Saturday, June 09, 2018

The Weapon Was Not Ten Feet Tall

The M-16/M-4 isn't so bad after all; and the AK-47 wasn't the wonder weapon.

It's funny. During the Cold War I would read stories about how the M-16 was inferior to the "tough" Kalashnikov assault rifles that the Russians used. You could drop the Russian weapon in mud and it would still fire! By contrast the M-16 required meticulous cleaning to keep it going.

Yet when the Army trained me to use the M-16, I liked the weapon. I didn't know what the problem was. Mind you, I never had to use it in combat. But the weapon seemed fine to me.

It occurred to me that the "advantage" of having a weapon you don't need much discipline to use (because of accuracy and ability to function despite lack of maintenance and care) could mean you probably aren't a very competent soldier in the other areas of training and skill.

And Strategypage discusses why soldiers prefer the M-16 over the Russian weapon when they have a choice:

Iraqi and Afghan troops figured out that their chances of surviving in combat improved considerably if they were using M-16 type weapons, even if these rifles required more frequent cleaning.

From the distance of the Cold War, people who could see all the problems with our weapon (including old problems that were fixed) didn't see the problems of the enemy weapon, and assumed that was the full story.

In reality, the Russian weapon saved the lives of American troops who faced fighters who used the Russian weapon and ammo.