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Posted: 12/30/2005 7:04:58 AM EDT
I originally posted this question at the end of another thread but I’m interested in getting some more feedback. This might not be a popular question to post on this forum, however I feel that since there are quite a few people here with a wide range of knowledge and experience with firearm, military, technical and historical matters that I greatly respect, I would very much like to hear your opinions. So, here goes…

The fielding of the M16 and 5.56 combination by the US military in the 60s, first in Vietnam, and later as the standard issue, no doubt influenced the eventual adoption of the 5.56x45 cartridge by the other NATO partners and most other Western armies (the IDF abandoning the 7.62 FAL and switching to 5.56 with the airlift of M16s at the end of the October 73 war). 40 years later, 5.56 is still the Western world’s standard general purpose small arms ammunition and the M16, the Western world’s most popular assault rifle.

But was this just a fluke of history?

If the short-range jungle war in Vietnam hadn't come along (including those initial wild claims of fantastic wounds from project AGILE), together with Secretary of Defense McNamara that wanted to revolutionize everything in the Army, would the 5.56 + M16 combo still have been become the standard issue for the US infantry soldier? Let’s say that instead of Vietnam, during that period the US was invoved in a war in Iraq or Afghanistan or in Europe.

If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t Air Force General LeMay, the one who pushed for developing a smaller caliber version of the AR10, looking at it only as a replacement for the M1 carbine as a perimeter security weapon and not as a GP infantry weapon? Perhaps the 5.56 +M16 was the only alternative ready for quick fielding when the old-fashioned M14, being too long and heavy and chambered for the full-power 7.62 cartridge with its high recoil and smaller ammo load, proved to be inadaquete for the new war?

From the .256 (6.35mm) Hatcher and .275 Pedersen in the 30s, the British 7x43mm for the EM2 bullpup in the 50s, the 6x45mm SAW in the 70s, and most recently the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel, several times during the last 80+ years, trials have concluded that a 6 to 7 mm bullet would be the optimum GP ammo for the infantry soldier.

(Tony Williams has an Excellent article on his site about the history of assault rifles and their ammo:
www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/Assault.htm )


Sure 5.56 lets you carry a larger load of ammo but with the current military stress on marksmanship (note the proliferation of designated marksmen and the wide use of optics), especially in low-intensity conflicts, is not a return to more powerful ammo for general infantry use becoming more valid? My reasons would not be for more leathal terminal ballistics than 5.56, but for better penetration of intermediate barriers like sandbags, cars, windows and the likely future more common usage of improved helmets/body armor among potential enemy forces, even terrorists.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:10:02 AM EDT
LeMay ordered some of the M-16s after seeing them. They had already been developed. He didn't push for the idea. He was just impressed by the weapon.

Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:20:33 AM EDT
McNarmara and the "Whiz" kids had a hand in it as well. I think the first SEAL, Ray Boehm showed the AR to Kennedy too.

G
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:25:05 AM EDT
And from the original thread:


Originally Posted By Tweak:

Originally Posted By zragon13:
would the 5.56 + M16 combo still have been become the standard issue for the US infantry soldier?



The trend toward smaller and lighter handarms has been going since the inception of small arms, look at the gladius.


With the current military stress on marksmanship (note the proliferation of designated marksmen and the wide use of optics), especially in low-intensity conflicts, is not a return to full caliber ammo for general infantry use becoming more valid?


That is a political move designed to reduce collateral damage. The majority of LIC sniping is very short range fine targets sometimes massed. A 5.56 caliber rifle is plenty given those parameters especially when backed by M203s, M249s, arty, and air support. Even small patrols have the SMITE function.


Tweak,
I'm not very familiar with the general history of handarms but I thought that the trend was also going towards more powerful weapons, not just lighter. Although 5.56 gives the soldier the potential to produce a larger volume of fire, it is definitely less powerful than the round it replaced.

I don't know what the SMITE function is (although it sounds like some kind of invinceable deadly force) and I don’t know about how the US forces operate, but in my experience in low-intensity conflicts, small patrols aren't usually taking along a 7.62 MMG or sniper rifle. Air/mortar/artillary support is usually only available during major or preplanned operations, definitely not for the first ten minutes after someone takes a pot shot at your jeep.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:30:20 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 7:33:06 AM EDT by gus]
General Wyman was the one who "pushed" Armalite to adapt the AR10 design to the new SCHV concept. He had followed the development of the round almost from its beginning and knew it had big potential in the right circumstances.

General LeMay wanted the weapons once they were demonstrated to him to be used for perimeter defense by the USAF, replacing the M1 Carbine and all submachine guns (as intended by the designers of the round).

I agree - if the war at the time had been fought in an open area such as Afghanistan rather than the jungle, most likely the 5.56 would not have been adopted worldwide, maybe not even by the US. There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.

Instead, McNamara forced the military to standardize on just one weapon (BIG mistake IMO), and he wanted it to be the M16.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:34:38 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 7:42:40 AM EDT by scottryan]

Originally Posted By zragon13:


If the short-range jungle war in Vietnam hadn't come along (including those initial wild claims of fantastic wounds from project AGILE),



Myth that is still perpetuated to this day. The AR-15 wasn't develop for jungle warfare, Vietnam, or brought into service because of jungle warefare. Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:37:21 AM EDT

Originally Posted By gus:
There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.





That would have never happened. The M14 would have never became standard as it was obsolete before it was even put into service.

If NATO would have stayed with 7.62 to this day, the FAL would be "standard" much like the AR-15 is today.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:40:47 AM EDT

Originally Posted By scottryan:

Originally Posted By gus:
There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.





That would have never happened. The M14 would have never became standard as it was obsolete before it was even put into service.

If NATO would have stayed with 7.62 to this day, the FAL would be "standard" much like the AR-15 is today.



You're probably right. Even the testers at APG preferred the FAL to the M14. I was mostly referring to the 7.62x51 being pretty much forced on NATO.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:55:20 AM EDT

Originally Posted By zragon13:
was this just a fluke of history?



You need to get your hands on a copy of The Black Rifle. The Black Rifle, SPIW: The Deadliest Weapon That Never Was and Collector's Grade Publications' M14 book cover post WWII small arms development in the USA pretty comprehensively.

Basically, SPIW and to a lesser extent the M16 were based on studies of infantry combat in WWII and Korea. The conclusion was that hit probability could be increased at typical infantry ranges by firing volleys or salvos of flatter shooting rounds. SPIW was supposed to replace the M14. The M16 was purchased by the Army and Marines in a "one time buy" to act as a stopgap until SPIW was developed. The requirements of the SPIW project were very unrealistic given the state of small arms technology, so the project failed. This is all from my recollection of my reading of The Black Rifle. The books speaks for itself, but I'm sure someone will correct me any minute now if I have misremembered anything . I bought myself the SPIW and M14 books for Christmas...can't wait to read those.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:09:31 AM EDT
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:40:58 AM EDT

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."



"Vietnam didn't matter"? Nonsense. What the inventors had in mind when they were doing the work is a very different matter from what the customers had in mind when they bought the rifle. Especially since ArmaLite and Stoner didn't have anything in mind for the rifle, they thought it was a dumb idea, and only took the project because it was paid work.

The US Military bought the rifle in sizeable numbers only because they were embroiled in an ugly war and were taking bad press about how the rifles there were issuing were inferior to ones being used by the enemy. If Vietnam hadn't happened, or if AGILE hadn't happened, or if the Colt's marketing push hadn't happened, the AR-15 would have faded into history, and taken Colt's with it.

I wouldn't call it a fluke, but it was definitely a rare alignment of the stars.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 9:04:31 AM EDT

Originally Posted By BattleRife:

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."



"Vietnam didn't matter"? Nonsense. What the inventors had in mind when they were doing the work is a very different matter from what the customers had in mind when they bought the rifle. Especially since ArmaLite and Stoner didn't have anything in mind for the rifle, they thought it was a dumb idea, and only took the project because it was paid work.

The US Military bought the rifle in sizeable numbers only because they were embroiled in an ugly war and were taking bad press about how the rifles there were issuing were inferior to ones being used by the enemy. If Vietnam hadn't happened, or if AGILE hadn't happened, or if the Colt's marketing push hadn't happened, the AR-15 would have faded into history, and taken Colt's with it.

I wouldn't call it a fluke, but it was definitely a rare alignment of the stars.



Pretty much dead on.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 9:06:09 AM EDT
I will also throw out there since my colleagues can inform circles around me, that capacity was not a factor with the 5.56 then because standard issue mags were 20 rounds for the m-16 as well. Carrying a larger combat load for the same weight, YES. Having a larger capacity, no.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 10:05:56 AM EDT

Originally Posted By BattleRife:
The US Military bought the rifle in sizeable numbers only because they were embroiled in an ugly war and were taking bad press about how the rifles there were issuing were inferior to ones being used by the enemy. If Vietnam hadn't happened, or if AGILE hadn't happened, or if the Colt's marketing push hadn't happened, the AR-15 would have faded into history, and taken Colt's with it.




Perhaps if the Army hadn't changed the design of the 5.56 and the rifle from original, maybe it would have performed better in the field.

Link Posted: 12/30/2005 10:10:43 AM EDT
Lemay ordered the AR15s after Stoner shot some watermelons at 200 yds with one in front of him at a bbq party. Curtis was impressed with its melon destroying abilities.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 10:15:18 AM EDT

Originally Posted By BattleRife:

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."





The US Military bought the rifle in sizeable numbers only because they were embroiled in an ugly war and were taking bad press about how the rifles there were issuing were inferior to ones being used by the enemy.



Red: What does this have to do with buying the rifle in sizable numbers?
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 10:40:52 AM EDT

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Myth that is still perpetuated to this day. The AR-15 wasn't develop for jungle warfare, Vietnam, or brought into service because of jungle warefare. Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."



+1, the AR15 was a knock off of the AR10. Armalite took an AR10 and rechambered/redesigned it for the SCHV 5.56 round that had been developed after extensive research (from prior wars) showed that most infantry to infantry combat took place at ranges *under* 300 yards. At these ranges the 5.56x45 cartridge is exceedingly deadly. And the small size of the cartridge allowed the soldier to carry more ammo.

The AR15 was *not* designed for jungle warfare, it was *not* designed with Vietnam in mind, and it was *not* designed with the South Vietnamese soldier in mind. Also the entire system was *not* designed because we were dummying down the training of our armed forces, or using somehow inferior men (drafties) and therefore their only hope in combat was to spray and pray with a small cartridge firing weapons system because they could not be trained as marksmen.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 10:57:15 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 10:59:39 AM EDT by want2race]
Spiff: I agree.

At under 300, the original design of the 5.56 gave better wound characteristics than the 7.62 ball ammo. The 5.56 had a very thin copper jacket, the projectile experiences a large amount of heat during the whole firing process. From combustion, barrel friction, air friction and the friction when it hits soft tissue. The jacket splits as the round yawls, this increases friction and heat. I have read that the lead actually goes molten upon soft tissue contact (anything that supplies surface friction), again with the thin jacket. Wound inspection would reveal small lead balls on the outer edges of the wound cavity, a very large cavity at that. The lead core "exploding" gave a dramatic increase in energy transfer.

This was Stoners answer to the Geneva Convention's no-no to hollow point ammo.

Then the Army went and fucked it up by changing the barrel twist rate and the round itself.

As far as Kennedy being shown the AR15, the Secret service deny they had any. Yet Kennedy's death proved otherwise. (opinion base on the book, Mortal Error)
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 11:33:57 AM EDT
Providence, da-da-damn it.

Yes, He is good. Even you secular humanists got the exact same benies.

Dave S

And when the new Armalite brought the modern AR-10 out in '96... even this back-slidin' believer got wood and knew it was good.

Link Posted: 12/30/2005 11:40:10 AM EDT

Originally Posted By want2race:
Spiff: I agree.

At under 300, the original design of the 5.56 gave better wound characteristics than the 7.62 ball ammo. The 5.56 had a very thin copper jacket, the projectile experiences a large amount of heat during the whole firing process. From combustion, barrel friction, air friction and the friction when it hits soft tissue. The jacket splits as the round yawls, this increases friction and heat. I have read that the lead actually goes molten upon soft tissue contact (anything that supplies surface friction), again with the thin jacket. Wound inspection would reveal small lead balls on the outer edges of the wound cavity, a very large cavity at that. The lead core "exploding" gave a dramatic increase in energy transfer.



First I've heard of the molten bullet theory. As I understand it that doesn't begin to occur until at or a little over 100 rounds fired continuously full auto - something they'd have been hard pressed to do with 20 round mags.


This was Stoners answer to the Geneva Convention's no-no to hollow point ammo.


BS. The bullet is designed to fragment, not explode, and Stoner had nothing to do with that.


Then the Army went and fucked it up by changing the barrel twist rate and the round itself.


That part is somewhat true - the original spec Armalite was shown was for a 55gr bullet, 1 in 10" twist, at around 3300 fps. The brass in the Ordnance Dept, most likely in an attempt to make the gun test poorly against the bigger .308, did specify 1 in 14" twist. Later, others that weren't originally involved in the program changed the powder for any number of reasons I've heard. Those two acts I consider almost criminal. However, it wasn't long before the specs were changed back to something more reasonable, and eventually ideal.


As far as Kennedy being shown the AR15, the Secret service deny they had any. Yet Kennedy's death proved otherwise. (opinion base on the book, Mortal Error)


There are pictires of JFK holding and admiring an AR15. He owned a couple of them personally BTW.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 12:20:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Spiff:

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Myth that is still perpetuated to this day. The AR-15 wasn't develop for jungle warfare, Vietnam, or brought into service because of jungle warefare. Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."



+1, the AR15 was a knock off of the AR10. Armalite took an AR10 and rechambered/redesigned it for the SCHV 5.56 round that had been developed after extensive research (from prior wars) showed that most infantry to infantry combat took place at ranges *under* 300 yards. At these ranges the 5.56x45 cartridge is exceedingly deadly. And the small size of the cartridge allowed the soldier to carry more ammo.

The AR15 was *not* designed for jungle warfare, it was *not* designed with Vietnam in mind, and it was *not* designed with the South Vietnamese soldier in mind. Also the entire system was *not* designed because we were dummying down the training of our armed forces, or using somehow inferior men (drafties) and therefore their only hope in combat was to spray and pray with a small cartridge firing weapons system because they could not be trained as marksmen.



I realize that the AR15 wasn't designed with Vietnam in mind and in fact was designed before the US got involved there. However, my point is, if the Vietnam war hadn't been going on, where (from what I've read of course) most combat was at close range (well under 300m) where the attributes of the AR15+5.56 combination excelled, it might never have caught on and eventually become the Western standard.

I know that the (ORO?) studies in the 50s determined that most infantry hits occurred at well less than 300m and that half the hits were from random rather than aimed fire. But did they take into account the importance of bullets being able to penetrate intermediate barriers like sandbags, trees, cars or windows? In today's PC environment with concerns about collateral damage and with the fight being held commonly in urban settings, aimed fire is making a comeback vs volume of fire. Also, didn't the US military after Vietnam come to the conclusion that volume of fire was uneffective and thus replaced the full-auto with burst in the A2?

And if I remember correctly, one of the SCHV candidates was even a 6.25 round. Recent attempts to go to 77 grain bullets or up to 6.8mm makes me think that the 5.56 is too small to be a true GP round. But now we're stuck with it due to inertia/money.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 12:27:53 PM EDT

Originally Posted By gus:
General Wyman was the one who "pushed" Armalite to adapt the AR10 design to the new SCHV concept. He had followed the development of the round almost from its beginning and knew it had big potential in the right circumstances.

General LeMay wanted the weapons once they were demonstrated to him to be used for perimeter defense by the USAF, replacing the M1 Carbine and all submachine guns (as intended by the designers of the round).

I agree - if the war at the time had been fought in an open area such as Afghanistan rather than the jungle, most likely the 5.56 would not have been adopted worldwide, maybe not even by the US. There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.

Instead, McNamara forced the military to standardize on just one weapon (BIG mistake IMO), and he wanted it to be the M16.



Oops, got those Generals mixed up.

I agree with you. Rumsfield would have had a tough time triying to get the M16 adopted in 2001. Better chance with the AR10. The new project would have probably been cancelled after the incident with that maintenance co two years later in Iraq.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 12:30:11 PM EDT
I'm amazed at how much BS is still floating around.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 12:30:46 PM EDT

Originally Posted By dewatters:
5.56mm Timeline



Thanks, I already have. Great piece of work.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 12:48:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 1:13:48 PM EDT by zragon13]

Originally Posted By Essayons:

Originally Posted By zragon13:
was this just a fluke of history?



You need to get your hands on a copy of The Black Rifle. The Black Rifle, SPIW: The Deadliest Weapon That Never Was and Collector's Grade Publications' M14 book cover post WWII small arms development in the USA pretty comprehensively.

Basically, SPIW and to a lesser extent the M16 were based on studies of infantry combat in WWII and Korea. The conclusion was that hit probability could be increased at typical infantry ranges by firing volleys or salvos of flatter shooting rounds. SPIW was supposed to replace the M14. The M16 was purchased by the Army and Marines in a "one time buy" to act as a stopgap until SPIW was developed. The requirements of the SPIW project were very unrealistic given the state of small arms technology, so the project failed. This is all from my recollection of my reading of The Black Rifle. The books speaks for itself, but I'm sure someone will correct me any minute now if I have misremembered anything ht


Maybe the conclusions of those studies didn't reveal the whole picture or were taken too far. Maybe less aimed fire would bring down the number of hits even lower? Maybe total hits would be less if bullets had less ability to penetrate intermediate barriers or armor? Most Western armies teach aimed semi-auto fire, while squad designated marksmen and snipers seemto be a growing trend.

These days large volumes of auto-fire seem to be the specialty of those that want to check in to Paradise early.

If the SCHV theory was right then how come rounds smaller and faster than 5.56 (and 0.02mm doesn't count he
It's pretty ironic that the temporary fix has been the standard for over 40 years!
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 2:25:00 PM EDT
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 2:37:30 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 2:39:01 PM EDT by Spiff]

Originally Posted By zragon13:

I know that the (ORO?) studies in the 50s determined that most infantry hits occurred at well less than 300m and that half the hits were from random rather than aimed fire. But did they take into account the importance of bullets being able to penetrate intermediate barriers like sandbags, trees, cars or windows? In today's PC environment with concerns about collateral damage and with the fight being held commonly in urban settings, aimed fire is making a comeback vs volume of fire.



I don't think the ORO went into penetration of barriers, etc.

But an earlier study, the Hall study (pulling this from "The Black Rifle") did conduct tests using an experimental 60 grain .22 round (1:10 twist) against the M2 ball round. They shot into 10 gauge cold rolled sheet steel (.137"). The .22 round had complete penetration at 500 yards (1800 fps) and partial penetration at 600 (1600 fps). The M2 had complete penetration at 625 (1400 fps) and partial at 725. This .22 caliber bullet was a scaled down version of the M2 bullet and a direct forrunner of the 5.56.

Also I would think that penetrating trees, cars, etc. is the job of AP ammo. Not standard issue ball. But I could be off on this, I'm not sure what the exact requirements are.




Also, didn't the US military after Vietnam come to the conclusion that volume of fire was uneffective and thus replaced the full-auto with burst in the A2?



Actually I'd always heard (and I'm on shaky ground here) that the 3 shot burst came about because of two things,

1. Even the M16 was not as controllable on full auto as was hoped, ineffective in other words.
2. It was a means to control waistfulness.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 2:43:44 PM EDT

Originally Posted By dewatters:
5.56mm Timeline



I love the fact that the 5.56 timeline starts out...........

"In 1894...."

Link Posted: 12/30/2005 5:28:28 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Spiff:

The AR15 was *not* designed for jungle warfare, it was *not* designed with Vietnam in mind...



True, but irrelevant. As I tried to point out earlier, the AR-15 was not a success because engineers designed it, it was a success because militaries bought it. The US government bought the rifle to fight in the jungles of Vietnam, and without Vietnam, they would not have bought the rifle, the design would have been a commercial failure, and Colt's would have gone insolvent.


Link Posted: 12/30/2005 6:04:00 PM EDT

Originally Posted By scottryan:

Originally Posted By BattleRife:
The US Military bought the rifle in sizeable numbers only because they were embroiled in an ugly war and were taking bad press about how the rifles there were issuing were inferior to ones being used by the enemy.



Red: What does this have to do with buying the rifle in sizable numbers?



Front line ARVN troops were carrying US-supplied Garands and M1 Carbines. US advisors and combat units had M14 rifles. The Hitch report claimed that the AR-15 was better than any of these, and only the Carbine was inferior to the M14. After victory at Plei Me in 1965, Westmoreland began lobbying the Defense Department for general issue of the XM16E1, then congress, and finally leveraged the Senate to get the guns he wanted. All of this was based on the perceived superiority of the AR-15 over the M14 in jungle and rice-paddy warfare. The prevalence of bad press around the M14 was absolutely a factor in going to the AR-15.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 6:06:49 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 6:07:47 PM EDT by dewatters]

Originally Posted By redfisher:

Originally Posted By dewatters:
5.56mm Timeline



I love the fact that the 5.56 timeline starts out...........

"In 1894...."





Yeah, I was rather surprised when I first saw references to Ordnance's 19th century experiments with .20 and .22 caliber battle rifle cartridges. You can see a drawing of the .22 round in History of Modern US Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol 1. Brophy also mentions it in his book The Krag Rifle. Hopefully, the authors of the former work will finish Vol. 3 covering post-WW2 ammunition developments.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 6:14:12 PM EDT

Originally Posted By BattleRife:

Originally Posted By Spiff:

The AR15 was *not* designed for jungle warfare, it was *not* designed with Vietnam in mind...



True, but irrelevant. As I tried to point out earlier, the AR-15 was not a success because engineers designed it, it was a success because militaries bought it. The US government bought the rifle to fight in the jungles of Vietnam, and without Vietnam, they would not have bought the rifle, the design would have been a commercial failure, and Colt's would have gone insolvent.





Here we go again - Back away from crack pipe -

"the AR-15 was not a success because engineers designed it, it was a success because militaries bought it" -

If it wasn't a engineered wonder then why the hell would anyone buy it? This rifle was designed way before US involvement in Vietnam, was designed as military weapon period - Outside commercial (John Q-Public) success was never a factor........Gov't use? Yes
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 6:31:01 PM EDT
Maybe even forgets that Generals wanted an assault rifle that could fire full auto burst and have more control than a 7.62 NATO round. They also wanted a shorter cartiage that would be lighter to carry as well.


All of these designs stem from the German 7.92 Kurtz round from WW2.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:01:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By want2race:
Spiff: I agree.

At under 300, the original design of the 5.56 gave better wound characteristics than the 7.62 ball ammo. The 5.56 had a very thin copper jacket, the projectile experiences a large amount of heat during the whole firing process. From combustion, barrel friction, air friction and the friction when it hits soft tissue. The jacket splits as the round yawls, this increases friction and heat. I have read that the lead actually goes molten upon soft tissue contact (anything that supplies surface friction), again with the thin jacket. Wound inspection would reveal small lead balls on the outer edges of the wound cavity, a very large cavity at that. The lead core "exploding" gave a dramatic increase in energy transfer.

This was Stoners answer to the Geneva Hague Convention's no-no to hollow point ammo.

Then the Army went and fucked it up by changing the barrel twist rate and the round itself.

As far as Kennedy being shown the AR15, the Secret service deny they had any. Yet Kennedy's death proved otherwise. (opinion base on the book, Mortal Error)

Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:10:05 PM EDT
During the 50's, 60's, and 70's the primary threat facing the US and Europe was the Soviet Union invading Western Europe. Soviet doctrine was to have a massive artillery barrage on the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Area). The Motorized Infantry followed this barrage, and dismounted at 300 meters to advance on foot to protect the tanks and AFVs. I was in an Armored Cavalry Troop and was well versed in this concept. There would be no enemy troops to engage until they dismounted.

Korea and Vietnam were called "Police Actions" because they were not considered to be the "real deal". Our planners expected the Soviet Union to annex Europe. (Of course they were wrong, and the Soviets were hoping to win the Cold War with "proxy" wins). That was what our brass were geared towards, and what they procurred equipment for. The gear our troops were first sent to Vietnam with was not designed for that climate, it was designed to fight a conventional war in Europe. The Small Bore High Velocity Round concept was not enisioned for Vietnam, it was to counter a soviet blitzkig against Europe, where lots of ammunition would be needed at 300 meters and less.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:11:39 PM EDT
From what I remember reading, the 5.56 was purchased because of the draftees going to Vietnam. More 5.56mm rounds could be carried vs. a 7.62mm in equal weight. Probabilty of higher hit rates would increase with number of rounds fired.

In paintball, we call it accuracy by volume.

Then again... if you carry less weight in weapons, which just means you carry more gear of some other type.

Hardwarz
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:40:05 PM EDT

Originally Posted By hardwarz:
From what I remember reading, the 5.56 was purchased because of the draftees going to Vietnam.



Whatever it was you read, *don't* read it again!!
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:41:32 PM EDT
I doubt the draftees issue had anything to do with weapon changes. there were far more draftees in ww2 and korea than vietnam.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 7:47:07 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 7:49:36 PM EDT by fight4yourrights]

Originally Posted By zragon13:

The fielding of the M16 and 5.56 combination by the US military in the 60s, first in Vietnam, and later as the standard issue, no doubt influenced the eventual adoption of the 5.56x45 cartridge by the other NATO partners and most other Western armies



No doubt? Certainly - I think we pretty much forced the issue



But was this just a fluke of history?



I don't think so.



If the short-range jungle war in Vietnam hadn't come along


The M16 was developed before Vietnam, based on a scientific look at actual combat conditions in previous wars

Going by Vietnam, you probably would have seen far higher capacity weapons for the short, violent engagements



the old-fashioned M14, being too long and heavy and chambered for the full-power 7.62 cartridge



Who really says that the 7.62 is "full power" anyway?
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:00:38 PM EDT

Originally Posted By zragon13:
I originally posted this question at the end of another thread but I’m interested in getting some more feedback. This might not be a popular question to post on this forum, however I feel that since there are quite a few people here with a wide range of knowledge and experience with firearm, military, technical and historical matters that I greatly respect, I would very much like to hear your opinions. So, here goes…

The fielding of the M16 and 5.56 combination by the US military in the 60s, first in Vietnam, and later as the standard issue, no doubt influenced the eventual adoption of the 5.56x45 cartridge by the other NATO partners and most other Western armies (the IDF abandoning the 7.62 FAL and switching to 5.56 with the airlift of M16s at the end of the October 73 war). 40 years later, 5.56 is still the Western world’s standard general purpose small arms ammunition and the M16, the Western world’s most popular assault rifle.

But was this just a fluke of history?

If the short-range jungle war in Vietnam hadn't come along (including those initial wild claims of fantastic wounds from project AGILE), together with Secretary of Defense McNamara that wanted to revolutionize everything in the Army, would the 5.56 + M16 combo still have been become the standard issue for the US infantry soldier? Let’s say that instead of Vietnam, during that period the US was invoved in a war in Iraq or Afghanistan or in Europe.

If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t Air Force General LeMay, the one who pushed for developing a smaller caliber version of the AR10, looking at it only as a replacement for the M1 carbine as a perimeter security weapon and not as a GP infantry weapon? Perhaps the 5.56 +M16 was the only alternative ready for quick fielding when the old-fashioned M14, being too long and heavy and chambered for the full-power 7.62 cartridge with its high recoil and smaller ammo load, proved to be inadaquete for the new war?

From the .256 (6.35mm) Hatcher and .275 Pedersen in the 30s, the British 7x43mm for the EM2 bullpup in the 50s, the 6x45mm SAW in the 70s, and most recently the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel, several times during the last 80+ years, trials have concluded that a 6 to 7 mm bullet would be the optimum GP ammo for the infantry soldier.

(Tony Williams has an Excellent article on his site about the history of assault rifles and their ammo:
www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/Assault.htm )


Sure 5.56 lets you carry a larger load of ammo but with the current military stress on marksmanship (note the proliferation of designated marksmen and the wide use of optics), especially in low-intensity conflicts, is not a return to more powerful ammo for general infantry use becoming more valid? My reasons would not be for more leathal terminal ballistics than 5.56, but for better penetration of intermediate barriers like sandbags, cars, windows and the likely future more common usage of improved helmets/body armor among potential enemy forces, even terrorists.



It's not a fluke...

Caliber has allways shrunk, throughout history, as weapons have gotten more advanced...

.68 roundball -> 45-70 Govt -> 30 Krag -> 30-06 Springfield -> .308 -> 5.56...

Or 8mm -> 8mm Kz -> .308 -> 5.56

Or 7.62x54 -> 7.62x39 -> 5.45x39

The 5.56mm is the product of the realization that the days of infantry troops closing from 800m away across 'no mans land' are over... Modern infantry combat occurrs at short range - even in the theatres you mentioned.... Anything outside the range of the M16 is the domain of other weapons systems (general purpose & heavy MGs, armored vehicles, indirect fire, sniper systems)....

For the type of operations that are conducted at present combined with the desire for an ultra-light weapon (M4), it makes sense to look into a better 5.56mm bullet (77gr OTM as general issue?) but the advantages of 5.56 and the M16 still outweigh the minor increas in firepower provided by a slightly larger cartridge for the role of individual issue weapon....

It's not supposed to be able to take on anything & everything on the battlefield - it's an individual weapon, nothing more... 5.56 is more than capable of dealing with glass & body armor... The building & vehicle scenario is where the M240, M2, AT-4 or similar comes in... There will allways be SOMETHING on the battlefield that individual wepaons cannot touch... Fortunately for our side, the solution is usually no further than a radio call away...

Is the 5.56 the ultimate 'Rambo Cartridge', for a lone soldier to take on the world? No... Is it the best choice to feild when dealing with vehicle-mounted troops in a mechanized or urban environment? Better than anything else they've seen sofar....
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:03:17 PM EDT

Originally Posted By gus:

Originally Posted By scottryan:

Originally Posted By gus:
There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.





That would have never happened. The M14 would have never became standard as it was obsolete before it was even put into service.

If NATO would have stayed with 7.62 to this day, the FAL would be "standard" much like the AR-15 is today.



You're probably right. Even the testers at APG preferred the FAL to the M14. I was mostly referring to the 7.62x51 being pretty much forced on NATO.



Nato wanted 7.92x39 (8mm Kz) or similar... That's what the FAL was originally loaded in....

The US was stuck in 800m kill-shot mode, and pushed for a full-power cartridge, producing the .308 as the standard....
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:09:09 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Dave_A:

Originally Posted By gus:

Originally Posted By scottryan:

Originally Posted By gus:
There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.





That would have never happened. The M14 would have never became standard as it was obsolete before it was even put into service.

If NATO would have stayed with 7.62 to this day, the FAL would be "standard" much like the AR-15 is today.



You're probably right. Even the testers at APG preferred the FAL to the M14. I was mostly referring to the 7.62x51 being pretty much forced on NATO.



Nato wanted 7.92x39 (8mm Kz) or similar... That's what the FAL was originally loaded in....

The US was stuck in 800m kill-shot mode, and pushed for a full-power cartridge, producing the .308 as the standard....



It's 7.92x33, not x39.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:14:13 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Spiff:

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Myth that is still perpetuated to this day. The AR-15 wasn't develop for jungle warfare, Vietnam, or brought into service because of jungle warefare. Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."



+1, the AR15 was a knock off of the AR10. Armalite took an AR10 and rechambered/redesigned it for the SCHV 5.56 round that had been developed after extensive research (from prior wars) showed that most infantry to infantry combat took place at ranges *under* 300 yards. At these ranges the 5.56x45 cartridge is exceedingly deadly. And the small size of the cartridge allowed the soldier to carry more ammo.

The AR15 was *not* designed for jungle warfare, it was *not* designed with Vietnam in mind, and it was *not* designed with the South Vietnamese soldier in mind. Also the entire system was *not* designed because we were dummying down the training of our armed forces, or using somehow inferior men (drafties) and therefore their only hope in combat was to spray and pray with a small cartridge firing weapons system because they could not be trained as marksmen.



Correct...

If you look at the development of weapons, there was a short-term introduction of 'intermediate' battle rifles (FN-49, M14, SKS) before everyone came to the conclusion that they were unsuited to modern mechanized warfare...

Russia's solution to this was the AK47, based on adapting German mechanized infantry tactics (the concept of SMG-armed mech infantry) to a higher-powered round (7.62x39 vs 9x19mm)....

Europe's solution was the original FAL in 8mm Kz

And our solution, admittedly late to the party after they finally fixed the Army's attachment to the old armory system, was the M16...

Each one has it's unique merits, but they all come from the general idea that the maximum engagement range will be 600m, with most combat under 300.

Think about this - the prolferation of medium machineguns, and the switch to mechanized warfare to counteract the effects of the MG during WWII meant an end to troops crossing huge wide open areas on foot, so the engagement range would be reduced to the range at which the troops dismounted the APC...

The concept of a high power long range round was obselete as of the first blitzkrieg attack (ergo the German fondness for subguns, and their development of the StG-44), it just took a while for folks to adapt...

Also, contrary to popular belief, the twist rate does not affect the lethality of 5.56, but it does affect the accuracy of longer (eg heavier) bullets much like the type needed to counter the slower velocity of the M4... 1-7 is the ideal twist for the current series of weapons BECAUSE of it's ability to stabilize heavier rounds...

Anyone who tells you that M193 is the ultimate AP round, or that the Army fucked up by getting rid of the slow-twist barrel is nuts...
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:16:58 PM EDT

Originally Posted By BattleRife:


True, but irrelevant. As I tried to point out earlier, the AR-15 was not a success because engineers designed it, it was a success because militaries bought it.





If you are going to argue this point, the same can be said about the AK47.

The first stamped AKs (T1) were pieces of shit. Thus the change to milled receiver until the AKM came out.

If the USSR (superpower) didn't develop the AK, it wouldn't have gone anywhere. The AK would have faded into history.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:19:41 PM EDT

Originally Posted By zragon13:

And if I remember correctly, one of the SCHV candidates was even a 6.25 round. Recent attempts to go to 77 grain bullets or up to 6.8mm makes me think that the 5.56 is too small to be a true GP round. But now we're stuck with it due to inertia/money.



5.56 is reliably functioning with 80gr bullets in the civillian competition world... 77grain isn't an 'attempt', it's a raging success (a nice case where civilian-world use (competition shooting) helped develop something useful for the military (eg 'Wow... These match rounds aren't just accurate, they're hella destructive when they hit' -> Mk262 77gr load)...

It's even been loaded with 90-100gr rounds, but those do not fit in the magazine of a M16 (they are normally fed one round at a time, for use in long range (600yd +) competition)....



Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:24:40 PM EDT

Originally Posted By MurdockTheCrazy:

Originally Posted By Dave_A:

Originally Posted By gus:

Originally Posted By scottryan:

Originally Posted By gus:
There were a lot of folks with their reputations invested in pushing the 7.62x51 and the M14 to be the NATO standard, and in that case they would have been affirmed.





That would have never happened. The M14 would have never became standard as it was obsolete before it was even put into service.

If NATO would have stayed with 7.62 to this day, the FAL would be "standard" much like the AR-15 is today.



You're probably right. Even the testers at APG preferred the FAL to the M14. I was mostly referring to the 7.62x51 being pretty much forced on NATO.



Nato wanted 7.92x39 (8mm Kz) or similar... That's what the FAL was originally loaded in....

The US was stuck in 800m kill-shot mode, and pushed for a full-power cartridge, producing the .308 as the standard....



It's 7.92x33, not x39.



Oops..

Link Posted: 12/30/2005 8:48:31 PM EDT
The M193 and AR15 combo is a fluke, IMO however, we were destined to downsize from the M14 and M80....The goal of military arms designers is always maximum firepower and minimum weight.
The M14 is very unbalanced in this respect, whereas the AR15 is not. If the AR15 had not been affiliated with Colt, I am not sure if it would have ever evolved into the M16. Granted the M16 is an amazing rifle, but by the time there was any serious competiton, mainly the HK33 or

Springfields .223 concept or even the Stoner 63, the govt had already aquired many AR15/M16 variants and it made more sense to evolve the rifles that were already in inventory than start over from scratch. Which was the same descision that was made before the A2 was adopted. The Stoner 63 would have granted the military the modular weapons system they so desperatly want now forty years ago. The 63 is an amazing weapon, though not without fault. It wasn't soldier proof as it has lots of small parts required for conversion, though any decent developtment and testing would have solved this problem. There were even heavy 60-70 grain bullets developed for the 63

during Vietnam and there after. The HK 33 would have also been a solid contender. It was already in use by the Navy and being imported by H&R. While I am convinced that we would have eventually gone to a smaller, lighter weapon and round. I am not convinced that it was going to be the M16 and 5.56....there were alternatives, but it was the virtue of the weapon and the connections of Colt that kept it in the running. If Vietnam had never happend, the M14 and M80 would have lasted much longer, with probably the AR10 or FAL taking its place in the 70's. NATO published a report in the late 80's to disuade some member countries from adopting 5.56 ammo citing the geography of Europe would greatly impair the performance of the 5.56. If you were

defending positions in the alps and could have to engage targets wearing heavy clothes at 500 yards, would you want 5.56? 5.56 is an effective round 80 percent of the time, which is pretty good. By now, we should be able to design a better bullet. The Chinese did, and they suck.....
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 9:01:18 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 9:01:58 PM EDT by MurdockTheCrazy]

Originally Posted By Ryno_the_wyno:
NATO published a report in the late 80's to disuade some member countries from adopting 5.56 ammo citing the geography of Europe would greatly impair the performance of the 5.56. If you were

defending positions in the alps and could have to engage targets wearing heavy clothes at 500 yards, would you want 5.56? 5.56 is an effective round 80 percent of the time, which is pretty good. By now, we should be able to design a better bullet. The Chinese did, and they suck.....



We have designed a better round, it's called 6.5 Grendel, we just aren't smart enough to adopt it.


Bullet tech has come a long way in the last 40 years. It's time we took advantage of the advances.

I agree with the rest of your post pretty much.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 9:11:53 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/30/2005 9:12:22 PM EDT by MurdockTheCrazy]

Originally Posted By Dave_A:

Originally Posted By zragon13:

And if I remember correctly, one of the SCHV candidates was even a 6.25 round. Recent attempts to go to 77 grain bullets or up to 6.8mm makes me think that the 5.56 is too small to be a true GP round. But now we're stuck with it due to inertia/money.



5.56 is reliably functioning with 80gr bullets in the civillian competition world... 77grain isn't an 'attempt', it's a raging success (a nice case where civilian-world use (competition shooting) helped develop something useful for the military (eg 'Wow... These match rounds aren't just accurate, they're hella destructive when they hit' -> Mk262 77gr load)...

It's even been loaded with 90-100gr rounds, but those do not fit in the magazine of a M16 (they are normally fed one round at a time, for use in long range (600yd +) competition)....




Actually, they've made 100 grain magazine length loads, but they aren't very good at long range, their long range ballistics suck. They were designed mainly as a short range round to improve the M4s terminal effects.
Link Posted: 12/30/2005 10:05:08 PM EDT
I am an ardent proponent of the 6.5 Grendel. Its truely an amazing round, its light years ahead of the 6.8 SPC. Unfortunatly, the virtue of its design doesn't lend itself to used in belt fed weapons, which is a serious impediment. If you are going to adopt a "sniper" only cartridge, .408 Cheytac would be the way to go. The 6.5 Grendel would be an excellent starting point for the development of a new round. We didn't have the advantages of copying a predcessor like the Russians and

Chinese did. Both countries took our concept and evolved it, especially the Chinese. We should return the favor and start where the 5.8x42 left off. A direct copy of the Chinese round with just a few tweaks would be a hugh improvement.... Incidently, most of the world was using a 6mm rifle round at one time and they eventually agreed it wasn't a sufficient man-stopper, which is how we got from the 6mm Lee Navy to the 30.06....Granted our bullet technology has advanced greatly and any 6mm we may adopt would be superior, I just though it was ironic that we are moving backwards with military ammo instead of forward.
Link Posted: 12/31/2005 12:58:47 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Dave_A:

Originally Posted By Spiff:

Originally Posted By scottryan:
Myth that is still perpetuated to this day. The AR-15 wasn't develop for jungle warfare, Vietnam, or brought into service because of jungle warefare. Vietnam didn't matter.

Stoner, Fremont, and Sullivan didn't design the AR-15 for "the jungle."



+1, the AR15 was a knock off of the AR10. Armalite took an AR10 and rechambered/redesigned it for the SCHV 5.56 round that had been developed after extensive research (from prior wars) showed that most infantry to infantry combat took place at ranges *under* 300 yards. At these ranges the 5.56x45 cartridge is exceedingly deadly. And the small size of the cartridge allowed the soldier to carry more ammo.

The AR15 was *not* designed for jungle warfare, it was *not* designed with Vietnam in mind, and it was *not* designed with the South Vietnamese soldier in mind. Also the entire system was *not* designed because we were dummying down the training of our armed forces, or using somehow inferior men (drafties) and therefore their only hope in combat was to spray and pray with a small cartridge firing weapons system because they could not be trained as marksmen.



Correct...

If you look at the development of weapons, there was a short-term introduction of 'intermediate' battle rifles (FN-49, M14, SKS) before everyone came to the conclusion that they were unsuited to modern mechanized warfare...


True, but these examples illustrate a misunderstanding of the "assault rifle" concept and lacked critical features. The M14 (and the 7.62 FAL) used full-caliber ammo which was too powerful and heavy while the SKS lacked full-auto and a large capacity mag.



Russia's solution to this was the AK47, based on adapting German mechanized infantry tactics (the concept of SMG-armed mech infantry) to a higher-powered round (7.62x39 vs 9x19mm)....

Europe's solution was the original FAL in 8mm Kz

And our solution, admittedly late to the party after they finally fixed the Army's attachment to the old armory system, was the M16...

Each one has it's unique merits, but they all come from the general idea that the maximum engagement range will be 600m, with most combat under 300.



I do agree with this concept, I'm just saying that 6.x caliber select fire weapon would have fit this concept better. Going down to 5.56 seems to be a caused by circumstance and staying with it is due to economics and inertia. Different trials showed that a medim powered cartridge with a 6.25 to 6.8mm bullet would be optimal.


Think about this - the prolferation of medium machineguns, and the switch to mechanized warfare to counteract the effects of the MG during WWII meant an end to troops crossing huge wide open areas on foot, so the engagement range would be reduced to the range at which the troops dismounted the APC...

The concept of a high power long range round was obselete as of the first blitzkrieg attack (ergo the German fondness for subguns, and their development of the StG-44), it just took a while for folks to adapt...


Again, I agree with what you write here but, this is for full WW3 conventional war. In the recent LICs, soldiers are frequently operating in small teams or squads that don't have the benefit of supporting arms heavier than a SAW.


Also, contrary to popular belief, the twist rate does not affect the lethality of 5.56, but it does affect the accuracy of longer (eg heavier) bullets much like the type needed to counter the slower velocity of the M4... 1-7 is the ideal twist for the current series of weapons BECAUSE of it's ability to stabilize heavier rounds...

Anyone who tells you that M193 is the ultimate AP round, or that the Army fucked up by getting rid of the slow-twist barrel is nuts...



I assume by AP you mean armor-piercing because I read frequently that the older M193 is today considered superior to M855 as an anti-personnel round due to the M193's higher muzzle velocity and thus greater fragmentation range.
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