1. No commercially available alternatives perform measurably better than existing ammunition at close quarters battle ranges for exposed frontal targets.
Interestingly, the one 7.62mm round that received the full evaluation,
the M80 fired from the M14 rifle, performed in the same band of performance, which would indicate that for M80 ammunition at least there appears to be no benefit to the larger caliber at close quarters range.
2. Shot placement trumps all other variables; expectation management is key. Though this should produce a “well, duh!” response from the experienced warfighter, it cannot be emphasized enough. We try hard to inculcate a “one-shot, one-kill” mentality into Soldiers. When they go to the qualification range, if they hit the target anywhere on the E-type silhouette, the target drops. The reality is that all hits are not created equal – there is a very narrow area where the human body is vulnerable to a single shot if immediate incapacitation is expected.
3. Field reports are accurate and can be explained by the phenomenon of bullet yaw. Shot placement aside, why is it that some Soldiers report “through and-through” hits while others report no such problems, despite using the same weapons and ammunition? The phenomenon of bullet yaw can explain such differences in performance.
Unfortunately, projectiles impacting at different yaw angles can have significantly different performance, particularly as the projectile slows down. Consider the two photos on this page. In the first (Figure 6), the bullet impacted at almost zero yaw. It penetrated deeply into the gel block before becoming unstable. In a human target, it is very likely that this round would go straight through without disruption – just as our troops have witnessed in the field. In the second photo (Figure 7), the bullet impacted the gel block at a relatively high yaw angle. It almost immediately destabilized and began to break, resulting in large temporary and permanent wound cavities. Our troops have witnessed this in action too; they are more likely to report that their weapons were effective.
Hits to the center mass of the torso may eventually cause incapacitation as the target bleeds out, but this process takes time, during which a motivated target will continue to fight. While projectile design can make a good hit more effective, a hit to a critical area is still required; this fact is borne out by the Medal of Honor citations of numerous American Soldiers who continued to fight despite being hit by German 7.92mm, Japanese 6.5mm and 7.7mm, or Chinese or Vietnamese 7.62mm rounds. A more realistic mantra might be “One well-placed shot, one-kill.”