US rifles not suited to warfare in Afghan hills

This is a discussion on US rifles not suited to warfare in Afghan hills within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; By SLOBODAN LEKIC (AP) 1 day ago KABUL, Afghanistan The U.S. military's workhorse rifle used in battle for the last 40 years ...

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Thread: US rifles not suited to warfare in Afghan hills

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array ExSoldier's Avatar
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    Exclamation US rifles not suited to warfare in Afghan hills

    By SLOBODAN LEKIC (AP) 1 day ago

    KABUL, Afghanistan The U.S. military's workhorse rifle used in battle for the last 40 years is proving less effective in Afghanistan against the Taliban's more primitive but longer range weapons.

    As a result, the U.S. is reevaluating the performance of its standard M-4 rifle and considering a switch to weapons that fire a larger round largely discarded in the 1960s.

    The M-4 is an updated version of the M-16, which was designed for close quarters combat in Vietnam. It worked well in Iraq, where much of the fighting was in cities such as Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah.

    But a U.S. Army study found that the 5.56 mm bullets fired from M-4s don't retain enough velocity at distances greater than 1,000 feet (300 meters) to kill an adversary. In hilly regions of Afghanistan, NATO and insurgent forces are often 2,000 to 2,500 feet (600-800 meters) apart.

    Afghans have a tradition of long-range ambushes against foreign forces. During the 1832-1842 British-Afghan war, the British found that their Brown Bess muskets could not reach insurgent sharpshooters firing higher-caliber Jezzail flintlocks.

    Soviet soldiers in the 1980s found that their AK-47 rifles could not match the World War II-era bolt-action Lee-Enfield and Mauser rifles used by mujahedeen rebels.

    "These are important considerations in Afghanistan, where NATO forces are frequently attacked by insurgents using ... sharpshooter's rifles, which are all chambered for a full-powered cartridge which dates back to the 1890s," said Paul Cornish, curator of firearms at the Imperial War Museum in London.

    The heavier bullets enable Taliban militants to shoot at U.S. and NATO soldiers from positions well beyond the effective range of the coalition's rifles.

    To counter these tactics, the U.S. military is designating nine soldiers in each infantry company to serve as sharpshooters, according to Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, who wrote the Army study. They are equipped with the new M-110 sniper rifle, which fires a larger 7.62 mm round and is accurate to at least 2,500 feet (800 meters).

    At the heart of the debate is whether a soldier is better off with the more-rapid firepower of the 5.56mm bullets or with the longer range of the 7.62 mm bullets.

    "The reason we employ the M-4 is because it's a close-in weapon, since we anticipate house-to-house fighting in many situations," said Lt. Col. Denis J. Riel, a NATO spokesman.

    He added that each squad also has light machine guns and automatic grenade launchers for the long-range engagements common in Afghanistan.

    In the early years of the Vietnam War, the Army's standard rifle was the M-14, which fired a 7.62 mm bullet. The gun had too much recoil to be controllable during automatic firing and was considered too unwieldily for close-quarter jungle warfare. The M-16 replaced it in the mid-1960s.

    Lighter bullets also meant soldiers could carry more ammunition on lengthy jungle patrols.

    The M-16 started a general trend toward smaller cartridges. Other weapons such as the French FAMAS and the British L85A1 adopted them, and the round became standardized as the "5.56mm NATO."

    The Soviet Union, whose AK-47 already used a shorter 7.62 mm bullet that was less powerful but more controllable, created a smaller 5.45mm round for its replacement AK-74s.

    "The 5.56 mm caliber is more lethal since it can put more rounds on target," said Col. Douglas Tamilio, program manager for U.S. Army firearms at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. "But at 500-600 meters (1,600-2,000 feet), the round doesn't have stopping power, since the weapon system was never designed for that."

    The arsenal, which is the Army's center for small-arms development, is trying to find a solution.

    A possible compromise would be an interim-caliber round combining the best characteristics of the 5.56mm and 7.62mm cartridges, Tamilio said.

    The challenge is compounded by the fact that in flat areas of Afghanistan, most firefights take place at shorter ranges of up to 1,000 feet (300 meters), where the M-4 performs well.

    U.S. soldiers in militant-infested Zhari district in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province said they haven't experienced problems with the range of their M-4 rifles.

    Lt. Scott Doyle, a platoon commander in Zhari, said his troops are usually facing Taliban AK-47s. "When the Taliban get past 300 meters (1,000 feet) with an AK-47, they are just spraying and praying," he said.

    Martin Fackler, a ballistics expert, also defended the 5.56 mm round, blaming the M-4s inadequate performance on its short barrel, which makes it easier for soldiers to scramble out of modern armored vehicles.

    "Unfortunately weapon engineers shortened the M-16's barrel to irrational lengths," Fackler said. "It was meant for a 20-inch barrel. What they've done by cutting the barrel to 14.5 inches is that they've lost a lot of velocity."
    Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.

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    VIP Member Array Hiram25's Avatar
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    I think they need to re-activate "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON" from the Vietnam era!
    Hiram25
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    VIP Member Array edr9x23super's Avatar
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    6.8 SPC...... Problem solved.
    "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined". - Patrick Henry

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    Wink Puff? They DID!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hiram25 View Post
    I think they need to re-activate "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON" from the Vietnam era!
    Now they call it "SPOOKY" C-130 gun ship with 3 minigus and a BOFORS 20mm cannon and a semi auto 105mm Howitzer all with computer controlled pinpoint accuracy.

    http://www.globalaircraft.org/planes/ac-130_spectre.pl

    However if this was a war we could settle from the air, it'd have been over years ago. But like all wars, it requires boots on the ground INFANTRY and that means the proper equipment and ROE.
    Last edited by ExSoldier; May 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 PM. Reason: add link
    Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.

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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    They are exactly right about the barrel length. The 223 needs the 20 inch barrel to make 3100 fps, which is what it was designed for. No suprise here.

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    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
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    I wonder if this debate will ever be resolved.

    That said, I would concur that a 20" barrel 5.56 would give an increase in effective range.
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

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    Member Array 120mm's Avatar
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    Old, bad article recycling complete B.S.

    The enemy has nowhere near the rifle/carbine range that we have.

    We have crew served weapons for outside rifle/carbine range.

    This is baloney.

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    VIP Member Array SIGguy229's Avatar
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    By and large, BGs in AFG are using AKs...by exception are they using captured Dragonov's or Enfields....

    It's RPGs and IEDs that are the real problem...

    Don't get me wrong...I wish I had a heavier bullet in my rifle when I was there...but hits were hits...even though it took more than one to put them down permanently.
    Magazine <> clip - know the difference

    martyr is a fancy name for crappy fighter
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    I understand the concept of having everyone use the same firearm and caliber, makes supplying it easier (parts, ammo, etc).

    But anything that's "multipurpose," as the M-16 and its varients are, is pretty good at a lot of things, but not necessarily the best at any of them. It usually takes a mix of specific things designed to do a specific purpose to get the job accomplished.

    But I wouldn't want to be on the front end of a 5.56 at any range.
    Retired USAF E-8. Avatar is OldVet from days long gone. Oh, to be young again.
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    VIP Member Array ExSoldier's Avatar
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    Wink Thank you for your service...

    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    Old, bad article recycling complete B.S.

    The enemy has nowhere near the rifle/carbine range that we have.

    We have crew served weapons for outside rifle/carbine range.

    This is baloney.
    Thank you for your service. You are of course entitled to your opinion. It's probably an informed opinion, too. In fact I'm sure it is. I note your location as the land once known as Mesopotamia. Have you ever served in Afghanistan?

    I'm told by folks who have informed opinions in that AO that average engagement ranges outside of the cities and towns can be in excess of 600-800 meters. Pretty much ridge line to ridge line. The maximum effective range of the 5.56mm is 460 meters. At least that's what they told me at the Infantry Officer Basic Course, oh so long ago.

    Of course I'd be more inclined to get my guys under cover and call in some CAS or the arty assets, but then I'd also be wondering who was maneuvering on us closer than the far engagement while we were hunkered and waiting for fire support. That kind of terrain favors the Muj enemy. After all they've been fighting there for a thousand years.
    Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.

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    VIP Member Array varob's Avatar
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    I thought some troops were deploying with M-14s for this reason?
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    Senior Member Array Shadowsbane's Avatar
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    And in the next war, people will be complaining about low capacity heavy recoil weapons being used in close quarters combat.

    Changing calibers/platforms is a logistical nightmare.

    Throw in a few DMR rifles per squad, increase actual training of those who are doing the fighting, use heavier projectiles (77 grain or such) and things will be much different.
    Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.

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    VIP Member Array ExSoldier's Avatar
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    Question ??

    Quote Originally Posted by varob View Post
    I thought some troops were deploying with M-14s for this reason?
    I dunno about whole units deploying with the M14, but I have heard that each unit is given the authority to create a position of DESIGNATED MARKSMAN within a squad but I don't recall how many. Usually it's folks who simply qualified expert with the M16 and they're issued the M14 and given training on the differences in ballistics plus some decent optics to engage enemy at a distance in excess of the current 5.56mm ranges. Personally, I'd love to get the chance to use my ROBAR tuned M1A Super Match with my 3x10 Shepherd range finding scope with some Federal Gold Match ammo in that role. Alas, as has been true throughout all of human history, such conflicts are only for our youngest and most courageous. I think that's messed up. Bring the kids home to get on with their lives and really LIVE some! Let the old guys go and "take care of business...."
    Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.

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    VIP Member Array SIGguy229's Avatar
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    Just before I rotated into Afghanistan, the RC-S Command Sgt Maj visited Ft Riley to give us the latest on what was happening there.

    Bottomline: He wanted all of his Soldiers to have ACOGs (i.e. optics with magnification), because the enemy was engaging from great distances...and we couldn't see/touch them with the 1x Aimpoints.

    Please don't take this as a ding on Aimpoints--but in the setting where troops were operating in RC-S, ACOGs were the preferred optic. My Aimpoint worked fine...
    Magazine <> clip - know the difference

    martyr is a fancy name for crappy fighter
    You have never lived until you have almost died. For those that have fought for it, life has a special flavor the protected will never know

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    Distinguished Member Array razor02097's Avatar
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    ar10

    Still a NATO cartridge.... just sayin...
    There is something about firing 4,200 thirty millimeter rounds/min that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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