Monday, October 12, 2009


[update: added some more to this entry. and fixed some spelling errors, as is my wont, when I am embarassed by them]

There is lots of comment out there about the M4 assault rifle issued to our troops failing in the field.

They are getting fired until too hot, then they can't fire no more.

One of the criticisms is that the soldier are relying on that old bugaboo "spray and pray." They are just firing blindly hoping the commotion will force the enemy to retire.

I don't think that is it.

When a unit of soldiers is doing that mad firing I think they are working to doctrine. The object is to place a volume of fire on the enemy to fix them in place, then maneuver to hit the enemy in the flank. If you have no organization to maneuver against them, the attempt to achieve fire supremacy is not halted in the confusion. The failure is not in the rifle that can't keep up the volume of fire, but the inability to effectively achieve fire supremacy quickly enough to allow/use further doctrines of movement against the enemy. Or they are overwhelmed and fire supremacy is never regained because you don't have enough resources so movement on the flanks is impossible. They are outnumbered.

That is the idea at least. When you lose a battle it only looks like spray and pray. And when things fail, all around, it looks bad.

So you have 2 choices. One: You change your doctrine to semi-auto hits when the enemy sticks his head out. But the good guys have to have their heads stuck out to do this, so you better be good. Two: Issue the troops with rifles that don't overheat and jam when you fire a bajillion rounds through it, and be sure you can supply them with a bajillion rounds all the time. We might be able to handle the supply with US forces, but maybe the rifle should be something like the AK, that sets fire to the wooden stock before failure, as opposed to the M-16 types. Or BETTER M-16 types might be a solution.

But the Germans, in WWII could handle the job, generally, using heavy machine guns to fix the enemy in place, while maneuvering around with bolt action rifles. At least for a while. Near the end of the war they and their singl-shots were getting out-supremacied by MANY semi-autos (Garands) or MANY sub machine guns (Russia). You can do this type of fighting with bolt action rifles, but you better not have waves of enemies coming at you or thin logistical tail.

Is it a fatal compromise to adjust your doctrine, permanently, when trying to make do with less? And is the doctrine you'd switch to as effective as the current doctrine? If the answers are No and No to those two questions then stick to the current doctrine, expect to see a lot of what looks like spray and pray for a long time, and SUPPLY the troops with what they need. Robust arms and lots of bullets.

Jeff Cooper
was always impressed by a nation of riflemen like the Boers holding their own against the British. Being a rifleman himself he searched for support for his preferences. And the Boers did well hitting their targets. Did they? Of did Brits not apply enough volume of fire to achieve fire supremacy before maneuvering against their opponents? And if the Boers had had the advantages the Brits had would they have used a different Battle Doctrine?

[Note: This doctrine of fire supremacy (fix in place then maneuver against) only works with unit tactics. If you are team of one or two it is not the doctrine you want to adopt. Hit your targets.]

{update: and hey, Farmer Frank had some further comments on this issue and doetails a bit with mine. I guess the real issue is making a reliable platform, that is also accurate. A beefier bullet would be good, too. My heart lies with the 7.62x51, but I'm wondering if they'd go that big. 6.x mm gets bandied about as an idea for longer than we've fielded the 7.62 up til new varieties in the present day.}

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