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Complacency Kills

Couldn’t think of a more appropriate title, but I suppose the one above is true enough.

All equipment can fail, especially firearms. It is why we do preventive maintenance.

Shot my 5.45 AR a couple of weeks ago, everything was fine then. I set it aside and put off cleaning (I could because I was using non-corrosive ammo). When I went to clean it yesterday I found the barrel nut was now loose.

Now it is likely that just the process of heating and cooling from shooting eventually broke the barrel nut loose, but it is also possible that the nut or the upper has cracked. Possibly even the threads on the upper broke. So, I get to pull it apart and check.

Things can fail, even when we are not looking. Especially when we are not paying attention.

I am reminded of a shooting class I was in. One of the students was having an issue with their pistol. The instructor was CCWing that same model revolver as his second carry gun so he pulled it out to let the student use it. Much to both of their dismay, that second gun wasn’t working either.

Recoil damaged night vision

Night vision devices are very tough, they are also very fragile.

This is a picture of damage to a night vision tube, where someone swapped out the weapon rated tube in a night vision scope with one that isn’t weapon rated. After firing a few shots, this is the permanent damage to this tube.

I’m not familiar with how night vision works, but most of these designs there are components that are right next to each other that will fail if they touch each other. Damage due to firearm recoil tends to be at the center of the field of view right where these layers can flex the most.

It is a real shame, as this was a really nice tube. Most of the newest night vision devices are not very durable regarding recoil. Something like a AN/PVS-14 should be able to handle a 5.56×45, but larger calibers (or even ones like .300BO) can damage it. Air rifles recoil differently than firearms and can cause night vision to fail.

If you are planning to weapon mount a night vision device, make sure the one you have is designed to handle it.

Feet don’t fail me now

I’ve had bad luck with Bates brand boots over the years. Most every pair I had in the military failed with in 6 months of use. Like a sucker though, I kept buying them since I couldn’t find anything lighter or more comfortable than the Bates lightweight boots.

A couple of weekends ago I decided I wanted to do a hike with a 55 pound pack. About one a half miles into it I stepped in some more mud (most of the trail being mud) and I tried to scrape it off my heal on a tree root. It seemed like it wouldn’t come off. Turns out the heel of the Bates lightweight boot crumbled apart. By the time I made it back to the trail head the heel of the other boot came apart.

Now, to be fair these boots are about a decade old, but they had never seen any serious use till now. I don’t think I’d ever got them dirty before this.

So, I guess I should check out my remaining pairs of Bates brand boots. Make sure they are not falling apart while they are sitting in storage.

Small News Items on Army Small Arms

Today we have another re-post from our departed friend. Kevin O’Brien, AKA “Hognose” owner and writer of weaponsman.com.

There’s a bunch of little news bits going around the Army about maintenance issues and problems. We’ll cover them from most to least serious:

Item: Somebody Blew It

Beretta_M9_FAIL

File photo of failed M9 slide. Not the mishap firearm.

In late 2015, a very high (but unknown) round count M9 pistol had a catastrophic failure of the slide. With the Army scrimping on O&M money, especially on the ripe-for-replacement Beretta handgun, failures are not unusual and usually turn out to be fatigue failures from parts that have been carelessly used long past their service life. So was this one. The pistol was older than the soldier shooting it, and, as it turned out, someone, somewhere had pencil-whipped the maintenance records.

Slides fail every week, somewhere in an Army with hundreds of thousands of pistols that were almost all bought 30 years ago. But what happened next wasn’t supposed to happen. When the pistol slide failed at the slide’s weakest point, the locking-block cuts, the rear half of the slide kept on motoring, striking the GI in the cheek and upper jaw area and causing non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation determined that a mandatory maintenance work order, MWO 9-1005-317–30-10-1, issued twenty-seven years ago in March, 1989, had never been complied with. They couldn’t track where the pistol was at the time it was not repaired; Army units and activities with M9s had until June, 1993 to comply.

Somebody reported that his M9s were in compliance, when they weren’t. This is what you get when a zero-defects, up-or-out culture undermines integrity while at the same time penny-pinching undermines maintenance. The soldier who drew that defective M9, and every soldier that’s been drawing and shooting it since 1989, is damned lucky to be alive. (Fortunately, when a slide fails on most pistols (or a bolt on a Mauser C96, etc.), gravity usually  ensures that the part hits below the eye, on cheek, jaw, chest or shoulder).

Meanwhile, the Army sent an urgent Safety-of-Use message mandating an Army-wide inspection of all M9s for completion of the MWO. Since the resources for completing the MWO no longer exist, the remedial action is to immediately deadline and turn in the offending M9 and draw a replacement.

How many units pencil-whipped their response to that ALARACT message?

Item: Safety? Sometimes it’s Evolution in Action

FOOM!

Word is, some genius removed himself from the breeding population of Homo sapiens in 2014 by “improvising” M203 ammo (may have been 320) by cutting the links off of (higher-pressure) Mk19 belted ammo. The links were actually designed so they couldn’t snap off by hand, to prevent that.

Can we get a “FOOM!” from the assembled multitudes?

And oh, yeah, trying to belt up 203 ammo and fire it in an Mk 19 leads to FOOM also, of a different variety — out of battery ignition. Another opportunity for poka-yoke missed.

Item: Ambi Selectors Reaching Troops.. slowly

The Army has finally woken up to two facts:

  1. About 10% of the troops are left-handed, and
  2. There are lots of good ambi selectors available.

So the Army chose one and put it into the pipeline. So far so good, right? Not entirely. The selectors are only being replaced when the weapons are overhauled. And they don’t fit in the M12 racks many units still have. Work around is to cut a notch in the rack with a torch, or with a file and plenty of time, or to bend the part of the rack that hits the right-side selector out of shape so that the selector clears the rack.

Also, the slow migration of the ambi selectors means not all M4/M16 weapons in any given unit have them. Why don’t they just push the parts down to the unit armorers? Three reasons:

  1. The big one: they’re afraid of armorers stealing parts if they take rifles apart
  2. It doesn’t fit the concept of echeloned maintenance, even though that’s being streamlined;
  3. They don’t trust the armorers let alone the Joes, not to botch the installation.

On top of that, of course, it’s not penny wise and pound foolish in the great Army tradition.

Item: New Stuff Coming in, Old Stuff Going Out

A number of new arms are reaching the troops, and old arms are going away.  We’ll have more about that in the future, especially the M2A1 and the coming “rationalization” of an explosion of shotguns and sniper rifles. We just broke it out of this post to keep the length manageable.

ITEM: MG Maintenance Problems = Operator Headspace & Timing

m249-PIP

The biggest single problem the Army has with the current pair of machine guns (M240 and M249) is burned out barrels. That’s caused by not changing barrels, either in combat, or especially on the range. Often, units go out without the spare barrel so it’s not like they gave themselves any option.  (The M2 version of this is going out with only one set of gages for the M2s. The gages are not required for the M2A1). The Army is falling back into the peacetime mindset of “leave it in the arms room and we can’t lose it.” True enough, we’ll just destroy the one we take out instead.

The fact is, and it’s a fact widely unknown to GIs, MGs have rate-of-sustained-fire limitations that are lower than they think. (Remember the MGs that failed at Wanat? They were being operated well outside their designed, tested envelope).

The M249 should never be fired more than 200 rounds rapid fire from a cold barrel. Then, change to a cold barrel, repeat. The Army being the Army, there are geniuses who think that they can burn a couple belts in a few seconds, change barrels, burn a couple belts in a couple more seconds, then put the original honkin’ hot barrel back in and burn — you get the idea. If you have a situation where you’re going to fire a lot of rounds from a single position, like a predeployment MG familiarization for support troops or a defensive position, you might want to lay in some extra barrels (and yes, Army supply makes that all but impossible, so you have to cannibalize your other MGs).

The M240 is a little more tolerant but should still be changed every 2 to 10 minutes of firing, and even more frequently if the firing tends towards real sustained fire. (The deets are in the FM, which is mostly only available on .pdf these days).

One last thought, your defensive MG positions need to have alternate, displace positions, and you need to displace after sustained fire from one position — unless you want to share your hole with an exploding RPG, ATGM or mortar round. “Where’s your secondary position?” or “-fallback position?” should not produce the Polish Salute.

As ordnance experts have observed ever since World War II, a barrel can be burnt out due to overheat and still mic and even air-gauge good. You only know it’s hosed when it can’t shoot straight.

Well-maintained MGs are more accurate than people seem to give them credit for. Some SOF elements have selective fire M240s and really, really like them. (The standard M240 has no semi setting). They’re capable of surprising accuracy from the tripod.

ITEM: For Want of a Cord, a Career was Lost

GIs frequently lose or throw away the idiot cord on the PVS-14 night vision monocular. If these sights were being properly inspected, which they usually aren’t until a team comes in just before deployment, they’d be tagged NMC (non mission capable) for missing  that stupid cord. You don’t want to be in the bursting radius of a unit CO who’s just been told 85% of his night vision is NMC… especially when that news is delivered in earshot of his rater and senior rater. It’s a bull$#!+ requirement but it’s in the book, and if the Army ever has to choose between following the book or winning the war, the book comes up trumps every time.

You’re not going to stop GIs from losing cords, but replacement cords are in the supply catalog

Memories of Shotguns in the Corps

At any given time there are a handful of firearms I really want to purchase.  Usually after a few years of looking I manage to find one, quickly get tired of it, and later sell it for a minute profit.  The newest accusation is a Mossberg 500 MILS.  I’ll post more about it some other time.

Not me.  That is a Mossberg 500 MILS that my platoon used in Iraq.

Prior to joining up, I used to see ads for the Mossberg 590A1 talk about how it was the only milspec shotgun and the only shotgun to pass the USMC tests, etc.  Then when I was in I never saw a single 590.

Every shotgun I saw in the hands of Marines was either a Mossberg 500, or a Benelli M1014.  That had me fairly confused for a long time.  Where were those 590s?  Where did all the 500s come from?

It is only long after I got out that I learned that the USMC does buy 590s and issues them out to various groups.  Also the 500s they buy are pretty much built to the 590 spec.

Now this is my guess on the matter.  I used to think that the 590 was the standard line, and the 500 was the economy line from Mossberg.  Now I think the 500 was the standard, and the 590 upgraded.  I think some years back the USMC wanted a shotgun and they tested the 500 and liked it, but wanted some changes.  Heavier barrel, metal trigger guard, metal safety, etc.  So that became the 590A1.  Military orders 500 built to that spec, and those are the 500 MILS.  Correct me if I am wrong, but that is my guess and I haven’t bothered to do my due diligence and research it..  I did hear that the Army decided that rebuilding the trigger groups was too long, hard. and expensive, so they started ordered the cheaper plastic trigger housing and just replace the whole unit should it fail or need to be rebuilt.

Being a rifleman, my experience in the Corps with shotguns was fairly limited.  I was fortunate to have received shotgun training while I was in, we had a range sessions where we are familiarized with the Mossberg and the Benelli shotguns.  I remember that under stress and pushed for speed plenty of Marines would short stroke the pump actions.  We all loved the M1014 for shooting, but people would fumble the controls or forget how to release the bolt, etc.  Even after using both shotguns for a couple days straight, Marines would still fumble with them.

While I was in, I taught a class on Mechanical Breaching.  How to break into buildings.  Part of that involved explaining how to breach doors with a shotgun.  I’d never done it at that time, I would just repeat the spiel that I was taught.  I was actually attached to be a demonstrator for that class, and after hearing the instructor teach it a few times, one time he had to take care of something so I simply repeated all the things he taught to the students that were waiting around.  After that it was decided that they liked how I taught better and I ended up teaching that class.

The blind leading the blind, it is the Marine Corps way.  I did get to do a little breaching later on in Iraq, but never popped a lock with a shotgun.

Back then, the instruction on shotgun breaching was to place the muzzle on the door or lock.  Later I have seem multiple sources teach to stand off an inch or two, and it even became popular to attach a standoff to the barrel of the shotgun.  There was a long explanation back then of why we should press the muzzle to the target.  I haven’t bother to look into which way is actually better.  It is near the bottom of my to-do list.

When we deployed, my platoon received a couple of Mossberg 500s.  The one that was used by my squad had the bead sight broken off.  It is the one in the picture above.  We had a 0331 machine gunner who was issued the Shotgun because it was decided he was not going to carry the M240 during all our foot patrols.

Our ~combat~ use of the shotguns was rather pathetic.  Our guys issued shotguns were maybe given about 20 rounds total for the deployment.  Early in the deployment the Marine issued the one in the picture at one point had to hand it over for use by the Battalion Commander’s personal security detachment for a patrol, and that guy lost most of the issued ammo.  So for the rest of deploying our guy only had maybe 7 rounds total.

If I recall correctly, my squad never breached any doors with a weapon.  We generally were able to either open a door or smash it open by pushing/kicking.  I do know of one case where a few guys I knew tried to breach a door using a M16A4.  I’m told the shooter fired 3 rounds, and multiple fragments came back and struck other Marines stacked up prepared for entry.  I heard that the lock was not defeated.  I do not know if the fragments were part of the M855 he fired or parts of the door & lock.  I also would not put it past the guy to have missed the lock completely.  Sadly I’ll never know the whole story, all I know is that those guys couldn’t break a lock with a M16.

While I was in, I never saw any ammunition other than buckshot.  No one ever seemed to be able to get their hands on any slugs or breaching rounds.  But that is the Corps, they had a hard enough time providing us water & chow.  Hell we couldn’t even get the guy issued the shotgun more than the 7 or so rounds he carried during the deployment.

We all loved the M1014.  It was kinda odd that we were told it was adopted for riot use, but it couldn’t cycle the less than lethal ammo.  So it was suggested to use the M500 if your shooting bean bags & baton rounds.  I remember guys had a hard time cleaning them because no one ever taught them how to clean it.

One of the SAW gunners in a different platoon that I knew was issued a M1014 for a short while.  He would put his issued M145 Elcan 3.4X scope on it and joke that he had a sniper shotgun.  That is the only case I ever saw of anyone using the rail on that shotgun.

An aside.  I was trying to look up some info on Mossbergs shotguns.  I stumbled across a post on the shotgunworld.com forum where the following was said:

Slam-fire shotguns don’t exist, much less a comprehensive list of them.
Go troll someplace else, most of us here aren’t foolish enough to encourage your fantasies.

DrMike

The only reason I can see for such a list is to build a fully-automatic shotgun. If that is not the case, perhaps you can explain why you want this rather odd information. If it is the case, perhaps you can explain why any responsible person would help you.

DrMike

That is part of the problem of doing research.  Not only will the people who are wrong share their knowledge, but will most vehemently insist that they are right.

There are a handful of older pump shotguns that can “slam fire”.  These guns have no trigger disconnect so you can hold down the trigger and just rack the action.  The Winchester Model 12, Winchester 1893/1987, and Ithaca M37 are the only ones that come to my mind that do that.  Modern reproductions of these often, but not always, keep lack of a trigger disconnect so that they can slam fire.  The Mossbergs do no slam fire.  But the stupidity of the above comments forced me to bring this up.  I have no clue how DrMike thinks that a slam firing PUMP ACTION shotgun is going to be converted to full auto.

I’ve heard of Mossbergs modified or malfunctioning being able to slam fire, but those are the exception.

Anyways, that’s off topic.

So often in the Corps, a shotgun was just handed to a Marine with the expectation that they would know how to use it.  That was more often not the case.  I saw plenty of negligent discharges from people with shotguns.  One example, my platoon was going to escort another platoon when they were moving from one patrol base to another.  They had set up in an empty house.  I was the first from my platoon to enter this house occupied by the other platoon so I was sweeping through it.  I was was leaving the threshold of the living room, my team mates were walking into the room.  One of the Marines of the other platoon discharged his M500 into the center of the floor right by the feet of my team leader.  Needless to say some words were said.  On the other hand, I was also the last Marine to leave that building, and I got a whole bunch of free gear that was left behind from the other platoon.  Those guys had a quite the tendency to screw stuff up.

Often guys did not know how to operate the M1014.  The bolt release button on the side of the receiver caused all manner of confusion.  It is not a knock against the gun, but the poor familiarization and training Marines had.

In any event, the use of shotguns in the military that I personally witnessed was rather sad and pathetic.  But I managed to find the exact model Mossberg M500 MILS we used while I was in and was able to buy one at a reasonable price.  That will be a fun item for my collection.  I’ll talk more about that after I get the chance to put it through its paces.