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Old 09-28-2011, 02:26 PM   #1
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Default Early M16 Issue Problems in the Field (Vietnam)

In another thread, "Best 30 Caliber Battle Rifle" the AR platform came up and then the unreliability of the M16 in early form issued in Vietnam when it replaced the M14. I have heard much urban legend surrounding this issue but have always been puzzled because of my twenty years of experience in the U.S. Army with the weapon.

What I found was new information which was very interesting. So as the thread meandered away from the subject and I don't know how to or if you can redirect a thread so I thought a new thread would be the answer as there is obviously more good information out there. Here I will include the salient points.

The first reference was from Therewolf:

Quote:
Originally Posted by therewolf View Post
Yeah, the Socom II is nice, but pricey.

Maybe one of you can tell me, since the cleaning rods are built-in

to the Com-bloc guns, the cleaning paradigm is more obvious.

How do American and other NATO forces, for instance, handle

barrel cleaning in the field ? Is there a "M39 all-purpose

AR-FAL cleaning kit", or something?

After the broo-hah over the original M-16s in Vietnam, there has

to be something...
To which I replied:
Quote:
Originally Posted by pathfinder8008 View Post
From someone who has cleaned the M16 and M60 in the field, mostly at night, over a twenty year period; any soldier who can't find some way to carry a cleaning rod, patches, cleaning brush and Break-Free, in his ALICE pack or on his LCE has serious priority problems.

Please let me address the broo-hah from Vietnam era M16s. I have never had a feeding or ejecting problem with an M16 in the 20 years that I carried one. Any problems I can conjecture could only be from poor maintenance, which is nonexistent with any good soldier. Any feeding problems with the M16 were cured with the issue of the M16A1 which incorporated the forward assist.

The only time my M16 would not fire was in the Clinton era when we could not get enough replacement parts and I was the platoon sergeant and sacrificed my parts to replace worn parts of the real shooters, the riflemen. So usually for IG inspections, when assuming DRF1 (Deployment Ready Force), we came up with the needed extractor or firing pin from somewhere.

So please let us not pass on this urban legend about the M16, as it is a damn fine assault rifle.

Sorry if I come across too strong but this needed stating.
Then Johnny357 gave us a good reference:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny357 View Post
This is a good read about how the M-16 got its bad reputation when it was first rushed into service in Vietnam: The Gun
And Johnny357 also said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny357 View Post
The author of that article, C. J. Chivers, was a Marine during the first gulf war. That article is an excerpt from a book he wrote by the same name, listed on Amazon Here. I have not read the book, found that article on Esquire a while back via Google. My father had no complaints about his M-16 in Vietnam, but his time over there was well after the events described in the article.
Also therewolf ammended:
Quote:
Originally Posted by therewolf View Post
I'm sorry, the ARs you all know and use

today are amongst some of the finest

combat hardware in the world. At no point did I state

that modern ARs are in any way faulty. I was merely

stating that this particular incident, early in the AR's

development, had to have spurred a NATO weapons

cleaning and maintenance paradigm.


Historically, most com-bloc weapons (most of which, admittedly, by modern

standards are also considered "relics") have a cleaning rod installed

below the barrel of the gun. The AK, SKS, even the venerable (and somewhat

moldy) Mosin Nagant have this. Also, as standard issue with the

com-bloc rifle, there is a cleaning kit,

and even an oil bottle, which inherently raises the foot-soldiers

consciousness of his responsibility to field a properly maintained

firearm.


I was merely asking about modern rifle cleaning for NATO forces, not

trying to cast aspersions upon the AR, which has

proved itself to be a dependable workhorse for a generation.
Also from Johnny357:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny357 View Post
More information from my father: My Basic Training Company at Fort Gordon Georgia was among the first trainees to transition from the M-14 to the M-16. We had already qualified with the M-14, the only rifle used in training up to that date. The following week we were told we'd all be going back out to the firing range to qualify on the new M-16. Before us only the M-14 was used in training and after us only the M-16 was used.

We knew the M-16's were prone to jamming - we heard it from our Drill Instructors (who had qualified days before us) and we experienced it occasionally during qualification. But, the lighter weight and the reduced recoil were advantages we all sought in training. In combat it was a different story.....most infantrymen in "the field" would have chosen the reliability of the old M-14 if given the choice.
To which I replied:
Quote:
Originally Posted by pathfinder8008 View Post
Thanks for the first hand anecdotal evidence. I have always pondered this question and wrote off the most part because of sour grapes or anti-American propaganda. Now I have some data I can digest; between the article "The Gun" and your fathers story. Yes it seems that lack of chromium chamber and barrel would indeed be an issue.

I never qualified with the M14 but went to the range with the scout platoon once and fired the M21 system. Shot damn well, probably a MOA semi-auto 7.62x51. Wish I could afford to get my hands on one a them.

I am new to this forum and happy to find a good group of gents who can have a discussion with no undue emotions.

Thanks
OK, if there is any other good information out there please submit.


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Old 09-28-2011, 05:11 PM   #2
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This is good information. Thanks for taking the time to put it out there PF.



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Old 09-28-2011, 06:15 PM   #3
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Thank you pathfinder8008,

I had no intention of creating such

a massive reverb with my original post,

and once again apologize for seeming

to anyone here that I cast any doubts or

negative comments on the AR platform,

which I willingly admit has developed into

one of the finest modular weapons of all

time.

I especially would like to see a posting from

anyone
who heard a person in position of

authority at the time of the original M-16

incident say cleaning the M-16 in the field

was not needed...

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Old 09-28-2011, 11:32 PM   #4
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Pathfinder, one issue I didn't see mentioned yet - I have read that initial production lots of ammo did not use the proper type of powder, causing increased fouling.

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Old 09-29-2011, 02:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ofitg View Post
Pathfinder, one issue I didn't see mentioned yet - I have read that initial production lots of ammo did not use the proper type of powder, causing increased fouling.
Thanks, I did a google search concerning powder fouling and found this. There are no references listed so I can not verify this information but you may find it interesting reading.

Armalite / Colt AR-15 / M16 M16A1 M16A2 M16A3 M16A4 assault rifle (USA)
Quote:
During immediately following years, a number of negative reports apears from Vietnam. M16A1 rifles, issued to US troops in the Vietnam, severely jammed in combat, resulting in numerous casualties. There were some causes for malfunction. First of all, during the introduction of the new rifle and its ammunition into the service, US Army replaced originally specified Dupont IMR powder with standard ball powder, used in 7.62x51mm NATO ammunition. The ball powder produced much more fouling, that quickly jammed the actions of the M16 unless the gun was cleared well and often. It also had different pressure curve, resulting in increased stress on operating parts of the gun. This pitifully combined with the fact that the initial M16 rifles were promoted by the Colt as "low maintenance", so, for the sake of economy, no cleaning supplies were procured for new M16 rifles, and no weapon care training was conducted fro the troops. As a result, soldiers did not knew how to clean their rifles, and had no provisions for cleaning, and things soon turned bad. Another cost-saving measure on the part of the Army was to give up with cromium plation of the barrel bore and bolt group, which made these parts much more sensitive to corrosion and rust that originally designed.
After several dramatic reports in US press and Congressional investigation of the troubles, several actions were taken to remedy the problems. The 5.56mm ammunition was now loaded using different powders that produce much less residue in the gun action. The barrel, chamber and bolt of the rifles were chrome-lined to improve corrosion resistance. Cleaning kits were procured and issued to troops, and a special training programs were developed and conducted ever since. Earliest cleaning kits could be carried separate from rifle only, but since circa 1970 all M16A1 rifles were manufactured with the containment cavity in the buttstock, that held the cleaning kit. At the same time (circa 1970) the new 30 rounds magazines were introduced into service instead of the original 20 rounds ones, to equal Soviet and Chinese AK-47 assault rifles, which had 30-rounds magazines from the very beginning.
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Old 09-29-2011, 05:02 PM   #6
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A good friend of mine was on a troubleshooting team that collected data on the M16 rifle. Some kid would write a letter to his congressman saying his M16 jammed in combat. Often the team would find discover the kid was a support guy who had never fired his M16 in combat.

All the M16 growing pains can be traced to these things:

1. The US Army insisted in loading 5.56mm ammo with ball powder.

2. The lack a chrome plated chamber: The chamber would sometimes rust. The Army wanted this feature but were over-ruled by the McNamara bunch in the Pentagon.

3. The lack of a cleaning kit. The first M16 rifles were issued without cleaning kits. McNamara's "whiz kids" in the Penatgon over-ruled the Army on cleaning kits for the M16 rifle. They were backed up by Eugene Stoner who claimed the gun was "self cleaning.

4. The lack of standard maintenance procedures for the M16 rifle.

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Old 09-29-2011, 07:57 PM   #7
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Pathfinder, here's a good reference for you -

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA460822

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Old 09-29-2011, 11:17 PM   #8
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Don't forget the puny caliber, after the rifle twist was changed to 1;8, the bullet lost its inherent ability to tumble. This required the double/triple tap to dispatch those who need killing. Remember the 6.8 SPC?

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Old 09-30-2011, 02:12 AM   #9
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Please bear in mind- when the M16 was FIRST issued, there WAS no cleaning rod/ bore brush, so it would be rather hard to carry one in your pack. Rods for the previous rifles were .30 cal, and would not FIT. There WERE folks back home send CARE packages to their sons of 25 cleaning rods at a time.

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Old 09-30-2011, 02:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bb1 View Post
Don't forget the puny caliber, after the rifle twist was changed to 1;8, the bullet lost its inherent ability to tumble. This required the double/triple tap to dispatch those who need killing. Remember the 6.8 SPC?
IIRC, the 5.56 is considered devastating to humans for it's size. The Viet Cong

grew to fear and respect it.


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