Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight

Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight

WASHINGTON (AP) – In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips’ M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn’t work either.

When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a “critical moment” during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?

Despite the military’s insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times.

Full Story Here:
Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight

I don’t particularly care WHAT the military (DoD) says, the M-4, which is a re-worked version of the M-16, and the civilian AR-15, is a piece of JUNK. It’s not as prone to jams as an M-16 was back in the day, but it’s still a rifle that requires constant maintenance and cleaning. That’s great if you are in a nice, spiffy billet at a Fort, or a Base in Europe, or Baghdad, or the USA, but in lands like Afghanistan, out in the boondocks of Iraq, and most any other theater of operations our troops may enter, it a whole different animal.

Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren’t new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.

The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives.

When properly cleaned and maintained, that is the key to the entire issue. And the part about 3,000 rounds before any failures occur? I wonder how many rounds the NVA, V.C., Russians, Chi-Coms and Islamic fighters put through an AK-47 rifle with NO failures?

Our enemies are carrying an OLD weapon, the venerable AK-47, the work horse of the Russian and Chinese armies, the darling of the Eastern Bloc nations and one of THE most reliable combat weapons ever made. The AK-47 was carried by the NVA and Viet Cong in Vietnam. U.S. troops were constantly having their M-16s jam. They were poorly suited to the job. They rusted, they got dirty, and they got U.S. troops KILLED. They had to be kept immaculately clean to properly function, and that’s just not always possible when troops are in the field, especially in places like Vietnam, a WET climate for the most part. The NVA and V.C. were saddled with no such problems.

Fast forward to Iraq and Afghanistan, arid and dusty, dirty places, with exceptional heat, sand storms and again, just plain old dirt. The M-4 carbine is not much more functional in this type of climate than the M-16 would be. Our troops are being forced to carry a political boondoggle and they are on the *slick* end of the stick.

The M16 (more formally Rifle, Caliber 5.56 mm, M16) is the U.S. military designation for the ArmaLite AR-15 rifle. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle.

The M16 entered United States Army service as the M16A1 and was deployed for jungle warfare in the Republic of South Vietnam in 1963, becoming the standard US Rifle of the Vietnam War by 1969 replacing the M14 rifle in that role. The US Army retained the M14 in CONUS, Europe, and South Korea until 1970. Since the Vietnam War, the M16 rifle family has been the primary infantry rifle of the U.S. military. With its variants, it has been in use by 15 NATO countries, and is the most produced firearm in its caliber. SOURCE

The military, in grand fashion, replaced the M-14, a fantastic weapon in MY opinion, chambered for the powerful 7.62×51 cartridge, with a plastic POS, the M-16, chambered for the less than impressive 5.56 NATO round. The reason being? Truth be told, because the M-16 was quite a bit lighter, as was the ammunition, the school of thought being, a troop can carry a lighter rifle and more ammo, making him a more efficient killing machine in the field.

In MY opinion, the guys that came up with that school of thought never humped it through the jungle, or up and down the side of some mountain, or through a desert sand storm. The M-14, and it’s fodder, was a lot heavier than the M-16 and the M-4, but to sacrifice reliability and LIVES for weight? Well, troops may be happier with a lighter weapon and ammo, but I’ll take the weight and firepower over light and less than effective every time.

The soldiers said their weapons were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic, which allows hundreds of bullets to be fired a minute.

The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

I am not at all familiar with the M-4, but after speaking with an anonymous source, who is an E-5/SGT, and an Infantry Team Leader in the United States Army, I learned that the standard issue M-4 Carbine has fire rates of semi-automatic and 3 round burst. There are no fully automatic M-4′s, unless they are special issued to Special Forces Groups according to this source.

The part about the *white hot* barrels had to be in reference to the Squad Automatic Weapon and M240B. Both are fully automatic weapons. According to my source, and my own personal belief, there is no way to cycle a rate of fire through an M-4 Carbine that would be high enough to cause the *white hot* conditions. The M-4 is magazine fed, and the time needed to change magazines would negate the *white hot* theory. Now make NO mistake, the barrel would be HOT, just not that hot. The SAW and 240B are belt fed, fully automatic weapons and the *white hot* condition is a possibility, especially if the gun crew isn’t changing out the barrels after a couple of belts have been run through.

The fact of the matter is this; simple works. A weapon that fires a bullet that is big enough to do the job, that job being to KILL your enemy, it exactly what our troops need.. The M-4 fires a high velocity, small diameter round that is, in MY opinion, less than fully effective. And again, in MY opinion, the same can be said for the Squad Automatic Weapon as well, as it fires the same round as the M-4.

Our troops face a weapon that is almost indestructible. The AK-47 will function, every time, and it fires a capable round. the 7.62×39, a slightly shorter version of the 7.62×51 round fired in the old, and reliable M-14. The AK-47 can go for months without cleaning, it can be in mud, rain, cold, heat, sand, ANY weather condition, and all you have to do is pick it up and fire it.

The DoD needs to give OUR troops a weapon of that same power and reliability. Our troops deserve it!

Digg ThisShare on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInSubmit to StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on Twitter Share
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

This entry was posted in Military Support and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight

  1. jd3 says:

    Good story Fred…..DoD spends all our money on weapons and can’t find a reliable weapon to use in real combat conditions…..if you look back at the famous Jessica Lynch story you will find references to the troops getting baby wipes sent from home to clean the sand out of their weapons….the one Army trooper that should have been called the Hero in that one held them off by manually manipulating his “automatic” weapon”…..this is really sad….if I were there I would be “grabbing” me an AK….makes sense….

  2. Silver Fox says:

    I know little about the weapons currently used by the military. And have had little contact with military weapons. I did once own a WWII semi-auto M1 carbine and never had any problems with it. But I did keep it clean. I always thought the army weapons were field tested under varying circumstances. Suppose I was wrong. And then there is always the political factor when selecting weapons for the military with each congressman wanting to get government contracts for his district—this is often a flawed process. Sorry to here that about our weapons in Afghanistan. Is this problem easily corrected or is it a long term thing?

  3. GM Roper says:

    I carried a M-16 in the army, configured for left handed shooters (I think it was made by Colt rather than the other manufacturer) and the primary difference was that it shot the ejected casing up and out rather than down and out which would have sent the casing down my shirt. Loved that M-16!

  4. GM Roper says:

    I should also note, that as long as I fired it in three round bursts, I never once had a jam.

  5. TexasFred says:

    GM, did you carry it into combat? In extreme conditions? You never said before and I am just wondering…

  6. extex_cop says:

    My son didn’t like either weapons he carried ( M4 & 9mm )…but he said he used his 9mm more than his M4… especially since most of his fighting was in close quarters. He stated he only used his M4 once in the 2 tours and that was to shoot a guy about 100 yds away….after hearing a cell phone ring near them….yep…it was an IED that wasn’t wired right and didn’t go off when called. They spotted the caller and took him out. He stated he used the 9mm more but wished he had the .45 cal ..1911 model. He said he would have given anything if he could have been armed with the .45 cal Thompson Sub-machine gun or old Grease gun and the Colt 1911 as his backup or sidearm.

    He stated the dust storms got so bad you could hardly see the guy next to you at times….now just think what that does to your weapon. If a firefight broke out right after one of those storms….our guys would surely be killed because of weapon failure.

    In Vietnam the leaders didn’t want our guys using the AK-47 because of the sound it made…it might confuse friendly troops into thinking you are the enemy. I really doubt that was it since the secret operation ” Project Eldest Son “. That’s where we loaded some AK-47 ammo with a charge that was so strong ( over 5 times stronger ) it blew the gun up killing whoever was holding it or stood nearby. The ammo was mixed into supplies the VC had hidden…so no way to tell which bullets were good or bad. We can’t do that over in Iraq or Afghanistan because our allies use the guns and ammo captured from the enemy.

    Maybe one day some high rating officer will be killed because his weapon malfunctioned and the US may start looking into something better.

  7. HoosierArmyMom says:

    It is a sad turn of events when politics out rules common sense when equipping our troops. First they have outrageously stupid ROE to have to follow and then they have weapons that aren’t designed for the environment they have to fight in. This just ticks me off. Our politicians should be prosecuted for their incompetence during a time of war.

  8. TexasFred says:

    My son kinda likes the M-4, damn if I know why, but he hates a Beretta, and a 9MM too, of ANY make.. Some folks like Beretta’s, some folks like skinny women… To each his own I suppose…

    I hate a Beretta as well, and I wouldn’t give my worst enemy a 9MM.

    My son is a lot like me, a .45 snob and an avid Springfield owner and user… Hell, his backup is an XD-40 sub compact… My NEXT gun purchase if I can ever afford it…

    Our troops need a better primary weapon AND a better sidearm, the pistol they have now is a piece of shit in the piece of shit hall of fame…

  9. LD Jackson says:

    Thanks for sharing this story, TexasFred. I never realized our soldiers had to put up with such a bad group of weapons. In my opinion, there is no excuse for this. We have some of the finest weapons manufacturers in the world residing in our borders. Surely they would be able to come up with a weapon that would be reliable and not let our men and women down when they need them the most.

  10. BobF says:

    I’ve got an AK-47, semi auto only, and I really like it. It’s very simple to operate, tear down, and replace parts if needed. I once made arrangements for some Army Special Forces to use our facilities. As a thank you, the invited me to the base range to shoot some captured Soviet weapons. To a man, these guys said they would prefer the AK in combat over their M-16’s.

    It’s too bad politics and financial kickbacks are killing our troops in the field.

  11. TexasFred says:

    BobF, it has been my finding too, the heavy duty shooters, the REAL operators, the guys that have waded off into the shit on MANY occasions and come back to tell the tale, prefer the AK-47, for all the reasons stated…

    Some say, “well, the M-4 is more accurate at longer ranges”, OK, we have an App for that, sniper rifles, custom MADE for longer ranges…

    At the normal range where *most* gun fights take place, the AK-47 is a hands down winner over ANY M-16, AR-15 or M-4…

    Now we still have the Taliban and al-Qaida beat on heavy weapons, night vision, air support and all that, but for up close gun fighting, I swear, I honestly believe they have the edge.

    I still love to hear all the folks talk about this gun and that gun, and then you ask em, “Ya been in many gunfights?”

    Seems like that one always seems to piss a few people off…

  12. Tailgunner says:

    Gee – I wonder if mayor Bloomberg and the MAIG crowd are gonna sue the gun manufacturers over this.

    It’s bad enough our finest started their tours over there with no body armor and no armored Humvees (thank you Billy Boy Clinton) but now they can’t even defend themselves in a fire fight.

    Heads need to roll on this one – all the way around.

    What do we have to do – supply our troops with Kalashnikovs?


  13. HoosierArmyMom says:

    I remember the fight to get the special, life saving helmet inserts for troops. A military Vet and blue star Dad started a focused 501C3 organization to specifically get and distribute the helmet inserts about 3 years ago… supplied army soldiers until the government started issuing them, and when he found out that the Marines weren’t being issued prior to deployment, started it all over again to get it done. I contributed a nice chunk of my tax return that year to the organization, and thought our government was shameful.

    In answer to your question TG… if you want a job done, you darn near have to do it yourself. And Obamabots want to trust the government to provide for their needs???

  14. Bloviating Zeppelin says:

    TF, I can only tell you about my own experiences. Whilst as Rangemaster I had the option of opting for the M-4 for the equivalent of our “SWAT” teams back in 2002. We ended up going with the suppressed HK series. I also spec’d HK and Sig for our sniper rifles and damned glad I did so. I never liked the so-called M-16 in its shorty “carbine” version. Why buy a shorter barrel and collapsible stock? I never did “get” that. I finally was able to convince Exec Staff to — if they HAD to — go with the standard Colt AR-15 long rifle package for our cars.

    We acquired surplus M-16s from the military for more in-car long rifles but I also told Exec Staff it’d be easier and cheaper to just buy new Colts. Nope. They wouldn’t listen. At first they insisted the M-16s simply be tossed — at fully AUTO — into the cars. I told them: this is damned STUPID. Our cops will take the “pray and spray” attitude. As opposed to the military, in civilian life EVERY round must be accounted-for.

    I finally convinced staff to “armor-down” these rifles and remove all fully auto components. Which, of course, I had to account for because, naturally, when you take “free” things from the government they can reclaim at any time AND audit your storage and maintenance files. Finally, a year later, one member of staff said “yeah, we should have listened to you and just bought the ARs.” No shit, Buckwheat.

    I avoided carbines and M4s. Colt’s AR-15s work just fine for us when you have Range staff that have attended Colt’s armoring school and can work on them easily. There isn’t much of anything with LESS recoil than a semi .223 — although an AK is like the Energizer Bunny. It truly does just keep going and going and going.

    And did you know? The AK-47 is so designated because its first appearance WAS in 1947? That’s how old and immured its design is. Gas operated ain’t bad either. But the old Soviets took it one step further and made the MAGAZINES bulletproof as well. A step WE should look at also. Overall, an AK is slightly less accurate. The Soviets went with bulletproof, a lesser range, a necked round, stamped, wood, heavier product.

    The NEW M-4s we currently carry? Quite frankly, I haven’t had my hands on one in almost 7 years. But if reliability is an issue — and who COULDN’T foresee that in a Middle Eastern dust and sand environment?? — then shame on US.


  15. TexasFred says:

    And BZ presents THE very reason I love it when my Police, Sheriffs and State Police buddies check in, just like when the military and former military guys post, you’re going to get the *guts* of the matter…

    The *gunslingers* have a bit of a different perspective than the paper punchers it seems…

  16. Eric says:

    The DoD needs to give OUR troops a weapon of that same power and reliability. Our troops deserve it!

    I agree with that! I thought that 18 years ago!

    I can only add that leading up to the ground evasion of Desert Storm I was extremely worried that my M16A2 was gonna jam. You, of course, have to keep them properly lubed up and once that ejection port cover is opened up after the first round it’s like ‘glue’ or a ‘magnet’ for sand and grit. It doesn’t take very long for it to be all over the ‘inside’ of your weapon either, the magazine well, inside your magazines, and when you’re in a firefight, or on the move during combat operations, you just can’t pull your cleaning kit out of the buttstock of your weapon and prop up against a tree, light a smoke, break your weapon down, and start cleaning it at your leisure.

    Sand, dirt, dust and CLP doesn’t mix and at some point, and because it’s murphy’s law, it’s gonna happen when live rounds are being fired at ‘you’ and not blanks at combat town, Camp Lejuene.

    Semper Fidelis.

  17. Always On Watch says:


    What the hell is wrong with the head honchos at the Pentagon?

  18. WhoBeen says:

    Good post!

    It’s been awhile but I remember those M14’s…


  19. Patrick Sperry says:

    Gads! We’ve been on this for how damned many years..?

    Our guys would be better off if we bought semi auto Com Block Norinco AK’s!

    And 45 Cal pistols, either 1911’s or modern variants such as the XD’s or Kimbers…

    The list goes on, and the only thing that I have not heard bad sitreps about are the new shotguns that are being issued, and the various “DM’s” rifles. But even those are so heavy that they are crew served weapons when reality hits the oscillating rotating dung deployer. My Son’s unit ended up getting out some old, but still very usable M 21’s. Imagine that!

    I wrote both of my Senators, and my Congresswoman about this sad state of affairs.

  20. Mjbell1 says:

    I was issued the M-14 full-auto in Vietnam, no problems ever.
    The DOD Army have bee working on a replacement for the the M-16 for some time. Supposed to be near jam proof and
    highly reliable. Well were the hell is it, our guys have been fighting the the M-16 problems for 40 years. Time for a change.


Comments are closed.