Battle Rifles of World War Two: Overview

Today we are going to take a look at the three main battle rifles of World War Two – the M1 Garand, the SVT-40, and the Gewehr 43. We will also consider the SVT-38, Gewehr 41(W), and Gewehr 41(M). The United States, Soviet Union, and Germany were the three countries that fielded large numbers of semiautomatic full-power rifles in combat in WW2; how did they differ in their approaches to infantry firepower?


  1. “(…)M1 Garand(…)SVT-40(…)Gewehr 41(…)”
    Incidentally this trio was tested in Soviet Union around 1943
    SPREAD (less=better)
    distance (meters) – M1 (cm) – SVT-40 (cm)
    100 – 12,2 – 13,4
    300 – 28,3 – 46,3
    600 – 67,7 – 94
    it was though that this was due greater mass of M1 and different sights.
    Garand was found to have greater practical Rate-of-Fire (i.e. including aiming), which was attributed for easier loading and sights.
    400 shots, normal conditions: Garand 7 jams, SVT 41 jams
    50 shots, low temperature (weapons cooled to -50 degrees C): Garand 1 jam, SVT 9
    M1 Garand proved more reliable
    It was detected that M1 Garand has less details that SVT.
    SVT was found easier to field-strip than M1 Garand.
    M1 Garand was considered excessively heavy by Soviet standards.

    • Good post Daweo, very interesting.
      Agree on the weight part. The thing is chunky. Helps with recoil but kinda thicc.

  2. I think it would be interesting to see a comparison like this with the M-1 carbine and whatever else was close to it.
    Great review, keep up the good work.

  3. I really wonder what led the Germans to believe that drilling a gasport would negatively impact the accuracy. Why were they so stuborn about it? How hard would it have been to convert a g 41(w) to a gas piston system with a gas port. In my eyes they could’ve just tested it. I just really can’t shake my head around the fact that they just didn’t test it first. Especially with the early prototypes like the Walther A115 prototype with its weird gas piston around its barrel. Even this prototype had a gasport drilled in the barrel.

  4. What you “know” ain’t what the German ordnance types and their bosses “knew” about small arms. They were in a world only a generation or so removed from black powder; they also “knew” that wartime smokeless powder was going to be nasty, nasty stuff. So, from their standpoint? They also “knew” that boring holes in barrels for gas-operated weapons was a really bad idea, and that if you wanted good, reliable weapons? That meant recoil-operated or something else that didn’t require the hole in the barrel. That’s what they “knew” from experience…

    Even today, there are arguments against gas-operated weapons; if you’ve ever seen what an M16 or M4 barrel looks like in terms of gas port erosion after a few tens of thousands of rounds, you, too, might wonder if it’s all that good an idea. And, that’s with today’s far more consistent barrel steels and quality control.

    I can’t fault the Germans for thinking the way they did, even if they were right there at the cusp of it all, when “things changed”. Also, do note that the StG45 that Ian mentions is a thoroughly recoil-operated weapon, something that they would have found a lot more congenial to the industrial reality that they lived in…

    • “(…)against gas-operated weapons(…)”
      On other hand yet in 1920s ГАУ (despite what name might suggest it was also responsible for hand-held weapons) determined gas operation to be best one for rifles and thus most Soviet military rifles from that onward used gas operation as principle.

      • I wasn’t saying that the Germans were right, merely pointing out the why and wherefore of how they were thinking regarding gas-operation. Their aversion to that continued on into the post-WWII era… They really loved that the G3 didn’t have a gas system, and continued to issue the MG3, only replacing it with a gas-operated weapon in the MG5.

      • It has to be taken in account how much things evolved rapidly back then.
        The German Ordnance, the American and the Soviet ones, were not monolithic. The party of those that thought gas ports were a wonderful idea, and the party of those that thought it was a terrible one, lived together in them, and who was in charge at any given moment was pretty casual.
        Also what experience Germans had with gas operated weapons up until the late ’30s? All of their MGs, in WWI and post-war designs, were recoil operated, and the only operative experience they had with gas operation, that with the Mondragon rifle, had been less than stellar. The first modern gas operated weapon they had in relevant numbers, to make comparisons, had been the ZB vz. 26, after the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938.

        • “(…)only operative experience they had with gas operation, that with the Mondragon rifle(…)”
          According to
          German Empire: It is estimated that the Germans captured over 10,000 Lewis guns in World War I. They were modified at a special factory in Belgium to fire the 8mm Mauser.
          Were they used in combat? Did they get operative experience from that? What were Germans observations regarding usage of said guns?

          • In the material that my acquaintance had accumulated on the German MG development and doctrine, there was a fair chunk of material going over the testing of the various gas-operated weapons then on the market and which they’d had access to. None of the conclusions were complimentary… The only gas-operated one they seemed to think was even semi-worthwhile was the Colt/Browning “potato digger”, because that was a weapon where the residue from gas couldn’t accumulate (so said the conclusions…), but given the disadvantages of that design…

            I don’t know that he got everything there was, but I definitely got the impression from going through what he’d translated and collected that there was a very clear bias against gas operation, and that the faction which was against it was both large and in a position to make its decisions stick.

            I suspect this is one of those “minor cultural” things that didn’t get documented, and that you’d only be able to prove via inference and being able to actually interview the participants involved. The one competitor for the MG34/42 competitions that was gas-operated was basically rejected out-of-hand, with something like “…and of course, since X is gas-operated, it cannot be considered seriously…” in the papers he had.

            I dunno. It’s not sufficiently documented, in terms of what I’ve been able to find, and I suspect that there’s a lot of confirmation bias involved… If all you’re looking for is recoil-operated? That’s all you’re going to consider, and you’re going to make up justifications for it. Hell, they were even somewhat dubious about the muzzle boosters, saying they’d prefer a design that didn’t require them.

            This is an area that needs a lot more scholarship than its gotten. The sheer number of bodies stacked up by German MG systems and personnel during WWII would suggest that we should be studying how they arrived at their procurement decisions and how they used them against us to such effect.

            I remain extremely dubious of the proposition that the Allies “got the machinegun right”, and I remain morally certain that the Germans did it better, along with their minor tactics. I still say that indirection and “surfaces and gaps” are far more sparing of soldier’s lives than the classic frontal assault merely being “supported” by the MG team.

          • It seems (IE from Neil Grant “the Lewis Gun”) that, at the start of the war, the Germans formed special “Musketen-Batallione” armed with Madsen LMGs, captured from the Russians and obtained from other sources. By 1916 the Madsen were becoming scarce, and had been integrated with the captured Lewis Gun. However, by late 1917, both had been almost completely replaced with the MG08/15.
            What the Germans could have thought of the Lewis Gun from its field use, in absence of official documents, is up to speculation.
            To me, not much. It had been a stopgap solution. Using a captured weapon, subject to rapid wear, in absence of spare parts (so, many times, when something broke down, you simply had to trow the gun away) doesn’t help to form an high opinion of a weapon.

      • I just don’t think they cared. AKs look like a wet noodle when fired, but it doesn’t seem to make enough difference downrange to require fixing that. Plus, fixing that means lots of added weight.

        • Were they even able to tell? I think the first true high-speed cameras that could have caught that happening would have been developed during the war. The Rapatronic camera developed by Harold Edgerton is the first one I can think of that would have been able to catch something like that, and it was only available after 1947.

          Were there other photographic techniques that could have done that, which were available during the period they were developing that rifle? No idea; if anyone knows information to the contrary (Daweo?), I’d love to hear it.

          • Slowed-down footage was used by Vasily A. Degtyarov according to his memoirs Моя жизнь
            whilst he was developing aviation machine gun (which would become DA) he he encountered problem not present in DP (from which he derived said machine gun), that is need to catch spent cases. They tested various forms but cases became jammed regardless of shape used. His sons carried him for cinema in order to get some relax, where they watched movie which did not impress him, but then
            Движения лучших мастеров лыжного спорта были показаны в замедленном темпе и давали ясное представление о технике бега.
            that is movement of best skiers were shown slow-down and clearly shown running technique.
            After than Vasily telephoned to Moscow to send camera operator and thus secret of spent cases trajectory was explained. Machine gun was adopted by Soviet aviation.
            Consider timeline this must take place no earlier than DP entry into service (1927) and no later than DA entry intro service (1928).

          • Were those actual high-speed cameras? Or, were they just using regular cinema version sped up somewhat?

            My understanding is that true high-speed film and cameras didn’t come in until slightly after WWII, in terms of “actually usable on a routine basis”. It’d be interesting to know exactly what those Soviet cameras were…

          • “Were those actual high-speed cameras? Or, were they just using regular cinema version sped up somewhat?”
            No details are given regarding that.

            “(…)true high-speed film and cameras didn’t come in until slightly after WWII(…)”
            I do not know how you define true high-speed camera, but if you are able to summon somebody able to comprehend Deutsch then you might works of Hubert Schardin interesting, which was able to craft Cranz-Schardin-Kamera (I do not know U.S. name of said device) around 1929 which was found useful for ballistic research.

  5. In general terms, I have to object to the continued use of the nonsense term “Battle Rifle”. What the hell is that? What are the defining characteristics of such a thing? Who came up with the term, and is it used anywhere in actual military doctrine?

    Also, what the hell is the point of describing something as a “Battle Rifle”? Are there other sorts of rifles on general issue, which we need to differentiate from these so-called “Battle Rifles”? Are there “Peace Rifles”? Does anyone issue a “Reconnaissance Rifle”?

    It’s a peculiarly useless term. What is the difference between one of these three supposed “Battle Rifles” and something like the Kar 98k or the SMLE? Were they not used in exactly the same roles? Issued to the same soldiers, in a lot of cases? What makes the SVT-38/40 a “Battle Rifle” and does not make the Mosin 91/30 one?

    This is a stupid affectation derived almost entirely from the breathless ravings of mid-1980s gun magazine writers, and I really have to decry its continued use. It is an essentially meaningless term; unlike, say “battleship”, which defines a class of warship meant to go in against other ships of its class in naval engagements. It’s a pointless, meaningless complication; what else, pray tell, is a general-issue rifle to be doing, other than going into battle?

    I’m not even all that sure that there are real differences to be seen here; as I said, inasmuch as the roles and capabilities go, there’s not all that much difference between a well-trained rifleman armed with one of these three supposed “battle rifles” and the other rifle-class weapons of their era; the various marks of SMLE were damn near as fast to fire as the Garand, with a well-trained rifleman behind the butt.

    And, despite all the fantasies of the gravel-bellies, the semi-auto service rifle didn’t make all that much difference to either tactics or operational considerations. Other than get a whole lot of people killed through overconfidence and a general disdain for the machine guns, mortars, and artillery that did most of the real killing.

    • “(…)Who came up with the term(…)”
      According to it was Chuck Taylor author of “The Fighting Rifle,”

      Author of when nabbed regarding this issue responded that
      there are at least two different types of classification that may apply to these terms – tactical and technical.

      In a tactical sense, automatic rifle is an automatic squad support weapon, manned by a single soldier. Historically, in US Army this role was fulfilled by various types of guns – M1918 BAR (THE automatic rifle), M14 (“battle” rifle), M16A1 (“assault” rifle), M249 (LMG) and M27 IAR (“assault” rifle).

      The “assault” rifle in a tactical sense is an individual weapon of an infantryman. “Battle” rifle in a tactical sense? Really in a technical sense, all those weapons except M249 are “automatic rifles” by definition. Assault and battle rifle terms are further attempt to create sub-classification by physical properties of weapons (its cartridge and “power”). Technically, assault rifle is an equivalent of automatic carbine (light and compact), and battle rifle is an equivalent of “standard” automatic rifle.

      Therefore I see the “battle rifle” term absolutely excessive and unnecessary, and “assault rifle” (in its technical sense) somewhat misleading.

      “(…)general disdain for the machine guns, mortars, and artillery(…)”
      Workers’-Peasants’ Red Army never planned to use SVT-40 and derivatives to replace machine guns. It was sometimes enforced to do that, but it was due to failure of machine gun development/procurement (see DS-39 story) rather than result of plan. Also if disdain for…artillery then why starting from April 1943 they were forming artillery breakthrough divisions each containing
      1 light brigade armed with 72 x 76 mm guns
      1 howitzer brigade armed with 84 x 122 mm howitzers
      1 heavy howitzer brigade armed with 32 x 152 mm howitzers
      1 cannon brigade armed with 36 x 152 mm gun-howitzers
      1 howitzer huge power brigade armed with 24 x 203 mm howitzers
      1 mortar brigade armed with 108 x 120 mm mortar

      • Daweo, I’m speaking mostly from the US perspective on the Garand, which as “The Greatest Battle Implement Ever Devised”, had an unfortunate effect on the entire tactical ecosystem of the day. They thought that the Garand was an exponential improvement on the bolt-action Springfield, when it was really only maybe a 1.5 multiplier for the basic infantry.

        Soviet and German thought on the issue? I think they were a tad more realistic, which is also why both parties were the first to arrive at the intermediate-caliber “assault rifle” solution. Some 20-30 years before the US recognized the flaming handwriting on the wall…

        Which we seem to be regressing back to, given NGSW.

        • I’ve heard that “almost as fast” comparison for years between a well-trained rifleman equipped with an SMLE and a Garand shot slowly. That is a fantasy. It’s pure romance, and no one in their right mind is going to propound putting Jerry Miculek armed with any bolt action against the slowest guy in the platoon who doesn’t have to do anything but load new clips. We used Garands to routinely put a brutal whipping on competing soldiers whose leaders sent them to war armed with antiques. The firepower was the point.

          • And, yet… In the grand scheme of things, the difference in individual weapon rate of fire didn’t make a damn bit of difference, mostly because the rate of fire wasn’t all that much better. Not “win the engagement every time” better, that’s for damn sure. The casualty stats prove that. Not to mention, the minor issue of individual soldier vs. crew-served weapon… You’ve got nine isolated guys shooting 8-shot clip semi-autos with a couple of BARs going up against one or two MG34/42s crew-served weapons supported by seven or so guys with Kar98k’s? The track record pretty much shows that until and unless you get the supporting arms firepower laid on those MG positions, you were dead fucking meat.

            All y’all can continue to fantasize about the effect of the semi-auto “main battle rifle” on things, but the sad reality is, we won most of our infantry engagements in Europe due to the tanks, artillery, and aircraft. Even in the Pacific, the Japanese LMG and knee mortars were equally or more effective than what we took to the fight, when you look at the actual exchange rates.

            I’ve yet to talk to any actual WWII infantry combat veterans who didn’t agree with that unfortunate set of facts. They all ruefully admit that we needed better and more machineguns where they were fighting; at least one of the half-track mounted units had scrounged up enough “extra” MG systems that nearly every man on the vehicle had one to fire, if needed. Including the driver… The pictures were pretty amazing, really.

    • Kirk, I completely agree with you, its often irritating seeing that ludicrous term.
      Internet is unfortunately breeding ground for copy pasted terms.
      One also cringeworthy that seeped into even gun related media and articles, not to mention forums, is using adjective “super”.

  6. To Kirk – “Battle Rifle’ describes a rifle to meet the needs of infantry foot-soldiers going in first in a targeted battle ground, utilizing large numbers of bodies to overwhelm the enemy (like Marines Iwo Jima who primarily had Garands) as the premiere mode of attack, that as semi-auto, could lay a single-man faster barrage in quantity than bolt actions could, against machine-gun nests in the Pacific and Germany.

    The quantity of soldiers were the tool of first strike efforts, their ‘battle rifles’ serving a need that a rifle or carbine in intermediary cartridges were not yet deemed worthy to accomplish (the M1 carbine, Thompson, or Reising were not up to snuff to handle) as opposed to the advantages that technology later brought us, of jet, helicopter, air-attack/support and guided missile/cruise-missile that later wars had, which cleared an area to leave a situation where whatever of the enemy remained was relegated to more close-quarters combat/urban warfare/embedded opposition whereby an intermediary Assault Rifle in intermediary cartridges made more sense (tighter geography and strategy, closer ranges, faster moving, clearing areas, policing, need for higher quantity of fire instead of long-range need, etc.)

    The “battle rifle” served the need for large-numbers of soldiers trouncing in, able to shoot faster than a bolt-action, with longer-range reaching ammo that could still hit hard at those longer ranges, while maintaining energy farther out inevitably with better accuracy at those longer ranges. So they had rifles that had less capacity, but they made up for that by having a higher capacity of men, who unfortunately were expendable in ways that our technology allows us to avoid today. That’s what made it a ‘battle’ – throwing a mass number of bodies at another mass number of bodies, raw, bloody, long-range shooting at each other indiscriminately until one side or the other lost more lives than the other side. That’s the raw ‘battle’ part of large numbers of man-and-rifle against other large numbers of man-and-rifle until one side is subdued.

    And that was a ‘battle’ of large numbers of troops, a true ‘battle’ of quanitites of men; not precision scalpel carving by technology and leaving whatever is left to urban-warfare or police-like actions.

    During the 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima, just throwing body after body at the problem until the Japanese relented, nearly 7,000 U.S. Marines were killed, another 20,000 wounded – and some 22,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, until some 671 were left to be captured. We would never see such man-to-man ‘battles’ of bodies against bodies like that today, for one single stretch of land.

    In that regard, you are certainly right: “the semi-auto service rifle didn’t make all that much difference to either tactics or operational considerations.” Yet, it was called a ‘battle rifle’ for the perception of what they thought it could achieve.

    Our preemptive and targeted technology no longer needs to use large quantities of men as weapons to win a ‘battle’. The physical troop-based part of combat happens now with much smaller numbers of men, in close quarters, going in after the technology has accomplished most of what was needed to do long-range work, where in WWII, long-range battles were done by manpower and ‘battle rifles.

    Such as were most military firefights during WWI and WWII and into Korea. You didn’t hear much of the term ‘close quarters combat’ except when troops got within the cities of Europe occupied by Germany during WWII. This urban-warfare is the very reason that it was the Germans that developed the first ‘Assault Rifle” STG-44, as they realized it would be much more useful, effective, and practical use for their urban-warfare needs that had short-range/closer-range fighting.

    So that’s was is meant by a ‘battle rifle’ where the battles were most fought by men and their rifle alone, at much longer distances to lob as many hard-hittng longer range bullets as much as possible with as many men as possible.


    • Did any of the people describing and discussing these so-called “Battle Rifles” before the 1980s use the term?

      No. They did not.

      Where was the term first used?

      The gun magazines of the 1980s, which were notorious for being inaccurate, flatly delusional, and written by dumbasses who knew nothing of either tactics or actual military use of weapons. I’ve got considerable time reading those damn things, because they were ubiquitous around the barracks back then. The number of times I found valuable and useful information, never mind “accurate”, in any of them? Can count them on the fingers of one hand, and every one of those occasions was something written by Peter Kokalis.

      “Battle Rifle” is a childish affectation created by similarly childish writers. The term has never been used anywhere in “real military documentation” from the era when it was supposedly created, and it is a completely useless term. What are the characteristics of a “Battle Rifle”? What are its tactical usages, to differentiate it from anything else? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this supposed class of weapon?

      It’s the same damn thing as any other full-power rifle created during the era when we were still doing that idiocy. Role-wise? Same thing. Capability-wise? Same damn thing as all the rest, with properly trained soldiers.

      “Battle Rifle” is an essentially meaningless construction. Quit using it, quit defending it. Until we start issuing non-lethal “Peace Rifles” and silent “Reconnaissance Rifles” alongside other suchlike silly contrivances…

    • “We would never see such man to man battles……today….for one stretch of land”. Are you aware of the war in Ukraine? Particularly at a place called Avdivka?

    • The same commission that selected the Springfield 1903 stated that the next step should have been a semiauto rifle. It had not been adopted in 1903 because the available ones were still not reliable and tested enough, but they already felt that a bolt action rifle adopted in 1903 was a stopgap solution (semiauto pistols were a reality after all). That’s why US started to seriously test semiauto rifles before many others. A long process that ended in the adoption of a well-developed gun just before WWII.
      None, at that time, was seriously thinking about Iwo Jima, or about machine-guns for that matter.

      • In my opinion, the Garand or the M14 ideally should have been the weapon issued for WWI. They did not have the experience yet to know for certain that they no longer needed the full-power horse-killing calibers, and so I can’t fault them for not realizing that they were going “too big” on the individual weapon cartridge. After WWI? With the experience that they should have documented and internalized? There’s really no damn excuse for fantasizing that the individual weapon was really effective much past three or four hundred meters.

        Part of the reason that the “full-house” error persisted was that they were still thinking in terms of the “organic machinegun” of the old days, volley fire out to long range. That nobody was doing this because collecting that many men in such narrow spaces to be able to effectively do volley fire was just a really good way to get them killed in job lots… Along with that, the MG was now doing that job. Recognition of that fact should have been made, and the implications of that are that they needed much smaller cartridges like the 7.92 Kurz and Soviet M43, along with the weapons to fire them. The US should have beefed up the .30 Carbine round, and gone with that.

        Unfortunately, just about everyone went down the blind alley of “Let’s just issue a full-house semi-auto…”, and it wasn’t until after the Vietnam War small arms debacle that the US bothered to even look for the handwriting on the wall, which was that intermediate cartridges were the way to go. Supplemented by the full-house bigger jobs in the machineguns…

        • Infact. Conceptually, the M1 Garand is a weapon that precedes WWI. It’s how someone that had still not fought WWI could think the next step in small arms development would have been. The same, but semiauto.
          From the experiences of trenches of WWI emerged other weapons. SMGs and LMGs above all and, between the two, the Fedorov Avtomat, the Ribeyrolles 1918, the Terni 1921… Portable rapid fire. The heck with full blown .30 cartridges.
          The first two classes of weapons, stuck. The third, for whatever reason (believing that WWI conditions had been unique, excessive costs to change the service cartridge, etc.) didn’t. In the ’30s those had been forgotten, and everyone that cared for developing the infantry rifle was searching for “the same, but semiauto”.

  7. The term “battle rifle” was created by Chuck Taylor and Col. Jeff Cooper to describe a “full .30” caliber self-loading rifle with a detachable box magazine. Its caliber (7.62 x 51mm at a minimum) distinguished it from “assault rifles” in 5.56 x 45mm and 7.62 x 39mm, all of which Taylor and Cooper disdained. They also concocted the term “mouse gun” for the 5.56mms. (If that’s a “mouse gun”, pray that nobody ever mistakes you for a “mouse”.)

    They went further, defining the short-barrelled “Tanker Garand” version of the Springfield Armory M1A (basically a semi-auto iteration of the Beretta BM59 Para) as an “Expeditionary Rifle”, suitable for “expeditionary forces”. Like the M4 in 5.56mm, the “Tanker” M1A was an attempt to fit the rifle into post-modern (and too-small) IFV interiors. And like the M4, it traded a bit of “convenience” for reduced velocity and increased muzzle signature.

    Trying to make a 7.62 NATO rifle as small and light as you can make a 5.56 NATO rifle just isn’t going to work. Even “bullpupping” it doesn’t get you there- compare Kel-Tec’s 7.62 bullpup to their 5.56mm one.

    It all goes back to doctrines. Is the individual rifleman going to be your infantry section’s base of fire? Or is he there to support the machine gun team? And either way, how far out can you realistically expect him to actually hit something?

    If you’re expecting anything much beyond 250 to 300 meters, you’re just fooling yourself.

    And inside that envelope, the 5.56 x 45mm gets about the same results as either of the two 7.62mms. Defined as “making nasty bloody holes in the targets”.

    clear ether


    • Spot on.

      The thing I loath with all of this is that the people like Taylor and all the others sycophantically following his lead never bother to seek any real understanding of what the hell is going on in the actual doctrine and experience of war. They just broadcast bullshit. Cooper is another one, despite his great PR. The man had a fixation on the rifle and the individual rifleman that was damn near clinical; while the reality was, even in his time, that the MG ruled the small tactics battlefield. Alongside the mortar and the radio…

      The delusion is strong in the minds of these men; you can’t argue with them. It’s like they have this Daniel Boone fantasy they have to fulfill, and bedamned to anything else.

      Raw fact? You win your fights with your MG teams and your radio, calling for fire. The riflemen are there for local security, scouting, carrying ammo, and serving as replacements for your expended MG crewmen. You lose your MG? You’re out of the fight until you get another one in there to provide the firepower.

      I don’t think any of these hopped-up “automatic rifle” solutions are going to work, when put up against real peer-level opponents. The Marines are going to learn some harsh lessons, and I suspect that they’re going to immediately put belt-fed firepower back into the squad structure just as soon as they can after they find out what the hell someone on the other side can do with their own MG… Which is tear apart your “fast-and-light” little fireteams.

      In my humble opinion, if your MG can’t keep up with your maneuver elements, about all you’re really doing is getting those maneuver elements into trouble they won’t be able to cope with, being unable to shoot their way into or out of it. It is absolutely true that speed kills, but it works both ways. Overextend yourself and not have the firepower you need on-hand? Buncha guys are going to wind up dead, learning those lessons over again the hard way.

      The weird thing is, the US military keeps wanting to re-invent the wheel into yet another iteration of that same crap that didn’t work out before. The Marines wrote about maneuver doctrine for a couple of decades, but they still do the “Hey-diddle-diddle, straight down the middle…” in actual practice. There’s no real effort to do things the indirect way, by maneuvering your firepower vice ramming your infantry formations into the objective…

      Slow learners, all of them. Same thing in the Army; so far as those idiots are concerned, you use a machinegun to suppress the enemy while you work your way up through the kill zone to get at their positions for a frontal assault, ‘cos that’s the way we do things here…

      Zero thought given to finding a way into the defenses and then rendering those positions untenable, even though that saves countless lives. The “Strategy of surfaces and gaps” still saves lives. It’d be even more effective, with today’s drones to do the recon and find those gaps…

  8. Tactically, I think there are two main schools of thought: The fantasists, and the pragmatic realist.

    The fantasist is like the old-school cavalryman, a carryover from the days of high chivalry, when the “knightly cavalier” was supposedly the war-winning focus of all things war. These people persist in the modern day, making believe that the “individual rifleman” is the primary combatant.

    Realistic pragmatism tells us that this simply isn’t the case, and that any rational analysis shows that the way combat actually works is “firepower, firepower, firepower” delivered in a timely and effective manner as heavily as possible. The individual weapon is more about providing local security and protection for the individual soldier who is supporting the real “casualty generators” in the MG team and radio operator. Probably add in the drone crews, these days, along with the electronic warfare guys… End of the day, the individual rifleman isn’t doing any of the “heavy lifting” when it comes to combat, and the sad fact is, he never was–Going back to the pre-WWI era when the MG began to proliferate.

    God knows how many men we’ve killed making believe that it just isn’t so, but there you are. You want to win wars? Buy and train on the machinegun. Today, add in the drones and the ELINT guys… Anything else is just a great way to kill off your military-age youth.

    • In the future, nobody’s going to be making jokes about “keyboard warriors”, or more correctly “IPad warriors”.

      Not when they’re the guy in the infantry section with the realtime link to HQ who can scroll the map display to where the enemy is, right click on the type of target, and then left-click on “SEND FIRE HERE”.

      Thirty seconds later- Ka-F**king BOOM. No more enemy.

      The riflemen will take very good care of the “nerd”, trust me.

      clear ether


  9. I look at everything coming out of Ukraine, and I’m thinking it is more a full-scale “frame shift” instead of a mere “paradigm shift”. It’s not just that there is a “fundamental change in basic concepts”, it is that the whole goddamn basis for modern combat has undergone a transformation.

    You don’t have the ability to hide or camouflage yourself, any more: The drones give near-perfect situational awareness to your enemies, and deliver munitions on your ass 24/7. I’ve watched some of those videos coming out of Ukraine, and tried to put myself in the boots of the guys being hunted down by those damn FPV drones. The one clip I saw recently where the Russian is trying to play “run away from the drone around the burned-out tank” is chilling; they put enough of those things into the air, and get them going after you, that’s straight out of Philip K. Dick’s Second Variety.

    And, even more chilling? Do note that we’re at the dawn-point of this brave new world, about equivalent to what the Russo-Japanese War was to WWI. These new tools and methodologies are only going to improve, and you may as well forget about front-line camouflage and concealment really even working any more. Thermal cameras on drones? All over the place, 24/7? Yeesh. Nightmare fuel, for the light infantryman. Along with the guys on the vehicles…

    I think we’re in entirely new territory, and moving fast. Where we’re going to end up? I wouldn’t dare to predict anything with any certainty. It’s going to be ugly, for those that can’t rapidly evaluate reality and adapt accordingly.

    • Kudos for mentioning one of PKD’s lesser-known but most insightful works.

      The most obvious thing I see is that the conventional MBT and IFV are dead. Fourth and fifth generation ATGWs can kill them from several thousand meters away. Javelin being just one example and very early 4G.

      By the same token, the days of the AT helicopter are numbered. Seeing Hinds (not that maneuverable but tough SOBs) die due to next-gen MANPADs tells me that Airwolf ain’t happening no more. Sorry, String.

      And yes “airmobile” as we’ve known it for most of my lifetime is a goner. The AAA environment below 4,000 meters is increasingly unsurvivable even for fast-movers. The Army is likely going to wish they’d bought tiltrotors rather than Kellett-type helos. (The tilter is faster in level flight and can carry more and more varied CM.)

      And even the Osprey generation is likely just a stopgap until the real jet-powered Assault Transport/Low Altitude Vehicle (AT-LAV) arrives, right out of bloody Shadowrun. Probably moving at just under M=1 at treetop level. (Don’t get fancy with the cute Elf pilot, she’s a combat mage and a crack shot with an Ares Predator…)

      So, everybody on the ground gonna be riding FAVs and overwatched by drones?

      Not exactly. Armor will be necessary to keep everybody’s heads from being blown off by the other side’s drones. And it will be electric powered.

      Sort of. About like a Virginia-class SSN is “electric powered”.

      If somebody gets a lightweight pebble-bed fission reactor going, or even more likely a compact fusion plant, expect the next several generations of AFVs to look eerily like something out of Keith Laumer’s Bolo crossed with David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers. Although with that kind of power curve, I’m expecting mass-driver weapons rather than particle-accelerators as main guns on MBTs.

      NB; David Drake passed away on 10 December 2023.

      A moment of silence in respect, please.

      He rode with the Black Horse.


      • I honestly don’t know where everything is heading. We’re at one of those “cusp moments” in history, and a lot depends on how well they adapt to the changes.

        One thing is certain: The drone has changed nearly all the underlying assumptions we have about how combat works. I’d want to be one of the guys out there using the things before I even began to pontificate on what changes there will be. I don’t know how it will all work out, and nobody else does, either.

        What I will continue to advocate for is a clear-eyed approach to what is actually going on, coupled with an equally pragmatic approach to understanding and implementing countermeasures. You have to dance with the chaos; you cannot try to deny it or make believe that it’s not happening. To do so is to play the same role as the cavalry advocates did, back when the MG was coming on.

        You have to remember the reality of the times: The MG was basically distilled “essence of infantry”, and it did away with the idea that you needed a battalion of infantrymen firing volleys in order to counter a cavalry charge or a movement of other infantry. One MG was basically capable of generating the tactical effect of an entire battalion of volley-firing infantry; this was the essence of what changed during that era.

        Today? I’d be hard-pressed to be so glib as to describing what the drones are doing. They’re basically delivering precision fires and recon that were once the purview of strategic systems, and they’re down at the level of a platoon leader… Where that is going? No damn idea, whatsoever. Things are changing, and that’s about all I’ll venture.

        • Well, as a SciFan I’m allowed to speculate more. 😉

          I will say this;

          If not for the Key West Agreement, the Army and Marines would probably already have jet-lift Low Altitude Vehicles, and the helicopter would be strictly a low-cost alternative to same.



          • Key West was a disaster for American arms. What they should have done, in my opinion, was split things along lines of usage: If it’s ground combat, then that belongs to the Army. Strategic bombardment and air defense over things other than the ground combat battlefields? Air Force. The whole “If it’s got wings and guns, then it belongs to the Air Force…” is just plain stupid. The Farce mostly wants to play “Knights of the Sky” with fighters and bombers, screw the Close Air Support missions. That’s messy, and people get badly hurt doing it. The high-altitude stuff against other airmen? That’s all cool and will seriously get you laid at the O club…

      • “(…)conventional MBT(…)dead(…)ATGWs can kill them from several thousand meters away(…)”
        Reminds me some screeches that tank no longer necessary in relation to 3M6 missile and/or 9M14 missile deployment. I would say in sword-shield race former is supreme today, which do not have to be eternal state. Also to my comprehension is mutually exclusive with being dead.

        • You actually have to go to British modelers’ magazines to get the straight story on the British Army’s MBTs, from Centurion on up to Challenger.

          And that straight story is that Challenger in all iterations is nothing but a Chieftain with M1 Abrams type armor and fire control.

          Scale Military Modeler has done several articles on the travails of Chieftain and Challenger. Mostly written not by model-building experts but by retired British Army oiks who had to service the bloody things.

          Their consensus is that Challenger is at best no better than an M1A1, but afflicted with all the shortcomings of Chieftain, such as its unreliable David Brown diesel engine, poor NBC sealing, and of course complete lack of climate control, which becomes glaringly obvious anywhere other than high summer on Brean Down. (No A/C, but also no heater for the crew compartment; imagine that in the Fulda Gap in January.)

          The CHARM rifled 12cm gun was so inaccurate that most Challengers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan were armed with the older 12cm gun of the Chieftain. Often ones pulled from Chieftains already in the scrap heap, with bores so eroded from decades of practice firing that they were essentially smoothbores for half the length of the tube. And they still out-shot the CHARMs.

          That futuristic-looking slab-sided turret is simply the Chieftain V turret inside a bolted-on “shell” of supposedly advanced Abrams-type composite armor. So far, it seems to have worked about as well as Saddam’s T-55 Enigma- which isn’t saying much.

          The one “innovation” in Challenger was its Abrams-type suspension. And that turned out to be so fragile that Challengers in UK had to be stripped of their suspensions to provide replacements for the ones in the AO, leading to jokes about “antigravity Challengers” caused by photos of Challengers stripped of their suspensions sitting on blocks.

          The British Army came up with the Challenger to avoid Parliament making them buy Abrams from the U.S. or worse yet Leopard 2 from Germany. Now they’re stuck with perpetually “upgrading” it to avoid admitting that it just doesn’t work.

          As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

          clear ether


          • eon,

            Challenger has a hydrogas suspension, something it does not share with the Abrams. The other hydrogas suspension you’re thinking of is likely the K1, which had that in order to maximize the elevation and depression that the K1 could achieve, in order to better fight in Korean mountains.

            I don’t know that much about Challenger, but it is of a piece with the usual UK military/industrial halfassery in support of keeping things going. Other examples would include the L85…

            The Brits ought to honestly stick with the things they’re good at, namely combat engineering gear. They’ve come up with most, if not all, of our bridging gear. The Giant Viper mine clearance system is light years ahead of the MICLIC, and actually won the procurement competition before the bright lights in the US got ahold of it all… I could go on, but combat engineering gear is just plain boring for everyone except Engineers, and nobody wants to hear about it.

            The really big problem with NATO is that everyone wants the benefits of being in the alliance, but nobody wants to pay the price in terms of what that would mean. The UK should have figured out what it could really support, in terms of industrial capacity, and then gone in with everyone else on the big-ticket items like tanks and APCs, while everyone else should have type-standardized on the things that the UK does really well, buying them.

            As it is, NATO doesn’t really work as well as it could. That the French and Germans were both building third-generation tanks alongside the Italians and the Brits is just nuts… The LeClerc, the Challenger, and the Ariete shouldn’t even exist: It all should have been Leopard 2, optimized for each nations sensibilities…

          • Kirk; I’d forgotten that hydrogas setup. That was one more thing that was always going bad on the Challenger.

            The British Army has always been good at engineering. AFAIK, the very first AVLB “scissor bridge” was theirs, on top of the Churchill AVRE in 1942.

            As I understand it, they had a chance to go 50-50 with the French on Leclerc. Somehow they decaded the French didn’t grok how to build tanks for duties in widely varying climates. I’m sure that would surprise all the armies using AMX-13s and AMX-30s.



          • “(…)As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.(…)”
            If early marks of CHALLENGER were often so troublesome, British forces should be happy to declare MBT dead and no longer need to support maintenance-heavy piece of equipment, yet they are willing to introduce next mark of said machine.

          • “(…)The British Army has always been good at engineering. AFAIK, the very first AVLB “scissor bridge” was theirs, on top of the Churchill AVRE in 1942.(…)”
            If well known movie A Bridge Too Far is not lying in that regard Bailey bridges were found handy by users. These were designed by Donald Bailey whilst working for British government.

          • Oh, the Bailey is definitely British in origin. The problem they had in WWII was that they couldn’t manufacture it in mass production, either the necessary steels for the connectors or the actual fabrication of the panels. The US could and did, producing the lion’s share of the components for the bridge.

            The UK has designed a bunch of the bridging we use, as well as the bridge boats. Fabrication? Not so much; the problem with anything coming out of the UK in terms of industrial goods is that while the designs are great, the shipping/manufacture/packaging sucks ass.

            Feet of clay, sadly. Don’t ask me about trying to get parts for the Perkins diesel engines in our bridge boats that got pressed into doing riverine ops in Iraq because the Navy couldn’t get off its ass to do it. Don’t ask me about trying to run down 20 containers of Mabey-Johnson anchorage system parts that weren’t labeled or marked in any way, and whose numbers never made it onto the manifest for the bridge system we bought from them… I could go on, but we’d be here all day. There are reasons the Germans and Japanese ate the British industrial outfits for lunch, and it has to do with the whole disconnect they seem to have between designing the stuff and then producing and shipping it.

            Christ, my first exposure to that was working with my stepdad as a kid; British Leyland basically got him a free Land Rover that turned into a millstone around his neck because they could never get us the right parts for the poor thing. I still have six beautifully forged axle half-shafts for that vehicle out in the garage, somewhere, which were sent to us in lieu of the correct part we actually ordered. I believe those were number three on the mis-shipment hit parade for that vehicle. The storage fees eventually came out to about twice what it was worth to the owner, so he just gave it to us.

            I’m not sure we got the better of that deal, TBH.

    • I’ve seen that video too, and thought how shotgun could maybe come in handy for these close drone encounters, but the poor guy was unarmed, not even with a pistol, and just running scared.

      • The presence of mind you’d have to possess in that situation to take down a drone like that with a shotgun…? I am uncertain that I would possess that, and the other consideration is, even if you do? That freaking warhead may kill you anyway…

        I don’t know that there’s a defense against those damn FPV drones, once the operator has your number. Other than jamming the signal, which may only work so long as there’s no on-board AI guiding it that last hundred meters. You don’t even have the option of doing like the Israelis did against the early Sagger missile teams, and swatting the launch points; those damned drones could be being operated from a thousand miles away, through links.

        I really have to wonder at the Russian soldier’s sheer stubborn stupidity. I think by this time, in most Western nations? There would have been mutinies, outright revolts, and people heading off to the capital to have a few not-so-polite words with the politicians that put them there…

        • Being so small its not easy to hit, but I suspect even a pellet from one small bird shot would destabilize its flight and damage it to be unable to hover and fly, even few meters away is good as its most dangerous in contact, I suppose it does not have much explosive and shrapnels as it would be too heavy for flight.
          Speaking of which, I recommend to watch an episode from legendary series Black Mirror, called “Metalhead”.

          As for the last paragraph, I’ve read excellent, eye opening comment 2 years ago, when it all started, it goes something like: Russian people are slaves who do not want to be free from their slavery, but to have their own slaves.
          The more I think about it and put it into historical context (and also some similar nations and states), the more it seems true. But overall, its a terrifying, depressing thought.

          • I can see them sticking one of those breaching shotguns under every M4 as a last-ditch anti-drone measure… Maybe firing some sort of net-thingy?

            Something has to be done, as a counter-measure. If only for morale purposes. I could see something like a mini C-RAM system coming in, mounted on an ATV trailer, and firing 5.56mm as an anti-drone system.

            God knows war is going to be a hell of a lot more complicated, going forward.

            I’d also just like to say, I’ve been predicting this for years; all of this was easily extrapolated from the first mass-market drones that came out. First time I saw one of those, I was like “Oh, but this is an interesting development… In the fullest sense of the Chinese proverb…”

            What I didn’t expect was that it’d be someone like the Ukrainians doing it. I really, truly expected it to be something like a Singapore/Malaysia or China/Taiwan conflict, where the “little guy” had to innovate or die.

            I suppose Russia/Ukraine qualifies as that sort of situation, but I didn’t think the Ukrainians had it in them, being as I thought (wrongly, I’ll fully admit…) that they were locked into a Soviet-style military system. Thank God I was wrong on that one, although I’ll point out that the very first and most effective drone operators were a privately-organized affair…

            What I think we are seeing here is the equivalent of the way the French mass-conscription system frame-shifted 18th Century warfare into the mass-mobilization armies of the 19th Century, only with regards to the democratization of modern war. The initial thrusts of the Russian army were classical “Let’s go suppress Czechoslovakia or Hungary” affairs, and the self-organized “dragon’s teeth” reaction of the Ukrainian public basically put paid to that crap with a quickness. The 12-year-old little boy out playing recon with his toy drones, and reporting to Ukrainian high command? There’s a lesson in that, folks. A harsh one, for anyone like the Russians; you’re no longer going to be able to do the things you did with your fleets of tanks and other armor, not with the half-ass improperly trained soldiers you used to be able to use.

            Hell, TBH? I’m not even sure that the best, most highly trained American formation would be able to deal with going in to a fully mobilized and self-aware situation like the northern Ukrainians presented. I mean, what the hell are they going to do about suppressing that 12-year-old with a drone he got for Christmas? Kill everything and everyone? Take out all the communications nodes, with all the implications that has?

            War has just undergone a phase-change, I suspect. Nothing will be the same, going forward. Unless you’re dealing with a totally primitive and utterly non-technical population, and where the hell are those, these days? Christ, I saw a piece on drones being used in Papua New Guinea the other day…

            I have this feeling that the entire NGSW program was a blind alley, and they really need to be working on those underbarrel shotguns with little nets and a lot more skeet-shooting in basic training. Which, of course, they won’t be doing until we’re in a major war, losing badly, and will have to do under extreme duress.

            It’s the American Way, after all.

        • Great addition to the topic!

          I’ve seen long time ago similar “tactic” hypothetically proposed for diy helicopter downing, by launching chains upwards into the air, and hope they will get tangled in rotor.

          • They’d do better with a Kevlar net fired out of a rifled tube.

            I can’t remember where the hell I saw that idea implemented, but it was a couple of years ago and was supposedly good out to about 50-60m. The spin was necessary to get the net open, with a heavier outer cable on the perimeter.

            Chain is just questionable as hell; even in the age of sail, it was more a gimmick than anything useful. Or, so I’ve read. Never actually involved in firing anything like that out of a muzzle-loading cannon…

            I suspect that if you were to implement something like a series of packed nets in a Metal Storm sort of affair… Ripple fire enough of those in the right direction, and you’d likely achieve some success in taking out drones coming for you…

  10. A “What if” thought- the Garand adopted to use BAP magazines instead of the internal enbloc clip? any ideas of feasibility for that project? Also, heard that someone adapted a Garand to handle .458 Winchester Magnum. Has anybody heard anything about this?

    • Garands with BAR magazines were the main thrust of Army Ordnance developments in 1946-49. The consensus was that yes, the 20-round BAR magazine worked in the Garand action, but no, full-auto fire with a Garand in .30-06 was not feasible even with elaborate muzzle devices.

      Such Garands were the first step to development of the T-44 to T-47 line of rifles that eventually led to the M-14. Which was really just a Garand with a shorter gas tube, firing a shorter cartridge developed from the .300 Savage sporting round.

      It’s all covered in detail in the ninth edition of Small Arms of the World.

      clear ether


      • The Springfield T20 and Remington T22 didn’t use BAR magazines. Their magazines were usable on the BAR, but not the contrary. When tested with BAR magazines, the T22’s bolt mostly closed on an empty chamber, because the BAR magazine couldn’t lift the round fast enough. There were also problems with the original magazine catching only on the rear.

        Wincherster’s unnamed prototype, that had never been tested by the Army, used modified BAR magazines, but they had to be considered single-use, because the recoil impulse was enough to damage the front of the magazine.

    • There were field-modified Garands with just that modification, but they rarely worked out well. The later attempts at the same idea done by Ordnance all ran into issues, as well. It took a redesign of rifle and magazine to get it to work properly; that’s a large part of why they re-jiggered the gas system on the M14 to smooth out and reduce the recoil impulse.

      Any time you’ve got to do that? That’s a sign you’re on the wrong path.

      The Garand suffered from the same problem that the rest of its class did: Too damn big a cartridge. In the weight you have to keep under for an individual weapon, the use of the old-school full-house cartridges is just a non-starter. Thus, Federov’s choice of the 6.5 Japanese…

      The .458 Winchester Magnum Garand was a product of McCann Industries. It was the product of a wizard-class gunsmith that worked for them, and once he died, the project died with him. The Firearms Blog did a writeup on it, here:

      You can find more on the rifle elsewhere with the proper search terms. Insofar as a “Dangerous Game Rifle”, I’m pretty sure I’d want to stick with a controlled-feed bolt action and a lot of practice with it… Or, something in a .45-70 lever action, maybe one of the Marlin .444 models. I surely would not be putting my life into the semi-auto mechanism of a rifle that started out being build for a hot .276, that was then transitioned to a .30-06, and finally rechambered for .308 Winchester. That just seems like a really bad idea, that’d have the bears laughing at you.

      My stepdad was cook on an Alaskan fishing boat for a couple of years. One of his more memorable anecdotes was about the time one of the guys started complaining about the steady diet of fresh fish, and demanding something else… Like venison. Being out in the Gulf of Alaska near Kodiak Island, the captain told him “Fine, you go get us some…” and they let him off the boat near a small island that they’d seen deer on with the fishing boat’s dinghy. He had a Remington semi-auto rifle in something useful in Alaska, unsure of the exact caliber.

      When they came back for him, the dinghy was just sitting there on the beach still, no sign of him. One of the guys swam in to get the dinghy, and do a quick search. He found a blood trail, said “Screw this…” and got himself back to the fishing boat with a quickness. Radio call to Alaska Fish and Game got some wardens out there to do a search and what they found was that semi-auto rifle bent at about a 45-degree angle just in front of the receiver, and the pug marks from where the bear had started from about 20-30 yards away. There was a cartridge halfway loaded into the chamber, and they never quite worked out if it was a jam or that the bear had gotten to him just that quickly… He’d apparently gotten off the one shot, discovering that the bear was going after the deer he’d just shot for himself. Slight disagreement about ownership, see…?

      I don’t know what transpired with that, but I’m not “getting off the boat” in Alaska with a semi-auto deer rifle. Ever. I’ve got a friend of mine from the Army that did time up there, and he’s got stories of emptying 20-round 5.56mm magazines from an M16 into bears raiding their kitchen trailers up around Fort Wainwright. Bears shrugged it off, and they gave it up as a bad job until the one guy with a 12-gauge got his ass out of bed…

      Bears are bad news, all the way around. Do not annoy them with petty calibers below .40, if you can avoid it. Of course, if you’re an Alaskan native, feel free to go bear hunting with a .22 Long Rifle. Which some of them do…

      • The best bear medicine for us hicks is still a 12-gauge pump loaded with rifled slugs. Although vs an Alaskan brownie I’d probably opt for a .458 Winchester rifle instead.

        As far as handguns go, I consider even .44 Magnum marginal. Something like .454 Casull or .480 Ruger is more to the point.

        A story I got from a friend who lived up there for a while is interesting. One of the deep-ecology set went on a vacation to “commune with nature” and hired a bush pilot to fly him out to a camp site. Noticing he was completely unarmed, the pilot asked the fellow what he had to deal with bears. The fellow replied irately that he would never harm a bear, and instead he had bear repellent. (Which is basically OC spray except with a weaker mix than you’re allowed to use on muggers- to protect the bear’s delicate olfactory senses.)

        After dropping him off, the pilot took off and then circled back to check on the client. And saw him lying on the ground, apparently convulsing. Fearing a snake bite, he landed to evac the guy.

        And found out that he had misinterpreted the term “bear repellent” to being equivalent to “mosquito repellent”.

        Yes, he’d sprayed it on himself. Right in the face.



        • I’ve an acquaintance with the state Department of Natural Resources, which handles game warden things. He swears on a stack of bibles that this is true:

          He fielded an outraged phone call from a woman, who complained that the bear repellant she’d purchased on the advice of a state game warden or other DNR employee didn’t work. She was hot under the collar, really pissed-off, and he agreed to meet with her to see what the problem was. She was having issues with communicating due to her accent/rage…

          So, he drives out to the campsite, and she’s still pissed. He asks her how she used the bear spray, and then watches in incredulity as she calls over her three kids, pulls out the can of bear spray, and just douses them with it. The bears were still coming around at night and rummaging through the trash at the campsite, and that was why she was convinced the bear spray wasn’t working… Kids weren’t too happy about life, either.

          He swears this is a true story, and nobody believes him when he tells it. I’m not sure I do, either, and even if he’d filmed the whole thing, I’d find it hard to believe…

          On the other hand, I have met some tourists around here that do strike me as being that dumb…

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