While the M4 may be the standard issue rifle for U.S. Soldiers, the enemy fire our military receives from insurgents comes from foreign small arms, such as the Soviet AK47.

To help Army engineers understand the foreign weapons used against our Soldiers, the Armament University (AU) here recently rolled out a new course to teach them how U.S. and foreign weapons differ so that engineers can improve U.S. small arms systems.

The course, "Compare/Contrast U.S. vs. Foreign Weapons," was from Sept. 26-30. The next course is tentatively scheduled for March 2012.

The Armament University is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal.

"Unlike past classes that have focused on one or the other, this will be the first time that the weapons are looked at side by side," said Matt Stracco, an AU education and training technician.

"Weapon specific strengths, weaknesses, operating systems and history were discussed.

"By understanding the weapon systems the enemy has and how they are likely to employ them and why, we hope to equip our engineers with the knowledge necessary to defeat those systems, while improving our own," Stracco said.

In addition to Picatinny engineers, ARDEC employees from Rock Island, Ill., and Navy personnel attended the class.

The initial course was taught by instructor and armorer trainer Matt Babb from Long Mountain Outfitters in Henderson, Nev.

"This class compares our weapon systems against their counterparts from the Eastern Bloc nations," said Babb, who explained that when developing weapons, Army engineers should always keep the Soldier and his fighting environment in mind.

"The Soldier is who you're designing for. Give them something robust, serviceable something that's not going to break down," Babb said.

"Most of the knowledge new engineers have is from technical manuals or talking with the units. So a class like this where we get to get our hands on the weapons is phenomenal," said Russell Adams, an electrical engineer who works in the ARDEC Fire Control Systems and Technology Directorate, Small Unit Combat Systems Division.

"Before this class, I never had an opportunity to disassemble the guns and it's nice to have an understanding of the capabilities--how it's designed, maintained and how it works."

The class builds a great foundation and base knowledge of understanding the weapon systems, Adams said.

"It helps us perform our jobs better and exposes us to things we wouldn't have been exposed to," he continued.

"To understand the design of the weapon, we can look at their strengths and weaknesses and how they've been developed over time.

"You can look at the weapons shortcomings and strengths to develop better, more reliable capabilities of our own."

The course compared the following weapons:

Day 1: assault rifles
M16/M4 vs. AK47

Day 2: grenade launchers
MK19 vs. AGS 17

Day 3: squad level machine guns
M249 SAW vs. RPD

Day 4: heavy machine gun
M240B vs. PKM

Day 5: sniper rifle
M110 SASS vs. Dragunov