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Review of weapons of war / Iraq in 2005


Staff member
Global Moderator
I was reviewing old emails I got since 2002 and this is one I didn't want to lose.


This was written by a former Marine first sergeant's son and it's his
assessment of enemy tactics in Iraq. I received it from my cousin who
is retired from a career in the Army.

Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested
guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son Jordan,
who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a
little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a
second tour in early '06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more
years. He loves the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to
returning to Iraq.

Jordan spent 7 months at "Camp Blue Diamond" in Ramadi, aka: Fort Apache.
He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons,
equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest
to you. Nothing is by any means classified. No politics here, just a
Marine with a bird's eye view's opinions:

1) The M-16 rifle : Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the
talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. Jordan says
you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4
carbine version is more popular because it's lighter and shorter, but it
has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various
optical gunsights and weapons lights on the picattiny rails, but the
weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the
5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure
common over there and even torso hits cant be reliably counted on to put
the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a
high level of opiate use.

2) The M243 SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light
machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of junk.
Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly.
(that's fun in the middle of a firefight).

3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert
environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns
for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm:
Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for
clearing houses to good effect.

5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 Nato (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun,
developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!).
Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts 'em down.
Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being
dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up
the structure over there.

6) The M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. "Ma deuce" is
still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper,
puts their dicks in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon

7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there.
Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands on
one. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put 'em down with a
torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work)
use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government
model .45's are being re-issued en masse.

8) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a
modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight
Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the
sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range
and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out
vehicle suicide bombers ( we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded
enemy. Definitely here to stay.

10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300
win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700's. Great performance. Snipers
have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a marine
sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos
Hathcock's record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs.
and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop
an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as heck to wear, almost unbearable in
the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now
goes for head shots whenever possible. All the bullshit about the "old"
body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IED's was a non-starter.
The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any
difference at all in most cases.

12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular
performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very
little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being
whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. We've all
seen the videos.

13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights
are Surefire's, and the troops love 'em. Invaluable for night urban
operations. Jordan carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved

I cant help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and
ordnance are 50 or more years old!!!!!!!!! With all our technology,
it's the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants!!!! The
infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given
or shown.

Continued in next message
Continuation of review of weapons in Iraq - 2005

Bad guy weapons:

1) Mostly AK47's The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in
the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM
belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the
enemy mostly shoots like junk. Undisciplined "spray and pray" type fire.
However, they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially
sniper rifles. (Iran, again) Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently
marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They
are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on
technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their
lack of toughness. Let's just say they know better now.

2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys.
Simple, reliable and as common as dogshit. The enemy responded to our
up-armored humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank
range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet
anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in
Jordan's area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3 155mm
artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell
phone, and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any vehicle,
even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do
over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated "shape charges"
(Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the
ready made IED's are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists
(Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics.
That's why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment
methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges in Styrofoam
containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all
Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb
disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The soviet era 122mm rockets
(with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of Jordan's NCO's
lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage "inside the
wire". Jordan's base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar
and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause
fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else.
The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and
then haul ass in a matter of seconds.

5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by
cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use
handheld GPS units for navigation and "Google earth" for overhead views
of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent.
Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is
rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS
units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured.

Who are the bad guys?:

Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They
operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly
"foreigners", non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim
world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the
knowledge and complicity of the Syrian govt.) , and then travel down the
"rat line" which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that
we've been hitting hard for the last few months.

Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide
bombers or in "sacrifice squads". Most, however, are hard core terrorists
from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas etc.) These are
the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads
off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are supposedly the most
ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been fighting the Russians for
years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are
Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shiia have been
very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govt.'s, the police forces and
the Army. The have had a massive spy and agitator network there since
the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80's. Most of the Saddam loyalists were
killed, captured or gave up long ago.

Bad Guy Tactics:

When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked
every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very
common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice
8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing
Ak's and RPG's directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get
mowed down like grass every time. ( see the M2 and M240 above).
Jordan's base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a
tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will
be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that's the end of
that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey
Romeo's (Allah's Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air
thing down to a science. The fast mover's, mostly Marine F-18's, are
taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the
open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to
ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly,
artillery is hardly used at all. Fun fact: The enemy death toll is
supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why we're seeing less and
less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber crap. The new strategy
is simple: attrition.

The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian
non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian
casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and (especially) Mosques are
locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and
flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for
civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without
misleading, it's difficult to know where to begin.
mericans or the new
Iraqi govt. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is common
to influence people they are trying to influence but cant reach, such as
local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.).

The first thing our guys are told is "don't get captured". They know
that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet.
Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American
serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give
a darn about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually
kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our
guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option.

The Iraqi's are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth a
darn. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but
they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawi's use of
suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious
tactical mistake. Many Iraqi's were galvanized and the caliber of
recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their
motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because
the Iraqi's are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians. The
Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters.

According to Jordan, morale among our guys is very high. They not only
believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are
stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they
almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are
despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of
20-1 and then see rubbish like "Are we losing in Iraq" on TV and the
media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food
and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not
enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the
insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to
shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians
just cant stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of
course, permanent US bases there).

That's it, hope you found it informative, I sure did.

I don't doubt that. I got that letter from one of my IPSC or IDPA buddies.
I forwarded it to others and posted it on a couple of shooting forums myself.
The internet lives forever!
Scoop, enjoyed reading, while dated, this view from an actual operations guy. His comments on the M-16/M-4 reminded me of the Vietnam era and all the issues we had with the initial fielding of the M-16. While the Stoner design is overall excellent for a firearm the issue has always been the close manufacturing tolerances and the problems they cause in actual field operations. Whether it be in the jungle or in the desert the weapon requires lots of loving care. And many of the younger folks have never been around firearms in their life before joining the military and no one took the time to train them on weapons care nor gave them an understanding of how the weapon actually operates. They know how to load mags, aim the weapon, fire and clear a malfunction but that's basically it. Despite how hard the military tries whey have never made a weapon that is "Private Proof."

Totally a different design from the AK-47 which basically can run dry and you can take a water hose or dunk it in a stream to flush out the junk and it "keeps on ticking."

I went through the days of side arm transition from the .38 to the .45 then to the 9mm. In special ops, we were one of the frist units to get the Beretta 92F 9mm around 1985 which replaced our 1911s and .38 revolvers. Despite what you may hear the weapon was excellent. What sucked was the 9mm ammo. Over the recent years 9mm ammo developemnt has really moved forward and there are excellent rounds on the market. I'm not sure what type of ammo is being used today by the military but there is some excellent 9mm and 10mm ammo available on the civilian market.

The military will always fall in love with some sexy new weapon but things like the Mossberg and Remington pumps have endured for many decades and many conflicts with only minor tweaks.