Weapons Lube Issued by Army May be Costing Lives in Iraq
By Jim Hoffer
(New York-WABC, November 18, 2003) — In a four-month investigation that reaches from the sands of Iraq to the halls of the Pentagon, we found that weapons given to tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers may not work in the desert. All because of a defective product And it could be putting American troops at risk. The Investigators' Jim Hoffer is here with his findings.
The key to surviving any war is to have a weapon that works. To that end a good, reliable gun lubricant is critical.
But our investigation has found that a lubricant supplied by the military may be actually causing guns to jam. What's worse, soldiers say they were blocked from getting a better lubricant at a time when they needed it the most.
A Purple Heart does little to heal the aching heart of a mother who's lost her son to war.
Arlene Walters, Mother: "He was conscientious about everything."
Sgt. Donald Walters was in the same convoy as Private Jessica Lynch when Iraqis ambushed it, killing Walters and 10 other soldiers. A Pentagon report on the attack shows that many of the soldiers could barely fight back because of multiple "weapons malfunctions."
Pfc. Jessica Lynch: "When we were told to lock and load. That's when my weapon jammed."
The report suggests their weapons failed perhaps because of "inadequate individual maintenance". In other words, the Army says that the soldiers may have neglected to clean their guns.
Arlene Walters: "That shouldn't happen to everybody. It seems that it's a fault of something that they are using not the fault of the soldier that he didn't clean the gun."
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic, Firearms Trainer: "They would stop and jam."
Kovacic, a retired lieutenant colonel who trained thousands of soldiers for the Iraqi invasion, says this grieving mother's suspicions are right on target.
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic: "Those weapons if properly lubricated will work better than anybody else's. But they have to be properly lubricated, CLP is not the proper lubrication."
Col. Kovacic contacted Eyewitness News outraged that the military was equipping soldiers with a government-issued lubricant known as CLP.
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic: "It didn't work when I was a tank commander and it's not working now."
Eyewitness News obtained a copy of a general's "lessons learned" report which details weapons performance in Iraq. The report says soldiers repeatedly stated that "CLP was not a good choice for weapon's maintenance", claiming it "attracted sand to the weapon."
We heard similar complaints about the lubricant from some New Jersey Marine reservists back from Iraq:
Corporal Steven Gentle, Montclair NJ: "I used it as little as possible.
Jim Hoffer: "You used it as little as possible? Why?"
Corporal Steven Gentle: "Because the CLP attracted the sand. It made the sand stick to the weapon and clot up, causing the weapon to jam."
In telephone conversations and e-mails from soldiers we heard numerous complaints about CLP. One sergeant told me it is a commonly known fact that the military-issued gun lubricant doesn't work in the desert. We've learned that some soldiers have been so desperate for a lubricant that works they're writing their families for help.
Art Couchman, Father [reading from letter]: "'Dad, that Militec is working great!' ..."
Art Couchman sent his son, a soldier in Iraq, a commercial lubricant called Militec. A firearms trainer for police in New York, Couchman became quite concerned when his son told him that the military-issued lubricant attracted dirt and sand to his gun. That's when Couchman sent him bottles of Militec.
In a recent letter, his son thanks his dad for the shipment of Militec, calling the lube, "pretty amazing stuff."
Art Couchman: "I think it could probably save some lives if they had more of this stuff."
Even that "lessons learned" report put out by the Pentagon states that soldiers considered "Militec to be a much better solution for lubricating weapons" than the military's CLP.
And now many are questioning why just as the war began, the military cancelled all troop orders for Militec.
Brad Giordani, Militec: "They were unable to get the product after the orders were cancelled."
The commercial lubricant's inventor says he knows why. Because the military invested millions of dollars developing CLP, Brad Giordani says Army bureaucrats feared their product would be outshined.
Brad Giordani: "(The orders) were cancelled by civilians within the Defense Department that realized our orders were getting to be such large quantities that if they would have allowed these orders to go through we would now be the standard lubricant within the army."
The Army declined an interview but in a statement to U.S. admits that in the middle of the war, it stopped filling orders for Militec. It doesn't explain why.
The Army says Militec is now available, and further states that because of "mixed reports on the performance ... of lubricants" it plans to "rapidly evaluate ... and test" various products for possible future use.
Colonel Kovacic says Militec is already proven in desert combat. And as long as CLP remains the government product of choice, he says, then that's what most troops will get, leaving the better lube on the shelf and soldiers lives on the line.
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic: "There's a better product. I say we give the kids the best we can give them. I'm telling you CLP is not the best weapons lubricant, they even said that in a report."
For nearly seven months, the military blocked soldier's orders for the rival Militec. Only in October, in the middle of our investigation, did the Army again begin to fill orders for Militec.
Excerpt below is from ArmaLite's TECHNICAL NOTE 29 written April 10, 1999.
RBC (Rifle Bore Cleaner) or a suitable commercial product like Hoppe’s number 9.
Cleaning patches of correct caliber
Bore brush of correct caliber
Cleaning rod or pull-through
LSA (Lubricant, Semifluid, Automatic Weapons) or suitable substitute such as Bore Cote.
The most important cleaning materials are bore cleaning solvent, a good supply of rags, and a suitable lubricant. Almost all of the important fouling in the rifle can be quickly wiped from the parts. Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and brushes are useful.
Some time ago, the military switched to CLP (Cleaner, Lubricant, and Preservative) as a do-all small arms maintenance product. That’s nice for logisticians, who now need only provide a single product. CLP is commercially sold under the brand name Break Free ®.
Unfortunately, CLP is a compromise product, and does nothing especially well. Some of the most experienced of the government’s small arms engineers have concluded that the old combination of RBC (Rifle Bore Cleaner) and LSA (Lubricant, Semifluid, Automatic Weapons) is the best combination of materials for ArmaLite® family arms. We agree with the RBC/LSA combination as a starting point, with other later products judiciously used if available.
How does Militec do in wet/cold? Might have to switch.
I take it these soldiers lubed their M16's according to the enviroment they operate in? It's common knowledge that in dry/dusty i.e. a desert enviroment minimal lubrication is required i.e. a light film of CLP to any weapon but the M16/AR15 series of weapons in particular. Cleaning is much more important as sand tends to get into everything.. Now if these M16 are lubed like being used in a SE asia swamp and the first shot will throw a wave of oil in the shooters face you got your problem.
Usually and commonly the solution to a dirty weapon for some soldiers is to drown it in weaponsoil, you don't solve any problem but create an enviroment for problems to enlarge and get worse.
Not saying these soldiers are doing it wrong, but Pvt. J. Lynch was in a REMF unit...how's the infantry on the line doing? Are they having the same problems with CLP? No disrespect intended to any wounded or killed servicemen/woman but stoppages with the M16A2/M4 usually can be traced back to wrong maintenance...
Perhaps it's just the real basic problem with the M16 weapons system period, it functions as long as you maintain it correctly. Desert enviroments take weapon/equipment service to the max..
Militec doesn't protect from corrosion worth a cup of spit. That may be less of a problem in the desert, but here in the US or more tropical conditions, it sucks.
Ive read many of these reports and want to add my OPINION.There is nothing wrong with CLP.It is a do all. While Militec is only a LUBE. Your rifle will rust as fast as spraying water on it. But it's a Lube only,its really slick. But if you was to over lube with Militec,? Guess what you would have the same problems as with putting to much CLP on it.We was trained( by very good SGT's) and showed to spray some CLP on a clean rag and wipe my bolt and carrier off clean with Q tip and tooth brush and lightly wipe off again with nearly dry rag.The rag would have only a light CLP on it. The bolt would be seemingly dry but would have clp on it .Doing that I had no problems with my unit while desert traing.This is an article by a news reporter.Take it lightly. They need a story. I hope and wished the US Military to come up with a very good dry lube for the desert. But if used properly for the inviroment the rifles are in , CLP still works.Militec company really acted like A$$es when asked if they could make there formula better at rust protection . It really sucks at that.They simply emailed a responce that there's nothing wrong with there product.I guess rusting weapons are exceptable. I have a rifle that Ive tried Militec on and it was really slick on the action.A great lube.But while sitting in my safe It started to get rust.While Breakfree CLP rifles have no rust at all. Pick and chose for your particular, inviroment. (sorry spelling)WarDawg
there is nothing wrong with CLP. the problem is the enviroment.
the japanese and the italians both used machineguns in world war two that needed the bullets to be lubed before entering the action. combine that with desert and beach sand and the guns were failures.
conditions that are too cold also are bad for to much lube.
its all about doing it right, i.e. being well trained, and issueing the right equipment for the right theater.
I use mil-tec exclusivly for lubrication. For rust protection I simply use airgun oil in the little orange bottles from Wal-Mart. It is thin enough to not collect dirt under any conditions that I have used it in, (extreeme cold, mud, sand, dirt) and good enough to keep away rust unless the weapon will be stored for a long time. It burns off in 1 or 2 shots in live fire, so it must be re-applied quicky after shooting though.
We used to have a saying: "If the proper job wasn't done - the proper supervision didn't occur". These articles imply some kind of blind faith that I have never seen. Where are the NCOs in this mix? In all these accounts I have NEVER read that NCOs (and officers) are checking weapons, test firing regularly and supervising maintenance. Have we come to an age where the troops (primarily non-combat arms troops) are "one their own" and we just pull our M4 out of our arse at the last second and pray that it fires reliably? Any NCO worth his or her salt should know the general state of all of the weapons in their assigned unit, and will have arranged test firings after maintenance and inspection.
I couldn't care less what lube the military uses. I DO care that the leadership is invisible in this and everyone acts likes its a big damn suprise when people are dying with stories of multiple weapon failures.
Prior leadership prevents piss poor performance. Blaming the problem on the lube is a cheap way out and ignores a far more serious problem.
Sounds like they're using way to much CLP.
Here in the AZ desert, I go "dry" with just a bit of CLP on the critical areas. That is rub it on, then rub most of it off. And it works excellent.
Plus I have the time to clean the rifle spotless on a regular basis. Time most field personal don't have.
That's what happens when aircraft engineers are allowed to build infantry weapons. Stoner brought a lot of good ideas and materials to the table, but should have left the tight tolerances with the aircraft. An overly complex gas systems doesn't help matters.
The M16 series is an inferior combat weapon system. And should be replaced with something dependable. While they're at it, a better cartridge could be conceived.
Would graphite stay in place long enough to matter as a lube?
Well, I went to Miltec's sight and see that they send out free samples of their lubricant and grease so I asked for some and I guess I will try it out here in the AZ desert. I like free stuff.
If your guns going to jam, you should be able to detect it with routine function checks.
As much as I respect those in the ambushed convoy, I'm betting there rifles sat untouched almost up to the moment of the attack.
Even Lynch's statement suggests it; "They told us to lock and load, and that's when my weapon jammed"
That's not a jam, if it were a jam then the weapon would have had to have actually fired.
Sounds like she grabbed her rifle, tried to charge it,, and it failed to lock into battery because of fouling or debris that should have been detected earlier.
No lubricant should be able to cause a weapon which functions properly at one moment to spontaniously jam the next.
My point is, unless weapons malfunctions begin to be reported after actual firing, then nothing but poor maintenance can be blamed.
That was my quess also, most of us have the military operator manuals for the M16A2 rifle. This one included lubrication and maintenance for extreme enviroments including arctic and desert areas. It's my estimate that these soldiers drown their weapons in CLP only to see it clogged with sand, burnt powder residu etc etc...
Also in this case, it seems the complaint comes from a resupply unit. Now this I don't know but do these types check their weapons prior to go out. They got an order to lock and load indicating they went out with halfloaded weapons. This could be the same procedure followed as in a helicopter because no one wants a ND in a vehicle.
My brother who is a Royal Netherlands Marine, used the Diemaco C7A1 extensively in Ethiopia. Their weapons although dusty on the outside were cleaned at least once or twice a day with CLP. No jam or malfunction was reported due to the use of the lubricant. A few of them got chewed out because the weapon wasn't cleaned properly before going out on a patrol. So I agree with those who say, where are the NCO's in this story.
I think what we have here are REMFS still thinking their plastic wonderweapon will go without cleaning and PROPER lubrication for ages and then look suprised when it fails its duty. It's a shame people died over this, but this has gone on for ages and with the M16 in particular started back in the Vietnam days(and then they did have real complaint, high calciumcarbonate rich powder; no chromelining on the barrels; no cleaning equipment etc etc)
And yes, the AR15/M16 is a very good reliable piece of weaponry. But it requires lots of maintenance for it to continu functioning. Which in infantry terms makes it a less ideal infantryweapon than say the AK74, AK100 series and even the AK47/AKM in my opinion.
I got my free sample. This stuff works.
If I had a nickle for every M-16 taken out of the arms room and NOT lubricated prior to firing (as it was supposed to be prior to my instructions).
Lube resists wear and makes it function better.
But it will surely function with zero lube.
It wasn't until I left the service and my life no longer depended on the performance of my AR15 based weapon, that I learned how to take care of one. In my days in the service, it didn't take me long to combine my own experience and that of the NCO's who led me, into a cleaning system that worked well for me. I found that in a sandy enviorment a very small amount, or no lube at all worked best, in areas where the enviorment was more heavy dirt and clay, a nice thin coat of CLP worked fine. I also found that Dry Film Lube seemed to work well in sandy dusty enviorments. I also discoveered that there is no way that the Officers and NCO's of a unit can be carrying out thier appointed duties if all of the small arms in thier inventory are dead lined. A leader in the Army be that an Officer of NCO is responsible for the safety of those he is in charge of, if he is not ensureing a proper maintanence routine of all assigned equipment (including stuff like pot bellied stoves and rifles), that leader is failing himself, the Army, and most importantly those whose lives depend on him faithfully carrying out his duties as a leader of men. The leadership of this and every other Army unit have a responsibility to do everything in thier power to safegaurd thier troops, I have no doubt that the idiots in charge of this convoy would have went apeshit if they had discovered one of the HMMWV's had rolled with a class three leak, yet they didn't even check to see if thier privates weapons worked. Somebodies priorities were way out of whack. Attitude is what caused the deaths of these soldiers, not a weapons cleaning product that most combat troops seem to find adequate. What has killed so many soldiers is the attitude that goes "I am not a grunt, I don't need to worry about my weapon, I am a mechanic, why should I learn to navigate?". These things are what got this unit put into the hurt locker, not CLP. Maybe if back at FT. Hood some of those NCOs had spent a little less time worrying about leader books, and what thier NCOER would say, and a bit more time training thier soldiers on tactical essentials lives would have been saved. The sad thing is that I doubt one of the involved NCOs will ever see a bullet on thier report card that says "three soldiers who looked to you for guidance are dead, because you failed to train them properly". There has been so much said on this subject already I feel I am wasting bandwidth with this post, but I will post it just in case there are any NCOs reading this, I hope that it makes them think a little.
Enough of the flames about wether or not the M16 is a good rifle, of if CLP is the worst cleaning product ever invented, I want to hear the excuse as to why this bunch of REMF's Bayonetes jammed, are they an inferior design, do they require to much cleaning to use in a desert enviorment, or were these soldiers also not properly trained on this aspect of thier available arsenal? I have not heard of a single report of any of these jokers reverting to the old pig sticker, when thier matty mattel jammed.
Edited to add: Claiming that CLP "attracts sand" is nonesense, it may collect sand, or hold sand, but it doesn't contain some magical ingredient that causes it to attract anything. A vaccumm cleaner may attract sand (when it is turned on), a magnet attracts ferous metals, CLP doesn't attract anything.