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Weapons: Plain Talk About 5.56mm Versus 7.62mm
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February 5, 2007: The debate over the merits of  7.62mm versus 5.56mm bullets has been going on since the M-16 was introduced in the 1960s. While each side has its proponents, only the "slow and heavy" crowd gets anything published, since only opposing the establishment is news. But there are plenty of supporters for the 5.56mm round. Many of them are in the US Army, and serving in combat.

Most of the complaints come from people who just like the larger (US or Russian) round, and their preference is more visceral than logical (as it is with many supporters of 5.56mm). The fact remains that soldiers would be able to  carry fewer of the larger, 7.62mm,  rounds. This is not a popular option among troops in the combat zone.  Those combat troops  know how to aim properly and take down the target, and find that the 5.56mm round does the job.

When a 5.56mm round hits one of those "slender" targets "that keep coming", what nobody mentions is that the serious wound (the idea that they cause little damage is incorrect) means that the target is probably going to bleed out in not too long (unless he gets treatment from a medic, which takes him out of the fight). This is because the 5.56mm round is a "tumbler" and will "tumble" at very high velocity. This causes enormous flesh and organ damage. Any bullet that hits the skeleton is going to knock the target down, but the 5.56mm causes more damage against soft tissue than the 7.62mm bullets. Troops have long been taught to aim at the torso or head. This is the sure way to take someone down with either round. Video footage of 5.56mm impacts is quite impressive. Nose around the net and you will find these videos. 

Regardless, the old question is, does a soldier really want to sacrifice the superior range and accuracy of the 5.56mm for the high caliber and low velocity AK-47 round, or the smaller quantity of heavier US 7.62mm rounds? For many, the answer is no. And further, being deeply engaged in a war is not the greatest of times to change weapon systems (especially in a modern age).

To sum it up, those who get hit by the 5.56mm and keep coming, aren't going to keep coming for long, and are easily taken down by the next round. One thing that the military is teaching now is that you don't just double tap, you keep firing until he goes down. I don't care if he's Navy SEAL, by round three, he's going down -- that I promise)--Staff Sergeant Sledge, currently in Baghdad

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sjdoc    Any thoughts about...?   2/5/2007 9:52:10 AM
...arming certain selected (as "elite") units of the Iraqi security forces with the M-16 series of weapons instead of the AK-47? 
The fact that the Iraqis are distinctly uniformed and armed differently from their coalition forces trainers and advisors has two potential adverse impacts: (1) the coalition advisors stand out conspicuously in the field, inviting assassination and/or capture; (2) the Iraqi troops see themselves as "second-best" Sepoys, wearing castoff American "chocolate chip" combat uniforms and carrying "third-world" small arms which mark them as less professional and less combat-capable than their American colleagues. 
What would be the result if certain Iraqi units, on the basis of strict and wholly honest assessments of performance (both in combat and in terms of good military order and disciplined professionalism) were accorded the privilege to re-arm with the 5.56-mm weapons that mark American soldiers and Marines as deadly marksmen and respectable examples of what distinguishes a defender of civilization from a mere warrior? 
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Yimmy       2/5/2007 11:58:30 AM
What makes you think the Iraqis want M16's?
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Eggy       2/5/2007 12:21:26 PM
I've seen Iraqi SF already carry M4/M16 variants.
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beagle       2/5/2007 12:21:54 PM
I thought the debate was more about poor terminal effects of the 5.56 at medium to long ranges.
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Vritra       2/5/2007 12:37:32 PM

What makes you think the Iraqis want M16's?

Bingo! The low recoil, the full-auto option and the SMG size of the typical folding butt AKM is seen by many COIN forces as its inherent advantages, along with external advantages confered from flexible and abundant sources of ammo and spares. The M16A2 is a very good battle rifle, and can be given to troops destined for the new Iraqi Army that will fight conventional battles, but right now the Iraqi Army in general and the elite forces in particular are in COIN ops.

That said I have always believed it was a big mistake to not have disarmed the Iraqis and the Afghans WWII-style. The least you can do is probably insist that the AKMs the new Iraqi Army buys have distinctive furniture and make from the common AK-types you find there.
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sjdoc       2/5/2007 2:07:33 PM
"That said I have always believed it was a big mistake to not have disarmed the Iraqis and the Afghans WWII-style."
The circumstances in Germany and Japan at the close of World War II were just a wee bit different from those in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.  The inter-German border immediately became the boundary between the First World and the Soviet empire, garrisoned by the NATO allies so that there was no need for more than the purely paramilitary Grenzpolizei immedately after the Nazi surrender. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese government no longer held territories (Manchuria, Korea, etc.) in which they were faced with land borders over which hostile neighbors could invade, and you'll note that the Republic of Korea was accorded support in creating an army.
And we all know the result of the United Nations' failure in the immediate postwar years to make the ROK army strong enough to deter Immun Gun aggression.  America wound up fighting a "police action" that really hasn't ended even today, with the requirement of a half-century's worth of on-the-ground military commitment that has only recently begun the process of withdrawal. 
Given the dictum that "Wars are caused by undefended wealth" and the fact that Iraq is one of the great historical "dancing grounds of armies," the alternative to an Iraqi army that provides a credible deterrant against hostile and potentially aggressive neighboring national command entities (not only Iran but also Syria and Turkey) and security forces capable of coping with both foreign-backed and Ba'athist insurgencies, the United States has to face the prospect of yet another situation like South Korea, but requiring a garrison of American troops surrounded by active hostile forces able to take full advantage of offensive opportunities to strike against every vulnerable point of the logistical structure supporting the combat units in the field.
The business of government is simple.  At base, all government is nothing more than goons with guns ("...not reason, not eloquence, but force...").  At its best, a lawful and legitimate government serves its polity as an honest and dispassionate agency for the management of retaliatory deadly force exercised in defense against "...all enemies foreign and domestic."  Without a professionally competent and capable Iraqi military to fulfill that purpose, there is no government in Iraq, and we might as well quit maundering about "building democracy" in Central Asia. 
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Herald1234    I"m sure that politically it is all fascinating.   2/5/2007 3:46:31 PM
But I noticed that the article meanders among the NATO 7.62, the Russian 7.62 and the 5.56. All three rounds have entirely different ballistics terminal target effects and serve entirely different battle philosophies.
Apples oranges and pears again. Until the bullet hypocrisy of the Hague convention is clarified, the bullets will still obey F=MA and for the most part will either tumble, break up, or drill depending on their velocity and mass when they hit the target.
If you want to stop the target you'll have to determine what work you want the projectile to do when it strikes at what you regard as the maximum necessary range and then you will have to design the bullet to distribute the work.  
The ideal projectile would be a high velocity low mass bullet that would possess enough kinetic energy to pierce hardened body armor as well as  unprotected animal tissue and once upon entry into soft tissue at a depth of two centimeters begin to mushroom and tumble in a jagged process of deformation that will carve a channel through the flesh not less than 7-15 centimeters in diameter through the animal. This would be a function of effective range not less than 0 meters to 300 meters at the minimum effective interval over the flight trajectory of the bullet, ideally you would want 600 meters effective terminal distance.
Good luck combining that requirement with the Hague Convention.
Frangible shock sensitve metal bullets around 6 mm seems to be the answer. The bullet stays together long enough to punch into an object either with or without armor, and then gives up its structure as it massively decelerates in the flesh and turns itself into a mass of jagged needlelike shards inside the target. NASTY.
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RockyMTNClimber    To Segeant Sledge   2/5/2007 3:49:08 PM
Thank you for your service Sir! I take your comments at face value. I do have questions;
1. what is the typical engagement distance between forces in Iraq?
2. Does it differ in Afghanistan?
Your comment about changing weapons now in the middle of a conflict makes good sense.
I hope you can fill in those blanks for me.
Check Six
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Vritra    sjdoc   2/5/2007 4:10:36 PM

Either you have mistake my words, or I haven't been clear enough in saying what I did. I said the US and Coalition forces should have tried to disarm Iraqis and Afghans, by that I mean civilians, militias, war-bands and political components of the existing forces (in case of A'stan the whole Taliban) - not leave their cooperative and honest security forces defenseless now and forever! The logical problem now is that all of them have AKs (in Iraq with US permission of 1 per house!). . . including allied Iraqi security forces. Kind of hard to determine what is legal and what is illegal, what is kept for hostile purposes and what is kept for whatever reason they let them keep it. You can imagine all the confusion that would have been spared, the deeper impression of control that could have been asserted, the progress that could have been made. Anyway, whats done is done. . . the proactive measure to take now would be giving the Iraqis and Afghans of proven integrity distinctive weapons not just for morale but for eventual disarmament of the populace.

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Shooter2K       2/6/2007 2:25:06 AM
I all ways thought the 5.56 was a good killer in RVN!
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