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The Main Battle Rifle for the US Army

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The weapon that raises range concerns in Afghanistan is the RPG, not the AK-47, since the former is the Taliban's preferred method of initiating serious contact. If an AK round smacks a few inches away, you're still good to go, but if an RPG lands a few inches away, you're probably hurting.

There are also RRs they occasionally use as well, for much the same purpose.

edit: when I was getting out they were starting to replace the EBRs (modernized M14s) with the M110.

I recently read an article that stated the Taliban would open an engagement with RPG's and PKM's (7.62x54R) at ranges of 900m. NATO forces had very little they could respond with at the platoon level.

One thing to remember is that while the US keeps developing new ammo for the 5.56mm the barrel length on the M4 and Mk18 are much shorter than the standard M-16.

I think the issue is not one of the M16 as a platform but more of the 5.56mm as a general purpose cartridge. This article makes some good points http://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=778

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I recently read an article that stated the Taliban would open an engagement with RPG's and PKM's (7.62x54R) at ranges of 900m. NATO forces had very little they could respond with at the platoon level.

I don't as much about other NATO member TOEs, but for U.S. Army this simply isn't true.

It varies from force type to force type (e.g., Light Infantry, vs. Stryker Infantry vs. Airborne infantry), but most U.S. Army rifle platoon TOEs include two M240 GPMG teams in the Weapons Squad. The Squad DMs also have the option of carrying a scoped 7.62mm semi-auto rifle (typically a modernized M14), rather than a 5.56 weapon, something that's fairly common practice.

So by TOE, the most common U.S. Army rifle platoon formations have at least two 7.62mm MGs that are more than capable of engaging at 900m+, and may have as many as three scoped 7.62mm rifles in the hands of the best marksmen in the platoon, also capable of engaging at these ranges.

Now, it may be that in Afghanistan rifle platoons were sometimes leaving the M240s behind when going out on patrol, due to weight issues. I haven't heard of this, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is happening at least in some situations -- Hiking around Afghanistan's rough terrain with a 12kg GPMG and the heavier ammo it eats has got to be hard work. But then the problem is not lack of 900m+ weapons in the platoon as such, but rather the ability to carry such heavier weapons into the engagement.

There are other reasons why the 900m+ engagement is problematic in Afghanistan for NATO. Among other things, at these ranges the location of a sniper, MG team, or even RPG team taking potshots at you is very difficult specify. You might get a general idea of the source of the fire, but nailing the source down to a specific building or pile of rocks can be difficult even with the help of modern optics and other whiz bangs. And since the Taliban often fight from positions in close proximity to civilians, ROEs can proscribe simply hosing down a large area that's a suspected source of incoming fire.

Really, it's the same problem that limits the use of higher level assets like artillery and air support. Can't use the Big Hurt without risking civilian casualties, and causing civilian casualties loses you points in the "hearts and minds" game. Difficult tactical problem to solve, and not one that's solved by simply carrying more long-range 7.62mm weapons at the platoon level.

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The PLA isn't particularly deployable outside of a handful of light units, since they don't have the sealift necessary to move very many ground forces to the hotspots and keep them supplied. The one scenario where they would have a manpower advantage -- an actual land invasion of China -- nukes would fly long before that advantage could tell. North Korea's army, as near as any can tell, is in even worse straits, along with South Korea being able to contribute nearly as many men once their reserves are activated, atop whatever the US military can feed in.

At any rate, I can't imagine a single conflict in the modern era that was decided by the choice of rifle.

Off the topic...but speaking of China...

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/its-official-america-is-now-no-2-2014-12-04

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I think the issue is not one of the M16 as a platform but more of the 5.56mm as a general purpose cartridge. This article makes some good points http://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=778

From the article:

"The Taliban, it has been said, “Ignore 5.56mm, respect 7.62mm and fear .50 BMG.”"

This is something of a contradiction from the usual Lessons Learned from Afghanistan that I've seen. Most notably this one: http://www.michaelyon-online.com/images/pdf/the_eagle_went_over_the_mountain.ppt

(apologies for pic instead of text, taken from PowerPoint)

uadO6MZ.png

In other parts of that lessons learned, you'll find reference to Taliban calmly sighting RPGs while .50cal fire kicks up dirt less than three feet away from them. These are dudes who simply are not intimidated by gunfire. Which is why everyone wants to see improved HE delivery pushed lower and lower down the food chain. Other notes from the above: concerns about weight, mobility, etc. but none regarding 5.56 being especially inadequate to the task at-hand. Obviously we could have a longer-ranged, harder-hitting weapon in everyone's hands, but the infantry are already overloaded when dismounted, so it feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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The complaints I have read regarding shortcomings of the 5.56mm in Afghanistan have been in relation to US forces firing upwards at a steep angle at an enemy force higher in elevation, such as from a valley to a mountain side. Such terrain is common in the eastern part of the country.

I also recall Rangers complaining about how many hits it took to knock guys down during the Battle of Mogadishu, aka "Blackhawk Down". But in that fight the Somalies were hopped up on narcotics and so were literally feeling no pain.

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T

I also recall Rangers complaining about how many hits it took to knock guys down during the Battle of Mogadishu, aka "Blackhawk Down". But in that fight the Somalies were hopped up on narcotics and so were literally feeling no pain.

And I recall that several of the units involved in the so-called "Blackhawk Down" incident went black on ammo before the ground convoy forced their way through and rescued them. If they had been carrying a 7.62mm weapon rather than a 5.56mm, they probably would have run out of ammo much sooner.

So... which would you prefer, not being certain whether your last shot dropped some Ethiopian tribesman hopped up on khat, or running out of ammo entirely?

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I recall during the Falklands war the same reports about troops firing 5.56 unable to knock the enemy down. I can't recall which arm of service went in to the fight with 5.56 at the time but one anecdote had a Brit soldier hitting and Argentine soldier three times at close range and he kept firing. Finally one round hit the guy's rifle. He threw down his weapon, raised his hands and surrendered.

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And I recall that several of the units involved in the so-called "Blackhawk Down" incident went black on ammo before the ground convoy forced their way through and rescued them. If they had been carrying a 7.62mm weapon rather than a 5.56mm, they probably would have run out of ammo much sooner.

So... which would you prefer, not being certain whether your last shot dropped some Ethiopian tribesman hopped up on khat, or running out of ammo entirely?

nah they would have just dropped them with 1 or 2 shots from 7.62 and had plenty left for the rest...

seriously I don't know if in that situation spray and pry is better with a 5.56 or semi auto aimed shots with a harder hitting 7.62 would have been better.

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And I recall that several of the units involved in the so-called "Blackhawk Down" incident went black on ammo before the ground convoy forced their way through and rescued them. If they had been carrying a 7.62mm weapon rather than a 5.56mm, they probably would have run out of ammo much sooner.

So... which would you prefer, not being certain whether your last shot dropped some Ethiopian tribesman hopped up on khat, or running out of ammo entirely?

I wasn't advocating either/or, just stating a fact.

But since you are asking, here are the thoughts of one guy who was actually there:

"(Paul) Howe felt like he had to hit a guy five or six times just to get his attention. They used to kid Randy Shughart because he shunned the modern rifle and ammunition and carried a Vietnam era M-14, which shot a 7.62mm round without the penetrating qualities of the new green tip. It occurred to Howe as he saw those Sammies keep on running that Randy was the smartest soldier in the unit."

-- BHD, pg 208

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Ah yes, the old myth about the "stopping power" of the 7.62, which is just that, a myth.

Movies are not reality. One shot kills are rare events.

Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for Soldier weapons with the PEO Soldier, discounted the reports of multiple 5.56mm rifle rounds penetrating straight through enemy bodies, “If you look at the bone mass of the human body, there is a lot of bone, if you hit a bone, [the bullet] is not going through the body, its putting an individual down.”

Knockdown is actually a misnomer, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, program manager for individual Soldier weapons at PEO-Soldier. “You generally don’t knock anyone down, unless you have a very, very large round and you hit bone.” What typically brings down a human being when hit with a bullet is the “bleed-out effect”: massive blood loss that causes the body to shut down, the person staggers and then collapses.

When the 5.56mm high-velocity round enters the body it creates a “wound channel,” Tamilio said, “that wound channel as it expands and contracts it causes the bleed out effect.” A high-velocity 5.56mm round creates a sizable wound channel, he said, big enough to do the job.

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2010/05/25/dueling-rifle-rounds-it%e2%80%99s-all-about-the-wound-channel/#ixzz3L2E7bGJM

Defense.org

Typically a combatant on the battlefield is incapacitated through loss of blood. A person will normally lose consciousness when they have lost 20% of their blood. Obviously, the more/bigger holes you make, the faster the process. However, in that regard, a single 5.56 round will do the job as well as a single 7.62 round.

When a human body is hit with a 5.56mm 62-grain bullet traveling at 3,100 feet per second; essentially the same thing happens but much, much more violently. For a split second, the cavity created inside the human body by the round from an M-16/M-4 is about the size of a basketball (if hit dead center of mass). The 5.56 creates this massive cavitation by tumbling through the body initiated by inherently unstable flight.

This change increased the accuracy of the 5.56 round out past 500 meters, but decreased its lethality when striking a body. Now the real debate begins… How truly deadly is the 5.56? Well, this past April when I was going through Combat Skills Training at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, one week was spent in Combat Life-Saving class (CLS). The medics who instructed us had slide show after slide show of combat injuries they have treated over their last three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And let me tell you, these were not for the weak stomachs among us. If you are reading this article, I bet you are the same type of person as I to ask, “What calibers caused those wounds?” These men and women have seen the worst injuries of coalition forces and enemy combatants alike. The Geneva Conventions state that medics must provide medical care to all captured enemy personnel when able. Therefore, many Taliban and Jihadist fighters came across their operating rooms. After class one day I asked all of them, “Do any of you doubt the killing power of the 5.56 round?” They all answered with a resounding, “NO.”

http://www.futurefirepower.com/myths-about-the-nato-556-cartridge

Now many of the stories about the 5.56 lack of "stopping power" are based on anecdotes of combatants continuing to fight even after they were hit by several rounds. However, this is not limited to 5.56, you can find many report of U.S. police shootings where individuals continued to fight even after being hit by several 9mm/.357 magnum rounds, i.e.

Toxicology tests showed that the abilities of Platt and Matix to fight through multiple traumatic gunshot wounds and continue to battle and attempt to escape were not achieved through any chemical means. Both of their bodies were drug-free at the time of their deaths.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1986_FBI_Miami_shootout

The reality is that humans are much harder to kill then most people think. Unless you get a lucky hit, an individual hit by several rounds could continue fighting for many minutes until he passes out from loss of blood.

so the choice is actually quite simple:

you want a round that performs better in artificial tests, like shooting through cement blocks? choose 7.62.

you want a round that will suppress/incapacitate/kill combatants on a battlefield? 5.56 does the job as well as 7.62 and you can carry more of it.

simple.

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I am always amazed at the great dialog that goes on here.

So one other thought occurred to me, does any of this change if the opponent has on some form of body armor? I don't recall the insurgents having it in CMSF. Do Russian or Ukrainian troops have any form of protection?

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I had marksman training on the M-14 i quite liked the trigger on it (not that i have much to compare it with though). Getting the bolt to go back to it's place when field stripping it was a fun minigame as well...

I was issued an M-14 in USMC recruit training in 1969. We were required to be able to field strip and reassemble the rifle in two minutes or less while blindfolded. Our entire 80-man platoon was able to pass that test. The M-14 was my TO weapon until 1973 because all of the M-16's were sent to the grunts in Vietnam.

If I am to be in an urban assault, I'd want an M-16 or an M-4. In a defensive position with long-range vision, give me an M-14. I'll warrant that even with my trifocals, I can still put 10 rounds into a man-sized target at 500 yards with open battle sights. Of course, the target isn't shooting back.?

I don't think I could do that with an M-16 and definitely no with an M-4.

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I wouldn't put too much credence in the 1986 Miami police/FBI shootout. It was valid at the time, but since that time bullet technology has advanced. Back then self defense rounds would not perform reliably. Today bonded ammo performs much more reliably.

I also read that back then in spite of its reputation the FBI was more of a white crime outfit and firearms skill and training had slipped. One of the agents really didn't engage.

The military by convention is forbidden from using expanding ammunition so that too is going to be a factor. That's a big reason why LE and the military are moving in opposite directions with regards to pistols. LE is moving towards 9mm while the military is moving back to the 45 ACP.

One thing I gathered from the linked defense journal article was the thinner combatants on a third world diet had body structures that sometimes prevents the 5.56 from performing as advertised. Sounds like if you're on a McDonalds diet and on your way to obesity the 5.56 will likely petform as advertised. Maybe thats why McDonalds and KFCs are sprouting up all over in places like China and the Middle East.

Interesting China has a 5.8 cal bullet they won't export. They also recently took 1st place in a tactical competition.

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It was 22lr. Sounds very counter intuitive. Ill see this person in a month or 2 and see if I can find out more. He may have been referring to the one particular area. Some kevlar will be penetrated by .22 and a knife, while other grades stops both iirc.

At the time I wasn't paying too much attention and was already labeled a smart*** for mentioning 50 cal and being stopped by the armor on this vehicle.

I believe this is related to the "Nylon-coated cop killer" .22 long rifle bullets that were banned because they were found to be able to penetrate police protective vests.

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I believe this is related to the "Nylon-coated cop killer" .22 long rifle bullets that were banned because they were found to be able to penetrate police protective vests.

Was that the KXT?

I think some types of kevlar are still vulnerable to .22. I don't know all the exact details. I think hp, solid round nose is a factor. You also have those hyper velocity rounds like Stingers.

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One thing I gathered from the linked defense journal article was the thinner combatants on a third world diet had body structures that sometimes prevents the 5.56 from performing as advertised. Sounds like if you're on a McDonalds diet and on your way to obesity the 5.56 will likely petform as advertised. Maybe thats why McDonalds and KFCs are sprouting up all over in places like China and the Middle East.

It has been theorized that with very thin individuals, the round may not have the time/resistance to induce yaw resulting in a straight through-and-through wound which just leaves a small hole, although a 7.62 round would not perform appreciably better in that case either.

Interesting China has a 5.8 cal bullet they won't export. They also recently took 1st place in a tactical competition.

China does not release any technical data on this round, so it is hard to know how well it will perform. I did see an article recently that they were already thinking of switching to a diffferent design since the PLA was not happy with the short/medium range performance, but I can't find the link. From what I have read, the Chinese 5.8mm round seems to be designed for long range accuracy/penetration which means it most likely will not shatter/yaw like 5.56 ammo at short ranges.

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so the choice is actually quite simple:

you want a round that performs better in artificial tests, like shooting through cement blocks? choose 7.62.

you want a round that will suppress/incapacitate/kill combatants on a battlefield? 5.56 does the job as well as 7.62 and you can carry more of it.

simple.

You missed out the "You want a round that will make cover less than reinforced concrete (out of common building materials) just 'concealment'? Choose 7.62" choice. The mud-brick-penetrating qualities of 7.62 at "normal engagement ranges" is one of the reasons I've seen cited for the reissuing of some modernised M14s to current COIN troops in Afghanistan... I've heard no similar stories of UK troops being issued refurbed FALs though.

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There are stories of troops in Iraq stashing captured AKs in Humvees because they were better for shooting insurgents taking cover behind walls and the like.

Some contend that because its human nature and because troops are trained to seek cover immediately a round that penetrates and reduces cover is more desirable.

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Interesting discussion. Seems to me both 7.62 and 5.56 have enough advantages to be a lot better than the other in the right circumstances. 5.56 is better when you need full or 3 round burst automatic fire and/or need to carry a lot of rounds on your person. 7.62 x51 is better when the range is long and or you need to shoot though cover, particularly if you don't need to man hump too many rounds. The advantages of 5.56 over 7.62 seem bigger to me for leg infantry than mechanized, because they have to walk with their rounds much farther and can't almost always just get more. I think over time the amount of small unit mechanized ammo transport, from full tank APCs like Israel is making all the way down to little robots with legs or tracks will continue to increase. I think we should take advantage of this trend of increasing convenient ammo transport by issuing a new full power rifle to line troops with their own ammo transports. So they would have two rifles. Not to carry them both with them but to use the better suited one. Rifles are cheap compared to soldiers, and having extra rifles around would reduce the logistical problems caused by having two types of ammo.

Plus I just got a silly idea, inspired by CMBS. As we are driving to Moscow liberating eastern Europe, ;) and there are all these young guys who want to join, we can just let 'em borrow one of the extras. jk jk I hate war

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Do Russian or Ukrainian troops have any form of protection?

Everybody gets modern day body armor. Nobody's running around in their shirtsleeves like in CMBN. But utility of body armor goes down as new types of rounds get issued. In the real world Russia has begun supplying their 'separatists' with body armor piercing ammo which has complicated the lives of Ukrainian fighters.

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The widespread use of body armor may factor in why they are sticking with the 5.56 if its better against opponents with body armor. I don't know if 5.56 is superior than the 7.62 against body armor. I'm sure the military has looked into this. Most of the discussion has been about use against opponents without body armor.

Looks like infantry is having its own armor vs projectile arms race like tanks.

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The widespread use of body armor may factor in why they are sticking with the 5.56 if its better against opponents with body armor. I don't know if 5.56 is superior than the 7.62 against body armor. I'm sure the military has looked into this. Most of the discussion has been about use against opponents without body armor.

Looks like infantry is having its own armor vs projectile arms race like tanks.

The 5.56 NATO has inferior penetration to 7.62mm NATO, with only a few exceptions. As for countering body armor with 5.56, the black tip M995 AP round has been in service since the Cold War. I'm not sure how it shapes up against modern Russian body armor though. The reason the debate has mostly ignored body armor is two-fold: for starters, none of our opponents in the past two decades have made much use of it and secondly, the major casualty-producing weapons either penetrate reliably (medium and heavy machine guns) or are HE/fragment-based (grenade launchers, mortars, rockets, ATGMs).

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One of the factors that is not getting enough time in this thread is the amount of ammo that is expended in general suppression as opposed to aimed fire. The Pentagon is somewhat sensitive to the cost of those rounds, and the logistics of hauling them to the ends of the earth. The weight and volume of 5.56 vs larger calibers counts all the way up the chain, least a little.

My own little hobby horse...

For the sake of argument, consider an infantry squad where the individual weapon is a 7.62 with scope and so on, and the SAW equivalent is even smaller than 5.56 and designed to put out a truly large number of rounds out too 200-300 meters. An M-25 figures in somewhere as well. Your short range suppression is very dependent on the one full auto element for one thing. But you setting yours guys up to be conservative with the heavy rounds, and free with the light ones.

I have to give Jerry Pournelle credit for the idea.....

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