Arms of today vs. yesteryear

This is a discussion on Arms of today vs. yesteryear within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Are the arms today more lethal than what was fielded in WW2? I wonder. They are lighter, probably more accurate with current optics, but are ...

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Array boatail's Avatar
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    Arms of today vs. yesteryear

    Are the arms today more lethal than what was fielded in WW2? I wonder. They are lighter, probably more accurate with current optics, but are they more effective? I think that the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, M2 Carbine, Thompson .45, Springfield 1903, S&W .38 and Colt .45 and of course the venerable M2 .50 cal were and are as lethal as anything on the battlefield today. The M2 of course is still King.
    There is no comparison as to the air power and artillery fielded today, but as far as the infantryman, I don't think there has been a comparable leap forward in effectivness. In fact, maybe the opposite.
    I would not feel undergunned with just about anything carried in WW2 today. I might wish it was lighter, but would not complain when I saw the effects downrange.
    What do you think?
    P.S. I forgot to add the arms of the Axis powers...Mg42, Shturmgerwer ( sp? ), etc.
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    Array QKShooter's Avatar
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    My opinion is that if the hit potential is greater with modern day long guns for whatever reason & then that results in better and more effective kills and incapacitation "shot to shot" then I guess you could call them more lethal.
    Strictly based on caliber alone I don't know.
    Personal body armor certainly is more effective these days (on our side anyway) and I guess another thing to "factor in" is that greater amounts of ammunition are expended these days also.
    So a modern day battlefield kill (with our amazing optics) could mean that the enemy was hit multiple times more with a technically less effective caliber.

    I'm open to any and all criticism or elaboration of my opinion.

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    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QKShooter View Post
    ... and I guess another thing to "factor in" is that greater amounts of ammunition are expended these days also.
    So a modern day battlefield kill (with our amazing optics) could mean that the enemy was hit multiple times more with a technically less effective caliber.

    I'm open to any and all criticism or elaboration of my opinion.
    On the contrary, shots per enemy combatant casualty has gone down. It peaked during Vietnam at somewhere in the neighborhood of 50k rounds fired per one VC.

    The advent of full auto rifles being issued to every grunt in the muck shot the round count up, and accuracy down.

    It's only been in the last 15 years that the military has started focusing back on marksmanship instead of spray and pray.

    I still would prefer a .308/7.62 round, but I can understand the thinkers in the decision to go with the .223/5.56 round. More ammo carried with the same weight. Running out of ammo in a firefight is a bad thing.

    Ballistic effectiveness since Vietnam has improved as well, making the 5.56 round perform a little better, combined with marksmanship.

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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    I think that the Caliber of the M1 garand 30.06 is a much more potent round,and the GI's were trained in Marksmanship.To be honest in Vietnam we were shooting a light round into heavy brush at an enemy that most of the time all we saw were muzzle flashes,but when we caught them in the open the hits per round count went up.IIRC the Issued M4 today has a 3 round burst instead of Full Auto,to prevent spray and pray
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    I don't really have a definitive answer to that question other than much of it seems to be a trade-off. FWIW, my favorite class of guns to shoot/collect are WWI and WWII milsurp; would I select any of those to use in combat today? Probably not, but I wouldn't feel helpless with them either.
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    The lethality of a small arm, as much now as then depends upon shot placement. A Mauser 98 round to the head at 600 yards is far more lethal than a two-second burst from a minigun to the dirt at the same distance. Similarly, at that same distance, the target is no more dead with an accurate burst than with the 98 round. Tactics, doctrine, the rules of engagement and other considerations have also changed tremendously between then and now and must be considered in any gun-to-gun comparison.
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    This is just my personal opinion, as a former ground-slogger in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The advent of the age where every infantryman has some sort of magnified optic, as well as either infra-red or night vision devices is probably the biggest leap in lethality on that level of warfare since the maxim gun.

    No doubt about it, that the rounds of WW2 were more powerful, I don't think you will find anyone who says a 5.56 is as powerful as a .30-06, an 8mm Mauser, or 7.63x54r round.

    However, even with just the 4x Acog on my M-16A4, my effective range at which I could clearly identify and engage the enemy was extended out to past 500 meters. And it wasn't just me in my squad who could do that, it was everyone in my squad. Then if you want to factor in the devices we could mount in front of the ACOG to utilize night vision technology or IR, while still keeping the same aiming reticle, it gets even better. It is extremely difficult to mask your IR signature, so day or night, we could find, identify, and engage the enemy effectively at distance. And then if you want to add in the laser unit every rifle has, that can be used for a myriad of tasks.

    Of course, all of this adds weight to the weapon, which means that you need to find other ways to save weight, including using a smaller round, which you can carry more of.

    This also doesn't take into account the 3 M-203 40mm grenade launchers attached to multiple M-16s in the squad. Or the Squads DM who can shoot even further. Or the multiple M-249 SAWS which also have can have magnified optics.

    Don't worry, I'm not going to try to defend the M-9 vs the 1911. But to suggest that the modern infantry rifle and the gear that is utilized with it a step in the wrong direction, is to me, absurd. Now, I suppose you could attach all the gear to a Garand, and it would have the same advantages (and a more powerful round), but then you would need to carry that extra weight. And the major problem with the Garand was the magazine/reloading issue. Not being able to top off with a fresh mag in a firefight is not a good thing. The M-4 has much better range than the M-1 or M-2 carbine ever did. And with a 10.5" barrel makes a quite handy fill in for a SMG, like the Thompson, which never had great ballistics at anything over a couple hundred yards. And the effective range of the modern sniper rifles is much better than the 1903, and they are often semi-automatic, and retain the power or greater of .30-06.

    And yes, Ma Deuce is still the king when it comes to small arms. And that is why it is still used daily on the ground and in the air.

    As for the German weapons, if you take apart a M-240B, you can trace the lineage back to their MG series of weapons.

    But, this is just my humble opinion, as both a historian, and biased, modern ground pounder
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  10. #9
    Array bmcgilvray's Avatar
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    All have posted good points to consider. It becomes apparent that we overemphasize the differences in all the various designs that fling projectiles despite the fact that all use the self-contained metallic cartridge, a technology which was pretty well in place by the end of the Civil War. All too often there's less real difference than we would like to think. Especially when a competent man is put behind the gun.
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    The greatest potential advance with modern small arms (if you can call it that) is with the new XM25, 25mm grenade launcher that can set the grenade to detonate above an enemy who is behind cover. That would truly be revolutionary - if it works.
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    VIP Member Array multistage's Avatar
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    With no disrespect to the black rifle crowd (and I certainly defer to those who carried a rifle for a living), I am and forever will be a bolt gun guy. I don't know if the bolt guns and semis from yesteryear lent themselves to better accuracy, or if the soldiers knew they were incapable of going cyclic and had only so many rounds before a reload. Or maybe the better metallurgy and lighter rifles of today are what make them better. Or maybe I'm all wet about the whole thing. My father got one of those southeastern Asian tours from '67-'69. He said the M-16 was a weapon he did not care for. On the other hand, he favored the M-60. Said it was the best gun there.

    But he never volunteered much information, and I never pressed. My theory was if you were there, you already know. If you weren't, you cannot understand. But I digress.

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    VIP Member Array JoJoGunn's Avatar
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    I seriously doubt that the small arms of today are any more lethal than their WWI, WWII, or Korean counterparts, they certainly are just as lethal as an M1 Garand, K98 Mauser, Lee Enfield or Mosin-Nagant but some like the M-16 with smaller bullet and cartridge casing.

    The 5.56, .308 or 7.62x39 round in modern times is just as lethal, but not more so than firearm rounds from previous years. In fact, the .308 NATO round came from the .30-06 after the Korean conflict with the development of the M-14 in the late 1950's.

    My thoughts however is that all military firearms have lethality depending on how they are applied or for what general purpose the are engineered. I really like most do not want to be on the recieving end of any of them.
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    Array rstickle's Avatar
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    If you are just talking bullet lethality I'd say it's about the same.

    The military is still limited (by treaty I think) the FMJ ball round, the same type used in WWII and beyond. the only thing that has changed some is bullet diameter, weight and core in some cases.

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  15. #14
    Senior Member Array MilitaryArms's Avatar
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    Yes, the weapons we have today are more lethal. A weapon is more than a caliber, it's an entire system. It's everything from the rifle, caliber, sights, and the training of the Soldiers that carry it that make it a system. The modularity of our modern weapons coupled with the RDS, night vision, and magnified optics that are available today make the modern infantry rifle superior to their counterparts from 70 years ago. Modern weapon systems are more versatile in how and where they can be used (CQB, long range, night, low visibility, etc.).
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    VIP Member Array jonconsiglio's Avatar
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    Like buckeye .45 and MilitaryArms have stated, it's not just about caliber. Realize that the 5.45x39 cartridge was developed because of the 5.56x45. Think about it. The 7.62x39 is a larger caliber, but they needed something smaller to combat the 5.56x45. So, if we were discussing being able to fire just one bullet, then the caliber may play a bigger role.
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