The M4 Carbine, Chris McNab

The M4 Carbine, Chris McNab

The M4 Carbine has gone from a weapon designed for support troops and vehicle crews to the standard weapon of the US infantry. During that time it has gained two reputations – the first as a unreliable weapon prone to jamming when used heavy, the second as a highly regarded, accurate and reliable, if perhaps slightly under-powered weapon.

One thing you soon realise is that the modern carbine is a much more complex weapon than its precursors, capable of being used with an impressive array of accessories, from basic iron sights to grenade launchers. The key to this is a rail system, capable of carrying any number of standard fittings. A second conclusion is that the US military does love its acronyms, so get used to telling your SOPMOD from your SOCOM, 

One interesting feature of this book is that the weapon in question has been in use as the internet has developed into its current all-pervasive form, so instead of having to relay on a handful of technical reports, memoirs or other sources, we now have access to thousands of personal opinions on the M4 from its users, youtube videos discussing its flaws or virtues or demonstrating aspects of the M4.

The M4 is a controversial weapon, with a reputation for jamming if heavily used. One example examined here is the battle of Manat of 2008, in which a US base came under attack, and its defenders found that many of their M4s jammed during the prolonged fire fight. The official US Army report concluded that there were no flaws with the design of the M4, but that it had failed when put into an unexpected situation. However the same report described the M4 as the ‘basic individual weapon carried by US Soldiers in Afghanistan and was not designed to fire at the maximum or cyclic rate for extended periods’. In other words the M4 was fine as long as you didn’t have to use it in combat… The basic claim here appears to be using the M4 to defend isolated US bases in Afghanistan against Taliban attack was unforeseeable circumstances.

Fortunately for the many users of the M4 it is also quite clear that the weapon has improved dramatically over the years, with some 90 upgrades and improvements since 1990, and the superior M4A1 variant largely replacing the basic M4 in US service. A key part of this book is tracing those improvements, and looking at how they have made the M4 a much more capable weapon than when it was first developed.

This is an unusual book for me, in that it covers a weapon that is still actually in use. However it has been around for thirty years, and played a major role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the wider war on terror, so certainly deserves this study. McNab has produced a useful guide to this still somewhat controversial weapon, doing a good job of explaining just why it was so controversial, what was done about it, and


Author: Chris McNab
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2021

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