Colt Model 621: An Attempt at an AR-Style Export SAW

During the 1970s and 1980s, Colt wanted to sell not just standard M16 rifle and CAR-15 carbines to foreign military customers, but also wanted to supply support weapons. They put together the Model 621, aka M16A1 “HBAR” (Heavy Barreled Assault Rifle – not the same idea and the HBAR target rifles much more commonly seen) as a sort of LMG sister to the M16A1 rifle. It was essentially the exact same idea as the RPK – a support machine gun with parts interchangeability and identical handling to the standard infantry rifle. A small number were made in the 9 million serial number range, but no contracts were ever made to sell them in significant numbers. A few, like this one, eventually came out of Colt and into the civilian collectors’ market.


  1. I salavated like Pavlov’s dogs when I first saw this firearm in front of you. I was hoping to see a video of it firing. I understand why you didn’t, but I must have been a dream to shoot in full auto.

  2. I remember some of those uppers floating around a few shows back in the early 90s I think it was. Also Diemaco C7 LSW uppers were being sold and know a few guys who bought them.

  3. Ok. I have to ask. What is “bore paper” and are the flanges on the bipod a hand guard of sorts when folded?

    • I’m not familiar with the term “bore paper”, but the bipod on the 621 was actually the bipod of the M60 7.62 x 51 NATO GPMG. And in its case, those ventilated flanges served the same purpose as the vents in the M60’s fixed forend. They allowed air to circulate around the barrel and gas tube when the bipod was folded to help cool them during or after firing.



      • Thanks. Ian McCollum mentioned the piece of paper sticking out of the barrel in the video and I am wondering about it’s purpose.

        • Having collected Colt ARs moons ago now those were always referred to as a barrel wick. They came from the factory with them and were supposed to keep the bore lubed preventing any rust from developing. In the collectors market a true NIB Colt should still have it but many dont.Boxes and barrel wicks add value. It is what it is.Sort of like that little 2” plastic fake barrel that came with Uzis,they are always missing and add $ when still there.

          • Not “lubed” per se, the paper tubes are treated with something like Evapo-rust, and while they are meant as an anti-corrosive measure, they’re not a lubricant like Cosmoline. In fact, they’re supposed to be better than Cosmoline, because they don’t require the extensive solvent-based cleaning that Cosmoline does.

            I’m pretty sure that the same technology is used here:


            The new weapons I unpacked from the depot always had those inserted; it’s something required by the MILSPEC storage guidance. Actual branding varies, and the government material used is usually a paper-based product.

            It is, however, to emphasize: NOT A LUBRICANT. Rust inhibitor only.

    • Most Western armies wanted a squad machine gun in 7.62 x 51mm, and preferably belt-fed. The 621 was neither.

      If you understand the proper use of the machine gun in the infantry section, the armies’ reasoning was better than Colt’s.



  4. Overall, a stab in the dark by Colt. Which hit nothing.

    I’m always going to remain highly dubious of this entire RPK-emulating proposition. I don’t think the idea works, and if you really need something like it, then you’re a lot better off building something purpose-designed for crew-served.

    The BREN was the WWII ideal for an individual-weapon complementary Automatic Rifle/Light Machine Gun weapon class. It could transition from one-man assault operation to a two-man crew on bipod or tripod, and do that smoothly. The various RPK-alikes are unable to do that, and are inadequate in the role.

    The thing a lot of people miss is the whole “crew served” thing; a huge component of what makes a crew-served weapon effective is the continuity of situational awareness, and the ability to concentrate on the targets downrange. If the guy doing your supporting fires is constantly having to take his attention off of things to work the gun by changing magazines…? You don’t have a good support solution going on. What you have is a bundle of dysfunctional firepower potential that’s never going to be realized because of the human factors. Even with someone nearby giving him commands, the root problem is that the gunner has too many things calling on his attention and focus; you can’t keep track of what’s going on downrange where the enemy lives if you’re also having to worry about feeding the gun. Belt-fed is a much better solution, with a top-feed magazine weapon coming in as a distant second.

    Support firepower is a team effort; you have to have the weapon optimized for teamwork.

    I’d speculate that if you had some means of maintaining a synthetic view of the battlefield, one where your team leader or squad leader was feeding you target and activity data from downrange while you worked the weapon, you could maybe, just maybe make something like this or the M27 really work. As it is? I’m of the opinion that this is a false trail in the development of small arms. I don’t think the M27 is going to do well, the first time it comes up against a peer-level enemy. The RPK is something else I remain dubious of, and I don’t see that weapon really embraced all that hard by the people that have it as an option. Most of the shooting seems to be done by either PK or AK carrying troops, and I rarely see the RPK deployed. I don’t think there’s a good value-added proposition for that bipod or heavier barrel, once you factor it all in.

    You have to remember… The real deal with the support weapons is that it’s not the one-man army thing that the assault rifle is. You have to have someone helping you sustain the fire and carry the ammo, while also being there as a second set of eyes to feed you target and activity info from downrange. The machine gun is not a solo effort; you have to have the gunner, the AG, and the team leader engaged and involved.

    • Aw heck, the M27 is arguably outperformed by COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE semiautomatic AR-15 pattern rifles “not invented by the ‘almighty’ government”. There. I said it. Improvements in Armalite-type civilian commercial-off-the-shelf components since the M27’s development started at the turn of the millennium rendered the Marine Corps’ vaunted automatic rifle a relic of the past.

      Oh, and another thing to those nitwits who try to use videogame tactics to use a massed infantry rush. The whole idea that “a whole battalion of guys fielding an M27” can outshoot a dozen tripod-mounted belt-fed machine guns (like, say, the MG3) or even a battery of 1914 vintage 7.5cm field guns is f**king STUPID!! Never send a rifle to do a machine gun’s job!!

      I could be wrong.

      • You are not wrong. They are.

        I think the Marines have an absolute right to their own ideas, but I think they’re going to kill an awful lot of Marines finding out the hard way that “Firepower WORKS”.

        Their basic objection is that “…the M249 and the M240 slow us down…”. My counter-point would be “Well, maybe you’re TRYING TO MOVE TOO FAST…”, and that your attention ought to be on “How fast should we be moving, actually…?” not that other thing. I think that the emphasis on speed in infantry maneuver is a bit of a false premise, especially in these days of ubiquitous drones and other observation technologies. You need to take the time to move as fast or as slow as is tactically sound, and I think that includes having your main small arms firepower being able to keep up with you. There are times and places where you can move fast, like in the assault in urbanized terrain, but if you do move fast into those buildings over yonder, and YOU DON”T HAVE THE MGs WITH YOU TO DEFEND THEM, what then? What have you really gained? You’re gonna get your ass thrown out of those objectives just as fast as you took them.

        I am suspicious of speed. I really, truly am–There’s a lot to be said for dynamism, but at the same time… Dude, you better be able to FIGHT, and fight hard. I played “too light to fight” with the 9th ID for several years, and I left that experience with a decidedly foul taste in my mouth. I’m pretty sure that had they managed to get 9th ID deployed at any time before the procurement of the Stryker, we’d have had a lot of dead troops to explain with little to show for it. Every single time we went up against even a half-ass armored force, we got our asses handed to us. “Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee…” sounds really cool, right up until you run into a Mike Tyson who proceeds to pound you flat. Everybody has a plan, right up until that first punch lands on your chin. Then, you’re laying there on the mat, staring up at the ceiling, and wondering about your chosen career path…

        • Speed is Life is a good rule…for fighter pilots. For ground-pounders, not so much.

          WW2 and Korea should have taught us that the combined armor/infantry team, properly coordinated, was the solution to MOBUA and open terrain F/M both. We did pretty well at it in Vietnam, too; as one NVA general said, our side won the war on the ground while their side was winning the political war in Paris- and the U.S. Congress and news media.

          The last twenty-one years (the longest war in U.S. history) shows that we’ve pretty much forgotten what works. Or else we’ve replaced it by theories based on what “looks good”… to political theorists.

          Taking the MBTs away from the USMC, in order to make them a faster -moving “quick reaction force” translates to “we never properly addressed the problem of moving heavy forces strategically”. We forgot the basic fact of geography; everywhere we are likely to fight, we have to cross oceans to get to the places where the loud bangs are coming from, while the enemy most often can drive there because they live right next door.

          The PTO in WW2 was a case of both sides having the ocean problem. We won because we simply had more of everything to fight with and superior sealift capability. We just kept feeding things and men in until the enemy ran out of both before we did.

          North Africa was very close to a peer situation as well. It has been argued that the battle for North Africa was really won in the Med, because by cutting the enemy off from their source of supply, again we ran them out of everything before we went “Winchester”. Seen in that light, who won at El Alamein wasn’t as important as the British keeping Malta.

          Germany vs. Russia? That was pretty much preordained. The Wehrmacht simply never had enough to defeat the Russians just on numbers alone. (Napoleon probably could have told them a thing or two about that.)

          Ironically, if they’d waited for Stalin to attack and fought a purely defensive war in the “Sudetenland” and Poland, they could probably have bled the Russians enough to cause first troop mutinies and then Stalin being overthrown. (There’s a “What If?” for Victor Davis Hanson.)

          We pretty much lost this last one because we tried to fight by the enemy’s rules. Hence the “light and fast” obsession.

          Afghanistan teaches the same lesson over and over again. You can’t reform them, you can’t “civilize” them, all you can do is make it so hazardous for them to cross your border that they won’t attempt it.

          The moral is, heavy forces win. Assuming you get them where they need to be and apply them correctly.

          As my tanker uncle said, anybody can stick his head in a hornet’s nest fast. The smart thing to do is burn the hornet’s nest before you’re close enough to get stung.



          • The political war we lost in Vietnam was not in Paris or Congress; it was in the minds of ordinary, non-Catholic Vietnamese. The entire premise of the CIA-created fiction of “South Vietnam” was that a bunch of Catholic feudal landlords we evacuated from the North could form a legitimate government over people they despised, who despised them in turn as Quislings to France and its religion. The US created an illusion of legitimate government after enormous effort by having to literally put Americans in charge of everything, even bringing over US Coast Guard and Federal Department personnel to run a phantom state that was competent despite the Catholics nominally in charge, not because of them. Do you not think the Southerners couldn’t see that and realize that as soon as the Yankees left they’d be screwed again? (See: Diem’s murders of demobilized Vietminh who had fought the French.)
            And it doesn’t seem as though Afghanistan was all that different, except that this time our bureaucrats were papering over unending tribal butchery instead of feudal oligarchy. In both cases our “allies” did not see a majority of the population as their fellow citizens. That makes legitimacy impossible and that turns all normal grievances into revolution.

      • “(…)M27 is arguably outperformed by COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE semiautomatic AR-15 pattern rifles “not invented by the ‘almighty’ government”. (…)”
        M27 was developed by Heckler & Koch so I would not count it as “invented by ‘almighty’ government”. Also according to
        By all accounts, it looks like USMC played the whole IAR trick to get the replacement for their M4 carbines without entering the political hassle and budgetary debates.
        so maybe it just another instance of improvise, adapt, overcome?

        • “Improvise, adapt, and overcome” works but only for so long. Perhaps the Marines did get what they wanted. However, the M27 is no match for a proper machine gun in a drawn-out long distance slug fest where the combatants can barely see each other. I could be wrong.

    • Having shot RPK’s and AKs, I tend to be suspicious of any “SAW” that doesn’t have a quick-change barrel. Doubly so for one with an underside-interface magazine feed and nothing else.

      The BAR was very misunderstood by most of the Ordnance establishment. It was a machine rifle, not an LMG, and those are two entirely different breeds of cat, and have two fundamentally different functions in the infantry section. Used correctly, the BAR had no need of a QCB. When FN turned it into an LMG, the Model 30/Model D absolutely had a QCB, with cooling fins to boot. They still didn’t solve the feed problem until they turned the whole thing upside down, beefed it up, and called it the MAG.

      The RPK, like the British SA80 series LSW, was not a usable SAW. The British Army tried to dodge the issue by redesignating the LSW as a DMR; it wasn’t very good at that job, either. The Russian Army just shrugged its figurative shoulders and went on using the RPK as a SAW, along with its 5.45mm younger brother the RPK74.

      In each case, they ended up reverting to WW2 U.S. doctrine; using the squaddies’ rifles to build the base of fire. I’d tear my hair out while screaming “No! No! No!”, but I don’t actually have any hair left to begin with.



      • I feel ya… It’s like “Here’s this really effective and time-proven way to employ machineguns tactically… We know it works, because we killed hundreds of thousands of our own guys going against it…”

        “So, what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna do something else that WE invented, and which doesn’t work…”

        Imagine a hundred thousand palms slapping into faces, forever…

      • Why not make open-bolt RPK?

        It would stabilize the shooting in longer bursts, and prevent cookoffs, ok, its not like barrel change, but at least you get something beneficial. Only change needed would be in Fcg and bolt carrier perhaps.

    • Unless you’re doing the same thing over & over, the thing in your hand is only ideal for what your doing about 10% of the time. And soldiers gripe about everything. So I thought I’d share some weapon-related gripes that I’m able to remember:
      “The M4 is too long & heavy for CQB. Why didn’t they make it in a lightweight 10.5″ barrel?”
      “The M4 is too short for long shots. I’d rather have an M16”
      “The M4 is too light for sustained full auto.”
      “The M249 is too heavy to carry around all the time.”
      “I can’t get as low prone as I’d like. Bring back the 20 round magazine.”
      “30 rounds isn’t enough. Should be at least 50.”
      “They should have put a muzzle brake on the M4 to make FA more controllable”
      “The short barrel on the M4 has too much muzzle blast.”
      “I don’t like looking through a tube – why can’t they put AK-style sights on the M4?”
      “The M68 is great for CQB, but I want a scope so I can make those long shots.”
      “The 5.56 doesn’t hit hard enough.”
      “The 7.62×51 has too much recoil.”
      “We should use the 7.62×39!”
      “7.62×39 is stupid – it’s worse than both 5.56 & 7.62×51.”
      As you can see, they all contradict each other, but what’s funny is some were said by the same person… You can please some of the people all of the time & all of the people some of the time. And this is how we end up with the M27 and the ridiculous 6.8 Fury system.

      • Defined as “Let’s re-invent the 7 x 57 Mauser of 1892 one more time!

        I suppose next they’ll reinvent the 6mm Lee Navy, or its civilian progeny the .220 Swift, and wonder why they’re burning out barrels faster than they can change them.



  5. @Harold,

    I see that you’ve read through all the “user survey reports” that the geniuses running the small arms program gathered up after Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The whole thing reeks of “garbage in, garbage out”. Most of the people surveyed barely know how to operate, in a rudimentary fashion, the weapons they’ve been issued by the US military. Yet, many of those people will say that they are “experts”, not grasping that their experience and knowledge is, being as complimentary as possible, “narrowly circumscribed”. They quite literally do not know what they don’t know. And, they’re being listened to.

    I don’t hold a lot of credence in what the “usual experts” have to say about much of anything. The one thing I’ve observed throughout my life is that self-proclaimed “experts”…? Are very often NOT.

    As well, there’s the experience base: Most of the surveyed with those questionnaires were basic soldiers and Marines. Few of them have any extensive experience with anything other than their issued weapons; and, those they really don’t know all that well, either.

    The problem is demonstrated by this thread over at

    Not to give the writer a hard time, but I’d like to point out that what they’re basing the take-aways from those questionnaires on would be like his pre-epiphany understanding of his weapon. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, and the really astounding thing is that much of what he learned the hard way through being wounded were things I had beaten into my head back during my early days in the service, BY FORMER MARINES. Somewhere along the line, the services lost the bubble on skill-at-arms, and this young man paid for it. He was never trained on magazine management, never made to practice magazine swaps until his fingers bled, never taught the importance of always maintaining situational awareness while manipulating his weapon.

    The guys they’re getting information from, which they then use to base their decisions on, really do not know what the hell they’re doing. It’s like asking a blind man to describe an elephant, then handing him a rhinoceros for tactile examination. Then, taking what he says about the rhinoceros and applying it to that dolphin, over there…

    That’s the root problem with all too much of this stuff. Whenever I tried laying out for my bosses just why we needed better tripods and other accessories for the machine gun teams, it was impossible to make headway with them: Not because they didn’t care, but because they were stone-ignorant of the details. They had no experience, no information to actually make the inferential leap from “This is how we’ve always done it…” to “Yeah, there are better ways…”

    Actual, honest-to-God “Subject Matter Experts” on small arms are vanishingly rare in the military. You do not see masses of soldiers out honing their skills off-duty; few of them study the weapons, their uses, or know the history. If it’s not in the manuals, they don’t know it. And, to add insult to injury, they don’t ever examine those manuals at all carefully for mistakes or internal contradictions. I found a thing in the Marine machinegun field manual a few years ago, where they were using verbiage and illustrations from the old M1919 manuals last issued back in the 1940s to illustrate a key and critical technique for fire control. Not a big deal, right? But, and here’s the kicker: The illustration showed a reticle pattern for a binocular that hasn’t been standard issue since WWII. There’s no sign of any of the modern reticles in any of the surrounding illustrations, which makes it difficult to understand the procedure. I contacted the Marine proponency office for that manual, to encounter a vast indifference. They didn’t care, and I had difficulty getting across to the people I was talking to why that illustration was in need of change. Talking to them, and these are the same guys who came up with that whole “M27” concept, it was pretty f*cking clear that they did not understand a key technique in correcting fires with machineguns from the tripod.

    Maddening, to say the least. It’s like that all across the forces, when it comes to small arms. Nobody has any real expertise, and what there is out there is ignored or denigrated as “old-fashioned” or unnecessary in today’s world of massive supporting firepower.

    It bit us in the ass once before, during Afghanistan. I venture to predict it will do it again and again.

    • “(…)I don’t hold a lot of credence in what the “usual experts” have to say about much of anything. The one thing I’ve observed throughout my life is that self-proclaimed “experts”…? Are very often NOT.(…)”
      Are you describing Dunning-Kruger effect or something entirely else?

      • Dunning-Kruger were studying an edge of the problem, which is actually a hell of a lot bigger than just incompetents thinking they’re actually competent.

        If you sit down to try and analyze the broad range of failure in US and other Western small-arms efforts, you have to first recognize that there’s a vacuum of actual knowledge, practical experience, and expertise on the part of the vast majority of the decision-making classes. None of the idiots in the US Army that approved the M60 as a system could possibly have been truly competent MG team leaders or gunners, or that abortion would have been down-checked with stunning rapidity. Consider the host of “features” and design flaws, none of which help the gunner or the team leader actually do their jobs.

        Note the rest of the accompanying overall package: Where are the provisions for giving the gun crew leader binoculars or rangefinders? Where are the spare parts or the provisions for actually, y’know… Carrying the crappy antiquated tripod? Is there even a harness for that? A case?

        There isn’t a systemic approach taken to any of this because the people that should be doing that are stone-ignorant and know nothing of their jobs or the things they should be knowledgeable about. You try to talk to senior leaders about the little things like “better tripods”, and they just stare at you blankly, while thinking “Why is this asshole pestering me? Isn’t this someone else’s job, like up in the Pentagon…?”

        There’s a simultaneous lack of interest down below, too: Nobody really has an idea what it takes to be a real subject-matter expert, and nobody at the mid-levels knows what one would actually be, or how to foster them. You have people promoted to senior NCO ranks in the combat arms who have no idea at all how to run a small arms qualification or training range, because they’ve never done it. There’s no formal requirement to train people how to do that, nor are they required to demonstrate the actual ability to run a range for promotion. The guys who can’t? It’s not entirely their fault; the system and their supervisors never made any of that real-world skill a prerequisite for promotion. They simply don’t care, systematically or personally. Qual ranges are an afterthought; anyone, supposedly, can do them.

        The US military does not produce expertise; it produces mediocrities.

        Dunning-Kruger would be applicable, if they were actually worried about a lot of this. They’re not; therefore the Dunning-Kruger effect is a nonoperable phenomenon as being a part of the problem.

        I suppose you could extrapolate outwards to encompass institutional failures from the individual, but the reality is it’s on a different order of things, more cultural than individual.

        My take is that it’s endemic to the culture and the military expression of it; Americans really half-ass just about everything. You go out and look at it, and you’ll find “just good enough” everywhere in the culture, rather than some detailed sharp focus on specialization in some particular aspect of anything. Americans look at the people who do that sort of thing as obsessed weirdos with no lives; the reality is, those people are the ones who actually drive nine-tenths of our advancements in anything. Without them, we’d all still probably be living in the caves of Europe, eating raw bison and freezing every winter.

    • No, I didn’t read those surveys… These were from actual conversations I had or overheard! There’s only so much “which DQ is hotter” & “would you rather…” convos you can have before you start talking about more serious stuff. Most of us were a little older & a little more experienced than average. And many were avid shooters/hunters/competitors. When you say many soldiers have no grasp of what they’re doing, did you ever come across one who had his mags duct-taped together, same height, side-by-side, no spacer between? I imagine his input into a user survey would be something like wanting a big arrow engraved on the mag well & mags so he won’t insert them backwards …again!
      And I’m sure that 80,000+psi with a 2 piece case will bite us in the ass in the future.

      • I read those surveys, and they echoed exactly what you report.

        The problem with going to the user base for wisdom is that the user base is often full of idiots. Of course, the more senior people aren’t always much better, which we can see the M16A2 attesting to.

        Ain’t nobody, nowhere in ANY of the Vietnam after-action reports I ever read who said something like “Yeah, the M16 is great… It just needs to be longer, heavier, and come with a more complicated rear sight that’s going to be a bitch to clean and maintain…”

        Yet, that’s exactly what they did with the A2. WTF? Is it any wonder that the users all gravitated towards that other epic bit of half-assery, the M4 Carbine? Whose ballistics were never really validated with the issue cartridge, ‘cos it was gonna be used by support troops only?

        Who never, in the eventual case, actually got issued the damn things?

        As a bit of “desire path procurement”, the M4 debacle just reeks of “Yeah, we sure f*cked up the A2 recapitalization effort…”

        I’m still amazed that anyone involved can still say that they did a good job, with a straight face. Sure, you took a nice, light useful weapon and turned it into the ultimate National Match rifle, but did it work in combat for what we needed it to? Nope.

        What I think the A2 should have been would have been a 16″ or so mid-length gas system weapon with a collapsible stock and all the rest of the M4A1 goodies available. We could have put red dot sights on the rifles going back to the late Vietnam era–The Son Tay raiders had Singlepoint sights going on, there was the Armson OEG, and a host of other things. The data was there… The Brits were putting SUSAT on the L85, the Austrians had the optics on top of their StG77… All we had to do was look, listen, and project a little bit into the future.

  6. I suppose these could have had some utility as a machine rifle. Issued to every fourth or fifth man, it might bump up the firepower of the squad, and might actually provide usable full auto firepower, but they are no replacement for a proper LMG. The lack of sales shows that militaries were no convinced.

    • I dunno… The questions and issues of what “sells” in terms of weapons don’t necessarily line up with their utility and usefulness. There have been an awful lot of faddish ideas, down the years, that weren’t worth crap when the lead started flying on the two-way ranges of the world.

      Likewise, there have been a lot of things that didn’t sell, which should have. Consider the submachinegun: Why did it take so long for them to come to maturity and widespread use? Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to issue several STEN-gun analogs during the armaments crisis of WWI than what they did?

      Sales don’t serve as useful barometers, frankly. The people doing the buying are often as idiotic as everyone else.

      • It’s understandable that submachine guns were misunderstood. Look at the main service pistol cartridges of the Great Powers that survived WW1. France, Britain and Russia still used revolvers. Others like Japan used ridiculously weak self-loading cartridges. The US in fact had the right cartridge and the right idea to use them in Thompsons – if only 1919 had happened. But by then the military was shutting itself down as per American norm.

        Which leaves the question of why they weren’t used more before the war ended. I think there was too much time delay in 1) recognizing that the trench warfare was not a temporary anomaly, 2) comprehending what ultra short-range weapons were needed, and 3) overhauling overstressed munitions industries to make those weapons and their ammo from scratch (since they did not have the right pistol cartridges). Time and again, we have seen armies refuse to convert to a new ammunition on the eve of war because they didn’t want to throw away their old stockpiles.

        Or as Coach Bum Phillips used to say, “You dance with who brung you,” and assume that the dance will be over by Christmas.

        • I wouldn’t call the 8mm Nambu a “ridiculously weak self-loading cartridge”. It was slighly more powerful than .380 APC, which made it adequate for a submachine gun when used at ultra-short ranges. SMGs are primarily full-auto weapons, which makes the “stopping power” of a single bullet much less relevant than in semi-auto pistols.

          For sure the Japanese Type 100 did not have the same effective range as a PPSh-41 or a good 9mm Parabellum SMG, but the difference to something like the Sten was much less substantial. The main problem with the Type 100 was simply that there was not enough of them, which in turn was due to the conservativeness of the Imperial Japanese Army. Somewhat ironically I would say, since the Japanese tactical doctrine emphasized hand-to-hand range fighting as the decisive phase of infantry combat. It just did not dawn to the IJA early enough that it’s always better to shoot the enemy than to poke him with a bayonet, even if the fighting is at muzzle touch range.

          • Thing is, I think you could make an excellent case for saying that the Japanese were biased towards edged weapons, even as late as the WWII era.

            And, for a given value, they might have had a bit of a point. Not to be punnish, or anything… The bayonet in close quarters is a bit of a terror weapon just by itself. You’ve got a nutter with a really big sharp poky thing on a stick coming for you…? What are you going to do? Stand there and get stuck?

            So, from that standpoint, the Japanese preference for the bayonet sorta makes sense. The SMG wasn’t something they conceived of, in their worldview: Close-in high-firepower solutions to their combat problems were not something that they came to naturally.

            Americans? Yeah, we’re all about the firepower. Usually. Shotguns, subguns, pistols, you name it. Which worked out better, in the end? I think the casualty rates speak for themselves. The thing I’ve always found a little nuts is how long it took us to come up with the Claymore AP mine. Or, even improvised fougasse charges, because I could sure see those both as solutions to a Japanese Banzai! charge. One does wonder what the effect of some judiciously-placed Claymores might have been, on late-night Banzai! charge… I imagine it would have served to reduce Japanese enthusiasm for them, considerably.

          • My old boss (Marine Class of ’42 Guadalcanal) told me that when they got hit by the first night assaults at Henderson Field, the higher ups conceived the idea of tying MK II frag grenades to wooden stakes with tripwires attached to the straightened safety pins. Japanese soldier trips over one, five seconds later, boom.

            He said they sort of overlooked two small problems. One being that the five second delay worked great if the guy was trying to sneak in, but if it was a full-on charge, he’d be almost beyond the blast/frag radius when it went off. It might catch some in the second rank, though.

            The bigger problem was at the time, USMC issue grenades, like U.S. Army issue ones, were painted bright yellow, as per peacetime safety regulations. This made them sort of conspicuous stuck on a stake, even at night.

            Hence the seemingly odd procedure of Marines painting hand grenades with whatever dark-colored paint was handy. He said they even used stove polish or shoe polish to darken them when green or OD paint wasn’t available.

            If you saw a blue-painted grenade on “the Canal”, it wasn’t an inert “trainer”. That just meant they’d painted it with Navy-issue non-specular sea blue or etc. because that was all there was handy.

            BTW, you can’t really tell in wartime black & white photographs, because the film stock they used back then made yellow and red look darker than blue.



          • @eon,

            The lack of fougasse charges is something that’s always mystified me. It’s not like they were unknown; hell, there were black powder-based ones in the Civil War: They called them “infernal devices” or “land torpedos”.

            I’ve yet to read about or hear first-person testimony from the Pacific Theater describing any utilization of the idea. Which, frankly, mystifies me. It’s something of a mental gap. Another question is, why the hell didn’t the Germans come up with something like that for the Eastern Front, what with all the supposed “human wave” assaults the Soviets put in against them?

      • Kirk:

        Do you think these machine rifles might have been of some utility? Not as pseudo LMGs, but as a way of giving a squad more firepower. The standard assault rifle can go full auto, but it seldom a good idea. If one rifle per squad had a bipod and heavy barrel, the soldier with that would be expected to train on full auto and use it that way. A bit like the SA80 LSW might have been used, if it had not been total crap.

        • See, here’s the thing: These “machine rifles” stem from a completely delusional take on how things work in modern combat. At least, in my opinion. Emphasis: Opinion. With that and five bucks, you can get a cup of bad coffee down at Starbucks.

          The thing that’s wrong with the “machine rifle” concept is that the people who’ve come up with it fail to recognize the key thing that needs to be delivered is sustained and directed fire. The “machine rifle” is incapable of true sustained fire because “magazine fed”, and the directed fire thing is impossible because you can’t mount one on a damn tripod in order to get that “directed fire” thing going.

          The “machine rifle” was a concept that was a natural progression of things back when the individual weapon was a manually-operated repeating rifle or single-shot weapon. You couldn’t provide even a semi-auto to every soldier, so supplementing them with a “machine rifle” class weapon on limited issue made a kind of sense. By the time you were able to give everyone a Garand, they were essentially pointless, and what you needed was more in the direction of the BREN; a true LMG that you could do “machine gun things” with. The whole tactical system has to be looked at; if the individual rifleman can do most of the things that the “machine rifle” can do, what’s the damn point, again?

          The “desire path” of infantry combat armaments has gone down the same path in multiple armies since WWII: The Germans wound up integrating the MG42 with the StG44-based squads on a de-facto basis; the US stuck the M1919A6 into the squads with the Garand and BAR, then progressed onwards to having the M60 and M16 as the eventual go-to solution in the squads. It’s been the same, everywhere they tried doing the “one cartridge to rule them all” thing; what you need in each role is just too different to do it with one solution.

          If I’m setting up my squad, I’m going to have a belt-fed and a grenade launcher in ever fire team; the riflemen are going to have rifles, not heavy “machine rifles”, because they really serve no purpose whatsoever, when you look at the capabilities provided by the belt-fed and all the rest.

          Of course, the whole thing boils down to how you intend to fight; if your intent is to maneuver men, you might weight things towards riflemen. If you intend to maneuver your fires, well… You weight towards your MG and other support weapons. Which works better? My opinion is that the “maneuver your firepower, not your men” solution is superior. Your mileage may vary.

          And, I’d point out that the reason the L86 “Heavy” version of the SA80 failed wasn’t that it was total crap; it was as bad or as good as the L85. The problem was that the whole idea of a machine rifle sucks ass from the get-go. I do not like them, not one little bit. The only additional version of the basic individual weapon that I’m a fan of is the Designated Marksman Rifle, wherein you put better sights and an accuracy package on the basic individual weapon.

          • Kirk:

            My thinking was simply that full auto from most soldiers with assault rifles is usually a waste of time. Having a couple of guys in a squad with a heavy barreled rifle with bipod might enable them to deliver full auto better, just not as a replacement for a proper LMG. You have convinced me these should be belt fed and have a crew, the machine rifles would just be to augment the firepower of the squad or platoon. Just a thought though, no-one wanted this particular rifle, so I won’t go into battle for it.

            Yes, the L86A1 LSW was crap because the basic design was crap. Whether that negates the whole concept? I don’t know.

          • @JohnK,

            This is the basis of my thinking: One, an Automatic/Machine Rifle-class weapon is basically a slightly jumped-up individual weapon. It’s in the hands of the same individual rifleman wielder that the actual individual weapon is, so it really ceases to make sense at all once you’ve put those self-same full-auto switches on the individual weapon. The Automatic/Machine Rifle weapons make sense when the individual weapon is your typical manually-operated repeater or single-shot weapon, but gradually loses coherence as an actual aid in the firefight as you go up the curve to magazine-fed semi-auto and the classic full-auto capable assault rifles.

            The deficiencies are there: You don’t have a team working the weapon, and the psychological effect of having someone there, right there, with you? It’s huge. On the one hand, you’ve got a buddy to bolster your confidence; on the other, you don’t want to shame yourself in front of a witness. So, the two of you together with your crew-served weapon are something greater than the mere sum of the pieces. On top of that, the gun crew absolutely should be getting the attention of a junior leader, further multiplying force effect. Junior soldier with an AR? By himself? Where’s his fire going? Is there even any going on, because he’s confused, alone, and frightened.

            Along with that, consider the fact that you’re pretty much screwed in terms of fire control without that tripod I keep harping on. Oh, and the rangefinder and binoculars you need to really control fires as that junior leader.

            You put an entire platoon armed along the typical Automatic/Machine Rifle philosophy up against a squad with even just a single proficient and well-equipped MG, and they’re toast. The leadership can sit there and direct sustained effective fire against them all day long, off that one tripod with a belt fed. With someone who knows what they’re about, directing fire, identifying targets, correcting bursts? You’re exponentially more effective than the diffuse and effectively inconsequential fires coming out of that entire platoon with six or eight Automatic/Machine Rifles.

            The density of fire and the control inherent to that sort of force mis-match will be putting the hurt on any unit trying to tackle the properly trained and equipped outfit that has good MG teams and doctrine behind it.

            The whole Automatic/Machine Rifle paradigm is an artifact of the pre-WWI era, when they were still thinking that such things as elan and the bayonette trumped raw firepower properly wielded. It’s as true today as it was then, within the limits of a purely small arms-centric fight. I can’t say what current conditions obtain with all the drones and other “accessory items” might be, but I doubt that the basic fundamentals have really changed all that much. Fires win fights, period: It’s been that way since the days of the Brown Bess blasting apart French columns in the Napoleonic Wars. All that’s really changed is how you most effectively create and deploy those fires, and I’m here to tell you, a properly trained and equipped MG team is going to trump a bunch of individual riflemen armed with jumped-up individual weapons every time. Every. Single. Time.

            It’s the difference between disciplined, properly massed fires and incoherent fantasy-land “Rambo” thinking. The same school of thought that said “Yeah, we’re gonna go running our assault columns through that thin line of Regulars up on yon hilltop to win this battle…” was the predecessor to the whole “Yeah, we’re gonna have all these individual uber-riflemen take those dug-in positions via frontal fire and maneuver…”

            Didn’t work then, against resolute infantry, doesn’t work now against properly trained and equipped defenders.

            The raw fact is that this theoretical crap really doesn’t work. The assclown French leaders who took on Continental forces successfully thought “Well, it didn’t work the last three times we tried it against the British here on the Peninsula, maybe this time…”, instead of actually honestly examining and appraising what the hell was going on at the tippy-tip of their spear-like formations when they encountered Brits with Brown Bess muskets and the stolidity not to panic under fire. The elan of Revolutionary and Imperial armies trumping the the then-current state of Continental armies because “morale” and “I didn’t sign up for this crap, I want the old-school set-piece play-acting sort of war we used to fight…” ceased about the time that they ran up against the British bloody-minded stubborn “way of war”. And, the idiots never adapted to that, up until it got shoved down their throats at Waterloo. You could arguably say that the French never got it through their heads up to and including the aftermath of WWII. You don’t win wars with elan and “the spirit of the bayonet” once the factory-floor style of war comes in, via the bloody-minded Brits or the thinking discipline of the Germans.

            It ain’t accidental that the Automatic/Machine Rifle concept came out of the French, with their elan and “marching fire” ideas for going up against entrenched machinegun fires. Took ’em how long to notice? Do the mutinies of 1917 count as “lessons learned” if they just went ahead and continued that same line of doctrine down to the post-WWII era?

            What the hell was Dien Bien Phu, if not strategic elan applied to a mass revolutionary war situation? I have to remind myself of that it was actually a Frenchman who described the Charge of the Light Brigade as being “…glorious, but not war…” Why? Because the guy who said that had peers who quite obviously went on to do much the same sort of grand and glorious “gesturing” at the enemy in WWI, WWII, and onwards.

            Same guys who came up with the Automatic/Machine Rifle idea, I reiterate. At some point, you have to step back and ask “What is really going on, here? Is what I’m doing working…?” If the answer’s “NO”, then you need a bit of a re-think and you also need to stop reinforcing failure. The Automatic Rifle idea, in this day and age? That’s inevitable failure. STOP.

  7. Kirk:

    It’s just a thought experiment, but I think you agree that most soldiers, most of the time, cannot deliver effective full auto fire via an assault rifle. The fact that assault rifles are by definition capable of full auto is not the point.

    It may therefore follow that a heavier assault rifle, with a bipod and a properly trained soldier, might be capable of delivering effective automatic fire which the average rifleman cannot. It would not detract from the squad, you’d have the same number of soldiers, but one or two would have a weapon capable of delivering effective full auto fire in a way that the ordinary soldier with an ordinary assault rifle cannot.

    However, if you were to say that you can have two soldiers with machine rifles in the squad, or two soldiers manning a Minimi, I’d obviously go for the Minimi. I was thinking of using the machine rifle to augment the effective firepower of the squad, not to replace the LMG, which would be stupid, although Britain and America seem to be going down that route.

    The L86A1 was crap, not just because the design was crap, but because it was meant to replace a crew served Bren or GPMG in the squad. The combination of a bad design and a bad concept was just too much, even for Britain to put up with.

    • @JohnK,

      Look… It’s not a real point that “automatic fire” is this separate thing that works tactical wonders. You fire full auto from an individual weapon-class platform, no matter how much you tart it up, it’s still only going to be effective for those things that are within range of that individual weapon and which are going to be vulnerable to a guy spraying rounds all over hell’s creation.

      The thing that differentiates “full auto from individual weapon” and “full auto from real machine gun” is that the IW is hand-held, individually operated, and by definition, light enough to be carried by a single soldier. This set of characteristics, no matter what you do, no matter how you try to parse it, militates against that weapon ever doing the job of an actual machine gun. You fire from an IW, you’re spraying rounds everywhere, and it’s under control of someone who likely isn’t seeing the whole picture, and who isn’t likely to be the most experienced guy out there, ‘cos he’s a junior soldier. A machinegun crew, on the other hand? That’s firing from a secure and stead platform, it’s got more senior troops on it, and it has the benefit of being crew served and under the supervision (ideally) of a junior leader.

      They’re simply not the same. You’re not going to be delivering tight, accurate groups onto a hillside 800m away in order to engage a squad in the open with an assault rifle. You’re not going to be effectively controlling even a fire team with assault rifles the way you can an MG team with a tripod and T&E that you can give fire commands to to shift fires with.

      I don’t think that a lot of people who haven’t done this in the real world really grasp the intrinsic qualitative difference between “Hey, the enemy is more to the left of where you’re shooting…” and “Left 250 mils, up 10”. You simply, at this point in time, cannot effectively direct the diffuse fire of six guys with IW-class weapons and two who have tarted-up IWs the way you can one MG team.

      Maybe when they bring in some kind of synthetic shared AR system to where the squad can share targeting data in real time, that will be possible. You’re still going to have that whole “density of fire” thing to worry about, though.

  8. Kirk:

    I take on board what you are saying, there is no doubt that a proper crew served LMG is the way to go. I was just thinking that automatic fire from soldiers with assault rifles, or even assault carbines like the M4 is largely wasted. A couple of guys per squad with heavier rifles, and who are trained to use them, could usefully augment the firepower of the squad, but not replace the LMG, which, as I said, seems to be the direction of travel in the US and Britain, and which I do not think will end well.

  9. JohnK,

    My thinking is that the “heavier rifles” thing isn’t so useful, and like putting your troops into light tanks tends to encourage the varied and sundry idiots in the command structure to go off and play Rommel or Patton, I’m dead set against them.

    We did try that, pretty thoroughly in the US Army. When I enlisted, there were vestigial remnants of the old ideas in the Arms Room. We had two clip-on bipods with cases per squad, and theoretically, all the extra magazines that the M16A1-in-the-Automatic-Rifle-Role was supposed to come with. The bipods were basically left in the Arms Room and never issued, and the ludicrous idea that you’d have two guys in each squad who were supposed to flip their switches to full-auto on contact, rather than semi…? That wasn’t at all useful, or even very likely to happen.

    Then, too, ya gotta work through the mechanics of it all: You have two “heavy individual weapons” in the squad, theoretically requiring zero and all that attendant BS to the assigned shooter. And, oh-by-the-way, all your other riflemen need to have their weapons zeroed to them… What do you do in case of casualties, or if someone just “isn’t there” due to admin reasons or other things? In-theater leave for sanity retention purposes is a thing; then what?

    Administratively, the heavy individual weapon concept is a flat loser. It adds way too much complexity to the situation, and it just doesn’t add all that much practical value. If you need full-auto from an individual weapon, just use the individual weapon, and don’t fool yourself into thinking they substitute for an actual support weapon with its greater volume and density of fire.

    The “heavy individual weapon” concept looks really good on paper and in people’s heads. Then, you have to try to make it work. It doesn’t.

    Hell, even having the “designated marksman rifle” is a similar administrative pain, even if all it consists of is a scope sight vice the CCO. You have to swap it out, re-zero it, and… Yeah. Plus, you really need a dedicated guy to train on all that crap, plus not everyone is really a suitable designated marksman or support gunner.

    Color me in as “not a fan” of the concept. I don’t think it works, and in the real world? Most armies don’t actually use it all that much. The Soviets and Russians generally default to “AK and PK”, because if you need a damn machine gun’s support fire, you need a machine gun to do it with. It’s why we wound up using an M60 in every combat rifle squad in the Army, in Vietnam. The M249 was kinda a false avenue, in my mind, mainly because “caliber” and the fact that the guns were basically tissue paper when it came to service life. some of those little lightweight stamped receivers just should not have been rebuilt the way they tried to do it, which earned the M249 a really crappy reputation that should have been laid at the door of penny-pinching dumbassery.

    Even so… I still prefer having a full-house 7.62mm MG in da houze. You cannot really do all that much damage to a vehicle with an M249, and the idiots decided to use the M122 tripod with it, rather than issue something appropriate, sooooo… Ya want to use an actual tripod and deliver fires with the T&E supporting your command? You may as well just take the M240…

    Of course, most of that is a lost art to today’s troops. I can’t remember ever running into any of the Afghan or Iraqi vets I didn’t train personally who knew what the hell to do with either a machine gun or a tripod, let alone the two of them together.

    • Kirk,

      I think the idea is a nice one, but I will defer to your opinion of its real world utility.

      Sadly, doctrine seems to be moving away from having an LMG in the squad, but luckily we will never have to fight any more wars, so that’s all right.

      • Doctrine may be moving, but reality ain’t. There’s that famous painting by Edwin Landseer: “Man Proposes; God Disposes”. Well worth the effort to look it up, and the background of that phrase. Because, it’s an eternal truth: What men throw up as ideas and ideals must always meet the test of reality, where the Gods of the Copybook Headings hold sway.

        As well, it’s a lousy bet, if you’re going to lay money down on “…no more wars…”, because the idjit class is always coming up with new and better mistakes. I think it was Trotsky’s line to the young man who told him he “…wasn’t interested in war…” that says it best: “But, war is interested in you…”

        There’s no such possibility. War and conflict are the natural state; we’ll always have them. Any delusions to the contrary are doomed to disappointment.

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