What is a Battle Rifle?

“Battle rifle” is not a formally recognized term like “assault rifle”, but it is widely used, and I think it has a lot of utility. It is intended to differentiate between intermediate-caliber and full-power military rifles, and to that end I propose these four criteria to define a “battle rifle”:

1 – A military style or pattern rifle
2 – Intended primarily to be fired from the shoulder
3 – Self-loading (either semi- or fully automatic)
4 – Chambered for a full power rifle cartridge


  1. Sounds about right. Seems to have a had a sweet spot of use between 1945 and 1970s. But, in defining the battle rifle, don’t you have to define the assault rifle as well. Lot more variability to contend with in the later.

  2. It is the politicians that need to listen to this lecture, but of course they won’t. Legislation is “purer” if the lawmakers have no idea of what they are legislating about.

  3. So if the BAR that is being given away was used by Gun Jesus at match, then does its value go up since it has a holy blessing upon it?

    • I wouldn’t say the xm7 is long, it’s shorter than an m4 with suppressor. As for heavy, yes but only with all the crap on it. 8.38 lb without suppressor. it’s the optical sight and suppressor that adds the weight penalty of I think it was over 4 pounds of extra weight? also isn’t the IAR all kitted out about 12 pounds to so not really all that heavier if that’s the case.

      with all that said, I dislike the ngsw project and think a lot of the goals could have been met with a new weapon firing a better bullet with a better shape, like the 7.92 cetme or even the 5.45 Russian, rather than reach the performance with 80kpsi.

        • I haven’t heard of that until today, fantastic cartridge on paper at least. I wonder if it will produce more reliable wounding than 5.45 and 7.62?

          • Well, it has been half a Century since the 5.45 x 39 appeared on the scene.

            That is about the same time the “Brown Bess” was in front-line British service.

          • At the risk of stating the obvious, the Russian 7.62X54R has been in service since the 1890s, and the 7.62X39 since 1943…

            I’m almost sad that I have to point out a couple of salient facts: One, the odds of this cartridge being adopted are slim and none; the Russians aren’t in a position to make such a thing work, and will likely still be using the old rounds well into the latter half of this century. Two, the reason that this cartridge even exists has rather more to do with the Kalashnikov enterprise needing to generate money than anything else. A new cartridge/rifle combination would do nicely to keep the company afloat. Whether or not the Russian state will be in a position to pay for them, on the other hand…? Questionable.

            The Russians are great, in theory. Execution? Except dissidents, they’re not so good at that. Eyes bigger than stomachs, so to speak.

          • Aaah… Just noticed that detail about the Brown Bess, Bruce.

            The Brown Bess musket was first designed/issued/stamped as a pattern circa 1722. It went out of service sometime in the 1850s, when the last of the flintlock versions were converted over to percussion.

            So… Yeah. The 5.45X39 has some longevity issues, by comparison. Even the venerable 7.62X54R hasn’t got as much time in service as the Brown Bess… Yet.

      • The XM7 is made to be used with the suppressor and, at 80.000 psi from a 13″ barrel, is better to use it if you don’t want to end up with a lot of deaf infantrymen after the first engagement. It has to be considered an integral part of the rifle.
        So, all in all, is not really shorter, or lighter, than a G3, or a FAL.

      • better training and doctrine is needed. A better tripod and actual machine gun training for the crews and ncos how to employ them. Throw in a few small mortars as well and train the ncos how to direct the fire. The new xm5/m7 rifle and the machine gun are not going to solve the lack of training and skill.

        I am channeling Kirk here. 😉

        • Well, it ain’t like anyone is going to be actually doing anything rational to prove the point, now is it?

          If you look at the long trail of US small arms development, the sad fact is that it’s a continuing thread of trying to overcome lack of training and basic soldiering skills going back to the Hall breechloaders. Sure, you could actually go to the trouble of training your way out of problems like being unable to generate an actual infantry column-killing volley from your hastily trained troops, but where’s the fun in that? Especially when the government is willing to spend massive funds on complex technical solutions to simple training issues…

          Anyone disagrees with me? Take a look at the M240B, and compare it to the L7. Or, anyone else’s MAG58 that got adopted: US says “OMG… PFC Ragbag could burn his ickle widdle handsies on the hot barrel!! We must cover it and protect him!!!”

          Lessee, now… Couple of million bucks to design and implement POS handguards on the weapon, or spending a couple minutes in training on “Don’t touch–Hot!!”?

          Yeah, we know what path the US is going down…

    • I agree. This is an example of how the “experts” expect the public to not question their pronouncements, when tomorrow the “experts” will change their minds and make the complete opposite pronouncement.

      Personally, even though it would cause logistics issues, I don’t see the point of forcing a single rifle on all soldiers. I try to imagine if things would have turned out better for Custer if he had a mix of shorter range repeating rifles and longer range Springfield trapdoor rifles.

      • The “public” has nothing to do with this debate. This is a pentagon decision kept within military “experts “.it’s political ramifications are confined to who’s calling the shots among the ordinance department and the private contractors.

        • The dynamics works no matter the circumstances. In this case the “public” are the military officials and members of Congress. When somebody sees an opening for monetary or power gain, it is amazing how quickly “settled matters” get unsettled. I don’t know who pushed the idea of the new rifle/cartridge, but the same dynamics were at work when the push occurred to go to intermediate cartridges. I am sure that back then, the people advocating for intermediate cartridges made the same appeal of superior knowledge and the dire need to change, just like what came from the advocates for the new system. My exit question is how long will the new system remain as the only rational approach? Not long from what history has taught us. Then a new batch of experts will be peddling their wares.

      • I haven’t run into a member of the “expert” class that was really a subject-matter expert on anything beyond self-promotion. I’m sure they’re out there, but… Not that I’ve personally experienced.

        The guys I want to listen to are the actual students of a subject, the men who acknowledge their inadequacies and the questions that still exist. You start professing to “expert authority”, and you’ve lost all credibility with me.

        The humble man, who can back up his assertions with personal experience or knowledge? He has my attention. A self-declared “expert”? Oh, hell to the no…

  4. Taxonomic challenge: what about AR-15 chambered for .25 Winchester Super Short Magnum? It does use AR-15 sized magazine, but ballistic-wise it is vicinity of 6,5 mm Arisaka (Winchester’s round use lighter bullet, but provide higher muzzle velocity)

    • Think we’ll worry about that if a military adopts an “assault rifle” chambered in .25 WSSM. Perhaps we just draw a line at the shortest full power rifle round case length & say a battle rifle round must be at least this tall to ride?

      While Ian was presenting, I was going to say the easy way to differentiate btwn a battle rifle & a hunting rifle was a bayonet lug. Looks as though the M76 & SVD both have em.

      • Also standard magazine capacity would be useful in differentiating hunting and battle rifles. Yes, you can rig up high/low capacity magazines. But look at original manufacture specs to see what the rifle was intended to have for magazine capacity.

        • Look… None of this appearance- or characteristic-based differentiation matters one whit. An expert with a good bolt-action rifle can produce the same tactical effect as a merely semi-skilled shooter with one of the general-issue individual weapons of the latter half of the 20th Century.

          Where the true differences show up is with regards to tactical effect generated. So far as that goes, there’s not a hell of a lot of difference to be seen between a British rifleman armed with an SMLE at Mons and a British rifleman armed with an L1A1 at Goose Green… What made the difference at each battlesite was more the supporting arms and the doctrine. Performance of the individual weapon? Hardly mattered; the Brits would likely have prevailed were they still armed with the SMLE and had similar skill-at-arms to “The Old Contemptibles” at Mons. About all the L1A1 really enabled was reducing training time to achieve that rate of fire, thus allowing training on other weapons and skills…

  5. I have to pick nits here and say that the Brits were using L1A1 SLRs and not FN FALs which the Argentines were in the form of the 50.61s.

    • Nice joke!, however famous quip was not being connected with mans third favorite activity (or forgottenweapons “guys” 4. or 5. of course, after shooting that is on 3.place)

      • Sorry, I redact my comment !
        It really was used in “obscenity” case, but I read it before connected to some other example, like an animal or something.
        No, now I remember – it was from some japanese TV series where they described to characters about noises of an elusive fictional bird that char. were searching for in a forest; hard to describe but you will instantly know when you hear the noises.

  6. To the Americans, the M16 is a shorter ranged battle rifle. To the Russians, the AK is a longer ranged sub-machine gun.

  7. Any shoulder fired rifle issued in large numbers to combat infantry is a “battle rifle” whether bolt action or self loading. The term “battle” connotes military combat. So if a “rifle” is issued in large numbers to infantry for combat use it is a “battle rifle”.

    The term “assault rifle” describes a proper subset of “battle rifle”.

    • “Any shoulder fired rifle issued in large numbers to combat infantry is a “battle rifle” whether bolt action or self loading.(…)term “assault rifle” describes a proper subset of “battle rifle”.”
      Then what is relation between battle rifle and service rifle?

      • It’s the same damn thing, only with a better marketing image… Which is one reason I loathe the entire construct of “Battle Rifle”. It’s a f*cking service rifle, and since that term’s been in use for dog’s years, well… Why the hell change it because some vacuum-brained gunwriter wanting to sell magazines in the 1980s thought it up?

  8. Well, I vote for the SKS as an honorary battle rifle, it being a shorter-ranged variant on such themes as the Ljungman/Hakim and MAS49/56, perhaps even the Garand. Might we have a category called “Battle rifle that doesn’t hurt your shoulder as much?”

    • SKS is not a service rifle; it’s a carbine-class weapon. Which is what should have been on-issue from about 1917 forward…

  9. So AR-10 in 7.62×51 is “battle rifle”. OK. What is AR-10 in 7.62×39? Assault rifle? So same weapon can be both “assault” and “battle rifle” based only on caliber?
    Or… wait. StG 58. FAL. 7.62. Called “Assault rifle” by the Austrian military. Is it a battle rifle or is it assault rifle?
    What about Swiss StGw 57?

    • To me, good ol’ local term “automatska puška” describes it all the best.
      If its AR-15, well, thats poluautomatska verzija automatske puške.
      Sorry! Cant have it all 🙂

      • I agree that best distinction is on basic operating principle. (Manually) Repeating – Semi-automatic – automatic.
        This creates least amount of confusion, since it clearly defines what weapon is capable of. Everything else, including caliber is secondary.
        Also, picking and choosing military and civilian terminology can lead to quite confusing results, as different militaries call same things by different names or different things by same name. 🙂

        PS. Local terminology was not without it’s own hickups. Eg, during development of M70, folding stock version was designated “SMG” – “Automat” while fixed stock version, otherwise fully identical to folding stock one was “automatic rifle” – “Automatska puska”. But that was ditched in 1968. reformation of military designations when “automat” was defined as firing pistol caliber ammunition. Rudiment of that is Zastava still calling M85 and M92 short rifles “automat”/”SMG”.

        Than we have Czech, who still call any stocked automatic weapon “Samopal”… from Skorpion to vz.58 automatic rifle.

        • When I read official for example Yugoslavian manuals and their terminology, I cant escape the feeling of seeing some things described too complicated, like intentionally, to mystify the whole art and craft. It points me into direction like its not just unintentionally by some military-science-geeks bureocracy complicated – or maybe its a sign of the times, and that times, now 40,50,60 years ago.

          But back to main discussion, I think at least percent of the problem is in primarily USA mode of commercial firearms market, biggest and most extreme in the whole world. As such, it is unescapably tied to a market trend of always inventing new terms, to sell the same old things as a new package. Plus, assault rifle got bad and notorious treatment in their media, so battle sounds (paradoxally) as a more neutral term.

          • Well said. But never interrupt adult children once they get into a p____ing match about terminology that in the end matters nothing.

          • Yugoslav military manuals were heavily influenced by German ones, and later by WW2 era US ones. Hence focus on all little details and technical stats that general riflemen did not really need to know.
            OTOH, they are treasure throve for a weapon geeks 🙂

          • @Bojan,

            I don’t know that I can agree with you about the overly-technical thing being of value only to “weapons specialists”.

            Consider the following note, taken from a study referenced by Dogwalker, which was produced by the US Army:

            “*Current military usage of the two words salvo and volley is confused. By “salvo” the
            Navy and Air Force generally mean, respectively, the simultaneous discharge of several
            pieces, or the simultaneous release of a number of bombs; the Army usually employs the
            word to indicate the successive firing of several guns within a single command unit.
            “Volley” is commonly taken by all services to mean the simultaneous firing of a number
            of rifles or guns, with the exception that the artilleryman often applies the word to the
            independent (unsynchronized) firing of a certain specified number of rounds by each of
            several associated pieces. What is discussed here and in the following pages is either
            a simultaneous, or a high cyclic rate, burst, with the number of rounds per burst automatically set rather than dependent upon trigger release. In the former design, con-
            trolled nutation of the rifle muzzle would provide the desired shot dispersion or pattern;
            in the latter, the scatter would be obtained and controlled by multiple barrels, a mother-
            daughters type of projectile, or projection of missiles in the manner of a shotgun.”

            You’ve got different services of the same nation that can’t agree on the meaning of basic terms of discussion with regards to these “technical things”. I’m not sure that I can fault the JNA for being too pedantic, particularly with the fact that many military terms wind up being taken up by the general public, and then seeing their original meanings warped out of recognition by popular usages of the terms by people who’ve no idea at all about the military meanings.

            The historical fact is that imprecise language almost inevitably leads to flawed thinking about the subject. You say “tomato”, I think you’re talking about the fruit, and you’re thinking we’re talking about that big red ball on the side of Japanese WWII aircraft…

        • Any time the marketing types get involved, the language gets obfuscated and meanings lost. It’s a part and parcel of what marketing does… Create demand. You do that by getting people’s interest, and never mind whether or not what you’re marketing has actual… Value. Hell, if anything, it’s the job of the marketer to obscure true value, so that people then want to buy that which is essentially of limited or no value.

          Taurus Judge, I’m looking at you

          This whole “battle rifle” terminology is part of that… It was marketing-speak from day one, an utterly meaningless term, one with no value whatsoever.

    • FAL is specific case. Today you have biggest chance to encounter FAL in 7.62×51 mm, but it did not begin like that. Before it got final form it consumed .280 British cartridge, see 3rd XOR 4th image from top http://modernfirearms.net/en/assault-rifles/belgium-assault-rifles/fn-fal-l1a1-c1-slr-eng/ which without doubt was intermediate, but then… one member of NATO insisted on using T65 cartridge and so tension was applied thus dragging said weapon into battle rifle category as defined above.
      It seems currently there are two opposite camps, one believing that using intermediate cartridge is conditio sine qua non in order to be assault rifle and one that it is not. FN Herstal seems to belong to latter as they claim that
      The FN SCAR®-H Mk2 STD assault rifle is chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO calibre and is available with barrels of various lengths…

    • The 13th Analect of Confucius has application, here:

      “Zi Lu said: “The ruler of Wei is anticipating your assistance in the administration of his state. What will be your top priority?”

      Confucius said, “There must be a correction of terminology.”

      Zi Lu said, “Are you serious? Why is this so important?”

      Confucius said, “You are really simple, aren’t you? A noble man is cautious about jumping to conclusions about that which he does not know.”

      “If terminology is not corrected, then what is said cannot be followed. If what is said cannot be followed, then work cannot be accomplished. If work cannot be accomplished, then ritual and music cannot be developed. If ritual and music cannot be developed, then criminal punishments will not be appropriate. If criminal punishments are not appropriate, the people cannot make a move. Therefore, the noble man needs to have his terminology applicable to real language, and his speech must accord with his actions. The speech of the noble man cannot be indefinite.” “

      If you cannot precisely define the meanings of things, then you cannot discuss them.

      Language, being the tool of thought, must be precise and accurately describe that which is being thought about. You cannot get good things out of fuzzy and ill-defined terms.

      And, as this discussion about “battle rifles” shows, the language isn’t at all correct. Nor is the language around the machinegun; witness all the different ideas encapsulated in American military English from “Automatic Rifle” on up to “Heavy Machine Gun”.

      Imprecision is the enemy of correct thought, and there’s hardly anything more vague and cloud-cuckooland than most of the terminology and verbiage surrounding small arms and tactics.

  10. Has anyone heard the official rational from the US military as to why they are going from an intermediate cartridge to a full power cartridge?

    My guess is to better defeat body armor. And this comes from a change in what the Brass feels is the most credible threat the country is facing.

    For the last couple of decades, the US military has injected itself into various bush wars around the globe. The opponents in these wars were poorly equipped, meaning no body armor. So the lighter rifles with a higher ammunition carrying capacity for each soldier worked. Now, I am thinking, the most severe threat are seen as China and Russia. These armies would have body armor, so a more powerful cartridge is needed.

    • No. See “Increasing Small-Arms Lethality in Afghanistan; Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer” by Maj. Thomas P. Ehrhart (2009);


      It’s all about being able to use the individual rifle effectively out to at least 500 meters. Better yet, 1000 meters.

      Which is unfortunately complete BS and always has been.

      Specially-trained sniper being able to hit effectively beyond 300 meters? Absolutely, that’s what snipers are trained for.

      Designated Marksman with specially set-up DMR doing it? Again, absolutely.

      Machine gun team with a properly-mounted and dialed-in GPMG in something like 7.62 x 51mm doing it out to 1,000 meters? Yes; that’s why a machine gun team is in the infantry section to begin with.

      An individual rifleman, even with optical sights, being able to effectively hit a point target beyond 300 meters? No. It has never happened except by dumb luck, and never will.

      This is the old Ordnance delusion of “marksmanship tradition” rearing its dumb head again. Ordnance simply refuses to accept that a battlefield and Camp Perry are two entirely different environments, and what works on one is unlikely to work on the other.

      As for the “new high-powered” cartridge, the 6.8 x 51mm isn’t new or even particularly “high-powered”. It also isn’t a 6.8mm. As seen here;


      It is in fact a 7 x 51mm cartridge, launching 130 to 140-grain bullets at a high of 3,000 f/s (130-gr) to a low of 2,750 (135-gr). I find the 2,950 for the 140-grain hard to believe; 2,650-2,700 would be more doable with that bullet weight, in that cartridge volume.

      Basically, 6.8 x 51 or .277 Fury, or whatever you like to call it, is little more than a slightly-altered 7mm-08 Remington, a sporting cartridge dating to 1980 as a factory load, that was first developed as a wildcat from the .308 Winchester around 1958-60.

      And ballistically, both are simply reiterations of the 7 x 57 Mauser of 1892. Just like every “7mm”, “.276”, or etc. “Ideal Military Rifle Cartridge (TM)” developed during to 20th Century, going back to the .276 Enfield of 1913 and the .276 Pedersen of 1934, with later iterations such as 0.280in Enfield in 1949 and “6mm SAW” in 1975.

      What they all overlook is that in trying to make a 7 x 57 clone perform like a .30-06 (which is pretty much a lost cause from the start), they pretty much scuttle any chance of it being controllable in autofire in a rifle. thereby screwing the entire concept of an “assault rifle”.

      Yes. It’s the M14 debacle’ all over again.

      Furthermore, Ordnance paid Sig something like $350M to develop this hotted-up rifle. When they could have ordered essentially the same thing “off the shelf” from several U.S. manufacturers (notably Ruger, S&W, and Olympic) based on the Knight SR-25 platform ten years ago. Yes, they have been making AR-type rifles in calibers like 6.8mm Creedmoor and 7.62 x 51mm (and, yes, 7mm-08 Remington) for almost a quarter-century now.

      I can only assume nobody at Ordnance reads the ads in the back pages of Firearms News.

      Or else they wanted a 100% brand-new, Ordnance-created Super Rifle to “Show The World”. The cost to the taxpayers be damned.

      The new SAW version may be worth the effort. Anything would be better than the under-calibered M249 or the overweight M240. (Let alone those PoS M60s still hanging on in odd corners of armories.)

      My preference would be an MG3 in something like 7.21 x 71 Lazzeroni Firebird; if you’re going to to have a GPMG, it should be able to reach out and swat something a long way away.

      But in the individual infantryman’s rifle?

      Stick to something that’s effective and accurate to about 350 meters on single-shot, that is controllable in burst or full-auto fire within 100 meters.

      Because that’s what your individual rifleman should be doing if he’s been properly trained. Leaving the long-range interdiction business to the machine gunners.

      If you’re designing your rifle and cartridge to do the MG’s job, you’re doing it wrong.

      clear ether


      • Yes it does sound like someone had a cozy relationship with SIG rather than understanding the existing US market.

        I agree with your assessment of not needing a super rifle for every member of an infantry company. I am starting to like the Russian doctrine of having quite a number of snipers/designated marksmen in a company. You need credible longer range capacity to keep opposing forces honest. But the intense firing is going to be close range and a weapon system where the bulk of the company can carry lots of ammo to lay down serious bullet swarm seems rational.

      • Thank you for laying out my objections to NGSW so succinctly.

        I’ve a post on the issue, down below… And, oddly enough, it ties into the whole “battle rifle” nonsense Ian addresses here.

      • “My preference would be an MG3…”

        A thing SIG did that could have been really adopted. The SIG MG710-3. An MG3 (MG45, due to the roller delay) lighter than a M60.

        • The SIG 710 series had one major thing going against it… Swiss.

          Both on a cost-to-manufacture basis, and the fact that the Swiss were then unlikely to sell to the US or any other major buyer, because “neutrality”.

          As well, the idjits in procurement here in the US would have never gone for it, even if they got it for free. “Not Invented Here”, and because it was designed (mostly…) in accordance with the Germanic MG doctrine in mind…

          Would have been nice, though…

  11. It wasn’t that long ago this query came up and I post a reply, whereby one must think in terms of the wars of 80 years ago.

    Quite simply, more recent military strategy no longer relies on throwing men at other men with each man having a shoulder-fired rifle with a long-range cartridge, in a hefty caliber, Semi-Auto and magazine fed, for each man to lob as many bullets as they can reasonably carry (where an intermediate or pistol cartridge of that time would not have been effective) to shoot at nearly as many other men that are marching towards each other, also with similar battle-rifles, or maybe entrenched machine-guns nests – like some throw-back to the Civil War. Will a bolt-action be sufficient? Maybe, but only as support to machine-gun nests and other heavy-hitting artillery of an infantry.

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

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

    The “battle rifle” served the need for large-numbers of soldiers trouncing in, able to shoot faster than a bolt-action, with longer-range reaching ammo that could still hit hard at those longer ranges, while maintaining energy farther out inevitably with better accuracy at those longer ranges.

    So they had rifles that had less capacity, but they made up for that by having a higher capacity of men, who unfortunately were expendable in ways that our technology allows us to avoid today. And due to that, we no longer so casually dispose of our soldiers as expendable equipment.

    That’s what made it a ‘battle’ – throwing a mass number of bodies at another mass number of bodies, raw, bloody, long-range shooting at each other indiscriminately until one side or the other lost more lives than the other side. That’s the raw ‘battle’ part of large numbers of man-and-rifle against other large numbers of man-and-rifle until one side is subdued.

    And that was a ‘battle’ of large numbers of troops, a true ‘battle’ of quantities of men; not precision scalpel carving by technology and leaving whatever is left to urban-warfare, closer-range, or police-like actions where anything more wieldy from an STG-44 to an M4 would be more of a benefit.

    During the 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima, just throwing body after body at the problem until the Japanese relented, nearly 7,000 U.S. Marines were killed, another 20,000 wounded – and some 22,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, until some 671 were left to be captured. We would never see such man-to-man ‘battles’ of bodies against bodies like that today, for one single small (but important) stretch of land for our entire Pacific war effort. Instead, it would be airstrikes, missiles, and drones, and men would only be sent in to clean up and establish fortifications after it’s all clear.

    While some may thing “the semi-auto service rifle didn’t make all that much difference to either tactics or operational considerations” – tactics, strategy, or even methodical approach were necessarily what they had in mind. It was raw battle, and it was called a ‘battle rifle’ for the perception of what it could achieve.

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

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

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

    Yet… “A man is not necessarily intelligent because he has plenty of ideas, any more than he is a good General because he has plenty of soldiers”… (Sebastian Roch Nicolas Chamfort 1741-1794)

    And we saw plenty of bad ideas and plenty misuse of soldiers during WWII – Operation Market Garden being just one such example, the Battle of Stalingrad another (for the Germans, starting out as a ‘battle’ and turning into urban-warfare) – among many others.


  12. Most everyone is thinking by today’s mode of combat, and that the gun itself defines what is a ‘battle rifle’ – no, it was the type of ‘battle’ and a need for a certain type of rifle as is being cited here, for that type of massive numbers men against an opposing massive number of men form of ‘battle’ at the time that defined the rifle.

    It’s simply rare that we have ‘battles’ of that type like we did in WWII, and it’s certain that will be a thing of the past going forward.

    As for the 1918A2/A3 BAR, it certainly was a battle rifle but meant in conjunction and support with a mass number of other guys carrying M1 Garands. it was all about overwhelming a mass number of opposing soldiers embedded in trenches, holes, and machine gun nests and a light-to-carry machine gun like the BAR was meant to do that job and still act as a shoulder fired rifle if needed (but it’s sure quite heavy if you’ve ever had the pleasure of carrying one around for a while).


    • Utterly erroneous worldview on display, here.

      This is the same sort of foolishness that focuses on the essentially accessory weapons like swords in ancient melee combat. Precisely as the French aristos focused on the idea of knightly combat at Agincourt, and failed to consider the actual killers on the battlefield, the longbow and polearms.

      Individual riflemen ceased having “sole tactical relevance” shortly after the Civil War. Hell, during it, to be honest… Ask Pickett.

      Yet, people still focus on the rifle, ignoring the fact that it’s essentially become a local security tool. The entire concept and worldview underlying the incessant emphasis on this weapon is a clear indicator of an individual who does not think clearly and critically about what is actually going on in combat. Either that, or they’re blind to honest observation and thinking without pre-conceived ideas that they either came up with because of movies and other fraudulent accounts, or because they were taught by other delusionals.

      News flash, people: The rifle is not what you think it is, and hasn’t been for nearly all of our lives. It is not the “arme blanche”, the arm of decision for small unit actions.

      And, much like the mass murders perpetrated on the French nation by its “true believers”, today’s weapons “favoritists” are leading us down a primrose path to ruin and death.

      Bluntly put, the individual rifleman and his rifle haven’t been decisive on the battlefield since the late 19th Century. They’re important, but… Not decisive. The fantasy of the “battle rifle” is part of this entire failure-mindset.

    • It was intended as a slap at the M16. “That ain’t a ‘battle rifle’.” Why? Because it wasn’t the beloved, worshiped, genuflected to “Full .30” caliber.

      My only problem with that was that you hit more with the M16 on auto than you do with any 7.62 NATO on auto. The only “full .30s” that anybody ever hit consistently with were the Russian AK and the German MKb/MP/StG family. Firing “short” .30 rounds about equivalent to a .30 Herrett, ballistically speaking.

      The 7.62 x 51 NATO is a decent GPMG round and sniper rifle round. A round for full-auto fire in an individual weapon it just isn’t. For that you need something with a much lower recoil impulse if you actually want to hit anything.

      The definition of a “battle rifle” is “the rifle you can effectively take into a battle and use to subdue the enemy”.

      Only hits count.

      clear ether


      • Eon, seems historically backward that only rifle that got close to full auto full power shooting controllability was very smarty designed and engineered FG-42, before all FALs and G3s and such.
        These 2 examples I mentioned last both feel like they should have used medium power round like 7.92×33 or even russian 7.62 from getgo, but got shortchanged in the end with somebody stuffing into their mouth more then they could have chew. So you got rifles that were ok on semi auto, but then you could ask, why such configuation- why not m14ish, and magazine size, firing semi 10,15 is even enough etc. etc.
        I wonder now if you could “tame” these rifles in such calibres with VP70ish approach – sacrificing 10-20% of bullet speed (and thus range) to get more full auto controllability

        • FG42 was designed specifically for the German paratroops. Unlike everyone else’s, the German paras were “owned” by the Luftwaffe. And Goering regarded them as his very own private army. So when they wanted something “special”, Uncle Hermann got it for them through Luftwaffe channels instead of Wehrmacht.

          The genesis of the FG42 was the invasion of Crete in 1940. The paras came under fire from SMLEs and Vickers HMGs, and their primary weapons at the time were the MP38 SMG and some 7.9 x 57 bolt-action rifles. They were outranged and outgunned, or at least they thought so.

          They weren’t really interested in the new “MachinenKarabiner” firing an intermediate cartridge. They wanted a selective-fire rifle firing the full-power 7.9 x 57 round. The result was the FG42, which did come closer to being a successful “full .30” assault rifle than anything before or since.

          In the end, instead of being the replacement for the SMG and all rifles, it ended up as the paras’ SAW. In effect, the same role’ as the BAR in the U.S. infantry squad.

          Of the two, I have to consider the FG42 the better design for its job. I’ve never fired one but I have enough “trigger time” on various models of the BAR to appreciate its advantages and drawbacks- like that idiotic two different rates of autofire instead of regular selective-fire. (No, it was not JMB’s idea- Army Ordnance owns that ballsup.)

          A BAR built like an FG42 (firing from open bolt on automatic and closed bolt on single-shot) would have been a lot more effective, especially in the hands of troops properly trained in the use of a machine rifle as opposed to a “light machine gun”- which the British Bren is, and the BAR is not.



          • Not to mention, a BAR with a pistol grip and a legit crew-serve capable feed. Top-mount magazine, side-mount magazine, or belt. The rifle stock with bottom mount magazine only ever made sense as an individual rifle in the Automatic Rifle class, meant for the delusional French concept of “marching fire”.

            Actual firepower? You best be able to divvy up feeding the magazine-fed gun with shooting it. Otherwise, it’s an ineffectual minor boost to squad fires.

          • Kirk;

            Replace the BAR’s Frenchified magazine with a belt feed and you get… the M240.

            Yes, the FN MAG is essentially a BAR mechanism converted to belt feed, rebuilt with a pistol grip and a quick-change barrel, and “strengthened” to stand up to the stresses of sustained fire.

            In the process, FN turned an air-cooled machine rifle into…. an air-cooled medium machine gun.

            In fact, you could argue that the MAG is the world’s second most successful air-cooled heavy machine gun, right behind the Browning M2HB .50.

            What you cannot successfully argue is that the MAG/M240 is a light machine gun. Because it ain’t.

            Which leads to the question, WTF is it doing in the infantry squad, instead of in the heavy weapons platoon, on a tripod, where it belongs?

            clear ether


          • @ eon

            The decider seems to be north or south of 10kg.
            In Ukraine, IE. MG3 and FN MAG, much appreciated as fixed position or vehicular weapons, but a MG gunner walking with the infantry always carries a PK.
            A belt-fed BAR, with a quick exchange barrel, can’t reasonably weight less than 10kg.
            An MG42/MG3 can. It only needs to make a MG45, so leaving out the muzzle booster and the need of a receiver sturdy enough to withstand the impact of the recoiling barrel. You don’t even need to make the barrel shroud out of aluminium (but you can).

          • @eon,

            Fully aware of the BAR/MAG58 provenance. It’s just too bad that the guys at Ordnance didn’t see fit to adapt the Colt Monitor or FN “Modele D” mods for the BAR, as opposed to the A2 monstrosity they put on issue…

            The continued primacy of the PK-series in Ukraine only points to what I’ve always said: That weapon is the true “master work” of Kalashnikov, and what he ought to be remembered for… If only the US had had the balls to admit they got it wrong, and adopted a US version of it.

          • I’ve watched yesterday a video of BAR and its 2 modes, Ive heard about it long ago, but forgot it. Slow mode is just too slow, sounds almost like somebody is pulling the semi shots manually in succesion, and fast mode is, again, too fast, gun jumps around. Seems like sweet spot would be the rate of fire between these 2 – but ofc you are left with plethora of other FA defects. Naturally, BAR is at least 2 decades older then FG42, so we could cut it some slack there…

            Personally, I think for F.W. commenteers beloved MGs, having some modern system that could reliably have 2 rates of fire (first like 500 for sustained fire, second like 800,850 for bursts) is probably not a bad idea. I wonder if manually shortening the bolt carrier travel could accomplish that in simplest way, and not having some catchers like in BAR or Škorpion.

          • @Storm,

            Rates of fire are a poorly-understood issue. The Germans wanted, deliberately and with malice aforethought, the highest rates possible. The MG42 was supposed to have a 1200rpm rate, and the specification for its replacement, which was to be the MG45, was supposed to have a minimum of a 1500rpm rate.

            This wasn’t a mistake, either; they did it deliberately. Why? Because the Germans believed that the best way to produce casualties with an MG was as far from the gun as possible, and that to do that, you needed to absolutely saturate that beaten zone downrange with as many bullets as possible in the shortest time possible. They did calculations, and concluded that if you had a mere 600rpm rate, then the first bullet gave enough notice to anyone sharing that beaten zone with the guy they’d spotted to target, then the time between first and last rounds of the burst would be long enough to allow some of the rest of the element to get down below the line of fire or seek cover. If you dumped the same number of rounds on the beaten zone twice as fast, however…? Ain’t nobody going to be able to react quickly enough to avoid being hit.

            Rates of fire are what they are because the people doing the planning and logistics don’t pay attention to the same issues the Germans did. The Germans optimized for killing; the Allies (and, NATO today…) optimize for delivering “discouraging fires”, not lethal ones.

            As I’ve said many times before on here, the fundamental error is in not understanding how the MG works within the tactical system, regardless of whatever fantasy ideas people might have about it. The Germans would have rightly looked at many of the on-issue MG systems of today, and laughed their asses off at the ill-conceived notions represented by those modern guns. They’d also have some pointed words for their successors in the Bundeswehr about letting US and UK practices influence their decisions about rates of fire.

            The “too high” rate of fire thing is an artifact of the people looking at the German system and not seeing what was really going on with it. They had their reasons for wanting it, and judging from the casualties they generated, I’d say they were correct.

          • This is not a completely bad approach, but I was aiming logistically at round that can be used with both MGs and rifles, thus this reduction should be accomplished by rifles own mechanism, or some gas blowby and such. But this japanese idea at least lets you use the same cases, however you always run into a scenario where troops could by mistake or desperation load wrong ammo in their guns and damage ’em.
            Few years ago I threw an idea of universal bullet for mgs and rifles, that is only stuffed in different sized cases…

          • @Storm, I am sad to say that I can see no way possible of ever “squaring the circle” to create a cartridge for both the individual weapon and the crew-served support MG. The mission requirements are too different.

            On the one hand, you need something that is light enough for the individual weapon to be fired on full-auto and still be controllable. It also doesn’t need to be all that energetic out past about 500-600m, just enough to kill a man reliably out to those ranges.

            The crew-served support weapon needs to be lethal out to around 2000m, if you can manage it, and be powerful enough to get through light cover. That is not something you’re going to be able to do with something that’s still of use in the individual weapon, no matter how hard you wish for it. The physics just aren’t on.

            I’ll admit to the siren-call of the general-purpose cartridge, but… I’m also enough of a realist to observe that it’s never worked, and that the “desire path” through the maze has led to a two-caliber solution, every time. Germans went that way, the Soviets went that way, we silly-ass Americans finally figured it out some 20-30 years later, and… Now we’re going to try a unitary round for both roles again, and it’ll likely be doomed to failure. The idea just doesn’t work.

            About the only way I could think to make such a thing workable is if maybe you had propellants that could be tailored to work differently in specific barrel lengths, or something… Have a longer barrel that would afford more time for the propellant to do a second-stage burn for more energy, or something.

            However, that founders on the fact that you’re then hauling around and manufacturing a bunch of stuff you don’t need for the individual weapon, which is a logistic stupidity. You need different characteristics in each role; why not have two different cartridges?

            That’s what practical experience has shown us since WWII. We should acknowledge the facts on the ground, and just accept that two calibers are likely the bare minimum we’re going to have to provide.

  13. This post by Ian seems almost intentionally designed to “literally trigger” me. And, so it did. I had a vitriolic (yeah, more so than usual…) response ready to go, all I had to do was hit “Post Comment”, and it would be here in all of its sarcastic glory.

    However, comma… Didn’t happen, because I got called away from the keyboard, and had second thoughts upon re-reading it.

    See, here’s the issue: There are two entirely different worldviews at odds, here. There is the one typified by Ian and a lot of his readership that’s wrapped more around the weapon itself than about how it is used. The other school, of course, is “How the hell are these things used, and what good are they…?”

    The dichotomy goes back a long, long way: Think about how distorted our ideas are, about swords. Everyone focuses on them, rather than the weapons that were actually the meat and potatoes of the battlefield, things like polearms. Outside some very specific and oddly emphasized stuff in Japanese manga, hardly anyone focuses on things like the naginata, which arguably were far more effective in most combat actions than swords.

    So… Ian is fascinated by the firearms equivalent of the sword in these terms. That’s who he writes for, and it is why he (and, his audience…) aren’t interested in the things that I find really fascinating and interesting, like the tripods and doctrine of the machinegun. Hardly anyone is, to be honest… The “romance of the Kentucky rifle” and the accompanying distortions surrounding the “individual rifleman” stem directly from this.

    Go take a look at NGSW: Millions for the rifle/MG, not a goddamn dime for a better tripod, rangefinder, fire control system… Or, training on those things.

    The whole utterly ridiculous idea of a “battle rifle” comes straight out of this world where the focus is on the wrong weapon. “Battle rifles” ceased to really have tactical effect about the time that we finally stopped with the idea of massed volley fire with individual soldiers shooting at kilometer-long ranges. That role went bye-bye due to the MG coming along, and distilling the effect provided by thousands of infantrymen spread out into huge targets into something that four or five men could provide from a single weapon. As such, the entire thought process leading up to “battle rifle” is essentially a 19th Century concept that the idjit class hasn’t quite gotten through their heads. Out past 400m, in combat, you’re highly unlikely to be able to get the average soldier to engage point targets at all effectively; such engagements are edge cases, ones that see high-value targets engaged by specialist shooters who are given the opportunity and time to do so because there are other guys drawing the fire and laying down suppression with their weapons. Trying to make every soldier a “designated marksman” is an admirable goal, but it isn’t one that makes the slightest amount of sense from a pragmatic tactical point of view. The money and time you spend lavishing that sort of training on the mass of your troops will evaporate under the weight of enemy fire in combat, the same way that the “Old Contemptibles” of the British Empire withered away under the systematic concentrated fire of the more rationally-organized German Army.

    As another observer said of an earlier British effort, “It is magnificent, but it is not war…”

    The thing here is that the issue isn’t the weapon, it’s how it is used. NGSW is an artifact of the same world that produced the delusional concept of the “battle rifle”, the same way that that “school” produced the M14 and the 7.62mm NATO. It comes of a world-view that refuses to examine what really goes on in combat, and romanticizes the “individual rifleman” much the same way popular culture romanticizes the sword; the rifle, in the end, ceased being the major weapon in infantry combat about the time the MG came along and became practical. Yet, we still insist on treating them as if they’re “the main thing” in combat, when they manifestly are no more than local security tools to keep the real killing machines in operation… The MG, the mortar, and the RTO. You put your money into the rifles when you fantasize about the riflemen being the primary “arm of decision”, when the reality is, they aren’t. The arm of decision throughout most of the 20th Century was the MG team and the mortar, along with that guy calling in fire from supporting artillery and air power.

    Today, I suspect that the same fundamental error is being made with regards to drones. The idjit class is going to continue to focus on the romantic “sword” sort of thing, ignoring the fact that most if not all of the killing is being enabled or conducted by the drone team…

    NGSW ought rightly, instead of trying to produce “mo’ bettah” rifles, be focused on doing a better job of enabling precise MG fires, integrated with targetfinding, and indirect support fires. If I’d been running the program, I’d have likely looked at the weapons, said “Yeah, these are adequate… We need better and more accurate ways of laying them on the enemy, more than anything else…”

    I’d have purchased a modernized Lafette that could go with the infantry into combat, issued observation and range finding gear, revamped the training for MG teams, and implemented a design program meant to produce a truly integrated solution for fire control/observation down at the squad level. Those things would have produced results, in much shorter time than the idiocy we see with this recapitulation of the M14 and 7.62mm fiasco.

    You will note that ain’t nobody in Ukraine right now talking about “needing overmatch”. They’re all perfectly content with the current small arms suite, and for good goddamned reason: It works.

    NGSW is too big, too heavy, and addresses the exact wrong things about the issue. The development and provenance of the term “battle rifle” is part and parcel of the entire sorry system, the one that is still locked into the idea of the individual shooter being the “arm of decision”, as they were back on the mass formation battlefields of the 19th Century. The entire concept and worldview encapsulated in “Battle Rifle” is utter folly, and indicative of a near-total sense of denial and delusion about how combat works in the modern world.

    The only rational actors in all of the 20th Century that I can even begin to defend are the Germans, who put the idea of the GPMG on the map, and then rationally built out their tactical system on it. They didn’t leave the Kar98k as their basic infantry weapon by accident; that was done because they rightly recognized the real place of the “individual rifleman” on the battlefield, and that was absolutely and emphatically not as the “arm of decision” for the small unit action. That role died on the battlefields of the 19th Century, and even today, all too many people fail to recognize that fact.

    The raw and unpleasant fact here is that “battle rifle” is a term by which you can identify people who use it as being essentially non-serious contributors to the discussion of small-unit tactics and military affairs. They’re the same sort of people that yammer on and on about the katana or Romano/Iberian short sword, while ignoring the fact that the polearms and projectile weapons did most of the actual, y’know… Killing.

    I suspect, strongly, that this whole issue revolves around the Walter Mitty mindset that has more people focused on the romantic aspects of it all, rather than the practical ones. You see very few works of historical fiction written from the standpoint of the guys in the ranks; most works of fiction tend to focus on the more “romantic” officers and leaders, the ones with the swords, which feeds into the entire fallacy of those swords being at all significant in military terms… The delusion is strong, even thousands of years after we last had battles centered around such foolish things as swords.

    Were you to really have an honest appraisal, most of the interest would be on the polearms that did the majority of the tactical work. Instead, it’s “sword this, and sword that…”, incessantly yammering on about all the accessory items that were usually worn only by the leaders.

    Individual weapons like the rifle are in the same delusional category, thus “battle rifle”. Rifles ain’t won a battle by themselves since maybe the 1870s, folks: Get over it.

    • To revert to the 1960s, right on.

      Except I’d go further and say that you have to look even further back to see the infantry as the “arm of decision”. Damned near as far as you’d have to reach back to show cavalry in that role’.

      I could argue that it was infantry armed with the smoothbore musket (not the over-rated “rifle-musket”) that was the last bunch of foot-sloggers who won a battle with their (more-or-less directed) firepower. Namely, at Waterloo on Sunday, 18 June 1815.

      Except that even then, most of the actual casualties were inflicted not by infantry musketry but by artillery, specifically artillery firing “shrapnel”. What everybody but the British later more sensibly called “spherical case”.

      SC plus canister were the premier infantry and cavalry killers from about the Seven Years’ War on. You can probably thank Frederick the Great of Prussia for that. Gustav II Adolf Vasa may have first made field artillery a serious threat on the battlefield (or at least his artillery chief, Lennart Torstensson did), but it was “Alte Fritze” who made artillery the Queen of Battle; the killing arm that dominated the battlefield, never mind the noble hussars’ and etc.’s fantasies of “martial glory”.

      After that, right through the “rifle-musket” period (which only lasted about a decade, from Balaclava to Gettysburg), spherical case, shell, and (at under 400 meters’ range) canister, all fired from smoothbore gun-howitzers in direct-fire mode, ruled the battlefield. By essentially making mincemeat of everybody else on same.

      The last battle you can truly say was probably won by infantry alone was Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. And that may simply have been because it was raining like an SOB, bogging down everybody, getting armored knights stuck in the mud, wetting everybody’s bowstrings, denying the falcons and culverins visible targets, and turning the whole soggy mess into a pike-vs-English bill free-for-all. Hence proving what Wellington supposedly said 330 years later; “ The purpose of cavalry on the battlefield is to lend tone to what would otherwise be merely an unseemly brawl.

      Right through to the end of the smoothbore muzzle-loading field artillery period, the gun-howitzer firing spherical case and canister accounted for the majority of casualties on every battlefield it put in an appearance at.

      The first major war fought in the breechloading rifled-artillery period, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, showed what artillery was evolving into. It reached maturity in Flanders in 1914-1918, and its apotheosis on the Eastern Front in 1941-45, a fact often completely missed by Western historians to this day. Simply put, it killed anything that moved, tried to move, or looked like it was even thinking about trying to move.

      Everywhere else, airpower got all the good press, by people who didn’t really understand that four-engined heavy bombers were simply a form of very long-ranged heavy artillery. The high-tech descendants of Baron Menno von Coohorn’s first mortar. Why batter your way through a fortress’ walls when you can hammer it flat from above?

      The wars that major powers have lost since then have pretty much all been the same kind of wars. Ones in which the enemy was dispersed, in small groups, acting more like bandits or raiders than a cohesive army, and thus forcing the major power to try to engage them mainly without artillery as the decisive arm.

      Airpower can help, but in the end, if you’re having to engage guerrillas or etc. force-on-force primarily with infantry, one of two things is going to happen.

      1. At some point your political masters are going to get fed up, so are your civilian populations, and you’re going to have to give up and leave. Enemy Wins. (Vietnam, Somalia 1996-1999, Iraq 2004-2012, Afghanistan whenever, etc.)

      2. Your political masters get pissed-off enough that the gloves come off and you hammer “them” with everything you’ve got. You Win, more or less.(OIF 2003, Gaza today.)

      The only sure thing is that if you try to fight “irregulars” on anything like their terms, you are going to lose. They have the “home field advantage”.

      And when you have fantasies of the infantry being the decisive arm, with the individual rifleman being the hero who will win the war for you, that is exactly the bear trap you are sticking your “short arm” into.

      And when it trips, it is going to hurt like Hell.

      clear ether


      • Ah, eon, old buddy…

        It’s the Infantry who’re supposed to be the “Queen of Battle”, and Artillery that is the “King”.

        Mostly because, as one wry old infantryman put it to me, the King is constantly and consistently f*cking the Queen in the ass…

        Just spotted this error on a re-read, and I couldn’t let it go… Sorry!! 🙂

    • Kirk:

      I thought you would have something to say on this one. Trouble is, things like more training and better tripods are not really sexy are they? Things like that don’t build careers, whereas new rifles and cartridges do. Think how much it will cost just to stock up on 6.8mm rounds. That’s the way to get on a company board after you retire.

      One thing puzzles me about the infantry half kilometre thing. It seems to have been the case that the taliban were engaging our troops at over 500 metres. Question: what with? Most seemed to have standard AKs, so it wasn’t them. Would it just have been PKs? Is that what this new weapons system is an answer to? A few taliban with 7.62x54R machine guns? It is hardly news that a full power machine gun can fire with effect at more than 500m is it?

      • John K,

        Sadly, I don’t really think we actually “know” what the hell the deal was, in Afghanistan. Because, we never really bothered to look for it.

        Based on the subjective (purely so, I might add…) reports that were made to me personally, and the after-actions reviews that I had access to, I don’t believe that anyone was really doing more than “We took fire; PFB Bob got hit, sounded about like a PK to me, and I think they were shooting from about 800+ meters from us…”

        What they were using to do that? LOL… Unimportant!! We don’t need to know, really…

        Except, we really did.

        I ran into nobody that put eyes-on the MG systems that were shooting at them while they were shooting; could have been some dude with a PK standing up and firing from the hip, for all we know. I rather think, from the effects? They were PK MG systems on tripods, locked in and operated by guys who knew what they were doing, and who’d pre-registered a lot of their fires.

        Precisely the skill-at-arms shown by the various German Alpenjager units in WWII. Nothing particularly special, but you’d have thought we were fighting Superman from the way our forces went about dealing with it… As well, nobody went out to really gather the data, determine what the actual source of this “overmatch” was. Something I find unconscionable, but then… I’m that kind of guy.

        The reality is that our problems were not our weapons, but how we employed them. Number one, you don’t get into a small-arms fight with insurgents; that’s like fighting a midget by getting on your knees and never standing up. He’s gonna beat your ass with experience, if nothing else.

        The math is vicious: You can only achieve about 800m off of a bipod with a machinegun. Past that, you need a locked-down tripod and a well-trained crew, plus observers that know what they’re doing. And, do note: I am not talking about Carlos Hathcock, here. I’m talking about the average infantryman, the lowest common tactical denominator. If you want to engage with small arms alone, which is infinitely stupid in an environment like Afghanistan, you need to have tripods with you, mortars, and observation assets that can tell you down to the inch where the enemy is. So… Yeah. Tell me again how any of NGSW addresses that problem set?

        They fundamentally screwed the pooch with their definition of the problem, mainly because they were purblind morons with agendas. Wanna know how you “dominate the infantry half-kilometer”? With machineguns and mortars, not individual weapons. And, you do it only by delivering accurate and timely fire onto properly identified enemy targets, leaving none of them alive to have benefited from “On-the-Job Training”.

        Which is why you also don’t allow any survivors to get off of any battlefield where they’ve dared to so much as raise a finger against your forces. It’s pest control, and you don’t let the pests live so that they might breed more pests.

        So much of what we did in both Afghanistan and Iraq was pure wrong-headedness. And, I rather doubt that the military commanders we have are going to do any better in any war that we have to fight: They are operating under a mindset that does not begin to envisage objective assessments of reality. NGSW shows that; the current lack of salvage and logistics vessels in both the Army and the Navy fleet show that. These are not adaptable people, capable of learning: They won’t even recognize that there’s a lesson to be learned, out there. They’ll do fine if the enemy is equally blinkered and comes on at them in the same old way, but… Yeah. That ain’t the way I’d be betting.

        “Battle rifle” is a symptom, writ in the terms of terminology. There hasn’t been a battle won by a rifle since… Good Christ… The mid-19th Century?

        • Kirk:

          Rourke’s Drift springs to mind, 1879. A triumph for the Martini-Henry.

          Did the taliban even have tripods? I’ve never seen one. They travelled light, really light. Until they came into $85 billion worth of US kit. Now they probably cruise in Humvees. Thanks, Brandon.

          I imagine allied troops came under fire from taliban with PKs on the bipod, nothing more. These were not sophisticated guys. Your suggestions are apt, but, as I said, no-one ever got on the board of Military Industrial Complex Inc by recommending more training.

          • The question of whether or not the Taliban had tripods was never really addressed and/or answered.

            From the effects they generated at the ranges they were supposedly firing from? They either had tripods and working MG doctrine, or they had something just about as good. I cannot see any other means by which they could have done what they did, with the beaten zones they were creating at the ranges they were.

            You never saw pictures of tripods ‘cos those ain’t sexy, and nobody takes pictures like that, not for publication. It’s a part and parcel of the whole discussion here, wherein people that don’t know what’s important make decisions about what to portray and publicize. If I were wanting to show off the professionalism of my forces, and knew I was doing so for a qualified and equally professional audience…? Then, I’d damn sure be laying on the public relations show demonstrating the proficiency and proper equipping of my MG teams. If not? Well, I’d be showing the knuckle-dragging public what they thought was sexy, like guys humping guns on their shoulders through the bush, with ammo belts akimbo, like they were Frito Bandito-esque assclowns…

            You can’t go by what you saw or didn’t see portrayed; you have to go by what effects were generated, and those were very obviously either tripod-based fires, or something else they figured out. What that might have been? Dunno; maybe some esoteric technique of locking the guns in so as to provide more stability than from the shoulder/bipod? If you had the ability to pick where the engagement was going to be, you could likely improvise something with tree branches or rocks and wire…

          • Remember that Bush started the crap in Afghanistan. Then Obama continued it. Then trump invited the taliban to camp David. And trump came up with the withdrawal plan. But didn’t follow through. And Biden implemented that plan because he was bound to it. So Joe Biden finally ended the disaster that Bush started and everyone else was too chickenshit to stop.

          • A bipod just means another 15-year-old boy to carry it. No big deal. Spotting is more intriguing.

          • Kirk:

            I cannot definitively say the whether the taliban did or did not use tripods. They certainly had PKs, and it must have been these which were firing on the allied troops from 500+ metres. Was this fire effective? I don’t know. It must have felt effective for troops on the receiving end, armed only with 5.56mm weapons. Does that justify a new rifle, machine gun and ammunition? No. But recommending using what we’ve got, but with more and better training? Clearly that concept does not work.

            Let’s see who turns up on the board of SIG in a few years’ time.

          • Well, from the standpoint of generating employment for connected senior officers and sales for the military-industrial complex… I think we can safely assert that Taliban PK fire was effective.

            One of the things that really just pulled my chain about the whole “overmatch” thing was the emotional and subjective nature of the issue. You started asking questions about “Hey, just how big were the beaten zones you guys were experiencing…?”, and there was a near-total lack of good subjective information. From the way the guys described it to me, and from what I found in written AARs, it sure seems as if the fires they were getting came off of tripod-mounted guns.

            But… As I said, nobody was really going out and doing the necessary when it came to actually getting good data on just what was going on. It could have been massed PKs firing off bipods, relying on volume to achieve effect at long range, but… Nobody I know even bothered to look.

            That’s where a lot of this crap falls down: It’s all emotion-driven bullshit with very little actual data backing it up. The opportunity arose to sell “overmatch”, and here we are. Actual point of fact as to whether or not we were really, truly “overmatched”? I don’t think that the fact was ever truly established. Pure subjective emotional analysis.

            Which statement will hurt some feelings, but from my perspective, that’s the goddamn fact. We took fire, couldn’t effectively answer it with our tools, and people responded without really doing the required thought.

            I mean, hell… The guys firing the XM-25 they put in the field over there for testing were enthused about the weapon, so long as they didn’t have to carry it… But, most importantly, nobody ever really established what the f*ck it was doing downrange. All they could ever tell you was “We fired the XM-25, and the enemy stopped shooting at us…”

            The issue of “why” was never addressed or answered, and like so much of our small arms realm of thought, there’s a gaping vacancy around that question. Were the Taliban ending the engagement because they were dead? Or, because the US was firing something new and weird at them? What were the actual effects, downrange?

            Nobody knows. Nobody really bothered to go do solid BDA, from everything I’ve been told.

            Almost all of US small arms procurement is based on emotion and subjective impressions of the soldiers. Hell, go back and look at the issues surrounding the M14 in Vietnam, when they dragged in the M16 to replace it: There’s jack and sh*t for actual, y’know… Numbers, to back that decision up. It was all “emotion and feels”, because some guys were feeling let down due to the amount of fire that they were getting from the VC and NVA fire complex. Accurate numbers never existed… Thinking about it, the M14 could well have been doing a decent job, but because the differential in volumes of fire was there, the emotions got involved. And, here we are…

            All of this deserves rather more research and much better numbers before making decisions, as well as a scientific and documented rational process being applied. One that we could be doing, today, with all the drones and other assets we have on the battlefield. Yet, ain’t nobody bothering…

          • Kirk:

            Has anyone done any of this sort of research since SLA Marshall? And even he made most of it up.

            To my mind, the taliban were hit and run guys. They would not want to get into a pitched battle with allies which might end in an air trike. So a belt of 7.62mm at 500m would have done just fine. They knew they would out range the allies armed with 5.56mm and all get safely back to the cave for supper. Goat stew if they’re lucky.

            The important thing to remember is that they did not defeat America, any more than North Vietnam did. America just got bored and went away.

          • @JohnK,

            So far as I know, ain’t nobody done the research. Ever. Not so as to get numbers I’d trust, at least.

            The thing is, the data they’ve got is based on stuff they can get data on; it’s like the old joke about the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight, because that’s where the light is, although he actually lost his keys waaaaay over there, in the dark where he fell down…

            It’s all circular reasoning based on subjective and emotional impressions. No hard data, nothing objective… Nothing replicable.

            Which means it ain’t science. It’s purest flim-flammery, if you go by what there is out there.

            The answers to the question of which weapon is doing what are important, but we don’t even know that because we never look. I mean, I would love to know what the hell goes on in the average firefight, just what it is that happens. But… We don’t know because nobody goes and looks for the data. You would think that it’d be easy to do, with the current drone technology, and how everything is getting wired for sound, but even with full top-down surveillance, you have problems figuring out what the hell is going on.

            I think I told the story about the guys in Iraq that thought they were shooting back at the enemy, but were shooting at an empty hillside while the enemy actually got whacked by a third party we never identified, but who was probably the enemy’s fire support element… We watched that happen in real time, but nobody ever had a clue where the hell the fire came from that effectively wiped out the guys shooting at ours, or who was doing the shooting. Color of the tracer tends to make me believe it was enemy blue-on-blue, but who really knows?

            The facts are out there, but nobody looks. We really need to get some research going, and then do actual forensic investigations on the battlefield. Like, what round did what to whom, and when did it happen? Wouldn’t really be all that hard to get to at least the edges of the data, by simple aerial observation.

            I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of our subjectively developed ideas about combat are totally wrong. I know for a fact that just about every AAR ever conducted at the National Training Center, which is wired for one-over-the-world eye of God data collection, heavily featured what could charitably described as utter delusion on the part of participants as to what actually happened in combat. You’d have the commanders all the way from Battalion down to individual tank confidently get up and describe what they thought they saw, and time after time, the Observer/Controller leading the AAR would have to get up and say “Yeah… About that… Here’s what actually happened…” Which would usually be something completely different from what the training unit thought had happened.

            In real live combat, I think it’s even worse; there’s never any corrective. I think there are psychological factors going on that we don’t fully grasp, and that we ought to be doing after-action interviews with POWs taken, to find out what the hell they thought was happening, while also doing scientific forensics on the KIA and WIA. Right now, you can get some reliable data on the edges of things by examining what got back by way of the casualty system, but even that’s questionable. It’d be nice to know, for example, how our guys got hit, what did it, and who fired it.

            Right now? No way of telling, because we’ve never bothered to look at it. We need to, rather badly, because the lack of data is leading us to go down these ridiculous rat-holes like NGSW.

          • Kirk:

            I agree with what you say, we really do need this knowledge. The problem is to design the programme so that there is something in it for General Dynamics. Unless you can spend a few billion and get a seat on the board when you retire, who’s interested?

          • @ Kirk
            “Has anyone done any of this sort of research since SLA Marshall?”

            Yes, “OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR AN INFANTRY HAND WEAPON” by Norman A. Hitchman (John Hopkins University, for the Department of the Army) with statistical analysis by Scott E. Forbush and George J. Blakemore, Jr.

          • @Dogwalker,

            I’d quibble with you about the “…since Marshall…” thing. That study you cite dates back to 1951, and was based not on actual battlefield research, but scholarship and testing conducted with basic trainees at the Engineer Replacement Center at Fort Belvoir.

            Not a hell of a lot of actual combat data, there.

            And, while I agree with the conclusions they reached, I have to question the means by which they were actually come by. To me, the path to knowledge has to go through analyzing actual combat actions forensically, not calculating hit rates from training sessions during initial entry training…

            I think I said it before: Most of the studies that I’ve seen on this stuff are more “looking for lost keys under the lamppost” than anything else: Lots of effort and money expended on the things we can access easily, rather than doing the difficult work of investigating what really happened.

            If you go look at the work done at the Little Big Horn battle site, you get an appreciation for the sort of thing you have to have going in order to actually analyze a battle. And, what’s missing from most contemporary study of the issue.

            If someone had done with Wanat what they did at Little Big Horn, and then reached the conclusions resulting in NGSW, I’d have very little trouble accepting things about that program. As they manifestly did not do any such thing, I am and shall remain dubious as to the entire proposition of “overmatch” even being a real issue.