Thursday, November 20, 2003

Here's an interesting explanation of why so many firearms in Iraq are malfunctioning:

"...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."

The report goes on to say that CLP (Clean, Lubricate, Protect), the military lubricant is causing sand to gum up the works of most weapons, particularly the M16, while Miltec is a better lubricant in this regard & was being denied to the troops by the military.

In a desert environment sand is a major problem for any weapon. To have lubricant in your weapon increases the ability of sand to get stuck in tight places on said weapon. Unfortunately because of friction some lubricant is necessary for prolonged use such as you might encounter in combat.

The problem is that most lubricants are oil based. This means that they do have a tendency to latch onto any small foreign particles, as they're sticky. CLP is oil based. Miltec appears to be some form of synthetic based liquid though.
There may be some truth to the articles (& Miltec's) claims; Miltec contains some formula that is supposed to impregnate the metal & still provides an adequate level of lubrication even when the liquid is wiped completely off.

So if they are correct then Miltec would be a superior lubricant to CLP. But they put too much weight on the choice of lubricant I'm afraid.

It's not that a good & correct lubricant won't make a difference; it most definitely will. But they neglect that the M16 design is somewhat problematic. It uses direct gas impingement to operate the action. This means there's a little tube that siphons off gas from the barrel & directs it directly towards the bolt. This in turn will foul up the action in short order, as residues from the gas are deposited in the receiver where the most critical parts must move.

The M16 design is basically the same, minus the automatic capabilities, as the AR15 style firearms. I have seen a lot of AR 15's in sporting use; from competition to varmint hunting. & in those roles they are good. They're lightweight, light recoiling, & accurate. But they do require more maintenance than other semi-automatic designs. This is mainly because the gas system fouls up the action more than another design of self loading rifle would, but the oddly shaped bolt head & chamber do present some minor cleaning problems, albeit to a much lesser degree.

In the civilian world there is usually time to clean the weapon at proper intervals & use enough preventative maintenance to minimize malfunctions. In the martial world there is not always going to be that chance to keep your weapon perfectly maintained.

So while a proper lube may have helped in general, they are still overlooking the fact that as a design the M16 is not appropriate for a combat role. & that is not even going into the cartridge the military uses in it; the 5.56x45mm NATO.

The nearest (but not exact) commercial equivalent to the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge is the .223 Remington. The military switched to the 5.56x45mm Nato round from the 7.62x51mm Nato round (whose nearest but not exact commercial equivalent is the .308 Winchester) based on the idea that the smaller cartridge would enable a soldier to provide more accurate fire, especially in fully automatic weapons & that the projectile would be sufficient for wounding enemy soldiers. Wounding is supposedly desirable as a wounded soldier ties up more of the enemies resources than a dead one.

However that avoids the issue of stopping power, which is where the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge lacks. In fact, its nearest commercial equivalent (the .223 Remington) is illegal to use on deer size game in most states. Coyotes are about the biggest animals that can be safely & legally hunted in most states with such a cartridge.

But I admit that I have little first hand experience with either the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge & M16 or their respective commercial equivalents. This is partially for the reasons I mentioned above concerning their respective shortcomings, but it's mainly because I've always been more partial to the .30-06 Springfield cartridge & the M1 Garand as a general purpose rifle & the humble little .22LR cartridge & the Ruger 10/22 carbine &/or rifle as a short range small game & varmint hunting round.

In any event while the choice of lube may be part of the problem by focusing on it they're ignoring the main problem, which is that the M16 is a design not suitable for general issue to front line troops.

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