The Case for a New Military Calibre

By Nicholas Drummond

The case for a new military calibre is a popular but controversial topic that arouses interest and emotion out of all proportion to the importance of small arms within the Army’s overall portfolio of weapons. But, as the US Army begins to formulate a requirement for its Next Generation Small Arms (NGSA) Program and having re-adopted 7.62 mm weapons more widely, it may be relevant to revisit this topic, not least because the UK may decide to adopt whatever new system America chooses. 

6.5 et al

Contents

01 – Military Small Arms Requirements: the need for a systems approach
02 – The Small Caliber High Velocity (SCHV) revolution
03 – Combat feedback suggests that small arms engagements take place at longer ranges
04 – Could a single ammunition type replace both 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibres?
05 – The Automatic Rifle versus the Machine Gun

01 – Military Small Arms Requirements: the need for a systems approach

Perhaps the best place to start any discussion about a new military capability is with the requirement. The focus here is platoon- and section-level small arms and the obvious performance criteria are range and target effect. However, it is important to consider overall system lethality in terms section, platoon and company-level effect. A systems approach to small arms development consists of four key parameters:

  • Ammunition – calibre, mass, case capacity, ballistic co-efficient (BC), and form factor (FF) of the projectile
  • Weapon – rifle, carbine, designated marksman rifle, light machine gun, including rate of fire, barrel length, ergonomic design, materials, and weight
  • Sights – optics, magnification, ability to acquire targets and first-round hit probability
  • Shot placement – soldier training to use the system effectively

Any experienced soldier will say that Shot Placement is the most important of these. Training soldiers to adopt correct fire positions across any situation, to apply the principles of marksmanship under the stress of combat, when tired and or scared, is not easy. Part of it is the muscle memory that comes repeated practice.

The second most important factor is advanced sighting systems. Optical gun sights have done much to improve combat shooting over the last 20 years. The next step is compact Fire Control Systems that combine laser range finders with ballistic computers to automatically adjust the point of aim via an adjustable reticule. The US Army is evaluating these with a view to fielding a system within the next 5-6 years.

In many respects, the x4 and x6 combat gun sights presently in use are superior to the weapons to which they are attached. This being the case, perhaps the time has come to look at both weapon and ammunition design to see what improvements can be made?

Prior to the UK adoption of 5.56 mm, British Army small arms doctrine required riflemen to engage targets individually to a range of 300 metres; sections firing collectively to 600 metres; and light machine gunners to 800 metres. Target effect or lethality was defined by the ability to penetrate a steel helmet at the above ranges. Between 1888 and 1979, these requirements were comfortably  exceeded by Britain’s .303 No.4 Rifle and Bren Light Machine Gun; and later, by the L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle and L7A2 General-Purpose Machine Gun, when 7.62×51 mm ammunition became the first NATO standard calibre. Both ammunition types were effective at more than 1,000 metres.

m-16
The M-16 Rifle was first fielded in 1963. It was a revolutionary design in terms of calibre, weight, ergonomics and first-round hit probability.

02 – The Small Caliber High Velocity (SCHV) revolution

In 1963, only a few years after 7.62 mm NATO had  been adopted, the US Army decided to field another new rifle, the Armalite M-16. This was chambered to fire a radically smaller high velocity ammunition type: 5.56×45 mm. The decision to adopt this cartridge was driven by a belief that 7.62 mm was much more powerful than necessary. Inspired by two small arms studies, the Hall and Hitchman reports, published in 1952, the Small Calibre High Velocity (SCHV) concept was based on  two assumptions: first, that 90% of all infantry small arms engagements took place at ranges of less than 300 metres; second, that a smaller, lighter calibre would allow a soldier to carry more ammunition for a given weight. The benefit of more rounds carried was the ability to deliver more rounds on target increasing the probability of a hit.

Besides ammunition weight reduction, the other benefits of a smaller calibre were reduced recoil and weapon weight. These made a rifle easier to control helping soldiers to shoot more accurately. Compared to 7.62 mm, a 5.56 mm cartridge weighs half as much: 12 grams instead of 24 grams. Bullet weight is 4 grams for 5.56 mm versus 9.5 grams for 7.62 mm. Recoil energy for 5.56 mm ammunition is 4.7 Joules, whereas with 7.62 mm it is a whopping 16.8 Joules.

Fig 1 - Existing calibers

The potential downside of a small bullet was insufficient lethality. However, ballistic   research showed that projectile velocity and energy were important determinants of terminal effectiveness. Even very small artillery fragments can kill when they hit a vulnerable part of the body at high enough velocities. Moreover, SCHV projectiles are designed to yaw or upset in soft tissue, which means that the bullet tumbles forward upon penetration to inflict a more serious wound than a bullet that travels straight through a target. As noted above, the proponents of small calibres emphasised that, regardless of calibre, shot placement was the key factor to ensure target effect.

Despite teething problems, overall feedback from early usage in Vietnam suggested that the US Army’s new M193 5.56 mm cartridge was a promising development. Although the small bullet did not always behave consistently and could be deflected by thick foliage, the SCHV concept proved popular with US troops because of the weight savings it provided. Over a ten-year period, weapons and ammunition were refined to unlock further potential. In 1979, NATO held a second calibre competition to select a common SCHV round. The winning Belgian 5.56 mm SS109 / M855 design was able to penetrate a NATO steel helmet at 500 metres. It was also optimised for use in light machine guns. Despite the improved performance on offer, it was still necessary to retain 7.62 mm for long-range machine guns, sniper applications and company-level weapons.

Apart from a few brief skirmishes, the new 5.56 mm NATO calibre was not widely used in combat until 2002. However, soon after US troops began to deploy in force to Iraq, reports began to surface of inconsistent lethality, plus range and accuracy problems. An investigation showed that the primary cause was the US Army’s adoption of the M-4 carbine. This had a 14.5” barrel instead of the previous M-16A2’s longer 20” barrel length. The shorter barrel reduced the velocity and striking energy of the bullet.

03 – Combat feedback suggests that small arms engagements take place at longer ranges

In Afghanistan, units frequently found themselves overmatched by Taliban insurgents using full-power 7.62×54 mm Russian and 7.62×51 mm NATO weapons. Typically, the enemy would open fire at ranges above 600 metres. While such fire often lacked precision, it was used to canalise troops into IED kill zones. Any squad equipped with only 5.56 mm weapons would not be able to return effective fire. In some instances, 5.56 mm was not effective beyond 200 metres. Troops equipped with the FN 5.56 mm Minimi Para LMG (M249 SAW), which also had a short barrel, found that it had the same limitations as the M-4 carbine.

Such problems led to the widespread re-adoption of 7.62 mm machine guns and the acquisition of 7.62 mm designated marksman or sharpshooter rifles.  The USA, UK, Germany and other NATO Alliance members also decided to develop improved 5.56 mm loadings. With increased range and lethality, 5.56 mm is now considered to be effective to 400 metres, or 300 metres from short barrel weapons.

Fig 2 - Range problem

In 2009, UK analysis of combat engagements in Afghanistan showed that more than 50% took place at ranges above 300 metres. Although a great many occurred at less than 75 metres, the need to engage enemies beyond 500-600 metres seemed to question the earlier findings of Hall and Hitchman. Those who advocated the adoption of a smaller calibre also failed to consider the importance of suppression. With a reduced signature and striking effect, 5.56 mm simply did not suppress as well as larger calibres, especially at longer ranges.

04 – Could a single ammunition type replace both 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibres?

After more than a decade of continued combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the small arms inventories of most NATO armies are now worn-out and need replacing. The key question is what is the future requirement, and whether it encompasses the need for infantry squads to engage targets at 600 metres and beyond? With the future operating environment characterised by urban, littoral and other complex terrains, perhaps 300 metres is sufficient?

Germany, France, Australia, and New Zealand have already begun the process of adopting new small arms. Most nations are adopting a mix of 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm weapons with the smaller calibre used in rifles for short-range work and the larger calibre used in machine guns and sharpshooter rifles for long-range work. However, another important consideration is the need to reduce the infantry soldier’s combat load. While 7.62 mm weapons overcome range issues, re-adopting 7.62 mm weapons has increased the weight of ammunition that needs to be carried. It also imposes a greater logistical burden. For these reasons, the USA is going down a different path. It is evaluating alternate calibres to see whether a single intermediate cartridge, between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm, can replace both at platoon- and section-level.

Fig 3 - Historical intermedaite calibers

Over the years, many armies have conducted calibre studies. Almost all have concluded that the ideal military calibre to deliver 600-800 metre performance lies between 6 mm and 7 mm. Some countries have gone a stage further and developed prototype intermediate calibre prototype ammunition including the following:

  • .276 (6.8 mm) Pedersen (USA)
  • 6.5 mm Arisaka (Japan)
  • 6.5 mm Carcano (Italy)
  • .270 (6.8 mm) Enfield (UK)
  • .280 (7 mm) Enfield (UK)
  • 6.25 mm Enfield (UK)
  • 6 mm SAW (USA)
  • 6.5 mm Grendel (USA)
  • .264 (USA)

Modern intermediate calibre options deliver increased range in a smaller package by having bullets that are more aerodynamically efficient. Such projectiles lose energy less quickly than legacy ammunition types. Whatever is adopted, the challenge is to increase range and target effect without substantially increasing ammunition size, weight and recoil.

Fig 4 - Advantages of more aerodynamic intermedaite calibers

If a new calibre is too close to 7.62 mm in size, shape and performance, it may be simpler to stick with 7.62 mm. If, on the other hand, it is not significantly more capable than existing 5.56 mm ammunition, then it will not be able to substitute 7.62 mm.

As the debate continues, a new requirement has emerged. This is the need to defeat advanced Level IV ceramic body armours. It may well drive NATO armies to re-adopt 7.62 mm or to acquire a calibre that is more powerful than 5.56 mm.

IMG_1530
Textron’s 6.5mm cased-telescoped ammunition technology developed for the US Army’s LSAT / CTSAS Program offers increased lethality in a lightweight package.

 

As cased-telescoped cartridge technology matures and steel, polymer and other lightweight versions of legacy brass cases emerge, a larger calibre cartridge could be made to weigh only marginally more than an existing 5.56 mm brass cartridge.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 12.30.22
From top to bottom:  5.56mm NATO, .264 USA (6.5x48mm), .260 Remington,, 6.5mm Creedmoor, 6.5mm LSAT / CTSAS and 7.62mm NATO. (Note polymer case for the .264 round.)

05 – The Automatic Rifle versus the Machine Gun 

One of the major changes introduced by the adoption of 5.56mm ammunition was that every soldier in an infantry section now carries an automatic weapon. In addition to this, many NATO armies also adopted a dedicated 5.56 mm light machine gun (the FN Minimi / M249 SAW). A problem is that when every section member fires his or her weapon on full automatic, ammunition consumption increases dramatically.

With the range concerns described above, plus the ineffectiveness of 5.56mm machine guns beyond 400 metres (or, in some situations, beyond 200 metres) many armies have now returned to sections and platoons equipped with a mix 5.56mm rifles and 7.62mm machine guns (FN MAG58 / M240). In general, 5.56mm weapons are used for short-range combat and 7.62mm weapons for long-range engagements. Furthermore, many armies have also acquired Designated Marksman Rifles (DMR) used at section-level.

Riflemen fire single aimed shots while machine guns are the focal point for automatic fire. This provides infantry with good organic firepower, but conserves ammunition. This is in-line with German Wermacht, US Army and British Army doctrine from the 1930s to the 1980s, which advocated infantry sections and platoons built around machine guns. However, the wider re-introduction of 7.62mm weapons has increased overall weight burden for dismounted infantry. The adoption of an intermediate calibre machine gun would offer substantial weight savings for both weapon and ammunition.

Such a hypothesis is driving the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Weapon (NGSAW) Program. A cased-telescoped machine gun firing a 6.5mm projectile that matches 7.62mm performance at 1,100 metres in a 5.56 mm package would provide significant overmatch performance versus legacy systems as well as versus the small arms of potential adversaries.

To validate the many assumptions about intermediate calibres, the US Army and US SOCOM are evaluating several advanced ammunition technologies and intermediate cartridge designs. It would certainly be worth the UK developing alternate calibre prototypes if only to build a robust fact-base that informs future choices. Whatever is finally selected, let’s hope it finally give infantry soldiers what they need, at least until a phased plasma weapon in the 40-watt range is available.

Notes / Sources:

  1. Janes Ammunition Handbook, 2016-2017, Leland S. Ness & Anthony G. Williams, Janes / IHS Markit
  2. The Black Rifle: M16 Retrospective, R. Blake Stevens & Edward C. Ezell, Collectors Grade Publications, 2nd edition (November 30, 1992)
  3. Shrivenham Small Arms Symposium, 2010 (Quoted under Chatham House Rules)
  4. Textron / US Army ARDEC LSAT / CTSAS presentation
  5. Toward s a “600 m” lightweight General Purpose Cartridge , v2017, Dr. Emeric Daniau, France DGA (http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/Emeric2017.pdf)
  6. Future Small Arms & Ammunition Design: Bullet Shape and Barrel Length, April 2017, Anthony G. Williams (ttp://www.quarryhs.co.uk/NDIA2015a.pdf)

    (Thank you to Tony Williams for the images)

18 comments

  1. The development of bullet & case manufacturing seems to hold real solutions to these problems. It will be interesting to see the small arms we use in 20 years. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting article.

    “In 2009, UK analysis of combat engagements in Afghanistan showed that more than 50% took place at ranges above 300 metres. Although a great many occurred at less than 75 metres, the need to engage enemies beyond 500-600 metres seemed to question the earlier findings of Hall and Hitchman. ” – Which analysis is this?

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  3. What’s happened to the new cartridgeless rounds experiments???? You may laugh but like a computer game a squad needs to go in equipped with maximum fire power. I’d like to see UK troops with all they need. 7.62slr can hit trgts 3000yds away. As well as sa80 light weights with ugl fitted. So in war zones, have both. With sites/optics fitted. And training on many more variants.

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  4. Very good article Nicholas. I still like the idea of semi automatic 5.56 individual rifles with support from 7.62 LMG or GPMG for suppression. Seems like a good mix. Need to be careful of procuring for ‘the last war’ as opposed to procuring for ‘any war’. Which is where the 6.5 might be the ideal solution.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As always the British army has a crap rifle, and this will get worse, as the best rifle / cartridge comes from the civilian markets, as semi and auto rifles are banned in the UK for civilian use no development will take place in the UK, 6.8SPC is a good replacement for 5.56.
    And the army will never get all the TA soldiers it wants until the UK firearms laws are changed so soldiers can be interested in the tools of the trade again.

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  6. Hi Nick,
    “Although the small bullet did not always behave consistently and could be deflected by thick foliage, the SCHV concept proved popular with US troops because of the weight savings it provided.”

    That statement is persistent myth in small arms. Just like wind drift (a 5.56 will wind drift double that of 7.62 because it has half the momentum, when reality is only 20%), ALL bullets regardless of weight /velocity are greatly deflected are passing through foliage.

    The load and statisfying noise of a 7.62 passing through foliage is actually the highly yawed / spinning deflected projectile. Rounds not creating any additional noise are the ones passing through WITHOUT deflection.

    Yaw Induced in Bullet Flightby Passage Through Foliage –
    InitialStudy: 7.62 mm Bullet J.D. Oliver and G.F. Whitty
    MRLTechnical Report MRL-TR-92-20

    6. Conclusions
    The technique adopted for measuring the yaw of bullets in flight has performed well
    and is capable of producing estimates of % yaw, precession and velocity of satisfactory accuracy.
    Facilities permitting the extension of the field of observation to two or three times
    its existing size would markedly improve the value of the results obtainable.
    An obstruction formed from spaced Caneite sheets provides a means of inducing a reasonably regular yaw and precession in 7.62 mm bullet flight. The use of such material as a foliage simultant could provide reliable data on which to base a mathematical analysis of the development of the complex motion observed: however, it is artificial in the sense that real foliage will induce phenomena of a much more varied nature.
    The 7.62 mm bullet, though quite heavy and stable in comparison with more recent 5.56 mm bullets, is caused to yaw vigorously by a surprisingly short passage through material which would have seemed likely to have little effect. The magnitude of the yaw can exceed 90′, and the associated motion is likely to continue for an appreciable distance along the trajectory.

    Click to access a264123.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We are all chimps on the inside, and loud noises impress and terrify us: I believe the moral or surpressive effect of a MG is influenced both by the sound it makes when firing, and by the sound and destruction for the enemy when rounds are impacting near them. A Minimi might be good at killing the enemy but it does not make him keep his head down as much as when a NSV or 23mm is firing at him. Heavy machine guns have proven very popular in Syria and Iraq.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t see the point here.

    First, Afghanistan appears to be the exception rather than the rule, for expected combat ranges. So why push for an Army-wide change just to support a minor, transient conflict?

    Second, even if combat ranges are expected to remain higher, is a rifle caliber change really the right way to address this issue? It doesn’t really matter if the round can reach that far if average soldiers still can’t reliably see and hit targets at that range. It’s probably better to invest in designated marksman training and weapons for the few that actually can hit targets at that range, as well as other long range weapons. How about adding a small guided missile like the Rafael mini-Spike? Or bringing back the platoon mortar? Or improving the ability of lower echelons to call in supporting fires?

    http://defense-update.com/photos/mini_spike.html

    If caseless ammo ever becomes viable and cost-effective, I might prefer to pocket the weight savings over increasing caliber. Soldier’s load seems to be a far bigger problem than rifleman hitting targets at long range.

    Just MHO.

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    1. bsmitty,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I would say five things in response to your post:

      1. Even if 300 metres were a practical limit for small arms engagements, there are concerns about the performance of 5.56 mm NATO ammunition within this range envelope, specifically whether it can achieve a reliable and consistent target effect. Problems with 5.56 mm NATO were partially addressed by new ammo loadings developed in the USA, UK, Scandinavia and Germany. The US Army’s solution to the problem was the M855A1 EPR round. This relied on a redesigned bullet that many NATO members viewed as non-compliant with the Laws of Armed Conflict, because it was designed to fragment upon penetration. This could be classed as a projectile that deliberately expands or one designed to cause unnecessary suffering – both are expressly forbidden under the terms of the Geneva and Hague Conventions. Though the USA has ignored any suggestions that it is illegal, no other NATO army has adopted it. Secondly, the M855A1 EPR round is fired at a much higher chamber pressure in order to ensure it fragments as intended. This has created weapon durability problem for the Army’s M4 carbine. Cracked bolts have been a frequent problem. So, there is a need to develop a further improved 5.56 mm round. US Army said at NDIA 2016 that it believed that the current 5.56 x45 mm package had reached the limit of its development potential. In order to improve this cartridge further you could need to lengthen the bullet and the case, e.g. 5.56 x 50 mm. Doing so would require a new weapon. If you are developing a new weapon anyway, why not optimise the caliber as well – not to make it massive – but so that it delivers the performance you always wanted it to achieve: target effect at 500 metres? The leap from 5.56 mm to 6.5 mm is not particularly massive.

      2. While 5.56 mm lethality remains a contentious issue, one undisputed fact is that its striking signature is significantly less pronounced than that of 7.62 mm NATO or 12.7 mm BMG. This should not be surprising really, because 5.56 mm has much less muzzle energy. This makes it hard to observe fall of shot and to correct. This is probably what most makes 5.56 mm ineffective as a suppression tool in light machine guns. This is certainly what UK testing reveals – I spoke to officer in charge of such research at ITDU Warminster and he confirmed this.

      3. Irrespective and independently of ISAF’s Afghan experience, the US Army’s view appears to be that 300 metres is not a practical limit for small arms engagements in any theatre, because it ignores the need for suppression. Being able to fix the enemy in place while a section / squad manoeuvres in to a final assault position always required about 500-600 metres of wiggle room. This was certainly the British Army’s experience in the Falklands, and elsewhere. Though we primarily expect to fight future conflicts in urban zones, I can see many situations where we might need to shoot down long streets. While we need a 1,000 metre range of machine guns, for assault rifles, there is a grey area between 300-500 metres. In theory, 5.56 mm NATO can penetrate a steel helmet at this range (3.5 mm of steel). In practice…

      4. In response to concerns with 5.56 mm ammo, many armies have now re-adopted 7.62 mm machine guns more widely. These are probably more powerful than they need to be. The problem with 7.62 mm is the short stubby projectile is aerodynamically inefficient, so loses energy very quickly at longer ranges. This means it needs lots of power behind it to reach 1,500 metres and beyond. So, at short ranges, it over-penetrates. The net-net of this is that 5.56 mm isn’t quite as powerful enough as it needs to be and 7.62 mm is more powerful than it needs to be.

      5. Supposing that we could develop a 5.56 mm round that delivered reliable performance and suppression, the next problem we encounter is that many insurgent enemies continue to use older, legacy weapons firing large calibres. They do this fully aware of the shortcomings of 5.56 mm NATO, so may be able to out range / overmatch units equipped with only 5.56 mm.

      What I’m saying is that this is an extremely complex subject with many variables. The bottom line is, you don’t need to go much bigger than 5.56 mm to have an ammunition that actually exceeds 7.62 mm in performance, but one that is also able to be packaged in lighter than 5.56 mm case, which is what 6.5 mm CT ammunition is.

      We’re still a long way from any army adopting a new calibre, but it is definitely worth researching the different options further to see what calibre, energy levels, barrel lengths, projectile materials / construction, propellant, and case design creates the optimum set of trade-offs for small arms performance.

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      1. A heavy dose of IMHO here, but, IMHO, if, when first adopted, we were to go back in time and replace 5.56mm with 6.5mm, not one significant engagement in the intervening years would have ended demonstrably differently. Or, rather, on average, it would’ve been a wash.

        Perhaps a few more enemies would’ve been suppressed by 6.5mm MGs, but more soldiers would’ve run out of ammo because they couldn’t carry as many rounds. Or soldiers would’ve moved somewhat slower because their weapons and ammunition were heavier.

        In larger conflicts, variances in individual armament effects don’t really produce significant effects. Crew-served weapons, vehicle-mounted weapons, indirect fire, airpower, tactics, strategy, logistics, national will, and so on, dominate.

        So I have a hard time getting excited by, IMHO, what amount to minor (but expensive) tweaks in individual armament. Hundreds of thousands to perhaps millions have died in wars in the past century to various “marginal” SMG and assault rifle rounds.

        I think the “arms room” concept can alleviate most of the special case conflicts like Afghanistan. Buy enough 7.62mm MGs and DMRs to equip units going to those conflict zones.

        Again, totally MHO, focus time and money on things that are more likely to make a difference in outcomes.

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      2. “In larger conflicts, variances in individual armament effects don’t really produce significant effects. Crew-served weapons, vehicle-mounted weapons, indirect fire, airpower, tactics, strategy, logistics, national will, and so on, dominate.”

        So you would argue that if we equipped every rifleman, and only riflemen, with P90s, MP7A1s or even quite tacti-cool Ruger 10/22s, there would be only a negligible effect on the overall effectiveness of the platoon or section on the battlefield? Infantrymen may operate in tandem with much heavier fire support, but infantrymen will still have cause to shoot at other infantrymen, and if one belligerent is well aware of the shortcomings of a close-ranged oriented enemy, then they’ll maximize on long-range engagements. Why would they not, especially if the weapons just laying around can range out farther than we seem to think is “necessary?”

        Also, I hear this “only crew-served weapons, vehicle-mounted weapons, indirect fire, airpower, etc. matter” notion many times, but I’ve never heard any purveyor of this notion offer a take on what happens when deployed friendly forces may not have air superiority; or if enemy counter-battery fire or close air support renders friendly indirect fire less of an on-call affair? The US’ integration of Carl Gustav recoiless rifles into the squad-level, IIRC, is an acknowledgement of more than just the need to stretch the infantry’s ranged ability. It’s also an acknowledgement of their need to possibly deal with armor and hard points more instantly and organically. What if your vehicle mounted weapon(s) is rendered inoperable or otherwise combat ineffective? NATO tactic is to close with and engage the enemy in close combat, but what if you can’t quite close with the enemy? Strategy only survives if tactic actually yields success.

        Logistics rely upon a whole hell of a lot, and any assumptions that these various circumstances will all just fall into place in our favor is a bigger mistake than any acknowledgement that maybe 5.56 simply isn’t the best cartridge for the modern infantry role. It seems more like your arguments stand better against any proposal to return to full-power rifle cartridges, at which point I’d generally agree. But to dismiss any pursuit of a cartridge that would seek to improve ranged capability (*with ample attention paid to soldier load, as well as attention paid to maintaining an ammo load similar to current*), especially based on the points you’ve offered, is premature at best. Would 6.5 mm rifles and ammo of the past been heavier? Yes, but then technology has moved along quite a bit in the last decade alone. The .264 USA in a hybrid polymer brass case is marginally heavier than brass cased 5.56. It’s not an unforeseen impossibility that lightweight rifles and carbines can be made to fire it.

        Those many thousands, if not millions who were killed by “negligible” pistol caliber SMG were either killed in close combat or were killed because the shooter effectively got lucky. If we’re going to insinuate that SMG are just as effective a tool for infantry, then at that point we’re just handwaving away the seriousness of this whole discussion. Yes, guns fire bullets. Bullets are lethal. Does this suddenly invalidate any discussion on the finer points of ballistic performance as it pertains to infantry rifles?

        Adding ACOGs and Picatinny rails to almost every rifle is an expensive tweak to the individual weapons of infantry. Every marginal tweak of the M16A1 through to the A4 was necessarily a saga in expensive tweaks to the individual rifleman’s primary tool. Replacing the M1911 with the M9, and now the M9 with the M17, is an individual tweak to the individual array of available tools. With all due respect, that’s not an argument.

        No one is asking *you* to be excited for development, it kind of just happens. Standing against advancement in small arms technology is a strange tradition among us gun enthusiasts when it comes to the military for some reason, but if we yielded to such attitudes, no one would be using double-stack 9mm pistols from Austria like they’re the only ticket in town, and no one would be feeding their favorite Wonder Nine their JHP defensive ammo of choice. Hell, if we yielded to this way of thinking, the M14 would still be the standard issue service rifle of the United States.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Full caliber rifle cartridges like the 7.62 NATO, 303 British, 8×57 30/06, etc. have been overkill for at least a century. It is astonishing that attempts to introduce intermediates like the 276 Pedersen, and 280 British have not been adopted. This speaks more about the attitudes of ordinance officials than to the needs of soldiers. Good to see this topic receiving some long needed attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @UK Land Power

    I don’t know whether you will pick this up, Nick. This thread is fairly old. Anyway here goes.

    I don’t use Twitter, hence my putting this comment in here in the hope that you will see it.

    One your contributors to the recent discussion on the decision to withdraw several infantry weapons from the British Army asked the question whether it was worth looking at the 7.62mm version of the Minimi, which I thought was an interesting idea until I read your reply about the 7.62mm not being a very good weapon because, although it weighs less, it has compromised on robustness.

    Well, if that is not the answer, what about the lighter version of the GPMG? I understand such a weapon has been developed and, in fact, that the British Army had acquired some. If it is such a good weapon, as everyone seems to agree, could it not be the answer to a sustained fire weapon at platoon level?

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  11. Good day! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Thanks!

    Like

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