Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle and variants.
When joined the Army and was issued my first M-16, I thought it was the deadliest rifle ever invented. It was the blackest, most evil looking thing ever. It was pure badass. I was in love… sure, I had jams here and there but that was due to the dirty blank ammunition, right? I cleaned my rifle to the point of “surgical instrument clean” and lubed it exactingly according to the gospel of my Drill Sergeants. When I went to fire it with live rounds and found that I would get an occasional jam. Well, this is because it was an old rifle used by hundreds of raw ignorant recruits like myself. Right?
After training I went to a unit that had an Armourer that believed any jam was a personal insult to him… so he used special tools he got from a jewelers and polished every internal bearing surface to a mirror finish. I thought the parts were chromed. I thought that THIS was how an M-16 was supposed to be like. Perfectly smooth and slick in every function from trigger pull to magazine ejection and everything in between. No… I don’t remember having any jams with it… but then again, this obsessive compulsive Armourer always insisted upon checking the rifle and detail stripping and cleaning it when ever I was on down time. Not just my rifle… but every rifle in the unit. If you did get a jam, he would be inquiring as to what you did to his rifle! But this guy was unique… and so were “his rifles”. When I went to a different unit, the rifle I was given was regular Mil-Spec and I had jams for the rest of my time in service. I just thought, well, these are old worn out rifles… Not a new customized rifle like I used to run. I had convinced myself that new AR-15’s wouldn’t jam like this.
I was very wrong. I found this out the hard way with the acquisition of a Bushmaster XM-15A2. It ran flawlessly for the first 20 round box of ammo… *sigh* Slowly, suspicion built. Then suddenly realization hit me like a truck load of Clue. The AR-15 sucks. Crap, my little brother was right. I used to argue with my brother about ARs vs AKs, myself being a full fledged AR-15 Apologist. But he was right… Both rifles use an intermediate cartridge. Neither are full sized rifle rounds. To debate the rifle based only on the caliber is wrong. Proof – you can get an AR chambered in .243… but it is still an “AR” with all of the normal “AR” problems. The Design is critically flawed. “Oh, but the AR is so ergonomic!” Ergonomics are a plus – but what’s the point if the gun doesn’t even go Click!?!
Let’s look at some details.
The AR-15 sucks by design. If you lay out the blue prints of the rifle you discover that the design is fundamentally flawed. The design uses tolerances that are way too tight for a combat weapon. It is ammo sensitive to the point of being finicky. It uses soft alloy receivers and is fed from flimsy magazines that are too weak to operate properly when loaded to full capacity. Then there is the gas system. The rifle defecates where it eats thanks to it’s direct gas impingement system. Compounding that bad idea, we have the use of a tiny gas tube and a horrible breach design that is impossible to clean properly without dental tools and the patience of a dentist doing a root canal. The gas tube itself can warp or break from overheating due to sustained firing. I know, I’ve seen it happen and I’ve done it myself. When the gas tube glows brightly at night to the point it’s lighting your immediate area – this is not good it could go “pop” any moment here. If your gas tube had any weakness in it before – it’s only going to be worse now. If it doesn’t break now – it will have a greater likelihood of breaking in the future.
The extractor design is puny and weak, but worse yet is the spring loaded ejector. The ejector plunger can get stuck with the smallest of particles of brass or copper from the ammunition. A jam from a stuck ejector is a special kind of jam that double feeds the next round causing a wedge that prevents further movement of the action regardless of how hard you try to pull on the bolt handle. To clear it, you have to drop the magazine (if you can) and slam the butt furiously against a hard, unyielding object… preferably Eugene Stoner’s head. (the designer) Unfortunately when you start slamming the rifle like this, you can bend the rifle at a couple different points or you can just break stock. It’s a roll of the dice.
Let’s talk about field stripping for a second. At first it starts out not too badly. Push out a pin and the rifle breaks open like a shotgun allowing you to pull out the bolt carrier assembly. Wait, be careful not to lose or damage that T shaped charging handle… it is made out of relatively soft aluminum compared to the bolt carrier. After the bolt carrier is out, you need to disassemble it. There is a firing pin retaining pin, then the firing pin, then the big rotating bolt pin… Now, you can pull out the bolt. Don’t loose any of those pins, if you do, you are screwed. Now gotta take that little bolt and drift out the little extractor pin – careful not to let the spring fly. Then there is the ejector and its little pin and spring.
Now that you have all of these things taken down… clean them. While cleaning you will notice that in a great many hard to reach places you have a black deposit that must be removed. This is carbon. This is the defecation that I mentioned earlier. It hits the metal flaming hot and under pressure. Do you know what heat and pressure does to carbon? Turns the shit into diamonds that’s what it does. This black carbon is so hard that it has to be scraped off with a tool. Oops… not too hard… you don’t want to scratch the parts. You can use your firing pin, but it’s not the best tool for it and you don’t want to damage the firing pin… that would be a bad thing.
Be certain that you clean out the insides of the bolt carrier where the gas tube is and the surfaces where the firing pin operate. More carbon there… and on the firing pin it’s self. You can easily go through a dozen or so pipe cleaners in the bolt and carrier system. Once all the parts are cleaned and inspected and properly lubed, it can all be reassembled. All of this might take you about 45 minutes to an hour if you want your rifle to “Pass Inspection”. Now there is the rifle it’s self.
There is the lower receiver and trigger group…. More pipe cleaners and some Q-Tips to get down in there. After the lower is done, it’s time for the upper receiver. You have the main tube portion that is hard to reach all the areas in there… then the charging handle raceway which is even more interesting. The gas tube needs to be cleaning as well. Pipe Cleaners, high pressure solvent injectors, harsh language… all required to clean that. Once this is done now you are in for a special treat. The chamber. The AR-15’s chamber is shaped like a retarded star and you have to get behind the lugs in there. Strange brushes, pipe cleaners, language that would make a drunk Irishman blush… all required to get the chamber clean and none of it allow you to get the chamber perfectly clean.
After this chamber of tortures, you can now do the barrel like a normal rifle. There you go. Put it all back together again and then wipe the whole thing down and your done. Through the entire process you have let an entire movie play, eaten some dinner, and drank about 4 and a half Cold Ones. Your Drill Sergeant would no be proud. Try doing all this in the field, during bad weather conditions, stress, hunger, fatigue, the threat of death, and no Cold Ones… not much fun is it? Now remember this… the phrase “It functions well if its cleaned properly.” You will hear that a lot about the AR-15. In fact, in regards to the AR-15, you will ALWAYS hear that. So get used to it. You’ll hear it again. The flaw is the rifle’s gas system. Should the gas system be redesigned to use an operating rod and gas piston to push the bolt carrier back – that would be 75% of the rifles problem, 20% the lack of a fixed ejector, and the last 5% is the chamber and locking lugs design that makes it such a chore to clean.
The only plus for the AR’s gas impingement system is that it has fewer parts. Supposedly, this makes for a more accurate rifle system than one which utilizes an op rod like an M-14/M1 Garand or an op rod attached to a gas piston like an AK. However, the problem is that because the hot gasses are blown back into the action, only certain propellants may be used lest the system suffers total breakdown due to carbon pollution. This was the problem which led to way too many U.S. casualties during the Viet Nam war. Going to the Garand or Kalashnikov type action will produce a gun which is more robust and less sensitive to the type of powder in the ammunition. However, the tradeoff is weight and more moving parts. Supposedly this means less accuracy. Funny how the M-21 sniper rifle system uses this type of action. Go figure. Admittedly the M-21/M-14 is a higher maintenance gun than the AR, and this is one of the reasons why ARs are superceding the M-14 in matches. The other reason is familiarity with the rifle… since ARs are so popular and are the US military’s service rifle, more people know the AR than they do the M-14.
Not only can the AR jam so easily, but it doesn’t even make a good club.
I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this piece… The AR-15 has many advocates and I have just pissed them all off to the man. I’ll get emails about this… here are what they are going to say – Well no… the first thing that are going to say is that I don’t know what I am talking about… I wasn’t enlisted because I don’t publish my unit… Well, I don’t publish my fucking credit card number either… dumbass. So other than personal attacks (which I get the most because they can’t attack the idea, they have to attack the man) here are the arguments:
1) The M16 is so accurate!
Answer: Accuracy isn’t the number one requirement of an assault rifle and does you little good if the gun doesn’t fire when the trigger is pulled.
2) It works fine if you clean it!
Answer: A service rifle should still work fine even when you don’t have the time to clean it. Like when people are shooting at you. If it gets too muddy you should be able to open the action, piss into it to rinse the mud chunks out of it, and be back in the fight.
3) It’s very light!
Answer: And it breaks! However this very light AR-15 is no longer light when you add in all the extras that are the style these days… two white lights, vertical fore grip, full length rail for your short compact optical sights… lasers… AM/FM tape deck… There is a whole Gun Industry Sub-Industry revolved around the AR-15. There are so many accessories the AR is nothing more than a Black Barbie Doll for Boys. You can dress it up for a night on the town or a day at the beach in your little pink convertible… it’s fabulous! By the time your rifle is dressed out like one of the guys from the Blackhawk Industries ads… it’s no longer very light. It now weighs as much as an M-249 SAW.
4) I’ve fired blah, blah number of rounds through MY AR, and it works fine.
Answer. Not while on your belly in the dirt crawling through God knows what. Punching holes through paper targets at the range is fine… the AR-15 is a great little .223 target rifle. But a fighting rifle it is not. “As long as you do your part…”
This is a WEAPON… Not a Bench Rest comp-rifle. A weapon gets used and abused… not treated like a Faberge Egg. “Doing your part” should include pissing into the action to rinse the mud out of it – and not much more.
You like the AR? Fine. Enlist and try it out where it is supposed to be used. One thing to think about… The AR was designed back in the 1960s, when people smoked a lot of pot… Not saying that Stoner smoked dope, but it would explain a few things. Since that time there have been dozens of different military guns designed all over the world. The designers of these weapons had the advantage of being able to look at what else was out there and pick what they liked the best. So my question is, over the last forty some odd years, how many new military rifles have come out using the AR gas system? (The .308 version of the AR-15 called the SR-25 or AR-10 doesn’t count) How many have come out using a piston? How many have a spring loaded ejector vs. a fixed ejector? With some form of gas piston or op rod since the AR: K2, G36, SAR, Valmet, Sako M90, Sig 550, FNC, Galil, Tavor, AN 94, FARA 98, Aug, INSAS, AR 70/90, AR 18, Stoner 63. I’m not sure if it is Singapore or Taiwan who has built a copy of the M16, but it even has a gas piston! I’ve probably forgotten a few as well. Who else has used direct gas impingement in their designs? I can’t think of any at the moment.
“The best way to improve the AR-15 is to unscrew the front sight, and put a new gun under it.” - Kevin McKlung, aka Mad Dog.
Let’s talk about the cartridge now, for just a moment. 5.56MM is another name for .223 basically. In essence, it’s just a big .22 rifle. You can even fire .22 LR through the AR-15 accurately with an adapter bolt mechanism. There are those that say that 5.56MM is plenty powerful enough for combat and even inflict more wound damage than a 7.62X39MM or even the mighty .308. This is completely untrue. Just because you saw a graph that some guy drew with MS Paint that illustrates a wound channel in ballistic gel doesn’t mean that what you saw with the truth.
“Well under 100 meters…” No. No it doesn’t. The .308 fires a bigger, fatter, heavier bullet with a greater power charge behind it. The .308 has a greater range do it’s tremendous ballistic advantage at any range. Muzzle to 1,000 yards out… well beyond where a 5.56MM weapon can effectively engage.
You want to talk power from the AR’s “hyper velocity”? Then how come police tactical units are using 5.56MM weapons because of the reduced risk of over penetration?
Just about any .308 load (WARNING: Graphic Exaggeration Ahead!) will blow a big enough hole through a person to toss a cat through, so don’t even go there about 5.56MM ballistics. Especially when your talking about the shorter 16 inch barreled versions of the AR. When you shorten the barrel of a rifle, your reducing it’s velocity and the only thing the M-16 has going for it is velocity. After chopping it down, your velocity is now just average. Let’s be quite frank… there are some .22LR loads that can almost catch up to it.
FACT: AR-15/M-16 based rifles SUCK. The Army has done its damnedest to make people think they don’t… but let’s not take my word for it – let’s take it straight from the horse’s mouth. Read THIS. If the AR is so great, how come they have been trying to replace it? Why has the Special Forces just awarded a contract to FN for their new SCAR rifle? Why? I’ve told you why. I’ve yet to get an email from a real combat veteran who has seen more than a single instance of action who thinks the AR-15/M-16 family of rifles is a good weapon. Even when I was in, there were XM-X or some designation rifle trials… to include new variants of the M-16, one of which was the flat top, and apparently that won… Even though it was still the lowest scoring rifle in the mix according to the grunts they let play with them. Reading this article, you find a nice little phrase about using an operating rod to improve the reliability because like I have said, it self pollutes. It shits on it’s own dinner plate. I like the XM-8, but I’d like it better if it was in .300 Whisper.
I wrote this piece a long time ago… It has garnered me more flak than anything else I have ever written. It is linked to many discussion forums all over the net where people who disagree with my opinion elect to voice it through personal insults and asking questions to their forum – but not to me. That’s fine. I don’t consider myself to be taken to task by zit faced, roll-playing, counter-strike addicted pussies.
What REAL SOLDIERS have to say about the M-4/M-16:
3rd ID soldier: “I know it fires very well and accurate [when] clean. But sometimes it needs to fire dirty well too.”
25th Infantry Division soldier: “The M4 Weapon in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan was quick to malfunction when a little sand got in the weapon. Trying to keep it clean, sand free was impossible while on patrols or firefights.”
82nd Airborne Division soldier: “The M4 is overall an excellent weapon, however the flaw of its sensitivity to dirt and powder residue needs to be corrected. True to fact, cleaning will help. Daily assigned tasks, and nonregular hours in tactical situations do not always warrant the necessary time required for effective cleaning.”
75th Ranger Regiment member, SOCOM: “Even with the dust cover closed and magazine in the well, sand gets all inside; on and around the bolt. It still fires, but after a while the sand works its way all through the gun and jams start.”
The 507th Maintenance Company, ambushed outside Nasariyah in 2003 during the opening days of the ground invasion of Iraq, might concur with all of the above. The post-incident report released by the US Army had this to say:
“Dusty, desert conditions do require vigilance in weapons maintenance… However, it is imperative to remember that at the time of the attack, the 507th had spent more than two days on the move, with little rest and time to conduct vehicle repair and recovery operations.”
The last word will be left to SOCOM’s Major Chaz Bowser:
“We buy new laptop computers every few years across the gamut, so couldn’t we do the same with our single most important piece of military equipment? …. Waiting for a leap-ahead technology based on a kinetic energy weapon platform is a waste of time and money, so we need to look at what is out there now…. What the Army needs is a weapon that is now ready for prime-time and not a developmental system…. The requirement comes from the field, not from an office in some garrison activity, not from some consultant and definitely not from a vendor.
Let’s do this quickly without all the bureaucracy typically associated with change. Find someone in our ranks who can make a decision – who hasn’t floated a retirement resume with a gun company – and make the decision now. Just look how fast we were all issued the ‘highly coveted’ black beret or the digital uniform. Find that recipe card, change out the word ‘Velcro’ with ‘battle rifle’ and that may be a start to finding a solution [DID: which, he acknowledges, could be Colt's M4 if that's what the competition shows]. Our men and women deserve much better than we are giving them, and shame on us.“