Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why the U.S. Military has never understood the Assault Rifle. Part VII

A U.S. Marine fires an M16A4 rifle. 
The M16A4. This rifle is used by the Army as a designated marksman rifle (DMR) and as a general issue rifle by the Marines. It really represents an M16A2 type rifle with M4 Carbine modularity.  This is a logical move for both the Army and Marines.  Infantry squads need a sniper or advanced marksman capability. This was proven during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the excellence of the M4 Carbine as an assault rifle is not diminished by the adoption of DMRs.

At combat ranges up to 300 meters, and even at longer ranges, the M4 Carbine out performs every other assault rifle including the legendary AK-47 type rifles. The M4 is far more controllable in burst and full auto fire. It can handle a wide variety of accessories.  Later versions of the M4 Carbine restore the full auto capability which was abandoned after the adoption of the M16A2.  America now produces the best assault rifle in the world, the M4 Carbine.  Trials for replacement rifles such as the H&K XM8 and the FN SCAR, have failed to produce a weapon superior in performance to the M4.   If the U.S. Military dumps the M4 for a match rifle type weapon such as the M16A4, many of the advantages of the true assault rifle will again be lost.

The decision to product improve the M1 Garand into the M14 which is the best battle rifle in the world, damaged the effort to develop the assault rifle concept after WWII.  The U.S. insistence on standardization of the 7.62x51 NATO cartridge seriously delayed the introduction of assault rifles by Western European military establishments. In terms of assault rifle performance, the old WWII German STG 44 was a superior performer to the new Western European and American 7.62x51 NATO battle rifles.  On the other hand the Soviets learned the lessons of World War II and applied them to the development of their assault rifle, the AK-47.


  1. Other than maybe the Garand, in 200 years of operation, has Army Ordnance ever managed to not screw up a rifle?

  2. I agree the Ordnance Department has made a number of mistakes, one of the worst was the adoption of the Allin “trapdoor” system after the Civil War. The Army was stuck with this rifle until just after the Spanish American War as there were not enough Krag rifles and carbines available to equip all the troops.
    Another mistake was the long time it took to develop the M14. Although the M14 is the world’s best battle rifle, the Italians developed their excellent BM 59 from the M1 Garand in much less time.
    Detailing the mistakes of the ordnance Corps may be the basis of a future blog entry!

  3. The AK and AKM systems are good to be sure. The FN/FAL M-14 and G-1 are also good systems the tactics used will make them better or worse. If you wish to use conscripted massed "shock" armies then yes the AK/AKM is great, if you may have to fight a defensive war in which you will be holding ground and then falling back the longer range of the NATO weapons may be an advantage.

    That now the US is deploying both M4 and M14 variants shows that BOTH systems have merit.

  4. While I'm partial to the FAL, M-14, and G3, the M-14s used in Iraq were used as Sniper rifles or DMRs. They were not used as a general issue weapon. At least when I was there.