The evolution of fighting rifles


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Tirod
November 8, 2010, 01:14 PM
We've come a long way since the flintlock sent the Brown Bess back on the boats it came in on. There are a lot of things that are state of the art for the combat long arm today. The longer term trend is for light weight, simple construction, and having the controls to safely operate the weapon quickly.

More than piston vs. direct impingement, which I'll summarize first. In pure engineering terms, DI is better. Complain about the application all you want, what you get with direct impingement is gas directed to the piston on the back of the bolt head, contained in the gas chamber as part of the bolt carrier. Direct impingement means no operating rod - not, no piston at all. It saves a lot of weight, and has less surfaces to be machined, or wear out. The thrust is axial, straight in line with the action, not offset, and even compensates for bolt thrust with an opposing force against it. The exiting gas is directed out of the bolt carrier through the ejection port, not under the handguards, and once the case begins extraction, any residual gas in the barrel comes past the case, just like a piston gun. (Only manually operated bolts have clean faces and shiny brass extracted.) No one is required to like one action over the other, but if you look at it for what it really does, DI is lighter weight and less complicated.

What a lot of folks also miss is that modern rifles use barrel extensions that lock the bolt up, not the receiver. This also cuts down weight and machine costs, allowing much easier fabrications to hold the parts in place against the abuse of the human user, not 50,000 pounds of chamber pressure. Thats why extruded aluminum uppers and cast resin lowers are now possible. The same technology that makes the $5 pocket knife is being applied to firearms.

How the user holds and controls the weapon is also much better. The current trend is to use the trigger hand on a pistol grip to hold the weapon against the shoulder. The off hand holds the barrel up. Since the trigger hand is stationary, it should have the trigger, safety, and mag release at finger tip reach. The off hand can be reaching for a mag, loading it in the empty well, and bumping the bolt hold back while the finger is on the trigger, safety on or off as the circumstances need. The user is in back in the fight much sooner without loss of sight picture.

If there is a stoppage, cycling the bolt with the off hand by a bolt operating stud or handle is preferable, especially one located where the user does not have to break cheek weld. This clears the action, allows a mag change, and keeps the target in the sight picture. Whether enemy soldier or just the shot of the season, the user again gets back into the shot sooner, rather than too late.

The adoption of the picitinny rail for sights makes adding optics much easier, and creates a standard mount where only individual custom sets were offered. Having a universal mount doesn't necessarily make them more efficient or lighter weight, but it does solve a lot of problems with having to buy specialized parts that have only one application. In a team, optics can be shared, swapped, or interchanged based on mission or state of maintenance. It also makes weapons more interchangeable between shooters, with less compensation. If everyone shoots with there nose touching the back of the upper, there is less variation in sight picture. In the heat of close combat, picking up any weapon that can shoot close to point of aim is better.

Adjustable length of pull for the armored soldier offers a consistent cheek weld, too, and allows for variations necessary when fitting to our inconsistent human anatomy. Stature or gender based differences no longer hamper operation, and the user has a better fit to shoot more accurately.

A magazine designed to hold and feed ammunition in a reliable and durable manner is also important, and when done properly, contributes a significant amount of reliability, if not even compensating for other inferior qualities of the weapon. The magazine should have feed lips that cannot be bent if dropped loaded on them, have a continuous shape related to the stacking of ammo in it, and be constructed of materials that cannot be deformed or damaged in combat use. There should be no compromises to accommodate deviations from those standards simply because of institutional or political tradition.

Modern weapons need modern maintenance, which includes the use of dry film lubricants, ion or nitride coatings, and modern methods of construction for barrels and parts. If a military standard was created, it superceded a previous one, and that's what should be done as an ongoing process, continually incorporating newer processes, rather than ignoring them and creating an even larger burden later to accept them. We should not cling to outdated and demonstrably inferior ways of making parts simply because the standard was written decades ago and hasn't been reviewed since.

When we see what is issued as a combat rifle twenty years from now ( or hopefully sooner with the Improved Carbine,) we'll see much of this incorporated as standard. While one or more items may not make the final configuration, most will, and in the long run, they all will be present. It's simply that each is superior in combat use, and has already made the list of what is included in a weapon. They should ALL be considered a minimum without compromise, but the reality is that we always try to get most of them, and the result is usually another step forward in efficiency on the battlefield.

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Zerodefect
November 8, 2010, 01:38 PM
I agree 100%. Darn good post.

I'll add that fighting rifles are becoming more and more ambi as instructors are now teaching that a rifleman should be able to use either arm for shooting to make the best of cover. Not to mention urban prone, curbs etc.

Lefthanded when you are on the left side of cover, righthanded when your on the right side of cover. Sticking your head out the left side of cover and shooting righthanded means you have to lean out way too much to get your rifle out.

Also if you have to move diagnal to your target and shoot while moving, often for many shooters one arm is better in one direction and the other arm in the other direction.

Ambi safeties, Magpul BAD levers, BCM extended or Troy ambi charging handles, all forged specificly for ambi use.






I'll also add that the current crop of fighting rifles are getting longer again. We kept getting smaller and smaller. 10" SBR's and 14.5" carbines. But now 14.5-16" fighting rifles are making a big comeback.

The evolution of fighting rifles includes optics, lights, and lasers now. Sometimes foregrips and nightvision as well. All that weight makes the gun impossible to aim with the magwell grip. We have to reach out further to steady our aim. 12-14" rails on a 16" carbine are becoming quite popular, giving the shooter the ability to reach out much further and more agressively.

Plenty of room for lights etc., without hurting our gripstance. Plenty of options like hand stops, sling mounting locations can be added. Of course I put QR levers on all my accessories so I can get that weight off or onto another rifle quickly.

Rshooter
November 8, 2010, 02:34 PM
You forgot to mention the Garand. One of the best innovations in the fighting rifle of it's time. :)

desidog
November 8, 2010, 02:43 PM
It really is incredible all the aftermarket products that have come into being in the last five or ten years. I think this is in part due to the popular following of the black rifle, but also due to the tighter tolerances and new methods in manufacturing machinery.

The key to all of it is modularity. Tirod touched on when talking about sights, but it applies to all parts of the rifle these days, with "drop-in" applying to most every part.

/I'm still waiting for a phased-pulse plasma upper for my AR in the 40 watt range.

68wj
November 9, 2010, 11:11 AM
I don't neccessarily disagree, though it really sounds more like an argument for why an M4ish rifle with DI and P-Mags is the best fighting rifle.

It is amazing the commonly available "add ons" for modern rifles. Even if we were still using steel/wood guns we would probably be putting rails on every available section and adding another 2-5 pounds of lights, lasers, and optics.

How do we rank caliber selection in a fighting rifle? In the west, 5.56 is king with 7.62x39 elsewhere. Assuming that any adopted round could be mass produced and supplied, there are limitless options currently available and more being developed. Are we still to be limited to the 2 titens as rifle technology improves?

Al Thompson
November 9, 2010, 01:32 PM
Probably the next thing .mil (and serious individuals) needs to do is swap consumable parts (springs, bolts, firing pin, magazines, etc., etc.) at a given interval (round count?) per individual weapon.

The concept of fixing the weapon when it breaks as opposed to pro-active maintenance gets people killed. :(

68wj
November 9, 2010, 01:41 PM
Probably the next thing .mil (and serious individuals) needs to do is swap consumable parts (springs, bolts, firing pin, magazines, etc., etc.) at a given interval (round count?) per individual weapon.

The concept of fixing the weapon when it breaks as opposed to pro-active maintenance gets people killed. :(
In my experience, preventative maintenance does occur but not based on round count for small arms in normal units. The weapons are however routinely inspected and suspect parts are replaced. But yes, failure rates on parts such as extractors are relatively known and could be changed out at an interval before failure (inspection can only catch so much).

herkyguy
November 9, 2010, 05:13 PM
I read that hunters in Europe used rifled barrels for a long period of time before it was introduced on the battlefield. Rifled barrels were actually older than flintlocks. This was partly because of the fact that everything was muzzle-loaded and the tighter tolerance of a rifled barrel meant it took soldiers longer to reload. This was at a time (1700s) when rate of fire was king rather than accuracy. I wonder if there is technology used on the civilian side that has still not made its way to the military....

Could our troops one day be permitted a greater amount of customization?

FIREARMS: A Global History to 1700 by Kenneth Chase is a really interesting read if anyone is interested.

Cosmik de Bris
November 9, 2010, 07:02 PM
I don't neccessarily disagree, though it really sounds more like an argument for why an M4ish rifle with DI and P-Mags is the best fighting rifle.

Well I think the OPs comment:

"If there is a stoppage, cycling the bolt with the off hand by a bolt operating stud or handle is preferable, especially one located where the user does not have to break cheek weld. This clears the action, allows a mag change, and keeps the target in the sight picture."

rules out the M4.

Caliper_RWVA
November 9, 2010, 07:14 PM
Hunters everywhere used rifles. The idea of spinning the projectile to stabilize it was well known from archery. The military used smooth bore because wars were still fought by lining up in huge rank and file groups and shooting at each other. When your target is 6 feet tall (ok, maybe a bit less) by 50 yards wide, rifling takes a back seat to rate of fire. As soon as inventions like the minie ball and breach loading came along that allowed adequate rate of fire with rifles, the military used them.

I often wonder: what's next? Is it an improvement to the weapon itself, or accessory systems? What about a rangefinding scope programmed to your issue ammo? It could not only find range, but also adjust elevation. Zero at 100yd and go...

GunTech
November 9, 2010, 07:35 PM
The rifle as we know it has almost reached the pinnacle of achievement, and has been approaching that point asymptotically for the last century. About the only thing left is caseless ammo an a few minor tweaks to materials. There's not much left that will have much effect on the hit probability of the rifle as we know it, which exactly why the military is looking for a whole new weapon concept, rather than another generation of the same old thing. As the ACR tests of the 1980 showed, there's not much left to do to the military rifle to make it better. All we get are trade-offs. The last major improvement was common deployment of optical sights, making the aiming process, particularly under stress, mush easier.

We are now at a juncture similar to the one where the gun replaced the bow. The bow remained a more accurate, longer ranges faster firing weapon up to the Napoleonic wars. However, it took a lot of time to train the archer compared to the musket firing infantryman of the era.

Smart weapon, firing area effect smart projectiles are the future. Weapons like the OICW and SABR seem unwieldy, complicated and expensive compared today's rifles, but as they mature, the assault rifles of the early b21st century will become unsophisticated, ineffective and primitive compared to the next generation of infantry arms.

Hatterasguy
November 9, 2010, 09:17 PM
The FN Scar is the rifle of the future. Although I don't think the AR is going anywhere anytime soon.

GunTech
November 9, 2010, 09:22 PM
From a bean counter point of view, what does the SCAR do the M16 platform does not? We're talking about producing casualties here. Same round, same hit probability. Maybe slightly more reliable, but what impact does it have on the modern battlefield? Enough to justify the cost? Assume I'm a policy wonk and sell me on cost/performance. How many more enemy casualties will result from the adoption of the SCAR?

68wj
November 9, 2010, 09:36 PM
Well I think the OPs comment:

"If there is a stoppage, cycling the bolt with the off hand by a bolt operating stud or handle is preferable, especially one located where the user does not have to break cheek weld. This clears the action, allows a mag change, and keeps the target in the sight picture."

rules out the M4.
Hmm, yep, missed that. I was still stuck on the praise of DI I guess and then the "institutional or political tradition" magazines. :) Of course there are side charging AR upper receivers too.

Tirod
November 10, 2010, 11:17 AM
I'm very aware of the ASA side charger upper, I'm building an AR, and that is my preference, given the cash flow can be generated.

Don't think I'm all that in love with Pmag, read that section with the AK in mind. A magazine that matches the taper of the cartridge and allows it to lock in to feed, that's durable, is a far better thing than the AR straight feed mag well with bent thirty rounders stuffed in it.

The SCAR does a lot of nice things, but carries the AR mag well right over, warts and all. That makes it a compromise, not the best out there. DI or piston, we need to dump the AR mag design and get that right. It's the actual cause of most malfunctions, whichever dust test you want to quote. Forcing the design onto other NATO weapons just furthers the mistake. Not even HK can get it "right," it's an inherently flawed concept.

We can get uber reliable weapons in the near future, what's incredibly inexplicable is why the magazines simply can't be recognized as the biggest cause of malfunctions. Kalashnikov got that right in 1947, and we still fail to recognize it. It's the backbone of AK durability.

Al Thompson
November 10, 2010, 11:55 AM
what's incredibly inexplicable is why the magazines simply can't be recognized

Agree completely.

Mr_Pale_Horse
November 10, 2010, 12:03 PM
1. The Brown Bess was a flintlock.

2. Many colonial units were armed with them.

Rexster
November 10, 2010, 12:53 PM
After grumbling about DI for a while, I am back to seeing it as perfectly serviceable, with several advantages over piston adaptations for the AR.

Regarding ambi use, I am a lefty with rifles, who trains to be ambi, and I just took the ambi selector OUT of my AR, and installed one of the RRA single-sided selectors with the star-shaped nub on the tip. I did not like the way the ambi version's left side lever pointed downward when on semi, because my brain is geared toward a lever pointing downward as ON-safe, from former duty/carry pistols, and my issued Taser. (I am required to test-fire my mandated Taser daily, at the start of the shift, and that daily on-and-off-safe-ing of the Taser's safety trumps any amount of range time I can get with the AR15. When my RRA star-style selector arrived from Brownells, I instantly LOVED it, and wondered why anyone ever invented ambi selectors. Plus, Kyle Lamb's advice to not install ambi selectors was a factor. I now use his method of using the left knuckle to off-safe the weapon when shooting lefty. This motion is far-enough divorced from a Taser's safety to eliminate any confusion of concept.

I like the way the AR15 is not only lefty-friendly, but in some ways FAVORS lefties. I just use my left fingertip to operate the bolt release, or to lock the bolt open. I like to retain magazines under most conditions, so I use my right thumb to hit the mag release, take the in-gun mag out, stow it, and reload. OTOH, I can bring a fresh mag to the well, hit the mag release to drop the in-gun mag, and quickly insert the fresh mag.

After time in the wilderness, disdaining the AR15/M16/M4, I am back. Actually, I had always conceded that the M16/M4 were better war weapons than my Mini-14s and various other SD/HD long guns, but I am back to an AR15 as my go-to urban SD/HD weapon, except that I will continue to use handguns or a shotgun for many situations, until I am retired from working for a PD that has rules dictating when I can deploy a rifle.
The AR15 really still is the better mousetrap, IMHO, for cartridges lesser than .308/7.62 NATO, anyway.

kwelz
November 10, 2010, 01:05 PM
I don't neccessarily disagree, though it really sounds more like an argument for why an M4ish rifle with DI and P-Mags is the best fighting rifle.


Well Yeah. ;-)

Seriously though, the AR is probably the best overall platform available right now. Yes there are other good designs out there, the SCAR being one of them. However none have offered the flexibility we see with the AR platform.
And all have their share of problems. SCAR rifles kill optics, ACR is a disaster as a fighting weapon, XCR never stood a chance....

Right now the AR and AK are king. That isn't going to change till we see a truly revolutionary platform come about. There is no real point to making something that is just Evolutionary, because the AR platform can evolve just fine on its own.

I think Tirod was spot on with most everything he has said.

SpeedAKL
November 10, 2010, 01:24 PM
Tirod,
Great write-up!

Regardless of their faults, real or perceived, the latest in fighting rifle designs such as the SCAR, ACR, Colt CM901, Beretta ARX, the new CZ being used by the Czechs seem to offer some combination of the following characteristics:

-modularity / interchangeability: barrels should be quick and easy to swap out with hand tools. Calibers should be able to be changed using a minimal amount of components and disassembly / re-assembly requirements

-polymer exterior construction: the latest rifles seem to follow the lead of combat handguns in this area

-use of lightweight and high-strength metals: these will always be somewhat limited in a small arm due to cost but I expect greater use of titanium and various alloys in the future

-mounts: rather than a fixed quad-rail system, the latest guns have mounts for detachable rail units so that the shooter can configure the gun to his exact needs while keeping the weight and surface complexity of the forearm under control

-fully adjustable stock: as long as it isn't prone to breaking, why not?

-improved accuracy: traditionally, accuracy and combat reliability have been inversely proportional and as a result many fighting rifle have only had to be "minute of man". The SCAR and several higher-end ARs have shown that this tradeoff need not occur. Use of a high-quality barrel is the biggest driver of these accuracy gains.

Zerodefect
November 10, 2010, 01:25 PM
Well I think the OPs comment:

"If there is a stoppage, cycling the bolt with the off hand by a bolt operating stud or handle is preferable, especially one located where the user does not have to break cheek weld. This clears the action, allows a mag change, and keeps the target in the sight picture."

rules out the M4.

Deosn't matter, you have to break off your cheek weld to chamber check anyway. Going straight into Tap, rack, bang, without checking first is one of the worst things you can do to an rifle that's stopped.

Even if your only out of ammo, you should still turn the rifle and check the chamber as you reload. It's only a fraction of a second.

Basicly, any time the AR stops, look into the chamber or transition, then reload or clear the malf.

Rexster
November 10, 2010, 01:41 PM
Quoting Zerodefect:

"Deosn't matter, you have to break off your cheek weld to chamber check anyway. Going straight into Tap, rack, bang, without checking first is one of the worst things you can do to an rifle that's stopped.

Even if your only out of ammo, you should still turn the rifle and check the chamber as you reload. It's only a fraction of a second.

Basicly, any time the AR stops, look into the chamber or transition, then reload or clear the malf. "

Agreed. Either transition to a secondary weapon, if available, or get your primary into your workspace and diagnose, to make sure one is performing a true solution to the problem.

GunTech
November 10, 2010, 03:25 PM
-modularity / interchangeability: barrels should be quick and easy to swap out with hand tools. Calibers should be able to be changed using a minimal amount of components and disassembly / re-assembly requirements

Can someone please explain this one to me? Aside from an MG I can't see any need for a rapid barrel change out. Can someone give me a scenario where the individual really needs to be able to quickly swap out barrels in the field? And where is this spare barrel coming from.

It's not like it is terribly difficult to change out the barrel in an M16/AR15 anyway, and at least if an armorer does it, then one expects that headspace is checked.

The same with caliber changes. Is this something that's going to be done in theater, rather than prior to deployment?

SpeedAKL
November 10, 2010, 03:33 PM
Can someone please explain this one to me? Aside from an MG I can't see any need for a rapid barrel change out. Can someone give me a scenario where the individual really needs to be able to quickly swap out barrels in the field? And where is this spare barrel coming from.

It's not like it is terribly difficult to change out the barrel in an M16/AR15 anyway, and at least if an armorer does it, then one expects that headspace is checked.

The same with caliber changes. Is this something that's going to be done in theater, rather than prior to deployment?
The intention isn't really to swap out barrels during a firefight. The idea is to have barrels available in an armory that can be installed on a common weapon for specific mission. For example, a 10.5-inch barrel would be useful in a CQB / room clearing environment, a 16-inch barrel is fine for most patrol and combat applications, while a heavier 18-20 inch barrel is appropriate for designated marksman work. This would reduce training time for armorers and end users and save money as well.

The ability to change calibers follows a similar line of thinking, though I will admit that it is less practical due to logistics complications surrounding ammunition, magazines, etc. A 5.56 NATO works fine for many urban engagements, but in Afghanistan-style terrain one might want the extra reach a 7.62. In addition, soldiers who were in the field for extended periods of time could convert the weapon to, say, 7.62x39 to make use of available ammunition. Additional logistics and training would be required, obviously.

Creature
November 10, 2010, 03:48 PM
Originally Posted by GunTech
Can someone please explain this one to me? Aside from an MG I can't see any need for a rapid barrel change out. Can someone give me a scenario where the individual really needs to be able to quickly swap out barrels in the field? And where is this spare barrel coming from.

It's not like it is terribly difficult to change out the barrel in an M16/AR15 anyway, and at least if an armorer does it, then one expects that headspace is checked.

The same with caliber changes. Is this something that's going to be done in theater, rather than prior to deployment?

The intention isn't really to swap out barrels during a firefight. The idea is to have barrels available in an armory that can be installed on a common weapon for specific mission. For example, a 10.5-inch barrel would be useful in a CQB / room clearing environment, a 16-inch barrel is fine for most patrol and combat applications, while a heavier 18-20 inch barrel is appropriate for designated marksman work. This would reduce training time for armorers and end users and save money as well.

The ability to change calibers follows a similar line of thinking, though I will admit that it is less practical due to logistics complications surrounding ammunition, magazines, etc. A 5.56 NATO works fine for many urban engagements, but in Afghanistan-style terrain one might want the extra reach a 7.62. In addition, soldiers who were in the field for extended periods of time could convert the weapon to, say, 7.62x39 to make use of available ammunition. Additional logistics and training would be required, obviously.

Excellent point. Caliber was a common problem encountered by troops on the ground in Afghanistan where the M16 was not the prefered weapon as long range engagments were more and more common than, for example, in the urban enviormnets of Iraq.

Owen
November 10, 2010, 03:56 PM
From a bean counter point of view,

50% decrease in Life Cycle Cost.

Hatterasguy
November 10, 2010, 05:16 PM
From a bean counter point of view, what does the SCAR do the M16 platform does not? We're talking about producing casualties here. Same round, same hit probability. Maybe slightly more reliable, but what impact does it have on the modern battlefield? Enough to justify the cost? Assume I'm a policy wonk and sell me on cost/performance. How many more enemy casualties will result from the adoption of the SCAR?

0, my point is military budgets are going to be shrinking a lot in the future so unless another big war comes around their will be no further work done to replace the M4 for the foreseeable future. But what do we already have that's a 21st century design? The FN Scar.

As a bean counter its cheaper to use what you already have.

-v-
November 10, 2010, 07:36 PM
On the operating system angle, I'd offer a counter point to DI: Roller-Delayed blowback. The CETME/G3/MP5 family of guns use them. The soviets even had a prototype weapon using roller-delayed in the 1956 trial for a replacement to the AK-47. This system offers excellent accuracy and controllability, as was found by the Soviet designers. The only thing that needs to touch the barrel is the roller-lockup system, no gas tube, no piston, no nothing. I recall it is not uncommon for G3 rifles to shoot 1.5 MOA or better off the rack. That's quite impressive accuracy.

Additionally, this system seems to have little trouble with fowling of the action. Some posters have mentioned PTR91/HK91's with over a milimeter of caked on carbon in the chamber and action with absolutely no impact on the rifle's function.

One of the common themes with DI guns is they are dirty. I've heard all the arguments that the gas goes into the gas key and into the bolt, but, unless the gas tube and gas key form a air-tight seal that is able to stand up to several tens of thousdands of PSI of pressure, there's going to be blow-by exiting the tube into a receiver. For there to be no blow-by from the imperfect seal would have to violate some laws of fluid mechanics, mainly the whole going from high pressure to low pressure thing.

This inherent dirtiness has been repeatedly demonstrated by shooting 100 rounds through an AR15 and 100 rounds through an AK. When all said and done, the AR15 is ALWAYS dirtier than the AK even when premium ammo is used in the AR and dirty Wolf ammo in the AK.

That said, is the DI system good enough? Yes. It is not a "white glove test" system, and it can tolerate a fair amount of fowling, with the biggest issue in AR reliability being magazines, followed by an over-ambitious bolt design.

GunTech
November 10, 2010, 09:14 PM
You make my point. Barrels changed in the armory. Not hard with the current platform.

I can see the appeal for the armchair commando who wants to reconfigure their rifle all the time and doesn't want to buy a second complete weapon.

Whatever the case, even with a simple mechanism for barrel change, you're still going to have to rezero and all that jazz. Unless perhaps you have an adjustable front sight mounted on the barrel and have absolutely repeatable torque.

There a review of the ACR floating around the net which makes note of the problems of maintaining zero dismounting and remounting the same barrel. The solution was witness marks, which ends up making the barrel specific to the gun unless you want to rezro.

Frankly, I see this as a more expensive solution to a non-existent problem.

YMMV

Shadow 7D
November 10, 2010, 10:49 PM
V

You forget a MAJOR issue with roller delayed systems, such as the G3,etc.
They are VERY ammo sensitive, when you have a standard round, and all other rounds are THAT standard in repetitions, then it's ok, change the round, and now you have to re-arsenal all your guns to tune them. Oh and many reloaders don't like the fluted chambers, something about blowing the brass to hell.

As for the AR, I've been there, done that, and if you want to pm the mods, I will be very happy to prove it. It works, I actually saw the Daewoo 200?? with piston ($585 at the local pawn shop)
And I have never rally had an issue with live rounds, mind you end of the day with blanks, it can be a little finicky, but then, how many of you are going to be blowing mags in burst? It works, until something drastically different comes along, I don't think the bean counters are going to do much except send existing stock back to be rebuilt and reissued. Maybe special units will get the SCAR, but then they get to buy what the like anyways, the rest of the Army, hell sometimes I was suprised we were allowed to change our own mag with out supervision. Change configurations with out prior auth and the armorer, naw.

Tirod
November 11, 2010, 12:00 AM
The idea that any self loading action remains clean is a serious mistake. However it gets driven, an action that extracts a cartridge from a chamber under it's own power - gas or recoil - will have residual gas blown back into the action no matter what. Only manually operated weapons keep a clean bolt face.

The second mistake is to consider the residual buildup in the action as a major cause, or for that matter, even a potential cause of stoppages. The modern TDP for the M16, with chromed chambers, proper dimensional checking, proven first use powders, and the REQUIRED lube of the cam pin track all contribute to keeping the M16/M4 running. If anything, it's been demonstrated time and again that AR's will run for tens of thousands of rounds without cleaning. Getting dirty will not stop a gun built right. It will keep firing, and the AR demostrates it time and again.

It's when all the wrong things are done than we hear about malfunctions. Going back to the dust tests, if poor maintenance and bad magazines are used, you get poor results. Use weapons and mags in good repair, they shoot better. Please remember the majority of stoppages are from magazine and ammo related causes, and many of the anecdotal stories on the internet involve low power ammo and weapons built without any TDP at all other than a bulk order for all the parts.

For all the complaints DI runs dirtier, no one explains what causes a specific problem that actually stops the action cycling. The bolt carrier and bolt haven't been changed in 45 years to "improve" them or make them more resistant to fouling, and yet that's the #1 complaint brought up in theoretical discussions. When actually tested, it falls far down the list, with mags and ammo sharing the bulk of the severe problems up front.

Just exactly what is it that causes the bolt to jam? Pics, please. Link to an official report listing just how much x.xxx inches of residue built up on the operating parts causes it to become a sludge pile. Finger pointing and namecalling don't make for repeatable results in failure, and again, back to the dust tests. The majority of problems are mag and ammo based, not residue buildup, even when a lot more is added beyond the gunpowder.

It hasn't been a problem since 1968, ask those who have been shooting at us what they think about it.

If we are going it have a better weapon with better subsystems and parts, it's going to take a lot more objectivity, study, and understanding of what it does. Simply repeating street talk and unfounded rumor won't get us there.

Shadow 7D
November 11, 2010, 12:51 AM
I really don't see much of a change until exo-suits come on line and then it'll be 'how much crap can we make one carry' GAU-123 anyone??? The ammo bearers can carry the extra 15k rounds. Until then, energy weapons or a new propellant, ammunition design (which won't happen cause Hauge) or a dramatic and completely new materials, I think the M16 family is here to stay.

Lets not forget the Brown Bess was the standard for close to 200 years, because nothing new was being done. Advances in metallurgy and ammo design lead to strong enough breach lock, and stable explosive and caps lead to better firing mechanisms that you got the next/new guns.

Tirod
November 11, 2010, 10:49 AM
Hague isn't a problem, JAG cleared open tip match ammo in the '80's. It still didn't revoke the need for penetrator ammo, and the SOST was made for that.

Two things coming up in the twenty year view, suppressors, and caseless ammo. Long term hearing loss, and the increased ability to acquire them as they can be mass produced in an effective design, means that suppressors are becoming much more mainstream in the military. We won't continue to put up with gunfire diminishing our hearing ability on the battlefield, especially at the team level. We don't need to have our fire give us away, and we can afford it. If we can put a $650 to $1000 optic on a combat weapon, a mass produced $250 can is equally feasible.

The LSAT caseless rounds offer even more of a fighting multiplier. They weigh the less, but give 50% more ammo, making the soldier much more equipped like a squad automatic. There's no dead weight, nothing gets underfoot, there are no extraction problems, you get one less item to reveal a position, as no brass is bouncing around attracting attention. They can be loaded in quad stack vertical magazines, increasing the round count, but making the overall height lower. Magpul already has the patent on that.

The Army already is scheduling battalion level testing, and SOCOM has signed on, too. That implies some real world guns getting into hot zones. Might help explain why the SCAR is no longer interesting. It doesn't give a 50% ammo increase or improve hit probability. LSAT ammo does.

I should have put both those in the first post.

-v-
November 11, 2010, 07:11 PM
Shadow: The ammo sensitivity of the roller delayed blowback designs is over-hyped. To take the PTR91 as an example, it will shoot anything from 110gr to 180 gr .308 rounds, albeit the sweet-spot is with 150gr or lighter, as the recoil starts to escalate and become excessive as you get closer to 180 gr.

The other point is in a fighting rifle, you shoot what you are given. There is no headache of "do I select 55 62 or 77gr round for patrol this time?" You carry what rounds are issued to you, and everyone gets issued the same ammo. Thus, 99% of all G3 rifles shot the 142gr 7.62x51 round, and the majority of M16/M4's shoot the 62gr 5.56x45 round.

The whole swapping weights of ammo and barrels only comes into play in the armchair situation, very rarely in the field.

kwelz
November 11, 2010, 08:52 PM
Over hyped or not it is still there.
And the military does change the type of ammo they use as technology and fighting doctrine changes.

mshootnit
November 11, 2010, 10:04 PM
Great point about the silencers. I never really had that "epiphany" but it is very smart when you think about it. You know in England they actually prefer that the sportsmen have silencers so as not to bother the neighbors when shooting rabbits. Opposite viewpoint here in the US. Modularity increases efficiency as already stated as you can take a rifle from 14.5" carbine to DMR rifle in seconds or a couple minutes. Whether or not you like it, the "bullpup" design allows a 20" rifle to be as compact as a 16" carbine. The Brits have shown in combat and training that this design definitely "holds its own" in accuracy and performance.
Have they worked through the heat issues with caseless ammo? The ejected brass takes a lot of heat energy with it that otherwise stays with the weapon. You know the RPG has been so integral with our enemies that I feel a modern weapon doing the same thing will be more important in our units than in the past.

CapnMac
November 11, 2010, 10:56 PM
Suppressing combat weapons, especially give our presumption of a lot of CQB and MOUT in asymmetrical conflicts really makes a lot of sense. Except that adding a suppressor is increasing the OAL, just the thing we have been reducing the better to get in and out of over-full APC and Helos.

That suggests getting the buffer and recoil springs out of the butt stock and somewhere else on the rifle is logical. It also means being able to have finer adjustments between the gross settings on the stock's OAL. Put a provest on over a field jacket, and that adjustment is very nice; being able to tweak that length just a bit would be even better.

I would not be surprised to see a change to a round in the 6-7mm diameter, with a case in the 35-45mm length size. However the trillyards and billyards of extant ammo mitigate against a change. Which is usually the second hurdle caseless ammo faces. That, and the factors of reliability and long term storage--having that cartridge case complicates weapon design, but makes storage very simple.

My bet is that, when caseless is adopted, the first iterations will be a hybrid, with a casehead only, to carry and index the primer. I'd wager the rounds will be "telescoped" too.

But, it would likely take a full package deal to not be another incremental change in technology. Like, say, a 6.5x40 with a longitudinal magazine feeding top to bottom in a fully ambi carbine with integral suppression. Maybe and "inverted" bolt with much of the mass surrounding the barrel, and ahead of the breach. Which would be handy for short-stroke gas operation.

But, that's nothing but woolgathering in my head, a nothus-mix of prior-art ideas from M-1 Carbine, P90, Calico, and the like mashed together. Hopefully, smarter people than I are working on this.

GunTech
November 12, 2010, 12:14 AM
A reflex type suppressor add very little in length.

Much as I dislike bullpup designs, that neatly addresses the length issue, allowing for a full length barrel with a short overall weapon. Forward ejection or caseless neatly deal with the right/left issue.

Then again, it's still just a bullet thrower, and that whole concept is just about played out. The ACR test showed that about the only way to significantly increase hit probability over the current rifle is to go to an explosive projectile. The XM-29 and XM-25 are a direct result.

The first 5 XM-25 are supposed to go to Afghanistan any day, with another 30-40 to follow shortly. The XM-25 is slated to enter service in 2012 as a special purpose weapon. But as weight and cost come down as the technology matures it could very well become the next infantry weapon.

Note that this concept is being pursued by other countries as well. Korea has its first export customer for the K-11 (UAE IIRC).

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