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Observations from a Marine enlisted guy in Afghanistan: Notes from the Sandbox #1

US Weapons:

1) The M-16 rifle: Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. You feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4 carbine version is more popular because it’s lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They lack the ability to mount the various optical gun sights and weapons lights on the rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment.

They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinder block structure common over there and even torso hits can’t be reliably counted on to put the enemy down.

2) The M243 SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of sh-t. Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly (that’s fun in the middle of a firefight).

3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

4) Mossberg 12 ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect. (Great weapon – I used these when transporting prisoners.)

5)The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 NATO (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!) Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62round puts ’em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.

6) The M250 cal. heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. “Ma Deuce” is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper – puts their faces in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol around out there. Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on one. With few exceptions, one can reliably be expected to put ’em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government model .45’s are being re-issued en masse.

8) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers (we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded enemy. It is definitely here to stay.

10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300 win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700’s. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcock’s record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

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