Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Site Notices
9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/30/2002 8:33:20 PM EDT
I have been reading the book and came across a disturbing comment about the M16 while in combat. On page 243, it is described how every third man became inflicted with a jammed M16 and had to resort to cleaning the weapon while heavily engaged with NVA and VC. These men eventually turned to the stack of weapons that they had policed earlier in the day from the American dead and evacuated wounded just so that they could stay in the fight. This is the second mention of the M16 failing (other than being hit by enemy fire). The first mention of an M16 failing is earlier in the book when a crucial pin walked out of the reciever and the trigger system ceased operating. I was wondering if this was the same time period when our troops were issued the ball powder ammunition that was blamed for many of the M16 jams. If you all like, I can write in the direct quote. Not trying to start an AR15 bash-a-thon after all I am actively seeking my first purchase. Just wanting to piece together the history. By the way, VERY GOOD BOOK!!!

Link Posted: 8/30/2002 9:02:46 PM EDT
I think the main problem was that the troops were simply issued the new rifles and were never given any instruction on how to clean and maintain it.
Link Posted: 8/30/2002 10:13:16 PM EDT
That was the same time frame as the Ball Powder issue as well as non-chrome lined bores. Most of the problems were fixed with the introduction of the M16A1 shortly after.

I still roll my eyes whenever I read that the M16 was initally promoted to our troops in 'Nam as a "self-cleaning" rifle. God, what those poor guys had to go through.

I feel for all of the Vietnam Vets out there...we didn't have near that much shit to put up with during Desert Storm.
Link Posted: 8/30/2002 10:39:32 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/30/2002 10:41:58 PM EDT by USMC_LB]
Aint that the truth. My M16A2 functioned flawlessly during the Gulf. I learned to strip down the whole lower receiver while over there. The armorers would have killed me if they had seen me doing that !

Once I lost my detent ball out of the rear sight apreture. It hit my palm and went into the sand where I was sitting. I calmly marked the 4 corners of the area with MRE spoons and began a slow process of pinching sand and dropping it into my palm.

After about 40 minutes I found the detent ball....

Later while showing off to someone that I could completely strip the lower I ended up breaking a section off the top of my trigger. The two sides on the top of the trigger. Yeah, knocked a nice chunk out. After that my safety would not work....

spent the rest of my time over there making sure I never "locked and loaded". I would just wait until I needed to have a round in there.[:\]

After we returned to the states we had to clean ALL the weapons in the armory... I was HAPPY to oblige. The first weapon I could find was stripped and trigger removed. After the switch I quietly returned the rifle with the "bad" trigger in it so someone else could clean it.

Armorers never knew anything was ever wrong with my baby

They used to threaten to prosecute us if we lost our firing pin from our M16s... sure 'nuff my came up lost on the cleaning table one day. Could not find it ANYwhere!

About 2 minutes later armorers came out with some rifles that needed to be cleaned because they were not assigned to anyone and always sat in the vault....

I promptly got one and brought it to the table. After close inspection I took it immediately to the armorers and let them know this weapon was just opened up and there was no firing pin...

I later turned in MY weapon all complete

We used powder graphite to lube our M16s in the Gulf. CLP would allow EVERY speck of sand to adhere to the rifle.

Link Posted: 8/31/2002 7:22:09 AM EDT
Thanks for the history. I was going to ask if these early M16's had a chrome lined chamber and bbl. But, it appears that they did not and this feature was not present until the M16a1. I was also wondering about the magazines. These guys in the book are constantly on full auto, which of course goes through a 20 round magazine very fast. Did these guys also practice the habit of not loading their 20 round magazines to the full capacity or is this time period still to early before the soldiers related magazine spring pressure to rifle reliabilty. It seems to me, these poor guys would have constantly been reloading.

Link Posted: 8/31/2002 7:59:23 AM EDT
USMC_LB, I was continually amazed by what ended up in my armory. It was a 3rd/4th shop, so we saw weapons that had become really screwed up. M240G's missing the buttstock(the buffer plate was there, just some grunt unscrewed the plastic buttstock, and lost it). M16A2's with the burst cam put in backwards, the rear sight totally gone. 3 M16A2's run over by an Amtrac. My favorite was a MK19 that was fired with an obstruction in the barrel. Totally unsalvageable, with the barrel blow clear out of the receiver (never did find out what happened to the crew).

However, if you're nice to us armorers, we have lots of pre-expended parts that we can hook you up with.
Link Posted: 8/31/2002 9:50:43 AM EDT
I was with 101st in the Gulf and taught myself how to disassemble the lower receiver while we were sitting on our asses near the Iraq border waiting for the ground war to start. I still remember the first time I did it and the relief I felt when I had it all put back together and no "spare" parts were left over!

We didn't have the dry lubricant, just good 'ol break-free so sand was an issue for us. Tom's right...pouring sand down the breach of a properly lubricated M16A2 is a bad bad thing.

Another cool thing is since I was a short-timer when the war was over, I inherited the Arms Room as the company armorer. We had enough parts on hand (which weren't authorized at the company level) I could have built two complete rifles except for the lower receivers.

Karl - I heard the same thing that the GI's would only load 15-16 rounds in their mags. I may be wrong, but I seem to remember it had something to do with the springs locking up in the humidity if the mags were loaded to capacity even just overnight. I suspect that the grossly humid conditions and leasons learned in Vietnam is also the direct reason why we use Aluminum mags now since they won't rust like the steel ones. That's why I steer clear of the USA mags and stick with USGI or the like. I'm not really sure when they introduced the 30rd mags.
Link Posted: 8/31/2002 10:21:45 AM EDT
Krazy Karl,

Another thread on this site had a link to this article on the history of the M-16 in Vietnam. I found it very interesting. It is a long read, but worth reading both parts one and two.

Link Posted: 8/31/2002 2:47:09 PM EDT
Thanks Ed! After reading that, I need to go home and hug my M1-A. Good link.

Link Posted: 8/31/2002 2:54:03 PM EDT
Is it safe to say that if the current M16A2's and M4's we would of had alot less casulities?

I've always wondered myself how bad it really was when they were using the E1 model...
Link Posted: 8/31/2002 3:48:32 PM EDT

Mags we used at the end of the war for stateside training was the early 20 round aluminum while the newer 30 round was used in Nam. In 65, the 30s would not have been available except with SF. Switching out quickly was therefore important as graphically demonstrated in the movie. I guess it is a reason I'm obsessed with quick change ability now, force of habit kind of thing. I don't ever recall having training on not overloading your mag but it was something I took for granted by the time I got out. Kind of learned on my own or from my buds.

Thought I would add a comment: I knew alot of old timers (then, I am now) that loved the M14 and I do too, but for all it's issues, the M16 was by far the weopon of choice in Nam. With nasty humping and limited vision, weight and rate of fire are kings.

Really like hearing form you Desert Storm and Afghan guys. Things have changed alot but somehow seem the same.
Link Posted: 8/31/2002 4:28:34 PM EDT
As long as we have politicians that have never served in the of military are in charge, things will never change very much. They are more interested in individual reputations and building up their own wealth than they are the lives of those military men and women who fight for this country. Although I support our current president, I'll never figure out how Clinton got into the whitehouse...let alone that he made it there twice!!

What was that line from Braveheart? It went something like..."What does it mean to be noble? You believe that the people exist to provide you with position, while I believe your position exists to provide your people with freedom!" Just change out the word Noble with Politician, which really shouldn't be associated with each other anyway.
Link Posted: 8/31/2002 4:31:50 PM EDT

I am sure our armorers had spare parts but I felt I was their bastard child... ( Heh that is part of the USMC_"LB". LB stands for Lil' Bastard ) and that they would not have helped out the ol' L.B.

I was never in their good graces...

Once, I was taking my time "cleaning" my weapon and was still working on it when almost everyone else had turned theirs in. I had spent most of my time "smokin' n jokin'" with everyone.

My platoon leader came up at looked at me disgustedly. Dammit Duncan! Go turn that weapon in !

Hell, he didnt ask if it was clean!!

I put it together as quick as I could and marched to the armory. I handed my rifle to the head armorer with a shitty grin on my face. He looked at me, then at the nasty q-tip he was using to inspect it. EEeewwwww! He was livid.

He screamed, "Why the hell or you turning in this weapon ?!?!" I calmly replied, "They told me to turn it in right now."

Oh, this set him off to walking around clutching my rifle like a chicken by the neck and pacing around mumblin' some shit like. "What the hell they think they are doin' & they think they are going to turn this in to MY armory ?"

He asked who my platoon leader was and I promptly told him. About 45 seconds later the Gunny came over the PA system and wanted all E-4's and above to class room 5, now !

At the same time all weapons that were not already turned in were to bt immediately taken to class room 5.

We got to leave once the Corporals and Above finished cleaning our weapons... ( they shouldnt have yelled at me for throwing handfuls of my .223 blanks off into the bush )

Well they actually didnt yell at me until a Captain I was near when we started assaulting the enemy heard me saying, " Pow, pow, pow, zip, bang-pop, budda, budda, budda".

He stopped me and asked why I wasnt shooting blanks. I told him I didnt have any. He wanted to know where they were. I just looked over my shoulder....

Link Posted: 9/1/2002 4:49:23 AM EDT
Wow, ArmyInf for a 11Bravo ground pounder, you sure are one heavy dude..........If you can't tell by my, TomJefferson, I have similar questions..........
Link Posted: 9/1/2002 9:21:26 AM EDT

Originally Posted By USMC_LB:

We used powder graphite to lube our M16s in the Gulf. CLP would allow EVERY speck of sand to adhere to the rifle.

A question for USMC_LB:
1. How well does powder graphite work for you guys in the Gulf?
2. And what areas you apply powder graphite?

I use it for the C-mag, but have never used it for AR-15/M16 yet...Thanks
Link Posted: 9/2/2002 2:43:38 PM EDT
I am not saying I would use powder graphite in my "own" rifle but in the desert with wind constantly gusting and blowing sand and dust around us it made CLP a major problem!

Sand still got in our wepons but could be easily brushed out if there was no CLP. If CLP was present ( even a THIN coating ) every speck would stick and you would have to break out q-tips to get it all.

The powder graphite worked great !

No residue for dust to stick to.

We always cleaned with CLP but afterwards would dry the rifles as good as possible. After the rifle was completely dried off then we applied the powder graphite.

We just puffed it anywhere you normally would oil your rifle with CLP.

Remember, we didnt care if the rifles got worn out faster... we didnt own them. But as far as jams caused by sticky sand. We never had them.

Not to say that sand would not be a problem. Sand was still a major concern. But cleaning now only took a few minutes with your AP brush to wisk the sand out. Where before it was a major task...
Link Posted: 9/3/2002 11:43:49 AM EDT
I was an infantryman with the 1st Cav Div (5/7)in those days, but after the Ia Drang battle, and had first-hand experience with the early M-16 variants. After I cool off from reading some of the asinine comments above I will post a response.
Link Posted: 9/6/2002 9:47:38 PM EDT
By asinine comments I wasn't flaming you guys who wrote them. I know you are just repeating a lot of myths that seem to persist.

The one that really hacks me off is that the GI's didn't clean their weapons. I am not sure how this got started. Could have come from when the DoD made a purchase of AR-15's in about 1964 and sent them to Vietnam to be used by advisors and SF guys on a trial basis. There was some bullshit about the rifle not needing to be cleaned as often by Colt and it probably evolved into some idiot telling guys that it was "self-cleaning". There was also a shortage of .22 cleaning rods and no chamber brush initially at this stage but that was no biggie and was rectified way before regular Army units showed up with E1's. Most likely the cleaning issue was made up by Army brass, civilian politicans, and Colt executives all trying to cover their ass that there were rifles in the hands of U.S. servicemen and they did not work. Easy to point the finger at the troops and cast the blame on them.

Anyone who has ever gone through Basic Training and Infantry AIT knew how to clean their weapon (including the XM-16E1) better than they knew how to brush their teeth. I don't know about the Army today with all the women and gays but in the 60's the Army trained you how to shine your boots and clean your weapon!

There is even a photograph of a GI in Vietnam in the "Black Rifle" book showing a soldier dusting off the outside of his M-16 with a shaving brush or some such thing. The caption leads the reader to believe that this soldier is dumb, ill-trained, and did not clean his weapon. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I can assure you the inside of his M-16 was probably spotless and lubricated. This is in reality a soldier that was so conscious about his rifle that he kept it spotless even on the exterior and in appearance!

We trained with the XM-16E1 in Infantry AIT at Ft. Polk and were well trained in use and cleaning. We spent a lot of time in the classroom learning the function of the weapon, disassembly, cleaning and time at the range shooting. By the time I went to Vietnam I had cleaned an M-16 more times than I could count.

We kept our rifles spotlessly clean. We lightly oiled everything because of all the rain and water. Kept them wiped down to prevent rust on the steel parts. We had chamber brushes, cleaning rods, bore brushes, solvent, and patches. We also had spare parts and a lot of guys carried a whole spare bolt assembly cleaned and oiled in their packs. It could be quickly dropped in during combat. During the summer of 67 we were given chromed bolts and carriers as replacements and retrofitted the new buffer assy.

To say that 11B's in any of the Army Divisions in Vietnam did not clean their M-16's is a total insult. Doesn't even make common sense. Think about it guys??

As far as guys having to clean their rifles during the Ia Drang battle, probably true and that is a function of their using an auto weapon and would/is a problem with about all them. The Ia Drang battle like many in VN lasted for DAYS not hours. On full auto fire a soldier could put a couple of thousand rounds through an M-16 in one day easily! I think any rifle would be carboned up pretty good by that time. During the heat of combat you get into a situation where you have to oil the hell out of it to keep it working in the short run but in the long run the oil will burn up and things get gummed up and carboned up even worse. Damned if you don't and damned if you do. It was not uncommon to grab a weapon from a dead or wounded soldier when yours was carboned up and the NVA were 25 yds in front of you. Combat in VN in those major battles was fierce and could last for days on end. Those are tough conditions for any rifle. I personally pumped my whole load of 25 20-rounders through an A1 so fast that the barrel was cherry red around the front sight area and the gas tube was yellow.

"I've always wondered myself how bad it really was when they were using the E1 model..."

MillerSHO, man you don't want to know! It was worse than bad.

I went to VN in May, 1967 with the 1st Cav and by then the E1 rifles had been in the war over two years. With non-chrome chambers and bores they were just worn out. From May to about October I went through about 8 or 10 XM-16E1's. Every time someone got medivac'd out I would take their weapon if I thought it was better than mine. Hell, none of them were any good. I NEVER had an E1 that worked. I remember putting in a brand new bolt assembly and buffer assembly and it still would not work. I tried oil, I tried dry, I tried everything. The round would freeze in the chamber and the extractor would rip the edge of the brass off. The chambers were worn out. Period.

It wasn't the friggin powder, it wasn't that we didn't clean them, it wasn't the old early buffer and too fast of a cyclic rate, it wasn't that we "weren't properly instructed on how to use and clean the weapon", it wasn't ANY of that stuff you read. I never had a single malfunction with my E1 in AIT because it HAD NOT BEEN IN A DAMN WAR IN THE JUNGLE FOR TWO YEARS and fired a zillion rounds! It had the same parts, it had the same ammo and all that stuff. Those early E1's looked like hell and were shot to hell after 2 1/2 years. Junk.

I met up with one of my old VN buddies in my squad a couple of years ago and he related to me that "he NEVER ONCE had a jam with his M-16", he went on to add "even before we got the new ones" (M-16A1's). Well that was because he happened to have one that was not worn out! Wrong powder my ass, he was using the same ammo I was and mine didn't work. I couldn't get my hands on a good one.

It is true that the early buffer, wrong powder, other things were complicating factors that needed correcting but they were not the basic problem that led to GI's writing to their Congressmen about bad rifles. In about October of 1967 we got new M-16A1's. Chinook came out with them in wooden crates and we dragged them out and threw our E1's in the crates. Supply Sarge had sent out a Jeep gas can full of JP-4 and some auto parts cleaning brushes, and a mail bag full of rags. We used our steel pots and JP-4 and cleaned the cosmolene off. Then we did a detail cleaning including the bore and did a test fire. I tell you I never had anything better in my hand!! Those puppies would walk and talk! End of the M-16 problem in Vietnam. Never again was the problem to surface. Why? Because of the chrome chamber and the fact that they were new!

For all the experts that think the "problem" was ammo, bullshit. We were using the same ammo we had used in the old E1's.

I was interviewed by the Ichord Commission staffers on LZ Sandra in the summer of 1967. It was a sham. I and everyone I know told them about the problems we had with the chambers worn out, case heads ripped off, etc, and the bastards published a report that indicated we didn't clean our weapons.

The M-16 almost cost me my life and yes, I have seen the dead GI's with their M-16's disassembled in their hands. It was a shame we had those experiences and had to learn the hard way as an Army and a country. The M-16 also saved my life in the end.

However, with all the trials and tribulations of the early days I must say I wouldn't want to go back with anything else. I never had a single malfunction of any kind with my M-16A1. Eugene Stoner created a great rifle. I just took awhile to iron out the problems and for the Army to get weapons in good condition in the hands of the troops. Vietnam was a "catch up" war in all regards.
Link Posted: 9/7/2002 6:08:24 AM EDT
Finally the truth from someone who was THERE.
It is a shame that the gov. pushed the rifle into service without ironing the kinks out.
I guess we can thank McNamara for that.
Link Posted: 9/7/2002 6:47:55 AM EDT
Everyone had their own experience and I can only relate what I experienced. Others may have experienced something different and have another point of view.

McNamara, along with the rest of the Democrats in the Johnson administration, ought to be hunted down, tried for treason, and shot for their conduct of the war.

They dilly dalled around with half-assed policies, playing into the hands of the enemy's strategy. A big part of the Communist's strategy was to use the liberals and misfits in the U.S. to pressure the Democrats holding power in the government to do less not more in the war. By doing that they succeeded in getting our own government to play out a policy that kept the war on limitations that were favorable to them.

By the time Nixon was elected we technically still had a chance to save South Vietnam but practically speaking the objective was lost. The Democrats controlled Congress and cut off funding for the South Vietnamese army. The liberal press doesn't print a word of that for our grandchildren to read.

The followers of Ho Chi Minh only had to hold on long enough for the Americans to leave and at the same time reconstitute their forces. When they finally were strong enough to make a move it was a cake walk to Saigon.

As much as I detest McNamara, he was right in turning to America's commercial industrial base for technology that would leverage our military and trying to streamline the development and procurement processes. Armalite/Stoner/Colt and Remington had developed something much superior to anything that had come out of the Ordinance Corp of the Army. We do better today but getting the latest technology into the hands of the troops is a game of reaching for a yard and getting an inch.

Support the troops and demand our government give them the best hardware we can. They will do the job we ask of them.
Link Posted: 9/7/2002 7:13:03 AM EDT
Link Posted: 9/7/2002 6:19:53 PM EDT

Thanks for sharing that info with everyone here. What you said about the guns simply being worn out makes more sense to me than anything. I too never believed that powder alone, or even not having chrome chambers were the reasons why early M-16's failed. There are lots of new rifles out there today such as DPMS and Rock River that run fine and they don't have a chrome lined chamber and barrel. As you said, they are new. If they were shot out, then one could expect problems from those also!

One other question.....how did the 5.56mm do as far as stopping ability? This is the other major topic you hear when discussing the M-16. Did the M-16 drop the enemy soldiers with authority or was it a more feeble stopper?

And finally, thanks for serving our nation. I almost get sick to my stomach every time I watch something from history and see people protesting against our soldiers. I could understand and have no problem if they were protesting the war, but when they started taking out their frustrations on our troops, that was going too far. I have an uncle who served as a .50 gunner on a PBR in the Mekong Delta from 1967-1968. I am very proud of you guys and the job you did over there. I just wish all of you could finally get the respect you so deserve.

---Charging Handle
Link Posted: 9/8/2002 5:14:15 AM EDT
Now, I'm sorry I deleted my first post on this topic.........My basic training M16 was an E1 reject from Nam. It rattled and was scratched to hell and back but fired flawlessly. I did have the occassional jam on full auto which was easily cleared with no tools and attribute the jam to it was just so damn fast. Burppp and 20 rounds were gone. It would literaly bend a round. Echo Dean, you could eat off my rifle, cleaning your rifle was a way of life and came before food or drink............

PS: Dean, Polk sucked in our day.

Link Posted: 9/8/2002 10:26:47 AM EDT
I always thought the M-16 was too fast. 20 or even 30 rounds go too fast for effective fire. The high rate also contributes to malfunctions, just no way to get around it. A detriment to the M-16 vs. the AK was that we not only had 20 but the AK had a slower rate of fire. It makes a tremendous difference at close range. The NVA and VC were actually trained to listen for a couple of bursts then move quickly. They were also trained to listen for the GI changing mags. That was when they would jump you. I was told this by an ex-VC who had defected and wound up serving with my platoon as a scout.

All the E1's in my unit (5/7 Cav) were retrofitted with the new buffer mid-67. There may have been some that were not. Anything is possible with the U.S. Army and during wartime. That may be why Tom Jefferson's fired so fast but hell they were all too fast. Still are.

Yea, Tom, Polk sucked big time man!

Some of the E1's that were brought back probably looked like hell but it is entirely possible, very probable, that they had not been in a lot of combat. So I can totally understand that one of those would work fine. That of course was my point. It wasn't so much the design or flaws in the rifle per se as it was that they were worn out. Of course the mods and new powder all helped, especially the chrome chamber cut way down on wear and corrosion. One must remember also that the new A1's were issued starting in the Fall of '67 and the war peaked during Tet in the Spring of '68. Not only did the U.S. sort of draw down somewhat after that but the NVA and VC were decimated by then. I am guessing that the combat went down somewhat because of both sides so the rifles were not only new and better but subject to less harsh usage? Anyway the problems with the M-16 came to an abrupt end generally speaking.

Charging Handle, thanks for the kind words. The disrespect thing has been overblown in my opinion. I think it is part of the liberal patethic handwringing that is typical of them. It is done in the movies and tv to actually portray VN vets as down-and-out types. It serves to create a negative image of us because those people supported the other side. They basically hate America and anything strong. I never experienced much of that. It do detest the thing of these people "feeling sorry" for me and the other vets. So do us a favor and recognize it for what it is. We are a proud and happy bunch. We don't sit under freeway overpasses or push grocery carts around. That is an image created by the liberals. They want the public to think we are abnormal. In reality we know who is abnormal. They are just a bunch of freaks. Always were, always will be. We were soldiers, always were, always will be. Just like the title of Col. (now Lt.Gen) Moore's book. We were just young then :) Respect comes from within and from those of us who share pride and values together.
Link Posted: 9/8/2002 3:51:42 PM EDT

Thanks for the great post on this topic! I would also be interested in how effective the 5.56 NATO was in combat at various ranges. I have also heard conflicting reports on the lethality of the round.

Thanks for any information and for serving our country,

Top Top