Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

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Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Piero on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 15:13

Personally, I'm not sure these tests are actually particularly good reliability benchmarks, particularly given the short exposure of the weapons. However, I though they might be a good jumping off point for this topic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXedNAOWBGw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sdd9PzRJp9A&feature=related

Now this is speaking as someone whose experience with the AR-15 platform basically amounts to having dry fired a Diemaco rifle that was chained to a table while at an air show, but I've kind of ended up with the impression that the AR-15 platform is not as unreliable in comparison to other weapons as it is often made out to be. The original AR-10 from which the AR-15 was derived was actually apparently well regarded by the small number of soldiers that used them (sometimes in place like Africa), while the French MAS-49 -which had a somewhat similar operating system- could reportedly be kept in working order with rags and motor oil. Meanwhile, it seems to me that if you dig around you can find reliability and durability complaints about a fair number of other western assault rifles designs as well. Heck, the Norwegians apparently had issues transitioning from the G3 to the HK416 because a lot of troops weren't given good training on how to clean the new weapons properly. Sound at all familiar?

Hence the above question. Any thoughts?

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by tsundere9kagami2 on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 15:28

the AR-15 is good
most any gun can jam....it just happened to the AR-15 more reportedly...

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by MikhailN on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 16:13

Reliability tests appear to differ from country to country, for the simple reason that different countries have different needs and doctrines. Now for the AR15 platform, I think it's quite reliable. Notice that in all the tests you put up the bolt was forward. Now the AR15 was designed so that when the bolt is forward a seal is formed between the bolt and the tube in the barrel that guides the hot gases back to push the bolt back. That's fine back in the 1960s when in Vietnam no one was really expected to something like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGwkHktkTxU&feature=related
The reason why the H&K guy blew up an M4 was because he submerged it when the bolt was back, so water filled up the gas tube. CF is expected.

Sand tests are subjective because the sand in Iraq and the surrounding countries is very fine. That's why there are so many reported CFs during the Iraq conflicts. In times like this, the US boys drop their M4s and start using AK47s lying around.

As for the Norwegian issue you mentioned, I put it down to lousy instructors cheers

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Nachtsider on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 18:27

Someone still has to reinstall full-auto fire, though. Every serviceman I've talked to doesn't think much of burst-fire, and I tend to agree.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by ElfenMagix on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 18:30

Love the video.

Leon used to tell me stories of AR-15/M-16s blowing up after getting dunked back in 'Nam.

Tsu- All guns jam, not just some or most- but all. Even the most perfectly maintained gun will jam. There too many varaibles to discuss, but for what ever reason- from bad ammo to bad handling from the shooter- any and all guns will jam. Its just a matter of when, and ask how later.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by tsundere9kagami2 on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 18:34

most any is a double negative....or something i kinda meant all but am deprived of energy to do so

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by ElfenMagix on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 18:41

@tsundere9kagami2 wrote:most any is a double negative....or something...
Its definately something...

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by tsundere9kagami2 on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 18:57

I think it means by my existence i am small. and if i seriously fought with a middle school girl and threw her on the floor. there would be a sense of achieve ment.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Awinnell on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 18:59

lol Bakamonogatari

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by tsundere9kagami2 on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 19:13

rawr!

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by maverick375 on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 21:21

Jams from debris can be the result of a number of things. AK's can fire in any abuse because they have loose tolerances on almost every part. They also have a piston driven bolt, rather than a gas-propelled. A close look at an SKS gas tube shows a pair of holes that water or small debris can fall out of, and I'd imagine the AK is much the same.

As mentioned above, the AR platform has tight tolerances and a pistonless gas system. This is one of the reasons H&K and others have been offering a piston system for the ARs. Tight tolerances can be extremely sensitive to debris, causing any number of issues.

Magazine design is also an issue. In that test, the magazine was not exposed to much sand. If it had been, it possibly would have jammed.

One of the lubricants that has gotten some good feedback in the sandbox is Militec-1, a bake-on lubricant that gets into the pores of the metal and stays there, providing a dry-condition lubrication that sand and other crud doesn't stick to, the main problem with conventional oils and lubes. Once Militec is applied and baked correctly into the metal, it's like rubbing two pieces of teflon coated metal together, there's little to no friction because the lube is in every pore.

As wonderful as the stuff seems in the desert, it's crap in any other environment because it provides absolutely no corrosion resistance, the main reason the military will not offer it as a standard lube, preferring their people to clean better, more often, and use regular lubes.

Everyone has heard of how Glocks can shoot underwater. Not true for all. To fire reliably, you have to have special firing-pin parts to keep the water from creating soft-strikes.

Point is, reliability is a matter of design, how much attention you want to give the gun, and what the circumstances are. The day they make the perfect, reliable, all-purpose gun is the day that innovation stops.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by rshackleford on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 21:33

A lot of the negative rep from Vietnam was the result of instructors telling soldiers that the M-16 was "self-cleaning"

You combine a muddy wet environment, the tight tolerances of the rifle, and no maintainence? Jams waiting to happen.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by MikhailN on Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 21:44

The AR15 truly didn't need cleaning at all because the original design used IMR rounds, which didn't leave any residue at all. Of course someone messed up and the US Army used "Ball" rounds that seriously leaves a heck of a mess in the chamber

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Nuke is Good on Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 13:15

My father loved the M16, however he was taught to clean the gun. He did say the AK was an extremely reliable weapon and easy to use.

Its slightly off topic but some of my classmates that came back from Iraq complained about the reliability of the M4 carbine due it jamming. Maybe thats why the HK416 has a upper receiver replacement kit.
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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by boomer_gonz on Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 16:42

The AR-15 is very reliable, but it's also a matter of who makes it. Armalite (hence the AR) mad the first M16's and every military designation afterward were made by Colt.

Someone in my uncle Mario's battalion had an M16E1, one of the first M-16's in service(made by Armalite) and raved about how easy it was to transport, fire, and service. He also noticed that the tight rifling of the barrel gave off pretty close groupings even in automatic fire. Aside from the flash suppressor getting caught on all kinds of junk, he liked it and wished he had one.

Then Colt bought the rights(those in the business world would call the manner in which they did it a 'hostile takeover')to the AR-15/M-16 and would produce them(E1's and A1's) from then on, resulting in the shitstorm that would come out of Vietnam about the M-16's unreliability.

How Colt remains in business is still a wonder to me as ever since Colt moved on from revolver's and muzzle-loaders they have failed most epically on at least 80% of their endeavors.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Nuke is Good on Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 18:30

@boomer_gonz wrote:The AR-15 is very reliable, but it's also a matter of who makes it. Armalite (hence the AR) mad the first M16's and every military designation afterward were made by Colt.

Someone in my uncle Mario's battalion had an M16E1, one of the first M-16's in service(made by Armalite) and raved about how easy it was to transport, fire, and service. He also noticed that the tight rifling of the barrel gave off pretty close groupings even in automatic fire. Aside from the flash suppressor getting caught on all kinds of junk, he liked it and wished he had one.

Then Colt bought the rights(those in the business world would call the manner in which they did it a 'hostile takeover')to the AR-15/M-16 and would produce them(E1's and A1's) from then on, resulting in the shitstorm that would come out of Vietnam about the M-16's unreliability.

How Colt remains in business is still a wonder to me as ever since Colt moved on from revolver's and muzzle-loaders they have failed most epically on at least 80% of their endeavors.

Colt is around since they have government contracts. Remember your weapon is made by the lowest bidder!

However their M1911's are good pistols.
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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by ElfenMagix on Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 18:46

They had almost 100 years to figure it out!

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by maverick375 on Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 19:04

Maybe I should buy a 1911 to celebrate the centennial in a couple of years. Assuming I can still buy one.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by commanderagl on Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 23:42

the AR-15/M-16 system used to have a bad rep for jamming in the middle of a firefight early in 'Nam. but the quality has gone up dramatically, and it is arguably ONE of the best (i know people are gonna bug me 'bout this) firearms in the world, being adopted in many countries and by the UN as a standard service rifle. so it has to be pretty reliable to be that widespread.
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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by rshackleford on Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 21:41

UN has no standard equipment. Its just a mishmash of whatever countries are part of that particular peacekeeping force, with their vehicles painted UN colors and the troops given blue helmets.

The M16 is a good rifle, but hardly one of the best. It's built with tolerances too high to be a reliable field rifle. The gas tube system is just a mess, and was only done to save weight. Give me a short-stroke gas piston system anyday. I'll take the extra weight over the higher risk of jamming.

The reason it's so widespread is the same reason the AK47 is so widespread, which is that the US supplied them to allied countries during the Cold War.

The M16 a good rifle, very accurate and controllable, but only if you're able to keep it clean.

The US military has passed over so many decent rifles to replace the M16 with, and I think it has a little to do with national ego, and a lot to do with economics. The standard sidearm is Italian, the Secret Service uses Swiss and Belgian guns to protect the president, both light machine guns in the military are also Belgian, and the primary anti-tank weapon is Swedish.

Keeping the primary assault rifle in the US means more jobs and money kept in the US instead of going to foreign manufacturers.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Kiskaloo on Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 22:08

Well you could force the manufacturer to build a plant in the United States so the workforce would still be American.

But I think you hit the nail on the head with economics - replacing god knows how many scores of millions of rifles is going to be expensive. Then add training and spares. And once you commit to doing it, you can't just stop partway through.

I also expect the fact that we're in sustained combat operations in multiple theaters also has a damping effect on starting a full-scale replacement program since you don't want to send the new weapon into the theater and you therefore need to keep training recruits on the old weapon so when they deploy, they're familiar with the weapons they'll be using.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by commanderagl on Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 22:43

not much of a problem, a number of firearms companiesdo a lot of work in the US. the thing about the M-16 series is, that in itself is only reliable if kept clean, but many other more reliable rifles spawned from it. also just about every allied countries assault rifles can accept the standard M16 mag, but that is more due to Stanag than anything else. a system i would love to try out is the FN SCAR series, as well as the SA80.
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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by MikhailN on Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 22:50

@commanderagl wrote:not much of a problem, a number of firearms companiesdo a lot of work in the US. the thing about the M-16 series is, that in itself is only reliable if kept clean, but many other more reliable rifles spawned from it. also just about every allied countries assault rifles can accept the standard M16 mag, but that is more due to Stanag than anything else. a system i would love to try out is the FN SCAR series, as well as the SA80.

You should try the HK 416 and 417. Basically the same as the M16 just that it's way more reliable.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by rshackleford on Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 22:54

Magpul Masada is where it's at. Excuse me, "Bushmaster ACR," now that they bought the rights to it.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by commanderagl on Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 22:57

the problem with the m16 that the HKs fix is the direct gas impingement system ( i think thats what its called) which dirties the chamber but the HKs have a piston and the gas is released away from the chamber, making a more reliable weapon. It would also be neat to have an M468, an m4 chambered for 6.8mm cartriges.
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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Kiskaloo on Sat 5 Sep 2009 - 10:31

@MikhailN wrote:The AR15 truly didn't need cleaning at all because the original design used IMR rounds, which didn't leave any residue at all. Of course someone messed up and the US Army used "Ball" rounds that seriously leaves a heck of a mess in the chamber

I watched a show on The History Channel last night called High Impact and this episode was about the M-16 and MikhailN called it. During development and testing, the DoD used stick-type powder as the bullet's propellant. When they then went into serial bullet production, they switched to the common ball-type which is much coarser and therefore does not combust as completely as stick-powder does so you have more residue left over after each round is cycled. Combine this with the high-humidity environment that was the jungles of Vietnam and voila - fouled receivers. And with no cleaning regimen (and no cleaning kits), eventually the receivers would become fouled to the point they would jam.

The response was to plate the inside of the barrel with chrome to prevent build-up and improve service life. They also added a Forward Assist to ensure the bolt would always lock. This became the M16A1 and coupled with cleaning kits, addressed the issue.


@Nachtsider wrote:Someone still has to reinstall full-auto fire, though. Every serviceman I've talked to doesn't think much of burst-fire, and I tend to agree.

I suppose it depends on the situation. I myself preferred the three-round burst mode of the M16A2 because it makes the gun more accurate (though muzzle-climb on full auto is surprisingly mild) and it keeps the barrel from overheating, which was a common problem with the A1 model.

They showed the Heckler & Koch XM8 and HK416 at the end. I love the XM8 and wish it had entered service, but the HK416 looks to be a solid weapon so I hope the DoD adopts it beyond SOCOM. I think the civilian version (MR223) might be a nice replacement for my 93.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Wileama on Sat 5 Sep 2009 - 13:28

@rshackleford wrote:Keeping the primary assault rifle in the US means more jobs and money kept in the US instead of going to foreign manufacturers.

Unless I'm mistaken, which is possible, the DOD has to buy items manufactured in the states. If it's made out of country the Military can't purchase it. So whatever rifle is selected has to be made in country. Still I'm sure there are plenty of pressures to select a domestic firm.

As to the reliability issue I think everyone's pretty much covered it. The reputation is a result of the problems it faced in 'Nam. Any piece of equipment that is remains in service for 30+ years is going to see refinements that improve just about all it's aspects. This is especially true if someones life depends on said equipment. Nothings perfect though. So when the M-16 jams, people who believe it's reputation have their opinions reinforced.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Kiskaloo on Sat 5 Sep 2009 - 13:35

@Wileama wrote:Unless I'm mistaken, which is possible, the DOD has to buy items manufactured in the states. If it's made out of country the Military can't purchase it.

I know that's not a blanket rule, since a number of US systems come from foreign sources. Also, many weapons systems have foreign-sourced components. However, final assembly may either be required to be in the US or political realities force it to be assembled in the US.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by LoC978 on Sun 6 Sep 2009 - 0:20

@Kiskaloo wrote:
@Nachtsider wrote:Someone still has to reinstall full-auto fire, though. Every serviceman I've talked to doesn't think much of burst-fire, and I tend to agree.

I suppose it depends on the situation. I myself preferred the three-round burst mode of the M16A2 because it makes the gun more accurate (though muzzle-climb on full auto is surprisingly mild) and it keeps the barrel from overheating, which was a common problem with the A1 model.
I've never found muzzle climb to be a problem when it comes to full-auto as opposed to burst-fire. More often than not, when I used burst fire, it was for two rounds (I actually used that technique for reflexive fire training...and was eventually chastised for it, even though it reduced barrel travel due to trigger pull Hissy fit ). Staying for all three required the trigger to be held down for a pretty long time.
Buuuut... say I want to use the weapon for cover fire at some point? 5-7 round bursts are generally ideal for that sort of thing , and not every fire team is going to have an automatic rifleman (at least in my experience... but I was never a grunt).
In short, it's simple to use a full auto setting to create any size burst you deem necessary (that's what I used to do with my 249, anyway. As few as 2 or 3, as many as 10). Holding down the trigger for constant fire is only useful if you're on a large, crew-serve weapon.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Wileama on Sun 6 Sep 2009 - 14:05

@Kiskaloo wrote:I know that's not a blanket rule...

Oh I was never trying to imply we couldn't purchase foreign military hardware. It was just the final assembly of weapon systems I was talking about. I tried researching the Buy American Act, and exactly what it means to the military without much success. I know your right that not everything has to be domestic. I know of at least one major items that isn't domestic. Now I'm left all curious. I think I'll go hit up google again...

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Kiskaloo on Sun 6 Sep 2009 - 14:44

@Wileama wrote:I tried researching the Buy American Act, and exactly what it means to the military without much success.

The original rule (passed in 1933) was that domestic content had to be at least 50%. That was amended a few years back to make it 65% due to the greater presence of foreign contractors either directly bidding for US contracts (like BAE Systems) or finding US "fronts" (like EADS with NG for the KC-X or LM for the VH-71) to help make the bids more politically palatable.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by LoC978 on Sun 6 Sep 2009 - 14:45

@Wileama wrote:
@Kiskaloo wrote:I know that's not a blanket rule...

Oh I was never trying to imply we couldn't purchase foreign military hardware. It was just the final assembly of weapon systems I was talking about. I tried researching the Buy American Act, and exactly what it means to the military without much success. I know your right that not everything has to be domestic. I know of at least one major items that isn't domestic.
I can think of three off the top of my head...
M249
M240
M9

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Awinnell on Sun 6 Sep 2009 - 14:55

BAE M777,but like all of the above its built under licence in the US

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by Piero on Sun 6 Sep 2009 - 15:25

LOC -both FN and Beretta have plants in the US. Heck, I believe FN has produced M16s in its American facilities as well (I gather Colt' ownership of the design kind of expired, though they might still have the rights to the 'official' version of the M4).

I don't know about all weapons systems, but for general issue small arms domestic production seems to be a deal breaker issue.

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Re: Is the AR-15 really such an unreliable platform?

Post by ElfenMagix on Mon 14 Sep 2009 - 17:34

To make it big in any industry, esp. in the USA, you have to have factories and offices here and abroad!

That is how you are gonna get any respect as a maker of anything!
(Or be laughed at for have the best the market has to offer and selling it for some outragious price!)

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