M4s at Wanat

By lex, on October 21st, 2009

There’s been an interesting discussion going on having to do with the reliability and suitability of the M4 Carbine in Afghanistan, one that I’m ill qualified to formulate an opinion over but am watching with polite naval interest.

During the Battle of Wanat, when an Army platoon was nearly overrun by a numerically superior force, multiple rifles failed the soldiers shooting them. Although I have not myself read cover to cover, a pair of Army historians have apparently circulated a draft report (large pdf) that documents M4 carbine and M249 light machine gun failures – some on the first round.

For front line infantry soldiers, this sort of thing is decidedly unsettling, and controversy has swirled ever since the draft report hit the web. Some have blamed fire discipline – the tendency of troopers to let go at high cyclic rates and melting their barrels without hitting much of anything – while others have blamed poor maintenance practice on what is admittedly a high maintenance weapons system.

Others have argued with equal passion that those who speak of “fire discipline” while being overrun by a merciless foe are theorizing about things they have no personal knowledge of and that they lack imagination. Still others aver that a weapon that cannot be maintained in a dusty environment – especially a carbine that may be ill-suited to both the long range requirement of dealing with Pathan tribesman harassing from the hills and the close-in fight that may occasionally result is not the weapon of choice for our front line infantrymen.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Army colonel in charge of the M4 weapons program insists that he has heard no complaints *. The comments in response to that post are interesting and passionate, to say the least.

As I said, I am not qualified to formulate an opinion, but am watching the debate unfold with interest, as well as noting that among the weapons recently evaluated by the Army in adverse conditions the M4 had the highest number of stoppages.

* 09-19-2018 Link Gone; no replacements found – Ed.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Army, Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon

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