Poorly researched commentary on the M4/5.56mm debate

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Fox News has published a badly written article about the whole M4/5.56mm debate. The article goes on and on about the limited range of the M4/5.56mm

An Army study found that the 5.56mm bullets fired from the M4s don’t retain enough velocity past 1,000 feet to kill an enemy. In Afghanistan, forces are often up to 2,500 feet apart.

They then quote commentator Maj. Gen. Robert Scales Jr. (Ret.) saying …

Scales said the U.S. military simply needs to engineer a better weapon – he said the M8, a weapon that was under development before being halted several years ago, could be revived and improved for Afghanistan.

“We’re the world’s largest superpower. Why don’t we just make one,” Scales said. “This isn’t rocket science. We’re not putting a man on the moon here.”

The “M8″ would be the XM8 which, as I am sure you are all aware, chambers the 5.56mm … sigh

H&K’s XM8

[ Many thanks to Hugh for emailing me the link. ]




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • mark cadwallader

    This is why the military sent a bunch of m14’s over there.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Please keep discussions on topic.

  • http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com Tam

    The “M8″ would be the XM8 which, as I am sure you are all aware, chambers the 5.56mm … sigh

    From a carbine length barrel, to boot.

    The fact that a man so obviously ignorant of the simplest elements of riflery managed to become a Major General in the Army of my nation makes me very sad inside.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Tam, I suspect he was quoted out of context.

  • http://elmtreeforge.blogspot.com Firehand

    Hmmm… the cartridge being used doesn’t have enough effective range, so “Let’s put it in a new rifle!”

    Something here just doesn’t sound right.

  • http://www.howtogetagun.ca/ HowToGetAGun

    The first green box wasn’t said by Scales, the second green box is a paraphrase, followed by a very simply but true quote. The website indicates portions of the article might be AP content as well. I suspect someone who was thoroughly uninterested just mashed some snippets from the newswire together and shoved this out the door. I hope people don’t think the Major General is ignorant as a result.

  • James

    How absurd, doesn’t this type of thing pop up every few years, then the US try to make a new rifle to enter standard service and it turns out to be not as good anyhow? Not to mention various people in Afghanistan say the Taliban couldn’t hit the side of a bullet with a barn.

  • KTB

    Simple, upgrade to a cartridge like a 6.5 Grendel which is still supersonic after 1100 yards. It’s not exactly the cheapest thing to do, but it’ll eliminate the need to spend countless resources and money on developing a new weapon.

  • Carl

    Well, the XM8 has tested a lot better in sandy conditions than the M4. And there is (or was) 20″ versions available.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:XM8-Poster.jpg

    A simpler fix could be for the Army to borrow some 20″ M16s from the Marines.

  • Sian

    good lord the comments on that foxnews article are moronic, full of x-box x-perts.

    “moar M14’s!” The M14 is an outdated system that has a stopgap ‘freshening up’ in the EBR but it is heavy and has poor (for modern standards) ergonomics.

    “Just give them AK47’s!” and watch friendly fire incidents skyrocket without an increase in ranged effectiveness, not to mention that the AK doesn’t mesh at all with the training our troops have. Also The Taliban aren’t killing us at 800 yards with AKMs, at that range you’re worried about the PKM, RPD and DShK, all larger caliber.

    “The M4 sucks!” referencing vietnam-era reliability issues with the M16 don’t make you right. The only issue with the M4 is barrel length. A 20″ M16A4 would be okay if not ideal in long-range mountain fighting.

    The M4 isn’t ideal for Afghanistan, more M16’s would be somewhat of an improvement but still limited by the 5.56 cartridge. SR25 and HK417 are a good start.

  • Bill

    Sure M-14’s and bigger bullets sound good, but I wouldn’t want to hump them up and down the trails in Afghanistan. And about the lethality issue brought up about the 5.56, a quick check of some ballistics data shows that the 5.56 M855 round has 640 ft-lbs of energy @ 300 yards (900ft). Compare that to the 9mm (364 ft-lbs @ the muzzle) which the Amry just purchased more of. I haven’t heard any Army brass saying the 9mm doesn’t have enough “velocity” to kill an enemy. I’ve carried A1’s, A2’s, and M-4’s for 19 years and have yet to have one not work like it was supposed to. This General guy has the hots for cool new stuff just like the rest of us. If we could dump FMJ bullets for some good soft points, few would ever question the lethality of the 5.56 ever again. But I’d be happy if we could switch back to M193 55 grainers.

  • Spade

    Mk318 or any of the hoard of heavy 5.56mm rounds we civilians can buy. The DOD is hamstrining themselves by mostly using obsolete ammo types. That’s the real problem.

  • http://paterzplace.blogspot.com Don Meaker

    The first world war solution for extended range infantry engagements was the Stokes mortar. Another approach would be the .50 caliber Heavy machine gun. Neither of these will be man-portable.

    Situation: Bad guys set up a distance ambush and our people walk into it.

    Approach 1. Either we quit walking (and restrict ourselves to vehicle routes, a losing approach in mountains) or

    Approach 2. We arrange that all infantry dismounted patrols have the equipment and training to designate GPS coordinates for point of aim for aircraft carried munitions and communicate with aircraft ready to put guided muntions onto ground designated targets. Respond assymetrically. What else is the Air Force doing? Fighting the Taliban’s air force?

  • Bora

    I worked at a major news outlet in my country for a while. It’s very common to see reporters very reluctant to research even the simplest bits of information related to the news they push to their online pages, radio and tv pieces. Investigative journalism is long dead. Nowadays it’s just the copy of a copy of a copy of a report written by someone at another agency which gets pushed to the outlets.

    Many people writing the news when I worked there were more concerned with ordering either chinese or pizza for lunch, than the truthfulness of their pieces. It was saddening to see, since I was just a pup, I had no say in anything of course, I just tried to do my best.

    Even a quick search on wikipedia could improve the quality of news-writing exponentially, however dubious a source that site is.

    This is just one face of the issue. We’re concerned with firearms so we care about the truthfulness of the news related to it. What about other stuff? The environment, thousands of science and engineering related news… Politics? News media these days is going to shit, fast.

  • Trango

    I read the original AP report a few days ago. Saw it posted on Mil journalist Micheal Yon’s FB page.

    To read the original report go here:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jlLE3JHCPYeSFDT1VHCr_U7pJz5QD9FR4EL80

    Just my speculation, but maybe this is buzz created intentionally to plant the seed with politicians that the Army needs to buy new guns; the ACR comes to mind. Otherwise this debate has gone on for decades throughout many fields of operation. It’s not so much news in this case, just poor reporting.

  • http://anothergunblog.blogspot.com mike w.

    Huh? They’d be better off just giving the troops rifle length M16’s if the effective range of 5.56 is the problem. That or switch to 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 SPC.

  • SpudGun

    Not that I wish to appear controversial, but as someone who has played a lot of video games, the XM8 is the bestest gun evah! I can personally vouch for killing over 3000 enemy combatants on the (virtual) battlefield with my XM8 and it roxors! Surely these results can’t be ignored and must translate directly to the troops on the ground in Afghanistan, especially with regards to headshots.

    Seriously, rifles chambered in .308 would be the easiest fix for longer range engagements – or better yet, more Apache Helicopters.

  • Tyrone Alfonso

    I’m still in my twenties, but a few of the comments here are spot on. America is always fighting the last war… never a mentality relevant to the current war. I mean, we are just now phasing out BDUs. When was the last time our main uniform actually needed to be woodland camo?

    News in general these days is all crap. I used to catch shit for not being interested in the news but more and more people are starting to realize that the news isn’t as accurate as it used to be.

    Back to the guns!

  • http://pouchcentral.blogspot.com Pouch Central

    These articles and debates are predicated on the ridiculous assumption that any one weapon system can do everything. We may as well criticize the M9 for not being effective past 800 yards. The M4 does most things well but distance is its one weak spot, especially when combined with the M855 round. The concept of a few SDMs in the squad with either accurized/scoped M16s or 7.62mm rifles (M14 or eventually the M110) makes a lot of sense. But you don’t need to have everyone equipped with larger caliber rifles.

  • MrMaigo

    Considering there are less that 10 confirmed sniper kills over 1.25km, I don’t think a battle rifle suffers from not being able to make 2000m kills

  • http://www.rotaryleopard.wordpress.com leopard

    Any of you know why the standard issue round isn’t the Mk.262 Mod1 load?

  • Frank

    The XM8 in 6.5 grendel in it’s 20″ configuration would work pretty decently. But then again, so would an M16 in 20″ trim in 6.5 grendel.

  • MrMaigo

    Whoops, they’re talking feet, not meters

  • KC

    it’s all political nonsense.

    it’s why we have a very complex Italian made handgun as our primary sidearm instead of an American made pistol or SIG.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      KC, they are manufactured by Beretta in the US.

  • http://americanmohist.blogspot.com Jimmy

    Sian,

    At least, on the AK, it is easy to figure out the 800m range elevation sight setting, whereas the M-4 elevation wheel (if the BUIS has one) does require some training. Training, I might say, that our soldiers do not get from Basic Training. [Maybe Marines do.]

    RPDs use 7.62×39, which is the same caliber as the AKM.

    The field-expedient response to the 800-m problem is to elevate your rifle, and fire en masse like back in World War I. During WW1, companies and battalions used to line up and fire together, at targets up to 2km away, to provide organic indirect fire support for sister units. Machine gunners also trained extensively to engage “area” targets 5km away or more. If you look at the sights of old battle rifles, you will see that they all have that elevation setting for arcing fire. Russia kept the sights, with the 1km elevation, from the Mosins through to the AKs today.

    A 10-men squad, arc-firing at a 800m target, with a full mag-dump (30 rounds), can generate as much firepower as a WW1 battalion firing en masse. That rain of lead will convince any Taliban weapon team to displace and seek shelter. The assault element, in the mean time, now has the fire support to start maneuvering.

    You may say that a 960 m/s M855 bullet will not kill a man. Try it yourself, standing out in the open, with NO helmet, while they arc down fire at you. A 960m/s bullet has enough energy to lodge inside your brain case, which will never be a good day. [You may have noticed that Taliban do not wear helmets.]

  • root man

    Here is another one…

    Americans outgunned by Taleban’s AK47s

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7135496.ece

    With its light bullets the M4 rifle lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights, leaving US troops outgunned by the Taleban and their AK47 Kalashnikovs…

    The age-old AK47 uses a heavier round, which travels farther and with greater accuracy

    BAH

  • Rijoenpial

    Well,

    he was not mistaken: before the shelving of the XM8 program, the XM8 program included the multi-caliber idea now so advertised by the ACR and already a reality on the XCR platform… So, a 7.62X39 was not only possible, even predictable… The SCAR program had the early 6.8 cal prototype, if you remember…

    I actually read somewhere that the dual weapon system that the SCAR program adopted, was gonna be utilized in the XM8 program, which, as we all know,was supposed to be a singular weapon system including assault rifles, a compact pistol system (like the XCR pistol), the now infamous IAR and the SSR system (like the SCAR SSR, for instance)… But since I am having some trouble finding a link to the site I read it on, take this with a grain of salt…I will post the link as soon as I find it again…

    So, I don’t think that, on this occasion at least, he mixed things up: the XM8 was gonna be multi-caliber, so this AK caliber was a possibility, as it is now a reality on the XCR platform… And many reliable sources have stated that the SCAR program, to which the XCR was a potential candidate, is a smaller derivative ‘sub-program’ of the more ambitious and expensive XM8 main program…

    I loved the design of the XM8, personally, and I don’t usually like the HK designs, except for the MP5K… The G36 was elegant yet looked bulky…and I hope that someday, it may return or, better yet, be improved and manufactured outside the confines of the USArmy…

    The civvy market surely would appreciate it! Cheers!

  • jake

    Sian: I noticed that too, though I did laugh out loud when I saw one kid insisting on “M14’s or BAR’s! Break out the Thompson’s or MP5’s for close quarters stuff.”

  • Heartless Libertarian

    The XM8 ran into issues when they allowed the Rangers to do troop tests. Basically, the Rangers apparently melted them.

    And at the rate of fire that induced the ‘lockup’ issues in the Wanat battle, you might have been able to light AK handguards on fire. (Basically, the lockup may have been induced by a ROF that was at or above the maximum recommended by the TM).

    What I found most ludicrous was the assertion that the AK’s “heavier round” is somehow more effective past 1,000 feet (and why is everything in the article in feet? The Army does not do ranges in feet; we uses meters. And the original author’s name is Slobodon Lekic – it was in Stars and Stripes a few days ago. http://blog.taragana.com/business/2010/05/21/long-range-afghan-firefights-prompt-us-army-rethink-of-reliance-on-workhorse-m-4-rifle-63546/)
    The 7.62×39 starts to go into rainbow-mode shortly past 200m, and past 300m might as well be a tiny, non-HE slinging mortar.

    The author is really comparing the M4/5.56 combination to the PKM/7.62x54R combination (although AFG does see occassional use of SVDs, and M-N 90/30s as well as SMLEs) when he moves past 300m, which isn’t a fair comparison at all.

  • jdun1911

    Most reporting is piss poor and this is no exception to the rule.

    Afghanistan is a pure light infantry war but replacing the M4 with a 7.62 rifle will make it much worst. The weight and limited ammo capacity of the 7.62 rifle is not ideal in Afghanistan. It is not fun to hump a 7.62 rifle for hours and hours on patrol and without any nearby resupply.

    For those that say weight isn’t a problem, try this drill. Carry two magazines and one in the rifle/carbine. Find a range that allow you to different drills like move and shoot. Do it for 3 to 5 hours without taking a break (no sitting down, no drinking, no eating).

    I’ve been doing it for the last few Fridays and body is hurting. My total weight is around 10 pounds. Our kids in full combat gears with M4 are carrying over 70+ and sometime 100+ pounds. Weight is such a problem in Afghanistan that a member of Arfcom told on the radio that he did everything including opening MRE and take only high calories items to limit his load.

    http://radiofreearfcom.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/radio-free-arfcom-show-2/

  • larry weeks

    Nothing really wrong with the M4 as a gun. I thought the newer rounds the govt has come out with are designed to give better velocity out of the short barrel – but I could be wrong. I’ve never carried one in combat so I can’t comment from that perspective. We run the snot out of them testing magazines for delivery to Uncle Sam. Yes, they break occasionally and wear out springs, but we run them exclusively burst and full auto and plug mags in as fast as we can. They get cleaned after every test (roughly 2000 rounds per gun). They get extremely hot, everything takes a real beating. We have run test sessions (22,000 rounds/10guns) with zero gun failures. We’ve had other tests where we lose a few guns – they just reach the end of some parts life – but I’ll bet even the vaunted AK will break after X rounds. We don’t track the repairs/rebuilds on the guns, they go back to a govt armory for any repairs. I’m sure they know the history.

  • Jim

    the article is typical of Fox News.. they have space to fill, be it on the TV or online.. you can take this as an example of how they do not research the subject, and rely upon conjecture and keywords to construct “news”..

    i don’t know for fact if the 5.56 or the M4 are actually effective.. i’m not in a situation where i have to use one to retain my life, or the lives of the people that are around me.. i just don’t know… it does appear to be effective, though..

  • Lance

    Agree with Carl and Sian give M-16A2s from the MPs to infantry and give the M-4 to the MPs like a carbine is suppost to be used. M-14s are great for the DMRs which they are used for. The awnser is to adopt the H&K 416 in 6.5 G caliber. But thats nopt happining. both services are sticking your guns and NATO ammo.

    Since General Tamilo the head of Army weapon reserch and evelopment said also that the M-4 will be upgraded. mabie a 18 or 20 ich barrel should be another upgrade with the piston system.

    Finally FOX has had several death articles about the M-4 (Steve you remeber last year after Wannat) So I think this article wont change minds anyway.

    Agree Steve???

  • Komrad

    Meh, Faux News, not surprised. Actually, wouldn’t be surprised if anybody except a magazine dealing exclusively or almost exclusively with firearms put out such a crappy article. Just goes to show that the general public doesn’t know that much about firearms. Don’t go yelling at them though. It’s not their fault. They just don’t share our hobby. If they ask tell, if they don’t, don’t. The worst thing we as gun enthusiasts can do is force our opinions on others. It just reinforces the stereotype.
    I do agree that we should start designing a new rifle and cartridge now, before we need it.

  • D.Baker

    At some point the US military will have to replace AR-15 derivative weapons, but I suspect it will take a vast increase in small arms effectiveness to force this to happen. This gets back to the SCAR/ACR argument, but it’s true that they all throw a 5.56mm (or on occasion 6.8mm) projectile in effectively the same manner– nothing game changing at all. Obviously other AR-15 chamberings like 6.5/6.8 are an improvement, but the question is whether that improvement is large enough to ‘warrant the change’ (in the brass and/or budget committee’s mind).

    Switching back to 7.62×51 isn’t the answer either, as ammunition for the larger caliber is much heavier, just as it was when the Wizkids thought #bullets = #of kills. While that logic was flawed, with the increased pack load on soldiers today anyhow carrying sufficient ammunition load for a 308 rifle (that’s already really heavy) in addition to their own gear isn’t for every soldier– though certainly a few in each squad is reasonable.

    If we could pack the punch of a 308 into a cartidge the weight of a 223 (or less), that would probably force a change-over, assuming it wasn’t too expensive and reasonably reliable. I’m thinking electromagnetically-retarded caseless ammo :)

  • William

    This definitely seems like the journalist took conversation of two different topics and combined them into one piece: one about the ineffectiveness of the M16/M4 chambered in the 5.56 round and one about the ineffectiveness of the M16/M4 direct impingement system and the journalist had no idea that they were different things.

    Honestly, I’m tired of hearing about new assault rifle trials for the US and then they conclude that there is nothing that is good enough to warrant a replacement, let’s just keep using the M16/M4. We’ll try again next year with the same guns. They need to do it or don’t do it.

    I think a new cartridge is more important than a new gun, but they need to rechamber the military’s guns en-masse if they do so, assuming it’s a round (like the 6.8 or 6.5) that fits into a 5.56 based receiver.

  • Clodboy

    Two questions regarding the XM-8:
    Does anybody have a detailed explanation on how those picatinny attachment points were supposed to work? While the Picatinny rail was arguably the most important development in the small arms market in decades, it also seems to have some inherent weaknesses (potential for snagging, may require rail covers). Sure, the fact that the XM-8 tried to introduce them when everyone had just made the switch toward the Picatinny rail probably served to turn away rather than attract potential buyers, but it does sound like an interesting concept in principle.

    Secondly, what about the stories of handguards melting/deforming under high rof’s? Was this really a step backwards over the M4, or did the XM-8’s handguards merely melt at the same volume of fire as those of an M4, meaning the military just didn’t see enough of an improvement?

  • John Callahan

    The article seems to be written by someone who clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The M4 is a considerably better weapon than the AK-47, it just isn’t as good as some other weapons. It is based on a 55 year old design. I think the best choice is to replace it the ACR in either 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 SPC(I still can’t find any info about which one is better.) Either way, they are both better than the 5.56 and I have heard that they rival the power of the 7.62×51.

  • jdun1911

    As someone have pointed out on Arfcom, the Army is blaming their problems on the M4 instead of the lack of training and the use of Aimpoint in a conflict that is fought at long range. The Marine has non of these troubles with their rifle equipped with ACOG.

    Red dot optics start having problem pass 200 yards. Greater than 200 yards I switch to iron if my optic is RDS.

  • Nadnerbus

    Glad to see the News is catching up to a forty year old debate and then getting it mostly wrong.

    I don’t understand why the military doesn’t field some intermediate caliber’s in test numbers and evaluate the results. Take the fore runners, the 6.8 APC and the 6.5 Grendel (or a similar royalty free round) and chamber some SCARs for them. Pass them out to a limited number of troops and see how they do. The debate will be all words until we get some useful, real world data to flesh it out.

  • Cobetco

    2,500 feet is roughly 750 meters, which is a long ways away for a 5.56, but its also a long ways away for the human eye. now its a wonderful idea that every soldier is a qualified marksman and is capable of hitting targets that far away. but the truth of the matter is there not. that the human eye just can’t see that far, so why issue a more expensive weapon with a larger round (and larger kick) if its going to waste. and its not like the majority of the army is issued ACOG optics. YES some soldiers SHOULD carry 7.62 weapons, but not everyone, it’d be a waste of cash. just like the m320 replacing the 203.

  • http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/ Sven Ortmann

    “Also The Taliban aren’t killing us at 800 yards with AKMs, at that range you’re worried about the PKM, RPD and DShK, all larger caliber.”

    Actually, the RPD eats the AKM’s cartridge; 7.62×39.

  • Dano

    The 5.56mm is a decent round with a good load. The SOST from federal is an out standing round and will help some of the short comings inherent in the M4 platform. For everyone complaining about upgrading to a different caliber, that’ll cost A LOT of money to do; improving the bullet used is the most efficient and practical solution.

  • JD

    Am I the only one who thinks the XM8 is one ugly SOB? The ACR or SCAR seems like a logical choice to me.
    I also agree with Bill when he said using some soft point bullets would cure a lot of problems.

  • Ck

    I have a BIG idea…Ditch the M-4 and buy the Remington R-15 or R-25, it is chambered in .308. That should deal with any range issues. Also the R-15 and R-25 are pretty good with range and accuracy.

  • http://www.dooms-day-device.com Puke

    My experience with “journalists” (Really just a bunch of idiots writing stories they mostly make up and sensationalize to sell ads.) writing articles about actions or whatever that I had first hand knowledge of was just like this.

    No one researches anything these days. It’s all about getting the story out there first in order to draw readers. Likely the General was mis-quoted.

  • Sian

    @Sven Ortman this is true, bu the RPD like most LMGs is capable of effective area fire at that range. Anyway, from what little I’ve seen, the Taliban are pretty thick with PKMs and the occasional SVD.

  • jdun1911

    It is possible to get human size hits over 1k with 5.56 as long as you know what you’re doing. This guy did it at 880 yards.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B9NkQldeu0&feature=related

    Ck,

    It’s not a range issue. It is a training issue. Marine are currently better suited in this type of warfare than the Army because it has a better marksmen program. The Army won’t admit it tho.

    Cobetco,

    You’re correct. People here think that it is easy to make kills over 800 yards in a two way range. That’s not going happen with kids that never shot before. It takes years to get that kind of skills. Providing them with 7.62 rifles are counter productive. Better training and replacing Red dot optic with telescopic scope is a better solution to the problem.

    Clodboy,

    The XM-8 is a G36 with a new 40 million dollar stock that melt which they fix in later development. The G36 is a modified AR18 with a new body. As far as I know the XM-8 does not use Picatinny rail. It use HK version which NO third party make accessories for it! It is also NOT BACKWARD COMPATIBLE.

  • Lance

    Dispite what the media says its not going to change anytime soon and im tired of the same old argument over old or new 5.56mm designs they are the same pea shooter. If we can adopt a new cartridge then we can start lloking at new guns.

    Besides this is old news the battle of wannat was over 2 years ago and the miitary is opening a M-4 upgrade compation. Lets wait and see what the Amry dose with the M-4 and then discuse whats next.

  • Whatever

    They want to go from the M4 to an M8? Why not go to something much better like an M10, maybe even an M11?

    I thought the job of the infantry was to keep shooting at the enemy to keep the enemy pinned down until artillery could be called in. Maybe this is just me, but it seems that the failure is in the speed of providing accurate fire support, not the infantryman’s rifle or the round.

  • Lance

    This is a simular/same debate as the pistol debate over .45 vs 9mm NATO calibers.

    The Fox News military commentitor Gen Scales was one of major XM8 program directors so of course he will be biased aginst other rilfes.

    The USMC isnt dropping the AR design they just a few months ago adopted the H&K 416 for there IAR program and are still buying M-16A4s and there hardly a word from Marines about this.

    Steve?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Lance, I think he was quoted out of context but if he was part of the program you can bet he was biased. A switch to 6.8/6.5 would be much better than switching rifle platforms.

  • Lance

    Its funnny about 7 years ago the British had simular complants about the L-85!

  • Woody

    switching to a rifle that has a shorter barrel and shorter muzzle velocity (2700 fps versus 2800 from the M4) and same 5.56mm caliber will do nothing to improve the disadvantages in afghanistan. misinformation at its finest. A 6.5 and 6.8mm cartridge is needed from a 18-20 inch barrel to alleviate the situation in afghanistan that the 5.56 is creating.

  • CharlesA222

    lol@ the replies in the Fox article. These people really have no clue what they’re talking about.

    The M4 in and of itself is fine; it’s been a quiet sort of news around the Army that the Rangers ditched the SCAR because of how expensive replacement parts are and went back to their M4A1s. As I just spent a few weeks with rangers at the Warrior Leaders Course, I can say that this is true.

    As for long-range fights with AK-47s..yeah, M4 definitely has the advantage, I’d say. Sure, you’ll probably need to put plenty of rounds on target at extended range, but at least you’ll be hitting at 4-500 meters. A guy with an AK is not.

    It’s hilarious how vaunted the mediocre 7.62mmx39 cartridge is. The Russians themselves stopped using it nearly forty years ago in favor of 5.45x39mm, which was introduced…yep…shortly after the M-16 and 5.56x45mm NATO debuted.

    It’s a great round for under 200 meters, but so is 5.56 NATO, and 5.56 also has extended-range capability, which 7.62×39 does not.

  • Don

    I have a great and original Idea!

    How about we continue to optimize 5.56mm ammo for the shorter barreled M4 (better killin’ thru chemistry) and then make a couple of modernized M14 available if they need to shoot at something farther away?

    Oh wait, that’s what they are doing now and everyone who matters seems to be fine with that arrangement…

    I have another idea… turn off the news. It’s all worthless garbage.

    -D

  • Geodkyt

    Yeah, we should replace the one 55 year old Stoner design (M16/M4) with ANOTHER 45 year old Stoner design (XM8, via the AR18) that was rejected teh FIRST time it was offered to Western nations, becuase it didn’t measure up to the M16. . .

    You know, the rifle that was made in first Japan, then Britain, and never managed to score a big sale?

    And you can talk all you like about the POSSIBILITIES of teh XM8 rifle, the fact is that they keep going back to teh idea of using a shorter barrel than the M4, which means it is MORE susceptible to the same range/lethality problem.

    As others have said, go for a 20″ ACOG sighted M16 for anyone who doesn’t ABSOLUTELY need a shorter weapon and who also doesn’t anticipate needing to engage the enemy with rifle fire (in other words, unless you’re aircrew, a tanker, some Sooper Secret Squirrel outfit who’s alredy carrying a bunch of crap and is doing covert recon, senior officers, etc. Hell, give the carbines to the artillery and truck drivers! The M4 is a PDW, and should be issued as such.

    There was NEVER any real justification in giving the M4s to the infantry, whether airborne, air assault, mech, or light. It was all about the CDI Factor (Chicks Dig It), since Green Beanies carried carbines a lot of the time. About the only people in the 11 series I can see justified in an M4 are (maybe) snipers as a backup gun (especially if their primary is a bolt action), officers, senior NCOs, and MAYBE grenadiers and Javelin gunners. You could probably talk me into the driver and turret crew of an AFV (whether Bradley, Striker, or whatever). For EVERYONE else getting ANY form of the M16 system should get an USMC M16A4 (complete wioth ACOG), and stick an M4 stock group on it.

    I suspect we’ll see a new rifle system selected when the LSAT program establishes a functional SAW and rifle pair that meets ALL milestones, and then the projo is upgraded to 6mm – 7mm, 80 – 120 grains (right now they are intentionally using M855 projos at M855 velocities, for a true apples to apples comparison with current weapons.) I’m guessing it will be the caseless variant, rather than the telescoped case. I suspect that at the same time, we’ll see a medium (i.e., “full bore battle rifle”) caliber from the program, for SDM and GPMG roles. A few years afterwards, you’ll see caseless light cannon rounds for autocannon.

    And the hovercraft IFVs (equipped with caseless automatic cannon with caseless coax, dismounting armored, digitally integrated Future Warriors carrying caseless rifles and [God help us] MetalStorm disposable grenade launchers) and their hovercraft tanks (maybe with binary liquid propellant main guns firing both dumb and brilliant rounds) will have an M2HB on top as teh commander’s gun, albeit likely with a new soft mount, standard teleoptic/thermal/starlight scope, and a quick change barrel.

    But change to a totally different, yet still basic 1885 technology, brass cased round? One that requires us to basically change everything in the weapon except the receiver? Not bloody likely.

  • jdun1911

    Sian,

    If we were out gunned than logic would state that more dead Americans come back in body bags. With almost 10 years of fighting, around 1k Americans, and countless Taliban/Terrorist dead. What do you think?

    There are always improvements but you don’t want to rush into things and find yourself in a worst situation.

  • Cobetco

    i also like how Scales said. “This isn’t rocket science. We’re not putting a man on the moon here.” when in fact the level of engineering needed to make this “dream weapon” is VERY much rocket science, or D$#@ well near it.

  • reaganrepublican

    So let me get this straight. Every conflict that America has been in since the start of the Vietnam war has pitted American rifles and carbines against the AK-47 and more recently the AK-74. Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War, Mogadishu, Bosnia (although this was more of a bombing campaign with limited ground engagements), Afghanistan, Iraq and now re-emphasis on Afghanistan after almost ten years – America has fielded the M-16 platform in 5.56. I understand that there has always been concern over the cartridge, but why now, after 8+ years in Afghanistan, are reports starting to surface that our boys are being outmatched by the AK pedigree? Just the other day I read an article claiming that the Taliban are acquiring AK-74’s that are “capable of defeating body armor”. So which is it? DoD has gone into every conflict in the last three decades knowing full well the capabilities of the 7.62×39 round and have done little to our our primary weapons except shorten the barrels. This all sounds like a media ploy to me. This week, 7.62×39 is out-gunning US troops. Next week, the Taliban is acquiring 5.45 ammo that “defeats body armor”. Paul Howe said it best – he was shooting Somalis 3,4,5 times just to put them down, if they went down at all. After 40+ years of 5.56 vs 7.62×39….none of this should surprise anyone.

    But it still remains a fascinating topic.

  • Whatever

    http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/btb.pdf

    An interesting read IMO that I ran across about the issues with the 5.56 round in Afghanistan.

    One thing I thought might be possible is a reduced recoil load in the 7.62x51mm cartridge that is loaded into aluminum cartridges rather than brass. Remington makes a reduced recoil load that sends a 125 grain bullet out at 2660 fps which they claim has half the felt recoil. That would probably be enough to reach out to 600-700 meters and the aluminum cases would cut weight plus make the identification of the low power and normal power rounds easy.

  • Rijoenpial

    The XM( program was shelved in its prototype stage, so who knows where it might have gone with imrpovements and dropped ideas nd new ideas… they could have gone to an intermediate round, 6.5 Grendel of 6.8 SPC or even better… 7.62 for urban warfare, wall penetration and/or sniper duty, 6.5 for longer distances… the 50.cal AR round (seen in the
    Ultimate Weapons episode) could be a possibility too…

    The M4 5.56 round was supposed to be more accurate in single-shot mode, being a less heavy round so the soldier could carry more into the battlefield… Now, logic dictates that with a 7.62 round, you don’t need the frail stopping power of many bullets, only the good stoppage power of one single 7.62 bullet! Hence why the heaviness factor is not a very good argument to me… You don’t need many rounds, only one good round! And with the stoppage power of a 7.62, even if you don’t kill the enemy, you’ll leave him out of commission…period… what more could you ask for?

    If the 5.56 round has little stoppage power as Paul Hope stated in his Mog battle book more than 10 years ago, then the only reason I can think of for the army to keep using them is either because they are cheaper or politically-motivated (albeit corruption-motivated)…

    I can’t fathom the thought of giving the soldier a lesser gun with a lesser round just to avoid spending money on something better and more suitable and reliable.

    Personally, I think the USArmy is too corrupt for words… There are too many interests vested in keeping a lesser gun with a lesser round being supplied to US soldiers… 20 years ago, the British sustained that a better round than the 5.56 was needed… You don’t have this kind of complaint coming from FN FAL users… The 7.62 is a precision round with a great stopping power, it is not conceived for suppressive fire…that would be a sheer waste of ammo, if you ask me…!

    It is unrealistic to have the intermediate rounds so far, the 6.8 and 6.5, supplied in enough numbers to matter, not to mention the required conversion kits for all M4 users…

    But it has to start from somewhere…

    The news that the USArmy recently procured a ‘slightly better’ 5,56 round means the 6.5 and 6.8 can wait… They’ll not be fielded anytime soon… not until the US presence in Afghanistan is over, a presence that has so far claimed the lives of more than 1.000 US soldiers…

    Cheers!

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Rijoenpial, I would not describe it as ‘corruption’. The same people would be making the ammo and guns regardless of the caliber!

  • michael

    reaganrep, that’s why the military needs to go the 6.8 or the 7.62 and be done with it already.

  • http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com Tam

    The Fox News military commentitor Gen Scales was one of major XM8 program directors…

    Quelle surprise!

    Any bets that, like many retired flag ranks, he’s pulling down some fat checks as a part-time “consultant” (read: “publicity shill”)?

  • Geodkyt

    Before you start opining as to the need for standard issue battle rifles for shooting bad guys at greater than 500 meters or so, let me recommend you find a copy of McBride’s “A Rifleman Went to War”.

    And don;t give me any crap about “Well Marines train to 800 meters!”

    What you can do on the KD range at LeJeune does NOT translate directly to shooting khaki colored targets against khaki colored terrain with battle rattle on, on the Two-Way Range.

    As McBride discussed in 1935 (relating his experience in WWI).

    McBride was a good shooter well before the war. 1000 yard matches, long range hunting out West (took a job surveying for a railroad primarily becuase of teh great long range shooting he could do in the wide open spaces), extensive experience getting extreme accuracy with blackpower (both muzzleloader and cartdige) and smokeless rifles, was already familiar and comfortable with telescopic sights before 1914, etc. A definate “rifleman’s rifleman”.

    McBride resigned his US commission as a captain, to enlist in the Canadian Army before the US got into WWI, resigned the Canadian captain’s commission to get a transfer as a private to a unit that was deploying, and had combat experience with the machine gun units, sniping with the unmodifed issue Ross rifle, sniping with the SMLE, and sniping with highly accurate, telescopically sighted Ross rifles. He described how he modified his scope mount with shims, and NEVER had teh loss of zero issues people reported with the WWI scope mounts. He discussed how to confirm zero with both iron and scope EVERY DAY as a sniper, using bits of teh enemy line that wouldn;t immediately scream “Sniper!”, nor leave tell-tale bullet holes lined up on his hide. (Dont shoot boxes or tin cans — they may be sniper bait so they can line up the holes and figure out where to call artillery on you. shoot brick walls, puddles, and such.)

    Keep in mind that he could confirm range to target rather easily from his (often elevated) positions, becuase he had a MAP of teh trenchworks he could use to make his range card. Nice, geometric trenchlines, with readily discernable landmarks. And ALL the targets are likely to be IN or AROUND those trenches, so it’s a rather smaller target area than if the troops were sctatter in the open.

    In the hills of Afghanistan, one goat sized brown rock at 800 meters looks much the same as another. And your target could be ANYWHERE on that hill.

    In McBride’s own words, even the snipers with good equipment, a full bore rifle designed for long range shooting, hand-selected lots of ammunition known for exceptional accuracy, good training, and awesome visibility, rarely saw good targets beyond 600 yards, and he considered 600 yards the limit of expected effective range FOR SNIPERS. Even while admitting that the occaisional 1000 yard shot “seemed” to hit. (He also pointed out that it was impossible for the shooter, and damned difficult for the spotter, to actually CONFIRM a hit past a couple of hundred yards — even if you miss slightly, the target will still disappear as he goes for cover.) That it’s a LOT tougher than the KD range with proper match shooting gear when you have to stay tactical, when the target is being tactical, when you have 3-10 seconds to find, identify, and hit the target.

    And people think they have the perfect tacticool ASSAULT RIFLE round that will suddenly make every grunt the Finger of Death at 800 meters?!?

    Most people have difficulty acquiring (much less identifying) a human target in a drab color at 300m without optics!

    Guess what? It works the other way around, too. Only most of the Jihadis don’t have good rifles with accurate, zeroed scopes. Unless they are using a belt fed MG (probably off a tripod), or are one of the rare snipers, they pretty much aren’t a credible threat to a unit past 200-300 meters. If you need to hit him at 800 meters, try the M240 (or even the M249). If you’re operating in company strength (or have a “platoon slice” of Weapons Platoon attached), try a 60mm mortar. It WILL Reach.

  • Anton

    While engaging Taliban in Afghanistan, some Dutch LMB-ers (Air Mobile Brigade) and/or KCT-ers (Corps Commando Troops). have been known to carry the .308 Mags that are normally attached to their vehicles to have a bit of extra punch over their .223 Minimi’s and Diemaco C7’s. That stuff ain’t official.

  • Nicholas

    If I recall correctly, the majority of engagements take place at over 300 meters a significant number occur at short range, and replacing assault carbines with full length battle rifles would probably leave the troops even worse off in short range as less options exist, as I don’t think you can call in an artillery strike on the building across the street from your position.

  • reaganrepublican

    @ Geodkyt: Well said, sir.

  • Trango

    @spudgun – LOL! Keep rackin up that kill count stud.

    @reaganrepublican – I think you may be taking Mr. Paul Rowe’s comments out of context. 1. The 5.56 ammo being used to engage the Somalians, specifically during the blackhawk down fight, was over penetrating and causing only minor tissue trauma on the way through (so I have been told by others on the ground that day). It was a terminal ballistics issue, not caliber. 2. The Somalians were also hopped up on khat, a major stimulant, making it more difficult to put them down.

    A few here (in my opinion) have hit the nail on the head in their arguments, and others (again in my opinion) are way off. One thing I think people seem to forget, is that when someone is shooting AT you it really changes the game, and it can really change your accuracy.

    Unless you have been there, or you are a highly qualified instructor/expert in the field, or at the very least gone through a level of training allowing you to get a sample of that kind of chaos, you’re really just speculating at what the “best” solution, if there is one, may be.

  • michael

    nicholas, it’s under 300 and not over…..

  • Geodkyt

    IIRC, in the book Blackhawk Down, there is ONE “failure to stop” noted with 5.56mm. There is also a failure to stop from a BURST with a 7.62x51mm M60 GPMG.

    Meanwhile, that battle is FULL of Us soldiers who were hit MULTIPLE times with 7.62x39mm rounds — which, while not in the 7.62x51mm NATO class, are still larger, heavier bullets than the 5.56mm (about twice as heavy, remember). “Bigger” and “Heavier” do not automatically mean “more damage”. Almost all Combloc 7.62x39mm ball leaves wounds indistinguishable from 9x19mm ball. In other words, not very impressive.

    Spitzer bullets (which all these rifle bullets are) do damage by three basic ways of transferring energy to tissue and destorying it:

    1. As long as the bullet travels pointy-end forward (which is quite a ways for most 7.62 rounds) through meat, it is a simple wound track about as wide as the bore. All spitzer bullets do yaw eventually (basically, the farther to the rear the center of gravity is, the faster the yaw all other things being equal), at which point you get a wound track that gets larger and smaller in a fairly regular pattern of “side profile”/”front profile” sized wound track until the round stabilizes in it’s hydrodynamically stable “base first” path. That is ALL you get for damage unless:

    2. It hits a major bone or inelastic organ, in which case MORE damages occurs. Better if it hits a bone, as you can get secondary fragments. . . and velocity is key in doing damage with those fragments. (In other words, a 5.56mm will typically do more grotesque damage when hitting a bone at under 200 meters or so — outside teh range of most AK weilders to accurately return fire).

    Or,

    3. Fragmentation of the round itself. US M855 and M193 do this when they yaw about after hittingth etarget at better than 2700fps. This results in wound tracks

    Someone actually measured typical Somali gunmen, and found they average about 7.5 inches thick from front to rear, therough the chest. (There’s a reason the troops called them “Skinnies”.)

    That means the 7.62x51mm round has JUST started yawing significantly about the time it is whizzing it’s way OUT of the body. It will JUST have started keyholing. All that extra energy that it supposedly has over the 5.56mm? Just got wasted on the brick wall BEHIND the target. That’s M80 ball from an M14.

    5.56mm M855? Starts significant yawing (and shortly thereafter fragmentation) at about FOUR inches, reaching maximum PERMANENT wound cavity at about 6 inches. Of course, you’ll need a 20″ barrel (a la standard M16A2) at less than about 175 meters to get this kind of grotesque — but it isn;t useless at longer ranges, either. However, at longer ranges, your enemy is likely not able to return fire EFFECTIVELY, especially if you’ve just started punching holes through him.

    M855 from a 20″ barrel can HIT targets at 800m, if you can actually identify them at that range, figure the dope, etc. Of course, the same problems occur for the 7.62x51mm shooter. or any infantry rifle armed troop.

    Need to service targets at 600 meters and beyond? Snipers, SDMs, MGs, or mortars. The idea of line grunts doing rifle fire on fleeting individual target exposures in combat is a weed-smoking fantasy.

  • gabba

    I don’t mean to bash fox news but it seems like they use themselves as a source and nobody cares. They clearly state in the article that the maj. general robert scales that they (and you) quote is a fox news analyst i.e. THEIR OWN GUY.

    so the story fox is reporting is that fox says the m4 sucks. why am i the only one who sees this for what it is?

  • Nicholas

    @michael
    I was referring to operations in Afghanistan specifically, where reports such as the one whatever linked to above say that most combat takes place at beyond 300 meters.
    While the reasoning behind assault rifles is that most of the time combat takes place below 300, here it supposedly isn’t.

  • Geodkyt

    NIcholas,

    1. You do NOT overhaul the entire fighting force to fix a supposed problem in ONE theater.

    2. NO ONE is consistantly getting hits with rifles suitable for line infantry past 300 meters, regardless of platform or caliber. Hell, the trajectories of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO are pretty similar out to “sniper rifle” ranges. There is a REASON the Camp Perry guys using pimped out AR15s are pushing out the guys using pimped out M14 variants.

    3. Past about 150 – 200 meters, lethality concerns are less important than one thinks. You put a bullet COM on a bad guy (take your pick — 7.62x39mm M43, 5.56x45mm M885, 7.62x51mm M80, 7.92x57mm Mauser), and he is VERY unlikely to be capable of returning effective fire.

    4. If you cannot SEE the target, IDENTIFY the target, or HOLD the rifle STEADY while shooting (not a nice, clean, one way range, remember), it doesn’t matter if you are using a .22 rimfire Ruger 10/22 or a .50BMG Barret loaded with Raufoss. Misses don’t incapacitate the enemy, either.

  • http://thefirearmblog thomas

    nice….if the get the XM8 back on track..think of all the ar15 the will be on the market…or at least the parts…also i would be great to see the 7.62 XM8 package……it would be great if there made a semi atuo version for the us

  • JoeB

    Its a shame that the XM8 tanked, but that alone wouldnt solve the full issue. Having a mixed caliber squad would definatly help the range issue, and would increase firepower at the same time. We dont need a new rifle, or a new cartriage to solve the problem, just simple intigration of mixed calibers. Its definatly more economical than any other solution as far as im concerned

  • Geodkyt

    While I am not opposed to a larger caliber DMR in the squad, how often is a squad out there without an M249 SAW, which DOES have an 800m effective range off bipod (or at least they did when they weren’t issuing the stupid “para” version?)

    I’ll buy the argument that a squad (or even perhaps a fireteam) may well be out there without heavy weapon support handy. But every four man rifle fire team has a SAW. Will a SAW get “one shot, one kill” at 800m? Nope — that’s why it has a beaten zone. You hammer a squad sized target area with a burst or two, and even if you miss Johnny Jihad (Master Sniper), you damned sure will keep him from returning accurate fire.

    If he’s NOT a lone dude with a sniper rifle, doing hits that USMC snipers think are at the limit of REALISTIC effective range for a 7.62mm sniper rifle, then your burst WILL get one or more of his teammates. Lather, Rinse, Repeat, until engagement is over — there’s damned few “rifle killable” threat weapons that are REALISTIC threats to infantry at 800m that aren’t crew-served — no crew, no threat.

    I think the larger caliber DMR should be at platoon level, and a DMR in the same caliber as the standard rifle should be at the squad level is a fine idea. Of course, if you issued everyone 20″ rifles with 4x ACOGs, then EVERY rifleman would effectively have a “squad caliber” DMR.

    That would increase range, effective firepower, AND lethality out to the effective range of threat riflemen.

    I even think that, for mission specific cases (roadblocks, static defense, etc., where the weight impact is irrelevant), issuing a battle rifle caliber DMR at the squad level makes sense. More for the increased anti-materiel capacity than anything else — while 5.56mm at infantry combat ranges actually has more penetration than M80 ball (and you’re DREAMING if you think the military is going to start issuing match grade ammo to line grunts, even if they do have an M14 with a scope — ammo costs add up quickly), but the 7.62x51mm has more total energy. Unlike a meat target (which lets the larger round waste most of it’s energy on the terrain behind the target), a target made of steel and aluminum is generally not going to let that round escape carrying the overwhelming majority of energy with it. Thus, 7.62x51mm M80 busts hard stuff (like engine blocks) up better, even if 5.56mm M855 penetrates deeper on homogenous hard targets and causes greater wounds in meat at anything apporaching reasonable rifle ranges.

    Is it going to put line riflemen in the same range band as a heavy machinegunner, working off a tripod? Nope. Neither would giving each line grunt an M110 DMR in 7.62x51mm.

    Because terminal ballistics only matter if you can HIT your target — and 800m is WELL beyond the reasonable effective range of ANY line infantryman’s ability to observe targets, IDENTIFY targets, accurately (better than 95% accuracy required) estimate range and lead, and hold steady to get a hit with semiautomatic aimed fire. I don’t care if you give them all Barret rifles — the skill level required is beyond what is feasible to teach large bodies of troops, AND the circumstances under which they would be employing it mean they cannot snug down in a nice hide under a ghillie, NOT under fire, while their spotter estimates range and observes the fire.

    * Known Distance Ranges /= combat conditions in even the slightest.
    KD work is basically competition bullseye firing, useful for confidence building, useful for teaching skills that can be applied BETTER at realistic infantry ranges, but honestly — even with a 4x scoped and accurate rifle, your combat effectiveness is going to be no better (and probably a lot less) than HALF your effective KD Range distance.

    * Sniper capabilities /= combat conditions line infantry face in a firefight.

    Snipers are not engaging their targets under the same circumstances that the squaddies (to steal a British word) on the line are. If they were, they’d be dead snipers. Localized snipers are EASY to kill.

    * Realistically, infantrymen don’t fight alone.

    Even in a three or four man fire team, there are a minimum of three different weapons choices — standard rifle, rifle mounted GL, LMG. Changing one of the standard rifles to a DMR (by using a modified standard squad rifle with a free float tube, decent optic, maybe a bipod and sling that mount to receiver and/or free float tube so as not to affect barrel) doesn’t actually take up any “slots” in the fire team. The guy designated as the “rifleman” or the “Team Leader” (if necessary, although when I was in, the TLs tended to be the grenadiers) can do that and NOT hurt anything. In a full squad or section of 2-3 fire teams, you have multiple versions of each of these. At platoons level and higher, you almost certainly have indirect and/or aerial fire support less than five minutes out, PLUS you have GPMGs, might have a battle rifle caliber DMR, etc.

    * Training troops costs money, and money = choosing who is going to die becuase we could not give THEM the asset they needed.

    What do we cut out of the basic training course (and don’t forget ammo, range time costs, building ENOUGH long range ranges to accomodate training and sustaining everyone at that standard, and transport to and from the ranges) to insert long range rifle fire BEYOND 90%+ of combat situations? Or, what else do we cut out of the budget — i.e., who do we kill becuase that cut resource wasn’t there — so we can extend basic AND fund the additional training (including sustainment training)? Don’t just say “Eliminate fraud and waste!!eleventy!!” People have been trying to eliminate all waste and fraud since Thutmose III kicked Canaanite ass ca. 1500BC. A certain amount is inevitable in ANY large organization, especially a large government organization where untrained dilletantes (who don’t even qualify as “fans”, much less “amateurs”) control the budget on a two year lead time and diddle with it for their own amusement and profit.

    * Special ammo costs money (see above).

    Doesn’t LOOK too expensive, until you realize you are talking about a “sagan” (“billy-yuns and billy-uns”) of rounds to buy. Oh, you thought we’d just keep all the old ball ammo that you insist is useless, and we wouldn’t bother making up both training reserves and warstocks for future emergencies? (Hmm, this bald white man think you never do heapum logistics work? Him think you think it all just Big Medicine, the way the little green boxes show up on pallets when you need them. Old man with stripes-on-arm {well, chest, these days} make magic talkybox words, and POOF!, bullets appear from the Iron Bird.)

    Altering one rifle in four to DMR configuration (actually fewer, if you count non-infantry types who don’t need a bunch of DMR rifles to keep around — a tad crowded in the tank, and not really needed in the corps motorpool lot. . . ) is CHEAP in comparison.

  • Warpig

    I don’t get it…

    My father and a few other hundred thousand men carried an M1 Garand (9.5 lbs.) all over Sicily, the Ardennes, up the hills of Normandy, etc. etc, etc. and got the job done. Why is it that the weight of a rifle is such a big deal now?

    Men in our day are taller, stronger and faster than our fathers and grandfathers. Why the whine about too heavy a rifle? I think the M-14 would be a great rifle for our troops. After all the .223 was a groundhog killer before someone thought it would make a good battle rifle to kill men with.

  • Sian

    @Warpig
    It’s all about combat load. The American rifleman soldier in WWII carried 82 pounds of gear, including 128 rds of rifle ammo. Like the modern soldier, the WWI GI was generally fully mechanized, so he didn’t have to walk long distances with this pack and show up to the fight tired. Regardless, he was considered to be overloaded, a soldier carrying more than 1/3 his body weight would tire quickly on the move.

    Modern warm weather soldier’s load is 88lbs, including 210 rds of 5.56, 50lbs of body armor, NVG, batteries, water.. SAW gunners get to carry over 100 lbs, so we’re still struggling with the overloaded soldier problem.

    A heavy rifle is the most prominent item. It isn’t connected to a load bearing system, and during combat is held at arm’s length! Just one pound there can make a lot of difference in overall soldier fatigue.

  • Warpig

    The weight of a fully loaded M-16 with all of the “enhancements” used today and an M-14 are virtually (within ounces) the same. It is entirely possible to find a way to get both rifles connected to any load bearing system used today, especially a SOCOM sized M-14.

    I wonder what kind of answer a modern soldier would give if asked which rifle he would rather have during a fire fight? It would be interesting to hear from some of them.
    Maybe we could get them to add their 2 ounces of input.

  • Geodkyt

    Warpig,

    Of course, if you add teh enhansements to the M14 that are currently installed on the M4’s, the weight on the M14 goes back up again.

    If you don’t add the enhancements, you end up with a rifle that is LESS effective than even the 14.5″ M4.

    Because, again, the theoretical advantage of the bullet that never hits the enemy is meaningless. Just as teh theoretical advantage of the ammo you had to leave behind because you selected a round that weighs significantly more than what you could have had.

  • kcoz

    When i was an 11C back in the 90’s everyone carried a full 20″ rifle, except mechanics,cooks,and other MOS that mostly carried their weapon on their back while performing non combat duties. I can see why they went to issuing mostly M-4s in Iraq. I’d want one too if i was doing mostly MOUT. But with most of our combat operations now in Afghan mountains it seems a no brainer to return to a full length barrel. Doubt we’ll see a new cartridge anytime soon now that we’ve convinced all our NATO allies to adopt our 5.56×45 and magazines.

  • Geodkyt

    Kcozon 22:

    I was an 11B in the late 180s and first half of the 1990s, and we also had the full length rifles. While doing MOUT exercises, trench operations, and simulated sewers, I never noticed that my 20″ rifle was “Oh So Big” that I couldn’t get the job done — the part I wished I could reduce was the STOCK. The M16A2 stock was designed to be useful for KD work while firing it using KD competitive techniques. (That and the project officer realized he would never get funding for the new molds required for the new, stronger, stock material if the stocks were dimensionally identical.) The STOCK is the weak point in M16A2 manueverability, more so than the BARREL.

    They started transitioning the infantry (starting with the Airbrone) to the M4 WELL before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, so arguments that the M4 was adopted for near-universal issue becuase of the MOUT conditions in Iraq simply do not play. Hell, I had a NATIONAL GUARD recruiter telling me in spring of 2001 (um, that would be BEFORE 9/11, for those not payintg attention) that I should get back in, and pointing out they were starting to transition to M4s in a GUARD infantry unit!

    Rangers went to M4s, on the justification they were SOCOM. (Bad idea — SOCOM they technically are, and many true SOCOM missions they undertake, but the 75th is basically a very specialized light infantry unit. . . and they never had any problem before keeping nonstandard weapons in teh arms rooms for mission-based issue for those times where an M4 makes sense — like small unit recon patrols where they are trying to avoid shooting.)

    The Airborne insisted they needed cool looking guns, too. After all, it is UNpossible to jump out of an aircraft with a massive. huge, ungody heavy M16A2. Not like those nice, compact, lightweight carbines like the Garand, FAL, G3, or M14. Why, with the same style of stock installed, an M4 is FIVE AND A HALF INCHES LONGER!!!eleventy!!! (Same thing with the “para” models of the SAW.)

    Then the leg infantry (both mech and light) started whining that Parawhoopies shoudln’t get treated so special — they’re just infantry who have one-way carriers to battle! So, the legs started getting M4s.

    Basic solution — do the USMC one better. Instead of issuing everyone M4’s with red-dot CQB sights, start issuing flat top fullnegth uppers with carbine stocks, and install a low power magnified optic. . . like say, the ACOGs.

    ACOGs can STILL be used as CQB sights if you leave both eyes open (go to Trijicon and look up “BAC” and then Google “Occluded Eye Gunsight” or “OEG”); the slight loss of accuracy when using it in that manner is not very relevant in CQB, UNLESS you are a SWAT cop trying to put one through the running lights of a hostage taker who is holding the hostage half across his face. (And SWAT cops or other hostage rescue guys, who are primarily CQB specialists, can JUSTIFY issuing M4s. Not only are they operating almost solely in CQB environments, but they are also operating at ranges where the ballistic deificiencies of the M4 are moot. If they can legally/logistically use the specialty CQB ammo DESIGNED for M4 CQB work, that’s even better.) If you’re NOT a SWAT cop, you can do what some guys in the military brainstormed, and use the ACOGs with a mini-red dot for CQB on top. Or just mount a CQB-only sight on an offset rail like the 3-gun guys do. Given that the ONLY time you’ll be using that sight is under 50 meters (you can use the ACOG faster and more accurately at ranges from 50 meters out), it can even be an “iron” sight designed for speed. Or mount a Death Dot laser sight (as is pretty much becoming standard) set for CQB ranges.

    Hint: DO NOT try and overcome the paralax when zeroing CQB sights; zero them for a bore offset, and then just remmber your offset — if you don’t have time to remember (for instance, grabbing numbers out of thin air), “it throws 1 inch high and to the right”, you almost certainly do not need that accuracy — aim center of exposed target and FIRE. If you need to make the “money shot”, you’re not going to be tossing it out there without taking a second or two to be sure you’re steady anyway.

    Save the carbines for those types of duty positions that need a Personal Defense Weapon (i.e., a carbine) rather than a RIFLE, give rifles to everyone else, and you’ll do fine. There’s more justification in issuing carbines to RTOs and truck drivers than PFC Skippy the infantryman. Even if PFC Skippy does ride in a metal Death Box to battle, or fall from the skies sheltered by some sheer nylon.

    Other than apparantly being dead-set against a collapseable stock, the Marines seem to be doing a MUCH better job at allocating carbines versus rifles.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Geodkyt, haha, thanks for the walkthough of Army politics.

    • Chest Rockwell

      Shut up, grandpa, you DON’T know it all. M-16’s are fucking muskets.

  • Jager

    I am a retired MSG US Army. I spent 34 years as a cav scout/supply sgt both active and national guard. I trained and lived with Germans and their G3 rifles and Honduran forces with their FN/FAL clones both in 308. I personally own a M14 in 308. At a family ranch we have a 1 foot square piece of plate steel that is 1″ thick welded to a chain and hanging in a tree 500 meters from a shooting bench. My boys and I shoot and often not always hit this target with a variety of 30 cal rifles. Friends come to the ranch and shoot their AKs, M16 variants, deer rifles etc. and fail miserably at this range. All of this talk about different rifles in 5.56mm lacks some basic common sense. A .223 is a glorified squirrel rifle. A .308 is a deer rifle. There is a reason that states don’t allow .22 to hunt large game (deer, people) and that reason is it doesn’t have sufficient killing power. Sure the M14 is heavy and so is the ammo. If you are engaging an enemy that is 500 meters away will you pick up the squirrel rifle or the deer rifle to return fire. It is that simple.

  • Geodkyt

    Well, the ability to make (what are effectively) head shots at 500 meters from a bench has exactly zero to do with combat accuracy. Unless your opponents intend to pop up a precisely calibrated 500 meters from your 50 – 250 pound bench, at a time and location you are anticipating them. . . (It IS very good practice for marksmanship fundamentals — even if the gun were mounted on a sandbagged tripod with a T&E, you’d still be refining your trigger squeeze, sight alignment, consistent cheek weld, etc. I’m not bashing 500m work on a 1 foot steel plate — sounds cool, and good training if you have time.)

    But, realistically, line grunts ARE NOT going to be able to make reliable one-round hits at 500 meters in combat, even if they can notice, locate, identify, and sight in on the target before it disappears again. (Not being able to FIND the target is actually more significant these days of decent optics and good training. If our guys can generally see it well enough to identify it as a valid threat, it’s probably close enough for them to hit.)

    The fact that a 7.62x51mm throws a bigger round is irrelevant when engaging a meat target in the overwhelming majority of infantry firefights — all the extra energy just gets wasted on the landscape BEHIND the target at any range under 200 – 300 meters. At ranges of 200 – 300 meters and beyond (out to the realistic limits of detection, identification, and engagement of human targets in combat), the ability of the 7.62x51mm round to do more effective wounds is not significantly higher — a nonfragmenting 7.62mm bullet drilling a (mostly) 7.62mm hole isn’t any more likely to hit a critical organ than a nonfragmenting 5.56mm bullet drilling a (mostly) 5.56mm hole. . .

    If the minimal difference in bullet size meant a non-fragmenting, slow yawing 7.62mm bullet was that much better than a non-fragmenting, slow yawing 5.56mm (both shots at longer range — say 250m +), then the 9z19mm pistol would be dropping guys like flies, at least at ranges under 100 meters — the wound track of a 9mm bullet should be almost the size of a 7.62x51mm AND a 5.56x45mm hit added together!

    Sadly, the 9x19mm FMJ bullet (at least in individual shots from a 5″ barrel) sucks (even if we compare “CQB range” 9mm hits to “rifle range” 7.62 or 5.56 hits), even though it’s a bigger bullet than the 7.62x51mm in frontal area. Because that’s ALL it has going for it — no spitzer shape to induce significant yawing, nor the length to do anything even if it had signifcant yawing.

    And sadly, the 7.62x51mm NATO doesn’t yaw FAST ENOUGH to even equal the damage the 5.56x45mm (which yaws like a whirling dervish at ranges close enough that near-instananeous stops are critical, due to the RPMs generated by its muzzle velocity and tigher spin rate) does at typical infantry firefight ranges.

    The fact is, the very thing that makes .308 Winchester a good “medium to large” (by North American standards) hunting round, in fact, work against it when engaging 150 pound (or smaller) humans. This means, with good round selection, you get a VERY good penetration depth in tissue, even if you encounter a bone.

    But people aren’t built like quadrepedal animals — for one, our upright stance means that our shoulder blades are not generally between the shooter and the vital organs, AND we aren’t having to rely on our shoulder blades and collarbone to support our weight or provide anchor points to move at full speed. So, less heavy bone is likely to be encountered (and punched through) on the way to vitals when shooting young fit (i.e., “skinny”) soldiers than deer. . . even if the deer weigh the same.

    Likewise, most people react to being shot differently than most animals. Wild animals rarely just “give up” becuase they have been shot — you have to bring them down, and an ethical hunter wishes to do so as quickly and cleanly as possible, so the animal doesn’t suffer any longer than necessary — and lazy hunters do the same, becuase they don’t like to track wounded animals over hill and dale.

    THIS is why states have restrictions on bore size for deer hunting — that and the legislators were trying to cut down on poachers and damned fools, both of whom tended to favor the cheap .22 rimfires — one uses the .22LR because it’s cheap and quiet in the hands of a man who knows how to use it, the other becuase he’s an idiot who’ll spray a dozen animals for every one he actually brings down — and he’ll only bring IN about a quarter what he brings down. (What, you going to claim that the .22-250 Remington or .222 Remington Magnum is insufficient for whitetailed deer? Heck, German and Austrian deer hunters LOVE the .222 Remington, only they call it the 5.7×43mm — and the .222 Remington is the SMALLER, LESS powerful, cartridge that was stretched into the .222 Rem Mag and 5.56x45mm cartridges!)

    The 7.62x51mm (especially in milspec ball) round is simply too stable in tissue, and tends to drill an overall SMALLER hole in most realistic scenarios than a smaller bullet moving at approximately the same velocities. (It’s counterintuitive until you think about the tie it takes the bullet to start yawing — 5.56mm M193 or M855 starts yawing significantly about 1/3 of the way through the body, 7.62mm ball has just started yawing as it exits.) Now, if you could use modern JHP, JSP, or other expanding bullets (Gimme a “T”, gimme an “A”, gimme a “P” — TAP!), you can actually use that energy to rip shit up inside your target. . . but the US stays Hague compliant with its warshot ammo, and those wonderful new hunting and police loads just aren’t Hague compliant.

    So, 7.62x51mm NATO ball does a wonderful job punching holes in the real estate behind the Bad Guy you are shooting. Whereas 5.56x45mm ball (specifically, the US M193 and M855, when fired from real rifles, not PDWs or carbines) tends to use more of its energy ripping holes IN the bad guy. Even though the 7.62x51mm has more total juice, the 5.56mm tends to deliver more juice to the squishy target, especially if it fragments or hits a bone at 2700 – 3000 fps or so. (BOOM! Pelvis Grenade!)

    At typical infantry ranges, against human targets, 7.62x51mm NATO is to the human body too much like a single 25mm APDS (or 120mm sabot) is to a squad of dismounted troops — yeah, you blew a hole RIGHT THROUGH one guy, and the apartment building behind him (and, if its 120mm, maybe the building behind THAT). Unfortunately, you didn’t do a lot of damage to the rest of the unit. Whereas using 5.56mm tends to be more like using HEAT (or a burst from the coax) on that squad — less energy delivered in total, but more of the dangerous target actually eats the pain, so it’s more effective in total.

    You can rank the effectiveness of energy delivered to stuff behind teh target right up there with the runway behind you, the fuel you already burned, the altitude above you, and the shots that didn’t hit.

    Again, if you want to bust stuff up, like cars, trucks, etc — 7.62x51mm is a GREAT choice. If you want a round to engage the enemy with well-laid MG fire off a tripod with a range card at 600 meters, 7.62x51mm is a good choice. If you are a cop or are hunting, and you can use non-Hague compliant, 7.62mm is an EXCELLENT choice. If you are a sniper, and are using carefully manufactured open tip match at 600 meters, 7.62x51mm is a great choice (but there are better).

    If you think issuing 7.62x51mm NATO rifles will make the line grunt more combat effective, you’re dreaming. Even before we get into ammo weight, total weapon weight, or rounds carried, the fact is that the areas where the 7.62x51mm NATO does WORSE than the 5.56x45mm NATO are going to pop up more frequently than th other way around — and the shortcomings of the 7.62x51mm NATO round in those circumstances as a main rifle round are more severe than the shortcomings of the 5.56x45mm round in those circumstances where the 7.62x51mm beats it as a main rifle round.

    The biggest problems with the 5.56x45mm round these days is the nearly universal tendancy to forget that it is a round that should be fired from a 20″ or so barrel whenever possible.

  • Will

    The best course of action would be to put training improvements at a higher priority than a new carbine. Everyone talks about the XM8, XCR, ACR, SCAR, etc, like they’re going to solve all the problems overnight. If we simply change weapons without improving training, we’ll be trading the M4’s issues for the issues of a new rifle and probably be back to square one.

    Now for 5.56 NATO. It’s plenty lethal at 500+ meters in the hands of a properly trained marksman. I’ve read instances where an SDM engaged targets at 700 meters with Mk 262 ammo and was scoring kills. It’s not ideal, but it works. Calibers like 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, .30 RAR, and the like do offer improvements in performance over 5.56 NATO, but if the troops don’t hit the targets, you’re just wasting money. That’s not even considering the logistics nightmare a platform and caliber change would be.

    Bottom line, I’m all for improvements in platform and caliber, but they should be secondary to improving the training to your average Soldier/Marine/Airman/Sailor/Guardsman.

  • Lance

    @ Will

    The army is improveing the M-4. They also need to adopt USMC marksmanship training too.

  • Don in Los Angeles

    There is an old saying we prepare to fight the last war. the M4 is just fine for the streets of Iraq, or the jungles of SEAsia. The problems is we want ONE rifle for all things and that just does not work.

    Rebarrel the M4 to a 6.5mm necked up 223 cartraige and add 2 inches to the barrel, and your fine. Heck go to a faster burning powder and a hevey bullet and add the 2 inches and your still fine.

    There are other options here, but we only seem to want to talk about the ones that cost a lot of money.

  • Geodkyt

    Or, heck, just stick a 20″ barrel on the M4. (Best case, start buying 20″ flat top uppers, either monolithic recivers or with carbon free float tubes that can mount rails. Canada, Colt, or any onf a nmber of North American companies will be HAPPY to give you an OTS solution as quickly as they can hire a third shift to increase production. Worst case, you have your armorers use those metric butt-tons of M16A2s with plenty of service life sitting in long term storage, and they use their barrel wrenches to swap them 1:1 with the M4 barrels on the rifles in their arms room — surplus the M4 uppers to police departments or allies either free or at a ridiculously low nominal fee, like $20 per. Hell, you can even slide on getting recalibrated sights for now — the trajectory delta will be a lot less than the range estimation errors!)

    Leave the M4s for people whose duty position’s A.) do not have them as primary combatants, and B.) are space limited either becuase they are vehicle bound or they have a bunch of OTHE crap to carry and worry about — medics, officers & senior NCOs, artillerymen, tankers, truck drivers, etc. If your duty billet is titled “Rifleman”, you DO NOT need a carbine. You are the LAST guy who should have a carbine. If EVERYONE in the army had carbines except dudes with bigger shoulder fired guns (snipers and M240 or M249 gunners), and EVERYONE wearing a blue rope in the rifle company had rifles except RTOs, weapons gunners (whether M203, MG, SAW, or Javelin — hell, let the AGs have carbines if you want!), and “platoon” leadership and above (E7+ or O1+) had rifles, you would have a MUCH more lethally equipped force. (Instead, the Army prioritized the M4/M16 ratio almost exactly BACKWARDS.)

    Quit buying Aimpoints for everyone, and buy ACOGs for the 20″ guns (LIKE THE MARINE CORPS).

    Those three steps would achieve most of the realistic goals of switching to ANY new rifle caliber or model, at FAR less cost and logistics troubles.

    The time to completely switch over your standard rifles is either:

    A. When things are nice and quiet, reasonably projected to remain so for five or more years, and there is a statistically significant, even if slight, improvement available at a reasonable cost. (Things ain’t nice and quiet right now. If this was 1985 or 1995, sure. Maybe in 2015 it will be quiet enough.)

    B. The change is cheap, easy, and provides a minor benefit at almost no additional cost or trouble. (Such as stopping the purchase of M4s for now and switch procurement over to 20″ barrelled rifles or upper groups along the lines of the USMC M16A3 or – even better! – the current Canadian C7A2. Or the introduction of the MG42, which used the same ammo and belts as the MG34, so it was a simple 1:1 “gun swap”, and the MG34s being replaced used for vehicular use. Or the change from round-nose high velocity projos to the spitzer bullet as happened around 1900 — if all you have to do is swap out the sights for ones calibrated for the new round, THAT is an easy fix, even in wartime. . . but only if you can segregate your “old ammo” units from your “new ammo” units, perhaps by withholding general issue until you build up stockpiles sufficient that you can fully reequip everyone in THIS theater at once. Or, if both “new” and “old” guns are combat effective with either version of the ammo.) Think of the phasing in of Multicam, only you need to be a tad faster then they are doing with that. (Of course, having one brigade in UCP ACUs because their return date is in three months and the one on their left flank in Multicam ACUs becuase they just got here is a LOT easier to support than one brigade firing 5.56mm and the next one over firing 6-point-something Supercool Flavor of the Week. Heck, during DESERT SHIELD, loggies were tearing their hair out keeping .45ACP/9x19mm and 5.56mm M193/M855 issues aligned to the the units equipped. Luckily, DESERT STORM went quickly, so the problems didn’t look that bad to the line dogs, but the Loggy Doggies earned their grey hair and wrinkles in the build up phase.)

    C. There is a MAJOR and revolutionary advantage in the new system, worth the logistics headaches and deferring purchase of other stuff if necessary to field it in quantity in the middle of a war or when one is reasonably imminent. (There ain’t no such major improvement out there right now. by “revolutionary”, I mean a change as signifcant as the Minie ball, metallic cartridges, repeaters, smokeless powder, the change from the M14 to the M16 in Vietnam, the introduction of the MP43/MP44/STG44, etc. In my professional opinion, if the LSAT program succeeds in hitting Objective with caseless, AND a good, heavier, projo is developed, AND the LSAT offshoot rifle also hits Objective with a rifle in the same chambering, THAT would be a significant advantage — but only significant enough to justify if you built up stocks and did theater-by-theater, theater-wide, near-simultaneous transitions.)

    Bullet launchers for line grunts just aren’t a significant enough war-winner to justify major disruptions in the midst of a hot war, unless the advantage they bring to the table LITERALLY changes the whole scenario. The logistical issues of changeover chaos can cause the military to have LESS efectiveness while fielding theoretically more capable weapons — ask Albert Speer’s ghost. Or the ghosts of French and Italian generals from 1940.

    We’ve been doing chemical explosion propelled, metallic cased, Hague-compliant sptizer rounds for a good long time now. We’ve been doing reasonably reliable selective fire rifles (not “automatic rifles” like the BAR) for about half of that time. More guns on basically the same tech just aren’t “game changers”, no matter what cool miracle caliber they are chambered for. They are “incremental”, not “revolutionary” — Hell, they really aren’t even “evolutionary”!

    We aren’t going back to a 19th Century round that, at it’s heart, is designed to shoot CAVALRY at 500-1000 yards as a PRIMARY design objective. BTDT. Medium power, lightweight, selective fire rifles (i.e., “assault rifles”) were NOT invented for the jungles, nor is that all they are capable of — the original Sturmgewehr was introducted on the Russian steppe, theoretically IDEAL terrain for a full bore battle rifle like the G43, FG42, M15, Garand, G3, etc. The Sturmgewehr WAS a game changer, and proved itself significantly superior to the concept of the full bore battle rifle as a standard line grunt gun.

  • Dr. Prepper

    How about going forward with the new 855A1 round, issuing each infantryman or ground pounder in Afghanistan a 20-inch A-4 upper for longer range engagement and letting them retain their 14.5 inch carbine upper as a backup when they melt the 20-incher???

    Then all they have to carry is that carbine upper strapped to their pack like a LAWS rocket.

    • 276 pedersen

      I see the logic of your point and it makes sense, but they will not want to carry around a spare upper they have too much weight as it is.

  • Lance

    @Dr Pepper

    thats a concept the miitary has in the prototype Colt CM901. The marine are doing somthing simular with the new Mk 262rd and they are smart enought to issue riflemen with rifles.

  • Geodkyt

    Having duplicate uppers for each grunt is a non-starter as well, for operational and logistical reasons.

    1. Expense — the barrelled upper is the most expensive part of the AR system rifle. Even more so if you end up dedicating an optic for each upper (like ACOG for the rifle, Aimpoint for the carbine).

    2. A lot more “sensitive” shit to keep track of, and to reduce lifecycle costs, you’ll have to be sure the bolt stays with teh upper (yes, any in-spec bolt will safely work with any in-spec upper if both are the same caliber. . . but the difference in wear points will mean accelerated wear on a significant number of them. Not noticeable so much to the civilian casual shooter, but to the Green Machine, it adds up quickly.)

    3. I GAR-YUN-TEE you that Snuffy is gonna mount that carbine upper every single chance he gets. (See my comment from about a year ago on teh Chicks Dig It factor).

    4. Absolutely unnecessary — The carbine upper saves a whopping 5.5″ in length. The real advantage to the carbine is stow size (important to tank crewman and helo crews, not so much for One-One-Walkalots) and balance. Solutions? Carbon fiber free float tubes with short aluminum rails that can be bolted on IF and WHERE needed, and an emphasis on mounting gear closer to teh receiver where practical. Plus, you get better accuracy AND less heat transfer to the support hand.

  • ryan

    Reganrep,
    The AK-74’s 5.45 cartridge defeats body armor because the armor they are referring to is the soft body armor which is only designed to stop high power pistol caliber rounds. Keep in mind that the 5.45 is similar ballistically to the 5.56. In addition many Afghans and Somalians abuse drugs before going into battle which can cause issues when trying to drop them. I have heard of various issues with the fragmentation of the 5.56, however. Many of the literature about the terminal ballistics of the 5.56 recommends different types of rounds for different ranges. The nice thing about the 7.62 is even though it may not fragment, its nice and wide and can tear through just about anything at different ranges. This is why it has been used so often historically.

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