It sounded like a new zipper

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Germany hit the jackpot on the light machine gun deal, Dunlap says:

Germany hit the jackpot on the light machine gun deal, bringing out a gun which had the firepower of a tripod gun and weighing only 26 pounds 2 ounces: complete with bipod, and capable of being handled by one man. This was the justly-famed MG34, the “Spandau” design which was credited to the Solothurn plant in Switzerland.


Where the name “Spandau” came from, I don’t know, unless the type of bolt was taken from the old Spandau machine gun used by Germany on World War I aircraft.


It was designed to be, and was, the closest possible weapon to an all-round machine gun the world has seen yet.


While it could not equal a watercooled type in sustained fire, the quick-removable barrel did a lot toward keeping the firepower up.


Beautifully designed for production manufacture, parts were interchangeable and numerous — each unit had its parts chest and it was seldom necessary to send a gun to the shops for repair. Each gun had from one to three extra barrels, carried in formed metal cases.


This was the first of the straight-stocked or straight-line recoil stocked guns with high sights. The buttstocks and pistol grip stocks were of plastic and no wood appeared on any of these weapons. Since the thrust of recoil is straight back to the shoulder, the gun did not “climb” to any degree.


The original ground tripod provided was an elaborate job, with a recoil-operated ratchet mechanism which depressed and raised the rear end of the gun while firing, thus giving it a deeper cone of fire, or what is variously called searching, grazing or grass-cutter fire.


This mount also had optical sighting equipment and devices enabling it to be used for indirect fire (optical sights were not mounted on the gun itself at any time).


With the type of bullet the Germans used, it was possible for them to lay down an effective machine-gun barrage between 2,000 and 3,500 meters. Maximum range of their cartridge was about 5,000 yards, out of their barrels, the rifle length being 23.4″, MG34, 23.5″.


Elaborate machine work was lavished on the MG34’s — I found unnecessary knurling of sleeves and collars, chamfering and beveling of corners beyond reasonable manufacturing standards for such weapons.


It was a beautiful job, but when the Allies started to shoot back, production was simplified and a model was put out as the MG34/41.


The MG34/41 was better designed for defense than offense, which reflected the trend of the times.


In 1943 the Germans turned loose the MG42, the first real “punchpress” gun, with receiver, jacket, cover, and just about everything except barrel and bolt made of steel stampings. It followed the general idea of the MG34 in size, shape and purpose, but the details were entirely different.


The MG42 had the fastest barrel change of any machine gun in the world, accomplished by lowering the butt, snapping down the barrel catch at the right rear of the barrel jacket, which brought the rear end of the barrel out of the gun and gravity usually made it slide back and free of the weapon, untouched by human hands, which is good, because hot barrels are not pleasant to monkey with.


When I first turned a 42 loose I was really surprised, for it sounded like a new zipper. Rate of fire was about 1,100 to 1,200 RPM and I believe a straight belt of armorpiercers might run 1,300. That is fast — too fast, by our ideas, but the Krauts evidently thought it OK. They always seemed to have plenty of ammunition too.


In the spring of 1943 an officer approached me with the idea of finding out what this M38 could do, as he had a gun in perfect condition. I scratched my head, gymnasticated* the rifle, tried to look intelligent, and finally gave my opinion that it would penetrate 1/2” armor at 100 yards, but not much more. He brought out a side plate from a Grant tank, which was a trifle over 3/4” laminated armor plate. I thought we would only crater this, as it was considered extremely good plate. We headed out in the sand away from the camp in an Italian motor wagon (I would not compliment it by calling it a truck) and at a distance beyond the hearing of possibly disapproving colonels, we set up the plate, backed off 100 yards and I laid the rifle across a box and fired. The bullet went through the plate as though it was not there; its incendiary base flew away on the other side, but the core kept on traveling. One of the officers watching from an angle said he saw it strike the sand further out and that it appeared not to have altered its flight in any way. In other words, the 3/4” armor did not even have much effect on the trajectory. I later learned this outfit could penetrate 11/4” (30mm) armor at 100 yards. Recoil was negligible, and less than from a regular military rifle.


(That word “gymnasticate” may have a few of you on the ropes, but is simply an ordnance term meaning the artificial operation of the recoil mechanism of a weapon. Usually it is applied only to artillery, but is perfectly proper for any weapon operated by or having a recoil system. When you push back on the barrel of an autoloading shotgun or a Colt .45 pistol, you are gymnasticating the arm.)


  1. Kirk says:

    Yeah. Luck. That’s what it was…

    Fsckin’ Grade-A idiots, the lot of them here running Ordnance and small arms procurement here in the US. Dunlap is only echoing what he heard from everyone else around him here, and this whole “luck” and “jackpot” construction goes a long way toward explaining the utter ineptitude and stupidity of most of the involved genetic defectives we had managing things. And, still do…

    You want to know what’s wrong with US small arms, this is really where it hit its stride. These same low-grade mentally deficient jackasses are the ones who screwed up the later M73, M85, and M219 MG programs for the tankers, and who chose to procure the abysmal M60 over everything else on the market. They’re also the ones who insisted that the MG34/42 were inferior to everything we had, which was state of the art for 1918.

    Luck played no role whatsoever in the German MG program. They started out in the 1920s, working towards what became the MG42, and they did it with deliberation, forethought, and a better understanding of what modern infantry combat required than we ever demonstrated. To this day, the people running US small arms procurement are unsure of what goes on when the trigger is pulled by an American soldier facing the enemy–If that weren’t true to the point of horror, the M16A2 and the M4 would never have happened. Nor would we be issuing the M249 or the M240, both of which are imperfect fire support tools. We sure as hell wouldn’t be issuing the M122 tripod still, and the essential duplication of it in titanium for the M192 would never have happened.

    Contrast the state of affairs today in the US Army with what the Germans had achieved by 1940 with their machine gun development and doctrine, and what you have is outright cause for despair. The Germans in the late 1930s started issuing systems that dominated the battlefield throughout the war, and enabled their woefully outnumbered and otherwise technically deficient infantry to fight well out of their weight class. That same infantry damn near won them the war, and is the sole reason they managed to almost succeed with their war plans. Every time you look at it, it wasn’t the German tanks that won the day, it was that foot-mobile and lightly armed infantry that did the trick. They had figured out the essence of modern war at that level, which is not the maneuver of men against fire, but the maneuver of fire against men. That dichotomy between approaches is the key thing you have to grasp, before you realize just how back-asswards the US and others were at the game of war. The Germans implemented and mastered a distillation of the so-called Sturmtruppen tactics dating back to the end of WWI, tactics which used firepower to substitute for the idiotic expenditure of human lives exemplified by the Allied approach to the issue. It was an elegant solution, economical of German soldiers, and it bloody well worked. If we hadn’t had the lavish firepower offered by our supporting arms and aviation, the Germans would have ground our mostly inept infantry formations down into dust and blood.

    “Luck”. Yeah, sure–Call it that, and excuse the purblind idiocy of our military leadership. Me? I call it as I see it, and I call it hard work and a touch of genius. Would that today’s US Army had a touch of the Germanic grasp of the obvious, because we’re at a similar inflection point to the 1930s in terms of what military technology is out there, and what it’s going to do on the next series of battlefields we face.

  2. Jacob G. says:


    What are your thoughts on the rate of fire? MG 42 too high?

  3. Kirk says:

    The MG42 rate of fire is what it is because the Germans wanted it that way, and it was a deliberate choice. Why? Because they wanted to saturate the beaten zone of the guns as quickly and as far away from the gun as possible. This was in keeping with their tactics and training for the guns, and overall doctrine.

    Consider an Allied gun, with it’s “optimal” 500-600rpm rate of fire. You fire that gun at a squad-size target out at 1800m. The targeted troops are not going to hear the gun, but they are going to observe the first rounds hit around them. Due to the length of time it takes to deliver the rounds in the burst, they have the chance to go to ground and seek cover. If you’re talking grazing fire, that’s even more significant–All they have to do is get below the line of fire, and even the slightest warning can enable their survival. With the MG42, at 1200rpm, that burst is hitting the beaten zone fast enough that they can’t get to ground, and are thus going to get hit.

    That’s why the Germans wanted 1200rpm. Is it optimal? Maybe, maybe not. I thankfully have not had the opportunity to make the comparison personally, but I can at least do the research and seek to understand what is apparently inexplicable to 99.9% of the American military and other interested parties in our society, who all too often echo what the “authorities” say. Authorities who didn’t bother to read any of the German literature, watch the German training films, or talk to any actual German or German-trained MG gunners from that era. I’ve done all three, and I think there’s a case to be made that the US and other Allied military “authorities” are a pack of buffoonish boobs who have no business being put in charge of anything, let alone technical intelligence or machine guns.

    The Germans had a distinct purpose in what they did. They set out to do something with their machine guns, and they did it. The casualty records speak for themselves–On the Eastern Front, the Germans literally put millions into the grave with those guns and their doctrine. On the Western Front and in Africa, they forced the Western Allies to use copious amounts of support fires to deal with those MG teams, which otherwise would have done the same thing that they did in the East to us. Without the supporting arms, the Allied infantry was weak and inept; the diffuse nature of the firepower we equipped our troops with was insufficient and ineptly conceived. It’s a bloody miracle we managed to win, and had we had to put our infantry up against theirs with just their organic weapons…? LOL; we’d still be sitting somewhere in Northern France, trying to break the German lines.

    So, yeah… I see why they did what they did, and I think that it works. Is it still relevant to today’s “way of war”? I think so, but that’s only an opinion, and one I can’t back up with any real evidence. I think that a German Alpinjaeger outfit from the early days of the war, like the guys who were in the Caucasus? They would have dealt quite handily with the long-range ambush fires of the Taliban in Afghanistan with aplomb, and been laughing at them all the while while they set up their MG42s and tripods to do so. Unfortunately, I have no way of proving that, and even if I could, the “system” would ignore me in favor of doing something Really, Really Big ™ and Game Changing ™, like the XM-25. Skill-at-arms, and excellence at weapons handling? Perish the thought…

  4. Lu An Li says:

    Even when firing blank grounds the MG42 is impressive, and it is obviously apparent from the distinctive sound what weapon this is. The Spanish Legion in Afghan appears to have used a weapon that just from images is an exact copy of the MG42.

  5. Kirk says:

    The MG3, which was what the MG42 was eventually to become, was the standard MG in Spain, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Yugoslavia, Norway, and a few others during the latter half of the 20th Century. Key differences were the conversion to 7.62 NATO, a few product improvements, and somewhat heavier bolt that took the rate of fire back down to around 900rpm.

    I’m not convinced that that was a good idea; too many people looked at the MG42 and failed to understand why it was designed the way it was, and the “product improvements” were more in line with making a false economy in ammunition expenditure, and conforming to the lead member of NATO’s prejudices–The US. It’s sad that the latest German MG, produced by HK, is basically a German MAG-58 that does away with all the excellent things about the MG42. And, why, pray tell? Because some idiots did away with the machinery at Rheinmetall on which the MG42/3 was produced.

    There’s a lot of research that needs to be done on the MG34/42 family, which signally hasn’t happened. I knew a guy from the Chicago area who I’d run into while stationed out there recruiting who was a bit of an obsessive on the guns, and he’d gathered up a ton of material for a book he was going to produce and write, ranging from German training films to privately produced handbooks for machine gunners. Tons of stuff in there that he showed me that point to the huge amount of deliberate background work done by the Germans after WWI, and which you can’t find anywhere in English. He was laboriously translating it all, and putting it into a cohesive state for publication. Unfortunately, I was a dumbass and did not get copies of everything, and he died a few years after I left that job and the area. To my knowledge, nothing ever got published, so I presume it’s in the basement of one of his kids, or a landfill somewhere. Tragic, really–If I ever win the lottery, I’m going to hire a bunch of researchers to go through the archives here in the US and Germany to duplicate what he did, and try to get that information out there. It’s a fascinating thing–The Germans did a huge amount of “human factors” research that tied in with the decision to emphasize the MG, not the least of which was the fact that a crew-served weapon was more likely to stay in action, and less likely to suffer from “combat non-participation”, which is encouraged by the diffuse nature of “every man a rifleman”. The design of German aircraft and tanks was also influenced by that same research–Every attempt was made in the bomber aircraft to have the crews literally be able to touch each other for reassurance and morale. Same with the tanks–Supposedly, the key reason behind putting a radio and intercom system into every tank was this research, not necessarily the tactical need.

    The German Army was always an organization of excellence–The trouble was, the people they had deciding what it was to do. As a purely military organization and entity, it was fascinatingly excellent in a lot of ways that we simply are not, but the flip side is that the causes they’ve served were not good ones. Sad commentary on the human condition, I suppose.

  6. Paul from Canada says:

    Re: the high rate of fire of the MG-42, yep! I remember an article by Peter Kokalis where he quoted a German paper discussing the MG42, where they referenced the concept of “zitebilder” (sp?).

    Anyone who has played infantry knows the 2 second dash, “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down”. The Germans knew that fire and movement was the tactic they would be countering, and that targets would be fleeting. The idea was to create a beaten zone from one burst of fire from one sight picture of a fleeting target that would be dense enough to ensure a hit.

  7. Kirk says:

    Paul, that term you refer to is, I believe, zeitbilder, and it refers to just what you are saying it did. I don’t normally bring that one up in general discussion because it is pretty much “inside baseball”, unless you’ve been behind an MG or two, yourself.

    The idea was sort of a coup d’oeil idea, as applied to machinegunnery. The high rate of fire played into this because it enabled you to just plaster the entire are you spotted a target in as quickly and expeditiously as possible.

    There was a lot of that sort of thing in the German materials I have had access to, and when you compare it to ours, the paucity of similarly deep and advanced thought on the issue is brutally apparent. German MG doctrine is for the advanced practitioner, not the casual half-ass so prevalent in our sadly diminished times.

  8. Kirk says:

    Another point about Dunbar’s understanding of things: The MG34S or MG34/41 was not a “production rationalization” weapon at all. It was a deliberately requested weapon with a higher rate of fire, for the reasons I’ve outlined above. There was limited production because the MG42 supplanted it, but the variant was not built to make things easier–Indeed, it probably created far more complications to the German small arms industry than it solved.

    And, again–The MG34S was brought into being because they wanted even higher rates of fire than the base MG34, and succeeded. The MG34S has been clocked at nearly 1400rpm on modern chronographs, while the MG42 is a mere 1200rpm…

    So, yeah… Precisely none of this was due to “luck”, and it was clearly the result of carefully worked-out doctrine and planning by the German Army. And, it worked, as evidenced by the casualty rate differential they achieved against us. I don’t think there was ever a single occasion where our Allied infantry overcame German infantry when it was just down to their organic weapons and no support was available. Even the First Special Service Force relied on artillery support to isolate and fix the Germans so that they could be attacked in the mountains of Italy… And, I think they were arguably the finest light infantry fielded against the Germans in any theater.

  9. Alistair says:


    I can see a case for Very High RoF based around very short targeting opportunities. If most of combat consists of short snap-shots against squad sized targets this might make up for the ammo consumption.

    That said, I’d like to know what the typical inter-round dispersion in mrad was for these weapons at typical engagement ranges. 3x the RoF won’t translate into 3x effectiveness, due to a non-uniform dispersion. But 2x? 1.5x? Data needed.

    I am fascinated to hear that the Germans identified participation in the MG teams as key to the total firepower. I’ve been involved in similar UK research, a decade or two back, and we must have been replicating their conclusions. But then we were a voice in the wilderness within a force development culture obsessed with individual marksman work.

    One word: ammo consumption is less of a problem if you are in prepared positions. The Germans and their weapons often show great performance; but this is usually confounded with defensive advantage. On tactical offence they don’t seem to have had the same edge on Allied infantry from 1944 onwards. At least on the numbers I’ve seen as regards deliberate attacks against prepared positions; their hasty counter-attacks against recently captured positions fared better.

  10. Isegoria says:

    Since we’re discussing machine guns, might I recommend The Rise, Fall, & Rebirth of the ‘Emma Gees’ and If Moses had been a machine-gunner?

  11. Kirk says:


    The actual amount of wheel-reinvention performed by the military is awe-inspiring, when you contemplate it in terms of wasted effort. It’s also awe-inspiring when you realize that the idjits responsible for directing it don’t have a damn clue that they are going over ground that was already covered by someone else in another country, decades earlier.

    Trust me on this–The Germans got there first, and I think there’s still a lot of merit to their entire conception of infantry combat, which they centered on maneuvering their firepower as opposed to maneuvering their small units. The US and the UK both missed the point of what the Germans were doing, and were out to lunch when it came to what they themselves were doing. A rifleman, even armed with the finest of assault rifles, is still an individual alone on the battlefield. And, individuals are not always the most effective things to rely on, compared to teams. The Germans opted to put their money and firepower into a crew-served centric paradigm, and benefited from it. The diffuse nature of the US idea, where you had riflemen and BAR men working as individuals? Yeah; not as effective as having that crew.

    When you have a crew-served weapon, each man mutually reinforces the other, and you have the “shame” thing working for you–You don’t want to look the coward in front of your peers, so you stick to your job. As an individual rifleman, it’s all too easy to slack off and just do the minimum. The Germans were all about the psychology of it all, and everything they did from recruitment through training to combat was predicated on making the most of the “human factor”. The US, on the other hand? LOL… I really don’t think the people who came up with the “US way of making war” down at the squad level had a damn clue, let alone possessed a solid understanding of human psychology in combat. If they had, there would have been a lot less emphasis on the individual rifleman and his Garand than there was.

    I could go over dozens of cases where the ground was already tilled by someone else–The US Army was going to pay Andres Mohaupt big money for his “secret warhead” that represented the shaped-charge principles first observed by Charles Munroe when he was an employee at the US Navy’s torpedo workshops in the 1890s. Well, they almost did–Then, the patent lawyers got involved, and Mohaupt went on to get just enough money to go away and develop a business using shaped charges in the oil industry, and indeed, that’s what they do a lot of the fracking process with.

    The one I know about personally? Oh, dear God, the painful recognition of just how ‘effed up my Army really was… We paid Hughes Aerospace really big money to test whether you could find mines in the ground with thermal viewers, on the theory that they’d heat differently than the surrounding soil. This was back during the post-Desert Storm era, and about the time I was researching route clearance for one of my bosses. In the course of that, I was reading through Rand reports from the Vietnam era that outlined them having done the exact same thing in the late 1960s, hiring Hughes for the same job. Interesting thing was, when I called up and talked to the project manager for the effort circa 1994, the response I got to asking about how much of the 1960s effort was still valid came back as a stunned silence. Hughes had zero institutional memory of having done the work already, and my query led to weeks of frantic digging through corporate archives looking for the already-extant work on the issue. What they found was that the idea had already been tested, found wanting, and discredited due to there not being enough surface temperature differential to make out where the mines were…

    No big deal, just a coupla’ million tax dollars wasted on repeating the research…

  12. Kirk says:


    Both valuable references; I’ve got that piece on the “emmagees” in my files.

    Difficulty is, though, that that was all written from a very “Commonwealth” idea and attitude towards the MG. It’s all about “support the infantry”, and more defense-oriented than the German approach, which was predicated upon using the guns as actual tactical tools, vs. mere supporting arms for the grunts.

    There is a definite dichotomy for the practitioner; the Germans were doing their “Flaechen und Luekentaktik” thing down to the squad level; if the Germans were, for example, attacking a position, instead of taking it on directly with an infantry assault covered by the MG team, the preferred technique would be to use the riflemen to recon a way into the rear of that position for the MG crew to follow, put the gun into place, and then blast the position from the rear or flank, forcing the men manning it to withdraw under fire. Even more ideally, there’d be another gun worked in even deeper, that would take the withdrawing troops under fire as they moved back…

    The German approach is both more elegant, and far more economical of troops. You really only need a couple of highly-trained MG crew members, a leader, and a mass of less well-trained types to haul the copious amounts of ammo. And, given the constraints that Versailles had placed on the German Army, well… The MG doctrine was a rational, carefully thought-through response. And, judging from the casualty statistics, it had the signal advantage of having worked. The Germans punched well above their weight for most of WWII, and that was due mostly to their foot infantry, not the tanks or the airplanes. Those were merely supports; the vast amount of the Heer fought on foot with infantry weapons, and wrought havoc upon everyone they faced far out of proportion to their numbers.

  13. Kirk says:

    Valuable discussion of the German approach, without emphasis on the use of the MG, though:

  14. Isegoria says:

    Lind would say that we’re stuck in the second generation, while the Germans had already advanced to the third generation by the end of World War I. A few relevant posts:

    Gaps and Surfaces, Reconnaissance Pull, and Attack by Infiltration,
    The infantry is a sensor,
    Too Little Tactical Technique,
    What is infantry for, anyway?, and
    A Tactics Primer.

  15. Paul from Canada says:


    Zeitbilder, of course. For someone who actually speaks a bit of German, you would think I would remember how to spell it.

    Germany went down a very deliberate path when it came to small arms. It is often asked why the Stg-44 wasn’t developed before the war. The research was done and experimental cartridges already developed, but doctrine and budget intervened. Keeping a standardized rifle and cartridge and putting the development money in machine guns, machine gun tactics and doctrine gave them “more bang for the buck”.

    The institutional ignorance you speak of is unfortunately pretty much universal. Even more unfortunately, it persists at the lowest levels too. I had to bite my tongue during basic training when the instructor said something that I knew to be technically wrong.

    I have a colleague at work whose older brother served in the Marines in Vietnam, who still thinks the M-60 is the greatest machine gun ever invented. This is because it is the ONLY machine gun he ever used. Likewise, generations of soldiers were told that the M-14 was the best rifle ever. Why? Because their D.I. told them so. How did their D.I. know? Because his D.I. had told him so. I own several civilian semi-auto only variants, and I love them and love to shoot them, but I know My FNs are superior, and from a production and cost standpoint, a G-3 is even better, even though the ergonomics are worse.

  16. Kirk says:

    Lind is an interesting thinker, but I am not sure that I buy everything he’s selling, especially that whole “Generations of War” concept.

    I don’t think there are distinct generations; the principles of war are timeless, but what changes are the customs and usages. The Romans waged a kind of total warfare that the Nazis could only dream of; so too did the Mongols.

    And, notably, the Mongols still maintain the record for strategic speed of advance. Modern mechanized warfare cannot match what they did, so when you start talking about the sort of war we’re waging now being qualitatively different, somehow? I have my doubts. It’s all war, all the way down. How you do it, that changes–The essential nature of it all does not.

  17. Kirk says:


    One of the really amazing things to my mind, and something I ran into throughout my military career, was the sheer persistence and outright irrefutability of erroneous information in a lot of people’s minds.

    I could sit up in front of a classroom, teach the correct information, reinforce it through the practicum, beat it into their heads during daily operations, and yet… Still, the misinformation they’d absorbed from Uncle Mike, the Vietnam Vet would stick around with far more permanence than anything I could do. I swear to God, that myth about the Mattel-made M16…? I could probably do electroshock treatment on the people who believe that, and never do a damn thing to correct that bit of BS hanging around in their heads.

    And, what’s worse? Even if Uncle Mike shows up, and agrees with me, telling the myth-taken youth that they had misheard or misunderstood what he was saying…? The myth endures.

    This is one reason I’m so damn cynical about anything in the history books, first-hand reports, and eye-witness testimony. People are not only imperfect and unreliable sources, they’re actively distorting the truth in real time as you observe them.

    The deal with the M60, though… I think that the gun is remembered by the Vietnam-era guys differently than my generation for two reasons: One, in Vietnam, most of the guns were new (or, new-ish…), and there was lavish support for them. And, I do mean “lavish”–I talked that gun over with an old-school Small Arms Repair warrant officer, once, and his description of what they’d done to keep the M60 fleet functional in Vietnam was epic. The average grunt never saw it, but whenever the guns were turned in, they were supposed to be inspected and gauged, and before they went back out, they’d often get replaced. The Army in Vietnam treated the M60 as an expendable item, and it showed. After the war, and what my generation of soldiers experienced? LOL… Oh. My. Gawd. As an armorer, I had nine M60s in my arms room, and can you guess which weapons took 90% of my maintenance efforts? Yeah; those abortions. And, yet… Not all of it was the fault of the gun; there was the austerity of the maintenance program, which was not up to the Vietnam-era standard, and then the imposition of Break-Free CLP regime for lubrication. During Vietnam, the guns got LSA, or “Light Small Arms” lubricant, which was a viscous thing, about the consistency of hand lotion. That provided a lot more cushioning effect between the slamming parts of the M60 than did the teflon-kerosene based CLP. CLP was a great lubricant for the M16, but for anything else…? Not so much. I’m convinced that the majority of the grief I experienced as an armorer and gunner was due to the fact that they took away our LSA for the machine guns. About the time we got the MK-19 GMG in, LSA made a comeback, and I started experimenting with using it on our M60s. It made a big difference in the amount of work I had to do stoning away all the burrs and other damage, or so I think. We didn’t have the M60 for much past that point, replacing it with the M240, otherwise known as the C6, MAG-58, or L7.

    The M60 wasn’t a terrible gun, within its limitations. If you were to fully train the gunners, and kept on top of the maintenance, you could expect good results. Any austerity with that, though? Yeah; forget about it. Overall, I think it was a huge POS, barely acceptable. We should have taken the hint from the M240 coax competition, and gone with the real winner of that test regime, which was a battlefield pickup PKT the Israelis gave us. That thing was apparently unkillable, and even with no factory support and captured crap ammo from (I think…) the Syrians or Egyptians, it walked away with the competition.

    That’s what I’d term “a clue”.

  18. Alistair says:


    Totally agreed about crew served weapons and mutually supportive psychology. We found very large group participation and NCO-oversight effects for this; it generated much more lethality than the raw firepower would indicate (Our job was to provide quantitative estimates of this effect size). Yes, we looked at a LOT of WWII data…

    Interestingly, we could find similar small-group effects for armoured combat too. The Germans seem to have had the right of it 40 years before us….

  19. Isegoria says:

    Ardant du Picq referred to this as “mutual surveillance.”

  20. Kirk says:


    I’d be interested in reading any of what you guys produced. I’m not really impressed that it took so long for people on the Allied side of WWII to figure things out, and grasp what the Germans were up to, but… Hey, better late than never. I don’t think the US Army has figured it out, even yet.

    Basic fundamentals of military operations are astonishingly complex things, when you really get down to examining what is going on–And, paradoxically, they’re damned simple. As the shibboleth goes, everything simple is hard, and everything hard is simple… What good that does the young NCO or officer facing their first action under fire, though? None; it’s all going to come hard, that first time.

  21. Sam J. says:

    “…They had figured out the essence of modern war at that level, which is not the maneuver of men against fire, but the maneuver of fire against men….The Germans … which used firepower to substitute for the idiotic expenditure of human lives exemplified by the Allied approach to the issue…”

    You said a mouthful here. YOU ARE EXACTLY right. 100%. If you look at all these studies they do of firearms they are ALWAYS coming up with ideas to fire off a very quick burst, say three rounds to get a little dispurtion as people tend to run away real fast when fired at. They’ve had all kinds of different ammo to do this, darts, multiple rounds at once. etc. but they won’t change their tactics to conform to these ideas that they know will work so…same old, same old.

    That first quote of yours,”…They had figured out the essence of modern war at that level, which is not the maneuver of men against fire, but the maneuver of fire against men…” is worth a Gazillion dollars. It’s very important. They should tattoo it on officers eyelids.

  22. Alistair says:


    Thank you, “Mutual Surveillance”. Yes. du Picq, Grossman and most of all Marshall were lodestone figures for our work back in the 90′s, iirc.

  23. Kirk says:

    The so-called “hyper-burst” concept isn’t a bad one, but it’s applied to the wrong damn weapon format. It needs to be in a full-size MG, fired off a tripod. Same-same with the moronic XM-25; both of those weapons offer utility on the battlefield, but not fired off of PFC Schmoe’s shoulder and no other support besides a bipod…

    I don’t know why they keep doing this, but it’s a madness that the Russians and Soviets agreed with; the individual rifleman who fires his weapon mostly unsupported doesn’t benefit from this crap, at all. The crew-served, however? They most certainly do.

    The XM-25 concept would work, were it fired in bursts and supported properly. Some kind of terminal guidance system could also make it work, but so long as you’re firing that itty-bitty warhead off of a human shoulder, you had better plan on recruiting that tiny proportion of the population that has “better than Carlos Hathcock” hand-and-eye coordination. Assuming you can identify them, and persuade them to become your XM-25 gunners.

    It’s a non-starter in that format, just like the AN-94 is. AN-94 fired off a tripod…? Kinda makes sense, but the Germans got there first, and back in the 1940s.

  24. Kirk says:

    Alistair, you lose me when you refer to the twin charlatans of Marshall and Grossman.

    Grossman is more-or-less banned from speaking to any SOCOM audience, due to his bullshit. Marshall is well-documented as having pulled most of his research out of his ass, and the pair of them are self-referential jackasses. Grossman is basically a case of a really poor officer who parlayed his schtick about “video game violence” and “murder simulators” into national notoriety. The vast majority of the claims these two twats have made over the years are entirely unsupported, and mostly created out of whole cloth. I have spoken to actual WWII combat veterans who were at those “after battle sit-downs” with Marshall, and they unanimously agree that precisely none of that bullshit Marshall spouted about combat participation was ever discussed with him or brought up in their presence–And, one of them was at the specific place Marshall mentions in one of his essays, and recalls nothing of that sort being discussed.

    If you go back and look at the entirety of Marshall’s work, and try to verify his claims, you wind up losing your way in the night and fog of it all. He claimed to have been key and critical to the development of the Army’s Trainfire system back in the 1950s; there is nothing there to validate that in the literature. Marshall and “combat participation” are not mentioned at all, in anything done by the Army Research Laboratories or the rest of the agencies participating in that program. He glommed onto that issue, and claimed responsibility for it, but there is nothing at all that can be found with his name as a contributor.

    If you read David Hackworth’s book, where he describes having been the escort officer for Marshall in Vietnam, you get to see the true Marshall: A hack who wrote and distorted fact to sell books.

    I was once a “true believer” in what Marshall had to say, right up until I actually brought up his name with WWII combat veterans. The man was strongly disliked, and talking about his ideas would generally get you laughed at. And, rightly so–The idea that only some 10-15% or less of the force would participate in combat is laughable, because that leaves out the idea that those guys would be perfectly fine with being the only ones risking their lives, and would allow that situation to persist. Not to mention, what the hell were the leaders doing during all of this? If you think you can’t tell, as a fire team leader and squad leader, what the hell your men are doing in combat, you’d be wrong. Ammo expenditure alone would tell you, and result in your bringing the heat down on the “non-participant”, simply out of self-interest. If those guys weren’t firing effectively, then when you did move forward on the enemy, you’d be so much dead meat.

    And, Grossman, who is someone who has never seen either enlisted service or combat…? He credulously repeats Marshall as though he were authoritative, and brings in all kinds of crap that isn’t even germane to the discussion. If Grossman and Marshall were correct, then the non-participation rate they preach as gospel truth would have resulted in the utter destruction of the Army elements in the Pacific theater, whenever the Japanese made a Banzai charge.

    They’re both crooks and charlatans. I’ve spoken personally with Grossman, back when he was still on active duty and had just published his book. The man isn’t really even that bright–You bring up counter-factuals to the “evidence” he brings up in “On Killing”, and the guy can’t refute shit, only circling around to vaguely repeating the BS he wrote in the book. I’ve been at his “pre-deployment” briefings he was offering the Army twice, and for which the brass was paying him big bucks. The man is a fraud; he has zero qualifications to be speaking on what he blathers on about. No psychology degrees, no real research performed, and just really shitty scholarship that can’t pass the test of even casual examination.

    Frankly, if you guys were credulously citing Marshall and Grossman, you were had. They’re both crap researchers, and basically lied out their asses about most of the things they wrote about.

    I mean, seriously… Think about it: If only 10-15% of our troops were actually doing anything, under fire, then what the hell were they doing once they were out from under it? Does anyone seriously think that those guys were willing to put up with doing the majority of the work, while their fellow soldiers weren’t doing anything at all to contribute to the fight? Yeah; pull the other one–It’s got bells on it. And, what, precisely, do they think the junior NCOs were doing during all this “non-participatory activity”? Observing it and doing nothing?

    Frankly, the whole idea is specious on the face of it, and I’m embarrassed I ever took it seriously. There’s nothing like getting reality-slapped by men who were there.

    That’s the one thing I think I’ve learned about WWII combat, especially in Europe. Most of the people who actually were engaged in doing it on our side? I think they essentially vanished from official sight, in that little of what they learned and were actually doing down at the squad and platoon level got captured by the institution. The careerists who didn’t do a lot in that war wound up running the post-WWII Army, and they thought that the stuff in the manuals was gospel truth, which was one reason so much BS was still hanging around during Korea.

    It’s all a bunch of crap, coming out of Grossman and Marshall. Both of those clowns are great self-promoters, but entirely frauds about what they say. Grossman isn’t an authority; he’s not a researcher, he knows nothing of statistics or actual historical research, he’s not a qualified psychologist, and he sure as hell isn’t even that good as a scholar.

    Y’all have to remember that West Point basically taps just about anyone to instruct there–It’s a routine duty for officers, and isn’t really indicative of any real merit whatsoever. Grossman has been trading on that bullshit since the beginning, and the only reason he was ever up there at West Point in the first place was that the branch manager needed to fill a slot for an instructor’s position. Dude’s a fraud, in plain and simple terms. SOCOM will not allow him to speak to their people, anymore–They finally figured it out, and also realized that a lot of the outright crap he was “teaching” actually helped create more PTSD issues than it helped.

    In short–Grossman and Marshall are both abysmal sources for information. Neither ever served in combat, and should not be taken at all seriously. In any way, shape, or form.

  25. Paul from Canada says:

    Re: Grossman and Marshall, one of the objections to them is that if “our” troops were so deficient in combat, why didn’t the Japanese win? Unless the inhibition against intra-species violence is universal?

    I too used to be a true believer in Grossman and Marshall, likewise with Stanley Milgram and also the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. All have been to some extent de-bunked, but I think some of the concepts and ideas are valid, just not to the extent claimed by the authors.

    SOME of Grossman on the psychology of killing and the different rates of phsycological injury depending on the type of killing rather than the level of danger are intriguing, but he lost it with the video games bit.

    After having laboriously laid out how military training does so conditionally, and the context triggers the behavior, he goes on to say without any statistical evidence, that video games WITHOUT and other situational psychological context triggers the “behavior” in mass killers. Given the ubiquity of video games and FPS (First Person Shooter) games at that, we should be hauling the bodies away from schools by the truckload, and we are not.

    Likewise, having both military and martial arts training, I understand the concept of having to train past unconscious inhibitions to action, and I am on board with the concept.

    I also get the idea that it is easier to press the button than pull the trigger, and easier to pull the trigger than plunge the knife, but on the other hand, what about all the dead people before firearms and cannon?

    If you believe the non-sociologist archeology, stone age tribes lost around 25% of their members to violence, mostly clubbing and stabbing. The Romans managed quite handily to pretty much destroy Carthage with hand weapons. Hutu seem quite capable of murdering Tustsi with machetes and vice-versa, so obviously this intra-species violence inhibitor can be quite easily overcome if it needs to be.

  26. Kirk says:

    Had Grossman kept his thesis to the idea that well-socialized Western male modern homo sapiens have an innate disinclination towards killing those they perceive as being their like peers, I’d have little to object to with regards to his thesis. When he tries to make it a rule for all humans, all the time, everywhere…? Not so much.

    Grossman is the Anthropogenic Global Warming guy who erases all of recorded history to pick and choose that which supports his thesis, which isn’t even that well thought out. You talk to him in person, and throw out those little questions like “If this is an innate human trait, explain the Mongols at Khwarazim, the French on their little crusade against the Cathars, or any of the many other like events…”? What does he do? He ignores the question, its implications, repeats his thesis, and then circles around to repeat it again from yet another angle. He’s a decent Christian man, for whatever value that makes of things, but he’s really not all that bright. Either that, or he’s so lost in his Noble Savage fantasy that he can’t bear to look at anything that contradicts his ideal of the Rousseauian version of perfect humanity.

    There are so many holes in his work that it’s not even funny; he’s done zero original research, and his history is horrible. As scholarship, his work sucks ass–I could probably do better with a high school diploma, to tell the truth. He doesn’t have any sort of formal training in psychology or psychiatry, but he’s been pronouncing on things bearing on both disciplines for years as though he’s some sort of expert about combat trauma.

    I’d really love to know what the hell sort of trauma he thought the Mongols developed after Samarkhand, where they basically put the entire population to the sword and then went rooting around in their intestines for any swallowed wealth… Ya, sure, you betcha’… Those Mongol horse troopers spent the subsequent years balled up in their yurts, bawling, over all the “humanity” they’d inflicted.

    Or, not.

    News flash for ya, buddy: People are assholes, and dangerous predators. We kill for fun, and the only reason that any of us demonstrate any form of restraint at it is because of extensive social conditioning. Remove the conditioning, or give us victims we don’t regard as fellow human beings due the respect that conditioning demands, we’ll kill and rape like stoats on a bender in a henhouse. Grossman has illusions about human nature; ones I don’t share in the least.

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