Marine grunts react to switch from the M16 to the M4
By Matthew L. Schehl
PUCKAPUNYAL, AustraliaÑSgt. Jonathan Shue, machine shop noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Air Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, shoots his M4 carbine here May 10 at the 2011 Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting. The meeting is an annual, international combat marksmanship competition hosted by the Australian Army that will be held through May 19. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud/Released)
Marine grunts are applauding their new commandant's decision to arm the service's infantrymen with the M4 carbine in place of the iconic M16 rifle after years of close-quarters battles. The Marine Corps announced Oct. 26 that the M4 carbine will officially replace the M16A4 as the universal rifle for the infantry.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller approved the switch, making the M4 the primary personal weapon for Marines with all infantry battalions, security forces and supporting schools by September 2016. Non-infantry Marines will continue carrying , relegating the M16A4 to use by all personnel other than grunts.
The move has proved widely popular with the Marine communities who've long complained that their legacy rifle was too long and unwieldy for urban and vehicle-borne operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The M4 is considered by many Marines to be a tactically superior weapon to its predecessor. In comparison, the M16A4 is too long, heavy and unwieldy, according to infantrymen asked by Marine Corps Times to weigh in on the policy change.
"It’s about time," said Sgt. Jonathan Ferriera, a mortarman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, who first used the M4 during over a 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan's Helmand Pprovince, Afghanistan. "The M4 holds every quality that the M16 does: everything an M16 can do, the M4 does better."
He told Marine Corps Times that, in his experience, the only practical difference in his experience is that the M16 can accurately shoot out to 600 yards 550 meters, while the M4 has an effective range of about 545 500 meters. That is gap, however, is more than made up for by the smaller size of the M4, Ferriera said.
"Size makes all the difference, because everything revolves around mobility and speed," he said. "The United States Marine Corps is an infantry force, and in a war of inches, everything counts."
Although the M4 has been fielded by the Corps for the better part of a decade, the lack of a policy locking the weapon into infantry units has meant the carbine often went unused. could as easily end up in the hands of Marines stuck inside the wire as those out kicking in doors.
Claybourne said that gGrunts have to carry multiple weapons along with heavy packs, said Cpl. Philip Claybourne, an infantry assaultman with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. three weapons to carry hump besides the rest of their pack: a rifle, a shotgun and the MK153 shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon. Having to use the heavier and more cumbersome M16 when the service had containers full of M4s on forwarding operating bases was is just "silly," he said., especially when "containers of unused M4s are just sitting on the [Forward Operating Base]."
The increased tactical mobility of the M4 resonates with is he out? GH/yep, out in 2007 MS]]Former Sgt. Mike O’Brien, deployed to Iraq as who was a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in western Iraq from 2006 to 2007. At the time, he said, M4s were just showing up, and he was one of the few in his unit to be issued the carbine on that deployment. he said, but there weren’t enough to go around. O’Brien was one of the few to be He was issued an M4 on that deployment, along with fellow noncommissioned officers, and aAlthough initially skeptical, the contrast to the M16 soon became obvious.
"For a weapons guy, the M16 was a big pain in the ass," O'Brien said. "With the adjustable stock, the M4 could fire out the window [of a Humvee] accurately, but the M16 couldn't; that meant you had three more weapons you couldn't use [when moving] — that's a big difference."
Former infantry assaultman Sgt. Brent Susnik was issued an M4 for his first deployment to Iraq in 2008 with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, and sees the Corps' decision as the absolute right move.
"The grunts have wanted M4s across the board for a long time," he said. "I've never heard a grunt ever say he prefers the A4 over the M4."
Members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's maritime raid force fire M4 carbines in Jordan during Exercise Eager Lion 2013. Marine grunts, who will now use the M4 instead of the M16, said the weapon is a better fit for the type of combat they face today.
Photo Credit: Sgt. Christopher Stone/Marine Corps
Everything is easier with the M4, Susnik said. It’s more balanced and mobile, is it’s better during room clearings, to clear rooms with and — with its the adjustable stock — is easier to to sight and fire while wearing bulky body armor.
"The M4 has been slaying bodies at the same distance as the M16 over the past 14 years in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "It has proven itself; there just isn't anything the M16 can do better than the M4."
For those who question its range versus the M16, he noted that targets beyond its distance are covered by snipers, artillery and close air support.
"I would say the Marine Corps loses nothing from this decision, and the infantry definitely gains something that every grunt should have," Susnik said. "I have no doubt that this is the right decision, and it should have come much sooner."
"It’s a no-brainer, really," he Claybourne said. "I can’t see any reason why it took so long."
Long-range engagements give Marines time to properly acquire a target and take precise shots, but that’s not a luxury they have when rounding corners in close quarters combat, said reservist Lance Cpl. Dylan Figueroa, a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines. he said. The M4’s adjustable stock also means a smaller target for enemies to engage than the M16. For Lance Cpl. Dylan Figueroa, a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, said opting for the M4 comes down to practicality.
"So nNot only do you have a great increase to close combat capability, but you maintain your effectiveness at a distance as well," Figueroa he said. "It’s just a win-win for the shooter."