THE CLASSICS AT HOME: EFFICIENCY OF THE M4/M16 AGAINST THAT OF THE AK-47 IN THE PHILIPPINE SETTING (PART 1)

Thesis Statement: The current standard issue firearm of the Philippines, the M4, should be replaced by a more suitable firearm, such as the AK-47 because of its capabilities when it comes to use and the country’s terrain.

The Naming of Parts:

The foremost question of this topic is basically; “What is a gun?” Many so called ‘experts’ claim that the firearm is simply an evolved form of a crossbow. Granted that it is a weapon that has a similar way of use and a similar way of eliminating the opponent or striking a certain target, the mechanics of how a firearm works is completely different. With the crossbow, the simple kinetic energy released by the ‘bow’ part of the weapon, which includes the string, and the bow itself, is the force that projects the propellant, which, in this case is an arrow. The arrow then glides a certain distance at a certain speed, depending on the length of the bow and the force with which is pulled, which directly affects the outcome. In the case of the crossbow, the force with which the bow is pulled is at a constant distance, therefore eliminating the variable of the pull of the force, leaving the length of the bow as the main variable that influences the arrows distance and speed. The bow, also, however remains constant as it doesn’t change in its standard length. With the firearm, the way the machine works is very different. The firearm, as defined by Ian Hogg (1984) in his book ‘Guns and How They Work’ is as follows;

“A gun consists basically of a tube closed at one end, inside which an explosion takes place in order to eject a missile. The tube is called the barrel; the down the middle of the barrel is the bore, the closed end the breech end, and the open end the muzzle. The missile discharged by the gun is broadly called a projectile, though in small arms-which are weapons whose bore is less than 15mm in diameter, the projectile is usually called the bullet. The bullet is ejected from the gun by the explosion of a propelling charge, which may be of gunpowder or smokeless powder, and the complete combination of all the requisites to fire one charge from the gun-bullet, propelling charge and means of ignition-are collectively referred to as a cartridge or round. If the cartridge is inserted into the gun from the muzzle end, then the gun is a muzzle loader, while if it is possible to open the breech in some way and insert the cartridge from that and, then the gun is a breech-loader.”

A firearm is, in simple terms, basically a half-closed tube wherein the combustion of gunpowder (placed inside the tube at the closed end) provides an explosion, whose force propels a projectile (placed in through the open end tube after placing the gunpowder) towards a specific target.

The next question usually asked would be “Where did the idea of the firearm or the firearm itself come from?” There is no specific answer as to where or even when the firearm, or as known by most people, ‘gun’ originated. Common people who have an idea about firearms would say that it was crated somewhere around the 1700’s, or if not the 1600’s. This of course, is a fallacy since multiple records have dated the concept and the very first firearms roughly around the fourteenth century. An article by Walter de Millimete called “De Officiis Regnum” for young King Edward III, sent in 1325, referred to an image of a firearm and its description. The image was labelled as a pot-de-fer, which translates into “iron pot” from French, and “pot” or “vase” in Italian. Simple enough, it functions as a firearm does, with the gunpowder placed inside at the closed end, followed by the projectile. Although the description was not entirely the part focused on, this is claimed to be a universally accepted source. This, (particularly the image) proves the existence of such devices of weaponry within the medieval period, thus making the claims of its birth in the 1700’s a false one. However, de Millimete was not credited for the invention of the gun.

The invention of the firearm, though, would not be possible without first coming across the invention of gunpowder. Claims have read that the invention of gunpowder originated somewhere in China or in the Middle East. The invention of gunpowder, also known as “The Devil’s Invention”, however, could be dated back to the early times, although its specific creators could not be determined. Same goes for the firearm and its inventor. Though, sources from the early thirteenth century, specifically Roger Bacon in his work Opus Teritus (also known as Opus Teritum) (Frankfort [1603]), suggest that gunpowder had originated somewhere during his time. A specific quotation from the work was translated into English and is read as follows:

“From the flaming and flashing of certain ingenious mixtures and the terror inspired by their nose, wonderful consequences ensue which no one can guard against or endure. As a simple example may be mentioned the noise and flame generated by the powder, known in divers places, composed of saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur. When a quantity of this powder, no bigger than a man’s finger, be wrapped up in a piece of parchment and ignited, it explodes with a blinding flash and a stunning noise…”

There is almost no doubt that the description is that of gunpowder. Along with this, Bacon also mentioned a formula, encoded in the form of an anagram, and when translated and read straight reads;

“But of saltpetre take 7 parts, 5 of young hazel twig and 5 of sulphur, and so thou wilt call up thunder and destruction if thou know the art.”

Using Bacon’s formula, the early composition of gunpowder was relatively inefficient. Gunpowder nowadays uses a different formula, compared to that stated above. The product of which is now known as “Serpentine” instead of the average term gunpowder. Using this table, we may be able to see the difference.

Bacon’s Formula (Serpentine): 41.2% Saltpetre
29.4% Charcoal
29.4% Sulphur

Today’s Formula (Gunpowder): 75% Saltpetre
15% Charcoal
10% Sulphur

With this new formula, the projectiles have been able to reach their full potential. In modern times, ammunition is no longer made by hand, but rather manufactured by machines, making the distribution of each ingredient more precise.

The modern day bullet compresses the gunpowder along with the projectile for a more efficient way of loading the firearm, a more efficient way of distributing the produce in large amounts, an efficient way of stabilizing the consistency of each bullet, and an efficient way of using the firearm. With the modern day style of bullet, came the first breech-loaders. Although the idea of placing the projectile along with the gunpowder to achieve very beneficial results was pretty old, the first few successful breech-loader firearms that used this style of ammunition came in the nineteenth century. Similar to the evolution of the firearm and gunpowder, this mechanism style has evolved through time and is now currently used, though in a more complex versions, by almost practically any firearm.

Such is the mechanism of both the M4 and the AK-47.

Eugene Stoner, the designer of the AR10 (Which is now modified and called the M16/M4), designed the rifle to be a light-weight alternative to the standard 7.62x5mm calibre rifles that were issued to the military. An example of such a weapon is the M14 (Modern version known as the M21) rifle; a semi-automatic rifle using a 7.62mm cartridge that was issued and is still in use by some military today (i.e. Philippines & U.S.A.). The M14 had a wooden frame and stock which made it relatively heavy, and it grew even heavier as the metal parts were installed. The firearm’s weight, with a full magazine (20 rounds) was 11.0 pounds. It was a rotating bolt, gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, shoulder fired weapon.

The AR10 on the other hand, was a radical, new design during its time. It used plastics and aircraft aluminium for its frame which made it more than a pound lighter than the M14, and it was basically designed to be a “sturdier” and “maintenance free” weapon, while keeping the same standard calibre. The plastic parts did not splinter unlike the wood and neither did it warp. It was not favoured during its first few releases because there was too much carbon build up in the barrel which led to corrosion, and the use of “ball” gunpowder which the gun couldn’t really take. These technical difficulties came around during the early years of the Vietnam War. The known solution at the time was heavy maintenance and constant cleaning. This problem was solved, though, with the right gun powder, using chrome plated chambers to protect it and using the right lubricants, though the constant maintenance cleaning remained required. The magazines and receivers were made out of aluminium which was relatively weak. So, to compensate for this they gave it a hard coat anodizing which made the frame noticeably more durable. The AR10 was designed to be user friendly, thus there exists a safety switch, wherein the trigger could not be pulled accidentally. The magazine release and the cocking handle are also easily found and used.

With this, the military liked the overall aspects of the gun. They wanted a new version of this in fully automatic and in a lighter calibre which would make it easier to handle by the armed forces. They wanted this because they found out that most kills during previews wars were in close range; somewhere within 300 meters. They also found out in their research that the side that fired more rounds usually won the battle, thus their request for a fully automatic feature. Since the calibre of the gun would now be smaller, the average soldier could carry more ammunition than before.

While the SKS and the AK-47 were made in the 7.62 mm calibre, the AR15 was designed in the 5.66 mm calibre (Aka. the “.223 Remington”) as per the request of the military. The US air force took it in as their standard assault rifle and in the later years so did the other branches of the US military. It was later on dubbed as the M16, but to this day, not all AR15s are considered M16s. This was now the standard service rifle that replaced the M1 Carbine and M1 Garand of World War 2, and the M14 (M21).

Around the world, today, the AR15 design is being used and employed by many other nations, some made by Colt, FN, H&K, Bushmaster, and etc. Colt kept the trademarked AR15 name, originally given to it by ArmaLite, when they began selling the semi-automatic version of the rifle to local law enforcement and civilians. AR15 stands for the “Ar” in ArmaLite (model) 15. Many companies use a slight variation on the term on their actual rifles to set them apart yet keep the general idea. Examples of these are Bushmaster as the XM15, Rock River Arms as the LAR-15, Stag as the Stag-15, H&K as the H&K416/ another is the XM8 (which has a slightly different structure similar to that of their G36 Series), Fabrique Nationale as the FN SCAR (also having a slightly different structure), and etc, but they are still usually referred to as AR15’s by the general public. Although the vast majority of the AR15 tend to be chambered in 5.56 mm NATO, many other (Customized) versions of the AR15 are capable of using different calibres, such as: .22 in LR, 9mm, .204 in Ruger, 5.45×39 mm, .223 in Remington, 6.5 in. Grendel, 6.8 mm SPC, 7.62×39 mm, .450 in (Commonly known as the “Forty-Five”) Bushmaster, .458 in (AKA, the “Forty-Five”) SOCOM, .50 in Beowulf, .50 in BMG, and the original 7.62×59 mm.

The design of the AK-47 however, during its time, was quickly embraced, since it was simply a modified version of the German MP44 sub-machine gun, used during World War 2. Authors Hogg (1984) & Myatt (1987) claim that the Russians have been more efficient with the use of automatic weapons, especially since majority of the army were simply untrained for combat.

“The Russians understood the value of sheer volume of fire, particularly if it could be produced from simple weapons by not very highly trained troops, and in World War 2 they had armed whole battalions with sub- machine guns. These however suffered from serious limitations in range, but the Russians quickly saw that this disadvantage could be offset by the use of an assault rifle instead.”

Says Myatt (1987). Thus was the birth of the AK-47. Firearm designer Lieutenant General Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (Russian: Михаи́л Тимофе́евич Кала́шников, Mihail Timofeevič Kalašnikov) (born November 10, 1919) designed the AK-47 as he was lying in a hospital, due to bullet injury after the battle of Bryansk. He then submitted his design as an entry to a gun designing contest. The firearms were to take the 7.62×39 mm cartridge that was just manufactured, and was claimed to not jam, even under different weather systems and terrain. The “Mikhtim” became Mikhail’s winning entry and was later modified to the AK-47 in 1947. (AK-47 is the acronym for Mikhail’s “Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947 Model”) Two years later, the firearm had become the Soviet Union’s standard issue firearm. Also user friendly, the AK-47 has a selector switch that allows the user to place the firearm on safe, this also is cleverly positioned to serve as a dust cover at the same time. The AK-47 has a generally high rate of fire, which allowed the Russians to use the technique they needed without the need for much training for the soldiers.

The AK-47 today is said to be the most widely known firearm all over the world. Used in majority of the communist countries, the AK-47 has become a major symbol for communism worldwide.

* This was a paper I made for school. Please be kind.
** This work spans 25 pages, and could be published as a book, so please again, don’t plagiarize.
*** Enjoy!

(c) Anachronic Works 2011

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15 thoughts on “THE CLASSICS AT HOME: EFFICIENCY OF THE M4/M16 AGAINST THAT OF THE AK-47 IN THE PHILIPPINE SETTING (PART 1)

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