Personally, I read the quote
[U]rban warfare in Iraq demands a bigger bullet. "A bullet that knocks the man down with one shot," he says. "And keeps him down."and wondered if this Major Milavec really intended for every trooper to carry a 57mm recoilless rifle, because that's about the smallest thing I can think of that fits his description. Contrary to popular belief, engendered by watching countless action movies, rifle bullets are not death rays. No rifle round will reliably "knock a man down and keep him down with one shot." Not 5.56; not even 7.62. You can go to your local VFW and buy drinks for guys with scars from 8mm Mauser and 7.7mm Arisaka bullets.
Member Blackhawk6, an honest-to-gawd decorated hero of the fighting in Afghanistan, raised some excellent points on a post in a thread at The High Road; points that deserve a wider audience:
Here are a few more facts:The rest of his posts there are equally relevant. Go read.
1. The overwhelming majority of the U.S. special operations community uses the M-4, including those who have the latitude to use different weapon systems. Ditto most coalition special operations units.
2. The overwhelming majority of private contractors, the overwhelming majority of whom are former SOF personnel, are using M-4's despite having no tie to the U.S. military.
3. Many SOF units are going to shorter barrels on their rifles.
4. No bullet guarantees instant incapacitation. None. There are a few credible reports of enemy personnel staying in the fight, albeit briefly, after being hit by .50 BMG.
With that out of the way, here are my opinions on the matter:
1. Much of the poor reputation that the M-16A2/M-4 family enjoys is a by-product of the Vietnam War. A combination of M-14 champions and arm-chair commando's have kept the controversy alive. Before a Vietnam Veteran comes and flames me, let me say I am in no position to comment on the M-16 and its performance in Vietnam. If you don't tell me how bad the M-4 is in Iraq and Afghanistan, I won't tell you how good the M-16 was in Vietnam.
2. I love our soldiers. I have spent my entire adult life in their company. To put it kindly, they are prone to exaggeration. "I emptied an entire magazine into him, center mass, and he kept coming," can often be translated into "I fired eight rounds and hit him in the foot once."
3. The majority of soldiers are great people but they are not weapons experts and many have difficulty qualifying with their weapons. Ego, especially when it comes to marksmanship, is alive and well. A number of reported, ineffective hits were probably misses. Question:What does a soldier see when he hits someone at 150 meters and it has no effect? Answer:The same thing he sees when he misses. Who decides whether it was a hit or miss?
(Curiously, the Army and I apparently agree on the last two points.)
4. Prior to 9/11 the population in the Army of people who had actually engaged in close combat was relatively small, to include our special operations units. While we had a number of combat veterans, very few had actually shot a person and witnessed the effects. Very few of our soldiers have shot anything, to include deer. Consequently, hollywood has shaped our perception of how a shot person reacts. Most people understand that bullets do not blow people through walls, but they do not understand much beyond that. Comments like "A .45 will knock a man down," or "Even if you miss with a .50 cal, the bullet passing by can rip a man's arm off," are not uncommon. As a result, when they center punch a person with a 5.56mm at 10 meters and he stands there for five seconds before falling down, they get upset. Time tends to get distorted when your life is threatened and five seconds becomes a minute. I think you all get the idea.
5. I am not a ballistics expert, but my high school biology background and a little reading lead me to believe that the three mechanism for incapacitation would be a CNS hit, loss of blood and shock. Shock is highly dependant on the individual and can not be counted on. That leaves a CNS hit and loss of blood. A bullet to the heart is a bullet to the heart. If you placed your shot correctly, as everyone apparently has, even if it went right through the body the operation of the heart has been disrupted. If you hit something in the heart, it takes time for it to die. If you want it to fall down immediately, you have to hit the CNS and that is hard. Talk to a deer hunter and when you do keep in mind that the deer is not a fanatic bent on killing you.
6. I find it interesting that much of the criticism levied against the M-4 and M-16A2 is not levied against the M-249. It has comparable barrel lengths and fires the same round. I have yet to hear anyone say that the para-SAW sucks beyond a 150 meters despite its short barrel length. Why is that?