“Rifle of Tomorrow,” As Seen Yesterday (1982)

There’s always a market for prediction about the future, and they’re always hostages to fate. So, today, we’ll open a time capsule from 1982 (specifically, from the November-December issue of the US Army’s branch magazine, Infantry, as seen at right) and see how whether one officer’s prediction panned out — or whether it just panned. Subject of prediction, or perhaps more honestly, subject of advocacy: a new rifle for the Army in the last quarter of the 20th Century.

The officer in question was a Texas Army National Guard officer named Noyes Burton Livingston III, about whom we know only that he’s still alive, was married at least three times (triumph of hope over repeated experience, or maybe he went SF), and is well-remembered as a writer for Iron Horse, a motorcycle magazine.

The United States infantryman has fought on many battlefields over the years, always doing his best on each with whatever rifle he happened to have at the time. And his potential battlefield continues to change and expand.

Through the use of thermal energy, ground surveillance radar, night vision devices, and intrusion warning systems, detection and engagement ranges are increasing in distance but decreasing in time. As a result, the U.S. infantryman will no doubt eventually get a new rifle to carry into battle — and he will need it.

So far, so good. Not a bad prediction for 1982. Indeed, the observation that “detection and engagement ranges are increasing in distance but decreasing in time,” for the grand European battle that the Army of 1982 was fixated upon, was a keen insight.

His present rifle, the M 16A1, is a good weapon. It is well made, lightweight, and accurate at battlefield ranges. It is handy to shoot, and it disassembles easily. In fact, it is almost everything a marksman or a service support soldier could ask for. Unfortunately, though, it is not designed to fill the basic requirements of the soldier who has to stake his life on it, the infantryman. So we need to begin thinking now about what kind of rifle we would like to have to replace it. We must not leave it to chance, as we have sometimes done in the past.

Of course, at that time the Army and Marines were both experimenting with new rifles, a project that would lead in less than a year to USMC and later Army adoption of the M16A2. But Livingston had no way to know that at the time.

No matter how much warfare changes, though, the infantryman’s war will still be brutal and intimate, and his rifle must be designed with that in mind. He must also believe in its capabilities and should be encouraged to use it. Besides shooting rapidly and accurately every time it is called on, an infantryman’s rifle must be able to double as a club, a spear, or a crutch. It may also have to help make a litter, form part of a hasty ladder, or scoop out a hurried fighting position. In short, it must function when everything else has failed.

That seems to sum up his requirements, and as you see, he’s putting a lot of weight on non-rifle functionality. Now he gets into specifics:

How should an infantry rifle be made to meet these high expectations? First of all, it cannot I;le encumbered with a carrying handle. We have all seen the classic example of a soldier running in training, one hand on his helmet and the other clutching his MI6 by the carrying handle, like a commuter with his lunch pail chasing a departing bus.. The handle makes the weapon easy to carry, but not easy to fire quickly.

A rifle must be built to fit naturally in a carry that lends itself to an attitude and position of readiness. The firing hand must grasp the small of the stock near the trigger, and the off hand must grab it slightly forward of its center of balance. A soldier should have to move only one hand to point and fire his weapon, not both.

He’s missing the main purpose of the “carrying handle,” which is not, mirabile dictu, to carry the firearm. It’s there to provide a home for the rear site that works with anthropometric dimensions and the desire to provide a straight-line stock.

Initial Armalite military rifle designs had ordinary drop-heel stocks, but then evolved into the straight-line stock, and the first model of what would become the AR-10 provided a front sight on a Johnson-inspired triangular base and a rear sight on an FG-42-like folding stalk. Here’s the 1944 Johnson for comparison.

The “carrying handle” was an attempt to make a virtue out of the necessity of making a more rigid rear sight base.

We ought to mention that at this particular point in time, the Army’s culture, and particularly Ranger and Infantry culture, was absolute death on slings. Why? Well, slings encourage the soldier to carry the rifle some way other than at the ready.

Of course, this fixation on ready carry suggests that every soldier is always and everywhere mere moments from a small arms engagement, and at that, so few mere moments that he would not have time to change his grip on his gun.

It also assumes that a soldier would be so suicidally stupid as to not carry the gun at the ready whilst in the presence of the enemy. But then, Infantry is primarily written and read by officers, who are aware that enlisted men are stupid, but sly and cunning, and bear considerable watching.

Likewise, while a pistol grip may be necessary for a light machinegun, it is a liability on a rifle. Given a rifle with a pistol grip, a soldier cannot drop to the ground into the prone position without removing one hand from his weapon to break his fall. If he does not use the pistol grip, but holds onto the stock to let the butt of the rifle strike the ground instead, he must release his hold before he can reach the grip and shoot. The same soldier cannot cease firing and jump up to rush forward without removing his firing hand completely from his weapon to grab the stock and push off with it. It is extremely difficult to hold onto a pistol grip and get up another way.

Once up and running, this soldier cannot fire his remaining rounds and then lunge effectively at his opponent with his bayonet, or follow up with a butt stroke, without completely losing hold of his rifle with his strongest hand. Although bayonet fighting may be a relatively small thing,when it is all an infantryman has left, it is everything, and close combat is no place for changing hands or coming in second best.

OK, he’s really stressing the heck out of the non-rifle applications of rifles, isn’t he? But we’d suppose he would argue that you can make a better club and halberd out of a rifle without compromising its rifle functionality. His rifle now looks like this:

Let’s get a little deeper into his conceptual design.

TECHNIQUES

A pistol grip also discourages the use of several important shooting techniques. With such a grip, a soldier’s arm follows the angle of his firing hand when he is holding onto his rifle, causing his elbow to press against the side of his body while he fires. This eliminates the shoulder pocket that the weapon’s butt is supposed to fit into to lessen the effect of recoil, steady the weapon, and keep it from slipping off his shoulder. Without a good shoulder pocket, it is hard for a soldier to maintain a firm stock weld with his cheek, to make his head move with the rifle as it recoils, and to keep his eye aligned with the sights.

A rifle should have a semi-pistol grip to improve marksmanship and to allow the soldier to hold it while running, leaping, and crawling and still have his firing hand in position to pull the trigger. It should also have a semi-straightline stock with a raised comb. The gas cylinder and operating rod should be above the barrel to reduce muzzle climb when the rifle is fired. Because the small of the stock would drop to form the semi-pistol grip, the rifle cannot have a buffer behind the receiver as the MI6 does. There are many existing weapon designs, such as the FN-FAL, the AK, the AR18, the SiG 540, and the Valmet M62, that can be modified to fit a traditional rifle stock.

In a rifle of this type, there would be no gas tube — as in the MI6 — to blow contaminants into the rifle’s action or gas and excess lubricant into the firer’s eyes. The bolt would lock fully until it was withdrawn by the operating mechanism, instead of using a delayed blowback principle, so varying qualities of ammunition could be used.

Actually, if you want to use a wide range of ammo pressures (because the pressure is what the gun “feels”, and what influences the gun), it’s hard to beat the HK roller-delayed system. Blowback and gas-unlocked systems both have narrower ranges of impulses that they can tolerate — at least, as far as they’ve been designed so far.

The barrel would be heavy enough to support a bayonet, and its bore and chamber would be chrome-plated to resist corrosion and wear.

The rifle would share many of the beneficial features of the M16 and its contemporaries. The receiver would be split into an upper and lower group held together by takedown and pivot pins. This would allow placing the rear sight at the back of the receiver, instead of at the front, by doing away with a bolt cover like the one found on the AK. This placement would permit using a rear sight aperture and a longer sight radius.

The lower receiver group would incorporate a sturdy integral magazine well and a winter trigger guard that would swing forward against the magazine when released. It would accept MI6 aluminum or nylon magazines and would have all the weapon’s controls accessible from the firing position. The selector lever would be manipulated with the firing hand thumb, and the magazine catch button would be worked by the trigger finger. The bolt catch would be released by the thumb of the loading hand after a loaded magazine was inserted.

When the firer pulled back on the charging handle to lock the bolt to the rear, the bolt catch would be engaged with the firing hand thumb.

That would actually be an ergonomic improvement on the AR-15’s generally excellent ergs, would it not?

EJECTION

The upper receiver would have a covered ejection port on its right side and a charging handle fixed to the bolt carrier on its left. There would be no bolt forward assist on the receiver as the charging handle could be pushed forward to close the bolt. Placing the charging handle on the left side would allow the action to be cycled from a firing position without the firer moving his firing hand or the weapon, as must be done with the MI4 or MI6. The charging handle would be at the left front of the receiver where it would not strike the non-firing hand. Its motion would be hidden from the firer’s view by its speed and by the rear sight’s elevation drum, which would also be on the left.

The rifle would be a little longer and slightly heavier than the MI6. It should fire at a moderate cyclic rate from the closed bolt position with the bolt remaining open after the last round was ejected. Automatic fire should be limited by a 3- or 4-round burst control mechanism. It would have a concave recoil pad to hold it in place during automatic fire, and it would accept an MI6 clothespin bipod.

Heh. We see the 1980s fad of the burst control raising its ugly head. Bad substitution for training troops. The military has finally, if not completely, killed this bad idea 35 years later. Bring more fire, lest it respawn.

The new rifle’s flash suppressor, sling swivels, bayonet, bayonet—stud, and front sight assembly would be the same as those on the MI6. Its rear sight would be similar to the one on the MI4. The fiberglass stock would be made like the MI6’s, and the easily gripped triangular handguards would be held on with a slipring in the same way. The stock should not be constructed to fold or collapse because that feature would make it less rigid. In addition to the standard 20- and 30-round MI6 magazines, a short magazine that fits flush with the bottom of the magazine well should be issued for civil disturbance and ceremonial duties.

A couple of interesting ideas there, including the need for robustness of the stock. But then again, he sees it as primarily a club with a sideline in shooting, so why not? The flush magazine, delete the useless 3-round-burst, and it would even be NY/CA legal! (They’d surely find some way to ban it).

Many excellent weapons made by friendly nations, and some by not so friendly ones, are available that we can examine and test during the process of developing our own rifle. It is important to keep in mind that our rifleman does not need the most sophisticated design possible, one such as the Austrian STG 77, the French MAS, or the Swedish MKS, but he does deserve an infantry weapon that fits the conditions under which he must fight.

He makes an interesting point. In the M16A2 tests no foreign weapon was seriously compared or tested. Indeed, no systematic survey of the field has been made before any recent American small arms procurement decision.

This proposed rifle is offered to support, not replace, the squad and platoon automatic weapons. It would first serve the rifleman with aimed semiautomatic or limited burst fire, Its adoption would result from the recognition that infantry combat is more than a “mad minute” fought by individuals. An updated yet traditional rifle would reaffirm the infantryman’s role and signal a return to the tactics of soldiers fighting together. Fire superiority would become the product of superior fire by the unit, not random fire by its members.

If we begin now to plan for the rifle of the future, perhaps when the time comes for a quick decision on a replacement for our present rifle, we will have the right one waiting in the wings.

M16A1 (top) and M16A2

Well, we got the M16A2 at the time, so make of that what you will.

Sources

You can download the Army Infantry magazine for Nov-Dec 82 here, or see the archive as a whole here. However, that version is pdf image only. We have an OCRd copy of the Nov-Dec 82 issue here: NOV-DEC1982.pdf

70 thoughts on ““Rifle of Tomorrow,” As Seen Yesterday (1982)

  1. Boat Guy

    We should all live ling enough to read what we wrote as earnest youngsters; though most of us would rightly cringe.
    The first thing that came to mind in looking at the illustration is that the receiver looks like an AR-180. You rightly discern that the author is largely looking at non-shooting aspects of the rifle; interesting that he advocated keeping the triangular handguards of the 16A1. He was certainly correct in the need for a change in the 16’s rear sight.
    My last issue “M16” was the A3 and I was generally happy with it; though I considered it (and still do) more as a “carbine” – an arm for us REMF’s and FOBbits than a true Infantry weapon. Having lived with direct-impingement for over 40 years, I still bear it no love and changing that would be the first stipulation I would make to any “future” rifle.

    1. CJ

      Out of curiosity and perhaps to spur discussion, what would you consider a true Infantry weapon? Anything currently in the inventory or COTS, or something entirely different?

      1. Boat Guy

        I’m an old guy and a bit of a big-bullet bigot so I’d stipulate something in the 6.5+mm 150-ish grain bullet launcher to start. I’d like that bullet to be able to have terminal effect out to 400-500 yards. The rifle should be a “self-loader” (I know, kinda obvious to most) and detachable magazine fed. The G3 and the Valmet do these things pretty well; and I’ll own to a soft spot for an M-14 “enhanced” with the improved stock and some kinda optic. I’m also old enough to specify “back-up” irons.

        1. SPEMack

          There is something to be said for a,bigger hole.

          The Barret REC-7/M-468 was my dream service weapon for a while.

        2. CJ

          Perhaps a HK33 in 6.5 Grendel then? I could be on board with that. I do like roller locks.

    2. BillC

      There’s nothing wrong with direct-impingement, what’s wrong is the military’s hard-on for excessive cleaning.

      1. Boat Guy

        I overcame my own ” hard-on for excessive cleaning” but I still don’t have much affection for blowin shit back into the works when I can keep most of it in it’s own cylinder. YMMV

      2. DSM

        Ever get a look at those old ZM Weapons uppers? It was an interesting take on DI that I kind of liked. It used a long gas key that stretched darn near the length of the handguards on a shortened bolt carrier with additional gas relief ports. The gas tube wasn’t but so many inches in length at the gas block. It didn’t cure all the crap blowing back into the receiver but it greatly reduced it. The design could have been refined a little more to all gas venting after unlocking I think too.

        1. RT

          The guy who originally designed the Massoud rifle for Magpul now works for another company which is perfecting the design before releasing it for sale.

          They had an example of it at SHOT show this year too.

          It is a DI / hybrid DI system that vents all the gas and crap under the handguard, not into the receiver.

          The ZM / para ttr system is pretty cool too though.

          On the subject of “classic combat rifles” like the author of the article wants adopted, my vote would be for a Winchester SPIW rechambered and with a shorter barrel while keeping the drum.

          The round I’d want to see it chambered in is a FABRL variant Nathaniel who writes for TFB did up and ran the numbers for.

          The Winchester SPIW rifle is downright sexy in an odd Elmer Fudd goes back to the future sort of way.

      3. Chris W.

        This. Ex-Infantry friends of mine have said that the military trained them all wrong on excessive cleaning of their firearms.

    3. Tennessee Budd

      “We should all live long enough to read what we wrote as earnest youngsters; though most of us would rightly cringe.”
      Some of us have, & have. I, like some others, fancied myself something of a poet when younger. I’m thankful to God & the Muses that I had sense enough to burn most of my notebooks when still young. Among what survived are many things to make me wince, although there are a couple I think pretty damned good even now. There’s one of which I’m actually proud. That may simply be a sign of poor taste on my part; nevertheless, I don’t inflict it upon anyone else. That may be a sign of the rare bit of good sense.

      1. Boat Guy

        We should all live long enough to acquire that “rare bit of good sense” too.

  2. jim h

    maybe I missed it, but he didn’t address any issue with the ammo caliber itself. makes me wonder if he fully espoused the SCHV idea or if that was a non-issue to him, since he seems to love everything around shooting the rifle itself.

    seems like he was trying to create some sort of unholy “BAR-16” concoction or something like it. seems kind of reminiscent of one of the Ares rifles I’ve seen pictures of. giving credit where credit is due, he certainly put some effort and thought into this.

  3. SPEMack

    Interesting. The war(s) I waged were so different from wars past that I don’t think I ever used my issued long arm for anything other than shooty things. And when issued a M-16A2 on my first deployment I was most dejected with the fixed carry handle.

    A most interesting read and window into the past.

    Death to burst and long live the 5.56mm

  4. robroysimmons

    One thing about slings, in that time frame there was a sling adapter kit in the NSN catalog. Being a weapons custodian I wrangled one for my A1 and then fitted it with a spare M-60 sling. So as a cool guy RTO for the FO I looked “spec ops” and drew the stink eyes from the Os.

    But old habits die hard, back in 2012 I spent good fiat to get an official mil-spec approved AR and it came with that epitome of crappy sling what was issue back in the day.

  5. Nynemillameetuh

    Ruggedness aside, it appears that George Kellgren and co. took some aesthetic inspiration from this when designing the SU-16 series.

  6. BAP45

    If i knew how to post a picture i would but oh well im sure you have all seen them already. as jim mentioned besides a few differences it sounds just like an ares scr set up.

    Tanget here. I wonder if the army insistence on a forward assist in the 60s was a hold over from a lot of the older guys having used garands. I know on mine i have to give it a little extra slap on that first round sometimes. (Not shove it into battery just a little boost to break the first cartridge loose) like I said a bit of a tangent from the article but his charging handle description got me thinking.

    1. jim h

      I never understood the institutional mindset of the forward assist. I heard the explanation behind it, but it always seemed to me that if the ammo wasn’t to spec, I prolly shouldn’t try to force it into the chamber to fire. you know, just in case I actually needed to be able to fire more than one shot in combat. never considered it a holdover from the garand. that kinda makes sense, though it seems like a proper buffer spring should’ve been enough.

      1. BAP45

        Exactly. The only use ive seen with the assist is with new shooters who rode the bolt.

        Makes you think though. A lot of the designers of these things are probably in their 40s or 50s and their ideas are going to be colored by their experiences from their youth. Like magazine cut offs and 3 round bursts. I wonder what thing that we think is important now that we will look back on as unnecessary.

      2. LFMayor

        I read over at LooseRounds in the development that it was the result of immersion tests. In my laymans mind it was the smaller bore of the .22 would not drain because the torsion of the water molecules was strong enough to bear the weight of the water column. .30 caliber bores were large enough that the water couldn’t hold itself inside. This made it necessary to open the bolt on the .22, which then made it necessary to be able to positively seat the bolt without fully racking it.
        In 1994 it was explained by a Marine sergeant to a group of us squids during post-qualifying weapons cleaning. One of my dungaree wearing cohorts asked what the forward assist was about. The sergeant told us it was to pump water out of the action after water crossings. Not entirely wrong… I half suspected he was full of shit for all these years until I got sent over to LooseRounds.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Actually, the Army had long insisted on a positive bolt closure device. It was one of the key advantages they thought their own M14 (T44) design had over the HR-made FN-FAL (T48).

        2. Brad

          I’ve read that the change from the original three prong flash suppressor to the basket flash suppressor was because of the prong “catching on brush” in Vietnam. But I wonder if the three prong suppressor had a tendency to attract water into the bore during rainfall?

      1. Hognose Post author

        To post an image with a comment, use the “comment image” button. Otherwise, what you post shows up as a link. (Gets the image across to those of us not too lazy to click).

      1. duchamp

        Dan, that’s correct, I have seen mention of an HEL report on the M1 carbine stock which I believe informed this and other similar concepts at the time, do you know of it?

  7. Simon

    Very traditional attitude as far as I can see.
    Das Gewehr ist eine Hieb- und Stichwaffe. Im Notfall kann auch damit geschossen werden.
    (The rifle is a weapon for striking and stabbing. In an emergency you can also shoot with it)

  8. DSM

    I don’t think you could operate the mag release, in a standard AR configuration, without breaking the firing grip on his rifle. His ideas are interesting nonetheless and I think mostly show through his upbringing in the Army. I’d bet a dollar he did his initial training with an M14 but he obviously, just by the generation, was schooled by soldiers having humped Garands across the ETO.

    1. bloke_from_ohio

      Just shoot lefty. Then you can hit the button with your right thumb and leave your left on the pistol grip. Everything else is wonky though…

  9. MD

    Off topic…I must be one of the few guys who likes the forward assist. I think it has real value when riding the bolt home slowly. Why ride the bolt? Stealth. There are times and places where chambering a round quietly is advantageous. And the forward assist is great under those circumstances.

    1. BillC

      Outside of hunting (unloaded gun in car and what-not laws), why is your chamber empty if you needed the rifle? Especially for “stealth”.

    2. BAP45

      I think its one of thkse things where there is really nothing wrong with the mechanism itself, I personally kind of like it too, but that having it there invites people to misuse it.

    3. DSM

      Only real use I’ve had for one is after doing a press check to make sure the bolt locks.

      1. LFMayor

        http://looserounds.com/556timeline/

        Sorry for the fragmented posts, it’s a long read but fascinating. All your design questions of the ar15 laid bare and reasoned decisions explained in detail.

        I’m pretty sure I learned about it from this blog, I spent several nights up way too damn late reading it!

        1. Looserounds.com

          E-ZIINE ! not a blog haha.

          we started as a blog but have evolved and eventually woke up to what we really have become, and online magazine. thanks for your readership man,

          1. LFMayor

            Awesome stuff man! It might have been Ian’s forgotten weapons too. I’m guilty of looking up Ww one weapons on there and fulfilling dark steampunk fetishes.

      2. Sommerbiwak

        A kind of “press check” is shooting grenades from an under barrel grenade launcher, which at times partially unlocks the bolt. with the forward assist it can be pushed back into locking. You could do same by pushing forward the bolt carrier with your thump, but who wants to touch a hot bolt carrier in combat? ;-)

        But as part of S.P.O.R.T.S. and similar drills it is just dumb to hammer the assist button without thinking.

  10. John M.

    “The flush magazine, delete the useless 3-round-burst, and it would even be NY/CA legal! (They’d surely find some way to ban it).”

    This thing does bear an uncanny resemblance to the goofball NY-compliant “ARs”.

    The pistol grip seems to be here to stay. Any thoughts from those with lots of experience both with and without them on whether pistol grips are worth it?

    -John M.

    1. Boat Guy

      Straight-line stock = pistol grip in my experience. Personally I don’t really care. I have shot – and still do shoot – everything from the straight-stock 03 (and the “C” stock 03) to the various AR/AK/G3/FAL and each seems, I dunno “appropriate” (?) to the arm.

      1. Boat Guy

        I’m also old enough that I’ve never been able to really accommodate the vertical fore-grip on my M4 that the youngsters seem so fond of.

  11. Aesop

    1) His description sounds for all the world like the bastard love child of a ménage a trois amongst the Spanish FR-8, the AR-18, and Col. Cooper’s Scout Rifle.

    2) “(triumph of hope over repeated experience, or maybe he went SF) “.
    William of Ockham suggest he was merely a slow learner.

    1. Hognose Post author

      That illusion that one woman is fundamentally different from the other, coupled with the illusion that all the marital problems were the woman’s fault.

  12. archy

    ***A pistol grip also discourages the use of several important shooting techniques. With such a grip, a soldier’s arm follows the angle of his firing hand when he is holding onto his rifle, causing his elbow to press against the side of his body while he fires. ***

    I have a design for an AR15/M16 pistol grip derived from another weapons platform entirely that stands a middlin’-fair chance of seeing production by an accessory manufacturer and wholesaler *maybe* yet this year, more likely sometime next.

    My next step is to finish up my prototype, maybe run off a handful of copies, and find a few beta-testers who’d like to play with it. Once you see the profile, you’ll get it immediately. But I promise you’ll see/hear about it here first.

  13. Looserounds.com

    Clearly a good standing member of The M14 Old Boys Club wrote that and though up that abomination.

    they still had a lot of hope they’d get their steel and wood back back then.

  14. James

    The author’s future weapon reminds me of a Keltec SU-16, or even an ARES SCR. Sounds like he’d be happy if the butt stock could be used as a shovel, and the bayonet was 3′ long.

      1. James

        Heck yeah! Except, as fond as I am of my Mini-14, due to the exposed bolt (or lack of a dust cover) it doesn’t fare well in extreme dust and mud tests.

        1. SPEMack

          And the mag catch is aggravating. But. As a child raised on re runs of The A-Team the Mini-14 will always have a special place in my heart.

    1. Klaus

      How about an HK SL7? Delayed roller lock,7.62 NATO,futuristic slanted look to it. Only down side is that the magazines are made from unobtainium.

  15. Brad

    Yeah, the floppiness of a collapsible stock is annoying. But the AR style multiple position stock is awfully handy for adjusting to the bewildering variety of shooting positions a rifleman might fire from.

    One use of the collapsible stock that I hadn’t seen until very recently was a neat method for a right handed shooter to shoot around a left facing corner. The shooter quickly collapses the stock with his left hand, then switches to firing from the left shoulder while keeping the hands in the normal positions, right hand on the pistol grip, left hand on the forend. Very clever.

    I begin to see why the AR style collapsible stock is gaining such popularity, even with firearms that have no connection to the AR rifle.

    1. Cap'n Mike

      I am a big fan of the 4 or 6 position collapsible stock. The 2 position is ok, but not nearly as useful.
      I find it very useful for heavy winter clothing and body armor as well as what you mentioned about shooting positions. I like a different hole for offhand, sitting and prone.

      I never heard of the left facing corner technique.
      Im going to try that.

  16. Kirk

    Key thing to note about the author of this article: Precisely zero experience of actual, y’know, infantry combat with modern weapons. US Navy enlisted during the 1960s, where he was probably exposed mostly to the M1 as a rifle, and from that experience, extrapolated everything else.

    The handwriting was on the wall about intermediate cartridge assault rifles as far back as WWII; the problem is that the people who actually were there to do the reading didn’t wind up in charge of things like procurement and small arms development. Those guys turned out to be mostly time-serving hacks, who knew combat only at second or third hand. Seriously–Run down the roster of the guys who were most involved and responsible for the 7.62mm NATO and M14 debacle, and you’ll find that virtually none of them were actual, y’know, combatants with experience in combat during WWII–Especially the late war period in Europe, when most of the lessons to be learnt about the future were on offer.

    The inimical effect of allowing the entrenched “authorities” to have as much power as it did is how we wound up with crap like re-using the primitive .30 caliber Browning tripod for the M60, completely ignoring the far superior capabilities of the German WWII Lafette tripods. Our MG doctrine still suffers to this day, and the utter lack of comprehension most people in the US military demonstrate when you bring this point up just points to the complete lack of a real “weapons culture” in the forces.

    We could do a lot better, and should have. We didn’t, and that’s the tragedy of it all. What I find really maddening, however, is that we keep on making the same conceptual mistakes, over and over and over again–Wait and see what happens with this .338 Norma Magnum MG they’re looking at. I guarantee you that they’ll buy the damn thing, and still stick the sonuvabitch on that primitive POS M192, instead of adapting what we should take off of the Lafette. More than half the reason we’re having such problems in the small arms fight in Afghanistan is the complete incomprehension on the part of the system that if you want to dominate the firefight in the mountains, especially with long-range MG ambush, your shit absolutely has to be on a platform that can rapidly be placed and used to enable long-range precision fires. The average WWII German Gebirgsjager company would laugh at our use of the machine gun, and at how we allow the enemy to achieve fire dominance over us at long range.

      1. Kirk

        The issue is one that really aggravates the hell out of me, which I think most people who’ve read my posts can easily ascertain.

        Fundamentally, the MG is a system; the gun itself is just the most photogenic. I’m in awe of the fact that the US military has completely failed to note the effectiveness of the weapons system is dependent upon how quickly you can get into a stable, repeatable firing position, and how much of a role that the sights and tripod play in that scheme.

        The Lafette was initially a product of the Danes; the Germans adopted it nearly as soon as they saw it. Putting that thing into use quickly was a key reason they were able to deliver such devastating fire at such long ranges, and why the German MG teams were usually able to dominate every fight they got into. Had it simply been the US and UK infantry up against the German infantry, with no supporting arms…? Yeah, we’d probably have learned the lessons, but because we used our lavish supporting arms to blast the Germans out of their positions when we attacked, and did the same on the defense? The whole thing was masked from our bright lights.

        I really don’t get it, either–I was able to intuit the majority of the things that made the German MG systems superior on my first viewing of them, and was not astonished to find that what I’d seen and grasped was backed up in the literature and documentation I got my hands on, over the years. And, yet… Every damn time I ever brought these things up to people in the Army, they just stared at me as though I was mad. Of course the “American Way of Machinegunnery” was superior–We won the war, didn’t we?

        Thing is, though… We utterly missed the point of the whole exercise, and our observations of the effects of German firepower were mostly focused on morale issues, instead of actually bothering to analyze what was really happening in the tactical realm. You read the technical intelligence reports from the late WWII era, and you’re left with the distinct impression that they’re mostly focused on trying to comfort the poor bastards that are going to have to face those gun systems in combat, rather than analyzing what the Germans were trying to do, and actually managed to do with them.

        I don’t know that I’ve ever seen statistics breaking it down, or that I would trust the Soviets to do the data-gathering honestly, but I’d be willing to bet that there was a hugely disproportionate number of casualties on the Eastern Front that can be attributed to the German primacy with the machine gun–And, those were systemic superiorities, doctrinal ones, not necessarily because the Germans lucked onto a superior gun system by accident.

        We still ignore the lessons of that conflict to this day. The Danish Lafette tripod design is so much better than the primitive and unflexible crap that we issue that I’d be perfectly willing to eschew designing a better one from scratch, and simply adapt the damn thing as is. Ain’t gonna happen, though–Because, “we so smart”.

        At this point in the history of war, we’re only a very short time away from what would essentially be the automation of the MG team–Perhaps it would be better to focus on that, and start building the 21st Century tripod, which I believe will be more along the lines of a PackBot with remote control assigned to the gun team. The advantages of being able to put your MG out where it can fire at the enemy and have your “gun crew” completely behind cover? Immeasurable. And, I think it could be done for relatively small dollars, compared to some of the other bullshit they blow really big money on.

        1. Boat Guy

          Well…getting shot to shit usually has an adverse affect on morale.
          Again, roger all on the “gun system” and our complete inability to learn lessons that we don’t give. The “remote” idea is attractive but flies in the face of Mr. Murphy.

          1. Kirk

            I’ll happily live in a condo suite with Mr. Murphy, so long as I can take precautions against his ministrations–My priority is getting my goddamn gunners below the sight plane on the f**king weapon, something we still don’t seem to grasp the importance of.

            Suuuuuure… Let’s put the ‘effing sight on top of the feed tray cover, where the gunner has to get up over the bore, and expose himself. Let’s not avail ourselves of that cutting-edge development, the f**king periscopic sight, an innovation developed back in the 1930s…

            I swear to God, were I given power over our small arms procurement dipshits, I’d put ’em all behind the guns, and then start shooting at them with live ammo myself. They can return fire with blanks, and then we’ll see just how long those morons keep putting the sights on top of the guns…

            F**k me, it’s not like the lessons aren’t there, or that the mounting points aren’t already on the M240 receivers, or anything like that… The Brits have been putting a mortar sight on the L7 since the beginning, for indirect sustained fire. How much more clue do we need to have?

        2. RT

          Kirk

          I believe that there’s a happy medium intermediate step that could actually work, and wouldn’t necessarily get laughed at as the door slams in the face of ye olde tripod salesman.

          1. Kirk

            Oh, I’d agree; and, that’s precisely where I’d be focusing my efforts.

            Just like with the XM-25, and the dearth of improvements that program has led to for the 40mm program, I think we’re putting money in the wrong damn places. There are a lot of things that could be done to give our guys the edge they need, from equipment to training. And, long before we start talking about insanity like fielding a .338 Norma Magnum platoon-level MG.

            Purely from a gunner’s standpoint, I’d love to have one to play with. Hump that bitch around the mountains…? With ammo? When I could probably do the same job with what we’ve got now, and more effective and efficient tripod systems…? Gee, lemme think…

  17. QuietMan

    There’s a trip down memory lane.

    Around the same time, Ken Hackathorn and John Miller chopped an M14 into what we now know as the M1A SOCOM, fit a G3 front sight and gas system to it, and developed a 130 grain reduced load that was essentially a magnum AK round. Stuck it all in an E1 stock and tried to interest .mil. That was a nice rifle. I got to test fire it and have wondered ever since where it went.

    Ken’s opinion of bayonets were they were good for scraping mud off your boots and emergency tent pegs. He was vexed when the Marines wanted a bayonet length rifle. it ended up looking like a Scout.

  18. DAN III

    Folks,

    Hell, just go to IWI’s TAVOR X95-L !

    I’ll admit, it’s my latest weapon procurement. And I must say I like it very much. But, I love my AR-malite platforms more. Owning and shooting the X95-L and comparing it with decades of AR ownership and M16 arms room issued weapons, I humbly predict that it will be a lonnngggg time before a replacement platform is, if ever, found for the M16/M4 series of weapons.

    The modularity of the platform alone helps to deny almost any challenger from unseating this 50+ year old longarm as America’s rifle. We will be enjoying the AR-malite platform for years to come just as our military will depend on it for years to follow.

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