« Women and Children First | Main | Polar Bears Will Starve If They Don't Eat »

Reach out and touch

Americans outgunned by Taleban’s AK47s - Times Online

The future of the standard issue infantry rifle used by American troops in Afghanistan is under review amid concerns that it is the wrong weapon for the job.
With its light bullets the M4 rifle lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights, leaving US troops outgunned by the Taleban and their AK47 Kalashnikovs and the old Russian SVD sniper rifle.
The reassessment echoes the shooting lessons that Britain learnt in the 1839-1842 war in Afghanistan, when they discovered that their Brown Bess muskets could not reach sharpshooters firing heavier-calibre Jezzail flintlocks. The Russians, too, had problems when they occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s: their AK47s failed to match the Second World War bolt-action Lee-Enfield and Mauser rifles used by the Mujahidin.
The US experience, in contrast, was gleaned in Vietnam. The early standard rifle was the M14, which fired 7.62mm rounds but was judged to be too heavy in jungle warfare and was replaced by a lighter-firing rifle that became the M4.

British Forces face the same dilemma but the Ministry of Defence said yesterday that there was no plan to review the SA80A2 rifle...

So the M4 is outshot by the AK-47, which was outshot by the Lee Enfield, the solution is obvious. Go back to the Lee Enfield, and no need for any wussy short model either. And don't forget the bayonets...


One wonders how the SLR woulf fare?

Now this is history repeating. During the Vietnam war the M16 was being discarded in favour of the AK47. The grunts found that the low velocity and lightness of the bullet meant that your average Vietcong could take a few bullets and still get close enough to kill. The disadvantage of the AK47 is that it does not do short bursts and whole clips are usually loosed off. The other advantage of the 47 is that it is very easy to unjam under fire.

Well the NATO 5.56mm round would be underpowered when compared to the round used by the SVD sniper rifle; the latter is a full sized 7.62x54mm round, equivalent to the old NATO 7.62x51mm (and the old British 0.303). It has an effective range of almost 1000m and dumps an energy of between 3600 and 3800 ft lb.

The AK 47 uses the less powerfull 7.62x39mm with an effective range of 400m and an energy of about 2050 ft lbs.

The M16 uses a 5.56x45mm round that is quoted as having an effective range of 600m and an energy of 1300 ft lb.

Studies, however seem to indicate the terminal effect of both of the latter rounds is much of a muchness unless the shooter is trying to hit a target behind light cover (car doors, wooden walls, heavy foliage etc). Then the heavier AK round does perform better having the voomah to penetrate the cover without shattering.

This argument has been going on ever since journalists learned that each side in Afghanistan was using different sized bullets but failed to get beyond the basic "big = good, small = bad" mentality or understand that different weapons served different purposes. It does much to reveal how thick many journalists are about matters military but adds little to any serious debate about effective calibres for particular circumstances.

Note the M4 is considered to "be underpowered in long range firefights" when compared to the AK47. So I guess one important question would be how much of the time is it used at long range and how much at close quarters?

If it's mostly longer range then heavier ammo/calibre/weapons are definitely going to be needed, unwinding many of the changes that have taken place over the last few decades. This greatly reduces the number of rounds a soldier can carry and thus has a major impact on the type and nature of any engagements and the overall tactics.

Post a comment