USMC Request for Information on new Infantry Rifle, Suppressor, Optics; Army leadership looking for a heavier 7.62 option

In reverse order of the title, first up is the oncoming buzz about the Army looking to go back to a 7.62×51 solution to arm the Infantry:

With that in mind…The USMC has been pretty coy with the M27, and the RFI they put up earlier this month contains some interesting data.

You can read Nathaniel F’s thoughts on it here:

Here are some, not all, of the characteristics found in section 3 of the USMC RFI.

Required Characteristics

  • 14.5” barrel option, with 24,000 round life with AB49 – 2 MOA precision threshold, 1 MOA precision objective for majority of barrel life (Mean radius) (Army Capability Based Assessment requirements).
  • Bolt carrier group optimized for M855A1 use with Picatinny Durable Solid Lubricant coating or any similar variations thereof

Desired Characteristics

  • Ability to fire AB39, .264 USA, .260 Remington, M80A1, etc.
  • Modular bolt/barrel/magazine & magazine insert conversion packages for caliber changes (compatibility with A059, AB49, AB57, Mk255 Mod 0, etc) and optimized for respective caliber, charge, burn rate, and pressure curve (barrel threads can be 1/2X28 or 5/8X24)
  • Minimum mass cycling components to create no higher G-load than unsuppressed M110 SASS when fired
  • System deliberately built to perform at optimal level while suppressed – must divert gasses away from the shooter’s eye
  • Bolt and barrel life greater than 15,000 rounds with no more than 200 FPS velocity loss

So…I think that is all very interesting, and it may give us some clues as to where the USMC is looking to go into the future.

My thoughts, the USMC isn’t necessarily wedded to any cartridge for this RFI. Consider the following 5.56×45 rounds listed: AB49 is “Mk 318 Mod 0” 5.56×45.  AO59 is standard M855 green tip ball. AB57 is M855A1. Mk 255 Mod O is a “frangible” reduced penetration round designed for room clearing. Moving up is the non-standard ammo like .264 USA, 260 Rem. Moving up from that is the 7.62×51 standard ammo: AB39 is Mk 316 Mod 0, aka the Navy upgraded version of M118LR 7.62×51 sniper ammunition, M80A1 is of course the new 130gr steel tipped copper bullet.

What this MAY mean is that the USMC is willing to go Army standard on future ammunition with the M855A1 and M80A1.

The accuracy standards, 2 minutes over the course of the barrel life, with an objective barrel life of over 15,000 rounds, are definitely going to be tough to do. Even with cold hammer forged and double chrome lined barrels that is going to be a very, VERY hard thing to do. The only commercial rifle barrel that I know which is even advertised with a round count over 15k was the original FN SPR, which is a bolt action rifle. Remember that barrel life is mainly defined by heat, and semi autos heat up barrels much faster than bolt action rifles.

However, a stellite lined barrel may be what the USMC is really looking for. Notice the 15,000 round count number on the advertising for stellite lined M240 barrels here (showing a chamber wear guage through three barrels, hardly definitive proof but it illustrates a point):


Photo Copyright US Ordnance.

So there you have it, the USMC is looking for a modular rifle with a long lasting, accurate barrel. The minimal caliber is 5.56×45, max caliber is 7.62×51, and are open to options in between. They are clearly looking for a gas piston design based on the desire to divert gasses away from the shooters eyes when suppressed (rather than adopting a different suppressor technology).

So…what do I think this RFI is meant to find? Probably some version of a piston AR-10 that can shoot 5.56×45 with a magazine block adapter and stellite lined barrels for all calibers with an easy caliber swap by switching upper receivers and magazine block. The caliber selection and barrel life requirements open up the field to competitors, but the “desired characteristics” don’t mean a hill of beans in anything but a tie breaker between two systems that meet all the “required characteristics.”

So what is the RFI likely to find? An “M27A1” or even an M4A2 with a free float tube which has a stellite lined barrel, maybe a twist rate loosened to 1:7.5 or 1:7.7 to squeeze that last thousand rounds of useful accuracy out of the barrel.

Also included in the RFI, immediately following Section 3, is Section 4, Suppressor:

Infantry Rifle Suppressor The Marine Corps is interested in new and emerging suppressor technologies. The Marine Corps is interested in a rifle that is guided by the following specific requirements:

Required Characteristics

  •  Advanced venting to reduce back pressure, cyclic rate, and gas blowback
  • Gas flow improvements to reduce or eliminate first-round flash
  • Effective attenuation of noise and dust signatures – desired to be hearing safe
  • Minimal and consistent point-of-impact shift of no more than 1.5 MOA
  • Constructed of advanced high-temperature, corrosion resistant alloys with advanced coatings or treatments
  • Service life of 24,000 rounds firing AB49 through a 14.5” barrel
  • No longer than 6.5”, desired length 5” (overall length of suppressor), may fit over muzzle device
  • Must include locking capability (fast QA/QD capability desirable, but primarily intended to prevent unthreading of suppressor and inevitable baffle strikes)
  • May not weigh more than 20 oz.
  • Suppressor shall not be capable of disassembly at 1st echelon maintenance level (cleaning interval shall be recommended by manufacturer on basis of weight gain due to carbon buildup if any)
  • May include muzzle break/flash suppressor. If included, will utilize existing 1/2X28 threads. May use shims or washers to index properly. May require use of Rocksett to prevent unthreading during use. May not exceed 25 inch pounds of torque for installation. Signature reduction through mitigation of flash and blast overpressure (velocity of redirected gasses as well) is highly desirable.
  • Existing NSNs, safety certifications, use or testing by other military agencies is highly desirable

Things NOT specified by this include sound reduction or recoil reduction. But it looks like this part of the RFI was built to get OSS Suppressors into the game:


Image Copyright OSS Suppressors.

The no baffle construction of OSS suppressors took the gunternet by storm as lots of folks really hated the AR blowback on their suppressed black rifles. The open flow design of the OSS system means that carbon fouling is cleanable by a “dunk tank” solution as there are no parts that would hold solvent from draining out after cleaning although some baffled suppressors also have this feature so I wouldn’t count them out entirely.

Now If the suppressor RFI wasn’t built as it was, I would actually discount the M4 platform from consideration. But once you combine an M4 with a stellite lined barrel an an OSS suppressor, you can meet all the requirements for the Infantry Rifle portion in section 3 (I only included the the requirements that I wanted to talk about, you can read the whole list on FBO which Nathan F provided a link to).

So why is the M4 a contender? Well the military owns the technical data package now, which is something it doesn’t own for the M27. This means that modifications to suit the USMC are much simpler than modifying the M27 to suit the USMC, and cheaper too.

The last section, section 5, on Optics, makes it very clear that a 1-8×32 powered variable is what the USMC is looking for ideally. Specifically one that uses some sort of “projection” reticle so that at 1x magnification it can be used as a Red Dot scope for CQB.

Required Characteristics

  • Magnification from 0/1-8 power to PID threats (presence of weapon) out to 600M, and engage threats in close proximity
  • Must possess large and forgiving eyebox and extended eye relief
  • Included ambidextrous capable feature to rapidly adjust magnification with non firing hand
  • Reticle features for engaging moving threats out to 150M and rapid ranging feature that accounts for average width of human head and of shoulders
  • Compatible with clip-on current night vision or thrermal imaging devices (e.g PVS-24A, PAS-27, etc)
  • Low profile elevation turret or cap – turrets locking or capped to prevent inadvertent loss of zero in combat conditions
  • Scope base/rings must return to zero after removal
  • Center of reticle must have daylight bright illuminated dot for close quarter use at 0/1 power.
  • Must meet MIL-STD 810G environmental/durability requirements

Desired Characteristics

  • Scalable and modular to accept future digital feature set and new reticles Potential low end setting as red dot sight (RDS)
  • Form factor comparable to existing COTS optics with similar mid range magnification
  • Optimized for mounting height over rail at 1.54-1.93”
  • Battery life comparable to that of Aimpoint M4S CCO (Army standard optic).
  • Squad level networking and target designation capability
  • Visually displayed point of impact cue (drawing information from laser rangefinder and ballistic solvers, integral and/or external)

Currenty offerings on the market that sort of meet the RFI: Leupold 1-6×20 Mk6, Burris XTR 1-5×24, and Trijicon VCOG 1-6×24. I don’t think the USMC is going to get a product that has the squad level networking and target designation capability built into the optic, that’s the ultimate goal, is to enable someone who doesn’t have direct line of sight to be able to take the shot, but that’s a “system of systems” which requires some infrastructure not mentioned in the RFI.

The reason why I don’t think that Tracking Point is going to get much love here is twofold, battery life and networking security requirements in the age of “cyber” will make Tracking Point scopes overly complicated for this RFI. Seriously, the cyber security review requirements for spectrum dependent gear make it damn near impossible to get things fielded, let alone get authorization to use it in a foreign country even after the equipment has been uploaded to the Host Nation Spectrum Worldwide Database Online (HNSWDO, pronounced ‘Hans Widow’). The Burris Eliminator III series would serve as a good basis for a Burris offering, but I’m not sure if Burris wants to go down that route.

Specifically in the military there are pieces of kit that can designate a target and pass it off, things like an LRAS can do it, but these are big pieces of kit designed for artillery spotting. They require a high precision GPS fix, and a very accurate laser designater. I’m sure the technology CAN be miniaturized to fit on something the size of a rifle scope, but then you are back to the “networking” problem of cyber compliance review. To make it work there would have to be some interface with a tactical radio to get the information to other people, and while that CAN be done (it is done through digital fires nets all the time) it is currently a pretty bulky solution, and the computational requirements means that it can’t be done on a battery that lasts as long as an Aimpoint Comp M4 (think smartphone level of computer requirements, so recharging every day to few days necessary unless much bigger LION batteries are used). The USMC did just drop some cash on an Australian electronics control module company so that an Infantryman could control all electronics on their rifle from one point, so maybe the USMC is interested in creating that “network ecosystem” at some point.

But..if you had an M4, M27, or AR10 with stellite lined heavy barrel, free float quad rail, topped with a Trijicon VCOG and suppressed with an OSS helix, launching M855A1, you wouldn’t be outgunned by much on the battlefield. That combination would serve in CQB all the way out to precision shooting at 6oo meters, and do so with a much reduced signature (although thermally the weapon would heat up, no avoiding that just yet).

Comments are open.

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The Dakota Access Pipeline, protesters and counter insurgency techniques

For the last year or so the Dakota Access Pipeline was a huge presence on my social media feed.

The Intercept just did an article about the contracted security operations for Energy Transfer Partners. You can read the whole thing here, although it takes a “tone” that I don’t find helpful to understanding the situation:

The contractor in question, TigerSwan, is like many other contractors, it popped up in North Carolina. Why North Carolina? Because that is where Fort Bragg happens to be, which is the home to such units as “Delta Force”, 3rd Special Forces Group, the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center (JFKSWC), as well as regular units such as the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade (Expeditionary), 18th Airborne Corps HQ, and all of the 82nd Airborne Division (with their organic MI and RSTA enablers). In short, a lot of security contractors pop up in North Carolina because there is a lot of talent leaving the military from Fort Bragg (and various other military bases in the state) and the “security” industry is heavily human oriented (both on talent management and threat mitigation).

The “Water Protectors” were made up of mostly non-local radicals from out of state. You know, the same type that hits people with bike locks, or given the history of vandalism against the ETP equipment, the radical “Earth Liberation Front.” In short, given the history of environmental protesting in the United States, and the complete collusion of mainstream media to support the protesters with free propaganda services, it makes complete sense to me that ETP would hire a security firm that had expertise in the following areas:

HUMINT, the art and science of gaining information from human interaction
OSINT, the art and science of gaining information from publically available sources such as social media
All Source Analysis, the art and science of turning the information gathered from various sources into “intelligence” which can drive strategy or operations.

If all of those sound like military occupational specialties, you would be correct. And calling people who left the military and now work as contractors “mercenaries” is a bit of a stretch since there wasn’t any war or battle going on at Standing Rock. I personally think the word “mercenary” is overused and abused by Western media as culturally we’ve associated that word with negativity, and in the case of the “social justice” crowd, with colonialism and/or imperialism. But no matter, trading your expert labor to an employer is called a “job” and whatever else you can say about the Standing Rock protests, at least the TigerSwan employees were “employed.”

So…why am I not offended by a corporation hiring military veterans through a security contractor? Because the other side is funded by a nationwide network of fellow travelers, has the ideological support of most journalists, and the “spontaneous protests” weren’t. The protests were highly organized and funded, which is why the state of South Dakota had to clean up the protest site from over 24 tons of trash this year at a cost of 1 million dollars. If it cost a million to clean up the site, how much did it cost to establish and live in the site? Probably more than a million.

Now, using “counter insurgency techniques” is also perfectly fine by me. This is what 4Chan does when it exposes three key players in the Berkeley AntiFa crowd as the same set who organize protest after protest. In every organization (whether tight or loose affiliated) there are “key players” that do most of the work, because “spontaneous” doesn’t just happen on its own anymore (things like Ferguson or the Rodney King riots not withstanding, those were predictable large scale reactions). So we need to talk about what “counterinsurgency techniques” were being used, and whether or not they broke any laws.

The first technique is to identify your insurgents. No laws broken here. Finding out who is opposing you seems like a logical first step (because it is).

The second technique is to identify your insurgents sources of support. Finding out who is funding/supporting your opposition is also a logical thing to do. That Standing Rock leader David Archambault was the owner of the nearest store for the protesters to purchase food, fuel, and other supplies just has to be a coincidence (see what I did there?).

Once you know who is opposing you, and how they are supported, then you need to figure out how to separate the insurgent from their support. This can be done through various legal means such as making the legal case to shut down a protest site, or arranging for the arrest of protesters who have outstanding arrest warrants, or through discrediting the movement by highlighting their hypocrisy which may erode support for the Patreon and Gofundme accounts that provide nationwide support to the opposition. All of these are completely legal activities, and all of them are “counter insurgency techniques” that governments (from Federal to Local) routinely use to move projects and agendas forward.

Now…lets talk about what “counter insurgency techniques” weren’t used. No “night raids” no “enhanced interrogation” no “cordon and search” no mandatory enrollment into a biometric tracking system… None of those techniques were used, so what are we left with? We are left with a range of activities, all completely legal, which did not violate anyone’s Constitutionally protected civil liberties, that make sense for a corporation to do in order to accomplish their business goals.

Now, if you don’t like the idea of a corporation hiring military veterans as contractors to advance their corporate goals that is fine. Now one says you have to like anything. But I have no sympathy for the protesters, as the “hard left” or “ctrl-left” in America have been idolizing radical change through radical tactics for two generations now. Don’t forget the burning tire barriers and Molatov Cocktails that the DAPL protesters used, that’s crossing the line from “protected free speech” and “peaceful assembly” into dangerously “domestic insurgency” as they tried to stop the lawful activities of other citizens simply because the courts didn’t rule in their favor.

Now, if I haven’t made a strong enough case for using appropriate and legal “counter insurgency” techniques, comments are open.

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A deeper look at the SII NH35A watch movement

There are a lot of brands out there that use Seiko’s unbranded SII NH35A movement in “dive watches” that don’t say “Diver’s XXXm” on the dial face. So I looked up the magnetic resistance rating of the Seiko (SII) NH35A movement (which powers brands like Invicta, Vostok, Minus 8 Layer, etc). But first, lets look at the standards for “Diver’s” which a watch manufacturer must meet to include the word “Diver’s” on the dial.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has a set standard for Dive Watches which includes a level of antimagnetic resistence. In short, to meet the ISO standard a watch movement must remain unaffected by a DC field of 4,800 A/m. There are also shock resistance and depth resistance standards, but those are a bit easier to explain.

There are many ways to express magnetic force, but essentially the magnetic strength of 4,800 A/m translates to just over 60 Oersted or Gauss. A standard refrigerator magnet is about 50 Gauss, and a standard Iron magnet about 100 Gauss, and neodynium magnet can be up to 18 times stronger than a standard magnet. So you shouldn’t be laying your Dive watch on top of a rare earth magnet any time soon.

The ISO shock resistance requirement is that the watch maintain time and operation after surviving a one meter drop onto a wood floor. The depth rating is simple, it needs to be able to remain water tight at a certain pressure for a set time.

The rating on the NH35A movement is greater than or equal to 4,800 A/m according to the Seiko fact sheet about the movement. So even if Invicta or Vostok doesn’t include “Diver’s” on the face plate (probably because Rolex doesn’t, and Orient doesn’t bother with the Mako or Ray offerings) the movement itself meets the ISO dive watch standard for anti-magnetic requirements.

The NH35A documentation doesn’t describe the movement’s impact resistance in those terms, but does describe that it has a shock absorb device for the balancer shaft, indicating that it would meet the ISO standards for shock resistance especially since the action or it’s on brand equivalent is used in ISO certified diver’s watches.

In the realm of anti-magnetic watches, you have some premium watches like the Rolex Milgauss and the Omega >15,000 Gauss watch, both of which will set you back a pretty penny. These two watches use two different approaches, the Rolex creates a “magnetic shielding” in the watch case using “dead soft iron” and the Omega replaces anything in the watch movement that could be affected by magnetism with something that is magnetically transparent/inert. But, either way these watches are much more magnetically resistant than the minimum ISO standard of 60 Gauss. And cheap made in Malaysia or Russia watches using the SII NH35A aren’t going to bother testing those watches to find out exactly how magnetic resistant they are or are not based on case construction.

Now all of this is “interesting” but not very useful to anyone other than budding watch geeks who might still be enthusiastic about picking up an Invicta 8296OB or a Vostok Amphibia for cheap which are powered by the SII NH35A.

I hope this has been a fun look for someone, although still a cheap solar powered quartz watch will keep better time and be much more maintenance free over the long haul, but then again on “Prime Day” you can pick up an Invicta powered by the NH35A with a depth rating of 200 meters if you want to get a mechanical watch that won’t make you cry if it gets lost or stolen. Automatic watches are a bit of a fun piece of technology even in the world of Apple and Android smart watches.


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Memorial Day Weekend

This year I had the experience of my Grandfather passing away. He served in the US Navy in the Korean War era. Grandpa was laid to rest in a national cemetery a few rows down from a friend of mine who lost his life in Zabul province due to a command wire improvised explosive device. Memorial day is specifically set aside to remember those who fell in service, but they are buried alongside the veterans who pass one later in life. So screw whatever the official purpose, I’m going to write about what I want to write about.

There were literally millions of service members who have passed on in the last few decades, the WWII generation having been such a huge part of population that everyone seemed to be connected somehow. Remembering them, and the generations before them who fought for their nation, should be both a somber reminder of the cost of freedom and the celebration of their success. One of the most gentle men I ever knew didn’t talk much about his service, but when he passed his marker included the abbreviation for Corporal and included the dates of his service in WWII, and he is buried a bit down from my grandfather, and also a little bit from from my friend.

And that is kind of fitting, that even those who make it out of service and back into civilian life can re-unite with those they served with when it comes time to shed the mortal coil and transition into eternity. Those who were drafted, those who volunteered, those who did one tour and those who made it a career all together in the end. Small cogs in the big machine, but vital to keeping things going.

The Korean era generation is well into retirement. The Vietnam generation is getting up there in years, and we are losing them too, the youngest now in their sixties, with the actuarial tables a grim reminder that time marches on. The Desert Storm veterans are getting up there too, and even now in the Army there is a new generation of junior leaders without a combat patch on their right sleeve, as the natural attrition of people leaving the service brings in new volunteers to take their place.

The United States has cemeteries all across the globe. From France, Holland, and Belgium to the Philippines, Okinawa, and Guam. The national cemeteries are open to receiving the newly fallen, and the veterans of wartime service who pass on, and while each death is a tragedy in itself the care that they give in receiving home their family in arms is something unique to those who have passed through the experience of military service. If you have the chance to visit the grave of a friend or loved one who took their turn carrying the torch of freedom I recommend it.

And if you are remembering someone who served and then lived a good long life after service, I’m glad. Sometimes living or dying in a combat zone is just a matter of dumb luck, with no rhyme or reason about how things turn out. But that’s life in general, and this weekend is a good time to be thankful for good people and the quirks of fate that keep life interesting.

I hope that this weekend is good for everyone, although we still have boots on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, and countless other nations across the globe doing the daily work of advancing US foreign policy. The war on terror is now on its third president, and doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon.

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Situations can happen fast

Recently I experienced my very first case of German road rage.

My wife was driving, and we approached a rather typical intersection leading into a typical German town. The left lane was “straight or left turn” and the right lane was “right turn only” based on the indicating arrows painted on the pavement. Our car was situated in the left lane, stopped on a red light, and when the light turned green my wife proceeded into the intersection and was almost sideswiped by a black BMW station wagon proceeding through the intersection from the right, “turn only” lane.

Luckily the other drive slowed down and my wife swerved to the left just enough to avoid any contact between the two vehicles. And breathing fast she drove into the single lane “straight” exit of the intersection. However the driver of the black BMW station wagon sped up and looped around our car and then stopped right when the road narrowed, blocking our path forward. The driver got out of the car, and started walking towards our car aggressively while shouting in German. I immediately unbuckled my safety belt and got out of the passenger door as well.

The driver was just shy of two meters, about five foot eleven, very “husky” upper torso of someone who lifts weights without cutting fat, or someone who works manual labor such as carpentry or masonry. I’m tall, and leaner than that, but evidently something in my face said, “I will fight you if you don’t stop where you are and back the fuck off.”

He stopped. He was clearly younger than me, and probably stronger as well. But being taller and having the body language of someone who isn’t afraid to take a hit made him rethink his aggression.

My wife, in her halting German tried to apologize (however she had done nothing wrong, as she wasn’t the one trying to go straight through an intersection from a turn only lane), and he sputtered more German at us and then eventually got back into his BMW and moved along. Maybe he decided that yelling at someone who didn’t understand him was a waste of his time.

Now I have no idea who this particular gentleman was, but I do know that I instinctively reached for a pocketknife that I routinely carry for my job that doesn’t comply with German knife laws. So I carry a much less robust Swiss Army knife for normal utility jobs when interacting with the German public. I felt incredibly disarmed without that familiar tool by my side.

With a knife not an option (and a pistol out of the question) the situation had very few options for me. I’ll lay them out.

1, had he continued to approach my wife aggressively, I would have continued to approach him and close the space between us, but I would have had to come around the front of my car to get to him and then he would have to choose between yelling at my wife or dealing with me. As it was, simply splitting his attention between two adults (one of whom was indicating resistance) was enough to give him pause.

2, when he stopped, I stopped, giving him an option to not press the situation. Getting into a physical altercation is always best avoided in my opinion, but showing any weakness to a bully invites the bully to continue to press. Predators home in on weakness, had he continued I would have closed the gap and started a fight.

3, his physique was suited to wrestling, so my only real shot at winning a grappling scenario would be a neck choke until he passed out or died. Punching someone when their adrenaline is up is a good way to do pretty much nothing unless you get very lucky and hit someone with a glass jaw. But the longer a fight would have gone one, the more of an advantage he would have gained being younger and stronger (unless he had crap for endurance, but I’ll never know).

4, a physical altercation would have ended both of us in the clink, or possibly the morgue. I’m not young man any more, so fighting is something I no longer do for recreation, and working into a rear naked or triangle choke is a quick way to kill someone if you hold on for a few seconds too long. I didn’t plan on standing up and exchanging blows with someone younger and stronger (fighting is a good way to get hurt).

Now, had I not been in the car, just my wife and two children, would he have behaved the same way? Or would he have seen a relatively helpless mother of two and toned it down? I don’t know. But I do know that I was willing to go to the pavement to stop him from being a threat, at that moment I didn’t care that I’d get hurt, only that this guy wasn’t going to threaten my family.

I also know that what took a few minutes to write transpired in about fifteen seconds of real time. The “tactical options” that ran through my head were literally about how to gain a position of advantage so I wouldn’t get creamed right away in a fight. Any thoughts of trying some sort of martial arts form went straight out the window and all the “tactics” fell back to boxing and combatives training (say what you want about combatives, it at least gets people used to both proximity of an opponent and pain, and boxing gets you used to taking a hit). This probably means I’m not training enough on skills that will transfer into actions when there isn’t time to mentally prepare for an angry German motorist.

This incident was a wakeup call. I’m closer to 50 than to 20, and being fit for my age doesn’t mean I’m fit compared to anyone else. Injuries don’t heal as quick as they used to, and the gray in my hair reminds me that time is marching on. My wife and I waited a good while into our marriage to start having children, and so I need to double down on the workouts and training to be ready just in case someone threatens them again.

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Terrorism in Manchester

The deliberate suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester aimed at western youths has, once again, caught the multi cultural crowd by complete surprise. Evidently the last attack on a concert in Paris was completely unrelated or something.

While this should not be a news flash to anyone, terrorists target where people gather. The traditional targets are workplaces, schools, and events. Or like the San Bernadino terrorists, an event at work for a twofer. Schools, workplaces, events. The “normal” gathering places for people, and when a terrorist wants to kill a lot of people that is where they go.

Beslan was a school, and Beslan was much worse than Manchester. However that visceral reaction to those who have not been jaded by constant contact with the middle east is a bit more than the normal reaction to a terror attack. Because it was aimed at the children.

Children are the future, by deliberately targeting the future of the west the violent islamists have once again explained through action that they will not stop. There is no cultural taboo they will not cross. Not selling women into sexual slavery, not decapitating fellow muslims with det cord, not throwing homosexuals from a roof.

At this point, I’m part of the “jaded” crowd. You deal with enough of this and it just becomes another bomb in a long stream of bombings. Another addition to the casualty tally in the the long war for survival. When you have friends in the ground from islamist bombs, you’ve already gone through the grieving process to arrive at the acceptance that this is the world we live in, and there are people out there who passively support the deliberate murder of children with bombs. And there are those who actively support. And there are those who act.

Another candle light vigil will do nothing. Another social media picture filter will do both “jack” and “squat.” Another round of media talking heads wondering what drove this “lone wolf” to commit such a horrible act will bring no one any understanding.

This is war, and it was a war chosen by the islamists. And no matter their excuses, whether from the teachings of a raving lunatic or from some “post colonial grievance” that the coastal liberal elites like to bring up, is going to change the fact that one side is “all in” on the war.

Me, I’m just tired. We live in a society that has given up on the concept of “total war” following Korea and Vietnam, and so far a “measured response” hasn’t cut the mustard. So I’m left with the conclusion that there aren’t any good answers, and western civilization will either die, or fall back into a method of fighting a total war that is only two generations past.

So the next time someone says, “Think of the Children!” remind them of Manchester.

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The Quantum Behavior of the 5.56×45 NATO Round

Almost since introduction the 5.56×45 NATO has exhibited the qualities of Schrodinger’s Cat, simultaneously being an ineffective battle round while simultaneously being terribly effective to the point where people keep trying to ban it for civilian use. Thousands upon thousands of words, and hours of argument, for both sides have been spent on the subject.

The 5.56 naysayers routinely pull out ballistic tables and show all sorts of lovely numbers about energy in foot pounds remaining at range: and it should be noted that this article makes the “post hoc” fallacy that the 5.56×45 is inadequate because the M14 EBR program was used. The author makes no analysis of what the mix ratio was, and how those rifles were employed, and other tactical considerations. In Afghanistan the SEALs of Seal Team 10 often considered the 7.62×51 inadequate as a sniper rifle platform since they had the 300 Win Mag as an option due to the open ranges in the flat desert areas and mountainous areas, but that is another story for another time. Also, it should be noted that the Russians kept the SVD in the Platoon level, basically doing the same thing that the M14 EBR rifles did for the US in the War on a Noun.

The other side focuses more on the “terminal” part of terminal ballistics which is where the bullet meets flesh. At that point the question about “how much energy” is less important than “is there enough energy to do the job?” And you find analysis like this: and All these points are good points, but fail to address the question of “can GI Joe actually put the rounds on target?” and “is the collapsible buttstock of an M4 combined with a nine pound trigger pull really the best choice when we are relying mostly on GI Joe’s marksmanship ability to ensure lethality?”

The terminal ballistics crowd has always had a problem with the M855, as it was an unreliable “tumbler” in flesh or ballistic gel. This gives rise to where you can have a completely adequate cartridge, but a bullet inadequate for the task. The common wisdom gave rise “use the 55gr M193 bullet for home defense as it is yaw independent at home defense ranges” where the M855 was yaw dependent (and that is still valid advice if you feel you need an AR-15 for home defense).

Now up front I will posit that all bullets are potentially lethal, even the 25 ACP. But biology is a very important factor, giving rise to such sayings as “I’d rather by shot in the foot by a 50 BMG than in the back of the head by a 22 short.” Where a bullet impacts on an organism matters, since we have yet to perfect a weapon system that can incapacitate with a pinky toe shot.

What the “ballistics table” crowd fails to comprehend is that we shoot a LOT more 50 BMG than the “one shot, one kill” crowd would like, and a lot more 7.62×51 fired as well. This is where the “terminal effects” crowd has a bit of a leg up, as having more chances to shoot someone who is trying not to be shot by using cover and concealment, is a good thing. Where the “ballistics table” folks have a leg up is that nearly every lethality study shows that as caliber dimension increases, the time from bullet impact to organism death shrinks (at least based on the hunting of large mammals). Being able to carry more ammo is a good thing, but bigger ammo is better at turning large animals into meat.

The lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is that the 7.62×51 is not a magical death laser, nor is an M4 an impotent spitball thrower. I knew a Scout Platoon that was working the ridgelines in east Paktika and were outfitted in all 7.62×51 M14 EBR rifles, which made tactical sense for them as they didn’t bring an M240 machine gun with them to do their job. I also knew a sniper team that did urban work in Iraq and preferred a suppressed rack grade M4 tossing out Mk262 Mod1 ammunition when they could get it, M855 when they couldn’t. I know that adapting your kit to fit your environment is a radical idea to the “one solution for all problems” crowd, but one size never truly fits all. Sometimes “one size fits most” is purely wishful thinking.

Taking a step back in history to the 30 Carbine, we can clearly see that simply increasing caliber isn’t always the easy answer. The 30 carbine is the same diameter as the mighty 7.62×51 NATO, but had quite the reputation as a wounder, firing a round nosed pistol style bullet rather than a long, spitzer bullet. The 30 Carbine also developed a bit of a reputation for punching neat holes but not stopping people, very much the same as the M855 green tip ammo did. Both the Army and the USMC addressed that shortcoming with M855A1 and Mk318 respectively, both of which are “barrier blind” and both of which have more consistent terminal effects in tissue. Add a soft point bullet to the 30 carbine, and all of a sudden it is a much more effective round on living critters.

So I don’t expect to see the 5.56×45 replaced any time soon as some simple math will show why. A marginal increase in weight and diameter also gives a marginal increase in “lethality” but with fewer chances to achieve effects. If you have a 10% chance of killing someone with 5.56 and 15% chance with a 6.XX round, you have to fire 10 rounds with 5.56 to achieve the statistical 100%, and you have to fire 7 rounds with the 6.XX round. So you can make the argument that you could carry 30% less ammo to achieve the same lethal effects, but anyone who has been in a sustained firefight will tell you that you are an idiot for cutting 30% of your ammo supply (and no, no one wants to go to a 22 WMR platform to carry lots more ammo since there is a bottom level of effectiveness at range and none of the rimfires are going to cut it at 600 meters). Now if you could make a 6.XX round that weighed the same as the 5.56 on a per cartridge basis, you would actually increase the effectiveness of the individual weapon system. But as of right now, that’s not the case, all the contenders to dethrone 5.56×45 as the standard issue round weigh significantly more.

Here is a real world comparison between the 5.56×45 and the 6.5 Grendel.

5.56 brass: 93gr      6.5 Grendel brass 117gr (+24gr)
5.56 powder 26gr   6.5 Grendel powder 32gr (+6gr)
5.56 bullet 62gr      6.5 Grendel bullet 115gr (+53gr)

5.56 weight 181gr.  6.5 Grendel 264gr. For comparison, the 175gr Sierra Match King bullet shot by the M118LR or Mk316 Mod0 sniper round is only six grains less than a total 5.56×45 cartridge, and a lowly M80 ball round comes in at a whopping 392 grains. Clearly the 6.5 Grendel falls between the 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 in weight, but comparing match bullet to match bullet, it also falls there for performance as well.

Total weight cost of the 6.5 Grendel over 5.56×45, 83gr per cartridge. That’s essentially a 50% increase in weight which doesn’t justify what is essentially a 5% increase in lethality per shot. The 6.5 Grendel would have to be  100% better (ie 20% guaranteed lethal per shot) to justify a 50% increase in weight just to get to the same weight per soldier to enemy killed ratio, and you would still lose 1/3rd of your total shots for a sustained fire fight (5 shots per kill rather than 10, so the 6.5 grendel would save 2.5 rounds worth of 5.56 weight in that scenario, unfortunately it doesn’t in real life). In real life that Infantryman still needs to be able to sustain “suppressing fire” to allow his buddy to move to that position of advantage for the kill shot.

That is the sort of math that the caliber wars are really fought on, not the ballistic tables and not the terminal ballistics, but in how much firepower can an American grunt bring to the fight, how many shots can he take to make the other side keep their head down while his buddy maneuvers into a position of tactical advantage for a kill shot. Maybe new polymer cased telescoping ammo will change that calculus, but until then there is no reason to leave the 5.56×45 for something heavier.

That doesn’t mean that people selling something heavier aren’t going to try other methods to sell their products such as “appeal to emotion” or other logical fallacies. One of the rallying cries of the “ballistics table” crowd has always been “Dead Infantrymen!” caused by failures of either the M16/M4 or the 5.56×45 round.

A good example of the “Dead Infantrymen!” appeal to emotion is typified by the MG(ret) Scales hit piece from a few years back where he blamed the dead at the Battle of Wanat on the M4 platform: (however you have to question the validity of opinion of someone who says that the “Remington 270” would be a valid upgrade from the 5.56×45, after all MG Scales was NEVER an Infantryman so his knowledge of close combat was much more academic than practical).

To answer that Ivory Tower hit piece written by the former commandant of the Army War College, read the late Hognose’s (SF long tabber with real experience in the same time frame as MG(ret) Scales) analysis of the Battle of Wanat:

Now, all of this is based on military use. If you are a prepper and settled on 308 Win, 357 Mag, 30-06, or even 30-30 or a muzzle loader with a shotgun, stick with it. None of these combat oriented military considerations apply to your situation (unless you plan on using military small unit tactics to attack other groups using small unit tactics). What you chose based on your situation is much more appropriate than “well the military uses it so it must be good!” level of magical thinking (the military uses crap built by the lowest bidder gained through the worlds most dysfunctional acquisitions process).

Comments are open.

EDIT: Andrew Tuohy of Vuurwapenblog addresses the tomfoolery of MG(ret) Scales.

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