Friday, May 08, 2009

Hey, I can see the StG-44 from up here...

In case you didn't think that military small-arms development had kinda plateaued, please note that after €4,000,000 and 70,000 man-hours of development, the engineers at Beretta have turned out... ...a switch-barrel gas-operated poodleshooter with a rail farm, just like everybody else.

These days it seems to take tons of effort for what are really very small returns in modularity or MTBF. I think from here on out it's just going to be juggling minutiae until the next great leap forward.


reflectoscope said...

Gas operated? Pff. Show me a usable gas-piston AR and then you'll have my interest.


John said...

What's so terrible about the piston-operated AR, reflectoscope?

Anonymous said...

No Kidding.

Bullet technology hasn't made anything but mild evolutionary changes in decades and decades.

We're still packing smokeless powder in brass/steel cases and shooting a hunk of (usually) jacketed lead out the front end. Slightly better powder, bullet design, etc... Sure, but not enough that 100 year old firearm designs are even obsolescent.

Firearms: 60+(+) years since anything really new came up. Slightly better manufacturing, metallurgy, plastics, all granted. But if you equipped an infantry unit with Stg 44 or the latest iteration of Ak-47 / M16 they wouldn't feel intimidated.
Heck the German GPMG (MG-3) is is a product improved 1942 model, and it's still considered one of the better designs. The M2 .50 cal dates from... Tam? 1920's I think. Still "state of art" millions have been spent trying to improve it for no effect.

Before any of this changes you either need: Chemistry, materials science break throught, or some clever way of making slug thrower no respond to thelaws to physics as we know them...or

Really cheap, reliable,high power, effective battery technology ( magnetics, etc...) so we can build man-portable rail-guns or laser/plasma blasters.

Don't hold your breath. Battery technology isn't a revolutionary field these days either.

Anonymous said...

It looks too bio-degradable for anything but a testing ground.

Give a hunnert, or so, to some obscure Asian indigenous rabble and see how how well the design fares.


Mikael said...

The only thing resembling revolutionary change is probably a prototype or two by Metal Storm.

And it's still smokeless powder in brass cases shooting a hunk of lead out the front. (Albeit, being able to do it in much more rapid succession than any other platform. I like the pistol prototype that fires 3 shots before the barrel even starts moving from recoil!)

Still, I don't think we're going to be seeing any coherent radiation emition weapons(laser), plasma weapons, or gauss/railguns any time soon.

Heck the next big breakthrough could come way out of left field and be something like a quantum singularity field projector(don't ask), or someone could figure out how to send supersonic shurikens downrange with total recoil compensation.

staghounds said...

Mma è un disegno natale!!!!

How much did the U. S. spend trying to get a domestic design to replace the 1911?

And the M1?

Of course, after the Ordnance department managed to "beat" the StG44, AK, EM2 and then the FAL, along came the AR15, so they lost out to a NIH product anyway.

Kristopher said...

Converting an AR to gas piston is just that ... a conversion.

Another failure point.

If you are going to go that route, make it that way from the ground up. An AR-70 with AK mags would be a good start. Get rid of those damned STANAG mags.

Agree that we are in a holding pattern ... I want my personal energy weapon.

Tam said...


"An AR-70 with AK mags would be a good start."

Ever fired an AR-70?

I had one. It was thoroughly underwhelming.

tomcatshanger said...

It looks like the SCAR and the ACR and the XCR and...

You get the idea.

Maybe those thousands of man hours where spent on the internet reading fan boys going on and on about their favorite "next gen" rifle?

Tam said...

...and testing in mod packs in Rogue Spear.

John said...

AK magazines? o_O

Okay, if you like rock-and-lock. I'd just as soon pass on that, though.

In the meantime, it's not clear at all that this is a converted AR instead of a modification of an existing gas-operated action.

WV: bummess - n. A female panhandler.

Jenny said...

Isn't this rather the rule than the exception? I mean... was the legionnaire in 200AD equipped *that* differently from his Republican forbears?

From the outside looking in, it seems the big revolutions of the last couple generations at least have been in (both literal and metaphorical) "software."

Is that so, or a gross simplification?

Jay G said...

I'm waiting for the plasma cannon in the 40 megawatt range...

D.W. Drang said...

Thoughts about caseless ammo? My understanding is the reason the Rads ditched the HK11(?) was the cost, after absorbing the masses to the east.

My feeling is, whatever the next gen infantry weapon is going to look like, it will have to wait until a breakthrough in energy storage--i.e., batteries. Might be a direct energy or plasma weapon, might be a magnetic accelerator, will probably be something I haven't thought of, but whatever it is, no one wants to hump one until batteries 1) pack a lot more power 2) with no danger to the carrier 3) in a weapon that is no more awkward and heavy to carry than an M1 and 4) can store that energy almost indefinitely.

Noah D said...

...and testing in mod packs in Rogue Spear.Pfft. All my guns in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 are much better than this. ;)

Anyway, anybody remember caseless ammo? Binary liquid propellants? Subcaliber saboted darts? Electrothermal propulsion?

T said...

Anyway, anybody remember caseless ammo? Binary liquid propellants? Subcaliber saboted darts? Electrothermal propulsion?Yup. And they aren't available anywheres. This implies to me they were either too expensive, or not joe-proof. Or in the case of some, they never got the idea to work right.

I'm holding out for a room temperature superconductor as a game changer. Give me one of those and I'll have a railgun shortly after.

John said...

The US Army's got some sort of caseless ammo work going on as part of the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies program. They're also investigating telescoping, polymer-cased cartridges.

From the conversations I've had with other gun nuts, the G11 was abandoned in part because it wasn't effective; the small slugs underperformed, there were heat problems causing eventual cook-off of the ammunition, and fouling problems that caused jams. It's a neat idea, and maybe it's time is still coming.

Regolith said...

They're putting a 16" barrel on their designated marksman/light sniper version? Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't it been found out in the past several years that the 16" barrels don't allow the 5.56 round to work up enough velocity to be effective at longer ranges? An extra 4" doesn't really hinder maneuverability all that much, and it gives you the ability to reach out a lot further in order to touch someone...

tjbbpgobIII said...

I think I smell the five man squad- - - on squad leader and two, two man fire teams. That is saving money at least.

reflectoscope said...

John - affordable might be the better word. I think the design fixes a fundamental weakness of the AR platform. I'd just hate to think about what it would cost to get one here.


Assrot said...

I guess I'm showing my age a little here but I think that thing is a plastic / fanastic piece of crap that belongs on some mall ninja's shoulder.

What ever happened to real battle rifles made of steel?

One thing about it, none of these tacticool pieces of plastic will ever become collector / curio & relic items. They won't last that long.

My 2 cents.


Ed Foster said...

Points for Regolith. The 16" barrel is kind of marginal with the 62 grain or heavier projectile, and having the bang so much closer to the face doesn't add anything to the troop's level of expertise either.

As for "pistons" in the M-16/AR15, I will cheerfully send copies of my tests on piston guns, done last year when I was a beleaguered design engineer at Smith & Wesson.

What do you think the rings are for on the back of the bolt? The piston IS the bolt, the bolt carrier IS the cylinder, and it has fewer parts to muck up, everything moves in a straight line, and it has no pushrods to accelerate and decelerate.

It's called a Ljungmann system, and was designed in Scandinavia to function weapons under conditions ranging from arctic winters (northern Sweden) to 120 degree deserts (Egyptian version, the "Hakim").

Or, you can, with the same amount of gas to work with, put more than twice as much metal between the gasport and the bolt, with consequent delay and reduction of energy to the bolt carrier.

The only way to get a piston AR "working" is to take the gas rings off the bolt to reduce drag, and watch it beat itself to death in a few hundred rounds. I literally had an M-4 fall apart in my hands and jam so badly we had to disassemble it from the rear with wrenches.

The external piston idea has been around since I was a wet behind the ears young M-14 Marine back in the 60's. It was called the RHINO conversion (I forget what the acronym stood for), and it worked no better than any of the present nightmares do.

"But all that powder residue gums up the reciever". B.S.

Look at an AR firing. See all the gas blowing out of the ejection port? It's mostly coming out of the two gas bleed ports in the side of the bolt carrier/gas cylinder. Gundge in a reciever is primarily a function of cyclic rate.

The faster the weapon shoots, the more sludge gets sucked back out of the chamber in pursuit of the cartridge case. The process of cartridge case expansion in the chamber to provide a gas seal is called obturation.

High cyclic rate weapons like the H&K/CETME have poor to no obturation. They can't afford the dwell time. They actually cut flutes in the chamber to encourage gas to leak around the case and help it "float" off the chamber walls.

If you want to see dirty, look at an H&K reciever after a few magazines on full auto. I have, and it ain't pretty.

Of course, nobody who uses the H & K has actually fought a serious war with it, so nobody has any reason to tinker with it.

As for caseless ammunition, another Kraut idea, see the above comment on the H & K. How do you extract it if it doesn't go bang? Well, you put a brass base on it with an extractor groove, and provide an ejection port big enough to toss the entire round out the side of the weapon. So it would differ from a "conventional" weapon how?

Let's not even begin to consider cookoff problems when the bare propellant is in direct contact with a rifle chamber near it's melting point, shavings and dust scraped off the propellant (a number of H & K's exploded during long firing strings), or abrasive and environmental degradation in belt fed weapons exposed to real world field conditions.

Please remember, Germany won it's last war almost 130 years ago, and that was a near run thing they almost lost to the French.

The only reason they did well from '39 to '42 was that A) they were ready and the competition wasn't, and B) they studied what went wrong during the first world war and discovered why they'd been outfought man for man by the Americans, Canadians, and ANZACs.

To whit, the people controlling the fight in most English speaking armies (other than, oddly enough, the English units) were the corporals and sergeants actually under fire, with the officer corp providing support. They created a flexible and aggressive force that could adjust to changing conditions faster than a unit controlled from several eschelons back in the rear. Once they ran out of experienced NCO's, the end was in sight.

Lovely people the Krauts. I mean that. Most of my family is half or three quarters Bavarian, Austrian, or Sudeten. Wonderful folks for farming, family, and friends. But they over-engineer things to the point of silliness.

I had to reverse engineer an H & K belt feed system last year for Mack Qwinn up at MGIMilitary in Maine.

I threw out all but two of the almost dozen springs, and functioned the cartridge lifter off a cam milled into the rotating index drum, tensioned by the same spring that indexed said drum, something that should have been obvious to any reasonably handy tinkerer. No seperate systems for each sub-function, with opposing springs all wedged together in something that would give a clockmaker a serious woodie.

It's typical of so much that they do. Look at the G43/K43 in WWII. Even the Japanese simply copied the M-1, with a box magazine.

Kalashnikov took an M-1 bolt, turned it upside down so the gas system wasn't in the way, stuck in a Czech magazine, chambered it for Simonov's cartridge, and put it all inside a Remingtom Model 8 reciever (with mujik sized Remington safety) because all the politbureau types hunted with Remingtons and it was a good sales pitch.

Given my choice between the Swedish gas system in the AR or the redundant and energy sapping replacements being offered, I'll stick with what works.

Back around 1990, three M-16A2's were pulled at random from the rack at Colt's by the Venezualan army (then our friends)and fired 10,000 shots each, with zero stoppages.

Please compare that with what I experienced first hand at S & W or with the results achieved by the lame H & K "Kugelspritzer".

A target shooting buddy of mine is an Air Force Captain who teaches Designated Markman courses at Ft. Benning. His people riddle head sized targets all day at 500 meters with M-4 carbines, with essentially total reliability. Pictures on request.

A SEAL buddy of mine, J.B. Stern, has one tour in Afganistan, three in Iraq, and a titanium knee, compliments of an RPG in Falluja.

Another friend, Bobby Cromer, recently finished an extended tour as a sniper in Afganistan. What do they all have in common, other than the right to be listened to on subjects most people have only the sketchiest personal knowledge about?

They all have no bitches about the M-16, at least as compared with anything else out there. Something for the "It's new so it must be better" crowd to think about.

Frank W. James said...

Ed: All good points and I don't disagree with you but its been my understanding that we (the US Gov't) owns the caseless cartridge technology now and I've been told by more than one source (whom I believe are somewhat clued in) that the next major small arm/rifle for the US Military WILL employ caseless technology because of the increasing cost/scarcity of brass.

I do believe from my research years ago on the MP5 book that we own a major portion of that technology and presently the Germans have lost all interest in it after Dynamit-Nobel almost went bankrupt developing it.

My belief is IF we own it, it will show it somewhere.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Ed Foster said...

As an interim artillery round,until the railguns show up, it's not a bad idea.

But it's just too fragile to work through a magazine or a belt feed. They've been trying to make that happen for half a century, and the physics just aren't there.

Also, I think we're over the hump on copper/brass prices, which have dropped more than two thirds since the rollercoaster left the gate.

However, were I in an M1 Abrams I would seriously love the idea of caseless ammo. With the combination of a hand loaded breech to minimize chipping, and a fume extractor to reduce gas emissions, it would provide a wonderful escape from the turret artilleryman's nightmare of rolling cases on the deck.

I trained in Sea School on the old 5" 38cal naval gun, but it was just the basics, on an exposed mount.

I can only imagine what it must have been like under combat conditions, in a double mount cramped inside a small shield, with each tube putting out 15 or 16rounds a minute. If you didn't leave some fingers inside the breach, you could bust your head while tumbling over an empty.

I can see where it could be an excellent replacement for any gun loaded with powder bags. The 155mm and up crowd are already used to caseless ammo, so it wouldn't amount to any change at all, and might make tailored charges a lot easier. I wonder if that manually set primer in the breechface is hot enough toset off caseless?

Tam said...

"However, were I in an M1 Abrams I would seriously love the idea of caseless ammo."

AFAIK, the Rheinmetal-licensed M256 120mm smoothbore uses (mostly) combustible cases, such that only the brass base of the charge is expelled from the breech...

Ed Foster said...

I sit corrected. Great minds running in similar channels. It obviously is great technology for non-magazine fed weapons of sufficient size. Now if they'd only bring back the 16" battleships.

Think of it. Our nifty caseless propellents pushing terminally guided RAP rounds 200 klicks for less than a grand apiece.

Of course, we couldn't have that. The equivalent of a Harpoon for less than 1% of the Harpoon's cost. Bad for business.

RevGreg said...

Actually, I beg to differ tomcatshanger. The SCAR, Beretta, XM-8 and ACR all seem to have immense receivers and furniture and are generally "chunky" in appearance...the XCR is very sleek and looks little like the others. IMHO, while the rest are trying to make their rifles LOOK futuristic and "cool", Robinson actually put their time into building a very functional and ergonomic system designed from the ground up...not a tweaked previous model skinned over by someone who watched too many sci-fi flicks. One of our customers recently bought his second XCR (he is a trainer/guard at a nuke plant and shoots constantly) and his comment was that although the XCR's appearance doesn't excite him like some of the other rifles out there, he hasn't been able to break it yet...and that's more important. Add to that the excellent ergonomics and it's sad that they are such a small company and don't stand a chance of large-scale adoption.

As always, YMMV (your milage may vary.)

Kristopher said...

I'll take your word on the AR-70, Tam.

I owned a Galil ... the damned thing was heavy, but it always ran.

As for magazines ... sorry, folks BUT the M-16 mag was one of the rifle's weak points. I have a bag of rusty AK mags that someone tried to de-mill with a pick ... drilled the dings out, painted over the rust, and they functioned flawlessly.

Do that with a STANAG mag and it is toast.

I want something as reliable as an AK, but with AR 15 accuracy. And light.

And to have a pink unicorn show up and give me a transferable water cooled Ma Deuce.

Ed Foster said...

Kristopher: MagPul PMags beat everything else I tested up at Smith last year, and I've heard good things about the Cammenga Easymags. I'll know more next week, when I get to shoot a dozen or so. They sure do look cool with that trick front loading shizzbat.

Also, CProducts makes a heat treated steel AR mag on police contracts, very high quality (they have a police cruiser drive over them before the firing tests)and they have some overage on most orders, so give them a call.

On AK mags, try to match nationality of manufacture. The Chinese magazines, especially the partially synthetic ones, are massively larger. Conversly, putting a Russian or East German mag in a Chinese weapon and the mag is swinging on the latch.

Bob Hawkins said...

The magic words: terminal guidance. Bullets that home in on heat and CO2 sources, heartbeats, or do pattern recognition on enemy camouflage patterns.

With guided bullets, we could bring back the Garand.

Kristopher said...

Ed: My wife's 1980's Norinco has handled every motley magazine I've put in it ... and my homebuilt udrive bolt AK parts gun runs all of my bizarre collection of AK mags just as well.

Maybe your example chicom had issues?

It IS nice to see that, 50 years later, the folks at Magpul have finally got the STANAG mag working to near AK standards.

Tam said...


The original alloy STANAG magazine works just like Eugene Stoner intended: Lightweight, cheap, and quasi-disposable, just like a Garand clip. The fact that some of them have continued to work for many years and many duty cycles is noteworthy.

It is good that both of your family's AK's are unfussy about mags. I've had picky Norcs and WASRs with more catholic tastes, and vice versa.

Out of curiosity, when you say "motley collection of mags", how many are you referring to? How many duty cycles have they seen? Have you subjected them to hard training use at any carbine courses?