Home » Wars » Afghan Update » Dueling Rifle Rounds: It’s All About the Wound Channel

Dueling Rifle Rounds: It’s All About the Wound Channel

by Greg on May 25, 2010

The Times (the British one) has a story about the continuing debate over the 7.62mm round versus the 5.56mm as employed in the long range firefights in Afghanistan. The story asserts that the 5.56mm round used in the M4 rifle “lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights.” As Defense Tech readers know, we’ve covered this issue before.

As for the stopping power of the 5.56mm round, that very topic came up at a roundtable discussion I attended with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier last month at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. It led to an interesting discussion about wound dynamics, the “wound channel” and the “bleed out effect.”

Responding to claims that high-velocity 5.56mm rounds pass straight through the body without killing, Brig. Gen. Pete Fuller, the commander of PEO Soldier, said a new 5.56mm round that will be shipped to troops beginning in June, the M855A1 lead free slug, will get rid of what he called “yaw dependency.”

“The current M855 (5.56mm) ball round is yaw dependent. The closer you are to something you’re shooting at, the less yaw it has and it’s going to go right straight through,” said Fuller. Also, the M4 carbine has a 14 ½ inch barrel compared to the 20-inch barrel on the standard M16. “That shorter barrel cut out 5 ½ inches for that round to get to full muzzle velocity,” he said.

Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for Soldier weapons with the PEO Soldier, discounted the reports of multiple 5.56mm rifle rounds penetrating straight through enemy bodies, “If you look at the bone mass of the human body, there is a lot of bone, if you hit a bone, [the bullet] is not going through the body, its putting an individual down.”

Knockdown is actually a misnomer, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, program manager for individual Soldier weapons at PEO-Soldier. “You generally don’t knock anyone down, unless you have a very, very large round and you hit bone.” What typically brings down a human being when hit with a bullet is the “bleed-out effect”: massive blood loss that causes the body to shut down, the person staggers and then collapses.

When the 5.56mm high-velocity round enters the body it creates a “wound channel,” Tamilio said, “that wound channel as it expands and contracts it causes the bleed out effect.” A high-velocity 5.56mm round creates a sizable wound channel, he said, big enough to do the job.

More important than the size of the rifle round is the individual’s marksmanship, said Lehner. The critical area on the human body is only about six inches wide extending from the top of the head to the lower abdomen where vital internal organs and nerves are clustered. “You hit there, the guy’s going to bleed out a lot quicker.”

Lehner explained the importance of training like this: Take two soldiers. One of whom is fresh out of basic training and equipped with an M-4 rifle with all the high speed sites. The other is a special operations soldier carrying only a 9mm pistol. Who would you choose to go through the door first?

More often than not, “you’d have the special forces guy go through first, because he knows where to place that bullet very quickly and he’s shot thousand of rounds so he’s got that training and confidence to go in there with a weapon that some soldiers might think is only a paper weight.”

– Greg Grant

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{ 108 comments… read them below or add one }

TheDude May 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I think far more important is penetration of barriers. The times when u have a straight line to your target without anything in between a pretty rare.

7,62x51mm will punch right through that tree or brick wall and kill that guy behind it. 5,56x45mm will probably NOT do that for you.

If you are an able shot you will be more effective and spend less ammunition with the larger bullet.

Also there is nothing to discuss about long range and lethality, 7,62x51mm will beat 5,56x45mm hands down if both use similar types of bullets.

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Dude I don't know what kind of trees you have, but in Nebraska the ones I see aren't going to let many .308 bullets punch right through unless they are less than 4" in diameter.

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Warren May 25, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Why can't we replace SAWs with .50 cal sniper rifles?
As I understand it, the point of a SAW is not to kill, but to keep the enemy's head down. So, instead of trying to keep an enemy pinned behind a rock, it seems a far smarter idea to use something like the .50 cal to just go through the rock. This would eliminate a lot of the controversy about 5.56 vs 7.62. After all there would be little need or point to engage a target with an M-4 or M-16 at 300 yards if the .50 cal sniper is picking them off even behind cover. The carbines would obviously still be needed for close range fights, but isn't the caliber debate rather irrelevant in CQC?

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AT4 May 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm

"the point of a SAW is not to kill"

False.

"seems a far smarter idea to use something like the .50 cal to just go through the rock"

False.

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Johnnypsd1 May 26, 2010 at 2:50 am

I'm going to assume that you have no infantry platoon experience so here it goes. The SAW filled the roll of two automatic rifleman in each squad. It gives the squad sustained fire capability, really supressive fire. It can be very useful in gaining fire superiority when your in a bind. It can still be used in the urban fight with or without the short barrel. The SAW can reach out at distance like a traditional medium machine gun. The M-4 is plenty lethal at 300 yards but it is easily affected by wind due to its light mass. I preferred my M-14 Crazy Horse for the long stuff. As for your .50 caliber argument, carrying that system in the mountains is like carrying a fat chick around. It sucks! That system has its place in the fight but its not in lieu of the SAW. Hope this clears it up for you some. BTW whats with your obsession with shooting through rocks? Just curious…

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Day May 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm

yeah, while rifles like the M82A1 are great for certain, very specific situations they are in no way suitable for standard issue use. the M249 is designed to kill and is a lightweight multi role weapon system tailor made for the needs of a squad. yes the M249 is highly adept at supressive fire, but it can also engage targets at mid to long range in a highly effective manner. in short, dont believe everything you see on TV, especially when it comes to anti materiel rifles.

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Ian James May 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Are you high??? Yes the M82A1 has great stopping power, but it has no place in an infantry squad or a fireteam. It is a specialized weapon designed for taking out material such as light armored vehicles. Plus in the hands of someone that knows what they're doing, a SAW can be just as accurate as the M4 or M16.

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TheDude May 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

6,5x39mm Grendel would be the way to go then, i guess, because it has superior long range performance and should have better penetration characteristics than 6,8 SPC, due to slightly higher energy of the round. 0,3 mm more won´t make the 6,8 much more lethal i guarantee.

Still, they should retain the 7,62x51mm for MArksman because of its great penetration characteristics. Goes through oak-trees, walls ´n stuff. Totally demoralizing for any enemy to see they cannot hide from your rifle bullets.

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Rupert Fiennes May 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

60+ years on, .280 British looks better and better….

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Bob May 25, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Amen to that

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blight May 26, 2010 at 4:26 am

Thank the Men With Stars On Their Shoulders for killing it.

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Juan May 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Yes, even the .276 Pedersen comes to mind, though not the same, and before even the venerable .280 British.

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Joe May 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

Don't forget that the M1 Garand was originally designed for .276 cartridge. The stockpiles of 30.06 ammo still on hand from WW1 is the reason it was rechambered for 30.06 and produced in that caliber. Anybody who thinks that the government will not consider the billions of rounds of 5.56mm it has on hand when considering a new rifle is engaged in wishful thinking.

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Cannon Fodder May 25, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Ah, come on guys, at least they are making a new round for the M-4. They are getting a clue, it just takes them some time. Look, many of the new AR type designs are now including a state of the art gas piston system. Of course the AK-47 had one from the beginning.

I just can't wait till I get a forward assist on my AK-47, oh, wait a minute, it doesn't need one…

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Tim B May 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

No one is switching to a new general purpose bullet caliber in war time, so 6.8mm SPC is out. That leaves the only 7.62, and the FN SCAR. Everyone should get one. That is for Afghanistan only since longer ranges are the norm. CQB in Iraq can keep the 5.56.

Or we could just ignore the 1899 Hague Convention declaration 3, and issue the nasty 5.56 rounds.

Forget the 7.62mm, how about something really cool, and have a M4 like rifle chambered in .338 Lapua, with 3 round burst and 20 round mag. Anyone remember the Alexander Arms .500 Beowulf?

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@dehakal May 25, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Ya all mean something like this? http://www.onlylongrange.com/badnews.asp

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Tim B May 25, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Hell yeah, that works, thanks. I'd shorten the barrel to the standard to 14.5-16in though.

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Day May 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm

the "nasty" 5.56 mm rounds you refer to still wouldnt effectively deal with the range and penetration issues being faced in the stan. as for .338 burst/full autos, dont be stupid. for a start the round is extremely expensive, impractical for most self loaders, and the recoil would make the rifle unmanagable, along with probably sending you home with a dislocated shoulder. also, the .50 beowulf round was deigned for short ranfe power only and was more or less just an experiment in super large caliber autos.
seeing as absolutely no one showed interest in it, its unlikely to progress beyond the point of a novelty concept.

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Sev May 25, 2010 at 9:55 pm

How about the Army brings back the M14 or switches to the 6.5-6.8 round. But more importantly give the troops more time on the range. Make them go through thousands of rounds of ammo until shooting accurately is instinctive. It'd be cheaper than most other Army projects. Just invest time and more bullets. "Train like you fight"

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IronV May 26, 2010 at 6:16 am

The Army and the Marines have brought back the M-14. The Army issues TWO to each squad in Afghanistan. That's a surprising high percentage of total battle rifles in country…

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Sev May 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I mean as the standard issue rifle. Not just the designated marksman rifle. I hate the M4 with a passion. I dont hate the m16 becaue its an actual rifle and the 5.56 was specifically designed for it, and it puts the round to better use. But the M4 is a CARBINE, not a rifle. I dont know why they're making it standard issue. Its less effective than the m16 and since we're in afghanistan, i dont know why the Army doesnt at the very least issue the m16 instead of the m4.

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Burn May 25, 2010 at 10:12 pm

It is an utter fabrication that the M855a1 is better. It's just a "green round". Pure politics. The Marines and SOCOM just started limited use of the barrier blind 5.56 Mk318 MOD 0 SOST and 7.62 Mk319 MOD 0 SOST. These rounds are far superior. With the current economic environment we're just not going to see a caliber change. We might see more use of the 7.62 with modern rifles and ammo though.

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@7thwave May 25, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Discussing the concept of wound damage and bullet penetration solves nothing. Yak, yak, yak. Enough.The military needs a heavier round similar to the 7.62x39mm to effect killing power. And as for lead free bullets…bahhahahahahahahahahahaha! I guess the all mighty military is finally tired of killing the bad guys…how pathetic.

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MadMike May 26, 2010 at 2:21 am

The 7.62 x 39 round isn't all that great, either. I spent several days at a battalion aid station where we treated about 300 iraqis who had been shot , center-mass by AK-47s. More often-than-not, the round would enter the body, follow the curvature of the ribcage, missing vital organs, and would exit out the shoulder, taking about a half-pound of meat with it. What ultimately killed these guys was the secondary infection, not the wound. The standard NATO round is my favorite, but I like the 7-mm too because of its flatter trajectory.

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Moose May 26, 2010 at 2:45 am

Just food for thought:

LSAT is a great opportunity to introduce a bullet with superior ballistics, since LSAT requires all new caseless or polymer-cased telescoped rounds. They're using 5.56mm as a Control caliber for benchmarking performance, but they can literally start with a clean sheet and design the "ideal" bullet before it his production.

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Randall May 27, 2010 at 2:01 am

I agree, 6.5 – 6.8 are improvements over the 5.56. However the inherent flaw with introducing a new round based on the currently used weapon system are the limitations involved when trying to design that new round to work inside those constraints… Point is LSAT is the perfect opportunity to arguable create the best small arms round… ever.

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Dana swan May 26, 2010 at 3:35 am

i have an AR-10 with 16" barrel that is 7.8 lbs that uses 7.62 Nato rounds. This is just like an m-4 on steroids. Why re-invent the wheel?

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Bob May 26, 2010 at 7:52 am

I bet it kicks like hell and after 300 or so round you are beat to death. of course with the weight of that much ammo you would never carry 300 rounds to start with.

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Juan May 26, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Actually, I have one also. While I can't vouch for Dana's, I can say mine has little more recoil than my ar-15, and somewhat less (subjectively, to me) than an M-14, and significantly less than a G-3.

You might be surprised, given good mags (PMAG 20's come to mind) what soldiers who've actually served would carry (plus what other bits they might s-can) to get a better round.

While better 5.56 rounds exist, the US Army is not keen on making them general issue. Kudos to the USMC for bucking the trend with basically a COTS solution.

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blight May 26, 2010 at 4:29 am

Maybe pair 7.62mm NATO weapons (maybe reduce the amount of propellant in each to reduce recoil?) with the SAW. If we need sustained fire, then it doesn't have to have great stopping power. But slower aimed shots, 7.62mm. Or increase the mix of 7.62mm rifles in a squad. AR-10s might be a decent idea but procurement may take a long time. Issuing M-14's would be an alright stopgap.

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Philo May 26, 2010 at 12:33 am

Get yourself a side of beef. Take it out and try the M4 vs AK. 100 yards, 200, 300. I wasn’t convinced either until we did. Hands down 7.62 x .39.

I get the whole not wanting errant rounds to go through the wall and kill some bedouin kid thing, but seriously.

We need to upgrade to the 6.5 Grendal round and dump the current stuff into the civilian market at wholesale prices.

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Joe May 27, 2010 at 10:06 am

Had to be a large piece of beef to hit it at 300 yards with an AK. If you could get an enemy to show that much of his body for a target and stand still long enough than an AK at 300 would work. The fact is that M4s with modern optics make hits at much longer range than any AK can, make hits at shorter range faster than an AK and the lack of recoil makes follow up shots much faster. Any hit with a 5.56mm round is better than a miss with a 7.62 all day long. The 7.62×39 accuracy gets worse fast for every yard over 200 or so. I like AK 74s better than Ak 47s for accuracy but I do not think either one is anywhere near as good as the M4/M-16.

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Philo May 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm

On the range an AK-47 is a durable and reliable weapon. A sniper rifle it is not, but if you know how to use it properly, you can get respectable groups at 300 yards with the detachable scope. I was using the NORINCO "Sporter" model. Now, I personally haven't been able to do it, but I have witnessed my buddy hit a milk jug full of dyed water at 500 yards with his AK-47. Like I said, it has a lot to do with who's doing the shooting.

"Any hit with a 5.56mm round is better than a miss with a 7.62 all day long…" That's kind of a moot point .A hit with ANY round is better than a miss.

And yes, a side of beef IS bigger than most targets will present in combat LOL, but it was about comparing damage at the different ranges, not the overall accuracy.

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Tortoise 1956 May 26, 2010 at 4:55 am

I'm not a firearms guru, but one of my friends is a serious collector of WWII weapons. He likes the 7MM round for all-around versatility. Me, I'd rather sit and plink from as far away as possible…

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 26, 2010 at 2:37 am

One point that I feel is often overlooked when talking about transitioning to a new calibre is logistics.

I'm no great fan of the 5,56x45mm NATO, but it does have two major advantages: Everybody makes it, and everybody uses it.

If I need to resupply troops with the 5,56x45mm, there's an abundance of manufacturers to turn to. And if our troops in Afghanistan suddenly and desperately find themselves short of ammunition, they can borrow some from one of the other nations there, since chances are high that they are using the 5,56x45mm as well.

Switching to another calibre NEEDS to consider logistics as well as ballistics. You can issue a rifle chambered fort the best cartridge in the world, with a 1000 yard effective range, barrier penetration comparable to a tank round and stopping power like the Wrath of Allah, but if you can't keep your troops resupplied with the ammunition………

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Bob May 26, 2010 at 7:56 am

It was thinking like this that kept us with the 30-06 back in the 1930s instead of adopting a more effective and lighter 7mm round.

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jumper October 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Great points… Wars are won and lost in the supply chain.

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kisl May 26, 2010 at 9:22 am

We can debate 5.56 vs whatever as much as we want but, if the rounds aren't hitting in the right areas, the target is not going down.

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anonymouser May 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

In gamer lingo, what Lehner said is summed up as "L2P" – learn to play, that is, learn to shoot. Fine advice in a videogame, not so much so in real life. The time and money for better training may simply not be there – a problem that the Soviets also had with their peasant conscript army. They solved it by introducing the AK.

Come to think of it, that's how the M16 fouling problem was "solved" by the US military too – train the grunts to be obsessive about rifle maintenance, issue everyone with a "condom" and a cleaning kit. I bet there were VC that went through the entire Vietnam war without ever even seeing an AK cleaning kit.

The logistics argument is laughable also. The Taliban seem to manage to not run out of bullets. The US military should have no problem either.

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TheDude May 26, 2010 at 7:28 am

Indeed. Industry could make some million new rounds of any kind in a matter of days.

Another thing to consider is, that bigger rounds are much easier to improve, because you just have more place to put stuff in the bullet and more energy to let it work out the way you want it to. 5,56 has it´s limits of improvement already tested out pretty much. 6,x bullets are far more promising in that area. 7,62x51mm can be made even more awesome with enough research.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 26, 2010 at 9:09 am

“The logistics argument is laughable also. The Taliban seem to manage to not run out of bullets. The US military should have no problem either.”

I beg to differ. The Taleban generally use the 5.45x39mm, the 7,62x39mm and the 7,62x54mmR. All of these are calibers that are available in-theater (an pretty much everywhere else) in massive quantities. The Taleban manage not to run out of ammo (and BTW, how do you know that this doesn’t occasionally happen? The Taleban aren’t telling) because they use ammo that is readily available. Which was sort of my point.

And yes, the US industry could certainly spool up to manufacture 6,5mm Grendel or 6,8mm SPC or whatever, but changing a major production line from one cartridge/caliber to another will still take time and effort, especially if you have to keep up 5,56x45mm production while you do.

My point is that if you do choose to change from one caliber to another, you should do in a manner that ensures that your soldiers in the field do not suddenly find themselves without ammo (whether the “old” or the “new” caliber).

Regards & all,
Thomas L. Nielsen Luxembourg

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anonymouser May 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Way to shoot yourself in the foot there. Indeed, as you have so astutely observed, if the US Army were to make the switch to 7,62 , you don't need the US industry to ramp up production, because guess what? The "new" ammo they'd need is available in huge quantities in-theater and thus does not need to be airlifted or freighted from CONUS.

In the context of the cold war, the NATO standard caliber being different from that of the Warsaw pact made a lot of sense – any captured ammo or weapons would be useless to the other side. Choice of caliber is purely a matter of expediency these days, however, as I don't see the Chinese staging an invasion of the US mainland anytime soon.

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Ian James May 26, 2010 at 4:56 pm

You do realize that the standard NATO 7x62mm is a 7×62 by 51 and the round that the Taliban uses is either the 7×62 by 54 or the 7×62 by 39. Neither round can be used in NATO weapons. Yes there is alot of 7×62 in Afghanistan but they are different sizes. And the right rounds would still have to be shipped.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

Well, AR-15/M-16 type weapons are off-the-shelf available in WarPac 5,45x39mm and 7,62x39mm calibers…..

Oh, what the heck, since it seems a lot of people want a gas-piston-operated weapon anyway, just ditch the M-16-pattern once and for all, and then call Rosoboronexport and ask for a good price on a bunch of AK-103′s :-)

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

Don May 26, 2010 at 8:54 am

So many knee-jerk reactions. Does people not realise that its the conditions that people are fighting in that are the problems? The 5.56×45 is an intermediate round, not suitable for long-range combat. When NATO decided to adopt the 5.56×45 as the standard, they realised that this round would fulfill the most roles at the most effective cost, as a result neither excelling in any. This is similar to the US Army ditching multiple terrain camouflage patterns for the UCP; works in most instances, excelling in none.

Ultimately, if the commanders know that they’ll be engaging targets at sub-500m range, they’ll need weapons chambered in more effective ammunition. Or perhaps the Marine Corps has it right – the carbine is not a miniaturised rifle, but an extended pistol not intended for rifle use.

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Brandon May 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Issue half M14s half M4/M16 and SAWs to each squad. Problem solved.

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LeeRet Army May 26, 2010 at 1:37 pm

What we realy need is better marksmanship training you can't kill what you can't hit. I never agreed with the our (Army) qualification just counting hits. Shot placement is very important one solid hit center mass is much more effective than a three round burts into the air. If we do want a heavier caliber we don't need to develope a new weapon we can still use our old standby the M14 just put a new stock on it to lighten it up a bit and you have a weapon that out performs both the M4 and the AK47. Also the parts are in the inventory as well as ammo. We need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and spending Army dollars on projects that are not required.

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firebouy May 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The 6.5 grendel has better penetration than the 7.62 is superior in long range ballistics and only adds a few pound to the soldiers ammo carry weight.
It is easily adapted to the m4 frame.
The reason for the above is its ballistic coefficient,its superior aerodynamics.
It stays supersonic at rangers greater than 1000 yards.It should be the roung of the future.But don't count on it.
By the way it is superior to the 6.8 in any situation,

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Bob May 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Well said and very true; however, it will never be adopted. It just plain makes too much sense. In the late 19th century, almost every army in the world transitioned to bolt action repeating rifles in 7mm, .303, or 8mm. The U.S. Army continued to use the singel shot trapdoor springfield in 45-70, a blackpowder round. The majority of troops that fought in Cuba in 1898 carried trapdoors. The reason, we had tons of 45-70 ammo on hand that needed to be used up before we could change to a more modern effective caliber, and the old trapdoor had worked for 30 years, so why get rid of it.

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John Malseed May 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Overlooked in all the comments is the result of the basic force equation. A 7.62 round imparts approximately three times the energy to a body as a 5.56 round.

If you hit anywhere in the triangle formed by the belly button and the two nipples it is a killing wound! If you hit someone in the arm and it strikes bone the arm is gone.

Bill Clinton ordered the destruction of over 300, 000 M-14 rifles. A sad commentary on a Draft Dodger elected President.

We need to deploy as many M-14s to Afghanistan as possible. One change is to replace the wooden stock with a synthetic. Another is to add a Low 2-4 power scope to allow consistent kills at 500 yards with standard ball ammo by personnel trained only to the marksman level, not sharpshooter or expert.

We also need to acquire M-110 rifles for our sharpshooters and experts.

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firebouy May 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

John just don't forget the weight factor of a rifle that is 308. The rounds are 3 times heavier and the rifle ain't light. It must be hot in that hell hole and water must be looked on as weight also.

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Day May 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

redeploying M14s sounds like a good stopgap measure, but why not develop a new infantry rifle firing .308 thats more in keeping with current technology for the future?

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Brandon May 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

SCAR H

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Day May 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

for sure, an awesome weapon system, but probably a bit too pricey for the DoD/congress. freakin politicians.

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Pat May 27, 2010 at 11:40 pm

The M14s that they're deploying are completely reworked. Look up the Mk. 14 EBR.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mk_14_Mod_0_Enhanced

Pat May 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Forget about the Grendel or 6.5 replacing the 5.56; it's never going to happen. Its stupid to introduce a totally new cartridge into the supply system. We'd be the only country with it and have rifles incompatible with standard stocks of ammunition manufactured and available almost anywhere in the world (5.56 and 7.62). Are you going to find the Grendel in Israel, Britain, Korea, Germany, etc. No and never!!! As for the "green" 5.56, the Army is dropping it.

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blight May 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm

DU for 5.56. I wonder what the higher density and pyrophoric nature would do in the stopping power department.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

The higher density would give you a heavier projectile for the caliber.

The pyrophoric effect would only come into play upon penetration of a hard target. So you won’t see a human target scream and burst into flame.

Personally, I consider DU, for all but the most specialized small arms applications (think AP sniper rounds and the like), to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Day May 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

also dont you need higher velocitys than a standard rifle to make the round go pyorphoric regardless of the target?

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Charles May 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Yes, very high velocities. Hence the discarding sabot design of the DU penetrating round used by the M1A2 Abrams MBT.

I doubt the M16 could achieve anywhere near the required velocity

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Charles May 27, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Yes, very high velocities. Hence the discarding sabot design of the DU penetrating round used by the M1A2 Abrams MBT.

The 5.56×45 case would be able to accelerate only a very, very small DU projectile to these velocities. A pyrophoric pea…probably smaller, actually. To the point of negating any advantages.

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blackgun May 26, 2010 at 3:53 pm

6.5 Grendel. Why are all of you talking of this round. It is antiquated, never took off as well as expected and statistically/logistically is not going to happen. 6.8 SPC. Yes, that is going to happen, The logistics are there for this round, ( AR platforms + magazines). Same barrels can be rechambered and bored to accomodate the SPC round. YOU CAN'T DO THAT WITH THE GRENDEL-COST IN LOGISTICS! There are SOG groups uging SPC cal. weapons.

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TheDude May 26, 2010 at 12:51 pm

You confused something seemingly, the 6,5x39mm Grendel is pretty new and build exactly for AR-15 platforms. Just do that good old Google-thing! And it outperforms 6,8mm SPC in almost any way.

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:44 pm

6.5 Grendel uses the SAME magazines, UNALTERED, as the standard rifles and carbines use now. The 6.8 SPC is a thought that is going nowhere as it requires changing the followers on all magazines used, it requires changing the buffer assembly and is marginally superior to the 5.56 as compared to the 6.5 Grendel.
If you're thinking of an "antiquated" 6.5 round and are thinking of the 6.5×55 Swede, then you really are showing your ignorance as that cartridge has superior balisitics out to 1000 yards than the venerable .308!

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blackgun May 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Just to note, black guns are my specialty in custom builting, in varied calibers.

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Day May 26, 2010 at 4:30 pm

can you tell us if SPC has been used in combat?. just be interested to see if the test results match actual experience.

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Don Meaker May 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Theodore Roosevelt said of the 7mm Mauser round, that soldiers hit in head, spine or heart died quickly. Soldiers hit anywhere else lived, and recovered amazingly quickly. Bleed out is a slow death. Hitting central nervous system is rare with any smallish bullet.

Part of the problem is the 5.56 round depends on high velocity, and shooting it from a short barrel reduces its effect. A bullpup would permit a short rifle with a long enough barrel. Heavier bullets pick up weight in the basic ammunition load, and recoil faster than they increase effect on the target. Powder is lighter than lead. My infantry time was "carry a lot shoot a little".

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rasklking May 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

In the sporting communities, the .308 "light" or reduced recoil round is huge favorite and it's performance would still be considerably superior to the 5.56. Besides, my 12 year old shoots standard .308 ammo all the time, are you seriously telling me that the recoil issue that big of a deal? I've used both and I'll take the .308 round hands down.

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m91_30 May 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm

What we’re arguing about is less about rounds, but more about the total weapon-platform itself. I’ve shot many different weapons comparing them one on one up to 500 yards for accuracy, and for me personally this is what I’ve found (No scopes, only iron sights):
An M4 vs M16 – M16, more accurate at all ranges because of higher round velocity;
M4 vs AK47, surprised me – but the AK47 at ALL ranges; M16 vs AK47, M16 at all ranges;
M14 vs M16 – M14 at all ranges;
M14 vs AK47 – M14 at all ranges;
M1903A3 vs M14 – About the same out to 200 yards, but at longer ranges the M1903 is better.

A carbine is a better urban warfare weapon because of its more compact size, you can get rounds on target just tenths of seconds quicker, which can be the difference between life and death.

A rifle is better in more open, longer range situations. All other things being equal, the rifle will shoot the same round at a higher velocity and as a result be more accurate at range.

Perhaps the better compromise might be a ‘Bullpup’ type platform. It’s similar in overall length to a carbine, but because of its design it has a three to four inch longer barrel. So it has the more compact size of the carbine (better in shorter distance firefights) combined with the longer barrel of the rifle (better in longer distance firefights).

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strider May 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I'm of the opinion that we are not approaching this issue from every angle. We focus a lot on ammo and this vs that, but the basic issue is recoil. Anyone would take 7.62 NATO if you could fire it controlably in full auto and burst. Right now we are stuck in a situation where we must compromise bullet performance with the need for controllability.

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strider May 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

cont'd: A different approach to solving this problem would be to expand the envolope of what rounds could be fired controllably by designing firearms that recoil less. An excellent example is the KRISS .45, which utilizes the Super-V action system to divert recoil energy downward to counteract barrel climb and recoil. This weapon allows the .45 ACP round to be fired at very high rpm on full auto with very little barrel climb. Check it out for yourself on Youtube, just search KRISS .45. Future Weapons, as cheesy as it can be sometimes, has a good video on it that shows the weapon firing from side view in comparison to an MP-5. The KRISS fires the much heavier .45 round on full auto with less barrel climb than the MP-5 fires 9mm ammo.

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strider May 26, 2010 at 5:48 pm

cont'd: I've heard rumors that KRISS is developing a rifle based on the SUPER-V action. I hope so, because it would be an excellent offering in the market. Such a weapon would allow you to fire rounds like the 7.62 NATO ,or some other desirable cartridge, that would have all the sought after performance characteristics but would not be impeded by their high recoil because of the design of the firearm. In the 7.62 NATO's case, it would also not be a burden logistically because it is a common round. Ideally, KRISS would also allow the weapon to be customizable similar to the Bushmaster ACR so that other calibers could be used flexibly, if soldiers desired a different round for more CQB type work. This could be the 5.56, or even something heavier like the .45, .50 Beowulf, or some other heavy shoter range round. Just a thought, would love feedback on what you guys think.

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strider May 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Imagine this: a rifle squad equipped with KRISS rifles firing 7.62, supported by the MK-48 7.62 SAW or a lighter more advanced model, and possibly a grenedier firing the new XM-25 counter defilade grenade launcher, or even better, some adaptation of the AA12 auto shotgun that could fire both shotgun shells and a longer range grenade similar to the one fired by the XM-25. That would be beastly. Support at the platoon level of M-32 MGLs and SMAWs and at the company level with Javelien, XM-307/312, 60mm mortars and snipers. Just dreamin :)

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Day May 27, 2010 at 7:40 am

a nice idea but theres no way youd get the range or lethality of the xm 25 out of the aa12. still if there is a better CQB weapon out there i havent seen it.

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:35 pm

One thing I will say has already been stated by many here, marksmanship is seriously lacking in the Army. The Marine Corps actually trains recruits to place shots on target, and if they can't they get recycled. The Army tells you to shoot the pop-up video game style and pencil whips it if you can't. When I was a young soldier I had the typical soldier's contempt for the Corp, but as I grow older, wiser, and learn more about them, I see that the Army is the one with the problem.

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Day May 27, 2010 at 7:27 am

"every marine is a rifleman". thats how you solve the problem. also the argument that more training costs to much is a total fallacy. the USMC as youve said does more training on the range, yet the "cost" of a marine is 20000 USD less than an US army rifleman. im not bagging the army here its just something they wasnt to look into

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:36 pm

About the only thing the Army has done right in their plight with longer ranges is pulling M14s out of mothballs (thank God Clinton didn't torch all of them!) and sending them out for use. How about picking up some of the millions of FALs or G3s that are out there too and issuing them to soldiers for use as well.
As to weapons cleaning, any weapon that must be cleaned as religiously (even when not in use due to dust and sand concerns!) as the M16 family is NOT a soldier proof weapon. Take all the time and money you want to soldier proof every damn thing else, but hand out a weapon that doesn't react well to poor ammo and dirt and you're asking to get troops killed…continuing problem with this line of weaponry…40 years on and the only solution is more cleaning.

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I am a gun-nut. I can speak to the effectiveness of cartridges when used on tissue, etc. I own weapons in .223 (5.56 Nato), 7.62×39, and .308 (7.62×51) and have actually killed whitetail deer with each, at least two with each. I don't get chances for extreme long range shooting, 200-300 meters is about it, and I am not going to shoot any farther out for the sake of a humane kill. I can tell you that I have NEVER seen a .223 kill instantly. Two deer shot clean through the heart still weren't dead. They were mortally wounded, but not dead by a long shot.

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I have shot the most deer with 7.62×39 and this thing is a killer. One morning I took a buck through the neck at 235 yards, the doe he was sniffing ran off and stopped to jump a fence, so I whistled and she hesitated. At over 260 yards she was hit just behind the rib cage quartering away…the bullet ricocheted around her chest cavity exiting her neck clearing the clavicle. Her heart and lungs were shredded, she was dead before she hit the ground. I have a little Ruger bolt gun in this cartridge as well as several semi-autos, and will always have a place in my heart and safe for the 7.62×39.
If you're a reloader, it's an easy round to load for too!

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Nathan May 28, 2010 at 7:35 am

I love 7.62×39 as much as the next man but the real difference between it and .308 is what it will do at 500-1000 yards, not at 250. In this department it is worse than 5.56 although both rounds suck at that range.

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Eric May 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm

The .308 does the same, albeit with considerably more recoil and of course, much flatter shooting. I have also used the .303 British successfully (it picked the buck up and tossed him down when he got hit) and the 7.5×55 Swiss (another hard hitting .30 caliber, as it should be since it is very similar to the ,308 balistically.) My favorites for balistics, recoil, "knock down" and accuracy have to be the 7×57 Mauser and the 6.5×55 Swede. These are remarkable cartridges that do things as well today as they did 100 years ago.

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@Earlydawn May 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm

It is a joke to be arguing about a new round or platform when we're not even consistently training our shooters out to the maximum engagement range of their existing firearm.

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demophilus May 26, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Not for nothing, but way back in the day, platoon leaders were taught that the purpose of the M16A1/5.56mm system was to protect the heavy weapons squad(s) [M60/7.62mm, mortar, TOW/Dragon, etc.), and the radio.

I can see the GWOT, SASO, LIC and whatnot making individual rifle marksmanship more important than it used to be, but the point remains. There's more than one tool in the toolbox, even in small unit engagements. 5.56mm can't do everything; it was never meant to.

If M855 doesn't cut it out of the M4, work up another round, the way we replaced the old M193, and go back to the longer barrel. If that doesn't cut it, maybe the SAW, 40mm, SMAW, AT4, LAW, etc. M249 need a workout. There are also still some M14s left, and if we run out of those, then it shouldn't be too hard to procure a 7.62mm AR10 based system like the M110. The manual of arms is the same, and there's even some parts commonality. There are even AR10 clones with gas piston systems.

Trying to reengineer the M16/M4 series for another caliber should be just about the last choice. You don't want to take on that kind of logistical challenge in the middle of 2 wars.

No, if you've got more than one tool in the toolbox, then use the right tool for the job.

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Valdus Deathwalker May 27, 2010 at 12:10 am

Did I forget to mention that 5.56 is such a small caliber that it's legal for varmint hunting? You know, the aforementioned squirrels, prairie dogs, that sort of thing….

Some varmint hunters even recommend the civilian equivalent of the m-16. With a heavier barrel, of course. Seriously, we seriously try to fight wars with highly recommended varmint rifles? At least squirrels don't shoot back while you are cleaning your .22, sorry I meant .223. Of course, it's your fault it's dirty, your just a bad varmint hunter and should take better care of your rifle. It's certainly nothing to do with the very advanced operating system.

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Nathan May 28, 2010 at 2:40 am

I would be happier with bigger stronger rounds than 5.56 being standard issue but it does a fine job of killing in cqb to intermediate range environments and it is rather misleading to compere it to .22. You might as well talk about .357 mag and .380 being essentially the same round.

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TheDude May 26, 2010 at 8:26 pm

So, basically, everybody hates 5,56. Cons: It will make you die slowly even when struck in a vital area, making it an inhumane weap0on. It loses effectiveness quickly beyond 200 yards, because it won´t fragment anymore. It won´t penetrate any barriers commonly found in normal combat environment. It´s unstable in flight when there is any wind or grass in between. Pros: Many rounds in magazine due to its small size, pretty accurate and low recoil, pretty lethal at shorter ranges depending on barrel size.

Pretty much on the con-side…… Too much for my taste.

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63DH8 May 27, 2010 at 2:27 am

Seems the Taliban found a solution to the 5.56…. Stay out of it's range! http://kitup.military.com/2010/04/taliban-snipers
It's the same warfare game that's being played since the first rock was thrown; Hit them further away than they can hit you. Once the solution to that is found, get too close for them to use their long range weapons. Use more armor; Use more explosives to defeat the armor. et al. The solution is to remain flexible and well trained when we fight. No, we can't have fifty thousand weapon systems, but we can use similar weapon systems so training crosses over.

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m91_30 May 26, 2010 at 11:16 pm

“It is a joke to be arguing about a new round or platform when we’re not even consistently training our shooters out to the maximum engagement range of their existing firearm.”

This may hold true for the Army, but not the Marines. They still have to qualify yearly shooting up to 500 yards. (Unless qualification has changed in the last 10 years!)

It would be interesting to have a side by side comparison of Army rifle quals versus Marine Corps rifle quals. Personally, I think pop-ups can be good for training, but not for rifle qualification; but then, I’m a former Marine too so I have my prejudices.

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TheDude May 27, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I shot the G3 in german military and found it pretty easy to handle, no problem with recoil whatsoever, but I also saw recruits who injured themselves because of recoil. Basically, if you cannot handle 7,62x51mm recoil, ask yourself: “is a combat unit an appropriate workplace for me?”

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Tom J May 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

It would seem to me to implement mixed battalions and fire teams with some members using the SCAR-H along with M-4's and their variants. This would just mean implementing a tested and somewhat proven weapon system into the field that has an abundance of 7.62mm rounds. I don't know how costly pushing the SCAR-H out to squads in Afghanistan, but it would most certainly be cheaper than developing an intermediate cartridge and weapon system for Afghanistan.

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William C. May 28, 2010 at 3:12 am

In the short term go back to the M16 with the 20 inch barrel for work in Afghanistan.

In the long term it is time to "bite the bullet" and develop a new cartridge. Somewhere in the 6mm range. Take the 7mm British or 6.8mm SPC as a starting point and work on a design optimized to maintain energy over a greater range.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 28, 2010 at 5:39 am

"…..develop a new cartridge. Somewhere in the 6mm range. Take the 7mm British or 6.8mm SPC as a starting point and work on a design optimized to maintain energy over a greater range."

Any particular reason why you don't want to go with the off-the-shelf 6,5 Grendel?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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William C. May 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm

The 6.5mm Grendel seems to have very impressive performance, but I have heard that there are a few things that make it less than ideal for military use, mainly related to production and adapting it to certain weapons. Ideally our new cartridge could serve in a squad SAW or LMG too. I could be wrong, but I also heard it works poorly from shorter length barrels.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 31, 2010 at 1:52 am

“….but I have heard that there are a few things that make it less than ideal for military use….”

That could be a point. As I understand it, cartridges with a relatively short and stubby case and a blunt shoulder angle, such as the 6,5 Grendel, are difficult to get to function properly in belt-fed weapons.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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ryan June 19, 2010 at 12:14 am

The 5.56mm can create a bigger wound channel than even the 7.62NATO round can provided that it is in the magic range of 100-250M because the round will fragment when it yaws, if you remove the lead from the projectile it will not fragment when it yaws and therefore loose any positive affect it had. The Army would be better off getting rid of the M855 and go back to the M193 55gr rounds for QCB or just go with the 6.8 SPC

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Fred September 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Issueing out improved M4A1s, along with the new FN Scar (in both 5.56mm AND 7.62mm versions) and upgraded Modernized M14s to ALL US Army Infantry troops as well as ALL Infantry US Marines (and NOT just only for Special Ops people) is the only REAL answer FOR NOW. Improved new 5.56mm ammo now being sent to the field also helps (would have been nice to have had those 20 years ago). There must be flexibility adn variety of ammo and weapons in order to be able to survive and win anywhere anytime against anyone…….

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NotChuck October 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm

All this caliber thumping is a moot point because even if we were able to develop a new cartridge (without causing the inevitable nightmare) to shoot out of the most advanced rifle (if the military would ever hold a performance-based competition); the troops are not receiving the necessary training and practice to make them lethal marksmen.

As the old saying goes, "It's the Indian, not the bow or arrow that wins the fight." When troops only get to shoot 58 rounds a year to qualify (less if you are able to zero your weapon quickly); what are the chances of this same Soldier being able to make a round in the proper location of the bad guy while under fire?

Unless the Improved Carbine that they eventually settle on guarantees proper shot placement through the use of computers, magic or a laser projectile; this is all academic.

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Special Guest May 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I'll second that emotion. Also, instead of 6.8 or Grendel, does anyone remember .300 Whisper? 100gr round in 7.62 stuffed into a 5.56 case with almost no neck. 200 gr alternative Subsonic for suppression. Ballistically slightly superior to 762 Short Russian. Just need a different barrel, bolt face but uses same mags.

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recision May 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

True, if most "riflemen" are actually just spraying and praying then it doesn't really matter what they are armed with does it.
It might as well be a stubby carbine that doesn't get full velocity on the bullet. At least it makes a really nice loud BANG.

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Evan May 26, 2010 at 12:06 am

.300 Whisper does not use 5.56 case. It uses a necked up .221 fireball case.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 26, 2010 at 6:42 am

Since the .221 Fireball is in essence a shortened 5,56x45mm, a 5,56x45mm weapon still needs only a barrel change to use the .300 Whisper. No need to change the bolt. I've heard though (unverified) that some types of 5,56x45mm magazines do not work reliably with the .300 Whisper, while others do.

And if you think a 6,5mm or 7mm is way cool, there are .221 Fireball-based Whispers in these calibers as well.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Tim B May 27, 2010 at 1:02 am

Smart ass. Tried to be brief so of course I leave out plenty of details. Of course everyone who thinks they know more can correct me. Do I have to write an essay every time I comment?

It is a beast, for sure.

I am not comparing the two, .500 and .338, just looking at a concept for adding more stopping power than a M4 or even M14. The .338, (8.6x70mm), being the best, at range and KE, and still be practical. Real rifles do weight 11 pounds, though. The .338 does have the longest kill at 1853m! But we are talking about standard infantry rifles at 400-800m ranges that will deliver devastating wounds. Fear factor too!

Soldiers in WW2 used larger calibers in their rifles, so it is not too out of the realm of possibility. 7.62x63mm, 7.92x57mm, 7.7x56mm I am sure you could cut the weight of any full auto .338 and and recoil to be more manageable than current long range rifles. We all know the history of the .308 and .223. vs the heavier bullets. The debate never ends, but the .223 really doesn't cut in Afghanistan.

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Day May 27, 2010 at 1:14 am

true, but there is a good reason no one uses the M1 garand or K98 anymore.

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Thomas L. Nielsen May 27, 2010 at 11:23 am

“Soldiers in WW2 used larger calibers in their rifles, so it is not too out of the realm of possibility. 7.62x63mm, 7.92x57mm, 7.7x56mm”

With the exeption of the M1 Garand, these were all bolt action rifles, so in other words today you can get a bolt action sniper rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum for about the same size and weight as a WWII service rifle in 7,92x57mm.

Fine and good, but a semi-automatic service rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum is a completely different animal. Not only will weapon size, weight and recoil be issues, but the size, weight and price of the ammunition will as well.

And yes, you probably could make a semi-auto .338 Lapua Magnum with a weight of 10 lbs and the size of an M16A2, but that would require exotic materials like titanium alloys and ceramics, which would drive the development schedule and price pr. weapon right up there with the JSF. And recoil would be a B**TCH! There’s only so much you can do with buffers, compensators etc. Long Recoil or Constant Recoil mechanisms? Sure, that would reduce felt recoil, but also increase the size of the weapon. As they say: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Ultimately, the recoil impulse has to go somewhere.

Besides, if you’re talking anti-personel use out to 400-500m, the good, old 7,62x51mm NATO will do just fine (Now, where did I put down that G3….?).

And no, you don’t have to write an essay every time you post, but you should add enough detail to coherently make your point.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Kevin Crawford May 27, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Which has to be the dumbest idea ever to come out of DC, I hate to think what that little pearl of wisdom has cost our troops over the years. The M-4 has all the vices of the M-16 with less range, it may be a good CQB weapon but at ranges longer than 300 yards I'll take an M-14 or M-1a hands down.

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Day May 28, 2010 at 1:37 am

yeah ive seen the EBR and by all acounts its a good weapon system, but if your talking about issuing them on a large scale (say to replace the M4 in some situations) than you really need it to be able to do everythimg its predecessor could do and solve the range/power problem. the fact that to my knowldege you cant mount an M203 or some scopes on the EBR would apear to be an issue. however, im just guessing here.

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Tyler May 29, 2010 at 4:33 am

Except for the fact, that its a well established fact that most kills occur at a relatively short distance and not the 300-400 yard high velocity weapon that you would like to have.

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blight October 31, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Deploying new weapon systems with new ammunition wouldn't happen overnight. More likely than not, we would adopt a dual-caliber system (similar to how the M-16 replaced M-14's for troops deployed to RVN, whereas the M-14 was kept on in Europe).

Even in consideration of a potential cold war apocalyptic showdown a dual caliber transition didn't disrupt the American supply system too much. However, it might've been responsible for the whole ball-ammo-powder-instead-of-designed-for-IMR-powder which could potentially have sunk the M-16.

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