Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Making fenceposts look like Einstein.

So, in criticizing the performance of the M4 carbine in Afghanistan, one Major General Robert Scales, Jr. USA (Ret.) suggested reviving the dormant XM8 program.

The XM8 is, of course, another carbine in 5.56 NATO.

The fact that a man so obviously ignorant of the simplest elements of riflery managed to become a Major General in the Army of my nation makes me very sad inside.

(The alternative explanation, of course, is that the "You Suck And We Hate You" company has him on retainer, but I'd prefer to think that the retired O-8 is an idiot, rather than a crook and a shill.)

As I said at Unc's, the military needs to lose its obsession with some imaginary bygone day of riflery, when every draftee could pick up his (M1873/Krag/Springfield/Garand/M-14/20″ M-16) and accurately engage point targets at mortar ranges.


Bram said...

Our soldiers and Marines shouldn't have accurate rifles and be proficient with them?

Tam said...

I didn't say they shouldn't.

The average M4 is a lot more accurate than the man shooting it.

Bram said...

I guess it's the "motar ranges" we disagree about.

RevolverRob said...

What I think they need to do, is lose their obsession over a cartridge with lousy range and power at longer distances and go back to known entities that work.

At minimum they need to get rid of a rifle platform that's reliability is at best, mediocre.

Just my thinking...if we're going to send boys to fight in a war, we don't we give them guns they can use to kill the enemy?


WV: allit. The way the military should be building rifles, they should be able to do allit.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good idea here

og said...

Oh boy another episode of battle rifle wars!(Pulls up lawnchar and pours large mug of sweet tea) this is gonna be great!

Bram said...

Og – Yep, here we go!

I felt pretty good about my marksmanship when I shot perfect at 500 yards with my M16A2. Then I got to Saudi Arabia and could see for miles - and the damn rifle decided not to work in the sand. I tried to get an M14 but the Vietnam Vets beat me to the armory. Saudi soldiers with G3’s guarding the rifle range we used were just shaking their heads as my company had a misfire session right before the war started.

The General is a rock if he doesn't know that the XM8 is the same caliber with an even shorter barrel as the M4.

I think an intermediate cartridge (6.5 Grendel maybe) and a new piston rifle (I would chose a bullpup) is the way to go. Truck drivers and tankers can keep the poodle shooter.

Everyone seems to have a scope these days - so 800 yards should be pretty doable with a decent rifle.

Tam said...


"I guess it's the "motar ranges" we disagree about."

Yes, but the article in question talks about ranges of 800+ yards, which is pure fantasyland for most people with iron-sighted weapons fired from field positions.

800+ yards is for crew-served weapons. Even the brown shoe Army thought the Garand's effective range was 500 yards or so.

John Stephens said...

Pretty much anyone above the rank of Lieutenant Colonel is more politician than soldier. That's how you get promoted beyond Lieutenant Colonel. Some politicians are more crooked than others (or maybe it's just more obvious), but the breed is the same all over.

"neudoge" In an alternate universe, the Hapsburgs conquered Venice and restored the Republic. This is the guy they put in charge.

Mattexian said...

I think the XM8 would make a dandy rifle, for the Clone Troopers fighting the damned rebel scum. (Don't it look like something from the Lucasfilms armory?)

Mike W. said...

I love it. The effective range of 5.56 out of a carbine is inadequate, so let's adopt a totally new weapon firing the same round out of a carbine length barrel.

Boy! That'll solve the problem! *headdesk*

Fred said...

I wanna know what branch the supposed General was. Probably some sort of Admin job where they took the rifles out once a year with some disgust to qualify and that was it.

Owen said...

I think you'd be surprised at how well the M855 performs compared to M80 ball out to 600 yds or so.

5.56 to the chest at 500 yards is still going to ruin your day. If you can't hit at 500 with a 5.56, why would you be able to hit with a 7.62?

Tam said...

"If you can't hit at 500 with a 5.56, why would you be able to hit with a 7.62?"

Oh, stop making sense!

Anonymous said...

It's not the caliber, it's the operating system.

Read the newest issue of Small Arms Review.

Shootin' Buddy

Bram said...

The operating system can be blamed for at least some of the reliability issues of the M16 family. I don't think a different system is going to make a 5.56mm bullet fly farther or hit harder.

Rabbit said...

I'm sorry, but the person who makes a decision on standard infantry arms should never be one whose job is to authorize PowerPoint presentations.

This guy is the type who gets a Captain to back up his laptop to the TSM server.

As it states he's retired, did anyone check to see if he's working as a consultant for someone with a vested interest in changing mules in this wagon train?

Anonymous said...

"800+ yards is for crew-served weapons."

Yep, and even that is way too close-range.

Get our guys the fuck outa the sand pits and jungles; the enemy is that little dot on the screen.

We ain't winning any more wars door-to-door.

Montie said...

Oh boy,

like og, I love these battle rifle arguments! The military is full of staff officers who have never been in the infantry which is probably why the the O-8 was able to demonstrate his keen intellect at a level that would make the average firearms enthusiast say "huh?"

The problem is that the military is continually equipping for "the last war". The M-4 would have been the perfect version of the M-16 for use in Vietnam. It was also found to be quite useful in house to house fighting in Iraq, being short and manueverable in confined spaces and adequately lethal at short engagement ranges. It's also a whole lot easier to un-ass out of an APC, HUMVEE, or the like with a short-barreled collapsible stocked carbine.

Shortly after the little dustup in Grenada, when I was a mere "butterbar" someone at battalion decided to task me with coming up with a protocol for the battalion to integrate a squad level designated marksman program. When I found out tht we had a number of M-14's in the armory, one of the suggestions I made was that we issue them to our DM's, since we were expecting them to be able to engage accurately at more extended ranges than the average rifleman. The battalion commander said that he didn't think that M-14's were any more accurate than our issued m-16's particularly since we were getting ready to convert to the "new" M-16A2's, but my argument was that the 7.62 hit harder at extended range. He bought into it, but the battalion S-4 shot it down because M-14's were not in our CTA (common table of allowances) even though we had them in our armory! So supply won out over the infantry regarding what weapons we could use.

I have a cousin who is an E-8 in the Marine Corps. When his unit went into Iraq, they were using full-sized M-16A4's and they began to request collapsible stocks for better cheek weld when wearing modern ballistic armor but were forbidden to use them or make battlefield modifications using some obtained from the Army because some staff officer didn't like them. Somewhere, some of their armorers scrounged some M-16A1 stocks and he had one put on his rifle because it helped a little with the excessive length of pull while wearing armor.What the military really needs is the ability to QUICKLY change equipment as the battlefield dictates. Whether it be weaponry clothing, etc. We could issue a lot more M-14's if, during the Clinton years, the Army hadn't destroyed a lot of them held in storage.

Tam is right in that most soldiers cannot hit a man sized target consistently past 300 to 400 meters, but many can and should be equipped to strike a lethal blow at extended range when the situation calls for it. At the same time, in the jungle or house to house an M4 is a much better weapon than a full-sized M-14.

Regardless of what they are issued, most soldiers will make do and bitch about it, that's the military way.

Bram said...

Montie - Good stuff. Your Marine cousin would take your statement about soldiers being unable to hit past 300-400 meters as confirmation of what we have always known.

I love modular capabilities of the FN SCAR that the Special Forces are buying. If I was going back to the desert, I would put it together as a .308 with at least a 20" barrel. If I was headed for a jungle, maybe 5.56 or 6.8 SPC with a shorter barrel.

Of course it's probably too expensive for a standard issue infantry weapon. It's the closest we are going to get to the one-size-fits-all approach that the military requires today. Even though we did just fine in WWII and Korea with multiple calibers.

Joel said...

I never thought I'd say this. I'm with Og.

Next topic: Revolver or semiauto? Which is better?

Anonymous said...

Bram, no the bitching is about the operating system (see this month's SAR), not the caliber.

Somehow Fox Snooze got all wrapped around the wrong thing.

Shootin' Buddy

staghounds said...

I'll bet the General his pension versus everything I own that I can pop up and stand still 500 yards in front of any platoon of non-DM US army soldiers, in non- range conditions, for 30 seconds.

Arm them with any rifle he likes.

As you say, even seeing a human target at 500 yards, sill enough and long enough to hit it, is like seeing Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, and the sensible Democrat for an infantryman.

And there are armories all over the world chock full of brand new FALs and G3s, too. I'll bet that India, for example, would be thrilled to sell us all we wanted for about $100 piece.

global village idiot said...

Engaging targets at 600 yards was entirely expected of soldiers in the early parts of WWI and just prior.

What no one seems to remember or care to do much research on was the size of the target.

In my collection I have a German Imperial Army doccument called a "Schuss-Buch." It was a record of a German Landser's marksmanship, with the usual administrative data (Company/Reg't, Cdr's signature, service number, rifle type and serial number, etc.) and several record tables where someone other, I presume, than the shooter himself, would tabulate bullet strikes, shot groups and hits per shots fired.

One of the targets the German soldier was expected to hit was at 600 meters. Yup, an average German soldier was expected to hit a target at greater 3/8 of a mile.

The target, by the way, was the size of five men standing in close-order formation. Yep, a 6x6 target. Even at 300 meters, his target was the size of two men shoulder-to-shoulder.

In that sense, a modern-day soldier being able to engage a single standard popup silhouette at 300 yards is, in fact, displaying superior marksmanship than was expected of the vaunted WWI soldier.

Lastly, EVERYONE here seems to forget that the individual rifleman armed with an M16 is in a position not dissimilar to the Roman pediatus. The M16 is to rifles what the gladius was to swords. Both found their best expression as part of a combined-arms team.


Tam said...


"Engaging targets at 600 yards was entirely expected of soldiers in the early parts of WWI and just prior.

What no one seems to remember or care to do much research on was
the size of the target."

Which is why I specified "point targets". ;)

A lot of people don't seem to know that those 800+ yard settings on old rifle sights are so that platoons and companies could lay down a beaten zone in the pre-machine-gun days.

Anonymous said...

I recall, from an article about the formation of the NRA, an anecdote. The was a officer, european I believe, that recomended removing the sights from rifles and fitting a device that would lock the trigger unless the rifle was held at the proscribed inclination.

reflectoscope said...

As is typical for VFTP, I find myself getting smarter in equal measure for the original post and the comments that follow.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I know, lets buy up all the Mosin-Nagant 91/30's that are all around. Their sights have settings out to 2,000 arsins, or something like that. The stocks are short to solve the body armor problem and the 7.62x54 round has more power than even the 7.62x39! And they have really cool bayonets.

Geodkyt said...

If you want to intelligently discuss teh combat shooting abilities of well trained troops with bolt action rifles, under near-ideal conditions for long range rifle fire, with rifle/cartridge combos that often had specifications for them like "Must kill or disable a HORSE at 1000 yards,", then may I suggest McBride's A Rifleman Goes to War.

Here is the WWI memoirs of a Camp Perry competitor, who took a railroad job out West SPECIFICALLY so he could do long range shooting, who resigned a commission as a captain in the National Guard so he could go to Canada and enlist when WWI broke out, ended up as a machinegunner and as a sniper, before being re-commissioned by the Candians.

He specifically discusses teh ability of competitive shooters to regularly get nice groups at 1000 yards (often with iron sights). Then he discusses the near-impossibility of snipers with very accurate, telescopically sighted rifles, to reliably get hits beyond 500m, because of the nature of the battlefield.

On a BATTLEFIELD, wearing armor and battle rattle, getting those same hits that the USMC finds easy on a nice KD range (sometimes with shooting jackets and gloves).

If the infantry rifle lays down "Ick!" level damage past the effective range of an AK fired by your enemy (say, 150m or so, and that's awful generous to Johnny Jihad), and in decent hands can reliably hit and wound man sized targets half the time to 500m, AND can reliably penetrate the expected level of crap the enemy soldier is wearing (canteens count, too) then you have a good GI rifle, ballistically speaking.

Mike said...

The new solution(for the Army)is the M855A1. The USMC has their own solution, a new 5.56mm OTM.

Mike said...

Sorry, that USMC round is MK 318 MOD 0 "Cartridge, Caliber 5.56mm Ball, Carbine, Barrier". The 62 grain bullet was designed by Federal / ATK.

global village idiot said...

Tam, we're on the same page, you and I. I certainly didn't mean to imply that you were the type of ignorant dreamer I was referring to in my response.

Rather, the ones I'm on about are, for example, the old farts at the Reserve center who bewail the marksmanship of our unit. They are the likes of those you pillory in your original blog post, superannuated and mostly useless fossils-emeritus who pine for some imaginary previous period, typically back when they were Privates or Specialists, when of course our Sergeants ensured that every soldier was a crack shot and our guns were REAL guns...unlike nowadays (the fact is that marksmanship in the Reserves and Active Duty alike is about the same as it's always been - a bell curve - but don't tell that to some crusty old "brown-boot" Master Sergeant).

Heretofore (before I became an NCO) I'd lay out such facts as we've seen discussed here. Now as I have some rank, I get to do better. I just make a remark to the effect of "So marksmanship in the Army went to crap about the same time as you became responsible for teaching it? Talk about your strange coincidences!"

I'm a bit of a buzzkill and I'll make no friends at the VFW with talk like that, but I don't see why my Soldiers should suffer such fools gladly at all, as their effect on unit morale is corrosive.

I do what I can. I host a "Range Day" at a nearby civilian range for trigger time prior to qualification, and a $10 reward for anyone junior to me who outshoots me during qualification. I seldom have to pay more than $20...pity.


Boat Guy said...

Had to put my unsweet tea down finally...I'm w/ Montie, the M4 is OK if you think of it as a replacement for the M1 Carbine. It still has it's place, though I used to be one of those wiseass E-2's whining and pining for something else.
Absolutely second the citation for McBride; a MUST HAVE for every serious library - see his description of adequate "hitting power" for a Luger.
And gvi, ... good on ya. Do what you can, where, when and as you can...
Y'all gotta realize that there are a LOT of two-stars (Ret) out there 'cause the services decided to cut their losses and not make SOME of these idiots even more senior (c.f. Sestak, Joe)

Tam said...

There are people who don't have copies of A Rifleman Went To War?

Huh. Weird.

staghounds said...

SOMEONE has my autographed one...

Geodkyt said...

I'll be honest, I just received a copy from Mike over at Doin' the Time Warp (

Hadn't read it before. . . but then I used to avoid WWI memoirs with a passion, becuase I really never felt the need to read 300 pages of rats eating putrified corpses, until teh Chlorine cleaned them out for a few weeks, ad nauseum. {grin}