Are We Giving Our Troops the Tools to Do Their Job?

Let’s just call today, “The Official Honest Answer Gunday Monday”, because I’m going to have two posts with guns as a main topic….sort of.

The Washington Times today has two articles that interest me.  This post will deal with one of them, regarding the article titled, “Army Seeks Gun Industry Help on M4 Tactical Carbine in Tacit Admission of Flaws”.  Before going further, I need to say that the M4 is a fine rifle.  As issued to our troops today, it does indeed have some flaws.  Is it a bad weapons system?  No, it isn’t.  For those of you who don’t know about guns, the M4 is the military version of the crazy-popular civilian AR-15.  Writing as someone with quite a bit of experience with firearms, I have to say that if I could afford an AR-15, I’d own one, too.

I want to talk about something here; something more than just one particular gun in our military arsenal.  The Washington Times article, although ostensibly directed at the M4 Carbine, caused me to think about bureaucracy and the ability of Pentagon officials to think critically and act responsibly in supplying our troops with the best tools available.  I’m afraid I’m going to get a bit critical.

Rowan Scarborough of the WT interviewed Major General (Retired) Robert Scales, who, since he’s retired, is more free to be honest about the M4.  From the WT post:

“It’s another attempt by the Army to make the M4 look good,” he said. “If the Army wants to improve the M4, fine. But it’s not a weapon suitable for high-intensity, close combat in extremes against an enemy who is basically matching us in weapons performance in a close fight. Everybody knows the weapon has flaws.”

Marty and I had an older brother, now deceased, who was a Marine, and he was critical of the M4’s usefulness at ranges out past 300 meters.  Do a little research on the internet, and you can find that even those folks who like the M4 as a close-quarters weapon admit to its’ limitations at longer ranges.  In Afghanistan and Iraq, the enemy is frequently engaged at ranges of 400-600 meters.  The 5.56×45 round used by the M4 is too small to be effective at those distances.  We’ve been in Afghanistan how long, exactly?  The Pentagon is continuing to improve on the M4, and that’s great, but how long does the US have to be engaged in a war before Pentagon brass wake up to the realities of the theater of combat?

Photo is a screen-cap of the video in the post.

Photo is a screen-cap of the video in the post.

Gen. Scales isn’t the only person quoted in the above article who is critical of the M4.  In a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) of California, said,

“I continue to hear inside and outside the military that the individual soldier or Marine wants a replacement for the M4 and the M4A1,” Ms. Sanchez said during the hearing.”

The response from the Army spokesperson at the meeting?  Read.

Concerning soldier complaints, Gen. Ierardi, who was assigned to the Pentagon after having commanded a division, said: “In my service [with] in 1st Cavalry Division, I did not hear one complaint from my soldiers about the M4 carbine. As a matter of fact, soldiers wanted the M4 for what it brings, which is a compact, easy-to-maintain and capable weapon.”

Bureaucracy is a tarpit.  Complaints about equipment on the front lines frequently are not heard by folks with stars on their shoulders, because officers who relay complaints from men and women under their command frequently do not advance their careers by doing so.  Top level bureaucrats, whether they are in the military or private corporations, seldom respond well to criticism, resulting in a certain type of blindness.  The thing is, in the military, the resistance to change, and the blindness produced thereby, can cause loss of life in the field.  After doing the recommended reading on this page, do your own Google search on the M4 and complaints about it.  Please don’t take my word for this stuff.

Read the whole article in the link that I posted above.  It’s long, but if you care for our military, and our readiness to fight anywhere in the world, it’s worth the read.  I don’t know that we can do any good, as civilians, but being informed is always good, right?

I can’t end this post without saying something more about the M4/AR-15 platform.  There are many very good reasons why so many folks want one for personal defense.  On the civilian market, all of the modifications that the military is making to their carbines have been available on the civilian model for a long, long time, and everybody that I know that has an AR-15 has modified theirs to meet their needs.  In the civilian world, however, it’s dang unlikely that you’ll ever need to engage a target beyond 150 meters, and it’s far more likely that you’ll be shooting at someone more in the 30 meter range.  For a good discussion of the merits and available modifications of the civilian AR-15, watch the two videos posted below.