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db_zero

The Main Battle Rifle for the US Army

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Changes in small arms design at this point have reached the law of diminishing returns. An M4 can kill you like an AK can kill you like an SA80 can kill you. That's one reason why a US replacement rifle has stalled. Contenders have ranged from being measurably worse than M4 to functionally the same to of such marginal improvement that the price tag couldn't be justified. Its not unlikely at some future point there might be a sea change in opinion on optimal design, perhaps there will be a newfound value in long range accurate fire and piercing body armor. Which would bring big-bullet full power long-barrel rifles back into vogue. Not likely, but it didn't seem likely back in the 1950s that the US was going to switch to a carbine firing a .22 long bullet. :)

I can agree with all of the above. I would also throw out there for consideration its also a question of money, budgets and politics.

The Marines have pushed for a better rifle, if I understood the articles and quotes from the upper command, but they lack the clout to get it through congress.

Then again if you really get down to the nitty gritty of the how defense dollars gets allocated and spent you would come up confused if you applied sound business logic. There is a reason why things like screwdrivers cost $100+ and toilet seats $500+ when you can go to a local store and get them for far less.

I'm not passing judgement. I've had the luxury and seeing how private industry and government works.

I guess that's what makes the world the way it is and life interesting....

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The Marines have pushed for a better rifle

At least a few years ago (things may have changed lately) Marines tended to hold onto their equipment until it was literally falling apart. I had a Marine nephew who absolutely despised M249 SAW. SAW is like the old M60 mg. Fresh out of the factory its a wonder-weapon. After a few years, when parts start to wear out it turns into a horror show. And the Marines back then only had old worn-out weapons. So their fixation on getting new-and-durable weapons is understandable.

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The Marines have pushed for a better rifle, if I understood the articles and quotes from the upper command, but they lack the clout to get it through congress.

But as in so many things, when the Marines really want something, they find a way of getting it.

In my opinion, the whole USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle program is actually a stealth program intended to eventually convert the entire Corps to the M27 as the base infantry weapon. Note that the M27 is really just an H&K 416 with a few minor modifications. The M27 isn't all that different from an M16, but it has been demonstrated to be considerably more reliable, and also more accurate, especially at long ranges.

Officially, the M27 is only supposed to be carried by one man per fire team (3 per squad), replacing the M249 SAW as the "base of fire" weapon. This change is already well underway and will presumably be complete by CMBS' 2017 timefame.

However, note that the M249 remains in the USMC TOEs at the Company level for use "at the CO's discrection." So Marine rifle squads can still go into battle with M249s, if the Company CO sees fit. I suspect in a "hot" war (as opposed to a police action or COIN op), you'd see USMC rifle Companies going in with M249s AND as many M27s as they could muster, leaving the M16 as a minority weapon relegated to non-rifle squad and second line units.

Crafty, those USMC procurement guys.

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But as in so many things, when the Marines really want something, they find a way of getting it.

In my opinion, the whole USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle program is actually a stealth program intended to eventually convert the entire Corps to the M27 as the base infantry weapon. Note that the M27 is really just an H&K 416 with a few minor modifications. The M27 isn't all that different from an M16, but it has been demonstrated to be considerably more reliable, and also more accurate, especially at long ranges.

Officially, the M27 is only supposed to be carried by one man per fire team (3 per squad), replacing the M249 SAW as the "base of fire" weapon. This change is already well underway and will presumably be complete by CMBS' 2017 timefame.

However, note that the M249 remains in the USMC TOEs at the Company level for use "at the CO's discrection." So Marine rifle squads can still go into battle with M249s, if the Company CO sees fit. I suspect in a "hot" war (as opposed to a police action or COIN op), you'd see USMC rifle Companies going in with M249s AND as many M27s as they could muster, leaving the M16 as a minority weapon relegated to non-rifle squad and second line units.

Crafty, those USMC procurement guys.

Did they get the 100 round magazines yet for the AR? Because without it, it's essentially another rifle. That might work when fighting insurgents, but during a conventional war you need a lot more firepower. Remember the BAR and WW2?

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Did they get the 100 round magazines yet for the AR? Because without it, it's essentially another rifle. That might work when fighting insurgents, but during a conventional war you need a lot more firepower. Remember the BAR and WW2?

50 and 100 round mags are in development but I don't know offhand how close they are to deployment.

Again, remember that the current USMC TOEs keep 9 x M249s in the Company "weapons locker," for distribution as the CO sees fit, so the Marine Rifle Company can hit the beach with 1 x M249 *and* 3 x M27 loadout per squad anytime it wants to.

Given the changes in the nature of ground combat since WWII, it's also debatable how useful comparisons to WWII are. Tech, tactics, and doctrine have changed a lot. Not to say there isn't still a need for a lightweight belt-fed automatic weapon, but given advances in other weapons systems, you can make arguments that such a weapon in every single rifle squad isn't the best loadout anymore.

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50 and 100 round mags are in development but I don't know offhand how close they are to deployment.

Again, remember that the current USMC TOEs keep 9 x M249s in the Company "weapons locker," for distribution as the CO sees fit, so the Marine Rifle Company can hit the beach with 1 x M249 *and* 3 x M27 loadout per squad anytime it wants to.

Given the changes in the nature of ground combat since WWII, it's also debatable how useful comparisons to WWII are. Tech, tactics, and doctrine have changed a lot. Not to say there isn't still a need for a lightweight belt-fed automatic weapon, but given advances in other weapons systems, you can make arguments that such a weapon in every single rifle squad isn't the best loadout anymore.

I understand what you mean, but even in this modern day, suppressive fire works. People tend not to shoot back when there's a hail of bullets coming their way.

The arguments I heard were that it's lighter and more accurate, allowing the AR to easier keep up with the rest of the team. I compare this with the future combat systems light brigades. Maneuvering your way around all the threats is nice but there will always come a time when you stand face to face with the enemy, and then you need raw firepower and brute strength to win.

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The essential problem with the "hail of bullets" suppressive fire idea in a modern, "1st World" vs. "1st World" battlefield is that the guy putting out said "hail of bullets" will probably die very quickly.

For infantry on the modern battlefield, stealth and concealment is the name of the game. If you can be seen, you can be killed in 1,000 different ways by distant weapons you probably have no awareness of. And sitting in one spot spewing out lead from a belt-fed MG is a great way to get seen.

So infantry's job has shifted. It's more about staying hidden, spotting the enemy and then calling in the hurt from any of a myriad of sources on the other end of a radio link than it is sitting there and duking it out in a protracted small arms fight.

Again, it's a shift in emphasis, not a total change. Small arms firefights will still happen and the belt-fed MG is still an important part of the toolkit. It's just not needed quite as much as it used to be, and arguably it's worth carrying a few less big, heavy SAWs, in exchange for a little more stealth and mobility.

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If the squad doesn't move, then indeed they will probably die (get bombed or blown up in some way). Don't blame the AR for that. You can do suppressive fire on the move, you know. Or if you want to stay hidden, don't fire at all, while moving. Militaries have been doing this for ages, so what has changed?

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M27, I had joked awhile ago, is the resurrection of B.A.R! ;) I get the impression that Army found much more utility in those old reissued M14s than they're letting on and would like something very much like it to play with.

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The most amazing thing I see when look at the US soldiers is the their main battle rifle-a descendant of the M-16 which is over 50 years old. In that time the Air Force has gone through 2 generations of fighters and the Navy a couple generations of ships.

While you're right about the M-4 being a descendant of the M-16 of course, I would suggest that the change transition from the M-16 *rifle* to the M-4 *carbine* was a pretty substantial change, despite their similarities.

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The essential problem with the "hail of bullets" suppressive fire idea in a modern, "1st World" vs. "1st World" battlefield is that the guy putting out said "hail of bullets" will probably die very quickly.

For infantry on the modern battlefield, stealth and concealment is the name of the game. If you can be seen, you can be killed in 1,000 different ways by distant weapons you probably have no awareness of. And sitting in one spot spewing out lead from a belt-fed MG is a great way to get seen.

So infantry's job has shifted. It's more about staying hidden, spotting the enemy and then calling in the hurt from any of a myriad of sources on the other end of a radio link than it is sitting there and duking it out in a protracted small arms fight.

Again, it's a shift in emphasis, not a total change. Small arms firefights will still happen and the belt-fed MG is still an important part of the toolkit. It's just not needed quite as much as it used to be, and arguably it's worth carrying a few less big, heavy SAWs, in exchange for a little more stealth and mobility.

I agree and disagree about the shift in the infantry's job. I think there will be times when they will be put into roles and situations where they will have to behave and use tactics like SWAT teams. They will be forced to deliberately engage and required to use precise and minimum deadly force. Sitting back and calling in firepower on a radio will not be an option as any sort of collateral will be seen as completely counterproductive.

The world is becoming more urbanized and population is shifting to urban centers. Many adversaries find crowded urbanized areas desirable to operate from.

There are specialized units to operate in these situations, but they can't be everywhere and I think the military/infantry is going to be tasked with more and expected to do more in different ways.

One thing I hear about the desirably of a bigger round than the 5.56 is people instinctively take cover when shot at and rounds like the 7.62x39 or 300 AC will penetrate cover better and in urban situations where there is plenty of heavy cover bigger is better.

On another note, while the military is sticking with the M4/5.56, it sounds like they are going to replace 400,000 or so pistols with a new handgun design using the 45ACP.

This is in contrast to LE who are in the process of moving away from the 40 S&W and larger calibers to the 9mm. LE has discovered rounds like the 40 cause premature wear and is difficult for many to handle well. Modern bonded expanding ammo has made the 9mm suitable to LE needs.

The military who by convention is forbidden to use expanding ammo has realized 9mm ball ammo has flaws, so it may be back to the old faithful 45.

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One other thing to consider. I understand the reasons many valid as to why one may want to keep the status quo and that the incident with the M4 is an isolated one.

On the other hand while unlikely North Korea and a possible confrontation with China and its huge land army can't be ruled out completely. Both know our capabilities and both will do all they can to counter any advantages we have should conflict occur. You never get the war you want and it never goes the way you plan or want it to and it oftentimes comes down to the lowest common denominator-the infantryman and his rifle.

You would think that in that sort of situation against an adversary with a huge manpower advantage and in a region of conflict where they will be able to take advantage of their manpower advantage, having a battle rifle that is very hard hitting and can be fired to excess without reliability issues would be a very desirable tool to have.

Honestly I don't know if the one fatal flaw described in the article is a major one or an isolated one.

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That's nuts. Bonnie and Clyde would loved to have one of those. You hear stories of how the 30-06 from a BAR would go through cars and oak trees like it was paper.

Someone mentioned the one of the main things is to lay down suppressive fire. I've wondered if any military looked at .22 cal. You can carry thousands of rounds and a well designed system could lay down a lot of lead.

It might even be possible to create a man portable mini Gatling gun with 3 to 6 barrels and if you had something like a back pack feed system you could potentially have something that could actually lay down thousands of rounds in seconds and maintain that rate of fire.

I was shown a GMC pickup truck that has ballistic protection. It could stop most pistol and rifle ammo, but a .22 could penetrate it. I think some of the newer PSD systems use a smaller bullet than a 5.56 and are designed to penetrate body armor.

Put a full metal jacket on a .22 and you probably want to make it center fire as opposed to rim fire and use cleaner burning powder.

Here is a little 22 Browning.

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db zero i seem to recall reading an article in a magazine about a .22lr weapon that someone had hucked at the military as a suppressive weapon, it had 2 barrels and was a belt fed.

and that tidbit of stopping most pistol and rifle ammo doesn't make sense, if you mean .22lr could penetrate it. Do you mean a .22 caliber round like 5.56?

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One benefit is the flat trajectory out to 300m. That's the magic distance within which most firefights have historically occurred. Oh, Afghanistan? Oops. Time to dust off the M14.

Meanwhile, the flat trajectory is very beneficial. No .300 Blackout will ever be accepted for line issue. It's too loopy.

The next size up, which gives the same flat trajectory (about 3,000 fps or better), would .300 Win Mag. Imagine a squad with semi auto .300 Win Mags? The muzzle blasts and reports would be enough to knock over most small mammals. ;)

Now, imagine lugging something like that, and its ammo, on patrol.

The Brits had an excellent study which pointed out that rounds within 1m or so are what suppress. Hearing that crack go past one tends to make them duck. Fast and flat are the desired characteristics. Under stress, you don't need to make ballistic computations or find the right hash mark on your sight.

Just a few cents more to add to the topic.

Carry on...

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I read something somewhere, maybe somewhere on these boards, that a large part of this issue has been driven by the fighting in Afghanistan. The extent to which the terrain and infrastructure there are nonexistent relevant to almost anywhere else is not well understood. The country doesn't have a single mile of railroad among other things. That huge cascading effects on logistics that result in more small unit, minimal support actions than you would get more or less anywhere else on earth. You don't won't to comepletely reengineer your entire military for this set of circumstances.

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Also Afghanistan architecture isn't exactly 'stick construction'.You don't need a B.A.R. to hole a modern building. Heck, a .22 short could probably pierce most modern-built American facades as long as it didn't hit a frame timber. Fiberboard, Sheetrock and spun fiberglass insulation and not much else. Afghanistan (and rural Normandy, and Sicily) look more like piled/cemented fieldstones.

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I always thought:

5.56 (Main Battle Rifle) - Supress and injure (and as personal defense weapon)

7.62 (MG and DMR) - Kill or injure

>7.62 (HMG or AMR) - Kill or injure

Rifle grenade - Kill or injure

Mortar - Kill or injure

In other words, while the Rifleman supress the enemy with their 5.56 bullets the other stuff gets setup/adjusted/into position to finish him.

For the ordinary infantry soldier the M4 has many advantages over a AK47.

Its more handy, less heavy (Rifle and Ammunition).

With all the other nasty killing toys a modern western army has i think a short and lightweight 5.56 Main Battle Rifle is the right choice.

@ MikeyD

Yeah, i would like to see how firefight in todays germany would play out, the building here are like bunkers with thick reinforced concrete walls...

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5.56 will kill you quite easily; it has excellent cavitation characteristics which lead to a large wound channel.

But regardless, yes; 7.62 is a larger, heavier round. It flies further, causes more damage, and penetrates cover more effectively. The essential problem with the idea of "retrograding" back to a 7.62mm weapon for the basic rifleman its that the modern infantryman's combat load is pretty much as heavy as it can get. If you want to swap the 5.56mm weapon out for a larger, heavier 7.62mm weapon with heavier 7.62mm ammo, to compensate, you have to do some combination of (a) carrying substantially less 7.62mm rounds than 5.56 rounds and/or (B) carrying less other stuff -- less body armor, optics, electronics, rifle grenades, AT4s... you have to drop something. 7.62mm advocates seem remarkably unwilling to name what they're willing to give up in order to return to a 7.62mm rifle as the basic infantry weapon.

This is why 5.56mm as the basic rifleman round isn't going to go away anytime soon. It may be supplemented by a 7.62mm weapon or two in the squad, but most soldiers are going to carry 5.56 for the foreseeable future.

Another note: While I am aware the propaganda says otherwise, the fact of the matter is that the M27 is *not* the BAR reincarnated. The BAR weighs nearly double what the Garand weighs, which it why it was never practical to contemplate fully equipping squads with BARs; the BAR's bulk limited it to being (at most) a one per fireteam "base of fire" weapon.

The M27, in contrast, weighs only very slightly more than the M16A4 (only about .3 kg more). It is also about the same size, uses the same mag, fires the same ammo, has similar ergonomics, and has more or less the same accessory mounts. It's just more reliable (lower jam/mis-fire percentage, especially in difficult conditions) and is more accurate, especially at long range.

Which is why I maintain that what the USMC is actually attempting to do with the M27 "Infantry Automatic Rifle" program is finagle a backdoor way to replace the M16A4 with a better weapon. They knew they couldn't get the money to completely replace the M16 in a single procurement, but they could get enough money to replace the SAWs with M27s. So they played a shell game; they shifted the SAWs to the Rifle Company "Weapons Locker," from which they can be distributed back out to the rifle squads at any time, and are issuing the ~4,000 M27s they could get the money for to the rifle squads, meaning about 25% of Marine riflemen will be carrying M27s rather than M16s once the procurement is complete.

My guess is that the long-term plan is to continue to push for more M27 purchases, until they have enough to equip all combat units with M27 as the basic rifle. By this time, the Army's LMG project, which has the goal of replacing the M249 with a lighter weapon firing lighter caseless ammo, may be complete, and the USMC can piggyback that procurement to get a better SAW.

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The weight concerns regarding a move back to 7.62 is one of the reasons why case less ammo is attractive. You save 25% in weight by moving to case less ammo.

It is a big upfront commitment. I don't know if there is a willingness to make that sort of commitment.

Maybe Army and Air Force can play a football game. Army wins the Air Force gives up 2 F-35s to fund a new battle rifle and case less ammo. Not sure what the Army can offer if AF wins...

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Actually, in the U.S. Military, as far as I am aware currently the most significant development activity in a caseless ammo weapon is in the Army's LMG project, which is 5.56mm.

I'm sure the technology could easily be scaled up to 7.62mm, but this does nevertheless give you an idea of what Army's current thinking is regarding the whole 5.56mm vs. 7.62mm debate. If they're spending money and development time trying to make 5.56mm even lighter, then I really doubt they're very hot on the idea of adding more 7.62mm weapons to the rifle platoon's basic loadout, caseless or not.

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The weight concerns regarding a move back to 7.62 is one of the reasons why case less ammo is attractive. You save 25% in weight by moving to case less ammo.

It is a big upfront commitment. I don't know if there is a willingness to make that sort of commitment.

Maybe Army and Air Force can play a football game. Army wins the Air Force gives up 2 F-35s to fund a new battle rifle and case less ammo. Not sure what the Army can offer if AF wins...

Additional options at the AF academy buffet?

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...the building here are like bunkers with thick reinforced concrete walls...

Interesting. Back in the early '80s I met a guy who had been part of the Berlin garrison, and he told me that that was the case in Berlin. Are you saying that it is also true across the country? And is it the case just in major urban centers, or do the suburbs and villages get the same treatment?

Michael

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Interesting. Back in the early '80s I met a guy who had been part of the Berlin garrison, and he told me that that was the case in Berlin. Are you saying that it is also true across the country? And is it the case just in major urban centers, or do the suburbs and villages get the same treatment?

Michael

Same in The Netherlands. AFAIK almost all new buildings, be it major urban centers, suburbs or villages are built with concrete (with rebar frame). Been like that for a long time, older built with heavy brick. The concrete may not be bunker grade (no expert on this), but you definitely need a good hammer drill if you want to put something on the wall ;-). Inner walls not supporting the structure are more often made of plasterboard or similar stuff.

In my current apartment (built in 67) I melted a supposedly 'diamondtip' brand new concrete drill into the rebar in the wall :D

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