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View Full Version : Excellent article on the M16 in Vietnam


reidnez
11-28-2011, 10:43 AM
Definitely the best piece I've read on the subject, very balanced and fact-based. The fact that it was rushed into service with serious shortcomings and bad powder won't be news to anyone on this site, but there's a very in-depth look at the various officials who caused this to happen. That the engineers and military brass knew of these issues very early on (from a secret testing program where the rifles were issued to the South Vietnamese) and the latter group forced it into service anyway, is shocking. That leadership ignored field reports and even went so far as to blame the troops themselves, as they watched their friends get slaughtered with useless clubs in their hands, must have been the ultimate slap in the face--and for veterans whom our country treated so poorly in general. Truly a national shame.

Not trying to start a debate here. It's clear to me that the problems were corrected and that the modern M16/M4 are very capable and adequate weapons. I just like the history and think we can learn from it.

http://www.esquire.com/print-this/ak-47-history-1110?page=all

meaty-btz
11-28-2011, 11:38 AM
A good read, showing that as with Solyandra, other Green Jobs, the Back-Scatter X-Ray devices, and Fast n Furious that our government for nearly a century has been more concerned with giving cronies good deals and saving the face of career politicians than the lives of American People.

Army
11-28-2011, 6:15 PM
Uh, Mr Chivers seems to have his timelines quite confused. "Rushed into service" does not account for the 5 years between acceptance, and issue. He also misses the early reports that the 5.56mm round slowly spun at 1-15", was delivering wounds and kills far beyond what would normally be expected of such a small bullet. Later arctic testing raised the twist rate to 1-12", but still delivered ugly terminal results.

The rifle worked as designed, in the parameters it was designed for and with. The ammunition suppliers (without notifying the DoD) altered that parameter by substituting easier loading powders, which resulted in heavy carbon deposits that rifle could not cope with. Armalite knew this in the late 1950's, and specified the powder needed. Regardless, the A1 in 1967 answered the carbon problems and emerged by the end of 1969 with good performance ratings, and the end of the war with desirable qualities. The A2 answered other pressing needs of Army and Marine riflemen, and the A4 has adapted to current combat conditions.

The M16 platform has always been a well engineered weapon. There is no little reason why the worlds most elite units use it, rather than the AK. It is also the reason we Americans have flocked to the AR15 in such great numbers.

Good gun, good ammo.

reidnez
11-29-2011, 12:48 PM
Army, you raise some good points but I'm not sure it's entirely fair to blame everything on the ammo. What about the corrosion issues? I'm aware that moisture sticks to carbon and exacerbates rust, but in a jungle environment was that fouling entirely to blame? The M16 was certainly not the first American weapon to face humidity, nor the first to have corrosion problems. Isn't it just good sense to chrome-plate the bores of service rifles regardless?

longhairchris
11-29-2011, 4:07 PM
I like the author's material, he's got a great blog that I check from time to time, http://cjchivers.com. Good stuff from on the ground in Libya and other places.

bomb_on_bus
11-29-2011, 5:19 PM
I was kinda suprised at the origin of the article coming from esquire but it was a good read non the less.

jtv3062
11-29-2011, 6:00 PM
I don't think the powder was bad, it's the powder the military had always used and worked great. The m16 was designed while using a different powder.

The chrome chamber issue was Robert McNamara fault for not listening to the generals request. " if the designer didn't incorporate a chrome chamber then the army doesn't need it" something along those lines.

tiger222
11-29-2011, 8:00 PM
I'm not sure the M16 of today is all that better than the M16 of then. The golden time of this gun was the early 70's to early 80's imho. All issues of malfunctions eliminated, light weight, still was the correct 1/12 twist and devestating M193 fmj round. Instead of the M16A2, a PIP M16A1 would of been better, A2 handguard and pistol grip was all it really needed, the rest was an unnessecary upsell. The Canadian C7 was a better interpretation of the mods necessary.

strongpoint
11-29-2011, 8:44 PM
I was kinda suprised at the origin of the article coming from esquire

chivers' book "the gun (http://www.amazon.com/Gun-C-J-Chivers/dp/0743271734)" -- about the history of the AK-47 -- was published at right around the same time, so he was clearly shopping around articles to various national magazines to drum up publicity. it's not such an odd choice for esquire, which doesn't shy away from reporting on issues affecting the military and veterans (tucker carlson's story "hired guns (http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0304-MAR_IRAQ)" about contractors in iraq is a recent classic).

wired also ran an article by chivers (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/ff_ak47/all/1) the same month, which seemed odd, but that one focused more on the technology of the AK with a very nice graphical presentation to match the magazine's overall approach.

Dave07997S
11-29-2011, 8:47 PM
I don't think the powder was bad, it's the powder the military had always used and worked great. The m16 was designed while using a different powder.

The chrome chamber issue was Robert McNamara fault for not listening to the generals request. " if the designer didn't incorporate a chrome chamber then the army doesn't need it" something along those lines.

Correct, what is even more sad is the US always chromed the chamber in all its rifles I believe. Just that the civilian version (AR15) didn't have one and the "whiz kids" said if Stoner didn't design it that way then it didn't need it...yet they also stuck ball powder in the ammo to give the rifle a tad more punch ignoring the original design for a IMR (stick) powder. It also increased the cyclic rate to the point that the weapons were being used up.

Most of the weapon malfuctions I experienced with the M16A1 and A2 were caused by magazines that had bent feeder lips or something along that ilk and from shooting blanks...which was done alot.

Dave07997S
11-29-2011, 8:48 PM
I'm not sure the M16 of today is all that better than the M16 of then. The golden time of this gun was the early 70's to early 80's imho. All issues of malfunctions eliminated, light weight, still was the correct 1/12 twist and devestating M193 fmj round. Instead of the M16A2, a PIP M16A1 would of been better, A2 handguard and pistol grip was all it really needed, the rest was an unnessecary upsell. The Canadian C7 was a better interpretation of the mods necessary.

I loved the A1, light weight and full auto. Hated the 3 round burst.,

Dave