Invisio

“New Calibers, the Fight to Come” by Frank Plumb


In my efforts to enhance the lethality of US weapon systems, my intent has always been to bring more people into the discussion. I do my best to not speak in absolutes, I intend to discuss things conceptually. This is so that experts in the finer points of cartridge construction, rifle barrel design, and ballistics could help drive the conversation. I am not some tier one super hero. I do not pretend to know everything and I would be highly skeptical of anyone who claims they do. But I have little fear in speaking out. I know this community has what it is needed to help drive the development of what could be the last cartridge based systems fielded by the U.S military.

There have been a few shifts in my thinking. The first was a firefight in 2003. Before then I was always under the notion that 5.56×45 mm projectiles would be modified to meet the demands of combat environments. When your perspective is based on ½ mass time velocity squared, 5.56×45 appears to the end all be all. But, I landed in Ft Bragg in November of 2003, with a new perspective.

I’ve mentioned the King and Queen of combat marksmanship. Energy Transferred into the target is the Queen and Shot Placement is the King. That these elements combine into the probability of killing the enemy. In the mid 2000’s a study was released that said 5.56 bullets need to yaw to transfer energy. If the 5.56 bullet does not Yaw or “tumble” shot placement becomes even more critical. It can kill without it, but the kill probability drops substantially. The Army study said a 5.56 bullet needs 4.75 inches of body penetration to Yaw. The people we have been shooting at for the last 16 years are not known for being more than 5 inches thick.

Until this study was released, I believed that the 77grain bullet and other larger 5.56 projectiles were going to be the answer in most applications. I then discussed with my father, a famous sniper in LE circles, the USMC’s experiences in the transition from the M14 to the M16. Stories of grown Marines on the verge of crying from frustration in shooting the M16 the first time are still visceral to him. Had we gotten it wrong all those years ago? Did we hamstring our forces for a half century in the name of lighter weight? Did we marry light, cheap, and easy at the expense of lethality and the military half mile? (I feel we should have ALL rifles capable of engaging targets to 800m not 500m as some have suggested)

Around this same time, I had a chance meeting with a staffer from Senator Tom Coburns office. One conversation led to an email. This email turned into hours of phone calls and a white paper. This white paper was sent to the Secretary of the Army and became the Individual Carbine program. At the time, I was a senior NCO assigned to a NG SF ODA. Not really the center of gravity in weapons modernization. But I kept in contact with Senator Coburn and his staff. I advocated for multiple weapons platforms that I thought would be effective solutions.

But what I tried to communicate more than anything else was the projectile. The bullet we were shooting was more important than the gun we were shooting it with. DoD was so tied to 5.56×45 that it there was no way any small arm wouldn’t use it. The Individual Carbine was cancelled a few years ago because none of the weapons offered any cost/performance benefit over the M4. It is the same reason the SCAR ® Mk.16 was cancelled. They all shoot the same 5.56×45 cartridge. Like I said the bullet we shoot is more important than the gun. No change in bullet equals no change in rifle, the M4 lived on.

Not long after this I went to the SCAR fielding at 1st Special Forces Group. While I liked the Mk.16, I completely forgot about it the second I shot the MK.17 SCAR®. It felt new, light, and a lot like the future. It was European so it had some quirks like ergonomics and not enough room for all the lights and lasers. But the aftermarket would resolve that. I started digging around in my network about the first field reports. I talked to friends at 2nd Ranger Bn. and 3rd SFG. I had faith this was going to be the system that was going put it all together. That the SCAR was a SOPMOD away from perfection. I figured the SCAR® was the answer. Now we can really knock people in the dirt. Simply put 7.62×51 is very lethal, and I could do house work with this gun.

But there is a problem. 7.62×51 does not have the legs to be effective past 1000m. For those that know there has been a long-standing need to have a +1000m battle rifle. I’ve known this for well over a decade. Until recently not many people listened. Some are now. One who agreed early was Jim Schatz.

I met Jim Schatz when he came to Seattle in 2012 for a small arms conference. I had a friend use his credentials to get me in. I remember it was in the convention center in Seattle, Washington. The same place I would meet Alan Handl just a few months later that same year.

I was advising the staff of Senator Coburn at the time on the Individual Carbine program. I had many questions and doubts about case less ammunition. How do you clear malfunctions? Can it fire out of a battery? What happens when it does? Jim told me about his experiences with an experimental case-less gun. Well if I had doubts before, they were concrete reasons now. It’s a conversation that makes me utterly scared of LSAT. While these solutions maybe the future, they have serious technical hurdles to overcome. Also, advancements in polymer cases will be probably too far advanced to make the effort cost effective.

I remember mentioning to Jim the bane of our existence, the PKM. That we had no proper counter. The Mk.13 had been fielded in 300WM. But two Sniper rifles vs area suppressing hit and run machine gun teams is a losing bet. He agreed and mentioned 6.5 calibers as a solution. I kept in touch with Jim irregularly over the years. I did not know Jim other than infrequent conversations and occasional emails. But it was very clear Jim was a person of immense experience, knowledge and professionalism. His was often the first opinion I would seek, which he freely gave. I found myself coming to some of his conclusions, long after independently covering the same ground. His input cannot be stated enough. I know everyone it the HK community knew exactly who Jim was. Unfortunately, Jim died recently. His death could not be more untimely. For the battle he had always advocated for is about to be fought. I feel it should be him telling this story.

I believe the answer to our problems is 6.5 projectiles. In my opinion, in a 2-cartridge solution. Handl Defense believes that all our solutions must fit three primary parameters. Something we produce must; improve performance, support doctrine, and show a cost benefit. Everything I’ve ever gotten approved in the military fit these three same tenets. It had to work better, be in left/right limits, and be inexpensive.

The new cartridges we adopt across the force needs to fit into these parameters as well. There is perfection and then there is effective. Perfection can be the enemy of the good. We can seek a solution that has the best performance. If it does not fit doctrinal applications and it is expensive, it will not get adopted. I see two solutions in both 7.62×51 and 5.56×45 sized platforms that fit the bill. The solutions we seek should emulate current supply chain structures as much as possible. This will reduce the cost of introduction an absolute key for adoption. I see four contenders each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I will discuss each of them superficially now. There will be a more in-depth discussion about each in their own blog post later.

What I see in small case solutions. While there are as many options as there are opinions, these two options reflect the most likely solutions to upgrade from 5.56×45.

The first option is 300 Blackout. Now before you shut down your browser or scream ” it is for suppressed use only!” There is more than meets the eye with this cartridge. Many people have been working diligently to get more out of 300 Blackout. Some of them have been successful. The issue with 300 BLK is that historically there has been much more bullet drop at comparable ranges to 5.56×45. Initial versions dropped the height of a 6 foot man in about 350-375 meters as opposed to about 450-475 meters for 5.56×45. Understand also 300 BLK required more training for the end user. You had to become more instinctive in compensating for bullet drop. Then there are issues with mechanical reliability in piston guns, they often had to be suppressed to get the extra back pressure to insure effective functioning. Handl Defense has been successful with 300 Blackout in our modified FN SCAR® 17s. But there was serious reworking of the operating group.

Regardless of its issues, the 300 BLK penetrates a target and begins to yaw in the target almost instantly. This means it carries a higher chance of being lethal round. There are some experiments with smaller 300 BLK rounds that show real promise. One 300 BLK producer who was using a blended metal technology that was claiming 700 meters with minimal bullet drop. There have been some projectiles under 120 grains that are getting 2600 fps and more. This opens the door for a EPR type of round in say 90-100 grains to make 300 BLK effective to almost 700 meters. I am sure this will require longer barrels (16 in and up). Then the fact this cartridge is based on 5.56×45, makes it a very viable option. The cost savings transitioning from 5.56×45 to 300 BLK would save millions upon millions of dollars and could be implemented very quickly.

But for a 5.56 based gun solution, 6.5 Grendel needs serious consideration. 6.5 Grendel does not use a 5.56×45 case. Even though it can hold more powder and provide higher velocities, the fact it would require a new case to be adopted is its most serious draw back. The expense of new cases on top of other new expenses cannot be discounted in these budgetary environments. One other drawback to the 6.5 Grendel is that it would also reduce the number of rounds in the magazine by four. But for these drawbacks you get serious performance that will fit in an M4. 6.5 Grendel cartridges shooting lighter bullets (90-100 grains) can achieve 2900 fps. There is equal and in certain cases superior performance from 6.5 Grendel to the 7.62×51 147 grain M80 round. Sierra states that their 123grain 6.5 bullet has 2900 joules of energy at 2700 feet per second. An EPR type M80A1 or M855A1 cartridge in 6.5 Grendel could be a powerful solution for 5.56×45 based rifles. This could be the 800 meter solution for the M4. But startup costs and fewer rounds per man in a light infantry role could very easily stymie 6.5 Grendel.

When it comes to 7.62×51 cartridge solutions, I believe the requirement is that it must fit in SR 25 pattern magazine. One other item I have always pushed for is a common 7.62×51 magazine. I believe any mid-sized cartridge must fit in legacy 7.62×51 systems with minimal retooling.

The first is 6.5 Creedmoor. My first experience with this cartridge was in early 2013. I was testing the AK conversion kit Handl Defense was developing for FN SCAR® Mk.17. Another shooter was a lane or two over with a 6.5 Creedmoor match gun. I knew of the cartridge but I had never fired it. He allowed me to fire about 30 rounds out of the rifle. It was instantly apparent this was a new beast. Flatter, faster, and seriously tight groupings. Not unlike the first time you ride a Ducati superbike, you had no idea you were going that fast.

6.5 Creedmoor is immensely popular in precision shooting circles. There is a lot of data, history, and success behind the cartridge. There are numerous advocates across all shooting disciplines. 6.5 Creedmoor has high-BC 6.5 mm bullets fired at good velocities (2700-3000fps). It has a very similar trajectory to 300 Win Mag. and less recoil than 7.62x51mm. When you look at match grade 7.62x51mm like the 175 grain M118LR, the 6.5 Creedmoor has about ¼ less wind drift. It will have about 100 inches less drop at 1000 yards. Then even with 20% lower mass, the 6.5 Creedmoor will retain 20% more energy. It will also hit the target at 1000 yards at about 300 fps more speed.

The 6.5 Creedmoor does not use 7.62×51 as its parent case, which could present the same issue with 6.5 Grendel. Which might mean the adoption of a new case system wide and the extra expenses that go with that. I have had discussions with some re-loaders who say you can make 6.5 Creedmoor from 7.62×51 cases. It just takes extra work. If used military brass can be converted to 6.5 Creedmoor easily, it will overcome its biggest stumbling block. Think of all the ASPs across the military. Think of the millions upon millions of rounds of 7.62×51. Without a way to use them and reuse them, it will be harder to justify the caliber change. Remember this decision will be made by Generals and Politicians. They do not care that one cartridge has 300 extra FPS. its BC is 4% higher, or 2% more accurate at 1000m. They care about cost to benefit ratio for project that pales in comparison of strategic impact to the JSF or Virginia class attack subs.

Which leads me to 260 Remington. This cartridge does not have a portion of the following that 6.5 Creedmoor does. It has almost all of the same performance in SAMMI spec versions as 6.5 Creedmoor. But 6.5 Creedmoor is more developed, better supported, and does perform that little better. For match shooters that little bit better is all the difference. But that does not mean that 6.5 Creedmoor is the better fit. 260 also flies much like 300 Win Mag. It also has the high BC bullets. It also will provide overmatch to the PKM.

260 Remington has two things going for it. The first is cost. To convert the metric tons of 7.62×51 brass to 260 Rem is far simpler and straight forward. Converting 7.62×51 to 6.5 Creedmoor might be just and extra step or an extra tool. When we must add an extra 3-5 cents per round and multiply it by 2 billion, that could be all the difference.

The other thing 260 Remington has going for it is a group in the government is working very hard to close the small performance gap between 260 and 6.5 CM. I do not have permission to disclose the particulars so do not bother. Handl Defense has supported this effort in the government. I understand there will be implications of bias. Regardless, an optimized 260 Remington could provide near equal the performance of 6.5 Creedmoor. It could do this cheaper both in initial startup costs and over the lifecycle of the program. This is a serious advantage that cannot be discounted.

I recognize there is a lot in this post, and others, that I do not discuss. For example, I do not discuss doctrinal applications, or if that one 6.5 bullet could work in both 5.56 cases and 7.62 cases, or bullet composition. That even when I delve into the calibers that there will be a lot I leave out. Even in these posts themselves, I cannot cover it all. These blog posts are not intended to be closing arguments. They are intended to start discussions. I know this is a highly contentious subject, so I expect vigorous debate. Additionally, the e-mails I have gotten recently and other input is not only welcome, it is exactly what I seek. It is what we should seek from each other.

My next blog post will be about the King and Queen of combat marksmanship; shot placement and energy transfer.

This blog post is in Honor of James Richard Schatz, Jr. Who died March 16, 2017. He was a paratrooper and an Army Marksmanship Unit Instructor. God Bless him and his family.

-Frank Plumb

The article was shared ny permission from Handl Defense.

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131 Responses to ““New Calibers, the Fight to Come” by Frank Plumb”

  1. Strike-Hold says:

    Well that post seems to paint a pretty clear picture that an optimized .260 Remington could be the one standard cartridge that works across all infantry section small arms – belt-fed as well as mag-fed.

    That’s something that would be sure to get the bean-counters and politicians excited… and if it also means greater capability and performance for all infantry small arms as well, then that would truly be a leap ahead!

    • Joshua says:

      There’s no such thing as one caliber to fill every role you need.

      It’s a pipe dream and a stupid one at that.

      • Ed says:

        Love your “positive mental attitude” there, Josh! I’m pretty sure the main article was stating the conversion from 7.62 to .260, not only using one “caliber” for all warfare.

        Gheezzz

        • Joshua says:

          Love your “reading comprehension” there Ed!

          I was replying to the person above, not the article.

          • Strike-Hold says:

            I’m just a dumb former 11bangbang groundpounder, team leader and squad leader…

            But to clear up any misunderstanding, misinterpretation or reading-between-the-lines, what I was referring to was the fact that the article seemed to present a compelling sales-pitch for the possibility that an optimized .260 Remington could replace 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO weapons at the squad and platoon levels.

            I don’t have a dog in the fight, I’m not a “weapons expert – just noting that there is an intriguing proposition in there. Whether testing would verify its feasibility or not would remain to be seen. But its there nonetheless…

      • Yawnz says:

        Except Strike didn’t suggest that the .260 Rem be the cartridge to fulfill all roles. Pretty sure he clearly stated only two, belt-fed and mag-fed.

        Now, I’m just some medic in a NG unit, but I’m fairly certain he means that it should be the round of choice for both the standard issue rifle (M4 equivalent)as well as the squad support/base of fire (249/240/27 equivalent). Nothing said about using it for a designated marksman/sniper/vehicle-mounted weapon, so extrapolating “one caliber to fill every role you need” from two specifically stated roles seems to me like that lack of reading comprehension is on you.

        • Kinetix says:

          Except that the roles of a standard issue carbine and a support weapon are exceptionally different. .260 Remington could quite possibly be the successor to many 7.62 weapons, but it is definitely not suited to be used in a “standard issue rifle”.

          Doing so would decrease magazine capacity and increase the weight of rifles, mags, and ammunition to unacceptable levels, even with polymer cased ammo.

          I believe the differences of characteristics between rounds used in support weapons and infantry rifles were what Joshua was referring to.

          • Yawnz says:

            Do you have any actual data to support this or no?

            • Kinetix says:

              Any data to support what? That using a rifle chambered for .260 Remington would decrease magazine capacity and increase weight? Respectfully, that’s no secret fact, .260 Rem is parented by 7.62×51, even with polymer cases it would weigh more than 5.56. Now that’s not to say that we can’t find a better round than 5.56 (we very possibly can, especially given modern manufacturing and improvements in components), but that round definitely won’t be 7.62 NATO, .260 Rem, or anything related to them.

              https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/06/us-army-looking-at-polymer-bullets-for-larger-more-lethal-calibers-but-lighter-weight.html/amp

              This link has an info-graphic which shows that for the same weight, when compared to existing 5.56, .264 offerings and both polymer and conventional 7.62 NATO result in reduced magazine capacities of between 50 to 100+ rounds which means that you’d have to massively increase weigh to get the same combat load.

              Since .260 Rem is closer to 7.62 NATO in size/dimensions, you’d see a weight increase/ammo reduction that is more similar to 7.62×51.

              • Patrick Sham says:

                just a little math based on the idea of carrying the same number of rounds in .264 usa (poly case) x 210 rds = 6.90lbs
                5.56 nato x 210rds =5.55lbs
                weight change = +1.35 lbs

                this does not include the weight change based on carrying the new rilfe platform

                • Kinetix says:

                  True, polymer cases would reduce the weight gain for carrying the ammunition alone over brass, but then you have to add in mags, you’re going from 30 rounds/mag to more than likely 20 rounds/mag and thus from 7 magazines to 10-11 which will likely add a pound or two more at least depending on the style of magazine.

                  Then you do have the rifle which could very well be 12 pounds dry, no accessories (if the current “interim” combat rifle effort is an indication).

                  And all of that is just to have a standard combat load.

                  • Joshua says:

                    Magazines will also be larger, thicker, and heavier.

                    They’ll take up more space on your vest, meaning you’ll be lucky to carry 5 comfortably along with everything else you need to carry. The rest will have to be in your ruck, making them harder to attain when needed.

                    On top of that larger magazines weigh more.

              • Seamus says:

                There is NO POINT in having 5.56mm if the bad guy is 700 meters away. I would rather have a DOZEN rounds of whatever caliber is EFFECTIVE at that range and 10,000 rounds of 5.56mm that does not have the oomph to reach out and touch someone at that range.

                That is basically the WHOLE point of the Army switching to a larger caliber. There is such a thing as good weight. Bad weight in this case would be carrying around a 5.56mm rifle knowing that the enemy will engage you are 500 meters and beyond. Might as well carry a fricken shotgun. If I am gonna carry a damn rifle all day in the mountains then it damn well better be able to HIT the A–HOLES shooting at me!

                • Kinetix says:

                  I understand your point, but adopting whole new infantry rifles to match the capabilities of squad based weapons used by many enemies is going to add a lot of weight to try and solve different problems.

                  I believe this was discussed below but we are outranged by PKM’s and SVD’s, and at range, 7.62×51 is falling short compared to 7.62x54R. So we surely need to field something like .260 Remington M240’s and DMR’s to bridge the gap and expand our capabilities.

                  Another issue is that the transition from a rifle to a carbine was always going to reduce the effective range of a rifleman because you are giving up velocity gained from the extra 6 inches of barrel.

                • Joshua says:

                  And the A-line shooting at you from 700+ M away is what we call harassing fire.

                  Are y’all taking casualties? Are the shots effective? No.

                  Harassing volleys of fire from a PKM and DShK are largely ineffective fires that can be ignored for the large majority of TICs where you encounter harassing fire.

    • Rt says:

      Uhhh…. No…

      That entire… Whatever it was… Is a bunch of BS wrapped in stupidity, grievously incorrect, laughably ignorant, out of date, and i suspect outright dishonest insults to everyone who reads its intelligence!

      1. LSAT caseless alarmism to slip the polymer case lies by distracted readers!
      Caseless has been dead forever, all that’s being worked is CT. SECOND, polymer cases for it will be unimaginably cheap even without full ramp up! (At ramp up try not even a penny each!)

      2. 90-100 grain “long range” blackout is physically impossible… And f*** him and his dirty lies and attempts to baffle with bullshit wrt 700 meter blended metal bullets! It’s total fantasy and he knows it!

      3. Good luck training 800 meter much less 1000 meter squads much less battalions etc!

      4. You aren’t going to see DOD converting 7.62 brass and everyone should know this! Another blatant lie.

      There’s so much more wrong with this it’s not remotely funny.

      Suffice it to say that absolutely nothing about his proposals is remotely workable, except maybe 260 rem belt feds DMR’s etc.

      Additionally, when engaging past 300 velocity retention and high enough starting MV is EVERYTHING! Those two things along with sound projectile construction etc kinda default help buck wind drift which combined with the short time of flight is going to give average infantrymen at least a tiny prayer of hits past 600!

      Basically this guy violated ALL his prerequisite requirements with his proposals, along with the brazen and profligate lies makes this a joke of a suggestion / oped

      • Steven S says:

        How do you know that the CT polymer case will be cheap? I haven’t seen any research on that.

        • Joshua says:

          According to Textron it will be super expensive at first, but once mass produced to government qualities much cheaper….but that could be BS.

  2. jbgleason says:

    Wow! Great, great post. Lots of discussion fodder in there. I never thought .300 Blackout would get discussion outside of the CQB community. I neee to take another look at the supersonic loadings.

  3. DSM says:

    If X cartridge is adopted it will not be an across the board, immediate transition so the concern of reworking brass or left over ammo is a superfluous issue. Should a decision be made right here, right now those 7.62 and 5.56 small arms we currently have will be in use for quite some time. Decades more I’d bet. Yes, stockpiles are a consideration and surely was with the Garand all those years ago but we don’t have the same concerns as then. Having a large standing Army was still a no-no in that era whereas now it is expected and accepted.

    There are valid points in this discussion and we should never stop seeking the next best thing that may provide the advantage. My caveat is that we’re putting the cart before the horse here and in a big way. How’s about we change our training and qualification tables with the M4 to turn our riflemen back into riflemen first? You adopt a wonder bullet and still qual the majority of your force on a record fire range that stops at 300m. What have you gained? Not much, other than you lost 700m of your unrealized advantage before jump street.
    What advancements in design have been made to crew serve tripods that can be rapidly brought into action on uneven terrain and allow the gunner to identify targets and engage from cover? And, the M80 ball round is 1950s technology, loaded so as to mimic .30cal ball, and, not blow up M14s. M80A1 is a separate issue here but it does have similar self-imposed limitations. With the newer powders and heavier bullets you can maintain the same velocities out of the tube and carry more kinetic energy down range. Here again, stop training our gun crews on flat, golf course like ranges and have realistic expectations as to the level of accuracy you’re going to see in that beaten zone over a grand when you’re only a bipod.

    I’m not for or against a new cartridge. There would be benefits and concerns with staying or swapping obviously. For instance, from an MG perspective a 6.5 round might grant an extra belt for about the same weight. More bullets is usually a good thing but at 7000gr to a pound those lighter bullets would be negligible in the grand scheme most likely. I don’t want our apparently ADHD turned culture to run around like a circus clown for the bigger, better deal. 6.5C is a good round, true. Why are more and more people looking into 6mm Creedmoor now? 6mm rounds have dominated matches from decades.

    • James says:

      The 6mm argument is interesting. Intermediate barriers would probably be what would make the 6.5 preferred over the 6mm. But then again would we even be discussing this if we adopted the 6mm SAW, then started making rifles for it…..

      I just know that we’ve poked all around the 6.5 hole at a certain power level since the 30’s. 276 Peterson, 280 British, 6mm SAW, 7mm MUAIC and now .264 USA. There really has to be something to it or it wouldn’t be continually coming up. We’ve put off adopting one version or another of this concept for a long time because” ain’t how we do things” . Meanwhile we’ve had rifles that were too heavy but uncontrollable in FA,then rifles where lethality and range come into question every time we get into a war( but boy can you burn a thirty rounder into a melon sized target @ 25 yrds).

      • James says:

        Forgot barrel life on the 6mm long range rounds too.

      • DSM says:

        Hardly anyone remembers the 6mm SAW but I’m glad you mentioned it here because it also was a great attempt at a universal, do-all cartridge. The concept was sound but by then the SCHV cat was out of the bag, for better or worse. It would have had the same issues in terms of reduced combat load but given its contemporaries it would have been comparable.

        Bullet design would be the answer to any comparison between 6 and 6.5 for barrier penetration. A SOST style bullet in either would do the job easily, and unless skewed to the heavier bullet, both would meet standard.

        As for barrel life, I don’t know. We could find data based on match competitors of course but they tend to change barrels to their own schedules.

        I still come back to training as the horse that needs to come before this cart. What exactly are we trying to do here? If you put my mom into a Ferrari she’s going to grind gears and run up on the curb and commit all sorts of blaspheme with it. You put a NASCAR driver into a Yugo and he’s gonna get every ounce of performance out of it. It’s the same thing with a shiny new rifle no matter the caliber. Same. Exact. Thing.
        Change the mentality of weapons training and quals from just another box to check on an overly crowded training schedule to the priority of the day. Burn barrels out from shooting so much, establish tougher standards and hold feet to the fire. We can do this a lot cheaper with 5.56 by the way. Develop doctrine on how we’re planning to fight based on a realistic understanding of your riflemen’s abilities and then think about if we need a new rifle or new round to do that with. The point is that the M4 and its 5.56 round aren’t as useless as some protest.

        • Jake says:

          You’re on the right path, sadly I don’t think the people that write the checks are. I especially like your NASCAR analogy. Definitely stealing that one.

        • James says:

          Bullet construction only gets you so far though, given the same construction, shape and sectional density a bigger bullet will still penetrate most things better and at longer ranges.

  4. Joshua says:

    I stopped reading when he said .300 BLK can replace 5.56….what a joke.

    • Aye says:

      I kept reading because I didn’t see any jokes, and the author is worth listening to because he’s vetted and respected.

      If all you got from that was .300 can replace 5.56 you need to go back to reading comprehension class.

      We’ll be waiting for a list of your accomplishments and benefits you’ve brought to the shooting world.

      • Joshua says:

        Lots of people are vetted….Doesn’t make them small arms experts or ballistics experts.

        I’ve been in the Army long enough to know the majority of people in it are retards and are not promoted for being “snake eaters” or Mathematicians.

      • Joshua says:

        People like Frank Plumb, and Scales, and Jim Schatz are why the Army is looking to fleet a 7.62 “Interim” rifle, that will never be a “Interim” rifle and instead will land us with a heavy 9lb, overly bulky rifle that reduces our combat loads by half and reduces our capabilities, and in the end will get a lot of soldiers killed.

        The good idea fairy is anything but.

        • BillC says:

          Frank Plumb is also from the post where he called the 7.62 NATO the wonder cartridge that has 100% killed everybody the first time, with only one bullet.

      • Rt says:

        Wow you set the bar low…

        He blatantly and repeatedly lied all throughout the entire piece, and some of the lies show exactly how little he thinks of your and every other reader’s intelligence etc!

        That 300 blk 700 meters because of blended metal bullets thing… you should KNOW that anyone trying to sell you that story has zero respect for anything or anyone including himself.

        • chad says:

          Rt you seem to have a boner for this guy. maybe you should write an article. Maybe you should forth an opinion instead of sniping from the underbrush. I did not pick up that he was selling blended metal 300 blackout. It there a company that was actually saying this about their bullets?

    • Ed says:

      What is your problem, Josh?? Bro, do you even operate??? Contribute instead of telling us how ignorant you are.

      • Joshua says:

        So I take it you are of the same mind that .300BLK can supplant 5.56?

        Because .300BLK is basically the 7.62×39, which sucks compared to current 5.56 loadings.

        • Ed says:

          You are a shining example of “You can’t fix stupid!”

          I also take it you don’t “operate”, since you left that one alone.
          Go spit!

        • Yawnz says:

          And yet you miss the entire point of the 300 BLK. It isn’t supposed to be better in all regards than the 5.56. It’s supposed to be better than the 5.56 at the average engagement range and not suffer as much when fired from a suppressed weapon.

          http://www.300blackoutarrifle.com/uploads/1/2/7/1/12718820/300-blk.pdf

          Also, no one cares how long you’ve been in, especially on the internet. It’s like claiming you’ve got a 12 inch dick, no one is going to believe you until you whip it out and prove your claim.

    • Luke says:

      I stopped reading at “Blended Metal” as I didn’t want to also read something about the bullet being able to sense what type of target it was hitting…..

  5. Dellis says:

    Amazing read, in fact it will be read over a few times because of the amount of information laid out.

    Thanks to the author!

  6. Cameron says:

    I stopped reading because ‘X’ leading me to be uninformed about other conceptual ideas or streams of thought and only able to talk about my idea on ‘Y’. Classic Crappy-NCO logic. If you can’t read because your emotions get too heightened than why should your opinion matter.

  7. Brian says:

    I could totally support a 6.5 Grendel carbine for the military.

  8. Mike Nomad says:

    Great article, providing a lot to think about. While I question the need for 1km capable battle rifles, the idea of “one bullet, two cases” is most intriguing.

  9. b_A says:

    Is barrel wear of different calibers a thing to consider?
    Watching Rex Reviews videos from time to time and he discusses this in one of his videos:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZevEy0oYtQ&t

  10. Grady Burrell says:

    Purely unscientific for sure, however I have taken Caribou with 77 Grain Reaper / Lehigh 5.56 Ammo from a 16 inch 1/7 twist AR at well over 200 meters and it is incredibly effective. These are sturdy, 300lb plus animals. At -30, the hot blood, bone fragments, and lungs freeze in time once the bullet exits and the little 77 grain bullet can truly be appreciated.

    I’m well aware of the FMJ requirements and also a druged up insurgent and a thin skinned animal are different, what I’m saying is the 22 grain weight difference beyond 100 meters is very tangible.

    • Kit Badger says:

      I think you’re speaking more to the “King” though, being shot placement. I’ve shot a number of deer with green tip. Head shots…

  11. Joe says:

    Frank needs to get an earful from the gents and savages over on Primary and Secondary. A 6.5×45 to replace the 5.56? Maybe. A 6.5×47 to replace the 7.62×51 NATO? Sure. .300 BLK to supplant 5.56?? Nope.

    • BillC says:

      What makes you think he isn’t already over there?

      • Joe says:

        Haven’t seen him over there. That and he is using terms like overmatch. And claiming. 300 BLK is a 700M rifle round.

        • DAN III says:

          Joe,

          I love 300 BLK. IMO it IS the replacement round for the 5.56mm….for many reasons. However, you can argue the 300 BLK is not a 700m rifle round, but the fact of the matter is there are few combat troops who are 700m rifle SHOOTERS ! The caliber of the round is irrelevant if you cannot see what you would be shooting at. Nor understand the hold at whatever distance, required to connect round with target.

          The US military does NOT concentrate on trained and accurate riflemen. Rather, they are now and have been for decades, believers in quantity over quality. “Spray & Pray” if you will.

          300 BLK is a superlative round available in numerous grain loadings from 110-240 grains. All fired from current M4/M16 platforms with nothing more than a barrel change.

          Until the US military decides their longarm wielding troops need to fire their assigned weapon on a bi-weekly basis, nothing will improve their ability to engage targets at any distance.

          1. Adopt the 300 BLK, 125 grain round as standard issue.
          2. Replace all red dot and ACOG optics with 1-6x variable scopes (Trijicon TR25 or Kahles K16i are my suggestions).
          3. Train troops to KILL the declared enemy with accurate longarms fire. Biweekly range sessions, every month, all year long.
          4. Eliminate all social justice programs using that waste of money into ammunition and range facilities to support #3 above.

          • Ed says:

            Definitely agree with #4!

          • Joe says:

            I agree with you except on adopting a new carbine/rifle cartridge. Lets instead push for basic improvements to currently issued weapons, such as free float handguards and improved barrels as well as fielding new optics, and requiring at the very least montly live fire for all Combat Arms and Quarterly live fire for all but selected non deployable support units. Adopt a realistic qualification, and stringent standards.

            • Adun says:

              Hell, the IDF is even able to get monthly live fire in for its combat units, so why does it seem so difficult for the U.S. to pull off? I think about all of the ammo shot into berms a the end of the year for budgetary reasons and cringe.

        • BillC says:

          Just because he hasn’t been making posts or waves, doesn’t mean he isn’t around there. The world is small place. He knows the other side of the argument. That being said, he’s making some huge claims with nothing he can back it up with with (because secrets or something).

    • James says:

      Their ” Gun Nerds” podcasts are great!

  12. JoshZ says:

    I’m not sure where he gets the idea 6.5 CM is slightly better than 260R. It’s actually the opposite. 260 as is, is a perfect cartridge as is for a long range semi automatic rifle.

  13. ML says:

    Yes, there are some serious problems with his presentation. It is as obvious as daylight at noon that the 260 has more case capacity (albeit slightly) than the creedmoor. Ask some folks at AMU how underdeveloped the 260 is. They have extensive history with it. I don’t see replacing 556 with the Blackout but I can definitely see phasing out 7.62N for 260. There is a significant performance enhancement, reduced ammunition weight, and reduced recoil. Change the laws if needed so that those excess tons of 7.62N can be sold to civilians and you can probably offset a chunk of the cost.

  14. X-Ordnance says:

    If caliber can’t be settled now, why not purchase some Colt CM901 rifles and use various caliber uppers to test effectiveness? Yes, weight will go up in 556 caliber, but larger caliber options can be tested using the CM901 as a test mule.

    Weapon weight can possibly remain reasonable if the add-on optics, lasers and such are smaller and integrated.

    A true modular lower will keep some procurement costs lower than a completely new rifle (use inventory of on-hand M4 uppers). A “transition” rifle until a new caliber can be determined?

  15. Will Rodriguez says:

    No on so many counts.

    I’ve laid out my case elsewhere (google “MISTAKE: Ditching the M4 for a 7.62 Interim Rifle”) but I’ll scope it down a bit for what’s been said here.

    Not against a new caliber but what is the specific documented why? We are being outranged by sniper rifles and crew served weapons? Since when do we expect rifleman to engage snipers and crew served weapons on an equal footing? Why do we have snipers and crew served weapons? Why not issue every grunt an anti-tank missile because he might have to fight a tank?

    When, how and much will it cost should we decide to train every infantryman to shoot 1000+m?

    Lethality? The argument seems to rest on a world before M855A1 & Mk318.

    As I opened, I’m not against a new caliber but let’s make a qualitative/quantitative documented case for it first. THEN if the case is warranted let’s get the rifle to shoot it instead of adopting a 7.62 rifle with ammo that’s twice the weight and all the 2nd/3rd order effects no one is talking about.

    The Interim 7.62 path ensures we’ll be stuck with that 7.62 much longer than anyone is really willing to admit.

    The reason this concept gets so much traction is because everyone loves a new rifle and there’s a lot of money to be made. The emotion is overwhelming common sense and jurisprudence. The individual soldier is going to pay the price.

    • blue says:

      i agree with your argument. as a infantry NCO, my job is to teach and coach soldiers in shooting. im happy to get them close to hitting the 300m target let alone 1000m. Its going to take alot more ammo, training and better optics (that being a biggest, it will have to be a variable zoom so it can still be use in cqb)

      The biggest reason i can see for a caliber change in the battle rifle is the body armor on near peer opponents. Given it is unlikely they will penetrate plates. but i feel a larger caliber round will cause more damage to soft areas not protected by the hard plates, more likely incompacitating the the threat compraied to a 5.56 round that might wound but the the threat is still able to fight

    • DAN III says:

      Will,

      Nothing is “interim” in the world of fedgov and the military-industrial complex.

      • SSD says:

        Absolutely and this is the point I made several months ago when I broke the 7.62 story.

        • DAN III says:

          SSD,

          You were spot on then just as now.

        • Steven S says:

          Interim Armored Vehicle. (Stryker)

        • Joshua says:

          Interim means well adopt a 7.62 battle rifle and claim one day we’ll move to a new caliber, but we won’t and well still be using 7.62 in the upcoming Aliens wars over Mars.

      • Steven S says:

        I think Will knows that…

        Take a look at his comment again

        “The Interim 7.62 path ensures we’ll be stuck with that 7.62 much longer than anyone is really willing to admit.”

    • BillC says:

      YYYESSS!!! Unfortunately we have the internet which gives a voice to people oddly in love with 7.62 NATO with no real reason and in a vacuum. (Frank Plump’s previous argument about how 7.62 NATO just simply kills people gooder, despite ignoring that fact that it’s harder to train and shoot a 7.62 NATO rifle like an M4, so a Service-Member will miss more and carry less ammo. It’s relatively hard enough to get a SM up to speed on 300m hits and CQB with a 5.56mm. We can’t hardware ourselves out of a software problem. Also, is the interim rifle a city fighting rifle? A SDM rifle? An anti-PKM rifle? An assault rifle? Is it meant for Terry Taliban or Ivan?)

      Your point about interim not actually being interim is vastly important. We do not want our service members burdened with a rifle and ammo that will be both possibly be poor at CQB and “over-matching” PKMs for an unforeseeable time.

      I know the powers at be are worried about near pear threats using individual armor, but Frank Plumb completely glosses over M855A1. It’s fantastic that the Army is concerned about a long-run solution for both weapon and cartridge, but it’s infuriating they think they need an “interim” solution.

  16. Luke says:

    I don’t have a real opinion on the small case battle, but I’m VERY interested in the large case arena. I’m half tempted to put off buying a hunting rifle until I hear it going one way or the other.

    Complete lay person, but I can’t imagine why something based off the 5.56 case that was somewhere between 5.56 and 300BLK couldn’t be a happy medium.

    • James says:

      A couple of good ones out there, .277 wolverine comes to mind, but you lose a lot of case capacity when using the longer heavier bullets, just not much room to spare in a 5.56 case.

  17. Caleb says:

    Normally SSD seems to be a pretty sober group, but there is a ton of unwarranted venom in these comments.

    Maybe part of the reason the military has problems innovating is because so many members can’t hear a difference of opinion without resorting to insult, hyperbole, and name-calling.

    • Kinetix says:

      There is a lot of “venom” because a lot of what was in this post makes zero sense on any level, and you don’t have to be in the military to feel that way.

      I’m not in the military, nor am I a competitive shooter, nor do I shoot suppressed, yet I know that claiming that .300 Blk can replace 5.56, or worse, make a ‘700 yard rifle’ is wholly asinine. There is no way around it, anyone who believes that a “blended metal” bullet will overcome the issues associated with putting such a large projectile in a small case is selling snake oil.

      It also doesn’t help that the author makes all types of crazy claims and then says things like, “I do not have permission to disclose the particulars so do not bother”.

      This is, in fact, all about particulars and if the point you are making can’t be supported with open source data, and thus verified, it’s not going far.

      • Ed says:

        I think you and few others are taking this WAY overboard, too seriously. It is about ideas and “bridging the gap”. Some of you are acting like little hissy-fit girls, it’s pretty embarrassing to be honest.

        • Kinetix says:

          Here’s the issue from my perspective, lots of people acknowledge that 5.56 has limitations. Some of those limitations were exacerbated during the past 16 years, like the range issues of Afghanistan or fighting combatants with 0 body fat and the chest/abdominal thickness of a box of cereal. Some new issues, such as the prevalence of cheap Chinese made body armor, have added another layer to the issue since M855 was designed to penetrate Soviet steal helmets and vests, not ceramic plates.

          However, instead of developing a new intermediate round that builds off of what 5.56 has gotten right (M855A1, SOST, ect.), the solution at the moment is to just shift 7.62×51 (which itself suffers from these same issues) down to the infantryman.

          Congress wants a new 7.62 round so infantrymen can kill combatants wearing Level 4 body armor and the interim rifle RFI asked for 7.62 rifles that weighed 12 pounds or less which means that it is quite possible that the H&K G28 might get pushed down to infantry. Again, that doesn’t solve any of these problems but does create its own which is why a lot of people, regardless of whether they are in the military or not, are taking tis so seriously.

        • Joshua says:

          “doesn’t agree with my appeal to authority fnaboyism” = “hissyfit throwing”.

  18. the Dude says:

    6.5 Creed is more developed than .260 and outperforms it? I don’t think so .260 with its case capacity outperforms the creed by 50fps or so on average. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8Qf1mIEY7E

    Replace .308 with something in 6.5/260 and you can easily get out to 1200+ yards. If you want seriou8sly consider the Grendel route and keep an m4 sized weapon take a look at necking the 6.5grendel down to 6mm like the 6mm turbo where you are launching 105 grain bullets at 2900fps.

    Personally I don’t feel like the 300blackout is the way to go.

  19. Kirk says:

    The root problem here ain’t the ammo, nor is it the weapons. The root damn problem is that we are taking a completely schizoid approach to these questions, when what is actually needed is a deep fucking breath while we think this shit through from the beginnings.

    And, “the beginnings” would be “How do we fight?”. Right now, we have a small arms suite that works just fine in the environment it was evolved in, operating within the framework of mechanized warfare as we envisaged it being fought in Central Europe. Within that framework, the small arms are basically just tools to provide local security and direct fire in the final close-in assault, while being supported by things like the 25mm Bushmaster on the Bradleys.

    It is only when we take that small arms suite out into the Hindu Kush and try to use it outside the framework it’s supposed to be working within, with all those support weapons, that we have problems. And, I’m not convinced here that the cartridges or weapons are really that inadequate, or that replacing them is going to solve the fundamental problems we have.

    Case in point–The MG team. I’ve pointed it out, ad nauseum, that the MG42/Lafette tripod combination fielded by the Germans in WWII was a small arms system that the WWII Wehrmacht would likely have found effective in answering the question of what to do about Pashtun bandits armed with PKMs shooting at them. Since we don’t bother to field a decent, truly adaptable tripod, or train our MG teams to the standards that they would need to attain in order to be effective counters to the problem of the PKM, well… You can’t really say that we need to replace the damn cartridges or weapons; even if you do, the root problem of “How will we use them…?” is still going to be there.

    Let’s say that we did issue the new hotness, this .338 Norma Magnum MG. So what? Is it any more effective off a bipod than something in 7.62? How will the interlocking issues of ammo weight and logistics burden work out, with that thing?

    The problem isn’t with the guns or the ammo; it’s with the way we’re using them, and the training. I honestly think we ought to be looking at the historical standards attained by organizations like the typical WWII German Gebirgsjager unit, and see if we can’t replicate that performance with our own more “modern” weapons. If we can, and we’re still having issues with the PKM-armed Dushman, fine–Maybe we really do need new toys. But, until we actually manage to meet the standards of our WWII enemy, in terms of MG team performance and terrain dominance, I would submit that spending any money on “better” weapons and ammo is wasted.

    The general American military mindset is to substitute technology for training and professionalism. We would generally prefer to buy “better guns” than to spend an equivalent amount of money on training ammo for the ones we already have. While this sometimes gains good results, there is a point where it is simply a waste of money. Look at the M240, with its abundance of heat-shielded bullshit that no other military fielding the MAG-58 has ever bothered with. Where the Brits and everyone else said to themselves “Oh, hot surfaces… Better train the troops not to touch those…”, the US Army said “Ohmygawd, Johnny could burn himself… Better cover that shit up…”. And, we added even more weight to an already overweight gun system, for very limited benefit. That right there is a microcosmic example of our fundamental inability to really address a lot of these issues–And, this current drive to revamp the small arms suite is completely in keeping with our historical aversion to actually stopping to think things through and solve the issues via doctrine and training effort.

    We badly need to change our mindset, not our damn weapons. If the software fix doesn’t cut it, then by all means, let’s look at different hardware. But, give changing the software a try first, because it’s a damn sight cheaper.

    • Joe says:

      Great post. Any new cartridge/weapon system will be no more effective than what we already have without better optics and more effective training.

    • Ed says:

      Very good insight, probably best post here so far.

    • DAN III says:

      Kirk,

      Great and accurate remarks.

      IMO:

      1. Keep current weapons or upgrade to 300 BLK.
      2. Procure more ammo.
      3. Build more ranges.
      4. Cease ALL social justice programs, propaganda and associated dollar expenditures.

      • Strike-Hold says:

        Great post Kirk.

        BUT – its not all one thing or the other. Its neither all about training nor all about technology – that’s the fundamental problem we have around so many issues, we arbitrarily polarize them and say that you have to choose either black or white. When in fact most of life is shades of grey.

        You mention the historical analogies of the Wehrmacht infantry and Gebirgsjaeger. Yes, a large part of their success (and of the Fallschirmjaeger as well) was because of their training and their Esprit de Corps – but that was also tied directly to a deliberate tactical decision to put the MG team at the very heart of their infantry fire-and-maneuver tactics, whereas we centered everything around the rifleman. Deciding to put the MG at the heart of the action then led directly to the development of lightweight, air-cooled, highly-deployable machine-guns that could be used in assault mode as well as defensively. It was also from this doctrine that the deliberate choice was made to use the same cartridge for both rifles and MG’s, and also provides the reason why the Germans went to war with a bolt-action rifle instead of a semi-auto.

        Of course, later on they came to realize that they needed to boost the firepower of the individual rifleman too – and hence the Sturmgewehr was born. When the Soviets later rolled out the AK-47 and the RPD they more or less melded both of those tactical concepts together – i.e., they kept the idea of a standard cartridge between rifle and LMG, but utilized the new shorter, lighter “assault” cartridge.

        A great book to read, if you don’t have it already, is: https://www.amazon.com/Infantry-Military-Profession-John-English/dp/0275949729

        • Kirk says:

          The version of that book you really want is the original one, published by John A. English alone–It’s out there as “A Perspective on Infantry”, and is an expansion of his original doctoral thesis. The version you link here, that Gudmundsson bitched up for republication isn’t half the book English wrote.

          A lot of our problem lies in the fact that we simply haven’t done the work necessary to build a solid theoretical basis for what we’re doing on the battlefield. Go out and ask the average low-level leader in the various US in the various US military combatant arms (Marine, Army, or SOCOM) how his weapons are supposed to work within the doctrinal framework, and you’re going to get a free-flowing mess of confused and poorly-organized thought about what the hell we think we’re doing.

          Think I’m wrong? Then, riddle me this: Why the hell have we put up with the nice people from the small arms procurement agencies saddling our MG teams with these ‘effing POS M122/192 tripods, which are really only suited to use from a prepared defensive position? Why the hell are our damn MG optics bolted to the top of the feed tray cover, where the gunner has to expose himself to the enemy to use them? There’s a goddamn place on the M240 receiver where the Belgians and the Brits attach a periscopic sight, which allows the gunner to keep his fucking head below the goddamn barrel, so why the hell aren’t we using that and issuing a periscopic sight that might keep the gunners alive a bit longer to return fire? Not to mention, why aren’t we doing what the Germans did, and building out an accessory kit for the gun teams that includes tools like rangefinders and the like, and then actually taking them into realistically designed training ranges?

          I’ve sat down with a bunch of guys who were in Afghanistan, and they universally reported to me that the first time they were presented with a MG-team firing solution even remotely analogous to what they were supposed to do in Afghanistan was… Wait for it… When they came under fire for the first time. What. The. Fuck.

          We should be taking over some region up in the Rockies that looks like Afghanistan, and then building ranges for the guys to train on that would look like what it actually does when they have to run up an Afghan valley. Along the way, the gun teams should be getting a realistic workout, having to deliver fire rapidly out to 1200-1800 meters that we say the guns are capable of, and taught how to do it. Instead? Most of our goddamn MG ranges look like we’re training to re-fight trench warfare in WWI, flat as fucking pancakes, and which don’t even require variety in how the damn targets are presented. Laying accurate MG fire across a narrow valley, firing down or up to the other side are things that are quite different than the classic US MG range, which as I point out again, are generally flat as a fucking pancakes. I can only think of one range that is even remotely analogous to the real world of fighting in mountains, and that’s the one over in Korea at the MPRC, if I’m not going senile and mis-remembering where I’ve done MG training.

          We train our guys on the flat, to fire off the bipod in any movement scenarios, and are then shocked when they can’t answer fire from some rag-clad dipshit with a PKM up on a hill. What a massive surprise that is…

          Our MG training and equipage is ludicrously inadequate, and we wonder why the fuck some filthy savages with worn-out PKMs are able to play games with our guys up in the hills… Jesus wept.

          For the love of God, fix the fucking training and doctrine first, and then think about getting the weapons better into alignment with how we’re actually fighting.

          • Pete says:

            Damnit Kirk, you’re making me miss Hognose again. You outta join up with a few of the others and get Brandon to let you guys keep weaponsman alive.

            I learned something new from you again. I had no idea how crappy my tripod is. Happy as my little eleven bang bang self has been with the weight and deployability of the M192, I’ve never really stopped to think that much about the damn things. Now that you make me look up that Lafette tripod though, I start to realize the lost capabilities of machine guns go well beyond the truly long-range plunging fire I’ve read about from the World Wars. Your comment about the bipods is spot on. Outside of static defense, the T&E are barely used – yes they come into play in the Support By Fire position of a raid or an ambush, but the modern day gunner, AG, or Weasel who would instinctually engage the T&E and use it effectively to engage at distance… Well, I’ve yet to meet them. I feel like a whole article could and should be written about the evolution of MMG/HMG to GPMG tripods.

            Also, I’ve never even heard of this periscope thing. I can disassemble and reassemble an M240/FN MAG feed tray cover down to the springs and feeder pawls in like 2 minutes, but I don’t even know where this mount you’re referring to is. Who uses them, what’re they called?

            As to the calibers, I personally think that that new-fangled oversized FN MAG/M240 in .338 Norma/Lapua Mag has a point insofar as replacing M2 in turret mounts as it can reach just as far, but can be taken off the pintle and transitioned to dismounted use off the bipod. I don’t see it as a replacement for the dismounted squad level GPMG – that ammo would add up really quickly (although it would be an option if a mission called for it). But, frankly, I’d like to see us experiment with replacing turret mounted M2’s and 240s with the .338 gun, then exploring moving away from the 240/MAG as the squad GPMG and looking at these M60E6’s that the Danes are using. I’ve never handled or shot one (I have handled and shot old ones though), but they seem to have fixed all the stupidities of the old M60 (bipod, bbl, feed tray closing), while being a far lighter and handier weapon than the 240 – enough so that they could even replace the SAW were it not for the increased ammo weight and bulk that that would entail… But that does beg the question of where to go with the Gun Team & Automatic Rifleman relationship. Those M60E6’s seem like you could go with a shorter bbl and replace the 249 but share ammo with the gun team which has longer bbl and tripod – that way your automatic riflemen would share belted ammo with the gun teams rather than mags with the riflemen (M27 IAR model) – The interplay of compatibility seems a real debate to be had.

            As for the carbine stuff, I see a lot of silliness being said. I could see an argument for 300BLK or something like it if we ever do start using suppressors across the board at the line infantry level, but any of the rest of that stuff that calls for me to move away from carrying an SBL of 200+ rounds in 7 mags (which I can actually fit on my kit) and a rifle with a BASE weight under 7 lbs before I strap on all the gadgets and optic? Yeah, no, F*** you. Frankly, as a weapon which is used to engage the enemy from bad breath to 600 meters, the M4 works quite well imho. It could use some ergonomic improvements like a better bolt hold-open/release and a non-reciprocating charging handle to increase speed and effectiveness in malfunction clearing and reloading (the non-recip CH would also be nice if that suppressor stuff ever does come around)(However, NO ambi-mag releases please). But other than that, I think the advent of M855A1, mk318, and mk262 have mostly negated the issues. It’s all a compromise. If we go to this mythical .308 carbine, it’s going to necessitate bringing back SMG’s on the other end of the spectrum because Rifleman “I’m 5’6″ 140lbs and I’ve been in the army 6 months” Smith ain’t exactly Jerry Miculek with an M4, but hand him a friggin SCAR-H… yeah, ok.

            • Kirk says:

              Pete, take a look at this Israeli MAG58 on a tripod:

              http://www.imfdb.org/images/6/61/FN_MAG.jpg

              The bracket I’m talking about is an accessory item on the left rear of the receiver that either a periscopic sight or one of the mortar sights can drop into the dovetail of. The Brits are the only folks who really seem to make use of that feature, and I wish I could find a good picture of it. I’ve been told, and have read that the guys who Americanized the M240 kept the receiver plates the same as FN Herstal’s were, so the features that allow for that sight base to be installed are supposed to still be there.

              Take a look at that tripod in that picture, as well. Note the adjustable command height, and how you can vary the length of the legs to adapt to irregular terrain. Compare it to an M122, and then ask yourself if we’re really doing all we can to optimize what we already have on hand…

            • Kirk says:

              Another source of different tripod/sight arrangements for the MAG58 would be this Flickr stream on the Canadian C6 version:

              https://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/C6%20GPMG

              Look here at the mortar sight they have mounted to the firing cradle of the tripod, and the FN tripod. Note the adjustability of the legs, and the ability to vary the command height with that. I’ve seen versions of this original FN tripod that also had legs which could be extended or shortened to take advantage of some really nasty terrain–The case I’m remembering had the gun firing laterally on a side slope, and the gun’s firing platform was perfectly level while they were doing it, one tripod leg extended fully, with the other two almost completely collapsed.

              The M122/192 has one natural habitat: The firing table of a prepared defensive position, and that’s it. We can do considerably better, if we had a mind to.

              • Pete says:

                Kirk,
                I see exactly what you’re talking about re that periscopic sight mount. Reminds me of an AK side optic mount. Looks like it would work quite well for quickly mounting the sight after pulling it out of a pouch. I can see the “wings” of that mount getting caught on kit quite easily, but that’s beside the point – the idea of keeping the gunner’s head down like that just isn’t something we seem to even think about now, but clearly it’s a pretty damn good idea – especially considering that those Lafette type tripods have enough height adjustment to actually place the entire thing behind cover taller than a log. I never really played with an M122 outside of Basic, but you’re absolutely right about the M192 really only functioning correctly on nice flat(ish) ground. You certainly can’t get the types of firing positions those Lafette tripods are capable of. Honestly, as those are my reference, I’ve never expected the pintle of my gun to be level and plumb, but I can see how that would be advantageous. But I also see your point that at 45-50lbs, those Lafettes could be pretty markedly improved upon with modern materials and engineering – I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be that AG. What I’m really curious about is how the T&E mechanism for those things worked compared to the M192 (or the M3 or M205). I know that MG indirect fire used to be a thing, and I’ve heard the Canucks still train it, but i’ve never seen it.

                Another note – I’m sure your experience was similar, but those heat shields some jackhole got an OER bullet for, in my experience, stay in the arms room tough box with the mitten… Barrels are changed with the handle. The barrel bag is a POS too, but hot bbls melt the s**t out of nylon cordura and there’s not really much in the way of alternatives – I’ve always wanted to see something like these https://octactical.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/m249-spare-barrel-bag/
                become available, but never have.

                Along those lines, the only two real qualms I’ve had with 240’s (other than size and weight obviously) are (1) the unavailability of a good receiver mounted starter belt holder (I’ve used three different types which were promptly thrown away with much cursing by all involved) and (2) the fact that the bbl nut can come off axis when you’re trying to put the fresh bbl on while changing bbls – it seems to me there should be some way to build those with some kind of detent in the interrupted thread arrangement so that the AG could do a little wrist flick type thing as part of the motion and preempt those occasions where the barrel comes slightly off center and the AG wastes a few seconds trying to line everything up between the bbl and receiver while only holding the (still hot) bbl by the carrying handle.

                • Kirk says:

                  Pete,

                  One of the annoying things about the whole M240 fiasco with regards to it replacing the M60 as the ground MG stems from the fact that the parties responsible for that simply did not do the testing they should have done with the gun before willy-nilly fielding the damn thing. I spoke with a couple of the junior officers who were involved in that deal on the Ranger side of things, and it really irritated the shit out of me that when I asked them how they’d determined that the weight of the gun was acceptable, when everyone else with operational experience of the MAG58 in recent combat was bitching about it. All of them were completely unaware of that issue having been identified by the Israelis and South Africans, and were only vaguely aware that the Brits were using the same weapon as the L7. So, it’s not entirely shocking to me that we were “taken by surprise” when the complaints started flowing back from Afghanistan about the guns being “too heavy”. American refusal to learn from the experiences of others strikes again–Do not, I pray you, get me going about the whole MRAP and armored route clearance equipment issue, or this thread will expand exponentially to match my rage over the issue.

                  Some things we just don’t do well, here in the US military, and learning from others experiences is probably the most irritatingly apparent.

                  Had we done thorough and proper testing, which was pretty much a non-starter in the first place due to a massive amount of apathy about the ground-mount MG program at DOD level, we’d have found that the M240 was simply too damn heavy before we put it into that role.

                  What we should have done would have been to examine the Israeli and South African experiences with the gun, and then asked ourselves “Why are these two countries independently seeking a better alternative to the MAG58 weapon system, when they should have massively more important issues to worry about…? Could it be that the M240 isn’t the ideal ground-mount MG?”.

                  We should have tested the Negev, and the SS-77 alongside the M240, at the minimum. If we’d really been on the ball, one of the guns tested would have been the Polish version of the PKM, if only as a control. If we’d have done that, the issues with the M240 in the ground role would have been brutally apparent, and we wouldn’t have been saddling our guys with the perfect MG for mounting in a tank turret, while they were walking the hills of the Hindu Kush.

                  Our small arms procurement system is apparently ineradicably FUBAR. McNamara thought shutting down Springfield and going to the current model would fix things, but the evidence says otherwise. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the series of fiascoes surrounding the end of the M60 program and adoption of the M240 as the ground MG didn’t result in wholesale restructuring, because if anything should have been a sign we needed to do so, the fact that our vaunted “system” didn’t have a solid successor to the M60 waiting in the wings, or even a program going to replace it…?

                  Well, that’s what we laymen would call a “sign”, ‘cos it damn sure told me something. The fact that the Rangers and Marines needed to do an “end-run” in the first place, let alone that they were able to do so…? That’s what they term “highly indicative” in the history books.

                  And, likewise, throughout our small arms procurement process. I’m not sure that the current bugbear, this caliber issue, isn’t being handled with similar lack of competence.

                  I’ve reached the point with these people and institutions that when they tell me that the sun is going to be rising in the East tomorrow morning, my ass is going to be out there checking to see if it actually does so. That’s how little credibility they have with me–It’s like that kid who finds a pile of horseshit in the driveway the morning of his birthday, after asking Mom and Dad for a pony. No matter what I’m told, I’m gonna go digging in that pile of shit for the reality of things, and like as not, I’m gonna find that the new shiny has some serious problems going for it. That’s what experience and history teaches me.

                  • Pete says:

                    To my limited experience, alot of it seems to stem from our insistence on having the vehicle mounted weapon be the same as the dismounted light infantry weapon. I suppose there are some solid logistical arguments for that, but when we have removed all repair functions from the operator and unit armorer level anyway, I question this argument – if they have to go to depot anyways, then does it really matter if there are two.

                    Instead we seem bent on lightening the hell out of the 240 (240L and Barrett 240LW & LWS) or scaling up the SAW (MK48), both of which solutions seem to be leading to receiver wear-out issues similar to what used to happen to the old 60’s. It seems to me that the vehicle gun should be dismountable, but not the same as the dismount gun (and vice versa).

                    My hunch is that that new M60E6 would make for a FAR better dismounted infantry GPMG than any of the various 240s. And it’s not just the weight but the general compactness and in-line recoil aspects of it as well. The length also comes into play considering what seems to be a looming push towards suppressed weapons. Shooting a MAG58/M240 offhand, while doable by a big dude, ain’t pretty. US Ord seems to have fixed the issues that I saw with the 60 in my limited experience with it. The carry handle is now on the bbl facilitating bbl changes. The bipod is now on the receiver facilitating bbl changes and meaning you don’t carry around extra useless weight. You can close the feed tray cover on a bolt forward or locked back. And I think they made captive those little loose pins and claim to have fixed the sear issues (but hey 240s and 249’s have those to this day, so I’ll believe that one after I use it for a few thousand rounds). In any case, I’d love to get my hands on one to test that hunch.

                    • Pete says:

                      On a separate note, you should collaborate with others and make a series of articles detailing the history of the M60 and the MAG58 through US procurement like “The SAW That Never Was” series from Weaponsman…

                      Hell, Someone needs to write a good book on the history of the GPMG starting from WWI.

                    • Kirk says:

                      Color me in as “not a fan” of any member of the M60 family–No matter what they’ve done to the E6, the fundamentals of a flimsy receiver built up with blind rivets will still be there, as well as the flawed implementation of Colonel Lewis’s basic design.

                      Perfect example of what’s organically wrong about the M60 design was on Forgotten Weapons recently. If you look at the piece Ian did on the UK’s experimental EM-1 MG, you’ll see their implementation of the FG42’s interpretation of the Lewis mechanism. Watch the video, and when Ian has the bolts from the two guns side-by-side, take a look at the bolt cam track that the op rod tower goes into. Note carefully that the front of that cam track has two relieving cuts at the corners of the front edge, a feature which totally does away with the issues of the op rod tower slamming into the front of that cam track and beating the ever-loving shit out of it.

                      Those cuts are completely missing from the M60, in all the variants I’ve examined. So far as I can tell, they were eliminated early in the design, probably because the idiots who were copying the mechanism didn’t understand why they were there. As a result, every M60 I’ve ever worked on has been subject to wear at that location, especially exacerbated when we went away from LSA and over to Break Free, which lacked the viscosity to provide effective cushioning for the mechanism.

                      Frankly, I don’t think the M60 is something we should go back to, unless we want to implement something like a “disposable MG” concept, where we issue it with a pallet of ammunition and an incendiary grenade to use on the receiver once it’s done firing off that ammo. The only thing even remotely good about that gun was the stellite barrel system, and even that isn’t enough to make me pine for the maintenance nightmare that that gun is inherently designed to be. You have no idea how many flippin’ sets of stones I wore out honing those damn operating surfaces, over the years…

                      Oh, and as an aside? I personally unpacked and placed into operation several factory-new M60s over the course of my career. One of them did around 15,000 rounds, and then was coded out as soon as we got back in from the field, despite religious observance of the niceties regarding rates of fire and so forth. Each and every one of those brand-new guns looked like crap within the first few exercises and ranges they did, exhibiting a good deal of wear and obvious signs of use internally. By way of contrast? The set of M240 MGs that I personally unpacked when they were fielded to my unit back around 2001 looked about the same then as they did when we returned from our first Iraq tour–Limited to no internal wear or surface damage on the internals. Externals? Yeah, they looked used, but the internal parts were flippin’ pristine–And, I know that at least two of those guns fired close to a hundred thousand rounds apiece.

                      Y’all can keep your M60s. They’re the MG equivalent of Kleenex, and should have always been issued as though they were disposable.

                      Personally, I think the best possible solution would have been to examine something like the Negev, the SS-77, or the PKM. Going back to the M60 is about like replacing the M249 with the damn Chauchat, in my humble opinion.

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      FWIW, when the first SAWs were issued in the 101st circa ’86 they didn’t have heat shields on them.

      • Kirk says:

        They also had the skeletonized aluminum buttstock back then, as well. The funny thing was, FN did that to get the weapon in under the weight restrictions of the SAW program, and then…. All of a sudden, once the weapon was fielded, the geniuses realized that a.) the weight suddenly wasn’t that important, and that b.) those lightweight buttstocks weren’t that durable. Sooo…. We basically went and issued the same gun FN had originally designed back in the early 1970s as the “product improved” M249.

        Were it not for the millions of dollars wasted, and the time wasted with all these changes, it would almost be darkly farcical. Given that we didn’t fight a serious war in all those years, it almost kinda is. Had we actually let the balloon go up, however, I suspect that the few surviving veterans of my generation would have had some nasty things to say about the ‘effing morons running the clusterfuck that was and is our small arms procurement system.

        Seriously–They modded the damn M249 to meet the Army’s standards, and then almost immediately, the Army decided they needed to “product improve” the damn things back to what they were when the whole SAW procurement goatfuck started. Mind-boggling, when you were paying attention to it all.

        • Nate says:

          I would absolutely love to hear what you gents think about the MG-3, or a truly modernized MG-42 based weapon as an option. As far as barrel bags go, they never made sense to me. just like the WW2 tripods, I think the krauts had a better solution as well for their spare barrels: a clamshell type metal case, with internal supports for the hot barrel. Imagine a modern version, but with a outer silicon coating to keep from getting burnt. maybe even a blower fan at the one end to speed up the cool down. additionally, every single American tripod looks like a modified 1919 tripod to me, I don’t understand how that aspect hasn’t gotten the love it deserves.

          • Kirk says:

            Mmmm… The MG34/42/3 as a modern GPMG?

            Personally, I’d have picked that way before I selected the MAG58, but then I’ve actually studied the damn things and how they fit into German tactical doctrine, and I am a card-carrying member of the Maschinengewehr uber alles league.

            Unfortunately, I had to work within the US Army’s somewhat primitive and limited conception of what the machinegun is supposed to do, so I never really got the chance to run the guns comparatively, past some shooting with the Germans during the 1980s and some range time with a guy who was a bit of a nut for WWII German MG systems.

            Thing is, the MG42 exemplifies a school of machinegunnery that we simply don’t understand all that well. You can read all the US-centric works that expound on the guns and their usage, and about the only thing you wind up taking away from it all is an awestruck wonder at how wrong they got it.

            One thing they all talk about is that “excessively high rate of fire”. Which, when you actually look into it, wasn’t either excessive, or accidental. With the German doctrine, the idea was to engage the enemy as far away as possible, and as effectively as possible. The “excessively high rate of fire” is deliberate, and meant to enable the gunner to absolutely saturate the beaten zone as rapidly as possible at the furthest out in the range fan as he can reach.

            Consider this: A gun with a 500-600 round per minute rate of fire, delivering a burst into a beaten zone over the span of time it takes to fire it at a target 1200-1600m away is going to grant the enemy element in that beaten zone a lot more in the way of opportunity to seek cover and find it than a gun delivering 1200rpm into that same beaten zone. That was why that feature was designed into the gun, along with the “excessive accuracy” that necessitated an automatic randomization mechanism to be built into the tripod for closer in range targets.

            The thing that made the MG42 so deadly to Allied troops, and that gun probably killed more Soviet troops than the fucking plague, wasn’t the gun itself, it was the entire system, which consisted of the gun, the tripod, all the little accessory items that the Germans included to make it as deadly as possible, and the men who put it into operation. You want to see something interesting, find a re-enactor who has the entire MTOE kit for those things, and have them run through all the little things that were included.

            Not to mention, there’s another feature of the gun that goes into all this: Every MG42 barrel interchanges with every other one. There is no need to worry about headspace, the barrels are all interchangeable, and if they’re not, they’re discarded. The need to headspace in the ones held here in the US stems from all the different barrel sources, the wear they’ve experienced, and the fact that the other manufacturers like the Yugoslavs, the Turks, and the Pakistanis aren’t exactly exemplars of Teutonic precision. If the gun was built in Germany, the barrels are supposed to interchange without issue; that’s a “system feature”, and it’s one we’d have been wise to insist on with any gun we procured.

            A large part of the German thought process with the MG34/42 family came out of their tactical/operational intent. They did not have the masses of exquisitely-trained reservists that they wanted to have on hand, so the idea was, design tactics and weapons systems that would maximize the effect of what they did have. Which was why the choice was made to emphasize the MG team to the point where the entire squad revolved around it. See where I’m getting that whole “tactics first, then weapon…” thing?

            The idea also came because the Germans had done the studies, and found that a gun team centered on the MG was more likely to fire, less likely to run, and because there was a set of guys in close contact to make it work, the odds were a lot lower that they’d just sit back and do nothing while everyone else advanced. They had their concerns about battlefield participation the same way the post-WWII US Army did, and chose to emphasize crew-served weapons because of them. Since they didn’t have the depth of trained reservists available that they considered doctrinally necessary, they chose to change the doctrine to match what they did have, and selected weapons accordingly. It’s not at all accidental that they chose to focus on the crew-served MG, given the paucity of trained manpower and the need to make what they did have as deadly as possible.

            In WWII, you see the competition between two very different schools of tactics, and by the end of the war, they’d pretty much converged. The US, and to a somewhat more limited extent, the Commonwealth, chose to emphasize the individual rifleman, which was where the Garand and the BAR combination came in. The idea was to disperse the firepower throughout the squad, and to give every soldier the best semi-auto rifle they could. Problem was, they really needed to have included a belt-fed down in the squads, and by the end of the war, they had, in the form of the M1919A6. Likewise, the Germans found that their ideas about the MG’s primacy weren’t quite cutting the mustard, and that they needed to increase the individual soldier’s firepower–Thus, the StG44.

            What is interesting, too, is just how much actual practice differed from what was in the manuals. The German Volksgrenadier division had the MG teams as separate elements, but in practice, an awful lot of them were permanently down in the squads. Likewise, the US Army MTOE didn’t have much in the way of belt-fed goodness in the squads on paper, but if you go out and find the guys that were up on the line in the fighting, they’ll tell you they stole everything they could find, and made it work. I’ve seen a picture of a halftrack shown to me by one of the guys who crewed it, a nascent mech infantryman, and I swear there’s a damn belt-fed or BAR for every man riding that thing.

            One of the truly unfortunate things coming out of WWII was that a lot of the “actual practice” stuff that was developed in combat didn’t make its way into the books, and as we all know, if it ain’t in print, it didn’t happen. This was one reason that the guys who came up with the 7.62mm NATO and M14 got away with what they did–There wasn’t anything to contradict their ideas on the nature of war, because they’d taken everything they knew from the manuals, and credulously applied it. Had the actual guys stuck around who’d been doing the fighting stuck around and documented everything they had actually done, and gotten the doctrine changed to reflect the reality of things they’d experienced, we’d have been a hell of a lot better off.

            Frankly, if you’re doing historical research on tactics and so forth? The doctrinal manuals are only a starting point, especially in the US military. Like as not, what you’re going to find is that things deviated and evolved very quickly, to the point that the manuals are almost useless in trying to figure out what they were actually doing. I sat down with a WWII vet, who’d fought in several of the bigger European campaigns, and I had a copy of the then-current manuals. Going over them, it was one “No… Didn’t do that; got people killed…” and “Nope, that was only ever in the book, never saw it done in real life…” after another.

            I suspect that there’s a lot of that, in every army.

            • Jonathan Ferguson says:

              I have to second the call for you to take over Weapons man or similar. You and Josh talk a great deal of sense.

  20. HardCharger says:

    I never see consideration for barrel lengths mentioned in these discussions. Are we willing to have a 14″(minimum)+ barrel for 6.5 Grendel? What about 6.5CM or .260, which needs an even longer barrel?

    • DAN III says:

      Hardcharger,

      300 BLK 125 grainers will accurately pop bad guys all day long at 400 meters, given a good 1-6x variable AND do it with a 9-inch barrel !

      • HardCharger says:

        Im with you on 300 Blk, but Im not sure for 6.5 whether Grendel or CM or even .260 will preform out of a barrel that is less than 16″ or more. And I doubt conventional units will be swapping weapon systems per mission.

      • Joshua says:

        If you can account for 55″ bullet drop at 400M.

  21. Non-operator says:

    Captured my sentiments as well. The nuts and bolts caliber discussion jumps well past a reasoned problem-solving exercise and straight to the military industrial complex solution, with high price tag implications.

    The refrain of the problem keeps coming back to PKM fire from distances beyond what a typical rifle squad, with majority M4s and SAWs, can immediately and effectively kill. This is something I have personally experienced, and not only did the PKM fire typically come from dsitances nearing the max effectiveness of that weapon, it came from positions with multiple terrain features between us and them.

    We are not the first force to experience this, and I agree whole-heartedly with the well-trained, well designed tripod-equipped MG team idea. At the risk of equating my personal experiences to the entirety of the problem, I will attest that attaching 0331s to rifle squads, and carrying the 240 plus tripod on dismounted squad size patrols, became a solution.

    It may be that ONE of the solutions, in addition to training and doctrinal adjustments, includes a caliber upgrade for certain weapons. But certainly not the first, or only, solution.

    • Non-operator says:

      Meant to reply to Kirk.

    • DAN III says:

      N-o,

      Caliber upgrade although as an argument is not the answer alone. One could simply upgrade 5.56mm ammo to the Barnes 85 grain #30164, .224 caliber bullet. However, any upgrade of bullet or caliber alone, will not increase lethality. Doing so MUST be combined with improved optics. 1-6x or 1-8x variable scopes will increase engagement range and accuracy.

      Any discussion of combat longarm improvement must include optics improvement. Otherwise one is spinning their wheels and setting up for more waste of taxpayer monies.

      • Kirk says:

        @ Dan III,

        At the risk of sounding like a goddamn broken record, I think the place we need to start is at the doctrinal/training level. Period. Procuring the finest sights in the world ain’t gonna affect shit, so long as we fail to do the tactical/operational things that make those sights worth buying. Not to mention, the goddamn training…

        More than half our problems really stem from the fact that the vast majority of our officers and senior enlisted don’t give a flying fuck about the basics of their profession, and are utterly uninterested in them. I know this from personal experience, when I got to witness my idiot fucking command team decide that they would rather do all the bullshit necessary to look good for the pre-deployment “Casing of the Colors” ceremony instead of doing the basic new equipment training ranges we’d set up at the last minute to accommodate the M68 RDS systems we got in just before deployment. We had guys I dealt with on qual ranges a year after we returned from that deployment who still didn’t understand how their sights worked, or how to zero them–And, that after a year in Iraq supposedly “using them”. Yeah, right–I wonder how many insurgents got away when those young men and women fired at them with their “superior sights” they didn’t know how to use.

        So long as you have idiots like that running things, buying new toys is a waste of fucking money. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Fix training, fix doctrine, then think about maybe buying new stuff.

        When we get back to the way it was during the “good old days”, when the average joe could take his rifle off the rack in the barracks, and go do some practice shooting on the weekend with government-supplied ammo, and there were actual incentive pays for marksmanship, well… We might be approaching a real state of “fixedness”. Until then? All too much of this bullshit is simply going to be wasted money and time. Sad fact, but true.

        • Pete says:

          “When we get back to the way it was during the “good old days”, when the average joe could take his rifle off the rack in the barracks, and go do some practice shooting on the weekend with government-supplied ammo, and there were actual incentive pays for marksmanship, well…”

          Holy S*&T, that was actually a thing?????? My God, that would be amazing and would go so ridiculously far towards helping our woeful marksmanship. I mean, obviously there are guys who can shoot – but they didn’t learn it from the Army and Army training does not keep them sharp or improve them – training or competing on their own at civilian ranges with personal weapons and ammo kept off post does.

          When was this a thing and where? Where can I read about it?

          • Kirk says:

            Interwar US Army, for one. Before WWII, there was pro pay for marksmanship, and one of the many things that they did to support that was make ammunition and ranges available for the troops–In some commands. I suspect it might not have been a universal thing, but I have read multiple accounts of them having done things like that, going back to the 1890s and earlier.

            I’d have to go digging through stuff that is currently still in storage for citations, but look at the various interwar era books describing daily life in the Army and Marines. I think there’s even a passage in From Here to Eternity that covers some of this stuff, if I remember right.

            • Pete says:

              By God, I’d love to see pro-pay for marksmanship and professionally run ranges actually designed around marksmanship and a command that actually encourages Soldiers to shoot. I mean, we do it to everything so it shouldn’t surprise me, but damnit we shouldn’t be able to take the fun out of target shooting. We sure do though. It shouldn’t surprise me – I mean it was out of the 1890’s that we got Ol Teddy Roosevelt and the Civilian Marksmanship Program. All that stuff is a LONG LONG way off from the current climate where soldiers are more or less taught to fear their weapon as a scary object first, then if they’re lucky enough to be in enough of a combat focused MOS AND command, they eventually build back up natural comfort with it – but even there, we certainly wouldn’t trust them to touch the things on their own – especially not with actual bullets – Heaven Forfend! The zero-defect leadership model that brought us the Friday Safety Briefing is in full effect here.

              I’ve always thought it would do wonders for our institutional marksmanship if we encouraged and subsidized off-duty shooting and supported it by actually having some relevant ranges professionally run and open on the weekends (subject to occasional closure to suit resident unit training demands of course). Instead, the only “marksmanship” training most Joes get is some BS “PMI” given by somebody tasked with it who may or may not know what the hell they’re talking about before zeroing at 25, then going on to a quick pop-up qual or even an Alt-C 25M qual where they are pushed through as fast as possible because the qual is really only a pre-req to the upcoming live-fire progression. And then, to add insult to injury, half the time, we make them do their “marksmanship” qual in full kit because “train as you fight, hooah.” Shooting in full kit is valuable. Shooting and moving in full kit is an essential component of the training value of live fires. BUT, the fundamentals of marksmanship apply no matter what, and if we are trying to focus on marksmanship, we really ought to stop doing it in full kit where Joe is more focused on the smell of his moldy, face-paint encrusted helmet strap than he is finding a proper Natural Point of Aim. Just Sayin’

        • DAN III says:

          Kirk,

          I’ve made several comments in this thread. At least one outlined the requirement for more training. Live-fire training on a bi-weekly basis, minimum.

          Your numerous points are well-taken. Senior NCO and field grade officers and above are exactly as you describe. With the current push for effing females in combat arms, training will be degraded if not decreased.

          Equipment is fine. But, if the troop can’t spell his own middle name, all the high-speed gear and weaponry will not matter.

          BTW….you are not like a broken record. Your remarks were quite applicable and could not be repeated too many times. Good points.

          • Pete says:

            Dan, when I hear you say “Live-fire training,” I hear it in the Army context of scenario-based movement ranges where Soldiers are shooting, moving, and communicating (with the unavoidable commensurately higher risk of, well, shooting each other as compared to static ranges). But it occurs to me that maybe you just mean shooting with live rounds as opposed to force-on-force blank fire or static dry-fire.

            Honest question: which do you mean? If you just mean shooting live rounds on some sort of range at least every two weeks, then I couldn’t agree more, but if you mean the full thing that we call a “live fire” in the Army, then, respectfully, I think it would just eat all of your time.

        • Will Rodriguez says:

          Kirk FWIW as company CO post desert storm I sat down with my NCOs and asked what we neede to do to shoot better. They asked for more ammo and range time. I volunteered the company to run ranges for support troops. We’d get them minimally qualified and shoot the rest of their ammo. Subsequently one platoon would shoot monthly. Soldiers fired five times a year instead of twice. Once you qualified expert you were taught more advanced shooting skills e.g. shooting at moving targets or while on the move, sitting, using a sling etc. By the end of my command the company was over 70% qualified expert. Bn couldn’t believe the numbers. My Bn CO all but called me a liar until I showed him our training schedules and how I fenced a platoon from details and other distractions.

          BTW, not all my NCO’s were on the wagon. They didn’t like having to run extra ranges instead of down time like guard details.

          The point is all you need is leaders who care and don’t care about the BS.

          Oh, and it was a mech unit.

    • Kirk says:

      @Non-operator,

      I personally think the 5.56mm/7.62mm dual caliber system we’ve unintentionally evolved into has some issues. Were it my choice, I feel that we’d do better with a more powerful individual weapon cartridge, and right along with it, a more powerful MG round, as well.

      However, huge ‘effing comma, those are “feelings” that I lack the quantifiable and reproducible evidence to support, and we’re not doing bloody much to get that evidence, either. That being the case, I cannot support willy-nilly changing out the cartridges we’re using based on my nebulous “feels”.

      I am, on the other hand, pretty damn sure of my facts when it comes to criticizing the doctrine and training we’re currently using with our current small arms suite. Just looking at the equipment alone, it’s criminally obvious that we’re not doing everything we could be doing. I mean, for the love of God, why the hell is a Danish tripod from the 1930s still the state of the art? Why are we issuing crap tripods derived from half-ass solutions dating back to WWI, that were only ever intended to be used in fixed defensive positions?

      I’ve watched countless WWII German training films where they’re using that Danish-derived Lafette they put under the MG34/42 family of guns, and it’s a revelation to observe how quickly and effectively they could adapt those things to “found terrain”, and be returning effective fire to some unGodly distances. Why the hell are most of our MG teams in Afghanistan firing off of bipods? Seriously, I want to know how the training and doctrine guys can justify this shit, because every damn time I brought that shit up, over the course of my 25-year career, the vast majority of the leadership just stared at me like I was nuts. “Oh, we’ll never need to be able to do that kind of thing… We’ve got the Bradley, the aviation, the Air Force…”.

      Huh. Same idiots got us into a fight in Afghanistan, then wrote the restrictive ROEs that precluded all that shit from actually, y’know, being used, and now want to buy entirely new weapons instead of figuring out if we could be using what we have more effectively… Kinda makes you wonder, sometimes, whether or not our military was actually being run with the idea of benefiting the actual combat troops out doing the fighting, or if it’s some kinda elaborate Ponzi scheme meant to direct taxpayer income into the accounts of the various players in the defense industry. The more I see of this stuff, the more credibility that theory gains with me.

      Seriously–Why doesn’t someone take one of the old Danish Lafette designs, go to Manfrotto, and say “Hey, see what you can do with this… Make it lighter, sturdier, and more adaptable, and we’ll buy a bunch from you…”. Hell, doing that would probably have cost less than the whole M192 thing, and gotten us a better tripod solution for use out on the ground for moving units.

      • Non-operator says:

        Kirk –

        We’re speaking the same language. Tough, realistic, effective training is serious issue. Before my first tour to Afg in ’09, some of final training at 29 stumps was on newly constructed, seriously expensive MOUT areas meant to mimic Iraq….when we weren’t going there. And specifically with our 240s, we didn’t even TAKE the guns we had trained with all work-up; instead we fell in on and signed for the guns that the previous unit used in combat for 7 months. AND took over a whole suite of MG and individual NV and thermal optics, some of which we had never seen before. Training in million dollar MOUT towns, designed for the last war, and then using hand-me down MGs…….your ponzi scheme idea has legs. I think any infantry unit deployed to Afg over the war likely has similar experiences.

        From a doctrinal perspective this whole discussion, and your points about the German MG teams, has got me thinking that maybe we have some of our focus wrong. In the Corps, the entirety of focus is on the rifleman, everything else is support. Machine guns are meant for SBF positions for suppression to allow riflemen to maneuver and kill the enemy close-in. That’s a generalization of course, and there are other uses obviously, but it’s mainstream training and thinking in the fleet. What if as a doctrinal focus on equal footing with the individual rifleman, were machine gun teams with equipment as you describe, within rifle squads?

        There’s one last root-cause question I think that should be a driving force: are we looking to solve the shortcomings of the last war, or prepare for the next one? I think the MG and training issues you discuss fit both parameters, but the ponzi-scheme complex will be quick to provide Afghanistan-like multimillion dollar training solutions, as was done with Iraq, all while the drawdown was underway.

        • Kirk says:

          @Non-operator,

          Yeah, not taking your own guns over…? Nuts. Flat-out nuts. I don’t care what the brass thinks, that stuff is not interchangeable, and to fall in on weapons you’re unfamiliar with, and which might well be shot the hell out? Crazy. Especially for infantry that are supposed to be way more intimate with the things than any vehicle-mounted gunner ever will be. Hell, as a morale issue alone, that’s insane…

          In reference to what you’re saying about the focus of things, well… I think the US military as a whole has a fundamentally unhealthy fixation on the whole idea of the individual rifleman being the primary focus. It’s a myth going back to the Revolution, and I think that it has warped an awful lot of what we’ve done, at the levels of doctrine, training, and equipping the force.

          Don’t get me wrong, though: The individual rifleman is a very important thing, but they’re not “the most important thing”, either. The pre-WWII German conception, coming out of the whole school of tactics surrounding the Stosstruppen/Sturmtruppen concepts, where the MG and mortar had primacy over all were similarly flawed, but a good deal more effective than our pre-war ideas. It’s notable that by the end of the war, both our infantry and theirs looked an awful lot alike, with belt-fed weapons down in the squads, and a more holistic firepower schema. The post-war Soviets eventually came to the same conclusion, and that’s why they’ve had the AK/RPK/PK combination since the early 1960s–Something I’d point out we only arrived at in the 1970s and 1980s. In the end, nearly everyone has eventually arrived at a dual-caliber solution down in the squads, and I think that that is a natural thing: You cannot do the things you need to do with an individual weapon, and still be firing the same cartridge that is answering the necessities of the machine gun crews. I have a sinking suspicion that the current mania for a 6.5mm something is going to put us right back into the same boat that the post-WWII generation got us into with the 7.62mm NATO–A cartridge that was too big for the individual weapon to be controllable on full-auto, and too small to really answer the mail for the MG team, either. A single-caliber solution, I fear, is a wil-o-the-wisp that simply isn’t actually attainable. Make it work for the MG, and you’re gonna have to be happy with a semi-auto only individual weapon; make it work in that role, and you’re going to drastically circumscribe your MG capabilities.

          I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tell me how you’re gonna fight, and then I’ll tell you what you ought to be designing, procuring, and buying. The pre-WWII Germans determined that they were going to fight their infantry formations around the ultimate GPMG, and procured accordingly. Their tactics and everything else down at that level were designed to make that concept work–The MG was the whole point of the squad, with everyone else there to support it and keep it in action. This got them a lot of places, and allowed them to inflict truly horrendous casualties on their enemies, but it did have some flaws in that the guys supporting the MG couldn’t generate enough firepower on their own to really effectively participate in combat as it came to be fought by the end of the war.

          The US approach, which focused on the individual rifleman, and dispersed the firepower throughout the squad, proved to be equally flawed in that the squads could not generate enough volume of fire to dominate firefights early in the war–Thus, the supplementation of the M1919A6 making its way into the organizations. Likewise, with the Marine experimentation with the so-called “Stinger” MGs they improvised. The firepower is a necessity, and it needs to be under the control of the squad leader.

          It’s interesting to note that the Germans and the US experienced a bit of a “tactical convergence”, in that by the end of the war, their squads looked a lot more alike than not. On paper, the Germans moved the MG teams up to platoon and company, but in practice…? Like the US, practice differed considerably from what was documented and laid out in the manuals, a fact that all too many historians seem to ignore. There’s what’s in the manual, and then there’s what is arrived at under the pressure of fire, and which is usually not documented very well at all.

          Make me king for a day, and I’d copy the hell out of both schools, putting a couple of fireteams worth of well-trained and proficient rifleman into each squad, and a heavy fire support system there to do what the guns do best–Kill the enemy. You should be able to free-flow things as appropriate; when the guns are the most effective killing tool, use them and let them drive the train as the Germans did in WWII’s early battles. When the rifleman is paramount, use the guns to support them, and let them do as they do best. I am not a huge believer in “one size fits all”, anywhere on the battlefield. What works, works. What doesn’t, needs to be identified and replaced.

          • Will Rodriguez says:

            I don’t think the cause of the training shortfalls is too much focus on the rifleman.

            Across the board soldier skills and fieldcraft have suffered. IMO the cause is an attitude of go along to get along and get promoted. Win hearts and minds. Be sure to comply rather than question the ROE and do your time instead of KILLING/WINNING the fight.

            The comprehensive training you aptly described that is missing from our machinegun employment is present across the board from individual to collective training. Though unrelated to training what happened to CPT Swenson in the battle where Dakota Meyer (and later Swenson) were awarded MOH’s is very illuminating. In that case ROE got people killed and everyone up to the CIC denied it was the cause (promptly losing Swenson’s award paperwork because he dared question).

            We have a cancer in our military today and it’s eating the service alive. We’ve come from being the tools for achieving victory on the battlefield to achieving social justice.

            • Kirk says:

              Training’s a lost art, and I lay the blame on the friggin’ computer.

              Back when, before the 25-1-oh-bullshit system came in, we used what was called the “Battalion Training Management System”, or BTMS. You didn’t have all this bullshit where the commander tried to micromanage every 15 minute block of time six weeks out–The training schedule usually had three main entries on it–“Squad Leader’s Time”, “Platoon Leader’s Time” and “Commander’s Time”. That was it–Leadership at the various levels filled that time as they deemed appropriate on the day of, and were expected to be able to present a coherent plan on demand. You also had a lot more emphasis on the leadership being out and about, observing what their subordinate were actually doing. First Sergeants were the senior trainers in the unit, and you could expect them to show up and either provide tips and advice, or chew your ass when you weren’t doing your damn job. ARTEPS were the final real deal–Screw those up, and no matter how much ass you might kiss in garrison, you were in trouble and your NCOER would look like shit. Likewise, if you knew your shit, and performed? They didn’t care if you and your guys spent most afternoons in garrison doing whatever you thought needed doing.

              BTMS is where that whole “POTS” thing came out of–Performance Oriented Training System, based on the training outline and Tasks, Conditions, and Standards. Most of that crap is now only a vestigial memory, but they used to run what amounted to serious “how to plan, resource, and conduct training” classes run by retired senior NCOs working for Central Texas College. What you got out of that was far superior to the lick-and-a-promise bullshit they teach in NCOES these days–It was actual worthwhile instruction on training and how to plan and conduct it, taught by former expert practitioners.

              They shot that in the head, and a few years later, they did away with the Skills Qualification Test for the lower enlisted, and a little later, killed off the whole idea of MOS testing when they did in the NCO Soldier Development Test. Ever since, nobody gives a rats ass about technical MOS skills or knowledge–Believe it or not, there used to be a “thing” where having your SQT manual on hand, and doing study on it was something people did without having a boot put up their ass, because you knew damn good and well your SQT score was one of the things the First Sergeant was going to look at for promotion selection. That’s a dead issue now, and I can about guarantee that were you to ask the average enlisted guy where his SQT manual is for his MOS, he’s going to just look at you like you’ve gone mad. We used to fight for those things, and a dude coming back from BNCOC with the latest information was going to get the ever-loving shit interrogated out of him–And, not just by his fellow NCOs, either. The junior enlisted gave a damn, because they knew advancement came with a high SQT score.

              That’s all gone, now–Sacrificed on the same altar of expediency that the marksmanship proficiency pay concept died on. And we’re discernibly worse off for it all, in my opinion. If the commanders actually valued technical expertise in the enlisted ranks, then they’d check on it and ensure that it actually existed. These days, per the old truism, what the commander ain’t looking at ain’t getting done.

              A lot of this shit has been self-inflicted by the Army, and it started back in the Clinton era. I was an O/C at the NTC circa 1998-2000, and to be quite honest, all of us who’d been doing the O/C thing on 3rd ID during those years were expecting disaster come the day they went across the berm heading north into Iraq. I’m still quite pleasantly shocked that the disaster we expected, which would have been a division-wide enactment of the 507th Maintenance Company debacle, didn’t occur. I honestly don’t know how the fuck it didn’t, because everything I saw come out of the 3rd ID at Fort Irwin during their rotations there led me to expect that.

              Hate to say it, but training as I knew it in the 1980s is a totally lost art. We used to go to the field with the friggin’ ARTEP standards photoreduced, laminated, and then used as checklists–Fully expecting that the external evaluators were going to be using those to judge our performances and nail our asses to the wall for not meeting the standards. These days, the average junior NCO doesn’t even know the damn ARTEP standards exist, let alone worry about them. The systematized training I grew up on during my early years was a dead letter by the mid-point of my career, and that was entirely due to the senior leadership having abandoned standards and de-emphasizing training. They were more worried about COO training during the 1990s than crew drills, and it showed. They quit keeping the supporting documents up-to-date and relevant, and so everyone quit using them. Now they’re a dead letter, and everyone wonders where the hell professional standards went.

              Like as not, there is going to have to be another severe systemic shock like what happened after Vietnam before we pull our heads out of our asses. I’m not sure that anything else is going to put sufficient fear of God into the souls of today’s senior leaders, to be honest.

              • Will Rodriguez says:

                We agree. I just think you keep describing the symptoms vs. the cause.

                • Kirk says:

                  The symptoms have to be fully described in order to make a proper diagnosis of the cause.

                  I would really love to sit down and get to root causes about what contributory factors went into causing all this stuff, but I suspect that by the end of it all, we’d probably be indicting some of the Army’s founders back during the Revolutionary War period…

                  At some point, I suspect blowing the whole thing up and starting over might well be the only effective path forward, as painful as that might be. Some of the “habits of thought” which we’ve gotten into seem to be damn near ineradicable, despite the best intentions of all concerned.

                  It’s odd that we can look at the current small arms controversies, and identify problems and issues that have been problematic going back for close to 120 years, and they still remain effectively unresolved.

      • Nick says:

        Kirk,

        Your comments are on the mark in my opinion (which isn’t worth much – if anything at all). The real reason why we don’t spend on tripods is probably because they aren’t as sexy as a new concept being researched that will “change the face of the modern battlefield”, as shown to you on a 72 page powerpoint in an air-conditioned room. It’s total madness.

        More often-than-not given my short time on earth and my very limited context, the most important advancements that I see are small, seemingly insignificant items – like tripods or binoculars- that can be used by the “archers” to be more effective with the “arrows” that they already have. This isn’t new or eye-catching to people who don’t intimately understand a system-based approach, that’s the real issue…

        It’s also a cultural thing, I’m convinced. We like the newest, the biggest, the most powerful new tech that we can get our hands on, and we also like to pat ourselves on the back communally and say “look at how great our new thing that we built is” when the fact of the matter is that that tech may make things easier for us or faster, but a salty group of dudes with rusted, beaten-up equipment that is “obsolete” compared to that “new hotness” can probably do the same thing just as well – if not better. Just imagine what they could do with the new stuff if they were to get their hands on it!

        I would LOVE to see developments on both sides of the coin become implemented. Imagine the possibilities of a more capable caliber in the hands of well-trained infantrymen, NCOs and Officers who understood the training methodology required to maximize the advantages of any system, old or new.

        From a procurement standpoint, there is a ton of really cool stuff going on in the private sector right now with manufacturing technologies and design software that is literally cutting prices and timelines by magnitudes of 100-1000X+ over traditional cost and iteration cycles. In the areospace industry, this stuff is already being implemented to build highly-sensitive instruments and extremely complex components in ways that are generations ahead of current widespread practices, and the results speak for themselves. It is disrupting the entire industry, and the technology will only become more widespread as the entrenched players in the game fail to adapt quickly enough to the paradigm shift, and see the results on their quarterly financials.

        Will this trickle down into small arms and help challenge and reshape doctrine? I really hope so, but it won’t be coming as a super-sexy DOD-wide caliber adoption any time soon I reckon. I think that 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 won’t be leaving for a while, which means that we should be focusing our efforts on all fronts:

        1: Short term: FIX THE TRAINING GAP. Capable, adaptable people can make an advantage out of anything.

        2:Mid term: Optimize the tools you use now with elegant, streamlined solutions. They aren’t sexy, but they work. Maybe that’s a new tripod; maybe that’s issuing rangefinders to every rifleman; maybe that’s a different weight for a projectile in a currently fielded caliber. Whatever it is, it needs to be cost-effective and quick to implement.

        3: Long term: Conduct the studies and work on a new caliber solution for the context that you wish to use it in, use advanced manufacturing technologies and data-driven results to guide the process, and then take the results within context: what do you want to accomplish from fielding a new caliber/weapons system? This would inevitably require doctrinal changes as well, which will probably cause a ton of ruffled feathers.

        As a side note, the Soviets really put a lot of thought into the systems and doctrines that they implemented so as to make them widely adaptable to a variety of conditions and circumstances, which is one of the reasons that these systems continue to be effective today. We put a lot of thought into our systems as well, but optimized them for different types of warfare than what we have been fighting since the mid 1990s. It’s not that we were wrong at all in our approach, but rather specifically adapted to the required demand that we believed would continue to be the status quo.

        I think that now, more than ever, there is a huge desire to revisit what we want when it comes to small-arms, and that is a good thing… The outcome will inevitably be messy and many inconvenient truths may emerge from the endeavor, which will undoubtedly bruise egos and ruffle feathers – especially on the interwebz.

        • Kirk says:

          Nick, my main worry is that we’re gonna do what we always do, and go with a gadget-centric solution to perceived problems that actually lie more in the realm of what we might conceive of as software, were we looking at a computer problem.

          Fundamentally, the weapons and the munitions they fire need to support what we’re intending to do with them tactically and operationally. We do a very poor job of linking the two, here in the US.

          By way of contrast, my favorite example of this is with the Swiss, who don’t get enough credit for military thought, in my book. Take a look at the StG57, for example: That is a profoundly strange gun to be called a Sturmgewehr, is it not? Fires a full-power cartridge, 24-round magazine, a highly adaptable bipod, and a host of other features that make that rifle more of a hybrid LMG/rifle than the mixture of submachinegun and rifle that we normally think of as being a Sturmgewehr. That is one seriously strange rifle, to US eyes.

          But… Through the eyes of the Swiss? It’s perfectly conceived to support their then-current war plans of withdrawing into the mountains and positively shooting the ever-loving shit out of anyone dumb enough to invade, be they German, Soviet, or what-have-you. The StG57 is a rifle designed from the ground up to support that kind of fighting in the mountains, and every single feature on that gun, from its insane accuracy, ludicrously adaptable bipod, and the full-auto features built into it, were meant to work within that concept. Doctrine first, then the gun’s design.

          That’s how we ought to be doing it, working out from everything that goes into the rifle, from training and logistics, to the actual battlefield effect it generates. It’s all tradeoffs, all the way down, and you can’t create the perfect weapon for every circumstance–You can only create the perfect weapon for how you intend to use it. You want your infantry light, nimble and ferociously fast? Don’t give them some BS like the damn StG57 or M14; they need something light and quick, easily carried, and optimized for the close-in fights you’re going to take them into. Want your infantry to keep the enemy at arm’s length, and plan on attrition as your primary battle plan? Give them something with the range of the StG57, and conduct your fights accordingly.

          Doctrine and operational intent first, then the weapons. Any other path is madness.

          • Pete says:

            Don’t forget the built in “winter” trigger which rotates down and, in addition to being glove friendly, effectively halves the trigger pull weight.

            • Pete says:

              Also speaking of the Swiss, that whole encourage, support, and subsidize marksmanship comes to mind. I know they used to subsidize ammunition in military caliber. I would assume that practice continues.

          • Nick says:

            Kirk,

            Really good points. I think that we have lost our way when it comes to doctrine and operational intent insofar as we want a solution that reaches the 95th percentile in accuracy, lethality, range, magazine capacity, weight (weapon and cartridge) compactness, cost (read as logistical and developmental costs), and a host of other pie-in-the-sky ideas.

            While I wholeheartedly think that a new caliber does make sense (I’m a bit biased towards a 6 something mm cartridge because I do actually think there is a sweet spot there that meets much of the above criteria) I also think that we need to realize that in order to get those extra percentage points of the “right fit” solution, we will have to give something else up on the other end.

            The StG57 is an awesome example to use for the reasons that you mentioned, and I know that there are more than a few people who understand the concepts that you are talking about – they just aren’t the ones making decisions at a doctrinal or policy level, which is a real shame.

            I’ve noticed that we Americans tend to think in terms of absolutes and not context for the majority of our decisions, and we also tend to “what if” our projects from being really good solutions for specific problems into some watered-down solution that gets adapted eventually to fit most of the “what ifs” proposed only marginally. Sometimes this creates an adaptable and capable, if not downright useful solution. Other times we wind up with massive budget overruns, programs that are years behind, and the eventual realization that what was actually birthed into the world really kind of sucks, and probably could have been implemented much better with a modular/adaptable concept…

            We are also doing what we do best when it comes to innovating forward… we are attempting to fight the next wars with technology that we derive from the threats that we are fighting now. Some of this tech is invariably good… It would be nice to see a round developed that is a laser beam out to 1000M, is light enough to carry a bunch of, tends to transfer energy well into live and non-living targets alike, and doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to calculate hold-overs. That being said, unless we can live with the cruel fact that there is no “one round to rule them all” and no weapon to do it all, near to far, we will be outmatched by those who choose their tools according to their requirements.

            On another note, I also think that we should think of small-arms as a tool in the tool kit when it comes to longer distance engagements… Heavy ordinance and precision guided munitions were created for a reason, and have devastating effect when used properly. Cost per round becomes a major factor here most likely, as those munitions cost upwards of the multiple tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars , depending on your flavor, but hey, if we optimize our doctrine to support a greater co-mingled approach through the magical communications infrastructure that we take for granted in this day and age, we might see an improvement in lethality by taking this route too… I’m no expert.

            Doctrine dictates everything, and I feel that we are entering a period of doctrinal uncertainty in response to the array of potential enemies that we will face today, tomorrow, and twenty to fifty years down the line. We are responding with initial knee-jerk requirements that may help us initially gain overmatch, but will hinder and downright hurt us farther down the road.

            • Kirk says:

              Nick, your last paragraph there perfectly capsulizes my concerns about all this “new bestest caliber” thing.

              The root of everything we do in a modern military goes down to the bedrock of doctrine. Poorly conceived and inadequately thought-through doctrine leads to everything else being FUBAR.

              Couple cases on point, outside small arms:

              US Army Engineer School was presented (by me, personally) with an opportunity to approve sending off NCO cadre from Fort Lewis to go to the Canadian Army course on humanitarian demining. I coordinated all that crap direct with the Canucks, because I could read the handwriting on the wall in the post-Cold War world, and correctly surmised that the Clinton administration was going to get us involved in that stuff. Running into some of the Canadians who’d come south to train at our facilities, we worked out a typical low-level “drug deal”, strictly between NCOs, to where we’d be able to send some guys north to participate in their training.

              Whole thing blew up when we tried to get the cross-border training agreement done, and the Engineer School bigwigs got wind of it. Boom, shut the fuck down, and the feedback I got was “Stay in your lane, platoon sergeant…” and, the one that really pissed me off, came back channel: “We don’t want to develop this capability, because if we have it, then someone will expect us to do it…”. That sentence was straight out of the mouth of a Reserve staff officer holding a high-up civilian position in the Engineer School at the time, who I knew from staff exercises with 35th Engineer Brigade.

              Literally the following week or two after I got my final ass-chewing for “exceeding my position” there at Fort Lewis, I had a set of NCOs from 1st SF Group come looking for me down at the unit. Seems that they’d been tasked with going to Cambodia and doing a humanitarian demining mission, and didn’t know shit about it. Since I was the only person who’d ever gone over to borrow the set of English-made Soviet training mines that 1st Group had inherited from 9th ID when it shut down, they thought I might know something on the subject…

              Passed them off everything I had in terms of POI and points of contact with the Canadians, and wished them luck.

              Same time frame, with some of the same people (early ’90s, post-Somalia) my commander and I were looking at the whole rear-area battle thing, along with the IED/mine threat along lines of communications. Sent up copious recommendations to the Engineer School that we ought to be looking at the South African route clearance vehicle sets, and got blown off again on this thing about “We don’t want that capability, or someone will want us to go do it”. At the same time, we were looking at the FMTV program that was going, and both my commander and I looked at the cabover designs they were gravitating towards and said “WTF…?”, because the inherent stupidity of putting the crew compartment right over the lead axle, which is most likely to be the one detonating anything in the way of mines and IEDs, struck us as really stupid, especially considering the South African experiences. As well, we thought then (early ’90s, remember?) that it would be really smart to develop and procure uparmor kits for the FMTV as they were being designed, so that we’d have ’em on hand when needed. Wrote all that up in a nice letter, sent it off to the appropriate program managers, and got back a nice little letter saying, again, “stay in your lane, please”, with the justification that the program manager did not envisage the FMTV ever taking a real tactical role, and needing armor of any kind: It was strictly a rear-area “thing” and would never see direct combat, or need armor. Again, this was all early ’90s, when the FMTV program was still in development…

              Few years later, that particular commander said “fuck this for a joke”, and got out of the Army to do things where people might actually listen to him. I was by then at the NTC, and one of the issues I looked around at and asked questions about was “Where are all the slice elements…? What about the Corps-level units that are going to be attached to the divisions…? Shouldn’t they be down here, training with them…?”.

              Now, at the time, I was more concerned with my former home unit, a Corps-level wheeled Engineer battalion that I didn’t think was getting enough training, and I thought that since it was gonna be attached to a division, maaaaaaybe, just maybe, they ought to be getting some stick time with the maneuver bubbas down at Irwin. Told by the guys running things that the idea had merit, but was “too expensive, and too likely to be a training distractor for the maneuver units…”.

              I also pointed out that the “logistics fight” wasn’t being properly replicated for the players, because basically every single convoy in the rear areas that left the notional base back in the cantonment area, and moved around all the BSA sites got to where they were going without interference, and that the blue-sky manner we were doing logistics did not match up with the reality we’d had in Korea, Vietnam, or the various conflicts which were fought in Southern Africa. There again, I was told that a.) those elements didn’t need training, and that b.) I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about when it came to rear-area battle. This was in the late 1990s.

              Now, come the fucking day we go into Iraq? Huh. Go figure–A Corps-level attachment, namely the 507th Maintenance company blows the goat whilst attached to the 3rd ID. Leave aside the fact that we never properly trained that company to be doing what it was doing, and that it had no business taking part in that kind of movement, let’s consider the fact that 3ID basically had about zero visibility on the issue in the first place, and took no measures to wrap their arms around the asset and protect it. Not really their fault, either–When had they ever been faced with dealing with an attached element that basically had zero preparation in training or operational skills for moving along with a mech division in combat?

              Also, note that there were no readily available armored route clearance assets, nor were any of our logistics vehicles hardened–Both things being issues that had been raised and ignored by our vaunted “system”. It took us until 2005 to really correct those problems, and the solutions should have already been out in the pre-po fleet, ready to dock and unload.

              The US Army and the Marines are not really very good at being “learning organizations”. Nor do they do a very good job of looking forward, and saying “Hey, the trends indicate that we need to prepare for this…”. Hell, I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the South African bush wars back in the 1980s, because I found it fascinating, and because the marked contrast with how they dealt with the mine/IED threat compared to how we’d handled things in Vietnam really got me thinking. The fact that we were no better off for dealing with that threat in the 1980s than when we’d ended WWII is a truly remarkable thing, especially considering the number of people we lost in Vietnam to that precise same threat.

              I want you to think about that, contemplating this caliber issue: The people running our military are so damn inept that we were still having privates with mine detectors walking ahead of sandbagged dump trucks backing down roads in the late 1990s: That was the state of our art, with regards to route clearance, and even a lot of the TTPs learned in Vietnam had been forgotten by that point.

              Piss-poor doctrine flows out of delusional and inept thinking, which then flows into poor operational planning and strategy. The developing nature of war clearly showed an issue with rear-area battle and the mine/IED fight as far back as the Eastern Front in WWII (where do you think all those advisers to the Viet Cong and South African insurgents learned that shit, do you suppose…?), and, yet… We did nothing to address those issues until we had a bunch of dead bodies on national television in real-time. And, sadly, we’re still ignoring a lot of the actual lessons from the early days in Iraq, which you can easily ascertain by asking the question of where the permanently established PSD elements are in all the new battalion and brigade MTOEs. Instead of recognizing that we’re going to have to “fight for command presence” the same as you have to “fight for reconnaissance”, we’re going right back to the status quo ante-bellum, and dissolving all those PSD elements upon return to the continental US.

              There are none so blind as those who will not see.

  22. Seamus says:

    ALL I WANT TO KNOW IS WILL WHATEVER NEW RIFLE(S) HAVE A BAYONET LUG…. BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU JUST GOTTA STAB SOMEBODY :)

    • Steven S says:

      Indeed, and don’t forget, we need much longer barrels to effectively use those bayonets. You have to have that reach superiority! Even if the cost is a heavier and bulkier rifle, because you know…

      Sometimes your in that rare situation where you just got to stab someone!

      😉

      • Ed says:

        Good laugh, both of ya!!!

      • Another Ed says:

        In October 2012, President Obama said to Governor Romney “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed.”

        I guess we do not have to stab anybody anymore. Just show them our war faces and how fierce we are!

  23. Wayne Coker says:

    Maybe I am getting ahead of myself here but who that is reading this forum is going to be shooting someone at anywhere near the distances you are talking about, I have friends shooting 6.5 GAP at 1 mile and getting great groups. But for the rest of us the 5.56 may not be a death ray but the round has been proven to be effective, especially at close range which is where the most of us regular people will be using it. Just ask Kyle Defoor, Travis Haley, Frank Procter -who I have had the opportunity to train with. Larry Vickers and Mike Pannone real people with real experience. Yes I am sure there is a magic bullet out there somewhere but this one is just fine for me and I can afford to shoot the dam’n thing.

  24. J says:

    Great article. It does leave out the comparisons of the new 5.56×45 M855A1 and 7.62×51 M80A1 rounds to the ones proposed. Seems like the new 5.56×45 M855A1 and 7.62×51 M80A1 rounds have better performance, penetration, match grade ballistics, and deadly when compared to the old M855 and 7.62×51 M80 NATO ball ammunition. Just using the tech and knowledge learned from the 5.56×45 M855A1 and 7.62×51 M80A1 rounds to upgrade all of our ammunition up to .50 cal level that we use by today’s ground forces makes better sense and would cost less.