Thursday, February 22, 2007
Lock And Load (And Cross Your Fingers)
I remember reading in James Gibson's "The Perfect War: Technowar In Vietnam" that as far back as that conflict, the M16 was notorious for being a lightweight and accurate rifle that jammed and failed often. Apparently, the same is true for the M4 rifle which was introduced in the early Nineties.
Which is why starting in 2002, members of an elite Special Forces unit teamed up with a German light arms manufacturer, Heckler & Koch, to design and field test a combat assault rifle, the H&K 416, that has proven to be significantly more reliable than either the M4 or the M16 while remaining cost competitive. It's been production-ready since 2004, and the Delta Force members fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are already outfitted with them.
But the Army has ruled out issuing them to the general infantry, citing the cost -- $1 billion -- of replacing the entire fleet of M16's and M4's as prohibitive. And they've ordered 100,000 more M4's for 2008, even though a 2001 Special Operations Command study found that it suffered from an "obsolete operating system," and a 2006 Army reliability test found that brand new, off the shelf M4's & M16's misfired every 5,000 rounds in laboratory conditions, compared to every 15,000 rounds for the H&K 416.
So the next time the GOP talks about supporting our troops, someone might mention that a good place to start would be with rifles that actually fire when you pull the trigger.