October 12, 2009

AP: Weapons Failed US Troops During Afghan Firefight

WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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?

Weapons Failed US Troops

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.

Read the rest of the AP story here.

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Comments (28)

M1 M14 best damned combat rifles made...

Posted by: Geometric1 | October 18, 2009 6:55 PM    Report this comment

I for one think the 5.56 is a great plinking round, but if you want to get serious, a .30 is the only way to go, like the .308 or 30-06, hay, they were used before, what do you know!

Posted by: Glock21-30 | October 18, 2009 6:39 PM    Report this comment

LOL!! Lee...

In God WE Trust...

Posted by: Geometric1 | October 18, 2009 5:50 PM    Report this comment

Super liberalism consistently and totally deranges the extreme left wing...

There. Fixed it for ya.

Posted by: Lee W | October 18, 2009 5:18 PM    Report this comment

"Super patriotism consistently and totally blinds the extreme right wing..."

How is that offhand pejorative phrase germane to this discussion?

"...except to save a buck on new weapons procurement."

Or several hundred million bucks.


Posted by: Lee W | October 18, 2009 5:11 PM    Report this comment

Super patriotism consistently and totally blinds the extreme right wing but a reality check shows that despite the half baked improvements on the M16 its open gas system it is and has been a disaster in the reliability department. I have personally seen so many of these guns fail I have lost count over the years. With so many AK derivatives rifles out there it makes no sense to keep the M16 in inventory except to save a buck on new weapons procurement.

Posted by: wild romanian | October 18, 2009 11:44 AM    Report this comment

You hit the nail right on the head Lee...I too am "bitter" but I'm a lot more than that...as you put it in your earlier comment my "eloquently expressed rage" should have been takin' as disapointment, sorrow and disdane with the current politics and demise of the soldier. And yes, the so called press was very wrong in there discriptions of the failing weapons. I'll say I have had luck (although very little) voiceing my concerns for our troops inability due to poor equipment to get the job done. I also learned in my 17 years in the corps that tact and eloquently expressed views don't feed the friken buldog either most times! Catch 22?? Damned right!
God help us....


In God WE Trust...

Posted by: Geometric1 | October 17, 2009 8:01 PM    Report this comment

"Our troops need firearms that work despite heat, dust, rain, snow, whatever, ...like the AK47, and can take lots of punishment along the way."

The Shot: Consider the FN-FAL. At the same time the AR 5.56 platform was being tested, the Belgians (they're so... evil!) had the FAL in production. It was everything that the AK was, only more accurate, and chambered in 7.62x51 instead of the lesser intermediate 7.62x39 cartridge, a lightweight main battle rifle in all respects. It worked in heat, cold, dirt, mud, sand, saltwater, dust, rain, snow, ice, and was virtually soldier-proof. It was even more rugged and durable than the G3.

But, unfortunately you, Robert J, Sharps, z7159, Alan B and others are all right. Our soldiers die with marginal weapons in their hands because 1) The rigid, hidebound Army Ordnance Board has never approved a battle rifle that wasn't designed and built in the US. Hell, this is the organization that sent soldiers into battle armed with trapdoor carbines long after the repeating lever-action had found it's way into the hands of the Sioux and Apache. And 2) Congress has decreed that all weapons will be provided by the lowest bidder.

Yeah, I'm bitter.


Posted by: Lee W | October 17, 2009 7:02 PM    Report this comment

Absolutely right Robet J… It seems that as time advances on our civilization the more useless politicians become, thus also institutions like the UN, NATO, and our own American Continent version OEA (plagued by Chaves loving loons)… The only good thing I can see is that Spec.Ops units are incising in numbers, and sense they have their own procurement department (for which they a hated by the Washington red tapers) the weapons and calibers they are increasingly utilizing with combat proven effectiveness is placing a lot of pressure on the geniuses at the State Capital… thanks to the thousands of reports and comments through the internet and other means. So there is a little hope. Also I think the U.S. is experiencing fundamental changes, basically provoked by the present administration that has uncovered many unsettling realities of an ineffective and corrupt government. True Americans are reacting and apathy is despairing… Let’s hope we have enough time to really change things before a point of no return forces an even worst situation. The United States should support the troops with the best possible gear and equipment. They are the ones preventing terrorist from thinking by keeping them in a defensive run… till now. A well trained and well equipped soldier is key… If the Gemans would have entered the (StG44) Sturmgewehr two years earlier, that single weapon could have tipped the War in a different direction. But politics got in the way on the production of this particular weapon, that along with other mistakes, thankfully, provoked the Germans demise…

God protect our soldiers… and give our politicians everything they deserve based on their actions…

Posted by: z7159 | October 16, 2009 2:51 PM    Report this comment

How about start by upgrading the current ar with the piston system until the next system gets approved. That change alone will save lives. I am not a fan of the ak at all. It is a cheap, low quality weapon, and is easily outperformed at short ranges in accuracy. Everyone here says change it, but forgets how slow changes happen for the army. At least get the conversions on tthe ar and make it more reliable, and less maintenence prone. When maintained it fires accuratly, and none of the Iraqis that found themselves in front of my barrel were around long enough to dispute stpping power.

Posted by: AsyLuM DriVeR | October 16, 2009 2:08 PM    Report this comment

Our troops need firearms that work despite heat, dust, rain, snow, whatever, ...like the AK47, and can take lots of punishment along the way. Kalashnikovs don't need to be antiseptically clean...ever, but they keep fireing. Yupe...! Semper Fi

Posted by: TheShot | October 16, 2009 11:02 AM    Report this comment

Our troops need firearms that work despite heat, dust, rain, snow, whatever, ...like the AK47, and can take lots of punishment along the way. Kalashnikovs don't need to be antiseptically clean...ever, but they keep fireing. Yupe...! Semper Fi

Posted by: TheShot | October 16, 2009 11:01 AM    Report this comment

That's why they call it the 5.56 NATO round. Due to international politics with the UN and such we will not get a new round unless NATO decides to switch. The top members of our military were recently unsuccessful at getting the 9mm switched back to the .45 cal. due to international politics. The good news is they have better weapons systems (piston systems) they will be eventually using, bad news it will still be the 5.56 round. That 6.8 is a nice round, however when has practicallity ever entered the picture over politics?

Posted by: Robert J | October 16, 2009 9:31 AM    Report this comment

My wife used to have a bumper sticker in the 80's that said" NUKE THE GAY WHALES FOR JESUS". Think that just about sums it up boys.
While we are discussing the best weapon for combat in Afghanistan, POTUS is inviting AlQaeda to the dinner table here at home. WTF?????. When will they learn in D.C that we just need to Git Er Done, if we are going to be there in the first place? Semper Fi

Posted by: Sharps | October 15, 2009 10:19 PM    Report this comment

Charles S.- Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got news for you, Captain Obvious. Us geniuses DIDN'T miss the point. Those of us who have been in the military and been involved in this issue for over 40 years know what the point is. We've argued against the useless 5.56 chipmunky round and that @#&%$ crappy gas system now for decades, and we didn't see any reason to go into it here all over again. But thank you so much for your kind thoughts.

Geometric - So sorry to have irked you. I'm interested in metallurgy, firearms design, politics, and the pathetic inability of the press to get anything right. This story had all of that. Good luck with using your eloquently expressed rage in getting our boys better equipment or getting them out. Hope you're better at it than I've been.


Posted by: Lee W | October 15, 2009 4:43 PM    Report this comment

"While Gene Stoner should be credited with designing a rifle of long service to our troops, he should have taken a lesson from Mikail Kalashnikov, and designed the M16 with a piston system."

He did, canovack. It was the AR-16 design Stoner developed in the late '50's, in .308. That design was scaled down after Stoner left Armalite to become the AR-18/AR-180, which became the basis of the SAR80 that Singapore adopted. But nobody else was interested in a gas-piston 5.56 at the time. Funny how the old becomes new.

Posted by: JOHN C | October 15, 2009 3:09 PM    Report this comment

Go to AK47'S they always work---I know,I know-not invented here

"Fear conscripts its own armies, takes its own prisoners."

Posted by: GERALD LARSEN | October 15, 2009 3:06 PM    Report this comment

Go to AK47'S they always work---I know,I know-not invented here

"Fear conscripts its own armies, takes its own prisoners."

Posted by: GERALD LARSEN | October 15, 2009 3:06 PM    Report this comment

The best weapons politics can authorize?
Troops destined to "PLAY THE GAME"
Can we best support the troops by giving them better weapons? or can we best support our troops by not putting them in combat situations that are beyond their ability to survive?

Sorry, boys, Due to budget cuts, our drone rocket launchers and cobra and apache gun ships and the C 130 guns ships were all busy that day. Was it he Taliban or the Al Kida that attacked you that day? Did it matter?

The British called it over 100 years ago fighting over the same ground. ..
"...The sand of the desert is sodden red,-
Red with the blood of the square that broke;-
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blinded with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
" Play up ! play up ! and play the game! ..."

Posted by: Hist Mil Firearms | October 15, 2009 2:12 PM    Report this comment

While I, personally, never experienced a hang-up or jam of an M16 or XM155 in Vietnam, I knew of some that did. In my "golden years", I have taken to acquiring some AR-15 type weapons, mainly out of nostalgia. I rarely fire them, and I have added a SIG556 rifle to my collection, because I truly believe that piston systems are far superior to direct gas impingement systems. With only a few rounds fired from my AR-15s, the actions of my pieces quickly begin collecting carbon and unburned powder residue. I don't have that problem with the SIG556.....AND, SIG provides a quick fix for a sluggish action through the use of a gas valve adjustment that sends increased gas volume to the piston, thus restoring top performance. I understand that the Ruger 556 is also a piston system and also provides for an adjustable gas valve. Interestingly, my Kel-Tec PLR-16 pistol also operates with a piston system, as does my Ruger Mini 30 and Springfield M1A. While Gene Stoner should be credited with designing a rifle of long service to our troops, he should have taken a lesson from Mikail Kalashnikov, and designed the M16 with a piston system.

Posted by: canovack | October 15, 2009 12:36 PM    Report this comment

Hey z7159...great points about effective and in-effective ballistics! A little radition might not hurt either!!! (joking) Or NOT!!! LOL!!!

In god WE Trust...

Posted by: Geometric1 | October 15, 2009 11:35 AM    Report this comment

Hear...Hear...Charles S...Are boys be gettin' cut to ribbons in that God forsakin' rathole of a country...and we have guys talkin' about metallurgy and composition??!!!WTF!!?? Let's all call someone that gives a S#** and get them the equiptment to protect themselves!! If the boneheaded Congress can't do that...then pull all of those servicemen the hell outta there!

In God WE Trust.....

Posted by: Geometric1 | October 15, 2009 11:24 AM    Report this comment

While every ones has good points I agree with Charls S. The point is this weapon has been experiencing several problems for quite some time now. Under normal vision conditions I have only seen the M134 minigun´s barrels get close to white hot. More over, when talking white hot barrels remember most of our troops are in constant use of thermal and NVG´s optics. Those barrels will look and most certainly feel white hot with that equipment. Take a look at what time those attacks took place.
Spec.Ops forces have for years now, at least, re-equipped their weapons with piston uppers if not all together gone for the HK 416 and other manufacturing variations like the ones produced by LWRC International. This weapons not only chamber the 5.56 round that has now (not in the 60 with a then slower round) a disturbing negative one shot drop and kill effect., But also chambering the 7.62X39 (AK47 round) with a much higher impact and effective short range kill than that of the 5.56 round (5.56 is more accurate at longer ranges). The 7.62X39 is used when undetected Ops are in effect and the team needs to make sure the empty shells left behind are similar to those of an AK. And lastly the ultimate 6.8 round been tested in the field and has the best of both worlds… Short range drop and kill effect and long range accurate effectiveness… I personally think that changing the caliber ( which needs to be done) is a longer goal. But the piston system is something, that should have been decades ago, I believe will be implemented shortly. The effect of hot dirty gases blowing in to the chamber will provoke massive failure in long fire fights. Not sow with the piston system that will keep the chamber clean and cool. By the way the system is been in use sense WWII with (StG44) Sturmgewehr, which in turn the Russians used to design the AK-47… Which also uses a similar piston system. Way Colt has not implemented it is something only the geniuses up in Washington DC know…God help us!

Posted by: z7159 | October 15, 2009 11:15 AM    Report this comment

To the several geniuses who expounded at length about whether the rifle barrels could be white, red ... no wait, dark red, or whatever: you have missed the whole point of the article, which is that our combat troops have been fielded with inferior weapons. As philip correctly notes the Army will stonewall to hell and back before they ever admit there's a problem.

Posted by: Dulrug | October 15, 2009 8:03 AM    Report this comment

This is just like Viet Nam. The Army will hide the results, the same way they did in the 1960's. If they go back to the M14 or M1 then the soldier will have a fighting chance. I grew up with the M16 and M16A1 and never did like the weapon. The AK47 is a cheaper and better weapon than the M16 or M4

Posted by: philip | October 15, 2009 7:42 AM    Report this comment

Anyone seen the video about the new M-60? They fired 850 rounds without stopping, the barrel didn't even change color. How come the newsmedia didn't say anything about the casualtys the taliban took?

Posted by: Vernon R | October 15, 2009 7:38 AM    Report this comment

Have also seen M2 and M60 barrels turn a deep red color after extended firing, but when you're asshole deep in aligators ya just don't have time to drain the swamp.

Posted by: firstsoldier | October 15, 2009 6:06 AM    Report this comment

I've only seen M-60 and 50 Caliber Machine Gun Barrels reach that dark red (I refer to as deep red)as well. The threaded 50 caliber barrels were difficult to remove due to the expansion and contraction of the heated and cooled metal. They were also more difficult to clean. I was more on the conservative side due to the above facts. A few minutes of fun would cost you hours in disassembly and cleaning.

Posted by: JWallace | October 13, 2009 8:45 PM    Report this comment

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