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Brits Getting into the 7.62 vs 5.56 debate

by christian on January 8, 2010

 

Military​.com sister site HM Forces has an interesting story today on the debate raging across the pond over effective calibers for long range engagements in Afghanistan.

It looks as if the UK MOD has issued what the US calls a “designated marksman” rifle for its forces there.

The Ministry of Defence has spent £1.6million on 440 semi-automatic rifles, which use 7.62mm ammunition.

The order from U.S based company Law Enforcement International followed concern that UK forces’ 5.56mm rounds were unsuitable for battle in Afghanistan.

Because the 5.56mm bullets – used in the standard-issue SA80A2 assault rifle – are smaller and lighter, they are less effective from 300 yards or further away. 

It means insurgents – who use 7.62mm ammunition for their AK47s – back off and shoot at British troops from greater distances. Half of all battles in Helmand are fought between 300 and 900 yards.

Now the MoD has splashed out on the gas-operated LM7 semi– automatic rifles – renamed the L129A1 – which can hit targets up to a mile away.

Of course, caliber doesn’t necessarily equate to range, but we get the point.

I did a little research and found some info on the LM7 from a random UK-based gamer forum. The LM7 looks a lot like a DM rifle in 7.62 with an adjustable stock. The tone of the AP report posted on HM Forces indicates the Brit military is wavering between the 5.56 SA80A2 and a higher-caliber rifle, but I seriously doubt that.

It is interesting to see the same debate cropping up in the UK over whether going back to 7.62 makes more sense:

But the purchase has raised concerns over whether the UK was wrong to give soldiers the SA80 assault rifle in 1986 rather than retaining 7.62mm firearms.

Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, a member of the Commons defence select committee, said: ‘This goes to the heart of the Nato decision back in the 1980s to go for a 5.56mm standard Army rifle. It made the SA80 rifle all the more controversial.

‘The realisation that the SA80A2 does not throw a heavy enough round for combat operations opens up the whole question of what is the right standard rifle for the British Armed Forces.’

I’ve never fired one, but it seems the SA80 is a pretty good rifle and I just don’t think it’s realistic to assume that NATO militaries are going to go back to the 7.62 as the standard issue. Anyone with more gouge from across the pond on this, please dive into the comments and tip lines to let us know more about what’s going on with this.

(Gouge: Thanks to hobsonross for the tip off)

– Christian

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