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Making predictions about war is a tricky business

Take these for instance:

[The British] rifle at the present moment was the worst among those used by civilised powers.

…the opinion of most Infantry officers was that our rifle was inferior both to the French and German rifles.

It was clear, therefore, that if our soldiers had to fight troops armed with the German weapon they would do so under very great disadvantage.

…our rifle is inferior to the German and French rifles…

So what is this Austin Allegro of the military world?   Why, the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) of course – Britain’s main infantry weapon in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War; the weapon that when fired en masse in 1914, the Germans mistook for machine-gun fire and a weapon that was still in use by snipers in the 1980s.

And, on what basis are they criticising it?   Range.   Which I think will raise a titter from the firearm cognoscenti.   Please, oh commenters, tell me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that the big change in infantry firearms in the 20th century was the realisation that rate of fire was more important than range which led to the introduction of such weapons as the MP44, AK47 and M16 which while being able to fire at an extraordinary rate had nothing like the accuracy of the SMLE and its peers.   

Normally, at this point, I would make some remark about the stupidity of politicians but that last quotation comes from Field Marshal Roberts, so I won’t.

The Times, 21 February 1912, p12

31 comments to Making predictions about war is a tricky business

  • Single Acts of Tyranny

    This factoid was from a SKY documentary on snipers. For every enemy soldier killed by M-16 fire in Vietnam, they shot 50,000 rounds (that’s what they said, and looking at some of the old videos with conscripts hosing fire all over the place, I kinda believe it). For every enemy soldier killed by Marine snipers they fired 1.3 rounds.

  • staghounds

    There has always been a cult of the precision military rifle, and its time of greatest importance was the period just before 1914.

    Long range, power, and precise accuracy have come to be thought of as less important than volume of fire and its Siamese twin, ability to carry large ammunition loads.

    Greater precision and power add weight to rifle and ammunition and decrease the volume of fire.

    As in any piece of equipment there are design balances.

  • phwest

    It is interesting to see some of the same objections to automatic weapons as were made for breechloaders vs muzzle-loading rifles in the 1850s. The same basic arguement was made – high ROF = soldiers burning through their ammo to no effect, so better to force them to slow down and make every shot count by using a slow loading rifle. That there might be solutions to the undesired consequences (better fire discipline, better logistics) than using the weapon to limit fire seemed to be beyond many officers.

    To be fair, if you were trying to use automatic weapons with Napoleonic logistics the trade-offs are different – the defensive firepower revolution of the 1800s, both artillery and infantry, was supported by the transportation revolution. Without the railroad, trench warfare is not sustainable.

  • My Enfield (A No.4 Mk I) has a sight marked out to 1300 yards. My chances of even being able to see a man-sized target that far away are not very good, and hitting one? Forget it.

    It’s been generally true for a long, long time that rifles are more accurate than the people shooting them under any remotely realistic conditions.

  • bob sykes

    On the other hand, the US has re-introduced the M14 (with modified sights and stocks) because the M16 and its relatives lacks the requisite range in Afghanistan. Of course, the M14 is functioning as a sniper/antisniper weapon, but just about every squad has one.

    The great majority of troops are better served with M16s and other true automatic rifles. In fact, most US Army troops (but not Marines) carry the M4, which is a cut-down carbine version of the M16. The M4 is preferred by troops despite it short range (shorter than M16) because it is so compact and convenient in close quarters.

  • Dale Amon

    And the takeaway is that the modern US military has recognized that different battlespaces require different weapons or weapons. In close quarter battles in buildings and narrow streets, you need firepower and the ability to swing your weapon rapidly in tight quarters. Range and accuracy means squat. If you are in more open fields or forests, you need more accuracy and the longer barrel is okay. And of course there is the sniper world which has a whole different set of requirements.

    You have to ask: Who am I fighting? Where am I fighting?

  • Bob, that’s not because you can’t hit someone far away with an M16, but because it won’t hurt them very much if you do. When the SS109 round an M16 fires hits a person while moving at a high enough speed, it breaks up inside them and makes a big mess. However, the round falls below that speed at a distance of 250 meters or less (depending on barrel length), and if it hits someone farther away than that all it does is make a nice neat little .22 hole through them, which they may not even notice until it’s too late to do you any good.

  • llamas

    Even when this was written (1912) the need for individual riflemen capable of carefully-aimed fire at these sorts of ranges was already on the way out. WW1 showed the way and WW2 sounded the death knell – but the cult of the long-range rifleman dies hard. Certain armies and branches (the US Marine Corps is one, and there are others) still cling to this outmoded idea of ‘every Marine a rifleman’ and they waste much time and effort honing these now-generally-useless skills in their troops. Militaries the world over cannot seem to wean themselves from the habit of fighting the last war, instead of the present one, and sometimes 2 and 3 wars back.

    The return to the M14, and to much, much heavier weapons still, has nothing to do with their general deployment in the hands of large numbers of troops – these are specialty weapons, for the sniper/countersniper and interdiction roles. For these roles, US troops are now happy to haul rifles in calibers like .338 Lapua and 50 BMG – 15-25 pound stovepipes more than 5 feet long – in order to be able to put killing shots on enemies 1500-2000 yards away. This does not mean that these heavy rifles, or even the ‘issue’ rifles of yesteryear – SMLE, ’03A3, Kar 98, M1, M14, L1A1 And So Forth – make any sense in the hands of normal infantry troops today.

    In the past, militaries the world over also suffered with a cult of standardization – one rifle, or one pistol, or one tank, or one boot – had to be made to fit all, and so they often chose the biggest, or the heaviest, or the most-powerful. In the days of long supply trains and poor commo, this made some sort of sense, I guess, but with modern logistics, there’s really no need for this sort of conformity. The Russians in WW2, and later the Israelis, and now (late to the party, but making up for it rapidy) the Americans, have learned that a great diversity in weapons makes for a far better force projection.

    The heavy ‘battle rifles’ of old are outdated in a world where there ain’t no set-piece battles no more. The war and COTWs we see today demand small, light, closer-range weapons that provide suppressing fire and can be used in a wide variety of applications and can be quickly adapted to different roles. Hence the M4. Incidentally, anyone who doubts the accuracy of the M16 family at long range needs to work a turn in the pits at Camp Perry when the National Matches are being fired. The M16 is more than accurate enough out to the limits of human eyesight, even with basic optical assistance – but the fact of modern warfare is that the average soldier doesn’t engage in that sort of fighting anymore.

    As Dale Amon says – who, and where, are you fighting? For most conflicts today, the SMLE (and all the others) would be a heavy, unwieldy encumbrance, and there’s no point in burdening every soldier with one in case one of them might have to try and take a shot at a target 800 yards away. Better to have one guy tagging along who is perfectly-equipped to deal with that unlikely target, and equip the rest for what they will be facing.



  • Matt Cooper

    Artillery was the biggest killer on the 20th Century battlefield. No one had a big advantage in rifle quality in WWI, I don’t think. The professional Infantrymen of the tiny BEF were probably the best soldiers in the war at that time. That explains their devasting fire in some of those early battles.

  • Britt

    Certain armies and branches (the US Marine Corps is one, and there are others) still cling to this outmoded idea of ‘every Marine a rifleman’ and they waste much time and effort honing these now-generally-useless skills in their troops


    Sorry, this statement is complete horseshit. The USMC is the finest military force on the planet because every Marine is a rifleman first and foremost. Supression is nice, hitting your fucking target is even better.

    In point of fact, accuracy and fire discipline becomes vastly more important in small unit operations, not less important. In pitched battle, suppression fire to pin the enemy down followed by artillery or air strikes is a very effective tactic. In COIN, small patrols are required to solve their own problems because the guerillas are not dumb enough to hang around long enough for the gunships to show up. It’s force on force, and the better shots are going to win.

    It’s really perplexing how so many people have convinced themselves that individual skill with the tools of one’s profession is not longer applicable. A musician needs to play his instrument, a chef needs to handle his knives and saucepans, and a grunt needs to fire his rifle in an accurate fashion. That is why he is there, he is a guidance and targeting system for the rifle in his hands. The better shot you are, the better infantryman you are.

  • llamas

    Britt – thank you for making my point for me.

    The USMC is indeed ‘the finest military force on the planet’ – when measured by the parameters of the last war but two. But the conflicts that are being fought now are not conflicts of ‘small unit operations’, and the enemies faced today do not fit into the well-trained doctrines of peacetime training.

    The enemies we face today are simply terrible at the kinds of warfighting that major armies are very, very good at – which is why they don’t fight that way. Wars are presently being fought – and won – with IEDs, and suicide bombs, and civilian airliners, and a whole array of other approaches against which squads of well-trained rifleman are simply – irrelevant.

    Kipling knew this a hundred years and more ago:

    A great and glorious thing it is
    To learn, for seven years or so,
    The Lord knows what of that and this,
    Ere reckoned fit to face the foe —
    The flying bullet down the Pass,
    That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”

    Three hundred pounds per annum spent
    On making brain and body meeter
    For all the murderous intent
    Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
    And after — ask the Yusufzaies
    What comes of all our ‘ologies.

    A scrimmage in a Border Station —
    A canter down some dark defile —
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail —
    The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
    Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

    No proposition Euclid wrote,
    No formulae the text-books know,
    Will turn the bullet from your coat,
    Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
    Strike hard who cares — shoot straight who can —
    The odds are on the cheaper man.

    One sword-knot stolen from the camp
    Will pay for all the school expenses
    Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
    Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
    But, being blessed with perfect sight,
    Picks off our messmates left and right.

    With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
    The troop-ships bring us one by one,
    At vast expense of time and steam,
    To slay Afridis where they run.
    The “captives of our bow and spear”
    Are cheap — alas! as we are dear.

    In Beruit, in 1983, more than 200 superbly-trained Marine riflemen were killed by a single illiterate jackanapes who likely had not a day of training in his life, armed with a few hundred dollars-worth of explosives, carried in a truck he likely stole. We can’t say we haven’t had plenty of warning about how war is going to be fought these days, and yet we still insist on producing military forces that are exquisitely-trained to do – something else. The odds are on the cheaper man. This conflicts with our basic, enlightened Western values – but that is how it is, and how it is going to be.

    I don’t know what the answer is to this kind of conflict – but the agonizing, protracted and endless failures of the superbly-trained armies of the world to find any sort of success in the various conflicts which fester on for decades shows conclusively that more well-trained long-range riflemen ain’t it. It’s all very well to waffle on about ‘individual skill with the tools of one’s profession’ – straight from the USMC doctrine – but the awkward fact is that the enemy decides what the ‘tools of one’s profession’ are. You can wish all you want for a war fought according to your training doctrines, but the war is defined by what your enemy brings, not what you wish he would bring. This is why the US military, for all of its superb training, failed in Vietnam, it failed in Iraq and it is failing in Afghanistan.



  • TDK

    There have been various studies done over the years that showed that the majority of soldiers are ineffective at least in real battle situations.

    eg. here

    Thus Marshall found that only 15% of soldiers fighting the Germans or the Japanese fired their weapons. In John Keegan he quotes examples of Napoleonic era soldiers going through the motions so that the after the engagement there were multiple bullets and powder rammed into the barrel unfired.

    Thus for 85% of the soldiers the question of accuracy versus rate of fire is moot.

    I would guess that for elite units such as snipers or marines, the percentage is higher.

    Incidentally, the ineffective soldiers still fulfil a useful role: the enemy does not know which of our soldiers coming at him are effective. Thus he must shoot at them all.

  • llamas

    It gives me no pleasure to note that 6 British soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan in an IED attack on their armoured vehicle.

    I am sure that they were all excellent riflemen – all 6 came from two crack infantry regiments.

    Their attackers achieved two goals – the immediate goal of eliminating 6 of their enemy, and the larger and more-effective goal of raising another howl of protest in the UK press and demands that the troops be brought home Right Now. For them, this is a major, double win.

    I doubt that any of the scamps who placed this IED had any formal training in marksmanship at all.

    Exqusistely-trained and deployed for the last war but two. I really am very sorry that well-trained and – motivated men are being spent in this way.



  • Malcolm Rutherford

    Just a quick aside back to the weapons being discussed rather than the men using them.
    The sub-machine gun, firing pistol ammunition was really developed to aid in exploitation in WWI, to allow one man to possess far greater fire-power where it was most needed. Close up to the enemy during the assault. One of the first practical ones war the Bergmann MP18 if memory serves firing the 9mm parabellum (Lugar) round.

    Thereafter sub-machine guns were designed by all of the major powers and every army had them, although they didn’t come close to replacing long rifles such as the SMLE or K98. The German MP38 and MP40 are classic, and instantly recognisable weapons of the general sub-machinegun type.

    The MP44 was a German invention and the first assault rifle. It was of the calibre of the K98, but the cartridge case was shorter and the round less powerful. It was designed to give German infantry their firepower predominance on the Eastern Front where mass Soviet attacks of large blocks of infantry all armed with the PPsH41 had exposed the limitation of all sub-machine guns: effective range of circa 100m. Sure a K98 could range out to 1,000m or more, but you weren’t hitting anyone at that range and close up you were overwhelmed by automatic fire-power.

    The MP44 with a 400m effective range and a cartridge you could still fire full-auto was designed to be better than a sub-gun. The AK47, M16, L85 are just the linear decedents of that weapon.

    Being a good shot is no doubt useful, but doesn’t do you much good when a large roadside or culvert bomb goes off. To continue the Kipling analogy what is needed is a “butcher and bolt” type of mission. I believe the modern US phrase is “rubble don’t cause trouble”

  • John K

    SLAM Marshall was something of a bullshit artist, I’d take any of his claims with a pinch of salt.

    As for the good old SMLE, I am amazed that anyone thought that the French Lebel was better than it. However, the French 8mm round with a bronze bullet did have very good long range performance, better than the German 7.92mm, so I suppose if long range marksmanship is the only standard you are using, it might make some sense, but in all other respects is absolutely bonkers.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    [The British] rifle at the present moment was the worst among those used by civilised powers.

    Italy wasn’t civilised?

  • Eric Tavenner


    This is why the US military, for all of its superb training, failed in Vietnam, it failed in Iraq and it is failing in Afghanistan.

    No! The US military did not fail in any of those places. The military if allowed, could and did defeat any enemy. The problem was that the civilian high command imposed unrealistic and crippling rules of engagement.

  • Siha Sapa

    War and Warfare are not purely the sum of rifle and rifle man. In my time the most lethal weapon in the Infantry leader’s bag was the keyed hand mike followed by the words, ‘I call for fire…’.

    That said there is a tendency to ‘spray and pray’ with light weight, low caliber weaponry. The admittedly heavier rifles shoot farther with greater lethality; once shot the enemy stays shot. The men are also less prone to be promiscuous with the ammo. Paraphrasing, and no doubt poorly, what Winston Churchill observed long ago, there are few things more demoralizing than well aimed rifle fire.

  • Spectre765

    One of the reasons the US military has explored larger caliber rifles recently is that troops in the field are complaining that the M4 doesn’t put the bad guy down with one shot. You have to shoot the bugger multiple times, and he may pull the trigger on his RPG before you are finished shooting. Hence the look at 6.8mm SPC and 7.62 NATO weaponry.

    Personally, I would lug a 7.62mm G3 around all day rather than trust an M4. But that’s just a personal preference.

  • For another take, search Youtube for Leslie Fish Hosedown””

  • lucklucky

    “Italy wasn’t civilised?”

    Carcano is an good rifle. The crap British propaganda about Italy should have died long ago. Italians certainly made some bad weapons like Breda 30 LMG. But then made some so so and made some good.

    The author of this post doesn’t realize that a gun optimized for European battlefield is not optimized for Afghanistan battlefield. In Afghanistan you need range, In Europe with many forests and other obstacles there are less chances to have long range shots.

  • Paul Marks

    “rate of fire is more important than range and accuracy”

    Perhaps – till the other side adapts.

    When they do adapt the “rate of fire” side is (sometimes) toast.

    As (for example) the Reds who came over the border into Oman found.

    British soldiers sent to Oman (to help the local government) learned to pick off (i.e. kill) the Reds at range – before the enemy “spray and pray” tacticswith their AK47s were of much use.

    I know of no conflict anywhere in the world where military victory has gone to the AK47 side against the FN FAL side (the FN FAL being the most popular Western rifle – when people get a choice of what they want to buy).

    Rate of fire is not everything.

  • Paul Marks

    Still it should be pointed out that the rate of fire school of thought is vastly better than the school of thought that was so influential in World War One.

    This school of thought ignored range, accuracy, AND rate of fire.

    It sent unarmoured men, walking in neat lines, into the teeth of enemy fire (both firearms and artillery).

    This school of thought seemed to be assuming that soldiers have bullet (and shell) proof skins.

    This is not the case.

    Tactics of frontal assault (in the early years of the war often without proper skirmishers) and with the men bunched together and moveing slowly (making better targets than what one is presented with on a fireing range).

    Such tactics often led to terrible consequences long before the invention of machine guns and barbed wire.

    Indeed if the enemy has prepared defences (which means that his shots count – and most return fire does not, although no defences are perfect so returning fire is vital) then even if the enemy is armed with single shot muskets, a frontal attack (in the above way) will almost certainly fail – unless there is a vast difference in numbers.

    As for such special tactics as demanding that one’s own men unload their rifles (in case they are tempted to shoot back – rather than just die like cattle in a slaughter house).

    Such “tactics” are vile – utterly vile.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way…

    It is the combination of features that is the real killer.

    Frontal attack without real skirmishers.

    Moving slowly – and in lines.

    Attacking prepared defences.

    Not being able to effectively shoot back against the defenders.

    One can get away with some of these features (and still snatch a victory from somewhere) – but when facing all these features…..

    Well even supermen would have a problem not just dying in heaps.

  • Paul Marks

    On the comments – Britt and others are correct.

    I do not think the whole of Afghanistan is worth the life a single Western soldier – however, if the politicians insist on war there…..

    One needs to have soldiers who are trained to fire their weapons accurately and have weapons that can do the job – i.e. kill enemies, and at long range.

    If one encounters the Taliban it is no good having to wait for an airstrike – one must kill them then and there (there may not be time to wait).

    Being able to shoot the enemy and kill them is a basic military skill.

    “Failed in Vietnam”.

    Oh dear me.

    “Failed in American universities and in Washington D.C.” is closer to the truth.

  • llamas

    Paul Marks wrote:

    ‘One needs to have soldiers who are trained to fire their weapons accurately and have weapons that can do the job – i.e. kill enemies, and at long range.

    If one encounters the Taliban it is no good having to wait for an airstrike – one must kill them then and there (there may not be time to wait).

    Being able to shoot the enemy and kill them is a basic military skill.’

    You have only to read some of the excellent rapportage coming out of the sandbox (Michael Yon springs to mind, and there are others) to realize that direct confrontations between US troops and the Taliban (or whatever ragtag bunch of miscreants is causing trouble today) are actually vanishingly rare, and so these bejewelled skills of long-range riflery are likewise extremely-rarely needed. The opposition knows full-well that any contact with US troops at rifle ranges will inevitably be followed by a rain of death from all sides and axes, and so they assiduously avoid such contact. They don’t fight, the way you wish they would fight.

    That’s one reason why US scout-snipers have had such stunning successes – because the enemy had assumed a zone of safety from visible US presence – a thousand yards or more – and are now having to learn that the Yanqui infidels can reach out and touch you – in person – at ranges exceeding 2000 yards. And that he’s not, where you think he is, and he’s not, where he was an hour ago. But the scamps are learning, and so the early successes of long-range sniping are petering out – he’s just expanded his zone of safety. It really doesn’t restrict his active warfighting at all, since hoe doesn’t fight the way, you want him to fight – it’s merely a change in the housekeeping rules.

    But in any case, these are one-off events – for the most part, US troops will never see a clearly-identifiable enemy at ranges where they could be engaged by any normal sort of rifle fire. The scamps of the Kurrum valley buried their bomb last night, when your patrol was 18 miles away, and for some reason, as they watch you drive by, they have decided not to wear a uniform that announces their allegiance. Dashed unfair of them really – damned unsporting. They really ought to show themselves, at known distances, so that we can have a fair crack at them with our pretty rifles.

    The two most-senior US casualties in Afghanistan in the last few months (a major and a LTC, IIRC) were killed in a secure room inside the Afghan Interior Minsistry, by a man dressed as a trusted ally, who had the access codes to get into that room and who was able to walk in and out of the building unmolested. I’m sure all the sentires were excellent rifle shots – it’s just that this enemy doesn’t come at them that way. They don’t fight, the way you wish they would fight.

    Paul Marks further wrote:
    “Failed in Vietnam”.

    Oh dear me.

    “Failed in American universities and in Washington D.C.” is closer to the truth.’

    Failed is failed. I hear this meme all the time in the US – oh, we didn’t fail, it was the politicians! Well, guess what – it doesn’t matter whose fault it was, we lost. It may comfort you to think that we would have won if the enemy had only engaged us on our terms, but that merely obscures the inconvenient truth that we let the enemy chose how to engage us, and then we failed to respond.

    “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

    General Giap read, understood and applied Sun Tzu’s ageless maxim, and won. The US failed to understand how he was engaging them, and lost. The Tet offensive kicked the living snot out of the NVA and the VietCong – it was a 100%, near-total US military victory in the field – and yet Giap still won the war because he took the fight to a place where the US military could not figure out how to engage him at all. Same with the Soviets in Afghanistan – they didn’t leave because they were beat, they left because the political pressure back home and abroad was just too hot to handle. This is how the ‘insurgents’ will eventually win in the sandbox, too – not because the M4 doesn’t have enough one-shot stopping power at intermediate ranges, but because the US will lose the political will to continue.



  • Paul’s comments on British tactics are almost identical to those made by him in a Facebook conversation last year.

    At the time I said that I believed the claim about men being denied bullets was a lie. Paul did not produce any contradictory evidence.

    I also asked him what he would have done had he been in charge. The answer was too vague to be meaningful and demonstrated a poor grasp of British First World War tactics.

  • Sunfish

    If there’s a flaw with the M4, it’s with the ammunition: M855 was designed to poke holes in cheap Soviet body armor. You get the same hole-poking without much expansion or fragmentation in un-armored targets as well.

    There’s been movement to new military rounds (SOST being the one that I know has been fielded by non-SOCOM[1] units) with good results. But that was towards the end of the war. (If the US had any sense they’d repudiate that part of the Hague Convention which forbids JHP/JSP in warfare, which we didn’t sign in the first place, but I’m not holding my breath.)

    The return of the M-14 has been largely wishful thinking, In a few cases it’s become a designated-marksman’s rifle, mostly due to the amount of kinetic energy that a 147-grain bullet retains on the other side of a quarter mile, compared to a 62-grain bullet. However, even in that role it’s a terrible weapons system and the only advantage it has over a 7.62×51 Stoner design (like the LMT that the UK just -sensibly IMHO- bought) is that it’s already in inventory.

    The problem is, you can (sort of) match tune an M-14. However, that job needs to be re-done about every 500 rounds. I can’t imagine that workload. I own an M-4-ish rifle that I don’t even clean every 500 rounds. Other than a few springs and an extractor[2] at the 5000-round mark and throwing away bad magazines, I don’t even maintain the damn thing.

    Well, that, and the M-14’s lack of inherent accuracy. It was a stupid choice in 1957 and hasn’t gotten any smarter since.

    [1] SOCOM units have better access to various rounds designed around heavy-for-caliber 5.56 match loads, Mk 262 and the like, but those are too expensive for Big Army.

    [2] It may not have needed it. However, I shoot a lot of steel-cased ammo, and the extractor is really the one part that can be damaged by steel.

  • llamas

    What Sunfish said.

    We might note that the ‘insurgents’ do not appear to feel themselves bound by the rules of the Hague Conventions that forbid the use of expanding bullets againt personnel. Quelle surprise.

    The M14 is basically a magazine-fed M1 Garand, which was in itself not a notable target rifle (!) unless super-tuned to National Match spec – which makes it fragile like glass. AFAIK, the ‘basic’ issue sniper rifle is still the M40, which is a Remington Model 700 like you can buy at the store for less than $1K, with a few minor mods and some tuning. But that weapon has now been mostly-defeated by the simple tactic of Moving Further Away, which means that accurate riflemen in the sandbox now need to pack weapons with a radius of accurate fire exceeeding 1500 yards – which would be a completely silly thing to try and train every trooper to do. Just to get set up to deploy one of these rifles effectively requires several hours of reconnaissance and a significant amount of keyboard time – they come with their own ballistic computer. The days of the ‘dope book’ are also passing away.

    Just as I said – the fetish about ‘every (troop) a rifleman’ is an outmoded and inappropriate holdover from the last war but two. The necessary skills and weapons for accurate rifle fire are now so extreme, and needed so seldom, that it makes not a lick of sense to try and train them into every trooper.

    I have a long response to Paul Marks lost in the Queue of Smitage.



  • Sunfish


    The USMC-issued sniper rifle is one match-tuned Remington M700 in .308. The Army’s is a different version. (For some reason, the Army felt the need to built a .308 with the M700 long action, which reason escapes me.)

    It probably doesn’t help that there have been JAG officers giving written opinions that claim that match ammunition, because of the open tip, is an illegal hollow point. Utter crap, especially as the hole doesn’t facilitate expansion, but it muddies the waters and has resulted in snipers loading up with delinked ball that was meant for machine guns.

    Both services are migrating to AR-10 pattern[1] rifles now. There has also been experimentation with a .50BMG Barrett and with something or other chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, but I don’t know where either of the major-caliber projects stand.

    Much of the world of hostilities still occurs inside of a half-mile. That’s where a well-made semiauto .308 precision rifle can really shine.

    I also disagree with the contention that individual skill is irrelevant. When you don’t give a damn about collateral damage, then precision becomes a little less important and a greater share of the load can be carried by armor/artillery/air. But Americans don’t think like that, usually. And in Iraq the innocent-bystander problem was very much relevant.

    I don’t think that anybody’s seriously suggesting two months in Quantico for every infantryman. However, some level of actual competence would be welcome. Otherwise, frankly, we might as well follow the Soviet training model and issue Kalashnikovs to draftees. Just think of all of the money we could save by dispensing with training.

    (There was an AAR from the Battle of Black Sea Street, that mentioned rifle marksmanship in the high-stress under-200-meter realm as being an area where the US really needed to up its game. That, physical fitness, land navigation, and spreading medical and CLS skills from the medics to the army as a whole, were thought to have been keys to reducing the casualty count in what was essentially a costly victory but a victory nonetheless.)

    [1] A direct-impingement rifle chambered in .308 Winchester/7.62X51 NATO. Think of a larger and heavier M-16.

    [2] Suitable examples are made by LMT, Larue, and KAC, but for some reason the Army adopted a DPMS offering. DPMS did indeed once stumble upon quality control, but they picked themselves up and moved on. I may try and score or build myself one this year, depending upon how much overtime I can whore. I almost had a stroke putting two grand into my M4. Five grand into an AR10 is a thought that will take some getting used to..

  • If the U. S. Army, in ten years and with the resources it had couldn’t win in Vietnam and Afghanistan, it lost.

    If “the politicians” won’t allow an army the resources, rules, or will it needs to win, it is the Generals’ duty to resign.

    “I am telling you boys, we can whip them Yankees with cornstalks.”

    Years later while running for re election as the Senior Senator from the State of Georgia, Toombs once again utilized his majestic mansion for the scene of a political speech. Speaking to a group of dejected war torn veterans, Toombs delivered a message of hope and prosperity to the
    post civil war south. At the end of his speech, Toombs reconized a man in the back row who had raised his hand to speak. The man stood up and said, “Mr. Toombs, we stood here five years ago and listened to you speak about how we could whip them Yankees with cornstalks.” The old weary war veteran continued, ” I got my arm shot off at Shiloh and my brother got his leg shot off at Chickamagua. We listened to you then about how we could whip them Yankess with cornstalks, why should we listen to you now?” The forever thinking politician paused and then said,

    “The Yankees wouldn’t fight with cornstalks.”