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Friday, January 16, 2004
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U.S. to phase out M-16
Military wants more bang for its buck

COMMENTARY
Eugen Chu

A month ago, in an Associated Press story, the Israeli military announced that it would begin phasing out its famous Uzi submachine gun. While the Israeli defense industry will continue to manufacture the gun for export, the Israeli defense force spokespeople described the weapon as ‘antiquated’. In the United States, a similar news story also appeared several months ago about our well-known weapon.

In the October 11, 2003, issue of Army Times, the U.S. Army announced that it was testing the Heckler and Koch XM8 as a possible replacement for the M-16 assault rifle. While the XM8 is still in the testing phase, Army Times writers speculate that it might replace the M-16 before the end of the decade. While the M-16 is a satisfactory weapon, I personally would not be sad if the U.S. Army chooses to replace it.

Don’t get me wrong; the M-16 assault rifle does have several noble qualities. It is lighter in weight compared to some assault rifles, which reduces the physical burden of our servicemen and women. It has less recoil, which makes shooting easier for our military personnel. It has better long-range accuracy than other weapons, which helps our armed forces if they fight terrorists from afar. But while many people respect the M-16, some critics of the weapon do exist.

Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, America’s most decorated living military veteran, has little respect for the M-16 assault rifle. On his Web site and in his books, he has criticized the American assault rifle. Of all things, he actually favors the AK-47 over the M-16. While I don’t propose that the American military start using the weapon of many terrorist groups, the M-16 does have some significant shortcomings.

Though some people cite Pfc. Jessica Lynch’s gender as a reason for her capture, they sometimes overlook the fact that her M-16 rifle jammed in combat. In extremely dirty conditions, the M-16 can easily jam, making it unable to fire. The M-4, a variant of the M-16, is more expensive than the proposed XM8. According to the Heckler and Koch website, one M-4 costs over $900, while one XM8 is projected to cost less than $600. According their Web site, Heckler and Koch also claim their XM8 has the good qualities of the M-16 without its drawbacks. A more effective but less expensive weapon could save lives as well as taxpayer dollars.

The Uzi submachine gun has served Israeli forces well. Despite this, Israel has decided to consider potentially better weapons. The M-16 also has had a dignified term of service. The United States, though, is considering potentially better weapons, as well. Besides the still-experimental XM8, other useful weapons are becoming available. While I respect what the M-16 has done for America, I personally would not mind “giving it a gold watch and letting it retire.”

Eugen Chu is a senior political science major from Arlington.