Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I finally got around to watching Restrepo — Sebastian Junger’s depressing documentary about the US Army platoon holding an outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley — a couple months ago, but I didn’t get around to sharing my rather scattered thoughts.

It’s hard to watch the film without finding their predicament ludicrous. Who thought these kids should be sent to gain the trust of the local population? Would you send your local community college rugby team to do that? That’s basically who these kids are.

Less strategically and more tactically, the combat footage reinforces how rare it is to see the enemy — and I can’t imagine that assault rifles and light machine-guns are terribly effective against enemies with good cover, somewhere out there.

If the real role of small arms in combat is to suppress enemy infantry, then perhaps we also need weapons better designed to neutralize troops behind cover. Back in World War I, sniper H.W. McBride lamented that he didn’t have a rifle that shot a slow enough round with a high enough trajectory to plunge down into trenches.

Speaking of WWI, I also find it odd that we don’t have weapons better designed to shoot from cover. Wouldn’t a telescopic and periscopic sight go a long way?

And if you don’t have the high ground, and your barriers don’t provide cover from all angles, how about draping some camouflage netting or tarps for concealment?

And how about taking camouflage seriously?  I hear the Army is finally moving away from black rifles and toward camouflaging its carbines.

And, as always, there’s nothing light about our light infantry.  It would be funny, watching them waddle through wadies, if they weren’t our guys.

(I made some of these points while discussing the Battle for Marjah.)


  1. I’m pretty sure periscopic sights were tried in WWI, and in WWII the Germans tried a rifle (or submachine gun, can’t recall) with a curved barrel for urban combat.

  2. Isegoria says:

    Yes, periscopic sights were definitely tried in World War I, and curved-barrel submachine-guns have been tried since.

    Periscopic sights seem like they’d make the most sense for tripod-mounted weapons, which don’t need a well-positioned human body attached to keep them stable and on target. The early periscope rifles of World War I weren’t especially accurate for that reason — and because they were built in the trenches with the equipment at hand. I would expect modern optics and machining to greatly improve matters.

    I find the idea of a curved-barrel gun rather silly, but a slightly periscopic sight that let you shoot around a corner — rather than over a trench — would let you keep your shoulder behind the gun but your head behind cover.

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