The Small Arms Calibre Debate

In an era of ‘shock and awe’ warfare where a deadly cocktail of sophisticated combat aircraft and smart munitions can deliver unprecedented destructive firepower, any debate about military small arms calibres may seem redundant. However, recent asymmetric campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan show that collateral damage seriously impedes efforts to win the hearts and minds of the local population, something that has proved essential to the achievement of wider military and political goals. This not only mitigates against the indiscriminate use of area weapons, but reasserts the importance of the humble infantry soldier equipped with small arms capable of neutralising enemy threats with surgical precision. The need to select the optimum mix of weapons and ammunition has understandably re-ignited interest in small arms calibres.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan also represent the first sustained combat use of the NATO 5.56 mm (SS109 / M855) round selected in 1979. Previously, this calibre had only seen service in Vietnam where most engagements took place at short ranges and seldom beyond 200 metres. This calibre was controversial choice at the time and despite a series of upgrades remains so today.

The thinking behind 5.56 mm ammunition is simple and compelling: the more rounds a soldier has, the greater his chance of hitting a target. With this in mind, the USA developed a round that would be smaller and lighter than the existing NATO 7.62 mm cartridge. The new calibre utilised a very small bullet (4 grams) fired at very high velocity (940 meters per second). To compensate for low mass, lethality was dependent on the cavitation effect of the bullet, i.e. the size of the hole created as it passes through a target. The original 5.56 mm round, the US M193, was designed to become unstable upon impact. This meant that it would tumble after hitting a target to create a much larger wound track and thus inflicting increased damage. It was a highly innovative concept which allowed soldiers to carry significantly more rounds for a given weight of ammunition.


The Infantry Weapons Range Problem
The Infantry Weapons Range Problem

When NATO adopted 5.56 mm, reservations about performance were overcome by redesigning the bullet to offer better penetration against armoured plate. This was achieved through greater stabilisation and the addition of a steel core. NATO testing showed that the new SS109/ M855 round could defeat a steel helmet at 500 metres.

It seems hard to believe, but NATO 5.56 mm ammunition did not receive a proper baptism of fire until 14 years after it was adopted. This happened during the US ‘Blackhawk down’ incident in Mogadishu in 1993. US soldiers reported that it had often taken multiple hits to incapacitate a single enemy combatant. British forces may have experienced the same problems during an equally brief but intense skirmish in Sierra Leone during 2000, but in both instances there simply wasn’t sufficient data to draw any conclusions.

However, since military operations began in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002, a stream of negative feedback concerning 5.56 mm ammunition’s effectiveness has reached the public domain. Much criticism is due to the US Army’s adoption of the short-barrel M4A1 carbine, which has a 14.’5” barrel versus 20” of the standard M16A4 rifle; (a shorter barrel is likely to reduce the ballistic performance of any ammunition). Then, in 2007, operational reports from British troops serving in Afghanistan, supported by the UK MoD’s own analysis, suggested that 5.56 mm ammunition performance was also a problem for British soldiers. Then a secret German report, made public in 2009, showed that the Bundeswehr had experienced the same issues in Afghanistan. Problems with 5.56 mm ammunition fall into four categories:

1. Lack of effective range. More than 50% of infantry engagements in Afghanistan take place at ranges above 300 meters. When 5.56 mm ammunition was adopted, it was believed that 90% of combat engagements would take place under 300 meters. It frequently results in situations where ISAF troops cannot return fire when engaged by enemy snipers. 5.56 mm ammunition is meant to be effective at 500 metres, but combat feedback suggests that this is not the case.

2. Inconsistent lethality. There have been instances where enemy combatants have not been neutralised by 5.56 mm bullets, sometimes despite receiving multiple hits. This has happened at longer ranges, but also, surprisingly, at shorter ranges.

3. Poor barrier penetration. In certain situations, 5.56 mm ammunition has been defeated or deflected by barriers obscuring a target, including car windows, car doors, light masonry and woodwork. Even when a 5.56 mm succeeds in penetrating an intermediate barrier, its energy may be depleted so that lethality is compromised.

4. Inadequate suppressive effect. The UK MoD’s own analysis suggests that insurgent forces are not suppressed by 5.56 mm ammunition, whereas larger calibres have a more notable psychological effect.

Independent testing by US ballistic experts using gelatine blocks to simulate human tissue was conducted to examine lethality concerns. The results showed that NATO 5.56 mm ammunition does not yaw consistently. Sometimes, the bullet will travel straight through a target, like a hypodermic syringe, making an extended hole, but inflicting limited damage and failing to incapacitate. This is consistent with UK reports of malnourished Taliban insurgents running away despite being shot with several 5.56 mm rounds.

The UK MoD responded to criticism in late 2009 by publicly stating that it was entirely satisfied with the performance of Radway Green’s L2A2 version of the NATO standard SS109 5.56 x 45 mm round. Since that time, there have been a number of interesting developments which suggest that the above concerns are more than justified.

Terminal Effects
Terminal Effects


The US Army has now fielded an improved 5.56 mm round, the M855A1 EPR cartridge, while the US Marine Corps has developed its own improved ammunition, the Mk 318 SOST MOD 0 round. Both rounds provide American troops with better terminal effectiveness and barrier penetration at all combat ranges. With greater length and mass, they incorporate what is effectively an open tip bullet design enabling them to fragment upon impact. This allows energy to be transferred into the target more reliably, although their legality under the terms of the Hague Convention is questionable.

In August of this year, the UK MoD announced the intention to field its own improved 5.56 mm ammunition, the so-called “Dirty Harry” round, which also offers improved performance thanks to a longer, heavier bullet. Compared to US ammunition, the new UK round does not have an open tip. Although better than the existing L2A2 round and legal, the new round is likely to be less effective than its American counterparts because the bullet does not fragment.

While such improvements are likely to be welcomed by troops on the ground, there is an emerging consensus that 500 meters may be the maximum effective range for all 5.56 mm calibre weapons.

When 5.56 mm ammunition was adopted, future war scenarios envisaged mostly urban combat engagements and limited open country skirmishes, so a maximum range of 300 meters was seen as sufficient. The conflict in Afghanistan has challenged this belief. Vast open planes, high mountains overlooking wide valleys, plus bright sunshine and clear visibility enable small arms engagements to take place at much longer distances. Taliban insurgents already know this and have been using snipers equipped with full-calibre 7.62 mm x 54R ammunition very effectively to engage ISAF troops at ranges well above the capabilities of the latter’s 5.56 mm weapons, typically at 600 meters plus. This suggests the need for small arms that are effective at 1,000 metres.

US, UK and German forces have responded to this threat by readopting 7.62 mm weapons. The previous NATO standard calibre (the 7.62 mm x 51 M80 ball round) was never criticised for a lack of performance. On the contrary, it was only ever supplanted by 5.56 mm x 45 ammunition because the former calibre was felt to be too big, heavy and powerful.

The UK has now acquired a 7.62 mm AR-10 derivative from LMT, the L129A1, as a ‘Sharpshooter’ rifle. Equipped with the latest x6 optical combat gun sights, this weapon represents a significant step-up from the old FN FAL or L1A1 SLR rifle used prior to the adoption of the L85A1 SA80. However, with only 440 in service, they are in scarce supply. The US Army has also reissued a 7.62 mm rifle, the M14, which it used before adopting the M16. Other NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan have also readopted 7.62 mm as well as other large calibre weapons, including .338” sniper rifles and .50” machine guns. Such weapons give troops a significant long-range capability.

L129A1 Infantry Sharpshooter Rifle
L129A1 Infantry Sharpshooter Rifle


The resulting tool box of small arms is often described as a ‘golf bag’ approach to weapon selection. For short range and urban use, troops have 5.56 mm weapons. For long-range, open country engagements, they have 7.62 mm weapons.

Proponents of intermediate calibres believe that the dual calibre fleet of infantry small arms is a flawed approach. What happens when soldiers equipped with 5.56 mm weapons come under fire from an enemy at long-range? And vice-versa, what happens when soldiers with heavy 7.62 mm weapons are involved in close hand-to-hand fighting? Dual calibre solutions may result in situations where only half of a squad / section can bring their weapons to bear.

The procurement cost of multiple weapon types, the extra logistical burden, additional training requirements and increased weight of typical combat loads suggest that a reduction in ammunition types is desirable. British forces are not merely using 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition, but also 9 mm, 8.59 mm, 12.7 mm and 12-gauge shot gun shells.

The alternative view is that a single type of ammunition that lies somewhere between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm could be a better option. A calibre of between 6.5 and 7 mm is seen as the ideal compromise. This point of view is often based on the previous UK development of 7 mm ammunition designed for the aborted EM2 rifle project in the early 1950s. UK MoD tests unequivocally showed that that 7 mm was effective at long ranges while weighing less than full-calibre alternatives and with lower recoil. Ballistic experts believe that a modern version of this calibre could even exceed the performance of 7.62mm ammunition at 1,000 meters while weighing 50% less.

SA80 A2 British Army Service Rifle
SA80 A2 British Army Service Rifle

The view of many soldiers, especially those with experience of larger calibre ammunition, tends to advocate a wholesale return to 7.62 mm ammunition. The truth is they want a round that is combat proven and which offers the best possible chance of rapidly incapacitating an enemy. The rule of thumb is: the larger the calibre, the more certain the terminal effectiveness. However, any bullet has to hit a target before it can be effective.

The rationale for the adoption of 5.56 mm ammunition was increased hit probability. Few would disagree with the statement that a hit with a small calibre round is always better than a miss with a larger calibre round. The problem with larger calibre rounds is that they have much greater recoil. This can cause shooter discomfort and limit shooting effectiveness. There’s no point in having a large round if you can’t hit the target with it. Perhaps the most important factor in favour of a small calibre is that troops can carry 200 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition versus only 100 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition.

To be certain of rapidly incapacitating a target, any bullet (5.56 mm or 7.62 mm) needs to hit the central nervous system (CNS). That means it must strike the head or upper torso, which represents a small and narrow target area. This makes shot placement very important; something that most NATO armies’ training emphasises. With the adoption of optical combat gun sights, marksmanship standards have improved so that more experienced shooters can reliably hit the enemy in the desired spot. While soldiers using 7.62 mm weapons can also shoot more accurately than when they had iron sights, the ease with which soldiers can be trained to shoot accurately with low-recoil ammunition tends to favour 5.56 mm weapons over 7.62 mm weapons.

Perhaps the reason why many soldiers nevertheless prefer 7.62 mm ammunition is because of what it does if it fails to hit the CNS: it makes a much larger hole that is likely to cause rapid incapacitation if not death through catastrophic blood loss. In contrast, if 5.56 mm ammunition fails to hit the CNS, it may not create such a large hole or reliably incapacitate. In many combat situations, stress may prevent the kind of accurate shooting achieved so easily on the range back at barracks.

So does a small calibre give you a better chance of hitting a vital spot or does a larger calibre make up for it in case you don’t? The arguments that favour one calibre over the other are compelling. It is hard to choose which is the right one.

It could be said that neither calibre is ideal. 7.62 mm may be too large given its weight, recoil and energy. The bullet is effective well beyond 1,000 metres, with few soldiers possessing the shooting ability to hit targets at that distance. Conversely, 5.56 mm may be too small, because of range and lethality issues.

Quite possibly, the latest versions of 5.56 mm ammunition may fix performance concerns, but even if this calibre is now lethal at to 500 metres, NATO troops in Afghanistan still need a long-range capability to 1,000 metres. A round smaller than 7.62 mm (e.g. 7 mm) could be made lighter and with less recoil without compromising range or lethality requirements. Similarly, a round larger than 5.56 mm (e.g. 6.5 mm) could also have greater range and more consistent lethality without imposing a significant weight and recoil burden on troops using it.

Those who advocate the ‘golf bag’ approach to fielding multiple calibres argue that an intermediate round has all the disadvantages of both large and small calibre ammunition. The author’s view is that, whether a dual or single calibre solution is preferred, 5.56 mm may simply be too small to achieve consistent results against human targets.

What also makes the small arms debate increasingly relevant is that many UK units are firing more than a million rounds of ammunition per month. The wear and tear on the current fleet of weapons is intense. If the current tempo of operations continues, then the anticipated replacement date for SA80 of 2020 may need to be bought forward. Given long and drawn out procurement timetables, the MoD is already starting to think what should replace the SA80 family. This makes now a good time to reopen the calibre discussion.

Concerns about ammunition performance are unrelated to the previous criticism of SA80. The story surrounding its conception, development, deployment and failure is an object lesson in how not to procure a weapon system. However, after hundreds of millions of pounds of additional expenditure, the latest versions of SA80, the L85A2 and L85A3, are at least reliable and accurate. Unfortunately, the only accolade that can be attached to this weapon is that it is the world’s heaviest assault rifle. As good as it may now be, there are many newer, better-designed systems that totally outclass it.

One key future design requirement is the need to reduce infantry loads. This tends to favour the retention of small calibre weapons rather than adopting new larger calibre ones. The US Army is already looking at future developments. One particular new system that is attracting interest is the Lightweight Small Arms Technology (LSAT) program. This is centred around case-telescoped and caseless ammunition prototypes that offer between 40%-50% weight reduction versus existing 5.56 mm cartridges. The technology is calibre neutral so it would be easy to change to a larger calibre if required. The increased complexity of LSAT technology means that it needs a considerable amount of further testing before it becomes a proven battle-worthy technology. That said, it offers a unique opportunity to select the ideal calibre.

Other new developments include more powerful propellants and lightweight steel and aluminium cartridge cases. These could be lower cost, lower risk options compared to LSAT while saving the same amount of weight.

AAI LSAT Ammunition
AAI LSAT Ammunition
AAI LSAT Ammunition
AAI LSAT Ammunition



The most critical factor affecting future weapon and ammunition choices is not user requirements but the politics of change. It is unlikely that any NATO member would independently select a new calibre without endorsement from other allies, especially the USA. However, what the USA decides to do is likely to influence the rest of its allies. It should be noted that the USA unilaterally adopted 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm calibres, effectively forcing the rest of NATO to do the same.

In seeking to field new infantry small arms, the US DoD recently announced that, it would evaluate calibres other than 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm. These include 6.5 mm, 6.8 mm and 7 mm. Given that the USA previously developed two very good intermediate calibre prototypes, the .276 Peterson in the 1930s and the 6 mm SAWS rounds in the 1970s, it could be a case of third time lucky for the USA and NATO.

Small Arms Ammunition
Small Arms Ammunition


In summary, many NATO armies have bigger fish to fry than reviewing small arms choices. More helicopters and FRES Utility are certainly a greater priority at this time than any SA80 replacement. So, the most likely scenario is the retention of both 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm weapons. However, if China, Russia or Iran were to adopt an intermediate calibre, this might well be the catalyst for change that is needed to overcome an uneasy status quo.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
September 26, 2010 12:28 pm

The 5.56 received its “baptism of fire” during the Vietnam war, where the AR-15/M-16 was first fielded under combat conditions (alongside the 7.62mm M-14). The heavy semi-auto M-14 was deemed too heavy (as was the comparable FN FAL) for jungle ops and although the early M-16s suffered from various teething problems, the .223/5.56mm popularity grew mostly because of it’s light weight and short rifle/carbine chassis.

Anything out of range of the 5.56mm was to be dealt with by 7.62mm machine gunners and platoon marksmen or snipers. Or so the theory went anyway.

Having carried both the FN FAL 7.62mm in my younger years and C-7 (M-16) 5.56mm *and* being lucky enough to have fired both 6.5mm and 6.8mm SPC (on a range only for evalutaion), I have to say the latter is ideal.

Ballistics for the 6.8 SPC are roughly the same as a light version of the ubiquitous .308/7.62 yet you don’t need a heavy rifle chassis to absorb the recoil and stresses. Replacement uppers for M-16 style weapons are available off the shelf (via Barrett, Colt, H&K) so in theory it should be easy-peasy to re-chamber.

But of course, in defense, things are never easy.

Just FYI, Holland uses a heavy 5.56mm for their newly modified C-7/SRIM and .338 AW for platoon marksmen to deal with +300m ranges.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 26, 2010 2:00 pm

I think that both the 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC rounds are compromised by being designed to fit an AR-15 action / mag well and a better solution would be to either resurect the .280 british round and design a gun from the ground up or stick with the dual 5.56 / 7.62 NATO approach until new technologies such as cased telescopic mature. The problem with the latter idea is that the record of experimental cartridge programs has been one of dismal failure.

A new bullpup with ambidextrous ejection would be the best idea since it’s shorter than a conventional rifle and the balance is far less upset when you hang a grenade launcher under the barrel.

September 26, 2010 2:36 pm

To my (uninformed) mind, Golf bag is the best approach.
It can still be a standardised golf bag, but golf bag it must remain.

Are two rounds enough?
Well as the author says, we dont have two rounds at the moment anyway.

We have 12.7mm at the high end,
7.62 at the mid high
5.56 at the mid low
4.4 at the low?

We already have belt fed machine guns at the lower mid level, and sniper rifles at the highest.
Just formalise what already exists

Pistol, PDW and Carbines can be chambered in low
Carbines, Standard Rifles and “Para” Machine guns can be chambered in 5.56
Standard Rifles, General Machine Guns and DMW can be chambered in 7.62
Heavy Machine Guns and Sniper Rifles can be chambered in 12.7

Make as many componants “common” as possible.

I relise its not very “Standard”, but your expoecting a single weapon to be effective at 1-1000m, thats like expecting a mortar to be effective from 100m to 100km at one calibre.

Theres no reson we cant re-engineer a 7.62 round to be a caseless telescoping round. (Is there?)

Obviously, if a full platoon tramps around the Afgfhan plains with PDW’s, they’re going to be in trouble, but I hope your average paras are more capable than that.

September 26, 2010 3:08 pm

Monty – good point.

On the “Golf Bag” principle, that kind of already exists, if one counts all platoon and company (Coy) weapons.
Depending on Coy type of course, but a Coy usually has 60-81mm mortars, 40mm (automatic) grenade lauchers and (dis)mounted .50cal HMGs for longer ranged, suppressive fire.
And that’s not counting any AIFVs and MBTs that may be supporting.

Looking at this whole picture, the 5.56mm would be sufficient – even if short ranged and lacking ‘stopping power’. Here light weight trumps lethality.

Unfortunately, Afghanistan has turned into a light infantry “COIN” war, where small dispersed units lack the support of their organic Coy/Bn weapon support, and in general have to make due with their own 5.56 rifles and SAW/LMGs.

So I guess the question is this; is COIN going to be the norm, and do we need to “upgun” the infantryman because of that, or will combined arms return and is an improved 5.56mm cartridge sufficient?

September 26, 2010 3:41 pm

But COIN in a city is very different to COIN in the countryside.

September 26, 2010 3:42 pm

Speaking with all the certanty and authority of one who’s millitary expernce consists of one druken paintballing session….I

I would question whether the Golf bag analogy works.

1) It must really complicate logistics

2) I doubt if a 7.62mm is actally useless at short range (maybe more cumbersome and less good = more likley given the other guy is as well trained likely to get you killed; but actually useless?)

3) whereas 5.56 is actually apparently ignored at long ranges by the Taliban.

4) The original 5.56 v 7.62 tests done by the US were pretty definitive about close range combat, but they were M14 v M16, how would a modern bullpup 7.62 (say KalTec)perform? it would not break the bank to find out by repeating those tests.

5) Golf bag asumes you have the luxury of time and space to select your weapons, combat I am told is a lot more chaotic and results in “fire everything you’ve got at the guy who is fireing at you”. Eg use of Milan as an anti bunker weapon in Falklands. (Apparantly causing horror in the treasury at the cost per weapon fired).

6)Golf bag assumes you can supply all these weapons in the field and resuply the ammo – at least part of the problem in Afghan.

7) Body armour will soon take big leap forward with non-newtonian fluids, and carbon nano tubes likely to be comming to a battlefield ner you in the next 5 years.

Even 7.62 will struggle with that.

Whereas A Williams arguments in favour of 6.5 Grendal seem very persuasive; I am very suspicious of wizzbang new gun technologies, since I was a kid Caseless/folded/rocket propelled new bullets were going to replace conventional rounds.

September 26, 2010 4:00 pm

I was going to write a piece on this, except just about section, platoon, company level small arms, not the calibers per se.

Admin – you missed 1 point about the SS109 – it was not designed to kill out right. I was designed for the cold war, for full out war against the Warsaw pact. As such, and because it is well known that troops in trained armies fight “for each other”, the aim was a round that would wound, thus actually taking three men out of the immediate fight, as two guys provide immediate aid / evac to their buddy.

Marcase has a good point – if your going to engage in “wars of choice” in far flung places, are they going to be COIN affairs with restricted ROE for bigger weapons ?

This has a potential large impact, because generally, small arms are for “fighting through” in British Army vernacular, for taking on the enemy at close range. Medium to long range should be the tasking of machine guns and grenade launchers, up to the company mortar etc.

In this respect we have had issues of course. The LSW being magazine fed was found to be too accurate for traditional LMG suppressive roles, and yet the Minimi version we bought was the short barralled “para” version, which is definitely have ballistics issues with the SS109. Hence to the return to the ‘good old’ days of lugging around the 7.62mm GPMG in bipod mounted “light” role (which anyone who has ever carried one will know is a rather laughable label !).

For once the UOR approach is the right one – we have upped the caliber of specialist bolt action sniper rifles, and now procured 7.62mm semi-auto “designated marksman” rifle – although I would like to see these issued on a scale of 2 per platoon HQ section through-out the infantry.

Even better though, would be a nice big purchase of 7.62mm version of the Minimi, with the full length barrel. Let the “armoured” infantry carry 5.56mm Para LSW’s in the back of their Warriors, as they have plenty of “long range” back up in each vehicle.

As for whole sale small arms caliber change, I agree with Admin, we have better things to spend money on.

September 26, 2010 4:10 pm

Jed, check the author of this post, it’s not me, which is why, lets face it, it is pretty good!!

This tweaks my commonality nose a bit. We don’t even have compatibility at a calibre level with link and ball being different I think, plus tracer. Does the new sharpshooter rifle actually use the same ammunition as the GPMG, not sure?

We have too many calibres, we are already massively overloading our infantry so for the argument comes down to weight reduction across a section and logistics commonality. Improving lethality would be a bonus

If they can solve the heat transfer and moisture absorption issues with caseless/plastic cased rounds then I think this is equally worth some limited research

September 26, 2010 4:14 pm


This is not the first forum or the first time I have read or heard the below.

“The view of many soldiers, especially those with experience of larger calibre ammunition, tends to advocate a wholesale return to 7.62 mm ammunition. The truth is they want a round that is combat proven and which offers the best possible chance of rapidly incapacitating an enemy”.

As an armchair warrior that sounds pretty persuasive to me.

“Medium to long range should be the tasking of machine guns and grenade launchers, up to the company mortar etc.”

This asumes these are available, it appears in Afghan they are sometimes not.

Given the argument that the guns are wearing out any way the cash will have to be spent on replacing them- (it won’t be a lot in real terms)why not adress the issue of calibre at the same time?

September 26, 2010 5:08 pm

Whilst the L85 may be the heaviest standard issue rifle in the world, it also happens to be the most accurate. The two things are not unrelated and as the article points out, accuracy is necessary.

…Although saying that it does get a little tiring holding an L85 for long periods.

Anyway, as the article points out the USA will really decide what all of NATO will do here, so there really any point to the UK discussing this? Would we really go for a different calibre (unless we managed to get most of our European allies on board)?

Sven Ortmann
Sven Ortmann
September 26, 2010 5:33 pm

Let me be lazy and just drop links to my earlier writings on the topic. The small arms calibre debate is as old and as tiring as “wheels vs. tracks” or “which is the best MBT?”.

One of the good things about having an old blog is that sometimes you can simply lazily point at an old blog post (or four) instead of writing lengthy responses. :-)

September 26, 2010 5:46 pm

The Russians and Chinese re-chambered to different calibers as well. The Russian 5.45×39 is well-known by now, the Chinese 5.8mm not so much.
(Shamelessly cut & pasted from StrategyPage);

“The QBZ-95 is unusual in several respects. It’s a Bullpup design, meaning the 30 round magazine is behind the trigger and overall length is 30 inches (compared to 34.2 inches for the AK-47 and 38.8 inches for the M-16).
But even more unusual is the cartridge, it’s a 5.8mm round developed in China. The Chinese experimented a lot during the 1980s, with new cartridges of different calibers (from 5.5mm to 6mm) and settled on the 5.8mm round in 1989.

The QBZ-95 weighs 8.3 pounds loaded. There is a light machine-gun version that uses a longer barrel and a drum magazine. This weapon weighs 11 pounds loaded, but is awkward to use because of the heavy ammo drum sitting behind the trigger. There is also a “carbine” version with a shorter barrel.

The QBZ-95 is also a complicated piece of machinery, with, as some users have reported, “too many parts” (especially compared to the AK-47.) The 30 round magazine, sitting behind the trigger, makes it awkward to fire from the prone position.

The new 5.8mm cartridge does not appear to be much more effective than the short 7.62mm used in the AK-47, or the 5.56 round used in the M-16.”

September 26, 2010 6:04 pm

DominicJ – Indeed it is.

During the Balkans, (counter-)sniper teams still required a good heavy round – even though they weren’t allowed to use (counter) sniper fire.

And during the Iraqi MOUTs the US fielded hundreds of 7.62mm M-14 EBRs to supplement the M-16 on ops both inside and outside of cities.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that the US Army favors the M-4 carbine, while the US Marines prefer the full-length, long barrel M-16A4.
Which is an interesting difference.

September 26, 2010 6:21 pm

Not sure if it was clear

When I say “Golf Bag” I mean a company base should have a selection of weapons, and the platoon about to patrol should pick a selection of appropriate weapons.

September 26, 2010 7:08 pm

We have to ask ourselves what will give the greatest improvement in mission effectiveness for a given change in a soldier’s carried weight, cost and logistics.

Staying with a lighter round produces a lighter load for a given number of rounds, which improves the mobility of overloaded troops. Or it allows you to spend kgs on better body armor or improved optics, radios or other gear.

Can your average infantryman even be trained to consistently hit a target with partial cover under combat conditions with a rifle at 3-500m, regardless of caliber?

September 26, 2010 7:35 pm

B Smitty
The three PDW’s to one support fires per section route is a pretty reasonable setup in a lot of situations.
I believe Jed was a big proponant of it.

A 40mm Grenade Launcher / HMG / Sniper Rifle beats a gaggle of AK at 800m and a gaggle of P90’s beats a gaggle of AK at 20m

September 26, 2010 7:40 pm

Nobody going to comment on bullet design then? Um. FMJ vs hollow point. I just can’t see any mention of the USMC’s new SOST round in the article. Sorry if its there. A larger calibre isn’t always the answer to lethality.

Further it is hard enough to make considered shots at range, never mind when the “targets” are firing back. The thinking that brought about the adoption of 5.56mm is that infantry fire is about suppression to fix the enemy in position so that something larger can “stonk” (lovely word that) them.

Personally I think 6.8SPC is the way to go. Spotting who is shooting at you beyond 300mtrs is hard enough. The majority don’t need a round that can reach past that.

September 26, 2010 7:41 pm

Without perusing the previous comments. I believe it has been proven that the Remington 6.8 SPR, which itself was developed from the British round designed for the EM2, has the required range and lethality. I also believe that this round has also been further developed to a higher standard at about 6.75.
The only reason that I can think of for not adopting this round is that the Yanks are looking at some form of the old HK research into rounds that are encased in propellant (in the HK case they were looking at a square profile propellant charge …. I think!). Anyway this, to me, appears to be the reason for some delay. No doubt when they have decided the rest of us will follow as the article suggests!!
In short I have to agree with the (my) perceived thrust of the article.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 26, 2010 7:48 pm

I am in favour of a new – or the resurection of an old – intermediate round rather than the ‘golf bag’ approach if only on the grounds of cost! A decent 7mm round firing a well-designed bullet can replace 7.62 and 5.56 as the basic round for the entire infantry squad ie assault rifle and LMG (for which you want a good high capacity drum mag. No LMG should be belt fed).

As for the US forcing whatever they want on NATO, I’m not so sure. Both the UK and France will be looking for a new AR soon. If they were to adopt something unilaterally I would bet three or even four english pounds that most of europe would follow suit. The US has ignored the NATO standard in the past. Let them do so again if they choose.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 26, 2010 7:52 pm

“Can your average infantryman even be trained to consistently hit a target with partial cover under combat conditions with a rifle at 3-500m, regardless of caliber?”

Yes. It’s been done in the past (see BEF, 1914) but it would require VAST expenditure in ammunition and time to achieve. The modern way is to introduce technology to achieve an increase in hit probability without a corresponding increase in training time (see US ACR program and the H&K G11)

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 26, 2010 7:53 pm

And just for fun;

September 26, 2010 8:08 pm

DominicJ said, “The three PDW’s to one support fires per section route is a pretty reasonable setup in a lot of situations.

Insert the obligatory references to Mr. Owen’s papers on the topic.,_UK_Platoon_Weapons.pdf

September 26, 2010 8:20 pm

Pete said “Yes. It’s been done in the past (see BEF, 1914) but it would require VAST expenditure in ammunition and time to achieve. The modern way is to introduce technology to achieve an increase in hit probability without a corresponding increase in training time (see US ACR program and the H&K G11)”

The H&K G11 was a true Star Wars rifle. I thought its clever rotating feed mechanism was an amazing piece of engineering.

Thinking allowed I think there would be trouble with using the BEF, well WW1, as a comparison is the use of bolt action weapons vs semi/full automatic…..Um. I going to cogitate on that a bit longer because I can’t articulate what I am thinking.

September 26, 2010 8:48 pm

Another thought, question; what does the average Taliban fighter carry as his long arm?

September 26, 2010 9:12 pm
Reply to  x

that never worries me x

September 26, 2010 9:31 pm

Well it should, if as you say “More than 50% of infantry engagements in Afghanistan take place at ranges above 300 meters.” We want what they got…….

September 26, 2010 9:38 pm
Reply to  admin

ha ha, comments crossing in the night

I was referring to your comment about not wanting to write anything because your couldn’t articulate!!

September 26, 2010 9:41 pm

Would it be feasible to scale down to small arms calibres the howitzer concept of variable propellant charge ammunition? The propellant (using H&K G11/ Dynamit Nobel technology) would be kept separate from the bullets in a clip together two-part magazine and a measured number of propellant blocks would be inserted into the chamber according to the distance or type of target selected.

September 26, 2010 10:00 pm

X, I don’t think we necessarily want what they have.

If engagements are primarily ambushes, where the enemy has the terrain and numeric advantage, they can more effectively employ sniper rifles, MGs and RPGs.

We need to figure out how to counter this, not emulate it, IMHO.

September 26, 2010 10:01 pm

I admit admin to actually being a bit naughty; I was trying to draw you out on the 300m plus figure.

This is surely connected with the Taliban technique of using a HMG to shoot and scoot? This can only be countered with more HMG at platoon level, which isn’t a realistic proposition. As I said the further away the attacker the less likely you to pick them out; once the dust has settled the Taliban would have gone to ground.

Also I know full well what the Taliban carry more often than not. The odd old Enfield 303 (if the ammunition is loaded correctly) and the occasional HK G1 are hardly grounds for a wholesale re-equipping. These two are the only common occurring infantry weapons that the Taliban carry. The AK47 and AK74 carried by the majority suffer similar “problems” to the 5.56mm.

September 26, 2010 10:02 pm

B Smitty said “X, I don’t think we necessarily want what they have.”

See below.

September 26, 2010 10:03 pm

I said “These two are the only common occurring infantry weapons that the Taliban carry.”

I meant to say “These two are the only common occurring infantry weapons that the Taliban carry that can out range the 5.56mm”

September 26, 2010 10:09 pm

I am always a bit suspicious about wonder technology.

Some of the proponents/manufacturers claims are doubtless exagerated, however some combinations of

1)Carbon nano tubes: – (Fibres could have 20 times tensile strength of best available Kevlar)
2)Non newtonian fluids: – Custard that sets to incompresable solid when subject to shock)
3)Kolsterised foils: – (Steel 4 times harder than best available steel armour)
4)Carbon Nano powders: -(Combined with fibres already being tested vastly improves shock absorbtion of soft armour).

Are really going to happen.

When they do even 7,62 AP will struggle against much lighter and more flexible body armour than we are using at the moment.

This is not just about hitting people with aimed shots at 600 metres. Its about killing him stone dead at 300, and as a complete flip side of the coin doing the same to thin taliban who are also it appears shrugging off 5.56.

Can ask some questions of the more experienced on this sight.

As far as hitting people at 6-800 mtres.
With modern simulators etc would it really be that expensive?

If each soldier in the unit could do this, would they not have to lug as many 40mm/GPM /sniper rifles etc and the other favoured long range weapons.

September 26, 2010 10:15 pm

IXION said, “…doing the same to thin taliban who are also it appears shrugging off 5.56.

Beware anecdote evidence.

Mike W
September 26, 2010 10:47 pm


“Heckler & Koch has just released a brand new lightweight 7.62 MM GPMG, the HK121.”

With reference to the above point, which you made in a much earlier post. I hope I have got the right weapon. Apparently the new design creates a 1.8 kg weight reduction thanks to its shortened barrel, external flutes and titanium receiver. The managing director of Heckler and Koch is quoted as saying: “This is a significant weight reduction and the cost penalty is minimal.” Apparently the UK MOD is seriously considering it.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 26, 2010 10:48 pm

I’ve purposely waited until pretty late on in this debate before dropping in with my two pence worth. Not to steal ideas or to take sides, but mainly to weigh up the pro’s and cons. Obviously the argument isn’t going to be settled over night, so I thought I’d drop in a bombshell and see what the general consensus was.

Why can’t we have both? Hear me out.

The South Koreans, bless their cotton socks, have designed a multi-calibre modular weapon in the Daewoo K11. Inasmuch that it is a 5.56 mm assault rifle in the general sense of the term, albeit with an over-barrel 20 mm grenade launcher with an integrated ballistics computer in the sight.

Given that the system clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of having two weapons that are fully integrated, as opposed to merely bolted together like the M16/M203 combination, then it should be possible to have a system that has a Daewoo K11 with a 7.62 mm rifle in place of the 20 mm grenade launcher.

The LAW 80 had a lightweight integrated spotting rifle fitted to it, why can’t we do it (metaphorical question of course) with a 5.56 mm assault rifle?

As an aside, the K11 could be an answer to our 300 m+ problems in Afghanistan. If our troops are having trouble hitting the target, then perhaps we should be looking at the targeting systems and not just the round.

September 26, 2010 10:52 pm


US Armies own tests showing than thin 3rd world types (as contained in the main post), suffer a lot less serious injury (No yawing), than fat westerners!

Tests conducted after the “Blackhawk down” incident brought about by the first complaints from the troops. Complaints that continue to be published regardles of new bullet types being issued.

Maybe not exactly bible scripture, but not exactly anecdote either.

September 26, 2010 11:06 pm

Monty said “7.62 mm x 54R Dragunov Sniper Rifle – a very accurate assault rifle
– 7.62 mm x %$R PKM machine gun – a lightweight belt fed machine gun”

But these are support weapons. What I am on about is what does the “average” Taliban carries. This is like me inferring that every British soldier carries a L1A1 (he would have to a be a big chap) or a L115A3.

September 26, 2010 11:07 pm

Monty said “7.62 mm x 54R Dragunov Sniper Rifle – a very accurate assault rifle
– 7.62 mm x %$R PKM machine gun – a lightweight belt fed machine gun”

But these are support weapons. What I am on about is what does the “average” Taliban carry. This is like me inferring that every British soldier carries a L1A1 (he would have to be a big chap) or a L115A3.

September 26, 2010 11:26 pm

Monty – as far as I am aware the Dragunov is certainly not accurate to 1000m+ – it was the Soviet version of what the Yanks now call a “designated Marksmans rifle” – probably 1 shot 1 kill at 600m, and accurate harassing fire out to 800m perhaps.

Ixion – ref: “As far as hitting people at 6-800 mtres.
With modern simulators etc would it really be that expensive?”

Its not that simple. At up to 30m with a Browning Hi-Power I rival a wild west gun slinger, at anything over 100m with either the old SLR or the SA80 with iron sights, I am completely pants :-) Especially if the Annual Personal Weapons test was done straight after Combat Fitness test …. ! So, back to simulators; my unit was a ten minute drive from an RAF base that had a SAT – Small Arms Trainer. This consists of a large back projected screen, and 4 x SA80, with lasers in the barrels and an action that is operated by compressed air. This means that once you have”fired” 30 shots, the bolt stays open and you have to change magazine. It is a truly superb way of practising, and we were lucky to get frequent access (just about every friday night). Using did improve my shooting.

HOWEVER, if you want average infantry type to kill bad guys out past 200m, never mind 500 to 600, then give him a small light weapon and let him hump belts of 7.62 for his machine gunner and / or extra 40mm medium velocity grenades for one of his squad carrying a Milkor MK32 6 round grenade launcher (or maybe a lighter MetalStorm 3 round one).

Unless we are going to get a sudden “paradigm shifting” advance in small arms technology, talk of exotic or intermediate calibers is in my opinion a waste of time.

AA12 with Frag-12 for everyone… !! :-)

September 26, 2010 11:38 pm

Jed said ” my unit was a ten minute drive from an RAF base that had a SAT – Small Arms Trainer. ”

I take yours was a small unit and the RAF base was a major installation……..

September 26, 2010 11:51 pm

X – ref: “I take yours was a small unit and the RAF base was a major installation”

NO !

My small specalist TA unit was based on a large army base, which is actually home to a Corps. It has on site pistol ranges, and a small exercise area where blanks could be fired.

The RAF base (not an air field) had lost a number of units, was a home for a hodge podge of lodging units, and yet their tiny RAF Regiment contingent had the SAT,

“go figure” as they say on this side of the Atlantic….

September 26, 2010 11:52 pm

There’s also the forthcoming, lighter, M240L version of the MAG 58.

IXION, I’d like to see these definitive studies.

Here’s another article by Mr. Owen,

“True but Irrelevant: Small Arms Performance in Afghanistan”

September 27, 2010 8:19 am


V busy now (small matter of earning a living) until friday but will check out and post a link)

September 27, 2010 8:20 am

The point is not to turn an average infantryman into a marksman but to simplify logistics. This is where the Intermediate cartridge makes sense.

The L85/86 will need to be replaced at some point in the not to distant future so that would be the time to consider a new cartridge, wouldn’t it?

The golf bag approach is fine. It represents a perfectly sensible compromise. But if a fireteam/section had to carry only one type of round?

September 27, 2010 8:41 am

B Smitty
Thanks dude, pretty compelling stuff.
The first RUSI one anyway.

The second shorter RUSI piece I disagreed with. If a soldier says “I cant hit thr enemy at 600m with this weapon”, you cant quote range data telling him that actualy he can…

But the first one, interesting stuff.
As I said, I dont think its my place, or infact anyones place, to dictate equipment load outs for every mission ever from on high.

Is it possible for single general issue rifle to function as both a short barrel carbine chambered in a near pistol calibre and a long barreled marksman varient chambered in 7.72? Along with a few roles in between?

Maybe theres scope for replacing both the 7.62 and 5.56 with an intermediate round?
But even if theres not, 4 bullet types is hardly that obscene, to cover everything from point blank to 1500m.

Operationaly, leave it to individuals, fireteams, sections, squads, troops, companies and battalions to decide what the most appropriate tools are for the task at hand.
If they’re dug in on a hill surrounded by flat land for 500m in all directions, PDW’s will probably be a waste, if they’re patrolling a town, sniper rifles and HMG’s are probably not going to be worth it.

Sven Ortmann
Sven Ortmann
September 27, 2010 9:20 am

There’s also the human (psychological) element which suggests that maybe you don’t need to give the whole platoon god weapons. Some infantrymen aren’t much more than porters – even in professional armies.

I still dislike the idea of a PDW such as MP7 for combat troops. It isn’t even a good idea as secondary weapon.
It is possible to shorten the barrel of a rather light assault rifle and use an appropriate cartridge. This appropriate cartridge would have a propellant that avoids excessive noise and muzzle flash and the bullet can be designed to yaw early and fragment. Additionally, there are ultra-light assault rifles such as the “carbon” series which save additional weight.
The standard cartridge could still be used if necessary (possibly with a simple adjustment of the gas system).

In the end, there’s little difference in weight & clumsiness between such a well-done subcarbine and a PDW.

September 27, 2010 9:58 am

DominicJ said “to dictate equipment load outs for every mission ever from on high.

Well that’s it really isn’t it? Light infantry like the RM and Para’s train themselves for peak fitness. Then they get handicapped having to carry 56lb Bergen. And in wartime probably have to top that off with a couple of mortar bombs, their own extra ammunition, and perhaps belted ammunition for a support weapon. Yes the Bergen is “dropped” when there is need to move quickly and troops live off what they carry in the fighting order. But to get there they have had to carry themselves and all that weight, often for this type of soldier across inhospitable territory.

(I should say something about bod armour, but won’t.)

September 27, 2010 10:16 am

Jed said ““go figure” as they say on this side of the Atlantic….”

Thanks that was the perfect answer!!!

Over the last 15 years or so since I have been poking around the issue of defence this sort of occurrence has cropped up on more than one occasion. As my few posts (illogical, garbled, and sometimes daft) here show I am very pro-navy; to me it is a simple question of logic. And people think I am anti-RAF purely because of the carrier issue. Well no and yes. No because I acknowledge the bravery and professional of RAF personnel; they live and work in a structure not of their own making. And yes because of the carrier issue (or should that be air defence of UK and protection of UK interests abroad.) But also because as an organisation compared with the other two their facilities, equipment, “benefits”, personnel levels for equivalent tasks, seem to this humble civilian seem to be better (and on occasion a lot better.)

So I have been “go figuring” for a long time now! :)

paul g
September 27, 2010 10:28 am

wrote a massive comment earlier but the nasty ether ate it. however new comments since means it needs re-tweaking. First of all pete, it would not take vast amounts of ammo to train the guys, I was a RMQ 4-5 and regularly took APWT’s after about 2 hours and 100 rounds I had people hitting the target at 300m with iron sights.
Plus as jed stated the SAT system was a fantastic tool, this could display a graph of point of aim before,during and after shot plus pressure of grip in both hands, very under rated peice of kit, and easier to use due to need to book ranges,transport etc therefore able to use on a regular basis instead of once a year,incurring skills fade and allocation was, as jed was a tad strange!
As for weapon allocation the MOD plod use the HK mp7, this has replaced 3 weapon systems, it is 4.6mm so there is your sidearm and carbine. I believe that the section should be a decent calibre (size to be decided by boffins not me). Then use varying barrel lengths so section has options, the kel-tec rfb uses an 18″,24″ and 32″ barrel so one rifle however your section can have a sharpshooter with appropriate sighting. obviously section weapons, be it drum mag or belt fed in the same calibre leaving the big boys in 12.7mm or suitable size so that’s everything from pistol to man stopper in 3 sizes.

paul g
September 27, 2010 10:30 am

NO need to book ranges, transport, rations etc I meant to say!!!

September 27, 2010 10:34 am

That some soldiers are porters not fighters is the main arguement in favour of a PDW, if he cant fight effectivly, he might as well stop trying and carry for someone who can, use the weight saved for 40mm HE Grenades or machine gun ammunition.

A few speculative questions
Does Yaw matter much with multiple hits?
Is there a reasonable arguement that a yawing hit is worth 2 none yawing hits?
So 3 none yawing beat 1 yawing?
And therefore, does the much increased ammunition capacity, both in the weapon and on the soldier, compensate for this over the distances they will be used at?

Could we chamber a PDW sized weapon in 5.56?

Is our ban on deforming bullets sensible anymore?
It amuses me that its illegal to shoot most animals with none fragmenting rounds, on animal cruelty grounds, but its illegal to use fragmenting rounds on people, on human cruelty grounds.
Yet we still issue shotguns, which Imperial Germany railed against in the First World War.

September 27, 2010 10:49 am

“I was a RMQ 4-5 and regularly took APWT’s after about 2 hours and 100 rounds I had people hitting the target at 300m with iron sights.”

But range skills arent combat skills.
Most soldiers could fire three rounds a minute with a musket after a days instruction on the parade ground.
Put them on the battlefield and they would struggle to fire 1 round a minute.

Thats what a lot of the complaints about the 5.56 seem to relate to (from my uniformed view).
Hitting targets 600m away is possible, but not when your under fire from all sides trying to return fire from behind a foot high mud wall and fisrt aid your mate who’s had his leg blown off by an IED.

Not wanting to dictate from on high, but 5 PDW/Carbine, a 40mm three round grenade launcher, a GPMG and a DMW would give a section 3 ammunition types (5.56/7.62/40) and a reasonable capability across a multitude of ranges.

Peter Arundel
Peter Arundel
September 27, 2010 12:36 pm

“Not wanting to dictate from on high, but 5 PDW/Carbine, a 40mm three round grenade launcher, a GPMG and a DMW would give a section 3 ammunition types (5.56/7.62/40) and a reasonable capability across a multitude of ranges.”

PDW’s are pointless. As the last ditch weapon for the crew of a disabled tank or downed helicopter they may be relevent. As an infantry weapon, no. The correct round was designed post war as was the correct gun. A 7mm, bullpup paired with an LMG in the same calibre. OK, a modern force would add grenade launchers to the mix but the basic infantry round would be a 7mm intermediate cartridge with a heavy enough bullet to be effective at 500m plus whilst light enough to allow automatic fire at close range. Dedicated grenadiers are less useful if everyone in the section has one under their rifle.
I know some people are vehemently opposed to bullpup weapons but they have some clear advantages (length, obviously, but also balance when equipped with any form of underbarrel weapon) and the disadvantages are avoidable with good design.

September 27, 2010 12:57 pm

No problem with bullpups.

That said, the main arguement against intermediate calibres seems to rest on the theory that not all soldiers are capable.
Even with a DMW they will not be much use for anything but suppressive fire.
If we accept that, giving them a 7.62 over a 5.56 makes no difference, because its the soldier not the weapon thats at fault.
If we cant replace the soldier, he will be better utilised carrying ammunition for those who are more more capable, and are armed with grenade launchers, machine guns and long range rifles.
If we accept that, his weapon should be as light as possible and his ammunition should be as light as possible, whilst still allowing him to protect himself and allowing him to carry more ammunition for the more capable soldiers.

That of course, relies on the problem being the soldier not the weapon.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
September 27, 2010 2:00 pm

Just a short ans banal comment, is it me or does the M32 GL in W Owens article on UK section weight of fire look amazingly like an ARWEN done right? Did Police Ordnance sell the rights or something?

September 27, 2010 2:37 pm

Just to move from fantasy fleets to fantasy weapons, with the caveat that I have carried everything from SLR, through SMG to SA80 with live ammo, but never fired a shot in anger, and certainly never patrolled Sangin in 40 C plus……

Google for Magpul PDR – a concept for a 5.56mm sub-carbine that weights less than an FN P90 (1.8Kg). It was demo’d as a mockup at Shotshow 2008 – video is on YouTube, and apparently they continue to quietly work on it. Now this is the company that produced the multi-calibre carbine previously known as the Masada, now in production by Remington as the “Adaptive Combat Rifle” (as seen in the big gun fight at the beginning of the new Hawaii-five O).

It’s short, light and apparently accurate enough out to 200m, although you might need a different 5.56mm bullet optimized for lethality at that range. With Polymer magazines this thing could actually provide the same weight savings ascribed to carrying a P90 in the RUSI paper – 2.7Kg less than an L85A2 with the same ammo load. OK so you dont get all the extra rounds you get with the P90, but you don’t have to introduce a new calibre either.

If you want to move slightly into the realms of Ripley and the Colonial Marines, you could attach a MetalStorm MAUL, 5 round 12 shot gun above on the top of the PDR’s receiver, and it would still weight less than a loaded P90 ! As MetalStorm are apparently working on making a version of the Frag-12 HE grenade round to work with their electronic firing mechanism, you could have 30 rounds of 5.56 and 5 rounds of HE (with alleged fatal radius of 6 to 9 feet) – I’ll take one.

Oh, but of course, non of this is accurate beyond 200m, not that personally I ever hit anything beyond 200m’s any way, but of course non of the Audey Murphey / “Enemy at the Gate sniper” wannabe’s will take this seriously….. :-)

September 27, 2010 4:20 pm

2.7 kg is about the weight of a 40mm UGL and 6 x 40mm grenades.

September 27, 2010 5:16 pm

Smitty – it seems to be a bit of a “magic number” according to one of the RUSI papers, 2.7Kg is roughly:

200 round belt of 5.56mm
100 round belt of 7.62mm
11 40mm Grenades

And slightly more than the L72A4 Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM) – the modern version of the M72 66mm LAW.

I presume that as the MetalStorm UGL packs in 3 40mm grenades it weighs a bit more than the current H&K UGL, but obviously with a stock and various sights etc, it would still weight considerably less than the M32 (???)

September 27, 2010 6:03 pm

I can’t see a super adjustable rifle fitting in with the UK MoD’s minimum-buy-fitted-for-but-not-with culture. The only reason why they would buy it would be because it would an extra layout of complication……

Pistols are weapons of last resort. I remember reading a study once that compared how quickly personnel lost the ability to fire a pistol over against a rifle. The test subjects ability decayed with the former very rapidly. While with the latter the test subjects maintained an average of 90% ability. See as the MoD Plod are patrolling overtly and therefore have no need to hide the weapon the carbine makes an ideal choice.

Jed said “as seen in the big gun fight at the beginning of the new Hawaii-five O”

Dude we don’t get the new Five-0 in the UK until October; thanks for the spoiler….. :)

You are right about the Magpul, C’est magnifique

September 27, 2010 7:11 pm

X – sorry matey, I only tuned in for Grace Park, she is Canadian you know…. :-)

Actually it’s not bad, the rest of the show that is, especially if you remember watching the originals because your grandma had a thing for Steve McGarret !

September 27, 2010 7:44 pm


I believe the whole point of the PDW small calibers bet it the HK or FN was that they be “armour piercing” – so they could penetrate the NATO standard CRISAT body armour target at a given distance. As someone has already noted in an earlier comment, wrapping the target in body armour just makes our problems worse… !

So even if the skinny, sharp, AP round pierces the body armour, will it do enough damage to the bad guy ?

Well based on hours of research watching Stargate, my vote is for the FN P90, because at least at with SG1 and at short range it appears to have no problem penetrating Jaffa body armour, which is supposed to be the product of advanced technology !

Mind you, I note the StarGate command personnel involved in StarGate Universe appear to have jumped whole sale to the H&K G36 ! :-)

September 27, 2010 7:59 pm

Thats some hard core nerding right there

Sven Ortmann
Sven Ortmann
September 27, 2010 8:55 pm

Monty, you tell me no news about PDW and 5.56…
I am owner of the domain (btw, the site will go offline in a few weeks because I don’t want to spend on it any more).

13th spitfire
September 27, 2010 11:13 pm

I do not like 5.56mm, that is all.

September 28, 2010 4:20 am

Here’s a counter anecdote in favor of the 5.56mm,

When a five-man Special Forces team looking for Scuds in Iraq ran into a reinforced Iraqi infantry company, the future looked grim for the Americans. Facing overwhelming odds, it was quickly decided that three men armed with sniper rifles would cover a hasty retreat back to the LZ. With these odds death–or worse–seemed certain.

Yet the ensuing firefight did not go as the Iraqis had planned. Rather than being overwhelmed, the three Americans instead put down a hail of highly accurate rifle fire. Advancing against this murderous wall, entire sections of Iraqi infantry were simply cut down. Screaming and rattling away with their Kalashnikovs on full auto, they were knocked from their feet by carefully aimed shots. When staggering losses finally broke their spirit, the surviving Iraqis either threw down their weapons or simply ran away. Scattered about lay the bodies of 167 of their comrades. The Iraqi dead lay in mute testimony to the Americans’ tenacity and marksmanship skill.

With the criticism of poor terminal performance leveled by many on the 5.56×45, you would think those 167 Iraqis were cut down by 7.62mm M14s. Such was not the case. They fell to 5.56 Mk 12 sniper rifles firing 77-grain Mk 262 Open Tip Match ammunition. Developed to offer increased accuracy, range and improved terminal performance over the standard 62-grain M855 load, the Mk 262 has performed quite well in actual combat.

Maybe we just need better rounds and some DMRs with good optics instead of a completely new, heavier round, rifle and logistics train.

Peter Arundel
Peter Arundel
September 28, 2010 8:43 am

“They fell to 5.56 Mk 12 sniper rifles”

With a nice long barrel, I assume, certainly not a carbine or PDW.

“firing 77-grain Mk 262 Open Tip Match ammunition. Developed to offer increased accuracy, range and improved terminal performance over the standard 62-grain M855 load”

Which is totally unacceptable to most NATO armies due to the constraints of the Hague Convention. As long as such legal conventions are in force an open tip bullet won’t be adopted by the UK so the only option is a bigger bullet.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 28, 2010 8:50 am


I think it helped a great deal the three guys being sniper trained. I believe the difference of using a 77 grain load over the standard 62 grain on its own would be very little to the average squaddie. But I agree with your comment about better optics, and a better round would compliment this. Whether it would solve the problem completely, unfortunately I don’t think so.

I think in the longer term we will have to look at a better suited intermediate round. While we are in Afghanistan it would be an ideal opportunity to test one. The M4 is commercially available in 6.8 mm SPC, where upper receivers can be simply exchanged. The magazine can use the same shell but capacity is reduced to 26. Perhaps a 6.8mm L85 upper receiver could be converted and dropped straight onto the TMH, purely for testing. Any takers?

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
September 28, 2010 11:53 am

Seeing as we’re playing Fantasy Firearms, my vote goes to the Czech Brno CZ S 805. It’s being developed for 5.56, 7.62X45 and Rem 6.8, so conversion to 6.5 Grendel shouldn’t be an issue. As to other reasons, well I just lie the idea of BREN guns in the army again :-)

September 28, 2010 12:59 pm

Jed said “sorry matey, I only tuned in for Grace Park, she is Canadian you know…. :-)”

All attractive “American” actresses are Canadians. If I were Canadian PM Cobie Smulders would be on the stamps.,,,

Back to the business in hand. I know we have moved past SA80 good, bad, or indifferent. But a thought struck me that considering the army’s primary skill is shooting people it was a poor effort.

September 28, 2010 1:44 pm

I see your point WRT the Hague Convention issues. However this rule seemed archaic even when it was adopted. Recall it’s also the convention that prohibited “Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons”. Maybe it’s time to take the kid gloves off.

The Mk 12 has proven effective out to 5-600m with the right training, rounds and optics. Yes, it has an 18″ barrel.

I’m in favor of keeping and improving upon the 5.56mm platform. This includes fielding improved optics and rounds and improving training. I also like the squad designated marksman concept and establishing a limited arms room concept whereby a number of longer-ranged weapons are available to units to be used as needed.

This approach will be far less expensive than a wholesale change to a new round along with providing large numbers of high powered optics and sufficient training to allow everyone to shoot at 600+m.

The money (and carried weight) instead should be spent on better communications, electronics and sensors.

September 28, 2010 2:24 pm

Monty said: “Even if lethality concerns have been addressed at ranges to 300 metres, this still isn’t good enough.”

Aaaaarghhh – YES it is, because your average squaddie even with the 20 inch barrel of the SA80 / L85A2, with SUSAT or later optics is rarely going to hit anybody at that range. Especially if he is worn out be patrolling in 40 degs C temp’s, wearing full Osprey body armour, carrying sh1t loads of other gear, and is stressed because someone is pinging PKM mg rounds off his hard cover (if he has any).

He is best of devoting some of his load to 7.62mm for the squad MG, or 40mm MEDIUM velocity grenades which can reach out to 800m. While the HE and MG keep the bad guys heads down, his oppo with the L129 ‘designated marksman rifle’ with probably better than average shooting skills which got him the role, and plenty of training, picks of bad guys who show themselves.

Equipping every infantryman with a “full battle rifle” with an intermediate round (jack of all trades and master of non), even if we could afford it, is just not tactically necessary IMHO (and all based on the usual caveat that I have only been shot at once, and never been in a full scale firefight).

September 28, 2010 3:10 pm


I was under the impression that the Hague convention only comes into effect if both you and your opponent are signatories, have i missed something?

@ B.Smitty, i completely agree. From some half remembered history lessons i seem to remember that the Germans wanted the bit about open tipped bullets in to piss of the Brits! They even went as far as to court martial some captured British officers at the beginning of WW1 because they were armed with Webleys chambered in .455 open tipped…..

It is no longer illegal to sell cannon balls to the french! Perhaps we should move on re open tipped rounds!!!

September 28, 2010 5:19 pm

AndyJS said “It is no longer illegal to sell cannon balls to the french! Perhaps we should move on re open tipped rounds!!!”

I mentioned that a few zillion comments ago (re USMC’s new round,) but everybody seems more interested in “range” at the moment. I suppose we are just being thorough…….. :)

September 28, 2010 5:24 pm


Ahhh, no worries, cheers.


Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 28, 2010 5:37 pm

Jed, from a morale point of view I think your idea falls down. Telling half your section that they’re a bunch of bifs fit only to carry ammo for the Mighty War Gods manning the effective weapons may not go down too well. . .

September 28, 2010 5:37 pm

I think we are letting the Hague Convention distract us from the core issues here. The reason why the US has resorted to open tip bullets which fragment easily is because 5.56 mm lethality was a genuine issue. No one is saying that 5.56 mm doesn’t kill. It does. But in certain situations any calibre, including 7.62 mm, can fail to transfer lethal energy into a target. But the inescapable fact of ballistic science is that a larger projectile with greater energy behind it is more likely to incapacitate more of the time. 5.56 mm is an innovative concept, the question is whether the element of uncertainty it introduces is acceptable. 

I violently disagree with Jed. Since the advent of SUSAT, ACOG and other single point optical sights, the average soldier CAN shoot very effectively at 300 metres. With the L129A1, soldiers who are no more than good shots are achieving kills at 800 metres. Compare APWT scores from 1980 with the L1A1 SLR to 2000 with the L85A1, and you will see a much higher percentage of top scores. 

When we adopted SA80, we lost the capability to shoot as a section or platoon at area targets at 600 metres. Afghanistan clearly shows we still need it. 

Having used both 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm calibres,  5.56 mm weapons and ammo are undoubtedly easier to carry and shoot; but when it comes to putting the bad guys down, 7.62 mm simply gets the job done at any range. Perhaps this explains why the HK417 has become so popular with the SAS.  

September 28, 2010 7:03 pm

@ Andy

With all these learned people making long posts things get lost!

But you right bullet design is key; my interest in this goes way back to an 80s Guns&Ammo ran an article on police carry rounds. This was back just before all the 10mm rounds became available. Back the the best “one stop round” (a phrase that is controversial) was .357mag 125JHP clocking out at 1400fps (if memory serves) with a percentage of about 92%. The mighty .44mag only managed a one stop 72% with a lead hollow point. Counter intuitive proof that perhaps you can have to much gun. But if you look at military FMJ you can believe that rounds do pass through bodies without much effect. Again that would suggest the tumbling .223 might be a man stopper or not. All I know for sure it is all very complicated, especially for me as I am bear with very little brain,

(I remember one G&A article about a wildcat cartridge for shooting coyotes used in Texas. The calibre was something like 4mm and it sat atop a cartridge that looked something akin to .50Browning (probably not but you get the picture.) Even with quick browning powders it took a long time between trigger pull and bang; it was hope that the coyote over a mile away would stand still long enough. This round supposedly a muzzle velocity over 4000fps. Apparently if every thing went well for the man there wasn’t much left of the poor coyote.)

September 28, 2010 7:17 pm

I wonder if it’s worth noting that the 7.62 x 51mm “full power” cartridge is a reduced size cartridge itself, compared to the 7.62 x 63mm that preceded it in US service.

All nations looked to reduce the size of their cartridges in the wake of the last industrialised war. The US army had previously investigated a system that allowed a soldier to carry both a full-power rifle in 30.06 and also a 30-18 submachinegun. Tests indicated that while troops equipped with the Pedersen device registered more hits on exposed targets, the men in trenches around the butts were often not aware that they were under fire, while the full-power rounds kept them pinned under cover (Hatcher’s Notebook, Maj. Gen. J Hatcher)

It may be this, or sheer inertia, that caused the US military to favour less of a step back from their existing cartridge than the other major powers of the time. Russia went from 7.62x54R to 7.62×39, Germany were going from 7.92×57 to 7.92×33. The UK were unusual in that they not only reduced the size of case but also the calibre, going from 7.7x56R to 7×43. In comparison, the US shift from 7.62×63 to 7.62×51 is slight and arguably not far enough. In this sense they differ from the other nations, where the old rifle round was retained for long range rifle and machinegun work, while the US switched wholesale to the new cartridge for everything. The UK probably would have as well (to 7×43) as the 7.7x56R was by then an ageing design and ill-suited to automatic weapons (although the same could be said for the 7.62x54R, which is still going strong, well over a century after its introduction). The 5.56×45 is going too far as opposed to not far enough.

There would probably have been a significant case to combine the British 7×43 for regular infantry use with the US 7.62×63 as a long range rifle/machinegun round.

September 28, 2010 7:55 pm

@ Fusilier

Optical sights are always better than iron sights. But what do you think of red dot sights like the US Army’s Aimpoint CompM2?

September 28, 2010 7:59 pm

Pete Arundel said, “Jed, from a morale point of view I think your idea falls down. Telling half your section that they’re a bunch of bifs fit only to carry ammo for the Mighty War Gods manning the effective weapons may not go down too well. . .

I don’t see it that way. It’s the whole reason members of the section are equipped with different weapons in the first place. Each has a role to play. Not all combat is at 600+m.

I go back to what I said earlier, “We have to ask ourselves what will give the greatest improvement in mission effectiveness for a given change in a soldier’s carried weight, cost and logistics.”

Is a marginally more effective intermediate round (and all of the rest needed to make “600m+ from an infantry rifle” realistic) really the best way to do this?

September 28, 2010 8:07 pm

Fusilier said: “I violently disagree with Jed. Since the advent of SUSAT, ACOG and other single point optical sights, the average soldier CAN shoot very effectively at 300 metres. With the L129A1, soldiers who are no more than good shots are achieving kills at 800 metres. Compare APWT scores from 1980 with the L1A1 SLR to 2000 with the L85A1, and you will see a much higher percentage of top scores.”

I don’t violently disagree with that at all, but my point is whatever APWT scores say, shooting on the range is not combat. My APWT range experiences with the SA80 go from having someone stood over me with binoculars calling each fall of shot to try and make me pass / a better shot, to having to do it straight after Combat Fitness test, with some additional push ups between each stand ! Strangely enough, scores were better on the first example :-)

Of course L129A is effective for an average shooter. Modern weapons if bench clamp mounted will shoot groups smaller than one minute of arc (MOA)every time, even at 800. The human aimer / firer is then the main accuracy factor. I even happily admit that Soviet / German snipers in the great urban battles of WWII could make shots at 600m plus with iron sites.

Non of which really addresses my point. Small arms have their uses, section weapons have theirs. Just because we are currently fighting an action that has some long range fire fights does not change the nature of infantry warfare in its entirety.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 28, 2010 8:47 pm

“Is a marginally more effective intermediate round (and all of the rest needed to make “600m+ from an infantry rifle” realistic) really the best way to do this?”

I don’t believe it would be ‘marginally’ more effective.
Leaving aside the lethality of 5.56, one of it’s major problems is that it doesn’t supress like a larger round. The opposition doesn’t notice a miss unless it’s very close – anyone who has spent time in the butts will have noticed the difference between 7.62 and 5.56 rounds whizzing past them. A fairly heavy 7mm bullet of good ballistic shape would supress, be less upset by crosswinds and penetrate cover better than 5.56 whilst still allowing a rifle to be designed around it that would be small enough and light enough not to be a burden in close combat.

I’m afraid I shall now have to bring up the EM-2 because, realistically, it’s the only example of a genuine, intermediate cartridge assault rifle that we have.
I have noticed that the L129A1 uses a 20″ barrel. In comparison, the EM-2 had a 24″ barrel. In an effort to make the L129A1 handy enough to be carried our new ‘sharpshooter’ rifle has a shorter barrel than an SLR! A section all equiped with EM-2 (or modern equivalents) makes the idea of the L129A1 superfluous.

EM-2: 7.7lbs, 35″ OAL, 24″ barrel.
L129A1: 11lbs, 37″ OAL, 20″ barrel.

Let’s face facts, the US f**ked up the whole intermediate cartridge thing and dragged NATO along with them – twice. There is the possibility to make good those mistakes. It won’t happen but what the hell . ..

September 28, 2010 9:04 pm

Jed said “after Combat Fitness test, with some additional push ups between each stand ! Strangely enough, scores were better on the first example :-)”

But as we all know good shooting is down to good breath control. As you had probably busted a lung and therefore were dead and not breathing your shooting was bound to be better. Simples…

Jed said “Of course L129A is effective for an average shooter. Modern weapons if bench clamp mounted will shoot groups smaller than one minute of arc (MOA)every time, even at 800.”

I said this earlier on, but it is worth repeating as it is a fact that gets forgotten.

Jed said “Just because we are currently fighting an action that has some long range fire fights does not change the nature of infantry warfare in its entirety.”

This is the issue. In earlier posts I have tried to draw out what exactly is the nature of combat in A-stan. The Taliban like to use HMG to shoot and scoot. And if they do engage with AK47 or AK74 to be effective they will be engaging within the SA80’s performance envelope. Tackling HMG is a job for support weapons. What I am trying to pin down in my rather addled mind is what is driving this need for the large round? Do we want every body in the infantry platoon going after the Taliban HMG? No that is silly. Or could it be the Taliban are just loosing off rounds in the general direction of their enemy? Even after leaving its effective range a bullet is still travelling at a good speed. There will be the odd whistling/bee sound (and behind that the actual report from cartridge.)

September 28, 2010 9:08 pm


Thanks, must admit, my head is still spinning from all the background reading required to make the post and the comments make sense!

My knowledge of firearms and ammunition is limited to occasional deer stalking and a bit of pest control.

“Apparently if every thing went well for the man there wasn’t much left of the poor coyote”- good use of understatement!


September 28, 2010 10:19 pm

Time to fess up! I cannot find a copy of US Army tests into effectiveness of 5.56. Only reports that tests were done on various credible contributors/websites, and that they showed that 5.56 can be variable in effectiveness with some evidence to show that againt thin people. It could under certain cercs cause wounds which were not immediatly or even medium term incapacitating.

In other words it’s performance is erratic. Is it any more erratic than any other round? Once got drunk with New york cop who was dismissive of bigger is better types. He recounted a case of a suspect shot at close range with 6 12 bore slugs who still had to be restrained by officers. And they use those on bears!

We are getting into Angels dancing on pinhead territory here. However the intermediate calibre exponants must have the edge on the logisitcs argument.

And I repeat and expand my Questions: –

If troops on the ground want 7.62

If reports of Taliban “Ignoring 5.56” at longer ranges are true.

If the type of combat in Afghan favours longer ranges.

If Modern weapons like Kaltec are available that are much lighter and shorter than SLR etc.

If troops have 7.62 would they have to really carry any more? As the argument seems to be lets give them 5.56 so they can cary 7.62 for the GPM as well.

It seems possible at leaast thay could be trained to fire acuratly to 600m, (After all some soldiers clearly are). Anyway are we not talking about suppresive fire so is accuracy at 100Om important.

Whats the difference between being shot at by 1 GPM As opposed to 8 auto / semi auto rifles. GPM can only shoot in one directions at the time.

Why not give them 7.62 and reduce the other loads?

(Seem to remember reading that in the 60’s and 70’s the German army wern’t big on section level machine guns).

7.62 is not a magic round, it was after all a production compromise just after the war. But round like grendal (which appear to have been the subject of some serious ballistic work), do seem to have possibleties

September 28, 2010 11:09 pm

IXION said

“If reports of Taliban “Ignoring 5.56″ at longer ranges are true.

If the type of combat in Afghan favours longer ranges.”

From what I gather the Taliban are more, um, fool hardy. I think it is cultural.

It is these longer ranges I don’t understand, well I am having trouble picturing. In the “Green Zone” and in the farming areas (around those mud block compounds) ranges appear as limited as say similar rural territory in Europe. Are these “longer ranges” then out in the mountains; where I understand the Taliban can melt into the scenery. If so what weapon(s) are they using? All very confusing.

September 29, 2010 12:55 am

From what I’ve read, both 6.5mm Grendel and 6.8mm SPC rounds weigh around 28-30% more than 5.56mm.

So for a soldier carrying 6 magazines plus 1 in the rifle (210 rnds), that’s an extra 1.8 lbs.

Not so bad you say?

Well what about the poor SAW gunner carrying up to 800 rnds? That’s an extra 6.7 lbs on an already overloaded soldier.

Of course they can just carry less, but fewer rounds means they can’t stay in the fight as long.

Plus, a 6x ACOG weighs 1.7 lbs more than the 4x.

September 29, 2010 8:22 am

Bit of a left field question, because this is all well over my head now.

Is the job of an infantry man/fireteam/section to kill other infantry men/fireteams/sections?

I dont think it is.

I was going to expand, but I think others can do it better

September 29, 2010 8:42 am

““If reports of Taliban “Ignoring 5.56″ at longer ranges are true.

From what I gather the Taliban are more, um, fool hardy. I think it is cultural.”

I think its more they’re usualy off their rockers on opium.
Being Eviserated is ignorable if your drugged up enough, until blood loss knocks them out.

September 29, 2010 11:32 am

Another question to ask perhaps is if the balloon had gone up in Europe during the Cold War would the 5.56mm cut the mustard? This all very interesting…….

September 29, 2010 12:58 pm

Let’s face it, that this debate is taking place demonstrates that there are questions being asked about the effectiveness of the 5.56 round.

The intermediate round is a trade-off as is a combination of calibres.

The key driver is logistics. If a single round type can be carried across a section then that is a clear advantage.

But the effectiveness of the intermediate round has to be proved also.

If say, the 6.5 Grendel round, was close enough to 7.62 in performance then, potentially, an assault rifle, a longer barrel version for DMR and an LMG could all be fielded with the same round.

Accepting that not all infantrymen are equal in marksmanship it’ s hard to see what would be lost.

September 29, 2010 1:36 pm

Jason’s said, “If say, the 6.5 Grendel round, was close enough to 7.62 in performance then, potentially, an assault rifle, a longer barrel version for DMR and an LMG could all be fielded with the same round.
Accepting that not all infantrymen are equal in marksmanship it’ s hard to see what would be lost.

1) It will cost a lot to replace 5.56mm with an intermediate caliber.

2) Given the same number of rounds, it will greatly increase the basic load of the SAW gunner and impact the load of every other soldier. People say, “well just cut weight elsewhere.” Where? Drop body armor? Carry less water? Where do you come up with 6.7 lbs?

3) (IMHO) There are more cost-effective ways to increase mission effectiveness. I’m still skeptical that just moving to an intermediate caliber will impact mission effectiveness at all. Maybe a few more Taliban will be plinked at long range. Will that really turn the tide of a battle? Allow missions to be performed that otherwise wouldn’t have? Maybe it will just reduce foot-mobility of sections and/or require more resupply and soldiers still won’t be able to regularly hit at 600m. Plus they really only need to in this theater. Not much 600m+ plinking in Iraq. Probably not much in most other prospective conflict zones either.

As an aside, I have read rumors that the 6.5mm Grendel isn’t an ideal candidate for belt-feeding due to its case design. Anyone else hear this?

September 29, 2010 3:49 pm

But will a 6.5 grendal be effective in a GPMG?
As effective as a 7.72?

Whats more important, the GPMG or the three IW?

September 29, 2010 5:25 pm

Um. Then there is a historical perspective in that in way back in the days of musket through the era of Martini even down to WW1 that infantry fire was about massed fire not aimed fire. Just saying.

And a larger calibre doesn’t always mean more kinetic energy being delivered onto the target. For example .408 Cheytac has more thump downrange than .50 Browning.

In November we shall after club together and buy the last remaining soldier in the Army one of everything so he can choose the right weapon for the job at hand. Of course he will have to practice saying “BANG” in various volumes to reflect the weapon in use…….

Dwane Anderson
Dwane Anderson
September 29, 2010 11:37 pm

There are a few factual errors in the article. The M855A1 is not open tipped. It has a steel nose cone. It can break in half but probably won’t truly fragment. The Mk318 round may or may not fragment. No independent testing has been published to show what it actually does.

The arguments in favor of larger calibers are flawed. Infantrymen are unlikely to hit enemies beyond 400 meters no matter what cartridge they use. This has been shown in every war since 1900. So choosing a cartridge based on its performance beyond 500m is foolish.

While soldiers may prefer to have more “stopping power”, the truth is that stopping power does not win gun battles. Firepower wins gun battles. Sacrificing the superior firepower of the 5.56mm to increase stopping power is militarily unsound.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 30, 2010 9:09 am


Given the recent advances in optics, laser range-finding, ballistic computers and technological miniaturisation, gives us a distinct and significant advantage in accuracy over our forebears. This gives us a greater choice of capability and range. If a current conflict is increasingly fought at greater ranges than our weapon and ammunition choice should reflect this. Therefore, I wouldn’t call choosing as 500 m plus cartridge choice foolish and arguments in favour of larger calibres flawed.

Re: your comment, “Firepower wins gun battles,” I would add, “but not if you’re using 5.56 mm at 500 metres.”

Personally, flawed though it may be, I would hang on to 7.62 mm for the likes of the GPMG, and still go for a 6.8 mm intermediate round for an infantry rifle.

September 30, 2010 10:27 am

To a point, thats true, but there were very few men with Baker Rifles who wanted to swap them for Brown Bess Muskets.

But Afghanistan is not forever.
Should we completly rearm the British army based on engagements at 500m instead of 200m?
At most, Afghanistan has 5 years left in it, probably less.
Could there be a better definition of preparing for the last war?

September 30, 2010 11:26 am

DominicJ said “To a point, thats true, but there were very few men with Baker Rifles who wanted to swap them for Brown Bess Muskets.”

Yes. I was just thinking allowed through my typing again. Unlike ThinkDefence I don’t have to check my facts; what I type doesn’t always reflect what I think or know. Sometimes I write to draw ideas or the narrative on. And I don’t really do this off the cuff stuff very well; I prefer to write nice properly structured 5000 words essays with lots of referencing.

September 30, 2010 11:42 am

@ Richard

Dwane is saying it is weight of fire not the accuracy that wins fire fights. And this is what I have said earlier on in that modern infantry fire is about suppression; that is keeping heads down. When a section or multiple starts firing the noise is horrendous and then the cartridge may be running out of steam after 300m it still is travelling at speed. At 500m 5.56 bullets will still be thudding into the ground and ricocheting off stuff. Believe me you wouldn’t stand there and say “Don’t panic chaps they are more than 300m away we are safe!” you will be diving for cover. (Saying that if “they” had opened up at ranges much in excess of 300m it wouldn’t say much for “their” fire discipline…..) Air power people speak of the physical effects of the loudness, vibrations, effect and this is the sort of scenario I am on about.

Yes we may not be in Afghanistan much longer. But as I have mentioned in several of my comments now the terrain in Afghanistan especially in the farming areas don’t seem much different to rural areas in Europe. And I have always tried to question if the Taliban mostly carry weapons with a similar performance to 5.56mm why do we need a bigger round? And I have always speculated about Afghan shoot and scoot with HMG, But it seems this discussion is only concerned about what “we” carry and not terrain or what the enemy are doing.

(Richard I started off talking to you and then opened up a bit. The latter bits aren’t directed at you or anybody in particular. I am like everybody else trying to gain an understanding.)

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
September 30, 2010 3:46 pm


“In the final analysis, none of us knows the answer to this debate. What is criminal is to soldier on with a flawed solution without testing something different.”

Here, here,

If now isn’t the time to test some alternatives in Afghanistan, then when is?

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
September 30, 2010 4:41 pm

” At 500m 5.56 bullets will still be thudding into the ground and ricocheting off stuff. Believe me you wouldn’t stand there and say “Don’t panic chaps they are more than 300m away we are safe!” you will be diving for cover”

X, the anecdotal evidence is that this is exactly the problem. The enemy aren’t noticing that they are being fired upon by 5.56 and, although they are taking cover, they aren’t keeping their heads down due to the hail of 5.56 rounds whizzing past. It’s supressive power is almost nil. 7.62 is much greater. 50 browning greater still.

September 30, 2010 5:21 pm

pete said “the anecdotal evidence is that this is exactly the problem. ”

Yes there is a hole in what I am saying because I have myself mentioned that the Taliban aren’t exactly gun shy.

I had better qualify and dig myself out of this hole!!

My understanding is that modern western infantry doctrine (the Cold War scenario) says (I paraphrase) infantry fire is about fixing the enemy who are then hit with something heavier. To do this requires lots of ammo hence the adoption of the 5.56mm (plus other considerations such as logistics.)

But this scenario isn’t panning out in Afghanistan, which should leads me (us?) to question whether this light round/suppression fire approach is the right.

Perhaps we need to look at other conflicts where 5.56mm has been used, perhaps look at Israeli experiences? Then again I once read that though brave soldiers Israelis aren’t on average good shots. And isn’t this another reason why the lighter round was introduced to improve general accuracy with an easier to shoot weapon. (Yes I have just contradicted myself again!!! ;) )

Mike W
September 30, 2010 7:30 pm

In all the mass of expert posts, comments, information etc. sent in so far (and I haven’t had time to read even a small percentage of them!) has anyone actually mentioned what the ratios are of weapons are being used by British infantry units in Afghanistan at the moment?

I am not an infantryman and am writing from a position of almost complete ignorance. However, to know the present composition of a Platoon, Section and Fire Team, in terms of weaponry carried, might help to determine whether we have the BALANCE right in terms of firepower, stopping power etc. and to decide on other aspects of the 5.56 mm v 7.62 mm debate which is raging at moment.

It used to be the case, I believe, that, under normal circumstances, the whole platoon, with the exception of the LMG gunners, carried SA80s. A Fire Team, I think, used to consist of: Sec Comd (Cpl), Rifleman, Rifleman and LMG Gunner. What about now? On what scale are the new Sharpshooters issued? Does every Fire Team have one? With only 400 purchased, that seems highly unlikely. On what scale are the new shotguns issued? It might very well be of course that in Afghanistan there is no longer any such thing as an average or typical Fire Team or Section or Platoon and that everything is flexible. However, is it a matter of simply playing around with the balance of small arms and support weapons we have at the moment or does the solution involve something much more radical?

September 30, 2010 8:52 pm

Mike W – “standard” load out for an 8 man section is 6 x L85A2, 2 of which have 40mm UGL, and 2 x LMG (Minimi).

No idea what the issue of L129 or the combat shotguns are – not seen it mentioned anywhere.

It is of note that more L7A GPMG are being toted around on patrols in the bipod “light” role – the role in which they were nominally replaced by the LMG.

This is similar to the fact that we got rid of 51mm mortar from each Platoon HQ section, and replaced them with all the 40mm UGL’s – this was initially a bad move, as 40mm low velocity grenades only had half the range (approx 400m) BUT with new ammo (if we are going to procure and distribute it) the new medium velocity grenades can reach out to 800m PLUS we have also bought some of the U.S. M124 60mm mortars (which apparently are very well thought of by U.S users).

September 30, 2010 9:16 pm

For those of you who haven’t thought about it here is a YouTube clip showing a .308 AR15 by LMT of similar spec to L129.

It is odd to hear Radway Green mentioned by an American as I can see the factory from my front window.

Mike W
September 30, 2010 9:56 pm

Jed, thanks very much for the info. Interesting to read that “more L7A GPMG are being toted around on patrols in the bipod “light” role – the role in which they were nominally replaced by the LMG.” Makes you think that the sooner the new lightweight version of the GPMG is in service the better.

As far as the new ammo (the new medium velocity grenades that can reach out to 800 m) is concerned, would that be an extended range ammo still to be fired from the UGL or from a different weapon? If that is the new ammo’s range, will there be any need for the Milkor multi-shot grenade launcher, so often touted for British service in these pages? That, I believe, has a maximum range of only 400 m. I suppose the advantage of a multi-shot weapon is that you do not have to re-load and it can therefore provide a kind of “saturation” fire to cover quite a large area. On second thoughts, perhaps some of those would be extremely useful!

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
October 1, 2010 1:17 pm

As this is my first post here, I’d better start with a declaration of interest in that I’m a long-term promoter of the general-purpose intermediate calibre idea and have made presentations on this subject to the NDIA (in Dallas in May) as well as to the Defence IQ Infantry Weapons conference in London last month (where I was followed by Wilf Owen arguing the opposite case, which was entertaining!).

I’ve just finished reading through all of the posts so far and have a few comments in response to points made:

1. Weight: an intermediate round is heavier than 5.56mm but it’s lighter than 7.62mm and the foot patrols in A’stan are having to carry belt-loads of the bigger round for the L7s. The US military is studying the question of intermediate rounds, and one of the issues is whether a more effective round than 5.56mm means that fewer need to be carried anyway.

2. Effective range: the initial benefit of the extra range of a general-purpose cartridge would accrue to the MGs and DMRs, but there are some impressive developments in sights on the way (including laser rangefinders and ballistic computers which can automatically adjust the sights to compensate for range, shooting up and down hill, and even for crosswinds). When these come along (and its a question of when, not if), any soldier will be able to deliver effective long-range rifle fire – provided that the ammo is capable of it.

3. Cost: We are going to have to replace the current weapons in the foreseeable future anyway (the initial in-service date for the SA80 successor is still 2020), and selecting a long-range intermediate round would halve the number of different weapons we would need to buy.

There’s a lot more, of course. I have posted several articles on my website concerning small arms issues and you’re welcome to browse through them:

October 1, 2010 5:50 pm

thanks dude, will do

October 1, 2010 6:05 pm

Ohhh!!! You are that Tony Williams, I have a copy of Rapid Fire. Good book.