Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon

Monday, September 1st, 2014

After World War II, the Operations Research Office at Johns Hopkins produced its Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon, based on these key points:

1. The ranges at which the rifle is used most frequently in battle and the ranges within which the greater fraction of man targets can be seen on the battlefield do not exceed 300 yd

2. Within these important battle ranges, the marksmanship of even expert riflemen is satisfactory in meeting actual battle requirements only up to 100 yd; beyond 100 yd, marksmanship declines sharply, reaching low order at 300 yd.

3. To improve hit effectiveness at the ranges not covered satisfactorily in this sense by men using the M-1 (100 to 300 yd), the adoption of a pattern-dispersion principle in the hand weapon could partly compensate for human aiming errors and thereby significantly increase the hits at ranges up to 300 yd.

4. Current models of fully automatic hand weapons afford neither these desirable characteristics nor adequate alternatives. Such weapons are valueless from the standpoint of increasing the number of targets hit when aiming on separated man-size targets.

5. Certain of the costly high standards of accuracy observed in the manufacture of current rifles and ammunition can be relaxed without significant losses in over-all hit effectiveness.

6. To meet the actual operational requirements of a general purpose infantry hand weapon, many possibilities are open for designs which will give desirable dispersion patters (and accompanying increases in hit probability) at the ranges of interest. Of the possible salvo or volley automatic designs, the small caliber lightweight weaon with controlled dispersion characteristics appears to be a promising approach. (Low recoil of a small caliber weapon facilitates dispersion control.)

7. To create militarily acceptable wound damage at common battle ranges, missiles of smaller caliber than the present standard .30 cal can be used without loss in wounding effects and with substantial logistical and over-all military gains.

8. A very great increase in hit lethality can be effected by the addition of toxic agents in bullet missiles.

The original study notes that rifles are designed for aimed fire:

Earlier work done by the ORO on the defense of the individual in combat, and a preliminary study of the offensive capabilities of the rifle, yielded definite indications that rifle fire and its effects were deficient in some important military respects, and that further study of the problem would be necessary fully to establish the facts. In these former studies it was found that, in combat, hits from bullets are incurred by the body at random: regional distribution of bullet hits was the same as for fragment missiles which, unlike the bullet, are not “aimed.” Further, it was found that exposure was the chief factor responsible for the distribution of hits from bullets and that aimed or directed fire does not influence the manner in which hits are sustained. Stated briefly, the comparison of hits from bullets with those from fragments showed that the rifle bullet is not actually better directed towards vulnerable parts of the body.

The discover of these facts, along with evidence of prodigious rifle ammunition expenditure per hit, strongly suggested the need to extend the study of the rifle problem. The facts known at this point also prompted one to regard with some dubiety the employment of the present, highly accurate, precision-made rifle as a general purpose infantry weapon.

With that in mind, it’s surprising that our military didn’t look into better sights earlier.

The study came out strongly against automatic rifles:

To answer these questions, tests were arranged at Fort Benning, Georgia, in which both expert riflemen and marksmen used current models of full automatic rifles. Type E silhouette targets were mounted in front of six by six-ft target screens. The first firing serial was at 100 yd using controlled bursts of five rounds each. Never did more than one round hit the target or screen from any of the short bursts, and consequently no information could be obtained at 100 yd on the nature of the dispersion patter. To obtain more than one strike on the six by six-ft screen, the range had to closed to 50 yd. At this short range it was noted that the man-silhouette target in front of the screen was not hit more than once from any burst. Since single round firing with the M-1 rifle at 50 yr yields a probability of hit of near unity, the effectiveness of automatic fire at such short ranges was of no interest.

This aside about training caught my attention:

An examination of the current basic training program shows that 76 hours are allowed for marksmanship training with the rifle, of which only 48 hours are involved in “wet” exercises, that is, actual range firing of the weapon.

In the 48 hours of training, each man fires at least 400 rounds, which indicates roughly the total amount of time spent in the actual employment of the rifle.

Shooting 400 rounds takes nowhere near 48 hours, even if you’re chatting with shooting buddies and walking back and forth pasting targets.

That said, a half-hour of dry-fire per day plus a half-hour of live-fire per week, for 22 weeks, would add up to 77 hours and would constitute a good start for a hobbyist shooter.

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