Theodore's World: The Gun That They Say Will Never... Ever Jam

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April 22, 2007

The Gun That They Say Will Never... Ever Jam

YouTube Video of HK416 from the Discovery Channel's program FutureWeapons.

Army Won't Field Rifle Deemed Superior to M4 complete article

It's a debate that's gone on for years - and now it's finally coming to a head.

M4 Carbine

The compact M4 carbine - a shortened version of the M16 - that is now standard issue for most Army troops, some Marines and other specialized units is facing increased criticism because of its tendency to malfunction with even the minutest exposure to the elements.

Some ground communities, including special operations forces, have begun to sideline the M4 in favor of newer, gas-piston operated variants such as the Heckler & Koch-manufactured 416 and the FNH-built Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR

In a routine acquisition notice March 23, a U.S. Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 upper receiver assemblies for the HK416 to modify their M4 carbines. The M4 fires using a system that redirects gas from the expended round to eject it and reload another. The 416 and SCAR use a gas-operated piston that physically pushes the bolt back to eject the round and load another.

Carbon buildup from the M4's gas system has plagued the rifle for years, resulting in some close calls with Soldiers in combat whose rifles jammed at critical moments.

According to the solicitation for the new upper receiver assemblies, the 416 "allows Soldiers to replace the existing M4 upper receiver with an HK proprietary gas system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon's interior. This reduces operator cleaning time, and increases the reliability of the M4 Carbine, particularly in an environment in which sand and dust are prevalent."

The 416 is used by the Army's elite Delta Force, and a recent Army Times investigation showed the service's top equipment buyers ignored data from the spec ops community showing the M4 had fundamental flaws. Enamored by the development of futuristic weapons such as the XM29 and, later, XM8 - neither of which were ever fielded - the M4 stayed in the hands of Soldiers deploying to hot, dusty, austere environments like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army would prefer to wait for the development of a new rifle firing an airburst, round - essentially leaping ahead of today's technology. But that innovation has been hard to find in the right weight class.

An Army spokeswoman for Program Executive Office Soldier, based at Fort Belvoir, Va., said in a statement the Army isn't buying into SOF's argument.
"At this time PEO Soldier is not procuring and does not have plans to procure the 416," said Army spokeswoman, Erin Thomas, in an email statement.
But special operations forces sometimes work outside the "Big Army" procurement system, so they can grab the best gear quickly.
"The elimination of the gas tube ... means that the M4 will function normally even if the weapon is fired full of water without first being drained," the justification for the 416 assembly buy states. "There isn't another company that offers these features in their products. It is a practical, versatile system."

Army weapons experts have been tinkering with new weapons designs, such as the HK-built XM8. Its modular design, rugged construction and accuracy intrigued many in the Army - and other services. But in 2005, the Army abandoned the XM8 after spending $33 million - though the Natick Soldier Systems Center has been looking at a shortened version of the XM8 as a personal defense weapon for officers and armored vehicle crews.

So far, however, the Army is unwilling to buy what the special operations community believes is a clearly superior system and is still spending money looking for another technology while Soldiers use what many say is an inferior weapon in harsh combat conditions.

"The Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia is currently conducting a Capabilities Based Assessment to determine future Army needs," Thomas said in the statement, declining to elaborate

Wild Thing's comment.........

Here is the
Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR)

I might be wrong about this, but my understanding is the Japanese and the Italians both used 6.5mm rifle rounds. Odd how the Germans, Russians, Brits and the US all went for 7.62mm or larger. Do you suppose they knew something we have forgotten?

All I know is I think they should use the the right tool for the right job.

Posted by Wild Thing at April 22, 2007 12:44 AM


This is not surprising, the Army in all of its infinite wisdom has been doing this for at least 150 years.

In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, the Army was looking for a new weapon for the troops. The two top choices were, the 1861 Springfield .58 cal Rifled Musket and the 1860 Henry Repeating Rifle.

A good soldier could load and fire the Musket 3 times per minute. the Henry on the other hand had a 14 round in line magizine with metallic cartriges .44 cal. as opposed to the paper cartriges of the .58 cal. and 460 grains of lead each, which is more than and ounce of lead for each bullet. Their cartridge boxes held 40 rounds hence the term '40 deadmen'.

This was not lost on the troops or individual Regiments. The 7th Illonois Volunteer Infantry Regiment purchased, at their own expense, The Henry Repeaters. After an encounter with the 7th Illinois, armed with Henrys, one Confederate officer is credited with the phrase, "It's a rifle that you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long."

The Army 'Brass' chose the Springfield Musket instead, the reasoning was the troopps would waste too much Ammunition. (one reason given for the choice)

This same logic got Custer into trouble, the Indians had Winchester Repeaters while the 7th Cav. had the outdated Rolling blocks. These are just two examples of the Brass making 'dumb' mistakes.

One would think after 150 years they would have learned an important lesson ... Some things never change.

Posted by: Mark at April 22, 2007 09:59 AM

On a FutureWeapons program not to long ago
the ran a shoot out btwn the M-4 and the
H&K 417 7.62 NATO.One test was to shoot into
2"high tec plastic blocks.The M-4 had a penetration of 1&1/2 blocks the 417 7.62 compleatly distroyed the blocks.As for Killing
power and hard hitting fire power "no contest"
and for car stopping power (ie)shooting the
engine block,one more plus for the H&K 417.

Posted by: Tincan Sailor at April 22, 2007 11:49 AM

Military procurrers like to buy big toys for big bucks. They would much rather have a satelite guided rocket system or a new guided missle cruiser than a new small arms system, or boot, or sleeing bag(fart sack). If every officer in the US military had to spend their first 3 years in the infantry, perhaps priorities would be better spread out.

We needed to begin replacing the M16 with a less fragile battle rifle before Vietnam was over. We also need a more potent, powerful battle cartridge. Experiments have been successfully completed with the 6.8mm rifle cartridge. It has proven to be an ideal round. Even the present M16 family can be adapted to fire this cartridge with minor modifications. But, the procurement brass have nixed it. They would rather dedicate that money for something larger and more glamorous.

And, the infantryman suffers again.

Posted by: TomR at April 22, 2007 01:31 PM

I guess it all depends on what you want in
fire power a Bee sting or a Hornet.It's like
the 9 mm auto as compared to the 45.Do you
want a few more rounds in the clip or do want
a slug that will kill on the first hit.As they
say never get in a gun fight with a gun that
doesn't start with a 4.If I was young enough
to be in the service I would opt for the H&K
417 7.62 and a Kimber 45 auto.Last but not least
if it was pure house to house street fight then give me a Thompson sub machine gun...

Posted by: Tincan Sailor at April 22, 2007 02:26 PM

Mark thank you so much, that is really interesting.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 22, 2007 11:13 PM

Tincan Sailor, amazing.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 22, 2007 11:17 PM

Tom, when I read this and posted it that was my main concern in how all of this effects the infantryman.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 22, 2007 11:19 PM

I hate to keep whacking on this but it's about the same for vehicles.The hummer is not the best of its type by far but the Army keeps pumping them out...

Posted by: Tincan Sailor at April 22, 2007 11:25 PM