Where to Draw the Line? Managing the Weight of Next Generation Universal Calibers Using a Weight Calculator

How can one balance the trade-offs inherent in ammunition design to create a true one-caliber infantry weapon system that is both effective and lightweight? This is a question I’ve been exploring for close to a decade, and writing about for over four years. The question is extremely compelling to me because so much is demanded of the answer: Unlike with two-caliber systems, all the needs of the infantry must be met with one single caliber configuration, so each and every dimension must be carefully measured to allow the lowest possible weight, which is arguably the most important single characteristic of small arms ammunition.

I say that, because fundamentally the infantryman can only carry so much. Other ammunition characteristics like lethality are of course themselves important, but there is a non-negotiable limit to how much mass of equipment a soldier can carry, which is a tremendous pressure on the design ammunition to remain small and lightweight.

For single-caliber – also called a “universal” or “general purpose” caliber – systems, this forces hard questions about exactly how much effectiveness is necessary, and how much weight and bulk of ammunition is too much. A system that results in a fifty-kilogram weight increase to the infantry platoon will result in substantial penalties in the other kinds of equipment that the platoon can carry, even if in trade the new caliber is several times more effective than the previous configuration. On the other hand, a new system that reduces the weight in the platoon by fifty kilograms but that in doing so dramatically reduces the effectiveness of small arms calibers may not be satisfactory, either – even if other weapons can be carried due to the weight savings – as it is the carbines, rifles, and machine guns of the platoon that form the foundation of its combat power.

In light of this, I’ve created a calculator to help manage the weight of new ammunition. You can download the calculator here, which allows the user to easily calculate a weight limit for a new caliber, given the current US Army Rifle Platoon structure and weapon employment, using a few inputs:

– The ammunition capacity per magazine

– The weight of a single magazine

– The weight of a single belt link

Along with how much you want to reduce the weight of the infantry platoon, or how much additional weight you are willing to accept, as a decimal of the existing load. For example, if you want to reduce the platoon’s ammunition load by 10%, input 0.90 into the cell to the right of the one that reads “Weight Modifier”; or if you will accept a weight increase of 10%, input 1.10.

The default inputs represent a medium-sized polymer-cased telescoped ammunition design using 25 round polymer magazines, but these can be replaced with any numbers the user wants, allowing one to calculate values for conventional- and lightweight-cased ammunition alike, as well as magazines and belt links of any material.

The spreadsheet uses figures derived from my articles An Analysis of the Soldier’s Load with 6.5mm Cased Telescoped Ammunition (Parts 1 and 2), which itself relies heavily on the paper The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load. Like my articles, the spreadsheet accounts for the weight of ammunition, magazines, and belt links, but not pouches, rifles, optics, etc. The calculator also does not support different arrangements than the current structure of the US Army Rifle Platoon. So it should not be used for systems that use a different number of belt-fed or magazine fed weapons than the US Army’s rifle platoon.

EDIT: I altered the spreadsheet to allow users to adjust how much ammunition (in either belts or mags) is carried by the platoon.

As a final note, it’s true that a one-caliber system is not the only possibility, and indeed may be undesirable. A two-caliber system would be significantly less risky than a one-caliber system, as the pressure from competing requirements would be far lower when spread across two different ammunition types than when confined to only one. However, a two-caliber system would likely be more expensive initially, and if poor choices are made during the development of ammunition, it could also be unsatisfactory, or morph into a 3-caliber system.

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 can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

• Martin Grønsdal

Question is: is weight really the biggest concern? If you can’t shoot back at the enemy, because they out range you, it doesn’t help your weight is low?

Also, few armies march today. Sure, some special ops trek very far, but I doubt that is a good reason not to chose the best cartridge, even though it is not the least heavy one.

• noamsaying

Agree. One caliber may be optimistic. To reach out need more powder and a good ballistic coefficient. More powder means more recoil and less controlability in full auto. Look at an AR 10 in full auto as to lack of control. Two calibers are probably ideal. One for average engagement range. Other for longer range. The military is doing that to a degree now.

• yodamiles

I disagree. Even with cars and other transportation options, troops still want (and maybe need) to carry large amount of ammo. Yes, it is loadout issues but we have remember that most ammo will be waste from suppressive firing. The very nature of warfare is that the enemies are rarely seen and most soldier fire in the “general direction” of enemies. Instead, smaller but very long and ballistic coeffiecient 5mm or 4.8mm bullet (in 55 gr range) would allow for same effectiveness in smaller/lighter package. Combine with EPR tech, we wouldn’t have to worry lethality.]

• ARCNA442

That’s what I have been thinking. Instead of trying to squeeze more effectiveness out of something just a bit larger than 5.56, why not see how small we can go while keeping the same range and terminal effects? Maybe something like a polymer cased version of 4.7×33 or .204 Ruger?

• yodamiles

Concepts like FABRL ammo or the British 4.85 proved to have same/superior ballistic while reducing weight. Issue of lethality is now more less solve by EPR ammo, so I don’t see the reason to up the size of the ammo.

• AK

Terminal ballistics is a much more comprehensive topic when discussing military application. You have to consider barrier penetration as well, so inertia becomes a factor. It is even more important now, since most battles take place in urban areas. The good ol’ 7.62×39 will defeat 4 inches of concrete and still hurt. 5.56 will not, and 4.85 definately won’t. 5.56 is seen as an acceptable compromise by a lot of militaries, but you cannot optimise based on just one operating environment, etc.

• iksnilol

How does AP 5.56 work against concrete?

• AK

Marginally better than normal ball. AP is designed to penetrate steel, but concrete acts almost like sand against high speed projectiles. The key for penetration of concrete is inertia, which smaller bullets have less of. That’s the same reason why the old WW2 bunker buster bombs were so big and heavy vs conventional bombs.

• Erm, no. If inertia were the key, .45 would be a hilarious doomlaser uberpenetrator, but it’s quite the opposite.

• AK

I should have been more specific – inertia combined with a high sectional density. You need both. And the projectile has to be hard enough not to deform in the media it is supposed to penetrate.

• Yup. Sectional density is very important, but the mechanics of penetration are very difficult to model all the same.

• AK

Speaking from experience (mine and historical), the metrics seem to be:
Projectile hardness needs to be greater than target hardness to achieve effective penetration (unless shaped charge, which relies on massive energy transfer)
Projectile inertia needs to increase in relation to target thickness
Projectile sectional density needs to be high to preserve inertia after impact
Projectile structural integrity must be enough to preserve the shape of the projectile after impact, and possible payload.
Modeling that would get complicated in a hurry, that’s for sure.

• Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

The weight issue doesn’t affect soldiers only when marching. There’s also the issue of tactical mobility. How fast can you dash, how quickly can you get up from prone, how easily can you pass through a wall opening, etc.
As for the range issue, having a weapon/ammo compo that gives you range is a desirable feture, but most of the times the common foot soldiet can’t take advantage of that range. Lack of situational awareness, hard to see targets, fear of death, stress of combat etc prevent people from having a decent tactical acvuracy at extented ranges. So, if having a long range combo that can’t be used and having that at the expens of weight is not good IMHO. Furthermore, infantry combat is not usually riflemen duels. The riflemans role is usually to close in with the enemy, and long range engagements are taken care by heavy weapons, crew served weapons etc. Man portable line of sight kinetic energy weapons without FC and used by people whose tactical role is other is not a good way for ling range combat.
Having said all these, the key is a good balance of characteristics as mentioned in the article and by commentators. In my opinion a single GP round is a way more expensive solution with few tactical advantages than keeping two types with better specs in each respective range.
English is not my first language so maybe what I mean doesn’t make sense to all, so sorry in advance.
Great discussion BTW
flanker7

• roguetechie

It’s not about marching, humans can actually be trained to march carrying lots of weight. The issue is maneuvering to contact, and maneuvering away from contact that is the issue. Put bluntly it’s a last resort to bail out of a Humvee MRAP or APC while in contact. And you’re definitely not loading back up under fire while in heavy contact without exposing both personnel and vehicles to extremely high risk.

Can it be done in an emergency? Yes, but even against a purely small arms equipped opponent you’re going to take casualties and risk losing vehicles. (See the blackhawk down incident, pay specific attention to the Mogadishu mile part)

Also look at how the Bradley was stripped of it’s port firing weapons and the firing ports on the sides. If it was as simple as rolling up on firefights and engaging from vehicles you’d see loads of carden Lloyd tractors and modern bren gun carriers swarming across Afghanistan and Iraq with the world’s best trained and equipped drive by shooters inside lighting up Taliban and ISIS fighters. We’ve tried this approach several times, and it just isn’t the cure all you’d think.

Regardless of our wanting to believe in the mythical power of one man one rifle one well placed shot, quantity really does have a quality of it’s own when it comes to gunfire.

• truth makes you free

How about this instead? Heavy ammo, heavy equipment and only profiteering banksters and politicians who vote and fund banksters’ wars go to the front. Everyone else stays home to defend the home front.

• AK

Weight is critical, because the physical performance of a human is limited, and linear weight increase decreases this performance exponentially (due to the laws of physics). Think about pro sports, then imagine adding a small weighted backpack on the back of the other player/team. The difference would be dramatic.

• Peter Balzer

Food for thought from a Swiss perspective: Or maybe go for precision instead of rate-of-fire? Massive volume of rounds downrange are one thing, seeing the opponent (thermal sight) and putting them on the ground is another. Marksmanship out to 500m i/o spray and pray?

• noamsaying

Fire and maneuver. Large volume of fire has one advantage in that a common tactic is for one element to fire and keep the enemies head down while other element moves forward.

• Major Tom

That can be worked into a disadvantage. If enemy forces know you employ 4F to the point of overspecialization (aka US Army doctrine), they can use that against you. While they seemingly “hide” from suppressive fire, they wait in ambush knowing you’re trying to flank them and have that covered.

The only enemy that 4F is “Super Effective” against, are brain-dead hajis in the Middle East.

• AK

Yeah, Vietnam was a classic example of the failure of this system against a smart unconventional foe.

• Major Tom

And a big factor into why the M16A2 went from A1-style submachinegun-like sights and full-auto spray and pray to maximum accuracy and graded iron sights for longer range fire.

While the A2-style burst fire is on its way out in a way and full auto is coming back, all subsequent AR designs have kept at least some degree of accuracy and longer range sighting systems.

• yodamiles

Large volume of fire seems to be the most effective way of fighting in modern warfare. Not because it is the best tactic, but because you rarely see a random enemy walking in the open. Soldiers are more likely (90% of the time) to fire in general direction of the enemies rather than aiming at them. Not because they are poorly train but because they can’t really see them.

• roguetechie

And realistically between ubiquitous modern optics and SCHV rounds with almost laser like trajectories even moderately heavier and larger bullets will plunge the accuracy of modern soldiers from it’s current apex.

Now is there some indication that we can afford a bit more recoil before being bit by the plunge? Yes.

But the fact remains that a true GPC setup seems to be beyond the precipice of recoil force that would start markedly dropping the individual shooter accuracy levels.

What that means is you have a much smaller area in the graph that is total ammunition carried at platoon level by weight and numbers. Basically you’re limited to trying to make the cartridge big enough to do the job of 7.62 without seriously degrading the number of rounds an individual rifleman can carry too much.

To me it has begun to make much more sense to try to just come up with an all around better two round solution, than to be stuck with the constraints a single round solution limits you to.

• AK

A squad that has an assault element with four assault rifles and a support element with one or two battle rifles and a GPMG would be the most versatile and adaptable. It also gives a possibility of splitting the elements to two equal “hybrid” teams, one with two assault rifles and two battle rifles (=DMRs), and the other with two assault rifles and the machine gun. This would permit effective long range fire+maneuver. In city, the support element could be deployed separately to cover key avenues in three directions, or provide cover and rear security, while attaching a battle rifle to the assault element to also give it long range capability. Adaptability is key, because out in the field you only have what you got.

• roguetechie

Yeah, I’m definitely not opposed to a mix of both calibers. My preferred solution involves a 50% lighter but still 500 meter 5.56 stanag magazine well compatible light round based off of 5.56 FABRL. This is matched with a 7-8mm heavy round loosely based on 7.92×40 CETME Voss and compatible with 7.62 NATO magazines, and also lighter than or equal to M80A1 in weight.

I’d like this mix specifically to allow squads to run 2DMR 1LMG and up to 3 grenadiers with a UGL.

Or 2LMG 1 DMR and 1-3 UGL.

Both squad types would have the LMG & DMR guns in the larger caliber which the light round carrying riflemen would carry lots of spare ammo for.

Additionally I’d want to make the DMR something of a hybrid between the DPMS G2 and the CMMG mutant. If that sounds weird it’s because of how I’d do the “magazine” for the DMR which will also be a sort of IAR. basically I’d use the short magazine well to make a compact drum designed to take 30-50 rounds of non disintegrating push through link presented open side up at the feed position and feeding empty link back down into the drum like the Czech URZ.

the idea being that in a scenario where you are pinned or semi static you can clip new link onto the end through a port in the drum and just hammer away.

Now the obvious issue here is you’re now either carrying two types of linked ammo, or you’re redesigning feed systems/ getting new LMG’s.

Still it would be a pretty potent squad.

• AK

I think the DMR/IAR combo has been tried already, with bad results. Accuracy and high rate of sustained fire are not very compatible concepts. In order to make the barrel last, you have to really bulk it up. Then you start to have weight issues and end up with a bad compromise. If you make the barrel detachable, then you will again have weight issues, because you have to lug the extra on your kit. The MG is the primary suppressive weapon, and when it is advancing, you should have the rest of the squad suppressing with their rifles. There’s no reason why the good ol’ Wehrmacht infantry MG tactics wouldn’t work today, they “lived it” for years and figured it out.

• roguetechie

Good point, however I’d like to point out that the M27 is used as a DMR IAR, and several of the things I’d do with the cartridge design would reduce heat flux by default.

Honestly my main thought process behind something like what I suggested was twofold. It would reduce ammo carriage to just one type of link and one type of magazine. Also with the mini drums being properly designed, spare drums could be used as emergency field linkers.

IF you could get a system like this to work it could potentially streamline things quite a bit.

• Klaus Von Schmitto

This exactly. Even the DM can’t hit “I think it came from over there by those…….”. The mortar can though.

• ArjunaKunti

I think this ‘Swiss perspective’ mainly comes froma defensive situation which Swiss militiamen are trained to. Please correct me if I am wrong. Modern war on terror needs more ‘assault approach’, many opportunities for controlled bursts and markmanship also.

• gunsandrockets

Good combat doctrine usually flows from understanding and exploiting local conditions. Use the right doctrine for the war you intend to fight.

Swiss doctrine seems pretty sensible for the war they intend to fight. It is interesting that they made the switch from 7.5mm to 5.56mm rifles.

• AK

I believe the main driver behind the switch was NATO compatibility, since one the shooting would have started, the allies would have been in the west (and still are). The Swiss would never publicly acknowledge this, but that’s the way the game is played.

• Peter Balzer

Why would the Swiss not acknowledge this? Clearly, all our major external purchases were done from NATO countries. Nobody was kidding themselves, 7,5 x 55 Swiss was the perfect round (still is, I shoot it regularly, prone, unsupported, peep-sights, 300m), but not compatible with NATO. Still, coming back to the topic at hand, if 4F and massive output of rounds is the paradigm, then by all means stay with the .223 round, it is established and does what doctrine expects it to do.

• AK

As far as I know, Switzerland is politically “strictly neutral”, that’s why.

• 40mmCattleDog

I hear this about “marksmanship” all the time and how much more effective precision fire out to 500m is rather than “spray and pray.” Fact is that it is wishful thinking believing the average infantryman can even make effective hits under combat conditions at that range. Multiple studies show that 200 meters is the max distance the majority of troops can hit targets under combat conditions. You need to optimize the caliber for the majority of troops skill level. That’s why the 5.56 is so good for the average soldier. It allows him to carry a large combat load, fire multiple rapid shots with quick recovery due to low recoil, and still retain good ballistics and accuracy out to 500 meters (especially with the M855a1 or Mk262 loads).

Last but not least, however unromantic it may seem, firearms and infantry don’t do most of the killing, artillery, air power, crew served weapons and mortars do. Not only does volume of fire allow you to fix enemy positions for those weapons to strike, it allows you to use fire and maneuver tactics against those same positions.

• Kivaari

Excellent comment.

• Killermed78

Personal experience: 55lb ballistic vest, plus the rest of my kit equalls about 85-120lbs just to fire back with 5.56. Many troops woild rather have something with more knockdown power to shoot through walls ect. And not have to see your target leave the zone even thought rounds got down range. Something could be tweeked without changing the whole inventory. Last I want to hear about is budget cuts because some dumb new rifle cost \$35 billion to develope and make….cough cough F-35

• CommonSense23

What 5.56 round were you using?

• Uniform223

Its a little funny really. You only hear/read on the interwebs that the 5.56x45mm round is weak and not good enough for combat. Yet you never hear the other side say anything about it. I wonder why?

Anyone remember what The Joker said in this scene?
http://36.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lrjcayLDN41r2r95ao1_1280.jpg

• what is a joker and what does it have to do with 5.56?

• Uniform223

Sorry my nerd/geek side came out. In that scene in “Batman Beyond Return of the Joker”, the Joker says “oh right… dead”. I was making an observation. I’ll re-word it.

You only hear/read on the interwebs that the M855 5.56x45mm round is too weak and not suitable for combat. Strange that you never hear those comments from jihad-jerry who has been on the receiving end. I wonder why? Oh right, dead.

• Killermed78

The M855

• Uniform223

“cough cough F-35”

> Guess you haven’t been reading the headlines. Rough Start? Yes. Expensive to develop over its planned service life? You bet’cha (than again what new high performance aircraft wasn’t when compared to its predecessor?). Complete game changer bringing a new dynamic and completely changing the environment in which we fight in and gaining superiority? DAMN STRAIGHT!

Not only did we change the environment with the F-22 back in 2005, now we’re showing that we can control and dominate the environment with the F-35. So yes… its well worth it!

• Killermed78

Of this plane last anywhere near as long as the F-14 or the F-15 I will eat my words about it. However, F-35 was not fully chosen on merritt. That Admiral chose it by looks, his exact words were “it looks like the type of aircraft the navy wants”. Boeinb did have the better design.

• Uniform223

Currently the planned service life of the F-35 is all the way out to into 2060. We’re not even at FOC yet.

“However, F-35 was not fully chosen on merritt. That Admiral chose it by looks, his exact words were “it looks like the type of aircraft the navy wants”. Boeinb did have the better design.”

> This is somewhat true but mostly false. Though the F-35 (back then X-35) was the better looking aircraft, it was chosen for a number of reasons over Boeings X-32 design. Two very outstanding technical reasons was seen during the STOVL segments of the demonstration/testing phase…

Unlike Boeing’s X-32, Lockheeds X-35 had zero structural modifications. Also if you watched the video further the X-32 suffered the same type of problem current Harriers still have, “pop stalls”. The F-35’s lift fan system greatly if not completely eliminates this. The lift fan system doesn’t use hot exhaust rather it sucks in ambient air and blasts it through the bottom.

• Killermed78

I do remember abour the hot stall issue, I think if they had a little more time for the intake shape design out come could have been different. The lift-fan is an absolute genius design. But life at sea for aircraft is harsh at best. I juat dont see it being durable.

• I don’t think “X-32 was the better bird” is likely to be true at all. Keep in mind, Boeing’s design was so risky that they had to change their wing configuration at the last minute. Their freaking wing! Anyone who is even the least bit a student of aerodynamics should know how huge that is.

Plus, it was the “birthday cake” baked monolithic delta wing design that was supposed to give Boeing’s design its cost advantage in the first place. With the conventional tailed wing configuration, that cost advantage would have likely evaporated.

The F-35 program has as many problems as it has people involved, but I really do think the selection of Lockheed’s proposal was for the best.

• David S

They chose the Lockheed because it was the safest, and the Boeing because it was the most different. Then at the last minute they realized the Boeing was too different and tried to redesign it. The best design was probably the Northrup that didn’t get built because it was too similar to the Lockheed but slightly more advanced.

• iksnilol

No, no it isn’t worth it.

I mean, last time we had dogfights and whatnot was in Vietnam.

• CommonSense23

The F35 isn’t meant to dominate just dogfights.

• iksnilol

Oh, you mean the stealth? The same stealth that’ll be outdated in 5-10 years whilst they expect it to be in service for 30-40 years (according to Israel which subsequently demanded for it to be compatible with their own systems)? That stealth?

Bombing? One has A-10s and proper bomb planes for that purpose.

And don’t get me started on the reliability issues. Have you seen the DOT&E on it?

We critique when somebody wants a do it all rifle or camo pattern because we realize that it’s impossible to have something good for everything. Then why make a plane following that philosophy? The most expensive military program to date if I might add.

• Sounds like you’ve been reading too much War Is Boring.

I am not an expert in radar arrays and signatures, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thinks the F-35’s stealth is doomed to be obsolete soon who was, either.

It’s interesting that you bring up the A-10, as one of the most compelling reasons for F-35 is that our current fleet of planes is getting very, very old. So we have A-10s, but for how much longer can we keep them flying? At some point, they will have to be replaced. And they cannot do the vast majority of what F-35 can do.

A general purpose infantry rifle caliber is a completely different issue than a multirole jet airplane. Infantry rifle calibers are relatively cheap and easy to develop (so cheap an amateur can develop one with a few thousand bucks), so it makes sense to diversify them a little bit to reduce risk, at the tradeoff of spending more money up front.

Modern combat aircraft are ungodly expensive, even single-mission single-service types. The engines alone are so expensive that only a few countries in the world can afford to develop new ones. We simply do not have the money to develop ten different stealth, networked, high performance jet aircraft to meet every individual need for every service. So instead the program becomes a joint program (which costs more money), and then our allies become interested, so it becomes an international program (which costs even more money), and it ends up being bogglingly expensive, but what other options are there? For the Pierre Sprey types, they are going to suggest some kind of modern day MiG-21, but that’s an insane idea. Pilots are way to expensive to train to just throw them away like you’re the Zerg.

And finally, the programs to develop next-generation infantry weapons and their ammunition are in their infancy. F-35 deliveries have already passed the 100 units mark. So you can dislike F-35 all you want, but the program has succeeded, and that is the plane that the US and her allies will be flying for the foreseeable future.

• iksnilol

What about the part where a crippling majority of the planes don’t work? That part was sorta important.

Y’know, it helps if your super aircraft actually works.

in the end, it would’a been cheaper to make a couple of different aircraft for different roles instead of sinking a bunch of time and money into a plane that will work decently for most stuff.

But in the end, it doesn’t affect me. I’ll never get to fly a fighter jet (too tall and my eyes suck 🙁 ) Nor will I ever engage one, either from the air or from the ground. So to be honest, I don’t really care, I just care about the part where taxpayer money goes to fund something that is a notch above useless.

• “What about the part where a crippling majority of the planes don’t work? That part was sorta important.

Y’know, it helps if your super aircraft actually works.”

Development takes time, and that goes triple for joint development.

“in the end, it would’a been cheaper to make a couple of different aircraft for different roles instead of sinking a bunch of time and money into a plane that will work decently for most stuff.”

You pulled that statement out of your ass. 🙂

• iksnilol

I thought you just said that they passed the amount they needed? And now more than half of those that were approved don’t work. So I dunno, it’s kinda late, I am a bit sick so I might have taken some meds but even I see that things are a bit messed up there.

Might’a pullet that statement from my ass, doesn’t mean it isn’t likely to be true. I mean, do you realize how much it has cost so far. You could renovate the old fleet, and then gold plate it and it’d still be cheaper. The whole thing has as far as I know cost about 1.5 trillion. Last time I read the number “trillion” was in a Don Rosa comic.

• I said they passed 100 (projected orders are way higher). Look up what “concurrency” is, and then get back to me. 🙂

• iksnilol

concurrent = happening at the same time

What do you mean by that? That they are building and improving the aircraft at the same time ?

• Yes, concurrency is where production and development happen at the same time. It sounds a little nuts, but it makes loads of sense for many expensive modern defense programs that combine development tasks that take wildly different lengths of time.

F-35 works this way, which is why development is still ongoing and yet there are over 100 production airframes out there flying.

• iksnilol

A little nuts? It sounds plenty of nuts.

The reason we develop and research stuff is so that when we produce it, it works well. Producing whilst researching, it’s kinda like stumbling in the dark. This is like the M14 and M16 problems combined into one.

regarding 100 airframes flying, that’s sorta, kinda. I wouldn’t quite call them flying as much as occasionally working. (AKA doing what they’re supposed to).

• Aircraft are considerably more difficult to develop now than they were 50, 30, or even 20 years ago. The F-35’s airframe has been done for something like a decade now. What, do you expect the services to just have them sit there while other systems are developed? No! They are going to get as much experience with these airframes as possible before full operational capability is reached.

I am serious, you have read too many reformer rags about F-35. There is a lot to criticize about the program, but you’re seeing demons in everything, even policies that make complete sense in context.

• iksnilol

Maybe, I dunno, aircraft in general get the bitter side outta me.

Still, even looking at it rationally I can’t help but feel there was a better option.

• I think you are underestimating how hilariously expensive combat aircraft development is today. The standards are so far higher for everything from safety to effectiveness to survivability than they were even a couple decades ago, and the technologies for development are so much better now (and correspondingly more expensive) than they used to be that I think cheap, quick aircraft development programs are simply a thing of the past.

And it’s getting worse and worse every year. Hell, the technology in the F-35 – regardless of whether you like it or not – makes the F-22 look a generation behind. You’ve got to understand, we are nearly two centuries into the tempest of innovation that began in the 19th Century. Keeping up with this exponential storm will be tough, and extremely expensive.

So F-35 might not be the right answer, but I’ve never met a critic who had even an equally bad answer, much less a better one.

• Uniform223

“A little nuts? It sounds plenty of nuts”

> You do know that before the F-35 the largest joint western fighter program was also a concurrent program…

https://miketowlejournal.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/f-16s-on-runway.jpg

here is some food for thought…

http://www.aei.org/publication/devaluing-the-concurrency/

“The reason we develop and research stuff is so that when we produce it, it works well. Producing whilst researching, it’s kinda like stumbling in the dark.”

> Not really. You’re essentially using brute force of numbers to do the research for you. If you want to field something very quickly with the most numbers as quick as possible while keeping cost to a minimum, concurrency is risky but really it is the only way to go about it.

“regarding 100 airframes flying, that’s sorta, kinda. I wouldn’t quite call them flying as much as occasionally working”

> I live in Las Vegas and my job takes me in and around Nellis AFB. I’ve seen F-35s take off and come back on multiple occasions. So in my head yes, it works and its flying. With currently a over 100 airframes flying (all three variants considered) and they have amassed well over 45000 flight hours by the end of last year. Their IOC testing at Mountain Home AFB showed that the F-35As had a damn near 100% sortie rate. Occasionally working is a monumental understatement. Yes there are technical and software issues that are currently being resolved but none of which has been putting the brakes on the program or the aircraft’s development.

• Uniform223

“Oh, you mean the stealth? The same stealth that’ll be outdated in 5-10 years”

> Do you even know how stealth works and how the counters work? Its not some type of magical cloak. Suggest you read this… bit of an old article but the basics still hold true.

good explanation and a little simplified.

If stealth is so obsolete as so many critics on the interwebs claim, why is Russia and China investing in stealth aircraft if LO technology doesn’t work? Why have they spent so much money in propaganda and attempts to counter what we (the United States) have been doing since the mid 1970’s?

“And don’t get me started on the reliability issues. Have you seen the DOT&E on it?”

> Exactly what does “Dr”.Gilmore know of the F-35 other than second hand reporting? Has he had any real hand in its actual testing or is he just reading from a sheet of paper? Anyone can simply say the aircraft has reliability issues but its another to actually see it in large force exercises.

If the F-35 has such reported reliability issues according to the DOT&E why would it partake in large force exercises if it wasn’t working?

Yes there are some technical issues on the aircraft that need to be (AND WILL BE) resolved. Those issues are not a complete show stoppers however. F-35As have already shown capability comparable to the F-16C Block50 and in some ways even more. Same with the F-35Bs.

“We critique when somebody wants a do it all rifle or camo pattern because we realize that it’s impossible to have something good for everything. Then why make a plane following that philosophy?”

> We are constrained with technology and materials. Aircraft are still held by these constraints however, the DIFFERENCE is that there has been MORE advances in technologies and materials used in fighter aircraft. How many advances has there been in the realm of small arms and camouflage? Compare those advances to fighter aircraft and you see the difference that might as well be measured in light years.

The US military used to think the same way, which is what gave us the M14, the 30 caliber fetish, 800 yard iron sights, and rifle marksmanship training that was ideal for closed rifle ranges, and useless in real combat.

If you take the time to line up a long range shot, you are exposed to observation and enemy fire that much longer. Volume of fire, maneuver, medium and heavy MGs, and supporting fires (arty and air) are what has proven to work.

Every rifleman a Crack shot is a fantasy.

And I am a desktop warrior, so I am not claiming special knowledge. But I’ve read enough about war to know all of this is true.

• AK

Then you have to consider Swiss military doctrine and terrain. It is almost exclusively mountains, so range and accuracy become important factors as you have to shoot across valleys, etc. The Swiss system also puts a strong emphasis on local mobilization and resistance, with relatively small operative forces (that have regular air and artillery support)

• ARCNA442

I tend to agree with your emphasis on weight, but I think you’re going a little far when you say that weight “is arguable the most important single characteristic.” After all, if that were true you should be advocating a .17 rimfire.

Ultimately, I think your focus on the physical characteristics of the ammunition, while understandable and the producer of multiple interesting articles, is slightly misplaced. In my view, the first consideration for ammunition should be defining the minimal acceptable terminal effects at the maximum expected tactical range.

Once this requirement has been set, then the the focus can move to the ammo itself in determining the best way to achieve it. If, in designing the ammo, small reductions in the effectiveness can produce large weight savings, then they should be considered. But setting out to design a cartridge to meet a specific weigh limit is probably not the best use of time.

• .17 Rimfire? Why not even smaller? How about a 2.7mm Kolibri? We could go even smaller than that, too, probably.

I’m being facetious. Just because weight is probably the most important characteristic does not mean it’s the only one, and all of these characteristics must be balanced against each other to make an effective round. I am not prescribing where one must draw the line on that, and depending on your requirements, you could end up with something smaller than 5.56mm, or something larger than .308.

• Edeco

My point exactly; these things must be tied together in a big picture, otherwise one is farting in the wind.

• Kivaari

The article mentions the trade offs.

• It seems that whenever I suggest that weight is the most important characteristic for infantry small arms ammunition, people assume I mean it is the only characteristic that must be considered. That isn’t what I am talking about; instead, I am referring to the fact that unlike other development programs, you can’t just up-rate the motive power of of your platform (the infantry) if your equipment and armament weight spirals a bit.

This is why weight is the most important factor, and it’s why (rightly) no one is considering ammunition outside of the normal band of small arms calibers, and even ammunition well within that band is controversial because of its weight.

• Edeco

So weight is important, but other things are important too, but weight is more important than some people think? OK.

• Everything is a compromise, but weight is the most important factor in that compromise. And, given that the current soldier’s burden is reaching the very limits of what he can carry, anyone designing ammunition must be very careful to reduce weight, or at least thoroughly justify any increases.

“But it would be more powerful/longer-ranged/etc to do it this way” isn’t justification enough.

• Edeco

Oh, now that you add the words “most” and “very” I understand. I wasn’t sure you really meant that stuff before.

• Kalash

Ahhh, but given range issues around the world, yes, long range performance is enough of a concern to take seriously, regardless of what your I-know-better-than-the-people-who-actually-get-shot-at-because-I-said-so ass says. It has been covered multiple times how 6.5 Grendel and similar rounds would ameliorate the situation at minimal impact, only for you to say “Butte heveeyur — not wurf it!!!11!!!!1!”

• I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who is an advocate for the 6.5 Grendel and who gave a damn about weight. In fact, switching to that caliber would result in a reduction of the soldier’s ammunition load by 26.5%, which isn’t “minimal impact”.

For the long-range folks, I’ve rained on their parade enough that any attack on me must seem justified, but claiming that I think I know better than “people who get shot at” is asinine, as A.) It portrays me as having an agenda I don’t have, and B.) lumps everyone who’s seen combat together into one umbrella and assumes they all think exactly alike.

To this kind of thinking, I would reply that it’s not that simple, and trying to force it to be is lazy.

• Kalash

Better 75 rounds that can suffice than 100 rounds that are useless.

• Yeah, whatever. I don’t see any of you Grendel folks making spreadsheets and weighing different kinds of ammo or even making any small attempt to reduce the soldier’s load.

• gunsandrockets

Hey, don’t knock the .17 HMR. Imagine a militarized Savage A17!;-)

• Kivaari

A 100m gun with little power.

• gunsandrockets

An awful lot of infantry combat takes place within 100m!

• Kivaari

“…with little power.”. Keep in mind it will also shoot a FMJ bullet, with little power.

• gunsandrockets

did you say FMJ?

• Zingbex

Here’s my pick for a GPC: the 6.5 ICS. It’s the same COAL as .308, but smaller diameter, less recoil, higher BC, other advantages.

• I think the guy who created the 6.8 and 6.5 ICS has commented on my blog before. The 6.5 ICS strikes me as pretty conservative in its performance estimates; despite having similar case volume, he pegs it as over a 100 feet per second slower than the .264 USA.

Of course, the performance specs for the .264 USA might just be optimistic, as well.

• Edeco

My point exactly, these things must be tied together in a big picture otherwise one is farting in the wind.

• AtomicYeti

Effective and lightweight, but don’t forget about the carrot : its has to be economic. 6mm family sounds ideal, but barrel life could be an issue. I don’t know whether you could employ sabot munitions and whether CT ammunition could also be introduced with a sabot to reduce barrel wear, while impact on accuracy stays favorable. Not sure if you can get a successful marriage out of this.

I think your quest for the perfect intermediate cartridge can only succeed if you can keep the financial element in the equation. It would be a helluva achievement.

• Kivaari

Being 6mm wouldn’t effect barrel life any more than any other caliber as long as the “balance” of bullet type, powder, velocity, pressure and barrel material. Running anything with powders that create too much heat will ruin a barrel too fast. Like a 500 round life span of a .264 Win Mag. Trying to maximize velocity ruined rifles. That was in an era when there were far fewer powders available. I am sure with some new powders life could be extended, but there still isn’t a balance.

• AtomicYeti

Unless you come up with a new version of “Damascus” steel for barrels (maybe nanotech?) that is cheap to make, it will be very difficult to balance things out. I managed to go through most articles here, and I’ve seen that the poster has addressed most issues (from sabot rounds to exotic barrel materials). Tweaking existing ammunition is a better alternative for now. Be it aluminum or polymer cases, anything that immediately reduces cost without radical changes, can and will be employed.

• jay

Dude. You told us your opinion on this every week for the last few years.
Don’t you get tired of it? I sure did.

• Well, if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to read it. 🙂

• somethingclever

I say keep it up. I read every one. If/when I tire of it, I’ll do the adult thing and stop clicking on the link rather than expecting you to stop for me.

• 40mmCattleDog

LOL WUT?

• Kivaari

It’s a series. This is just one aspect of the series.

• Kalash

#rekt

• RSG

For me at home, the 300blk versatility can NOT be beaten. But in a self defense situation, I don’t expect to be going out last 300 yards, so that’s a fail. Because of bullet weights near 100 grains at super speeds to 220 grain slugs that suppress extremely well, and that it assimilates into standard AR’s with nothing more than a barrel change is perfect. Not sure there’s anything optimum at 100 yards that can dominate at a 1000 too. 6.8 maybe? Personally, I think this is a solution looking for a problem. Our guys need 308, too, IMO.

• Kivaari

I recommend reading the earlier post on TFB about the 6.8mm. It peeters out at 600m IIRC. The 5.56mm heavy loads than over take its performance. It was just not designed with an adequately shaped bullet. It is too short. Now if a new rifle were designed to take a larger cartridge, the same case with a new more aerodynamic bullet it could perform better. But, that means a huge pile of money just for rifles and magazines.

• ArjunaKunti

We have a very strong historical heritage of caliber/cartridge systems originated form the 19. century: Basically a strong full powered rifle cartridge and a pistol cartridge. Thirdly came the intermediate cartridges to the game in the mid. 20th century.

I think the whole system could be revised in the following way using 2+1 cartridges:
1.
-We need a PDW cartridge in the 4.6-5.7 mm range that be fired from pistol or from MP7 type machine guns/PDWs also. It has to be effective till 250-300 meters from shooting PDWs. This cartridge is for both second line troops (as a main weapon) and for the first line troops (as a secondary easy to carry weapon).
-A weapon configuration something like an HK MP7 or FN P90 would be just fine for this cartridge.
The following cartridges could do this job effectively covering the main distances where instant automatic fire needed in battlefields:
-5.7×33 mm Johnson Spitfire
-4.6×36 HK/Cetme
-5.56×30 Colt MARS

2.
-A long range point match cartridge is needed for markmanship and light support fire purposes with a desired effective range of 800-1100 m in a much lighter package than the current 7.62×51 NATO.
-A weapon configuration should be something like a thick barrelled piston driven AR15 (like the M27) would be just fine for this cartridge supported with a belt fed SAW type LMG.
-The following cartridges could do this job effectively covering the main distances where marksmanship or light support automatic fire needed in battlefields:
-6×45 SAW
-6×49 Unified
-6.5 Grendel
-.264 USA

3. (+1). A large long range cartridge is needed in the range of 8.6 – 9 mm with a desired effective range of 1600+ m. This cartrigde would be used by snipers and mounted heavy machine guns.
The following cartridges could do this job effectively covering the main distances where sniper or heavy support automatic fire needed in battlefields:
-.338 Winchester Magnum
-.338 Lapua Magnum
-9×85 MEN

• Kivaari

Didn’t we just read recently how ineffective the 5.7x28mm (and by extenntion 4.6mm) rounds are in actual use. From memory the reports from agencies using the 5.7mm found the performance to e significantly less than desired and they have abandoned them. I do not remember if it was in TFB.

• CommonSense23

I can tell you from personal experience you don’t want to have to shoot anything that can shoot back with the 4.6

• Yes, those PDW wunderkalibers do not seem to have worked out that great.

• Kivaari

Except for the ability to poke through soft body armor, they don’t have anything going for them. I’d persoanally take an MP5 over the little PDW. Newer armor will defeat the 5.7/4.6 so it will be left with less umpff than a 9mm. If neither one can make it through, I’d just as soon have something that would do more if it finds a way between the panels. Better yet, I’d take an M4 Commando. Yep, they do weight more than the P90 or MP7 but I’d still rather have a Glock 17 AND an M4 over the little guns.

• They do have low weight going for them, but especially the 4.6mm has problems with lethality.

Something intermediate between the 5.7mm and 9mm could be interesting, though.

• George

Let’s generalize. By weight, as that’s the figure of merit of the day.

5.56mm or slightly less ballistic performance is ok for close in / light end, certainly. A fast/light round which was less effective past 3-400m but roughly matched to there should be ok. CTW gets us from 12 to 8 grams/round, maybe 6-7 with lighter faster projectile. So, the short range bucket target is 50% weight savings vs current GP rifle round and threshold is about 33%. If you’re a bullet caliber queen or a barrel length fanatic a CTW .300 blackout equivalent might be 10-11 grams with light bullets, maybe a bit better.

Next the longer range rifle/SAW/GPMG round. Again aim for weight savings with reasonable performance. Sat the 6.5 LW CTW or .264 army marksmanship unit performance realm, and 12-16 gram weight allowance. This is not controllable full auto at rifle weights but we don’t care, it won’t be fired that way.

Bigger I’ll ignore for now.

My question is, can clever weapon design give a soldier a 3-4 kg weapon with both? Say a select fire light round and a semi or even manual LR round for longer reach, or short range barriers?

With 4 lb ARs now and CTW possibly making lighter simpler actions still, and 3 lb bolt action barrelled actions with light or carbon fiber wrap barrels, we are in striking distance, IMHO.

• ostiariusalpha

“My question is, can clever weapon design give a soldier a 3-4 kg weapon with both? Say a select fire light round and a semi or even manual LR round for longer reach, or short range barriers?”

You mean besides some kind of upper receiver/magwell swap, à la Colt CM901? I suppose, since the LSAT/CTAS weapons have separate chambers from their barrels, you might use a larger capacity case for long distance shooting and a smaller case for standard select-fire capabilities, but using the same caliber for both cartridges: something like 6mm, perhaps. Then all you would need to do is have two removable chambers for both cartridges, similar to carrying a spare bolt carrier group as some people already do, and maybe a magwell insert for the smaller cartridge’s magazines. It would be a lot less of a hassle than packing a whole spare upper, as the 901 platform requires, and you wouldn’t need a barrel change as long as the twist rate is matched to the larger cartridge’s long match grade bullets. Same caliber barrel would also help avoid the KBs that occasionally happen with 5.56x45mm/.300 BLK upper swaps.

• George

No, both at the same time. Imagine a CTW version of mounting a .243 bolt action barreled action over a 4 lb AR. Like a comounted M203, or underbarrel shotgun, but with a medium long range cartridge and a short range (not PDW, but intentionally not ‘stretch the lighter one past (300,400,whatever meters)’.

Everything about longer range is in contention with volume of fire at short/mid ranges, so switch (in the same gun, with alternate trigger or selector or whatever).

• ostiariusalpha

Putting two separate barrels and actions on the same gun would nearly double the weight. You’d be looking at a 10 lb rifle, and that would be no fun at all. All double/overbarrel firearms get away with it because they are single shot, and even they are still not that light weight in the end. There will never be any clever engineering to make this problem go away. 2 Barrels + 1 Bolt Action + 1 Autoloading Action = Not a Good Idea.

• George

We’re talking components that total about 6 lb plus grips and stocks. 8 total more likely.

• ostiariusalpha

No chance in hell are you getting this chimera down to 8 lbs without turning it into a joke. First of all, a 4 lb. AR is a non-starter for a combat arm, most of the weight is taken from the barrel; anything below an A1 profile is only acceptable on a semi-auto range toy, and even the M16A1’s pencil contour was marginal. The majority of the subsequent weight loss is obtained by using a skeletonized bolt carrier, which are fine on race guns where your life isn’t on the line, but reliability goes down pretty fast as the round count goes up. The rest, with the skeletonized handguards and minimalist stocks and so forth, are less durable than the standard equipment, but not as consequential as the barrel and bolt carrier. And you want to mate a precision bolt action on top of this. To get it in any way adequate for long range shooting, you’ll need at least a medium profile barrel, with at the minimum an 18″ length; you’re not going to get a barrel and action like that for less than 3 1/2 lbs. And then there is the optic: for any kind of precision shooting past 600 yards, the rifle will require at minimum a 5x scope to make useful holdovers. On top of all this you need two separate trigger mechanisms, one of which will require a transfer bar to engage your precision rifles action. So no, this will not be an 8 lb gun, it’s just not going to happen no matter how much you want it to.

• CommonSense23

I wouldn’t say they didn’t work out that well. I feel they do what they were designed for very well. I just don’t think when people designed them how well SBR rifles could work in that role. Having shot the MP7 and a P90. They are good guns.

• Uniform223

I’ve heard from acquaintances that even though those small PDW rounds (5.7 and 4.6) fly really fast and are able to punch through light body armor (kevlar), they aren’t in the same league as 5.56. Someone told me that anything pass 100yards and those rounds fizzle out very quickly.

• ArjunaKunti

When I say going to 4.6 mm caliber it is only effective with spoon tip bullets which provides instant and consistent yawing and horrible wounds. Microcalibers have to use this trick in order to be effective. This was the philosophy behind the original HK 4.6×36 concept which is the cartridge that completely fills the role what we can call a true intermediate cartridge.

• gunsandrockets

You used a 4.6mm in combat?

• CommonSense23

No. I had to give up my rifle for a week due to a guy’s 416 going down hard. He “traded” me his MP7 so I had a trash run/range gun. On our downtime we did a lot of hunting. I ended up shooting a animal that you could probably scream at and cause a heart attack. A animal a Chihuahua could kill. And it took two shots to stop moving and a third to finish it. Comparing that to. routinely dropping 250lb plus animals routinely with my 10inch 5.56 even out to 200 yards plus.
Talking to the guys who used it. It was popular at a time for quiet it was. As longer as you understood you were dumping a mag into a guy to drop him if you didn’t pull a headshot.

• gunsandrockets

Your experience brings up an interesting factor which I think is important to the small arms equation. And why we have heard so much anguish about 5.56mm M855 performance in the field.

A soldier needs confidence that his individual weapon will stop an enemy with a solid hit (at the least at close range). Which suggests a floor of ME and bullet design for cartridge choice.

• CommonSense23

I personally believe M855 is one of the worst military rounds of all time. I have been fortunate to have access to far better rounds all my career. So my impression of 5.56 and most of the guys I worked with have a completely 180 opinion of 5.56 lethality than people who only had M855.
Couple that with how the big military has trained people to shoot at close range. Instead of training people to come thru a door and just unload 10 rounds of fast aimed fire into a target you get this Mozambique or double tap then assess. Which is incredibly unrealistic.

• n0truscotsman

Thats what I keep telling people, and they think I’m insane. M855 is a mediocre cartridge, at best, and there have been many better options available for over 20 years, if not longer.

Its mediocre enough that I see no advantage to buying it as a civilian. It doesn’t have the inexpensive factor that 55gr FMJ spec does, and it certainly doesn’t have the performance to justify buying over other better options.

• 40mmCattleDog

So basically the only advantage an MP7 has over a MK18 is a slight edge in quietness when suppressed and weight? Just seems like the only real use for the MP7 is for people like dog handlers who can appreciate how quiet and easy to handle it is, but everyone else would benenfit from just using a MK18.

• CommonSense23

Even weight wise it’s surprisingly heavy. Its suppressor was heavier than our 5.56 surefire cans. And with suppressor and stock extended it surprisingly large. The number one use I saw for it was honestly just to satisfy the need of having a long gun in areas that were required, but honestly didn’t need them. Running the trash the half klick to the burn pit, picking up supply drops, that sort of thing. The guys who had them had a really cool locking device that could just lock them securely into their plate carriers without need of a sling.
They were a lot more popular apparently before .300BLK came around for hitting a target with a Rangers pulling security with the heavy weapons.

• FarmerB

I presume you mean: “you don’t want to have to shoot anybody with a 4.6 – when that person is shooting back”

• CommonSense23

No. I don’t want to be in a shooting match with anybody with any gun to begin with. Letting people shoot at you is dangerous. As for 4.6, it just gives a guy a chance to keep fighting after taking a burst to the chest.

• FarmerB

I was clarifying the language, not the tactical situation. I had to read it a few times to understand who was using the 4.6.

• Kalash

What do you drink and who carries it?

PDW round? You mean that category invented by marketing? Now, 6.5 would be a very good choice for a main round. However, I don’t think we need to drop 50 BMG.

• ostiariusalpha

The PDW category was invented by the US military in the late 60’s, it refers to any weapon that shoots pistol cartridges: .45 ACP, 9x19mm, 5.7x28mm, and 4.6x30mm are all pistol cartridges, and all are Personal Defense Weapon rounds. It is not a marketing term. 5.7mm & 4.6mm are more associated with the name simply because the term became more common outside of the military ordnance circles when they were created to fulfill the requirements of NATO document AC/225-D/296 for a specific type of PDW. Otherwise, a PDW is any pistol or SMG issued to rear echelon troops for self-protection; the M1911A1 and M9 were both classed as PDWs.

• I think the quest for a “Unified” cartridge is doomed to failure, as there is no really “universal” anything – no universal clothing style, universal car, universal knife, not even a universal hammer.

What would be better would be to use the 35% weight savings of the LSAT, and use that weight savings to create a more effective cartridge for both the 5.56 and 7.62 roles. Basically instead of saving weight, just improving performance for the same weight.

A 12 gram LSAT that replaces 5.56 with something like 6mm/6.5mm Grendel, and a 25 gram LSAT cartridge that has .300 win mag or similar performance.

So the soldier carries the same weight and # of rounds, but both are much improved ballistically.

• Kivaari

Going to 6 or 6.5mm gendel or a .300 mag performing rounds brings with it the disadvantages of recoil management. It’s nice to have the power, but the added recoil just brings negatives.

• I guess the question is, now that the US has largely abandoned full auto use out of the carbine, is the extra recoil that much of an issue? Plenty of 3rd world conscripts are running G3’s and FAL’s, and without the benefit of ceramic rifle plates to help take some the recoil off the shoulder.

• Kivaari

I think it is even in semi-auto.

• Kivaari

I question whether the third world soldiers are performing well in combat. Can they move and fight like an American soldier? MOST of the third world armies are also changing to 5.56mm or 5.45mm rifles. Some simply are staying with old stocks of arms as they wont spend the money it needs to modernise. I suspect that third world soldier doesn’t shoot much in training.

• Who I mostly had in mind were the Brazilian LEO’s/Paramilitary forces, who seem to run FAL’s to good effect.

For a more American context, millions of drafted soldiers in WW2 were shooting .30-06 out of Garand’s to good effect.

A LSAT 6.5 similar to the .264 USA would have more recoil then 5.56, but less recoil than 7.62×51. Recoil would be further reduced through use of a suppressor.

The other thing to keep in mind is the increasing reliance on “small footprint” warfare, with an emphasis on SF forces/Rangers/Marines being the primary shooters on the ground. Given the boondoggle of Iraq, and the interminable war in Afghanistan, it’s likely we’ve seen the last “big” ground commitment for the US for the next several decades, barring an all out WW3 type scenario.

With most of the future shooting to be done by above average rifleman, the advantages of greater range of 6.5 are likely to greatly offset the higher recoil.

• Kivaari

Until there is a whole new weapon and ammunition system, I am all for keeping what we have. Perhaps a re-barreled M240 in .260 Remington would make some people happy. I’d as soon see it throwing an existing .308 diameter 168-175 grain VLD bullet. Nothing proven has impressed me. Wishful thinking may mean we see new technology in 20 years (well I wont be around) and if it is proven to perform I am all for a change. There is nothing magical about 6.5 since any properly designed bullet in pretty much any caliber will perform at longer ranges. Look at how well the 5.56mm heavy bullets work in real combat. When the VLD bullets are shown they all share the same shape. It requires a reference scale to see what caliber they are. Every increase in caliber and an increased case capacity to drive it at the correct speed results in too many negatives. Special ops guys seem capable of doing the job with existing weapons.
I think the “demand” for a new bigger and better weapon has been looked at for the last 150 years. In that time frame the 5.56mm has gone through a couple renditions that have shown it is up to the job. That’s 50 years of service. Those demanding a new 6.5 or anything else, intermediate round seem to inhabit the civilian world more so than the military. It is my understanding that the after action reports and surveys the Army has done on individual weapons shows most users are quite happy with what they are issued.
What has made a difference is optics. Iron sights just don’t cut it except for back up and very close combat where shotgun techniques prevail.

• Essentially switching to LSAT cases will require entirely new firearms designs due how the rounds chamber and extract, and so there is no reason the new cartridge and weapon has to duplicate 5.56 and 7.62.

Meanwhile, optics continue to improve, and “Smart” optics are just starting to come online, and will be a reality in the next 10 years.

So the question becomes, do you want more range and power than 5.56 in an LSAT case that weighs as much as brass 5.56 (more power same weight) or a lighter cartridge that equals 5.56 (same power less weight.)?

• roguetechie

I know what you’re saying and mostly agree, however the 5.45 is a bit better in some key ways. I’d love to see a more 5.45 like round replace 5.56×45. Beyond that I’d very much like to see 7.62 NATO replaced with the good L:D ratio bullet it should have gotten from the jump!

Now, neither of these would necessarily require any change in weapons, just the ammunition. Which is, frankly, nowhere near as good as it should be.

• Kivaari

I never understood why the Army didn’t build the 7.62 NATO with a long range bullet from the beginning. The Russians and British have used heavy long range bullets in machineguns for over 100 years.

• roguetechie

It truly baffles the mind doesn’t it?

Personally I really like Nathaniel’s idea for a CT 8×63 Bofors.

• Kivaari

How is the 5.45 better than the 5.56mm? The 5.45mm doesn’t perform as well from a wounding perspective. If you are counting the heavy rim that lessens the case failing to extract that may be a point, except the 5.56mm is pretty reliable as it is.The 5.45 could be improved upon by making the bullets with a thinner jacket. Beyond that, I can’t think of a reason why it has any edge over the 5.56mm.

• roguetechie

Kivaari,

Since I avoid shooting people due to enjoying spending disposable income on ammunition and gun stuff not defense attorneys, I’ve not had the chance to real world performance in wounding from either cartridge. That being said, I do have several reasons why I like 5.45 over 5.56.

1. First to address your wounding comment, the semi scientific research I’ve done lead me to believe I’d rather be hit by 5.56 M855 than comparable 5.45 rounds. (YMMV with 77 grain OTM’s etc)

2. It’s designed specifically to perform from 16 inch barrels with affordable ammunition that doesn’t beat the gun to pieces.

3. The ability of 5.45 to take the long thin bullets I like.

The 5.56 is a pretty good round, but only so much can be done with it due to decisions made early on in the program. Basically if I want to go below 20 inch barrel length I use 5.45.

Every round is a tradeoff, and I just happen to prefer the tradeoffs made in 5.45 over 5.56. Realistically they’re both pretty solid rounds.

• Kivaari

The wounding effect is well documented in medical sources. The long lightweight bullet in the 5.45 doesn’t perform as well as the long heavier bullets in the 5.56mm. The 5.45 is after all just another .22 caliber rifle. To increase the performance of the 5.45 rifles one needs to add optics, like we have on the M4 carbines. The original rounds circa 1990s for the 5.45 were poor performers compared even to M193 and the M855. I am not aware of any modern research involving any newer loads. They may indeed have come up with something much better than the original loads.

• roguetechie

The tests I did involved cans of spam flannel shirts and once or twice even loaded magazines in old mag pouches up front. In those tests 16 inch bbl versus 16 inch bbl at between 50&250 meters between M855 and 7n6 I noticed that the 7n6 was imparting much more grievous “wounds” to the spam whether it was behind a mag pouch with a loaded magazine or not.

Scientific proof that 5.45 is better?

Probably not, because I’m pretty sure we’re not made of spam tins, but in my entirely subjective evaluation the 7n6 performed better and more consistently especially out at 200-250 meters. The “wounds” were less linear along direction of travel and definitely not just more destructive, but also more consistently destructive.

From this I came to the conclusion that if I had to be shot by an SCHV round, I’d rather it be from M855. Now if I was hunting for meat I’d probably want to use 5.56 and a 20 inch barrel.

Like I said, probably not the most scientific but it created a baseline for me in my own mind.

• Kivaari

I used the US Army tests involving live tissue studies where they shot hogs, performed surgery than killed the critters. Using Spam or soap like the Swedes did in the 1970s gives a false impression. The permanent cavity left in such dense materials leaves a hole that is larger than you would see in living tissue. It takes the shape that doesn’t reflect the stretch that living tissue has.
After passing through targets you used, I’d expect anything to make a real mess out of the backing.

• roguetechie

I suppose so, but what the hell was I supposed to do with all that spam I had laying around?

It’s not like it’s safe, healthy, or tasty in which case I would have ate it. You’ll never see a comment that involves me shooting cans of dingy Moore beef stew for example!

• roguetechie

So basically what you’re saying is next time I should remove the spam and roll it together with silly putty right?

Totally meant as a joke but damn if that wouldn’t maybe cause some of the fleshy bounce back effect…

Science time in my house can get pretty energetic and enthusiastic as you can imagine.

• Bob

I don’t know about today’s Army, but we didn’t SHOOT MUCH either back in 65 to 68. We had one week on the rifle range, Zero, then qualify with if I remember correctly 60 rounds for record fire. That was with the M14.
I NEVER got trained on an M16, it was strictly OJT!

• Bob

6mm and .243’s are barrel burners. Course a barrel is cheaper then having a wounded / killed G.I. but our gov’t doesn’t seem to think so.
I don’t know about the 6.5 grendel. I always hear about how great it is but have no first hand experience with it.
How about something like a SCAR 17 but in 6 mm. what about a NEW cartridge like a 6.25 mm??

• Kivaari

The commercial 6mm can burn barrels because they are what are called “over bore”. Meaning the case capacity is too large for the bore size and they are shoving more abbressive and hot powder across the throat. Balance the powder charge via a smaller case and you will get “reasonable” velocities without the burn out effect of the over bore cases.
I think bore size from 5.5 to 6.5 would all work. A SCAR17 is too big, too heavy and if you just use a necked down 7.62 case (.260 Remington) you have still given the soldier the same weight and bulk handicap. I’d rather see the M4 carbine continue in use.

• Bob

scar 17 is 8 pounds, scar 16 is 7.25 pounds, M4 is 6.38 pounds, all weights are when EMPTY!
You’d be adding pounds, but you would be getting a more effective round! Therefrer you would need LESS rounds to carry.
I know I could put down a VC with ONE round of 7.62 Nato out of an M14, (I’m talking about a torso shot here as in gut or chest).
With an M16, it took a LOT more then ONE round to STOP them!
That’s been my experience, your mileage may vary.

• Colin

I agree you need 2 lsat rounds .a 6.5 for half a squad normal use to 500 m point target 1km suppression . The other half a longer range light support weapon combo replacing 7.62-338Lm .sniper , marksmen , lsw (ulfberht ) . gpmg to go 1km point target 2 km supression.thus 3 rounds becomes two . But how sniper accurate is lsat rounds sub .5mil ? to 1.5 km ? if that happens what about the miniguns what do you replaced Helios / ship defence with ?

• Edeco

I basically function on raw intuition at all times myself. Aesthetic level thinking.

But what you want to do is get everything into an objective function. With fields so you can change the relative priorities of stuff, try it different ways. Then point a solver at that, Excel has a crummy built in thing, there are named algorithms.

• Uniform223

I always enjoy reading these types articles. It gives the reader some good food for thought and something to ponder on. Keep up the good work!

• A Fascist Corgi

I take issue with the entire premise of your blog entry. No, weight isn’t the most important factor when considering which ammo to go with. The effectiveness of the ammo is far more important. Weight is only the most important factor if you’re worried about the long-term physical health of soldiers – which shouldn’t be your top concern. Your top concern should be defeating your enemies on the battlefield and winning the war. If that means that you have to abuse the bodies of your troops for a few years, then so be it. If equipping a soldier with a weapon system increases his effectiveness in combat at the cost of increased weight, then the choice should be obvious. Give him the longer and heavier barrel, give him the optic that allows him to shoot accurately at longer ranges, and give him the heavier ammo that allows him to shoot farther. If that adds 5 pounds to his gear, then so be it. My father lugged the M60 around the jungles of Vietnam, and he never complained about the weight. If he can do it, then why can’t you?

• Kivaari

That long term physical health keeps on costing the government. Top VA benefit payouts are for back injuries. I suggest we keep the M4 carbine or go to a 16 inch mid-length and make sure there are proper optics for the mission type. I believe the Marines with the 4x32mm ACOG has shown to be a game changer. Teach marksmanship again. My kid was in Iraq where his issue weapon was an M249. He never fired the gun in combat or TRAINING. A year in-country without firing a round.

• Kevin Harron

Also ruined knees for infantry is also an issue with vets from what I’ve heard.

• Uniform223

backs, knees, elbows, arms, neck, head, fingers, feet… and so on

• If you truly commit to thinking like that, you will end up with the most fabulously equipped – and immobile – soldiers in the world.

Here’s the unbreakable reality you must live with: You have 1 humanpower per soldier, which is about a tenth to a third of a horsepower, depending on exertion. Any infantry weapons and equipment must therefore be designed within the constraint of a platoon that can, between its 40 or so members, produce only 4-12 horsepower. So you could choose the heaviest, most lethal weapons and equipment, but most of it would get left at home, and the combat endurance of the squad would be compromised. For this reason, the configuration of the infantry’s weapons and equipment must be subject to the final arbiter of weight. Without that, the infantry cannot function. That is why I consider it to be the most important characteristic for infantry weapons, ammunition, and equipment.

• iksnilol

Ummm…. I kinda like that idea to be honest.

I mean, could kinda sorta work if you had the supply chain close by (IE motorized unit).

• A Fascist Corgi

The M39 weighs 16.5 pounds, the Mk 14 weighs 11 pounds, the M40A3 and the M40A5 weigh 16.5 pounds, the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare weighs 14 pounds, the Remington MSR weighs at least 13 pounds, the M2010 weighs 12 pounds, the M110 weighs 15 pounds, the M82 weighs 30 pounds, the Tac-50 weighs 26 pounds, the Milkor MGL weighs 12 pounds, the XM25 weighs 14 pounds, the M240 weighs about 25 pounds, the M249 weighs 17 pounds, the M60 weighs 23 pounds, and the Mk 48 weighs 18 pounds.

If tons of soldiers can carry those weapons without much issue, then your average soldier that’s currently carrying an M4 chambered in 5.56 should be able to carry an upgraded assault rifle that has a longer and heavier barrel, more powerful ammo like 6.5 Grendel, and a magnified optic. That would only add about 5 more pounds of weight.

• Stronk weight accounting, very spreadsheet.

This is one of those instances where I need ten pounds of facts to refute your one pound of BS, and I’ve got better things to do at the moment, so I’ll pass. Anyone who’s interested can follow the links in the original article to docs like The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load and see why you are full of bovine-excreted fertilizer.

• A Fascist Corgi

Riiight. Care to explain why the FN FAL was so popular then? It weighed 2 to 3 pounds more than the M4 and the ammo was also a lot heavier. Do you really think that all of the millions of soldiers that carried it for decades were immobile turtles?

• You are so clueless about this it hurts. During the era of the FAL and other weapons of similar weight (in practice the AK and AKM give the soldier a similar weapon and ammunition load), a far lower diversity of equipment was carried by the individual soldier.

Plus, if you actually bothered to read the CDEC study I cite on a regular basis that compared the M14 and AR-15, you would realize that FAL-armed soldiers proved to be far less effective than lightweight SCHV rifle-armed troops.

• Uniform223

seriously… what kind of stuff are you smoking or snorting?

Want to know what an average US infantry individual looks like when they have all their kit?

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/international/afgh%20soldiers%20in%20gorge%20banner.jpg

The K-pot + the body armor is already over 30lbs right there. The assault pack is probably another 20+ lbs. So right there that is 50 already. If they’re unlucky and they have a full ruck that is already 75+ lbs. That is before the weight of water, ammo, food, or any extra stuff the that individual feels that they need.

So now you want to give that individual a heavier weapon all for the sake of extra range?

Tell you what. Put some comfortable boots on. Take the biggest back pack you have and put enough stuff in it that will make it weigh 75lbs. Then sling that sucker on you back and walk about 2mi… at the end tell me how you feel.

• gunsandrockets

When a country is rich, the tendency is to load down the infantry with too much equipment. What you end up with is a poor light artillery unit instead of an effective infantry unit.

• Uniform223

I’m guessing you never served if you’re commenting like that…

• Kivaari

I think we have what we need. The M4 carbine does the job. The M240 does its job. I can see changing to a heavier 7.62mm bullet that would require a sight change only to give it greater range.

• gunsandrockets

One cartridge, two cartridge, three cartridge, that fits within existing force structure? That gets the question backwards. First pick the best force structure, then pick the munition which best fits that structure (that is how the USMC ended up with the M27 IAR).

An ideal single cartridge for an infantry force is a question better suited to WWI than the current era. Modern infantry have a blizzard of munition options to select from and to weigh themselves down. And the bullet firing munitions are already the lightest.

The number and mix of munitions should follow doctrine. Not design your doctrine based upon an arbitrary munition choice.

• That is a more complex question than I can address with a simple Excel spreadsheet, though. 🙂

• Joseph Goins

That’s the difference between book smarts and street smarts. (Not to disparage anyone…)

• No, it’s the difference between being an ammunition design guy and a TO&E guy…

• gunsandrockets

I would like to know the relationship between bullet ‘crack’ and caliber. Since suppressive fire seems such a vital component of infantry combat, what is the relationship between noise an enemy reacts to vs bullet size and velocity?

• ostiariusalpha

Lower supersonic velocity and greater length of projectile body are the two most important components of making a louder crack as the bullet passes by the hearer. The sectional volume and nose geometry also play a lesser role.

• Higher velocity, larger size, and shaping for shockwave production would be three of the factors.

• ostiariusalpha

Higher velocity doesn’t increase audible volume past the transonic threshold. When doing assessments of sonic boom damage to objects on the ground, the Air Force kept the velocity of their aircraft as close to the threshold as possible because that is where it is loudest.

• Mea culpa, I am not a Black Magician, so I try to leave that to the folks whose degrees start with “Aero”…

• ostiariusalpha

Ha ha, that’s fine. A real aeronautics engineer could tell you exactly how many decibels louder at 1200 ft/sec a 123gr .264 SMK is versus a 123gr .311 going 2500 ft/sec.

• roguetechie

Nathaniel on the note of exoskeletons or semi powered exoskeletons more like power boost electric assist pedal bikes and battery less hybrid motor scooters one of my thoughts has been that even then you’d still have to focus on weight and cubage….

I say that because you’re going to need extra cubage and weight freed up for POL and spares so lightweight and very well packed ammunition supplies could become even more do or die.

It’s certainly an interesting conundrum… Who knows we may see a return of Hughes lockless ammo too.

• Johannes von’ Strauch

As an Inventor who done years of engineering in this area i can say Huges Lockless chicklet is not as practical as other variants in many ways, and therefore far from desirable. I accidentally reinvented the chicklet at the early stages of my project years ago, without knowing the cartridge.

• roguetechie

I was really more joking than anything. My personal feeling has always been that roughly cylindrical ammunition came about for lots of very good reasons, and that any deviation from it would have to be an outright extraordinary improvement to even potentially be worth it.

One field of investigation that I’m very surprised hasn’t been looked at more is the mechanism behind the daisy v/l. Given unlimited research funds and equipment budget I think that’s what I’d pursue, but in a significantly different incarnation than it’s previous one.

Overall there’s a very good reason why this type of research is moving fairly slowly having to do with how quickly we came across one of the better solutions to the one piece, durable, and environmental factors resistant ammunition that can be economically mass produced solutions out of what’s probably a very small total solution set.

• missourisam

As a police sniper I found that the 25.06 was a great compromise between range, penetration, ballistic coefficient and recoil. With improved powders a shorter lighter cartridge could be developed. I loaded my own ammo with department approval, and found that a 90 to 100 grain bullet at 2800 FPS worked well, would penetrate walls that would defeat light rounds, and didn’t kill on both ends of the rifle.

• AK

That’s a pretty light loading for .25-06, considering that even the smaller .260 Remington fires a 130 grainer with the same speed! The modern equivalent round that is a ballistic match for your loading would be the 6.5 Grendel. 108 gr Scenar @ 2790fps. And you can feed it through an AR mag.

• iksnilol

Yup, but lower pressure saves on wear (both the gun, shooter and brass).

• ostiariusalpha

The Grendel is already pretty low pressure as it is. And shooting a .25-06 at too low of a pressure leaves a lot of unburned powder residue that you’re going to have to clean out of the barrel. This load by missourisam does not seem attractive at all.

• AK

I would imagine your cases and barrel to be quite “eternal”, which is a definite benefit from a cost perspective.

• iksnilol

Well, after the apocalypse, like 200 years after and I am long dead. Somebody could still use my rifle (assuming they continue using mild loads) to still do good.

Nothing wrong with wanting a piece to last long. If you shoot normal loads and expect to wear the barrel out in a while I can recommend getting a 10 cm longer barrel. So when worn you just chop 5 cm on each side and rechamber/recrown.

If I know a couple of things it’s saving barrels and tires. Cause those can get expensive if you’re not careful.

• gunsandrockets

That does seem light for the 25-06. Of course the numbers you mention exactly matches one of the loadings for one of my favorite old cartridges, the .250-3000 Savage which was introduced in 1915.

• Klaus Von Schmitto

I load 25-06 (and 257 Weatherby) with 90, 100, 117 gr bullets all the time. Wyoming antelope and Florida size deer drop in their tracks most of the time. It seemed light to me until a buddy took a deer with a Nosler 100 gr 3200 fps load. It f’d that deer up.

• Peter Balzer

Didn’t (as in did NOT) kill on both ends? HUH?! One would hope it DOES kill on one end at least.. 🙂

• Don Ward

#STAHPWEIGHTSHAMINGCARTRIDGES!!!
#ALLBULLETSAREBEAUTIFUL!!!

• Supreme Russian Engineering

I stood on the first Afghan target I had ever assaulted looking at an AK we had just taken off a body of a man who had decided to fight us.

It was stamped “1953” and I thought to myself that at that point in time that rifle had been in combat for at least 40 years, with little to no maintenance, and was just as deadly that day as the day it rolled off the manufacturing line in Russia.

I thought back to 2002, right before deploying to Kuwait in preparation of the invasion of Iraq. I had the opportunity to do the first non-bias “official” testing on the AK-47 for the Department of Defense (DOD) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Up to that point in time no data could be located on the performance of the AK, where the DOD had officially tested it. After I finished that week of testing, it forever changed the way I look at the AK rifle and I came to the conclusion that the AK was the best-engineered rifle in history.

Since that time, I have used, carried and taught the AK extensively.. It was my choice of weapon during the years I spent fighting in the Global War on Terror and would be to this day.

During the DOD/SOCOM testing, we exploded all the myths associated with the AK such as accuracy, ergonomics, heat, etc.. We confirmed that the AK did in fact have incredible reliability. We proved that the rifle was well within the parameters of accuracy, the ergonomics just simply needed to be learned and understood, and that it was an incredible feat of engineering.

To understand the rifle, you have to understand the mind set of the men who designed her. Every Russian felt the effects of the war with Germany. Over 20 million Russians died during the war and many soldiers starved or froze on the Eastern Front.

Kalashnikov himself was wounded on the Eastern Front and saw the meat grinder first hand. To assume that every single portion of the AK was not thoroughly thought out is naïve at best. They knew what made a good battle rifle, because they had personal and first hand accounts of the most destructive war the world had ever seen.

What I like to call “Team Kalashnikov” would have all been men who fought against the finest mechanized army the world had ever seen, the German blitzkrieg army. Those same men would have seen friends and family die from starvation and cold, in no small part due to lack of supplies. They would have had burned into their brains that above all, weapons must work, even if logistics are cut off and no maintenance materials are available. Weapons must be easy to fix, or its parts easy to fabricate, and continue to fire even in the harshest of conditions.

One of the brightest mechanical engineers that I know once said to me “Any idiot can come up with a complicated solution to a problem. But it takes a genius to come up with a simple solution to a complicated problem.” I believe that simplicity is the spirit of the AK-47.

The AK is an incredible achievement of engineering that has withstood the test of time and I would argue that it’s the most ergonomic, best thought-out, and least-understood rifle today.

I think it’s fair to say that the men who experienced the horrors of the Eastern Front would have first and foremost wanted reliability in the most extreme circumstances. We’re not just talking about dirt, grime and wear but temperature extremes, hard unrelenting use, little or no lubricant, no solvent, no cleaning supplies and unreliable ammo.

The rifle would need to hold enough bullets that it could be an effective platform for fire suppression and a reduced rate of automatic fire so that a single man could control it.

The rifle would need to be accurate out to 300 meters and we proved in our testing that the 7.62×39 fired from an AK was more than adequate. More importantly, the rifle would need to be accurate even in the hands of a minimally-trained fighter, so the ergonomics would facilitate accuracy in fire, especially under stress.

Any look at current news events, history or use of the AK-47 itself confirms all of the above. But American gun owners, whose experience of a rifle consists of limited range shooting, followed by cleaning, might miss the profound truth of the AK.

Reliability is no bullshit. When you run your rifle through the ringer, as happens on almost any battlefront, you live and die based on how relentlessly your rifle does it’s job.

If that’s your definition, as it is mine, than the AK-47 is your assault rifle.

The AK47 — Best Fighting Rifle in History
by Jeff Kirkham

• yodamiles

Sermon 7.62? Is that you?

• Yes, it is.

• CommonSense23

God I really hate seeing this crap repeated time and time again.

• Yep. He’s been banned several times.

• Kivaari

This is total BS. The US Army has studied the AK47 for over 50 years. It was not an unknown weapon by the time we entered Afghanistan. So there was no new study needed because of no previous history with the AK. The wound ballistics aspect was well understood during the Vietnam War era. Much of the vascular surgical information was based on treating AK AND 5.56mm wounds. The biggest thing to come about due to the AK being used by the enemy forces was the need or desire for a 30 round magazine for the M16A1. As for wounding, there is no doubt that the 5.56mm outperforms the 7.62x39mm.

• lostintranslation

Having ploughed through the comments I would like to throw a ‘curved ball’ into the discussion/argument.
The fundamental of my argument is that a trained volunteer light-infantryman with multiple years of experience is a significant asset.
There is also another parameter regarding national interest and prestige. When your infantry takes a ‘pasting’ there are debits of many different forms.

In many countries the big ‘green army’ is shrinking, or has shrunk, whilst simultaneously SF requirement and use is growing.
The SF community has reconciled that there are few occasions where one tool fits every job. They utilise something akin to the; ‘golf bag.’
On the basis of the climate, terrain and opposition they select the most appropriate tools for the job.
The big green army should, perhaps, have a ‘similar’ (not identical) modus operandi.
It comes down to cost, but, that cost may be worthwhile when you consider the loss of valuable human assets. Recognise the value of the life of an infantryman and increase funding to enable more and better small arms choices.

Perhaps the purchase of the H&K 416 by Norway and France is indicative of the philosophy that the cheapest unit around is not necessarily the most sensible. Perhaps this is the beginning of the recognition process.

• CommonSense23

The M27 is going to go down in the next couple of years as one of the stupidest equipment decisions the Marines have made in a while.

• lostintranslation

Is that for doctrinal reasons, or M27 functionality reasons?

• CommonSense23

Both. The M27 replaced a belt fed. The M249. There is no way a magazine fed weapon can keep up suppressive fire at the same rate as a belt fed. Just won’t work. A 200 round box is far more flexible for multiple reasons than a magazine. So they changed the role into a hybrid DMR role of suppression thru accurate fire. But the M27 as currently configured can’t really do that. The troops are trained no where near enough to be real DMRs.
Now the M27 isnt going to do anything special. It’s got a 16 inch free floated barrel mated with a 3.5x optic. And that’s what they want for a DMR role? The current 5.56 DMR NSW is using is a standard M4A1 with a free floated barrel with a 25 power optic. That’s cause the M27 and a the M4A1 have pretty much the same functional accuracy out to 600 yards with MK262.
All the Marines had to do was just adopt the M4A1 with a free floated barrel, throw a 4x acog and bipod on it with MK262. And they would have had a cheaper rifle that was already in the system that uses the same parts as others, and breaks less.

• lostintranslation

Could this be part of the strategic aim of the USMC to be an Expeditionary Force, that may not necessarily have the advantage of a huge support infrastructure in theatre?
As a result, ammunition usage may be a potentially critical factor and aimed suppressive fire may be the preferred doctrine when the resupply chain is tenuous.

On another aspect altogether……….this may sound a somewhat stupid question and probably shows my ignorance, but; have US forces conclusively decided that the general use of MK262 is acceptable, in all circumstances, including State vs State engagements?

• CommonSense23

I can’t speak of what the USMC is thinking doctrine wise.
MK262 has never been a issue according to JAG officers due to round is designed for its external ballistics. Not terminal. Its terminal effects are just a pleasant side effect. And we really haven’t been paying much other than lip service for a while to the Hague.

• lostintranslation

Many thanks for your reply and appreciate not being ‘pilloried’ for the 262 question.

• Paul White

I think you need to meet the .45 GAP

• Zapp Brannigan

Unless its replacement gives a really significant increase in effectiveness, the 5.56×45 isn’t going to be replaced.

• Uniform223

significant increased in overall effectiveness without sacrificing weight, capacity/load, and recoil/controlability…

than I agree.

• Jim_Macklin

Having one “perfect” ammunition will have to wait for the Star Trek phaser. Until then at least a half dozen would seem to be necessary and viable.
50 BMG for point defense and light armor attack. Long range sniper from specialized rifles such as the Barrett.
Close infantry use, the modern doctrine of wounding says the 5.56 is ideal.
A SAW in 5.56 serves, but a 30 caliber would be better or should be available.
A CQB infantry carbine that will defeat any body armor means 10-12 mm with explosive and or penetrator core.

Maybe they can get all the soldiers to wear the same size uniform and save money on that logistic nightmare. .

• AC97

Okay, seriously?

“the modern doctrine of wounding says the 5.56 is ideal.”

Stop repeating that garbage. You lost all of your credibility the second you said that.

• Bob

It sure didn’t stop the two VC after I had dumped about 20 rounds into the two of them, they turned on me with their AK-47’s. They did NOT DIE SOON ENOUGH to suit me! I was “lucky”, they missed me that day.!

• iksnilol

• CommonSense23

Don’t encourage him.

• That hypothetical general purpose cartridge up there doesn’t look like it would be a very comfortable load to fire from a sidearm; I think we may need to go to a two-caliber system after all.

• Monty01

II don’t think anyone who advocates a General Purpose Cartridge sees this as an exclusive solution. The desire is simply to reduce the number of calibres carried at squad-level. Presently, we have 9 mm, 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm, .338 LM / .300 WM and 40 mm (and sometimes 5.6 mm / 5.7 mm when PDWs are carried).

5.56 mm NATO was a very elegant interpretation of the SCHV concept, but was conceived as a carbine calibre to replace the US Air Forcer’s .30 M2s in the late 50s not 7.62 mm in the Army’s M14 rifle. As good as 5.56 mm was in assault rifles, it has never been great in machine guns, so cannot be described as an ideal universal calibre. The failure of 5.56 mm machine guns to provide effective fire at longer ranges is evidence of this.

Elsewhere, other issues with 5.56 mm NATO have been reported widely. Fixing them is not difficult. The US developed the 6 mm SAW cartridge in the 1970s and the British the 6.25 mm cartridge. Both were about as ideal as you can get without being significantly larger than 5.56 x 45 mm. With most NATO armies having recently gone to the expense of adopting 5.56 mm, it simply wasn’t feasible to force another calibre them.

At this year’s NDIA, both the US Army and USMC acknowledged that 5.56 mm had reached the limit of its development potential. i interpret that as them signalling that they’re now considering alternate calibres for next generation small arms.

I see this as the ideal opportunity to select an optimised calibre for general use. The risk is going back to something that’s too close to 7.62 mm NATO – and re-introducing all of the problems that led to 5.56 mm NATO replacing it – weight and recoil.

Many GPC advocates are touting 6.5 as the silver bullet of the future. This may be too big. I’d like to see 6 mm, 6.2 mm, and 6.4 mm projectiles evaluated too. Whatever we select, we’ll still need 9 mm, 4.6 mm, 40 mm and .338 LM. If we get it 100% right we won’t need 5.56 mm and .338 LM could replace 7.62 mm in MMG applications to give infantry .50 Cal BMG punch in a lighter, man-portable package.

For all these reasons, what you’re writing is extremely important and helpful to those involved in envisioning, developing and fielding next generation systems. We’re not there yet, but your well-communicated insights are steering the boat in the right direction. Thanks.

• Hi Monty,

Quick correction, the 5.56mm was not designed to replace the US Air Force’s M2 Carbines, it was developed as an infantry rifle caliber at the request of the US Army’s Infantry Board at Fort Benning, as they wanted an increased effective range of penetration from 300 yards to 500 yards. This is often confused, because early SCHV experiments did use M2 Carbines as a platform, and the US Air Force’s first order of the AR-15 was to replace the M2. However, those are not the parameters the round was designed to satisfy.

One of the reasons I am lukewarm at the idea of a unified platoon- or squad-level caliber is that I think such a paradigm introduces more risk than other systems. However, risk could obviously be alleviated with careful design.

Thanks for the positive feedback, and thanks for reading!

• CS

The next major advancement will be in powder. Which will allow more powerful, more compact cartridges like the transition from 30-06 to .308. Given time, our soldiers will carry 30 cal rounds with the weight of 5.56.

• iksnilol

triple base powder. Been there a long time ago, causes much smoke though.

Doubt we’ll go back to 30 caliber rounds.

• ostiariusalpha

Not triple-base, but there are new propellants coming out, such as the Nitrochemie/Rheinmetall C4 grain geometry in both single-base (C4-SB) and double-base (C4-EI) powders.

• iksnilol

Haven’t heard of those, but heard about triple base powders being able to squeeze even more velocity out.

• ostiariusalpha

I’m not sure if Reload Swiss powders like RS-40 and RS-36 are commercial versions of these new powders, but they outperform CFE-223 and Varget by a good bit, so I have my suspicions.

• Arathar

Could you give me some more info about the properties of the “Nitrochemie/Rheinmetall C4 grain geometry in both single-base (C4-SB) and double-base (C4-EI) powders.”

Thanks

• ostiariusalpha

Not much that I can add, it’s a proprietary design after all. The C4 stands for Cubed grain, 4-perforation, which gives it an enhanced burn energy versus single-perforation type propellants. The suffix SB obviously stands for Single-Base, and EI stands for Extruded Impregnated. Nitrochemie also seems to use a camphor compound as the coating on their propellants.

• jonp

.243

• Uniform223

bad reporting with copious amounts of media sensationalism and 5 cup fulls of ignorant know nothing BS…

http://www.heritage.org/~/media/infographics/2016/08/bg3140/bg-f35a-overview-chart-1-825.ashx