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Why did MGs get so much better?


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Originally posted by Adam1:

Still no sense. It's not like they have only one magazine. Are you worried about the few seconds of mag change time lost? MGs have to pause in their firing to cool anyhow. I still don't get it.

That few seconds can be critical. If you're trying to put suppressive fire down on an enemy position and you have to stop every few seconds to reload, it's not really very suppressive. An L86 LSW (which incidentally has the nickname 'L - S - Trouble - U' in some sections of the British army) can empty a 30-round magazine in about 3 seconds, which is less time than it takes to reload it. Of course, my (admittedly limited) experience with the LSW was that the damn thing would never make it through a 30-round mag on full auto without jamming ;)
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The Bren, in the 7.62mm version* was still in service during the '91 Gulf war.

LSW, AFAICT, is used wehn it has to be, rather that on a regular basis. Sometimes known as the "Crow cannon" because it tends to wind up in the hands of the new recruit (a "Crow") Since proper sniper rifles (L96 and L115) are generally available, in the hands of proper snipers, having a DMR is a bit of a wasted effort. However, for a fully deployed infantry unit, you still need them.

*Can be distinguished by it having a straight magazine.

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Besides the inability to put down meaningful suppressive firepower, it also means a LOT of extra weight and bulk due to the magazines themselves. Look at the ammo bag under a M249 and note that it is equivalent to about 7 magazines (200 rounds). Picture 7 mags taped together to get that amount of ammo at the ready and you'll see what I mean :D

Way back in the early days of paintball the first full auto gun was fed by stripper clips of something like 5 or 10 balls (can't remember). You'd hear the guy squeeze it off and know that you could move freely because he'd be busy reloading. Soon the gunner figured out that the jig was up, therefore he had to bluff by shooting air (i.e. no paintballs loaded). Unfortunately for him, that makes a different noise so you REALLY knew the guy was in need of reloading. At the end of the day the guy had welts all over him from being pounded into oblivion in the first few minutes of every game tongue.gif While paintball has very little to do with real warfare, there is a parallel here to some extent.

Steve

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Steve--

Totally off topic but....You are referring to the Tipmann SMG 60 paintball gun. I owned one of those and it was a blast. Semi or full auto firepower at a time when everyone else was using pump action guns.

The trick was to fire one or two 5 round stripper clips at a time and then reload. If they tried to nail you while reloading, you fired your third 5 round stripper clip at them. They all had pump guns, so it was easy to establish fire superiority. You could also bunker rush with these guns due to their high ROF and light weight.

The trick was also to adjust your gun so it never shot full auto.......waste of paint and would leave you with a lot of reloading to do! you were also wise to take cover and coordinate your fire with others so you were covered while reloading. But reloading with this gun was actually quick and easy.

Of course....that gun is now a relic and would be totally outclassed on today's paintball field.

It does show that portable firepower had a place on the battlefield though (paintball or real), but ROFs (be it a full auto SMG 60 or an MG42) that are too high cause major issues.

Actually--I think paintball has one thing in common with infantry combat. It is very hard NOT to get hit.

[ March 10, 2008, 02:36 PM: Message edited by: Nemesis Lead ]

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Adam is right, and it is still nonsense.

No MG can fire its theoretical ROFs, all are ammo supply limited. There is no appreciable change in the amount of ammo you can feed the gun based on the feed mechanism. Smaller caliber can get you more rounds for the same effort, that is about it.

The drum and box mag LMGs haven't disappeared, they are just now the standard weapon of infantrymen, with the caliber dropping to carry more ammo. Full caliber MGs supplement them. Is anybody going to maintain that every autorifleman has to go belt fed or nobody has any firepower? Just nonsense.

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Imagine a WW II German infantry division worth of MG 42s, not per man just the 63 per battalion load out that the better divisions had by late in the war. Now imagine them all on their guns holding trigger down when the sun comes up in the morning and when it goes down at night. What is the ammo consumption in tons per day?

Answer, about 40,000 tons per day. With the artillery silent, and the riflemen doing nothing but hump ammo boxes. Which only exceeds the actual available supply for a single division, in all categories, by 2 1/2 orders of magnitude.

High ROF weapons help with surge firing and they help with brief target exposures. But once you have full rifle rounds fired full automatic, you have what there is to get in the matter, because all the remaining limits are set by (1) weapon survival under enemy fire, and (2) friendly logistic capacity, not the details of the tubes the ammo is thrown by.

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The funny thing here is that I don't think Steve and JasonC actually disagree. I guess they both just feel the need to argue for some reason. . .

Fundamentally, suspect they'd both agree that at the platoon level it makes sense to have MOST soldiers armed with lightweight, reliable mag-fed weapons, but also have a few soldiers armed with heavier, belt-fed weapons which can throw out more rounds.

You can argue all day about what is the ideal ratio between these two types of weapons, and other specifics like ideal caliber, muzzle velocity, etc. . . but at the end of the day I really don't think Steve is suggesting that it's ideal to have *all* firearms at the platoon level be belt-fed full auto, and I don't think JasonC is suggesting that its ideal to have *all* firearms at the platoon level be clip-fed.

It's all just different tools in the toolbox. Someday, there might be a universal weapon which is uniformly equipped to all infantrymen, covering the roles of personal firearm, SAW, and platoon GPMG, but state of the art is nowhere near that right now. If anything, in First World militaries things seem to be trending towards a modest increase in specialist weapons and roles at the platoon and squad level, with grenadiers armed with semi-auto grenade launchers, AT/rocket specialists armed with rocket launchers or recoilless rifles, designated marksmen armed with scoped rifles, etc.

Cheers,

YD

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FWIW, we were doing a platoon assault exercise in the reserves. I was one of a few defenders, and the Sarge asked me to "pretend" that I had a Minimi because they weren't expecting that. I said "what do you mean?" and he said "use your imagination". So I line up about 10 mags on the ground in front of me and fired them full auto (with an Austeyr) as fast as I could change mags.

It was fun while it lasted. :D

Thinking back I don't remember checking how hot the barrel got.

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Adam1,

I don't doubt that belt-fed machine guns generally are better for fire suppression, particularly when you are stationary. I don't attribute that to the length of time involved in a mag change though, I think it has more to do with carrying capacity and ease.
What is a bag with a belt in it other than a very large capacity magazine? Or put another way, picture how a M249 would look if it had a box the size of 7 30rnd clips stuck to it. Not practical, right? :D So effectively the only way you can get that sort of "on demand" capacity is to have a belt fed weapon (or a heavier, bulkier, and more expensive drum).

The point here is that changing times DOES matter. I don't think any soldier would argue that it doesn't. However, there are downsides to a belt fed weapon, which brings me to Jason's point:

When they replace the M-16 and M-4 with uniform SAWs, you can
It is neither practical nor desirable to have all weapons within a squad be SAWs. Weight alone precludes this from being a wise idea. If everybody has a SAW, who has a grenade launcher? Who is carrying AT-4s? Who is man handling the Javelins? It would be physically impossible for the entire Squad to have its diversity of armaments and other equipment if everybody was toting around a M249. However, the Squad can support at least two SAWs without sacrificing their other "tools".

In fact, the US Army has taken the main firearm (the rifle) and transformed it from 7.62 rifles (M1, M14) to 5.56. They then took the initial form of it (M16) and shrunk the weapon itself down (M4). They could have stuck with 7.62 or stuck with the M16, but they did not because they found the tradeoff in weight necessary. Therefore, of course they aren't going to be running around with SAWs since that brings them in the opposite direction.

As YankeeDog said, it's all about having the right mix of tools in the toolbox. A modern Squad (of whatever flavor you like to point at) generally has a Squad of between 8 and 10 men with at least 2x belt fed SAW, 2x Grenade Launchers, some integrated AT capability, and the rest fleshed out with rifles. So either everybody has it right (for now) or everybody is going in the wrong direction and should be instead focused on magazine based weapons. I think the latter is a line of argument that doesn't hold much chance of making an impression on anybody who does this stuff for a living.

Steve

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Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

The MG42 had to be changed after the war - the ROF was far too high, and the 1200 rpm it was capable of was scaled back for modern service (MG3), and in all its imitators (i.e. M60, FN MAG), so I'm not sure I understand why the MG42 is held up as the paragon of all machine guns. It wasn't - it used up ammo way too fast and they had to fix that in the modern versions. The MG34 it was developed from disappeared soon enough as, IIRC, it was too closely machined.

What are you talking about? MG3 has two bolts heavier for 800 to 900 rof or lighter/standard bolt for 1100-1200 rof. depending on what you need you change the bolt. The big change was chambering for NATO 7,62mm versus the old 7,92mm

FN's C9 used as the standred section/squad MG for commonwealth and USA is 750 rof to 1000 rof

[ March 11, 2008, 02:36 AM: Message edited by: Bastables ]

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I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding by some people here of the reason for such high ROF on the MG-34 and MG-42. The point was to get lead on the target before the target had time to get into cover. This is your best chance at killing or wounding the foe, and when the opportunity's fleeting, time, therefore ROF, is of the essence. This is also the exact philosophy applied to JMEM calculations of artillery effectiveness, in that the first volley is assumed to catch the men standing and highly vulnerable, while all subsequent volleys are treated as though the men are prone and in cover. Evidently, the Germans didn't see the high ROF as a problem on the MG-34, as evidenced that the MG-42 fired even faster.

I'd also like to make another point about the MG-34. For all its fantastic tech, it was made old school by painstakingly and lovingly precision machining the whole thing. This not only reduced the production rate but tied up scarce manpower and equipment resources. The MG-42 was one of, if not the first, MGs to be almost completely stamped

rather than machined. Not only was it easier, cheaper and much faster, but the gun also had its tolerances loosened, making it much more reliable on the dirty battlefield than the tightly toleranced MG-34 was. The result was a devastating weapon which, in modified form, still serves today. The U.S. M60 was a rework of it, but with the ROF dropped for better controllability, based on a different approach to MG philosophy than the Germans had.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Originally posted by Bastables:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

The MG42 had to be changed after the war - the ROF was far too high, and the 1200 rpm it was capable of was scaled back for modern service (MG3), and in all its imitators (i.e. M60, FN MAG), so I'm not sure I understand why the MG42 is held up as the paragon of all machine guns. It wasn't - it used up ammo way too fast and they had to fix that in the modern versions. The MG34 it was developed from disappeared soon enough as, IIRC, it was too closely machined.

What are you talking about? MG3 has two bolts heavier for 800 to 900 rof or lighter/standard bolt for 1100-1200 rof. depending on what you need you change the bolt. The big change was chambering for NATO 7,62mm versus the old 7,92mm

FN's C9 used as the standred section/squad MG for commonwealth and USA is 750 rof to 1000 rof </font>

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Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Bastables:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

The MG42 had to be changed after the war - the ROF was far too high, and the 1200 rpm it was capable of was scaled back for modern service (MG3), and in all its imitators (i.e. M60, FN MAG), so I'm not sure I understand why the MG42 is held up as the paragon of all machine guns. It wasn't - it used up ammo way too fast and they had to fix that in the modern versions. The MG34 it was developed from disappeared soon enough as, IIRC, it was too closely machined.

What are you talking about? MG3 has two bolts heavier for 800 to 900 rof or lighter/standard bolt for 1100-1200 rof. depending on what you need you change the bolt. The big change was chambering for NATO 7,62mm versus the old 7,92mm

FN's C9 used as the standred section/squad MG for commonwealth and USA is 750 rof to 1000 rof </font>

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Originally posted by FAI:

Nah, it's just that the MoD don't let us have new guns very often....

As to the belt-fed vs magazine argument - I've yet to speak to any serving soldier in the British army or Royal Marines who thinks the MoD were wrong in replacing the LSW with the Minimi.

Unless they're Finnish of course. The grenadiers and the antitank specialists just carry a SAW in one hand and a launcher in the other, whilst everyone else dual-wields smile.gif
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