FN MINIMI Adapts to New Operational Conditions

Belgium-based small arms manufacturer FN Herstal unveils the next generation FN MINIMI® Light Machine Gun in both 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibers during the MILIPOL exhibition in Paris (19 to 22  November  2013).

The modifications introduced on the FN MINIMI® Mk3 result from feedback provided by users engaged in current operating theatres. Indeed, the demands of users have evolved over the past 10 to 15 years due to changes in the way the FN MINIMI® machine gun is used in combat (increased use of accessories, evolutions in the soldier’s equipment, and changes in tactics such as shooting from all positions).

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[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.fnherstal.com/primary-menu/news/press-releases/2013/the-world-famous-fn-minimir-adapts-to-new-operational-conditions.html”]

Wonder if we will be buying any?

FN Minimi MkIII
FN Minimi MkIII

 

 

 

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x
x
November 23, 2013 12:33 pm

An alternative which we won’t buy because of where it was designed…………

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMI_Negev

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 23, 2013 12:48 pm

Maybe there are other reasons we won’t buy it. Cost, perhaps?
That there is already an invested base for the Minimi?

The upgrade package looks interesting, but I would be more concerned about where we intend to go after the SA80’s OSD of 2020?
6 years and decreasing to bring another rifle into service.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
November 23, 2013 12:49 pm

@x

Dunno about the merits of that weapon but if it came with instructors like the one pictured it would go down well with the average Squaddie. We got the Small Arms School Corps warrant officers, the Israelis ladies like that. There is still a great deal the British Army can learn from abroad.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
November 23, 2013 1:06 pm

@Mr. Fred

“the SA80′s OSD of 2020”

This is something that has passed me by. The “corrected” SA80 hasn’t been in service all that long, do you know why the rush to get rid of it?

Mind you, choosing its successor shouldn’t be difficult. It isn’t as if we have a home small arms industry to worry about and we are not exactly a large market these days. So just choose whatever the Septics are going for or if HMG is feeling European go for what the Germans are (they have a pretty good record in these things). Total selection process need not last longer than a month, add in the Civil Service so call it six months.

x
x
November 23, 2013 1:10 pm

@ HurstLlama

http://www.idfblog.com/2012/03/25/from-america-tank-instructor/

@ mr fred

It was a joke. Too much already invested in the MINIMI as you say, which is already a better than adequate tool.

Phil
November 23, 2013 1:15 pm

Why should we buy any? The current incarnation of the Minimi works fine. It is not perfect but buying this would mean spending $$$ to get what increase in capability? You still have an LMG at the end of the day. One that is more adapted for sure, but not fundamentally different. God forgive me for using the phrase, but it’s not worth spending money unless old ones are worn out or new ones represent *gulp* a step-change in capability. And by capability I don’t mean user comfort.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 23, 2013 2:15 pm

I believe we should have gone for the Ultimax 100 instead of the Minimi…

http://weaponsman.com/?p=5949

wf
wf
November 23, 2013 3:05 pm

When the barrels wear out, we could get some longer ones? An increase in effective range would be nice…

as
as
November 23, 2013 3:08 pm

“FN Herstal offers them a customized upgrade program to upgrade partially or completely their weapons”
I wonder how much that costs.

I can not see british army small arms being upgraded or replaced now until the barrels are no longer accurate in much the same way the used the SLR until you could not hit the side of a bus with them. unless there is a war to be fought the equipment will not be replaced.

other options are the:-
Heckler & Koch MG4
Ultimax 100 from the same people that brought us the Warthog
Vektor Mini-SS from South Africa

x
x
November 23, 2013 4:07 pm

@ wf

Barrels are a consumable for a fire support weapon. May not be in GPMG SF territory but I bet all of the UK MINIMI’s have had a few swapped out.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 23, 2013 5:35 pm

Technically, every part of a machine gun is consumable. Certainly most components are lifed for a given number of rounds. New bits have to be procured all the time, so some upgrade kits mightn’t be a bad idea.

Regarding the OSD of the SA80, I don’t know the reason, just that’s the date that keeps popping up.

I think the field of choice is a little wider than the Germans or the US. The US will have something that looks like an Armalite, but shorter. The Germans will be on the G36 for a while yet.

There is also whatever the Belgians are making, or even the Czechs or Poles. We have a good history with small arms designed in those countries. Even the Italians have a small arms industry.

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 23, 2013 5:52 pm

I do not want to set the calibre row off again, but I do hope the new, post 2020, rifle/LMG are in something more potent than 5.56×45.

x
x
November 23, 2013 5:56 pm

As the UK would never buy TAVOR I would opt for ADCOR BEAR, a lightweight piston AR with a free floating barrel.

Ace Rimmer
November 23, 2013 6:21 pm

X, having the piston attached directly to the working parts still allows gases into the breech, which isn’t much of an improvement on the direct impingement system used on most of the AR range.

Despite the SA80’s ergonomics, I like the idea of its ‘open’ piston arrangement which dispenses with the traditional gas tube and vents the gas to atmosphere rather than into the working parts, a genius design in my book.

Phil
November 23, 2013 6:38 pm

Uh oh.

as
as
November 23, 2013 6:48 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_actions#Automatic_actions
if we were designing from new there are loads of different actions to choose from.

Ace Rimmer
so you what you want is a gas operated Direct impingement (Rotating bolt) action going of what I have just read.

Most people would agree that belt fed is best for this role and it needs a quick-change barrel as opposed to a fixed heavy barrel.

x
x
November 23, 2013 7:25 pm

@ Ace Rimmer

Thanks I didn’t realise any of that.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 23, 2013 7:35 pm
Brian Black
Brian Black
November 23, 2013 8:11 pm

The SA80 system was designed for the armoured infantry; ideal for hopping in and out of a Warrior, and you don’t need a large calibre or a squad LMG when the taxi carries a cannon and chaingun.

Regardless of what’s gone on in Afghanistan, the expensively refurbished armoured division at the heart of the 2020 force probably suggests that SA80 will be replaced by SA80; and no change in calibre; and with Warrior sporting a shiny new gun, firing firefight ending large cannon rounds, no need for new MINIMI – and the old ones will get greased up and put back in the cupboard until someone remembers that the cold war has ended.

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 23, 2013 9:18 pm

ChrisB. Just read both those articles you highlighted. Seems the authors had made up their minds before they wrote or tested anything. With that mentality, we would still be using the longbow. Are they really saying that human progress has stopped & we might as well abandon evolution as no one will ever better 5,56.

as
as
November 23, 2013 9:51 pm

talking of evolution I guess this is the next step when the time comes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LSAT_light_machine_gun

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 23, 2013 10:16 pm

@ JH,

On the contrary, both of those people have done extensive – and I do mean extensive – research into the subject. Both of them have studied this issue probably to a degree two or three fold what all of us here have combined, if not more. And surprise, surprise, it correlates with pretty much all of the serious and impartial study that has been done into this subject.

You just don’t like their answer because it disagrees with your own.

Edit; neither of them is saying that 5.56 is the perfect bullet. Just that the value of switching to a new round would incur significant costs for practically zero gain, once again reiterating the point that has been made by the medical community for f**king decades now – “stopping power” is up there with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. The man and his skills are significantly more important than the round.

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 23, 2013 10:37 pm

ChrisB. Yes, it is better to hit with a .22 than miss with a .44. However, the cost argument is spurious. If the SA80 is to be replaced anyway, then changing calibres at the same time would amount to half one Daring destroyer or 4 Typhoon fighters. Less than the cost of the stillborn FRES prototype. RT will shout at me if I nominate a single calibre, so I will just say that I would like to see a genuine, impartial NATO trial of existing & alternative calibres. Then sift the results for a conclusion. A new rifle gives the chance for a new calibre. We do not have to take it, but we should at least examine the possibility. We did not stay with the Brown Bess, the Martini-Henry, lee-enfield or FN FAL. We moved on. Why should we stop moving on now?

wf
wf
November 23, 2013 11:03 pm

@Brian Black: actually, I think the SA80 was more a “we have been determined to produce a bullpup since those damn Yanks got the EM2 cancelled”. The action was a copy of the AR18, nothing special about it.

Phil
November 23, 2013 11:15 pm

@JH

One cannot discount the indirect costs of not having a common calibre with the remainder of NATO. Yes the US did it for 20 odd years but the US was a superpower. We ain’t.

@everyone but Chris B.

If the bullet don’t hit anything important, You. Ain’t. Gonna. Die.

Simple.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 23, 2013 11:52 pm

@ JH,

You’d have to replace every round, every magazine, every weapon to make them compatible. All of which would be bespoke to the UK. 6 and a bit mm rounds currently cost (on average) about twice what a 5.56 costs. You’re also getting back into issues of weight and control in automatic fire.

The benefit? The round carries supersonic speed for a slightly greater distance…. that’s it. That’s literally the only advantage.

The comparison to previous weapon evolution is false. We went from a single shot weapon, to a weapon with an internal magazine, to a weapon that had a 20 round magazine with semi-auto fire. You’re not talking about the same kind of evolution. You’re talking about an utterly pointless change in calibre.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 12:12 am

I did spot some rumours that the US were looking at different calibres for infantry small arms.

Since we are likely to be replacing every single round, magazine, rifle anyway, why not look at something rather than issuing different calibre rifles and machine guns to make up for the demonstrated deficiency of the 5.56mm round?

An intermediate cartridge would weigh less than a 7.62mm round, have less recoil and carry further. You could bring the longer-ranged 7.62mm loads into the fray, but until these are issued to machine guns and marksman’s rifles, it doesn’t mean anything. In any case, they will still weigh more and have more recoil, causing the guns to be larger and heavier.

Cost is only an issue because of what is in volume production and what isn’t.

Phil
November 24, 2013 12:22 am

demonstrated deficiency of the 5.56mm round?

What demonstrated deficiency? In the real world 99.999% of rounds fired have landed in the dirt, most quite deliberately. I just don’t get the argument that we should spend millions to fire minutely bigger lumps of lead into dirt.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 8:51 am

Since the British army, along with most other militaries, has quite deliberately gone out to add 7.62mm weapons to their infantry, then they obviously think that there is sufficient justification to fire larger rounds into the dirt.

wf
wf
November 24, 2013 9:50 am

@mr.fred: heh :-)

He’s got a point : why did we buy the L129 and keep the GPMG in the section if 5.56 was good enough? We all know the stats, thousands of rounds fired per hit, most in the service of suppression, but the fact is that we all want to have the ability to fire accurately and hit when necessary, often at ranges beyond what we are supposed to need to.

You can almost hear the echoes of a previous generation of Whitehall warriors who decried the PBI’s complaining about how low the rate of fire of the Bren vs the MG42, and how this impacted the desire of the former to close, were just interested in wasting ammunition. There’s quite a bit more to this than the stats

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 24, 2013 10:18 am

L84 is going to be in service for many years yet. The HK upgrade has worked well and refinements continue, it is now an extremely reliable weapon. As the head of the SASC recently said, there’s not much difference in effects between being hit in the face with 5.56 and with 12.7. And as anybody who knows the research will tell you only about 10% of the human body area is vulnerable to a fatal wound.

What does now seem to happening is a major change to small arms training methods, starting with instructors using much better techniques with a new emphasis on mentoring.

There’s a lot of current blether about small arms engagement ranges and the need for 7.62, no one knows what the next war will need. My experience in two wars is that infantry engagements at ranges greater that about 75 metes were almost unheard of, what goes around comes around.

Phil
November 24, 2013 10:23 am

Since the British army, along with most other militaries, has quite deliberately gone out to add 7.62mm weapons to their infantry, then they obviously think that there is sufficient justification to fire larger rounds into the dirt.

7.62 can shoot further. But you can carry less. It’s a trade-off.

we all want to have the ability to fire accurately and hit when necessary, often at ranges beyond what we are supposed to need to.

Then you shouldn’t be indulged. And I’m thankful the system has not indulged an irrational whimsy. Ammunition wins battles, the more you have the better off you are. Contacts consume enormous numbers of rounds and they’ve got to be carried to give infantry any persistence. This is even more true in operations like in Afghanistan where a patrol might be thousands of rounds away from safety with no possibility of resupply. Occasionally longer range pin point fire is needed or the General is needed. Right tool for the right job. Just because you hammer in nails sometimes doesn’t mean you just have a box of hammers.

The conditions of Afghan mean that the enemy can engage you at ranges they’d never be able to in a conventional fight because you nearly always have to patrol amongst the people in a visible manner and can’t use obvious cover because it will be seeded. This means they can get cracks at you from long range. But still fire fights happen at very close quarters in the green zone because you just can’t see very far.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 10:47 am

Phil,

In that case we follow Storr’s(?) argument and issue the infantry with sub machine guns. Much more ammunition for a given weight. Lighter recoil, lighter weapons. Replace the SA80 with the MP7?

Phil
November 24, 2013 10:51 am

No because that is as absurd as going the other extreme and issuing everyone 12.7mm barrets.

5.56 offers an engagement envelope of 1m to 300-400 metres which takes in almost all the engagement ranges a bog standard infantry unit needs to worry about. For the rest there is the GPMG and DMR. For close, close range there’s the shotgun. The 5.56 offers a suitable break even point between range and weight considering almost all of them will be shot into dirt or bunkers. For work at the margins we have other weapon systems.

IXION
November 24, 2013 11:18 am

Phil

Just thinking out loud.

Given all the research (BTW research that goes back to the French pre ww1), show that :-

1Whilst being shot at, mk1 homo sapiens can only acuratly engage at up to 300 metres,
2 It takes a surprisingly low number of joules energy wise to inflict a debilitating/fatal wound
3 The limit on what the human knee and back can handle weight wise has not changed.

Then setting aside the ‘installed base’ argument ie. That everyone is already using 5.56 then presumably there is sence in ‘going lighter’ say to the FN 5.7

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 24, 2013 11:42 am

The 5.56 debate reminds me of the arguments I had with the CND types in the 80s. Missing the whole picture, just fixating on a half truth. For pities sake, I was not saying Britain should go it alone with a cartridge change. All Western countries involved in Iraq & Afghanistan, have put some heavy wear & tear on their small arms. Many will need to replace them soon. Even German troops have said the G36 is fine in a normal contact, but overheats in a sustained firefight. In other words, there is a one in forty year chance for NATO as a WHOLE to change if it wants to. It would be stupid not to at least examine it.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 12:05 pm

Everything but the status quo is absurd then?*

The idea of modern sub machine guns like the MP7 or P90 is not quite so ridiculous. They’ll reach out to 200m while the low ammunition weight means that you can carry the same basic load for your personal weapon (in number of rounds) whilst being less encumbered or carrying more ammunition for the long-range or otherwise specialist weapons.

The other thing to consider is that the rifle that replaces the SA80 will probably be a conventional arrangement with no more than a 16 inch barrel. This may well reduce your effective range to 200-300m from 300-400m, while increasing muzzle blast.

The resistance to change is one of the great enemies of military procurement, IMHO. Demanding that upgrades are only worthwhile when there is a significant advance means two decades stuck with the SA80 family in the A1 configuration. More than a decade stuck with Warrior with no fire-on-the-move capability. FRES and the associated CVR(T) that is older than most of the serving personnel in the military.

*That’s a gross exaggeration, of course. I hope.

Phil
November 24, 2013 12:16 pm

Demanding that upgrades are only worthwhile when there is a significant advance means two decades stuck with the SA80 family in the A1 configuration. More than a decade stuck with Warrior with no fire-on-the-move capability. FRES and the associated CVR(T) that is older than most of the serving personnel in the military.

None of which probably fatally undermined the effectiveness of the combat units who used the equipment and which very often had doctrinal reasons at their heart. For example if a Warrior needs to shoot it should be in cover, not moving. At least on a peer battlefield. Warrior has barely operated in a peer environment and so a weakness was revealed that would not have been an issue on the Central Front, indeed which may have been a strength since relative simplicity would have allowed more reliability and more numbers purchased – a far more important factor. The boundaries of the weapon system do not match with those of the physical system – they fit within a far larger system. A prime example are Soviet tanks – individually they were not particularly strong, or particularly weak. But their great strength lied in the fact the God of war loves big battalions and the designs meant big battalions could happen and be sustained.

The idea of modern sub machine guns like the MP7 or P90 is not quite so ridiculous.

Not on their own they are not no. But we are talking about a general purpose combat weapon to go in the hands of general purpose line infantry. Most of their engagements take place at 1 to 300 metres from the deserts of Afghan to the urban combat of Basra – but they can also push out to 400m suppression which has been useful in Afghanistan. Therefore a general purpose, non specialised weapon and round is entirely appropriate because that weapon system fits into the wider picture of money and ammunition commonality and the mission sets of general line infantry. We’re not arming operators here. We’re arming Toms who will need their rifles for everything from Mount Tumbledown to Northern Ireland to Basra and Brunei.

7.62 is too heavy, everything smaller than 5.56 is probably too little and you simply increase the margins for which you need to buy what is then specialist kit like DMRs.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
November 24, 2013 12:28 pm

Another question. Since when has recoil been an issue? It has been mentioned a couple of times in this thread as if it were a bad thing. I did my time with the SLR and the Gimpy and I don’t recall recoil ever being talked about let alone an issue. We could hit, pretty much, everything we aimed at even with iron sights and I have never heard of casualties to trained infantrymen caused by recoil. So why is this an issue worth discussing now?

Phil
November 24, 2013 12:35 pm

For personal weapons I can’t see it being an issue since even 5.56 will disrupt your sight picture when you pull the trigger. But there is a noticeable difference in recoil between a Minimi and a GPMG – the Minimi bounces around a lot more and I imagine reducing felt recoil will stabilise the cone of fire somewhat. Although I suppose you don’t want it too precise.

Monty
November 24, 2013 12:37 pm

/ Chris B.

It’s very clear that both of you think that any discussion on calibre is pointless, so there is little to be gained by ploughing over the same ground once more. That said, I would like to make a couple of points:

– “If the bullet don’t hit anything important, You. Ain’t. Gonna. Die.” (Phil the Medic) – Absolutely true, but if the bullet doesn’t have sufficient range to hit the target, it will never be in a position to inflict a lethal effect. Although a 5.56 mm round will easily travel to 800 metres, it is extremely prone to wind drift, which means that it is easily blown off target. Correcting for wind drift is difficult, especially when it is difficult to observe fall of short (due to the reduced signature of the smaller bullet). For these reasons, 300 metres is generally considered to be the maximum effective range of 5.56 mm NATO. Getting rounds on target beyond this distance is extremely difficult.
– If you fire 5.56 mm NATO ammunition from a short barrel – anything less than 16.5″ you make matters worse, because you get a noticeable drop in velocity that limits effective range to about 200 metres. The UK’s 5.56 mm Minimis were criticised for having short 14.5″ barrels and I understand that these will be replaced with longer 20″ barrels at some point, if and when budget is available.
– The US Army has spent millions of $$$ updating its M855 5.56 mm ammunition to improve its terminal effectiveness. Basically, when fired from the M4’s short 14.5″ barrel, the bullet did not fragment in soft tissue, which decreased the likelihood of it hitting a vital organ. (The UK’s 5.56 mm ammunition doesn’t fragment at all, so it is even less likely to damage a vital organ.)
– The improved M855A1 EPR round is fired at a much higher velocity, so that it fragments more consistently in soft tissue. Unfortunately, the increased velocity requires much higher chamber pressures and this is breaking guns. As things stand, the M855A1 EPR is not a viable solution. The US has been considering what it should now do, which is the subject of my forthcoming article.
– meanwhile, the UK, Germany, France, Australia and New Zealand, are all looking at improving the performance of their existing 5.56 mm rounds. I don’t think they’d be doing this if they were satisfied with their existing 5.56 mm ammunition types.
– Whatever you do to 5.56 mm ammunition to improve its lethality, it remains a 300 metre calibre. The need to engage targets at ranges above 500 metres is what has driven the reintroduction of 7.62 mm weapons. So, across NATO, we now have a dual calibre solution.
– Many NATO armies are contemplating a wholesale return to 7.62 mm, but there are obvious disadvantages, not least of which is that the extra weight reduces the total number of rounds you can carry.
– Neither 5.56 mm nor 7.62 mm ammunition is cable of fully replacing the other, which is why we can expect both to remain in service until an alternative solution is developed, if ever.
________

The improvements made to the FN Minimi are designed to bring both 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm variants in line with the Heckler & Koch MG4 and MG5 machine guns, which both have all of the improved features of the Minimi. The 7.62 mm MG5 has just been adopted by the German Army and is 2 kg lighter than the FN MAG58 / L7 GPMG.

As has been pointed out, our weapons are modular, so upgrading them with new parts should easily enable them to be brought up to the same standard as the new version.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 3:21 pm

Phil,

What drives a 300m engagement distance? The weapons we have or something else? An oft-cited statistic dates back to an era when binoculars were few and far between and the idea of a universal optical sight would have been absurd.
Is the 200-300m distance critical enough that it cannot be covered by increased numbers of specialist weapons and ammunition?
Why should 5.56mm be the break-point and not 5.45mm or 4.85mm or 6.5mm or any other arbitrary number?

It is likely that it is possible to utilise developments in materials technology to make polymer or steel cased ammunition that would weigh no more than 5.56mm but out-perform 7.62mm (M80 ball) along with new rifles that weigh no more (and probably less) than the L85A2. If this is the case, then what is the objection?

If Warrior was only supposed to shoot from in cover and stationary, then why are they now being fitted with a stabilised turret? Why then did units so equipped train by running around whilst firing the machine-gun incessantly? Remember that stabilisation also allows fire control, meaning far less training is required to get first-round hits at greater distances.

A good commander will take the limitations of his equipment into account as much as he is able. Fortunately the conflicts we have been involved in have meant that the commanders involved have been able to.

x
x
November 24, 2013 3:30 pm

What drives 300m is how far you can accurately shoot and what you can see while running from cover to cover trying not to get shot, carrying an awful lot of weight, trying to be situationally aware, whilst all hell breaks loose around you, and doing all that for an unknown period of time………..

as
as
November 24, 2013 4:13 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightweight_Small_Arms_Technologies
Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) program is what the American are planning for the small arms replacement. Look at the ammunition bit. They are currently developing there future ammo in 5.56mm. They are developing two types with the final desion coming at a later point. The ammo are cased-telescoped ammunition and caseless-telescoped ammunition.

Phil
November 24, 2013 5:30 pm

Absolutely true, but if the bullet doesn’t have sufficient range to hit the target, it will never be in a position to inflict a lethal effect. Although a 5.56 mm round will easily travel to 800 metres, it is extremely prone to wind drift, which means that it is easily blown off target. Correcting for wind drift is difficult, especially when it is difficult to observe fall of short (due to the reduced signature of the smaller bullet). For these reasons, 300 metres is generally considered to be the maximum effective range of 5.56 mm NATO. Getting rounds on target beyond this distance is extremely difficult.

But outside of Afghan, and not very often then, when are infantry going to be engaging at that range? No decent enemy is going to reveal their positions from that sort of distance and in a lot of terrain you can’t see that far anyway. Then you have the fact that most infantry just don’t have the ability to engage at the longer ranges even if the enemy gave them an opportunity. Longer ranges have become apparent in Afghanistan because of the way we must operate and patrol.

Let me say, I am not saying 5.56mm is an optimal round. It clearly isn’t. But it doesn’t have to be. At the moment it is a round that can reach about as far as your average infantryman is able to shoot and certainly reaches as far as they are likely to need to shoot even in Afghanistan. It is a round that is light enough to mean plenty can be carried and it is a round that is common.

Phil
November 24, 2013 5:37 pm

What drives a 300m engagement distance?

Terrain, your tactical disposition and enemy intentions. Terrain often means you simply can’t see that far – how many places can you see beyond 300 metres without sticking out like a dogs bollocks? The tactical disposition – in conventional warfare you’re in cover or hugging cover or at least advancing to contact in as tactical posture as possible – in Afghanistan we’re operating where the population dictates me must and unless we want to do a full explosive clearance of every irrigation ditch and choke point we come to we have to patrol in more open areas to even begin to be mobile. And the enemy – no decent enemy is going to engage you at ranges beyond a few hundred metres because they’ll want to ambush you at close range so you can’t use IDF and so you’ve got nowhere to go.

If Warrior was only supposed to shoot from in cover and stationary, then why are they now being fitted with a stabilised turret?

Because they’re not operating in the context they were designed for. They were designed for a peer battlefield saturated with ATGWs and a determined and aggressive enemy with enormous firepower. In Afghan and Iraq they weren’t operating like that, they had more freedom of movement, they COULD fire on the move. On the Central Front I don’t think anyone with half a brain would have considered firing on the move as anything other than an emergency or suicidal procedure and not worth having at the cost of 200 fewer MICVs for example.

In the end 200 more MICVs are better than fewer but better armed MICVs because a good deal of those MICVs are never going to get a round off before they get brewed up and need replacing.

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2013 5:48 pm

I’m with Phil, despite the nationalist in me that is applauding Swimming’s suggestion, practicality compels me to side with Phil in that if the weapon does its job, there is no point spending more money on it if the improvement is only ergonomic. Soldiers are not supposed to be comfy. If it does not affect performance to a significant degree, soldier on.

As for the caliber debate (damn US spellchecker, it’s bre not ber), well, it has been 50 years of arguing and counting. Think there is going to be a consensus soon? And world peace too? :)

As a compromise solution, you can actually just keep the guns and modify the barrels. A 5.56 round is not measured by the round’s base diameter, which is the criteria for the extractor and feed and magazine capacity, but the head diameter where it tapers down to the ball. This means that you can get the same 30 rounds into a mag, but with a larger caliber by changing only the chamber and barrel and maybe a more vigorous propellant. Or even keep the 5.56 but change the ball round composition by casing a heavier penetrator in copper. Lots of ways to skin a cat.

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2013 5:57 pm

I’m not sure if I typed my name in wrongly, but the internet demon seemed to have ate my comment. Will see if it reappears later.

You have to remember that the 5.56 is in essence a compromise round, small enough to carry lots of, just lethal enough to put someone down at a decent range. Going either bigger or smaller chops off the other side of the compromise. As Phil said, it’s not an optimum round, but it is a decent “general purpose” round. Go bigger and you carry less, go smaller, you sacrifice range and accuracy. Middle of the road gents, middle of the road. It’s bad driving manners, but a good thing to do for unexpected situations.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 24, 2013 7:57 pm

Fuck it, I’ll do all these in one big lump,

@ mr. fred,
“Since the British army, along with most other militaries, has quite deliberately gone out to add 7.62mm weapons to their infantry, then they obviously think that there is sufficient justification to fire larger rounds into the dirt”
— Correction. They’ve quite deliberately gone out to add marksman to their infantry. That means a a higher calibre weapon (because it’s only going to be taking single shots for the most part) but also better sights, bipods, gucci buttstocks and an investment in better training for those users. Quite a different thing from what you’re portraying.

@ JH,
“The 5.56 debate reminds me of the arguments I had with the CND types in the 80s. Missing the whole picture, just fixating on a half truth”
— … is an incredibly bizarre statement for you to make, because fixating on a half truth and missing the whole picture is precisely what people are doing when they start advocating for 6.x mm rounds. Evidence? Not interested. Medical science? Not interested. Reality of actual combat experience, encompassing potentially millions of firefights accumulated over decades in a variety of environments? Not interested. It’s all “but, but, but, greater energy!!”. Focusing on that half truth and missing the bigger picture is precisely what most of the arguments against 5.56 consist of.

@ HurstLlama,
“Another question. Since when has recoil been an issue?”
— Ever since people first tried to rapidly fire large calibre, semi automatic rifles. See the following video for an example of an L1A1 that absolutely hasn’t been modified to permit automatic fire (which would have been illegal under Finnish law, if that’s what had happened) for an example of what happens when you try to fire a powerful round like a NATO 7.62mm out of a rifle in (almost) automatic mode; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qem3dtebtk This has only been common knowlegde in firearms for about, ohhhh, seventy odd years I think?

@ Monty,
“It’s very clear that both of you think that any discussion on calibre is pointless”
— Not any discussion, no. But for a discussion on calibres to not be absolutely pointless it has to bring something fresh to the table beyond the old arguments which – for those with the inclination to look – have been utterly and thoroughly rebuked time after time after time.

“Absolutely true, but if the bullet doesn’t have sufficient range to hit the target, it will never be in a position to inflict a lethal effect. Although a 5.56 mm round will easily travel to 800 metres, it is extremely prone to wind drift, which means that it is easily blown off target. Correcting for wind drift is difficult, especially when it is difficult to observe fall of short (due to the reduced signature of the smaller bullet).”
— The 6.5mm and similar rounds are dramatically over hyped in this regard. They possess an advantage over the 5.56, but nowhere near as large as is often made out. 800 metres also represent the extreme edge of infantry engagements. By the time you go over 700 metres you’re entering the final 5% of Afghanistan engagements, a theatre which has been noted for its slightly (relatively speaking) longer engagement ranges.

So let me ask you a serious question and I politely ask that you give this some very, very serious thought before responding; are you really happy to fuck yourself over the other 95% of your engagement envelope in the Afghanistan theatre, for the sake of a new round which only the most skilled marksman, in relatively ideal conditions (and see x’s post about running, cover, return fire etc) and with long barrels and the highest quality sights will be able to make any use of?

“If you fire 5.56 mm NATO ammunition from a short barrel – anything less than 16.5″ you make matters worse, because you get a noticeable drop in velocity that limits effective range to about 200 metres”
— At 250 metres the difference in drop between a 5.56 round fired from a 20″ barrel and one fired from a 14.5″ barrel is 16mm. This goes back to the classic case I brought up to JH earlier of people talking about how much of a significant impact barrel length has on the 5.56, without actually doing the research to find out how much it really is.

“The US Army has spent millions of $$$ updating its M855 5.56 mm ammunition to improve its terminal effectiveness”
— No. It spent millions updating its ammo to remove the lead from the bullet. For environmental/health reasons related to lead contamination. They took the chance to introduce a new propellant at the same time as the new bullet, which has provided superior performance as an offshoot.

“Basically, when fired from the M4′s short 14.5″ barrel, the bullet did not fragment in soft tissue, which decreased the likelihood of it hitting a vital organ.”
— People need to stop stating this as fact, because it’s not. It’s supposition, based on reports from soldiers about a ‘lack of stopping power’. See all the various arguments above and in the past about medical fact vs pseudo science “hydrostatic shock” etc bullshit. It’s odd that there are so many confident claims about how bullets didn’t fragment, considering no body actually bothered to go and find the rounds and/or bring back the dead bodies for full forensic analysis to prove this was the case. It literally is a case of someone saying “ah well, they probably didn’t fragment” and that has now become the official line about what happened in all these cases. On the other hand, more and more armies are now getting on board with the idea that a) their soldiers aren’t actually routinely informed about the correct medical causes of what people refer to as ‘stopping power’, and b) most of them don’t actually put that much emphasis into marksmanship.

“So, across NATO, we now have a dual calibre solution”
— We’ve had a dual a calibre solution ever since 5.56 was first introduced. Indeed it’s really more of a tri-calibre solution if you want to include 12.5mm or quad-calibre if you want to include 9mm.

“Many NATO armies are contemplating a wholesale return to 7.62 mm”
— Who? Nobody has come out and stated this.

@ mr. fred,
“It is likely that it is possible to utilise developments in materials technology to make polymer or steel cased ammunition that would weigh no more than 5.56mm”
— Think about that statement logically. If you can reduce the weight of say a 6.5mm round using new materials in the case, what other round could you reduce the weight of?

“The resistance to change is one of the great enemies of military procurement, IMHO”
— Really? I’d say a desire to have the latest and greatest of every last gold plated, bespoke military ‘thing’ going has been more of a problem for military procurement than not wanting to change things like rifle rounds.

Rocket Banana
November 24, 2013 8:07 pm

Not knowing anything about calibers and ammo, etc…

Observer’s statement about it being a compromise between quantity and quality sounds totally reasonable.

However, I have a question about that…

Why not carry two weapons? One with plentiful ammo to provide “covering” or short-range lethality (e.g. indoors) and the other to provide stopping power at range. Not necessarily two weapons each, but two per pair of soldiers.

x
x
November 24, 2013 8:09 pm

Um. No.

Observer
Observer
November 24, 2013 8:28 pm

x, we are actually doing that now in real life. The NATO/Western system goes with either a rifleman lugging a LAW as a secondary, a rifleman with an M-203 as a secondary or the SAW gunner with his ammo. Pistols are a bit of a key difference between us though, thinking here is that if you can lug a pistol, you can definitely lug an extra magazine with 30 rounds for more rounds and better performance.

As my old munched post have not reappeared, I’ll repeat some of what I wrote.

If you wanted a larger caliber, it’s possible to replace just the barrel and in some cases the chamber without scrapping the whole weapon. The 5.56 size is the size of the ball where the 5.56 round necks down to the ball itself, the casing base is the measurement needed for the extractor and feed and also the main drive to the number of rounds in a mag, so it is possible to get up to 9.xmm caliber without reducing the round count (9.x is about the size of the casing base). With a more energetic propellant, you might be able to get some improvement out of the upsizing. Provided you don’t blow the chamber. Or you could change the ball composition to carry a heavier penetrator cased in copper. Many ways to skin a cat.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 8:37 pm

Chris B.
7.62mm machine guns.

Regarding weight savings, I don’t think that you could utilise a polymer case for 5.56mm without reducing the powder capacity and thereby the performance. Since the mid-range calibre is not yet real, you could design it as required, while the 5.56 is stuck within an envelope.

Going to steel, AIUI, might avail 5.56mm as well as a mid-range cartridge, but the point is that if 5.56mm is sufficiently light, then a more effective cartridge of the same weight that can also fulfil 7.62mm roles is more appealing.

On the resistance to change, now read the following sentence. The resistance to incremental change means that procurement holds off buying new until they can get a giant jump in capability with all the gold plating that comes along with it, just in time for all the lessons learnt in the last procurement to have been forgotten. In the mean time, they end up spending increasing amounts trying to drag increasingly obsolescent equipment up to a usable standard.

My favourite ‘what if’ is what would have happened if, in the year 2000, the MoD had recapitalised the Warrior fleet with the Warrior 2000, relegating the original Warrior chassis to turret-less support vehicle status. No FV432s and associated upgrades. FRES might have taken a different path. Who knows.

But anyway. Small arms.
A mid-range cartridge would mean that you don’t need a specialised marksman’s rifle (pick the best of the current production) and would significantly increase the reach of your section’s machine guns.
The USA are apparently investigating different calibres. I would think it would be wise to make sure that whatever system we buy to replace the SA80 (if indeed it has a 2020 OSD) since it will not last for ever, has the capacity to be modified (cf the new 7.62mm Minimi being adaptable back to 5.56mm) to fire whatever round the USA comes up with. If it would be injurious to our logistics to adopt a different round to our allies then it would surely be equally problematic if we fail to adopt a new round as our allies do.

Interestingly the recent Eastern European rifle designs seem to offer a degree of flexibility when it comes to calibre. The Polish MSBS looks quite interesting. Could be made under license?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSBS_Radon
Or a new Bren?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CZ-805_BREN

I would suggest a factory-built version in .22lr for easier training and civilian shooting participation, so as to extend the production run and reduce the cost of spares/ancillaries , but that would be me running off on a tangent again. Irksomely this would favour the 5.56mm as you could re-use some of the tooling between the barrels. For a larger calibre you might need to legally permit a different low-power cartridge in semi-automatic for the purpose.

Phil
November 24, 2013 9:49 pm

A mid-range cartridge would mean that you don’t need a specialised marksman’s rifle (pick the best of the current production) and would significantly increase the reach of your section’s machine guns.

Out to ranges they don’t need to fire at often and now carrying less ammo. You’ve reduced persistence for no real extra capability.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2013 10:14 pm

Out to ranges they don’t need to fire at often and now carrying less ammo. You’ve reduced persistence for no real extra capability.

Assuming that weight savings can’t be obtained on the new cartridges which could match the legacy cartridges.
Assuming that the section MGs aren’t a 7.62mm gun. (which, admittedly, I kind of did)

As I see it, there is an opportunity here. Why not at least look into it, run some tests, analyse some numbers and see if we can get an advantage. If nothing else we might be able to realise a psychosomatic effect since plenty of people seem convinced that 5.56mm is akin to being hit with a rolled-up newspaper. If the soldiers believe that their personal weapon is more effective then that would be advantageous, no?

Lastly, who the heck keeps offering Phil’s posts a lukewarm soy latte? There seems little point if you aren’t going to explain why. The man is allowed an opinion. The comments would be rather short and boring if we all agreed.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 25, 2013 12:23 am

@ mr. fred,

“Regarding weight savings, I don’t think that you could utilise a polymer case for 5.56mm without reducing the powder capacity and thereby the performance”
— Which would apply to all catridges then. In which case they’re matching the weight of 5.56, but now lack the power to push their heavier bullets to the touted ranges and achieve the performance benefits.

“The resistance to incremental change means… ” etc
— There’s a difference between upgrading one piece of equipment for a slightly better bit of kit. And the 6.x rounds are not an upgrade. They achieve their advantage (all factors considered) only in a very narrow band of incidents (very long range firefights). You’d be sacrificing all the factors that 5.56 brings in the other areas just to optimise in this one area. That’s not an incremental change, it’s a step backwards. And I really don’t think you can blame gold plating on a lack of incremental change in the first place.

“A mid-range cartridge would mean that you don’t need a specialised marksman’s rifle (pick the best of the current production) and would significantly increase the reach of your section’s machine guns.”
— Except that you would still need a marksman rifle because i) the performance difference out of a standard length barrel is not going to be some huge leap that turns every man into a sniper, ii) the rifle still needs a specialised optic designed for engagements at those sorts of ranges and iii) it still requires an above average level of training/innate skill to be able to engage targets accurately at that range.

“As I see it, there is an opportunity here. Why not at least look into it, run some tests, analyse some numbers and see if we can get an advantage”
— There have been many, many, many tests run on 6-7mm calibre rounds over the years, often side by side with 5.56 and/or 7.62 rounds. The trouble is that while 6-7mm rounds often do very well in a number of snazzy stats like flatter trajectories and higher terminal energy, they often fail in the practicality and economy stakes. The conclusion that consistently comes up is that they’re simply not worth the time, money and hassle, while being sub-optimal (due to cartridge weight) to rounds like 5.56 for the vast majority of incidents that soldiers are likely to find themselves in.

“If nothing else we might be able to realise a psychosomatic effect since plenty of people seem convinced that 5.56mm is akin to being hit with a rolled-up newspaper”
— Or, you know, you could just educate people. That works too.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2013 2:25 am

mr.fred, the polymer LSAT rounds are 5.56. They got working prototypes though my opinion is that it won’t go anywhere as the advantages that it brings do not do enough to warrant a wholesale 5.56 replacement.

As for range, this is where I disagree with Phil, if someone can see an enemy, he’ll try to shoot back, even if it is only a morale thing.

BTW guess the range of a 5.56? About 1.2km

The Ultimax that ST pointed out has a flip up adjustable sight set to that range max. You won’t be engaging point targets then, just slapping down a beaten zone around the target and turning it into an area hazard weapon, but the point is that a 5.56 HAS the range to hit provided you throw out enough rounds constantly to generate an area hazard. Not an AR tactic, but a SAW one.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2013 7:59 am

Chris B.

Polymer cases and powder capacity:
How can a polymer case reduce the capacity of a cartridge that is designed to be polymer from the start?

Incremental upgrades.
Part of the advantage of small and in some cases limited upgrades is that you get to try things out.
5.56mm in current usage seems to mandate the use of much heavier 7.62mm weapons and ammunition.

Marksman’s rifles
MARKSMAN, not sniper. Pick the best of the bunch for accuracy and consistency and add whatever optics you need, since optics are modular anyway. Additional training is irrelevant to needing a different rifle or not.

Tests and analysis.
Cite three.
Also, how convenient that mid-range cartridges ‘fail’ at the statistics that either cannot be directly compared or cannot be measured.

Educating people.
Some ideas are pervasive and difficult to counter.

Observer,
.22lr projectiles are lethal to considerable distance but I would not consider them to be effective to that range.
Some of the earlier marks of Lee Enfield had sights graduated to something like 4000 yards. Again, not really effective save for rather specific circumstances and deleted following combat experience.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2013 10:19 am

“5.56mm in current usage seems to mandate the use of much heavier 7.62mm weapons and ammunition.”

This part is in contention.

mr fred, at that range, the problem is with the platform and employment, not the round. As you said, it is lethal to 1.6km actually so it’s not the round that is a problem, it is the fact that ARs cannot reliably hit at that distance. A SAW has an alternate tactic of tossing a beaten zone and walking it onto target with the same round, so why is it that one can work and the other can’t? It’s the firing platform and optics, not 5.56. Didn’t the UK use SUSAT optics with 6?-8? times zoom on a 5.56?

Bob
Bob
November 25, 2013 11:16 am

A firearms company making a slightly differently configured version of one it’s existing products hardly constitutes news.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 25, 2013 12:13 pm

@ Observer – My mentioning the Ultimax was a what if? If we went for the Bronco why not the (arguably) best light machine gun going? Now we have Mimini just as well keep it and if need be upgrade.

@ Simon – I often think the same thing. I am torn between the benefits of a “Universal” round to replace 5.56 and 7.62 and replacing two rounds with two more specialized rounds – for example the IF (and its a ****ing big IF) the 6.5×25 CBJ round performs as started we have a round which rivals the 5.56 for half the weight space and can be fired from a pistol/sub machine gun. The soldier can then possibly carry a rifle (or other weapon) specialised for longer ranges if required.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 25, 2013 6:11 pm

@ mr. fred,

“How can a polymer case reduce the capacity of a cartridge that is designed to be polymer from the start?”
— Your argument was that if you used polymer for a 5.56 then it wouldn’t be able to handle the charge, so you’d have to reduce it. If that’s true, a 6.x with a polymer case is not going to handle the same charge as a brass 6.x, therefore lose much of its advantage compared to a brass 5.56. You can’t have it both ways.

“Part of the advantage of small and in some cases limited upgrades is that you get to try things out”
— Why not just run a test of a prototype. Save yourself some money.

“MARKSMAN, not sniper. Pick the best of the bunch for accuracy and consistency and add whatever optics you need…”
— The accuracy difference would be marginal. The value of having marksman is the additional training they receive. You’ve no need to put them through some kind of elaborate full sniper course, but a course in advanced marksmanship would be a must, otherwise you’re just picking out someone who was marginally better on the standard ranges and giving them an optic that they can’t get the most out of.

“Tests and analysis. Cite three.”
— Project Salvo, the Future Rifle Program (1969), The Enhanced Rifle Cartridge program. That’s just three from the US. Understandably many other countries have done their own studies, some released, some not. Lots of small scale testing has been done as well the big programs.

“Also, how convenient that mid-range cartridges ‘fail’ at the statistics that either cannot be directly compared or cannot be measured”
— Weight is easily measured. As is the recoil impulse delivered by the rounds when firing. As is cost. The problem is the reverse from how you’re seeing it, with these 6.x rounds struggling to prove they will actually make any real difference to soldiers.

“Some ideas are pervasive and difficult to counter”
— Clearly. That shouldn’t stop the army from trying though.

Phil
November 25, 2013 6:21 pm

Lastly, who the heck keeps offering Phil’s posts a lukewarm soy latte? There seems little point if you aren’t going to explain why. The man is allowed an opinion. The comments would be rather short and boring if we all agreed.

Ha I thought it was you! I probably deserve a luke warm soy latte because I am a bit more strident than I mean to sound sometimes.

Assuming that weight savings can’t be obtained on the new cartridges which could match the legacy cartridges.

Reducing component weight is a laudable endeavour and if a bigger calibre could be produced at less weight there would be more of a compelling argument in my mind. Much more compelling. If we can increase the versatility of the platoons weapons by increasing effective range and still carry the same amount of ammo or even more ammo I would support that. You’d get increased engagement ranges at no cost in other more important factors like weight. You could then potentially drop the DMR requirement and save even more. But, I think you must be able to reliably reduce the weight.

If the soldiers believe that their personal weapon is more effective then that would be advantageous, no?

I don’t think so. And besides, they’ll always moan. It sounds like I’m being flippant but I am making a serious point. As evidence I present the never ending cycle of private load bearing kit the blokes buy, which the MoD then issue as they see its popular, and which is promptly chinned off by the blokes. First it 58 pattern water bottle pouches instead of kidney pouches, then chest webbing when PLCE pouches were introduced, then assault vests when chest webbing was issued, then man bags when assault vests were issued, then plate carriers where man bags were issued, then battle belts when Osprey 4 was issued and now I think we’re back at low slung PLCE and clean Osprey 4.

Phil
November 25, 2013 6:23 pm

As for range, this is where I disagree with Phil, if someone can see an enemy, he’ll try to shoot back, even if it is only a morale thing.

Even the Taliban would often be disciplined enough and have big enough swingers to wait until you’re close. It’s how one of our 8 man patrols was reduced to 3 men from one or two PKM bursts in a few seconds.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2013 9:41 pm

Phil,

I thought you might think that it was me acting the dodgy barista, which would have been cheap of me, so I thought it best to try and find out. I prefer to call my shots (of weak espresso).
Example: Bob, People can be interested in different things. It bemuses me the amount people write on grey war canoes, but I see no reason why they shouldn’t. Have a latte.

I’d be interested in how the sharpshooter rifle is viewed. I suspect that “ally as f***” or similar might intrude. But there might be parallels. Same weight rifle, heavier ammunition. Or GPMG vs LMG.

Ultimately the objective would be to minimise weight while maximising capability. Brass cased 6-7mm ammunition would save weight on 7.62mm and slightly increase capability, although would weigh more than 5.56mm. If you could get a suitable polymer-cased or steel-cased solution then you might end up on a par, weight wise, with 5.56mm. Trouble is, going for a two step solution as outlined above could end up painting you into a corner as you try to get from brass to polymer as the geometry for one would be sub-optimal for the other.
For Chris B.’s benefit, a polymer case would be thicker than a brass one for a given pressure, but also lighter. As the external dimensions of an existing brass case (like a 5.56mm) are not variable, the only way to go is in, reducing the case volume and therefore powder capacity. If you design for a polymer case from the outset, you can fix the case volume and then make the walls as thick as needed without impinging on the needed volume.

Veering off to look at some more of Chris B.’s comments:
Chris B.,
Project SALVO was looking at small calibre, high velocity, high rate of fire. So not 6-7mm cartridges.
Future Rifle Programme was more of the same. Micro calibre and very high velocity
The Enhanced Rifle Cartridge programme I will concede. I was aware of the 6.8 SPC but wasn’t aware how it came to be. Nice find. Arguably hampered somewhat in that it has to fit inside the envelope of a 5.56mm rifle. Despite this it has actually been rather successful

“Practicality” is pretty nebulous and economy is a poor comparison when you are not comparing like with like. You would have to look at rounds produced in similar quantities with similar construction to properly assess equivalent costs.

Coming back to Swimming trunks’ “What if”, a SMG cartridge with the ability to reach out to 300m could provide a replacement for 5.56mm at the low end, allowing more ammunition or equipment to be carried (because, let’s face it, it’s never going to be a reduced load for the soldier). Then you end up with a long-range/short-range mix but with more ammunition than 5.56/7.62

Phil
November 25, 2013 10:06 pm

I’d be interested in how the sharpshooter rifle is viewed. I suspect that “ally as f***” or similar might intrude. But there might be parallels. Same weight rifle, heavier ammunition. Or GPMG vs LMG.

DMR is awesome. Don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t have fancied carrying it had it not been for the fact that DMR carriers tended to be more exposed so they could get their fields of fire. But then the DMR was truly a weapon system since it needed the bipod, the sight, the grade of ammunition and the rifle itself to be that much more effective at longer ranges.

To my mind the most important thing for an infantry unit is that it carries considerable amounts of ammunition. As most of that ammunition will be expended from 1 to 400 metres and as most of that ammunition will be fired into the dirt, anything that impinges on the amount carried has an overall negative effect on infantry combat power.

The standard load out used to be 330 rounds of 5.56, that in theory could have been shot off in 11 minutes of rapid fire. When you think that the battles in the Falklands lasted from 6-12 hours with front platoons engaged almost continuously then you realise the main thing is bags and bags of ammo and grenades.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2013 10:20 pm

Ouch Phil, close range ambush, one of the worst situations to be caught in. I was actually referring more to reactive fire, but I also understand that it is situational too depending on the nerves of the people under fire and density of fire.

And I agree, ammo count is really critical.

BTW anyone know how polymer casings are recycled? Can’t help but think that it would be easier to recycle and reload malleable metallic brass than cased polymer. Which might be a long term financial drain.

wf
wf
November 25, 2013 10:28 pm

@Observer: I’d settle for something biodegradable once fired. Saves on policing the brass

Phil
November 25, 2013 10:29 pm

an effective resupply system!

For more bags and bags of ammo!

In all seriousness though, there were times when we had no possibility of getting more SAA on some ops when we were far from the FOB and in areas inaccessible to Jackals etc and where the resupply mission would have had to have fired off the resupply ammo to get to us.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 25, 2013 10:31 pm

@ mr. fred,

“If you design for a polymer case from the outset, you can fix the case volume and then make the walls as thick as needed without impinging on the needed volume”
— Which applies equally to designing a new 5.56 as it does to any other calibre. So you could make 5.56 rounds even lighter, allowing you to carry more. Which is what I said to you at the start. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it. When talking about 5.56 you’re trying to argue that they would have to make polymer rounds fit the old dimensions, but with your own 6.x round you’re saying they could just start fresh. What applies to one applies equally to the other.

“Project SALVO was looking at small calibre, high velocity, high rate of fire. So not 6-7mm cartridges.
Future Rifle Programme was more of the same. Micro calibre and very high velocity”

— Both programs looked at the relative merits of a variety of calibres, from large down to fletchettes. The conclusions are broad and apply just as well to 6-7mm rounds. Like I said, there have been lots of studies of various sizes about this, by different countries, so here’s a novel suggestion; you could just go and look for yourself, like everyone else has to.

““Practicality” is pretty nebulous and economy is a poor comparison when you are not comparing like with like. You would have to look at rounds produced in similar quantities with similar construction to properly assess equivalent costs.”
— Practicality is as difficult to define as anything else, in that as long as you know what practical means to you then it should be easy to assess. Economy is not a poor comparison, especially when you’re working on a limited budget. Indeed, it’s a very important consideration. Even if you don’t know the specific cost of manufacturing each bullet, you can at least be sure that a) you’re going to incur costs shifting your whole arsenal over to the new 6-7mm round, b) that the factory(ies) will have to invest in new tooling etc, for which they’re going to charge you and c) you’re switching to a round that uses more raw material, along with a larger charge, so at the very least you can see clearly that it’s going to cost more.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2013 10:43 pm

If bags and bags of ammo are important, would it not be sensible to maximise ammo at the expense of a hundred metres or so of range for the individual weapons? Your section MGs and DMRs would still reach out beyond that and you would have twice as much ammo for the individual weapons or substantially more ammo for the specialist weapons and the same ammo level for the non-specialists. Plus there is less incentive for the non-specialists to waste ammunition firing at long range.

Off into vague contemplation land again…
What if the untested soldiers are issued SMG-type weapons until they have proven themselves, then they can get issued rifles, MGs, grenade launchers, whatever? In addition to their SMGs they would carry spare ammunition for the veteran soldiers in the unit.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2013 11:05 pm

Chris B.,
If you are designing a new 5.56mm then it’s all new rounds and all new weapons. At which point you look at all calibres because there is nothing tying you to 5.56, 7.62 or any other arbitrary measurement. somewhere between 6 and 7mm is a pretty good range for ballistic requirements of an infantry rifle and machine gun. According to the papers and reports I have read. The ones where a 6-7mm round is repeatedly chosen as the best infantry round but usually passed over because of ammunition stocks or personal preference of influential figures or a desire for even longer ranged shooting than eschewed by some here. I.e. bad reasons.
It’s also useful because somewhere in that range the barrel is too wide to retain water by capillary action.
Yes a 5.56mm made on equal terms will be lighter, but then a 4.85mm would be lighter still. And so on. At which point does it get silly? The point where you need two calibres to make up for the deficiencies of both?

You have to renovate your munition factories periodically anyway. Since you will not stop using 5.56 and 7.62 weapons overnight, you will need to continue producing it. Eventually you will be able to stop producing both 5.56 and 7.62 and just produce the 6-7mm round. One line will be cheaper than two and the mid range round will use less material than a 7.62mm. In the end it may well be cost-neutral. Or even cheaper.

“Practicality” is nebulous because you haven’t defined it in measurable terms. Until defined it can mean anything you like

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2013 11:15 pm
x
x
November 25, 2013 11:22 pm

I see that and raise you………

http://accurateshooter.net/Blog/17winrimfire001.jpg

Would I have faith in semi-auto rimfire in combat? Um. No.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2013 11:36 pm

mr fred, why is the optimum calibre set to 6-7? Why not 5-6? Or 7-8?

The reason that some people say it is 6-7 is personal opinion, there is no overall consensus that it is an optimal zone. More importantly, just reducing the discussion to how large the ball of the round is reduces the discussion to such minimalist terms that misinformation creeps in. If 5.56 is bad, 6.5-6.8 Grendel is good, 7.62 is very good, then according to that logic, a 7.63 is even better and the 9mm beats them all doesn’t it?

SMGs I’d say are effective to about 50m, you are not losing 100m changing to the 9mm, you are losing 250m. The 9mm is still a pistol round with all the performance that implies. If you’re going to do MOUT, it’s a good idea, harkens back to the Russian and German SMG regiments in urban terrain. Not for the general purpose army though if they are expected to fight in varying terrain conditions and ranges.

wf, recycling is good. Less material waste, less cost. Biodegradable, once fired, never to be seen again, buy a brand new one. Brass recyclables? Percussion cap, powder, ball, crimp, back to the firing line.

“In all seriousness though, there were times when we had no possibility of getting more SAA on some ops when we were far from the FOB and in areas inaccessible to Jackals etc and where the resupply mission would have had to have fired off the resupply ammo to get to us.”

Time to get the hell out. *Cough* I mean retrograde to interior supply lines.

As much as I dislike Bob, I have to agree that this really is much ado about nothing. Nothing out there is offering enough benefit to change the entire manufacturing line just for marginal performance improvements. And FN making more MINIMIs is about as groundbreaking as car makers coming up with a new car. Less actually, at least the car is a new design.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
November 26, 2013 1:00 am

@ mr. fred,

The 5.56 is the round we use the most at the minute, for a variety of reasons. So if you were going to make a new polymer catridge, why not do it in 5.56. You know the round works and meets all of your main criteria, and now you can make it lighter.

The 6-7mm rounds don’t get selected as “the best infantry round”. They get highlighted for the best overall performance in terms of time of flight and all that business. There is far more to the equation than just how fast the bullet travels or how many foot pounds of energy it’s carrying at 600 yards etc.

Practicality is not “nebulous” at all, because I already gave you two examples; weight and recoil impulse. You can add magazine capacity to that list as well if you like. You don’t seem to understand that the 5.56 is that standard for infantry small arms at the minute because it represents the best set of compromises. For something like the 6-7mm to take over, it has to demonstrate that there is a point in doing so. At the minute there is none.

As for the factories, they may have to refurbish equipment at some point anyway, but theres a hell of a difference between doing that and making them completely recapitalise with new equipment. Equipment that also needs to be refurbished, etc. One line will not be cheaper than two, because we’re not talking about one supplier making all the ammunition. There are lots of suppliers, who currently compete at very low prices with one another and have driven the costs down as low as they can really afford to go.

Observer
Observer
November 26, 2013 2:26 am

To add to Chris’s point, you are not only changing ammo production lines, you need to change barrels and gun chambers as well, as the shape of a bullet influences the shape of the chamber. The barrel change is a foregone conclusion. And is there any guarantee that the new chamber can fit your old gun? The 6.5 and 6.8 has a chance, the casing size with the exclusion of the taper and ball size is similar to the old 5.56, but LSAT ammo has a totally different shape and IIRC loading mechanism, so if you went to CTA rounds, you are really designing a new weapon from scratch.

camoe
camoe
November 27, 2013 1:28 am

New Operational Conditions = HK MG4 and HK121

x
x
November 27, 2013 8:03 am

Barring other considerations like compatibility with the US if the UK adopted a rifle in say .300 AAC or any other round based on the 5.56 case then retooling Radway Green wouldn’t cost much. It would be a question of acquiring new dies. The 5.56 based rounds were all designed to fit standard AR mags too; it should be borne in mind that magazines are consumables. Compared to the cost of F35b this would be chicken feed. There is a lot of guff in the thread……

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 30, 2013 12:23 pm

To resurrect this one for a minute, it’s worth noting that the 7.62mm version of the minimi can be adapted to fire 5.56mm, which seems to be a fairly valuable capability as it allows you to tailor your LMG to suit your operational environment. I can’t seem to find out how much it weighs (compared to a dedicated 5.56mm Minimi) but the previous 5.56 and 7.62 minimi guns come in at about 1.3kg different. It’s not clear how much of that is structure and how much is calibre specific (i.e. larger barrel etc).

Of course, the ability to change between those two calibres mean that you could also change to another, intermediate, calibre so you could try it out with the same gun to remove as many variables from the comparison as possible. Or change it back if it doesn’t work.

Phil
November 30, 2013 12:33 pm

it should be borne in mind that magazines are consumables.

Err, tell that to the QM…

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 30, 2013 12:55 pm

Phil. Many NATO nations will be buying new small arms in the next decade, so money will be spent anyway. This is why it is a one in forty year chance to change calibre. Be a shame to miss it. A change would probably be only a small improvement on 5.56, but still a step in the right direction. There is no magic silver bullet, but a better compromise than 5,56 should be doable. We do not have to change every gun at once. We did not do that with the change from .303 to 7.62 or from 7.62 to 5.56. It took at least a decade each time.

Observer
Observer
November 30, 2013 2:08 pm

^

You lose it, you pay for it. Looks like the British Army is alike in this as well. Some things just seem to be universal. Unless you are in a war, forget about mags as “disposables”.

The Other Chris
May 5, 2014 1:04 pm

Spam Alert!

Now coming at you in Italian and in the User Name!

At least I think it’s spam. My Italian is rusty and “rusty brown Gucci handbags” could be something to do with Italian Armed Forces equipment and/or camo…