Tactical Tailor

During the US Small Arms Renaissance, “Best” Is The Enemy Of “Better”

We are living in exciting times. It’s an era of small arms innovation; a renaissance if you will. Not since the late-50/early-60s have we seen the potential for such fundamental change in US military issue small arms. We have requirements from the services, but also products already developed by industry, ready to fit the bill. But most of all, we have will and that’s something we haven’t had in a long time. Our President is emphasizing defense and our Congress is actively engaged in hearings to determine what appropriations need to be made to modernize our forces. Exciting times indeed.

What’s happening?


US Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command are all engaged in small arms improvement efforts, either on their own or in conjunction with one another. I’ve mentioned most of them over the past few months but I’ll offer a short summary here.

US Army has lead on a Joint effort for a new pistol. The 9mm SIG P320 was selected earlier this year as the M17/18 and will begin fielding soon.

US Army has a directed requirement for over 6,000 Squad Designated Marksman Rifles based on the 7.62mm H&K G28. Additionally, the Army selected a G28 variant for the M110A1 Compact Semi Auto Sniper System.

US Army Marksmanship Unit continues development of .264 USA cartridge.

Multiple programs work on development of polymer ammunition cases.

US Marine Corps is studying increased fielding of the 5.56mm M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, based on the H&K 416. Outfitted with an optic, the M27 will soon be used to fulfill a Designated Marksman role at the Infantry Squad level and the Marines have issued a Sources Sought Notice to industry for production of additional rifles.

US Marine Corps is studying increased use of suppressors for small arms.

USSOCOM selected and fielded the 9mm GLOCK19 with mini red dot optic as their pistol.

USSOCOM has a requirement for a .300BLK Personal Defense Weapon kit for their SOPMOD M4A1 carbines.

USSOCOM has a requirement for a 5.56mm Suppressed Upper Receiver Group for their SOPMOD M4A1 carbines.

USASOC has stated an interest in an improved 5.56mm Upper Receiver Group with Mid-Gas system, M-LOK handguard and SureFire WarComp for their SOPMOD M4A1 carbines.

USASOC is conducting a 6.5mm family cartridge study in conjunction with the GPF US Army. They’ve already fired 23 different cartridges at a 2,000yd radar equipped Range at Aberdeen Test Center. The user evaluation will be conducted Fall 2017.

USSOCOM has stated an interest in a 6.5mm family Sniper Support Weapon/Carbine and Lightweight Assault Machine Gun once USASOC selects a cartridge.

USSOCOM and USMC have issued a Sources Sought Notice for a Lightweight Medium Machine Gun in .338 Norma Magnum.

USSOCOM has a requirement for an Advanced Sniper Rifle in .300NM and .338NM. The US Army is monitoring.

Additionally, there are numerous Laser and Optics programs in Army, Marine Corps, and SOCOM.

Best Is The Enemy Of Better

During last week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference I heard a lot of really knowledgeable people poking holes in every one of the modernization efforts mentioned above. They want the “Best”. Whatever that is, because everyone has a different opinion on just what constitutes the best. Sure, who doesn’t what our guys and gals to have the best equipment they can get? It sounds great on paper, but in practical terms, our troops generally get “Best Value” which means an analysis is made to determine what offers the best bang for the buck. Cost versus Effect. Take a look at the efforts above. There’s a lot of effect there. Some of it game changing.

Instead of seeking the ever elusive “Best”, we need to start accepting the notion of “Better” as in “Better than what we have now.” In each effort above, you can make the case that the proposed capability is better than legacy. Granted, some of the technologies aren’t 100% and may need some refinement, but we have synergy right now. Remember that will I mentioned earlier? Having the money to make these programs happen is essential and sometimes you’ve got to make it happen even if you aren’t completely ready. We can work on the rough edges as we field them. Every weapon system has issues which have to be worked out. If we hold out for “Best” we’ll never get “Better”.

But, What About NATO?


Precisely. What about NATO? There are some who feel we shouldn’t adopt a new caliber because it will violate NATO standards. This isn’t true at all. Take for example .338 Lapua. Although it was initially developed in the US, once the Netherlands adopted it for their Sniper weapons, it became a NATO round. Any development we do here in the US, can and will benefit all of NATO in the future.

None of the efforts listed above threaten current NATO standards but rather work to supplement them. While USSOCOM is working hard to identify a cartridge in the 6.mm family (my money is on .260 Remington), they have no plans to abandon 5.56mm anytime soon, or 7.62mm, for that matter. Instead, the plan is to offer new capability in 6.5mm, .300NM, and .338NM. Once they fully understand how those calibers will effect the mix of small arms at the small unit level, then more informed decisions about the future of the carbine can be made.

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

Sure, we’ve squandered opportunities in the past, but that was then and this is now. We have to look to the future and not let history repeat itself. Too often we’ve embarked on a program for a new weapon only to decide there isn’t enough of a leap ahead. When the M16 was adopted over 50 years ago, no one imagined it would still be in use. While industry has developed a myriad of enhancements for the platform, that quest for a leap ahead has caused readily available improvements to stagnate. It’s time to move forward and adopt these new capabilities which will keep the US military at the top of its game and the envy of others around the globe.

Thank You Jim Schatz

If the small arms renaissance had a prophet, that man’s name was Jim Schatz. He carried the fire for small arms modernization for years, even when there was little interest in the services, let alone Congress. Look back on his briefings to NDIA and you’ll see a lot of what is happening now. Thanks Jim, we all owe you!

113 Responses to “During the US Small Arms Renaissance, “Best” Is The Enemy Of “Better””

  1. jellydonut says:

    The .338 Lapua Magnum was developed in Finland. It’s right there in the name..

    • Even Lapua has acknowledged that the .338 Lapua was the final commercial development of a cartridge originally developed in the US for a NSW requirement. During its wildcat days, it was alternatively referenced as the .338/416 USN, .338 BELL, and 8.58x71mm RAI.

      Jerry Haskins of Research Armament Industries (RAI) was the direct father of the original rifles, and the cartridge was roughly a beltless version of the earlier .338-378 KT wildcat for which Haskins had built the first sporting rifles while working with Doug Champlin. Brass Extrusion Labs Ltd. (BELL) made the early .338/416 USN cases, which were originally loaded with Hornady projectiles. After issues with the early cases, RAI went to Lapua for assistance. However, the US Navy pulled the plug on the program, leaving Lapua without a customer. To their credit, Lapua then plowed ahead to complete the cartridge’s development.


      • jellydonut says:

        I looked it up, and by all accounts the initial cartridge was a failure not fit for service. Lapua developed .338 LM based on those specs, but they’re the ones who made it work.

        • Klip says:

          Fair point.

          Also fair point that its origins were in an NSW requirement that eventually lead to a new caliber for NATO that has been very successful. Relevant to the discussion at hand, these new studies will likely/hopefully result in successful chamberings for NATO as well.

  2. James says:

    What is exciting to me is the combination of military and civilian market development in suppressors, long range,and short barrels. The recent ATF clarification on arm braces is going to push further development on short barrel cartridges , 300 blackout is just the beginning.The proliferation of suppressed guns in the civilian market has pushed technology that had stagnated for 100 years( along with new manufacturing methods) and it will only gather steam if HPA passes. The 6.5 ascendancy is due partly to the huge amount of knowledge from civilian long range shooters, despite the fact that it had long been considered a near ideal caliber .

    The civilian market provides so much evolutionary growth it is hard to ignore, and all of it is just sitting there for the military to pick and choose their desired path/s from. Truly great stuff!

  3. Joshua says:

    What we will end up with is likely a 9lb .308 rifle as a standard issue rifle. It’ll cost more, weigh more, reduce ammunition loads, and magazine capacity. It’ll be an overall reduction in capability and soldiers will still not be trained to use it.

    Seems like the type of decision the Army would make.

    Even if we go to a .308 rifle firing 6.5 holy Grail laser beam bullets, soldiers will still have a reduction in ammunition capacity, a heavier rifle, heavier ammunition, and still be limited to their lack of training making engaging targets beyond 500M statistically improbable.

    The best use of money would be to follow SOCOM. Get a mid length upper, with a CHF barrel and a Mlok rail, issue Pmags and M855A1. Train everyone on the rifle, but that won’t happen.

    We’ll instead issue hardware to fix a software issue, which in the end will be an bad decision as the new hardware will be a reduction in capability.

    • SSD says:

      There’s one thing that may stop the adoption of a 7.62 rifle and that’s the integrated Infantry. Thing is, I’m not sure anyone has even considered this issue.

      • Joshua says:

        Combined arms is what our Infantry is built around.

        For it to not be the focal point in deciding how to outfit our soldiers is just assinine.

        This is why when everyone says well speshul farces uses eet!!! I try to explain their needs =/= the needs of the GPF.

        • Nate says:

          SSD are you referring to the female integration that is now upon the services? Thats actually a really interesting point. I don’t think we will see the services go back to a 7.62 for every rifleman. As a DM role, yes. However, does anyone really want to haul a potentially heavier weapon, with less ammunition for short range CQB and urban operations? Particularly for extended conflicts? That’s why I don’t understand where all the MK-12s went. Is the “increased lethality” of individual rifleman really that important, when basic marksmanship training is so wildly inconsistent among units, but shot placement is the most critical factor for incapacitating targets? 5.56 has been putting America’s enemies in the ground for decades, but I agree its time for an update. M855A1 isn’t the solution either. Hopefully “better” is going to be us matching the needs of today, while taking inconsideration a realistic fighting load. living out the 7.62 wet dreams of the M14 and FAL holdouts would be backsliding, and forgetting lessons learned.

          Despite all of this, it looks like SOCOM and the USMC are definitely pointed in the right direction, and I have faith that we will see some really beneficial systems be fielded over the next few years. Awesome points made, i’m glad the renaissance is here!

      • Don says:

        Integrated as in gender integrated, not meaning combined arms?

      • Ed says:

        When you mention “integrated” do you mean the fe-males carrying a heavier rifle or leaving them the 5.56/M4 and letting the Joe’s pull all the weight as usual??

  4. Joshua says:

    And just for a numbers comparison. These weights are equal.

    62gr 5.56 M855A1: 210 rounds 5.55lbs.
    108gr .264 polymer: 169 rounds 5.55lbs.(loss of 2 magazines for a combat load)
    108gr .264 brass: 133 rounds 5.55lbs.(a loss of 3 magazines for a combat load)
    135gr 7.62 polymer: 142 rounds 5.55lbs(a loss of 2.25 magazines for a combat load).
    135gr 7.62 brass: 108 rounds 5.56lbs(a lost of 3.25 magazines for a combat load)

    On top of those numbers,the rifles will add 2+ lbs of extra weight, the magazines will be bulkier, the magazines will have a reduced maximum capacity(20-25 rounds per) and due to the increased magazine bulkiness, you will be burdened with finding room to add mag pouches to what is already generally a overburdened plate carrier.

    Now I’m not a decision makers for the government. But in my time being issued a M4A1 I never once said, gee guys I wish I could give up my 6lb 13oz rifle(M4A1 weight) for a rifle that weighs 8.9lbs(HK CSASS) so that I can shoot a bigger bullet that will have more recoil, and will also reduce the amount of ammunition I can carry, just so I can maybe be able to keep Pace with the DShK that’s lobbing harassing fire my way from 1,200M away.

    • Kinetix says:

      Care to share where those numbers came from?

      • Joshua says:


        Is the easiest. The actual numbers came from a Presentation Jim Schatz himself did on intermediary caliber.

      • Kinetix says:

        Cancel that, just found it in SA Defense Journal.


        No doubt, moving to a bigger round will involve more weight, but the idea is that innovation like polymer cases ammunition bring the weight down immensely. I understand that you don’t like the idea of a round switch, but these developments are making it much more possible.

        • Joshua says:

          So add polymer to M855A1.

          The M4A1+M855A1 is already a “infantry half kilometer” gun. Give it a polymer case like the theorized 7.62 and .264 and now we can carry even more 5.56.

          A polymer intermediate caliber will always be heavier than a brass cased 5.56. enough so you lose 60 rounds in a standard combat load(more if you count magazine capacity reduction).

          You’re not going to get a intermediate caliber rifle to stay under 10lbs when fully outfitted. The M4A1 just eeks under 10lbs with a optic, magazine, light, PEQ.

          A similarly configured intermediate rifle would be breaking 13-14lbs, have more recoil, be limited to lower capacity magazines, and your combat load has gone from 8 mags of 5.56 to 4 mags of whatever wonder bullet they choose.

    • Ed says:

      If your assessment is correct then I gotta ask why can’t the Army just field more MK12’s in the DM role?? I mean that is what it is best suited for. NSW thought they we’re cutting edge when they got rid of both the MK11(SR25/M110) and MK12 and replaced with the POS SCAR-H and MK20. The SCAR-H was ok to use in training but as RW with limited load-out, not ideal! Might as well just carry a MK48 for both H and MK20! This is the conundrum that needs avoided at ALL COSTS!

      • Joshua says:

        We already have ways to deal with long range harassing fire from large caliber emplaced MGs and sniper rifles. We don’t need a general purpose rifle for the GPF that could theoretically do it, theoretical being the key word there. Because in practice it’ll be used in the same manner the M4 is now.

        On top of the weight issue I outlined above, soldiers often are also burdened with carrying extra ammo for the other weapons like the SAW, 240, 40MM, etc.

      • Kinetix says:

        The USMC is in the same boat – why buy new (M27) when you have that capability now (Mk12 Mod 1). Considering that the Mk12 was purpose built to be a marksman rifle, it will certainly do s better job than the M27.

        • Ed says:

          That’s all I’m saying as well. I am actually agreeing with you Joshua, my rant on NSW and their “SCAR” vision was a complete goat-phuck! Right now NSW is treating the “new” M4 uppers with mi-length gas like the new DM rifle. Issuing them sparingly. I have no idea what they are thinking!

        • cameron says:

          you need to reread the Universal Need Statement for the M27. youre understanding of what it is suppose to provide is really poor, highlighted by the fact you offered the mk12 mod1 as a weaon that could meet the same needs

          • Joshua says:

            And a update M4A1 upper receiver group could do it for 1/2 the price.

            • cameron says:

              ! are you mad!

              ok, just give me the upper receiver you think can sustain suppressing fire better without jamming and re-oiling.

              ridiculous logic

              • Joshua says:

                Lol the M27 isn’t a magic rifle, and suppressors don’t descriminate when it comes to carbon fouling.

                • Cameron says:

                  ‘suppressing fire’ doesn’t mean with a suppressor. That’s a civilian interpretation of military terminology.

                  And if somehow you thought you meant carbon doesn’t discriminate on weapons that give suppressing fire, you’re wrong. Look at any standardised military test for weapon selection, one of those tests being how long it can fire before critical fail, literally testing ‘carbon discrimination’.

                  • Joshua says:

                    I misread what he said. It happens.

                    That said the M27 is only rated for 36 rounds per minute. That’s around what a SOCOM barreled M4A1 is rated for with a RIS II.

                    • cameron says:

                      theyve deemed the need for high rpms secondary to the new effect they want from the M27.

                      They are adopting to a new tactic, with a new weapon system. you have to stop comparing the weapon to the old tactics, because yeah youre right, the m27 my not be the best DMR or the best LMG, its providing a new role that borders both to best effect.

          • Kinetix says:

            Respectfully, you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. The USMC, for roughly 2 years, has been promoting the idea (as SSD noted above) of fielding the M27 in a “squad designated marksman” role since the M27 is more accurate than a bone stock M4, which is now the standard USMC Infantry “rifle”.

            So yes, with the role of SDMR in mind, the most apt comparison is that of the Mk12 Mod 1, since that is the rifle that the USMC previously fielded in limited numbers for that exact purpose.

            The M27 is a pseudo-bastardization of a rifle that was adopted to be used as an automatic rifle. Because of its free float rail and heavier barrel, it’s more accurate than a standard M4. The Mk12 which has seen wider fielding within the US Military, was designed from the get-go to be a DMR. The logic, as I explained, that the M27 is a) suitable for the SDMR role and that b) it is superior that weapons currently in the system for that purpose, is insane.

            • James says:

              Except for the fact that the Marines already had the Mk12, they believe the M27 is better. It’s certainly more versatile.

              • Kinetix says:

                How exactly is the M27 better than the Mk12 for the purpose of being employed as a DMR? Furthermore, can you cite a USMC source that states this (“they believe”)? The M27 has been a back-door political scheme to get a new infantry RIFLE since its inception, and the move to employ it as a DMR, for which is was not designed and is inferior to currently fielded weaponry, is simply another move in that direction.

                What exactly makes the M27 a better DMR than the Mk12, it’s shorter 16″ non-match barrel? It’s standard H&K416 trigger? It’s cumbersome rail system? It’s standard USMC rifle optic? Really?

                • James says:

                  They are buying 3-9x optics for use with it as a DMR. The triggers and handguards are easier to change than building a Mk12. The M27 barrel is as accurate as the ammo is, it literally groups within the standards for the ammo. The barrel length change from 18 to 16.5 is trivial. What does ‘ match grade” even mean? If you mean a super tight chamber, throated for the specific load you are shooting, with a twist rate chosen for the exact bullet and velocity,etc that didn’t happen with the Mk12 or SDMR rifles. If you’re talking about a barrel that will shoot 1-1.5 moa with 262, 2-2.5 moa with 318, all of them do that. The proof is in the pudding, they are buying M27’s ,not building Mk12’s or SDMR’s.

            • Cameron says:

              m27 is now replacing the LMG.

              You’re working off obsolete information thinking it was selected as a DMR.

              The fact it can act as a DMR is one of the reasons it was picked over the mk12, which can’t act as an LMG.

              Very simple

              • Joshua says:

                It’s a modern day BAR…not a LMG.

                The M249s and M240s have still been retained.

                • cameron says:

                  the fact i can copy paste wiki to correct your assumptions indicates an information gap…

                  Though program officials were aware that switching from the belt-fed M249 would result in a loss of suppressive fire capability, Charles Clark III, of the Marine Corps’ Combat Development and Integration Office, cited the substantially increased accuracy of the M27 as a significant factor in the decision to replace the M249.[20]

        • Bobby davro says:

          Probably more to do with streamlining supply chain and cost (the more parts you buy the cheaper in general they are) and phasing out specialist weapon systems the British military are doing it with the L129 (LMT) phasing out the UOR hk417 and increasing its use as a sniper support rifle to phase out the LSW

          • Cameron says:

            agreed but can’t believe you mentioned the LSW! British Army is playing a smart but difficult game where they try and best place their money spent into something for a future war, like the PM vehicles being part of a mechanised brigade. Doesn’t really work but it’s what we have so let’s try and make it fit as best as possible.

    • cameron says:

      6lb rifle is great but an infanteer can carry 11lbs in a rifle easy, so don’t sell them short by saying its too heavy. obviously you dont want weight if it doesnt come with an advantage, and the advantage here is better precision, lethality and range. I would love knowing that if i touched the enemy with a ONE round he would be incapacitated. 556 doesnt give that.

      for those that argue ROE needs changing, this should be a godsend for you. Youre ability to shoot farther, more accurately, and with fewer bullets will eventually allow you more freedom to engage because civilian casualty estimate will be lower.

      • Joshua says:

        Yes a 6lb rifle becomes a 11lb rifle when add optics, lights, etc, etc.

        A 9lb rifle becomes a 13-14lb rifle with the same things.

        Also even .50 doesn’t guarantee a “one hit kill”.

        • cameron says:

          im glad you can do basic math but it doesnt change the fact that infanteers have carried heavier for longer than m4.

          thinking that going to a heavier weapon will mean we cannot fight with it effectively is the logic of someone that has never picked up a history book.

          50 cal argument.. i dont know where to start. Are you saying lets use 22lr because we can carry thousands on one man, and no bullet kills better than another bullet?

          soooooo frustrating when someone who cant string cogent thought together gets on his high horse and says ‘naaa, we should not innovate because i love that thing i used way back when’.

          • Joshua says:

            Says the person who uses the 22lr appeal to emotion argument.

          • BillC says:

            Your weight argument that people carried heavier in the past is flawed in logic. Just because people have carried heavier in the past, doesn’t make it any more right.

            • Bobby davro says:

              Could you retrofit the the 264 poly to an m4? As you can 6.8 or .300 ? If you could the rifle weight becomes a mute argument and as for the ammo weight issue would it not be negated by using a more accurate and effective round ??

              • Cameron says:

                Joshua- the point is lethality of bullet is something not to disregard simply because no bullet guarantees one hit kill. I don’t know where you got one hit kill guarantee from, but you’re using the extreme of an argument to argue against proportional benefits.

                Billc- you’re right that heavier in the past doesn’t make it more right. But the inverse is then also true, refusing to look at weapons because they aren’t m4 light isn’t more right either. You play advantages of each other, increased lethality, accuracy, reliability combined with more weight and less Ammo is the trade off here. That trade off to me, and seemingly socom and the general military makes sense for the 21st century. Ammo constraints and weight of kit is more of an issue in WW3 not insurgency. We want better lethality so when the relatively fewer firefights that happen in counterbinsurgency fights happen, the guys you touch have a smaller chance of getting back up. WW3 you want the enemy medic to be tending to 15 lightnto moderately wounded guys with some soldiers happening. That was the reason for 556. Now that that isn’t a real possibility with terry taliban, change the round.

                Davro- the linchpin of the argument is reliable sustained fire with better reach. You’re asking too much of an m4 to get that without drastic overhaul, not just a one for one swap of uppers, barrels, etc. The piston of the m4 has been show to be obsolete in that it can’t do reliable sustained fire for long, like an AK or HK416. (I’m not saying we have to have an AK) so instead of arguing for better ammunition or training, which are bandaids to the problem at hand, fix the wound. It’s cheaper and more effective in the long run.

                • Cameron says:

                  Apologies for the typos, iPhone retarded.

                  ps cheaper in the long run, means money, blood, politics everything combined.

                  • Cameron says:

                    Finally, m27 isn’t magic and probably will run to the same cold/hot issues the 416 runs into for the Norwegian army. But if you can fix a an issue completely so you don’t have to compensate for it, you have options in the future to upgrade to fix other problems that come about.

                    Take the humvee, upgraded so much there isn’t room for more. The army has realised this an is now looking at another vehicle with space for further upgrades. They are clearly trying to get around this same difficulty With the m4

  5. Ed says:


    What is that AR/M4 looking belt hybrid in the last pic? Looks pretty good to me!

  6. Lawrence says:

    Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn into another boondoggle like the Camo Improvement Initiative….

  7. Kinetix says:

    The idea of the USMC purchasing more M27’s is wholly a terrible one. Sure, an M27 offers more capability than an M4, but at a huge cost, not just in money, but in the ability to truly modernize the rest of the USMC’s rifles/carbines as well. Firstly, it’s an antiquated, massively expensive rifle. Second, industry has developed products that do what the M27’s components allow it to do – but do it much better and at lower weight. Thirdly, why are they thinking of buying M27’s for a Squad DMR role when they have access to (or can build) rifles that were purpose designed by Crane to be SDMR weapons – the Mk12 Mod 1.

    However, learning from what the M27 does right? Fantastic idea.
    -Adopt a fulll length free float rail system for the M4/M16
    -Perhaps a different barrel (aka a little longer)?

    • Joshua says:

      Everything the M27 does, can be done better and cheaper with the M4.

      A new URG+trigger would cost the M4 half of what the M27 runs.

      • Bob says:

        How much is a M27? $3-$4K? vs an M4 at what $700?

        • Joshua says:

          A M4A1 would run around $1250-1500 for a new barrel, rail, and bolt.

          The base M27 runs $3250 or around there.

      • Kinetix says:

        That’s exactly what I am arguing, if you part it out and use current recievers, you can upgrade an M4/M4A1 to surpass the capability of an M27, at a lighter weight, for roughly 1/3 the price of an M27.

        Why, in good God, they would want to buy more M27’s, or worse – pure fleet the USMC’s infantry with them (an idea which has been floated since its inception and increasingly in recent years), is absolutely insane and nonsensical.

  8. Joshua says:

    Personally I’d like to see this.

    M4A1 retained, updated to a FF, mid length barrel.
    Saw replaced with the Stoner LMG.
    M240 retained. If a lightweight 6.5 LMG could be made, use it instead(I haven’t seen one yet personally).
    .338 MMG replacing the M2A1.
    6.5 DMR based on a Stoner AR-10 system.
    Various other sniper rifles in different calibers.

    That would be the ideal way to spend funds. IMO. It however won’t give any cush retirement jobs at weapon companies.

    • Ed says:

      Bingo! All about the Benjamin’s and hook-ups! Phucking pathetic!

    • CAP says:

      Perfect. Completely agree.

      We could even just re barrel the M240L and new HK CSASS in 6.5 creedmoor and get rid of 7.62 all together.

  9. the Dude says:

    SSD do you know what the 23 (6.5mm)cartridges tested were?(besides .260 and 6.5 creed and .264 USA) I’m curious as to their testing protocol and what bullets they used. Was only one bullet or type used, are they looking at more advanced stuff like hornady eld-x or eld match? Berger VLD’s or Hybrids? Or sticking with sierras? Just curious and very interested to see what comes of this. From one of the earlier ndia article they said the ideal 6.5 bullet weight was 123 grains(scenar) but I think 135(berger hybrids or swampworks) is the sweet spot.

    • James says:

      You would expect the Grendel, 6.5MPC, 6.5 x47 Lapua, 6.5×40(6.8spc based), 6.5×35 whisper, 6.5×40 ( 7.62×40 WT based), 6.5×38(7.62x40WT based), Ackley improved .260, 6.5-.284 Winchester…….. There are 9 more to your list, but they could easily derive more chamberings from those.

    • Mac679 says:

      Going off SSD’s previous article regarding USASOC’s testing, it’s 23 cartridges in 6.5 Creedmoor and .260Remington—not 23 different calibers. I take this to mean that they tested 23 different COTS loadings to get Doppler generated BCs for the projectiles. I’m guessing that best performing loads will go on to the User Assessment in October.

      I doubt you’ll see ELD-X getting tested as it’s intended as a high BC hunting round. Could happen though or ELD-M and TMKs. I’m guessing SMKs, Berger Hybrids, Lapua, or Barnes bullets most likely though.

  10. Ex-11A says:

    .276 Pedersen/ .280 British. Some smart guys already figured this out after the Great War. Those that don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. Not saying we use 100 year old cartridges, but that this best infantry round thing has been done before with similar results.

  11. l2a3 says:

    Go back through Military history and you will see any Military who changed/deviated larger or smaller from a .30 caliber bore weapon system, has always returned to the .30 caliber bore. I wonder why? (SAARC off)

    • Joshua says:

      And our decision makers just cannot wait to give ever soldier in our military a 30 cal gun again……

    • James says:

      The US has been using 5.56 since 1964 . 53years…..That’s edging up on the -06.

  12. Kirk says:

    Said it before, I’ll say it again:

    Tell me how you intend to fight, and then I’ll tell you how to arm yourself. Tactics and operational intent should be the driving force behind small arms procurement, with strategic issues of things like logistics and alliance compatibility factored in. Do anything else, and you get the back-asswards half-assery we’ve been suffering from since the end of WWII.

    What irks me about a lot of this stuff that’s going on is that it’s all being done in a sea of vertically-pipelined vacuums, where one consideration or issue is driving the train for major changes, with no consideration given to implications outside that particular pipeline.

    Case in point–The logic behind things like the XM25 and this new .338 MG. Someone identified a problem, namely that our guys on the ground feel (and, probably are…) overmatched by the way our opportunistic enemies in Afghanistan are dictating the terms of the firefight by ambushing us with distant fire delivered by PKM teams. Solution our guys in the white lab coats come up with? The XM25 with its itty-bitty grenade, massive costs, and questionable effectiveness. Likewise, the .338 MG–But, what nobody has considered is the question of “Why the hell is this happening to us in the first damn place…?”. Which, in the end, boils down to the restrictiveness of the ROE, our inability to use the planned-for supporting fires that are supposed to be complementing our small arms suite, and a host of other things like having an MG system whose tripod support is really only suitable for use from a damn prepared defensive position, not providing on-the-fly accurate fire from hasty field positions out to 1800m, which is the range they’ve decided that the guns are potentially effective at, off a tripod.

    The idea that our small arms are deficient is a component of a larger dysfunction, a failure to think through how we intend to fight, and what we’re going to do it with. Instead of considering the systematic effectiveness of our weapons across the board, we’re letting the JAG decide how we’re going to answer MG teams firing at us. In a “real war” in Western Europe, where we planned on fighting, it would have been “weapons free”, and that MG team would have been blasted off the face of the earth with an airstrike or artillery–If we were fighting as we intended to, and the way our small arms were designed and procured to work, in concert with a copious amount of fires support.

    Fix the conceptualization of how we intend to fight, first, and then start working on the weapons issues to support that intent. Anything else is nuts, putting the cart before the damn horse–Which is precisely what we’ve done since WWII, in my view.

  13. Strike-Hold says:

    “The idea that our small arms are deficient is a component of a larger dysfunction, a failure to think through how we intend to fight, and what we’re going to do it with. Instead of considering the systematic effectiveness of our weapons across the board, we’re letting the JAG decide how we’re going to answer MG teams firing at us. In a “real war” in Western Europe, where we planned on fighting, it would have been “weapons free”, and that MG team would have been blasted off the face of the earth with an airstrike or artillery–If we were fighting as we intended to, and the way our small arms were designed and procured to work, in concert with a copious amount of fires support.

    Fix the conceptualization of how we intend to fight, first, and then start working on the weapons issues to support that intent. Anything else is nuts, putting the cart before the damn horse–Which is precisely what we’ve done since WWII, in my view.”

    There’s a lot of truth in there….

    Twas ever thus though – we seem to always find ourselves fighting with weapons and ROE designed for a different battle. It seems that nowadays, and for the foreseeable future, we need scalable solutions for scalable conflicts. It seems logical to me, from what I know of military and weapons history, that a mid-caliber rifle (call it 6.5mm for simplicity) is the most-sensible option for an individual carbine/rifle/marksman/LMG solution – combined with a larger-caliber MMG for heavier and further reaching fire support. The response to 3 dudes in a pit with a PKM can’t always be a MOAB – however much fun it is to watch on YouTube. 😉

    • Ex-11A says:

      “[W]e’re letting the JAG decide how we’re going to answer MG teams firing at us.” Whoever said that is being a little over-dramatic. JAGs recommend, but don’t set the ROE. The Commander does. And this JAG would advise firing back with the 240(s), use the mortars, or call for fire if a MG TM is firing at you.

      • Kirk says:

        Which would be fine, if we’d decided that our Infantry would ever be fighting by itself, with no external fires support, and with organic weapons only. Thing is, though, we deliberately did not do that, the way the pre-WWII Germans did.

        Because of that, we procured and trained MG (and other) equipment/personnel that were not capable of rapidly answering distant MG fire on the move with their organic weapons, and we told everyone that there’d be continuous hot and cold running fire support lavishly provided to all and sundry on the battlefield–Which is why the Infantry does not make full use of the M240 on the move, from the tripod: They were never supposed to need that. We have everything predicated on being able to erase the hilltop they might take fire from, and are precluded from doing that by insane requirements to get PID on every target and ensure that there’s no “collateral damage”.

        If you’re going to fight that way, fine–Equip and train accordingly, which probably implies that your Infantry are going to have to wind up looking a lot like pre-WWII German elite infantry formations like the Gebirgsjager, be equipped and fought accordingly, with the acceptance of the casualties and collateral damage that implies.

        Instead, we’ve stuck ourselves in this poorly-conceived halfway house where we’ve got guys that are perfectly equipped, small arms-wise, for the mechanized fight we’ve been planning for in Europe for generations, while we’re actually fighting a small-arms centric light infantry fight in the hills of Central Asia. The arms mix that’s workable, even ideal, for the one, will not function well in a setting it wasn’t designed for. Even if that design came about in a fit of absent-mindedness, the way ours did.

        And, mark me: I’m not saying that things like the .338 MG aren’t a good idea, and well-suited for the fight in Afghanistan. What I’m trying to get at is that this continuous half-assery in conception, poorly thought-out solution, and eventual fielding needs to stop. If we’d have done the smart thing in the post-WWII era, today we’d probably be fielding a mix of .280 British individual weapons, and still be using the legacy .30-06 for our medium MGs out in the squads and platoons. I would suggest that this might have been a more effective concept than the 5.56mm SCHV/7.62mm NATO mix that we have now, especially in that the MG cartridge wouldn’t have the limitation of being designed around the individual weapon role that the 7.62mm NATO suffers from.

        In my own purely subjective opinion, and one that I will freely admit needs backing up with real data and numbers, I think we need a somewhat more potent individual weapon cartridge, and a heavier MG one. What those would look like? Dunno, but I’m not particularly happy with what we’ve got, or how we got here. There’s been a serious dearth of real original or basic thought on these issues, over the last forty years or so, and I’m dissatisfied with what we’ve accomplished with the money we’ve spent. At this point, I don’t think that we should be hearing the complaints that we are, from the field–This should be a fully-worked through technology/operational issue, and it isn’t.

        Good grief, ask someone to lay out the actual path of logic used to arrive where we are, and you’re going to get a look of utter confusion from all and sundry, which is simply not the way it should be.

        Everybody from junior NCO to field grade ought to be able to articulate and describe what the hell the various Infantry weapons systems are supposed to be doing, how they interrelate, and what the over-arcing theory is behind it all. And, as we’ve seen demonstrated by that knucklehead retired Artillery general speaking before Congress, that just isn’t the damn case at all, now is it?

        • CJ says:

          Kirk, I’m just happy to read your vociferous ruminations on a different forum.

          • Kirk says:

            Thank you… I like to think I’m contributing something, even if it does start to get repetitive, which is a function of the fact that we keep making the same damn mistakes over and over and over and over again…

            Although, maybe I am getting to be that old fogey that keeps yelling at the kids–“Stay the hell off my lawn!! And, while you’re at it, get a decent f-ing tripod, whydoncha?!?!?”.

        • Ex-11A says:

          While I agree with many of your points (see my comments re: .276 Pedersen and .280 British in this thread), I just don’t see the over-match between the PKM + AK and what we have. 23 years ago, as an Infantry PL, our M60s could apply scunion out to 1100m. The M60 is a giant POS compared to the M240B. I haven’t seen or heard too many 240 gunners saying they needed a different MG. I have, however, heard complaints from SAW gunners re: lack of penetration.

          • Kirk says:

            I think the M240 in 7.62 NATO is perfectly adequate for what we’re doing, but the real problem is that you can’t effectively answer fire on you from outside 800m when you’re firing solely off the bipod and the gunner’s shoulder. You want to get out past that, and not waste ten times the ammo you really need to suppress and kill the enemy who is firing at you, you need a damn tripod you can get into action that can support and effectively enable your fire out to the 1800m we now say the system is good for.

            And, we still don’t issue such a tripod. Why, I don’t know.

            It may stem from people who look at the German Lafette tripods solely on a range and say “Man, that sucker is complicated and heavy…”, while not going out and watching what you can do with one, in the field. German training films from the WWII era make it abundantly clear that a major reason their MG fires were so damn deadly was that tripod in combination with the MG34/42 series guns, and the rate of fire that they delivered. With a proficient gun team, an MG42, and a Lafette, the German Alpine Troops were delivering extremely accurate fire on whoever was foolish enough to fire on them, and damn near out to 2km when they did it up in the mountains, and within moments of them taking fire, and identifying the source. You can do that with a flexible enough tripod, and you’re never, ever going to be able to do that from the bipod and the gunner’s shoulder alone. People who say that the M240 isn’t enough gun really need to put a decent tripod under that bitch, and see what it can do, and how fast. The M122/192 ain’t it, I’m afraid.

            A part of the problem is that we train these damn things like we’re re-fighting the Battle of the Somme–Every major US MG range is flat as a damn pancake, and set up to replicate a defensive position from WWI, or the flippin’ stationary part of the Korean War. We should be having our guys run their teams up mountain valleys with multiple successive unprepared positions that they have to fire from in order to deal with enemy fire, and that ought to be done at the same altitudes and atmospheric conditions we are expecting them to fight in. A lot of our problems stem strictly from training, I’m afraid–Were the quals more realistic, the drawbacks of the current M122/192 tripod system would be more apparent, and there would be more interest in replacing them, as well as a better understanding of what the guns can do, and how best to fight them under the dynamic conditions we’re encountering in Afghanistan.

            I honestly think the M240 could do the job, were it on top of a better mount. As well, the trade-off for ammo weight vs. effectiveness in the discussion about this notional .338 MG needs to be addressed. We might be better going with fewer 7.62 guns on better tripods, and carrying less ammo because we’re not plastering the sides of the canyons with it off the damn bipods…

            But, like I keep saying: We actually need to be examining this stuff, and thinking our way through it, rather than relying on the purely subjective impressions our privates and second lieutenants are taking away from the battlefield. Those opinions matter, but we need real, reproducible facts to make decisions from, and then reasoned pathways through the data to come to supportable decisions. What I see going on now is just more of the damn same thing we’ve been doing since WWII–Purely reactive responses like one of Pavlov’s dogs, whenever the bell of public opinion and soldier bitching gets rung.

            As well, I see a major problem with our lack of articulation of this issue, in that when the JAG with no military experience is asked to advise the commander, they’ve got no clue what they’re really suggesting by requiring full PID and a restriction on fire support. If the doctrine under which we intend to fight the small arms battle were better articulated and laid out, then the argument could be made with the militarily inexperienced JAG that they’re taking vital combat power off the table, and leaving the guy on the ground without the tools to respond to enemy activity.

            I’ve literally watched that happen, before me, when I was at 101st DMAIN in Iraq. We had a couple of really great guys who were former military types in the JAG, and a bunch of the “change the world” civilian types who were looking to burnish their civilian resumes more than serve the commanders and the troops. Trying to get across to those folks what their “advice” was doing…? Lord, it was like trying to explain color to the blind. There’s an over-arcing lack of articulation about “how to fight” that makes it really hard to discuss this stuff with people like that–They’d say “No mortar fire…”, and when you told them that took a lot of your combat power away, they’d say “You’ve got your MG teams, still…”, and you’d be left trying to explain masking terrain and the ineffectiveness of direct-fire weapons laid on targets they can’t effectively see or fire at directly. Infantry officers and a lot of other guys understand this stuff, because they do it, but… Boy, is there a lot of crap that just isn’t laid out very well for discussion with those who aren’t of Infantry.

            That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to get at, when I say that we don’t have this sort of thing thought through or laid out very well. Practitioners? Yeah, we’ve mostly got it. The rest of the Army? Uh… No. Hell, look at that deal we were talking about the other day, with wotsisname, the former Artillery general–I bet money that if you asked him what the hell the role of the individual weapon was, and then asked him to explain what the MG was supposed to be doing in conjunction with…? Yeah; total chaos and confusion would be what you got in return from those questions.

            This is a pretty major problem across the board, in the Army. Drill instructors can’t articulate what the hell they’re supposed to be doing, in terms that the officers can relate to and understand, so when they object to the often random way the officer corps tries to “improve things” in running basic and AIT, we wind up totally screwing up the informal systems that have organically developed to do the mission of “soldierization”. There’s a hell of a lot more to it all than just what we have written down in the manuals and policy books, and that missing component, that “tribal knowledge” needs to be respected, articulated, and recorded so we don’t take it so damn casually.

  14. Matt says:

    Just think if you’d listened to the Brits in the 40’s you’d be running a 6.5mm 1000y battle rifle, instead 5.56 has cost countless lives but served to prop up your ammunition supply market/military industrial complex. No one minds the switch to 6.5mm just be honest about it all and yes, the Brits know more about ballistics than we do.

    • Joshua says:

      Uh huh.

      5.56 has stacked Johnny jihadi in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Enough so they don’t tangle with us anymore. Afghanistan has basically become harassing fire and exfil before we kill them.

      Casualties are incredibly low considering were supposedly soooo overmatched.

      Also have you ever shot a man sized target at 1000M

      What optic do you suggest we issue everyone for such ranges?

    • Ex-11A says:

      ‘Muricans too. The .276 Pedersen round.

      • Iceman says:

        To be fair here the brits should also have listened to the brits bc they run5.56

        • Kirk says:

          In defense of the British defense establishment, we did kind of force 7.62 NATO down their throats, via the good offices of Winston Churchill. They had given up standardization with us, in the aftermath of the caliber fight that they lost, and had type-standardized the EM-2 as the L9A1, when Churchill basically shut that down by executive fiat.

          5.56 only happened in the UK due to NATO type standardization. If it had been me, I’d have re-submitted the .280 British back then, stood on the conference table naked and screaming “I TOLD YOU SO! I BLOODY WELL TOLD YOU SO!!!!”.

          Frankly, every one of the guys in the US small arms establishment that came up with the idea of the 7.62 NATO round, and who were responsible for basically blowing the Brits off with that whole thing should have been forced to make a huge apology to the Brits after the whole 7.62 NATO/M14 affair blew up in their faces in the early days of Vietnam. Instead, they papered over the whole mess with an adoption of the SCHV idea, and acted like they’d never heard of an intermediate cartridge before discovering that an M14 on full-auto was pretty much inferior to an AK-47 blasting away at our troops from close range.

  15. warno says:

    Inadequate training is the biggest adversity conventional, GP if you prefer, forces face today. The challenge in the trite, but still more or less applicable, “last 300 yards” is based more on training shortcomings than the rifle and/or ammo being used. This has been a problem for a long time (perhaps since the fall of the German infantry in WW2) and there is no easy solution to it that passes the political correctness test that seems to weigh more heavily as one ascends the rank ladder. Another problem to consider is in the way a piece of equipment goes from concept (or the loaded term “requirement”) to the soldier’s hands. In the rush to field the best, which is moreover affected detrimentally by too rapid turnover in program personnel, the lines between R&D programs and test-select-acquire-fielding programs have become blurred. All of these different efforts are clearly essential, but when the lines between the two get blurred, you can expect both delays in fielding gear and also less-than-ideal gear being fielded. There’s no denying R&D has an important purpose, but it needs to be recognized as having a separate intent, to some degree, from that of the folks involved in putting kit into the hands of the soldier. One could also go off on a tangent and request that GO and other political input be limited (12th General Order?) to pollice verso, but that is another story. In short, by nature there are a hell of a lot of crackpot concepts and dead ends involved in the R&D good idea factory, and such things should not be allowed to escape into the hands of the soldiers simply because they appear to offer a superior capability. When the fielding and acquisition types are mandated (program success+yesterday/ASAP = promotion) to provide the “best” and incremental improvements are scorned, R&D efforts can be an alluring COA. Incremental improvements, let’s call them betterments, such as a new trigger, optic, barrel, or caliber, if they have passed exhaustive testing/eval, should be encouraged over R&D magic bullets and the endless pursuit of the best. [FWIW, I’m predicting 6.5×47 Lapua over .260 Rem]

  16. mark says:

    While “best is the enemy of better,” it seems that it would be a bit premature to switch to a new caliber until the LSAT program has been completed.

    Meanwhile, while 6.5 is catching on with the military now, the civilian side that spurred the 6.5 craze has started moving toward 6mm cartridges.

    A 85gr lead free EPR construction 6mm projectile at 3,000fps would offer a substantial improvement over 5.56, while still being substantially lighter and lower recoiling then the 6.5mm being proposed.

    • SSD says:

      While LSAT is very interesting, it requires completely new weapons to fire proprietary ammunition which is incompatible with legacy weapons.

      • Frank says:

        LST has been killed how many times now? …. lets not

      • Steven S says:

        If you truly want a leap ahead, you usually have to bite the bullet and pay the costs associated with switching to a new system. Gradual updates to existing systems can only go so far before the value diminishes.

        So if the lsat is truly a leap ahead technology and is affordable. Then we should pay the intial costs in changing the infrastructure.

        • SSD says:

          It’s not just the costs. It’s the mayhem involved. That gives a lot of logistics pause.

          • Steven S says:

            I shouldn’t haven’t been so narrow in my comment. When I referred to paying the costs, I wasn’t just talking about the monetary costs but also the complexties/confusion that would result in such a switch.

            I do understand your hesitation though. That is why we need to make sure these leap ahead technologies do what they promise before we do anything drastic.

    • James says:

      The issues with the 6mm vs the 6.5 for military is one of bullet construction. It”s much easier to make AP, tracers, and lead free rounds with good weights and BCs with larger diameters. Not to mention barrel life increases

      • mark says:

        For AP, wouldn’t a reduced caliber actually be preferable, as it would reduce the amount of Tungsten required per core? Given that Tungsten is a) super expensive and b) a finite resource with most supply coming from China, I would think that would be a serious advantage.

        In terms of tracer, the old 6mm SAW experiment had daylight visible tracer that would work out to 800 yards, at least from what I’ve read.

        Really the advantage of the 6mm is that it lets you still have an Assault Rifle – an 85gr @ 3,000 still has less recoil then a 7.62×39 – but with a big step up in down range velocity and energy over 5.56. 6mm wildcats based on the 6.8spc seem to be hitting this velocity out of 16″ barrels and AR15’s, and with a polymer or polymer/brass hybrid case, weight would be comparable to 5.56.

        I’m terming this concept the 6mm CAKE – because it’s as close to having your cake and eating it too as I’ve come across.

        With 6.5, it essentially requires a Battle Rifle sized weapon and doctrine. The rounds are comparable in weight and recoil to the current 130gr 7.62, with 20-25rd magazines, and a 7.62 sized weapon to fire them.

        • James says:

          Running an 85 grain 6mm @3000 really isn’t gaining you much in the BC department,. Would have to do the calculations, but at some point inside of 600 I would expect mk262 to surpass it in energy and velocity. The 105 and 108gr 6mm @2700 would be a different story, but you would still be loosing energy over a similarly sleek 6.5.

          While saving tungsten is a good goal, with the smaller diameter you also struggle with jacket thickness and the bullet gets longer(like m856 ) or lighter (m995). You just loose less ( either case capacity or mass)when going with a larger diameter.

        • wheatshocker says:

          I thought standard M80 ball ammo (7.62) carried a 147gr bullet, whereas a mid-heavy weight bullet for .260 Rem is around 120gr. That’s nearly 20% lighter weight bullet.

          Also, thought the benefit of 6.5mm caliber consideration was roughly equal or better ballistics than 7.62 at significantly lower recoil and potential of delivery via a lighter weight platform (ie: AR-12), than 7.62 (ie: AR-10).

          Am I wrong?

  17. Lysander6 says:

    Many worthies are citing the calibers and technologies needed and like the 1911-Glock handbag fight, that will never be resolved to any party’s satisfaction.

    The center of gravity is scalable solutions based on intent. The many objections to poor firearms TTP and light infantry (yes, in the end, this is a foot traffic fight when it comes to employing small arms to close with and neutralize the enemy).

    Here’s what we know for certain, the free market has driven most every improvement on rifle and pistol platforms in non selective fires modalities from triggers to stocks to barrels. Garage tinkerers and 600 pound market gorillas like KA and Magpul. The list goes on.

    You’ll note that American supremacy in selective fire weapons perished after the passage of the 1934 NFA and the crushing blow of the 1968 GCA following by all manner of intrusive and ill-informed laws at the Federal level.

    It made the above-ground economy garage tinkerer and maker extinct. Hence the loss of former guerilla engineering talent in small arms solutions.

    The only thing that saved the Stoner design was improvements driven by entrepreneurs and not government labs from the 1990s forward.

    Cartridge advances are driven by precursor wildcat innovations. Again individual innovation outside the mistakenly vaunted government labs.

    Gut, burn and nuke Federal small arms legislation, raze the ATF to the ground and decriminalize small arms innovation and the answers will be legion and manifest in a few years time.

    Another example: The American infantryman has had an engagement gap from 400-1500m for a shoulder fired missile since 1942. The Javelin fulfills the function at 160k+ a pop but is not exactly man-portable like an AT4 or CG. Why not?

    Don’t do this and the train continues forward in the same manner it has in the past four generations: false starts, mountains of money wasted, broken R&D and the delivery of sub-standard tools for the infantry and SOF ground pounders.

  18. JSGlock34 says:

    Happy to see interest in upgrading small arms, but if every service pursues its own solution, we’ll have the camouflage debacle all over again. The relatively recent modest increase to the defense budget isn’t going to support all of these programs (note that the op tempo isn’t slowing down either and the projected budget will level off), and the Pentagon needs to exercise some restraint before it gets inflicted by Congress. Redundant proposals need to be consolidated, and existing programs like LSAT need to either field results or get scrapped.

    I agree about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good – for example, let’s stop adding decade old M4 uppers equipped with the KAC RAS to the arsenal when free float solutions are available now for little or no added cost.

  19. thomasjane says:

    I thought I’d been faithfully reading Soldier Systems but.. I didn’t know USSOCOM had fielded a red dot sight when they adopted the Glock 19.. Which RDS?

    • SSD says:

      I never got into it, but it’s the Leuplod Delta Point Pro. The G19s have MOE slides. As I recall, only MARSOC didn’t initially field the sights but may have now.

      • Thomasjane says:

        No kidding?
        That will be interesting to see- Maybe widespread adoption of pistol red dot sights into the hands of these units will let people start to really quantify how they affect speed and accuracy.. (Or have those studies been done?)

        Also- Thanks for finding and answering my question. This site is the best.

  20. Kirk says:

    Took the dogs on a six-mile walk tonight, and did some thinking about this whole issue.

    I’ve been studying this realm since I was a teenager, to one degree or another. I’ve read about everything on the subject I could ever get my hands on, from individual memoirs up to some barely intelligible research coming out of places like the Army Research Laboratory.

    And, from all that? I’m here to tell you that I’m completely dissatisfied with the quality and depth of thinking we’ve put into these issues. I don’t even think we’ve got a good, solidly repeatable and reasoned-out answer to the question of just how much energy we need to have deposited into the average human combatant in order to put them down with any real reliability. You go looking at how the numbers for a lot of this stuff got derived in the first place, and when you trace it down to the root source, it’s something like the old goat studies made by Hatcher et al back in the day, with a whole bunch of very suspect and entirely specious reasoning thrown in by everyone else along the way.

    Case in point, here: Weapons effectiveness in general. The bayonet is a great example, because you can find all kinds of sources going back to the 19th Century talking about how statistically ineffective the weapon is, and how it’s now useless on the modern battlefield–Which, to read the sources, was true and proven stuff during the Boer War. Well, at least some of them, who we now term “visionary”.

    But… Go look at where those numbers came from. The majority of them stem from things like “how many bayonet wounds were treated at aid stations”, and on up the chain of medical care. From this, a whole mass of questionable reasoning about the efficacy of that particular weapon has grown, all because there aren’t many records of treated bayonet wounds in the medical system.

    Anyone see the problem, here? Like, hey, just how many people were killed by the bayonet, and never made it into the medical system? Did anyone get good numbers from graves registration for source of fatal injury to the guys who died right there, on the battlefield? Assuming we had them, would those numbers even be any good, given that the average graves registration soldier isn’t exactly a qualified forensic pathologist?

    As well, there’s another question to consider about the efficacy of the bayonet: How many died directly due to other causes, thanks to the psychological effect of the damn things? I can think of one WWI encounter I read about, where a German reserve unit faced an element of the Harlem Hellfighters that were attached to the French, and got panicked out of their prepared positions when the guys from 93rd Infantry Division (from memory, could be wrong unit designation here…) fixed bayonets and charged their positions. While they were fleeing from the first-line positions to the second-line ones, thanks to their lack of enthusiasm for dealing with a bunch of dudes with knives on the end of their guns, the French artillery opened up and put most of them down with artillery fire.

    Now, how the hell do you credit that one? To the bayonet? To the artillery? They literally fled from the bayonet from prepared positions and into the artillery fire almost solely due to their imminent encounter with the blade–Or, so the guy writing the memoir described it.

    So, tell me again… Where the hell do you get good numbers on this stuff, to decide whether or not to do away with the bayonet? How do you include the psychological factors in your calculations?

    It’s like with the XM25–OK, there’s a serious dearth of dead bodies connected with that thing in Afghanistan. I look at that, and think “Bullshit… That thing is useless…”. But… Am I right, in my entirely subjective opinion? Hell, I don’t know any more than you or the guys running that damn program–Because, we simply don’t have the ‘effing data either way. How do you include the psychological effect that having that little airburst grenade go off over your head, even if it doesn’t kill you? Maybe the reason the units using the XM25 in combat that reported the enemy ceasing fire didn’t actually kill anyone with them, but did manage to scare the ever-loving bejesus out of them to the point where they decided to take up other activities besides shooting at us. And, how long will that psychological effect last? Maybe the damn thing is useless for killing people, but hell on wheels for scaring the shit out of them–Which isn’t a bad thing, at all. Terror weapons that really weren’t that effective at killing the enemy have had a long and legit history in battle. Terror, properly applied and supported, can work.

    There’s more to this issue than just ballistics, and I fear that we really do not have a very good handle at all on what is really going on inside that “half kilometer” of close infantry combat.

    You go to the NTC, and you see a lot of things in the AARs that really open your eyes. O/C an armor or mech platoon, and follow them through to the AAR, and you’ll start to wonder if you were seeing the same battle recorded by the computers up in the TAF, because what you and the participants thought you observed oftentimes ain’t backed up by the instrumentation. That nominated “hero of the battle” in A-23, who you thought killed seven OPFOR tanks in 15 minutes? Yeah, that guy… Turns out, he scored one kill, while that Brad platoon down the wadi actually got the rest of them from the flank you didn’t observe… But, because he was there and firing, the enemy moved away from him and directly into the line of fire for the Brads TOW systems.

    You see all kinds of misperceptions come from the players there, due to things like that, and it’s damn hard even for Observer/Controllers to really “know” what happened in the course of the battles, without that instrumentation and the God’s-eye view they have in the TAF. From this, I extrapolate to the “infantry half-kilometer”, and I truly fear we don’t know what the hell is really going on in that space. We don’t have instrumented data, nor do we have a good way of gauging the psychological impact of live fire on live troops, because even the best simulation gear can’t quite get that “Hey, my buddies are really dying here…” effect you will have in real combat. Tanks and so forth…? Yeah, I think the data is pretty good there, given the close correlation we’ve had with real-world battle and the NTC. Infantry combat…? Not so sure.

    And, willy-nilly, we’re making decisions about what weapons to design, build, and buy off of our flawed understandings of that battlespace.

    I think the path forward should include planning to get at these numbers, where we can, and then including them in the program. Hell, maybe the 5.56mm is the best solution out there, and we shouldn’t shift away from it–But, the fact is, we just don’t know, in a quantifiable and repeatable way. We’re operating mostly on “feels”, here, and I don’t like that. At all.

  21. Steven S says:

    At first glance the best approach appears to be 5.56 for Carbines and LMGs, 338 for MMGs and DMRs. Why waste our time on the 6.X ammo…

  22. Kirk says:

    Y’know, I don’t know if anyone is even reading this thread, still, but… I’ve had a little further thought development along the lines that I’ve been muttering about.

    My premise has been this: Tactics/operational intent should drive design and procurement. That’s been something I’ve been saying for years, but everybody looks at me like I’m nuts when I say that, because they don’t quite get the connection I’m making. So, here’s what I think is a perfect example of my thinking:

    Consider the Swiss, and their StG57 rifles. You look at that thing, and if you’re like me, the first thing you think when you examine that rifle is “WTF? Sturmgewehr? Who the hell are they kidding? I know the StG44, and this is no StG44… It’s the misbegotten stepchild of the FG42, interpreted by a Swiss watchmaker, if anything…”.

    But… Here’s the point: The StG57 fit perfectly with Swiss tactical and operational intent. Instead of it being an individual weapon comprising the best characteristics of the submachinegun and the infantry rifle, the StG57 was more the combination of the infantry rifle and the LMG–And, that fit perfectly with the Swiss intent to withdraw into the mountain fortress of central Switzerland, and fight it out with invaders in a long, drawn-out battle of attrition away from the cities and inhabited plains. If you’re a guy up in the mountains, looking down on the poor schlep German (or, the later Soviet threat) infantry wandering up the valleys, that StG57 starts to look like a perfectly conceived tool to dominate the fight you’re intending to get into. And, to a large degree, it was. A lot of non-Swiss observers don’t get that the damn things were designed with that “mountain fortress” idea in mind, and instead of thinking that a perfect infantry rifle was something like the StG44, with its limited range, the StG57 starts to look a hell of a lot better. Frankly, I would not have wanted to be “that guy” trudging up into the Swiss Alps carrying an StG44 or AK47, knowing full well that there were a spit-load of Swiss with extensive marksmanship training and a near-perfect tool for killing me well outside the range I could kill them.

    And, if you note the history, once the Swiss changed their defense plans towards defending the lowlands, which changed the way they planned on fighting, they went to the StG90, which is a weapon that is a lot closer to our conception of what an “assault rifle” ought to be. Again, a near-perfect match between “how we mean to fight”, and the weapon they intend to do it with.

    Of course, that’s my outsider’s view of the situation, and given the dearth of English-language source material on the whole thing, maybe I’ve gotten it entirely wrong, and the StG57 and 90 came about through a series of ludicrous misadventures that the Swiss are too embarrassed to talk about, and just matched their tactics to what the gnomes at Solothurn turned out.

    I’m pretty sure that ain’t what happened, though. If you know otherwise, I’d appreciate some cites to back that up, ‘cos I sure as hell haven’t been able to find them.

    This is the kind of thing I’m getting at: Tactics/operational intent, then design, then procurement and fielding. Don’t try to back into this shit by designing first, fielding it, and then working out how to fight with the damn things down at the nitty-gritty dirt level. That appears to be the American standard operating procedure, judging from history, and I think we ought to stop and think a little about how well that hasn’t been working for us, before we start going into this “Let’s revamp our small arms system from the ground up…”.

    • Terry Baldwin says:


      I enjoyed reading your posts and think you are spot on. However, as you can see from many of the comments, people generally want to skip the deeper conceptualization of realistic requirements and go directly to “solving the puzzle.” Usually that means passionately and sincerely advocating for a particular personal favorite caliber solution.

      The other day in Congressional testimony BG (RET) Scales perpetuated one of the persistent mythologies of small arms that happens to be my pet peeve. And that is that there is one perfect caliber and one optimum “modular” system that can effectively fill the role of everything from a sub gun to a medium machine gun. Hunting for that one proverbial and literal “golden bullet” has almost single handedly misdirected the U.S. small arms effort for decades. Great discussion.


      • Kirk says:

        My abiding frustration is that the reason they keep going for this “ultimate weapon” BS is mostly because they lack the tools to really understand what the hell we need to be doing in this area.

        One of my more epiphanic moments came awhile back, when I was reading through Confucius, of all people, and discovered the passage in his work that goes over something termed “The Rectification of Names”.

        Sounds like it isn’t at all related to the subject/task at hand, doesn’t it? Very meta, very new-age, very bullshit. But… Read it:

        “Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”

        The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” “So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must

        there be such rectification?”

        The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

        “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

        “When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

        “Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

        Basically, what they are getting at is that the basic tool of thought, language, must properly address the subject of discussion, or else all that flows from that discussion will be flawed. In regard to question at hand, I would submit that while we may have defined some of our terms in this area, a great deal is left improperly defined, and not fully discussed. If you can’t explain your concept of operations in five minutes using just the back of an MRE carton as a space to draw things out, your OPORD is almost certain to fail due to overcomplication and too much BS.

        Likewise, if you can’t properly describe just what the hell it is you intend to do with your weapons, it’s not a huge surprise that what you design, build, and buy ain’t gonna work too well out in the real world.

        The ancients have a good deal to teach us, if only we have the wit and wisdom to listen. I still don’t think we’ve properly defined a lot of what needs to be defined in order to properly address and discuss this issue. That’s an opinion, and I remain open to folks telling me I’m full of shiite, but it’s gonna have to be a convincing argument you present to me before I change that opinion.

        • Big Daddy says:

          I have been reading you posts Kirk. You’re hitting a lot of the points I argue with people about. Everyone has a pet or is against something and it’s all based on emotional not rational thought or personal experience.

          I carried a M16A1 as a Scout, terrible weapon for mech troops. I liked the M3 grease gun or M60 better for obvious reasons. Don’t even mention the M203 nobody liked it, they were infantry weapons. I sure wondered why they cut all those Vietnam era Colt XM-177s in half, a perfect weapon for mech drivers for vehicles like the M113, M577 and ITV. I guess they knew they were going to the M4 eventually. This was in the early 1980s when I served.

          In reality all these arguments are so useless. The way to fix all these issues we have is sort of simple if you don’t overthink it. This concept the Army has had since I can remember of one size fits all is the problem. It’s now the problem of the all the services. Like one camo for all terrain types, ridiculous. One magic thing that can do everything, what you get is something that does everything poorly. Look at the F-35 for instance.

          I learned something from the Russians. I wondered why did they have all those guns on their Sturmoviks? Why did they have all those weapons on their ships? Overlapping weapon systems. It’s really very simple.

          A Rear Echelon soldier needs a lightweight rifle to use for personal defense. An infantry rifleman needs a true battle rifle capable of inflicting serious wounds or killing the enemy. A driver needs a carbine as do mounted troops. This has been the obvious fact to Amries for over 100 years. Nothing has changed, war is still war. We still have infantry, cavalry, tanks, artillery and so on. We still have cooks, supply people, medics, all kinds of personal that do not need a battle rifle.

          To give a rifle that these rear echelon troops need to infantry and cav troops was a mistake. You can’t have a do everything anything. In WWII we all know infantry had the M1 Garand and REMFs had the M1 Carbine, that’s what those rifles were designed for. In-between we had the M3 grease gun, M1 Thompson, the BAR, M1919 and they all filled a specific role. Now we are trying to make one caliber and gun do everything and it fails over and over again. The M249 was a great idea, a modern BAR but with the wrong caliber and if it had to be 5.56mm why belt fed? Mistake after mistake, a 17 pound pea shooter. Try to fix it with the M27 and we have another fail. if you wanted a BAR in 5.56mm the Ultimax was the gun, but did they really want a modern BAR? Oh the politics….

          The M855A1 is a step forward but the wrong caliber. We need a review of where we fight and how we fight and arm the troops for those scenarios. I think that’s basically what you are saying and I agree 100%. Overlapping weapon systems. Stop relying totally on artillery and air support they are not always available and when they aren’t we’re outgunned, a problem we’ve had since Vietnam. Why did it take so long to arm an infantry platoon with the Carl Gustav? Why doesn’t the Army have the M32? Instead trying to make this wonder-weapon M25, incredibly expensive, dangerous and a failure. The M32 was the better choice using a similar arming and aiming system with the 40mm grenade.

          More choices for different situations, more weapons, more calibers and a better trained and equipped fighting force. It’s that simple and we have to do away with the one size fits all mentality that’s the problem right there.

        • AbnMedOps says:

          Kirk, you’ve articulated very well a huge aspect of the US Army’s “intellectual gap”. Some time ago a I read something that struck me, An author noted that, in the US Army, most of the officers who are inclined to doing serious thinking, are so completely submerged in “the Army”, day-to-day throughout their careers, that most of the important reflection, research, thinking and writing occurs AFTER retirement. To which I would add, unfortunately, “dot.Retired” is often not the optimal career phase for an individual to make a positive contribution to the system, but a large number of those positive changes (and a few negative, to be sure) DO arise from continued professional engagement beyond retirement. (heck, just check out this SSD website!)

          • SSD says:

            Very good point. I long ago realized you can make a significant impact after retirement.

          • Kirk says:

            And, the problem isn’t just in the officer corps, either.

            There is a decided “anti-intellectual” culture in the Army, on both sides of the enlisted/commissioned dividing line, and I’m not talking about people being dubious about the merits of French Existentialism, either.

            Where we fall down, in the worst way, is in how we fail to think things through, and how we also fail to appreciate how much crap there is that isn’t captured in manuals, service schools, and our written doctrine.

            There are at least two sides to this coin, as well–Most officers look at everything through the eyes of the college-educated, having a “book-lern’d” viewpoint, the one our current academics have done so much to inculcate in the nation’s culture, and which is now dominant. But, alas, the real nature of things is not fully reflected in this overly-academic Weltanschauung, and so the officer corps does not make sound decisions about a lot of stuff that’s not included in that world-view and outlook. There’s more to life and the military mission than what has been captured by the academics or the officer corps, and they fail to recognize that fact in a lot of fundamental ways.

            As well, looking back from the other side, there’s a decided lack of the “intellectual” on the enlisted side, in the NCO corps. Due to this, when the “O” side of the house comes up with a really bad idea, like “stress cards” in basic training (yeah, I know that’s not really a “real thing”, but go with me, here…) or a total ban on hazing, the NCOs can’t speak to the officers in terms comprehensible to them about why such things are necessary, and how they work in terms of “soldierization”. Hell, in a lot of fundamental ways, most of what works in terms of conducting basic training and so forth isn’t even written down–It’s passed-on “tribal knowledge”, and a huge part of why standing up new units from first principals often doesn’t work out as well as we’d like.

            On the officer side, they don’t “see” a lot of the stuff that goes into the things that make the Army work, and on the enlisted side, we’re absolutely crap at articulating and explaining to the decision- and policy-makers on the commissioned and civilian side how a lot of this shit really works. As a result, they’ve screwed around and broken a lot of things that really should have been left the hell alone, going back to the Doolittle Boards after WWII.

            And, too, there’s a bit of a problem in that the academics and officers haven’t bothered to study this stuff properly, either–I’ll be damned if I’ve ever read a single thing from anyone that claimed to be an academic studying things in the “enlisted/military culture” that got a single damn thing right. The absolute dreck they’re using to make decisions from, in terms of these “studies” and “research”? Lord, give me the patience to wade through that BS, because that’s what most of it is.

            It’s spread far and wide throughout the system, as well–This small-arms issue is only a small aspect of this stuff, but in its microcosm, we capture a view of the larger problem we have.

            I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about: Go out and look, and tell me where there’s a fully-vetted and verified set of numbers about what an individual weapon ought to look like, in terms of recoil energy, inertia damping, muzzle-flip, and all the things that go into whether or not the damn thing is controllable from a shooter’s point of view–Something fully backed up with valid experimental data that was derived from real-world tests on real-world troops doing real-world missions. Then, look for the same sort of numbers about the ballistic effect downrange, on the targets, and whether or not the energy delivered into the enemy’s body is adequate. There’s a ton of information, but virtually none of it is actually verified in the real world as to whether or not it’s valid.

            If we had the information we really needed to make these decisions, we’d be able to plug the numbers into an equation that expressed the ranges at which we needed to be able to address the enemy lethally and match that against whether or not such a ballistic solution was controllable at the shooter’s end–And, we’d be able to speak clearly as to where the heck those numbers came from, in terms of how we arrived at them.

            Root problem is, we just don’t know. We’ve got a lot of speculative and highly suspect information that’s sourced in purely subjective origins, and from that, we’re trying to make reasoned decisions.

            The history of that shows we don’t do it very well, at all–Look at the fiasco surrounding the M16 fielding. The Army and Air Force bought into the marketing crap spouted by Colt and their master salesmen Cooper & McDonald, that was supposedly sourced with the training teams in Vietnam in Project Agile, where they were describing limbs being torn off, and all that other mumbo-jumbo bullshit in the Hitch Report that should have had people going “Waaaaaaait a minute… You’re telling me this varmint cartridge-derived thing is dealing all this devastation…? On human targets? Reliably and consistently…? Show me the evidence, please; I have some doubts…”.

            Seriously, go back and look at all the hype, and then tell me that we made the decision to adopt the M16 in a state of knowing wisdom. We backed into that solution as more of a misadventure forced on us by the failure of the M14/7.62mm NATO combination in Vietnam than anything else, and whenever you bring up the early blue-sky stories about how effective the M16/.223 combo really was in those early field tests over there, you get embarrassed silence, because the combo never performed anywhere near that effectively in later years.

            When you ask why that was, you get mystified silence, because nobody knows. I think I do, and the answer was that it was marketing BS from the beginning. We’re just incredibly lucky that it turned out that the Emperor’s New Clothes actually worked somewhat the way they were supposed to, even if they didn’t constitute the near-magical death-ray they were advertised as in the beginning.

            You get crap like that happening when you don’t bother to think clearly, and we don’t.

            Go look, as a contrast, at all the underpinnings for the Soviet M43 cartridge/AK47, or how the Swiss came to design the StG57–There’s tons of stuff, all laid out in theory and experimentally verified, with field validation. By contrast, what we do in this realm is a badly organized shambolic state of chaos, and it’s a damn miracle entire that we got the M16 family to work as well as it does.

            The phrase goes that the Good Lord looks out for fools, drunks, and the United States. While that may be true, to one degree or another, that’s not a good thing to rely on when it comes to working these issues through, either… Even if it does seem to work out, now and again.

            My thinking on the matter is that eventually, even the most benevolent of Gods is going to lose patience with our fecklessness, and watch us go tumbling over a cliff rather than intervene on our behalf. Reliance on divine providence may work for some of us, but I’d rather couple that with a well-reasoned battle plan, myself.

  23. Another Ed says:

    When looking at this it is important to remember “the Problem of Suboptimization”:

    “Optimizing the outcome for a subsystem will in general not optimize the outcome for the system as a whole.”


    Perfect may be the enemy of good enough, but most times you really need to better understand what your requirements are.


    The optimist says the glass is half full.

    The pessimist says the glass is half empty.

    The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

    • Kirk says:

      When you start studying the various famous engineering and process failures, though, what you often find isn’t that they optimized for some sub-assembly, process, or system, but that they failed utterly to understand what the actual function of the overall system was, along with how the interactions of the supposedly “optimized” sub-set of it would actually interact with the rest of the system.

      I’m going to continue to contend that a great deal of this information is indeed “knowable”, and available to us with a bit of thoughtful effort. We just haven’t bothered to make the effort to get it.

      Case in point–Maintenance. What should have happened, at some point during the campaigns in the last fifteen years is that we should have taken a set of units, gathered up all their damn weapons, gauged and checked them for “in service” status, and then monitored just what they actually did with those weapons in the field. Upon return, they should have then taken the weapons up again, and done a comparative “after the campaign/tour” evaluation, to see what areas popped up as issues–Broken bolts, and all the rest. Another unit should have been issued brand-new weapons, fresh from manufacture or depot, and the same thing should have been done, carefully evaluating just what areas received the most wear and damage from combat service. Instrumenting these weapons would have been a great idea, but even just a reasonably accurate log of rounds fired would have told us a hell of a lot.

      To my knowledge, nothing of this nature was done. If we were really interested in figuring out what goes on with the small arms systems we issue, we’d have done something like this, and then done the comparative studies to determine just what the hell is going on out in the weapons fleets, and how we could best leverage minor upgrades and fixes to enhance overall fleet performance.

      Baselining an in-service mechanical mechanism, and then carefully evaluating it for post-event wear and breakage after strenuous field usage can tell you an awful lot about just what needs improvement in the mechanism. We’re not doing that, sooo… Draw your own conclusions.

      A hundred years ago, the paperwork trail to track parts breakage, replacements, and wear factors on most small arms would have been too onerous to make it work. Even during Vietnam, it would have been a huge pain in the ass, and likely more expense than it’s worth. Today? Criminy, we could probably put every major weapon like the M240 on the battlefield internet, and track things down to the amount of lube we’re using. Why aren’t we? Maybe we wouldn’t learn anything, but I bet we would. Doing the experiment and running the numbers would at least tell us whether or not it was worth bothering with.

      • Bold says:

        Like others, I´m just dropping in to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. Much appreciated!