View Full Version : Marine Commandant resists adopting collapsible M16 stock

08-15-2009, 01:13 PM
Conway resists adopting collapsible M16 stock

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Aug 15, 2009 9:47:31 EDT

Commandant Gen. James Conway is unconvinced that putting a collapsible butt stock on the Corps’ primary service rifle makes sense, but Marine officials behind the idea are building a case for it rooted in research, they said.

The push to add a collapsible stock to the 5.56mm M16A4 includes plans to test about 2,000 of the stocks on weapons at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., beginning this month, and at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., and Marine Corps Base Hawaii later this year, officials with Marine Corps Systems Command told the Marine gunner community Aug. 4.

“We honestly believe that there is a solution out there that is good and better than the current M16A4 that we have right now,” said Maj. Jody White, a team leader with SysCom’s infantry weapons program. “What we want is to be ready to pull the trigger right off the bat” if Conway approves the change.

The change is no sure thing, however. Conway has not approved launching a formal contract competition, in part because he is concerned that adopting the collapsible stock will compromise other grunt skills, such as the ability to use the solid M16A4 stock in hand-to-hand combat, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffrey Eby, the Corps’ senior gunner, told gunners at the 2009 Marine Gunner Symposium on Aug. 4 in Reston, Va.

At the symposium, White and Eby said SysCom’s Program Manager-Infantry Weapons performed a series of reliability tests in December comparing the M16A4, the M16A4 with a collapsible stock and the M4 carbine, which is also used by hundreds of Marines in every battalion.

Those tests showed that the M16A4 with a standard 11-inch solid stock was the most reliable weapon they tested, with about one failure to fire for every 1,600 rounds, White said. Made by FN Manufacturing, the M16A4 failed to fire about once every 1,500 times after the collapsible stock common on the M4 was installed. The M4, made by Colt Defense, was the least reliable weapon tested, with slightly fewer than 1,500 rounds between failures, White said.

Since then, PM-IW, based at Quantico, has sought ways to improve the reliability of the M16A4 when outfitted with a collapsible stock, White said. In February, Marine officials issued a formal request to the industry seeking a replacement for the existing 11-inch M16A4 stock, with four to six adjustable position stops. The Corps received about 10 responses, but most looked and worked like the M4 stock, prompting PM-IW to seek other alternatives, White said.

“We’re looking for something where if the reliability is reduced, it’s less” than it is with the M4 stock, White said. “That way, we can say, ‘OK, all this has been done,’ and if the commandant makes the decision [to approve the change to the M16A4] and says, ‘Go forth and do great things,’ we can come back with this.”
Convincing Conway

The push to swap butt stocks on the M16A4 has support from a number of gunners and at least one two-star general, who see it as potentially helpful to Marines who must shoulder their rifles against bulky body armor, Eby said. The change would be far-reaching — there are about 200,000 M16A4s in the Corps, and swapping the butt stocks on all of them could cost $70 million, Eby said.

Conway was traveling outside the country and unavailable for comment, but Eby said during the symposium that the commandant is concerned eliminating the solid butt stock will take away a Marine’s ability to use his rifle as a blunt-force instrument in combat and to perform the two-man lift, in which two Marines hoist a third over a wall or into a second-story window using a rifle or support bar.

So far, the Corps’ Infantry Operational Advisory Group, composed of regimental commanders from both the active and reserve divisions, told those researching the issue that they are willing to lose blunt-force ability but want a sturdy collapsible stock if one is adopted, Eby said.

Before the change can be made, PM-IW also must find options that improve the M16A4’s reliability when equipped with a collapsible stock so it is on par with the current model, White and Eby said. That means testing additional components and a variety of buffers, which cushion the rifle bolt from the receiver and reduce recoil.

In September, Marine officials plan to investigate whether the collapsible butt stock the Army uses on its M4s is more reliable than the butt stock the Corps uses, White said. The standard Army M4 has an H6 buffer system, which is lighter than the H2 buffer system used in the Corps’ M4s.

The Corps also may try a collapsible butt stock made by Vltor Weapons Systems, of Tucson, Ariz., on the M16A4. Although it is not approved, some service members use the sturdier Vltor butt stock on M4s in Iraq and Afghanistan, several gunners said. Marine officials want to see if its design will work well with the M16A4.

Eby said he also will seek about $500,000 to pay for a controlled experiment with about 100 M16A4s at Quantico to assess the reliability and accuracy of the weapon with collapsible stocks. Those skeptical of the swap have repeatedly pointed out there isn’t enough evidence to justify spending money on a formal industry contract competition, he said.