Tag Archives: US Army

Welcome (back), M16A4

The humble original M16 was originally Armalite’s AR-15, and was first ordered for military service with a contract issued to Colt Firearms in May 1962 for the purchase of early Model 01 rifles to be used by Air Force Security Police.

Note, these guns had waffle-pattern 20-round mags, no forward assist, a thin 1:14 twist barrel, and the early three-prong flash hider.

Fast forward to the XM16E1, which became the M16A1 in 1967, and you started to come closer to the standard Army/Marine rifle used in Vietnam and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. It used a forward assist and a 1:12 twist barrel.

By 1983, the M16A2 came about, it had a thicker barrel in front of the front sight, a modified flash suppressor (closed on bottom), a new polymer buttstock (lighter and stronger), faster barrel twist (from 1:12 to 1:7), and a spent case deflector for left-hand users. Considered downright vintage by the Army and Marines, the Navy still sports them these days.

M16A2- check
M9 in drop leg holster- check
Body armor- um, about that……

By 1998, the M16A4 was in play, primarily for the Marines, which had a removable carry handle, a Picatinny top rail to allow for optics, short rails on the handguard for accessories, and a 20-inch barrel with a 1:7 RH twist rate.

Note the size difference between the compact M4 Carbine, top, and the full-length M16A4 rifle, bottom. (Photos: Department of Defense)

Since the GWOT kicked off in 2002, the big shift over the years has been to move from the full-length M16 family to the more compact M4/M4A1 carbine, with its collapsible rear stock and stubby 14-inch barrel, leaving the increasingly old-school style rifle as something of a relic today. Heck, the Army for the past couple years has been very actively working on replacing their 5.56 NATO rifles and SAWs with a new 6.8mm weapon. 

Now jump to 2020, and the M16A4 is now apparently the Army’s designated rifle for Foreign Military Sales to equip overseas allies in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Nepal.

Colt and FN are competing in a contract to supply as much as $383 million smackers worth of M16A4s by 2025.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

All Quiet in the Ardennes

American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium, in December 1944. Note the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and M9 Bazookas, along with a liberal sprinkling of grenades and spare ammo. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the last great German offensive of WWII. Launched through the densely forested Ardennes region near the intersection of the eastern borders of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, some 200,000 Germans fell on less than 80,000 unsuspecting American troops, many of which were recovering from the summer and Fall push through France and the Lowlands.

While the German offensive gained ground at first, eventually reinforcements– including Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army–were rushed to the scene and counterattacked.

However, for the men trapped inside the 75-mile “bulged” salient from St. Vith to the week-long Siege of Bastogne, it was a white hell of exploding trees and an onslaught from 1,000 German panzers that those who survived never forgot.

The U.S. Army suffered over 89,000 casualties in the six-week-long Battle of the Bulge, making it one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought by the nation’s servicemen.

U.S. Army infantrymen of the 290th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, Jan. 4, 1945. Note the M3 Grease Gun to the right and M1 Carbine to the left. (Photo: U.S. Army)

For a more detailed look at the men, firepower, and background of the battle, check out the (free) 685-page U.S. Army Center of Military History reference, “The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge” by Hugh M. Cole, as well as the vast records available through the National Archives. For more information about commemorating the battle Bastogne and other events, visit Bastogne 75 and Belgium Remembers 44-45.

Remember, today is not about saving upto 20% on select merchandise

Division Cemetery, Okinawa, 1945, Photo via Marine Corps Archives

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…

Making the Doughboy

Infantry Soldier with full equipment (proposed) was adopted as the Model 1910.

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Compare the leggings, web gear and campaign hat differences.

The Infantry Equipment Board convened at Rock Island Arsenal, on April 28, 1909. The purpose of this board was to decide on the number, kind, and weight of articles to be carried by the Infantry Soldier. The board examined samples of infantry and cavalry equipment in use by the U.S. Army and fifteen foreign countries, as well as experimental models submitted to the Chief of Ordnance for consideration. The board made its final report to the Adjutant-General of the US Army on April 5, 1910. Two months later, in June 1910, manufacture of the newly designed equipment began at Rock Island Arsenal.

These images and text are from a copy of the Report of the Infantry Equipment Board in the collection of the Rock Island Arsenal Museum– who still maintain the T&E equipment shown in their collection.

Of men and steel

1911 battle of bulge

“Today I held hell in my hands,” said a firearms buff who came across a battered 1911, pockmarked from its wartime service before it was recovered from a World War II battlefield.

Some 71 years ago this week, Hitler launched the last great German offensive through the densely forested Ardennes region near the intersection of the eastern borders of  Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.

Codenamed “Operation Watch on the Rhine” over 200,000 Germans, including some of the most crack units remaining in the Army at the time, fell upon just 80,000 American troops, including many units such as the 101st Airborne, who were under strength following heavy losses and looking forward to some time in a “quiet area” to regroup.

While the German offensive gained ground at first, eventually reinforcements– including  Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army–were rushed to the scene and counterattacked.

However, for the men trapped inside the “bulged” salient from St. Vith to the week-long Siege of Bastogne, it was a white hell of exploding trees and German panzers that those who survived never forgot.

The pistol examined by Daniel ED MacMurray IV, marked with a yellowed tag that reads, “Colt pistol picked up after battle at Bastonge Dec. 1944,” is battered with shrapnel wounds across the top of the slide, muzzle and grip including several that penetrated deep into the steel.

More images and the rest of the story as Mr. Harvey said, in my column at Guns.com

Men Of Iron

don tro

Men of Iron by Don Troiani : Doughboys assault German positions in the Bois de Mort Mare during the Battle of St. Mihiel.

Battle of St. Mihiel, the Bois de Frière, Sept. 12, 1918

The 3/358th Infantry, 90th Division, was designated the assault unit for the American attack on the morning of September 12. As they were moving forward toward their jump-off positions before dawn, the unit was caught by German counter-battery fire. Major Allen, battalion commander, was wounded and evacuated while unconscious to an aid station in the rear. Regaining his senses, Allen removed his medical tag and sought to rejoin his unit, which had already advanced through the Bois de Frière. Allen gathered a group of men separated from their units and led them forward. They discovered a group of Germans bypassed by the first wave of American troops emerging from their dugout. Allen led his men in desperate hand-to-hand combat with the Germans. After emptying his pistol and despite his wounds, Allen fought with his fists, losing several teeth and suffering another serious wound.

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Allen and his men are shown engaging the Germans in the trench. On the morning of September 12, American troops wore raincoats to protect against the rain. Allen is using his .45-caliber pistol which was standard issue for American officers. American tactical doctrine required the assault battalions to advance as quickly as possible toward their first objective line. Follow-on battalions were given the task of mopping up German strongpoints bypassed by the leading troops. The American early morning artillery barrage drove many German units into the protection of their dugoutsand many were passed over by the first wave of American troops. During the St. Mihiel offensive several American support units engaged in desperate battles to clean out small groups of Germans scattered throughout the woods.

Allen would rise to command the American 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily in World War II. Criticized for lax discipline, Allen was relieved of his command by General Dwight Eisenhower. Allen was then assigned to command the 104th Infantry Division and he led them through the Battle of the Bulge and Germany’s surrender in May 1945.

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An American attack in the Seicheprey region, in a watercolor by the artist-correspondent Harvey Dunn.

The Last US Army Draftee is still on Active Service After 37 years

When you think of an American conscript draftee, you think of the citizen soldiers who answered the call during the Civil War (where only 2% of soldiers were drafted), the two World Wars, Korea, and finally Vietnam. In the tail-end days of the Vietnam conflict the draft was discontinued in December 1972 with the last draftees reporting for service June 1973. It has often been portrayed in the media that conscripted men taken into service during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict were either those too dumb or poor or both to get out of it. This image is sharply contrasted by draftee Jeffery Mellinger. Mellinger drafted April 18, 1972, served his required two years.

Then he re-enlisted voluntarily-and has continued to do so for the following 37-years.

He is now the Command Sergeant Major for the US Army’s Material Command. CSM Mellinger has made over 3700 military parachute jumps, served around the world, and spent no less than 33-months in Iraq. During his Iraq time the Sergeant Major walked away from 27 roadside bombs and was declared ‘a national asset’ by General David Petraeus. Before going to Iraq he had spent years in the Rangers, was a drill sergeant at Ft Gordon, an ROTC instructor at the University of Alaska and an instructor to the US Special Forces (“Green Berets”).

CSM Mellinger, besides his Legion of Merit and Bronze Star has gained another honor….that of the last US draftee on active duty.