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Special Forces Say ‘No’ to M4 Barrel

by Ward Carroll on March 26, 2007

If somebody wanted to really help the US Army, they would do something about those God awful M4 carbines that American troops are forced to endure.

This is a recurring theme in this blog, and I’m returning to it again because of yet more new information that sheds light on the problem with the Army’s standard-issue weapon for close-in fighting — which is exactly the kind of combat that is raging in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

M4-web.jpg

In a routine acquisition notice (see this link), a US Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 barrels for the Heckler & Koch HK416 assault rifle.

The HK barrels will be used to replace the barrels on their own M4s.

Why? Here’s what the notice says:

The 416 barrel “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 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. There isn’t another company that offers these features in their products. It is a practical, versatile system.”

Translation: the M4 barrel is so unreliable that special operations forces units need to swap it out with a barrel from a different gun — and one that actually works in real combat conditions.

One solution is to simply swap out the barrel.

But here’s another good answer: trash the M4s and just buy HK416s!

Christian adds:

For an outstanding investigative report on this issue, check out my former colleague Matt Coxs article on the bureaucratic engine that is still preventing soldiers from getting what the best soldiers in the world say is the best weapon for the fight.

Stephen Trimble

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