Reliability vs. the Status Quo
February 20, 2007 5:40 PM   Subscribe

In an attempt to address reliability problems with the M-16/M4 rifles currently employed by the US military, German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch developed the H&K 416. Considered by many who have used it to be vastly more reliable than the current weapon systems, it seems like the Army would be interested in giving it a try. Unfortunately they aren't.
posted by quin (55 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Despite their guns world renown at the law enforcement level, and their successful retooling of the British SA80 combat rifle, the American military has expressed limited interest in this gun. Nor is this isn't the first time H&K has misstepped with the US military. Ironically, the reluctance to accept a new weapon has been a common thread in the Army; in 1958 Eugene Stoner suffered many of the same roadblocks when trying to get the M-16 accepted in the first place. Hopefully, if the 416 turns out to be as reliable as advocates suggest, it will get the same second look that Stoner's weapon did fifty years ago.
posted by quin at 5:40 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ack: 'Nor is this...'
stupid last minute rewrite.

posted by quin at 5:42 PM on February 20, 2007

Corret me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Army obligated to use US made weapons?
posted by Pastabagel at 5:44 PM on February 20, 2007

Pastabagel: some troops use the 416, so obviously not.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 PM on February 20, 2007

The Army's reasons are actually pretty good. The 416 weighs three times as much as an M4. There have been a lot of weapon enhancements the US armed forces have signed on to. But many they did take on before they were ready for battle. Example: The Osprey.
posted by parmanparman at 5:55 PM on February 20, 2007

When arms manufacturing contracts are on the line, beware of spirited advocacy and conservatism.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:00 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, I believe that have a manufacturing plant in the US specifically to address the Army's desire to buy weapons made here.

lists it as a "subsidiary".
posted by quin at 6:03 PM on February 20, 2007

Interesting. Doesn't look like it'd ever make it into the civilian market, though.

I think that Colt recently introduced a modified gas tube system that was supposed to resolve some of the M4 issues.
posted by drstein at 6:05 PM on February 20, 2007

parmanparman: The 416, which is the subject of the article, weighs almost exactly the same as the m4. The gun they were talking about which weighs 3x as much was the gun the army has wasted millions on trying to develop and is still decades away from actual use.
posted by Riemann at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2007

Maybe we should sell them cell phones AND water filter pitchers. After all, civilization is all about helping people, right?
posted by davy at 6:38 PM on February 20, 2007

This is what happens when you over design a weapons system. Since the 1960s the M16 line from Colt has been problematic. Since then the Army response has been to stick with Colt. If reliability was really an issue an army selection would have taken place already and this would have been sorted. However there are large goverment contracts one is talking about.
posted by Komsomol at 6:41 PM on February 20, 2007

Well, here's the deal... the 5.56mm round is on the way out, or should be. It's a second-best round in almost any real-world combat condition, especially where you need to penetrate light cover at any kind of distance. The bad guys can shoot you through a wall from down the street with their AK-47, but you can't return the favor.

The trade off was the ability to carry more rounds, but that's a non-issue in modern combat logistics, where you have ready access to ammunition via armored hummer. Also, modern combat techniques require precise and controlled fire... no more spray-n-pray. So, the 7.62 NATO round is seeing something of a renaissance with the mercenary and SpecOps units who can command something special... usually AR-10 clones refitted for .308, or heaven help them, M-14 clones. Bad guns, but they have the reach and punch to gain an edge in urban combat. The lack of a standard, modern weapon in this caliber has confused things hopelessly.

The Coast Guard and the Army have been flirting with more exotic rounds like the Beowulf and Grendel from Alexander Arms, but they're too weird to gain any ground, and again, they're based on the original M-16 design.

So, sheer inertia, along with no clear direction for the future, is keeping the M-4 around, even though it needs to go away.

As nice as the new HK weapon is, it's running up against an entirely new design for the old 5.56 round in the Kel-Tec SU-16, which is more reliable, versatile, lighter, just as accurate, made in the US, and a hell of a lot cheaper. This is getting a lot more looks from the pentagon than Yet-Another-M-16-Variant.

And since this is my first post, you all now think I'm a gun-nut militia-man 2nd amendment freakshow... hurrah!
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2007

Welcome Slap*Happy, it's always nice to have another militia-man gun-nut here in the blue.

One interesting aspect of this gun that I didn't really touch on in the post, is that it can actually sit on a standard M4 lower receiver. The only parts you would need to replace is the upper receiver and bolt assembly (which exists as more-or-less, one unit.) Swapping them is a matter of pulling out two pins and lifting the assembly off the top. Minimally difficult and requiring no tools. This would significantly cut down on the amount of retraining and retooling that the military would enact to put this weapon in the field.

The Grendel that S*H mentioned above is indeed an interesting round, but as the firearms that are being built around it are nothing more than a standard M4 with a bigger barrel (and all the same gas tube problems), the technology that H&K developed for this project could probably be applied to that new 6.5 caliber as well.
posted by quin at 6:58 PM on February 20, 2007

Why buy German when you can buy Russian.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:21 PM on February 20, 2007

This article is an interesting one. It explains why a 5.56 mm round is more likely to kill you than a 7.62 mm round. It seems counterintuitive, but there's a legitimate reason why the smaller round is more deadly.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:24 PM on February 20, 2007

Nothing new. The US Army isn't alone in awarding contracts based on connections rather than merit. It's just more willing to cut corners given the civilian leadership likes of "Duke" Cunningham. For example, the A-10 is old, but very cheap and very good at what it does, to this day. The answer to the non-problem of the A-10? Kill it.

(FWIW, these types of things happen in police departments as well. Rarely do cops get the best equipment, but rather, the gear that a manufacturer with connections can get. The flood of cash post-9/11 will only make things worse -- they'll "buy" more of inferior product from well-connected manufacturers *cough* Beretta *cough*.)
posted by bardic at 7:47 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of wishful thinking and hand-waving regarding the 5.56mm round. The bottom line is that in combat, the point is not to kill people, the point is to achieve your strategic or tactical objective. A wound that eventually kills is essentially the same as a wound that eventually heals in this circumstance, back-end issues of logistics and force strength aside.

The best weapon is the weapon that most effectively removes an enemy from combat, allowing you to achieve your objective. A 7.62mm round will incapacitate an enemy, even through body armor or light cover, more often than a 5.56mm round will. The inability of the 5.56mm round in its .223 guise to drop a 120lb deer with 100% reliability is a well known issue. A 185lb man with a flak-vest is another kettle of fish. "Stopping power" comes from energy transfer, and the 7.62 does a better job of it.

The problem is that the 7.62mm might actually be overkill, and you may be able to get enough power out of a smaller caliber, allowing you to carry more rounds for the same weight allotment. This is why various new rounds in calibers close to 6.5mm are being promoted... there have been problems with all of them.

(Disclosure: I own a vast collection of gun books. And a gun. OK. A BB-Gun. More of a BB-Pistol. You have to pump it up yourself. I use it to make soda cans go blooey.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:09 PM on February 20, 2007

The point of shooting in warfare isnt to guarantee a kill, its to hit and disable the opponent thus tying up two other soliders in assisting him. One hit means that you've taken three fighters out. It doesnt really matter if the one who was shot lives or die as long as he can't fight and is using up valuable enemy resources. I'd be surprised to the justification of keeping the old 5.56 round has anything to do with increasing the chances of kills.

As neat as this new weapon is, its still a m16. Its a weapon desgned 40 years ago to deal with 40 year old military requirements. The SA80 is a much more modern weapon and shorter punchier weapons like the sa80 or the new israeli Tavor are probably where the future is heading. This stop-gap solution seems pretty expensive for a minor upgrade. Might as well go all out with a brand new design and retire the m16 family.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:12 PM on February 20, 2007

Slap*Happy: Anti, is that you?
posted by knave at 8:14 PM on February 20, 2007

Whatever the next weapon is it will probably be of a bulllpup design.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:18 PM on February 20, 2007

Wasn't the point of the 5.56 round to wound, rather than kill, since that would require more resources (medics, first aid equipment, transport to safety)? Believe I read that on mefi, actually.

Or, what damn dirty ape said.
posted by bardic at 8:36 PM on February 20, 2007

For example, the A-10 is old, but very cheap and very good at what it does, to this day. The answer to the non-problem of the A-10? Kill it.

I'm sure that's a large part of it, but:

You have a pot of money to maintain and fly your airplanes. You can maintain and fly 100 A-10s, which can do CAS and... more CAS. Or you can maintain and fly, say, 60 F-16s with Mavericks and LANTIRN pods that can do CAS, but not as well as A-10s... and then land and be re-equipped for CAP, or be re-equipped with antiship missiles, or a crapload of dumb bombs, or...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:38 PM on February 20, 2007

So, the 7.62 NATO round is seeing something of a renaissance with the mercenary and SpecOps units who can command something special.

And will get you killed in urban combat, or jungle combat, or any form of limited visibility combat -- and pretty much the first thing on an infantryman's mind is limiting visibility, namely, of himself. There's a reason SpecOps units carry carbines and SMGs, unless they're in a sniper role.

Length is everything -- the longer the barrel, the slower the point, thus, the slower to get on target. If the target has an SMG, you die.

The M-14 was a fine long range rifle -- but in close, it was a nightmare. It was heavy, and it was *long* -- 22" barrel, almost 45" tip to pad. It's a great sniping weapon, but a lousy assault weapon -- never mind each clip weighing a full kilo, and the rifle five.

Spray-and-pray doesn't even work with 7.62x51 NATO -- too much recoil. Anything an infantryman can carry won't weigh enough to be controllable in full auto fire. Works great as a LMG round, though. Damn find rifleman's round, which is why the M-14 with a scope came back as a Designated Marksman's weapon. But the vast majority of infantry combat today is at 100m or less. Range simply doesn't count at these distances, neither, really, does accuracy -- even a beat up AK-47 can put rounds into a chest-sized target at 100m. If you've got 400m between you and the bad guy, the right answer isn't the rifle you're carrying, the right answer is the M2HB on the HMMWV, or the even bigger weapon on the Stryker or Bradley -- or, if he's about, you let the DM humping the M14 around take the shot.

Furthermore, you can't shrink the barrel. You've got all that powder to burn, and if you shrink the barrel too much, you don't burn it. The round loses performance, and you blind and deafen the soldier firing the round. A 7.62N Carbine is one noisy beast, and is even more uncontrollable.

The M4 is running into the same problem with 5.56x45 rounds. The 5.56 NATO round was built to be fired from the 20" barrel of an M16. Firing it through the 14.5" barrel of the M4 Carbine is causing real problems -- and putting flash-hiders and suppressors on the end of the weapon just slows down the pointing time, which is throwing away the big reason you'd want a shorter barrel. Meanwhile, that powder making the big bang isn't powder driving the round.

Why can the AK-47 spray and pray? 7.62x39. Less powder, thus, shorter, lighter barrel, thus, not as much KE on the round. Add in the heavier stock, and the weapon's much more controllable. Even so, the Soviets went to a smaller round, the 5.45x39, which turned out to be better in almost all ways -- including effective range.

Mass is important -- you may be 10m from that HMMWV with your extra clips, but if three or four bad guys are spraying the area down, you might as well be half a mile. Nothing, bar nothing, can make your day better than reaching into a pocket and pulling out a full clip. 5.56N lets a soldier carry *three times* the ammo in the same weight.

If anything, the standard infantry round needs to shrink some, if we're going to keep working the high-point/short range (and since that's the way combat seems to be headed, that's the way to go.) 5.56x45 has too much powder for a short barrel.

Yeah, it doesn't have the knockdown that a 7.62N has at 400m. For the sixteen or so shots where that counts, that's a real problem. For the thousands made at 200m or less, it's not. Lord knows the XM16 and the M16A2 had real problems, but the round has always been solid and effective -- the Soviet 5.45x39mm even more so.

If you must replace a round in the US Inventory right now, the want you want to lose is the 9x19mm NATO pistol cartridge. As much as I'd want to say ".45 ACP", there are better pistol rounds -- the .40S&W leaps to mind
posted by eriko at 8:49 PM on February 20, 2007

and then land and be re-equipped for CAP, or be re-equipped with antiship missiles, or a crapload of dumb bombs, or...

An A-10 can drop several craploads of dumb bombs -- and while it can't carry anti-ship missles, if the A-10 gets within 2km of a ship, that 30mm cannon is going to quickly drill a couple of hundred 30mm holes through it -- if that ship is lucky. (If the rounds find something hard enough to actually absorb the energy, the holes will be much bigger -- worse, the standard mix means every fifth round is going to be HEI, not API.)

See, the big problem with an F-16 close-in is simple. It is too damn fast. We've seen this -- Strike Eagles and F-16s with LANTIRN can hit fixed targets, but anything mobile on the ground, they have real trouble coping with, because the stall speed is too high when they're carrying stores, and they're not armored enough to be able to fly close and slow.

Then, they need that big hunk of concrete to work off of. The A-10 needs a short runway, can even work off grass. Then you look at the sortie rate -- plane's got to fly before it can do anything else, and the A-10 averages well over 90%. Then you look at what comes back home.

The exact same reasons that make an F-16 a superb air superiority aircraft are what make it a lousy close in support aircraft. The Strike Eagle can certainly zip in and drop a rack of Mk-82s on a building -- but on anything that moves, the F-15Es had a real problem.

Yes, the combat avionics need work -- they went far too cheap on that. But there aren't many planes that move mud like the Warthog.

There's a reason that they're slated to be in service until at least 2028. I find it amusing that, try as they might, the USAF can't get rid of the planes that do the real work -- the B-52 and the A-10.
posted by eriko at 9:02 PM on February 20, 2007

Combat isn't contested between commando units in the open fields and forests of Europe. It's in the crags and precipices of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the urban sprawl of Baghdad, the jungles of the Philippines. Modern combat techniques and tactics have evolved a long ways as well.

Light cover is a constant fact of life, be it dense undergrowth or a car door. This is a far more important consideration than target acquisition speed... and the difference between a trained soldier with a modern battle rifle and an irregular who's just been handed a third-hand AK that afternoon tends to favor the soldier. Bullpup designs further mitigate the length issue. (The AR-10 and the M-14 aren't the gold standards here. The FN-FAL and H&K G3 are, and both have been redesigned into bullpup configurations at one time or another.)

No-one sets their rifle to "rock and roll" while they rush out "over the top" anymore unless it's a diversionary tactic. Even three-shot bursts are on the outs. Careful, measured fire to cover advance and retreat are the order of the day. Soldiers use less rounds and use them at a slower rate in combat than they did when the M-16 was designed. This favors a battle rifle over an assault rifle. 7.62 is closer to a battle rifle caliber than the 5.56, while still having some of the weight and size advantages of an assault rifle.

In house-to-house sweeps, everyone should have a shotgun, but that's far beyond the scope of the discussion.

(God, I'm a geek... )
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:28 PM on February 20, 2007

damn dirty ape : Its a weapon desgned 40 years ago to deal with 40 year old military requirements.

I'd be careful of the sentiment that old guns are no longer viable. I can think of three off the top of my head that considerably older and still have an important presence. The 1911 (of debatable military use, but currently seeing a resurgence in law enforcement), the M2 BMG (first put in service in 1932, it still sits on top of every one of our A1 main battle tanks today), and of course the venerable AK-47 (a 60 year old weapon that still seems to be pretty effective, particularly when used against us.)

And just for fun; the Remington 700 (1962), Remington 870 (1950), and the FN FAL (1953), were all invented before the 5.56mm and the M-16, and all are still commonly used in combat today.

The SA80 is a much more modern weapon and shorter punchier weapons like the sa80 or the new israeli Tavor are probably where the future is heading.

The SA80 and the Tavor are indeed sexy beasts. Bullpups are a great idea that still have a fatal flaw, the ejection systems preclude the ability to quickly switch firing hands. This is a real problem when doing CQB style combat. Hot brass in your face just isn't as much fun as most people think. The new FN F2000 solves this in a clever way by having the brass eject out the front, and the P90 cunningly drops it out the bottom, but these are still limited in use. Hopefully more development of these ideas will refine the concept.

This stop-gap solution seems pretty expensive for a minor upgrade. Might as well go all out with a brand new design and retire the m16 family.

I agree that would probably be best. But if you check out the XM8 link (the 'time' link in the FPP) you can see that attempts at completely redesigning the primary weapon of the military forces tend to fail. I felt that the HK 416 approach was an interesting middle ground. It kept the basic framework of controls and accessories the same, while completely updating the actual working mechanism. And it did so in a way that doesn't appreciably add to the cost. (maximum price for an decked out M4 is $1300, a fully dressed 416 will set them back $1425.)

Personally, I think the M4 is the stopgap you were speaking of. It sure looks cool, but it's tendency to fail when needed is a real problem. I like that there are people out there who aren't trying to reinvent the wheel (see the OICW link) and are just trying to give the soldiers something that when they pull the trigger, more often than not, it's going to do something useful.
posted by quin at 10:15 PM on February 20, 2007

It probably wouldn't be impossible to construct an argument for the M-1 being reinstated.
posted by bardic at 11:21 PM on February 20, 2007

Well, the SA-80 actually has it's origins in 1951, although it didn't enter service until the early eighties. The A2 (new version) is a solid bit of kit. I used the A1 for three years, and, well, it jammed a lot. And was hard to clean. And really heavy. Great range rifle, but sucked if there was any sand or dust about. That said, the Americans I went on exercise with in Gibraltar had major issues with their M16A1's in the dust.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:26 AM on February 21, 2007

M1A Garand with Leupold Mk IV 3.5-10ish optics and we are good to go.
posted by MapGuy at 1:33 AM on February 21, 2007

Happy Dave - did you ever manage to pinch the magazine well so that it wouldn't feed at all? That was a complaint I heard a few times thanks to the abysmal quality control.

p.s. the L85A1 wasn't based on a rifle from 1951 (the EM2) but was in fact a bastardised bullpup of Sterling's AR18, itself a 2nd generation licensed update of an Eugene Stoner's ArmaLite AR-10 (which the AR15 aka M16 was developed from) in 5.56mm. Not-so-funnily enough, many AR-18s found their way into the IRA's armouries in the mid-80's from US sympathisers.

The US Army stipulated a 100% increase in effectiveness back when it did the last series of tests in the late eighties and early nineties, the H & K G11K, Steyr's ACR and Colt's own ACR all peformed well but that's a pretty impossible goal with today's technology. The idea of flechette rounds has turned out to be a poor idea due to poor ballistic performance and terminal effects and the recent theories of the 6.8mm SPC round haven't really gone anywhere barring the Barrett & co. uppers.

British Army forces have deployed with short barreled 7.62mm weapons - the L100A1 (aka G3K) is in service with SAS/SBS and was used by 14INT (allegedly now part of the SRR) and there was even the MC51 which would have been horrific for muzzle blast and recoil.

quin - If the 1911 is of debatable combat usage I question it's (re-)adoption by USMC and Delta operators. They happily deploy with Kimbers and Wilson 1911s right now.
posted by longbaugh at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2007

God you guys know a lot about guns.

And you're all so civil!
posted by Hobbacocka at 8:03 AM on February 21, 2007

Quin - excellent point about the M2 and model 1911 pistol - man that 1911 design is just about perfect. OK you're not going to get 15 round mags with the 45 ACP, but it really is the perfect handgun. (And this from a Glock owner).
posted by Sk4n at 8:04 AM on February 21, 2007

quin, thanks for the reply, its very informative.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:25 AM on February 21, 2007

longbaugh, I used the term 'debatable' more to cover my ass than anything else, and certainly not as a disparagement against the 1911. It's being redeployed in a limited fashion, and it hasn't seen widespread use since the M9 replaced it back in the 80's. Personally, I'd love to see that change. I've always felt the 1911 was a superior weapon and if the USMC is indeed planning on readopting it, I'd be thrilled. My guess though is that it's being used by specialized teams who don't fall under the purview of standard military load-out and are allowed to tailor their equipment needs to the mission.

I'd be happy to be proved wrong though.
posted by quin at 9:26 AM on February 21, 2007

The problem with the M-16 isn't the 5.56 round. The problem is that the rifle is too complicated. It's got a fancy locking bolt that provides a better seal, which gives you a nice long range for a semi-automatic rifle. Jungle combat, and urban combat, almost completely negate the advantage of a rifle with longer range. So you end up with all the extra complexity, none of the extra benefit.

Why is complexity a problem? Besides being more expensive to produce (which isn't that worrisome to the US), it makes the rifle more difficult to maintain and increases the likelihood of malfunctions.

This H&K does nothing to address the complexity issue.
posted by Nahum Tate at 9:47 AM on February 21, 2007

So why doesn't the U.S. adopt the AK-47? Besides the military contracting lobby, etc.
posted by exogenous at 10:04 AM on February 21, 2007

The 5.56 round tends to fragment and tumble it is also therefore more likely to initially wound than kill a target, thereby achieving the goal of removing 3 personnel from the fight. This frag and tumble characteristic makes it more likely to go in your shoulder and come out your knee bouncing around like a pinball, as opposed to passing straight trough tissue and bone, in a little hole big hole scenario. While the latter looks worse the former poses a very messy problem for medical personnel.
Because the 7.62 round has better penetration and stopping power it brings more heat to the fight, but since Haj uses the weapon system more as an insult (throwing noise downrange) than a specific statement (proper target acquisition with fire discipline) the effect is largely, I believe, negated. Anywho in combat the dhump dhump dhump dhump of a 50 cal is like a cold beer on a warm summer evening.
I must confess that my favorite bullet for most offensive combat situations starts at 500lbs.

It will be nice to see when MITRE has their sonar acquisition system fitted to the combat rifle. Too bad lasers are a no go as they are deemed to be excessively cruel when they blind. These two systems combined in vehicle mounted configuration could effectively reduce the Haj sniper to a one shot career.

A young Marine sniper was asked in an interview what he felt when he pulled the trigger and took the life of an enemy combatant.

His reply, “Recoil.”
posted by MapGuy at 10:19 AM on February 21, 2007

After all the time and $ they spent evaluating the XM8, which generated its own now-useless wave of enthusiam....

Not too surprisingly, a lot of the "snake eaters" tend to use untraceable and disposable Chinese or E Euro AKs when doing clandestine work. If you don't have to engage targets beyond about 50 meters (doesn't happen much, and when it's apt to, you usu have a designated sniper team with proper weps anyhow) it's a good choice. Ever stop to wonder how many members of Third World armed mobs that pass for armies and militias practice good weapon cleaning and maintenance discipline? A dirty AK will shoot. A 16? Well....

Speaking of the AK, a friend just turned me on to this museum, and I was able to return the favor by mentioning this book.
posted by pax digita at 10:21 AM on February 21, 2007

Just on U.S. TV a couple of days ago. Ex-navy SEAL- hosted "future weapons"-type show.
posted by Phred182 at 10:37 AM on February 21, 2007

Happy Dave - did you ever manage to pinch the magazine well so that it wouldn't feed at all? That was a complaint I heard a few times thanks to the abysmal quality control.

Longbaugh - Never managed to do that myself, though I kicked the crap out of quite a few magazines in house to house training. The issued mags with the A1 were really flimsy and prone to cracking, so much so that we used to nick Colt magazines off the Americans, which were a bit heavier but much sturdier. The new A2 magazines are rock solid according to chaps I know out in Basra. Shame about the radios, but that's a whole 'nuther thread.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2007

exogenous writes "So why doesn't the U.S. adopt the AK-47?"

The AK-47 isn't as accurate as the American weapons, it really handles abuse though which makes it popular with alternative forces.
posted by Mitheral at 10:49 AM on February 21, 2007

Man, I'm gonna be applying all this to my Rainbow 6 Vegas playing. :) Great stuff, all.

I mostly use a P90 there, and it's great from point-blank out to at least 200m.

"It probably wouldn't be impossible to construct an argument for the M-1 being reinstated."

I kick ass with one in Call of Duty! Better than with any of the SMGs or German rifles... heh.

However in real life it's big, it's heavy and the ammo weighs a ton. Not bad for open-field warfare but she don't handle so well in town.

Oh uh... btw I have actually owned and fired real guns. I had a Remington 7400, and now own a military-style Mossberg 500 12 ga.

Any advice on a handguns? I'm considering the Walther P99 or the Sig P226/229, both in .40S&W.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:12 AM on February 21, 2007

As the owner of a Colt AR15, I was going to come in here and share my great wisdom by telling everyone that I've never cared for it because it tends to jam. Now I am reminded that there are a good number of community members that not only have a great deal more experience with such weapons but that actually have more than a vague understanding of how they work. I shoot on occasion and own a number of firearms but my depth of knowledge doesn't go much further than "the firing pin hits the primer, primer sets off powder, bullet flies out the end."
posted by Carbolic at 1:54 PM on February 21, 2007

zoogleplex, I have a P99 in both .40 S&W and 9mm (well, the Wife's is 9mm, but it's in my gun case so I still get to play with it). It's a fine gun, very comfortable in the hand with a nice trigger, but it is a little bit odd. As a striker-fired double action, it behaves a bit differently than other handguns; when cocked, the trigger remains forward till you touch it with your index finger and there is no resistance till it hits the 'cocked' stage. (I'm explaining this poorly, but if you go to a gun shop and play with one, you'll see what I mean.) It can be a somewhat confusing for people who aren't used to guns.

The Sig would also be an excellent choice, though in the .40 caliber the best (and my preferred handgun) is the H&K USP. It's one of the few that was designed for .40 and scaled back to a 9mm version rather than the other way around. It's also set up to pretty closely emulate the controls of the 1911 which is considered by many to be the pinnacle of semi auto handgun design. A lot of people also speak highly of Glocks, but I just can't stand their triggers. Too sloppy for my tastes.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on February 21, 2007

Thx quin, the H&K looks very nice. It will have a lot to do with weight and how comfortable it is in my hand, though I do like the control similarity to the 1911. I'll definitely try to check one out

I seem to remember firing an auto with the same double/single trigger action that you describe, many years ago, but I don't remember what it was...
posted by zoogleplex at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2007

When i was in Cambodia last year, my friend and I rented some rifles. It was funny, I rented an ak47 and it worked fine, full auto was a blast, my friend on the other hand picked the m16 and it just kept jamming.
Just like the movies... hehe.
posted by Iax at 7:20 PM on February 21, 2007

Really really locked up in the contracts and politics. I dunno. I liked the AUG. But y'know - problems with the M-16? Poor workman that blames his tools, blah blah blah. God forbid you talk to the men who actually use the weapon.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:40 AM on February 22, 2007

"A young Marine sniper was asked in an interview what he felt when he pulled the trigger and took the life of an enemy combatant.
His reply, “Recoil.” "

Reminds me of the psych test. You're ordered to shoot the next person that comes over the hill. The next person is your mother. What do you feel?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 AM on February 22, 2007

Quin - Carbolic's comment above also applies to me and my 9mm Glock - I shoot it pretty well, know how it works, follow all safety rules dilligently, but don't have the in depth knowledge that some of you guys have. I've only shot Glocks and a couple S&W 1911s and the 1911 were a long time ago.

Your comment about the sloppy trigger - can you elaborate? Is it the sort-of two stage nature of the action?

I really must get out and shoot a couple of other models to get a feel, but I really don't mind the Glock's action (probably inexperience, I don't know what I'm missing?)
posted by Sk4n at 8:27 AM on February 22, 2007

I've only fired a few Glocks, so maybe it was a limited sample set, but the ones I've shot (because they are double action only) require a long trigger pull for every shot. That, coupled with the integrated trigger safety made the gun feel... off to me. But then, I'm used to single action handguns where you can cock the firearm prior to shooting and have a fraction of the weight on the trigger pull. I know plenty of knowledgeable shooters who own them who find them to be fine firearms, I just prefer something that feels more precise.

It probably doesn't help that my early experiences with handguns were largely revolvers and target semi-automatics where the trigger action was extremely crisp. I'm sure it made me a bit of a snob.

Smedleyman : Poor workman that blames his tools, blah blah blah. God forbid you talk to the men who actually use the weapon.

Are you really suggesting that the M-16/ M4 has no room for improvement? Because as a guy who has one (well an AR15, but close enough), I can definitely think of some changes I'd like to see made.
posted by quin at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2007

“Are you really suggesting that the M-16/ M4 has no room for improvement?”

No. Opposite. (Not real verbal right now). I’ve argued on behalf of change (miltary,years ago). Pretty much got back what I said above. It’s a very political process without regard to the men who actually use the weapon. I also dislike the CAR-15 (yeah, yeah, XM-177E1/ “commando” etc it’s still the CAR-15, Colt is still trying to call them “submachine guns”) the flash suppressers suck and lighter rounds are ass in sub-sonic. All those jobs (carbine, sub machine gun, hbar) could be done with the Steyr AUG - plus assault rifle work. But y’know, why would you want common ammo between your carbines, sub-machine guns, and assault rifles plus reliability and comfort? Yeah, that’d suck. Much rather deliver pork to your base, senator.

“...where the trigger action was extremely crisp. I'm sure it made me a bit of a snob.”

Nothing wrong with being a purist. Gotta keep the engineers & gunsmiths honest.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2007

Sorry I misunderstood you. I've read you enough here that I should have known better.

Gotta keep the engineers & gunsmiths honest.

Damn straight. I love my semi's but the '57 6" Colt Python in my case holds a special place in my heart. As far as I'm concerned it's the finest wheelgun ever made, and possibly the best trigger break ever to grace a firearm. Any firearm.
posted by quin at 3:47 PM on February 22, 2007

"Sorry I misunderstood you."

My fault for not being clear. (And I'm most definitely out of sorts).

Funny story about the Colt Python. Guy I know was out by a gun shop out here (Chicago boonies) and met a friend who bought one second hand. I guess his buddy just got into hand loading and had made hot loads for his piece. I don't know how many grains he had used, but the cartridges were so bulky that he had to tap them into the cylinder. So they go out to his property and fire it at some trees. He goes through a whole box of ammo that way and on the last few the gun "feels weird" the guy says. So they take it to the gun shop and the armorer is looking at it and the gun has stress fractures shot throughout the metal. I mean everywhere. The smith swears he doesn't know how the pistol didn't explode in his hand. Great example of how well made and strong the Colt Python is. And hell, it could even be true.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:21 PM on February 22, 2007

Smedleyman -

I honestly thought that the outcome of your story above was going to be along the lines of "and as they were walking away, a huge oak tree fell down."
posted by Sk4n at 7:25 AM on February 23, 2007

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