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27 April 2008


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Neil Richardson

Dear COL Lang,

Those of us in armor had M3A1s before the Army upgraded to M4s in the 1990s. My father who'd been at the Iron Triangle with the 7ID in 1951 had sometimes used it as well. He had quipped that since the Army had to pay more salary thanks to the AVF, we had to make do with some hand-me-downs. Personally I didn't mind it but parts used to bend (especially the folding stock) inside a turret if you weren't careful.

Walter Lang


I was trained to be an armored officer at VMI before a fast talking infantrymen talked me out of it in appplying for a
Regular commision.

I preferred the M3 Grease Gun and carried it in preferennce to the Thompson. pl

Mark K Logan

What next? A no doubt very expensive version of the M4 that has a closed bolt but keeps cool enough to eliminate "cook off".

Well, whaddaya know.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LWRC_Infantry_Automatic_Rifle

I suspect the maker is just drooling over any
coverage that there are some complaints about the M4. Or perhaps just happy their marketing campaign
is getting under way...

I wonder what the Chinese are selling AK47's for these days?


I personally own both a GI type 1911 and M4. No bitches or complaints here. The pizza pistol is a POS though....



re page 3 para's 4-9:
Within military circles there are M4 defectors. U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa was one of the carbine's first customers. But the elite commando units soured on the M4; the rifle had to be cleaned too often and couldn't hold up under heavy use.

"Jamming can and will occur for a variety of reasons," concluded an internal report written seven years ago by special operations officials but never published. "Several types of jams, however, are 'catastrophic' jams; because one of our operators could die in a firefight while trying to clear them."

Pointing to the report's unpublished status, Colt has disputed its findings. The M4 has been continually improved over the years, said Keys, the company's chief executive.

Special Operations Command is replacing the M4s and several other rifles in its arsenal with FN Herstal's SCAR, which comes in two models. One shoots the same 5.56mm round as the M4; the other fires a larger 7.62mm bullet and costs several hundred dollars more. Both SCARs can accommodate different-size barrels, allowing the weapons to be fired at multiple ranges.

The SCARs are more accurate, more reliable and expected to last far longer than their predecessors, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Marc Boyd, a command spokesman.

"Socom likes to be different," said Keys of Colt, using the shortened name for the command. "They wanted something unique."

from what i understand, coburn's office has gotten numerous complaints from personnel serving in iraq and afghanistan.

and it's like you said, for a weapon to work properly, requires the necessary cleaning that is a prerequisite for proper operation.

Cold War Zoomie

Some people just can't shoot and they are not all in the Air Force.

That's why I like my old Springfield, hinge-action 12 gauge with a hefty choke. "Qualifying" means learning to point and tap. Life's easy.


I was a conscript in the German army. I was a pretty poor shot with the 9mm pistol I was issued. I was much better with the rifle, and really good with the machine gun. I liked about the latter that it was stable even in burst fire, thanks to it's weight. The point about it is that this is that I am probably simply recoil shy, and lacked training.

I have a read a little about the 'dispute' about the 'best rifle for the US army' and all that.

The Colt M1911 is a mature pistol, and renowned for it's accuracy. I have no doubt it works well. And I also don't doubt that the .45 bullet has a greater 'stopping power' than the 9mm, if you hit the target. Then, the Beretta is a reliable weapon. I also have not heard of complaints about the 9mm's effectiveness by the Wehrmacht, or many other subsequent users, or jokes by US soldiers of not being afraid of the 9mm because it just doesn't hurt enough. Point? To use a gun successfully you need training, training, training.

The whole stopping power debate sounds like a sales pitch to me, or like outright jingoism - that the all-american .45 is a sort of silver bullet against them Muslimiacs, was designed to kill Muslims (no joke, I did read that) and hey, the smart Marines still use the M-1911, unlike the corrupt army and so forth.

Perhaps there are better cartridges than the 5,56mm. Probably. When I read the complaints about the 5,56 stopping power I get the impression they expect or desire the target must disintegrate after a hit.

As for the M4 itself, also a mature design, there have been designed improvements over the original weapon, namely an improved gas system, that is said to substantially increase improve reliability. That is unsurprising. One would expect someone in 40 years to come up with something like that. I wonder about the resistance to improvement in that regard.

What I always wonder about in the US is that apparently there is a lot of tinkering with existing designs, with incremental improvements using CNC machining and new materials, based on 40-50 year old designs. Where is the innovation?

The new developments all seem to come from overseas. I do not think that it is an accident that the two main contenders for the new US battle rifle are Germany's HK and Belgium's FN Herstal. FN Herstal built the US's machine guns. Beretta built the US service pistol, and the other contenders would have been the Swiss-German SIG or Austria's Glock (who refused to participate because the US idea of contracting would have generated a US competitor selling his pistol). Is this already a sihn of weakness in the US industrial base?


Well Col. Lang, maybe you just hold your mouth right because I couldn't hit the side of a barn with a 1911, yet I was in the shooting team at school from age 14, I've demonstrated M60 to 1500 yards on the bipod and was battalion range conducting officer.

My best friend was the 7.62 FN SLR. I thought the M16 was a flimsy toy which was so weak it had that bolt assist nonsense lever. I did think it was pretty good as a sub machine gun and I carried it a few times instead of the rotten Australian F1 (9mm NATO) SMG that replaced the beloved Owen gun.

In my old age I shoot .308 (7.62) and .223 (5.56) and have more respect for the smaller round these days.


I sure do hear you loud and clear on this one.

I can't speak to the M4 issue from any direct experience, since I've always been a civilian. But I can speak to the M1911 issue. From direct experience. If I could only have one pistol, it would be that one.

I really don't understand why it "can't" shoot with more than sufficient accuracy. All this takes is care and practice, just like any other skill worth learning.

If pressed, I would have to say that it was considerably easier for me to develop a reasonable level of competence with the 1911 than it was, for example, to develop a far lower level of competence at reading technical Russian. At just about the same time in life, too. And very many of the Russian vocabulary words were cognates. And I did not have all that much time to spend at the range. Graduate work is like that, especially when you're facing prelims.

If it's worth learning, you're going to have to work at it. This is true across the board, for everything.


That reminds me. I need to buy another gun just to make myself feel good.

W. Patrick Lang: American.


I love my Paraordnance 1911. I also liked the M4, but its a shame the X7 project got scuttled in the name of "Jointness" because all the services can't agree on a rifle.

The Army needs something different from the Air Force, which needs... And so on. I don't understand why the new blue is "one size fits all".

Richard Whitman

I had terrible trouble qualifying with the 45cal M1911A1 over 50 years ago. I did better hitting the concrete abutment in front of the target instead of the target itself. Since then I have become proficient with a 22 Ruger and a 38S&W Combat Masterpiece. Recently I acquired a 9mm Beretta 92F Military style sidearm. I cannot hit the bullseye with it. At 25 yards it looks like a shotgun pattern.Had the weapon checked by a competent gunsmith. Its OK. You are probably right. Those of us who cannot hit anything with the 45, will not do better with the Beretta.


Aw look, forget even the huge number of guys who have reported an inability to shoot that ugly old .45 and look at the huge discrepancies in people's ability to write cursive.

The problem is simply the enormous differences in the architecture of the human hand and arm, plus then also the huge differences in fine motor skills and etc. While of course you can somewhat experience this to a much lesser degree generally with long guns too, you can pick up one handgun and it just somehow "feels" right and another just feels like a misshapen chunk of junk. And yet a friend may have the exact opposite experience. And look at the differences that can exist in the hands of even a bunch of men otherwise built alike. Can be huge.

Maybe the solution is different styles being offered to servicemen and women in the same caliber. Even in a .45. I have no doubt just even making it less ugly would help too.



are you clinging to guns and religion again?

i'll stick with lattes and volvos, thank you very much.


it's a tradeoff b/n accuracy and jamming
stamped vs. machined parts


i own a south american manufactured colt 45. a llama

Green Zone Cafe

The holographic laser sights fitted on U.S. infantry M4s now are amazing. A one-inch rectangular sight picture showing the red dot on where the bullet goes. No need to close both eyes when sighting.

I am one of those who couldn't hit things reliably with the M1911 and did much better with the M9. I think it was because of the better sights of the M9.


The Smithsonian Magazine did an article on the .45 pistol when it was retired and of course some were added to their collection. One Army officer quoted in the article agreed with the officer in the picture: "I don't need this thing often, but when I do I need it BAD."

This debate is as old as the hills. In 16th Century England there was a truly vicious debate over whether to replace the longbow with the handgun. Both sides put forward their own areas of strength without admitting their areas of weakness. It wasn't until the Privy Council issued its Ordinance of 1595 that the issue was finally settled. Archers would no longer be enrolled in the Trained Bands as soldiers, only handgunners.

As for laser rifles, fuggetaboutit! Science Fiction films which show soldiers of the far future using slug-throwers know their stuff. It's very easy for the internal mirrors to get out of alignment under "field conditions," not to mention the major problem of carrying around its own power source. In this argument the conservatives have the trump card of practicality.


I think a third of the 'M4 reliability debate' is about marketing and one third about institutional inertia and the last third about a real problem. And certainly, every arms bearing American appears to have an personal opinion and experience with firearms, leading to instantaneous and infinite second guessing of service requirements, even when they are sound.

And then there is national vanity. The XM8, the contender with the SCAR and the HK M416 rifles, and for a brief while the Army's future rifle, is simply a 'spaced up' German Army's (and Air Force's and Navy's) HK G36, because the US Army couldn't possibly do as the Norwegians and everybody else and just buy the rifle. It had to be Americanised first, at great expense. That's just silly, even though the sums wasted are pathetic when compared to the price tag for even a single fighter aircraft.

patrick theros


My cousin retired as an officer in the Greek Army with lots of combat experience. The Greeks had the m1911 as the standard sidearm since since 1948 and the Thompson and Sten guns as the standard issue "carbine" for non-coms and officers. They also had the sten gun inside tanks and other vehicles.
His comment when they shifted to a 9mm smaller pistol and to a 5.56mm carbine. "Why fix it when it isn't broken?" The M1911 is a little heavier as was the Thompson and hit harder than the replacements. The Sten is much more reliable but doesn't hit as hard. They both killed as effectively as their replacements. Ammo was no more expensive. With simple but disciplined maintenance, they operated just fine. On balance he thought the change was a waste of money and unnecessary.

Maureen L.

From personally viewing the number of deer hanging head down from our backyard trees per season, & squirrel skins drying out back, brother Pat is by any standards a superb shot w/a rifle.

Another childhood memory is of him meticulously cleaning rifles @ our kitchen table in Maine, along w/whichever uncles had been hunting that day.


Over a 20 year carrer I always shot high expert with the M-1, the M-14, and eventually the M-16. Could never match that with the .45 but managed to squeak out a low to mid sharpshooter qualification with it every year.

I did love that pistol though. With its low muzzle velocity and the high humidity at the Coastal Carolina pistol ranges you could actually see the rounds traveling downrange in July or August. Not the bullets themselves of course, but a V-shaped shock wave as the round went through the dense air. You could not see your own rounds. But if you were standing to the side you could see it clearly. It probably also had something to do with being at sea level.



WRT the .45, the big problem was that they were getting worn out by the late 70s. The question then came down to: buying new parts to fix the .45s (new slides, barrels, etc), OR buy a new pistol.

It might have been cheaper to buy just parts, but of course that doesn't give you as much money in the budget game.

As for the M4s, the Small Arms Review(http://www.smallarmsreview.com ) just concluded an interview series with James Sullivan, a co-designer of the M-16. In it, he said that the M-16 system was designed to work optimally with the longer barrel of the M-16. When they chopped it down to the 14.5in of the M-4, the gas system does not work as good, and you will get more "failure to eject". The primary reason, Sullivan said, was that the gas comes back too early, thus not giving enough time for the brass case to cool down and contract from the heat of the firing. Therefore, the brass, being expanded, sticks to the barrel, causing failure to eject.


A serious question:

At what distance is the M4 consistently lethal, if you have a laser sight, scope,bipod, or whatever. And a competent user?

I've seen numbers all over the place.

Nancy K

I really don't want to shoot anything, at least not anything alive. We have a gun because my husband thinks it is a good idea. Since we live in the suburbs and it is a hand gun, I don't think it is really going to decrease our food costs.
Having said this as a left leaning,vegetarian, Californian Democrat, I believe Americans have the right to own a gun.


My wife, who is 5'7'' and 124 pounds loves her .45 Kimber and she'll put 7 out of 7 in the center of mass of a silouhette target all day long. I've never understood the arguments against the .45 acp either.

Silimalry, I found both the M16 A1 and A2 to be fine rifles; quite accurate and reliable when properly maintained (like any rifle requires) and with magazines properly inspected and properly reassembled (the military has this weird habit of making people dissamble weapons and related accessories to an extent that seems past the point of diminishing returns, IMO. This causes damage to magazines and/or discombobulated reassembly and all of that is a major source of failures to feed). I think much of the criticism of the M16 and/or its ammunition is the product of the hot stove league watching too many grade B action movies - you know, where grenades flip 2 1/2 ton trucks in the air, humans are blown through the air by a single rifle or pistol round, etc.........

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