The Post-War Legacy of the FG42

If the FG-42 was such a great gun, then why didn’t it get used after the war? Well, two answers…

1) It was crazy expensive to make and there weren’t very many lying around for people to use in quantity after the war.

2) It was used; there was at least three post-war development projects based directly on the FG-42. One was the British EM1 Korsac Light Automatic Gun, one was the Swiss WF Bern competitor to the SIG Stgw 57, and one was the American M60 GPMG. So let’s have a look at all three, and what they did or didn’t take from the FG!


    • Nah, fish in a barrel. Anyone wanting a critique of the M60 and its manifest failures in execution can look up my voluminous posts on the issue over the years.

      I think it’d be interesting to do a comparison between the various weapons down the years whose influence has been huge, but whose actual use and issuance were lackluster… I include the FG42 and AR-18 in that category. How many rifles out there, today, are running on AR-18 guts? How many conceptual weapons were based on the FG42, and I’d include Stoner’s AR-10 in that line, if only for the concept of a controllable-on-full-auto individual weapon in a full-house caliber…

  1. I actually prefer the M1941 Johnson over the FG 42 and more Johnson’s were actually manufactured. But the FG 42 gets the worship because it was carried by the “cool” (to the Wehraboos) Nutzi paratroopers. And they STILL lost.

    • I had to dig down deep into Johnson articles to start finding out that its problems didn’t just occur in the Israeli desert (the Dror). The Marines had reliability issues with it too. Short recoil with an exposed barrel and very little weight was probably a sure path to extra development work that was never done.

      The FG42 works because it’s gas-operated. Gas operation has become the norm for infantry long arms. It’s boring because almost any idiot designer can get it to work. The German Army had a prejudice against gas operation. For instance, its first fielded autoloading rifle was hobbled by a weird gas system that was preferred because they didn’t have to drill a gas port into the barrel. This prejudice resulted in the magnificent MG42, and accidentally led to the groundbreaking Stg45, but it slowed the development of autoloading rifles that they really needed by 1941. Note that the FG42 was a Luftwaffe project, so it was unimpeded in the use of an existing gas-operated (Lewis) design.

      • I think you’re on to something, there.

        Somewhere along the line, Johnson was traumatized by gas operation with the then available filthy ammo they had, and he was simultaneously traumatized against the separate box magazine because of the then-prevalent standards for repeatable precision manufacture. Sadly, by the time the weapon he designed to avoid these issues was ready to go, both issues had been essentially overcome…

        Leaving the Johnson LMG as a solution to a set of already-overcome issues.

      • Its seems the Germans were not totally alone in their reluctance to use the corrosive ammunition of the day in a rifle with a (difficult to clean and check) tiny hole drilled in its barrel. After all, John Garand’s M1 originally was issued as a gas-trap design. Also, Hugo Schmeisser’s patent application for the early MKb 42 clearly shows a gas trap at the muzzle. And the M1 carbine was fed exclusively with non-corrosive ammunition from the start (at least in the U.S.).
        That notwithstanding, particularly the awkward Mauser G 41 (M) shows what a terrible design may be created by mindlessly sticking to the wording of a requirement set up by incompetent brass.

      • indeed, the gas operation’s simple design is counterintuitive. It is surprising how easily one can drill a gas hole into a barrel without risk of erosion and barrel rupture.

        • This is really only true with modern propellants and primers. The early versions led to considerable corrosion and other problems associated with that.

          The problems stemmed mostly from people mindlessly adhering to “lessons learned” that were no longer operable. The state of the art had moved on; both gas operation and interchangeable box magazines were things that could be done by the late 1930s.

    • Ian said in one of his Q and As few years ago, that Johnson Lmg was one of disappointing “hyped” guns when he finally encountered it, and handled.

      • Anything subject to hype usually does disappoint. Especially when evaluated by disinterested parties that know what they’re looking at.

        For the era, and given the other options, the Johnson was great. When you looked at it compared to the BAR? There are reasons that the First Special Service Force loved them, and called them “Johnny Guns”. 1st SSF was also a select, highly-trained group of highly proficient soldiers who’d had tons of training time and money lavished on them. They knew how to wring the most they could out of the Johnson, and for their purposes, it was a really good gun. It could have been better, that’s for sure, but they still did really well with it, and loved it, despite the manifest issues it had.

        In peacetime? Compared to other options? Yeah; it sucks. In 1942, as an option to the BAR or the M1919…? No wonder they loved it, and no wonder it had the “uber-waffe” rep that it did.

        The real issue that should have been asked was this: Why did the US go into WWII still operating under the fantastic theory that the individual rifleman ruled the modern battlefield? As demonstrated amply by the Germans, the man-portable machinegun ruled the roost, tactically and operationally. The US got its ass handed to it by the Germans and the Japanese when it came to the infantry engagements that the MG dominated. Absent the copious supporting arms the US provided itself with? We’d have lost a lot more men to both enemies.

        The BAR and the M1919 just didn’t cut it. The M1919A6 was a bit better, but it was still a very half-ass stopgap. We needed something like the BREN or the MG42, and never got that down to the troops. The money and the mindspace was all engaged on the Garand, which was a nice thing to have, but essentially tactically irrelevant for that era. We needed better machineguns, period. We needed better doctrine for using those machineguns, but we were all deluded about that whole “Alvin York” mentality, forgetting that Alvin York was literally a man in a million.

        • I think that today pretty much every army has gone to total buy-in on the “American doctrine”. Pretty much every infantry section out there today has a dozen guys with M4 equivalents and one guy with an M249 equivalent. Which is basically “M1 Garand plus BAR” all over again in 5.56 x 45mm. Using the riflemen as the base of fire and reserving the SAW for “points of resistance”.

          News flash; If it’s engaging you, it’s a “point of resistance” and needs to be dealt with expeditiously and severely. As in, Waste. It. NOW.

          Also, “If the enemy is within your effective range, you are within his”.

          The proper way to do it is with a machine gun or other “support weapon” that can “reach out and touch someone” beyond practical rifle range.

          Infantry should be taught to provide flank security for the squad heavy weapon, so the heavy weapon team can get on with the business of killing people and breaking things.

          The old saying is that “If nobody does it that way, there’s usually a very good reason”.

          In this case, the “very good reason” was people looking at VE Day and VJ Day and learning the wrong lessons from both. And not just in infantry doctrine, either.

          clear ether


          • The focus on the individual rifleman everywhere is, quite frankly, nuts. I’m not even all that fond of the toy MG solutions like the M249, either.

            I think the Germans got it more right than not, with their focus on the MG as the center of the squad. The point of their infantry was to maneuver the guns into advantageous positions and then blast the crap out of the target. The point of Allied infantry was apparently to use their machineguns in support of suicidal frontal attacks…

            Which never made sense to me. The German approach of basing it all on Flaechen
            und Luekentaktik
            , the “strategy of surfaces and gaps”, always made more sense to me from the moment I first read about it, which was long before the Marine Corps got into the whole “maneuver warfare” shtick. To me, it’s flatly nuts to go up against the prepared defense and play into what the enemy wants you to do; you’re ceding initiative to them when you do that.

            You really need better MG systems than we have. The fact that the Germans themselves have gone to that MG5 abortion clearly shows how much they’ve lost the bubble in that regard, which ain’t surprising considering how the US has had the MG3 and the Lafette out there as an example of “right”, yet we’ve never seriously looked into either.

            The tripods are a key part of a really functional MG team; you see the US still issuing the same POS tripod they put under the M1919? It’s a sad, sad joke. Our infantry is horribly served by the weapons they have issued to them, and are thus reliant on the same supporting arms fire support they were in WWII. It works, after a fashion, but when you take that firepower support away, and send them into a small arms-centric fight? Yeesh.

            And, to add insult to injury? The M4, which from its adoption forward to around 2007, did not have properly lethal ammo past about 200m? WTF? I mean, if you’re going to design your forces and tactics around the individual rifleman, and then you allow that to happen? Who the hell was responsible for that, and why haven’t they been jailed?

        • Kirk:

          Out of interest, how far did Sgt York have to shoot? I doubt it was all that far. Riflemen don’t really engage at long range, do they?

          • I don’t know that the reality of what York did was really pertinent, here: It was more the presented image of the “Lone Rifleman”. Few noticed that what York actually did was more in keeping with the infiltration tactics of the Sturmtruppen than the idealized BS they were selling everyone about individual riflemen dominating things at long ranges.

            I can’t find the reconstruction now, but the one I remember seeing years and years ago showed that most of his shots were taken at the German MG teams from less than 300m. Most of what he did was due to fieldcraft and outstanding skill-at-arms with his rifle, which was an M1917 if I remember rightly.

            The thing about York is that people looked at that engagement and saw what they wanted to see. The whole thing was very much a Simo Hayha or Carlos Hathcock sort of thing; an amazingly good single person with rifle under ideal conditions for their skills to shine. Not something you can build your tactical system for an entire army around, unless you’re recruiting from a massive population of Appalachian mountain men who grew up like Alvin York did.

            The problem is that all the press and hype surrounding these guys enables the idjit class to sit there and say “Yeah, every man a rifleman…”, when the reality is the 90% of the effective killing is performed by crew-served weapons, the very ones they’ve de-emphasized. Note the way everyone looked at German machinegunners after WWI; the mere fact that he’d been one probably played a key role in the conviction of Bruno Hauptman for the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping. Crew-served weapon operators were seen as murderers; individual riflemen as noble fighters.

            All of which is just plain delusional, but there you are. I think you can make a better case for the sniper personality being more sociopathic and dangerous to civilian life, but that’s me. Machine guns require crew; that implies a certain amount of reinforcement in both directions, keeping them on task and somewhat less likely to go over the deep end, mainly because there’s always someone there to witness.

          • Now that I think about it, I do believe that there is something to note with a lot of issues like this: Much of the way we think about things stems from narratives, which can be quite delusional and in total contradiction to fact.

            I think it was a lot easier for people to buy into the “individual rifleman” idea, because that wasn’t the uncomfortable reality that a lot of modern combat boils down to factory-floor, job-lot murder. You have the same sort of viewpoint about the “Knights of the Sky” beliefs about fighter pilots, ignoring the facts of life that show that (especially today…) they’re engaged in mass murder. You don’t want to admit that the machinegun and crew-served weapons have primacy because that depersonalizes warfare; you’d rather make believe that there is scope for individual heroism and action, that it’s not all a vast, impersonal machine grinding away at people and killing them. If you admit to yourself that that’s all bullshit, that nobody is out there pot-shotting the enemy like deranged hunters, well… That’s an ugly thing to face.

            The romanticism of the “individual rifleman” probably creates a lot of the problem. You love it, ‘cos it is so much cooler than some team of three or four guys slaughtering everyone in front of their gun…

            In other words, it’s all make-believe, people whistling past the graveyard.

          • Kirk:

            Sgt York had an M1903 rifle and M1911 pistol.

            He had been issued with an M1917, but did not like the aperture sight, so managed to get hold of an M1903. As an experienced rifleman, he preferred a notch sight, which allowed him better situational awareness. I think I agree with him.

            I have been thinking about America’s search for an LMG after WWI. Given that money was tight for the military back then, and given that the BAR existed, I can understand the attempt to make the BAR into an LMG: give it a bipod, carrying handle and shoulder thing that goes up. That gives you a not vey good LMG.

            What I don’t understand is why they then deployed this LMG as if it was still an automatic rifle. In Britain, the Bren team was three men, and every man in the squad carried two Bren Mags. But the BAR gunner was on his own, with no a-gunner or gun captain, and no extra ammo. It is as if the army made a sort of LMG, but with no understanding of how an LMG should be used. Surely not!

          • Marines in the Pacific eventually went to up to three BARs per 13 man squad, one per fire team. They used them more as Assault Weapons in fire and movement.

          • Lloyd:

            I agree, the BAR was in essence an assault rifle. That was pretty much the job it was designed to do, only it had to fire the full power .30-06 round.

            What I find odd is that in the 1920s the US Army turned it into a sort of LMG, but kept it as an individual weapon. An LMG needs a team. The US Army did not seem to realise that.

          • He reads things that support his opinion. I believe the Danes just re-acquired the most current M-60 GMG.So much for all the M-60 Hate.

  2. “(…)why didn’t it get used after the war?(…)
    I propose another reason, based at first 10 characters of its’ name. With helicopters (choppers in U.S. parlance) able to deliver small infantry unit (e.g. Westland Whirlwind or Mi-4 or Sikorsky HRS-1) becoming operational few years after war, it was now possible to insert said unit without hassle of using parachutes. They could take “normal” machine gun if so desired therefore no need weapon limited due to Fallschirm capacity.

  3. Pushing the idea of a very accurate rifleman is not romanticism. Ask the Brits and the U.S. and the problems with Afghan Rifleman/Sniping at ranges out of the M-4/M-16 in.223, not to mention the SAW. Which is why the Army and the Marines are going to a 6mm caliber. For all those who disagree, please post full name and real-world experience. Depending on an MG like the Germans as the major base of fire is flawed in tactical movement.

    • Delusional, at best. Criminal, at worst.

      Romanticism is a poor substitute for cold, careful analysis. You don’t see the Ukrainians agitating for “better infantry rifles”, and going forward? The whole delusional NGSW complex is an answer to a horrible take on what happened in Afghanistan due to lousy MG doctrine, training, and equipment.

      The truth of the matter is that so long as you’re doing small-arms centric infantry tactics, the MG and light mortar still prevail. We’ve gotten away with what we have strictly because we’ve avoided pure infantry-on-infantry actions with small arms, using the copious supporting arms and fires that we’ve been able to afford. That resulted in failure with the (mostly…) ROE-induced lack of that support in Afghanistan.

      Anyone who thinks that the rifleman is the primary combat power in modern combat is crazy. That’s not how it works, if you want to win and win without suffering massive casualties. The primary reason that the exchange rates were what they were in WWII is the sad fact that the Germans were the only ones who recognized this fact, and even in the formations that the StG44 was mass-issued, they still based most of their base of fire around the MG34/42. That’s where the majority of your killing power is, and it’s an unpleasant fact of life. Riflemen, no matter how well armed, are simply not as effective. Given the reality that individual riflemen operating on their own, outside the direct control of leadership are what they are, and a crew-served weapon is being run by a team directed by that leadership? Exponentially more lethal.

      The rules of this game are potentially changing as we write this, in Ukraine. It may well be that the UAV means that you can’t center things on the MG any more, because the weapons are easily spotted and dealt with by the UAV team, either through dropping ordnance on them or spotting for precision artillery fires. It may well be that we’re entering an era where the squad has to disperse and take its combat power to an even more diffuse state than we’re used to. This isn’t, however, a validation for anything that’s gone on in US or our allies infantry doctrine going back to before WWII; this is a new phenomenon that’s changed fundamental assumptions. Which still do not validate NGSW BS, either… This moment is a true “revolution in military affairs” down at the squad level, akin to the rise of the MG and barbed wire. Fundamental assumptions need to be re-evaluated in the face of this set of new facts, and we need to take care to actually learn the real lessons of Ukraine.

      Unless you’re willing to lavish Delta Force levels of training and support onto your line infantry, however? You’re very unlikely to ever reach a state where the individual rifleman is the most important and effective part of your fire team and squad. This is a reality, and one that you only deny at your peril. Particularly when you’re stupid enough to set the ROE up such that your infantry are taking on the enemy with the majority of their firepower taken off the table, or whenever you decide to fight on terrain your mechanized formations aren’t suited to. Small arms-centric light infantry actions are still ruled by firepower, not individual riflemen. Which is precisely why the idjit class running our military think that NGSW is the wave of the future, when the sad reality is that they actually just recapped the entire development process for the failed attempt at an individual weapon that the M14/7.62mm NATO combination was. Which is going to leave us with the same problems that the M14 gave us logistically and tactically.

      Do note that nobody in Ukraine is crying out for anything even slightly resembling the NGSW. Everyone is getting along just fine, despite body armor, with the same late 20th Century small arms. Hell, they’re even finding uses for water-cooled Maxims for sustained fire, which is something that ought to give the modernists pause for thought…

      • Talking about Ukraine, one thing I noticed in all these bodycam videos, that the troopers use semi auto, even mgs bursts of 2,3, 4 rounds max.

    • It turned out that the 6mm ARC order was for a single special forces unit. The company that made the rifles for that finally came out from cover, and its product is highly specialized and expensive for maximum range. So yes, it absolutely was designed to outrange opponents in Afghanistan in very specific situations. But we’re not in Afghanistan anymore.

      To put it bluntly, if you’re devoting much of your order of battle to Afghanistan specialists, you’re doing global hegemony wrong. There are more valuable places. And the weapons needed to control those places should be used by the bulk of your forces.

      Though I think there are other arguments in favor of 6mm ARC, especially as a light machine gun round. The problem I see with the known civilian loadings of the round is, yes you can hit guys as far away as with 7.62 NATO, but what will actually happen to them when they’re hit? If the Army is getting some scaled-up version of M855A1 bullets, then that’s interesting.

      • Given the sheer amount of misadventure they’ve gotten up to with regards to small arms? I don’t have any faith that they’re suddenly doing any better.

        End of the day, the individual weapon needs to be light and handy enough to engage close-in targets with full-auto and be controllable by the average soldier. Not the “average Delta Force operator”. The machine gun needs to be heavy enough to engage and take out light vehicles and some degree of field fortifications. That precludes both roles being filled by the same cartridge, absent some science-fictional hand-waves.

        As such, I don’t think the NGSW is going to be a solution. At all. What I think will happen is that they’ll field it, find it inadequate (too heavy, too unwieldly at the individual weapon level) and then they’re just going to get left in the arms room. The LMG, which I frankly don’t see really offering much that the current 7.62 NATO don’t already will likely be the only thing taken forward, assuming the funding is there. What we’ve basically done with NGSW is recapped the whole 7.62 NATO/M14 fiasco, with almost certainty leading to a similar outcome. My guess is that the M4 will soldier on, same-same with 5.56mm.

        What we should have done, I’m afraid, is to have looked at the post-Vietnam situation, then designed and procured a 16″ carbine with mid-length gas system, validated SS109 ammo for it, and dealt those out to everyone. The M4 represents “more of the same” in terms of “accidental type standardization”, in that nobody planned for that thing becoming the mass-issue general-purpose infantry weapon. Which I still feel was a massive mistake, given that they didn’t bother to really validate the ammo situation for it until some 20 years after they’d handed them out to the infantry. The reality was, we were walking around with inadequate infantry small arms from about 1991 to 2010 or so, given the issues with lethality for M855 out of that short barrel. Rangers I know were complaining about shooting center-of-mass on Somali gunmen, achieving what they were sure were hits, and then their targets were returning fire and not going down. I suspect that was probably due to the ammo failure that later led to the M855A1 ammo being issued…

        The whole thing has happened in a vacuum of clear thought about small arms, same way we wound up with the M240. There was no program at the end of the M60’s service life to identify a replacement; the M240 came about in the ground role due to the good offices of the Ranger Regiment and the Marine Corps. Left up to Big Army ™, we’d have likely gone on with the M60, not even bothering with the improvements on it. From what I understand, that was the plan: “We’ll just buy more…”

        Criminal incompetence and apathy, from where I sit. Which is why I rail on and on about this crap; we simply haven’t been served well by the entire system, and NGSW is just another damn example of it all.

      • 6mm was going to be the be-all and end-all of SAW cartridges in the late 1970s, too.

        It didn’t work out, mostly because it didn’t deliver acceptable accuracy beyond 300 meters, and the whole point was having a SAW that could engage beyond 5.56 rifle range.

        I’ve notice that people who call for the individual rifleman to do it all tend to talk about the effectiveness of rifles in the hands of soldiers in both World Wars.

        In fact, they tended to be very effective in the early stages of WW1. Because they were in the hands of the likes of the British “Territorials”, the German Landswehr, and the French and Belgian National Reserve formations. Men who were the equivalent of the U.S. National Guard, and who had spent literally years of weekends simply learning to shoot fast, accurately, and “by the numbers”.

        They may not have been quite professional soldiers, but they were the product of training systems that turned out professional marksmen.

        And in most cases, such as the Retreat from Mons, they were on the defensive. Going back to the Crimea and the American Civil War, veterans became such by learning that charging or assaulting a dug-in rifle line was nearly certain death. Antietam comes to mind.

        The problem with this method is that it takes years of dedication to become that kind of marksman with a rifle. And modern armies simply do not have the time.

        clear ether


        • Which is basically why the damn machinegun is so important; it’s essentially “canned essence of infantry”. When you stop and think about it, the entirety of infantry action between the Napoleonic Wars and WWI essentially consisted of companies of infantry playing “organic machine guns”, firing in volleys by command of company commanders that were mimicked later by machinegun team leaders down at the squad and platoon level…

          The reality is that the “lone rifleman” doesn’t really count for much, when it is your generic average dude that lacks the training and long-term conditioning to stay actively engaged in a firefight. Give someone like Carlos Hathcock or Simo Hayha an M27? They’d put that bastard to absolutely amazing use. The problem is that Joe Generic isn’t either Hathcock or Hayha; he’s who he is, and you’d better plan accordingly. I’m all for having everyone trained to the highest standard possible, and appropriately equipped, but… Ya gotta be realistic, here. The recoil and other things that go with NGSW just militate against getting people to the point where they’re effective and staying there. As well, that whole “two-tier” system of having it issued to “real combat troops” while the rest of the Army makes do with the “old stuff”? Yeah, that’s not going to work out very well, out here in reality. If nothing else, it’ll just reinforce the idea that “combat ain’t our job” which permeates a lot of the service support units. Sadly for them, combat is everyone’s job…

          • One of the basic principles of 4th generation warfare (4GW) is that the front line is wherever the enemy takes a whack at you. Meaning, the entire concept of “front lines” and “rear areas” is a thing of the past.

            If you want to see what 4GW looks like, do a search for “terrorist attack France”- or “Sweden”, or “Italy” or wherever.

            Our Islamic brothers are well versed in such things.

            Another example? Hackers who rip accounts in American banks from the comfort of an internet cafe’ in Bucharest.

            4GW doesn’t even necessarily require knowing how to aim and squeeze. Pointing and clicking, and dragging and dropping, is often all that’s required.

            clear ether


          • Not a “Lone Rifleman.” Highly trained squads of semi-auto riflemen, rather than depending on an MG as the Germans did in WWII ass their firepower base.

          • lloyd, you miss the entire point of what I am saying.

            Diffuse firepower in the hands of individual riflemen is nowhere near as effective or destructive in combat as that of an MG under the direct control of the leadership. The psychological factors alone… One guy with a rifle can flake out, out there by himself. Nobody’s watching; nobody is there to shame him for just popping rounds into an embankment, going through the motions. This is not that uncommon, because one guy by himself is prone to fears and doubts about what he’s doing.

            Put that same guy on a crew-served weapons team, and suddenly there are witnesses to his potential cowardice. He can’t, and generally won’t, flake out. This is why the crew-served weapon team is what you build your squad’s base of fire around. You might get Delta Force-level operators to all uniformly shoot, move, and communicate as individual riflemen with the sort of fidelity you’re daydreaming of, but the sad reality is that the vast majority of even veteran infantrymen are gonna tend not to take too much risks out there on their own. Which is precisely what the idiotic tactics you’re espousing mean, over the aggregate.

            I’ve observed this crap play out multiple times. You lose control of your fire team and squad, out of sight, out of mind? The average rifleman just defaults to “Stayin’ Alive…”. The crew-served, though? Under your corporal or a senior specialist? They just keep on keeping on, serving the targets.

            You tell me that the individual rifleman is the primary killer in infantry combat, and all that tells me is that a.) you’ve never observed men under fire, and b.) you have a lot of delusions about what goes on when people are shooting at other people.

            Good grief… Even with MILES gear, you see this stuff play out. Real bullets coming back at you? Yeah; unless you have the reinforcing psychological factors of other nearby soldiers, all too many of us flake. And, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done that myself, when I’ve found myself isolate, alone, and unsure of what exactly was going on around me in the firefight. This is just basic human psychology, which is something that the Germans figured out about a hundred years ago… Lone anything on the battlefield tends to flake. Fact of life. Got a witness, a buddy? Yeah; you’ll both keep on shooting, ‘cos now there’s someone to observe what you’re doing, and the last thing you want to do is shame yourself in front of your peers.

          • You really can’t tell the Marines sh*t. They’re the people who thought it a good idea to replace their belt-fed Squad Support Weapons with a magazine-fed uber-rifle.

            I won’t waste my time telling them how foolish that is, ‘cos they’re not gonna listen. They’ll learn the hard way, if they ever go up against a real peer-level enemy.

            My rule of thumb? If you’re moving so fast that your fire support guys can’t keep up with you? You’re moving too damn fast. Slow down, because what’s gonna happen a lot of the time is that you’re gonna learn the hard way that that attack you thought was going really, really well?

            It’s a f*cking ambush.

            And, good luck shooting your way out of it with just rifles.

      • Not specialists. The Army and the Marines are still looking according to News Reports at a 6MM round for general use. Part of this is in response to better enemy body armor and longer-range engagement.

        • Which is likely to bring us right back to the 7.62 x 51 NATO conundrum. If the “assault rifle” round is powerful enough to penetrate advanced body armor, it’s likely that the recoil impulse will render the rifle uncontrollable in full-automatic fire.

          Unless of course they go entirely the other direction, and develop a “micro-caliber” round with an advanced propulsion system that can accelerate a very small, very hard, very sharp-pointed projectile to velocities in the 2,500-3,000 m/s range.

          One that has low recoil impulse due to low projectile mass, but which can (a) burn through almost any thickness or type of body armor a soldier can practically wear and move in and (b) deliver decisive wound ballistics on the far side of said body armor.

          One thing is certain; nobody is going to achieve that with conventional Improved Military Rifle smokeless powder type propellants.

          Either something like a monolithic-grain propellant (think; solid-fuel rocket “grain”), or something completely other (think; electromagnetic accelerator aka “gauss gun”) will be needed to “get there from here”.

          Neither one looks to be a high-weighted probability in the near term (under three decades).

          clear ether


        • Both things that exist more in the fevered imagination of their proponents than the actual reality of the modern battlefield…

          Ukraine is a good laboratory for this discussion. Are either the Russians or the Ukrainians whining about their calibers, body armor making it more difficult, or ranges? I’ve yet to see any sign of that, and I’ve been looking. The two sides seem mostly satisfied with the performance of the current small arms suite.

          This might be what a rational person would consider a “sign” that the current US obsessions with range and “lethality” against body armor are chimeras, and that the entire concept of NGSW is a waste of money.

          Conceptually, I think the whole thing is off-track; they seem to think that the individual weapon is a lot more important than it is, and that we ought to be engaging individual targets out past 300m with individual shots. Reality? If you can see one guy, you probably missed his other five buddies, and what you ought to be doing is absolutely saturating that target with a burst from an MG and a few mortar rounds…

          That’s how you win campaigns and wars; wholesale imprecise fires at likely areas where the enemy is, on speculation. You’ll probably hit two or three more guys in that fireteam with the idjit that exposed himself, as opposed to doing the enemy a favor and eliminating the slow and stupid on their side, one at a time.

          I really think a lot of you folks that persist with this individual rifleman BS don’t have a damn clue how war works down at the retail level. It’s like the idiots in Iraq that didn’t want to engage the nightly ambushes and IED attacks; by not stopping and running those bastards to ground, killing all of them? We were basically running a finishing school for the insurgents, helping them build confidence. Instead of bulling through, the emphasis ought to have been placed on slaughtering anyone who dared shoot at us, period. That’s how you run down insurgencies; you have to go after the morale of the potential recruits. What we were doing was the diametric opposite, offering ample opportunities for them to work their way up the ladder of competency.

          None of the people discussing this crap really seem to understand a lot of this stuff. The ability to reach out and touch an individual target is cool and all, but… Looking at it tactically and operationally? You’re wasting your damn time, both in peacetime training and out on the battlefield. Don’t shoot at lone targets you manage to identify; shoot at the entire area that that guy’s fire team and squad are probably staying out of sight in. You see one? You should assume at least 5 to 12 men in an area around him. Shoot up the zone, just on speculation; you’ll do more damage and be further on your way to victory than playing sniper onesies and twosies…

          • Kirk:

            You seem to be saying that moderation in war is madness.

            I think the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan tend to show that this is true.

          • @JohnK,

            Well, it depends on your goal: Do you want to win quickly and go home, or do you want to count coup and playact like you’re something special?

            Me? I think war is fundamentally stupid. Unfortunately, all too many other people think it’s a good way to settle differences. My philosophy, when I encounter such morons? Kill them as quickly and efficiently as possible, at the least risk to myself and my subordinates.

            This means that when you spot someone on a hillside, positively ID them as a combatant, you then spray that area with as much fire as you can possibly muster, as quickly as possible. The hell with playing at it, making believe you’re some sort of delusional “aristocrat of combat”. I used to run into this all the time with other branches, like the Infantry bubbas. They’d want to go in and clear trenches, mano-a-mano. Me? I’m calling up the bulldozers. A D-9 pivot-steering on top of the average bunker works wonders for pacifying and persuading the occupants that they’ve lost the engagement.

          • Kirk;

            A D9 doing a neutral steer on top of some Mother’s Sons’ dugout, with them in residence, gives an entirely different and concrete meaning to the term “nation building”.



          • Kirk:

            I was talking last year to a veteran who had been out in Afghanistan. He told me the doctrine they had to follow was “heroic self-restraint”. I find that a fundamentally stupid concept.

            He gave as an example a Taliban who had been hiding in a corn field. He jumped up with an AK, sprayed the patrol, and then “surrendered”. The vet said he had a sneer on his face. I think it should have been wiped off there and then.

            I expect he’s strutting around Kabul now in US Army gear with an M16A2. I would not have given him that opportunity.

          • Afghanistan and Iraq were fought by a class of people who have no idea what they are doing, or what they are supposed to be doing in order to win.

            My biggest beef with them was the sheer density of their minds and attitudes about nearly everything… We were losing massive numbers of Iraqi police to IED attacks, and the “plan” was to get them into armored vehicles. Eventually… Programmed two years or so down the line. Had to go through contracting, testing, vetting the producers, all that jazz. Me? I’m looking at that same situation, I see that one of the issues is that the Iraqi unemployment situation is looking like dog doo-doo, and we are having all these unoccupied guys joining the enemy just to get some money for their families. I talk to some of the people involved in the Iraqi Police Support mission, tell them all about how the Rhodesians built the first MRAP vehicles in railway shops under international sanctions… Point out that the actual conditions there in Iraq are a hell of a lot better; there were actual factories for armored vehicles we could have re-purposed to building protected patrol vehicles on the chassis of the unarmored stuff we were sending those poor guys out in.

            Couldn’t quite get through to anyone, I assume ‘cos “No pretty pictures…” to show them.

            So, I sent off for a copy of Peter Stiff’s “Taming the Land Mine”, and found one for around a hundred bucks, shipped. Handed it over to all and sundry over there in the Police Support section. They loved it; the pictures were cool.

            Did they do anything about it? Nope. “Too hard to do, because contracting… And, all those contracts are already let, it’ll screw things up if we already have them…”

            So, in preference to doing anything, we let another two years or so go by with the Iraqi Police getting slaughtered in unarmored civilian vehicles…

            Pointed out, with that same book, the efficiency of the Rhodesian and South African “Q-Ship” initiatives, where they went out trolling for IED teams with fake vehicles that actually contained serious hard-ass combat troops that’d hunt down and kill the IED teams. Nope, can’t do that ‘cos that’d be “cheating”, per the f*cking JAG. That was literally the opinion that this stupid social justice lawyer came forth with, a woman who’d boasted about how she’d joined JAG to “reform it from within”. Probably didn’t matter; the grunts weren’t enthused about being out late at night with the logistics convoys, and the logistics bubbas were all like “We don’t want to piss the enemy off so they’ll target us more…”

            End of my tour? I was pretty convinced that a.) the brass were irretrievably stupid, and b.) that they didn’t really want to win. At. All.

            Most of the contacts with the enemy were coming in the form of late-night logistics convoy IED and small arms ambushes. The loggies would just blow through them, and if they were “doing their jobs”, they might report they’d been attacked at a specific location in our area of operations a few days later… Most of the time, they didn’t even bother checking in with the area commander when they crossed boundaries into his AO.

            Things like what you describe in Afghanistan happened. I shudder to think what’s going to happen to all those stupid bastards that think they were fighting the US Army when they come up against actual US Army troops that aren’t being constrained by the politically correct jackasses we’ve put in charge, ‘cos that is going to be a hell of a shock. Were they to have fired most of the brass, and put mid-level NCOs that hadn’t been winnowed for the PC attitudes the Sergeant Majors mimicked in the commissioned ranks? LOL… Yeah, we’d have made the news for all sorts of nasty stuff being done to the enemy.

            But, we’d have won. And, our enemies wouldn’t try that BS again, for a long, long time.

            Just like Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq were both lost in Washington DC, the defeat rendered onto us by our politicians. You want a real “stab in the back”? That’d be the one delivered into the trusting backs of the American enlisted types who believed the BS they were sold. And, that’s also why the recruiting numbers look like shiite, right now. Who the hell wants to work for people like that, who send you off to war to kill on their behalf and then piss the victories they’re handed away, or outright sell out to the enemy?

            One thing about Afghanistan that I’ve only recognized in retrospect: One of the first things they teach you in any class on counter-insurgency is that you absolutely have to isolate the battlefield from outside support. Did we do that, in Afghanistan? Was it even possible? Nope; we were paying the Pakistanis to pay the Taliban to come into Afghanistan to kill Afghanis and Americans… A realization that has made me go “Qui bono?” ever since I had it. We sure as hell weren’t trying to win, that’s for sure.

  4. I have become to wonder if early in their history the USA’s military had a constraint on the supply of ammunition for small arms. And that dealing with this constraint have become habituated, so that they will do anything to limit the average soldier’s use of ammunition, even in situations where it does not make sense.

    The use of a machine gun, for example. Kirk’s example of the BAR gunner with only his own magazines, for another.

    • Worries about ammo consumption have certainly been the obsession of many in the logistics and ordnance communities. I don’t know that those worries are really the major problem.

      The real issue is that there seems to be this continual thread of self-delusion about what goes on in combat. Go back to the deeper past, and look at the drill books that they were using, which were all initially based on Napoleonic experience. Nobody had the foresight to really consider what the impact of the Minie bullet and rifled musket might be… Pickett done found out the hard way.

      The US and Confederate Armies were still hopped up on Napoleon and trying to emulate him. There were a few clear-eyed types like Grant and Sherman, but… By and large, it was a war fought with weapons of the 1860s using the tactics of the 1810s.

      That same factor went ever onward, through the history of it all, filled with self-delusion about what was going on. Few bothered to really look at how war was being fought; the “surprise” of WWI was only a surprise if you’d spent the 1890s and the first decade of the new century asleep at the switch. Some things the US did get right, like the short general-issue rifle. However, comma… That 1903 Springfield we were so proud of? They’d have been better off just paying Mauser the royalty fees and buying off-the-shelf, as opposed to rolling our own. The cartridge could have been a hell of a lot better, too… After all, 7mm Mauser did a hell of a number on us during the Spanish-American War. I think we’d have been smart to just tell Mauser “Hey, give us a license for that, thankyouverymuch…”, and called it good. 7mm Mauser had a lot going for it; I think that a reduced charge version would have been hell on wheels as an intermediate cartridge for an assault rifle, which was basically what the Brits did for their 7mm Second Optimum and the Venezuelans issued as the 7mm Liviano.

      All in all, I think the real problem is that there’s a certain thread of outright dilettantism stretching through all of the US military’s decisions. I mean, look at what happened at Little Big Horn: The Indians they were fighting had enough Spencer and Winchester repeaters that they were able to overwhelm the single-shot Springfield Trapdoor-armed 7th Cavalry troopers, and that was directly due to the choices made by the ordnance personnel at the time, who failed utterly to understand how crucial volume of fire was. There, again, the long-range individual rifleman mentality got a bunch of people killed for no good reason… Adding insult to injury, Custer had been offered the option of taking a Gatling or two along with him in his column. You have to wonder how that might have played out…

      The root problem stems from the “Christmas Help” mentality that a lot of the professional Army had towards the guys who fought in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII. A lot of the officers and men who were the ones with the most combat experience were not full-time Regulars; as soon as they could de-mobilize, they did. And, that left a lot of the decisions about these things to be made by men who really had no damn idea at all how combat actually works.

      Renee Studler is a perfect example; dude spent the 1930s studying at various arsenals in Europe, did not do one single tour as a combat officer or see any combat at all, and he was the bright light that pushed through the 7.62 NATO debacle with the accompanying M14…? Which was perhaps the most short-lived general issue individual weapon in the modern history of the US Army, while the weapon he denigrated and loathed, the M16 that was supposed to be an “interim” weapon soldiers on some sixty-plus years later?

      You stop and look at it, and it’s been pretty much disastrous from about the 1810s forward. Even the Garand, which while it was a nice weapon for WWI, shouldn’t have been what we went into WWII with. The money and mindspace should have gone into turning the BAR into a decent GPMG, the way the Belgians turned it into the MAG58. If they had to have a semi-auto individual weapon, then they could have simply done something in between the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine, coupled with a good BAR-based LMG that was actually an LMG. Something like that would have done us a lot more good down at the squad level, as opposed to the .30-06 Garand and the BAR that we actually fought with.

      And, it wasn’t like the handwriting wasn’t on the wall; the Germans managed to make it out, which was why they were way more worried about having a good machinegun for their infantry than semi-auto rifles. All we had to do was actually look at what had gone on, recognized it, and been honest enough to admit that we were nuts for making believe that Dan’l Boone, Davy Crockett, and Alvin York could be replicated in every infantryman…

  5. Kirk:

    Agreed. Since Korea, has the USA ever actually tried to “win” a war? I think not, but they have certainly lost a few.

    Until the Linebacker raids on North Vietnam in 1972, the Vietnam War was not fought to win. The only way to win is to take violence to your enemy until he agrees to stop. That happened in 1973, and the USA then just let North Vietnam invade the South in 1975. So what was that all for?

    You are right that modern armies are bureaucratized out of all reason. There seems to be no place for initiative or improvisation.

    The Talib who attacked that patrol needed to be killed there and then. No doubt about it. The man I was talking to survived physically, but now suffers from PTSD, and I can see why.

    • Unless you’ve planned to kill 80% percent of population of Afghanistan/Iraq, and bring in US settlers to claim the land for themselves, the war there was unwinnable. Kill one insurgent and 3 of his relatives jump in the fight. Kill these 3, 9 more jumps in. etc.etc.
      And their population pool to recruit is bigger then all foreign forces inside country.

      On the other end, US is strong enough economically to invest in wars for the sake of perpetual clash and war, not a victory. Its not like its ww2 where defeat means youre country is destroyed. Though this kind of behaviour leaves the end of military chain that suffers the brunt of these setbacks and defeats puzzled and frustrated, no doubt.
      But to put it bluntly, youve not signed to safeguard US, as you will not battle in one of its states soil, but to safeguard US worldwide interests projected onto another countries; thats a huge difference. What are you doing with rifle in your hands 5000 miles from your hometown, in a place nobody understands you?
      US has been successful in pacifying countries that had similar state of development, like Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan, but when faced with third world that does not understand your values or shares any of them, strategy fails.

      • Korea was basically 3rd World after Japanese occupation. I notice an awful lot of Anti-American, pro-communist and radical Muslim comments here.If you are so bitter, why stay in the U.S.? Or are you not U.S. Citizens?

        • There’s a reason we seldom discuss politics here. Mostly because that’s not our primary interest. Things that go “bang” are.

          I guess you don’t notice sarcasm unless it has a /// behind it.

          The people here OTOH tend to notice that we keep not winning wars. Probably because since Korea we’ve redefined them as “police actions” and “limited wars”, as if either one was a real thing.

          Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires going back to Alexander the Great. He was the last conqueror with enough sense to avoid the place.

          Korea has been fought over by the Chinese and Japanese for two millennia. In one war the Chinese were doing so well that the Korean ruler invited the Japanese in to help throw the Chinese out. This after Japan had tried and failed to conquer Korea twice.

          We (the U.S. government, that is) keep making the same errors over and over again at the national command level, which means it doesn’t matter if the troops on the ground get it right. Any gains will be thrown away at a negotiating table in Paris or etc., often for no quid pro quo, just as a “gesture of ‘good will’.”

          And don’t think our “allies” don’t notice. They still remember those helicopters out of Saigon in 1975- and now people falling off airplanes over Bagram in 2021.

          To paraphrase Scott Adams’ Dilbert, around here we’re not anti-American. We’re just anti-idiot.

          clear ether


          • Pretty much.

            The idiots are ever-present, and they’ve worked their way into positions of authority throughout the system. Trust me on this… I was in it for most of my adult life. Told that we ought to be prepared for the politicians telling us to do civilian de-mining, the idjits told me that “No, we don’t want that capability, because if we have it, someone will expect us to do it.”

            Literal truth. And, immediately after I got shut down for trying to send American soldiers to the Canadian demining course, I had a deputation come to me from 1st SFG saying “Hey, do you know anything about demining? We got tasked to go to Cambodia and teach it…”

            Told the same set of assholes that IEDs and rear-area line of communications mining was gonna be a problem. They said “We’ll never be stupid enough to get into a war where that’s even a thing…”, to paraphrase the response. That was circa 1993-94. Gee, where were we ten years later without MRAPs or armored route-clearance gear…?

            Told the people running NTC that we needed to include more corps-level slice support units in the training, because everybody was gonna have to fight… Was told that, no, we don’t want to detract from training the maneuver units. What happened to the 507th Maintenance Company, again? What effect did that have on actual maneuver units, during a war, that had to pull off actual missions to go deal with the aftermath?

            There are reasons I denigrate and despise the vast majority of my “betters”. They’re halfwits playing at things, more concerned about their sacred “careers” than they are their actual duties. Small arms issues are only the very tippiest-tip of the iceberg of incompetence. Y’all will learn, to your detriment, just how much more there is lurking beneath.

      • Storm,

        You may be aware that the US had not lost a man in Afghanistan in the 18 months before they left. It was not perfect, but the Afghan National Army was up to dealing with the Taliban, with US support. No need to kill 80% of Afghans. Killing 80% of the Taliban would have been nice.

        Afghanistan in 2022 was not like South Vietnam in 1975. The Taliban were not the NVA. They “took” Kabul on the back of pick up trucks because America decided to leave. No other reason. Twenty years of blood sweat and tears, and then Sleepy Joe just decided to up and out. He deserved to be impeached for that if nothing else.

        • Oh, there was more to it than that. The Biden administration basically transferred them all the money, and cut off the Afghan National Army at the ankles by taking away aviation support and all the rest. Same playbook as South Vietnam, same people behind it.

          There is a lot of US history since WWII that can best be analyzed by viewing it as though the US were run by its own worst enemies. Which, in a sense, we are; the Democrats were the ones who ginned up the Civil War when Lincoln got elected, rather than deal with the fallout from the majority of the country wanting slavery ended. After the Civil War, and Wilson’s election as President, all too much of the enablers for today’s national dysfunction got put into place, not the least of which was popular election of senators and all the rest. As designed, the Senate was supposed to be the voice of the state governments in the Federal system. The way it is now, they’re just generally-elected super-representatives. The whole thing has gone dysfunctional, mostly due to all these Wilson/Progressive ideas that oddly enough, resemble the Confederate constitution…

          You can make a case for it, is all I’m sayin…

        • JohnK
          US left so much firearms and stuff, freedom and democracy loving afghanis could defend their country from talibans.
          Problem is that pro west group is a huge minority, and majority of population has exactly the same religious, cultural values as talibans and similar muslim ideology groups from middle east. That is what US public can not understand. 20 years of rule can not change millenium of traditions there.
          So, they got what they fought, or chose not to.
          Now let them have it, and be governed how they wanted, its not impossible that in 20,30,40 years people will be fed up with talibans, and overthrow them to democracy.
          There is an ongoing narrative about some women rights, schooling etc. These women are sisters, mothers, daughters, wives of the men who enforce such practice on them. If they wanna do such brutality on one of their very own blood, why stop them? Let them do that to themselves, if its whats best for their culture.

          Because, as US knows, it stems back from the time of Alexander the Great, its easy to conquer amd destroy, but to rule and govern is a real bi..h.
          Could have US stayed and police along? Sure, but that means hundreds of billions of dollars in costs of buying the favours of locals, who only cooperate motivated by money, not sharing or accepting the same “democratic” values.
          20 years was not in vain, it at least shown to the world that US tried hard normalizing that third world country, but despite all the efforts, it failed, and its rightful to back off from a failed, doomed poject.

  6. Kirk:

    You may be aware of the theory that 1913 was a bad year for America: as you said, senators began to be directly elected, the Federal Reserve was formed, income tax introduced, and Woodrow Wilson became president.

    The point I was making about South Vietnam in 1975 is that the NVA launched a massive conventional invasion. The ARVN could have turned it back with US air support, quite legally as the North had just torn up the 1973 Paris Accords, but the USA preferred to do nothing and let their ally fall.

    In 2022 it was if anything worse. The Taliban were not a major threat to the Afghan government, and the ANA were up to dealing with them with US air support. They were nothing like the NVA, but Sleepy Joe (or whoever controls him) just decided to give the country to them. So they rolled into Kabul on Toyota pick ups and took the country, as if the previous 20 years had never happened.

    America can defeat any enemy except the enemy within.

    • Exactly so. And, if an enemy wants to defeat us, they should now know that the first front they need to open against us is in the US Congress…

      Highly reminiscent of the Late Roman Republic, right down to the Boni gutting the yeoman middle class for their own enrichment.

    • The unites that fought the 1972 NVA invasion was South Vietnamese (with USA air support). Nixon vietnamization was working. The USA invasion of Afghanistan and defeat of the Taliban was dun with nearly zero USA troop on the ground. The USA failed to created a effective civil administration in Afghanistan. Iran and Pakistan have civil administration and have election. Explain to me how Afghanistan culture is different from Iran, Pakistan or even the former soviet republics.

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