Category Archives: Weapons Education

New and Better ‘Nades in the Pipeline

It looks a lot like the M67 grenade, fielded during the Vietnam War to replace the M26, which in turn replaced the Mk2 of World War II. But in fact, the ET-MP (Enhanced Tactical Multi Purpose) grenade is a whole new thing. The differences from the M67 tell the story. It’s a little larger than a baseball-sized M67; it has a different fuze that lets right- and left-handed soldiers throw it the same way; and it is a selectable grenade that can be used as a concussion grenade (called “offensive” grenades in some armies) or a fragmentation (“defensive”) grenade. The user simply rotates a selector to the letter “F” (Fragmentation) or “C” (Concussion).

“Soldiers will not need to carry as many types of hand grenades,” Jessica Perciballi, project Officer the Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose hand grenade at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in a recent Army press release.

“They are currently carrying one M67 grenade that provides lethal fragmentation effects. With the new multi-purpose grenade, they can carry one ET-MP grenade and have the ability to choose either fragmentation or concussive effects desired for the situation.”

It’s weird to see a grenade fly without the spoon flying off, that’s for sure.

The effort marks the first time in 40 years the Army has set out to give soldiers a new lethal hand grenade. Warfighters lost the capability of using an alternate lethal grenade when the MK3A2 concussion grenade was taken out of service in 1975 because of an asbestos hazard, leaving the M67 fragmentation grenade.

Another feature is that the grenades are designed for ambidextrous use, meaning that they can be thrown with either hand. Current grenades require a different arming procedure for left-handed users.

The request for a multi-purpose grenade came from the warfighter in 2010, according to Matthew Hall, Grenades Tech Base Development lead. Research began almost immediately. The science and technology funding to move forward with a project came in fiscal year 2013.

“We received direct input from the Army and Marine Corps early on, which was critical in ensuring the new arming and fuzing design was user-friendly,” Hall said.

“With these upgrades in the ET-MP, not only is the fuze timing completely electronic, but the detonation train is also out-of-line,” Hall added. “Detonation time can now be narrowed down into milliseconds, and until armed, the hand grenade will not be able to detonate.”

via U.S. Army Working on a Dual-Mission Hand Grenade – Kit Up!.

The electronic fuze means it safely can do without the grenade “spoon” that was a feature of prior American grenades. The spoon worked as a grenade “grip safety” once the grenade’s pin was pulled, only allowing a hammer to fire a primer and start a chemical time delay burning when the grenade was thrown. That was why the M67 and its predecessors were designed for right-handed throwers, and awkward for lefties. (In SF, left-handed guys would often just straighten, remove, and reverse the grenade pin, which was all kinds of forbidden, but worked just fine).

The size of the grenade was determined partly by what they had to fit into it, but also by having real, junior soldiers handle dummy grenades, 3D printed in proposed form factors.

Likewise, the test troops, deliberately selected to be average and inexperienced soldiers from a cross-section of specialties, tried many different arming control designs, and provided their input before engineers selected the final one.

In addition to its human interface improvements and frag/concussion duality, engineers have also improved the stability and shock resistance of the grenades, allowing them to be stored and shipped more easily.

Consider the Double Action Auto

We’re adherents of the DA auto (by which we mean the DA/SA pistol), although we gave striker-fired (Glock) a shot. Over the last nearly 40 (wow) years, we’ve daily-carried Walther P.38, Beretta M9 and M92, and the CZ-75 (pre B) and CZ P-01, with some use of small-caliber Walther, Browning and CZ pistols for summer wear.

Ernest Langdon, a former Marine Scout Sniper instructor, is an adherent of DA/SA and particularly Beretta as well, at least partly because Beretta employs him! He can shoot better than most of us, and he makes a good case for the DA autopistol, in an interesting article at Recoil (which has come a long way from its antigun gun magazine days).

He also has a lot of advice about how to shoot it well. 

One of the first things to learn is trigger finger placement. The double action trigger pull often requires the shooter to put more trigger finger on or past the trigger than you would with a 1911-type single action. When learning to pull a double action trigger, try sticking more trigger finger in and past the trigger, providing more leverage for you to pull the trigger straight to the rear. Test this in dry fire, with the goal of the hammer falling with no movement of your sight picture at all.

The key is to pull through the double action trigger at a constant speed. It can be very fast, but it needs to be consistent. The trap that many DA Auto shooters fall into is trying to finish the DA pull by speeding up at the end. We start to pull the trigger smoothly and consistently, and then try to accelerate at the end of the pull to finish and get to the shot. For proper double-action trigger control, you want to focus on stroking the trigger. Keep a constant, consistent speed.

Real success with a DA gun comes from combining the presentation of the pistol, aiming the gun, and pulling the trigger at the same time.

It’s our own observation that, when you don’t have time to prepare your sidearm and must engage from the draw, you’re most often at contact range, and the DA trigger pull is the least of your problems. When you do have time it’s nice to be able to cock the hammer. We have pistols that allow that and some pistols that don’t because they’re DAO. But there are some pistols on the market that do, technically, allow you to cock the hammer by hand, but make it awkward to do. If you have time to set up for a shot, go ahead and set up for the shot.

That said, Langdon is right about DA trigger pull. Yes, it is longer and heavier, and it can make you miss — especially if you get frustrated that it’s not like the SA pull and jerk on it. But a well-designed DA trigger can be fast, steady and smooth and not disrupt your sight picture. And the SA pull on most DA/SA guns is better than the trigger on most striker-fireds, ceteris paribus.

This next consideration is one we hadn’t thought of.

One of the key features in a DA Auto is where the trigger pull breaks. The point at which the trigger breaks in double action mode and single action mode should be as close as possible. This allows you to train your trigger finger to go back to the same spot to release the trigger and cause the gun to fire, whether in double action or single action. Some DA autos release the hammer in double action mode at a much earlier point in the trigger pull than in single action mode. This causes an excessive amount of overtravel in double action and makes the shooter hunt for the trigger prep point in single action. I believe this makes it much harder to learn to shoot well with such a handgun.

Or as one of his photo captions tells it:

One reason Langdon favors the Beretta 92 is that the positions at which the trigger breaks in double action and single action modes are very close.

Hmmm. That makes us want to dig out the trigger gage and look at where the trigger breaks DA and SA on a cross-section of DA pistols.

One of the reasons I’ve chosen to run the Beretta 92 platform is that I feel it has the best double action pull and the closest release points for both double action and single action trigger pulls.

Well, yeah, and they pay him. There is that (grin).

In his new book, Gun Guy, Bill Wilson, president and owner of Wilson Combat says, “If you look where the trigger is when the hammer falls on a Beretta, the trigger is in basically the same place double- and single-action. When you come back to the trigger for the second shot, the trigger is in the same place. You don’t have to search for it. That’s why you can transition from double to single so easily with a Beretta.” There are also many other great DA Autos out there in many different sizes, shapes, and calibers.

Thought-provoking stuff — go Read The Whole Thing™.

Now, with both Wilson and Langdon praising the Beretta, we definitely have to A/B the 92/M9 and the CZs and whatever other odds and ends we have laying about.

Persistence of “Obsolete” Gun Designs: 5 Reasons

At a very well-stocked gun shop, the most expensive new firearm might be a Barrett .50 or a TrackingPoint precision guided weapon. But it might not. It might very well be a European trap or hunting shotgun, a well-decorated and supremely finished, but technologically simple double-barrel over-and-under, with lockwork a 19th Century gunsmith would have recognized.

A Luciano Bosis ‘Michelangelo’ 12-bore shotgun. From the Bosis website.

For about $600 a buyer can take home the latest high-tech defensive pistol, or for about the same price a basic clone of the high-tech defensive pistol of 1911. He’s well armed either way, but why has technology marched on in the pistol world, but stood still on the shotguns used by bird busters (of the meat and clay variety alike)?

Any rifle problem in the world from rimfire plinking to open-range elk hunting has a version of the AR that can conceivably be applied to it. But hunters still buy lots of bolt-action rifles, with bolts that owe their basic design to the 19th Century efforts of Mauser in Oberndorf.

Indeed, here in New England, the single-shot break-action firearm continues to hang on in the market; new production continues.

The firearms market, then, is unlike other markets. In 1960 only a few car models sold in the United States came with automatic transmission standard; by 1970, air conditioning was in that market position, by 1980 electronic fuel injection… but these technologies are nearly universal now. Why do “obsolete” firearms actions persist and thrive in a market that has seen centuries of innovation? Why does the innovative product take its place alongside the venerable one, and not replace it?

Here are some thoughts.

  1. In some cases, the innovative product does replace the venerable one. Consider the police revolver. 30 years ago, a mainstay of industry magazine publishers was “revolver vs. automatic for police.” Nowadays, if you brought that article to your editor, he or she would suggest you need your head examined. Many agencies don’t let a cop carry a revolver, any more, even off duty.

    One of Colt’s best loved guns isn’t even made anymore.

  2. The gun buyer is inherently conservative. It’s much easier to sell a driver on the benefits of fuel injection than it is to sell a hunter who’s perfectly happy with his .30-30 on the benefits of a funny-looking plastic and alloy semiauto. (This also hurts European makers who tend to make guns that “look funny” to Americans. Think HK’s hunting rifles of the 80s and 90s).
  3. There is a draw to history in old-fashioned firearms. We double-dog dare you to pick up a Colt SAA and not think about the Old West (even if the Old West of public memory was mostly the creation of dime novels and moviemakers). Ditto, a 1911 and World War II. For many in the shooting sports, the draw to history is personal and familial. If you were the unloved grandson who didn’t inherit Gramps’s Winchester 64, you pine for one; this seems especially true for bird hunters, almost all of whom were introduced to the sport by family.
  4. Sometimes you’re tied by rules. Nobody’s going to get to use a Saiga shotgun in a trapshoot this year. Some states’ hunting laws ban semiauto or detachable-mag-fed semi weapons, on the theory that they promote snap shooting and bad sportsmanship.
  5. Sometimes the older design is perfectly fit for the task. Evolution stops because it has reached a plateau or point of equilibrium (just as evolution of living things is currently thought to do, between incidences of salutary mutation). While many jurisdictions’ regulations restrict hunting weapon magazine capacity, there’s little impetus to change these laws because the game gets a vote, too, and it tends not to stick around when the guns open up. Hunting upland game birds, two shots is often one more than you can practically get off when the birds flush, and two is pretty much the limit. Same with bolts and hunting of ground game. Doesn’t matter if you’re belt-fed, one shot and Bambi is outa there. Likewise, if there is a better gun to teach a beginner the rudiments of safety and shooting than a break-action, exposed-hammer single shot, we surely can not think of what it is.

We’re “thinking out loud,” here, and there might be more than five reasons. We’re most partial to #5 of the explanations above. But you’re welcome to shoot holes in this theory. Are there other guns than the police revolver that have become eclipsed in living memory? The .25 Auto, perhaps… what else?

Have You Gymnasticated Your Gun Today?

You can, perhaps, Gymnasticating the M1 Garand via the op-rod and follower rod. Image via CMP.

Wait, what? “Gymnasticate?” What’s that?

Well, that was exactly our reaction to seeing this word in a very interesting book, Roy F. Dunlap’s Ordnance Went Up Front. Dunlap is an interesting character, about whom little is known apart from his two books — this history of his work as a small arms maintenance NCO in World War II, and a comprehensive gunsmithing manual that remains in print. Rereading Ordnance recently, these lines jumped out at us, right off of Page 94.

In the spring of 1943 an officer approached me with the idea of finding out what this M38 [German Anti-Tank rifle, per Dunlap – Ed.] could do, as he had a gun in perfect condition. I scratched my head, gymnasticated the rifle, trying to look intelligent, and finally gave my opinion it would penetrate 1/2 inch armor at 100 yards, but not much more.

Now, Dunlap went on to discover that the gun had considerably better performance than that, but what struck us funny was the word, “gymnasticated.” And Dunlap must have expected it to, for he provided a footnote:

That word “gymnasticate” may have a few of you on the ropes, but is simply an ordnance term meaning the artificial operation of the recoil mechanism of a weapon. Usually it is applied only to artillery, but is perfectly proper for any weapon operated by or having a recoil system. When you push back on the barrel of an auto loading shotgun or a Colt.45 pistol, you are gymnasticating the arm.

Auto loading shotgun? Remember, he wrote this book in 1948; in this passage he’s talking about experiences he had in North Africa in 1942 (he would later go to the Pacific Theater, putting him in position to be able to make comparisons of Allied and Axis weapons from most nations, although he only encountered those Russian small arms that were recycled for use by Germany early in the war). The Remington 58, first ancestor of the 1100, had yet to demonstrate that an effective gas-operated shotgun was a possibility. Almost all semiautomatic shotguns of the time were based on Browning long-recoil designs, and the conventional wisdom was that a gas system would not work with low-pressure and highly variable shotgun loads.

But seriously, has anyone encountered this term, “gymnasticate,” before? We haven’t seen it, but we just have books on artillery, which is not like having experience on artillery. We know we have cannon cockers in the audience. What say ye?

Meanwhile, let’s make 2017 the year in which we spread the word “gymnasticate” far and wide, in memory of Roy Dunlap, who sharpens swords in Valhalla lo these many years. And let’s all gymnasticate a gun today. The guns seem to enjoy it.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: The Five Bravo

OK, this has absolutely zip to do with weapons. It’s another t-shirt company by combat vets with a sense of humor, 5 Bravo. (Well, one of the founders was a “small arms specialist” in the Army. Does that count?

The name at first puzzled us. Why “5 Bravo?” There’s an explanation on the site, it turns out.

“Embrace The Bravo” – ETB is the slogan for 5B in a very realistic standpoint. 5B originally meant bullets, bacon, beards, babes, and booze. Now the “Embrace The Bravo” movement has become so much more.

Hmmm… sounds like they’re selling t-shirts. NTTAWWT.

Here, they bust America’s smallest Stolen Valor case.

They also enjoy trolling trolls on Facebook right back. But mostly, they sell apparel, the sort that, well, we wore in Young Grunt Days, which are long behind us.

If you’re still a Young Grunt (or young at heart) you might just want some of these t-shirts.

But we get to the site every once in a while for the laughs. Most of the humor is in the “From the Inbox” section where they conduct countertroll operations. They explain:

As you may know, at 5B, we get a lot of hate mail in our inbox. We get a lot of awesome, motivational and uplifting mail as well, but you don’t wanna look at that. This is what makes us, us. Every day we scour through hundreds of messages hunting trolls for your humor and satire loving pleasure. We are experts in the craft of “Trolling the trolls” so every chance we get, we offer you these screenshots on a silver platter for your entertainment. People always ask us “5B, why don’t you put the names in there with them?” We believe in humor, not harm. We aren’t here to be negative or make anyone’s life harder. we just want to give laughs to millions of people as we do so well. Below, we have archived and will continue to post these EPIC troll messages in our “From the Inbox” section. We love the support, the comments and shares, so keep them coming and always “Embrace The Bravo”

This one is mildly NSFW.

One more such after the jump (not before because it’s full of NSFW lingo).

Continue reading

Lessons from a Home Invasion

The following video is a talking-head interview — raw and uncut — with a woman who survived an attack by an armed home invader.

Career Criminal Willie F. Stith III had apparently heard, mistakenly, that her boyfriend had a lot of money in the apartment. He meant to take it, even if he had to beat her, tie her up, and threaten to kill her.

wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

[Kay Dickinson] was coming home from work when she noticed a man with a bag of garbage at the end of the hallway for her apartment.

Dickinson said she went to unlock her door and the man attacked.

“He grabbed me and pushed me into the apartment,” Dickinson recalled. “We had a tussle and he choked me and gagged me, and I dropped everything right there in the kitchen.”

Dickinson said the man, later identified as 35-year-old Willie Franklin Stith III, knew her name and her boyfriend’s.

“He kept saying, ‘give me the money, give me the money,’” Dickinson said, explaining she didn’t keep any in the house.

Stith then lead [sic] Dickinson down the hall to the bedroom where he tied her hands behind her back with a belt and wrapped the cord of a cell phone charger around her mouth.

“As soon as he took me to the bedroom, I looked over and the gun was sitting there – and I was like, there’s a reason the gun was sitting there,” Dickinson said. “I was just hoping he wouldn’t see it because if he saw it he might take it and I knew that was my only chance.”

Dickinson was able to wiggle loose from the belt. She jumped on the bed, grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger.

Stith ran towards the front door and then collapsed. She called 911 and took the gun out of his hand.

“I didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” she said.

So, did Stith get his gun at your Local Gun Store? To our amazement, he did not. As it happens, he is, er, was, a many-times-over Prohibited Person:

According to the Department of Public Safety website, Stith has multiple convictions, including larceny and burglary. Stith also served multiple prison sentences, the most recent a 10-month stint for second-degree burglary that ended in August 2005.

They somewhat understated his record. County jail stuff doesn’t show up on this database, apparently, but he’s been in State of NC trouble since 1998 and has by our count thirteen felony convictions. He also didn’t get out until 2006, it says here. The only reason this isn’t a murder is because Ms Dickinson, like Han Solo, shot first.

We’re not going to give this the full John Correia analysis here, but there are some things our gal did right:

  1. She elevated her awareness when something (hulking black guy with a garbage bag) was out of place in her world;
  2. She didn’t become hysterical, not while under attack, not while gunfighting the invader, not while on the phone to 911, not when the cops came.
  3. She freed herself from restraints. Very Important. Do not let them restrain you. Do not let them transport you. If they do restrain you, free yourself as soon as you can. Time and distance are mortal enemies.
  4. She kept thinking, and kept looking for an opportunity.
  5. When she saw her opportunity, she took it without hesitation.
  6. She shot the guy without a command or warning. When he’s armed, that’s just tipping him off and asking to get shot. “If you’re going to shoot, don’t talk. Shoot.”
  7. She hit with her shot.

There’s a couple of things she might have done better:

  1. The pistol on the Bible would have been of no use to her, if Stith hadn’t taken her to her gun. Better to carry it holstered (yeah, most people don’t).
  2. The hallway is exactly the sort of “transitional space” that John Correia talks about. It feels like home but it’s not as safe as home. People are complacent here; criminals exploit this. If some guy in the hall tingles your spidey sense, back out and wait for him to leave. If he doesn’t, call the cops. Wilmington, NC’s finest would have cheerfully put the habeas grabbus on Stith for his unlicensed, prohibited pistol. He’d be headed back to prison, but alive.

And that’s about it, really. Overall, a very good job of self-hostage-rescue.

Now, bear in mind that we’ve only heard one side of this story, and perhaps other things will emerge. But this looks like a clean shoot from the information at hand, and it would be hard to argue that society has lost a beacon of luminosity and pinnacle of humanitarian virtue, with the abrupt end of Willie Stith III’s life.

Steyr / Rheinmetall Enters the G36 Replacement Competition

At least three manufacturers are competing in the evolving process of selecting the Bundeswehr’s replacement for the unsatisfactory G36 individual rifle. The participants include H&K, SIG-Sauer, and Steyr, which is partnering with Rheinmetall. (Gun history buffs, Rheinmetall is huge now, but evolved from an ancient gunmaking firm… Dreyse, of Prussian needle-gun fame). Dreyse was based in Sommerda, but Rheimetall calls Düsseldorf home today.

G36: Los! (Out with it. Here a G36E clone).

The story is told at the indispensable German defense blog, Thomas Wiegold’s Augen Geradeaus! (“Eyes front!”). Our meatball translation:

On the standing theme of the G36 and future assault-rifle of the Bundeswehr, at year’s end we’ve got a new data point: Three German enterprises will compete for the provision of the new standard weapon for German armed forces. Along with Heckler & Koch, which already supplies the G36 and has had success with the HK416 in France, and the Eckernforde-based business SIG-Sauer, the German defense concern Rheinetall is stepping in — with a weapon from the Austrian manufacturer Steyr Mannlicher. The Austrians were defeated by Heckler & Koch in the competition for the new Bundeswehr rifle in the early 1990s.

(Thomas, if you read this, you’re welcome to use any part of our translation on your site, should you want to put up an English post. We know your English is good but your time is limited, and there’s great interest in the non-German-speaking world in the Bundeswehr’s decision process).

In any event, he goes on from there to quote from a story in the Vienna newspaper Kurier, which says that Steyr is developing an AUG successor called the Gewehr bei Fuß or Foot-Soldier’s Rifle. The model being offered to the Germans is called the RS556.

The Austrian journos think that Steyr lost back in 1994 because of politics — EU Brüderschaft be damned, German officials wanted German soldiers carrying German guns. With 60% of the value added in the manufacture of the proposed Bundeswehr RS556 version being Made In Germany, they think the away team has a better shot. Our translation of part of the Kurier report:

The Austrian weapons manufacturer already had a shot in Germany in 1994, when its legendary Steyr Universal Rifle AUG (Sturmgewehr 77) had the best result in tests, according to reporting at that time. Yet the German manufacturer, Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf, received the contract for 176,544 military rifles for its Sturmgewehr G36.

So what is the RS556? Essentially, it’s a reformation of the AUG’s technology into an AR-15 form factor. Indeed, at a distance, it’s hard to tell it from a SIG or a 416. So however this shakes out, the AR is going to notch up another win. From the same Kurier report:

The new RS556 indeed looks like an American weapon, but it is the further development of the Steyr Sturmgewehr 77. With just a handgrip and no tools the barrel can be changed. Ther eare three barrel lengths available, and the rifle can be employed as assault rifle, submachine gun or light machine gun according to length.

You may recall this was a selling feature of the AUG, although not one that seemed to be prized by end users. It looks like the Steyr RS556 is also fully ambidextrous.

Due to a special surface coating, the rifle also works without gun oil, which is an especially large advantage in desert operations. The gas system and the rotary-locking bolt are inherited from the earlier StG 77 (AUG).

The AUG had some success, arming Austria, Australia (in a local version; bad news for ill-educated Yanks who always confuse those entirely different countries), some of the UAE forces and (briefly, because nobody paid to maintain them) the US Immigrations & Customs Enforcement agency. (ICE now uses M4s in either semi or surplus configuration, which have mostly replaced the late lamented AUGs and the not-as-lamented MP5s).

When The Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 3 of 3

The previous two stories set the stage, for a look at a report drafted for the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences the Army was still pursuing the “best” (an upgraded M16 meeting all Army objectives) instead of the “good” (the M16A2, which was developed and revised to meet Marine objectives). Of course, we all know the spoiler aleady: the Army accepted the Marine M16A2 as is, leaving the report as an orphaned artifact. The report is here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577.pdf

Colt factory shot of the M16A2. The A2 was developed by the USMC, but was manufactured by Colt and FNMI.

This is the third of a three part series. In the first part, Thursday on WeaponsMan.com, the Army contractors noted the specific solutions implemented on the A2 and the problems the Marines solved thereby, but complained that the problems and solutions were too USMC-specific. In the second part, posted yesterday, we discussed just what they thought was wrong about the Marines’ product. In this, third, part, we’ll list the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods.

Most of the Army’s problems with the A2 related to the burst mechanism, and the sights, especially the complicated rear sight. (This is actually an A3/A4 or M4: note the knobs, left, for removing the carrying handle. The A2 handle was forged as part of the upper receiver.

Reliability

We should note that the Marines’ tests, as reported in this document (p,7), demonstrated significantly lower reliability, and increased fouling in the A2 compared to its older brother. These tests are suspect because the early lot of XM855 used was considered bad ammo, but the M16A1 did outperform the A2.

Thirty Ml6A1 rifles firing 26,010 rounds of M193

Failures to fire – none
Failures to feed – 3 (Not locking magazine in place)

Thirty M16A2 rifles firing 26,010 rounds of XM855

Failures to fire – 52 (27 – bad ammunition) (25 – mechnanical [sic] malfunctions)
Failures to feed – 3 (Improperly loaded magazines)

Those failures to fire that were not attributed to bad ammo were thought to be caused by the A2 trigger system’s Achilles’s heel, the burst trigger mechanism. The A2 performed even worse in a cold weather test, but again, it was with the questionable ammunition, and many of the failures to fire were also laid at the feet of the burst mechanism.

The report has an interesting discussion of the burst mechanism and its rationale in Marine, but not Army, small arms doctrine:

The M16A2 has less combat capability due to the elimination of full automatic fire. Full automatic fire enhances the ability of Army units to clear and defend buildings, to conduct final assaults on enemy positions, to defend against an enemy final assault, to conduct an ambush, to react to an enemy ambush, to engage an enemy helicopter or fast moving vehicle, etc.

While the Marines claim greater accuracy and conservation of ammunition for the 3-round burst control, no data were generated during the test to support these contentions and no supportative [sic] data are known to exist.

Also, it should be noted that room-to-room fighting was conducted with blanks, no close-in firing was conducted, no firing with short time limits was conducted, no firing at aircraft was conducted, etc. In other words, for all of the automatic/burst firing conducted during the test, a semi-automatic mode of fire would have probably resulted in a greater number of target hits.

Finally, to be given very serious consideration, is the fact that the burst control requires nine (9) new parts in the lower receiver, evidently contributing to the large number of weapon malfunctions during testing of the M16A2.

They also took issue with the heavy barrel (“heavy in the wrong place”), the twist rate (preferred 1:9), stock length increased when even the A1 stock was too long for small soldiers, and the fast twist’s incompatibility with the .22 subcaliber system. 

The article includes an extensive comparison of the pros and cons of Marine KD vs. Army Trainfire marksmanship modalities. These training differences result from the different combat envelopes for the rifleman: the Marines need to engage with rifles in the 300-to-800 meter space, because they don’t have the supporting arms that the Army can count on, at least, not in the same quantity. A unit that must fight with just its organic weapons needs to get the very most out of these weapons. The Army of 1986 did not consider a 500 or 600 meter target a primary rifle target, but a crew-served-weapons target.

In the end, the recommendations the contractors made were mostly about the sights. They put their recommendations in a table with the M16A1 and M16A2 stats. Since the latter are probably familiar to most readers, we omit them now to save time, and just show the contract recommendations.

Item Recommended
Front sight (day) Fixed blade, 0.090″
Front sight (night) Luminous dot on each sightguard
Rear Sight (day) single 2mm peep. A single elevation knob marked for 200, 250, 390, 25, 400, 500, 15, 600, 700, and 800 meters. Windage knob at rear. Each click equal to 1 MOA
Rear Sight (night) Two luminous dots on upper portion of receiver (or a single flip- up luminous dot located forward of the carrying handle) are aligned with front dots for shooting at night
Zero Recording Yes
Zero Inspection Yes
25m setting (day and night sights) Yes
Mechanical Zero Yes
250-m battlesight Yes
Firing mode Semi and Auto
Barrel 20″. Slightly heavier than A1 at receiver and mid-barrel. 1:9″ twist
Handguard Same as M16A2 except held in place with a securely fastened ring nut to provide rigidity.
Buttstock Same material as M16A2. Same length as M16A1. Option for adjustable length.

There are several interesting observations to make here. First, the contractors recommended that the Army make changes that would decrease the mechanical accuracy of the proposed M16Ax relative to the Marines’ A2. Specifically, these changes included the wider fixed front sight blade, the 1-MOA adjustments on the rear sight (A2 offers ½-MOA), and arguably the simplification of the rear sight. The trade-off was simplicity and ease of training, instead of superior bullseye performance.

Second, some of the proposals would definitely improve the utility of the firearm, including restoring the short stock, or replacing it with an adjustable one; increasing the barrel diameter towards the chamber rather than the muzzle, thus improving sustained fire accuracy and reliability; reverting to automatic fire from the burst mechanism (which also has side benefits, in improving the trigger’s feel and consistency). The night-sight proposal was truly ingenious.

Third, in some of these road-not-taken proposals, the Army was reverting to the original AR-10 design and rejecting changes that were largely imposed on the AR design by the Army in the previous decade. These include the rigid fastening of the handguard, and the fixed front sight blade.

Finally, these proposals were almost the last gasp of the iron-sighted military rifle. As this  document passed from the contracting officer to file cabinets across the service, without action, special operators were already wringing out scopes and single-point sights, and a few visionaries were already arguing that the day of the iron sight had run its three centuries, and was now at an end. A new generation of optical technology was eliminating the two objections that had kept optics off the rifles of most soldiers: less durability than irons, and slower target acquisition. Many men’s efforts went into winning over the Voices of Experience who still said “no” to anything with a lens, thanks to memories of Uncle Joe’s elk lost because his scope fogged up, or the VC that got away because somebody attached an unauthorized 4×32 Colt scope to the carrying handle of his M16.

When the Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 1 of 3

The M16A2 was adopted by the Marines in 1983, and then by the Army three years later, but all of its development was done, largely on a shoestring, by the Marines.

For example, the finger bump on the A2 pistol grip? The very first prototype was built up by a Marine officer on an A1 grip, using plastic wood or body filler! Most of the modifications to the A2 were aimed at:

  1. Increased practical accuracy;
  2. Increased effective range;
  3. Increased durability; and,
  4. NATO compliance (adopting a NATO round equivalent to the FN SS109 round).

In a brief overview of the service life of the M16 series for American Rifleman in June, 2012, Martin K.A. Morgan encapsulated this history well:

In November 1983, the U.S. Marine Corps adopted a product-improved version of the M16A1 chambered for the 5.56×45 mm NATO round. The new rifle was called the M16A2 and it differed significantly from its predecessor: improved rear sights, a brass deflector, a heavier barrel and 1:7-inch rifling were among the changes. The M16A2 also replaced the M16A1’s “AUTO” selector setting with a “BURST” setting delivering three rounds with every trigger pull. The Army followed the Marine Corps’ adoption of the improved rifle in March 1986 when it ordered 100,176 M16A2 rifles from Colt. In September 1988, the U.S. government placed an initial order for 266,961 M16A2s with Fabrique Nationale’s North American subsidiary, FN Mfg., Inc. of Columbia, S.C. Late the following year, when 57,000 U.S. military personnel conducted the Operation Just Cause invasion of Panama, the M16A2 was used in combat for the first time.

For practical accuracy, the A2 had new sights, with a square front post; for range, a new round with a heavier bullet, and new rifling to match; and for durability, new stocks and handguards and significant metal reinforcement in the lower receiver’s weak areas, the pivot pin bosses and buffer tower.

The rifle was not without controversy in the Army. Indeed, contractors for the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences examined the rifle and concluded that, as their paper’s abstract notes:

[U]se of the M16A2 rifle by the Army would be extremely problematic, a-fact due, in part, to the vast differences between the marksmanship training philosophies of the Army and the Marine Corps.

(The paper is here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577.pdf)

The Army had been researching improvements to the M16A1 for years, but hadn’t actually implemented any. In the foreword to the Army Research Institute paper, the word “problematic” crops up again and one gets the sense that the problem was this solution was Not Invented Here, and moreover, not developed the way the Army wanted to develop one. 

Referring to earlier research, they wrote:

A detailed evaluation of M16Al performance was conducted to determine adequacy, peculiarities, etc. The findings clearly indicated that the M16Al was an adequate combat rifle; however, many shortcomings were identified that should be addressed in a new rifle or any rifle Product Improvement Program (PIP).

They considered that the improvements in the A2, listed below, were suitable only for the peculiar circumstances of Marine Corps service.

The Marine Corps test results stated the following advantages for the PIP [Product Improvement Program -Ed.] rifle:

  • Ease of training (handling and ease of sight movement).
  • Improved safety (no hazard when adjusting elevation on the rear sight even with loaded weapon).
  • Increased effectiveness at long ranges (more hits, better accuracy, and greater penetration).
  • Improved handling characteristics and durability in hand-to-hand close combat.
  • Reduced barrel jump and muzzle climb during automatic and rapid fire.
  • Increased contrast and less glare with square front sight post.
  • Stronger, more durable and improved grasping characteristics of front handguard.
  • Stronger barrel with quicker twist to take advantage of increased effectiveness provided by new ammunition.
  • Improved sighting characteristics providing quick target acquisition for moving targets and better detection of targets in low level light conditions at close ranges, and more accurate long range fire by use of two modified rear sight apertures.
  • Increased ammunition conservation and more effective use of ammunition with burst control device.
  • Conformity to human factors standards by lengthening stock (alleviating bruised eyebrows, noses, and lips).
  • Stronger, more durable stock.
  • Stronger, more durable buttcap which also reduces slipping on the shoulder during firing.
  • More controllable and comfortable pistol grip contoured to the shape of the hand.
  • Improved brass deflector which protects left handed shooters from hot ejected brass casings.
  • Can use NATO type improved ammunition (XM855) which provides improved performance and penetration at long ranges.

The Army evaluators were impressed by that list of solutions, but thought they all traced back to four specific USMC objectives or requirements:

The above list of advantages is very impressive. It appears that the rifle meets the primary requirements stated by the Marines:

  • A sight adjustable to 800 meters.
  • A bullet with better accuracy at 800 meters and the capability to penetrate all known helmets and body armor at ranges of 800 meters.
  • A rifle with more durable plastic parts and barrel which will take a beating during bayonet training and extended field exercises.
  • The replacement of the full automatic capability with a burst mode which fires a maximum of three rounds with each pull of the trigger.

…but they thought that the requirements were too Marine-centric.

The list, however, represents the objective and subjective evaluation of Marine Corps personnel who are emphasizing the most positive aspects of rifle characteristics as they pertain to envisioned Marine Corps requirements.

This is the first of a three part series. In the second part, tomorrow on WeaponsMan.com, the Army contractors damn the A2 with faint praise and list a litany of A1 shortcomings that they believed that the A2 did not resolve. In the third part, the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods are enumerated.

As it was, the contracting officer’s representative approved the paper in February, 1986. In March, and probably before any of the responsible officers read the paper, the Army went ahead and adopted the M16A2, just the way the Marines had shaken it out.

That makes this paper a time capsule.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Tom Scott’s Things You Might Not Know

Tom Scott is an engaging young Briton who gives you an occasional video — hundreds of them, and counting — under the titles Things You Might Not Know and Amazing Places

His entire YouTube Channel, which so far as we know — we have not seen all the  videos by any means — has little to do with weapons, is fascinating.

Here he tells the story of RAF Fauld, something we’ve been meaning to write about for years (we actually have a partially written post on this, but he hits the high point; Things He Might Not Know include that Britain participated in the Manhattan Project, and was in on the nuke secret from the very beginning, as was Canada. In fact, before the merger, the British project, code named Tube Alloys, was well ahead of their transatlantic allies. Churchill approved a-bomb development over a year before Roosevelt did).

There is the video up at the top, on Swiss water system redundancy. The Swiss were preppin’ before preppin’ was cool.

And there is this — one way nuclear tests are monitored by an internationally maintained infrasound system in remote Qaanaaq, Greenland.

And this — a university tramway whose brain is a repurposed Minuteman missile computer.

Even when he yields up the floor to a guest presenter, like Sally lePage here, the channel’s fascinating.

Yes, it’s not directly weapons related, but we suspect it will be right on target for many WeaponsMan.com readers. He’s got a couple hundred videos (151 Things You Might Not Know) so we’ll see you some time in February.