FIREARMS experts found no defects in the R4A3 rifles of the Philippine Army and their reported malfunction during an encounter with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) more than two weeks ago can be attributed to environmental and operational factors, a military official said on Wednesday.
“Most of the rifles inspected by our firearm experts were full of dirt. After applying proper maintenance procedures, all rifles functioned well except for one M-14 rifle that has a destroyed barrel part,” Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao said.
This finding has prompted Army commanders to remind soldiers to regularly maintain their equipment especially their firearms.
“We have already directed our operating troops to follow strictly the maintenance procedures of all our firearms and ammunition. Even the best war fighting equipment needs proper maintenance too,” Hao said.
He was reacting to a television news report on allegedly defective rifles that malfunctioned during a firefight with the ASG on August 29 in Patikul, Sulu.
According to Hao, the Army sent a team of rifle experts to check the veracity of the alleged stoppages of the R4A3 rifles, a K3 squad automatic weapon and an M-14 rifle during the actual encounter of the 35th Infantry Battalion with the Abu Sayyaf Group in Patikul, where 15 soldiers died and 12 were wounded.
The team gathered the eight R4A3s, a squad automatic rifle (K3) and an M-14 rifle that allegedly malfunctioned during the clash as reported by the Army unit and initial test showed that, indeed, the rifles did not function when used as is.
After proper maintenance procedures were applied, however, all rifles functioned well.
“Our conclusion is that the problem is not about the rifles. The prevailing weather and sustained ongoing operations against the ASG partly affected the proper maintenance and care of the soldiers’ rifles,” Hao said.
There was also an alleged problem with old ammunition used for R4A3 which is 5.56, the same ammunition size used for an M-16 rifle.
When presented to the firearms experts, the old ammunition all fired well using the rifles that had been cleaned.
In order to erase soldiers’ apprehension about the old ammunition inspite of results of the test, the Army decided to issue new ammunition to operating troops.
The Army also reminded all its troops to turnover firearms with destroyed parts to replace them with new parts that were already sent to the frontlines.