Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!
Read about this last year when they announced the purchases. I wonder what else the point man with a shotgun will be carrying? A 40 – 140m range obviously isn’t enough for all situations.
A shotgun isnt perfect for all situations, neithers a general purpose machine gun, a long range rifle or a 40mm grenade launcher.
Considering the very minor upfront cost of small arms, I always found it odd that so little variety is allowed.
Obviously theres support costs, but for a shotgun we’ll not use once we’re out of Afghanistan, just dont support it.
Drop a few hundred shot guns and a few thousand shells around the patrol bases of Afghanistan and forget about them.
I’d think the need for the shotgun has been identified as a short term ‘need’. Bit difficult to not justify it just because it may not be needed post-Afghanistan.
The British Army has always had shotguns dating back to the martini henry with a buckshot round, but more recently the malaya conflict where they proved their worth and influnced the americans in vietnam.
The Army has had browning automatic and mossberg pump action shotguns on the books,they are only generally issused to observation units (NI) in their hideouts to provide instant heavy firepower if discovered.
The army now are going back to their old ways from malaya and issusing the point man in the patrol an automatic shotgun firing OO buckshot (which proved to be VERY effective in close vegation), but also door breaching rounds can be fired when storming compounds.
It will be kept on the books after Astan to replace the older shotguns for the afore mentioned tasks.
the shotgun has been used pre afghanistan to a great extent and will be used afterwards as more and more variants of the cartridge emerge. to name a few, CS gas for small enclosures, solid shell for door hinges and now they are developing frag shells with stab fins again for FIBUA during room clearance greater distance/accuracy than lobbing a hand grenade and stops you using/carrying a stack of grenades. i think they are some other types as well will have to dig about for facts before commenting.
ha ian and were typping at the same time hence slight overlap!!!
The LM7 Sharpshooter rifle (L129A1) is an interesting bit of kit. It fires 7.62 mm ammunition not 5.56 mm rounds. The Royal Marines report than they can effectively engage targets to 800 metres. The sight is a x6 scope instead of the L85A2′s x4 unit. It weighs about the same and there are no issues about the lethality of the ammunition. This was reported on the MoD’s website where the Marine being interviewed described not merely as good, but ‘hoofing’. Marvellous word! It wouldn’t surprise me if the Army asks for an extra 9,000 of these so every soldier in Afghanistan gets one. Nice to see tax payer’s money being spent on decent kit.
Anthony G.Williams quotes an MOD briefing last year where it is asserted that 50% of small arms engagements in Afghanistan are taking place at or beyond the effective range of the current family of 5.56mm weapons. This is because the Taliban are using Dragunov rifles and PKM Light Machine Guns chambered for the Russian 7.62x54R round. I wonder whether we will see a UOR for 7.62mm Minimi to give greater suppressive fire?
hi nicholas, they won’t as it means dropping the highly expensive SA80 (if i’m allowed to still call it that)! I believe they are improving the 5.56 round. i read the article but didn’t bookmark it complete new inner as in single steel core rather than steel/lead combo. this increases range and lethality so BAe says, watch this space!!
On the subject of new kit, do you think BAe have been reading our postings here? The CV90 morphs into the Armadillo: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3a9a58b5c4-e8c7-42e8-946d-877f62c40716
Sorry about the long link – do you think its “crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside” ? (apologies to non UK residents who might not get that one….)
I was at the same MoDbriefing with Anthony Williams. There is indeed a UOR for a lightweight 7.62 mm machine gun and I believe that the MoD is currently evaluating two contenders, the FN 7.62 Minimi (Mk 48 MOD 0 in US service) and the US M60E4. Germany’s Heckler & Koch, who carried out the L85 revamp from A1 to A2 standard has also developed a lightweight version of the existing L7 GPMG; (yes, I know it’s an FN product, but the MoD owns the IP, so it can get anyone it wants to manufacture it). This has titanium side plates and is also meant to be a ‘hoofing’ bit of kit.
As for the new 5.56 mm L2A3 round, it is likely to be better than the existing L2A2, but it still will not overcome the need for increased combat range. The UK MoD admits that 5.56 mm ammunition is not effective much beyond 300 metres, which is why 7.62 mm ammunition has been re-adopted. UK 5.56 mm ammunition also has a thicker jacket than its US equivalent, so does not fragment or deform on impact. Instead it may often pass straight through a target, without causing significant damage – even at short range. There have been several instances of Taliban insurgents turning up at Camp Bastion with gunshot wounds to the abdomen after having been shot by UK 5.56 mm. The bullet simply passes through undernourished insurgents like a syringe, (see US Journalist, Michael Yon’s blog for more details). While the MoD has overcome a lack of long range effectiveness by issuing new 7.62 mm rifles and machine guns, it refuses to acknowledge the lethality problem with 5.56 mm. This is fundamentally about the small mass and diameter of the round – something that makes it illegal to use this calibre for shooting game weighing above 40 kg in many US states.
The lethality problem is the reason why the US Army and USMC have both now developed improved 5.56 mm rounds. The UK has done the same thing for the same reason. The new L2A3 round is reported to yaw more reliably on impact, i.e. it upsets on impact with a denser medium, such as human tissue, but regains stability by rotating so that the base of the round faces forward. In doing so it makes a larger hole than if it simply passed straight through. Small calibres rely on this characteristic to impart greater lethality. The trouble is that no small arms round can deliver a guaranteed terminal effect. To guarantee making a large hole you need a large diameter bullet. This is what the 7.62 mm round is. The bigger hole, the faster an enemy will be incapacitated through loss of blood in the event that a vital organ isn’t hit.
Moreover, whatever the merits of 5.56 mm ammunition, any force that comes up against an enemy equipped with weapons that fire full-calibre 7.62 mm x 54R rounds is likely to be at a distinct disadvantage – they’ll be out-ranged and outgunned. The Soviet SVD Dragurnov rifle is the Taliban’s equivalent of the UK’s new 7.62 mm sharpshooter rifle.
This is a long-winded way of saying, that, yes, we definitely need more larger calibre L129A1 rifles not more bl*!@dy SA80s. Of course, the MoD’s stated objective is to reduce the infantryman’s combat load. The re-adoption of 7.62 mm hardly achieves that; in fact, it does the opposite. yet it appears that British troops are content to put up with the extra weight because of the increased firepower that 7.62 mm weapons provide.
As an ex-infantry platoon commander and hunter, I have always deplored the use of 5.56 mm ammunition. It should never have been selected as a military calibre. But if 7.62 mm ammunition is too heavy, then the only solution to replace 5.56 mm is to adopt an intermediate calibre. There have been at least six comprehensive US or US studies to identify the optimum military calibre during the 20th Century. The most important of these was the UK Ideal Calibre Panel’s report which concluded that 7 mm or .280 was the perfect general purpose calibre in 1949. More recent studies, including Tony William’s analysis of recent developments concludes that such findings remain valid, with the ideal calibre lying somewhere between 6.5 mm and 7 mm. Modern intermediate calibres such as the 6.5 mm Grendel, can match the performance of 7.62 mm weapons at 1,000 metres (and even exceed it), yet are barely heavier than existing 5.56 mm rounds.
Should current stocks of SA80 weapons to run out due to excessive use in Afghanistan, it would be cheaper to buy off-the-shelf weapons than to manufacture new ones. We certainly no longer have such a capability in the UK. So it is probably the end of the road for this weapon whatever future calibre is selected.
Dr Liam Fox wishes to save money on Defence. Adopting a single intermediate calibre that could replace both 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm would be the perfect way to give our troops an increased capability while saving money. Given that both the US Army and USMC are exploring intermediate calibre options, we need to urgently prioritise the development of such a round ourselves.
nicholas, you’re one of the reasons i like this site, proper informitive answers. I started with SLR (brief horrible spell with SMG) and finished with A2. I have no problems with the A2 weapon as a whole but prefered the SLR based on the performance of the round.
The “one stop shop” for rounds just has to be a good idea (i was an RMQ as well would make life so much easier). on a lighter note surely the weight difference is now offset as no requirement to carry socks,undies and boot cleaning kit in your kidney pouches!!!
Thanks for that. I had seen that HK were working on the Gimpy, didn’t realize that they were looking at a lightweight version. Gimpy or Minimi makes sence. M60E4 doesn’t. The reason I raise the issue of the LMG is that most of the UK Minimi are the short barrel “Para” versions with effective range of only 200m.
Looking at the information that Anthony Williams has put together the 6.5 mm Grendel round could satisfactorily replace both 5.56 and 7.62 cartridges.
Of course, it would need to be done in conjunction with the US but a new common rifle to replace M4/M16/L85/L86 should really be being considered now.
Very interesting post.
We were discussing this recently somewhere.
I think the agreement was either 7.62 as standard, or switch down to something like the the P90 for most soldiers, but then increase the number of medium machine guns, proper long range rifles and grenade launchers.
Aren’t the Americans introducing a new M16 attachment in a similar role to the UGL but with shotgun rounds? Would that have made more sense than making the point man carry 2 weapons?
I’ve seen video of such a thing, but I think its an exclusive door breaker rather than any use for shooting johnny taliban
I think the shotguns are being used for a variety of roles including immediately stopping suicide bombers at checkpoints.
On patrol they might be used for fleeting shots of opportunity where the shot dispersion guarantees a hit, unlike the SA80 where an aimed shot would be slower.
Notwithstanding Nicholas far greater experience and insight…. but…..
I don’t think an intermediate caliber answers anything. All the statistical evidence from WW1, WW2, Korea etc says that even with a 7.62 with optical sights, the average infantry man under “battle stresses” is generally not going to hit anything at 300m to 400m. Now I would not want to stand up and tell a squaddie who has been shot in the Stan that he is a statistical aberration, but I don’t see how giving everyone 7.62mm, 7mm or 6.8mm “battle rifles” solves the problem of this war, or the next.
I do support those papers on the RUSI site that remind us that at medium to long range, crew served weapons kill the bad guy. So lighter weight 7.62mm MG’s – good idea. Six round revolver 40mm grenade launchers chucking medium velocity grenades out to 800m – spot on! 7.62mm “designated marksman” rifles, yep, but give everyone else supporting these weapons a P90. With the weight of the P90 with 300 rounds being approx 2.7kg less than the L85A2 with 180 rounds, that 2.7kg could equal a 100 round belt of 7.62mm or 12 x 40mm grenades, or 1 x 66mm LAW. In the close range, compound clearing fight the P90 should be fine, plus we could always UOR some ‘real’ shutguns – Aitchson AA12′s !!
Of course we have also have real snipers (.338), we could have 60mm mortars and bigger, and other solutions too before we have to call in artillery or air support. So, bottom line, I am against the introduction of an intermediate caliber.
I will be covering close combat (including weapon calibres) soon
Keep your powder dry fellas
The problem with upping everyone to 7.62 MBR’s is they’re not much good in urban combat.
Fine if your in a trench and the German Empire Army is in a trench 800m away, but useless if your in a city.
Maybe its time to accept that there isnt a “correct” weapon or calibre.
If your on big wide open space, you need high calibre weapons that can hit at long ranges.
If your storming a compound you need weapons that can be easily moved and aimed, and dont have buckets of recoil.
You can design an intermediate weapon, but it will just be pants at both extremes.
Is there any reason a platoon couldnt be carrying short, medium and longe range weapons?
Say, an assault section armed with shotguns and P90s, a general purpose section armed with SA80′s and a support section armed with grenade launchers, machine guns and long range rifles.
Obviously, not a useful force mix for all situations, but in afghanistan, it would seem useful.
You could always ditch the medium section for another assault section, carrying extra arms for the support section.
I was wondering when the great 5.56 vs 7.62 vs intermediate cartridge debate would reach Think Defence and it appears its finally arrived.
The original NATO decision to go for 5.56 was forced through by the US against the better wishes of the rest of NATO who wanted a 7mm round. 5.56mm round will likely remain however for a number of reasons,
1, the primary cost with small arms is by far ammunition, only a full NATO wide decision on standardisation onto an intermediate cartridge could make any change worth the cost of changing tooling
2, the recoil of 7.62 limits you to at best semi-auto firing, whilst this suffices for many situations, in urban/close quarters, full auto is a useful capability
3, overall weight of 7.62 ammo/gun as well as the increased length of barrel are concerns as well. Its also easier to train soldiers to fire 5.56
From a technical stand point I’m all for a 6.8mm grendel or 7mm internediate round, it gives you more range, superior wound characteristics without increasing recoil substantially but I don’t see it arriving anytime soon.
British Army seem to be going the golf bag route when equipping soldiers with guns and personnally I can’t see anything wrong with that.
going to a steel core in 5.56 ammmo also gets rid of the lead contamination issue
I’ve also heard that one of the ways H&K are lightening the GPMG is by shortening the barrel which I’m not to sure I’m a fan of
One very interesting piece of feedback coming out of Afghanistan is the effectiveness of optical combat gunsights. The UK recently updated the original SUSAT sight on our SA80s with the Trijicon x4 ACOG. This has enabled very accurate long-range shooting. The problem was that our ammunition was not up to the task. This was a major factor behind the decision to re-issue 7.62 mm weapons.
The new L129A1 sharpshooter rifle has a Trijicon x6 ACOG with even better performance. As you will have seen from the MoD website, Royal Marine Commandos claim to be able to hit the enemy at 800 metres. I don’t disbelieve them. However, the incredible long range performance of 7.62 mm ammunition comes with a major penalty: recoil. This is something that makes accurate long-range shooting challenging, especially when engaging multiple targets. If you’ve ever fired the old British L1A1 SLR, then you probably remember how sore your shoulder felt after firing 50 rounds.
An intermediate calibre has the advantage of matching 7.62 mm in performance to around 1,000 metres depending on the exact calibre and barrel length BUT it also has 40% less recoil. So the right intermediate calibre would enable ordinary infantrymen to shoot enemy targets at 800 metres without much difficulty.
The other important benefit of say 7 mm versus 7.62 mm is that it is more suited to use in urban areas. Large calibres can be too powerful, as was the British experience with 7.62 mm in Northern Ireland.
Why is this small arms performance important on a battlefield dominated by a profusion of support weapons? Two words: collateral damage. The ability to single-out and eliminate an individual enemy combatant at long range while reducing the risk of killing or injuring innocent civilians is highly desirable. In COIN operations, we have long since learned that winning the hearts and minds of the local population is essential.
When an unsuspecting Taliban insurgent suddenly sees his mate next to him killed with no ISAF forces anywhere in sight, it has a demoralizing effect. Good small arms allow us to dominate ground very effectively.
The L115A1 .338 sniper rifle simply underlines the need for reliable long range small arms performance. A UK sniper now holds the world record for an enemy engagement. Unlike an intermediate calibre weapon, such an advanced sniper rifle requires considerable training and shooting ability.
So the need for intermediate calibre small arms is all about precision warfare, something that William Owen’s ‘armchair strategist’ article in RUSI totally fails to appreciate.
I trained on the SLR in the RN in the 80′s – I hear ya ! Unfortunately as a radio op, when working as “internal security platoon” or boarding party I always got stuck with an SMG BUT I never had to fire either of them in anger.
In the TA post 9/11 I carried a L85A1 on ops, no SUSAT because not infantry, and never more than 100 rounds issued. Strangely enough my unit also had a lot of pistols, so often we would carry both.
So, I understand your arguments, but don’t totally agree. Designated Marksman with 7.62 and full on Sniper with .338 Lapua are indeed “precision” weapons systems, and even better a good fit with COIN. BUT the average infantry Joe under combat conditions, whether fitted with excellent optical site or not, cannot be considered “precision” over 300m, not all soldiers are great marksman, either naturally or even with good training. OK I wear specs, but even on the range, on a good day, with a SUSAT I was marginal at 300m !! Collateral damage is always an issue in anti-terror / COIN type ops, but what about the general maneuver and assault capabilities of the infantry squad ?
Oh by the way – ref 5.56mm lethality – if you go back and read the historic literature, it actually wasn’t meant to be that lethal ! The cold war idea was that if you wound Ivan badly, then his mates Sergei and Nikolai are going to be too busy rendering immediate aid, and evacuating him from the battle. So by not killing Ivan outright, your removing (at least) 3 individuals from the immediate fight……. !
Unless I’m wildly misinformed(it does happen), snipers are just trained to take into account more factors in aiming, theres no difference in the weapons they use.
I’m quite happy for every section to have a 7.62 designated marksmans weapon, but every soldier?
Those weapons are BIG, compound clearance would be a disaster with them.
Theres no need to introduce a new cartridge, just fire the same as the GPMG.
If we then drop the standard weapon down to something like the P90 firing 9×19 (the most common size apparently, and therefore cheapest),
The L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle is nothing more than a well-made M16 assault rifle in 7.62 mm calibre instead of 5.56 mm. What gives it an edge is the x6 Trijicon combat gun sight on top of it. The barrel is mere 16.5 inches in length (versus the 20 inches for the L85A2). So in essence, the Sharpshooter rifle is an assault rifle and could easily be used in that role, albeit with a less sophisticated sight. As is, i’d be very happy to use a Sharpshooter rifle for compound clearance above an SA80. Indeed, the SAS are widely using an identical weapon made by Heckler & Koch, the HK417, which has the added benefit of being able to fire automatic bursts. I was very surprised that we chose a sharpshooter rifle with a relatively short barrel, but the need for close quarter battle effectiveness explains it. I think this choice of weapon may also may reflect a hidden agenda: the desire to re-introduce a larger calibre rifle into general British Army service. As a short-term measure, I think it is a brilliant idea. Long-term, it is probably clear that I favour an intermediate calibre weapon of around 7 mm.
The dedicated sniper rifle is a very different kettle of fish. It is a long-barrelled bolt-action large-calibre weapon that is difficult to man-handle in close combat situations. It requires a very skilled operator to use it effectively above 1,000 metres. However, with a highly-trained soldier behind it, our Accuracy International L115A1s are so good that Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison of the Household Cavalry recently nailed an insurgent with a .338 bullet at 2,475 metres. At a cost of £2.50 per .338 round, I call that exceptional value for money. Previously, we were using Javelin anti-tank missiles to take out lone insurgents at a cost of around £75,000 per missile.
As I said in my previous post, the advent of new gunsights beyond what we had even 3 years ago, means that ordinary soldiers now stand a good chance of killing the enemy at 500 metres or even 800 metres. That represents a quantum leap above what was possible before. This demands ammunition that is up to the task as much as a good rifle.
9 mm x 19 is the old SMG / pistol round and has a very limited range. Some would say that it barely travels 50 metres. It would be next to useless in Afghanistan and cannot penetrate thick clothing at longer range let alone body armour. Like 5.56 mm, I believe this calibre has also had it’s day.
Really, it looks a lot bigger than that on the pics, fair enough,
nicholas, twice!!! just for good measure he shot the blokes opo as well, had to aim 2 metres above the target to allow for fall of shot. although had it been me i wouldn’t had my name and photo in the paper!!
No helmets on the ranges??
CS, I’ve seen pics and film of the guys in Afghanistan patrolling without helmets.
Not a big issue the way I see it. However, if things go pear shaped on the range, it’s the lawyers they want to afraid of!
While I have been awaiting for the current RAF thread to reach its crescendo at the end, before moving onto the Army topics, I have enjoyed reading your well informed contributions.
The topic moved on to the small arms thread, but on a couple of things you raised:
“SAS are widely using an identical weapon made by Heckler & Koch, the HK417, which has the added benefit of being able to fire automatic bursts…”
- the next thread made only a reference to the Dutch including a .338 at the platoon level, to extend the reach of accurate (rather than saturation) fire
- there are other armies that do this, as well
- then there are those that have gone for semi-automatic bursts but of smaller calibre, on the lines you mention for the SAS
- the “how” is not that important, whereas the recognition of the need is
“The dedicated sniper rifle is a very different kettle of fish. It is a long-barrelled bolt-action large-calibre weapon that is difficult to man-handle in close combat situations. It requires a very skilled operator to use it effectively above 1,000 metres. However, with a highly-trained soldier behind it, our Accuracy International L115A1s are so good that Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison of the Household Cavalry recently nailed an insurgent with a .338 bullet at 2,475 metres. At a cost of £2.50 per .338 round, I call that exceptional value for money.”
- me too, but he took 9 ranging shots before the 3, so we have to make it a tenner for each then?
- more on that after the sights vs. bullets comment
“As I said in my previous post, the advent of new gunsights beyond what we had even 3 years ago, means that ordinary soldiers now stand a good chance of killing the enemy at 500 metres or even 800 metres. That represents a quantum leap above what was possible before. This demands ammunition that is up to the task as much as a good rifle.” I WOULD HIGHLIGHT YOUR LAST SENTENCE IF I COULD, BUT NO FACILITY FOR IT
- agreed on the trend, 600-800 hundred used to be the domain for snipers mainly
- on the specifics of the mentioned recent, record-setting case:
1. If the (reporter’s mention) of 3 s flight time were true, then the initial velocity would have to be over 1500 m/s
- typically the Lapua .338 round has about 915 m/s, is there a super round that packs more powder, or more powerful powder?
- with the mentioned range the final velocity would be about 260 m/s (still deadly), but assuming shooter and target being level, the need for vertical correction is 104 m … well beyond any sights, hence the 9 ranging shots
I am sure we’ll soon be back to the topic what is needed at squad, coy and bn level, so more later
ACC ref above: “he advent of new gunsights beyond what we had even 3 years ago, means that ordinary soldiers now stand a good chance of killing the enemy at 500 metres or even 800 metres”
Sights aren’t everything, they are only going to make such shots if:
1. No incoming – no one is shooting at them
2. Not ‘cream crackered’ from running around to find cover, crawling into a good firing position carry loads of weight, having been patrolling for 4 hours…..
3. Not “stressed” by any other factors
Oh and of course, if the weapon caliber, barrel length, ammunition performance etc can actually make the shot at that round.
I am sure I have seen articles on Modern Small Arms that can be quickly converted from one calibre to another, operate on closed or open bolt, different barrels etc. I am not proposing giving each soldier a back full of alternative parts and barrels, but it would provide a common farme for the majority of a squads weapons and allow them to take the right calibre for a mission be it urban or rural. The majority of personnel would chose a weapon for a specific operation with one or two able to change their weapons into sniper versions in the field with a new barrel and reciever.
Regarding the LMG role I think this really needs to be a priority. If the Army could replace both its GPMG and Minimi with a lightweight 7.62 LMG it would solve alot of the range issues, allowing fire to be put down on a target whilst other move to close. Putting one in each fire team would be great improvement.
I am beginning to think this is where the Army needs to start with its FF2020. Ensure the guy (or lass) on the ground has the tools for the job and then move upwards.
The key to small-arms performance is of course the ammunition. There was a long discussion about this here a few months ago, with some of us arguing the case for a long-range intermediate round of 6.5-7mm calibre, capable of matching the ballistics of the 7.62mm NATO at long range with much less weight and recoil, while being more effective than the 5.56mm at any range. So it could replace both existing cartridges, with lots of savings in procurement, support and training plus greater tactical flexibility.
Long range sniping is best left to the bolt-action L115 in .338 Lapua Magnum (8.58mm), that’s top dog at the moment. A semi-auto gun in the 6.5-7mm intermediate calibre would be capable of matching anything that the 7.62mm L129 can do (i.e. about 800m effective range cf c.1,500m for the .338).
The US One-Shot sniper scope programme running at the moment aims to develop a day/night sniper scope incorporating a laser rangefinder, a ballistic computer and other sensors including up or downhill shooting, weapon cant and (astonishingly) cross-wind strength, with the idea being that the first shot fired by a sniper will hit the target at 1,500m 65% of the time. Obviously this will be a big, heavy and costly piece of kit, but experience indicates that the size, weight and cost of such kit shrinks steadily so it could be in the hands of the ordinary soldiers within a decade.
One consequence of adopting a long-range general-purpose 6.5/7mm round is that it would need a decent barrel length to get the most out of it. At the same time, a general-purpose rifle needs to be short for urban combat. Which greatly strengthens the case for a bullpup, which is 8 inches shorter for any given barrel length. The alternative with a traditional design would be to carry two different barrels, one short and one long, and keep swapping them over depending on the tactical circumstances, which seems to me like too much trouble…
slight thread drift, but one of the arguements on calibre size is weight of rounds in mags that tommy has to carry round the oggin.
The MOD has purchased magpul magazines, which are composite not metal with a “window” either side to aid round count these are lighter and make a difference of approx 1kg when carry 6 mags, MOD has bought approx 1 million and feedback from guys on the ground in the sandpit is positive. (there is a thread on it on ARRSE) video on youtube shows them driving over a mag with a pick up truck, fitting it and firing! They are also developing a “side by side” 50/60 round mag for support fire.
RE “Long range sniping is best left to the bolt-action L115 in .338 Lapua Magnum (8.58mm), that’s top dog at the moment” which I wholly agree with, but I have heard that the US has chosen that particular round and the existing .50s as the benchmarks for any new heavy round; not saying that it couldn’t be one or the other, instead of something new in between
- is this true
RE ” A semi-auto gun in the 6.5-7mm intermediate calibre would be capable of matching anything that the 7.62mm L129 can do (i.e. about 800m effective range cf c.1,500m for the .338)”
- I am under the (vague!) impression that the Russian have different, but same dimensioned rounds for the semi-automatic bursts (accuracy) tri-pod weapon out to 500-800m and actual sniper rounds for bolt-action pieces reaching out further
- would be a great help if you (squad/ platoon) actually have to carry the supplies
I am also under the impression that the specialist ammo has been kept under lock and key, and has not made its way to A-stan (luckily).
The US Army is modifying their 7.62mm bolt-action sniper rifles (M24 IIRC) to take the .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge. This is roughly midway in performance between the 7.62mm and the .338 LM. I have not heard any suggestion that they are considering anything else smaller than the .50 BMG round.
If you’re interested in ammunition for long-range sniping then this article on my website might rock your boat: http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/Long%20Range%20Sniping.htm
Was just chatting to soldiers about to go to Afghanistan. Their training reflects the fact that In the 12 months or so since increased numbers of 7.62 mm weapons were adopted at section level, improved tactics reflect the effectiveness and thus preference for larger calibre weapons. This is despite the extra weight of 7.62 mm ammunition – particularly linked ammo, which has added considerably to the infantryman’s burden. I understand that the Army has requested a much larger quantity of L129A1 Sharpshooter rifles.
What is also interesting about recent experience is that it makes a case not for the replacing 5.56 mm ammunition, but for a new round to replace 7.62 mm. In addition to the need to save weight is the requirement to fire automatic bursts, e.g. to quickly saturate darkened room in Afghan compounds with lethal effect. SA80 has an automatic capability which together with its short overall length, makes it good for CQB . But 7.62 mm weapons tend to be much more unwieldy, while the Sharpshooter rifle has no automatic fire capability.
As Tony Williams will attest, it isn’t difficult to develop a smaller calibre that would exceed the performance of 7.62 mm at 1,000 metres, while being shorter, lighter and more lethal. This can be achieved simply through a bullet designed to have greater aerodynamic efficiency.
If you develop a new round that can effectively replace 7.62 mm and that weighs 30% less, it could also easily replace 5.56 mm. Improving 7.62 mm is a much better strategy for getting rid of 5.56 mm ammunition than simply asking for 5.56 mm to be replaced – 7.62 mm has already done that. Once you have a new, say a 6.5 mm, round in service, and it is seen to be better than 7.62 mm, replacing 5.56 mm becomes a no brainer.
It is becoming so obvious that a new standard military calibre is needed, you can’t help wondering when NATO will wake up to this fact. My bet is that the US will introduce it by 2020. If they do, we will almost certainly follow.
Lord Jim said: “I am sure I have seen articles on Modern Small Arms that can be quickly converted from one calibre to another, operate on closed or open bolt, different barrels etc”
Probably the best examples that have made it to market in the U.S. are the Bushmaster (Magpul) ACR – Adaptive Combat Rifle:
and the Robinson Armament Company XCR -
They take slightly different approaches to providing a multi-caliber capable assault rifle (5.56, 6.8 or Russian 7.62×39) with different barrel lengths. The main premise is that they don’t need a lot of specialist tools or a workshop to convert them from one to the other. This the next step in evolution if you like from the FN SCAR family, which can do the same but are not as easily reconfigured (need special tools etc).
Nicholas said: “It is becoming so obvious that a new standard military calibre is needed, you can’t help wondering when NATO will wake up to this fact. My bet is that the US will introduce it by 2020. If they do, we will almost certainly follow.” – Not a chance in hell in this budgetary environment. This would be a massive investment for all NATO nations, including those who would see no direct benefit because they are not involved, or who are involved in small numbers in current battles. You would have to replace their considerable stocks of existing rounds, and either modify / re-chamber existing weapons or buy new ones. I just don’t see it happening for cost reasons.
Because this is a defence blog, because we’re discussing ammo calibre and because I like my Retro-tech:
More seriously, the German infantry squad of WW2 was built around their MG42′s (1-2 per squad).In fact, each machine-gun had a dedicated oppo for carrying ammo, etc, and he was usually only armed with a pistol. They introduced the new concept assault rifle STG44 with its “short” intermediate round almost as close protection of the machine guns.
Their reasoning is claimed to be the oft quoted inability of hitting a moving, aware target beyond a certain range without luck or a lot of bullets. Even so I believe a bolt action rifle was present in the squads for longer distance shots.
The short round was the same calibre of 7.92(?) as the MG/rifles for use of manufacture during wartime but they believed a round of about 7mm was superior. Whether they intended to produce a “universal” round or perhaps intended the same bullet in “long” and “short” versions if they had won the war I’m afraid I don’t know.
A good read, thanks for the link! Seems that no one is yet making a sniper round with a wolfram core – would they be too expensive?
- or maybe some of the AP rounds already are, just sounds that they would fit the bill for longer ranges
I can now understand why the Lapua has been relegated to being “just” the benchmark for Winchester (big weight difference)
“The short round (7.92 mm Kurz) was the same calibre as the 7.92 mm used for their MG/rifles, but they (the Germans) believed a round of about 7mm was superior. Whether they intended to produce a “universal” (single) round.. if they had won the war I’m afraid I don’t know.”
That’s a very interesting question.
The US DoD has a solicitation for a new carbine that is impartial concerning future calibre. Moreover, the LSAT program now includes a 6.5 mm prototype. Caseless or case-telescoped ammunition, whether it works or not, may well provide the impetus for change once the ballistic performance of such a round is seen to be superior. But as far as the UK is concerned, you’re right. I think they’d re-issue bows and arrows if they could get away with it.
Nicholas – thanks for the reminder on LSAT ! Googling suggests it has come a long way recently, the Wikipedia page is a good start for details:
I suppose if the technology leap is big enough – i.e. the caseless ammo variant, then the investment might be considered.
Personally, based on my own (really crappy) performance with an L85 I am all for the (retro-german) approach of building the dismounted infantry squad around the machine gun, and the grenade launcher. Lightweight, short, portable and easy to handle PDW type weapons would allow the rest of the squad to support these (and the designated marksman of course) while having a shorter range assault and self defence capability.
Google for the Magpul PDR, then the MetalStorm MAUL – now stick the five round MAUL with FRAG-12 rounds ontop of the Magpul PDR – marvelous combination that still weights considerably less than the L85 ! (but has less range I admit).
Apologies for multiple posts – blame Nicholas…..
See this US Army PDF from mid-last year on LSAT project, all prototypes (polymer case-telescoped and caseless) are currently using 5.56mm, but 6.8mm is mentioned on one slide under “intermediate caliber” for future development:
Firstly I will admit that my knowledge on all things army is a bit vague, but I was wondering, given that Afghanistan must be knackering them out at quite a rate, when the MoD will have to tender for a replacement for SA80A2? If they are looking at replacing them post Afghanistan (I suspect they will be) then what is the best off-shelf assault rifle for them to buy (I am assuming that ideally the UK wants a light weight assault rifle built by a major company who can turn out thousands of rifles per year, rather than a niche rifle maker)?
With BAE System’s ammunition plant at Radway Green churning out a million plus rounds a week, you could say that British Army weapons usage is somewhat excessive. However, with a total of 150,00 L85A2s (SA80) in our inventories and only 9,000 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, we’re okay for the moment. Should the war continue at its present tempo until 2014 (when we pull out), it is highly likely that the fleet of L85A2 weapons will be unserviceable.
In my opinion, the best off-the-shelf assault rifle is the Heckler & Koch HK416, which is a German version of the Colt M16A4 designed with a coldhammer-forged barrel and a gas-operated piston system. The USMC has recently acquired a version of this weapon as its Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) called the M27, which is a light machine gun substitute with an even heavier barrel and high capacity magazines. In testing, they fired 17,000 rounds out of a single weapon without malfunction.
The SAS uses the HK417, which is a 7.62 mm version of the HK416. According to H&K, they too are delighted with this weapon. You could argue that the LMT 7.62 mm L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle acquired by the Army last year is better, but it is a precision rifle based on a militarised development of a civilian target rifle rather a purpose designed assault rifle. It is also based on an M16 derivative, the Armalite AR10. Both are very good.
Two other are designs are noteworthy. One is the Belgian FN SCAR, which is available in both 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm. The other is the Heckler & Koch G36 in 5.56 mm. Both are gas-operated piston systems with high reliability and good accuracy. The reason why some armies prefer the M16 and HK416/417 series is that they are made from metal alloys whereas the FN SCAR and G36 both have polymer receivers. If we wanted another bullpup design, we could go for the Israeli TAVOR 21. I don’t know it, but it is well regarded.
I imagine that we’ll start looking at SA80 replacements in 2015 with a target in-service date of 2020. This is bound to slip by about 5 years, but it really cannot be postponed too long, because we’ll have run out of L85A2 spares by then.
In short, there are three companies that can make assault rifles: Colt, H&K and FN. I would be surprised if we didn’t buy from one of these manufacturers.
I’ve always preferred the ‘one shot, one kill’ approach to marksmanship. The rifle is making a come back now that precision sighting systems make accurate long-range shooting (300 metres+) easier. Aimed shots also complement the ‘beaten zone’ approach of machine guns. That said, stuff like the M25 grenade launcher and Metal Storm are useful additions, so long as the risk of collateral damage isn’t so great as to make their usage counter-productive!
I’ve also got a confession to make: although LSAT could be a good opportunity to introduce a new calibre, I understand that there are a number of major technical issues with its case-telescoped ammo that have yet to be resolved while the caseless variety simply doesn’t work at all. The main issue is that the breech of the weapon has become the case. With conventional brass cartridges, the case becomes a means of taking heat out of the weapon. With case-telescoped ammo, you get heat build-up and obturation problems as temperatures rise. Meanwhile, new polymer versions of conventional ammunition offer the same weight savings as case-telescoped ammunition prototypes and may kill LSAT on grounds of cost.
(A polymer 6.5 mm x 45 round weighs more or less the same as a 5.56 mm NATO round.)
@Nicholas ref: “I’ve always preferred the ‘one shot, one kill’ approach to marksmanship”
Yes exactly – “marksmanship” – not every squaddie is a marksman or a sniper, and therein lies the problem.
The UOR program to procure the L129 for Afghanistan is a good example of a flexible response to a particular need. It could have been done earlier but UK did not jump on the “designated marksman” bandwagon until later than some others. When we did we used the old Light Support Weapon (longer, heavier barrel) model of the SA80 family. Then the the 5.56mm round was found lacking so we stepped back up to 7.62mm with the L129.
The ‘standard rifle’ whatever it is has to be looked at holistically, the big picture of where it fits in with LMG, GPMG, grenade launchers, 60mm platoon mortars, the mix of “light role” infantry to those “armoured infantry” who are intimately supported by the main armament of the Warrior they rode to the fight in; and many other factors.
I don’t advocate “spray and pray” either mind you, but personal experience of using both the SLR and the L85 (caveat – never fired a round in combat, unlike so many others these days) means I don’t believe every infantryman is a “designated marksman” either.
Thanks Nicholas for your answer. I suspect that if we have to buy 100,000 plus rifles that cost is going to be the major deciding factor, followed closely by weight (lighter the better), and technical spec’s will likely be a distant third. Still I would have (naively) have picked FN SCAR, but I suspect all three of the options listed would be out of MoD’s price range. Is Nexter still making the FAMAS and would it be cheaper than HK416 or FN SCAR?
Crazy idea time! Every squadie is issued with a machine pistol (sliding shoulder stock, folding front grip, holster) for personal defence/CQB.
For more distance shooting, every squadie (without a specialised weapon) is given a Modern version of the Ultimax 100 with good scope.
So every soldier is a LMG gunner, potential sharpshooter, and uber-tommy gunner for close combat with the shorter barrel option.
Flak jacket donned, awaiting hostile fire…
LSAT appears to be making good progress – in cased-telescoped form (caseless appears to be on the back burner) with US Army trials this summer. I gather that the LSAT team are quite keen on a general-purpose calibre larger than 5.56mm (which was chosen for LSAT development only to make direct comparisons with current equipment easier) but it will basically be down to the US Army to state what they want.
@Gareth – 5.56mm can’t hack it at long range. Combat experience has shown that it’s good for 300-400m max, whereas fire-fights in Afghanistan are taking palce at anything up to 900m. As a result, the lightweight 5.56mm MG seems to be on the way out, being replaced by lightweight 7.62mm MGs to match the excellent Russian PKM.
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