Strong Men Armed- Part III

Article by: Patrick A. Rogers

The Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company

The following is the third part of a 3 part article spanning 4 issues of The Accurate Rifle. Part I : January 2000 Volume 3 Number 12 Part II: February 2001 Volume 4 Number 1 Part III Section 1: April 2001 Volume 4 Number 3 Part III Section 2: May 2001 Volume 4 Number 4 The Accurate Rifle 222 McKee Street Manchester CT 06040 Part III : Weapons and Equipment

Understand that equipment, when compared to the people who use it, is at the low end of the equation. The gear, especially the newer communications and surveillance equipment is high tech and very capable. But it still requires hard men to bring it within range of other hard men who would love to do nothing more than kill them.

Well-trained and motivated people will do better with mediocre equipment then mediocre people will do with the best gear in the world.

Keep this in mind when you read these pages.

The multiple missions tasked to Force require a wide variety of weapons and equipment. Many of the items in this article are mission specific, and a few are common to all missions, but in almost all scenarios, they are carried on the bodies of the members of the reconnaissance platoon. Weight is a major factor, and the Force adage is "If you can’t swim it, jump it, hump it or shoot it, you don’t need it". The increased stand off distance of the optical and communications equipment helps to ensure success in the deep battle.

Rifle 5.56x45mm, M16A2 (NSN 1005-01-128-9936)

The M16A2 rifle is the standard weapon for most of those assigned to the Company. Approximately 39 5/8" long, and weighing almost 9 pounds, the A2 is the standard rifle for those in the Marine Corps whose duties do not require them to be armed with a pistol.

The M16A2 came into the Marine Corps system in 1982 (though the big army fought tooth and nail against it, they eventually did adopt the A2 in 19861). Several modifications were made to transform the Al into the A2, including modifying the flash suppressor into a "compensator"; providing a square front sight post; modifying the delta ring; modifying the upper receiver to include strengthening in the area of the front attachment point and including a brass deflector; lengthening the buttstock by 5/8"; adding an easily adjustable rear sight, changing the handguard configuration from triangular to round; making the plastic furniture out of a more durable material; increasing the diameter of the barrel forward of the handguard, and adding a shelf on the pistol grip. The barrel twist was changed from 1/12 to 1/9 to reflect the adoption of the M885 ammunition.2

The A2 was designed primarily with Marine Corps input, specifically from Weapons Training Bn. Many of the improvements appear to more directly benefit the shooting teams rather than the grunts. Chief among these is a rear sight adjustable for windage and elevation, something more applicable to a rifle range than to usefulness in combat. Likewise the added weight at the muzzle end of the barrel. While it does make the rifle hang better, the only people who use the offhand position in combat are (soon to be) casualties.

And finally lengthening the stock to make it fit better in offhand is something else that benefits primarily the team shooters. Their 90-degree to the target offhand position makes sense of the longer butt stock. The proper fighting stance is better served with a shorter length of pull—perhaps around 12" or so.

The 3 shot burst was a compromise. HQMC did not want any automatic fire capability—Weapons Training Bn wisely did. The 3 shot burst is the result. While many will question the value of hand held full auto fire, it has its place in combat. The key of course is proper training, and not a mechanical device.

In 1982 we had an opportunity to give the grunt a more functional and easier to use weapon but instead settled for something less.

There are 168 M16A2 rifles in the Company.

Carbine, 5.56x45mm M4A1 (NSN 1005-01-383-0953)

The M4A1 Carbine Close Quarter Battle Weapon (CQBW) is the standard weapon for those in the reconnaissance platoons. The current Marine Corps wisdom is that the M4A1 Carbine is to supplement, rather than replace the M16A2 (just as the MP5N sub-caliber machine gun did) in the Force Reconnaissance Companies. This may soon change as the Marine Corps is considering replacing all M16A2’s in the Marine Corps with the M4IM4A1 Carbine or the M16A4. The impetus for this move is the growing trend of MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) worldwide.

The M4 program originated as an initiative by the government of Abu Dhabi in the mid 80’s. The OIC of (then) Firepower Branch, (then) Maj. Jack Muth, brought several examples back to Quantico and tested them extensively.

A recommendation was made that the M4 replace all of the pistols in the Infantry Bn. (much like the U.S. Carbine, Cal .30, Ml/M2 was supposed to do during WW2) as well as being used by reconnaissance community, ANGLICO and others.

Congressional interference killed that proposal, and it languished until 1994 when USSOCOM picked up the fumbled ball.

The M4A1 Carbine is selective fire (that is, full auto - only the M4 Carbine has the 3 shot burst), has a 4 position collapsible stock, is 33" long with the stock extended, 29" long with the stock retracted, and weighs 7.5 pounds. The barrel is 14.5" long. (All but a very few of the M4 carbines have a flat top receiver. All M4A1 ‘s have a flat top).3

The collapsible stock provides a degree of ergonomics not possible with the M16A2. As stated above, the 13 5/8" length of pull (LOP) on the A2 is too long for most people to acquire a good fighting stance. Add to that body armor, load bearing vests, or cold weather clothing, and the weapon is way far out in front of the shooter.

Many operators run with the Carbine stock back to the first position or completely closed. It provides for a more comfortable and efficient position.

The Company Carbines are equipped with the Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) Kit. This is slightly different from that issued to USSOCOM in content. The Company has three modifications to their Carbines that the USSOCOM kits do not. All of the M4A1 Carbines in the Company have the Norgon ambidextrous magazine catch; the DPMS ambidextrous selector switch and the Badger Ordnance extended charging handle latch.4

The Carbine has a Knight’s Armament Corporation (KAC) Rail Adopter System (RAS-P/N 98064) mounted. The RAS is a set of lightweight specially modified handguards that replace the standard M4 handguards. The RAS provides a secure mounting point for various mission related equipment by means of a series of MilStdl9l3 grooves. Each groove is marked with an address to assist in returning a particular item to the same location.

A vertical foregrip (also a KAC item- P/N 97098A) attaches to the RAS. It provides for more control during CQB engagements. It provides more control if it is attached to the center or rear of the RAS.

The muzzle compensator is a KAC replacement, so that the Quick Detachable (QD) Sound Suppressor can be mounted. The KAC QD Suppressor is 6.6" long and weighs 24 ounces. It reduces the noise of the fired round by a minimum of 28 decibels using ball ammunition. Sub sonic ammunition is also in the system and is more efficient in masking the noise of the shot, but will not cycle the action.

The Marine Corps does not issue a back up iron sight with their SOPMOD kit (though USSOCOM does). Instead, they rely on the issue removable carry handle. This is flawed thinking. If an optic goes down, the need to maintain continuity of fire still exists. To physically remove the optic, fish through your deuce gear to locate the carry handle, then attach this to the receiver—and do it while attempting to break contact and such, is patently absurd.

The Company therefore has the Knight’s Back Up hon Sight (BIS) on each carbine. Two types of sights are utilized. One is the fixed 300 yard sight (P/N 97082. The second is adjustable for elevation out to 600 yards (PIN 98474).

The Quick Attach/Detach M203 Grenade Launcher, M203 is a single shot, breech loading pump action grenade launcher that fires a family of 40mm low pressure grenades. These include High Explosive Dual Purpose, Multi-Projectile (similar to buckshot— I am underwhelmed with this round), Visible and IR Illumination, Smoke, CS and Practice (blue meanies).

The QDM2O3 mounts to the M4A1 Carbine by means of a special bracket. The notch in the forward part of the barrel is there specifically to accept the mounting bracket (not to make it a better bayonet fighting instrument).

This 40mm grenade launcher weighs 3 pounds and has a 9" barrel (vice the 15.5" barrel of a standard M203) to make it less bulky. Range and accuracy are not affected. It also has a modified leaf sight.

The QDM2O3 is a useful addition to the team. It can be used to mark targets, mask movement or discourage pursuit.

Usually the Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader will have the 203QD mounted. There are several types of optical sights available. Company SOP is to have an optical sight on all long guns.

The Aimpoint® CompM XD is not part of the Marine Corps SOPMOD Kit but was purchased to provide a more viable optic for all seasons.

The Aimpoint® (The M68 is the military version of the CompM XD) is a battery operated, parallax free, red dot sight. The reticle is 3 MOA, and is adjustable for intensity by means of a rheostat switch. Eye relief is unlimited, and it is waterproof to 66’.

The Aimpoint® is mounted to the upper receiver by means of a KAC mount. Two types are used, an offset (PIN 98512) and a straight type called a COMP (PIN 98073). The BIS is mounted on the upper receiver at the rear of the receiver. In the event the Aimpoint® sight goes Tango Uniform, at close range the operator can use the rear of the optic as a large ghost ring and focus on the front sight through the tube. If he has time, he can elevate the BIS and drive on.

Battery life is dependent on the intensity setting, but the Lithium 2L76 will run it from 250 to 1000 hours.This is an extremely effective sight for CQB and patrolling, especially in low light. Aimpoint® has an improved version of the Comp (called, appropriately enough, the CompM2) ready for release this spring. It is a sufficiently more rugged optic with greatly improved electronics. It draws less power when turned on to the lowest power setting than if the batteries are left on the shelf.

The Reflex Sight is a lightweight, non-magnifying day optical sight designed for close combat. It requires no batteries and is waterproof to 66’.

The Company has experienced some difficulties with this sight fogging in a cold/wet environment, and with acquiring the amber reticle in bright light.

The Trijicon ACOG Day Optical Sight (DOS) is a 4X telescope designed to provide enhanced identification and hit probability. It is rugged, and waterproof to 66’. It has a tritium reticle for low light use. The ACOG has an eye relief of approximately 1.5".

This is an excellent patrolling scope, but the 4X magnification makes it extremely difficult to use at CQB distances. It is equipped with a set of emergency iron sights on top of the tube. This requires moving your head off of the stock and trying to get a sight picture, not an easy thing to do.

This is a solid telescope, and in a pinch could probably be used as a hammer.

The AN/PVS-17 Mini Night Vision Sight (MNVS) is the primary night optic. It is an advanced Electro-Optical assembly that utilizes an Omni5 GEN 3 image tube. It weighs 2 pounds and is powered by a single "AA" battery, which will keep it running for 36 hours.

The MNVS has a 2.25X magnification (that can be boosted to 4.5X with an extender), and uses a 2 MOA red Dot reticle. Windage and elevation adjustments are 1/2 MOA. The PVS-17 is waterproof to 66’.

The AN/PEQ-2 Infrared Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Laser has a straight beam of IR energy for aiming, and an adjustable focus IR beam for illuminating. Both sources can be used at the same time. It is powered by 2 "AA" batteries that give it continuous power for 10 hours. The PEQ-2 weighs 7.5 ounces, is 6.4" long, 2.8" wide, and 1.2" high. It is waterproof to 66’.

The illuminator is good to 600 meters. The pointer on high power has a range of 5000 meters, and 1000 meters on low power.

It is mounted on the RAS by means of a rail grabber, and while it may be mounted anyplace the preferred mounting is at 12 o’ clock.

The AN/PAC-4C is an IR aiming light, and while it is part of the kit, it has been replaced by the more capable PEQ-2.

The AN/PEQ-5 is a visible laser. It is difficult to imagine what this particular item is actually for (I am unconvinced of the tactical viability of a visible laser) and consequently is never used.

The Visible Light Illuminator (VLI) is a white light attached to the RAS by means of a rail grabber. It is powered by 3 DL123 lithium or 6 "AA" batteries, which will give an advertised run time of 50 minutes (though the "AA’s" are not as bright). Though it is waterproof to 66’, the first two versions experienced problems with switch corrosion. A third modification is now issued.

There are several combat slings used by the Company. Prior to the issuance of the SOPMOD Kit, slings were purchased from a commercial vendor. This particulaf group of slings deteriorated rapidly. When they failed, Wilderness Tactical Products supplied an emergency run of Giles Slings (over a Holiday weekend no less).

The sling now issued with the SOP-MOD kit appears to be a direct copy of the Giles Sling, with the exception of an added quick release.

The combat slings are the 3-point type, and provide a comfortable, safe and efficient method of carrying the Carbine and for transitioning to the secondary weapon. The SOPMOD Special Text (ST-23-3l-l) allows that the sling be worn over the weak side arm for CQB and the strong side arm for patrolling (If you use the issue sling, make sure you rigger tape the stock attachment loop!). Running it on your weak side is the better way to go (this is the opposite of the MPSN SOP, but it makes transitioning to your blaster much easier). An Otis cleaning kit is issued. It has a flexible cleaning rod and is convenient to carry, but a standard rod still needs to be carried to remove bore obstructions.

The CQBW is carried in a Soft Transport Case made by Eagle Industries. It can carry the carbine with the QD M203 attached and a magazine inserted.

There is a large pocket into which additional mission related equipment can be carried. The Soft Transport case provides protection for the Carbine and related equipment during movement.

While the SOPMOD Kit has a number of components, few are on the carbine at any given time (this is directly opposite the hero pictures in some of the gun rags, where everything is mounted). The Company has a system of configuration for their carbines. Common to all: Compensator for the QD Suppressor. Back Up Iron Sight. Optical sight (mission specific) Combat Sling. Vertical Fore Grip (Operator Preference) CQB: Aimpoint®/Reflex Suppressor (mission specific) VLI with JR cover Helmet mounted ANIPVS-l4 Weapon mounted Laser aiming device (AN/PEQ-2) Intermediate Range (patrolling): ACOG/Aimpoint®IReflexIANIPVS- 17 Suppressor (mission specific) Head Mounted ANIPVS- 14 Weapon mounted laser-aiming device (ANIPEQ-2) QDM2O3 (TL/ATL)

The M4A1 has several distinct advantages over the sub caliber MP5N. It offers a self defense capability out to the maximum practical effective range of the gun—250 meters or so. It can defeat most body armor, whereas the "5" guns couldn’t defeat any body armor. It is safer to use inside a crisis site, as the 5.56x45mm projectile is less likely to perforate a human body than the 9xl9mm is, and is less likely to penetrate common building material. The Carbine is much more ergonomic than the "5" gun, and can accept a multitude of mission essential equipment.

In reality, the M4A1 has completely replaced the M16A2 in the Force community with two exceptions; parades, and rifle re-qualification (though 1st Force Marines did use the M4A1 with excellent results, those running the re-qual program had conniptions, and quickly shut that down.)

The result of this duplicity is that the armory is overcrowded, and the individual Marine will have three weapons assigned to him, one of which (the M16A2) is almost never used. Ammunition used is the M855 Ball, the so-called "Green Tip". Frangible ammunition is available for use inside the shoot house (manufacturers vary— they are still trying to find the optimum round).

One additional accessory is available for the M4A1 and the MEU (SOC) Pistol. This is the Special Effects Small Arms Marking Systems (SESAMS) Kit, known to the outside world as SimunitionsTM kits. These kits permit the use of the operator’s weapons during force on force training.

Certain components of the gun are removed and replaced with the Sims specific parts. Barrels are painted blue for easy identification, and the kits cannot accept live 5.56x45rnm or .45 caliber ammunition.

The marking cartridge ammunition uses a modified 9mm case, and a plastic sabot containing colored detergent (either red or blue). It is powered by 1/3 grain of powder, ignited by a small pistol primer. It launches the 0.5- gram projectile out of the muzzle at about 550 fps.5 While maximum range is 80 yards, the maximum practical range is about 15 yards. There are 156 M4A1 Carbines and 28 M2O3QD 40mm Grenade launchers in the Company.

Colt Commando 5.56x45mm

The Company has several Colt Model 733 Commandos, commonly known as the CAR15. (Some in the inve