3 June 14

“Improved” AR?

At a cost of 120m, the Pentagon is converting its current inventory of M4s to the new “M4A1.” Slightly thicker barrel, genuine full-auto capability (not the ridiculous “three-round burst”), ambidextrous manual safety, and a few other minor, mostly cosmetic, changes.

Of course, 120m is chump-change by federal standards, but it seems that firearms-design engineers aren’t being assigned the task of producing the best weapon for a set of operational parameters. Rather, they’re being told to make an existing platform tolerate doing things way outside its original design envelope.

One thing the M4A1 will have to do is digest the new over-pressured, gun-breaking M855A1 ammunition, code-named “EPR” (for “Enhanced Performance Round).

Making the above all that more difficult is the full-auto feature. Full-auto fire breaks automatic rifles faster than any other activity.

The ambidextrous safety lever will be blocked by the registered trigger finger, left or right-handed, making taking the safety lever from “on” to “off” a frustrating task, whether one is left or right-handed!

I’d conjecture that personal and personality factors are at work here. I wonder how many actual experienced combatants were ever consulted.

A friend comments:

“This situation seems analogous to the development and adoption of the Lewis Machine Gun during the World War I era.

Col Isaac Newton Lewis designed and produced what was then the best, and first, “light machinegun.” It represented a stroke of genius! It was tested by the Army officially, with excellent reports, and unofficially, when Col Lewis arranged a demonstration while it was mounted atop an Army Wright Type B Pusher Aircraft in 1912.

Belgians immediately recognized its superiority and adopted it shortly before the German push across Flanders in 1914. The British as well. Both militaries found that the Lewis Gun vastly exceeded even their most optimistic expectations, and thus bought and deployed as many, and as fast, as they could get them manufactured and delivered. The British found that Lewis Guns were at least as good as their own ponderous Vickers MG, and cost a good deal less.

However, American BGen William Crozier, Army Chief of Ordnance at the time, personally disliked Lewis. Not hard to imagine, as Lewis had a reputation for having scant patience with fat, pompous nincompoops, of which there were many in the top-heavy Army.

In addition, the concept of a “light machinegun” was new to American military thinking at the time. By contrast, war-weary Europeans seized upon the concept much more quickly!

Crozier casually dismissed all the glowing reports on the Lewis Gun, and decided to retain the obsolete M1909 Hotchkiss (Benet-Mercie) instead, by comparison a cumbersome, awkward, unreliable clunk!

Always more progressive, the USMC procured Lewis guns anyway, in 1916 (being manufactured at the time for Britain by Savage Arms). When Marines landed in France, Lewis Guns, with which Marines had trained, were mysteriously withdrawn, without explanation, and replaced with the French “Chauchat,” (CSRG), a flimsy, temperamental piece of garbage! More than one young Marine died while frantically trying to get his moody, malfunctioning CSRG running. Everyone who used the CSRG hated it!

Simultaneously, Germans had in their inventory only the American-designed Maxim MG08, a “heavy” machinegun, that was jury-rigged into the clumsy, thoroughly inferior MG08/15. They captured Lewis guns whenever they could and happily used them, in preference to their own weapons! By contrast, and like everyone else, they regarded captured CSRGs as little more than scrap metal!

Clearly, then as now, it is whom you know, not what you know, and the safety and best interests of American fighting men is the last thing anyone ever thinks about!”

My comment:

The Russian invasion of Finland in 1939 (“The Winter War”) gruesomely demonstrates the way a small force of righteous and determined men, armed only with rifles, can embarrassingly frustrate a much larger, even mechanized, force.

Precise rifle fire from well-trained Operators, using guanine battle rifles, is still the deadliest force in warfare, even today!

When we finally decide to decisively win wars once more, American Infantrymen and Marines will need real battle rifles too, not just MP weapons.

“Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise costs nothing.”

Edmund Burke