What They Have
Iraqi soldiers carry the AK-47 (top), a Russian-designed assault rifle used by armies and guerrilla forces for half a century.
What They Want
The more powerful American-made M4, which American troops carry in Iraq and which can accommodate a laser-aiming device and night-vision sight. (Source.)
This is what passes for "in depth investigation" at the gray lady, I suppose. I could say a great deal on the subject, but all that needs to be said technically is quite ably said here. Having some experience with military arms of many different flavors, I concur with Mr. DuToit's rendition.
That having been said, let me enjoy myself by heaping some deserved calumny on the head of the NY Times. The 7.62x39 round (a la AK47 and SKS) blows the doors off the hitting power of a 5.56 round in the M-16 (and M-4) precisely because the 5.56 is just a manly designation for the .223, a mere varmint round. Calling a .30 Caliber round less powerful than a .22, is absurd almost to the point of criminality.
While the Iraqis' AK-47's aren't as cute and cuddly as the US M-4's, they have about the same effective radius, 300-400 meters, plus they have more stopping power. (This author scoffs at the urban legends spread by Colt to convince troops who doubt that the M-16 plinking rifle they are issued will actually live up to the "one shot, one kill standard," but I digress.)
While the M-4 may have more rails for tons of goodies and gadgets, the AK-47 is far from inadequate, being chambered in a stronger round, carrying a real bayonet, and being more resilient under filthy operating conditions. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of weapons would know that the New York Times sidebar is about as accurate as a CBS story about National Guard memos.
I guess that it isn't worth it to the Times reporters to leave the building for real research, when you can just make a baseless, inane claim that will be gobbled up unquestioningly by rank and file liberals whose closest encounter with real weapons was during an all-night session of Doom 2 in college.
Another liberal icon falls to the pajamahadeen...I wish.