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M16 5.56mm Rifle

The M16 in Iraq

The thousands Soldiers making up the ground forces in the assault on Iraq were carrying M16 rifles and M4 carbines, mostly made by Colt's Manufacturing in West Hartford.

The Field Report: Marine Corps Systems Command Liaison Team, Central Iraq USMC 20-25 April 2003, had the following observations:

M16A4 with associated combat optic (ACOG 4x), the West Coast's SAM Rifle ~ All interviewed were extremely pleased with the performance and felt it "answered the mail" for the role of the Squad Advanced Marksman (SAM). All said the fixed 4-power ACOG sight that was included was the perfect solution. It gave them the ability to identify targets at distance, under poor conditions, and maintained ability to quickly acquire the target in the close in (MOUT/room clearing) environment. As above, many "stacked" it with the AN/PVS-14 to get a true night capability. No Marines present in interviews knew of any situation where the shooter could shoot the gun to its full capability or outshoot it. Interviewees included STA platoon leadership and members who are school trained MOS 8541 Snipers. They saw no need for the accuracy and expense involved in the version being built for the "East Coast" SAM Rifle by Precision Weapons Section (PWS), WTBN, Quantico. The standard M16A4 with issued optic more than satisfied their requirements.

Distribution among battalions varied. One battalion received (6), one went to each of the three line companies and three to STA Platoon for the spotters. Other battalions received one per rifle squad.

Regular M16A4's, no optic, were sent over to theatre to replace M16A2's. However, they arrived too late to be distributed and BZO'd prior to start of the war. These weapons remained in storage in Kuwait.

M4 Carbine ~ Many Marines commented on desire for the shorter weapon vice the longer M16's. They say that it would have definitely been better in the urban environment because of the confined spaces. Since most of the operators were operating from a vehicle platform, the smaller weapon would have helped tremendously for mounting and dismounting.

There were numerous comments that the M16 is too long and cumbersome in the urban fight. Several Marines even opted to use the AK-47s that had been captured from Iraqi weapons caches. Others were trading the rifle for pistols to go into buildings to allow mobility in confined spaces.

There has been a push to get M4's to crewmen of the mechanized vehicles, LAR in particular. The distribution needs to include LAR, AAV's, Tanks, Motor Transportation, and any other units that may have a requirement. IWS has fielded some assets to LAR, but not all others. LAR still has mostly M16's. The M16's are too cumbersome/long for crewmen to employ (get out of the cupola or out of a door/window) in a timely manner while under stress such as when receiving fire.

On 17 July 2003 the Army released a 15-page report stating that members of the 507th Maintenance Company fought the best they could in Iraq until there was no longer a means to resist. Pfc. Jessica Lynch, 19, a member of the 507th, was rescued 01 April 2003 by US military commandos from an Iraqi hospital. The report states numerous times that M-16 rifles malfunctioned or jammed. Other weapons that malfunctioned were the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the .50 caliber machinegun. However, the team that conducted the report did not find persistent problems with weapons, specifically the M16A2 rifle. "Dusty, desert conditions do require vigilance in weapons maintenance," officials said. "However, it is imperative to remember that at the time of the attack, the 507th had spent more than two days on the move, with little rest and time to conduct vehicle repair and recovery operations," officials said.

The CALL Newsletter 04-13 Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR) noted the following:

The M16A2 rifle had multiple disadvantages when carried and used by CA personnel. As a full length battle rifle, the M16 is seen as an offensive weapon by the civilians, non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel, and CPA personnel with whom the CA teams work in meetings and in street contacts. This often sends an unintended and undesired hostile message from the teams. In contrast, an M4, with its more compact size, is likelier to be viewed as a more defensive weapon and less intimidating. When the M16 is used in convoy defense from a HMMWV, it is difficult to move and aim within the confines of a vehicle. Likewise, in a dismounted scenario, the long profile of the weapon does not allow it to be rapidly rotated forward from a slung position.

A widely circulated informal assessment noted the following:

The M-16 rifle : Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M4 carbine version is more popular because it's lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various optical gunsights and weapons lights on the picattiny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure common over there and even torso hits cant be reliably counted on to put the enemy down.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:45:30 ZULU