Rifle Reliability: Then and Now

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Ultimately the trials were won by the Garand, with the G30M placing third in total malfunctions and broken parts. This had involved 37 different tests and more than 12,000 rounds through each rifle. The Garand had 1,480 total malfunctions and 49 parts broken, replaced, or repaired. The Johnson had 1,547 and 72 respectively, and the G30M 2,864 and 97 (roughly double the number of problems as the Garand).

USMC Rifle Test 1940

Rifle Stoppages Failures
# % # %
Garand 1480 12.3% 49 0.4%
Johnson 1547 12.9% 74 0.6%
Winchester 2864 23.9% 97 0.8%

This table shows (assuming 12,000 rounds as the denominator, which is close enough because our purpose here is comparison) that as reliable as those rifles were for their day, they were pretty buggy by today’s standards. Looking at the percentages really makes the data pop.

Assuming a “malfunction” equals a stoppage, we’ll label those percentage of stoppages and we’ll label the parts breakages as “failures.”

This was good reliability in the 1940s!

Compare this to the “unreliable” M4. In the worst M4 test ever, the notorious and outlying 2007 extreme dust test (here and here), ten M4s fired 6,000 rounds per rifle with 1.4% stoppages.

And this number was over 4x the number of failures in an earlier iteration of the same test, a result the Army Research Lab has never replicated or explained insofar as we know. Now we can’t compare the 1940 and 2007 tests directly, however, the data indicates the M4 is nearly ten times more reliable than the M1. Even if you don’t like these numbers, an apples-to-apples test would show the M4 as significantly more reliable.

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AR-15 vs. AK-47: Reliability Under Extreme Conditions

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Reliability issues about the AR-15 and AK-47 seem to concern many. My take is that any successful, long-serving issue service rifle will be very, but not perfectly, reliable.

Here’s a report from a range offering rental services of fully automatic firearms that shoots approximately 400,000 rounds each month and their experience with extremely high round counts.

AR-15 Report

AK-47 Report

Some of our M4’s have well over 200,000 rounds down range. Barrels have been replaced, gas tubes have been replaced, BCG’s have been replaced but what sets it apart from the AK47’s is that upper and lower receivers continue to function. AK’s get to about the 100,000+ round count and rails on the receiver will start to crack. It’s an easy fix with tig welding but they crack. We have yet to lose an upper or lower AR-15 receiver from cracking

We no longer use ANY piston conversions or factory pistons guns with the exception of the HK-416 “knock-off” TDI upper. I purchased a FACTORY brand-new MR556 and it started keyholing after only 10,000 rounds. The only piston system to last on the range so far is the HK416 and TD415 system. Every other systems we have tried has failed in one way or another.

USGI mags have outlasted all of the other brands. We use UGSI (Brownell’s with tan follower) and on a mag for mag basis, they have outlasted Pmags and a few of the other mags that we get from mfg’s with new weapons. We don’t have to worry about various generations with different weapons like the MR556, SCAR, F2000, Tavor or a couple of others that use AR15/M4 magazines.

Every single stamped AK receiver has suffered from a cracked trunion. This includes Saiga, Arsenal (Bulgarian), Norinco (Chinese), Arsenal (Russian stamped), WASR, Hungarian, Polish (vintage kits), Yugo (vintage and PAP-series) and new Polish (from Royal Tiger imports).

– We have every type of AK available to shoot except for Cuban, Vietnamese or North Korean.

– US (Century), Bulgarian and Chinese milled receivers have yet to fail.

– Stamped receivers split at the angle of the upper rail and the side wall. N-PAP’s have literally cracked in half perpendicular to the length of the rifle. The receivers cracked just posterior of the front trunion (between center bushing and the trunion).

This may sound crazy but it’s fair to say that they finally suffer a catastrophic failure (cracked trunion) at 80,000-100,000 rounds. Also, we have WASR’s that have suffered a catastrophic failure and we just pull out the old trunion and barrel, grab one from a parts kit, re-rivet, re-barrel and get them up and running.

The AK is the most reliable but after seeing how many have broken over the last two and half years on the range, it’s not the indestructible weapon everybody talks about (and I always thought it was).

AK-47 Reliability Problems

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Just like the AR-15/M16, Kalashnikov’s famed AK-47 experienced initial reliability problems. One difference was the Soviets weren’t forced into fielding these initial design problems during Viet Nam. Consider if these initial, flawed copies of Kalashnikov’s design had been forced into combat instead of being rejected at the factory.

http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail-page-2.asp?smallarms_id=19
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M14 Reliability Problems, Part 2

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Early Problems With The M14 Rifle

American Rifleman February 1993

https://www.scribd.com/document/366403052/M14-Reliability-Problems/

M14 Reliability Problems

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Just like the M16/AR-15, the M14 had its share of problems when first introduced.

THE U.S. ARMY’S BLUNDERBUSS BUNGLE THAT FATTENED YOUR TAXES
by John S. Tompkins

True Magazine, April 1963

Washington, D.C. – After nearly 20 years of Pentagon bungling that has cost US taxpayers over $100 million so far, the Army is issuing our GIs a new automatic rifle that experts think is inferior to the gun we already have.
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United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 (M1 Garand) Unreliable

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Debates about whether or not the current service rifle is good enough are not new. It seems when a rifle reaches legendary status, said rifle is deemed infallible. Things like the AK-47 with its legendary status have the myth that the weapon is unjammable, a myth perpetuated because of its history and status.

ARMY: Report on the Garand
Mar. 24, 1941
Time Magazine

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,884292-1,00.html
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AR15 vs. AK47: Reliability Under Harsh Conditions

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I’ve added additional articles on the history of issue firearm reliability:

M1 Garand

M14, Part 1

M14, Part 2

AK-47 Reliability Problems

Qualify with the AK-47

AK-47 and AR-15: Reliability after extreme round counts

The reliability of the AR-15 vs. the AK-47 designs are babbled about routinely. Here is the only factor that matters.

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