Just out of curiosity, just what soldiers of current generation (what were their "jobs') did you ask about the M14?
There were a lot of issues with the M16A1s in Vietnam, apparently corrosive ammunition, lack of cleaning kits, and the environment of the jungle aren't a good combination.
As to the M16A2 and M4 variants, yes you have to clean them in order to keep them running, but typically once every couple of days was enough, and when I say kept clean, I'm not talking detail strip clean, but a good once over with a rod and brush. That of course varies with use and conditions etc.
The sand gets everywhere. I still find sand in some stuff I still have from '03.
I have no issue with the M16A2 / M4 variants, I think that the new generation of piston driven uppers is a step in the right direction, but thus far they are reportedly not operating at huge enough percentage above the direct impingement guns to warrant fielding a new service rifle, but I'd wager that we see a swap of upper halves at the very least in the next 10-15 years. Possibly a new rifle given current trends.
The Marines have accepted a piston driven AR variant as the new Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR), the spec-ops community likes the SCAR-H (Scar 17S) and HK416 which are all piston driven, so while I'd say that a change is in the wind, it's not necessarily due to the M16A2/A4 or M4 variants being POS', but rather just an evolutionary step forward with improved tech.
Both the arguments for and against the rifle (Direct impingement ARs) are valid, but the arguments are so multifaceted that there really is not a good answer.
There's the reliability factor:
But without the actual numbers and more data on the "sand storm" test, that could just be fluff, if we're talking 4 jams to 12 jams over the course of 1K rounds after being subjected to a no BS sand storm....how realistic of a test is that?The M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field. In recent years, the M4 finished dead last in a sandstorm reliability test, against 3 competitors that include a convertible M4 variant. Worse, the 4th place M4 had over 3.5x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. Was that a blip in M4 buys, or a breaking point? DID explains the effort, the issues, and the options, as the Army moves forward with an “Individual Carbine” competition. But will it actually replace the M4?
Then you have the caliber debate, the 5.56 NATO vs. the 6.8 RemSpc vs the 7.62X51 (.308) NATO...
A lot of people think we need a better suited caliber for putting folks down, but a lot of people think the 5.56 is just fine...
Given the current political mess in what it takes to get anything done (just look up the JCP project) it will take a lot to get us a new service rifle. Maybe now that actions in the Middle East have tapered down we will have more resources available to do some serious looking at the current service rifles, do some studies, review more after action reports and more importantly have some $$$ to spend of whatever administration is in office allows it.