Flaws of the M4 Carbine Part II

Cover-up or Isolated Incident?

The Washington Times has continued its diatribe of articles lambasting the longest serving primary weapon in U.S. military history - the M4 Carbine and its variants.  This time there are accusations similar to those we discussed in the previous article, of failures of the M4 to perform when demanded to fire fully automatic, "sustained rapid fire" for extended periods of time.  It reports a soldier firing over 12 magazines (360 rounds) causing the weapon to, "overheat".  The article again re-hashes the old mythologies of dirt and dust causing M4 malfunctions, as well as a new one to me, "a  military cover-up in order to absolve the weapons from any blame". 

The last article on here, "The Flaws of the M4 Carbine" addressed many of the inaccuracies found in the initial article by the Washington Times. We will not enter that mire again here.  I summed up much of my thoughts over on M4carbine.net  where I was re-quoted numerously as stating: "Much of the issue is a "software" problem and NOT a "hardware" problem, would you all agree? If guys are firing 830 rounds on full auto (28 mags?) with a dry bolt what we have is a training problem. The M4 is not a squad operated machine gun. That is not its role or purpose. When a mechanical device that has known to function well for over 40 years has a hiccup by some users, how is it that the mechanical object that is intelligently designed and tested at fault?"

No one involved in a crisis, emergency, firefight, police action, where lives were lost likes to be arm chair quarterbacked.  That is not the purpose here and I do not have the credentials to offer any criticism of tactics, and actions taken during the incident where this  debate seems to be now centered; Wanat.  Instead I would like to discuss some of the points in the new article from the Washington Times and elaborate on the point above regarding the role and purpose of the M4 regarding, "high sustained rates of fire".

Battle of Wanat  

Wanat is a clan village in the Wagal district in Nuristan province, northeastern Afghanistan.  In 2008 the U.S. held a combat outpost at this position.  On the morning (0420hrs) of July 13th, 2008 the Taliban attacked this outpost with a fury.  RPGs, mortars ,and machine guns poured onto the defending U.S. troops.  Early in the firefight a US mortar ammunition cache was hit and detonated as well as a Humvee mounted TOW missile launcher.  The US suffered 4 casualties in the first 20 minutes.  The result of the conflict for the U.S. was 9 killed and 27 wounded.  
Wanat Outpost 7/12/2008 Day Before Attack

M4 critics use this incident, and the reports that, "guns overheated and jammed that day" as evidence that the weapon system utilized by U.S. military and much of the free world for the past 50 years is fundamentally flawed, and needs immediate replacement.  The critics expound on the fact that the M4 "failed under sustained rates of fully automatic fire".  STOP!  "The M4 is not a squad operated machine gun. That is not its role or purpose."  The mere fact that the guns were capable of issuing 400-600 rounds of fire in such a short time to me is an engineering marvel.  Few individual rifles or carbines ever see this kind of demand and use.  Buried in the article is the mentioning, "Most of the weapons that jammed that day were the M4."  Aha! So there are other inherently flawed designs leaving our soldiers defenseless?  Moving on. 

Many agree that placing this criteria, this demand on the M4, that it should be able to also serve as a squad operated machine gun likened to the RPK, M240, M249, and M60 is ridiculous.  It is not the role of every soldier to delve out barrages of indiscriminate, suppressing fire.  What happened to the marksman?  What happened to fire discipline?  Many would argue that the point raised of the M4 failing after being demanded to go above and beyond its designed ability with a questionable lubrication regimen is unreasonable and illogical.  I would agree.

Recurring Problem?

Prior to this incident in 2008, the M16 family of weapons have served in the U.S. Military for 46 years, since 1962.  The M4 Carbine was officially adopted in 1994.  Preceding the Battle of Wanat, the M4 had seen action in Somalia, Bosnia, 7 years of Afghanistan, and 5 years in Iraq, as well as numerous other conflicts since 1994.

M16A1, M16A2, M4, M16A4
My questions to you the reader, to the writers of the Times, to critics of the M4, are; during those 46 years the M16 served, during the past 20 years the M4 has served (13 of which being intense conflict), how many firefights has the M4 family been involved in?  How many rounds have been fired?  How many enemy combatants killed?  The answer is likely too numerous for us to imagine.  Yet, here we have a single incident being used as irrefutable evidence that this mechanical device is so flawed, it alone is at fault for every death at Wanat.  To this I must disagree.  The M4 has proven itself for decades, to hundreds of thousands of users as lightweight, accurate, easy to use, reliable, lethal, and dependable in nearly all theaters of war and in all conditions.  For the few negative reviews it does receive, there are many who have had the opposite experience: 

"Furthermore, a Marine Chief Warrant Officer reported that with his battalion's 700 M4s and 350 M16s, they've had no issues"  - At War Article NY Times. 

"I shot over 40 mags that day, and not one jam...no problems whatsoever."  - Sgt. Harder.  The Battle of Kamdesh saw intense firefights, where the M4 received accolades for its performance.


I do not believe there is a "government cover up" protecting the M4.  This idea seems so asinine that I feel we would be wasting precious internet memory and binary code even typing as much as we just did in order to address the issue at all.

Competition Commentary

The Washington Times lost credibility when they interviewed Scott Traudt of Green Mountain Defense; supposedly a company building rifles in line to compete with the M4.  Scott is quoted in the Times as saying, "Fielding a battle rifle whose barrel blows up in sustained fire after only 490 rounds is criminal negligence,” he said. “[The] weapons failed because they were designed around some arbitrary, ‘average’ combat situation by somebody oblivious to the present and future high consumptive, mobile, asymmetric wars and insurgencies we face."

Are you serious Scott?  "Blew up"..... "Criminal Negligence"?.

Where do you even begin with this?  First, take into account, this is a supposed competitor.  I would not expect any un-biased assessment from him.  This is like Pepsi doing a press release proclaiming that Coke tastes like piss.  It is within Scott's interest to see the M4 replaced and I am sure, only his weapons fit the shoe.  Funny how his weapons look a lot like the M4 and function nearly the same, with the same parts?

U.S. Special Forces Have Utilized the M4 for 20 Years.
I have owned, trained with and utilized the AR-15 and M4 family of weapons for 25 years.  I am a member of numerous organizations as well as forum communities that discuss, build, offer advice and perfect M4 configurations for civilian, law enforcement and military users.  I have never ONCE even heard mention of this company Green Mountain Defense anywhere.  After taking a good look at their "product line" I understood immediately.  They are no where near ready to compete with companies such as Daniel Defense, Colt, Lewis Machine and Tool, BCM, Noveske or Knights Armament.  

I would interpret Mr. Traudst emotional angst towards the M4 as a little bit of envy as well as a little bit of hope for a chance at a weapons contract.  No offense to you Scott, I just think you are wrong, just as you likely think I am.  That's ok Scott, because the M4 and its family have protected your right to disagree with the U.S. government and accuse them of "criminal negligence" for over 46 years now.  Instead of cursing it, you should thank it.

About the Author: A.A.S NREMT-Paramedic, P.O.S.T. Certified SWAT Paramedic, TCCC/TEMS, Active SRT Member since 2006, 25 years of experience and training with M4/AR-15 variants with tens of thousands of rounds sent down range out of Colt 6933, 6920, MK18 without a hiccup.