RANGER AGAINST WAR: A Dart to the Heart <

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Dart to the Heart

Some folks you don't have to satirize,
you just quote 'em

--Tom Paxton

In a free and republican government,

you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude.

Every man will speak as he thinks

or more properly, without thinking.

--George Washington

A bullet to the heart

is worth two in the bush

--Ranger Hruska


There is a doctrinal disconnect in the use of the basic rifle (M4) and squad and platoon level machine guns (MG).

The individual rifle has characteristics which limit its use in both the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©) and conventional combat. The design limitations of our weapons are not being considered when training the troops, leading to unnecessary deaths for U.S. forces.

Recent Army experience shows that troops are experiencing stoppages and malfunctions in prolonged fighting scenarios -- the rifle overheats and/or fails to operate. The MG's also overheat and cease to be operational.
The problems are due to weapons characteristics and/or training deficiencies.

Weapons characteristics: The U.S. systems are based upon war fighting considerations. The MG is designed to quick change the barrel in combat before it overheats, rendering the unit inoperational. The M240 and M249 have quick change barrels, so overheating and chamber welds should not happen, even in extended actions.

The above is true if the gunners/assistant gunners carry extra barrels and service the weapon, honoring the designation, "crew-served weapon". In addition, the ammunition must be kept clean, dry and protected from contamination.

The rifle will overheat if fired excessively in combat or range firings. Both individual and crew-served have extreme operational limits which can be ameliorated by training.

Training deficiencies:
The U.S. Army is organized and equipped to fight theatre level scenarios. The PWOT is an unexpected scenario, and the Army simply applied a tactical tool to an insurgency environment. The Army is designed to fight other similarly arrayed forces, so our training emphasizes volume of fire and fire superiority. This is relevant in attack/defense environments on the conventional battlefield. Volume of fire is the key to winning, but not in counterinsurgency scenarios.

When platoons and companies operate independently against similar sized opposition forces not supported by normal national army assets, then we have problems. At Wanat, the defenders had a winning hand but they violated doctrine:
  • They overheated their weapons
  • They were defending non-defensible terrain
  • They underutilized or improperly placed their organic mortar assets
All of these deficiencies could be overcome by leadership and training, but this presumes the leaders possess the requisite skills to impart to the troops.

Volume of fire and firing weapons at their maximum rate is not wise unless employing final protective fires (FPF). FPF is only used when it is clear that the final assault is being pressed. Firing weapons excessively at max is an invitation to disaster. Why did the MG's overheat? Were the barrels not changed in a timely manner?

Training should teach soldiers to fire at selected distant targets; simply putting out fire is not an effective infantry tactic. In the defense, each team member should fire selectively on semi-auto.

Easy to say, hard to do, but this is why we have professional soldiers paid to do hard jobs in hard environments.

Speaking as a former infantryman, it would be preferable to give the troops bolt-action rifles that shoot every time rather than full auto weapons that malfunction at critical times. This is not said frivolously.
In a COIN environment this would be an acceptable modification consideration. Another modification would be to issue only semi-auto versions of the M4 to all troops in the COIN environment backed up by normal MG's and battalion level weapons.

If a U.S. Platoon or Company cannot defeat 3:1 when defending, then the Army needs some serious reconfiguring.

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

one of the wiser conventions we had in the teams was that when we were operating out in the boonies, we were always on semi, almost never on rock'n'roll.

the first practical benefit of that was that we saved both on things like overheating and operational wear'n'tear, and of course, ammo.

the other was that when we heard full auto fire, if we were operating out of each other's sight, which happened a lot, we knew that it most likely wasn't us.

too many times the regulars were out there without the proper tools for the job.

at hue, we discovered that the m16 is not that great a street fighting weapon. richocets and other evil bouncings off the cobblestones and bricks were vile consequences of those hot rounds.

on the other hand, thompsons, shotguns, and thumpers could well and truly get the job done.

in fighting, like in hunting or any other type of shooting, the tools used make a huge difference in the job getting done.

there just ain't no "one size fits all."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 1:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous barcalounger said...

Quote:"Speaking as a former infantryman, it would be preferable to give the troops bolt-action rifles that shoot every time rather than full auto weapons that malfunction at critical times."

Or, send somebody to Springfield Armory and get them to pull out the old tooling and fixtures for the M-1 Garand. With modern computer controlled machine tools they could whip out a batch (100,000?) of M-1s in a couple of months. The local economy gets a shot in the arm and the Infantry get a semi-auto, GI proof shoulder weapon that can reach out and touch someone (400 yards?) with a .30 cal. slug. Sounds like a win-win to me. If you're really serious you can get Winchester to fire up production on the BAR, too. Say at least one per squad.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 5:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I like your idea BUT I'd go with the M14.
The effective range of almost all service rifles is quoted as 460 meters which is the range that an average rifleman can hit a silouette type target.
The US govt still has a good supply of M1's at Anniston Army Depot.Winchester made M1's during WW2. I'm not sure that they ever made BAR's. BTW, the BAR did not have a quick change barrel and it was one of the finest squad level weapons ever issued. Followed closely by the BREN gun.
IMHO guns and cars should go slower and not faster. If you want speed look for a good woman.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 5:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

BAR is a fearsome machine. i concur with jim on the beauty of the m14. it is a versatile, and above all, tough weapon.

m60's are also pretty damned good.

me? i was a big ass fan of the stoner63.

stoner (the designer of the m16 and some other very good ass weapons, has a new one out, being produced by the israelis, the galil ultra, it rocks out loud)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 8:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I haven't fired one yet, but I like the Ruger SR 556, even though I don't like the cartridge. The new Para ordnance rifle is nice, too. The Ruger has an adjustable gas piston, and the Para has an operating rod that is fairly similar to the Galil. I believe the M14 is getting fairly limited use in this war, in sniper versions.

Springfield arsenal has a M14 modification called the SOCOM, and this seems to be a real fine piece.

I've had no experience with the Stoner at all. It's interesting the Iranians and the Pakis and the Saudis use 7.62 NATO European-produced assault rifles. I clearly remember in VN that when the troops said they would "762 someone", that meant they would mess them up real bad.

The only criticism have of the M60 is that it had brittle bolts and the barrel lock down system had a tendency to come loose in a jungle environment. We had to tie it down with boot laces. (This was corrected on later models.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 9:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

MB, Jim: Wasn't the M21 sniper system essentially an M14 with the selector switch removed?

Frankly, I was a little surprised when the Army went to the M4. The old CAR15 was notorious for short recoils and gas tube fouling, so I'm not entirely surprised that the guys using the M4 in full auto had some problems with stoppages. It'll be interesting to see if there's some sort of PMCS update based on the recent problems.

One thing I've always understood about Afghanistan is that the terrain and the thin air lends itself to long-range engagement; bullets carry, and what you can see you can hit, if you can shoot. One of the most familiar weapons in the high plateau of central Asia was the British 303 SMLE. Heavy, but durable as hell and accurate out to, what, 1,000 meters? A true rifleman's weapon.

I tend to agree that a sturdy 30 caliber semi-auto like the Garand or the M14 would be ideal. But then, you'd have to send Joe back to the KD range to teach him windage and deflection, to engage targets out to that distance...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 8:16:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

one of the biggest complaints we heard from force recon grunts and from SOG types was,

"you guys get all the good toys."

i once had a supply chief ask me why i was consistently drawing out weatherby .475 single shot bolt action elephant guns. he said they were real budget busters.

i replied "i don't think they make anything bigger, do they? if they do, i want that."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 12:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...


i gotta big ass chunk out of my left hip. 762 is a motherfucker of a round.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 12:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

"...windage and ELEVATION..."

Must have been the early hour, dunno what I was thinking.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 3:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

You made an earlier cmt about the CO CDR using the XO as indirect fire coordinator. Why not use a E5 Mortar Platoon FO to do this? They are capable of doing so.
The XM/M 21 system is a national match M14 with a 3-9 Redfield scope with a Leatherwood Automatic ranging system(ART) mounted and called a system.Now back to mortars- if one spots targets in excess of 1000 meters why not introduce them to some variable time pyrotechnics? It's effective and works out the whole team for improved morale AND it's great training.
The 303 ww2 version Mk 4 has a free floating barrel which is why it has enhanced grouping qualities.I'm not sure if this is true of the older SMLE's.
Marksmanship has been largely ignored in the Army since the 70's, we no longer even have a functioning DCM to promote civilian marksmanship. We have Post level Golf teams and tournaments even though no enemy soldier has ever been killed with a golf ball.
I really would arm special troops with Model 70 winchesters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:31:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I failed to mention that i have a Daewoo 556 rifle and it's really a fine piece of work- much superior to the 16 series of weapons. Also the AR 180 is fine also.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

IMO the M$ was adopted to adapt to vehicular use. I find it wrong headed to issue 16" barrelled weapons to the infy troops. A 20" should be minimum length.
The Car 15 types can be adapted with wrap around piggy style gas tubes to solve the gas problems. Also the buffers and pins needed beefed up to include the firing pin retainer which was too weak to absorb full auto abuse. We still use the cheap pins and stock buffers. That's how we support the troopies! With cheap crap.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous barcalounger said...

I completely forgot about bayonets. A company of pissed off infantrymen armed with M-1s/M-14s with fixed bayonets in the attack/counterattack would put the fear of God in anyone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I have an old photo of Lew Millett presiding over my ROTC Commissioning ceremony.
He rec'd the MOH for leading a bayonet attack in Korea. And he wasn't even Infy.
The M1 and 14's were great blungeoning tools since they had steel buttplates.
I'm not sure that bayonet drill is even taught in basic anymore. Could you imagine Jessica Lynch doing a long thrust and crossover?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 6:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Jim: The problem with using the SSG 11C to act as a sort of FSE/FSO is getting the Old Man to listen to him. I picked the XO at random as a company-grade officer with a certain amount of time on his hands while the company is engaged, and someone who (hopefully) can grab the CO by the shoulder strap and remind him that he needs to think about his dead space and indirect fire.

I'd add to your comments about marksmanship that the other thing we've neglected is any sense of ground. And eye for terrain is priceless; most officers and nearly all NCOs don't have it. We don't really spend any time working on it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen patrol leaders place things like ORPs, rally points, patrol bases, the whole nutroll, in terrible ground; full of covered avenues of approach, dead space within meters of the perimeter, overlooked by high ground on three sides...you name it. It sounds like most of these little platoon fortifications in Afghanistan were sited in the worst possible locations; diesn't surprise me at all...

I know the MkI and II have fixed banded barrels, not sure about the III. Still, hell of a good rifle. Of course, the Winchester is still a hell of a good weapon. The bottom line is still a trained troop that knows his mission, the man on his right, left and rear and his terrain. "There are no dangerous weapons; only dangerous men."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 6:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Just for fun sometime ask a soldier to define the characteristics of a ORP . Most will give incorrect answers and the ones that can tell you will then pick poorly when doing so on the ground.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 7:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous KevinD said...

Ranger, have you seen this? What's your take?


I've seen this over and over, in Iraq and Afghanistan; who's teaching these soldiers and Marines to shoot full auto almost blindly at the side of a mountain (or the side of a concrete building in Iraq)? What do they think they are accomplishing by doing that, besides giving away their position?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 4:38:00 PM GMT-5  

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