Why US Rifles Jam So Often -
With Fatal Results

By George Belanus

Jeff - I noticed your editor's question on the story about PFC Patrick Miller, where it was asked why so many American weapons jam during heavy combat situations.
On a quick reading of the story, I noticed that Miller said that he had grabbed his rifle when they got stuck in a shoot-it-out type situation. This means to me that Miller grabbed the standard-issue M-16 that has been Army and otherAmerican military branch issue since the Vietnam War.
And that answered the question in just a couple minutes' time, since the M-16 has always had this reputation of crapping out through jams just when you need it to work in the very worst way. The stories of our guys being found dead in Vietnam after firefights with a hopelessly jammed M-16 are legion, and apparently the so-called fixes the military put in place early on have not remedied the basic problem -- what we have in the M-16 is a basically inferior design as far as inherent ability to function under adverse conditions.
The situation with the M-16 is that it operates on direct gas pressure on the action of the rifle to operate the bolt during ejection of the spent cartridge case and subsequent loading of a fresh round from the magazine. This at the time the M-16 was introduced to American troops was a major departure. The old M-1 Garand, the M-14, and the Ruger Mini-14 all work on an indirect gas action. This means that the gas piston under the foreend of the rifel works on a carrier which in turn is attached to the side of the rifle's bolt. The gas from the piston pushes the carrier to the rear, and the carrier in turn pushes the bolt to the rear to eject the round and get another fresh round out of the magazine on its return cycle. No gas works on the innards of the rifle directly on the older military rifles and the Mini-14, as is the case on the M-16. Consequently, you don't find gunpowder residue building up in the action's working parts on the older rifles as you do on the M-16. And this buildup does occur in 100 to 200 rounds, which is easily gone through either on a firing range during practice and even more so, I've heard, when you're returning fire during a firefight.
And the M-16, if my memory of some readings in past years is correct, is also prone to adverse effects from things like dirt and SAND collecting in the action also, which doesn't help but gum up the works also.
Early on there was an explanation forwarded that the type gunpowder used in the initial lots of 5.56 mm ammo the M-16 uses clogged the works up more than usual, and that particular type powder was replaced by another type. And more attention was put to more frequent cleaning of the M-16 by the troops who had to depend on them. Also there were some changes made on the M-16A1 model, including that forward-assist button that was supposed to help seat a round in the chamber if the gun started to gum up to the point of maybe jamming. The firearm also got one of those selective fire switches that you could dial up a new three shot burst feature with also instead of just single shot, on safe, or full automatic. This was supposed to help in reducing the innards getting crudded up.
Apparently all those fixes didn't help Miller out since there was that reference to his having to beat on the rifle to get rounds chambered. What that reference means to me is that he was having to resort in a rapid fashion to using the forward assist button to get that next round chambered so he would have that next shot to defend himself and his fellow troops with. Good thing for Miller and his buddies that he didn't lose sight of what to do in a bad situation with the firearm wanting to jam up with each shot.
On the other hand, I once had one of those Ruger Mini-14s in semi automatic mode, back in the days when 20 and 30 shot clips were readily available for that type and other types of rifles. You could go through maybe a hundred rounds on the firing range in a short time period in semi auto fire, heating the barrel and other parts up fairly well, and it never jammed up. As noted previously this rifle uses the indirect gas action arrangement to function the action for each shot.
And the old AK-47, as well as the SKS rifle that preceded the AK, have apparently never had any problems with jamming like the M-16 has apparently had right up to the present day. I was fortunate enough to see a TV interview during a documentary on the AK with Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Red Army man who developed the AK-47. He said that he built that Army rifle 'loose' on purpose to make it as dependable as possible. Apparently he succeeded since I've never heard of any AKs jamming in a pinch. And I've also heard that some Viet Cong personnel were in the habit of leaving those WW II vintage SKS rifles at the bottom of a local stream only to take it out when some of our troops came in range, then open fire on them without having to do anything to the SKS other than load some ammo into it so it would shoot. They'd pop off up to ten rounds, I guess, and then put the SKS back into the stream and disappear back into the nearest village or rice paddy.
I guess all this shows that elegance in design might be a good thing, but dependability is a lot more important when you're talking about a rifle or other firearm you might have to use to save your life with in a bad situation.
George Belanus
From Anonymous
Mostly a poppycock story.
I spent 31 years Army and yes, I used my M-16 in aggressive action many times. Never jammed. Never failed me. Of course, I did clean mine. Most cantonment troopers never cleaned theirs and kept them in the wall locker where they got really rusty. This includes some vehicular support maintenance units .
The high rate of jamming is an old wives tale told to reporters by parade field troopers in Saigon bars.
The forward assist addition to the M-16A1 was at the direction of a General Officer who had never fired one in combat and I've never needed to use it. Tits on a boar hog.
The three shot burst selection was because the greenies and Lt's couldn't handle fire control and burned thru too much ammunition.
They only changed to ball ammunition because Ball traditionally had the contracts and DuPont was not politically favored. The reason was ostensibly the M-16 hit the target several inches low at temperatures below -20 F. We really didn't worry much about that particular condition in Vietnam but the powder contracts got changed anyway which resulted in a change in the twist of the barrel and a somewhat beefed up receiver.
I've also used the AK-47 and the newer AK-74 in combat. ( Combat means successfully killing folks who are trying to kill me.). Many people have never heard of the AK-74 even tho it's been around for 20 years. Good combat firearms but I'll still take the M-16 series.
The article above was politically & socially correct but not near reality.
Opinions of the famed 'sixteen" are like A-holes. Everybody's got one. At least my opinion comes from a lot of hands on.
From George Ritter
A chrome bolt would make a world of difference in that rifle, but the Uncle Sam people think it would cost too much. We should keep in mind that the NWO has no plan in place for saving soldiers' lives or anyone else's.

From Name Withheld
Jeff - I'd like to rebuff the comment written by Anonymous by adding that Mr. Belanus is mostly correct in his assessment of the earlier versions of the M-16.
In the early years of our intervention in Vietnam, we lost a lot of boys due to the M-16's jamming frequently, even after cleaning, mostly due to the decision made not to chrome plate the chamber in the production version of the rifle. The prototypes were chrome plated. Second, as Mr. Belanus explains, the original powder left too much residue in the mechanism. This is in fact so, that the Army decided to chrome plate the chamber and change the ammo propellant.
The original M-16 also had a problem created by the very thin barrel - if the soldier overtightened the strap, the barrel would bow down enough ( a few mils) to make the '16 shoot low! (This is no BS!). Many GI's started joking that the M-16 was a "toy" rifle made by Mattel.
The modern issue M-16A2 has;
1- Thicker barrel.
2- One-in-seven- twist (one full twist in seven inches) because the original '16 had one-in-twenty rifling and made the bullet too unstable. As it penetrated the human body, it tumbled, creating "inhuman" body destruction ( as deemed by NATO). The newer rifling makes it more "humane".
3- Army issued 62 grain ball bullet with steel insert at the front tip (under the copper jacket) vs. original 55 grain ball bullet with (only) lead filler. The 55 grainer used to deflect too easily, including vegetation (tree branches). The 62 grain design adds range and penetration.
4- Three burst selective fire, as Anonymous indicates, was implemented because our boys used to keep their fingers stuck to the trigger and wasted 15, 20 and 30 round clips in seconds. It was found that in these (frequent) circumstances, the upward recoil made for wasted ammo and few hits. Three round burst lowered wasted shots, upward recoil, and was proven that a much higher percentage of rounds hit the intended target.
5- Cosmetic changes to the polymer parts ("furniture") and better sights.
6- Given that dirt and sand will still jam a '16 now and then, the forward assist IMHO, has been a wise addition to the A1, and still is.
7- M-16 was mostly designed by Eugene Stoner at ArmaLite, where the designation AR (as in AR-15) comes from. The design was sold to Colt in 1959, and the rest is history.
8- The AK-47 is an old, rustic design, but very effective (at short distances), amazingly reliable and cheap to build. The Chinese version has the worst construction while the Czech is the best. Still old 'n ugly, abundant, and rarely jams.




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