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Old August 15, 2012, 03:48 PM   #1
militant
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Modern weapons vs WW2 era weapons

It seems like the standard battle rifles of ww2 packed more punch than modern weapons. What are your thoughts on this. Why did they change?
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Old August 15, 2012, 04:04 PM   #2
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This is going to be a quick reply. It's a long story.

They did, mostly. But it was another 20 to 50 years before there was a change made in most places and even so, it wasn't an overnight change anywhere. For example, the National Guard was armed with M1 rifles and BARs into the 1970s.

Oddly enough, considering the question, the change began during WWII itself when the Germans began issuing a rifle with the first intermediate cartridge. The reasoning was that ordinary infantrymen did not make hits much beyond 300 yards, or in the case of the Germans, meters. The use of a lower power cartridge basically increased the firepower of the individual rifleman. They retained their full power cartridge for machine guns and sniper rifles. Even so, bolt action rifles stayed in production in some places for another ten years or even longer in places.

It was an advance of sorts but it should also be noted that when bolt action and semi-automatic full grown rifles were the normal weapon of an infantryman, submachine guns were in widespread use, more so in some places than in others but the reason was essentially the same as for intermediate cartridge weapons: more firepower for the infantry.

It was really the Soviets who took the ball and ran with it in the late 1940s, although the first weapon fielded that used their version of an intermediate cartridge was just another ten-shot semi-automatic rifle.

Apparently the whole concept of an intermediate cartridge now going on beyond retirement age is still somewhat controversial in some quarters, just like using those new-fangled self-loading pistols.
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Old August 15, 2012, 04:46 PM   #3
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Why did they change?
There were a number of reasons. I read somewhere that the Army concluded that the the standard M1 Garand 30-06 had two problems that became evident in Korea. Firstly, the ammo was too bulky and heavy, limiting the number of rounds a soldier could carry. Secondly, the Army found that in a "target rich" (many charging Chinese), environment, that the cumulative unpleasant heavy recoil of the M1 Garand resulted in some soldiers passing up shots because they were too sore to continue firing. (A side note: When in 1962 Basic Training, the recoil of my M1 beat the heck out of my shoulder to the point where I would have passed on shots in combat.)
In any event, the lesser rounds for assault rifles were born and seem here to stay.
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Old August 15, 2012, 04:58 PM   #4
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Yep, tactics changed. As a general rule when a war starts the forces fight with the type of weapon used or needed in the last war. Even now as we have moved from fighting a Viet Nam type war to a Middle Eastern type war we are looking at changing weapons.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:01 PM   #5
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This is going to be a quick reply. It's a long story.

They did, mostly. But it was another 20 to 50 years before there was a change made in most places and even so, it wasn't an overnight change anywhere. For example, the National Guard was armed with M1 rifles and BARs into the 1970s.

Oddly enough, considering the question, the change began during WWII itself when the Germans began issuing a rifle with the first intermediate cartridge. The reasoning was that ordinary infantrymen did not make hits much beyond 300 yards, or in the case of the Germans, meters. The use of a lower power cartridge basically increased the firepower of the individual rifleman. They retained their full power cartridge for machine guns and sniper rifles. Even so, bolt action rifles stayed in production in some places for another ten years or even longer in places.

It was an advance of sorts but it should also be noted that when bolt action and semi-automatic full grown rifles were the normal weapon of an infantryman, submachine guns were in widespread use, more so in some places than in others but the reason was essentially the same as for intermediate cartridge weapons: more firepower for the infantry.

It was really the Soviets who took the ball and ran with it in the late 1940s, although the first weapon fielded that used their version of an intermediate cartridge was just another ten-shot semi-automatic rifle.

Apparently the whole concept of an intermediate cartridge now going on beyond retirement age is still somewhat controversial in some quarters, just like using those new-fangled self-loading pistols.
Don't forget the M1 carbine was an intermediate round, and we made more of them than the M1 Garand.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:10 PM   #6
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Why they changed, in the end, boils down to the hugely misguided notion that throwing MORE rounds downrange in LESS time would always increase combat effectiveness. All of the other changes (intermediate cartridges, replaceable magazines, select-fire capability, etc. etc.) were simply to further this principle.

What was really accomplished ? Improved combat effectiveness ? NOPE. (The statistic used to rate this is Avg. Rounds Expended per Casualty Produced - this number has only INCREASED, in each succeeding generation. In WW2, it stood at something like 20,000 - 30,000. Now, it stands at well beyond 50,000 - even as much as 100,000, in some conflicts.) Lighter weight ? NOPE (the avg. infantryman today goes into action with a HEAVIER combat load than EVER before - mostly because of having to schlepp MORE ammo, albeit each individual cartridge is somewhat lighter). Reduced costs ? HA HA, OF COURSE NOT - (it's more than 10 times as expensive to equip the avg. infantryman today as in WW2). Better marksmanship ? NOPE. (No better than it ever has been, on avg.)

I could go on and on......but you get the idea.

So, what WAS really accomplished ? NOT MUCH that COUNTS, on the whole, if you ask me. Really, the whole thing came down to a FASHION TREND. Once one nation re-equipped with "modern" weapons.....everybody had to, lest they be at a disadvantage. However, if NO one had, then NO ONE else would have needed to do so. It all amounts to a HUGE waste of resources - much like lots of so-called "improvements" in the "modern" world.

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Old August 15, 2012, 05:19 PM   #7
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I'm not even sure where to start with the last post.

Ill just say this. More ammo for the same amount of weight seems like a good idea to me. I like less weighty rifles also.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:21 PM   #8
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The battlefield is not a range. It's hard to see targets - harder the further away they get. They are moving. They are hiding. They are under cover. They (or someone else) is shooting at you. That's why most casualties from small arms fire in WW II were at 200 m or less.

This is mass warfare. Most combatants receive the minimum amount of training their country deems necessary to achieve a slight advantage on the battlefield because the training pipeline costs money, takes time and delays the arrival of new people on the battlefield. So the average guy isn't going to hit an enemy at long range even if he could see it.

As has been pointed out above, ammo with more punch weighs more. So does the rifle with more punch. You spend much more time moving than you do shooting. Every pound you can get rid of helps.

Often the targets appear at very close quarters, very suddenly and very fleetingly. Smaller rifles are handier. With medium power cartridges, they are easier to control and can even fire short bursts which makes it quicker to aim them.

Finally, combat is a team sport. You are not out there by yourself. The rifle is really the short range direct fire weapon. Squad automatic weapons and machine guns are the long range weapons. And if you have a radio, all things are possible.

I haven't addressed the dreaded "stopping power" issue. I have no desire to. Suffice it to say, I've never seen anyone volunteer to stand out around 200 m to 300 m and get shot with an M4 because the round is a joke.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:31 PM   #9
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With the likes of the Lee Enfield and the Springfield, They were designed with the thought that an individual could make harassing fire out to 1000yards.

That was around the time of WW1, so as WW2 came along it stayed about the same.

Towards the end of the war the Germans decided that majority of fighting an Individual would do most of it within 300meters, that's why they invented the STG/MP 44, and a low kicking, high capacity rifle with an intermediate round.

After WW2 when the M14 was introduced the .308 round was designed to provide the same power as the 3006 by using different powders.
So this basically replaced the M1 Garand and Bar, so the power of an Individuals rifle was about the same.

But as the Russias took on a lesser round the 7.62x39, as they took to the Germans idea of the STG44.

The US was having problems with the M14 having too much kich in full auto, and was a heavy bulky weapon, the sought to make a rifle in a different caliber that was controllable in fulll auto, hence the AR15 and .223 was born.

With the though it mind of the individual mostly fighting within 300m the .223 AR15 is far superior than the M14, lighter gun, less kick, higher magazine capacity, solider able to carry more ammunition, it makes a lot of sense.

It obviously wasn't a bad decision as the Russians went on to create the 5.45x39.

And when it comes down to it, most individual soldiers aren't all good enough shots to engage targets at 300/400m.
If you have seen videos of soldiers fighing in Afghanistan, the way they fight is to basically just pin down the enemy until artillery or air support come to take out the target.
For this a larger caliber would just be a waste of money and weight as the soldier cannot make use of it.

In the 60's the Russians were aware of this, as the individual soldier is effective to around 300m, they invented the SVD Dragunov as Designated marksman rifle to have an effective range of 600/700m.
They had at least one designated marksman rifle in a platoon.

This is the idea the the US and the UK is doing now, with the US M14 EBR, and the UKs L129A1 (an AR10).
It makes a lot of sense to only have more highly trained soldiers with a more powerful weapon.
This idea is a much better idea than to give every soldier a larger rifle with better optics to try engage targets at 300/400m plus.

Everything is a trade off, as a rifle that's good at long range is going to be not so good at room clearing, and maneuvering in and out of vehicles.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:37 PM   #10
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Pre WW1 rifles had a range that far exceeded anything prior and the power of machine guns had not been yet appreciated.

Most of these “full power” rounds have their beginnings in the late 1880’s and by the time you get to WW1, that is what everyone is arming their armies.

Semiautomatics were not of a design maturity to issue something other than low power blow backs to troops.

The military had active shooting programs and courses that emphasized marksmanship at range. Everyone intended to use these high power cartridges at range. The Boer war made a huge impression with the British as Boers were plinking British troops with their 7 mm Mausers at ranges that were far beyond the rifle skills of the British. Attitudes towards marksmanship might have been different had the British used quantities of machine guns against the Boer’s as the machine gun with its high rate of fire and long range capability would have made life very difficult for Boer snipers. After the war, the British did not stock many machine guns but did train their Regular Army troopers to a high level of markmanship, but it was all for naught and a big surprise to them when the Germans used mass quantities of machine guns against them in 1914. Virtually all the highly trained British marksman soldiers were dead within six months due to Sir John French’s poor tactics of sending infantry against machine guns.

The basic problem always comes down to skills, training, or the lack of it. It took years to train a soldier to effectively make use of his high power rifle at distance. This sort of training took time and most importantly, money. And then it could be argued that it was not worth spending this amount of money when machine guns and artillery made the life expectance of a soldier somewhat less than 9 months.

The first generation of intermediate cartridges, which incidentally are in the same power class as the 30-30, are just perfect for untrained cannon fodder. WW2 Infantry training was around four months, depending on the demand for troops, there was not enough time to train soldiers to high level of markmanship:

At the beginning of WWII there was no separate basic and advanced, they were combined into one. Each branch chief (the Chief of Infantry/Cavalry/Artillery/etc), prescribed different length of time for this combined training. I know a little about infantry so I will stick to that. As the US forces got more feedback from the fighting fronts, combined basic/advanced infantry training gradually increased from 8 to 12 to 13 to 15 to 17 weeks in the start of 1944, though this was prescribed, but not totally implemented at all posts. It took time to graduate older classes and implement the new rules.

However the Philippine invasions in the summer of 1944, caused this training time to slip to 15 weeks. Later that year it went back to 17 weeks, but the Battle of the Bulge casualties in December 1944, again caused the slippage back to 15 weeks again.
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_long_w...#ixzz23ekH38YN

I found from my Uncle, who was in the 101 Airborne, that he only fired eight rounds out of his M1919 machine gun before dropping on Normandy. That was all the rounds he shot before he went into combat. He and his helper were so ignorant of gun function that they did not know the thing did not have a safety. Uncle said they bumped the gun on the ground, setting the thing up in France, his helper had his hand over the muzzle, and the gun discharged shooting a finger off his friend. A gun club bud, he had two ten round familiarizations with a carbine, before going into the Pacific, with a carbine he had never zeroed. He zeroed the thing in combat.

To compensate for the lack of skills the military decided to go with firepower. And given that spray and pray is not effective except as noise making at long distances, why use full power cartridges.?

Then when you get into post WW2 peacetime, the Military preferentially spends its money on major weapon system acquisitions, not training. There is no advocacy from the military-industrial complex for training. So even though you have the time to train soldiers, they won’t spend the money.
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Old August 15, 2012, 06:06 PM   #11
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Another reason I asked is because our enemies tend to use older weapons and seem to be doing just fine. They are using ak's, dragonovs, rpk's ect. It seems like our weapons that do the most are the ones attached to battle ships and helicopters. I hear rumors of the AR adopting the 6.8 for possible future battle. Are they catching on to bigger is better again? I am not going to start a 5.56 hate thread but the older 30 cal rifles seem to be better one shot stoppers.
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Old August 15, 2012, 06:26 PM   #12
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The older battle rifles may have had more punch but with the 5.56 you can carry more ammo and get maybe twice as many punches. Trust me, you really don't want to get your ticket punched with a 5.56!

Anyway which is better, more punch or more punches!
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Old August 15, 2012, 07:24 PM   #13
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Another reason I asked is because our enemies tend to use older weapons and seem to be doing just fine.
What is your definition of "just fine"?

Know any battles that they have won?

An insurgency could be fought with single shot rifles "effectively".

IEDs and random terrorist sniper attacks don't really require state of the art rifles and equipment.

I am not aware of any stand up battles in which they have won without overwhelming numbers.

Go out sometime and look at something 300 yards away, or even 200 yards and imagine someone ducking, running and taking cover. Now look at something 600 yards away and do the same thing. Then think to yourself if you would rather have 210 rounds good up to 300 or 80 good to 600 yards.

That was the thought process.

Yes, guys in service rifle competitions regularly shoot to 600 yards.....

At targets the size of a Volkswagen that aren't dodging, running and taking cover while they are doing the same thing.
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Old August 15, 2012, 07:47 PM   #14
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Well I guess I worded that wrong. We do win but many casualties are taken. I think that the training of opposing troops is more to blame than the weaponry. I really don't believe the the 5.56 platform to be do far superior to 7.62 platforms that it wins wars. As for weight of ammo, dont our troops wear body armor now? I'm sure that adds more weight then the extra weight of ammo. Also, we didn't fair well in the Vietnam war did we?
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Old August 15, 2012, 07:55 PM   #15
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"Also, we didn't fair well in the Vietnam war did we?"

In what respect?

The American people lost the will to be there and we left.

That had little to do with what small arms we were using.
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Old August 15, 2012, 08:14 PM   #16
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The American people have lost will to be in Iraq as well...we are getting off topic here. Let us include other technologies that were introduced as well. Uav's, better tanks ect..I was not trying to bash America. I was his stating my opinion on our choice of new weapons.
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Old August 15, 2012, 08:40 PM   #17
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You brought it up, but anyway.

As far as 30 cal rifles being better one shot stoppers, if you are only trying to hit them once, your doing it wrong.

As far as us winning but suffering many casualties, when I looked up the figures for Iraq from 2004 to 2009 I saw that numbers fell at about 24,000 enemy deaths to about 3,800 friendly forces killed.

If you look at stats for WW2 you will find that the Allies and soviets had 11,042,600 military deaths compared to the Axis and Japanese military deaths of 7,946,331.

The new numbers seem a little better to me. I'm sure that it has less to do directly with the type of small arms used, but that factors in there somewhere.

The one shot one kill thing is kind of old hat. Replacing ammo is a lot better than replacing service members.
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Old August 15, 2012, 08:53 PM   #18
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On another note, we do have m14 over there too. I always thought of the m4 as a suppression fire gun. I just like the older guns. I love all the ww2 bolt actions including the enemies bolt rifles.
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Old August 15, 2012, 09:11 PM   #19
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War changed. No longer is there the sweeping scale of open plain and forrest. Warfare is closer jungle and/or street fighting.


And, I don't think today's soldiers are as matured as I was.

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Old August 15, 2012, 09:16 PM   #20
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Not all those deaths were by enemy rifle fire in both wars.

Some were in combat with mines, aircrews and pilots ect and some were non battle diseases and injuries.
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Old August 15, 2012, 10:12 PM   #21
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"Not all those deaths were by enemy rifle fire in both wars.

Some were in combat with mines, aircrews and pilots ect and some were non battle diseases and injuries"

Definitely true. I think that today's insurgents have had better luck with boobie traps and IEDs than small arms fire.

Those two methods are way more demoralizing.
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Old August 15, 2012, 10:12 PM   #22
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I believe the life altering injuries should be accounted for as well.
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Old August 15, 2012, 10:15 PM   #23
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Look them up then. The ratios are still similar. The data for the more recent conflicts isn't as accurate or agreed upon as the older ones.
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Old August 15, 2012, 11:04 PM   #24
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we didn't fair well in the Vietnam war did we?
The hell we didn't.

We never lost a major engagement, and don't say all because of air power. Many a time weather prevented air support.

The NVA weren't stupid, they knew they didn't have to worry about air support during monsoons.

Torques me off when I hear that crap.

Anyway, back on topic. Look at the wight. For just a hair over 10 lbs you could carry 200 rounds of 7.62 or 420 rounds of 5.56. Not to mention the wight of the rifle. Range wasn't a problem in Vietnam, even the average sniper shot was a hair over 400 meters, well within the range of the 5.56.

An now the 5.56's range is extended (because of heavier bullet) to 700 plus yards.

The problem isn't todays rifle, its teaching the soldiers to shoot. Its easier to teach someone to shoot a M16 accurately then the M14 or M1.
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Old August 15, 2012, 11:52 PM   #25
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I saw a Modern Weapons episode that was showing the new 6.8 round. I believe the guy said some militarys may adopt this round.
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