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Military Rifles – Latest Military Rifle Technology

Myths About the NATO 5.56 Cartridge

M16A1, M16A2, M4, M16A4

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding the current M16A1, M16A2, M4, M16A4NATO 5.56 round and its effectiveness on the battlefield. Now before you make a judgment as a soldier or as a firearm enthusiast (a more euphemistic way of saying “gun nut”), consider your sources. Who is it that is telling you the 5.56mm, or .223 if you prefer, is an ineffective round? Is this source an armchair general who has watched Blackhawk Down one too many times; or a Navy Corpsman who has been attached to a MEF fighting in Fallujah and has seen, treated and inflicted these wounds with his own M-4? People look at the .30-06 round from their grandfather’s M1 Garand and the 7.62×51mm round from their dad’s M-14 and compare it to the M-16/M-4’s 5.56 and think; “Wow, this is considerably smaller. Therefore, it must be less effective.”
Now Joe Nichols had it right when he said, “Size Matters.” However, when you are talking about combat cartridges this is not always the case, and I say that hesitantly. When the 5.56 was derived from Remington’s .223 in the late 1950’s, it was meant as a “force multiplier” if you will. By that I mean a soldier could literally carry twice as much ammunition as one who has the older 7.62 for the same weight. They wanted a soldier who could stay longer in the field without re-supply and could literally out-last and out-shoot the enemy in many aspects. The 5.56 is an incredibly fast and flat shooting round compared to the 7.62, but is under half the bullet weight.

So one might ask; ‘How in the world can a smaller bullet be more lethal than a bigger one?” One word: cavitation. Cavitation is the rapid formation and collapse of a substance or material after an object enters it at a relatively high velocity. I guarantee you have seen cavitation before. Next time you are in the pool or on the boat, look at your hand as it passes through the water or the propeller spinning. In both cases you will notice bubbles on the trailing edge of each. You see this because the liquid water falls below its vapor pressure. Without getting into physics and the hydrodynamics behind it, I’ll just leave it at that. When a human body is hit with a 5.56mm 62-grain bullet traveling at 3,100 feet per second; essentially the same thing happens but much, much more violently. For a split second, the cavity created inside the human body by the round from an M-16/M-4 is about the size of a basketball (if hit dead center of mass). The 5.56 creates this massive cavitation by tumbling through the body initiated by inherently unstable flight.

5.56 ballistic test
5.56 ballistic test

Other calibers of bullets travel through the body on, more or less of, a straight line after some fragmentation. When the 5.56 round was first designed by Remington, it was meant to tumble through a target, not kill with brute force. It did this not only by the relatively blunt shape, but also by using a rifle barrel with less of a twist. Next time you look at an M-4 or an AR-15, notice it says “5.56 NATO 1:7” on the barrel. This literally translates into; “the bullet will make 1 full rotation for every 7 inches of this barrel.” This was not always the standard twist set for the new NATO round. The first AR-15 made by Armalite, had a 1:14 twist making it a very, very unstable round. One can only imagine the orientation of the entry and exit wounds. Now if you haven’t figured it out already, the less the twist, the more unstable the round is. (1:14 twist is less than 1:7) It is said in “firearm enthusiast” legend that the first tests were done on pig carcasses and that the entry wound could be on the lower right stomach with an exit wound coming out of the back upper left shoulder. It left horrific wounds and terrible internal damage to its intended target, immediately drawing the interest of the US Military, in particular USAF General Curtis Emerson LeMay. That’s right folks, you can thank we in the United States Air Force for the M-16/M-4 legacy (I say this without sarcasm). He thought it was an ideal weapon for his deployed members of the USAF Security Forces for guarding the perimeters of Air Force installations in such places as Korea and Vietnam. Before military trials, Armalite increased the barrel twist to 1:12 to improve accuracy. But when tested in frigid Alaska, accuracy was decreased because of the increased friction from the denser, colder air. Therefore, the barrel twist was eventually increased from 1:12 to 1:9 and eventually to the 1:7 you see it today. Although some bull-barreled AR-15’s and Stoner Sniper Rifles can be found in a 1:9, most issued M-16’s and M-4;s are primarily a 1:7 twist.

This change increased the accuracy of the 5.56 round out past 500 meters, but decreased its lethality when striking a body. Now the real debate begins… How truly deadly is the 5.56? Well, this past April when I was going through Combat Skills Training at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, one week was spent in Combat Life-Saving class (CLS). The medics who instructed us had slide show after slide show of combat injuries they have treated over their last three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And let me tell you, these were not for the weak stomachs among us. If you are reading this article, I bet you are the same type of person as I to ask, “What calibers caused those wounds?” These men and women have seen the worst injuries of coalition forces and enemy combatants alike. The Geneva Conventions state that medics must provide medical care to all captured enemy personnel when able. Therefore, many Taliban and Jihadist fighters came across their operating rooms. After class one day I asked all of them, “Do any of you doubt the killing power of the 5.56 round?” They all answered with a resounding, “NO.”
I personally don’t like telling war stories but I do enjoy telling hunting stories. I have brought down 180 to 200+ pound deer with a 55 grain .223 FMJ (full metal jacket) with no problem. Yes, I know, the counter argument to that is, “Well that’s not an enemy combatant hopped up on cocaine, khat or adrenaline.” I understand that, but if you saw the exit wound or those on the pictures from the combat medics, you would certainly cease your criticism of the 5.56. However, there are certain design features of the M-16/M-4 that continue to puzzle me.

We have all heard the reports of those rifles failing during combat during Vietnam and even yet today. During the 60’s when it was first introduced, it was hailed as “the self-cleaning rifle.” Of course that was proven to be a myth within the first months of its service. Soon thereafter, cleaning kits, cleaning manuals with attractive cartoon-like characters, and muzzle covers were issued in large numbers. A lot of the first problems the rifle saw were due to using ball powder vs. stick powder. Ball powder burns hotter, faster and dirtier than stick does. This caused the rifle to gum up quicker in the humid atmosphere of Vietnam and mis-feed the rounds. The U.S. Military then switched back to the cleaner burning stick powder and added a forward assist to jam the bolt carrier forward after heat expansion and carbon build-up. The military saw this problem and fixed it fairly early on, so why haven’t they saw the clear flaw in the 100% gas-blowback operation of the firearm? Why haven’t they learned lessons from rifles such as the AK-47, AK-74, G36, SCAR and countless other who have switched to a short stroke gas piston?

gas piston operated
gas piston operated

So far rifles such as the HK 416, HK 417, SCAR and MAGPUL Masada have all incorporated this short stroke gas piston in their designs and have all seen massive reductions in carbon build-up, over-heating, and mis-feeds. If this needs any explaining; what this basically does is stop the hot, carbon-filled gasses just rear of the front sight and pushes a pistol-like rod back instead of the gas traveling all the way back to the bolt carrier assembly. It is even possible to convert current uppers to this gas piston system using such kits as those offered by Bushmaster. If the cost benefit is too great for these kits to be installed, why not begin to install them on the floor as they are now? They are 100% compatible with all lowers used by the M-16 and M-4.

So in conclusion, the main flaws of the M-16/M-4 assault rifle system is not necessarily in the round itself, but in one minor design feature of just the upper. This article is meant as a predecessor to a piece in the making on the advantages to switching to a round such as the 6.8 SPC or 6.5 Grendel. The 5.56 round is effective, but could be better. I want to hear your feedback. Tell me why so many people (mostly civilians) think the flaws of the rifle are in the round. I’m looking to you military folks; tell me about your operational experience with it. Airsoft players, armchair generals, and firearm enthusiasts; let’s hear your voice, but don’t comment on its “knock-down power” unless you hunt big game with a .223 or were once in the military and have used it in combat. Next up: A viable future replacement for the 5.56 and the M-16/M-4 combat rifles along with first-hand news from the front on forces already making the switch.

Remember; every rifle and every round can be equally as deadly when put in the right hands. We seek to find the perfect round and the perfect rifle to increase that number of hands.

CheyTac Intervention M200 Sniper Rifle – .408 Caliber

ShooterIf you haven’t seen the movie Shooter yet, then you probably aren’t really familiar with the longest range sniper rifle in the world. That’s right, this rifle, the CheyTac M200 Intervention has beaten out the Barrett M107 and Accuracy International AS50 (whose longest ranges were negligably similar at approximately 1 mile) as the longest consitent accuracy rifle to date. Of course it takes more than just the .408 caliber rifle and a trained sniper to achieve hits at its max range, 2500 yards or 1.42 miles. You must also have all the compenents of the so-called CheyTac “Long Range Rifle System”, LRRS. This package includes the CheyTac ballistic computer (a PDA with ballistic software installed on it), a Vector IV laser rangefinder, and a Kestrel 4000 (a device that monitors wind, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure), all linked to the PDA and the OPS Inc muzzle brake and suppressor.

Quite a mouthful, right? Of course it is, but its all worth it when you can reach out and touch someone at ranges that would impress upon the victim as having just suffered an act of god.

This opening scene of Shooter is way better than the Future Weapons video I was about to post. Ok, in the opening scene of the movie, Marky Mark wipes out a ton of Africans with the .308 M40A3 of the US Marine Corp. He also takes out a Kiowa Warrior helicopter with a Barrett M107, what badass scene! Later in the film, he demonstrates the extreme range capabilities of the M200 Cheytac Intervention, with a direct hit on a tin can from over a mile in distance.

Note, the rifle that he is firing is actually not the CheyTac, but a good scene sniper scene none-the-less.

Why Did the Insurgent Cross the Road?

as50To get some C4 and detonators of course! US sniper divisions have been baiting insurgents into picking up planted explosive equipment. The insurgents get a rude awakening when they feel the burst of a .50 caliber sniper round from the AS50 or Barrett M107 sniper rifles.BarrettM107

“Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,” Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of an elite sniper scout platoon attached to the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment, said in a sworn statement. “Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces.”

Check the Washington Post for the full story.

Also see New Military rifle Technology


OCSW – Objective Crew Served Weapon

The Objective Crew Served Weapon (OCSW) is an integrated machine gun system which couples the firepower of air bursting munitions with optoelectronic fire control to provide all-environment operation and enhanced lethality. (FAS)

ocsw machine gun

This incredible machine gun system is capable of dismantling slow moving aircraft and light armored vehicles from over 1000 meters away while incapacitating enemy soldiers from over 2000 meters. The objective crew served weapon is an ultra light 2 man crew served weapon that will replace the MK19 grenade machine gun and the M2.

See a video of the OSCW in Action at another post.

OICW Future Rifle Technology- Future Force Warrior

OICW rifle
The Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) will be the most versatile weapon ever. It can kill targets hidden around corners or dug in half a mile away. The OICW will leave no place for the enemy to hide with its incredible firepower. As you can see in the picture above the rifle is modular which allows for easy cleaning and maintenance.

The OICW has some convincing to do before it comes into full scale production.

For observers encountering OICW for the first time, there is also the question of sticker shock. If the demonstration project is successful over the next several years, the Pentagon plans to make an initial purchase of 45,000 OICWs, to be in the hands of elite light-infantry units by 2006. The weapons will cost between $10,000 and $12,000 each, plus $25 to $30 for each 20mm air-burst round.

For a Video and some more pictures of the Objective individual Combat Weapon click here for another post.

Metal Storm – Future Weapons Breakthrough Technology – 1 million rounds per minute!

Metal Storm
metal storm pistolIntroducing Metal Storm, a breakthrough technology developed by a company whose namesake bestows the western world with a capability never seen before on the battlefield. Developed by Metal Storm Limited in Australia, the flagship idea of the Metal Storm array of weapons is the concept of stacked projectiles, which eliminate the moving parts of traditional guns. In fact, Metal Storm could be poised to eliminate the classic monicker of “machine gun” because this technology eliminates the moving parts necessary for traditional firing mechanisms. MetalStormAICWLikewise, the absense of moving parts is exactly what allows the Metal Storm weapons to theoretically deliver up to 1 million rounds per minute. Also, less maintenance is required to keep the weapon firing, aside from fixing the trigger after overuse from bouts of uncontrollable annihilation. Expectedly, the Metal Storm idea of stacked projectiles has found its way into myriad applications, from area denial systems to missile defense to assault rifles, this technology could prove to revolutionize the battlefield capabilities of western nations fortunate enough to share the common values of innovation, perserverance, and moderation in all things. Indeed, this system has recieved much attention from the US military’s weapons procurement staff, and will likely find its way into all sorts of unexpected and imaginative applications.

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The British Accuracy International AS50 BMG Sniper Rifle

Accuracy International AS50as50
This awesome weapons represents the British attempt at designing the worlds greatest sniper rifle. Similar in design and features to the Barrett M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle, the Accuracy International AS50 certainly exhibits the pinnacle of futuristic sniper rifle engineering. The greatest difficulty to overcome when designing a rifle of such high caliber is how to effectively and efficiently disperse the recoil, and the AS50 employs a free-floating barrel with a dual chamber muzzle brake to accomplish this feat. One important thing to note about this rifle though, is that it is truly designed as an anti-material weapon, meaning that it is intended to be armor-piercing to take out lightly armored vehicles such as APCs and trucks rather than intended as anti-personnel. However though, the accompanying video definitely stirs the imagination when it shows the melons, the perfect shape for a human head, being blown apart after the round penetrates some concrete blocks. I’m just waiting for the X-ray vision scope to be put on this bad boy, watch out everyone!

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The AS50 has documented kills in Iraq where APCs where taken out from over a mile away, they had no idea what was hitting them.

Barrett M107 Sniper Rifle – Future Weapons video

Barrett XM107The Barrett M107 BMG .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle

Manufacturer: Barrett Firearms Company

Considering the physics behind sniper rifle technology, the rule is: the larger the projectile the greater the accuracy and destructive power. Thats why arms manufacturers have recently developed new sniper rifle designs that rapidly fire .50 caliber rounds, which are powerful enough to take out lightly armored vehicles.

M82 USMCA .50 caliber machine gun can typically be found mounted on top of HMMVS and armored vehicles, but Barrett has taken the concept in a different direction: long distance and stealthy destruction. Destruction is an interesting word in itself, which literally implies to take something apart, and with the Barrett’s ability to penetrate steel armor, one can only imagine the effect on a human torso or head. Likewise, the Barrett isn’t the only .50 caliber sniper rifle on the fighting fields, British company Accuracy International recently unveiled its AS50 sniper rifle, which rivals the capabilities of the Barrett M107.

Check out this Barrett M107 video, I believe that it will get the point across.
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Heckler and Koch MP7 – The HK Submachine Gun Pistol – “the future of personal defense weapons”

Heckler and Koch MP7 Submachine gun pistol
MP7A1
Manufacturer: Heckler and Koch

Imagine the stopping power and lethality of an M16 assault rifle packed into a personal defense weapon (PDW) the size of a pistol. Introducing the Heckler and Koch MP7 submachine gun. This weapon represents the pinnacle of design surrounding personal defense weapons, a category of guns that aims to put the greatest amount of lethality into the most ergonomically efficient design. The MP7 weighs only 4.4 lbs when loaded with 40 rounds, and each round is a specially designed high velocity low-caliber bullet that can defeat common body armors. Probably the only downside of this weapon are the consequences to be had if it gets into the wrong hands.

Check out this HK MP7 video.
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The OICW – Objective Individual Combat Weapon – the M-29

Manufacturer: Alliant Tech Systems [NYSE: ATK]

OICW Assault Rifle of the Future

It was decided by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the 1970’s that the limit of effective rifle technology had reached it’s peak. Basically, rifles had reached the pinnacle of accuracy, weight, and reliability under the current chain of development seen around the world. Given modern training and sighting technologies such as scopes, once can theoretically assume that every shot fired will hit its intended target. So the question remained, what obstacles to achieving a kill do modern soldiers still face in a firefight? The answer, ironically enough, are physical obstacles. Walls, berms, embankments, boulders, nearly anything large enough to provide cover for a hiding enemy soldier. In comes the new technology of the OICW. To increase the hit probability in the small arms is to introduce a weapon that will fire explosive and fragmentation warheads, combined with the smart fusing and sighting / aiming technologies. Simply put, design a weapon that can kill people that are in hiding. For example, a soldier takes fire from behind a wall, with the OICW, the soldier with shrapnel.

This OICW assault rifle video should get the point across.

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The OICW program was actually cancelled and will be replaced by the FCS Future Force Warrior system.