Washington Times reports soldiers have to modify M4 to make it reliable

The M4 is a fantastic weapon and many thousands of soldiers and contractors use and love it. Regardless – there is evidence that many soldiers are modifying their weapons to make them more reliable and accurate depending upon the conditions of use. I have heard of military policies disallowing the use of high quality accessories such as Magpul PMAG magazines – and NOT allowing our servicemen the best equipment to do their jobs.

Soldiers inspect Kirkuk landfills

The Washington Times article is reporting that there is evidence that M4 carbines manufactured by Colt  provided sub-par performance. Even with this knowledge – the military continued to issue them to soldiers. Beyond that – evidence shows that the M4 is being issued for mission objectives that involve required work beyond the design of the weapon. 

Although Colt lost its exclusive contract with the military in 2013 – I do not know how the performance of the M4 has changed since FN has begun supplying the M4. All of the negative reports and studies discussed in the article were published prior to FN coming on board.


Here are few excerpts from the article:

Army Senior Warrant Officer Russton B. Kramer, a 20-year Green Beret, has learned that if you want to improve your chances to survive, it’s best to personally make modifications to the Army’s primary rifle — the M4 carbine.

The warrant officer said he and fellow Special Forces soldiers have a trick to maintain the M4A1 — the commando version: They break the rules and buy off-the-shelf triggers and other components and overhaul the weapon themselves.

“The reliability is not there,” Warrant Officer Kramer said of the standard-issue model. “I would prefer to use something else. If I could grab something else, I would.”

Documents obtained by The Washington Times show the Pentagon was warned before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that the iterations of the M4 carbine were flawed and might jam or fail, especially in the harsh desert conditions that both wars inflicted.

“There are enhancements you can do to your weapon to bring that reliability level up. While we’re not authorized to change our weapon or modify them in any manner, obviously there are some guys out there, including myself, we’ll add some things to our guns to bring that reliability level up,” he told The Times. “I’d rather face six of my peers in a court martial versus being 6 feet down.”


Should this effect your decision as to buy an AR or not? In my opinion – not in the least.  The AR-type firearm “fits the bill” for my needed application and has been extremely reliable.

BOTTOM LINE: Our service men and women put their lives on the line protecting this country and ensuring the freedom it provides. They should be provided the best equipment to do the job…..period.

The full Washington Time article can be seen HERE.

 – – – Rourke

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21 thoughts on “Washington Times reports soldiers have to modify M4 to make it reliable”

  1. Old News

    In yet another alarming sign that US troops do not have adequate combat gear, the US Stars and Stripes now reports that the US Army standard-isssue M-4 rifle may not be the best weapon of choice for Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain. This disclosure comes on the heels of a new Congressional inquiry on body armor procurement and testing procedures.

    Slobodan Lekic of the Associated Press reports that the “U.S. military’s workhorse rifle (the “M-4″) is proving less effective in Afghanistan against the Taliban’s more primitive but longer range weapons.” The M-4 is simply a revamped version of the Viet Nam era M-16 that was designed for close combat.
    Several reports are circulating within military circles, but one recent study by Major Thomas P. Ehrhart strongly suggests that the M-4 as presently configured is not the proper weapon for the Afghan terrain. Bullets fired from M-4s don’t retain enough velocity at distances greater than 1,000 feet to kill an adversary. In hilly regions of Afghanistan, NATO and insurgent forces are often 2,000 to 2,500 feet.
    To counter these tactics, the U.S. military is designating nine soldiers in each infantry company to serve as sharpshooters, according to Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, who wrote the Army study. They are equipped with the new M-110 sniper rifle, which fires a larger 7.62 mm round and is accurate to at least 2,500 feet.
    According the AP report, “At the heart of the debate is whether a soldier is better off with the more-rapid firepower of the 5.56mm bullets or with the longer range of the 7.62 mm bullets. ‘The reason we employ the M-4 is because it’s a close-in weapon, since we anticipate house-to-house fighting in many situations,’ said Lt. Col. Denis J. Riel, a NATO spokesman.”
    While there have been persistent reports of weapons jamming, these new studies strongly suggest that our frontline troops do not have the proper weapons to engage the enemy. We remain hopeful that our military leaders will take decisive action to quickly remedy this situation rather than wait several months or years for the GAO or IG to issue after-action reports concluding what we already know: the US military’s 40 year-old M-4 ain’t up to the task! Indeed, our troops are still waiting for proper body armor after years of stone-walling by our military brass. Let’s take action and get our troops the equipment they deserve.
    Richard W. May
    Tags: Associated Press, Body Armor, GAO, ig, LTC Riel, M-4, Maj. Ehrhart, Slodoban Lekic

  2. I have NEVER been a big fan of the M16/M4 series of weapons. Granted, a soldier can carry more ammo. However, as our troops fighting for their lives in Somalia found out, it may take several rounds to kill an enemy combatant. And, they were not exactly large framed men, either! I will go to my grave contending that the Springfield M14 was the greatest rifle ever made. Accurate, dependable, simple function and knock down power. The SOCOM model is shorter for operations in urban terrain. NATO uses 7.62mm, also.

    • @ Irish-7: The eternal to-be or not-to-be debate surrounding the M16/M4 family of weapons – especially in comparison to the weapons it replaced, such as the M-14, is complicated by the fact that the two aren’t even the same type/class of weapon. The M-16, although superficially it looked like a battle rifle, was actually an assault rifle (battle carbine), which is also what the M4 carbine and its derivatives are. The M-14 is, on the other hand, a battle rifle, not an assault rifle.

      The term “battle rifle” has entered the military firearms lexicon to describe Cold War-era rifles such as the M-14, FN FAL/L1A1, CETME/G3 and similar designs, which are full-sized, full-power self-loading rifles, either of semi-automatic or select-fire operation. The prototypical battle rifle caliber is the NATO standard 7.62×51 147-grain M80 Ball/FMJ round. These weapons are hard-hitting, tough, and can deliver accurate fire to ranges double, or sometimes even triple, the effective range of an assault rifle. However, they are heavier than assault rifles, and their cartridges and magazines also outweigh their smaller counterparts. Battle rifles are difficult for most users to control in full-auto fire, which is why many militaries pinned or otherwise disabled the select-fire option.

      Assault rifles are short-barreled rifles or carbines, handy and lightweight, which utilize “intermediate” cartridges, which in power and range lie between pistol/SMG ammunition on one hand and full-sized, full-power rifle ammunition on the other. Intermediate cartridges are smaller and lighter than full-power rifle cartridges, which allows the soldier or user to carry more ammunition in his basic load. Being somewhat less-powerful than battle rifles, assault rifles are usually designed to be controllable and function well in select-fire operation. They also fire from a closed-bolt, unlike a submachine gun, are select-fire operation and are optimized for ranges inside 300 yards.

      In brief, then, two different types of weapons designed according to very different end-user requirements and according to differing design/utilization philosophies. Therefore, not really an apples-to-apples comparison, except insofar as both were designed to put down enemy soldiers.

      I’m an older man now, and my war-fighting days are way behind me… but if I was a young grunt marching toward the sound of gunfire, I’d want both types of weapons represented in my unit. Why? Because you never know what you are going to run up against or what you will need.

      The debate about having a larger combat load-out of smaller 5.56×45 NATO cartridges versus a smaller number of heavier 7.62×51 NATO cartridges seems somewhat pointless to me sometimes, since if it is going to take 2-3x as many rounds to put that enemy tango down for good, you might as well carry the heavy cartridge anyway. I’ll concede that the smaller round and having more of it might be nice for fire suppression missions, but again, you don’t get something for nothing and those smaller, lighter projectiles don’t hit hard – or penetrate cover as well -as their older brothers.

  3. All –

    I want to make sure my position is clear –

    The point of my post is not to criticize the M4. There are literally thousands upon thousands of military folks who love it and have had good experience with it. My big problem is with the leadership that fail to provide the military THE BEST equipment money can buy. Absolutely in certain situations the M4 is NOT the best tool for the job. They should have the best tool – whether that is an M1A, M14, or whatever.

    Today’s M4 is not the M16 from Vietnam, however it is not the M1 Garand either. To expect one firearm to fill so many roles is ridiculous – but what they should be receiving should be the best. It certainly does not appear the Colt Union-made firearms have performed as well as they could have been.


  4. I’ve shot through a many yellow drums of ammo with both M16/M4 and M1A variants over the last four decades. There is no doubt that the last few years has seen the most development of accessories and improvements for the M16/M4. My number one favorite is the collapsable stock followed closely by the USMC Trijicon telescopic sight with reticular objective obscurator. In everything from Colt to DPMS and very pricy top end M4s, the reliability leaves me amazed. From the arctic to the desert to the jungle, M4s I have used have been setllar performers. Of course, I am fussy about cleaning and lubrication, checking my weapons more frequently than my feet. I fail to see how an aftermarket trigger would improve functional reliability of the M4, but there can be no doubt that it will improve precision for most shooters. Good marksmen adapt to heavy creepy triggers and shoot almost as well with them as with light crisp triggers.

    In my experience, the military M14 has an edge over the commercial M1A and appears to be a bit more rugged. That is not to detract from the commercial Springfield version which is an off the shelf awesome main battle rifle, especially when fitted with quality telescopic sight on top of a properly fitted scope base. I find the M14/M1A to take more time to clean than the M4 but when cleaned and greased properly, the M1A is a reliable performer. Like the M4, there are a number of aftermarket accessories that improve precision. My perspective is that these accessories are much more expensive and requires higher gunsmithing skill than those for the M4.

    Again, I’d be highly surprised if reliability was a function of anything more than proper and obsessive cleaning.

    My thoughts,

  5. Just doesn’t make sense to have a rule to keep you from making a weapon better. Are we worried about having an unfair advantage over the enemy? It’s my belief that if you are willing to die to protect our country and our countries interests, then you should have the best equipment available. I guess with the cuts to the pentagons budget we are fixing to go through, we are lucky to have a military that’s armed at all…

  6. The M16 family of firearms have to be kept clean to function. Depending on area of conflict it is easy to over lubricate it and the military has come up with lubricants that help n freezing or dusty conditions, still less is better in these extremes. As far as power on target the 556 was based on the Remington 222 which was a varmint cartridge, yes it will kill a person but may not incapacitate at the time of impact. When in Vietnam I talked to a SOG friend and he carried the CAR 15 and stated it was good in a rice paddy and out to a max of 200 yards after that it lost a lot of energy, and yes the newer heavier rounds help make up for that problem. If I have my choice I carry something in .30 caliber and rely on solid hits more the ammo count that I can carry.

    • JohnP –

      Agree – reliability is dependant on cleaning and lubrication. I have never really seen one be over lubricated – as when extremely dirty I have seen them stay in action due to plenty of oil.

      No doubt .30 cal rounds have some distinct advantages over the .223/5.56 – especially penetration.

      Thanks – Rourke

  7. Another way to look at this is that the American Soldier saw a problem and instead of sitting around crying for someone to do something about it – they got off their butt and made it work for them. The vast majority of soldiers don’t fire their weapon as much as certain units/individuals do.
    We can sit here and whine about the 7.62 vs 5.56 M14 vs M4 what I’d choose, what you’d choose. The bottom line is that they over came and adapted eventually – nothing is perfect, no weapon system is or will ever be perfect. If there ever is that perfect rifle that every one is just perfect with, there will always be people complaining it didn’t do this or that.

  8. I usually take these revelations with a grain of salt. Early M16 problems were the result of DOD not following the designers instructions per chroming of certain parts and a specific powder,in an attempt to save a few bucks. This was quickly fixed after….it had killed a lot of people.

    My 70s era SP1 has had thousands of rounds thru it with negligible malfunctions. With its light barrel I’m sure I could get it to lock up blazing away in extended full auto rather than more reasonable and useful aimed fire.

    After converting my SP1 with a .300 BLK upper, I liked the .30 cal.setup so much I made it a dedicated rifle with a new lower. I have the best of both worlds without large magazines and the weight that goes with a .308 rifle and mags.

    I suspect this malfunction revelation is due to poor cleaning and/or using the M4 as a SAW and burning out the barrel. A job it was never meant to do. But what do I know? I’ve used the M1, M14 ,M16, and M2 and M60, as well as the SKS, AK47 and RPD in a combat environment.
    They all have their place and strong and weak points.
    Regards, D.

  9. Rourke, In 1984 I went up to Alaska for Northern Warfare training and we were instructed not to over lubricate due to extreme cold and probably was not a common problem but it did occure, hope fully only in training, JohnP.

  10. The M-16 family of firearms are the best….Just ask the American dead in Viet Nam . It was and is prone to jamming.. During my two tours in Nam I carried anything BUT>

  11. JohnP and Swampfox, I hear you and understand. First generation M16s were indeed vexed with many problems. Some troops were told the weapon was so good it never needed cleaning with predictable results. That first generation rifle lacked a bolt ratchet. Some weapons were truly jammed indeed with bolts half in the receiver and half in stock. I see that period as the end of serious US marksmanship and the beginning of the spray and pray era. It was a bad ole time for every fighting man.

  12. Ask yourself honestly; What are the troops who are using the M-4 doing to help themselves survive? What would any of us who may or may not have an M-4/AR-15 do if we were in Afghanistan?
    The conclusion I have come to is the M-4 is a failure as the article states for the mission in Afghanistan. I have watched videos on Military.com showing numerous M-4’s jamming on troops in firefights. Dirt was one problem, magazines or the way they were loaded seemed to be a problem I noticed. Why this love affair with a flawed weapon? The M-4 should be replaced.

    • Lincoln –

      No doubt the M4 is not perfect for every environment. Sandy environments are likely not good for any weapon – however some may be better than others. Those with more experience can certainly speak to this better than I. I will state that problems with magazines are easily fixed – new magazines. Simple.



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