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Rates of Fire for the M4 and M4A1

We are continuing our discussion on control. Specifically we will be addressing the rates of fire for the M4 and M4A1 platforms. The Reference for this discussion is TC 3-22.9 Change 1 dated January 2017.

The Paratrooper needs to determine what rate of fire meets the needs of their specific engagement. Just as each threat is different, each shooting technique is slightly different in their applications. There are three rates of fire that we will discuss: Slow Semiautomatic fire, Rapid Semiautomatic fire, and automatic or burst fire. We will discuss each one of these in sequence.

Slow semiautomatic fire is fires typically used in a training environment or when the Paratrooper has time to take a well-aimed shot. Examples of this are when the squad is engaging targets in the defense past 300 meters. The rate of fire for this is 12 to 15 rounds per minute, approximately one round every 4-5 seconds. This rate of fire is also used in a training environment to allow the Paratrooper to focus on their shot process.

Rapid Semiautomatic fire is approximately 45 rounds per minute. It is typically used for multiple targets or when the soldier is within 300 meters of the threat. Before transitioning to rapid semiautomatic fire, the Paratrooper needs to be proficient in the shot process for slow semiautomatic fire.

Automatic or burst fire, is used by the Paratrooper when they need to suppress or fix the threat with accurate fires. When firing in automatic, the Paratrooper needs to compensate for the muzzle rise that will take place, aiming lower on the threat target will allow the cone of fire created by the M4/M4A1 to hit across the target. Once again, the Paratrooper needs to have a solid understanding of the shot process in slow semiautomatic fires to be able to engage effectively in automatic or burst.

Moreover, there are considerations that come into play that are not normally encountered with the M4A1/M4 when firing it on automatic/burst. For the M4A1, you want to practice good burst discipline, just like you would do with a machine gun. Holding down the trigger and saying ‘one-thousand one’ in your head is a good technique for firing a good burst on the threat. For burst, it is taken care of for you.

Keep in mind with burst, that there is a variable trigger weight for the M4. This means that the M4 can have a trigger weight of anywhere from 3 to 8 pounds, depending on which notch the rotary sear is on when it is being fired.

So to sum up, we have discussed rates of fire for the M4, and how the Paratrooper applies them. We have discussed Slow-semiautomatic, Rapid semiautomatic, and automatic/burst fires. We have established that the paratrooper needs to build a solid understanding of the shot process in slow semiautomatic rate of fire, before moving onto the other rates of fire, and we have discussed planning considerations for the rates of fires for the Paratrooper. We will continue our discussion on Control as we discuss follow-through.

#weaponsmastery #shotprocess

Raymond Miller
82nd Airborne Division Small Arms Master Gunner: primary weapons trainer, force modernization for individual weapons, and range liason for the 82nd.

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