Just in time for Memorial Day comes this reminder that rear-echelon mother f***ers (REMFs, if I have that terminology down) are still with us, as they will always be. If you’re ordering young men into combat and you learn that you’ve equipped them with substandard equipment that endangers their lives do you (a) ensure that your soldiers receive better gear and investigate how your procurement procedure went awry or, (b), hide your embarrassment by continuing to issue the defective weapon part and issue a directive barring the use of anything better? If you’re a REMF, course (a) will never occur to you.
The Army has ordered that soldiers may use only government-issued magazines with their M4 carbines, a move that effectively bans one of the most dependable and widely used commercial-made magazines on today’s battlefield.
The past decade of war has spawned a wave of innovation in the commercial soldier weapons and equipment market. As a result, trigger-pullers in the Army, Marines and various service special operations communities now go to war armed with commercially designed kit that’s been tested under the most extreme combat conditions.
Near the top of such advancements is the PMAG polymer M4 magazine, introduced by Magpul Industries Corp. in 2007. Its rugged design has made it as one of the top performers in the small-arms accessory arena, according to combat veterans who credit the PMAG with drastically improving the reliability of the M4.
TACOM’s message authorizes soldiers to use the Army’s improved magazine, which PEO Soldier developed after the M4 finished last against three other carbines in a 2007 reliability test. The “dust test” revealed that 27 percent of the M4’s stoppages were magazine related.
The improved magazine uses a redesigned “follower,” the part that sits on the magazine’s internal spring and feeds the rounds into the M4’s upper receiver. The new tan-colored follower features an extended rear leg and modified bullet protrusion for improved round stacking and orientation. The self-leveling/anti-tilt follower reduces the risk of magazine-related stoppages by more than 50 percent compared to the older magazine variants, PEO Soldier officials maintain. Soldiers are also authorized to use Army magazines with the older, green follower until they are all replaced, the message states.
Military.com asked the Army if the improved magazine can outperform the PMAG, but a response wasn’t received by press time.
The same infantryman serving in Southwest Afghanistan had this to say about the new and improved magazine:
“Like any magazine, they work great when they are brand new and haven’t been drug through the dirt and mud. I haven’t noticed much of a difference between these tan followers and the older green ones. After some time training up for the ‘Stan, the same issues started to occur: double feeds, rounds not feeding correctly so on and so on. While it seems to occur about half as often, it’s still not a great solution.
“The magazines still get bent at the opening and are still prone to getting crushed in the middle. I haven’t seen any issues like this with the PMAG due to the polymer casing. I have seen an empty PMAG get run over by a MaxPro [vehicle] and operated flawlessly later that week when we tested it at the range. Last time I saw this happen to a standard issue magazine, it was scrap metal after that.”