The Right Way, the Wrong Way, the Marine Corps Way

My thanks to Phil Bourjaily for this one.

Some time back, I savagely denounced the cable-style barrel cleaners that are much in vogue, and have been issued to riflemen by no less than the United States Marine Corps. In turn, I was sent one of the cable kits (about the size of a hockey puck with thyroid problems) by its manufacturer and a request to reconsider. I tried it, and stuck to my original objection: You couldn’t knock out a spent shell with the cable, and if I were going to carry a cleaning kit, I’d stick to a takedown rod.

Now, according to The Marine Corps Times my judgment has been vindicated. As a result of the Combat Marksmanship Symposium which the Corps held last October, the cable kits are being phased out. The Gyrenes did not like them. The cables lack the friction to do a thorough job of cleaning, the little parts in the kits got lost, and the cables will not knock out stuck shells. Aside from that, the hockey pucks cost three times as much as the Vietnam-era kits that will replace them.

These consist of a handle, a three-section rod, and some brushes, all of which fit in the stock of an M-16 or M-4. Add some patches and a bottle of oil or whatever they use today and you’re set.

There were some other changes as well. If I’m reading the article correctly, the carrying handle will be phased out of the M-16 and M-4, and iron sights will now be only pop-up auxiliaries. The main battle sight will be the M7, which is electronic, although Marines will still be trained in the peep and post for when the newer sights fail.

Gone also is the three-point sling which I will not even attempt to describe here (If you’re curious, you can see the thing demonstrated on YouTube, but you’re likely to remain as baffled as you were before.), and which purported to have all sorts of advantages the old two-point did not offer. The two-point has returned because it’s simpler and it offers better shooting support than the three-point.

This is all well and good, but what baffles me is why we are still modifying an infantry rifle that is more than a half-century old. Have there been no significant developments in combat rifles since 1965? Is there not something better around? The F-35 fighter, which no one seems to like, and is still in the development stage (after how many years?) will ultimately cost us $1.5 trillion. And all the while the Air Force is frantically trying to phase out the Warthog, which works terrific, is beloved of the pilots who fly it, kills everything it sees, and costs very little to maintain.

Could we not take a small part of that $1.5 trillion and buy a nice new infantry rifle for our soldiers and Marines? It doesn’t seem too much to ask.