjuster, a soft and non binding nylon strap, and a reasonable price. It has become my preferred sling.
Colt 6720: I won’t spend too much time on this one since Duncan has already covered it, and I echo his thoughts on it. After picking one up earlier this year, I found the 6720 to be lightweight, quick handling, accurate, and reliable. Everything you could want an AR carbine to be.
Colt 901 MARC: After some trigger time on our 901 MARC t&e gun I prefer it in most every way over the original 901. The weight loss from removing the rails on the sides and bottom of the gun, which combined with the resulting thinner handguard profile have lead to a far better handling gun.
I found I could get a better grip on the MARC due to the thinner handguard which along with its lighter weight allowed me to run and gun with it almost as though it was a 5.56 gun. Surprisingly the reduced weight didn’t come with a noticeable increase in recoil, probably due to getting a better support hand grip on the handguard for recoil management.
All of the pros of the original 901 in a lighter, better handling package.
Hi, I am Brian of www.thenewrifleman.com and I am pleased to join Looserounds.com as a contributor. Here are some of my favorite products of 2014, though some of them are not *new* products.
Sierra match kings 69 grain bullets: Its nice having a favorite loading based around this product as I found it easier to find than the 77grain ammo during the scare and it was plenty accurate to help me learn the ins and outs of shooting to 600 yards. Its not a new product by any means, but its a fantastic boost to any rifles capabilities past close ranges.
ALG defense QMS trigger: Its a affordable upgrade to any single stage stock trigger. Smooth with no grit, and very little to go wrong. My next step up will be a Gieselle, but for now this works on a budget.
Armalight NM 1/2×1/2 match rear sight: Quality drop in sight replacement that exceeded my expectations. A raised edge keeps the sight square against the receiver without pins or double spring setups. I utilized this to shoot a basic rifle in NRA High Power and it was a solid piece of equipment.
Aero Precision M4E1: While I just received it, the fit and finish and simplicity of the design make it extremely easy to swap barrels and rails. The platform is stiff and feels robust. I have good confidence that going into the 2015 competitive season, that this receiver will perform well.
Giesselle Reaction Rod: Made building my rifles quick, easy, and the product will last forever. I can only hope my kids take advantage of it and build AR15s for decades after it is passed down to them. Even if they don’t build AR15s it will make a hellacious club.
Let Down: Haley Strategic G Code holster. Not a comfortable choice. I have been wearing it for a year now and I have broken a screw during casual use and overall it just isn’t the most comfortable IWB experience for me. I am a thin guy so that may play a part, but as of this point I’m looking for a better product.
Here are a few of my favorite products of 2014. They are in no particular order.
M&P Shield, without safety:
After the first of the year disappointment in the G42 being a .380, the new M&P Shield stepped in to fill the single stack 9mm role everyone was wanting. Smith & Wesson quickly capitalized by finally listening to what most had said about the Shield over the last few years. Mainly, many wanted the Shield to be offered without a safety, to operate more like the M&P Full Size models and a Glock. I picked up the new Shield offering mid-year and it basically goes with me every day. The Shield had a few hiccups when first released and some recently. These issues have been fixed by Smith & Wesson and the Shields are very reliable. One thing I found very interesting, is when I fired the 9mm Shield and the G42 together, I did not feel a lot of recoil difference.
Lancer L5 AWM Magazines:
If you have followed us for a while, you know my personal stock up/go to magazines are USGI with Magpul followers and L-Plates. In 2014 I found amazing deals on Lancer L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazines (AWM) at USGI prices so I jumped on them. The Lancer L5 AWM is (In my Opinion) the best magazine to use for Duty/Defensive purposes. A true 30 round capacity polymer magazine with the strength of wraparound steel feed lips. Most of the popular polymer magazines will crack, over time, around the feed lips. With the Lancer’s this is a non-issue. Price was always the only reason I did not buy a lot of Lancer’s. In 2014 Lancer L5 AWM’s became my go to magazine.
Surefire X300 Weapon Light:
Several of the LR staff have bugged me to get a Surefire X300 over the last few years. As with everything I get, price is always a factor, as I have multiple defensive weapons and it’s hard to get several firearms equipped with a weapon light when they are expensive. The Streamlight TLR-1 is usually what I like to use. I purchase a Surefire X300 specifically to mount on one of my AR-15’s and I am glad I did. The Surefire X300 is the best weapon mounted light I have used on an AR-15. It is a little more user friendly on the AR, has a longer distance more focused beam and has a little more lumens than the TLR-1’s I normally use. On a patrol rifle, for my specific purposes, the Surefire X300 is the best weapon mounted light I have used to date. It has just the right combination of function and light output, for both outdoor and indoor use.
Colt AR15-A4 Lightweight LE Carbine (AR6720):
The low prices on AR15’s have been great in 2014. At the beginning of the year I purchased a Colt AR6720. It is one of those AR’s that made me say, ” Why did I wait so long to get it”. You find yourself wondering how a pencil barrel can really make that much of a difference. Once you get it in your hands, it just feels right. The 6720 has all of the things you want in a reliable lightweight Carbine. It is lightweight, fast, smooth, accurate, fun to shoot and most importantly, it has the quality and features you expect in a duty/defensive carbine. I really purchased the 6720 for my wife and she absolutely loves it, but I find myself wanting to steal it. (looserounds.com / colt-lightweight-ar6720-carbine)
Aimpoint Micro T1/H1:
For the second year in a row, I have to mention the Aimpoint Micro’s. I have slowly replaced all of my older 30mm (M2, ML2, ML3) Aimpoint’s. They are simply, small, fast, rugged, reliable, lightweight and have unmatched battery life. There is not much more that I can say that is not already out there. Aimpoint is simply the best RDS and I feel the micro’s are the best within the Aimpoint line.
Kinetic Concepts Tactical MOLLE-Link:
For me, the Kinetic Concepts Tactical (KCT) MOLLE-Link system, has to be my favorite and I think most innovative products this year. It is one of those things that is so simple yet so effective and makes you wonder why it took so long for someone to think of it. The MOLLE-Link system allowes a low profile ability to mount Kydex holsters, magazine and accessory pouches directly to MOLLE webbing, with no bulky accessory attachments. The KCT MOLLE-Link products are easy to quickly mount/remove and are extremely secure. Great product and idea from KCT. (looserounds.com / kinetic-concepts-tactical-molle-link-holsters)
Part 2 of the debunking of the absurd myth that the M4 has caused the death of US military people due to failures. Once again this is the sole work of the writer from www.weaponsman.com, THE technical website on all things military weapons related, among other topics. We again highly recommend all follow them. Part 1 is actually below this post due to the way our website is set up. Both are long posts but very detailed and worth reading if you are a real student of military fighting weapons.
In the enormous1 part one of the series, we reacted to a brain-dead article published in The Atlantic by a retired Major General, who has, since his retirement 20+ years ago, been a lobbyist for defense firms and TV talking head. (Before he got his stars he was an artillery officer). We may have more to say about our brain-dead GO in a subsequent post, but we think we raised some good points about his article. We weren’t the only ones. He also ticked off Nathaniel Fitch at The Firearm Blog, and we heard, also the guys at Loose Rounds (you know, the ones that fire M4s at 1000 yards and make the steel ring? Those guys?), and no doubt there are other places in the gunosphere flaying him. The point of today’s increment is not to make the rubble of the General’s small-arms expertise do a dead-cat-under-155-battery-closed-sheaf-fire-for-effect bounce, but to discuss the technical limits of a shoulder weapon in sustained automatic fire.
Because today is a travel day, this article was mostly-dictated for speed. Therefore, we fear we have some typos we haven’t found. Let us know in the comments.
Many of the problems the M16A1 had in Vietnam, and even in adoption and acceptance prior to Vietnam, were caused by the heat of sustained autofire. It was particularly problematical after powder changes made a dramatic impact on the cyclic rate of the rifle. Indeed, Colt got a contract mod allowing weapons that had a much higher sustained rate than originally specified to be accepted.
Thermal waste is a huge problem for gun designers, and it’s been jamming automatic weapons since Maxim’s day. The heat is generated by the combustion of chemical powder in the chamber in barrel, but also by the metal-on-metal contact between bullet and barrel, which swages the impression of the rifling into the bullet and imparts a spin of hundreds-of-thousands of revolutions per minute to the bullet. The friction between bore and bullet is a significant contributor to barrel heating.
If you were in the service, you were made to memorize something about your rifle being a “shoulder-fired, magazine-fed, air-cooled, selective-fire…” weapon. The “air-cooled” seems like a historical artifact now; the last liquid-cooled small arms were the 1917 Browning machine guns, which were last used in World War II. All modern small arms of all nations are air-cooled. That means that the air around the barrel must carry the heat of the barrel away. Meanwhile, for each round, the barrel gets hotter, because firing’s ability to load up the temperature is greater than the cooling system’s ability to remove heat. (The original M16A1 had a patented passive design for convection-driven airflow, removing the heat from the holes at the top of the handguard and drawing new air in at the bottom. Designs since then have made efforts to maintain that cooling, with little success).
Because this post is long, and involved, we’re going to split it. Ahead, we describe the bad things that happen when barrels get hot; the results of M4 cyclic rate tests (including instrumented and well-documented tests to destruction), and Click “more” for the next three thousand or so words, a few pictures, and pointers to where you can find some of the math.
The peak temperature area in the barrel is usually about three to seven inches forward of the chamber, depending on caliber (according to the references, on 5.56 mm rifles, it’s about four inches). This is where the thermal stress is at peak, and it also has to support all the rest of the barrel (and anything that may be attached to it, from a Surefire to an M9 bayonet), so when the gun is going to fail, it’s probably going to fail near here.
As more rounds are fired, more heat builds up, because it is being added at a higher rate than it can be radiated away. As the temperature rises, bad things happen:
Time to cook off (minutes) = 10.129 x 1025 x (cook-off Temp – degrees C) x 10-10.95
The cook-off temp is a constant for a given powder, and can be experimentally determined by heating the powder on a steel plate.
In the test, they did not maintain continuous fire but bursts of fire according to a firing table, then followed by letting a round sit in the chamber. Their cook-off times in live testing ranged from about 10 to about 30 minutes testing. Note that brass provides better protection from cook-off than aluminum cases, which in turn provide better protection than steel.
In another experiment, Hameed et. al. built a “Chamber simulator” and developed working chamber temperature-time curves for producing cook-offs in a 7.62mm brass case with Bullseye powder. They found that below 170ºC chamber temperature, cook-offs were unlikely, and that by about 240º, the cook-off time was down to seconds.
[A]n improvement to temperature sensitivity came along in 2005. [Black Hills President Jeff] Hoffman said the last change came after Black Hills technicians noticed some failures to extract (FTX) in their test M4 and short-barreled rifles, and that it was the most difficult problem to solve.
“We initially thought the FTXs were possibly related to higher port pressures,” Hoffman said. “The M4’s port pressure is around 25,000 psi, much higher than the SPR due to the location of the gas port on the respective guns. We looked at brass, powder, everything.”
It finally came down to chamber temperature. The test specification called for the ammo to be baked at 125 degrees for two hours and not exceed pressure limits when then chambered and fired. When Black Hills engineers started firing test guns far beyond the specified rate of fire, the chamber temperatures got much hotter than 125 degrees. In an extended firefight, soldiers could heat up their rifles with a few mags, and then during a lull in fighting, a chambered round would sit in a 200- or even 300-degree environment. That significantly increased chamber pressures and induced failures to extract.
“After we figured it out, I was surprised that it hadn’t come up before,” Hoffman said. “We’ve gone from bolt rifles to eight-round Garand clips to closed-bolt, select-fire rifles. SF guys never had an issue because they are trained to fire two or three rounds per target and very rarely go full auto.”
It only took Black Hills 75,000 rounds to sort out the problem—a chunk of the 250,000 rounds Hoffman figures the company fired developing and lot-testing the load. Finally, the round was issued. Interestingly, the ammo always did meet specs, even the ammo that Black Hills engineers felt needed improvement—they just found a way to make it better. The Navy began changing test specifications based on what Black Hills learned—and shared—during development and testing. The improved round was a hit, no pun intended, with operators in-theatre, and usage went through the roof. Not only did the ammo perform well for its intended purpose—long-range shooting—but did equally well in short-barreled rifles like the M4 (14.5-inch barrel) and MK 18 (10.3-inch barrel), which leads to a discussion of lethality.
Any gun can cook off. The USN famously cooked off a 5″ on the destroyer USS Turner Joy in 1965 during a Vietnam War shore bombardment, killing three sailors and wounding three more.
Colt has, in fact, tested M4s at cyclic rate to destruction and has made these tests public. C.J. Chivers, a former Marine, has reported on these tests in a long and readable report for, of all things, the New York Times. That report was Part II of a previous report on M4 manufacturing there. We were unable to extract the Colt videos from the Times page, but it’s very much worth reading, anyway.
After the Colt tests, the Center for Naval Analyses did a report. We don’t have the report, but Kirk Ross at the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine did an excellent and thoroughly-documented synthesis of the then-known information, including the CNA report and the Colt tests, a DOD survey of weapons users, and SOPMOD program office documents. Ross’s article is an excellent short piece on these issues and we strongly recommend it.
A lot of what we know about the M4 under duress comes from mid-1990s research. In the 1990s, as the then-new M4A1 carbine began reaching special operations units that shot them a lot, they began blowing them up. In June, 1995, 10th SF Group had two cook-offs. In September, the 1st Battalion of the 1st SFG reported multiple problems, including cook-offs. In May, 1996, 7th Group blew one up in its then-home-station of Fort Bragg. In August, 1996, 3rd Group blew one up on an African JCET; one USSF was injured by gun shrapnel. 5th Group and the 1st Ranger Bat also blew up guns around this time, and that began to worry SOF soldiers and leaders — and the armament procurement guys. The Army resolved to test M4s to destruction to determine what was going on. The one thing they knew was that the destroyed guns had been fired a lot, primarily full-auto fire at cyclic rates, often “burning up” excess ammunition at the end of an exercise (wasteful, but the Army makes it very difficult to turn back in unused ammo, and the Air Force is snippy about transporting it).
In 1996, ARDEC’s Jeff Windham conducted tests-to-destruction to determine whether, as then rumored, M4 barrels were more prone to failure than the M16A2 barrel. These were early M4A1s with the M4 profile barrel (like the one we carried in Afghanistan), and the M16A2 controls in the test were modified to fire full-auto by subbing in M16A1 fire control parts. The guns were fixtured and fired full-auto. The intent was to fire one of each fully-instrumented weapon to failure. Initially, an M16A2 was destroyed:
The M16A2 was fired continuously using 30 rounds bursts. Shown in Table I are the rounds to failure, time to failure and maximum barrel temperature of the barrel. Muzzle flash increased and there was a distinct change in the sound of the weapons firing approximately 30 rounds before the barrel ruptured. There was also noticeable drooping (about 1 inch at the muzzle) of the barrel just prior to the barrel rupture. The barrel ruptured at 491 rounds with an approximately ½ inch hole in the top of the barrel about 8 inches in front of the chamber. The barrel was bent approximately 5 degrees and bulged in several locations along its length (see figures 4, 5, and 6). A plot of barrel temperature versus time at each thermocouple location is shown in figure 7.
Given the hypothesis that the M4 would die before the A2, Jeff fixtured the sacrificial M4A1 and set up 18 magazines, containing 540 rounds, and then fired them. But while the barrel was ruined, it didn’t actually burst:
The M4A1 Carbine was fired for 540 rounds. It was thought the M4A1 barrel would rupture well before this point, therefore only 540 rounds were loaded for firing. This weapon’s barrel was noticeably bent and bulged at the end of the test (see figure 8). A plot of barrel temperature versus time at each thermocouple location is shown in figure 9.
Oops. Back to the testing bench, with another M4A1 selected as a sacrifice to the gods of knowledge.
A second M4A1 Carbine was fixtured for testing and fired until barrel rupture. Muzzle flash increased and there was a distinct change in the sound of the weapons firing approximately 30 rounds before the barrel ruptured. There was also noticeable drooping (about 3/4 inch at the muzzle) of the barrel just prior to the barrel rupture. The barrel was ruptured at the 12 o’clock position approximately 4 inches in front of the chamber. The rupture was approximately 1V4 inches long and 5/8 inches wide. The barrel around the rupture was bulged out about 30 percent larger than its normal diameter. The barrel was bent at the hole approximately 3 degrees (see figures 10 and 11). A plot of barrel temperature versus time at each thermocouple location is shown in figure 12. There was an approximately 30-second delay in firing of this sequence which can be seen in the temperature plots. This delay allowed additional cooling of the weapon and may have increased the number of rounds to rupture by 30 to 60 rounds.
Here is the Table 1 from the report. The other figures and tables referenced in the quotes are in the report, which is linked in the Sources below, although the photo reproduction is of very low quality.
SOCOM sent a safety message as far back as 1996, presumably based on Windham’s research (although we didn’t notice if they said that) about cook-offs with sustained fire. It is reproduced in this archived ARFCOM thread. We recall receiving this message with a red-bordered safety cover sheet. The thread poster has good advice. Here are a couple of lines from that message:
Sustained firing of the M16 series rifles or M4 series carbines will rapidly raise the temperature of the barrel to a critical point.
Firing 140 rounds, rapidly and continuously, will raise the temperature of the barrel to the cook-off point. At this temperature, any live round remaining in the chamber for any reason may cook-off (detonate) in as short a period as 10 seconds.
Sustained rate of fire for the M16 series rifles and M4 series carbines is 12-15 rounds per minute. This is the actual rate of fire that a weapon can continue to be fired for an indefinite length of time without serious overheating.
The sustained rate of fire should never be exceeded except under circumstances of extreme urgency. (Note: a hot weapon takes approximately 30 minutes to cool to ambient temperature conditions).
Cook-offs out of battery result from a round which cooks off when the bolt is not locked or a round which cooks off as the user is trying to clear the weapon.
Burst barrels result when the weapons are fired under very extreme firing schedules and the barrel temperature exceeds 1360 degrees Fahrenheit. When the barrel reaches these extreme temperatures, the barrel steel weakens to the point that the high pressure gases burst through the side of the barrel approximately 4 inches in front of the chamber. This condition can result in serious injury.
That is, of course, exactly the failure mode in the first M4 video at Chivers’s report. And this is from a message from 1996, so SOCOM’s weapons experts knew it almost 20 years ago, and more than 10 years before Wanat.
600-700 degrees F is where cook-offs begin, and that’s reached in as few as 140 rounds on rapid semi-auto fire.
Here’s a table with some key temperatures for you:
|Temp F||Temp C||Rounds||Comment|
|230||110||30||semi-auto M855 in M4|
|278||137||30||full-auto M855 in M4|
|600||316||140||semi-auto; threshold of cook-off|
|700||371||?||frequent cookoffs, barrel weakened|
|1360||737||~500||semi or full, catastrophic failure|
|© Weaponsman,com 2015|
The Training Answer: First, every GI should see those Colt test videos and know what his gun can, and can’t, do. While the Black Hills guys were correct in noting that SF/SOF guys usually manually fire single shots or short bursts, even most of them don’t know what happens when a gun goes cyclic for minutes at a time. A good video explaining “why you can’t do that” would be a strong addition to training, not only for combat forces, but for support elements who may find themselves in combat and feel the urge to dump mags at cyclic rate.
The Morale Answer: Every GI should see the same done to AKs as well. There is a myth perpetuated by pig-ignorant people (like General Scales) that the AK series possesses magical properties and that the American weapons are crap. In fact, nobody I know of at the sharp end is at all eager to change, perhaps because the laws of physics and the properties of materials apply just as firmly to a gun originally created by a Communist in Izhevsk as they do to a concept crafted by capitalists in California. If you’ve ever fired an AK to destruction, you know that it grows too hot to hold, then the wooden furniture goes on fire, then, if you persist on firing it full-auto, it also goes kablooey. Not because there’s anything wrong with this rifle, but the laws and equations work the same for engineers worldwide.
The Systems Answer: As you can see from the Colt videos, if you clicked on over to Chivers’s article, thickening the barrel nearly doubled the rounds to catastrophic failure on cyclic. An open/closed bolt cycle might have practical benefits. They wouldn’t show up in sustained heavy firing like the destruction tests, but they might show up in how a weapon recoups from high temps, and open-bolt autofire would eliminate cook-offs, at least. But any such approach needs thorough testing.
The Wrong Answer: Replacing the M4 with something like the SCAR or the HK416, something that is, at best, barely better, that is much more maintenance intensive, and that, contra Scales’s assertion that his undisclosed client’s weapon is “the same price,” is twice (SCAR) or three times (416) the money. (The 416 mags are the best part of the system, though).
It would be interesting to duplicate Jeff Windham’s M4A1 destruction tests with AKs and with other competitors, like the 416. Scales says a piston system like those (never mind that each one is a very different design) would not fail under the conditions seen at Wanat. We’ve seen from the information here, that the failure of firearms under high rates of fire is driven by the physical problems of waste heat and metallurgy. Our prediction is the laws of physics apply in Russia and Germany as well.
Did Weapons Cause Deaths at Wanat?
We’ve talked about how the weapons fail, when they fail, today. But in the previous post, we were looking at this in the context of a very important question: did weapons deficiencies cause deaths at Wanat? We reached our conclusions. In The Atlantic, Major General Scales, the undocumented lobbyist and long-retired talking head, reached the opposite conclusion, and asserted that the nine fatalities that day resulted from, specifically, M4 failures. We are not sure whether his problem is lack of familiarity with the material we’ve presented here, or whether it’s an integrity issue, but we think we’ve rather conclusively made the point that any honest answer comes back, “No.”
But it’s worth noting what the other investigations decided.
And so we’re not really in bad company, even though were on the other side of a Major General on this.
1. A good web article is about 300 words. A good newspaper column is about 700 words. Because we have faith in our readers’ ability to follow pieces of greater length and complexity, we frequently go to 1000 or even 2000 words (although our mean comes in around 600). That article was 3,129 words. And well illustrated, too.
Chivers, CJ. The Making of the Military’s Standard Arms, Part II. New York Times (online): 12 Jan 2010. Retrieved from: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/m4-and-m4a1-guns/?_r=1
Department of Defense. MIL-STD-3029: Department of Defense Test Method Standard: Hot Gun Cook-Off Hazards Assessment, Test and Analysis. Washington, DC: DOD, 23 July 2009. Retrieved from: http://everyspec.com/MIL-STD/MIL-STD-3000-9999/download.php?spec=MIL-STD-3029.022917.PDF
Guthrie, J. Reviewing Black Hills’ MK 262 Mod 1 Ammo. Shooting Times: 21 Mar 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.shootingtimes.com/ammo/special-forces-to-civilians-black-hills-mk-262-mod-1-review/
Hameed, Amer, Azavedo, Mathew, and Pitcher, Philip. Experimental investigation of a cook-off temperature in a hot barrel. Defence Technology.Volume 10, Issue 2, June 2014 (28th International Symposium on Ballistics), Pages 86–91. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214914714000385
Ross, Kirk. What Really Happened at Wanat. Proceedings Magazine, July 2010. Vol. 136/7/1.289. Retrieved from: http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2010-07/what-really-happened-wanat
Smith, Herschel. The Captain’s Journal. Multiple posts on Wanat linked to his Battle-of-Wanat category. Basically, Hersh has beaten all this ground years before (and we’ve even cited his reports here, before). Retrieved from: http://www.captainsjournal.com/category/battle-of-wanat/
Windham, Jeff. Fire To Destruction Test of 5.56mm M4A1 Carbine and M16A2 Rifle Barrels. Rock Island, IL: Engineering Support Directorate, Armament Research, Development And Engineering Center. September, 1996. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA317929 (Abstract: http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA317929).
Witherell, Mark, & Pflegl, George. Prediction of Propellant and Explosive Cook-off for the 30-mm HEI-T And Raufoss MPLD-T Round Chambered in a Hot Mk44 Barrel (Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle – AAAV). Watervliet, NY: Army Research Laboratory/Benet Labs, March 2001. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a388280.pdf
This article comes from weaponsman.com and is re-posted with permission. As it goes into great detail on the same points we here often promote, I felt is was very important to share this in as many places as possible. Weaponsman.com is an excellent technical gun website and is a favorite of looserounds and we encourage everyone to fallow it.
The Big Lie principle, as elaborated by Hitler and Goebbels, is that if you tell a small lie, you’ll be caught on it, but if you tell a really big, even outrageous whopper, people will tend to believe it. It’s an insight into human psychology which helps explain how those two second-stringers wound up seizing the levers of the most advanced nation in 20th Century Europe and running it into the ground, to the detriment of scores of millions worldwide. But right now, it’s making the rounds in our little world, as hired shills for foreign manufacturers lie about one battle to pad their own paychecks. This lie is so bold and blatant that many have come to accept it as true, even though official documents tell another story.
The lie is that, “9 American Infantrymen died on 13 July 08 at COP Kahler at Wanat, Afghanistan, in the Waygul Valley of Nuristan province, because their M4 Carbines jammed”. This lie clearly doesn’t hold up if you read the historical papers, professional analyses, and interviews with survivors. What does hold up is a story of incredible devotion, dedication and heroism on the part of the Americans there, and of intelligent, bold and fearless attacks on the part of their enemies. But there are some facts the foreign-firm lobbyists don’t tell you.
Why, then, does this story persist? It persists because it fits a narrative much beloved of the anti-military writers of the Acela Corridor, many of whom are unsophisticated and trivially spun by lobbyists. The Atlantic magazine is a fine illustration of this. In a recent article by a defense-industry lobbyist and retired general, whose conflicts of interest they have never disclosed, they printed:
The M4, the standard carbine in use by the infantry today, is a lighter version of the M16 rifle that killed so many of the soldiers who carried it in Vietnam. (The M16 is still also in wide use today.) In the early morning of July 13, 2008, nine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it less effective at long ranges than the older M16—an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges.
OK, perhaps in a future post we’ll break that out, bullshit by bullshit. For example:
But we’re not going to do that today. Instead we’re going to address this insidious and false claim:
So let’s explore the action at Wanat for a minute. Click “More” to continue. This is a long one.
Thanks for hanging with us. Let’s explore the area a bit.
The commanders had a logical set of reasons for putting the position here — they were too starved of airlift to support a peak position with helicopters, unlike the better-resourced soldiers of Vietnam. They needed to be on a road, both to interact with the locals (in accordance with COIN doctrine), and to bring up their supplies.
Welcome to what American forces called a Vehicle Control Post, Vehicle Patrol Base, or Combat Outpost (COP). They all name it Kahler, after a respected platoon sergeant who was murdered in a green-on-blue attack. It was manned by a platoon of paratroopers, reinforced with a weapons squad with two M240 general purpose MGs, a 120-mm mortar and a TOW truck with the Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS), and supplied with a Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance Systems (LRAS3) system that the platoon’s artillery FO trained the riflemen to operate. It was well-equipped with crew-served weapons, but possibly on the least defensible ground imaginable — it makes Dien Bien Phu look positively defensible.
Here are some quotes from reports and papers on Wanat. Initially, they seem to support what the grizzled old lobbyist is saying. From a draft historical report that is available at the Washington Post:
SSG Phillips poured out fire, as recalled by another Engineer SPC loading for him, “…[SSG Phillips] went through three rifles using them until they jammed.”103. SSG Phillips recalled: “My M4 quit firing and would no longer charge when I tried to correct the malfunction. I grabbed the Engineers SAW [M249 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon] 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.” SSG Phillips did not realize that SGT Queck had earlier attempted to fire this SAW, and it had failed at its first shot when a bullet jammed in the barrel. Queck had quickly discarded the SAW, swearing profanely in frustration that it was “fucked up!” (pp. 112-113).
Phillips was in the main COP. The next-named soldier, SPC Bogar, was in the hardest-hit defensive position, the Observation Post established on high ground (but not on the full crest) to the east of the main position.
SPC Bogar fired approximately six hundred rounds at a cyclic rate of fire from his SAW when that weapon became overheated, and eventually jammed the bolt forward. SPC Stafford noted, “Bogar was still in our hole firing quite a bit. Then Bogar’s SAW jammed. Basically it just got way overheated, because he opened the feed tray cover and I remember him trying to get it open and it just looked like the bolt had welded itself inside the chamber. His barrel was just white hot.” (p. 126)
Additionally, their SAF was so devastating that one of the grenade launchers was struck with a bullet through the feed tray, permanently disabling it. The other Mk-19 grenade launcher jammed, which they are prone to do. Thus, the American defenders at the main COP had only a single .50 caliber machine gun, the Marine M240 machine gun, and their own small arms to repel the assault. It is to the credit of the Chosen soldiers that they maintained at least fire parity from the COP. (p. 117).
[T]he 2d Platoon soldiers were firing their weapons “cyclic,” on full automatic at the highest possible rates of fire. As a result, numerous soldiers experienced weapons malfunctions, just as SSG Phillips had faced at the mortar pit. One young SPC fighting at the COP Kahler later complained, “…I ran through my ammo till my SAW would not work anymore despite the ‘Febreze’ bottle of CLP I dumped into it.” (pp. 117-118)
By condemning the M4 (but for some reason not any other weapons, which also failed) for failing under these conditions, the lobbyist is serving whoever his corporate masters are this week (H&K? FNH?) by criticizing a weapon because it cannot do the impossible. The hardest thing to manage in the design of automatic weapons is waste heat. Cyclic rate is something that can be used for a short period, at a cost to the durability of the weapon. The men at the COPs around Wanat were left hanging for very long periods, with no meaningful air or indirect fire support, and had been given so little training in automatic fire that they didn’t know they were hazarding their weapons. There is no weapon on Earth that will hold up to firing thousands of rounds on cyclic rate without a barrel change or water cooling. But we’ll go into that in Part 2. For now, let’s just see who it was that a failed M4 “killed.”
But when we explore the AARs and historical reports, asking, “Who exactly was killed by his weapon at Wanat?” we have a hard time putting a name to this blood libel.
There were, in fact, nine men killed at Wanat. Only one was killed at the main VCP, COP Kahler — the other eight died at Observation Post Topside. Let’s add them up.
That’s eight of the nine killed at the battle, all of those killed at the outpost (which produced most of the killed and wounded also), and, while nobody was thrilled with weapons jams (which happened with M4, M249, M240, and Mk 19 systems), nobody died from them, either. (Ironically the one weapon that is not recorded as having jammed is the least important, the M9 pistol). Even Claymores didn’t function 100% (although they did take a toll of insurgents, some had their wires cut by the RPG barrage).
What about the ninth man? The ninth man killed was the only one killed at the main outpost. He was mortar gunner PFC Sergio Abad. Abad, a young paratrooper whose leaders remembered him as “cocky,” was mortally wounded in the initial assault by fire, which was target on the crew-served weapons and their positions. That didn’t prevent him from taking his place handing 120mm mortar rounds to the men that replaced him, even as his wounds sapped his strength. His crewmates succeeded in getting him to cover, but some of them were hit again crossing open ground. The only medic was down with wounds; although another infantryman tried to decompress Abad’s chest, he died of his wounds. His M4 was not a factor in his death.
In addition to the 9 Americans KIA, 27 Americans were wounded, of whom 16 were evacuated by air and 11 were treated and remained at COP Kahler. 4 Afghan National Army soldiers, who held a sector in the main COP with their Marine advisors were wounded badly enough to be evacuated, one of them extremely seriously.
Intelligence sources supported a claim of 20-50 enemy killed and a greater number wounded, but only two enemy bodies, and only one AK, were recovered by US forces.
And on weapons failures? Let’s let the CSI report (final) address that:
A detailed analysis of these assertions shows that weapons did not fail and that problems with logistical support, while possibly hindering the creation of an impregnable defense, did not hinder the creation of an adequate defense.
We wouldn’t go that far. Weapons did fail, albeit when pressed outside of the design requirements, and even the physical possibility, of their performance. Maybe what we need is a new kind of weapon, conceived for defending a vehicle or fixed position at cyclic rate for a longer period. Like a minigun — or a Browning M1917. But the state of the art of 2008 (or 2015) requires a trade-off of weight & portability vs. sustained fire. To coin a new Hognose’s Law (how many does this make?):
You can carry it all day, or you can shoot it all day, but not both.
Anyone who says you can by changing to the SCAR, or the HK416, or the phased particle array in the 40 kilowatt range, is either misled himself, or trying to mislead you.
Combined Joint Task Force-101, “Army Regulation 15-6 Investigation into Battle of Wanat (Redacted, Unclassified Version)” (Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan: 21 October 2008.
Cubbison, Douglas R. Occasional Paper: the Wanat Operation (first draft). US Army Combat Studies Institute, 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/battle-of-wanat/correspondence/documents/2-Army-Historians-Report.pdf
Ross, Kirk. What Really Happened at Wanat. Proceedings Magazine, July 2010. Vol. 136/7/1.289. Retrieved from: http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2010-07/what-really-happened-wanat
Staff of the US Army Combat Studies Institute. Wanat: Combat Action in Afghanistan, 2008. Leavenworth, KS: US Army Combat Studies Institute, 2010. Retrieved from: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/Wanat.pdf found at: http://usacac.army.mil/organizations/lde/csi/pubs.
Steeb et. al. Perspectives on the Battle of Wanat: Challenges Facing small Unit Operations in Afghanistan. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/occasional_papers/2011/RAND_OP329z1.pdf
Here we are. at the end of all things. So that can only mean its time for my year end “best of ” list for 2014. The list includes not just products new to this year, but also anything new to me. It could have been made longer ago, but I laid hands on it this year for testing.
First up, but not necessarily in the top position, is the Comp-tac leather gun belt. This thing is super tough and durable, comfortable and looks great any time. It does not roll or wear out and holds up two 1911s and spare magazines with no problem. I love it and wear it constantly.
When a friend of Looserounds bought the FN A3 AUG and brought it down for testing, it was immediately obvious what a great gun it is. So much better than the Tavor I loathe in every way in my opinion,. It is accurate, easy to shoot and the improvements on it make it a lot better for modern fighting than the original was. Easy to mount red dot sights and lights, it balances great and is fast to handle. It down side is it gets hot on a few places and its easy to burn yourself But it was very tough and reliable as well as accurate enough for hits at 500 yards using the T1. Anything else is a training issue. Its a great gun and the ONLY bullpup I would consider owning.
The Bravo Concealment Kydex mag pouches. I paid for these full price to review and I was not let down. They fit tight against the body and hold that mags just right even the longer 10 round mags. I simply love them. I get a little giddy just thinking about them,. While I would not say they are the same level as Dark Star Gear Kydex, they are still outstanding. DSG custom makes all his kydex, so you know you are going to get a little more refined piece of gear, but I now use Bravo Concealment stuff along with my DSG gear. Get some soft loops from DSG and got for a major upgrade to the BC gear, though its not something needed. Despite morons and fakes on youtube who shill Bravo Concealment, it really is great stuff.
The Leupold 18x . It is everything right in the world. I adore it,
The Colt M45A1 CQBR or the USMC 1911 MARSOC. Superb. If you said to yourself, “self, I only want one 1911, and I want it to do everything I want it to do, be the perfect combat 1911, be as accurate as a milspec pistol can be and and last forever” Then this would be the one to get. You can read the review to see just how great it is. Everyone who has seen or touched it loves it. We adore it. I would kick a homeless child if it meant being able to use this gun. It is a real COLT Milspec 1911 and it has all the advantageous that entails. There is nothing bad I can say about this gun.
The Barnes TAC-X PD. 185 grain +P 45 ACP round using the solid copper hollow points I use in rifles and pistols. It is super accurate in the guns I have shot it through and has a greatly diminished muzzle flash. I have used the similar loading from Corbon,and love it. This has all the benefits of the corbon and with less flash and a coating on the solid copper round that I admit having no idea what it does. It is a great self defense load in my opinion. It is pricey though, but it is your life
The new Colt 901 M.A.R.C. modular railed 7.62 battle carbine. It is as accurate as the LE901 and lighter. You can put rail where you want, when you want or not use it at all for a nice slim fore arm. You can read the review from earlier this year and see how it shot all the way to 1,000 yards. The review is still on going, but its already a favorite. Maybe even taking the top position for 2014.
There are a lot of other things I liked this year. But, most of it is things I tried already a few years old. The things above are the ones that really stood out and are also new this year or at least still fairly new.
The Big Let Downs
Had a few things this year. but I am going to keep it to just three since they are major let downs and one will generate enough hate mail to keep us busy until this time 5 years from now.
The Thompson Auto Ord, semi auto carbine. It is pure garbage. Just junk. I would have stuck it into the ground to see if it would grown something useful, but I was afraid it would blight the land. You can read the review of it from earlier this year of course, Use the search bar to find it or any other review.
The much hyped and vaunted H&K 417 AKA MR 762. I already did the full review you can find on the website. But a few fast and dirty points. It was not all that accurate for a gun called the MR ( match rifle) and thats not big deal. But, I had trouble making hits on a man’s chest sized target at 350 yards using a Leupold optic, bipods, a rear bag and match ammo. it was not the utter reliable super gun HK wants you to think it is. It had multiple problems with feeding and reliability and Its hard as hell to control. The piston beats you to death and it is very difficult for any kind of accurate fast shooting at CQB ranges. It is really heavy as well. a symptom of its piston, extra parts and caliber, but others in this class still handle great. It did not.
And with the HK, is the Trijicon SRS on the gun. It is everything bad you have heard all over the internet. I had high hopes. It is a Trijiccon after all. But it just sucks. If you want a RDS, get a T-1.
That’s it for this year, unless I forgot something I will add to the list later on. I know some will be mad as a wet hen over the HK, but it is what it is. This is a website that offers opinion so if you don’t like it, you will just have to deal. Thanks for reading this year, we will have plenty more in 2015.