Weapons: May 13, 2005


American troops are testing a new 12 gauge automatic shotgun in Iraq. Weighing 10.5 pounds unloaded, the Auto Assault 12 (AA12) has a rate of fire of 360 rounds per minute, and uses either an 8-round box magazine (adding 12 ounces to weapon weight) or a 20 round drum magazine (adding 2.5 pounds). Recoil on the system has been reduced to that of a light rifle, due to a sophisticated recoil system. The low rate of fire makes it possible to easily fire bursts of one, two, or three shots and is capable of using and mixing all types of 12 gauge ammunition, from shot to solid slugs, as well as non-lethal rounds. Allegedly, Iraqi insurgents have little respect for the M4 rifle and the 5.56mm round, but they fear shotguns, especially a "street sweeper" like the AA12. 

If that's not enough of a firepower increase at the squad level, the Marine Corps is testing a family of 12 gauge shells designed to deliver blast, fragmentation, and high-explosive armored piercing projectiles out to 200 meters. The high-explosive armor piercing projectile uses a shaped charge that has been demonstrated to put a 1 inch hole in quarter-inch steel plate. A total of 100 projectiles have been bought for testing as well as some quantity for "experimental use" in Iraq. 

At first glance, packing an armor-piercing charge into a 12 gauge round sounds like overkill, but Iraqi terrorists are becoming increasingly sophisticated in fortifying themselves, vehicles, and fixed positions. Foreign fighters are using Russian-style body armor in their raids. Suicide bombers driving vehicles often wear body armor for protection until they get "on target" and some vehicles have been reportedly hardened with bullet-resistant glass and armor plate. In one incident, terrorists in a basement/crawlspace used a Russian machine gun equipped with armor-piercing rounds to shoot through a concrete floor to attack Marines. The American troops had no effective way of firing back and ultimately had to call for an air strike with a 500 pound smart bomb to eliminate the resistance.

A combination of 12 gauge armor-piercing rounds with a shotgun would provide a weapon capable of effectively stopping an up-armored vehicle or larger truck without the extra weight and expense of a dedicated anti-tank weapon. It would also provide an enhanced capability in urban warfare with a convenient and familiar method of employment. Doug Mohney


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