Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon (1959)

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Fred Ray went to some lengths to find and obtain a legible copy of a 1959 Department of the Army research paper entitled “Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon”. The author interviewed 602 veterans on their use of the M1 Garand during the Korean War. Tests were also done with rifleman using the M1. It is a very interesting to read what was going though the minds of the Army command prior to the M16 and 5.56x45mm cartridge being adopted.

As you can see below in TABLE 1, “expected fraction of hits” is a probability of the two independent events “probability of seeing target” and “probability of hitting target”. Today the “probability of seeing target” is greatly enhanced with modern high-quality optics such as the Trijicon ACOG.

ACOG mounted on a Marine’s M16A4 in Iraq.

The paper also advocates using toxic ammunition to increase the probability of a kill. Today, of course, nobody is advocating this. Toxic ammunition would probably endanger the troops themselves, would significantly raise the cost of manufacturing, be an environmental hazard at military ranges not to mention the ethical and legal ramifications of using chemical weapons.

I highly recommend you download the PDF. If can be downloaded from the CFS Press website. Fred’s comments on the paper can be found on his blog.

[ Many thanks to Fred for taking to time to obtain this paper. ]




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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  • Matt Groom

    I think they were still entertaining Flechettes as effective military weapons at this time, which would explain the toxic munitions suggestion.

    Korea’s got mountains and wide open spaces like Afghanistan, so it’s a very good example, it seems. The terrains are comparable (but not identical) in many ways. It’s interesting to see that even with a high powered rifle like the M1 Garand, shots were rarely taken by normal troops beyond 250 Yards (which is spitting distance). I’m pretty sure there were reports like this after WWII as well.

  • Lance

    My father was in service from 1956-66 and knew many Korean vets. due to the Chinese human waive assaults and hit and run tactics made accurate fire and precision shooting rare most fighting used panic fire and shoot rapidly into Chinese masses. I think I remember him saying Army statistics said in Korea 1 out of every 2000 rounds hit its target.

    In Vietnam it as far far worse and it was a mouth dropping thing like 1 out for every 10,000rds hit a target. This was hit per kill ration for individual solder platoons on combat.

  • Matt G

    Keep in mind korea isn’t exactly a barren desert. With it’s geography and vegetation it doesnt suprize me that they wouldn’t be seeing anyone further out than that.

  • Madeleine Goddard

    This early 1950s study is intriguing in several ways and well worth reading. For a start it suggests the adoption of a small calibre rifle cartridge of around .21 calibre within a few months of the US Army rejecting the British .280 (7 mm) round and EM-2 rifle as insufficiently powerful. This study must have been written at the same time as the testing of different rounds which resulted in the adoption of the standard 7.62 mm NATO cartridge, despite European concern that it was too powerful. So why were senior US commanders so happy to force its adoption when they must have been questioning the need for such ammunition?

    Perhaps even more interesting according to this paper is that both British and US studies independently came to the same conclusion, namely that 90% of infantry combat would be within the 300m battle range with which we are all so familiar. One can understand the British coming to this view, since their study was based primarily on World War II European operations (and much of their postwar military experience was of the short range urban or jungle variety), but why would the US conclude on the basis of their current Korean experience, hills, wide open spaces, and all, that this was an acceptable range for trained soldiers?

    Perhaps it reflected the range at which optically unaided soldiers could consistently hit targets, rather than the distance at which they could see them. The British largely pioneered the modern use of optics for ordinary riflemen when they issued the SUIT sight in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. But why were armies so late coming to the realisation that snipers wee not the only people who required optical assistance? And what difference would it have made if such optics had been widely issued in earlier conflicts such as Vietnam or Korea?

  • JonMac

    Excellent, thank you for this.

  • JonMac

    The link was down for me, but a straight scan of the same document is available on the DTIC.mil site;

    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD000346&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

  • DaveR

    Wow. Very interesting.

    Table A9 shows that the effectiveness of aimed fire (under ideal conditions) falls off linearly out to 400 yards, but Figure one shows of how little benefit that “theoretical” accuracy is under battlefield conditions.

    A take home message might be: stories of rifles not preforming well at extreme ranges are most likely is the very rare exception.

  • jdun1911

    Optic were not reliable in the field until recently.

    It is fun to shoot Flechettes but all it does is pissed of your attacker even more.

  • kml

    What ever happened to good ole wives tales? Wheres the table for stopping power?

  • Rohan

    Nothing new. These studies go back to WW1.

    You can only hit what you see, and hitting is in battle is very hard beyond 200-300 meters.

    Garand wanted .276 for his rifle, Hitler didn’t believe it until the SS got the MP-43 on the line, and the Soviets finally got their with the M43 / SKS leading to the AK-47.

    Good soldiers stay out of sight, and use every tool in the book (camo, shadows, dead ground, weather, night, etc) not to be targets.

    Trained soldiers assault as a team. Rushes, fire and movement, suppression, and supporting arms.

    Your soldiers are always tired, hungry, overloaded, wet muddy or sand coated, frozen or baked.

    Any range hero can hit paper targets to 600 lying prone, targets placed to their front with training.

    Now try hitting targets with no sleep and on your feet for a week carrying a 50 lb bag of concrete the whole time. Get you buddy to half fill a dumpster with water and use it for his bathroom. That’s your home. Walk the 20 miles to the range in the worst weather waking at 0300 hrs. Add stress; you’ll give $200 to the gun control lobby every time you miss.

    Fire 500 rounds and post your scores.

  • subase

    I think it’s pretty lame that such infantry combat strategy has dominated small arms development. Basically a reworking of ‘spray and pray’ , volume of fire over precision and accuracy.

    Seems disrespectful to soldiers.

  • Brad

    Finally! A chance to read the infamous ORO study which played such a large part in the adaption of the M-16. What’s ironic is the study itself argued against the adaptation of selective fire rifles! (They did test some handheld full-auto rifles and concluded they were only useful up to a range of 50 yards.) A full read of the paper is necessary to understand the full implications of it’s recommendations. It’s more than just advocating ‘spray and pray’, even though that was the actual impact it had on US Army small arms doctrine.

    The studies extensive use of statistical tools is what gives it such a gloss of scientific credibility. But in actuality it is full of untested assumptions that renders most of it’s conclusions as pure speculation. For example, it assumes that improvements in rifle training over the standard used in the study (only 400 rounds of live fire) are impractical due to the needs of mobilization during war! Only a tiny pool of recruits were used for the aimed rifle data! Only standard M-1 rifles were used for the aimed rifle data. There was no attempt to conduct the shooting experiment using different weapons in order to test the study’s conclusions; M-1 carbines and M-1D rifles spring immediately to mind as useful alternatives that were available.

  • Dave

    Nothing new. I think German studies after WW1 and British studies after WW2 showed that it’s difficult to hit targets under stress beyond 300m. Both the Russian “Project Abakan” and the US Advanced Combat Rifle trials showed that rifles are most effective when employed at 300m or below. In the ACR trials, I think the probability of seeing the target would have been higher since the Colt ACR had an Elcan sight, the AAI ACR had an ACOG and both the G11 and Steyr ACR had variable magnification optics.