M4 Carbine Fares Poorly in Dust Test

Cabbage Head

Verified SWAT
May 23, 2007
Illinois, SW of Chicago
Just received this today. Interesting facts about failures due to dust.

M4 Carbine Fares Poorly in Dust Test
December 18, 2007

The primary weapon carried by most soldiers into battle in Iraq and
Afghanistan performed the worst in a recent series of tests designed to
see how it stacked up against three other top carbines in sandy

After firing 6,000 rounds through ten M4s in a dust chamber at the
Army's Aberdeen test center in Maryland this fall, the weapons
experienced a total of 863 minor stoppages and 19 that would have
required the armorer to fix the problem. Stacked up against the M4
during the side-by-side tests were two other weapons popular with
special operations forces, including the Heckler and Koch 416 and the FN
USA Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle, or Mk16.

Another carbine involved in the tests that had been rejected by the Army
two years ago, the H&K XM8, came out the winner, with a total of 116
minor stoppages and 11 major ones. The Mk16 experienced a total of 226
stoppages, the 416 had 233.

The Army was quick to point out that even with 863 minor stoppages --
termed "class one" stoppages which require 10 seconds or less to clear
and "class two" stoppages which require more than ten seconds to clear
-- the M4 functioned well, with over 98 percent of the 60,000 total
rounds firing without a problem.

"The M4 carbine is a world-class weapon," said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown,
the Army's top equipment buyer, in a Dec. 17 briefing at the Pentagon.
Soldiers "have high confidence in that weapon, and that high confidence
level is justified, in our view, as a result of all test data and all
investigations we have made."

Though Army testers and engineers are still evaluating the data,
officials with the Army's Infantry Center based in Fort Benning, Ga.,
said they planned to issue new requirements for the standard-issue
carbine in about 18 months that could include a wholesale replacement of
the M4. But the Army has been resistant to replace the M4, which has
been in the Army inventory for over 18 years, until there's enough of a
performance leap to justify buying a new carbine.

"We know there are some pretty exciting things on the horizon with
technology ... so maybe what we do is stick with the M4 for now and let
technologies mature enough that we can spin them into a new carbine,"
said Col. Robert Radcliffe, director of combat development at the Army's
Infantry Center. "It's just not ready yet. But it can be ready
relatively rapidly."

That's not good enough for some on Capitol Hill who've pushed hard for
the so-called "extreme dust test" since last spring. Oklahoma Republican
Senator Tom Coburn placed a hold on the nomination of Army Secretary
Pete Geren earlier this year to force the Army to take another look at
the M4 and its reliability.

In an April 12 letter to the still unconfirmed Geren, Coburn wrote that
"considering the long standing reliability and lethality problems with
the M16 design, of which the M4 is based, I am afraid that our troops in
combat might not have the best weapon." He insisted the Army conduct a
side-by-side test to verify his contention that more reliable designs
existed and could be fielded soon.

Despite the 98 percent reliability argument now being pushed by the
Army, one congressional staffer familiar with the extreme dust tests is
skeptical of the service's conclusions.

"This isn't brain surgery -- a rifle needs to do three things: shoot
when you pull the trigger, put bullets where you aim them and deliver
enough energy to stop what's attacking you," the staffer told
Military.com in an email. "If the M4 can't be depended on to shoot then
everything else is irrelevant."

The staffer offered a different perspective of how to view the Army's
result. If you look at the numbers, he reasoned, the M4's 882 total
stoppages averages out to a jam every 68 rounds. There are about 30
rounds per magazine in the M4.

By comparison, the XM8 jammed once every 472 rounds, the Mk16 every 265
rounds and the 416 every 257 rounds. Army officials contend soldiers
rarely fire more than 140 rounds in an engagement.

"These results are stunning, and frankly they are significantly more
dramatic than most weapons experts expected," the staffer said.

Army officials say the staffer's comparison is "misleading" since the
extreme dust test did not represent a typical combat environment and did
not include the regular weapons cleaning soldiers typically perform in
the field.

So the Army is sticking by the M4 and has recently signed another
contract with manufacturer Colt Defense to outfit several more brigade
combat teams with the compact weapon. Service officials say feedback
from the field on the M4 has been universally positive -- except for
some grumbling about the stopping power of its 5.56mm round. And as long
as soldiers take the time to clean their weapons properly, even the
"extreme" dust testing showed the weapon performed as advertised.

"The force will tell you the weapon system is reliable, they're
confident in it, they understand that the key to making that weapon
system effective on the battlefield and killing the enemy is a solid
maintenance program and, just as important, is a marksmanship program,"
said Sgt. Maj. Tom Coleman, sergeant major for PEO Soldier and the
Natick Soldier Systems Center. "So, you can't start talking about a
weapon system without bringing in all the other pieces that come into

That's not enough for some who say the technology is out there to field
a better, more reliable rifle to troops in contact now.

"It's time to stop making excuses and just conduct a competition for a
new weapon," the congressional staffer said.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Get a bloody piston operated rifle already!
I take these reports with a large grain of sea salt.

In another report, posted after this one, they where quoted as saying "With a heavier lubrication" the M4 reduced it's stoppages too something 226 VS the 882. Imagine that, putting some lube on the moving parts and it runs smoothly. Geeeez, who in the hell are conducting these tests ???

Barrel Swap ? Maybe, but they might start with replacing the extactor springs and cleaning their mags.

I've run AR's bond dry, although not in such austere conditons, and they have still run smoolthly for hundreds of rounds. Although i wouldn't suggest running any rifle bone dry for an extended period of time.

But, what do I know?
I know that most graphite powders that I've seen are only good up to about 50C applications, if there was one that was better suited for the heat; it would help with the gumming issues. Instead of using a liquid lubricant that would attract and catch the dust, especially that fine "talcum" shit type powder dust that is in Afghanistan. Same techniques for the opposite extreme in "arctic" conditions, but so the liquid doesn't "gel".
never had any weapon malfunctions that could be attributed to environmental causes.

Maybe we just know how to keep a weapon operational, boon?
never had any weapon malfunctions that could be attributed to environmental causes.

Maybe we just know how to keep a weapon operational, boon?

I honestly don't understand why people bitch about it. The last time this came up was from a Congressman who never even fired an m4 before. During OEF 1, I was a saw gunner and didn't have any sand related issues either.