Quantcast
  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Rifle Combat at Less than 300 Meters

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Timthinker, Dec 30, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Timthinker

    Timthinker Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2006
    Messages:
    815
    During discussions about military rifles, some THR members have stated that studies conducted after World War One demonstrated that most combat infantrymen shot at targets no more than 300 meters away. Yet, these studies are never named nor are any of the persons who presumably participated in them. The historian in me would like some information about this interesting matter.

    To avoid any rancor, let me say that I do not doubt the validity of this statistic. Shooting at a hostile, moving target is difficult under the stress and strain of combat. This I readily believe. But I would like some historical information about the research that led to those findings. Thanks.


    Timthinker
     
  2. Number 6

    Number 6 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2003
    Messages:
    828
  3. Dionysusigma

    Dionysusigma Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2003
    Messages:
    3,671
    Location:
    Okay City
    O'Course most combat takes place within 300 meters! Further out, "everyone" calls it sniping... ;) :rolleyes: :D
     
  4. HorseSoldier

    HorseSoldier Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Messages:
    5,297
    Location:
    Anchorage, AK
    Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon by Norman A. Hitchman at the Army's Operations Research Office (released 1952) is another specific title that reaches the same "most < 100 meters, almost all inside 300 meters" conclusions people usually talk about. His methodology, as I understand it, involved data from both World Wars and more current data from Korea, which all supported the usual range figures.

    Max Popenker or Tony Williams, if they happen to join this thread, can probably provide some additional references to other specific studies drawing similar conclusions. If I remember right their book on assault rifles mentions at least the 1920s-30s era Russian researchers who advocated an intermediate .25 caliber rifle for infantry use.
     
  5. Avenger

    Avenger Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Messages:
    647
    For World War II, I'll believe it. Look at the terrain and vegetation where most of the battles took place. Rifles are line-of-sight weapons, if you can only SEE things out to 100 yards away....
     
  6. Limeyfellow

    Limeyfellow Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2005
    Messages:
    1,394
    Location:
    NC, USA
    Yes, because it is not like there was battles fought in the deserts of the Middle East and even in Iraq itself or across the steppes and rice paddies in Asia and so on. There were plenty of battles where the terrian allowed longer shots, but still it rarely happened.
     
  7. HorseSoldier

    HorseSoldier Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Messages:
    5,297
    Location:
    Anchorage, AK
    There's more to it than just the terrain, like Limeyfellow suggested.

    Even in more open terrain, when you factor in the difficulty of acquiring a point target like an individual in drab/camouflage clothing you start losing percentage points off engagements past the 100/300 range figure.

    To that add target movement and you lost more % points.

    The big kicker, however, on two way rifle ranges are the physiological and psychological effects of life and death confrontation. Even if the target is wearing bright colors and stationary, when you factor in adrenalin surge and maxed out heart and respiration rates, etc., the likelihood of hitting a target drops dramatically. How much it drops will vary from shooter to shooter, but the overall big-picture statistical situation is very poor.

    Even without consideration of the (contentious to some) research showing lots of guys historically simply wouldn't shoot at all, it isn't much wonder that most battlefield casaulties are caused by weapons that saturate an area with fire or fragments like artillery or machineguns.
     
  8. georgeduz

    georgeduz Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Messages:
    287
    Location:
    peoples republic of nj
    how far can you see?at 300 yards a person looks like a small dot.
     
  9. threefeathers

    threefeathers Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2003
    Messages:
    1,176
    Location:
    AZ
    SLA Marshall was a fraud and made up his stats. I feel robbed because as a young soldier I ate up every thing he had to say. So I seperate his research from his conclusions. His deal that only one in 10 or so shoot is bull****. My experience in combat is that I was always getting my guys to hold their fire and conserve ammo. The WW2 NCO's I grew up with ALL said the swme thing. As for 400 meter shots when avalible many take them. But in most instances you need permission because you don't want to give you own position away. If you are being shot at from that distance I guaranfrackingtee that most will shoot back.
     
  10. Lucky

    Lucky Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2005
    Messages:
    2,919
    Location:
    Calgary, near Rocky Mountains - Canada
    If you were a Russian on the Steppes, and you and few hundred buddies were dug in and an equivalent number of unsuspecting Germans were marching towards you - would you hold your fire and wait for them to get closer, or shoot as soon as you could reliably hit them?

    If the only weapons involved are rifles then the farther away the defender engages the better, especially since the guys walking probably have less ammo.

    But in reality if the Russians opened fire at half a click, the Germans would have just sat down and let supporting arms blow the Russians away, right?

    Conversely the ideal time for the Russians to open fire would be when the Germans are in range of the Russian artillery, but not too close that Russian artillery may hit the Russian position, right?


    If you read Rommel's Infanterie greift an there is exactly a rifle-to-rifle engagement in WW1. The French opened fire at long range, maybe 600m or something, but they ALL had their sights way way off.
     
  11. elmerfudd

    elmerfudd Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    Messages:
    1,463
    I think HorseSoldier nails it. First off, go without proper sleep for a week, then sprint for 100 yards with 60 pounds on your back, take up a hasty firing position with whatever support you happen to have which is probably nothing and then try to figure out where that camouflaged guy is 400 yards away from you while bullets zing by your head. There are probably a few Sgt. Yorks out there with perfect vision, who can keep their cool under those conditions and respond with precision fire, but they are few and far between.

    I read somewhere that the average distance for police to engage a suspect at is 6 feet and that only about 50% of their shots hit their target even at that range.
     
  12. GunTech

    GunTech Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    Messages:
    3,878
    Location:
    Helena MT
    Hitchman's work was based on data culled from the ALCLAD study, evaluating several million combat casualties from WWI and later Korea, as well as after action reports from same. Most people are unaware of his findindings, which pretty much turn every preconceived notion about infantry small arms combat on its head.

    Hitchman's report is virtually impossible to obtain in the original, but extensive quotes can be found in The Great Rifle Controversy, the Black Rifle, SPIW: The Deadliest Weapon That Never Was, US Rifle M14, etc.

    Here's a quote from a post I made some time ago on rec.guns. I'm too lazy to retype it all

     
  13. Evil Monkey

    Evil Monkey member

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,486
    Today in the 21st century, there has been a proliferation of optics. They are being used on all infantry weapons imaginable.

    There's ACOG, SUSAT, ELCAN, some are 1x red dots, 4x, telescopic, etc.

    These pieces of equipment weren't used much when the Hall and Hitchman reports came out. Wouldn't these optical sights (especially the magnified ones) have increased the range of engagements today?
     
  14. critter

    critter Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    3,167
    Location:
    southeast AR
    I knew an old marine (now gone on to his well-deserved reward) who was in the first group to land on Guadalcanal and faced many banzi charges while operating a 1903 springfield.

    Some of the charges were across beach flats and river mouth delta flat places while the marines were dug in on elevated places. He reported that they begin shooting (using the standing-ladder volley sight notches) at around 1200 yards.

    I had thought they were woefully short of supplies. He said they were short of everything but ammo. His quote was something on the order of they had plenty of ammo-just not enough time to shoot the little yeller (expletive deleted).

    SO, there were, apparantly, times when long range engagements WERE used. Other times were in the mountains of the Korean war during the Chosin reservoir part of the campaign.

    The relative frequency of such long range shooting, I can not speak to however.
     
  15. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2002
    Messages:
    20,882
    Location:
    Atlanta
    threefeathers is almost entirely correct.

    As a history guy (BA, currently working on Master's), and a former infantryman, I can tell you SLA Marshall was bogus. His methodology has been questioned by genuine historians, and the obvious conclusions are that he made up his statistics.

    That said, the "myth of the American rifleman" is prevalent in our culture. Yes, many U.S. troops have outshot other troops, but I find no evidence this has ever won wars. Support weapons are almost always the big killers. Our current entanglements may be the closest we've come to individual weapons making higher percentages of kills, but that's because they are more police actions in areas populated by noncombatants.

    John
     
  16. GunTech

    GunTech Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    Messages:
    3,878
    Location:
    Helena MT
    The average range of engagement in the ETO during WWII was 75 yards.
     
  17. Timthinker

    Timthinker Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2006
    Messages:
    815
    Guys, thanks for the comments so far. I am hoping to locate some research studies on this topic from immediately after World War One. I believe these studies, and the experiences of those who fought in that war and subsequent ones, eventually paved the way for the smaller rifle cartridges in use today. The problem is locating those initial findings. Thanks once again for the citations and comments.


    Timthinker
     
  18. goon

    goon Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2003
    Messages:
    7,251
    I don't have a source to site so if that's all you are interested in just skip this post.
    I do have a brother who is in the habit of wearing a surplus woodland camo army jacket. When we go to the range and I walk to the 100 yard berm to put my targets up I can look back at the benches (near the tree line). Often I have a hard time picking him out when he's just standing there in jeans and a camo jacket.
    That's with no effort on his part to camoflage himself or avoid being seen.
    I can easily see where the 300 meter idea came from.
     
  19. Thin Black Line

    Thin Black Line Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2005
    Messages:
    3,213
    Location:
    Amerikan Twilight Zone
    I've read other places that state 3 to 5 in 10 actually shoot. It's probably
    still 1 in 10 (or far less statistically) who actually hit and kill/wound an
    enemy in combat.
     
  20. Bartholomew Roberts

    Bartholomew Roberts Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Messages:
    14,613
    Location:
    Texas
    If you'll look there is also an unclassified report of common engagement ranges from the early portion of OIF. I believe it was a Marine report and is in the THR Archives somewhere.

    I've wondered the same thing myself; but the Marine report mentioned above pretty much gives the same results as earlier studies. I think they found that 80% of engagements took place at less than 100m and the majority happened at less than 50m. I'm not sure how much rules of engagement and the mix of civilians may play a role in reducing engagement distances despite optics though.

    Here is one link I found discussing the Marine report; there are others around though:
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=25281&highlight=engagement+distance+Marine
     
  21. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Messages:
    338
    There are numerous reports of effective rifle fire at well over 400 yards in the wars of the late 19th century. Much of this was by volley firing admittedly, but casualties were inflicted at ranges out to and past 1000 yards.

    Examples include Rorke's Drift, where the British defenders were engaging the enemy at ranges out to 500 yards and more with Martini Henrys; Plevna, where the Turks opened the batting on the assaulting Russians at 1000 yards plus, to great effect, and numerous battles of the Second Boer War, where the Boers were inflicting casualties on the British at 1000 yards and often succeeded in halting attacks by effective rifle fire at 500 yards plus. There was even something of a scandal when it was discovered that the British Lee Enfields' sights were set wrongly in manufacture, which was why they were incapable of hitting at the extreme ranges of the Boers' Mausers (and adverse comments about the L-E Carbines ability to hit at more than a few hundred yards too).
     
  22. Bartholomew Roberts

    Bartholomew Roberts Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Messages:
    14,613
    Location:
    Texas
    Yes; but every example you gave involved shooting at a massed group of attackers as they assaulted a fortified position over open ground. Typically, that isn't a fight you see much any more.

    Even where you do get vast numbers attacking a small fortified position (like say the Blackwater fight in Najaf), they aren't massed in a line and assaulting; but dispersed among the terrain and firing from different positions as individuals and small units.

    Here is one link I found discussing the Marine report; there are others around though:
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=25281&highlight=engagement+distance+Marine
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2007
  23. Evil Monkey

    Evil Monkey member

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,486
    Took place in 1879.

    Wikipedia says 1899-1902



    What am I trying to prove? Well, WW1 started in 1914 I believe. It wasn't until near the end where mobile warfare was introduced, which eventually (with the prolific use of the MG) lead to an understanding that long range fire from an infantry rifle became pointless because new doctrine would be to maneuver around to destroy the MG and the enemy riflemen.

    How can you make reference to battle tactics used more than 100 years ago to the tactics used today? :confused:
     
  24. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Messages:
    338
    Yes, tactics have changed. More due to the advent of the machine gun than anything else. What has also changed though, dramatically, is the expectation of the effective range of the rifleman. The examples I cited were, as you said, of fire at massed troops, but there was an expectation that riflemen could engage at those sorts of ranges, and could also make hits on individuals at several hundred yards.

    The British (and others) even established rifle ranges as long as 2000 yards and did have their soldiers practice out to 1000 yards. In that period trained soldiers were expected to be able to hit man-sized targets at 600 yards and a target the size of an artillery piece and its crew at considerably greater range. In the Boer war the Boers were very successful in hitting individuals at extremely long range, and the British soldiers expressed frustration that their rifles weren't allowing them to return the favour - they certainly considered that they should be capable of reaching out to these long ranges.

    Now WWI was typified by trench warfare, at least in large part, so the requirement for long-range shooting wasn't there - no wonder average engagement ranges were short. It is interesting to note however that Ion Idriess, who served as a sniper and spotter, considered that a trained man should be able to hit enemy soldiers at 500-600 yards with an SMLE (see his "Australian Guerrilla" series).

    WWII coloured expectations a great deal too, and the result was a mindset that ranges will be fairly short so rifles need not be capable of long ranges. We saw that here, and our doctrine when I wore a green suit was that the rifle (L1A1 at that time) has an effective range of 300m, and the ordinary rifleman only trained out to 300m. That is all very well where the terrain or cover dictates short ranges, but one must question its value in open terrain, especially if one came up against an enemy capable of shooting at longer ranges.
     
  25. daniel (australia)

    daniel (australia) Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2002
    Messages:
    338
    Evil Monkey

    I'm well aware of when Rorke's Drift and the Second Boer War took place. Even Plevna. Here's a hint:

    The point is that there was a time when riflemen were expected to and indeed did engage the enemy at ranges far greater than those cited by the much-criticised "Slam" Marshall.

    History eh, you just can't learn anything from it:rolleyes:
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page