The Army's Favourite Rifle May Have Some Serious Flaws

The Colt M-4 Carbine, the standard issue rifle of the U.S. military, has some rare but serious failings, defence reporter Kyle Mizokami writes on Medium.

The Carbine — which reuses hot gases from each shot down the length of the rifle to load the next bullet — can overheat to the extent that it can even become hot to the touch following prolonged fire, Mizokami writes. That overheating can have serious consequences.

Mizokami, writing on Medium, notes that during a Taliban assault on a military outpost in Wanat, Afghanistan:

… One soldier described alternating between three M-4s, using each until it jammed.

“My weapon was overheating,” another soldier said. “I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about half an hour or so into the fight.” In other words, the soldier fired approximately 360 rounds in 30 minutes. That’s 14 rounds a minute — one every four seconds.

The M-4 also faces consistent complaints about its lack of range and its need for constant maintenance in sandy conditions, according to The Washington Times. Dirt and sand can hamper the weapon’s effectiveness, causing it to require constant cleaning after missions to prevent jamming, one soldier told The Times.

The M-4’s standard aluminium magazines were also prone to denting, soldiers noted, increasing the likelihood of weapon jams in combat.

Still, despite its apparent shortfalls, the M-4 is a favourite among soldiers. A survey from the Center for Naval Analyses reports that 90% of soldiers viewed the weapon favourably, 26 percentage points higher than the second-most liked weapon, the M-9.

And while the weapon has reportedly failed, those incidents are relatively rare.

Still, the Military purchased rights to the M-4 design in 2009 in order to open up a redesign of the rifle to multiple parties. FN Manufacturing won the contract, and it aims to replace the M-4 with the updated M-4A1 by 2018.

The M-4A1 is outfitted with a thicker barrel and steel or polymer magazines to ensure that weapon jams will not take place. The updated rifle will also have an effective range of double that of the original M-4.

A representative for Colt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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