A Survey of Military 5.56

6 thoughts on “A Survey of Military 5.56”

  1. “Suggestions to replace it with a larger caliber such as 6.8 or 6.5 are misguided, and completely at odds with the realities of the advances in bullet design.”

    Can you expand upon this? I don’t know enough about anything to understand why this is the case.

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    1. Sure. There are numerous suggestions for new bullets to replace 5.56, somewhere in between 5.56 and 7.62, including various theoretical and created 6.5 and 6.8 rounds. While some of this is drawn due to 5.56’s limitations at range, a lot of it is due to perceived failings in “stopping power” of 5.56. Quite simply, people have doubted that 5.56 was powerful enough to put down enemy combatants since the 50s, and unfortunately M855 proved them right for the reasons I described.

      However, all of these proposed replacements are heavier per round, which means either less ammo carried or more weight carried, and guys are easily rucking 100lbs or more on patrols. They’re heavier recoiling, oftentimes lower velocity, and the newer bullets such as MK318 and M855A1 solved the problem already, and solved it really well.

      Personally, I’m in favour of a “two caliber fleet”, issue most guys within the rifle platoon 5.56 carbines/rifles, retain 5.56 automatic rifles or SAWs, and maybe push the 7.62 NATO MGs into the rifle squads if they want it. As for increasing the rifle platoon’s range (which is what gets a lot of 6.5&6.8 people excited) issue either a 77gr 5.56 or 7.62 DMR to the rifle squad, and give the weapons squad a recoilless rifle ala the Carl Gustav. Which, not to toot my own horn, is what we see happening.

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      1. Given the overall weight of a soldier’s basic load, and given that the average infantryman has carried the same basic number of rounds for over a century, and given that the overall weight of the ammunition carried is, in reality, a fairly small portion of the the overall weight being carried, how much of a reason not to switch to another cartridge does that really afford.

        Granted, that makes my view (of a former packer of the M16A1 and the M60) fairly plain, but I’m skeptical of the weight argument. The weight in ammo carried since at least the adoption of the M1 Garand is likely not a major part of the weight of a basic load, and for automatic weapons, well the ammo all adds up in weight anyway.

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      2. Responding to Pat_H (since I’m not entirely sure how WordPress’s comments work)

        Firstly, thank you for your response, I’m always happy to receive polite disagreement, especially from those with real world experience.

        Secondly, according to the Human Engineering Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the basic load during the Winter of 44-45 for the M1 Garand was a total of 22 clips of .30-06, for 176 rounds. “Standard” load for a modern infantryman is 210 rounds, though anecdotally it is far higher. A lighter round also enables you to carry more extra ammo per pound when it’s required.

        According to “The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load”, a load survey in Afganistan in 2003, carried ammo was 10% of the march load, and around 7.5% of the fighting load. While those figures are indeed small, they must be considered alongside the total load – the soldier carries at minimum 63lbs, 96lbs when marching, with rucks weighing 120lbs not being unheard of on patrols. Other positions within the rifle company, such as the Grenadier, TL, or the poor Automatic Rifleman, will face heavier burdens. With the increasing degree of sophistication on the battle field, the amount of equipment (ergo, weight) carried will only continue to climb.

        When a soldier has a 120lb ruck, would you rather he have a cartridge that weight twice as much? It’s the equivalent of adding 5 pounds to his fighting load and 10 pounds to his marching load (as more magazines and a heavier weapon have to be accounted for) for marginal gain. Let alone the extra considerations of the bulk of more magazines and larger rounds.

        I am curious, though – how many rounds would you carry as a standard fighting load? I also have to give the M16A1 credit for being far lighter than more recent AR-15 family rifles.

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