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Thread: M16 Charging Handle

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Default M16 Charging Handle

    Anyone here know why the charging handle on the M16 was placed in the rear? Is this an advantage/disadvantage compared to a side charging handle?

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    Anyone here know why the charging handle on the M16 was placed in the rear?
    I'm guessing it is the same reason that I need to fill my vehicle's gas tank from the driver's side, rather than the passenger's side.

    Is this an advantage/disadvantage compared to a side charging handle?
    I think it could be viewed as an advantage. If you are correcting a malfunction by using your non-firing hand to push the charging handle back, while keeping your firing hand on the pistol grip and the weapon oriented in the direction of the threat, you can correct a malfunction without moving the muzzle all that much. A side charging handle, it seems to me, would result in the muzzle moving a lot more, thus taking an extra second for you to get your sights back onto your target.

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    I'll pass on the why question.

    Good or bad? I've fired assault rifles with both arrangements, and from my experience there are no major advantages or disadvantages to either - it just comes down to what your used to and what you've been trained or drilled on. I've fired M4-type wpns and found it rather awkward, solely attributable to my muscle memory of side-cocking weapons. I've heard exactly the same echoed, vice versa, from those coming from the opposite perspective.

    The side cocking handle does mean that the weapon becomes right or left handed (despite claims to the contrary it does make a difference - I pity the poor lefty trying to action a weapon with his incorrect hand, it just makes things that much harder). As a generalisation side-cocking weapons have design features allowing an armourer to convert left-to-right or vice versa in a matter of seconds given the tools, however extra complexity occurs when the system has to ensure everyone has a correctly set-up weapon. It's not just a matter of picking or swapping a wpn and re-zeroing in that case.

    I've never noticed Schmedlap's problem of losing the target picture when cocking as I've always been taught to deliberately look into the chamber on any weapon IA's. Different drills, perhaps.

    I think the side-vs-rear cocking handle is broaching the bullpup-vs-conventional rifle debate as, from what I've seen, side-cocking handles are universally fielded on bullpup designs given the location of their bolt (someone may have examples to the contrary?). And that, dear sir, is another argument entirely!
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    I've never noticed Schmedlap's problem of losing the target picture when cocking as I've always been taught to deliberately look into the chamber on any weapon IA's. Different drills, perhaps.
    That's what they're taught in basic training. We un-train that once they get to their unit because simply charging the weapon will clear the vast majority of stoppages, making it adequate and much quicker when seconds count.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default All that plus ambidexterity and

    structural integrity of the cast upper receiver and the bolt carrier, the slot for a non-reciprocating side handle would be longer than was desirable due to the length of the bolt carrier. Though the Army then turned around and compromised that integrity with the totally useless -- even dangerous -- forward assist mechanism.

    The original Stoner AR-10 (top picture) design had the ambidextrous handle in the open space between the Rear Sight / Carrying Handle and the Top of the receiver as seen below. It didn't provide enough leverage so the M-16 system was developed.

    He later went to a side handle for the AR 18 (center picture) but that was with a piston system in lieu of the gas impingement on a weapon that was designed to be very cheap to produce or purchase. Note that the charging handle is raised above the top of the receiver so one could reach across with the left hand and pull it to the rear.

    With the Stoner 63 system (bottom picture) his last production light rifle, he returned (for the Rifle and Carbine variants) to a top mounted charging handle, the cylindrical projection above the barrel about 8" to the rear of the front sight. It was ambidextrous, located near the support hand and gave positive control of bolt movement. It was also relatively silent.
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2011 at 01:20 AM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I don't see that as a problem...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    I pity the poor lefty trying to action a weapon with his incorrect hand, it just makes things that much harder).
    I'm left handed and carried at one time or another either an M1 rifle, an M2 Carbine, an M1 sub machine gun, an M3A1 sub machine gun, a M1919A6 GPMG, a M1903 with a Scope, a BAR or an M14 rifle -- all except the BAR with charging handles or a bolt handle on the right and I saw no advantage to the BAR's left side charging handle. Not that hard to train the muscles...

    Of course that may be because the USMC when I went in at the ripe old age of 16 insisted you learn to shoot right handed regardless of strong side and master eye to preclude that very problem. That worked...

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I'm left handed and carried at one time or another either an M1 rifle, an M2 Carbine, an M1 sub machine gun, an M3A1 sub machine gun, a M1919A6 GPMG, a M1903 with a Scope, a BAR or an M14 rifle -- all except the BAR with charging handles or a bolt handle on the right and I saw no advantage to the BAR's left side charging handle. Not that hard to train the muscles...)
    Being part of the right-handed race I can't speak from first hand experience...

    However, from trg the lefties drills when forced to use a non-left handed weapon are slightly more complicated. In order to keep their master-hand on the weapon they have to rotate the weapon to an unnatural degree to reach the cocking handle, and then they reach over the weapon and action. Sounds easy, but as soon as you add in all sorts of maliciously located objects with sharp edges such as an ACOG, night aiming device, torch, spare rails etc they regularly risk any potential future as a hand-model with the increased chances of cutting, gouging or otherwise disfiguring their fingers, the poor blighters!

    Training everyone to fire right-handed may be a good thing - I have no qualification to comment, and have heard arguments go each way. I like the idea of simplicity and the get-on-with-it approach your describe - after all it is muscle memory, and a well enforced drill that is 80% efficient will be infinitely better than 3 variations of the same drill to achieve the elusive 100%.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    That's what they're taught in basic training. We un-train that once they get to their unit because simply charging the weapon will clear the vast majority of stoppages, making it adequate and much quicker when seconds count.
    Well, that seems to make sense. I've heard of commanders enforcing similarly-sourced ideas such as all-drills-done-with-eyes-on-target, working the weapon from touch only. Unfortunately, this requires exactly the sort of multi-tasking and hand-eye co-ordination I don't have!
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post

    I think the side-vs-rear cocking handle is broaching the bullpup-vs-conventional rifle debate as, from what I've seen, side-cocking handles are universally fielded on bullpup designs given the location of their bolt (someone may have examples to the contrary?). And that, dear sir, is another argument entirely!
    The Singaporeans have overcome that with the SAR 21, in the same way as the G36. Iím not sure that is the best option as scope rails have to be raised far enough above those cocking handles to allow easy access for a few fingers. And with the SAR 21 itís a waste of time anyway as the ejection port can not be changed to the other side for lefties, as with the SA series.
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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    That's what they're taught in basic training. We un-train that once they get to their unit because simply charging the weapon will clear the vast majority of stoppages, making it adequate and much quicker when seconds count.
    That may perhaps be weapon dependent. A double feed may not always be cleared simply by cocking. The only stoppages (apart from the most common one, empty) I have had, and far to often to my liking, on my SL8 (G36) is an empty not flying out fast enough and jamming itself fairly solidly in the ejection port, which is on this weapon perhaps a bit too narrow.

    The Steyr does not hold the bolt open after the last round is fired, nor does it have a bolt release. So for that reason we have to look at the ejection opening while pulling back the cocking handle. The exception here is for those good at counting rounds fired, which I admittedly never was.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
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    As Ken said, packaging and materials seems to have a lot to do with it.

    The upper receiver has always been a forged piece of aluminum. Originally, they were 6061, but in 1968 that was changed to 7075. Cutting a hole in the side does two things. It weakens the receiver and it opens it up to dust. As it stands, the CH placement makes for a weapon with fewer openings, and since there is no CH on the bolt you can use a dust cover. The AKM and variants are examples of weapons that can't be fired while the dust cover is closed.

    As for Stoners later designs, he had already given up any rights to his direct impingement design and so had to pioneer other ideas. I don't think the AR 18 is much better than an AR 15.

    It should be noted that the AR 15 was originally much more expensive than its competitors. Since CNC machining has gotten cheaper, that price advantage has flipped. M16s are downright cheep compared to other 1950s designs.

    As for malfunction clearances, I was taught (outside my current employment) to ensure that the magazine is seated, roll the weapon until the ejection port is down and run the charging handle once. This will clear about 90% of all malfunctions. If that doesn't work, lock the bolt back, clear the action with your fingers, run the bolt three times and reload the weapon.

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    Council Member gute's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiwigrunt View Post
    That may perhaps be weapon dependent. A double feed may not always be cleared simply by cocking.
    There are probably better videos out there, but this is the first that popped up (fast forward to 1:15). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TqLnBd1udM

    This is more or less what I was describing. And yes, probably weapon dependent. My only experience (other than familiarization fires) is with firearms typically used by the US Army.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Though the Army then turned around and compromised that integrity with the totally useless -- even dangerous -- forward assist mechanism.
    Iíll take your word for it as I have no experience with the AR series at all. However, I had one of our SF NCOs explain that that was one of the reasons they preferred the M4 over the Steyr. It allowed them to silently cock the weapon by gently riding the bolt forward and completing the action with the forward assist.
    The other reason was scope/accessory rails which 10+ years ago where less common on other weapons. And I suppose low weight would have been another reason as well.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    If you need to move your weapon from the load to the action/instant condition, (Kiwis will understand my lingo) that close to the bad guys you really screwed up, unless you were changing magazines to a different type of round, or were claeaning a weapon, or wrer in the lines and trying to quietly load your weapon. These scenarios I find rather hard to envisage as an excuse to change from the Steyr POS to the M4. The weapon should always be in the action condition anywherere outside the wire.

    I can think of three or four reasons I would prefer to carry a M4 than an OZSteyr POS, but I remember when the L1A1 was always used in preference to the M16A1 due to reliability and knock down power reasons. The exception was if except if your were the grenadier, as the M16/203 being a better battle combo that a separate M79 and L1A1 separate but not as accurate. Damn, I am showing my age.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default What GI Zhou said...

    And Old Age Solidarity has nothing to do with it...

    Though I'd go a step further and suggest his "unless..." scenarios would show poor training other than in highly unusual situations.

    Seriously, any commander or leader who directs unloaded weapons in a combat zone -- that's zone, even 'inside the wire' -- is acknowledging inadequate training and / or a significant and dangerous lack of trust in his or her people. Probably both. Personally, I'd ignore that stupid order. Have done so, in fact...

    The 5.56 cartridge has inadequate stopping power against humans. Period. You can tweak it but it still will be a poor military cartridge. Still it is the weapon we're stuck with due to the massive costs of a replacement. Thus while it should never have been purchased in the first place, we're stuck and so cartridge tweaking is the best option at this point.

    Politics...

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The 5.56 cartridge has inadequate stopping power against humans. Period. You can tweak it but it still will be a poor military cartridge.
    I'd find it a lot easier to agree with that statment if it was a little more objective!
    Are there cartridges that destroy more tissue for the same range against the same target? Yes - but that is also true of almost any cartridge.
    For me, the great unanswered... and maybe unanswerable question is "Is it so inadequate as to render it's users at significant risk or less greatly less capable?"
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    I think this is where I insert my broken record.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. Pleas and demands for objectivity about militarycartridges

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I'd find it a lot easier to agree with that statment if it was a little more objective!
    crash into the wall of life. Pun intended...

    My personal objectivity in this matter is flawed by having seen too many people shot with that cartridge who were not stopped and too many bullets deflected by leaves and twigs. While I certainly acknowledge all cartridges suffer from problems of one sort or another and that there is not now and likely never will be a perfect military cartridge, the various flaws of the 5.56 are too well documented elsewhere for those interested in scientific objectivity and thus while my statement may not be objective I submit it's accurate and objectively verifiable.
    Are there cartridges that destroy more tissue for the same range against the same target? Yes - but that is also true of almost any cartridge.
    True but that's laboratory stuff. When we did the Troop Test on the AR-15, we shot a lot of pigs for the local Oscar Meyer packing plant and offered the Carcasses to the SF Lab for dissection (and repair in a few cases -- only to be shot again... ). That testing revealed that the round had considerably less lethality against a living and moving organism than did the 7.62mm baseline cartridge. We used Pigs as the Doctors assured us that the pig would more closely react as would a human than would dogs or goats. That Test report is probably available on DTIC somewhere...
    For me, the great unanswered... and maybe unanswerable question is "Is it so inadequate as to render it's users at significant risk or less greatly less capable?"
    Oh, I think that's answerable to a very slight extent. For most people most of the time, it is not so inadequate. For those unfortunate few for whom it did prove inadequate that is little solace. The objective issue thus is to (a) determine how many times the inadequacy apparently did occur or may have occurred. (b) eliminate all other factors as causative of that inadequacy, (c) assess the results and determine a likelihood of occurrence, (d) define 'significantly' and 'greatly' to the satisfaction of all concerned and thus assign an element of risk level that is acceptable.

    IOW, you've indeed posed an unanswerable question. Or, more correctly, one that must be subjected to some subjectivity to be answered.

    Perhaps a far better question from a military standpoint is: does the weapon or cartridge inspire full confidence in the majority of its users with some combat experience and who are familiar with the effects of other cartridges for general issue and worldwide combat use ?

    Schmedlap hits it with the same point I made -- reality is that the weapon isn't going away and it is marginally adequate, the problem is the general issue US Army cartridge. As he said in one of those links about the weapon but also applying to the cartridge :
    There, I said it. But I suspect weíve got a better chance of settling the abortion debate than the M4 debate.
    Yep.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    That testing revealed that the round had considerably less lethality against a living and moving organism than did the 7.62mm baseline cartridge. We used Pigs as the Doctors assured us that the pig would more closely react as would a human than would dogs or goats. That Test report is probably available on DTIC somewhere...
    I concur, that compared to 7.62x51mm (M80), 5.56mm (M877) will possess less energy on impact, and given no fragmentation of the round, will destroy less tissue.

    ....and I likewise concur that we are no nearer an answer....
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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