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Posted: 7/8/2002 6:11:24 PM EDT
Has anyone else read the book? I am halfway through it right now and the Colt M-16 sure fails often in the book. Ia Drang takes place in 1965, how long did it take them to work out the bugs in the rifle?
One horrific moment was the soldier who had the front pin shot and his rifle fell apart on him.
Link Posted: 7/8/2002 6:29:38 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SS109:
One horrific moment was the soldier who had the front pin shot and his rifle fell apart on him.



I'm not sure I understand your point. Most firearms will malfunction if they are struck with a projectile. What other kinds of failures did they experience?
Link Posted: 7/8/2002 6:37:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SS109:
Has anyone else read the book? I am halfway through it right now and the Colt M-16 sure fails often in the book. Ia Drang takes place in 1965, how long did it take them to work out the bugs in the rifle?

I think it took them another 3-4 years before they got everything sorted out, but I'm sure someone else here can give you a more accurate date.


One horrific moment was the soldier who had the front pin shot and his rifle fell apart on him.
Hate to break it to you - if that happens to your AR the result will be the same today.
Link Posted: 7/8/2002 6:49:27 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/8/2002 6:51:47 PM EDT by Jim_Dandy]
From page 183 of The Ten Thousand Day War Vietnam: 1945-1975:

"In a critique after the Ia Drang battle the senior officer pointedly held up a new, lightweight, fully-automatic rifle and said, 'Brave soldiers and the M-16 brought this victory.' The M-16 was still considered unreliable compared to the equivalent Communist AK-47, yet the majority of troops were then equipped only with the older and heavier semi-automatic M-14- and for fully two years there would not be enough M-16s to go round."

Incidentally, the senior officer referred to is Westmoreland.

P.S. Don't stone me over the quote and any inaccuracies. I took it straight from the book.
Link Posted: 7/8/2002 6:54:47 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/8/2002 6:56:49 PM EDT by Royal_Lancer]
The Army was fighting the Air Force on this one.
M-16 came in the back door via the USA, Curtis Lamay. It took till around late 66/ early 67 to get the chambers and bores chromed.
And issue cleaning kits.
Best I can remember, been a long time to think back.
Link Posted: 7/8/2002 7:01:11 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/8/2002 7:03:27 PM EDT by DaveT]
A detailed answer to your question can be found in "The Great Rifle Controversy" by Edward Clinton Ezell.

I read this about 10 years ago and my recolection is that the initial issue of M-16s were sent with the wrong ammo (contracted lot was loaded with ball powder, rather than the IMR powder Armalite specified) and with no cleaning equipment. Some desk bound buracrat in Washington (D.C.) had heard the AR-15 didn't need to be cleaned.

The above was a recipe for failure if ever there was one.
Link Posted: 7/8/2002 7:11:12 PM EDT
This link has an excellent two part story on the M-16 and details of the problems ironed out. Very long, but worth reading parts one and two.

www.jouster.com/articles30m1/index.html

A couple die hard M-16 devotees here poo-pooed the article, but quite a few found it very interesting.
Link Posted: 7/9/2002 1:56:04 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Jim_Dandy:
...the senior officer pointedly held up a new, lightweight, fully-automatic rifle and said, 'Brave soldiers and the M-16 brought this victory.' ... the senior officer referred to is Westmoreland.


In 1965, Westmoreland was vigorously trying to get more M16’s for the troops in RVN and was getting a lot of resistance from the Pentagon. This sounds like politicking to that end.

I didn’t know widespread problems had arisen as early as 1965. They certainly existed by 1966, and of course the congressional inquiry on these problems was conducted in the Summer of 1967.

While there’s no bright line for when the major problems with the M16 were finally resolved, 1968 would be a pretty good date.
Link Posted: 7/9/2002 8:26:32 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/9/2002 8:28:02 AM EDT by mini14jac]
I am about halfway through the book also.
Seems that two individuals said their guns "disintegrated".
It sounded like maybe the assembly pins broke or came out.

Another soldier either lost his rifle, or used up all the ammo for his grenade launcher, so he wanted to find a rifle. Not hard since there were dead and wounded soldiers everywhere.
He picked up a gun that didn't function.
He reached for another and someone said "That one doesn't work", so he reached for another.
"That one is broke too" he was told.

The author hasn't delved into the failures.
(Mainly because he is busy documenting the hundreds of soldiers who were dying at the time.)
If I had to guess, it sounds like most of them are the infamous "wrong powder, non-chrome" failures.
Link Posted: 7/9/2002 8:49:45 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Jim_Dandy:
From page 183 of The Ten Thousand Day War Vietnam: 1945-1975:

"In a critique after the Ia Drang battle the senior officer pointedly held up a new, lightweight, fully-automatic rifle and said, 'Brave soldiers and the M-16 brought this victory.' The M-16 was still considered unreliable compared to the equivalent Communist AK-47, yet the majority of troops were then equipped only with the older and heavier semi-automatic M-14- and for fully two years there would not be enough M-16s to go round."

Incidentally, the senior officer referred to is Westmoreland.

P.S. Don't stone me over the quote and any inaccuracies. I took it straight from the book.



Westmoreland was a thumb-sucking moron. The worth of his quotes and 5 cents won't buy you a cup of coffee.
Link Posted: 7/9/2002 12:52:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DaveT:
A detailed answer to your question can be found in "The Great Rifle Controversy" by Edward Clinton Ezell.

I read this about 10 years ago and my recolection is that the initial issue of M-16s were sent with the wrong ammo (contracted lot was loaded with ball powder, rather than the IMR powder Armalite specified) and with no cleaning equipment. Some desk bound buracrat in Washington (D.C.) had heard the AR-15 didn't need to be cleaned.

The above was a recipe for failure if ever there was one.



SS109, it took until about 1968 to get things worked out with the M16. The cost of this delay was measured in dead Americans.
-----------------------------------------------

DaveT has got it right.

"..............and then someone in the military changed the 5.56mm ammo powder from IMR to Ball powder. They did it without tests or checking with ArmaLite or even notifying Colts' who, of course, continued to fire the acceptance tests with IMR powder. Colts' didn't learn about it until they read in the newspapers that all the M16's in Vietnam were jamming, one Marine unit had been overrun, and everyone killed because their M16's jammed."

Field investigation found that the guns were all jammed by a fired cartridge that had failed to eject and that none of the dead had a cleaning rod to clear the jam.

The above from an interview with James Sullivan February 2001. (James Sullivan and Bob Fremont designed the AR-15.)

Now:
The chamber was not chromed at this point...
No cleaning kits issued...............

The Army had 100 million rounds of Ball powder on hand.................

(For any historians out there see the "Ichord Committe" report on this disaster.)
---------------------------------------------

Even today, Ball powder is not compatabile with the M16 design.

Ball powder:
fouls the gas system and wears out the piston rings...
Ball causes the cyclic rate to speed up resulting in light strike misfires from bolt carrier bounce................
Failures to extract...............

There's been a bunch of work-arounds to make the M16 function with Ball.

Part of this crap goes at the feet of the Army, some to that all time idiot McNamara.........


Link Posted: 7/9/2002 2:01:41 PM EDT
Very good book which I read in one sitting.


"..............and then someone in the military changed the 5.56mm ammo powder from IMR to Ball powder. They did it without tests or checking with ArmaLite or even notifying Colts' who, of course, continued to fire the acceptance tests with IMR powder. Colts' didn't learn about it until they read in the newspapers that all the M16's in Vietnam were jamming, one Marine unit had been overrun, and everyone killed because their M16's jammed."

Field investigation found that the guns were all jammed by a fired cartridge that had failed to eject and that none of the dead had a cleaning rod to clear the jam.



Who in their right mind would take a brand new or untested out-of-the-box rifle, magazine, or box of ammo into a battle???? If I change my ammo I run a few hundred rounds though my pistols or rifles before I "feel" good about it.

Was it possible that the ammo change was a complete surprise to this unit that had the one shot rifles? That would really suck.
Link Posted: 7/9/2002 2:07:13 PM EDT
Link Posted: 7/9/2002 2:33:48 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 7/9/2002 2:36:54 PM EDT by 5subslr5]

Originally Posted By Paul:
Very good book which I read in one sitting.


"..............and then someone in the military changed the 5.56mm ammo powder from IMR to Ball powder. They did it without tests or checking with ArmaLite or even notifying Colts' who, of course, continued to fire the acceptance tests with IMR powder. Colts' didn't learn about it until they read in the newspapers that all the M16's in Vietnam were jamming, one Marine unit had been overrun, and everyone killed because their M16's jammed."

Field investigation found that the guns were all jammed by a fired cartridge that had failed to eject and that none of the dead had a cleaning rod to clear the jam.



Who in their right mind would take a brand new or untested out-of-the-box rifle, magazine, or box of ammo into a battle???? If I change my ammo I run a few hundred rounds though my pistols or rifles before I "feel" good about it.

Was it possible that the ammo change was a complete surprise to this unit that had the one shot rifles? That would really suck.



Paul,
the units in Vietnam didn't have a clue as to the powder change. In fact, ArmaLite and Colts' didn't know until well into the investigation.

(I'm not a Colts' fan but I've got to tell you it was Colts' people - Foster Sturtevant and Bob Roy - that came up with the mods to allow the M16 to semi function with Ball powder and save the Army's worthless a$$. McNamara and his clowns still didn't want to chrome the chamber - the Army did that without DOD approval. Finally even Stoner realized there had to be a cleaning kit.)


As much as I admire Stoner, I believe he gets the credit for the non-chromed chamber and the cleaning kit (lack of) debacle. There were design errors made by Sullivan and Fremont but all would not have been fatal except for the powder change. Under any conditions and with either powder the chamber should have been chromed and cleaning kits issued..

What's worse with the troops and the M16, these guys had gone through boot with and had been trained on, the M-14. They get to Nam and are handed M16's................

-----------------------------------------------

This statement from Sullivan was a real shocker to me: "Although those cures have proven to be good sound improvements, Ball powder is still not compatible with the M16 and should never have been issued for that weapon. It fouls the gas system and wears out the piston rings."
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 12:20:20 AM EDT
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 4:26:40 AM EDT

It should also be noted that the problem with the ball powder was due to an additive in the powder that tended to gum things up

It was a calcium carbonate-based powder according to Bob Forker who developed the replacement 5.56mm load. I recall in some of his writings that this same powder was surplused eventually and caused a major headache to civilian handloaders as it wasn't soluble with conventional bore cleaners (made a nice shellac build up).
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 4:49:03 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Troy:
A couple of points:

Quite a few references to the "dead rifles" talk about the rifles taking bullets and becoming disabled. This kind of thing happens in war, and the fact that it happened often in the Ia Drang battle is probably more due to the enemy being 100% armed with full-auto weapons (and therefore putting more bullets in the air) than anything else. You can't fault any rifle for malfunctioning after taking a round.

What you didn't hear in the book are any numerous mentions of round stuck in the gun and/or cleaning rods jammed down barrels. Most likely, these guys, being some of the first M16 users in Vietnam, had the "good" ammo that was loaded with IMR, and didn't have many problems. Clearly, there were huge problems later with the ball powder-loaded ammo.

It should also be noted that the problem with the ball powder was due to an additive in the powder that tended to gum things up, a problem that was much more severe in the smaller caliber rifle than in a .30-cal rifle. This problem was ultimately resolved by reducing the amount of that chemical to about 1/8th of the amount in the original formula.

Virtually all of current US military ammo is loaded with ball powder today.

-Troy



Troy,
the AR-15/M16 was always and still is designed for use with IMR powder. Now there have been work-arounds added to make the weapon function with Ball but that does not change the original design.

You've forgotten more about ammunition than I'll ever know but this rifle was timed for the burn rate of IMR. In addition to gumming up the works, Ball powder caused higher gas port pressures.

From the interview with Sullivan: That (Ball powder)caused two types of malfunctions, light strike misfires from bolt carrier bounce and failures to extract a cartridge that has stuck in the chamber because it didn't have enough time to relax its fire-formed press fit.

Since the AR-15/M16 was designed for IMR, even without the additive in the Ball powder, the AR-15/M16 would not have functioned reliably with Ball powder.
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 4:54:47 AM EDT
Some of you may not be familiar with H. James Sullivan but in addition to being co-designer of the AR-15 he also designed a couple of rifles you've probably heard of - the Ruger Mini-14 and Model 77.(Both rifles have sold over million units.)
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 5:17:13 AM EDT
My dad was in NAM from Feb 67 to Mar 68. He said he did all of his basic training with the M14. He got of the plane in Sigon and was handed an M16 and sent to the jungle. No training, no cleaning kit until around May 67.
He was pissed because he knew the M14 blindfolded and then was handed a "toy" with no training.
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 5:20:57 AM EDT
All of the causes identified here are correct. The reason those rifles failed was mutifaceted and can basically laid at the feet of Robert McNamara and his Whiz Kids. The reasons I say that are simple really....HE and his bean counters were in charge...THEY are ultimately responsible for permitting the rest of the fools involved with the testing and fielding of the new rifle. Those folks made the stupid errors that led to the failures and then failed to implement the fixes necessary in a timely manner.

Just about everybody else is likewise responsible, from Mr. Stoner (Not much here though...he gave the Army a fine weapon...they screwed around with it until they caused it to fail.) for not chroming the barrel right from the start, to the Army ordnance testing folks for playing stupid politics with their "Not Invented Here syndrome (They were still in love with the M-14...and NO, I'm NOT going down THAT path again!), and the Army brass in general for not doing something SO f*#$ing basic like demanding a cleaning kit ! I mean...the Army is supposed to know about things like firearms...right? Well then, how in the world could they field a rifle without the means for the grunts to clean them? Geez...I mean all of us AR owners know all about the benefits of cleaning Old Betsy...don't we?

Finally, due to the ongoing dustup in Washington, the Army failed to adequately field test the new rifle. The Air Force had been using the rifle for a number of years, but remember, those were primarily used by LeMay's security police at AF bases in rather pristine environments...not in the bush chasing Charles. Failure to adequately test the new rifle, WITH the powder/bullet mods was a critical failure on the Army's part.
Like I said...a bunch of folks blew this one.
FWIW, I think we have evolved this Little Black Rifle into a fine weapon over the years. Having said that...in a close range SHTF CQB, I'm probably reaching for the AK. (NOW I've gone and done it!...tangent coming!)
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 5:41:36 AM EDT

Originally Posted By WWII_Nut:
My dad was in NAM from Feb 67 to Mar 68. He said he did all of his basic training with the M14. He got of the plane in Sigon and was handed an M16 and sent to the jungle. No training, no cleaning kit until around May 67.
He was pissed because he knew the M14 blindfolded and then was handed a "toy" with no training.



My brother, a (choke, gasp) Marine, also went through boot with the M-14 in 1968 and upon entry into Vietnam was handed an M16.
Link Posted: 7/10/2002 5:54:03 AM EDT

Originally Posted By LWilde:

Failure to adequately test the new rifle, WITH the powder/bullet mods was a critical failure on the Army's part.




Yep !

And the failure to notify either ArmaLite or Colts' of the powder change bordered on criminal. Stoner had excellent credibility with McNamara and his sorry-ass bunch of Dip-Shit Kids and could have stopped the Army in its' tracks. But, as much as I detest R. Strange McNamara, this crap lies directly at the feet of Army brass.

PLEASE remember, that while our folks were dying in Vietnam due to the change to Ball powder, the Army continued to fire the acceptance tests with IMR !!!!


(All because the DOD and Army jerk-offs had 100 million rounds of Ball on hand.)
Link Posted: 7/12/2002 6:09:07 AM EDT
Oh, hey, I forgot to mention...
Has anybody else noticed, they mention several times how the AK rounds leave a tiny hole as an exit wound?

Not trying to start a flame war, honest!

That is the first battle field report I have seen of AK bullet damage.
Now, it also says that most of the hits were head or com shots, so the NVA soldiers were great shots.
(They were killing troops right and left.)
Just no explosive bullet damage.

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