Weekly DTIC: The Hitchman and Gustafson Reports

Following the publication of the Hall report, but preceding it in conception, were two important documents in the origin story of the military .22 caliber cartridge. These were Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon by Norman A. Hitchman, and Design and Fabricate a High-Velocity Caliber .22 Cartridge, Modify a Standard M2 Carbine to Fire the Cartridge, and Evaluate the Weapon-Ammunition Combination by G. A. Gustafson. Hitchman’s report, which is covered by site founder Steve in this 2011 article, is the herald of the end of the age of traditional marksmanship theory. In it, Hitchman evaluates infantry engagements in Korea and, to a more limited extent, World War II, to gain an idea of how the reality of rifle marksmanship in the mid-20th century stacked up against the theory. From the abstract:

Of what should a rifle be capable in battle today? Since there is a alimit as to how accurately the infantryman fires, can one increase hits by giving him a rifle with new operational characteristics? ORO’s Project BALANCE studied this by taking data on how often, and by how much, riflemen missed targets (as well as the distribution of hits) at different ranges, by taking data on the ranges of engagement in battle, and by taking data on the physiological wound effects of shots with differing ballistic characteristics. The recommendation is made that Ordnance proceed to determine the technological feasibility of a weapon with operating characteristics analyzed in this memorandum.

And from the Summary:


1. The ranges at which the rifle is used most frequently in battle and the ranges within which the greater fraction of man targets can be seen on the battlefield do not exceed 300 yd

2. Within these important battle ranges, the marksmanship of even expert riflemen is satisfactory in meeting actual battle requirements only up to 100 yd; beyond 100 yd, marksmanship declines sharply, reaching low order at 300 yd.

3. To improve hit effectiveness at the ranges not covered satisfactorily in this sense by men using the M-1 (100 to 300 yd), the adoption of a pattern-dispersion principle in the hand weapon could partly compensate for human aiming errors and thereby significantly increase the hits at ranges up to 300 yd.

4. Current models of fully automatic hand weapons afford neither these desirable characteristics nor adequate alternatives. Such weapons are valueless from the standpoint of increasing the number of targets hit when aiming on separated man-size targets.

5. Certain of the costly high standards of accuracy observed in the manufacture of current rifles and ammunition can be relaxed without significant losses in over-all hit effectiveness.

6. To meet the actual operational requirements of a general purpose infantry hand weapon, many possibilities are open for designs which will give desirable dispersion patters (and accompanying increases in hit probability) at the ranges of interest. Of the possible salvo or volley automatic designs, the small caliber lightweight weaon with controlled dispersion characteristics appears to be a promising approach. (Low recoil of a small caliber weapon facilitates dispersion control.)

7. To create militarily acceptable wound damage at common battle ranges, missiles of smaller caliber than the present standard .30 cal can be used without loss in wounding effects and with substantial logistical and over-all military gains.

8. A very great increase in hit lethality can be effected by the addition of toxic agents in bullet missiles.

Around the same time, and for the same reasons, the chief of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds’ Small Arms and Aircraft Weapons Section, Mr. Gerald A. Gustafson, published a study of his experiments converting an M2 Carbine to a shortened version of the then-new .222 Remington commercial rifle cartridge.


Gustafson’s modified M2 Carbine, for the .22 Gustafson/Aberdeen Proving Grounds cartridge. Note the characteristic muzzle brake. Image credit: Springfield Armory Museum.

Gustafson possibly experimented with the M2 Carbine because the standard .30 caliber infantry rifle – the M1 – had become something of a sacred cow within the Army, in part due to the great advantage its users enjoyed over those armed with manually-operated repeating rifles. The M2 Carbine, which had just acquitted itself rather poorly in the recent Korean conflict, was thus a fairly safe bet for near-heretical experimentation.


A selection of US .22 caliber experimentals. The .22 Gustafson is third from the left. Image credit: RayMeketa, IAA Forum.

Even the relatively tame .22 Gustafson cartridge – firing a lightweight 41 grain bullet at 3,000 ft/s – was determined by Gustafson to present acceptable ballistics and lethality out to 400 yards, even firing on the M1 Garand qualification course of fire (it was chosen, as the Carbine course was deemed “too easy” for the high velocity modified Carbines). In fact, the .22 caliber Carbine proved superior in the course of fire to the M1 Garand, out to 300 meters. Gustafson’s final recommendation was that .45 caliber submachine guns and .30 caliber carbines could be replaced with such a high velocity weapon – which they eventually were.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • M.M.D.C.

    “ORO’s Project BALANCE studied this by taking data on how often, and by how much, riflemen missed targets (as well as the distribution of hits) at different ranges, by taking data on the ranges of engagement in battle, and by taking data on the physiological wound effects of shots with differing ballistic characteristics.”

    It would be interesting to know how they managed to collect such data.

    • bbmg

      set 1 – take a group of riflemen and get them to fire at targets at different ranges
      set 2 – visit historical battle records where engagement distances were known
      set 3 – conduct ballistic gelatin tests with various cartridge/bullet combinations

      One would think that US forces didn’t have much experience in desert warfare at the time, where a 300 yard range is a bit of an underestimation.

      • M.M.D.C.

        Right. But I wonder how useful any data would be that came from anywhere outside of real firefights on the one hand and how anyone could hope to gather any useful data after a real firefight on the other hand.

        • bbmg

          You will be surprised at the level of analysis which combat is subjected to. Here for example is an extremely detailed study of wound ballistics convering some WW2 theatres and Korea (quite a few NSFL illustrations, not for the queasy): http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/woundblstcs/DEFAULT.htm

          • M.M.D.C.

            I see. You weren’t joking.

          • bbmg

            The most upsetting for me was the B-17 crewman who had the 88mm shell go through his head without exploding. At least it must have been a mercifully quick death.

      • Geodkyt

        Very few battles actually HAVE been fought in the real desert, for significant logistics reasons (and the very real risk of getting lost — in 1991, Iraqi forces were completely taken unaware by teh Coalition’s ability to conduct desert combat off roads due to GPS.).
        Even battles and campaigns lauded as “sweeps through the desert” were almost invariably fought where water was available (for obvious reasons), not the middle of a sandy wasteland. This means hugging the coast or river valleys, mostly, bouncing from city to city.

        So, very little “real” desert fighting info was available — even to “desert” nations, and most “desert” fighting was actually fought in farmlands and urban areas.

        Simple fact is, a dude wearing dirt colored stuff, huddled down and not moving in any terrain much more broken up than a parking lot, is damned near invisible to the naked eye at 300 meters or beyond. It’s also much easier to see (and engage) dudes in dirt colored clothes when you have a magnified optic. This was not really an option when the report was written — the idea of good, “grunt-resistant” magnified optics was science fiction at the time.

        Heck, most of our long range problem even today is NOT “the desert” — it’s THE MOUNTAINS. (Another place where not a lot of fighting – by comparison – has taken place, as the only military reasons to go into the mountains are either to block passage of the enemy, or force passage THROUGH the enemy — all the good stuff is in the lowlands, generally.) And we’ve known all along that defenders in the mountains will eat you alive if they can shoot.

        Most heavy fighting, historically, occurs in and around cities (often in the farmlands surrounding the city). For a reason.

  • newboltgun

    Great article on firearms history.

  • Zachary marrs

    The only reason why the m2 carbine preformed poorly in korea was the long distances it was used in, and the fact most troops always kept the giggle switch. All in all, no thanks, id rather have a heavier bullet

    • Bert

      “Gustafson’s final recommendation was that .45 caliber submachine guns and .30 caliber carbines could be replaced with such a high velocity weapon – which they eventually were.”

      It looks like initially the new .22 carbines were intended for tankers, weapon crews, officers and other troops not expected to fill the role of a marksman. Makes sense, the light recoil would help rapid fire in close-range defensive situations. I believe the idea was that infantrymen would still be issued a traditional battle rifle. Instead we got the M16/M4 platform as a frontline rifle. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve proven themselves effective time and time again, but the 5.56 round has it’s limitations.

      Unfortunately, I think weapons designers all too often seek the “magic bullet,” suitable for all conditions, and weapon to match. Look at the M14, it was expected to fill the role of a standard infantry rifle while replacing the LMG and SMG.

      • The .22 Carbines were an experiment with the same role as the M1 Carbine in mind – that of echelon personnel. Aberdeen Proving Grounds got quite a bit bolder, and solicited the development of the .22 caliber AR-10 variant, which was, from the start intended to be a front-line weapon.

        After half a century, it still is one.

    • Sulaco

      Well that and the fact that many of the enemy targets had multiple layers of heavy home spun cloth, leather and frozen water (frozen on the outside of clothing) compacted over the frame of the N K Troop and in several instances the m1 was not able to penetrate the heavy clothing. Ballistics for the .30 FMJ was around the same for a similar loaded .357 revolver. Not good for couple hundred yards to stop somebody, wearing in effect body armor.

      • Zachary marrs

        Look up the box o truth. Please dont spread that gun shop bs

        • Sulaco

          Your so right Zac I will totally disreguard all that the Korea vets told me many years ago and only listen to your BS.

          • Zachary marrs

            If you shoot at a target and miss, but no one sees it, would you say you missed? Same principle applies here.can you hit a man size silhouette target, in the cold, with an m2 carbine, at over 200 yards? Age fogs memory, I knew a ww2 vet who couldn’t recall what rifle he used. Its a case of the user blaming the equipment

          • Sulaco

            I think you are missing the point on purpose to cover yourself. The vets I talked with, Washington Soldiers home. Orting WA, look it up, had very sharp memories and the scars to prove it. But you know better then then they did, you know some one who was actually there not an arm chair warrior and if they were still alive I am sure they would find your expertise interesting and insulting.
            The answer to your statement its not a question is that frozen snow builds up on backs and legs and arms as well as fronts. Body heat melts it slightly closest to the body and it re freezes on top. But hey you know better then they did so its a moot point.

          • Zachary marrs

            Just because they say somthing doesn’t make it true. Do you have any scientific evidence where the .30 carbine did not pierce the “frozen” nk jackets? You can barely move in a thick jacket, let alone frozen. I bet they saw some dead nk laying down in the snow for sveral hours, and some guy, not wanting to admit that he missed the target, said “the gun cant get through the coats” everyone can be wrong, especially when you are in a war. so you think you can hit a moving/shooting man size target 200+ yards away, in the freezing cold, in a fox hole, with a m2 carbine? In the best conditions, I cant do that. Get real, and accept the fact that we all make mistakes, and saying “it was the gun” is a whole lot better than “I missed”

          • Sulaco

            What a piece of work. I give up.

          • Zachary marrs

            I know right? Ive done tests, ive done research, instead of believing everything I hear at the local vfw. Can you produce ANY proof that the m1 carbine cant pierce a frozen jacket?

          • Sulaco

            You’ve done shootings in yr back yard. For the last time the ice over the jackets and upto and around 15 layers of leather and cloth. The ice was a minor but significant concern and noted by those in the field doing the fighting. Someone like NOT YOU. At 100 or so yards if gets very iffy and I say again I will believe the guys that were there and lived over some guy in his mom’s basement. Your contempt for American Vets is duly noted.
            Like John Wayne said “Ya can’t fix stupid pardner”.

          • Zachary marrs

            1, im not in my moms basement, I live in my own home. All 150 acres of it.
            2, 15 layers of leather and cloth is a lot, that sounds pretty hard to move in, not even taking into consideration the ice

            Go freeze a couple of jackets, and try to put them on and move around

            You need to remember, people forget things. I knew a ww2 vet who swore up and down that his p47 had 10 20mm cannons. One guy tried to tell me that the uss Texas was at pearl harbor (it was being updated) another guy tried to tell me that the Russian guns were designed to be able to use American ammunition, but not the other way around. One fella tried to tell me that the Italians were the only ones to use the .303 lee Enfield. One guy always bragged that he shot and killed a running vc 2000 yards away with an iron sighted m14. I have no contempt for vets, only people who ignore facts and choose to spread gunshop bs

            And do you have proof that an m1 carbine can’t pierce a frozen nk jacket, other than “well this one guy said” ive been in a car accident, but that doesn’t make me an expert about it.

          • Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

          • Zachary marrs
          • dan

            The first comment on that(from nathaniel condo) supposedly tells where the myth started.

          • I have seen absolutely no evidence suggesting that frozen uniforms prevented projectile penetration. Indeed, if this is taken to be true, then it suggests that frozen clothing provides better protection against projectiles than many other materials that are much harder, more durable, and heavier, which raises more than one eyebrow.

            Further, I wonder about this fixation on frozen clothing. What made the returning soldiers believe it was frozen clothing specifically that prevented their carbines from being effective? Assuming that these shots were taken at some distance, how could they know? Couldn’t the rounds as easily have missed, or struck thick clothing while missing the body underneath?

            And of course, it should always be remembered that even servicemen tell tall tales and misremember. An over-reliance on long-stale anecdotes robs authority from your argument.

          • Zachary marrs

            The only thing ive ever read abot the carbines performance, said that it had no trouble penetraiting coats, it was the poor job it did at ranges common in korea (200+ yards), the little 110 grain bullet would zip right through. Running the gun full auto probably didn’t help accuracy much.

          • dan

            Ok just remember as well that vets sometimes exaggerate the circumstances in the heat of battle, what you believe to be happening may not be what is happening at all, just like Afghanistan where the 5.56 is “not putting people down” in those cases lets look to see where the person was shot, and is the actual distance they were shot close to what was said they were being shot at? My nephew had told me on more than one occasion they went to look for someone that supposedly received center mass or head shots to find a guy still breathing with part of an arm ripped off or trying to crawl away because he was shot in the legs.
            When you are pumped full of adrenaline you are not going to remember all of the details, your sights lined up on the target you pulled the trigger but did the round actually hit where you intended? Or did you just seen someone go down and assume you got a hit? Devil is in the details.
            I in no way mean disrespect to the vets in which you speak or to discredit them. Criminal Investigators deal with the same problem with scared witnesses. It happens we’re human.

      • Someone Else

        Why, then, can the lighter and slower projectile from the 7.62 Tokarev penetrate Level IIIA body armour?

        • Zachary marrs

          Because he/she told him so

      • n0truscotsman

        I respectfully disagree.

        30 carbine produces over 900 ft-lbs of kinetic energy and travels at over 1,900 feet per second. Thats *more* energy and velocity than 357 magnums (to include defense loads). It also has the benefit of a 18 inch barrel through a M1 carbine.

        In other words, it will pass through frozen uniforms (cotton or wool) like a hot knife through butter.

        So will 45 ACP too.

        The M1 carbine’s lethality was just fine for a 100 yard rifle. Its not a 30-06, but it will fuck someone up definitely.

    • Heavy bullets come with a large penalty – their own weight. Given that it is possible to retain or improve effectiveness and trajectory while reducing projectile weight, I don’t think Gustafson was on the wrong track.

      • Zachary marrs

        True, I wonder how this compares to the FN 5.7 and the H&K 4.6?

        • 41gr at 3,000 ft/s from an 18″ barrel, vs. 31gr at 2,350 ft/s from a 10″ barrel and 26gr at 2,400 ft/s from an 8″ barrel – so quite a bit more powerful. The .22 APG is only a little behind the .221 Fireball.

          And much much flatter shooting than the .30 Carbine.

          • Zachary marrs

            Huh, thanks. I wouldn’t consider any of these rounds for long range, so I wouldn’t say that flat shooting is a huge deal

          • Flat shooting over their effective range.

    • Geodkyt

      It’s fairly apparent that the primary reason for the poor performance of the M2 in Korea was that uncontrolled mag dumps from the hip (the usual method of fire) tend not to hit anything at all in the “target” zone.

      You could be throwing 600 grain bullets at 5000 fps and they still wouldn’t put down the enemy if you never actually HIT the guy.

      • Could you explain why you think so? I haven’t seen any sources saying that troops were instructed in hip fire with the M2.

  • 101nomad

    Need a long range shotgun?

    • Zachary marrs

      What the military wants is a round that is; the size and weight of a .22lr, has the armor piercing capabilities of a .50 cal black tip, does the same ammount of dammage to soft targets as a stinger missle, has a 9 million mile range, can shoot 500,000 rpm, and uses a 1000 round magazine

      • dan citizen

        quick, call Michael Bay!

  • 101nomad

    Maybe a rapid fire musket, 50 cal. lead ball? Good for 100 yards.

  • “A very great increase in hit lethality can be effected by the addition of toxic agents in bullet missiles.”

    I’m pretty sure there is some kind of treaty forbidding “poison bullets.”

    • dan citizen

      I;m surprised there hasn’t been an attempt to get around this by applying lube to the bullets, highly toxic lubricant.

  • Blake

    awesome article, thanks

  • Vaarok

    Melvin Johnson’s 5.7 Johnson Spitfire conversions of M1 carbines probably also had something to do with it, he was involved in SALVO and ultimately ArmaLite.

    • The 5.7 Spitfire was a different cartridge with a different parent case (.30 Carbine vs. the .222 Remington of the .22 Gustafson), but his concept fell along similar lines – a mid-life upgrade for the Carbine.

      • In addition, the Spitfire was introduced a decade after the Gustafson cartridge.