M4 failure discrepancy explained…sort of

Earlier I pointed out that the M4 performed far better in identical dust chamber tests earlier this year than it did against piston-driven challengers more recently:

The M4 fared far worse in this test than in a similar test conducted on the M4s alone earlier this year. 60,000 rounds this summer yielded only 307 stoppages (still more than any of the challengers this time around) in what is described in the article as an identical dust chamber test.

Don’t think that won’t have some conspiracy theorists, um, theorizing.

The M4 suffered 882 failures this time around, and now we begin to learn why the number is so much worse than earlier:

Army testers threw out hundreds of M4 carbine failures from a reliability test this summer, causing the number of Class 1 and Class 2 stoppages, those that soldiers can clear themselves, to drop from 678 to 296, according to an Army briefing document.

You know, this sort of thing could get some of the more excitable sorts a bit, um, excited.

Army officials explained that the 382 M4 stoppages not included in the results could have been discarded when ATEC officials finalized the results of dust test two in October through a process known as the Reliability, Availability and Maintainability, or RAM, Scoring Conference that is part of every such test, said Col. Carl Lipsit, project manager for Soldier Weapons.

The 863 stoppages reported in the results of dust test three represented the final number after the RAM process, Lipsit said.

ATEC officials did not provide test three’s initial number of failures and said the command –stands behind” the 296 stoppages in dust test two that are in the final report, said ATEC spokesman Tom Rheinlander.

I’m not sure why the current discrepancy between 882 and 863 exists, unless only 19 stoppages were RAMed out.

RAM is a standard process which is designed to help remove “duplicate” issues due to the same particular failure mode. This is the example given in the story:

If testers link 10 stoppages to a broken part, they could throw out nine of those stoppages and count only one failure in the final report.

It’s getting murkier and murkier.


  1. All I can say is, I’m glad all of my M4 experiences on my last contract were at the range. From the sounds of it, I wouldn’t really care to depend on the &^%$*^ in a serious exchange of views. In fairness though, we never spent extended periods of time in genuinely dusty conditions, if visibility was bad due to dust storms we usually cancelled our runs for the day (not much of an option for the Mil Specs—-so I can empathize with their having to depend on such a maintenance intensive, prone to failure critical ‘tool’).

  2. The question you have to ask, though, is who gains from this farce? This is the military industrial complex at its worst. Bureaucrats on one side and contractors on the other, both combining their efforts to keep in place a weapon that was a mistake from its inception. Even as these results are made public both the military bureaucrats and the industrial lobbyists are busy pushing forward their agenda, their spin on these results that what the US soldier really needs is a ‘revolutionary’ new weapon that can only come out of a full blown weapon development program costing the US taxpayer billions. A development program that will promise much and deliver little. Recent experience shows the result of this wasted effort will be either another cancellation with no accountability after billions have been spent, or often even worse, a weapon that’s even more expensive and less useful than what it is supposed to be replacing. I continue to watch in amazement as the cycle repeats, and I wonder when the US taxpayer is going to get wise to the con.

  3. Nothing to see here, move along…. This is OpsNormal for the DOD. They’re so heavily invested in the POS M-4, they have to cheat on the tests to make their baby look good (compared to the other/better weapons). Good thing they’re concerned about the troops lives…

  4. Get the best off-the-shelf weapon, improve it, buy it, give it to the guys at the pointy end. End of story. It isn’t hard. It might cost a bit, but not as much as continuing with this farce will cost, and not as much as is spent on pork every month.

  5. Hey forget all that evidence crap, they got surveys from a bunch of young soldiers who have never fired a weapon before and have nothing to compare this POS to. That said … the real question is who is sleeping with whom in the Army Group that buys thingies???

  6. The use of surveys as justification for the M4 is silly. If you give a soldier a choice between the M16 or a M4, and he is doing close combat, yes he is going to choose the M4. The weird thing about this debacle, is that the army has tried several times to ditch the M4, but got cut off by political maneuvers. These tests combined with SOCOM’s ditching the M4 and the availability for ’emergency funding’,this would be the perfect time to upgrade.