Friday, June 09, 2006

The 5.56 mm belly button

Time to pick at it again. I can't believe I am linking to a CBS report, but this is about one of my favorite subjects. Guns -
One particular episode immediately caught our eye. It involved a Special Forces raid in Ramadi in response to the bombing of the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad back in August 2003. According to a soldier who was there, during a fierce exchange of gunfire, one insurgent was hit seven — count ‘em, seven — times in the torso by the 5.56, only to be brought down by a single shot to the head from a .45 caliber pistol. But before the insurgent died, he killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded seven.

The man who brought that story to our attention was retired Marine Maj. Anthony Milavic, who's hardly shy in his anger over the 5.56.

"The lack of lethality of that bullet has caused United States soldiers to die," said Milavic, a veteran of two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Yep, the 40 yr old argument. It has been a head scratcher for me since I did a report on it for 11th Grade chemistry. I am, with varyinging degrees of success, a hunter. It is illegal to hunt 150-200# deer with a .223 Remington (what the 5.56 NATO round is). The reason is that you simply cannot kill effectively with one. We will throw you in jail and/or fine you for trying to kill a 150# herbivoreore with a round we expect you to kill an excited 150# Jihadi. It just boggles.
Pierre Sprey couldn'’t have been less impressed when I told him what we had seen. A former Pentagon weapons expert, he championed the 5.56 to secretaries of state and presidents believing it both lethal and light. During our time together, he shook his head at the online debate sparked, he felt, by those who are far from expert in the field of testing and war. He believes the more bullets the better, and that soldiers carrying 300 rounds and firing on automatic don't compare to those carrying 100 and firing one big bullet at a time. "There is no such thing as a well-aimed shot in combat," said Sprey. "Combat is fought by scared 18-year-olds who haven't trained enough and are in places they've never seen before."
Ground combat is not my specialty, my professional toolbox has big things that make big fireballs going out and going in, look cool on video, and require AC power - but please. There are more bad theories there than you can shake a stick at. I thought we stressed Aimed Fire? Spray and pray is what poorly trained targets do. Say what you want about the Soldier or Marine of 2006, but "..poorly trained and clueless 18 yr old" isn't very accurate. There was a move post OEF/OIF experience to go to a 6.5/6.8mm, but the bean counters, again, are trying to kill it. This sounds familiar.
So off we went — eventually discovering a confidential report to Congress in which active Marine commanders complained about the 5.56 ("the most worthless round, torso shots not lethal") and two more internal reports based upon the Army's most extensive testing of the 5.56 since 1990.

The testing took place at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. In an initial interim report dated September 2004 the 5.56 ranked last in lethality out of three bullets tested. A second draft, dated March of this year, confirmed those rankings to a CBS producer who looked at the report. To top it off we found a story in a recent issue of Marine Corps Times magazine that was particularly enlightening. In it a squad leader said his Marines carried and used "found" enemy AK-47s because their 7.62 bullets packed "more stopping power." In effect, they put down their own weapons in favor of those carried by the enemy because they felt more secure, especially in close-quarter battle.

We contacted both an arsenal and an Army spokesman at the Pentagon about our story, and both knocked it down. Initially, they called the reports and rankings "wrong Â… not statistically grounded" and "not the final version."

Then just before our story ran, the Army issued a press release stating it had completed a detailed study affirming the effectiveness of the 5.56. Surprisingly, at least to us (given the rankings and reports we had seen) the Army said their study actually was not a comparison of the 5.56 to any other caliber bullets in close-quarter fighting but rather the 5.56 to "commercially-available" rounds. The release pointed out the 5.56 did "have the same potential effectiveness in the hands of a Warfighter during the heat of battle."

You can read what you want in that last paragraph. I can tell you many of the people to whom we were talking expressed a great deal of displeasure over it. No matter what side youÂ’re on, one thing is abundantly clear: with nearly 800,000 U.S. soldiers carrying M-16 rifles around the world, the cost of modifying those guns to fire any other bullet seems certain to spark a firestorm all its own.
Hey, all I know is that when I am hunting Wild Boar, I would be checked into a Psych Ward if I went out there with a 5.56mm. 30-30 or 41 mag min, and if there is a big, bad sow out there, get me a 45-70. My trusty, not-rusty Sako 75 in 30-06 for Deer (180gr) and Elk (200gr).

Oh, one of the "5.56mm is great" theories that is always thrown out there is the "..if you wound a man, you make his whole unit less effective by making his fellow soldiers take care of him. If you kill him, you only stop one." I am sorry, when you have a room of 4 Jihadi, or a car coming at you at 50 mph; you need to kill - now.
Since 11th grade I have listened, with an open mind, to both sides. The only argument that the 5.56mm side seems to have are accounting and inertia. But, I'm a squid. What do I know....if 10 is good, wouldn't 11 be better?

Well, that was fun. Who wants to do 9mm vs 45?

Hat tip Emperor Darth Misha I and Kim du Toit.


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