Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's time to say goodbye.

Marine with his M16
We, as Americans, tend to cling to things.  We are a nostalgic bunch.  We love our 1911's, our M1 Garands and our 1960's hotrods.  There's nothing wrong with that really, it defines us.  But we also tend to cling to things for the wrong reasons.  We get comfortable with something and we are reluctant to let go.  Take the M1 Garand and the M14 as an example.  We loved the M1 Garand so much that we refused to let it go.  When the rest of the world was moving towards more modern rifles, we revamped the M1 Garand and came up with the M14, one of the shortest serving rifles in U.S. military history.
The M16 has been with us since the 1960's.  When the M16 came on the scene, it was one of the most revolutionary rifle designs, ever.  Why?  Because it made use of aluminum forgings for major parts, plastics/polymers for the stocks, was super light weight and fired the newly developed 5.56mm cartridge.  The M16, and all of its subsequent variants, became the catalyst for change in small arms thinking around the world, including being the primary impetus behind the Russians dropping the 7.62x39 in favor of the 5.45x39.

I served with the M16A2 in the Marine Corps in the late 80's and early 90's.  My first center fire rifle was a Colt AR15 A2 Sporter II, which I still have in my safe.  I love the AR15/M16.  It's as American as baseball and apple pie.  It's served as our nations primary combat rifle for 46 years, the longest serving rifle in U.S. military history.

Adcor Defense B.E.A.R.
The Army has started trials to find a replacement for the M4 Carbine.  These trials will include rifles ranging from the FN SCAR, Remington ACR, Robarms XCR to updated versions of the M4 Carbine.  Companies such as Remington are fielding revised versions of the M4 Carbine for these new trials as well as new comers such as Adcor Defense and their highly modified M4 style Carbine called the B.E.A.R.

Companies have been modifying the AR15/M16 for many years now trying to resolve "issues" with the direct impingement (DI) gas system.  It seems the most popular modification is to replace the DI gas system with a gas piston arrangement similar to that found on the AR18/180.  The only problem I have with these modifications is that it assumes there is something wrong with the DI system of operation.  I don't believe there is, nor do many who have studied the performance of the M16 in combat.

As a matter of fact, many of these "fixes" to the DI system actually cause more problems than they resolve.  The introduction of gas piston systems into the AR family of rifles has caused things like "carrier tilt", a problem that causes malfunctions and accelerated wear in many modified AR's.  That's where companies like Adcor and the new B.E.A.R. rifle come in, they claim to correct all the problems introduced by other changes made to the AR's original system of operation.  It's a vicious circle, we're now fixing the fixes on a rifle that had no real problems to begin with. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I firmly believe that if we're going to test and adopt a new rifle the AR/M16 needs to be retired and replaced with a more modern rifle system.  I say "system" because the modern warrior needs more than a rifle with iron sights on the modern battlefield.  The M16 has adapted nicely to these ever evolving high-tech roles with various modifications, but it's time we adopt a rifle built from the ground up, using modern materials and engineering, for America's warriors.  If we're going to replace the M16/M4 in service, let's do it right and not adopt a warmed over, "fixed up" AR15/M16.  We owe it to ourselves and to our war fighters to give them the best we can make.  I propose we stop with the endless modifications to the AR/M16 and build a new rifle that capitalizes on the lessons we've learned over the last 46 years with the M16 and come up with the next revolutionary rifle design.

We can do it.