Why long range .30 calibers in WWI?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by valnar, Aug 16, 2022.

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  1. valnar

    valnar Member

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    I wasn't sure how to title this thread. It sort of references this one.

    The average distance of a fire fight in WWI (and maybe WWII) was less than 300 meters, which is also the average distance of the trenches in WWI. In many estimates, firefights averaged only 75 meters.

    That being the case, why were a majority of the battle rifle calibers in the .30 range overpowered (by today's standards) when a more intermediate cartridge would have clearly been sufficient? Obviously most of the militaries in the world changed their minds during the cold war post WWII which is why we have the 5.45 and 5.56, but what was the mentality that equipped soldiers with punishingly powerful .30 caliber'ish options (on all sides) before WW2?

    I mean...things like the .30-30 existed in the 19th century which clearly dropped a deer or elk. What made all the militaries of the world make those high-powered calibers? Every country at the time was equally culpable. Nobody swayed away from the formula of a .30 caliber pushing 2600+ FPS.
     
  2. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    Machine guns.

    You have to remember there are other things on the battle field that need shooting than personnel, guns with armor shields, half tracks, trucks, light tanks, etc. Logistics dictate a common caliber between rifles and machine guns, as belted ammunition was often locally loaded.

    If you decide to switch to an "intermediate" cartridge for the infantry rifle, you still need the full power cartridge for the machine gun. The Soviets never gave up the 7.62mm x 54R when they adopted the M43. And the Germans were not going to give up the 7.9mm Mauser when they adopted the Kurtz cartridge. This is why everybody in NATO still uses 7.62mm NATO alongside the 5.56mm.

    Improved logistics allow machine gun ammunition to be a different caliber, these days as nobody loads belts in the field.
     
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  3. caribou

    caribou Member

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    Most military's are prepared to fight their previous war.

    Smokeless powders were still relatively new then, being developed in the 1880's.
    They had no idea what the ranges of combat would be (They still believed in the bayonet)

    Most army's were wildly impressed with the speed and range smokeless powder got them over black powder and adopted the cartridges and rifles for them as they were invented in the 1880's.
    8mm Label and 8mm Mauser were among the first and many cartridges are a different country's take on those, if they didnt adopt them outright.

    Also, the pointed Spitzer bullet made a vast difference in velocity and accuracy, and came into use in the 1890's.

    It takes many years to get a gun and ammo on line and made in enough numbers to equip a whole army.

    It was studies made during WW1 by the Germans (They filmed actual combat and show'd them to their command) that determined that cartridges for infantry combat were over powered. Tactics, weapons, munitions and things like cyclic rate of fire were developed along the lines of info they came up with.

    The Germans had the Polte 8X33mm cartridge in 1938, the MKb-42(H) was the first weapon to utilize it and still it took work as the development went to MP-43, and then adopted as standerd as the Stg-44, and still it wasnt made in enough numbers to budge the Mauser K98k from being the primary issue infantry weapon.
    Besides the cartridge, the tactics to properly use the cartridge have to be developed, and tactics change with each war.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2022
  4. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Member

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    Almost all of the long arm cartridges were developed before the start of WWI and were designed to kill cavalry horses almost as far away as they could be seen.
    Cavalry was the terror of the battlefield until long range artillery and the machine gun took over,
    By that time it was too late to put a smaller, lighter cartridge into production.
     
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  5. valnar

    valnar Member

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    That's good info. thanks.
     
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  6. Beck

    Beck Member

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    Because they didn't have the hindsight that we do looking back at that war from today. Actually it's a little more complicated than that. The cartridges of that time, used primarily in bolt guns, were appropriate for the time.
     
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  7. rabid wombat

    rabid wombat Member

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    For WWII, logistics…there were millions of 30.06 rounds leftover…one of the big reasons the M1 ended up being 30.06…
     
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  8. caribou

    caribou Member

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    Dont forget the bureaucracy in governments that can order or stop production or development of most anything, weather its a military improvement or not.

    The Stg44 was developed in secret , against orders, to come to fruition. Hitler personally held up the Stg44 until battlefield reports made him change his mind.
     
  9. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

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    Copper jacketed bullets weren't the standard, and jacket fouling was a big problem. Bigger bullets generally work better for fouling.
    Also, there wasn't an enormous international cooperative of civilian and military powder manufacturing capability that would make smaller calibers work better. Look into the "ball powder" fiasco from Vietnam with the .223.
    There was an often overlooked aspect as well. WW1, and to a lesser, but still prominent extent in the Eastern front in particular of WW2, shooting animals was a part of advancing an army after invasion. Supply chains weren't all that reliable, and as we know, both sides of WW2 leadership abandoned their soldiers on the Eastern Front.
    Also, in WW1, horses were still a factor, and intermediate rounds are not as good for that.
    Also important , ammunition conservation was considered a major factor, and if the leadership felt you would only need 60 rounds in a battle, they may as well be versatile.
    Machine guns also needed more penetration, and we need compatibility.
    One big concern, is that the bigger the bullet, the more options you have for material in a all-in disasterous war like the WW's.
    You can make a swaged lead .30cal bullet a lot easier than a .22.
    And lastly there is always that big shot in the government who's mad we're not still using .458's.

    Those are some of the reasons, there are others as well.
     
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  10. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    This was definitely part of the equation. The original M1 was designed to shoot the .276 Pedersen round. In fact the 276 Pedersen outperformed the 30-06 in testing. As stated the reason for the change to the M1 to 30-06 was the massive stockpile of 0-06 ammunition and the fact that factories were already setup to produce it.
     
  11. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    The 7X57 was the 1st modern smokeless powder cartridge in large use in combat. During the Spanish American war the US Army found their older rifles at a severe disadvantage compared to the 7X57. It would be Un-American to adopt another countries cartridge, so Americans took the basic idea and made it bigger. The case was lengthened slightly and 30 caliber was chosen over 28 caliber. I have no idea why the Germans chose 8X57.

    Power is relative. Smokeless powder was still new and metallurgy wasn't as good 120 years ago as today. Gun and ammo manufacturers were still figuring out how to best use what they had. Those early rounds were much less potent than today. A modern 30-06 load, in a modern rifle can be as much as 400 fps faster than what my grandfather carried in WW-1. About 300 fps faster than what my dad carried during WW-2.

    Towards the end of the war the concept of a medium power cartridge did catch on. But over the last 60 years many people believe we've gone too small. The newest military cartridge is now a hot 27 caliber cartridge.
     
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  12. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    Which is a bit of a step backwards since the new .277 caliber ammunition is the same length as 308/7.62x51.
     
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  13. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Not exactly. Yes, Mr Garand designed a .276 rifle, but it did not become an M1 until configured in .30. And by that time the cartridge was the M1 round, made for even greater range.
    But I think a lot of the notional leftover WWI .30 was crap anyhow, Cupronickel jackets, stale powder, dodgy quality from minor contractors.

    And circumstances varied. We hear so much of German "intermediates" and Soviet followons for European land war, but Japan went from a neat 6.5 mm to 7.7 while fighting 8mm armed Chinese and Italy tried to upgun from 6.5 to 7.35 based on experience shooting at Ethiopians.
     
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  14. Howland937

    Howland937 Member

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    In the U.S., .30 was still the caliber of choice throughout the Korean and the first half of Vietnam wars. The push for lighter weapons using lighter ammo was a result of the realization that wars were no longer fought in trenches from defined lines in pitched battles.

    Smaller, more mobile units took the lead. The need became carrying "enough" ammo while maintaining mobility and .223/M16 was considered the best compromise to achieve that.

    The newest adopted round is just a better compromise, as it offers increased performance without exponentially adding weight. I don't think anyone considers .30-06 or .308/7.62 overpowered.
    I'd bet most troops would love to have the firepower of the M2 with the weight of an M4.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2022
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  15. Mauser fan

    Mauser fan Member

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    It was for all the reasons posted after the original post and then some more. One has to remember that were it not for the nasty surprise that the Spanish gave the US in the Spanish American War we wouldn't be as far along in weapons and cartridge development. We have most of all Mr. Browning and Mr. Mauser to thank for their contributions to the arms race.
    We all have to remember that smokeless powder changed the game tremendously as well. Lets not forget the introduction of the Spitzer bullet that lead to the use of lighter bullets and that they were jacketed with higher ballistic coefficients which meant better accuracy at distance. The standard mind set for the late 19th century and through out most of the 20th century was bigger was better. That is why so often that mentality carried over to the hunting sports which truly begs the question. How many big game animals have actually been taken with the lowly old 7x57mm Mauser round? Which by the way is the chambering that many of our ancestors faced down throughout two world wars and some other wars in between.
     
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  16. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    In the pre-WWI era, the need for long range musketry had been strongly validated in the Boer War, Spanish American War and specific battles like Omdurman. The upcoming trench stalemate horror was not on the radar screen.

    In more recent action, US forces armed with CQB optimized M4 carbines have found themselves pinned down by longer ranging (and often elderly) weapons firing traditional full-power cartridges. The US forces ability to obtain rapid fire support (air or artillery assets) has been the ONLY reason why many of these situations have resolved successfully.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2022
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  17. Mauser fan

    Mauser fan Member

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    I forgot to mention that the development of the 30-06 cartridge was a knee jerking response to the surprise the U.S. received in the Spanish American war and so was the development of the 1903 Springfield rifle. A development that Mauser sued the U.S. and won the law suit for more or less copying his design.
     
  18. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    And we quit paying royalties when the krauts sank the Lusitania, too.

    There wasn't anything wrong with the ballistics of the .30 Krag, just that the Ordnance Depatment backed the wrong foreigner for a rifle.

    Slamfire and others have about convinced me we should have just bought the whole Mauser package for a '98 in .30 x 2 1/4" (7.62x57) instead of a mutt 1903.

    Or maybe a home grown Remington Lee.
     
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  19. Mauser fan

    Mauser fan Member

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    You're damned right we should've bought the rights to the Mauser package. It has been and still to this day is the most copied and sold to this day turn bolt gun made, You just can't beat its simplicity. There is the old saying less is best.
     
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  20. mokin

    mokin Member

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    That could have been cool!
     
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  21. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    From out perspective, looking backwards more than one hundred years later we can see that trench warfare might have been better served by "intermediate" cartridges along with the weapons to use them... but.... Way back then, no one before WW I knew that trench warfare would be how the battles of that "Great War" would have been fought... Modern (for that time) weapons, the machine gun for instance, as well as ordinary barbed wire and trenches to protect each side were a horror that most before that war couldn't have imagined - and yes early battles had one side or the using good old fashioned cavalry charges - against entrenched and carefully situated machine gun fire... with disastrous results. Add to that the ordinary cumbersome military supply situation and you can expect that whatever they had on hand was what would be on the battlefield with no time for innovation until after the war....

    And of course, the "lessons of the Great War" had little use in the terrible war that followed only twenty years later where armor and serious air power changed everything... Hope I'm not around for the next great conflict...
     
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  22. MEHavey

    MEHavey Member

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    Oh that's definitely wrong (but you are forgiven) :D

    The American Civil War presaged near everything that was repeated in WW-1 -- especially as of the
    last year & Petersburg/Richmond.....save that of aircraft and mobile machine gun.

    And such deadly new technology was to be defeated by the utterly -- and terminally -- stupid concept of "Elan"
    adapted first by the French, and then the US Army think tanks of the time.

    ELAN.jpg
    (See https://measure-ojs-shsu.tdl.org/measure/article/view/58/50)


    Not only should Petersburg have seen trench warfare as inevitable, but Malvern Hill, Cold Harbor, and Kennesaw Mtn
    should have taught the bloody futility of "Elan" against mass fire from dug in positions -- and even artillery of the time.

    ( Rant light off . . . . :) )


    [Back on Topic] ;)
    Incidentally, the Springfield 30-caliber and its original ladder sights were deliberately designed for officer-controlled, singly-loaded
    mass volley
    fire out to 1,000 yards against clear-field attacks. (Think Rorke's Drift / "Zulu" 1879 -- only 35 years before WW-1)
    Hence also the Springfield magazine cut-off to enforce that single-round loading/firing-by-given-order.

    .
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2022
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  23. PzGren

    PzGren Member

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    German soldiers had received donated hunting rifles with scopes during the battle of Verdun. Dedicated marksman, Scharfschützen, received these rifles and surprised the French with deadly long distance fire. Those were usually also in 8x57IS.

    As a result of the Treaty of Versailles the German Reichswehr was only allowed rifles in calibres up to 7mm, they adopted the 7x57 but switched back to 8x57IS as soon as Onkel Adolf declared the restoration of military sovereignty and had the Reichswehr incorporated into the Wehrmacht.

    WWI was mostly fought in between France and Germany and they believed in the battle proven 7.5 and 7.92mm rifles.

    Numbers speak louder than words. Here is a wiki quote:
    "The French army suffered around 6 million casualties, including 1.4 million dead and 4.2 million wounded, roughly 71% of those who fought."

    "A summary of World War I casualties, complied by the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, lists 1,773,700 German war dead, 4,216,058 wounded, 1,152,800 prisoners, for a total of 7,142,558 casualties, an amazing 54.6 percent of the 13,000,000 soldiers Germany mobilized for the war."
     
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  24. Remington1911

    Remington1911 Member

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    As with many things there are so many replies here that have an answer that is correct in part. There is no single it was this one thing type answer. The one most close is the poster that talked about the last war.

    I have a feeling I am going to be long winded here.

    Whenever there is a "war" there are people from other countries hanging around and seeing just what is what. It really does not matter the size of the war, it could be a "small" local affair, Like Spanish American or Boer, but there are going to be people there watching what is going on. People from the countries that supply the arms, people from "neutral" countries watching what they do, and seeing what works and what does not.

    For WWI we really need to look at a couple of the "big shooting" events, I will not say war even, that came right before. Spanish American, Boer, and Boxer Rebellion, and you can't stop there, you can do Russian Japanese, people will be observing till the next shooting starts. The Boxer rebellion in china is a really good one as about all "great powers" are there. Russians, americans, british, french, you name it they had troops there. And we saw really what they can do. In the china deal there is a bit written on the americans and their 6mm cartridges taking long ranged shots. This was not lost on people, however the minus of the lee navy out weighed its plus side, but people say that long range aspect as well as it is "just as good" close in as what everyone else had. In Spanish american we saw the 7mm cartridge seen as much better over 30-40. Now a great many people look back and say SEE look how great the spanish mauser was over the krag, we need a new cartridge, well really at the distances shot 30-40 is nothing to laugh at, anyone that has hunted with this cartridge knows it is something that will drop you DRT. It was really the stripper clip that was the game changer, but america being america and congress being congress the money was not there, so it was spun into a new rifle and cartridge. The military wanted a new rifle and cartridge, one that could grow. The krag could not and they started to crack when the bullets started being pushed harder. Again no one thing but several things.

    In southern africa, many watched the english and the "best army in the world" get it handed to them by a bunch of dutch farmers with those flat shooting rifles and think....well something needs to change. At the time of the second boer war, england had just started with the metford rifling in their new rifle and cartridge, finding many issues ranging from wear to sights to the english flat can't shoot straight, showed many that across those long distances another thing is needed, so we got a faster flying harder hitting flatter shooting 303. Many don't know the 303 started life as black powder and moved a great deal through the years. In the boer war they are still figuring stuff out.

    Russia-japan had many lessons as well, but there it tended to be revolving around the machine gun, and just how handy that thing was.

    So in the 10-ish short years between all these events and the spam hitting the fan in 1914, people had been making changes based on these past conflicts, and it was thought that just like in africa, china, a long range would be needed, and having something that would shoot flat and accurate at range can be made to work just fine at 100 yards. Better to error on that side then to have something that is useless at 600 yards and have to get other special or heavy equipment to deal with tat.....so here you are.

    And that thinking went into WWII, and it was not till the 8mm short came out did someone finally say, you know we don't really need all this recoil and range to do what we need to do, sure there is a need for that once and a while, but most of what we do is inside of 300. Countries had been thinking about it, but no one actually "pulled the trigger".
     
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  25. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    Yes there were many different things that effected the choice to stick with 30-06 during WWII. It definitely can not be narrowed down to one or two reasons only.

    The Korean War was a war fought with mostly surplus WWII equipment so we didn't see much improvements in individual or crew served weapons at that time. And the Vietnam War threw the US military a curve ball with its guerrilla warfare. A lesson that was again forgotten until the Global War on Terror.

    And one thing yet mentioned is the Ordinance Department within the US Army. The Ord. Dept. hated change with a passion. They fought the Spencer and Henry rifles during the Civil War and Indian Wars, The rOd Kept. also fought against most new weapons systems for the individual soldier. If they had their way we probably would have gone into WWI with single shot rifles. We saw that reluctance to change all the way up to the adoption of the M16.

    Man seems to have short term memory loss and forgets their history. As mentioned, the US Civil War was a prelude to future combat with some of the first trench warfare. Most either didn't pay attention or forgot their history lessons when WWI started. Trench warfare is why the Germans developed their blitzkrieg tactics which are still used to this day. We used the same lightening attack tactics in Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003.
     
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