Guns Failed US Troops in Afghan Firefight

M-4, built for extreme conditions, jammed repeatedly in heavy fire
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 11, 2009 11:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – As militants surrounded the remote Afghanistan base of Wanat on July 13, 2008, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M-4 carbine quit firing. The machine gun he grabbed in desperation didn't work, either. When the battle ended, nine US soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian finds that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment," putting the outnumbered Americans at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

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So eight years into the Afghanistan war, do US armed forces have the best guns money can buy? Even though guns such as the standard-issue M-4 are built for extreme conditions, the report finds that even meticulously maintained guns turn white-hot in heavy fire and jam—when troops need them most. Though battlefield surveys show 90% of troops are satisfied with their M-4s, US special ops are replacing it with a new rifle and Sen. Tom Coburn, a leading critic, is pushing for a replacement. (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)

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