In the spirit of fairness, I'm posting the response to my M4 story by the Army's Paul Boyce. He posted this in the comments section of the story on Military.com.
Recently Army testing laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., subjected the M4 carbine and three other weapons to a severe environmental test called the "Carbine Extreme Dust Test." The lab environment allowed engineers to push the weapons beyond their technical limits to help us understand what is required of weapons on today's battlefield.
The weapons were exposed to "heavy dusting," harsh conditions similar to an intense and sustained dust storm, several times for 25 hours. There were ten weapons of each of the four different types of carbines. Each fired 6,000 rounds (60,000 rounds per type). The Army noted all the weapons in the test performed well: the number of stoppages all the carbines exhibited was roughly one percent or less of the total rounds fired by each, meaning the weapons had over a 98 percent reliability rate under these unique conditions. Though the M4 performed exceptionally well, it came in fourth compared to the other three carbines in this particular extreme single-environment (dust as the only condition) testing.
The Army is taking these test results seriously; our Soldiers require and deserve capable, quality weapons. These preliminary results revealed or confirmed several areas for potential materiel improvements to the M4 and the other weapon types in the test.
The M4 is a thoroughly tested and battle proven carbine that meets or exceeds the existing operational requirement. The M4 is one of the most improved pieces of Army equipment: there have been over 390 upgrades since it was introduced into the force. The M4/M4A1 is the only design that is qualified against the current requirements. In a survey by the independent Center for Naval Analysis in December 2006, 89 percent of Soldiers surveyed reported overall satisfaction with the M4. All soldiers surveyed had engaged in a firefight in Iraq in the previous 12 months. In the same survey, only 3 percent experienced a weapon stoppage that caused an inability to engage theenemy for a significant portion or all of a firefight. Only 1 percentindicated that the M4 should be replaced.
Lastly, 94 percent of M4 users were satisfied with accuracy; 92 percent with range; and 93 percent with rate of fire.
The Army will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the equipment it provides its most valuable asset: our Soldiers. Soldiers in turn have shown confidence in the battle-proven M4.