The one great fault of American ordnance is that it can never let well enough alone

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

As designed, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) weighed less than 16 pounds, Dunlap notes, and was semi- as well as full-automatic. That was back in 1918:

When World War II broke, the gun weighed 19.4 pounds, was full-automatic only, and called the M1918A2 (between the two were three or four experiments in remodeling, including the 1922 machine rifle, one of the worse abortions). The one great fault of American ordnance is that it can never let well enough alone on any item. Rather than redesigning or adopting a new type, the original model is “modified” time and again. With each improvement the BAR got heavier and harder to handle, until even the boys up high began to blush (they got the weight below 20 pounds for the books by forgetting to count the adjustable butt rest, or monopod, a holdover from the machine-rifle job, and used for holding the guns nice and pretty for field inspections).

What if he stops running the instant the gun goes off?

Monday, May 13th, 2019

Dunlap didn’t have much faith in long-range rifle fire:

Beyond 450 or 500 yards effective rifle shooting at humans is at the very least half luck, and do not believe anything else. Slight mistakes in range calculation mean considerable variation in points of impact. If the guy is moving at all, he can move enough to make you miss him during the time the bullet is in the air! I know all about leading a running mark, etc.; what if he stops running the instant the gun goes off?


The Springfield was considered the most accurate rifle we had, even though the average service rifle was no bargain as issued. Using M2 ball ammunition I was never able to make a Garand shoot better than 8″ groups at 200 yards, and, frankly, two-thirds of the Springfields would not do much better. I do believe, however, that if I had at least 10 new M1s to cross-check against each other, and switch parts here and there to change tolerances, it might be possible to get groups close to 4″, or two minutes of angle, although it might be necessary to experiment with handloaded ammunition or M1 ball service or National Match government loadings.


They all change their points of impact fast, as the thin barrel heats up, and the fact that the handguards and gas cylinder assembly are fastened to it and interfere with its vibration or whip, does not make for high accuracy.

Submachine guns did a lot of work in the jungles

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

The Thompson .45 submachine gun underwent three or four changes during the war, in the interests of production manufacture and simplification, but essentially remained the same, Dunlap explains:

Like the M1, it was a weapon I did not like but ended up respecting. Here again, weight was the drawback — the original M1928 model went 10.8 pounds without magazine and the simplified M1 and M1A1 models ran 10 pounds even, without clips (the M1A1 was the same as the M1 except that it had its firing pin machined on the face of the bolt, integral with it, while the M1 had the older style movable firing pin and “hammer”).

The stocks of all three had too much drop, which made accurate automatic fire from the shoulder almost impossible, since the guns could climb up an off the mark easily.


Effective range of these guns was about 75 yards in the hands of the average soldier. This because the trigger-pull on the gun was 14 pounds maximum, 10 pounds minimum, and it fires from an open bolt, making accurate semi-auto fire very difficult.


Submachine guns did a lot of work in the jungles where often only the approximate direction of an enemy would be known and it was desirable to rake an area with bullets. For investigating the tops of coconut palms it was a highly useful tool, and good for hosing dugouts or clearing bunkers at times, but grenades were smarter and safer for the latter jobs.

Insects ruined more carbine barrels than rust

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

The weight of the M1 Garand rifle was to a great extent responsible for the popularity of the .30-caliber carbine. The carbine had other strengths, too, Dunlap explains:

The carbines’ best feature was their non-corrosive ammunition. Because of it the barrels and gas pistons and cylinders could take a lot of neglect and still keep the arm operating perfectly. M1 rifle barrels were always pitted, but the carbines usually looked good inside.

Insects ruined more carbine barrels than rust or lack of cleaning did together. It is a fact! In the Pacific land areas lives a kind of wasp we called mud-daubers, and they love to set up an apartment in a .30 caliber barrel — they will take a .45 or .50, but prefer .30’s. By carrying in mud and secreting some sort of liquid they plug a barrel and if that plug is not discovered and removed within 12 hours, a ring starts to eat into the barrel steel at its top; in 36 hours it will be the depth of a land, cutting both lands and grooves equally, which meant classification as unserviceable by ordnance when inspected or reported. Oil in the barrel made no difference. If the plug was not discovered and the rifle or carbine fired, the barrel usually bulged and was unserviceable anyway.


In the Pacific the carbines were more reliable and gave less trouble than the M1’s, although in North Africa and in Italy they were not rated so highly.


The troopers often complained that it took all 15 shots to down a Jap, but I suspect that this was usually because they always shot the Nip 15 times anyway, whether he went down on the first or last round.

The non-expanding bullet would not do much damage unless it hit a vital spot, which was not always easy. Heck, you can kill a man with a .22 Short if you can shoot him in the brain, heart, or spine.


A military load should render a man hors de combat with almost any hit.


If our carbine cartridge had been the .38 Super Automatic Colt pistol case, using a .35 or rather, .36 caliber 125-grain bullet at about 1,500 FPS — the soldier would have been a lot better off in battle. Such a bullet would carry a great deal more shocking power than the 1,975 FPS 110-grain .30 caliber carbine bullet.

Killing the enemy is not always as desirable as merely making a casualty out of him. Even the Japs realized this, if a special military report I read is true. According to it, a non-com or two from a 24th Division unit on Leyte stated his outfit suffered many casualties at one location, encountering Japanese riflemen who shot them up. Most of the Americans were shot in the hip or upper leg with 6.5mm bullets, not a fatal wound but one which called for a minimum of two persons to evacuate, besides getting the shot-up soldier out of the battle for months, if not permanently. The opinion was that the enemy was deliberately attempting to cause such serious wounds in order to tie up the additional personnel necessary to care for the men, thereby delaying our advance. Each such hit removed from three to five men from the immediate opposing force, while a man killed was just one less.


Our officials scoffed for years at the Italians and Japs for putting bayonets on everything and claimed everyone else’s automatic weapons had too high a rate of fire (our carbine now can empty itself at about 850 to 900 RPM — is definitely much faster than the Thompson, comparing cyclic rates). The bayonet business is silly, except for guarding prisoners, for which a repeating shotgun with 00 Buckshot loads is better, and the regular military shotguns have bayonet studs themselves for full-size prodders.

So far as the automatic feature is concerned, I am for it. We really have something, but I am not sure what. The guns were a lot of fun to shoot and came out just a little too late for real use in combat. The full-automatic feature did not affect the ballistics of the cartridge any but did increase the effectiveness of the arm by allowing it to deliver three or four bullets close together on one squeeze of the trigger, rather than one. I think these models would have been ideal for jungle fighting, where the heavier Thompsons were popular.

The cartridge remains a full-jacketed, fairly high-velocity .32-20, which has not been considered a suitable deer cartridge for years. I consider a man in the class of a white-tailed deer as a meat target, taking about the same amount of energy to stop. Except that deer usually get shot with expanding bullets which mess up more flesh. A man is tougher game physically than he thinks. I am no big-game hunter so maybe I will get a lot of argument. As in killing deer, men seldom suffer identical wounds and results always vary somewhat. I have two friends who received Jap bullets in their chests on Luzon; one recovered and went back to his outfit in a very few weeks and the other was discharged after spending about eight months as a sick boy. Just 1″ or 2″ or a change of angle made the difference, though both were uncomplicated lung punctures so far a simple description goes.

One of the clumsiest singleshot arms since muzzleloading days

Friday, May 10th, 2019

“In my opinion,” General Patton once said, “the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” Roy Dunlap did not share the General’s opinion:

I do not like the M1 rifle and never have, but it proved a much better weapon than I thought it would.

Any gas-operated arm must be kept reasonably clean to reliably operate and the majority of malfunctions in the field proved due to either worn gas cylinders or worn (undersize) pistons on the end of the operating rods. The cylinders are rust-proof, but the pistons rusted if not cleaned daily, wearing undersize rapidly and allowing gas to leak so that the operating rod would not move far enough to the rear to correctly function the action. Barrels did not last long. Noncorrosive ammunition would have been a godsend in the Pacific War. I never saw an M1 barrel shot out but saw thousands rusted out.

The Garand has two faults, to my mind — it is too heavy and it must be loaded with the eight-round charger clip. The latter means you either load it with a full eight-round clip or you have one of the clumsiest singleshot arms since muzzleloading days. I admit that with the complete dropping of our bolt-action rifles using the fiveround Mauser clip and the issue of all U. S. rifle ammunition in the M1 clip this objection is practically nullified, but the fact remains that it is very difficult to keep the M1 rifle fully loaded when firing sporadically. If, say five cartridges of a clip are fired, three remain in the gun, and the five expended ones are well-nigh impossible to replace in the rifle. In action, soldiers simply released and ejected partially-emptied clips and reloaded with full ones in an attempt to keep full effectiveness as long as they could. In some outfits it was customary to empty the rifle — blazing away the remaining cartridges — after the sixth round was fired. It is of course easier and faster to empty the rifle by firing than by stopping to use two hands to hold the bolt back and press the clip release. Infantry fighting is not always correctly pictured, and a lot of people have very little understanding of some phases. Often it was almost man-to-man scale on a life and death basis game of hide-and-seek. In jungle warfare visibility usually was limited and sound played an important part. Japs on Guadalcanal learned that the “ping” of an ejecting M1 clip meant a momentarily-empty rifle and American infantrymen died because of it. Aberdeen was in a slight furor for awhile, trying to silence the noise, make plastic clips, etc.

Probably in Europe such ammunition and loading troubles were not so important, for conditions were different and supplies more plentiful and accessible. The boys could burn out a clip whenever they saw something move, and have another always handy. In the Pacific a lot of the island fighting was in patrol activity where combat conditions could be likened to nothing except big-game hunting — with the game liable to shoot first. Engagements were often short skirmishes or ambushes — exchanges of a few shots, where rifles were used to back up automatic weapons, reversing the usual roles of the weapons. Against a number of scattered, camouflaged targets the Thompsons and BARs were uneconomical, but they could drive the enemy to cover or make him reveal himself getting cover, to be eliminated by riflemen. Where automatic arms in numbers existed, it was of course possible to simply spray the landscape with bullets and relegate the rifle to mopping up on running Nips, or distant shots.

The weight of the blasted rifle got me down — 10 pounds is about two and a half too much for an army rifle if the soldier is to carry it under his own power. Gun writers are always harping on the subject of keeping hunting rifles light in weight, but nobody ever seems to worry about the infantry rifle avoirdupois. The average deer hunter lives a life of ease compared to a combat soldier, yet he wants seven-pound rifles and would be aghast at the thought of going out wearing heavy boots, a three-pound hat, a belt loaded with assorted pouches and 80 rounds of ammunition, and probably a 30-pound pack.


The Garand’s sights and stock are in my opinion better than those on any other standard military rifle in existence. One of its best points is that it is very easy to teach a man to shoot with; far easier than with the 1903 Springfield.


Garands did not like the desert, but no other arms did either.


In the Pacific islands it was naturally necessary to keep the sand out of M1’s around the beaches, but inshore in the jungles and mountains they did OK.

The flying Ginsu doesn’t explode

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have used a modified version of the well-known Hellfire missile with an inert warhead:

Instead of exploding, it is designed to plunge more than 100 pounds of metal through the tops of cars and buildings to kill its target without harming individuals and property close by.

To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky, the officials said. But this variant of the Hellfire missile, designated as the R9X, also comes equipped with a different kind of payload: a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact, shredding anything in its tracks.


The R9X is known colloquially to the small community of individuals who are familiar with its use as “the flying Ginsu,” for the blades that can cut through buildings, car roofs or other targets. The nickname is a reference to the popular knives sold on TV infomercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s that showed them cutting through both tree branches and tomatoes. The weapon has also been referred to as the Ninja bomb.

Back in 2003, RAF Tornadoes were armed with laser-guided concrete bombs, and back in Vietnam the USAF used “lazy dog” bombs — two-inch chunks of steel with fins — which inspired the THOR system of tungsten rods dropped from cheap satellites.

They never really learned how to use what they had anyway

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Dunlap periodically dips back into the alleged topic of his book:

The 1930’s were a period of great research in small arms all over the world, resulting in the U. S. of the adoption of the M1 or Garand rifle; in Germany of the Walther development of the double-action pistol and of the Spandau or roller-bearing machine gun bolt locking by the rotating collar systems; in Italy of the Breda machine guns and Beretta pistols; in England of the Mk. IV or No. 4 rifle and the Bren gun; and in Japan of their gas-operated machine weapons and their 7.7mm rifles.


Where [the Japanese] cut their own throats on small arms was when they allowed their national poverty to influence them. They would make good ammunition, and pack it in flimsy crates, which dissolved under rough transportation and bad weather. They made fair ammunition, but tried to avoid waterproofing it, so a lot of it went bad in the jungle, as happened often with grenades and mortar shells. The brass in their small-arms ammunition was poor, and in my opinion is the reason why they had a different case for machine guns than for rifles.


As a Mauser military bolt-action, the Japanese Model 38 modification is one of the very best. The Nips improved a good many features of the original German bolt system, incorporating some ideas not found in any other arm. The bolt stop, for instance, does not contact and batter the rear of the left locking lug, as in other Mausers, including Springfields and Enfields. A second small lug is located directly behind the locking lug (11/16″ between rear surfaces) and this contacts the bolt stop.


The ejector cut in the Arisaka’s left locking lug is angled so that it does not touch the rear surface therefore the full area of the lug remains unmarred, making for theoretically better locking and wear, since there are no grooves or burrs to carry grit or dirt into the locking recesses and cause undue wear.


The Arisaka locking lugs are set back from the face of the bolt and rounded on their leading edges. As in the Mauser 98 bolt, this location is a claimed advantage in that the lugs being well back from the bolt face, they are less liable to break or crack diagonally from the face of bolt to rear of lugs.


The design of bolt mechanism prevents rearward escape of gas, giving almost positive safety to the eyes and face.


The bolt has the fastest and easiest takedown of any rifle yet encountered.


Firing pin, striker and cocking piece are combined in one part, hollowed to receive the mainspring inside it. This principle is familiar in machine guns and other automatic weapons, but not seen in bolt rifles very often.


Unless the rifle is rusted or otherwise out of good condition, it is possible to set and unset the safety by a simple rotating motion of the ball of the right thumb, and it can be operated in complete silence. I am inclined to give the Japs the blue ribbon on this feature, feeling it is the best safety of any military rifle in accessibility, reliability and ease of operation.


When the Pacific jungle fighting proved that leather was poor stuff, they were ready with a really good substitute, rubberized canvas. Not only rifle and light machine gun slings were made of this material, but also belts, cartridge pouches, bayonet scabbard frogs and at the last, pistol holsters. Water, mold, mildew, bugs — nothing bothered the stuff.


The famous Japanese no-smoke, no-flash sniper cartridge was their ordinary 6.5mm reduced charge, consisting of a pointed 137-grain cupro-nickel or gilding-metal jacketed bullet, pushed by a scant 30.0 grains of flake nitro-cellulose powder, which appears and acts very similar to that used in the German service cartridge.


In the ordinary cartridge, either reduced or full load, the flash was practically eliminated by the long barrels which completely burned the powder of the charge. I know from experience that it was just about impossible to spot any smoke from a shot, even in pretty good light.


The flake type of powder is a little less inclined to smoke than our own tubular-grain types, but most of the “smoke” from a modern rifle is really vapor caused from the meeting of the gases with colder air. In warm air, or especially in warm dry air, the smoke of any firearm is decreased appreciably.


Now for the Model 94 (1934) pistol! Here the Japs got even for their good work on the preceding handguns; this is the only thing the Japs made that is as bad as the backslapping saps in this country said everything Japanese was. It does not have a single redeeming feature and is a good example of how a pistol should not be made.


The little-known Japanese officer’s pistol, the 7mm Nambu, was a beautifully made junior-size true Nambu, with grip safety, the one off-set recoil spring, and the same locking system. The 7mm was originally intended to be an officer’s weapon, and the 8mm to be the enlisted men’s sidearm. This idea was too silly to last long even among the medieval-minded samurai worshippers, so did not get far.


For practical field use in close-up infantry fighting such as went on in the jungles and mountains of the Pacific war where both sides could not park very long at any one spot because of mortar use, the Japanese machine gun was not so good. The gun itself weighed 61 pounds and the tripod 61 more — a total of 122 pounds which is about 90 too much, and is undoubtedly the reason the Japs liked to get our 1919A4 Brownings, weighing only 30 pounds and which one man could carry over his shoulder like a rifle.


During the war the Japanese developed several nice items in the weapon line but did not get production on any of them to amount to anything. By the time they were able to build first-class equipment the B-29’s were over Japan and they could not even protect their factories. By the time they were able to build good enough antiaircraft guns and fighter planes to combat the bombers, there was not much left to protect or build them with. They never really learned how to use what they had anyway.

Dragonglass is very similar to the stone found by Obsidius in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire features “wights” (undead zombies) created and controlled by “the Others” (intelligent undead), which are vulnerable to “dragonglass” (obsidian). HBO’s Game of Thrones makes both its wights and “white walkers” (its preferred term for the Others) vulnerable to the volcanic glass and has the smith frantically forging weapons out of dragonglass before the undead hordes arrive — which is not how obsidian weapons were made in the real world:

Obsidian gets its name from this mention in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (AD 77):

…among the various forms of glass we may reckon Obsidian glass, a substance very similar to the stone found by Obsidius in Ethiopia.

He bought a couple of boxes of shells and made his own gun

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Dunlap describes the local Filipino weapons:

The Visayans, or Leytans, did not have many weapons aside from their sundangs and bolos (to them a bolo meant generally any long knife, but specifically, the name was applied to a pointless chopping tool, halfway between a cleaver and a knife).

So they made a good many crude shotguns for use on Nips, proving again that a scattergun has a place in warfare, even if it is not legal. Some of the guns were not so crude, either. Many were well-proportioned, with good stocks of mahogany or what they called “Komagoon” wood, a type of ebony running from dark brown to jet black in color. Other lighter woods were also used. Because of the stocks and the pipe barrels, most guns were heavy, weights ranging from nine to eleven pounds. All were singleshots; some had hammers, some had concealed spring-loaded firing pins, looking like our hammerless shotguns. The operation of the Leyte type might be called a reverse bolt-action; the breech remained constant and the barrel was rotated and slid forward to open. The receiver was a tubular piece of steel or iron, or even brass, with a large cut in the top at the rear at the breech plug for loading and a narrow slot running forward from the left side of the opening at its front, paralleling the barrel. The slot would extend perhaps 4″ then make a right angle quarter-turn and then turn again and parallel the barrel until the slot reached the end of the receiver. The barrel would be a chambered or unchambered piece of iron or steel pipe with a little lug on it close to the rear, sometimes just the stud of a screw into the chamber section. The lug could slide through the slots, making the various turns and eventually be locked fairly tight on its final move to the right, inside the front edge of the receiver or loading opening.

To operate these Leyte shotguns it was merely necessary to rotate the barrel until the locking lug lined up with the forward slot and slide it forward until the lug contacted the first right angle turn. This distance was figured so the empty shell could be ejected without being blocked by the barrel. The extractor was a fixed flat spring type firmly attached to the breech and the ejector usually a flat spring fastened to the bottom of the breech tube or receiver, lying in a groove when the barrel was to the rear. The loaded shell was inserted in the barrel and the barrel pulled back in firing position and locked, the extractor hook passing over the rim of the shell to hold it and the ejector under the barrel. After firing the barrel would be pulled forward, the extractor would hold the shell so that the barrel would be pulled free of it and when the rear end of the barrel cleared the end of the ejector, the ejector could fly up and knock the shell away and out of the gun.


Contrary to general belief, these home-made “guerrilla guns” were not a wartime resistance-inspired weapon, but were the standard Filipino arm, many made years ago. They were just the Leyte Filipino’s shotgun. Factory-made guns were too expensive for him, even if they were available, so he bought a couple of boxes of shells and made his own gun. Ammunition was sold in the larger towns in peacetime.


A good bolo was always handy. I never saw a barong, but heard about them. A Filipino blacksmith told me he saw one once which had a blade 4″ wide and 30″ long, double edged and straight. I myself saw a farmer cutting sugar cane with a Luzon blade which he called a “badang,” the blade being pointed, narrow and as long as any Jap sword. In the South, the Moros had their wavy-bladed kris (pronounced “krees”) which was strictly a fighting instrument.

One fellow caught a 20mm explosive shell in the shoulder

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

I remember a young Marine trying to convince me that a .50-caliber round was so lethal that it would literally rip you apart just passing by. The other extreme seems almost equally implausible, but Dunlap saw it:

The Japs strafed the field a time or two and one fellow caught a 20mm explosive shell in the shoulder. He lived and I believe the arm was saved. Ordinarily a 20mm anywhere in the body is finis.

Not all vests are created equal

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Andy Stumpf has started the tactical @$$hole Instagram account to share photos of tactically unsound equipment and behavior.

I immediately noticed a photo of a Liberian fighter that I had shared a decade ago as an example of gangsta-style assault tactics:

I had found it on James R. Rummel’s site. It looks like he has purged most of his older material. Odd. Anyway, Stumpf has some fun with the material:

The sideways AK is truly an advanced move. If you have ever fired one you will know it has a very powerful and unique brass ejection. With this sideways orientation you can definitely “make it rain.” Accessory selection on the battlefield is also key, and it should be noted that not all vests are created equal. Although this vest will surely save your life in water, it is more of a “shoot at me” flair piece on land. The welding gloves are also a classic pairing.

A rifle round’s effectiveness depends on its crack & splash

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

A rifle round’s effectiveness depends on its crack & splash, Emeric Daniau explains:

In the first report, the acoustic and visual signature of several rounds are compared, including the XM645 “flechette” round fired from the XM19, the 5.56 mm M193 fired from the M16, the 7.62 x 39 mm fired from the AK, the 7.62 x 51 mm fired from the M60, the .45 ACP fired from the M1A1 SMG and the .50 BMG fired from the M2 HMG.

Those results will serve to identify physical parameters that could be used to build a relative scale for suppression, accounting for both acoustic and visual stimuli.

Results from the second report will be used to correlate this relative scale to real life “threatening” distance.


Live fire test performed at a distance of 150 m revealed that:

  • the mean dangerousness of both the XM19 and the M1A1 SMG were rated significantly lower than other weapons, the XM19 being rated significantly lower than the M1A1,
  • subjects failed to discriminate the AK from the M60, and the AK from the M16 (“From Table 5-14 it can be seen that only the comparisons of the AK47 with the M60 (+0.16) and the AK47 with the M16 (+0.23) fail to reach the ICI of 0.38 necessary for the demonstration of a significant difference in the mean perceived dangerousness for the two weapons”), but the difference between the M16 and the M60 could be considered significant (a ICI of 0.39 was achieved between those two weapons).
  • the .50 BMG scored the highest mean dangerousness value, but the result was not found “off scale” compared to other weapons,
  • mean dangerousness decreased linearly with the miss distance (minimum miss distance considered was 2 m).


Again, live fire tests performed at a distance of 150 m revealed that:

  • the M1A1 SMG in the visual signature mode received a higher mean suppression scale value than did the M16,
  • the visual effect of the .50 BMG M2 HMG was so much “off the scale” compared to other weapons that it was not possible to find a statistically significant difference between the M1A1 SMG, the M16 AR and the M60 MG (the XM19 was not rated).

It was anticipated that the visual signature of impacting bullets would be related to kinetic energy (because cavity volume in soft soils is directly a function of the kinetic energy), but the rating of the M1A1 SMG over the M16 suggests that other mechanisms could be involved.

This unexpected observation could be linked to the ricochet characteristics of those very different bullets, a low velocity.


For the 7.62 mm, a miss distance around 6 m will produce 50% of suppression, compared to around 3 m for the 5.56 mm and the .45 ACP, and 24 m for the .50 BMG (a class of its own, and ~4 times the miss distance of the 7.62 mm).

Presented differently, at a (presumed) distance of 150 m a single 7.62 mm NATO (24 g cartridge) could be expected to supress 50% of a group located in a 113 m² area, compared with 28 m² for the .223 Remington (12 g cartridge) and 1,800 m² for the .50 BMG round (115 g cartridge).

So, if we divide the suppression area by the cartridge weight, we found that at a distance of 150 m, 1 kg of .223 Remington ammunition will provide a 50% suppression effect in a 2,350 m² area, 1 kg of 7.62 mm NATO ammo will cover 4,710 m² (twice as much for the same ammo load) and 1 kg of .50 BMG will cover 15,700 m².

The miss distance for achieving suppression 90% of the time is much shorter, around 0.7 m for the 7.62 mm NATO, less than 0.5 m for the 5.56 mm and the .45 ACP, and 5 m for the .50 BMG (again, a class of its own in the realm of kinetic energy small-arms).

Show the grenadier the expected point of impact and CEP radius on Google Earth

Friday, April 12th, 2019

Emeric Daniau summarizes the historical trends in individual weapons over the last century:

The rise and fall of the effective range of the individual weapon can be seen as a direct effect of the “competition” between infantry fire and artillery fire in producing battlefield casualties, and a compromise between the effective range and the practical rate of fire.

If in the 60 years before 1914, less than 10% of the battlefield casualties were produced by artillery fire, during (at least) the 60 years after 1914 artillery fire replaced long-range small-arms fire as the main casualty factor.

The need to continuously increase the volume of fire led to the reduction in the practical range of small-arms to less than 400 m, and allowed the rifleman to carry and fire more cartridges with his individual weapon.

During the same timescale, infantry fire changed from collective fire aimed at compact columns manoeuvring in the open, to individual fire aimed at a single fleeting target using the maximum concealment and cover.

Under these engagement conditions, the hit probability of infantry fire was found sufficient up to 100 yards, and very low at ranges longer than 300 yards.

In order to increase the efficiency of the infantryman’s individual fire at long range, the concept of “controlled pattern dispersion” (ideally, 5 shots in a diamond pattern) was first introduced but for proper execution needed to use a “low recoil” cartridge.

The adoption of the 5.56 mm in the M16A1 was seen as a first step in this direction, but battlefield experience revealed that the recoil of the 5.56 mm round was not low enough for achieving “controlled dispersion” at ranges higher than 50 m, and most western armies have recently come back to semiauto firing only. Further reduction of the recoil impulse (like the .17 SBR among other experimental diminutive cartridges) was not so successful due to the concomitant reduction of terminal effectiveness, the Russian 5.45 x 39 mm being probably the best balance of reduced recoil and useful lethality.

Up to now, it seems that the closest practical realisation of the concept of “controlled pattern dispersion” is the G11 “3 shot burst” free-recoil system (at 2200 rpm) and the AN-94 “accelerated double-tap” (2 shot burst at 1800 rpm), two systems that have not achieved wide acceptance due to the mechanical complexity involved and have yet to demonstrate tactical interest compared to semiauto firing.

During the ‘90s, medium-velocity grenades of limited diameter (20 mm – 35 mm) with “effective” ranges around 600 m, were seen as a way to compensate for the infantryman’s lack of accuracy at long range, but without a proper “all weather” Fire Control Module enabling a fast acquisition of the target (it is doubtful that any soldier will be willing to expose himself to enemy fire for more than ~2 seconds), the average miss distance of such medium-velocity grenades will remain much higher than their effective casualty radius and the improvement of the infantryman’s hit probability is open to question.

The current trend toward “medium velocity” 40 x 46 mm grenades is also open to question, because between 0 to 350 m (and particularly between 50 m and 150 m), medium velocity grenades will impact the ground at shallower angle than a low velocity round, increasing the fuse malfunction rate and also reducing the warhead effectiveness if the round actually detonates.

Anyway, shoulder launched grenades (low-velocity, medium velocity or rifle grenades) have a definitive place on the battlefield because they provide both additional capabilities (against defilade targets for example) and effective suppressive effects.

A few grenades exploding behind enemy lines is a known way to distract opponents firing at you, making them thinking that they are attacked on two sides, even with a miss distance between 20 m and 50 m. Of course, for this task there is no need for expensive programmable fuses and even more expensive FCM, a simple HE-FRAG or HEAT rifle grenade will do the job.

Additionally, with a simple 3-axis accelerometer and a GPS chipset (like those found in every smartphone) wired into the grenade-launcher, it’s probably easy to design a simple “indirect sight” that will show the grenadier the expected point of impact and CEP radius of its grenade on “Google Earth” (or  something similar), enabling this high trajectory weapon to be used without exposing the shooter to returning fire.

As a side note, readers should be interested to read that a “Mortar Ballistic Computer” is (or at least was) available for download on the App Store (designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad!)

Being involved more and more in “low intensity” conflicts (without HE support) or with restrictive Rules of Engagements (RoE) that severely limit the access to HE support, the infantryman needs to be able to engage opposing forces at longer ranges than previously thought (up to 600 m for point targets), and fix them or limit their mobility up to 800 m (area targets).

The debate over whether these engagement distances should be achieved by the Individual Weapon or left to “collective” weapons like the DMR and LMG is still open, but the weight and recoil of the 7.62 mm ammunition in its current incarnation militate against its use in a lightweight Individual Weapon, hence the mix of 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm weapons in the same fire team.

The typical range estimation error for trained soldiers is around 30%

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

The French military experimented with a high-tech grenade-launcher for the same reasons the US did:

In the 1950s, the answer to the low hit probability of the average soldier at ranges higher than 100 m was the ”controlled dispersion” concept of full-auto fire, leading to the reduced-recoil 5.56 mm round.

The difficulty in implementing this concept (the recoil of the 5.56 mm round was still high enough to induce too much dispersion in a lightweight rifle), led to a shift from a burst of multiple kinetic energy projectiles to the use of a single high-explosive, fragmenting round, the fragmentation pattern taking care (at least on paper) of aiming errors.

The PAPOP project (Polyarme-Polyprojectile, similar to the US OICW) launched in June 1994 was intended to combine grenade launcher (for long range engagements) and a “kinetic energy” system for engaging targets at shorter range.


The project did not go very far, as the weight of the combined weapon was found to be too high and the grenade carrying capacity too low.

The effective casualty radius of air-bursting grenades was also found to be very small (between 14 m² against unprotected standing target and only 4 m² against protected prone target in the most favourable case of the 35 mm grenade), and very sensitive to bursting height & grenade falling angle. All in all, it was found that in order to be effective, the detonation of air-bursting grenades needed to be triggered with an accuracy of ~1 m in both range and direction, and 0.5 m in height, an unreasonable expectation for a hand-held weapon on the battlefield.

It should be pointed out that due to their low velocity, grenades are a very different beast than bullets and that without the help of a laser rangefinder, aiming errors with a grenade launcher are a full two orders of magnitude higher than for a rifle, nearly negating all of the benefit of the large casualty radius produced by the grenade fragmentation warhead at long range.

According to US results, the typical range estimation error for trained soldiers is around 30%, so for a target at a “true” distance of 288 m (for example), even a trained soldier will hesitate between the 250, 275, 300 and 325 m setting on his grenade-launcher sight (an average miss distance of 25 m before even taking into account the intrinsic weapon dispersion, compared with a typical grenade effective radius of 5 m to 10 m), and will need to “walk his fire” to the target at range longer than 150 m, a very difficult task with single-shot grenade launchers.

Even with a tripod-mounted laser rangefinder, operated by a trained spotter in a prone position, the average range error measurement is around 5% of the distance, and could be as high as 9.3%. At 600 m range, that’s an average error of 30 m, much more than the expected casualty radius of this class of warhead.

Typical defensive hand grenades that use a very simple (compact and lightweight) fuse weigh in between 400 g and 500 g, and have a reported casualty radius of around 10 m, so it is doubtful that a 20 mm to 40 mm spin-stabilized grenade with a weight between 100 g and 200 g could achieve a much better casualty radius.

If the same range measurement error could be achieved with a hand held (or shoulder held) device, combined with a 5 m to 10 m effective radius grenade, then a 300 m practical range could be claimed, but a 600 m practical range will require the measurement error to be halved.

Ruin any herrenvolk for about a 30-yard radius

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

While in Egypt, Dunlap saw a demonstration of the then-new British bakelite grenades — two of which looked alike, but acted differently:

One was just a blast type, which could be thrown and disregarded if over a few yards away, and the other a vicious fragmentation type which could ruin any herrenvolk for about a 30-yard radius. They looked alike, so if an enemy saw one coming he had to take cover, while the thrower knew what he had and could throw a blast type and run up on the enemy position while the Kraut had his head down.

I’m surprised more gear isn’t designed with this in mind. “All warfare is based on deception.”