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Why are our weapon calibers shrinking?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by FIVETWOSEVEN, Jan 9, 2012.

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  1. FIVETWOSEVEN

    FIVETWOSEVEN Member

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    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back then when firearms were first invented, they fired large balls. Now the norm is .22ish caliber rifles. Why is it that the bullets got smaller and smaller? Is this trend going to continued till it's no longer a caliber but a beam of energy in the 40 watt range?
     
  2. Saakee

    Saakee Member

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    Because smaller calibers are lighter, meaning a soldier can carry more magazines full of ammo than they used to.
     
  3. ShawnC

    ShawnC Member

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    I don't know. Seems to me Magnum calibers, while not as big as musket balls, are pretty popular. I'm a .444 Marlin man myself. :)
     
  4. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Member

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    Smaller calibers also give less recoil which means you don't get pushed off target as quickly when firing in full auto. That coupled with the individual rounds being lighter (infantry can carry more ammo for the weight) makes it more attractive for the military, which then drives LEO and civilian sales.

    Even though I'm a fan of 7.62 rifles, I do think that the 5.56 has some advantages, even if they don't really affect me.
     
  5. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

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    Called IMPROVEMENT
    used to be a trained soldier could fire 2 maybe 3 shots a minute
    now a untrained person can EASILY do that, with a semi, a trained person can do 2-3 shots a second.
     
  6. gazpacho

    gazpacho Member

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    Because a modern version of a .68 caliber mini ball, pushed by modern powders would kill a cape buffalo, and the rifle necessary to shoot it would weigh 20 pounds.
     
  7. idcurrie

    idcurrie Member

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    A 5.56 is probably 1/3 the volume and size of a 30'06. A soldier can carry 3x as many into battle. There were many times in WWII where soldiers armed with a Garand would run out of ammunition during a battle.

    5.56 is plenty to kill a man. Wounding is preferable so the more powerful 30'06 or 308 were simply not needed and had disadvantages.

    5.56 practically non existent recoil means no chance of developing a flinch and allows faster followup shots.

    In terms of cost of manufacture and the ability to meet wartime ammunition demand, a 5.56 might take 25 grains of powder where a 30'06 would take 55. It would have less than half the brass, less than half the weight of bullet. You get the idea.

    You can make 2x the ammo in 5.56 using the same raw resources. You can transport it around in greater quantities, the GI can carry much more of it, and it has less recoil.

    Win Win Win.
     
  8. blarby

    blarby Member

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    Here we go again !

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5euXm5msz1Y

    One side of the argument would argue that 3x the ammo would whoop that drum solid.


    The other side of the argument argues that you only need ONE round to pierce the barrel, and STOP your assailant.

    99.47256382031% of the arguments essentially boil down to this...thats why I posted the vid.

    In realistic fire-exchange situations BOTH sides have merit.
     
  9. murf

    murf Member

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    don't have to shoot horses anymore.

    murf
     
  10. pikid89

    pikid89 Member

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    When black powder was the only gun powder, in order to get the required energy out of said projectile, it had to be large and heavy, like the .75 caliber brown bess

    nowadays, with modern smokeless powder, a smaller lighter projectile can be moved many times faster, which yields similar (or more in some instances) than the previous heavy slow projectile

    energy is determined by multiplying mass (the amount of matter or "stuff" in something) times the velocity squared

    Energy = Mass*(Velocity^2)

    E=mv^2

    if we take a 545 grain .71 caliber ball over 100 grains of black powder (British Army Brown Bess load), you would get around 1000fps, you get about 1210 foot pounds of muzzle energy

    alternatively,the M16 load, a 55 grain .224 caliber bullet pushed to 3110 feet per second yields 1181 ft/lbs

    those are similar muzzle energies
    but they are not the only factors at play here

    momentum is the measure of how much energy it takes to get something moving (or stop its movement)

    it is calculated by multiplying velocity times mass

    so 545 grains * 1000 fps gives us a momentum (p) of 545,000

    while 55 grains * 3110 fps = P = 171,050

    so now we know that the large ball has more momentum and we can then summarize that it takes more energy to get it moving

    that then brings us to newtons third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    so if the brown bess takes (X) amount of energy and applied it to the heavy ball, then the third law says that the heavy ball will be applying the exact equal energy (X) back to the rifle system (which includes the shooter) which translates into recoil

    the M16 bullet (with a lower momentum) requires less energy to move it and thus applies that same lower amount back to the rifle and shooter

    simply put, we get less recoil for the same amount of muzzle energy

    also, and not AS physics related, 180 rounds is a standard combat ammo load, and 180 .71 caliber lead balls weighs over 14 lbs (not including powder) and 180 rounds of 5.56 weighs just shy of 5 lbs
     
  11. Ragnar Danneskjold

    Ragnar Danneskjold Member

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    Most battles fought with small arms since the switch to 5.56 have be reliant on crew served weapons and some form of vehicle/artillery support. The infantry rifle is used primarily for suppression fire while other units maneuver to eliminate the threat. War is far more dynamic than it was in WWI and II. There were no front lines in Vietnam, nor are there any in Iraq or Afghanistan. Soldiers picking off other soldiers from foxholes is not really applicable right now. The ability of an individual soldier to carry more ammunition in order to be able to participate in suppression fire is more important that each round's terminal ballistics. If you balance out the rounds fired vs. how many insurgents were killed by the US in Iraq, it comes out to roughly 250,000 rounds for 1 dead insurgent. Obviously most of these are from crew served weapons, and were not directed at specific targets. It's not uncommon for turret gunners to lay massive amounts of SAW and .50cal fire when pushing through a complex ambush. Or for whole squads of soldiers to go through multiple magazines each shooting at 1 or 2 insurgents behind a mud wall. The ammo is free, so why not use it and be sure. All of this is easier with smaller lighter rounds. When precise fire is needed, Designated Marksmen do use 7.62 rifles to engage specific targets. The M4/M16/SAW weapons are used to "volume of fire", something they are very good at. Again, what 1 individual round can do when it enters a person doesn't matter as much when nearly all of the rounds are fired at and near the target, not necessarily into them.
     
  12. blarby

    blarby Member

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    Thats really sad.

    The explanation wasn't really for combat-liners, FWIW

    I was mainly trying to head off the rush of mall nin....hey.......wait LOOK OUT< ITS THE 45 and 9 MM GUYS ! RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNn
     
  13. BigN

    BigN Member

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    Efficiency, ease of use, cost factors, etc. It's the same with everything...
     
  14. WeedWacker

    WeedWacker Member

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    You forgot politics..... ;)
     
  15. One_Jackal

    One_Jackal member

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    It appears that everyone has covered the military reason for the military switch to the .223/556 NATO. However, I don't understand law enforcement agencies switching to the .223/556 NATO. I can see swat team snipers needing a rifle. In a patrol car shotguns loaded with buckshot are far more effective at ranges less than 40 yards. Slugs will bust cinder blocks. Forcing suspects holed up a building to surrender. Another concern is rifle bullets passing thru their intended target, hitting innocent by standers. I think the switch is a budgetary thing. If a department doesn't spend it's entire budget, next years budget is cut back. $1000+ rifles eat up a lot more money than $300 pump shotguns.
     
  16. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

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    Apparently not. 5.56 is proving to do all that really needs to be done to a human being, with faster follow-up shots, less recoil, and more rounds on tap if things get weird.

    You're going to be hard-pressed to find any police training teaching officers of any sort to fire through building structures to induce suspects to surrender. Yes, they used to do that in the old gangster movies, but these days if you don't put eyes on the target, you don't shoot. Even for police officers, shootings and killings must be lawful -- they can't simply kill a suspect just because he refuses to come outside -- and perforating little Jimmy in the next house or the hostage tied to the chair is really hard to explain away in court.

    Which some 5.56 rounds are much safer about than pistol bullets or shotgun projectiles.
     
  17. Chris-bob

    Chris-bob Member

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    Cause they're a bunch of ninnies. ;)
     
  18. One_Jackal

    One_Jackal member

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    @Sam1911 I say this with all due respect. My father served with the LA county Sheriffs Dept during the 1962 and 1965 Watts riots. They did shoot cinder block structures with slugs to disperse rioters. My cousin is a Highway Patrol self defense/tactical instructor and a former Navy SEAL. I have heard him tell my father that the use of a shotgun to destroy masonry is still taught.

    I don't think their experience came from a "gangster movie."

    The damage a load of buckshot does in a single shot is equal to shooting a suspect 12 times with a .223. The US Army still teaches soldiers how to use a shotgun in urban warfare training. If you ask any law enforcement officer what is the best home defense weapon, 99% will say a shotgun.
     
  19. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

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    A good summary of the LE move from 12ga toward .223 can be found in Roberts G.K., "Law Enforcement General Purpose Shoulder Fired Weapons: the Wounding Effects of 5.56mm/.223 Carbines Compared with 12 ga. Shotguns and Pistol Caliber Weapons Using 10% Ordnance Gelatin as a Tissue Simulant, Police Marksman, Jul/Aug 1998, pp. 38-45.

     
  20. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    This would be termed as progress through innovation. Waaaaay back then, they didn't have the technology to get a .172" projectile to shoot 4000+ fps too.
     
  21. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

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    Ever tried to load a small caliber muzzle loader in the extreme cold? The colder it gets, the harder it is load as the fine motor skills and chilly away by the cold.
     
  22. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

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    I have no proof that your father and his department did not do that back in the '60s. I really don't see how shooting a structure helps to disperse rioters, but I will take your word that that department did that back then.

    I can't argue with what you heard your uncle tell your father. I will stand by my statement and simply say that any such use would be vanishingly rare. The general ineffectiveness of it and risk to others makes it a poor choice. If you get the chance, ask him exactly who is teaching this and for what purposes.

    I assume you know the difference between shooting to destroy a structure, and using sintered slug breaching loads to open doors? That is a tactic in current use.

    And yet, very few go into urban warfare situations with shotguns. Very few. The last one I spoke to who did was a Lieutenant who said they let him have a shotgun because he was back in the Humvee most of the time directing events and they figured he wouldn't get into much trouble with it.

    While I appreciate what you're saying, cops are not really a "top tier" source for shooting and defensive tactics advice, generally speaking.

    As an acquaintance of mine and NJSP officer -- and one of the fastest and most accurate shooters I've ever seen in competition -- likes to say, "Ask a cop which he'd rather have, a new pen or a new gun. He'll always take the pen. It's something he'll use."
     
  23. Ragnar Danneskjold

    Ragnar Danneskjold Member

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    Well I just got back from Afghanistan, and I can say that shotguns have essentially 2 uses overseas. Less than lethal rounds for detainee operations, and breaching rounds for opening doors. I don't think we loaded buckshot into our 500's the entire deployment. The shotgun is no longer a practical combat weapon. Tool? Yes. Weapon? No.

    And when I went through an MCOLES police academy in Michigan, we were taught to fire our weapons at threats, not into buildings to scare people. The 4 Rules still apply in police-work and were thankfully taught in my academy. Shooting into an occupied structure is a clear violation of "be sure of your target and what's behind it". I guess I fall into the 1%. I prefer the AR15 to the shotgun any day. Overseas, on duty, and at home.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  24. FIVETWOSEVEN

    FIVETWOSEVEN Member

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    It appears as though my thread has gone from weapon history to shotgun tactics, wonderful...
     
  25. Ragnar Danneskjold

    Ragnar Danneskjold Member

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    pikid89 gave a pretty good reason. As time passed, we figured out how to get the same effect out of smaller bullets. Technology advanced and so did tactics with it. You mentioned .22ish caliber rifles, which the .223 is the most popular for fighting guns. The reasons we switched to the .223 have been given: you can carry a lot more rounds for almost the same terminal ballistics, and both the military and police forces realized that the low recoil and high round capacity of the .223 caliber weapons fit their needs better. Bigger rounds are still used for specialized needs, like snipers. Again with pistol rounds, police forces realized that the low recoil and high capacity of 9mm and even .40 fit their needs and tactics better than a small amount of bigger rounds. Police, like the military, tend to fire lots of rounds at each threat, and miss with most of them. It's far better to get a hit with a smaller round than miss with the bigger rounds and be empty.

    Tactics for the military and also for police evolved where many smaller rounds are preferable to a few bigger rounds. And bullet and power technology evolved along with it where we can get almost the same effect on target with those smaller rounds. The switch came from a natural desire to get the best of both worlds.

    As for the shotguns, that comes into play in this thread, because a 12ga shotgun vs. a .223 carbine is the epitome of what you're asking. It's a perfect example of a group switching directly from a very big round with a very low capacity, to a very small round with much bigger capacity. The reasons for that switch, which are being discussed, play a large part in your general question of why larger calibers were given up for smaller ones.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
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