Combat distance


Scott Evans
March 24, 2003, 04:56 PM
In some past discussions I’ve mentioned that combat distance for point (man size) targets is out to 500m and 800m for area targets. With this in mind I have felt that the current issue 5.56 lacked sufficient energy at those distances to be the chambering for our standard infantry rifle. I have heard arguments to the contrary stating that 300m is a realistic max and should be our focus.

Fine for us arm chair generals to suppose how it might be … However; this weekend I was watching the footage of some 1st Marine Marines engaged with Iraqi forces. Enemy were all about and in a three story building. The building was targeted first by an AT-4 but that round fell short. Then they the hit it with one of two Javelin anti tank rounds. Interesting to me was the fact that AT-4s have an effective range of 400m. (At least they did 12 years ago when I was in the Marine Corps) The one they fired fell well short yet the entire unit was fully engaged with their M-16’s, M-249’ and G240’s. I was wondering what the response might be from those of you that hold to the 300m max school of thought. Certainly one must recognize that in areas with terrain such as our troops are finding in Iraq & Afghanistan the likely hood of engagements at distances of 500-800m is likely. As such we should equip our troops with weapons & training to meet such challenges. I was thinking it would have been great for the Marines if half of the M-16’s in the unit were replaced with M-14’s.


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Dave P
March 24, 2003, 05:01 PM
I know if I was out there, I would want a 308 to give me much more penetration power thru all those walls!

Marko Kloos
March 24, 2003, 05:09 PM

they must have taught you in the Corps how much hit probability decreases once you go past 200 yards. Yes, you can reach past 500 or so with the .308, but you'll need a lot of extra ammo to make up for the decreased hit probability, especially if your target doesn't cooperate and stand still like a military silhouette popper.

If it's 500 yards and further, there are other tools in the squad toolbox. Get a 203, SAW, Mark 19, or M2 on the job, especially if it's behind cover. With a .308 battle rifle, you carry too few rounds on you to be able to afford popping a few magazines into a covered target at 600 yards.

Just my $0.02 from another ex-grunt's POV.

March 24, 2003, 05:15 PM
Yes, you can reach past 500 or so with the .308, but you'll need a lot of extra ammo to make up for the decreased hit probability

I'm sure the vast majority of the rounds being fired over there are the M855. From my experience at my local 500yd range, My M855 reloads are just as accurate as my Portugese or Hirtenburger 147FMJ rounds. My scoped FAL shoots 10inch groups at 500yds and my Mini 14 shoots 12inch groups at 500yds. Both rounds could miss paper if I shot into the wind, but both rounds are better than the M193 as far as range and penetration.

Why not issue a bolt action for each squad?:neener:

Marko Kloos
March 24, 2003, 05:22 PM

I wasn't referring to the inherent accuracy of the .308 at that range, but rather the decreased probability of the operator scoring a hit at that range.

Scott Evans
March 24, 2003, 05:29 PM
Hit probability at any distance is a matter of training. Damage caused at distance is a matter of energy. The amount a Marine can carry is a matter of conditioning (to a point I realize).

The ability to Hit and damage targets at a distance beyond your enemy’s ability is a big plus and should not be ignored.

I will not argue, however; against the notion that good use of combined arms is best at keeping the enemy at arms length.

March 24, 2003, 05:31 PM
Your right and I agree. Unless they want to draft a bunch of Hi-power guys nobody is going to be able to shoot 2 MOA in a heated battle.

More is better.

March 24, 2003, 06:00 PM
Let's look realistically at 99 perdnt of infantry engagements worldwide, not the other 1 percent.

In that case, it's less than 200 yards. So do we handicap our guys with a big bulky hard kicking unwieldy .308, that they can't carry much ammo for? Just in case of the 1 percent chance?

Of course not!

Marko Kloos
March 24, 2003, 06:11 PM
Instead of intermediate "compromise" cartridges, it'd make more sense to make *two* rifles general issue, and train troops on both. Then, depending on the country of deployment, you issue the rifle that fits the terrain: a 5.56 for forested, hilly, and urban areas, and a 7.62 for wide open spaces like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I side with cheygriz, though...issue the rifle that's more useful in the most situations, not the one that might be better in maybe 10% of combat scenarios.

March 24, 2003, 06:30 PM
with a big bulky hard kicking unwieldy .308, that they can't carry much ammo for?

My issue weapon is alot heavier and bulkier than any .308 service rifle that I know of. So is the weapon of every other SAW gunner out there, yet they get by. Yes, even in urban terrain.

"Hard kicking"? Oh, come on. My 110lb female friend isn't bothered by the recoil from my FAL.

"Unweildy"? I find nothing unweildy about a FAL or an M14, if they're balanced right. Shorten the barrels on them to 18", giving them the same OAL as an M16: 40". Or, the same OAL as a 20" bbl CQB shotgun, for that matter.

Can't carry much ammo for? I know of a vest that allows you to carry either 8 or 12 20-round FAL/M14/G3 mags, depending on configuration. That's 160 or 240 rounds, respectively. Is it going to be heavier than an equal amount of 5.56mm? Yes, but it's hardly undoable. If I can handle that then I'm sure Rangers, Marines, and others much higher speed than I can.

No need for exxagerations.

In my opinion, a 6x45mm intermediate cartridge, supplemented by one or two guys per squad (designated marksman) with scoped (or not scoped, depending on environment), reasonably accurate battle rifles in .308, .30-06, or something similar, would be a better compromise. That way, the average rifleman can carry more ammo, and you have the designated marksmen for when targets are farther away.

I also like Lendringser's idea. Why do we insist on only having one rifle? It's not like the US Military couldn't afford to have two kinds (or more) of rifles, but doing so would require more training, and in many ways the military seems to greatly dislike spending the money on weapons training. Hence soldiers with poor trigger finger discipline, etc.

Also, I have a question. The saw is a 5.56mm weapon, and in fact has a slightly shorter barrel than an M16. Why does anyone consider its effective range to be any more than an M16? Sure, it can spray rounds faster, but that doesn't give them higher velocity or better penetration/energy retention. And the SAW, firing from an open bolt, with a very high cyclic rate, certainly isn't anymore accurate than an M16.

You can walk rounds onto target at long range, with tracers and a spotter. But the SAW is issued as an individual weapon; you don't get an assistant gunner to be your spotter. 600+ meter targets are best dealt with by 7.62x51mm GPMGs, if they're available.

March 24, 2003, 06:43 PM
Does anyone remember why we decided to go to a lighter cartridge? Apperantly, in the Korean War, a study was taken that showed that most troops, despite being armed with a .30'06, would not fire at enemies at 500, 400, 300, or even 200 yards. Most waited until the enemy was within 150 yards. At that range, I would much rather have a 5.56mm than a .30'06, lighter recoil, faster firing, easier to accquire targets (lighter rifle). Also, when faced with human wave attacks, 8 rounds of .30'06 went pretty quick. This is how I understand it, and mere speculation. Yes, .30'06 and .308 are better for long range. But why equip troops with it if they don't take advantage of that advantage.

March 24, 2003, 07:10 PM
The amount a Marine can carry is a matter of conditioning (to a point I realize).

For any given Marine, at whatever level of conditioning, more 5.56 can be carried than 7.62. OR, to put it another way, will you have more ammo if you carry 30 pounds of 5.56 or 30 pounds of 7.62?


I'm with ledsringer on this. It does no good to give troops 1000 yard "battle rifles" if they can't hit anything past 300 meters. And all the Marine Corp bragging aside, the jarhead that can hit reliably past 300 meters is a rare bird. Oh, not as rare as an Army puke that can do it? Fine, whatever. Still a rare bird, and not a proper basis for formulating general policy.

It ALSO makes sense to recognize and adjust your weaponry to fit the situation, i.e., jungle vs. urban vs. desert.

A multi weapon approach is probably the most workable approach to this.

BTW, if you can't effectively engage your enemy with what you have, you call in support. That's what they're there for.

Marko Kloos
March 24, 2003, 07:32 PM
All of a sudden I am picturing a bunch of Marines slogging through the desert with rifle caddies toting the guns.

"Yeah, that looks like a 600-yard shot, through light cover. Hand me the scoped M-14, Jeeves." :D

March 24, 2003, 08:06 PM
Good evening fellow arm chair commadoes. This thread is really great entertainment, I love it but Lets talk reality.

Most grunts never saw a rifle before entering the military and it takes a good three years of intensive rifle training to get to the point where you can hit targets way out there under the best and most calmest of conditions. We are not talking combat when the fellow next to you suddendly spilled his brains all over your person.

Its been proven over and over again that the average fire fight takes place at extremely close ranges and when the fight does break out at long range the heavy weapons are a far better choice. Heavy machine guns, mortors , artillary , tanks and air strikes. When the enemy is in a stone building or behind cover you do not wait around for him to show enough of himself so you can take pot shots at him. You blow the building down on top of him with the heavy stuff and then saturate him with napalm or flame throwers.

The light recoiling, full auto , small caliber, carry lots of ammo weapon is the best weapon for the average grunt. This is why the current 3 shot burst mechanism on the M16 is basically a step back in the evolution of the assault weapon. Psychologically it does not work and firepower wise it also does not do the job like the full auto saturation fire that soldiers love to use in close combat. The Russian psychologists found out it was only the full auto weapons that soldiers would use when they were in an isolated position refusing even to fire semi-auto weapons unless they were under the eye of their comrades. Full auto was another story, they used them and loved them. They could not fire enough ammo out of them. The more ammo you gave them the more they fired. All that hot lead eventually found its mark and kept the ememy ducking even when it missed.

Sniper rifles do have their place but when used by skilled and highly trained elite soldiers that because of expensive and long training are always very few in number. Not 90 day wonders that just got out of boot camp.

You can put the most precision made rifle in the world in someones hands but alas and unfortunatley they will prove they are not all instant re-incarnations of Carlos Hathcock. I wish it were so but reality is reality.

Marko Kloos
March 24, 2003, 08:35 PM
Full-auto fire in any rifle caliber gun lighter than a SAW is a pointless waste of ammo.

March 24, 2003, 08:45 PM
...and even in a SAW you had best leave it to short bursts. With a 1000rpm cyclic, it's hard to keep the sights on target. Muzzle climb isn't an issue with the 20lb weapon (loaded), but firing rattles your sight picture so much that anything more than a short burst and you're going to stray off target (not to mention the fact that you'll decrease the time between necessary barrel changes).

And I have a food for thought question. For those that insist that low recoil, light weight, and high capacity are the best features of a modern military weapon, would then an FN P90 type weapon be even better than an M4 carbine? Every weight, size, and capacity advantage that the M4 has over, say, the FAL, the P90 has over the M4. It weighs like 4lbs loaded. 50 rounds per mag, without excess weight. It'll still defeat a flak jacket at 200m (if the FN reps are to be believed) and if all firefights take place at 100 meters and in, wouldn't it then be ideal? A soldier could easily carry 400 rounds, if he had a vest that held eight spare magazines. Supplement it with a few M4/M203 combos and SAWs per squad and you should be about good to go, right? After all, if the enemy is beyond your weapons' range, you call in artillery, right? Note that I'm using the P90 as an example; a similar weapon could be substituted in this scenario (use your imagination), as the P90 isn't perfect.

I'm just playing devil's advocate, here. I'm familliar with the shortcomings of the 5.7x28mm FN SS190 round. But it does offer a few advantages, such as light weight and compact size, allowing quite a bit of ammo to be carried.

March 24, 2003, 08:50 PM
Yes, the 5.56 cartridge weighs something like 47% less than 7.62 so you can carry more. Plus it has less recoil for better full auto use (the military wanted a controlable machinegun for infantry). Unfortunately, under about 2700 fps the 5.56 round isn't traveling fast enough to yaw once it impacts so hits over approx. 200m aren't very effective. Granted there are many battles under that range, but there are many over to. The one thing I like about the 7.62 is not necessarily the increased energy at range but the excess energy on tap for PENETRATION through barriers. Everybody hides behind something. AP rounds do an even better job. The velocity of the the 7.62 is only about 10% less than the 5.56 but shoots a bullet with well over twice the weight. Something to think about... As for the number of rounds carried I don't think that in either a military or survival situation you need massive quantities. The military generally has excellent resupply and in a SHTF situation you aren't going to be going up against massive armies. Besides, if I have to use more than three or four rounds per hit I shouldn't be shooting at all!
Both rounds have their place but the 7.62 shouldn't be discounted...

Art Eatman
March 24, 2003, 10:01 PM
BHP9, I don't have a clue whether you're judging other people by your own history as to learning to shoot a rifle. I suspect there are some folks at places like Gunsite who might disagree with you.

My father never talked at length of his experiences in France and in Germany during WW II, but bits and pieces lead me to believe that more guys did use aimed fire at the enemy than is often stated. Further, it was not all short-range stuff. Like I say, bits and pieces--but believable.

While I agree that in "normal" situations, targets out beyond a few hundred yards should be inflicted with Big Things, I rather doubt that any soldier would expect to always be under the wings of some Momma Hen Heavy Stuff.

A buddy of mine and I were discussing some of this stuff, just today. His favorite weapon in Vietnam was a radio. He strongly supports the three-shot burst mechanism, as it gives better fire-discipline and reduces the possibility of an isolated unit running out of ammo. He wants some squad members to have full-auto capability, for suppresive capability if ambushed.

One thing I see as being different from the old WW II and Korean War era is the amount of other "stuff" that GIs have to hump. SFAIK, those days had a hump-load around 75 to 90 pounds, including ammo. Today? The newspaper articles speak of 160 pounds--and this is in company with multitudes of vehicles.

So I dunno. Hard to make absolutist statements. My own opinion is that I'd look to the battlefield probabilites before deciding on "the best" weapon. M1? M14? FAL? Seems to me that a bunch of ammo and then water, food and some bedding gear--and after that it all gets to be a grey area...The open country of Afghanistan and Iraq leads me to believe that the .223 weaponry isn't the best. But if that's what you have, your tactics must maximize its inherent effectiveness.


March 24, 2003, 10:35 PM
I just have to wonder how many of those surplus Garands or bolt-guns are being used against us.
IMO, I've never been a fan of the M-16 series rifle, have not to this day even picked one up, and I spent 10 years in the military.
I've been into guns since I can remember and the .223 is a varmint caliber.
The caliber isn't even recommended on deer and they are "man-sized" targets. Most recommend at least a .243, and that's usually minimum.
All those .223 loyalists can try to justify it to we "non-loyalists" all day long, but physics is still physics.
We may classify our enemies as varmints from time to time, but, as we have come to know, can be much harder to kill and can shoot back.

March 24, 2003, 10:41 PM
Well said, Mr. Eatman.

There is no one true sword, one weapon that's ideal for every circumstance. Everything is a trade-off or a compromise in one form or another. For military rifles, it basically boils down to this:

Do you want more ammo or more powerful ammo?

More powerful ammo, that is, ammo that propels a heavier bullet to higher velocities, requires a larger case, more powder, and of course the heavier bullet. This makes the ammo bulkier and makes it weigh more. It also increases recoil.

On the other hand, a diminutive cartridge offers more compact size and lighter weight, but at the expensive of cartridge power. You'll notice there are no available .22LR loadings that offer up 400 ft-lbs of energy? Again, compromise.

Basically, what we're arguing about is what the best compromise is. In my opinion, there is no one best compromise for every situation, which is why in an ideal world the military would have available (and would be amply trained on) a variety of weapons, dependent on the terrain, type of conflict, nature of the enemy, etc.

In the real world, they have to pick one or two weapons systems and do their best (through tactics) to make them work in the widest variety of systems.

March 24, 2003, 11:11 PM
Hand me the scoped M-14, Jeeves.

WWTWD? What Woiuld Tiger Woods Do?


Echoing Mr. Eatman, here. No one perfect weapon. Nice summary, Nightcrawler.

But as for the 5.56 being ineffective past 200 meters...


Tell you what - let's run a test. You get out there at 300 or 350 yards, and I'll see what I can do with a stock AR-15. :what:

I dropped the long targets very regularly when I was in the Army, and I don't think you want to be on the receiving end. The 5.56 does just fine on humans at that range.

But .243? Yeah, I think that might be a good choice.

Art Eatman
March 24, 2003, 11:31 PM
In hunting for Bambi, we are concerned about the ethics of a clean kill.

In a war, we ain't. A guy with a relatively minor, .223 hole in him commonly becomes a non-combatant. At the least, his effectiveness is dramatically reduced, particularly if he's 300 to 500 yards away.

As far as humping and toting, my hunting walking, here in my desert, has included a 9.5-pound rifle and somewhere between 12 and 15 miles in a day of eight to ten hours. That's up and down low mountains, covered with rolling rocks and cactus and other pleasantries. Below 50 degrees F, I don't need water or food. To 80F, a pint to a quart, maybe. I don't do that now; I sorta slowed down when I hit 60. So, if I knew I'd get re-supply around sundown, I'd travel fairly light if chasing Al Quaida types in the Afghan mountains. God bless Mr. Marconi.

Training, acclimation, supplies...It's all variable, and there's no one size fitting all. But I'd like to be able to play Ma Bell.

:), Art

March 25, 2003, 03:29 AM
I don't think hit probablility is solely a function of training. The enemy is going to duck, dodge, and generally make it difficult to get a hit.

Of course, if you might insist on making those valuable hits count more by using .308 rather than .223. I would have a hard time disagreeing with that.

March 25, 2003, 07:19 AM
For those of you that think the .223 is not effective past 100 yards I offer proof that it is.

I have a buddy who used to regularly shoot big deer out of his back kitchen window at a measured range of 200 yards with of all things full metal jacketed bullets out of a real M16 set on semi-auto. In no case did any deer that I saw that were hit run much more than 20 yards before they keeled over.

For those of you who missed it there was a very, very excellent article a few weeks ago in Shotgun news that discussed the .223 cartridge past and current lethality along with the current .220 Russian round.

What was found was that the newer SS109 round is actually way less lethal than the prior 55 grain military round but even that was less lethal than the original .220 Russian round. It seems as though the current round does not yaw much when it strikes living flesh as compared to the Viet-Nam era round. The article when on to say the the .220 Russian round was very lethal when compared to our .223 round both in past and present form.

Scott Evans
March 25, 2003, 08:26 AM
Quote by: Quartus
But as for the 5.56 being ineffective past 200 meters...


Tell you what - let's run a test. You get out there at 300 or 350 yards, and I'll see what I can do with a stock AR-15.

Nice try Quartus but your test dose not reflect the notion of the argument that we have here. Try it this way:

Open desert terrain, 800m between, 4 guys with m-16’s against 4 guys armed with 2 m-16’s and 2 M-14’s. The mission of each squad is to close with the other. Now which team gets your bet?

Further: Our troops are currently and daily engaging Iraqis well past 200 & 300m. The 5.56 may be fine for the majority of engagements you might have in jungle areas or even urban scenarios. However; for present day threats and likely theaters (Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea) the current rifle squad needs to be augmented with a harder hitting round at real (like what’s going on now in Iraq) combat distances. If the 7.62 is too heavy then an intermediate round should be developed. In the mean time if even 1 in every 4 infantrymen were issued an M-14 the efficiency of the squads effective firepower at distance would be increased notably.

March 25, 2003, 09:37 AM
Scott, you missed the point. I was responding solely to the silly idea that the 5.56 is not lethal past 200 meters. That it is less effective than the 7.62 at 600 or 800 meters is not in dispute.

But the fact that we are engaging targets with rifles at those extended ranges tells me that our troops need more training in range estimation and knowing their own limitations. Regardless of what the round is intrinsically capable of, very few soldiers are going to get hits at that range with even a scoped heavy barreled .308, let alone an iron sighted service rifle. That is just reality, and it makes all discussions of capability at that range mere mental gymnastics, having no bearing on the subject of which rifle is best for our troops.

And it matters not at all that in the Iraqi situation the troops find themselves with targets at that range. They still can't hit them, and could not if they were all equipped with M-14s or M-1s or FN-FALs or whatever your favorite .30 cal rifle may be.

In short, 600 or 800 meter targets aren't about caliber. They're about training. Not marksmanship training, but simply knowing which weapons are appropriate for targets at that range.

Infantry rifles of whatever caliber are not suitable weapons for targets at that range. Squad MGs at least, and preferably company mortars. And up. Reapply as needed.

March 25, 2003, 11:02 AM
In all likelyhood, Quartus is right.
I know that the average soldier isn't gonna hit a target at 300M, and from the sounds of his statement, he once wore a jar on his head.:D
I could hit pretty well on paper, but that paper was sitting still, well lit, and not shooting at me.
The whole time that I was in the Army, I only shot about 300 rounds all told out of the M-16. About 100 or so in training, a few more in live fire exercises, and about 50 more per qualification. Maybe 400 rounds, but still not many.
I have already shot my new AK that much.
What they ought to do is let everyone keep their M-16, but issue couple of M-14's per squad.
Sorta like the Russians do with the SVD.
I would bet that you guys have already come to that conclusion, but who has time to read all of those posts?

Denny Hansen
March 25, 2003, 12:23 PM

Years ago I read a report from a U.S. Army colonel who was extremely unhappy with the adaption of the new service cartridge/rifle. He was concerned that troops would shoot too fast, that the new cartridge was too small to be effective against the enemy, and that the quantity of ammo a soldier could carry was not as important as how powerful the ammunition was.

The gentleman was talking about the Krag in .30-40 that had just replaced the .45-70 Government, circa 1896. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Marko Kloos
March 25, 2003, 12:52 PM
In 20 years, someone will lament the introduction of the 4.5mm caseless tungsten sabot, using the same rationale.

"Too small, too ineffective. So what if the troopers can carry 750 rounds of ammo? Now the old 5.56, that was a combat round...chambered in a rifleman's rifle, the old M-16." :D

March 25, 2003, 02:06 PM
lol- you forgot to use the <cranky_old_man_voice> tag!

March 25, 2003, 04:12 PM
Shorten the barrels on them to 18", giving them the same OAL as an M16: 40". Or, the same OAL as a 20" bbl CQB shotgun, for that matter.
How much does barrel length affect the inherent accuracy of a .308 battle rifle (assuming sight radius is kept constant)? From a rest, is a 21" battle rifle going to outshoot a similar 16" carbine at longer ranges?


March 25, 2003, 04:20 PM
Barrel length isn't a major factor in accuracy for a combat rifle. It might be a factor for serious benchrest match shooters, but I don't think it is. The biggest effect of a shorter barrel is a lower muzzle velocity.

BTW, welcome to THR, mercedes. :)

March 25, 2003, 04:23 PM
I would bet that you guys have already come to that conclusion, but who has time to read all of those posts?
And since I'm not the first guy to state the (supposed) obvious without reading all the posts first, here I go too...

These enemies at 700 meters that the M16's aren't effective at hitting... what exactly are 90%+ of them firing back with? 7.62x39 probably... 5.45x39 maybe. Either way, they're making little dustballs 200 yards in front of our soldiers with the slower, heavier round, or firing a terribly ineffective, lightweight little cartridge at a distance farther than that distance it was determined to be effective.

I don't see the problem.


March 25, 2003, 04:24 PM
The gentleman was talking about the Krag in .30-40 that had just replaced the .45-70 Government, circa 1896. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Unfortunately this gentleman was also right. The US faced Spaniards with mausers during the Spanish-American War. It is not a coincidence that we switched to the mauser-cloned 1903 Springfield right after the war.

March 25, 2003, 09:28 PM
The US faced Spaniards with mausers during the Spanish-American War. It is not a coincidence that we switched to the mauser-cloned 1903 Springfield right after the war.

No one will dispute that the Mauser is a better weapon than the Krag, but I doubt that a group charging uphill with any weapon ever handed down to an infantryman would have done much better.

I am inclined to think that all things being equal, a group of riflemen with 1903 Springfields would really put a hurting on a group of massed infantry charging up a hill, even today with modern assault rifles.

One of the first rules; Defend higher ground.;)

March 25, 2003, 10:36 PM
he once wore a jar on his head.

Nah, I were an Army puke.

I could hit pretty well on paper, but that paper was sitting still, well lit, and not shooting at me.

Oh, details, details! :D

The whole time that I was in the Army, I only shot about 300 rounds all told out of the M-16. About 100 or so in training, a few more in live fire exercises, and about 50 more per qualification.

:what: They're down to 50 rounds for qualification! :what:

That's sick. We shot 100 or 150 for qual, and often plenty more than 200 in one training. One time up in Ft. Lewis we went to qualify, and somebody had misplaced a decimal point. (I think.) Anyway, we had waaaaaay too much ammo, and the old man didn't want to mess with the paperwork and turn it all in. So some of us fools got to shoot it all up! :D Not everyone wanted to shoot, and for some reason the old man was in a jolly mood, so those who wanted to shoot, did, and the rest loaded mags. 'Course, those who shot did have some pretty dirty rifles to clean.

Except for one smart alec who managed to have his rifle secured in the rear, and used someone elses.

Man, did I have a blast! :D 25 meter target pops up? Nooo problem! 20 rounds full auto! :D

Didn't hit many 300 meter targets that way, though.

Most fun I've ever had shooting!

Blackhawk 6
March 26, 2003, 10:03 AM
I would like to share a few of my observations based on my experience as an infantryman and the 6-monthes I spent in Afghanistan.

There has been a great deal of talk on this thread about issueing different types of weapons to allow soldiers to engages enemy personnel at a variety of distances, under varying conditions. The military already does this. Platoons have machineguns to engage enemy personnel at long range to allow squads to maneuver to within the effective range of their weapon systems. This is the idea behind maneuver warfare.

Maneuver requires fire, in this case by the platoons machineguns, and movement, in this case by the squads. It is important to keep in mind that the role of the infantry in combat is to close with and destroy the enemy. The way we set the conditions in order to allow this to happen to echelon our fires.

In order to echelon fires effectively we employ not only direct fire weapon systems but indirect fire weapons as well. For example, We would use mortars to suppress the enemy in order to allow the platoon in the example above to move within a reasonable range of the enemy. The platoon would then establish a firing position to allow the squads to advance closer to the enemy under the blanket of protection provided not only by the mortars but the platoon's machineguns as well. Done correctly, the squads to move close enough to the enemy to assault. Of course this is a simplification of the process and in reality it is somewhat more complex but our soldiers practice this on a regular basis and are very good at it.

I would also like to comment as to the effectiveness of the 5.56mm, the M855 round and the M-4 weapon system. My company was involved in several engagements in Afghanistan at ranges from 50-600 meters. Not one soldiers, non-commisioned officer or officer in my company or my battalion had any complaint with regard to the performance of their weapons. I had the opportunity to work with or observe numerous special operations units from a variety of countries and invariably they carried a weapon chambered in 5.56mm, most often an M-4. These soldiers all had access to a variety of different weapons and I believe the silent endorsement of the M-4 really put the debate to rest. In fact, it was not until I returned from Afghanistan that I heard about the lack of effectiveness of the 5.56mm.

I am not an expert on the terminal ballistics of the M855. If the assertions that its ability to incapacitate an enemy soldier at medium to long range are to be believed my question is "So What?" A solid thoracic hit with a rifle round is a life altering, if not ending, event. That enemy's ability to continue to participate effectively in the engagement has been significantly reduced, if not terminated, by that hit. Does anyone honestly believe that he is going to continue to be an effective participant in hostilities. I do not and my experience supports my belief.

Much has been said about our soldiers ability to shoot. It is true that the current Army qualification reuires soldiers to fire 40 rounds; 20 from the foxhole supported and 20 from the prone unsupported. The maximum engagement distance is 300 meters. Do I believe that this is the best that we can do? No. Does it adequately prepare our soldiers? My experience says yes. I witnessed a company of soldiers, who by and large were a product solely of military marksmanship training, effectively engage enemy personnel at ranges out to 600 meters.

Would I like to see better training. You bet. But we are a resource-constrained military. Often commanders are hard-pressed to resource the training that we want to conduct. It is unfortunate but true. Nonetheless, our training continues to be the best of any military force in the world as we continually prove.

I apologize for the lengthy reply. I hope you will consider my opinion in the on-going debate.


Scott Evans
March 26, 2003, 12:29 PM
by Blackhawk 6
I witnessed a company of soldiers, who by and large were a product solely of military marksmanship training, effectively engage enemy personnel at ranges out to 600 meters.

Blackhawk 6,
First let me say thank you for your service and that I’m glad that you are home. I agree entirely with what you put forth with the only exception being that 5.56 is the best we can do. Providing a better round only helps the man in the field and in no way diminishes. All you said still applies only the distance the squad must close to engage the enemy would be less. They would be under your guns longer and need thicker cover. How is this a bad thing?

As to some of the other comments for keeping things as they are:

There is no argument from me as to the lethality of the 5.56 at 0-200m. Nor would I argue that accuracy is a problem with the 5.56 even out to 500m.

I will argue however; that hitting power for the 5.56 at distance is far too anemic considering the availability of MORE effective chamberings. I’d further argue that with proper training a good percentage of our troops can hit human, torso size targets at 500m provided quality ammo, weapon and training. Also, hit probability goes up dramatically with the actual taking of such shots. That’s exactly why Blackhawk 6’s unit returned fire from 600m away. Last; it takes time to bring supporting arms to bear. During that time you need accurate, hard hitting fire down range.

It’s never wrong to improve on what you have.

March 26, 2003, 02:58 PM
I'm not even sure firing at targets over 500 meters with personal weapons is even considered doctrine anymore. Maybe an M60, bit not anything in 5.56mm.

Blackhawk 6
March 26, 2003, 06:48 PM
Mr. Evans-

I agree with you. I did not mean to imply that there was not room for improvement. My point was only that the 5.56mm is not the inadequate round that some make it out to be and that despite its limitations our military continues to employ it successfully.

I would welcome a better round, more training and/or a better weapon system. Perhaps, in time we will receive some or all of these. I'm looking forward to it.


I believe your comment was based on incorrect information. The maximum effective range for the M-249 machinegun is 600 meters for a point target, i.e. a person, and 800 meters for an area target, i.e a bunker. Those distances for the M-16A2 are 550 meters and 800 meters (on three round burst) respectively. I do ot recall the exact distances for the M-4 but I believe they were 460 meters and 600 meters. I am unaware of anything published by the Army that restricts soldiers to engaging targets at 500 meters or less.

It is possible that your information is based on a particular unit's SOP or possibly the orders of an individual. Current Army policy is that the soldier always has the right to self-defense. Any unit SOP or leader's order that denies a soldier the ability to engage a target that he feels threatened by beyond any arbitrary distance, 500 meters or otherwise, not only contradicts this policy, but, in my opinion is irresponsible. Also, I am unsure how such a policy would be enforced since most soldiers are not adept at range estimation.

I hope this helps.


March 26, 2003, 08:45 PM
Whoa! Did I get confused! That was a schizophrenic experience! :what:

Blackhawk 6 , I didn't notice the 6 on your username until after re-reading a few times. There's a poster called Blackhawk, with whom I've had a few interesting exchanges, and your writing styles and background are so diffferent I was wondering what happened to you! :D

Thanks for your input, anyway, and your service. And welcome aboard! Funny how troops who have used it don't seem to be the ones knocking the 5.56. ;)

Scott, I'm not sure where you got the idea that the 5.56 suffers a noticeable loss of lethality past 200 meters, but the facts are otherwise. It does the job. And while I agree completely that better and more training would be a good thing (I tend to favor elite forces over numbers) the reality is that isn't going to happen.

There is also the matter of how much rifle and ammo you can carry. It DOES count in battle. There is no way to argue that a man can hump just as much 7.62 as he can 5.56 and still have the same level of fatigue. And even for mech infantry (which I was) fatique still counts.

It may well be that there is a better choice than the 5.56. Someone mentioned the .243, and that would sure be a contender. But a military issue rifle has to be a compromise between firepower and portability. We just can't have it all. If we could, we would scorn the 7.62 and issue full auto Barrett .50s.

The trick is to find the most useful rifle for the average conditions and the realistic level of training. 600-800 meter targets are not in that equation.

March 26, 2003, 10:17 PM
IMHO the 6.5x55 would make a great round for Mil. use... Im a Old guy with tired eye's... !!! I was at the range getting ready for a Mil. Bolt Action Long Range match and I setup on the 500m (the Rams) targets... 10rds = 5 rams using a 1900 M96 Obie with Micrometer sights.. using 140gr. Seirra BTHP MatchKings pushed by 47.0gr. of RL22... and I don't consider myself that good now...:what:

You would think a Young set of Eye's could do a lot better that 5 out of 10... @ 500M....:what:

Ask the Russian's what they think of the Swedish Mil. round..... :uhoh:

Okie1KnoB.... :D

March 26, 2003, 10:45 PM
Ask the Russian's what they think of the Swedish Mil. round.....

Or the Finnish riflemen that delivered that round to them.;)

Scott Evans
March 27, 2003, 07:01 AM
Back to my original premises for this thread:

Quote from my opening post:
In some past discussions I’ve mentioned that combat distance for point (man size) targets is out to 500m and 800m for area targets. With this in mind I have felt that the current issue 5.56 lacked sufficient energy at those distances to be the chambering for our standard infantry rifle.

First I wanted to establish that our troops do engage the enemy, with their rifles, well beyond the 300m BZO. Marines are currently doing it in Iraq and Blackhawk 6’s first hand account of the Army doing it in Afghanistan.

That has been established; it’s in the play book and it’s in practice!

As such the weapon and the chambering issued for this task should be capable to the degree of being more then nominally effective at the limits of it’s COMBAT range.

2nd point was the lack of energy of the 5.56 at those ranges (i.e. 500m and beyond). This was not an issue of accuracy. Lethality is a combination of many factors but the amount energy a round caries into a target is relevant. This is not to insinuate that the 5.56 would simply bounce off bodies at 500m. Certainly it can injure severely or kill one that is hit. However; the 5.56 is far less likely to penetrate a sand bag, wall, vehicle door, body armor or hasty berm at those distances than other rounds currently available. As such the 5.56 is NOT as effective as others … we could and should do better.

Last is the combat load issue. I agree that the selection of the round is a trade off between power and weight. I think however; that we have tipped too far to the one extreme with the 5.56 and are giving up too much in the way of power at distance.

Jeff White
March 27, 2003, 01:45 PM

One of the problems in fighting in the desert is that you can often see way farther then the maximum range of your weapons. This doesn't just go with small arms, but is especially a problem with ATGMs because of the additional target aquisition capabilities that the high powered optics gives them. I didn't see the incident you describe, but I would guess that the building was 7-800 meters away if an AT4 fell short. The Marines firing on the building with their rifles at that range was probably more of a leadership problem then anything else. As they get more experience they won't make that mistake. Blackhawk 6 is right in that soldiers aren't very adept at range estimation. A good commercial laser rangerfinder or two would be a helpful addition to a squad's MTOE.

You are correct in your assertion that M855 is pushing the limits of it's effectiveness at 5-600 meters. But what is the threat we're facing? Poorly trained soldiers firing 7.62x39 AKs. We've already got them ranged. For the PK machineguns we have M240s in the platoons. Special Operations Forces have had success with 75 and 77 grain 5.56mm ammunition at extended ranges in Afghanistan.

Are American soldiers dying in combat because our current service rifle and ammunition is failing them? No. Could we do better? Probably. Is it worth the money it would cost to change? Probably not. A wholesale changeover to a new rifle and cartridge would not be economically feasible. Besides the new rifle, ammunition and magazines, you'd need all of the anicillary things that go along with them, cleaning kits, spare parts, web gear, manuals, maybe ranges. IMHO, this money would be better spent on more and better small arms training with the weapons we have. You may soon see SPRs in 6.8x43 in the hands of special forces units, but the big Army (and Marines) will most likely stay with the M16 series until there is a major breakthrough in technology. What we'd gain by changing to a new rifle/caliber is simply not enough to justify the cost.

We can fill all the forums with threads espousing ourfavorite rifle/cartridge for Infantry use, but the fact is, that none of them offer a big enough increase in capability to justify the expense of changing.


March 27, 2003, 05:28 PM
All this talk about weight of ammo brings to mind the proposed new weapons "system" I recall reading about a year or two ago. Wasn't it something that weighed (empty!) in the neighborhood of 20 pounds, shot 5.56 as well as a 20mm cannon-type shell, and incorporated a rangefinder? It required batteries, IIRC. I remember thinking at the time "Surely this is a joke!"

Seems to me that the military is so caught up in the technology thing that common sense is going out the window, at least as far as equipping the grunts. For the type of combat we're now facing, the idea of equipping at least two or three men in a squad with sand-cut, scoped FALs with the gas set on "Gr"and the rest w/ '16s would make a lot of sense. And slow twist '16s w/ a 55 grain bullet would be icing on the cake. And I'm damned glad I didn't have to hump the load these guys are saddled with back in the dark ages of '66 and '67.

On the other hand, what do Corporals know? Well,I know it's a helluva lot more enjoyable discussing it here rather than around a helmet full of donated C-rats heated w/ a little C4.

March 27, 2003, 05:42 PM
Yep, I remember reading about that beast too.
The range finder with the batteries struck me as particularly amusing.
What happens when your watch battery goes dead?
You can't aim.
I couldn't understand why they couldn't copy the Soviet range finder reticle that is used on the SVD, but scale it to the 5.56.
If they want a 20MM why not come up with a single shot add-on like the 203, only in 20MM?
That would have saved money, and some poor grunts' backs.
I get the feeling that the guys who design these things have never had to carry them.

March 27, 2003, 07:59 PM
Hmmmm. The old equation. Cost vs. Benefit. Well said, Jeff.

Scott, pay attention to this comment of Jeff's:

The Marines firing on the building with their rifles at that range was probably more of a leadership problem then anything else. As they get more experience they won't make that mistake.

Mistake. That's what it was. Even with a 7.62, that's a mistake. Even with a 7.62, it's not effective. Engaging the enemy in buildings at that distance has little or no military value, and they shouldn't be doing it.

We don't need to equip our troops to make those kind of mistakes. We need to equip them to do the job they are trained and expected to do.

And it may be that the 5.56 goes a bit too far in the direction of portability, but the 7.62 goes too far in the other direction. I know. I've humped both over the hills.

If we were starting from scratch, I might opt for something in between. But we ain't. And any change in between those two just doesn't give enough bang for the buck to be justified.

In a perfect world there would be plenty of money for such incremental pursuits of perfection. But there isn't.

April 27, 2003, 02:09 AM
Quartus & Blackhawk 6 I think part of the debate here is that many (most? all?) of the people posting here are gun loonies.

Only a few have training and/or experience in INFANTRY combat.

The skillset that someone used to shooting AT prairie dogs at 400+ yards for fun is very different from 11B.

Just think if we had a discussion about room clearing. Most people here would be argueing over 45 vs 40 vs 9mm vs bla bla. Infantry would be more likely to talk about blowing hole in a wall with a 155 (in direct fire mode) or tank main gun. Followed by grenades and then going in with M16.

Might be fun to consider how infantry would go about clearing a prairie dog town :D Somehow I don't see them using a heavy barreled varmint gun!!!

April 28, 2003, 08:40 AM
is definitly a leadership problem. Team leaders should be marking the outer limits of effective range with thier 203s. I just met the platoon sergeant for that major engagement in afghanistan(sorry, cant remember the name of it but it made the news.) His platoon was cut off in a bottom of a valley, surrounded by enemy troops in cave systems. His team leaders marked out to 300 and 400 meters with smoke, and were told only to engage targets within those limits. Most of the casulaties they inflcited were not due to the infantryman but from gunship planes and artillery. As far as full auto and 3 round bursts go, his men were told to fire on semi auto, and the only weapon system they ran out on was the machineguns and saws. THe were engaged for something like 17-18 hours. Having been both a team leader and a squad leader, I know that my troops do like to shoot things with bursts, but as a leader your supposed to smack the back of thier heads and tell them to go back to semi auto and aim. 3 round bursts may be great for cqb, but its not the best thing to be doing at longer ranges.

April 28, 2003, 10:11 PM
My own experiences with the M-16 family have been generally favorable. I served two years as an 11B and 6 as a Forward Observer (including some time in Blackhawk6's former company before his time as CO). I've personally hit targets at 800 meters using an M-16A2 with a PVS-4B mounted on it. Although I doubt the round would have been terribly effective against much more than the plastic target I was shooting.

Also, regarding 'stopping power' in the military; we in the artillery were fond of trying to neutralize the enemy rather than destroying him. By neutralizing him, I mean wounding about 10% of his force. When a 10 man squad has 1 soldier injured, it takes 2 to 4 of his buddies to care for and evacuate him. That takes 3 to 5 guys out of the fight right there, leaving the squad between 50 to 70% strength. In the U.S. military, we counted anything less than 70% as combat ineffective. If you kill 1 or 2 guys, there buddies look at them, say a prayer for them, and keep fighting, hoping to avenge their fallen comrades. Ergo, it is frequently better to just wound a small percentage of the enemy force.


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