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Old April 24, 2012, 10:14 AM   #1
BlueTrain
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Is full auto necessary?

This ought to make the flames burn bright and high but don't get me wrong! I'm not asking if people should be allowed to own something full auto. That was covered pretty thoroughly in another thread in which I made some comments, if not exactly made any contributions. So I guess this is more from a military point of view. I'm also limiting this to individual infantry weapons, not Maxims, M1917 Brownings or the like.

In the beginning, as it says in an old book, someone invented the submachine gun and the military man was gladdened. Some were not but later when the scales fell from their eyes (after liberal application of bore cleaner), they saw the light and were converted.

At just about the same time the light machine gun was also introduced, which also went under different variations as automatic rifle and machine rifle. And the military man was abundantly enriched. Then came another war to spoil what remained of real soldiering.

That war brought the intermediate cartridge and the assault rifle. It had a full auto capability as did all that followed in the form of the AR series, the AK series and such like. They were select fire, as even were some light machine guns, to better fool the enemy, I can only assume. Most of the new rifles built around the 7.62 NATO also had or were intended to have select fire capability but in more cases than not, that was a dead end switch.

So here's the question for the learned and literate among the readers here: is a full auto capability, including burst fire, a practical and useful thing for an infantry soldier to have on his basic rifle? I don't know but I'm sure the opinions are there. Either way, apparently most armies seem to think so, although none seem to believe in machine guns they way they did years ago. I just wonder what was gained and what was lost.
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Old April 24, 2012, 07:07 PM   #2
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Maybe for the guy on point.
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Old April 24, 2012, 08:50 PM   #3
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In combat, the M4 is pretty much exclusively fired in semi-auto mode.

You can't lay down continued full-auto suppressive fire with a closed bolt gun for very long before things go wrong with your weapon. If you have to lay down full-auto suppressive fire with your battle rifle, it's a real bad day and hope to get out of the situation quick.
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Old April 24, 2012, 09:13 PM   #4
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A buddy of mine, who served in the Army for more than 15 years, first as an Army Ranger then as a Green Beret, put it this way when I posed the same question.

I'll paraphrase
Infantry men love to have the capacity for full auto fire, even if we rarely if ever use it. It's kinda like carrying a condom in your rucksack, even if you know you won't use it, it's nice to know it's there..... And nothing says you mean business like a quick 'rrrrippp'
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Old April 24, 2012, 09:22 PM   #5
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Full auto is rarely used in combat because it's inaccurate and a waste of valuable ammunition. Laying down cover yes, everything else no.
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Old April 25, 2012, 12:03 AM   #6
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I wasn't there, but the infantry officer in my agency who was, said that Viet Nam ambush response called for dumping an M16 magazine in the general direction of the attack as you dove for cover, then reload, set semi, and look for targets.

Odd TO&E trivia. In early NATO era, our new friends in Italy got a lot of Garands from us, even the plans to build their own. But they had a lot of Beretta SMG parts and manufacturing capability, too. When Jac Weller toured the armies of the Western World for the American Rifleman in those days, he found an Italian squad of eight with two M1s and six SMGs. And an old Breda MMG not far away.
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Old April 25, 2012, 06:05 AM   #7
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It's nice that someone remembers Jac Weller, who first became famous as a football player at Princeton University, before starting to write about firearms. He lived the rest of his life in New Jersey.

During the 1940s and 1950s, some military units, mainly Soviet, were armed principally with submachine guns and you can't say the Soviets had no experience in fighting. I don't know if Jac Weller did or not. Anyway, in looking at a couple of articles he wrote for, I think, Guns magazine, maybe Guns & Ammo, it is surprising how long ago that was and what contemporary military equipment was at the time, fifty years ago.
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Old April 25, 2012, 06:14 AM   #8
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Yes.
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Old April 25, 2012, 08:50 AM   #9
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Its nice to know that you have it and although its not used in every situation it it a handy tool to have. Occassion full auto is fun to shoot but I practicality its wasteful for suppression and support you can't beat it.
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Old April 25, 2012, 09:07 AM   #10
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If I was the point man in a conflict like Vietnam, and knew that I was the guy who would make first contact, I would want full auto simply so that I could attempt to gain local fire superiority before running back yelling "CONTACT FRONT!"

Or if I an agent in the USSS or DSS, I would want a compact full auto to once again gain local fire superiorty to break contact and wait for the Counter Assualt Team to show up. (Topical humor refrained from)

So, in a word, yes. Full auto, even on the individual level has it's place.
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Old April 26, 2012, 01:43 PM   #11
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Shifts in thinking, over time...

Due to experience gained in war, and technology improvements.

WWII saw the employment of several different tactical philosophies, some of which prooved out, others were dropped. Not everything the losers did was wrong, nor was all the winners did, right.

Before that war, the US saw the machinegun (heavy/med) as support for the rifle squad, and included the BAR (machinegun, light) as integeral support.

The Germans saw the rifle squad as support for the machinegun (med/light).

One thing the US did before, and during the early part of the war was train soldiers to shoot when they had a target. Suppressive fire was the job of the machinegun, only. Actual combat prooved this to be poor doctrine. Veterans would teach replacements to shoot anything that might hide an enemy, and shoot it often...especially in dense environments like jungles...

With the overall shift to select fire rifles and lighter cartridges in the decades after WWII, the benefit of massive firepower is clear. Each soldier with an assault rifle has a light machine gun in their hands, for as long as they can keep the gun cool enough to run, and the ammo holds out.

Training is key, early on it was found that soldiers in the field would almost always go full auto, and leave them there. Today, from what I hear, that's not the case, or not like it was.

Since we can have it, and at times it is very useful, we should have it. However, it is vital that soldiers be trained on when the drawbacks to full auto fire outweigh the benefits. Otherwise, I think it can do more harm, than good.
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Old April 26, 2012, 03:25 PM   #12
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Good post, Mr AMP, although you simplified things a little.

The Germans employed both light machine guns at section/squad level and heavy (now called medium) machine guns at a higher level. They were both the same guns, of course, but the so-called heavy machine gun tended to be used on a tripod with a telescopic sight. Twice as many spare barrels were carried, too. The principal machine guns throughout the war were the MG34 and the MG42, though other machine guns were also used. The Germans also realized that like they had always said, machine guns can waste ammunition, so they tended to impose strict fire discipline in their use.

The Bren gun was came with a tripod but I've never seen a photo of one in actual use. The Browning light machine gun at platoon level in US service was always used on a tripod until they attached a shoulder stock and bipod in imitation of the German practice. During WWII, the British and Canadians employed the Vickers in battalion sized units and were evidentally great believers in machine guns for indirect fire. I suppose that's no longer done.

I meant, in my original post, if full auto was a useful thing to have in an infantry rifle and it seems more think that it is than not. But I imagine more opinions will be around eventually.
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Old April 26, 2012, 03:45 PM   #13
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Another question is whether it is necessary in ways other than actual combat, and that answer is a definite yes. When Marines went ashore in Lebanon with M1 rifles, they were the laughing stock of the mid-east. Now, trained Marines with M1 rifles are hardly unarmed compared to third rate, "spray and pray" thugs armed with AK-47's, but the lack of FA capability was perceived by friends and enemies alike as showing the US as behind the arms curve, a second class power.

That is why the M14 was rushed into service, and why the US had to adopt a more feasible selective fire rifle. The M16 was not especially liked by Army ordnance, but it was available and its caliber made it controllable in FA fire, so it was chosen. The alternative, simply adopting the AK-47, was definitely NOT politically acceptable!

Originally, light auto weapons were not really intended to deal with large numbers of enemies; the intent was to increase the hit probability by putting out more bullets at an individual target. While "spray and pray" might be useful in some situations, as described by others, usually aimed semi-auto or short burst fire will do the job better.

Jim
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Old April 26, 2012, 04:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
I suppose that's no longer done
It is still taught. Indirect Fire employment and aiming techniques are still trained to. MCWP 3-15.1 provides some detail on employing from a Defiled Position.

As a Historical note:
H.W. McBride in his book about WW1 talks in great detail about massing multiple machine gun sections to concentrate indirect fire on pre-registered targets such as cross roads behind the German front lines. As the Germans rushed up reinforcements in response to a raid or full on attack, they would be met by a downpour of machine gun fire.
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Old April 26, 2012, 05:50 PM   #15
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I gotta admit though, since I reload and cast my own boolits, it would be fun to own a 1927 A1 with a big drum mag to go have fun with.

I have a 6 cavity 225 gr LRN mould, and a Dillon 550B set up for 45acp. This is just the ticket for keeping one of those baby's fed.
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Old April 27, 2012, 07:19 AM   #16
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Thank you for your reply, Mr K. I was including burst fire capability as "full auto," though I realize there is a difference, even if the government doesn't.

You all probably know that some machine guns have either a selector switch for single-shot repeating fire and some have a regulator to adjust the rate of from from low to high. Some older machine guns had a fairly low rate of fire. I remember an article, which I think I saved and stashed away somewhere, about the German MG1, I think it was, that was basically an advertisement for the product. They went into some detail in the text about why a machine gun should have a high rate of fire. It was interesting reading.

I do know it isn't difficult to empty a full 20-round magazine with either an M14 or an AR-15, so the difference between burst fire and semi-automatic fire is more academic than real.
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Old April 27, 2012, 08:19 AM   #17
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The BAR had selective fire capability, though I wouldn't want to try and fire an accurate single shot from that weapon due to it's open bolt and weight.

That being said, I would say the BAR is a pretty good example of full auto in an individual weapon, as shown by the use of BARs by Marine walking point in the jungles of the Pacific.
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Old April 27, 2012, 10:23 AM   #18
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You are correct about it being an individual weapon, which rather sets it apart from the practice in other armies with regards to the squad automatic weapon. I believe that even in other armies that used the BAR or a variation thereof, it was treated as a crew served weapon. Most other armies definitely treated their squad automatic that way. In the French army of 1940, the No. 2 man on the light machine gun was armed only with a .32 automatic. On the other hand, it may be that the BAR had a lower basic load of ammunition than other similiar weapons and the BAR gunner had to carry it all himself. The British practice was to distribute magazines among the other members of the rifle section to give something like at least 500 rounds for the Bren but there was still a No. 2 Bren gunner. However, the basic load for a rifleman was only 50 rounds of rifle ammo, or one bandolier. That would have been supplemented by one or two more bandolier's worth of ammo before going into action, however. That did not change until quite recently, either. According to the British manual for the SLR published in the 1960s (I don't have my copy in front of me), a rifleman only had three magazines.
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Old April 27, 2012, 01:09 PM   #19
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Quote:
According to the British manual for the SLR published in the 1960s (I don't have my copy in front of me), a rifleman only had three magazines
It is surprising (to me anyways) how little ammo troops sometimes carried. "In Helmet for My Pillow" Robert Leckie talks about going on a Guadalcanal patrol with a M1928 Thompson, a "top Cocker" with one magazine in the gun and one spare in his shirt pocket. I don't know if that was on purpose (if so Why? save weight maybe?) or because of ammo shortages. On that patrol as rear security Leckie ambushed a Japanese patrol using their same trail and killed 2-4 of them with a sustained burst from his Thompson.
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Old April 27, 2012, 02:38 PM   #20
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In photos from WWII, it usually looks like nearly all troops of all combatants are equipped rather lightly. But there was by then good logistic backup most of the time, with some notable exceptions. Mountain troops tended to carry the most and have the most problems with resupply. US troops in Italy sometimes had to use animal transport as did German troops fighting in the Caucauses (where I assume they were fighting Caucasians).

Manuals not withstanding, troops going into the assault would have carried additional ammunition and grenades, undoubtedly.
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Old April 27, 2012, 03:44 PM   #21
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Ignore old post. I read the OP last night, came on today, and STILL "posted without reading"

--IMO:

I think full auto or a burst has a place in combat. I would imagine it would help you hit a moving target, or one thats popping back and forth. Three dice in the game instead of one.

This is kind of how i feel about things like 5.56 and 5.7, they are multiple hit scenarios, and their effectiveness is based on landing 2-3, or in the case of the 5.7, 10-15 hits.

Im sure people will disagree with that, im not saying either isnt deadly. Im just saying small fast bullets go hand in hand with automatic fire, and currently the armed forces like both.

Give 'em semi auto SCAR's in 7.62 I say!

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Old April 27, 2012, 03:48 PM   #22
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Bad choice of words. I was asking in so many words if it was a useful option to have on a basic infantry rifle, if there is still such a thing.

I don't know about oatmeal but I could probably subsist on a diet of beans for a long time. That's what I grew up eating.
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Old April 27, 2012, 08:48 PM   #23
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We have, (hopefully) learned a greast deal from our past mistakes, or, if we haven't, we aren't hearing as much about current mistakes as what we find when we study the past. Perhaps in a decade or so we will hear about where we are screwing up nowdays.

The Guadalcanal campaign is a classic example of how we can literally leave our boys in the lurch, and they can still win.

While the Marines were able to land without opposition on Guadalcanal, Fletcher bugged out with the carriers much earlier than the plan called for. Without the security of air cover, the transports left well before the unloading was finished. AND, to top it off, the transports had not been properly "combat loaded" to begin with. In other words, what was unloaded was what was there to be unloaded, not necessarily what the Marines needed most, first.

Food was short, and so was ammo. Jap supplies were eaten, (and to this day I know 'Canal vets who will NOT eat rice!) but ammo, well, all there was was all there was. Marines with Springfields were given 40rnds, and told this was to last them 2 weeks in combat! And not all got that much. The Marines took a beating, and so did the Navy. But we did prevail. Guadalcanal serves as a textbook example of how not to do it. Even though we did win, we were determined never to repeat those mistakes. And we haven't. We've made others, some just as costly, but we have learned from them.

We learned a lot about fire discipline, when it is important, and when it is vital. Today, with a fully professional military, and each troop carrying a full auto rifle (more or less), our world class logistics & supply system, our guys seldom get in a situation where they run short of ammo. Batteries,now, that seems to be our new Achilles heel....
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Old April 27, 2012, 09:18 PM   #24
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Just learning

What a great read! I enjoy the forums I frequent so I can learn. Great stuff!

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Old April 27, 2012, 09:30 PM   #25
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I personally do not think there is a place for FA on an basic infantry rifle. I can't even wrap my mind around 3 shot burst. (Of course I've never been shot at so could change my mind if I were military). I can see a need for a squad automatic weapon. That would seem like a good idea.

How big is a squad? It's one SAW per ?? soldiers?
Does a LMG fill the same role as a SAW?
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