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Where were we? Oh, right: World War II was over and it was time for the world’s armies to adopt some self-loading rifles already. The Soviets had whole-heartedly subscribed to the theory of the assault rifle with the AK-47. For some reason, they were also churning out the SKS, an odd weapon that seemingly was meant to combine the disadvantages of assault rifles and full-power battle rifles in one ugly package. The SKS isn’t terribly relevant to our story, although forty-five years later the rifle would become available for $79 in the United States and cause all sorts of havoc, both real and perceived . . .

The newly-formed NATO knew it would need a rifle for the next European shooting war, which was sure to happen any time now. The western allies had been no less assiduous in their study of the Stg44 than the Russians had been. To make things more interesting, there were two separate groups of former Mauser employees looking to make a splash in the post-war firearms business. So the stage was set for NATO to choose a forward-thinking infantry weapon for the Cold War and the hot wars to follow…

Perhaps the most interesting rifle to come from the development frenzy of the late forties was the British EM2. It fired a brand-new .276-caliber high-medium-power cartridge (174 grains at 2400fps) and was configured as a so-called “bullpup” with the magazine behind the pistol grip. The folks over at FN had their own bullpup rifle, first chambered for an experimental cartridge but later on re-barreled for the British .276. A non-bullpup version was also built. Remember the non-bullpup FN .276, we’ll see it again shortly.

A small group of ex-Mauser employees landed at the Spanish national arms factory, CETME, after the war. They built a roller-locking recoil motion rifle that fired a unique lightweight (105 grain) 8mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity in the 2600fps range. In the mid-fifties, CETME would ask another group of ex-Mauser folks, the newly formed firm of Heckler & Koch, to undergo a manufacturing feasibility study of the CETME rifle. Remember that, too. We’ll come back to it.

The United States took a conservative approach to post-war rifle design. Although various factions within the country’s armed services had been arguing for a lower-power rifle round since World War I, their voices had been effectively silenced by John Garand’s ability to create a .30-06 semi-automatic rifle. When it came time to plan the M1’s replacement, two factions arose.

There was the “individual marksmanship” faction, which continued to believe that conscripts would effectively deliver aimed fire out to six hundred yards. Then there was the “people who had actually paid attention during World War II” faction, which recognized the vastly superior role things like artillery and combined tactics had over aimed rifle fire.

For a while, it seemed like the realists had the upper hand. Everybody agreed that there would be a new rifle round with a much smaller logistical footprint than the old thirty-ought-six. Then, in a series of maneuvers well beyond the scope of this article, the marksmanship folks rose from the grave and managed to mandate that the new lower-power round meet all the ballistic standards of the old high-power one. Improvements in metallurgy and powder composition made it easy as pie for the new 7.62 “NATO” round to match the .30-’06 as the latter round was commonly supplied in that era. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And new boss it was. The United States unilaterally adopted the 7.62×51 without bothering to consult any of their NATO allies, promptly converting a bunch of Garands to fire the new round by means of a highly suspect barrel insert and new clip. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but everybody followed suit in a big hurry.

Britain discarded their new rifle design and strangled the “.280 British” in its crib. FN stretched their new non-bullpup rifle to create the FAL. HK advised CETME on how to adopt its design to the new, larger round, and used the roller-lock design as the basis for its “G3” rifle. (I don’t know what the “G2” was, but the “G1” was the FAL, which was ready for production years before the CETME/HK effort was.)

The FN FAL had a lot of political momentum in Europe. It also appeared to be an exceptional design, relying heavily on modern manufacturing techniques and promising a relatively low production cost. The United States was interested in the FAL, too, and entered it into a test where it promptly whipped the ass of the second-place contender. By rights, the US armed forces should have been carrying FALs by 1955. Instead, a decision was made to develop that distant second-place rifle, the Springfield Armory T44.

The T44 was a scaled-up version of Bill Ruger’s existing Mini-14 rifle. I’m kidding. I just wanted to see if I could get TTAG readers to spit out their lunch. Looks like it worked, too. It was actually a product-improved M1 Garand with a box magazine. Like the M1, it had a mechanically complex action open to the elements and requiring some amount of precision in the manufacture. Very much an old-style rifle compared to the FN FAL.

A simple examination of the two side-by-side reveals that one of them lags the other by an entire generation of design experience. Still, the T44 was Invented In America, in an era where that actually mattered to people, so it was declared the retroactive winner of the tests it had just lost. Thus, the M14 became the battle rifle of the United States of America.

While the M14, the FAL, and the G3 weren’t the only battle rifles to enter series production in the fifties, they wound up becoming the enduring trio of Western 7.62 NATO-chambered weapons. The FAL in particular is the only rifle that could even conceivably challenge the AKM for the title of “universal rifle”. In the thousand little brushfire wars that swept the world during the Pax Americana, the FAL and AKM were shouldered side by side and exchanged fire in the hands of revolutionaries, government troops and mercenaries from Cambodia to Sierra Leone.

As American gun enthusiasts, we tend to gravitate to odd stuff like the reanimated Armalite AR-10 or the immensely satistfying don’t-call-it-an-M14 Springfield M1A. But in places where guns are delivered in crates and used by soldiers who are often functionally illiterate at best, the FAL is the battle rifle of the global conflict.

In the shadowy proxy wars of the sixties and seventies, a plane or boat full of FALs with no end-user certificate was tantamount to a statement of Western support for the side shouldering them. The Rhodesian Independents carried the FAL. Bob Denard’s African white mercenaries carried the FAL when they could get them. Closer to home, the FAL was the “boom boom” wielded by Tom Sizemore in the movie Heat while his compatriots operated the “bang bang” AR-15.

Had the United States selected the FAL as the official battle rifle of the armed forces, there’s no telling how long it might have stayed in service. The rifle they did select, the M14, proved to be particularly unwieldy in the jungle backdrop of the next war. My father arrived in Vietnam carrying an M14, provided by the United States Marine Corps for his use. After the first few times he saw the proverbial elephant, he ditched the M14 for a Remington 870 shotgun. The M14 may have been an excellent choice for the open fields of France or Korea, but in Vietnam it was a massive liability with its long barrel and a wooden stock that split in the tropical humidity.

We all know what happened next: the United States unilaterally adopted a low-power assault rifle, causing the British, Spanish and French to spit out their lunch and say “But… but… but…” while the armories loaded ball powder instead of IMR “stick” into the 5.56 ammo and inadvertently turned the M-16 into a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of troops. The fait accompli of the .223 Remington meant that everybody in NATO had to rechamber their designs for that cartridge. And then when that cartridge turned out to not satisfy the Marksmanship Geeks we got the SS109/M855, and so on, and so forth.

The verdict of history is in on the 7.62 NATO battle rifle in all its forms. It was a mistake. Any other choice would have been better, from the .276 British cartridge to the low-power Spanish round. The vast majority of 7.62 NATO ammunition expended in battle has been at ranges and in conditions where a 7.62×39 Soviet round would have sufficed — and often did, to the fatal consternation of the men holding the Western rifles.

Once again, the theorists out-maneuvered the realists on the battlefields away from the battlefields, and soliders went into combat loaded down with weight they didn’t need to carry and a tool that was far from suited for their actual experience. M14, FAL, G3, BM59, all the rest — a deadly waste of money and time.

For the civilian shooter, however, it’s not that simple. The virtues of marksmanship and patience that conscripts rarely possess are taken for granted. The long ranges and individual targeting that made no sense in the Vietnamese jungle are important parts of many shooters’ survival plans. Finally, the care and feeding of a finicky machine like a Springfield M1A may be well beyond the capabilities of an illiterate African child soldier, but they’re no problem for an educated and dedicated American enthusiast.

In the articles to follow, we’ll look at 7.62 NATO rifles available to those enthusiasts and consider their merits. In the meantime, you might want to stock up on your .308 Winchester ammunition — but aren’t you stocking up on everything in the current legislative climate?

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  1. Exactly. While the question of aimed and long-distance fire can be debated endlessly with regard to soldiers, for private citizens defending themselves or other innocents, area fire will rarely be justified.

  2. The T44 was a scaled-up version of Bill Ruger’s existing Mini-14 rifle. I’m kidding. I just wanted to see if I could get TTAG readers to spit out their lunch. Looks like it worked, too


    • It was a good part, yes. But tangentially, I am wondering what is the point of Jack chosing to retell this ancient narrative. Tweak the thumb into the noses of Marksmanship Geeks? The Stopping Power die-hards too? Is this even possible after they denied reality for decades? It’s quite cute, but what is the point? Not to mention how “mountains of Afghanistan” mantra gifted them a second breath (a now we see the wonders such as .338 Lapua machine gun).

  3. The SKS fills a definate role. In my state, California, it’s one of the few proven military semi auto designs you can own without worrying about going to jail. 99 bucks for the rifle and then get a stash of what was once cheap and plentiful ammo with a bag full of stripper clips and you have a viable SHTF rifle.

    • I think you’re right, it’s a handy little gun, like a M1 Carbine but with more punch.

      • I really like the M1 carbine. But the standard 15 and 30 round mags are illegal in Ca. and I hear nothing but horror stories about the Ca. legal 10 round replacement mags.

        • Nor’Easter, the most common complaints I’ve heard about the 10 round aftermarket mags is that they are flimsy and don’t hold up well. Frequent jamming in guns that worked fine with pre ban mags is another complaint.

          I bought 2 mags for my Makarov from a company that makes these aftermarket mags, I won’t call their name here. 1 of the mags had a complete breakdown with 3 range trips. The other still works, but it has never locked the slide back when empty.

    • In Canada it is a Non-Restricted weapon, so you can carry and use it in more places, and need a less rigorous license. It also does not have to be individually registered.

      Stores sell the Norinco clones by the case load – there are a huge number our in private hands, and the ChiCom ammo is cheap too.

      • Unfortunately, the magazine has to be capped to 5 rounds for Canada. For a rifle with a non-detachable stripper-loaded magazine, it’s a considerable reduction.

        Garand, on the other hand, has a special exemption in Canadian firearm laws, and can be used with its original uncapped 8-round mag.

        • And a Garand is a great rifle, with good sights and controls. But it’s 3-4 times pricier than an SKS. And for any realistic ranges that a bifocal wearing old fart can use a rifle at the SKS does a good job.

  4. You had me all the way up to the finicky M1A part.

    You would have to admit the planners were not looking for a jungle war and we have figured out the open expanses of the Afghan territories too much for the AR15 and more suited to the M14 or other 308 powered rifles. Your other calibers would have been adopted by the long range/target community if they had been superior cartridges to the 308. It would save time necking up, blowing out shoulders, turning necks or shortening cases to find the next best long range cartridge. My experience has been the M14 is far from finicky and the AK47 had two things going for it in the African conflicts…. It was cheap, and built with such sloppy clearances the rifle runs in most environments, but primarily it was cheap and the ammo was cheap too. These guys aren’t looking for minute of man, just thuggish close range work that they can’t get with their machetes.

    • People need to realize that militaries always prepare to “fight the last war.” That’s just human nature – to use their experience as the basis for future planning.

      When the M14 was fielded, we were fully expecting hostilities to break out in Europe again. We expected the Russians to storm through the Fulda Gap and into western Europe. No one, and I mean no one, was expecting to become engaged in a protracted issue in southeast Asia.

      Into this environment, the M14 came about.

      • I think the author the the article also gave the FN FAL too many props without digging into its shortcomings against the M14 such as accessory mounting, desert operation failures, quick mount for fire clumsyness, crude sights, finicky gas system with problems with gas tubes and failure to eject problems.

        • You must be talking about a different FAL/L1A1 to that which I’m accustomed.
          Mine are ergonomically superior to the M14, have an easily adjusted & cleaned gas system that can cope with huge variations in ammunition without failing to eject or having gas tube issues, are unfazed by dust & sand in the L1A1 guise & can rapidly change between iron sights, Eotech & scope with the use of a railed top cover.
          The 18″ barrelled FAL Para is a particularly compact & wieldy rifle for a full power .30 caliber.
          The FAL may not be as accurate as the M1A but it’ll happily hold “minute of man” out to 600yds.

      • This is equally true of Soviets, however. They were fully expecting hostilities to break out in Europe again (only they were expecting to repel NATO advance on largely the same directions as Nazis before).

        And they have created 7.62×39 round, and SKS and AK to use it in.

    • Wooden stock ‘SPLITTING’ in the humidity….huh?
      Blown away in the rifle test with the FAL and AR-10…it WON?
      The reason all those countries got their hands on the FAL was because FN indicated it would allow former WW2 allied countries to produce the FAL design with NO LICENSING OR ROYALTY COSTS as a gift to the allies for the liberation of Belgium. Springfield M-14’s (which cost more) were NOT ALLOWED to be sold to these countries.
      There really is no debate as AR-10/FAL/M1A are all great guns with their own advantages and disadvantages. I think, in full auto, I would go with an FAL in an assault rifle role…..which none of these battle rifles are anyway.

  5. An interesting and entertaining article – very nice. The real question for me though is back in part one 1.
    The definition of “Assault Weapon”- which sounds so scary and causes so much trouble for us. Well, it was meant to sound scary.
    The MP 43 MP meaning Machine Pistole (submachine gun) – the grand-daddy of all modern military rifles, was mislabeled Machine Pistole because Hitler – an old Mauser fan – had forbade any new rifle development and because it was new and nobody quite knew what to call it. Hitler solved this problem once he saw and tried it by dubbing it a “Sturmgewehr” (assault rifle) and approving its use. Hitler meant this to inspire the troops, scare his enemies and encourage an aggressive sprit and we’ve been stuck with it ever since. From the Soviet copy – AK 47 – to the American M 16 to the German HK 33, its been “Assault Rifle” ever since. The ironic thing is that it was never meant or designed to be anything of the sort. It was simply meant to serve as a lighter, handier general-issue rifle for use in both attack and defense and indeed has been used as such pretty much ever since. The nonsense about “a weapon designed to inflect massive casualties” assumes that you can somehow get the enemy to line up and stand still while you shoot them, is laughable. It takes thousands – sometimes hundreds of thousands – of rounds to hit anybody in modern warfare, ergo the large magazines to “lay-out” a large amount of fire.

    After a few years of using up the vast stores of WWII weapons and utilizing several classic autoloader rifles such as the M 14, the German G3 and Belgium FN-FAL (Fusil Automatic Leger) the Sturmgewehr type (modified even more by using an even smaller bullet with practically no recoil and “bullpup types, even shorter and gawkier) have become the standard general-purpose rifle of most of the world’s armies today.

    The real problem now is the scary looks and name. In contrast to the previous handsome specimens in machined, blued steel and fine walnut woods; the modern military rifle looks more like a piece of plumbing with various scopes, flashlights and other bits taped on. Efficient but not very attractive to non fans. The name is misleading and even worse.
    What about Light Automatic Rifle? Sub-Rifle? Mini Gun? Modern Sporting Rifle? Mid-Powered Compact General Purpose Rifle? OK, I guess “Assault” will have to do until we come up with something better.

    The people of America, though no longer organized into a general militia, still maintain a healthy interest in the latest developments in military arms and the tradition of an armed populace, in defense of themselves and their rights. Its gratifying to know that a large number of firearms still reside among the population – including the modern musket, the AR 15!

  6. I loved the FN FAL, I also love my M1A(M14). I own(ed) both at one point in my life and wish I had never gotten rid of the FAL.

    • I regret selling my FAL as well. Great rifle! But I needed the $$$ at the time and sold it for a profit. Still have my DCM aquired M1 Garand. Also a great rifle, even though mine is particularly ugly. Miss matched wood, mix of new and old parts, no matching serial numbers, but shoots 2 MOA with open sights when I do my part.

  7. “The SPLC’s list of so-called ‘hate groups’ includes the organization Oathkeepers with its membership of military and law enforcement veterans, but the list fails to mention groups such as Occupy Wall Street, whose members have rioted, defecated in public parks, damaged police vehicles and in some cases raped women in their ‘tent cities,’” said former NYPD detective Samuel Dirksen.

    “While mentioning dozens of well-known conservative groups, SPLC is silent about groups such as the anti-American leftist group Code Pink, the anti-Semitic Free Gaza, and the militant, pro-gay organization Bash Back!, which has chapters in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill., Memphis, Tenn., Denver, Colo., Milwaukee, Wisc., upstate New York and Lansing, as well as the Alliance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students (LGBTS), which targets churches” said Dirksen.

    “If you’re not left-wing, then you’re a hate group, it seems,” Dirksen added.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center said in statements sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that “patriot groups now hold the potential for a wave of domestic terrorism. The groups overshadow the danger posed by more traditional hate groups — neo-Nazis and others dedicated against blacks, Latinos, Catholics and Muslims, for example, the report found. The group’s letter urged federal officials to create a new task force to assess federal resources devoted to the threat.”

  8. “the care and feeding of a finicky machine like a Springfield M1A”

    Of course that got me a little grumpy 🙂 …as I never like to hear my M1A be referred to as a “finicky machine” … but the rest of the sentence puts it in perspective, and I guess compared to an AK, it does need a little TLC.

    Of course it will also punch a hole in anything short of an armored car or tank, so all of that power might be worth learning how to read and/or service your battle rifle 😉

    Good article though, so thanks.

  9. The T44 was a scaled-up version of Bill Ruger’s existing Mini-14 rifle. I’m kidding. I just wanted to see if I could get TTAG readers to spit out their lunch. Looks like it worked, too</i>

    I actually started laughing out loud, well done. I'm glad to see this articles and hope to see others like it, sometimes hearing about gun politics gets old (this site has like a 5:1 ratio of gun-politics to other gun related articles)

  10. Regarding my “finicky” comment on the M1a: I’m not saying it’s a Desert Eagle or anything like that. The M14 is a well-resolved design and it functions as designed.

    With that said, I think being able to operate one in the field, long-term, requires a higher level of training, understanding, and basic armory skills than you’d need with an AKM.

    “Finicky” is only meant to be seen in context here. I love the M1A and if I could own a royal-blued one with a zebrawood stock I would carry it everywhere including the grocery store 🙂

    • >> With that said, I think being able to operate one in the field, long-term, requires a higher level of training, understanding, and basic armory skills than you’d need with an AKM.

      This seems to be an extremely low bar for comparison. Practically any other semi-auto rifle requires a higher level of training, understanding and basic armory skills to operate and maintain compared to AKM.

  11. . . . And the M1 carbine quietly marshaled on. It’s effective range is where the majority of engagements take place. Yes, it is too anemic to be a “battlefield rifle” but it is closer than a .308 or .30-06 to the right balance. The Soviets learned from WWII experience that a submachinegun firing a 7.62×25 Tok round is generally better than a Mosin or Mauser.

    It is O so American to believe bigger and more powerful is better (consider the rise of the .40 cal) and many a DoD general fell into this line of thinking. While I would not state it as strongly as this author – the powers that be in the DoD did get it wrong and he is right to point it out . . . And I would have spit out my lunch if I was eating 🙂

    • I’m pretty sure the m1 carbine got less than stellar reviews by those men issued them in the Korean war, .30 Carbine is pretty underpowered.

  12. The United States unilaterally adopted the 7.62×51 without bothering to consult any of their NATO allies, promptly converting a bunch of Garands to fire the new round by means of a highly suspect barrel insert and new clip.

    A new clip? Don’t you mean magazine? I was wonder the impression .30-06 and .308 rounds can use the same clip.

    • Garands use a clip; the T-44 and descendants use a magazine.

      When you’ve shot your bolt with the Garand, it goes


      and tosses the clip into the air. Experienced soldiers of the Rising Sun knew that was the signal to wrap one’s kimono, so to speak, and prepare for the final charge.

      Edit: here’s a video.

      • You might want to re-read my post. Garands have a magazine, which is loaded by a clip. You said the clip had to be replaced in the 7.62 NATO conversions when you should have said the magazine needed to be replaced. Clips for 30-06 ammo can be used with .308/7.62 NATO without modification.

        • Never mind, for some reason I thought they used stripper clips rather than those en=block clips

        • The nato-chambered Garands had a block at the REAR of the mag-well to accommodate the shorter case length. These blocks were approx. a half inch in depth as the nato round is 12mm shorter than the venerable .30-06 springer cartridge. I believe in some circles they are called the Navy Garand, but don’t hold me to this.

        • Indeed, with the noise and confusion of battle such a sound is not very noticeable AND it’s amazing how fast you can reload an M1 when you have to. Urban Legend I think.

      • Of course, proper fireteam/section drills mean that while you’re reloading, your oppo is covering; so when the enemy hears the empty clip and leaps up to attack, he gets ventilated by your comrades…

        • Another good point, any enemy waiting for a “ping” to charge ahead did it only once I would think. But it makes a good story.

      • Jack:

        Try this experiment. Take a friend to a range with an M-1 and you stand 10 feet away without ear plugs with your back turned to the shooter and call when you hear the ping of the ejected clip. My guess is that you will go deaf before you can identify it. The “telltale ping” is one the biggest myths about the M-1. You cannot hear the ejection over the cacophony of battle.

  13. Jack – Thanks for the clarification there 😉 and yeah, completely agree – M1A does require a bit skill to maintain long term, especially when you start playing around with the bolt.
    Man, I think you may have just created a market for a royal blued, zebra wood stock M1A there. Hopefully Fulton or SA are listening 😉

  14. A little known sideline to this story was the not ready for prime time AR-10. I mean the original, not the scaled up version of the AR-15 we have today. 7 pounds, space age materials, could be converted for belt feed. That was the answer. Too bad a small company like Armalite couldn’t make it work in time.

    Eventually they ironed out the bugs and the Portuguese and Sudanese where quite happy with theirs, apparently. I wish to God I could get one. In the mean time, I like my modern AR-10, although it’s heavier and less accurate than my M1A.

    There’s something very satisfying about these full power military style rifles. Maybe that it doesn’t fire a varmint round?

    • I thought one of the advantages of the AR-10 was its somewhat better accuracy over the M1A and FAL? I do know the AR-10 came before the AR-15. They used some funky barrel in a test that made it look bad, originally.

  15. I was issued the M14 by the Army in January 1968, and felt perfectly well armed with it. I never recall seeing a malfunction with anyone using it, and we took down targets from 300 meters with open sights to close range (point shooting) targets at close range on the “Quick Kill” courses.

    I don’t think there was anything wrong with it at all, and the U.S. going to the M16 was as much a political decision as anything that the idiot Robert McNamara did. He and Johnson were personally responsible for many of the names on the Viet Nam Wall.

    • When the “Commander in Chief” and civilian oversight of the military, turned into political leadership of military operations, we became mercenaries. Never to win another major conflict, only to win battles to prolong the political failures. The AR-15 was, as I understand it, a very good rifle with the right ammo. The early M16s were good, till they quit firing. We were fortunate, we found out on the range that they would quit and not run, cleaning or not. The early bolt/firing pin systems would jam, and could not be dismantled and cleaned in the field. (We were Airborne, maybe that was why we all had cleaning kits). Later, to be tied to change in ammo. We learned early on not to fire in full auto, no coverage. 20 rounds gone in an eye blink. Not intended to be full history here, just a few hi/lo points. Yes, I did train with M-1, M-14 semi-auto only, and finally M-16, the M-16 was what we were sent in with. The Marines were still carrying M-14s, we envied them. No “body armor”, no 80 pound packs, just web belt and suspenders, fanny pak, two canteens, 100 rounds per individual, took turns humping extras. My, admittedly ingrained, idea of a close to perfect combat rifle would have a 7.62 somewhere in the nomenclature.

  16. I’m very torn about the assertion that the concept of individual
    marksmanship is only an ideal theory. It is indeed very effective
    to stall an enemy then call for artillery or air. However, this
    method is only effective when you have the necessary support.
    Artillery and air strikes have the potential for collateral damage.
    Its effectiveness relies on political and cultural acceptability.
    If the concept that there will be collateral damage during war
    (i.e. reality) is accepted and supported there is no issue. But
    when generals get hauled before review boards because one
    goat herder (who was probably smuggling guns or drugs
    anyway) died, how long will the policy of spray-n-pray while
    calling for artillery continue. How efficient and effective
    is the rifle squad that no longer can call artillery?

    You also run against problems with both terrain and opponents.
    In jungle terrains, engagement zones are close enough that
    individuals need little more than instinctive shooting out to
    100 m. But in wide areas with open terrain, say Afghanistan,
    it’s not uncommon to encounter the enemy at ranges exceeding
    500m. If your average rifleman is only trained to 300m how
    effective is he? How effective are rounds like the 5.56 at ranges
    exceeding 300m?

    Finally there are your opponents. It has been the policy for
    units to pin an enemy down than call for artillery or air
    support. This worked great in Afghanistan, right up until
    the point where the stupid ones were weeded out. Now
    the average firefight lasts 10-15 minutes. After that and
    the enemy retreats. Why? Because that’s the average time
    for a call for artillery or air support and for them to get on
    target. In cases like this, higher training in marksmanship,
    combined with a heavier hitting, longer range cartridge than
    the 5.56 can have a larger more defined impact than a 155

    • I really like the idea of a soldier armed with a 7.72 (designated Rifleman) with three others using ARs. You can turn cover into concealment and have greater range, while also allowing suppression so the ARs can get into position.

    • Why the M224 has become the primary means of fire support Afghanistan, where its organic. Where its not, its highly desired.

      As far as a policy if pray and spray, this assertion exhibits a lack of understanding of recent doctrine and practice. Instinctive shooting, as the phrase is commonly used, may be effective at near handgun ranges – any effect at 100m is random.

      How effective is the 5.56 past 300m? Mk262 has has roughly the same energy at 900m as the published muzzle energy of Federal .38 Special 158 gr XTP load. Ballistically significant, but proper range estimation, atmospheric variables and difficulties with target acquisition – non-platform relevant – degrade “effectiveness” to the point where this is nearly a moot point – for most shooters at these distances, in combat environments. Optics, training and experience are much more significant in improving abilities to hit at range than either a change in cartridge or platform alone. Although flatter trajectories and SD have a positive impact, there is no doubt shooter skill is by far the most important variable shooting at long distances. The question becomes the level of resources you are able to dedicate to skill improvement.

  17. Well, as to “finicky” and the M1A (or Garand): Neither one is finicky, so much as there is an expectation of maintenance by someone who is literate and can understand basic mechanical maintenance. There’s a similar assumption in the M16 design, too. The AK and FAL were designed for people who have only recently advanced beyond banging rocks together to make fire.

    For the US, this was a very sound assumption until the NEA and Jimmy Carter got the federal government into our educational system. Now it appears that the US is producing third-world output from our schools, so maybe a FAL or AK makes more sense for our future:

    In actual practice, the M14 has a better trigger, an easily cleaned piston/op-rod gas system, and better sights than an FAL/AK/M16. The real downfall of the M14 was trying to make it full auto with a “full power” cartridge in a rifle under 15 lbs. That just can’t be done easily. The issue with full auto fire by grunts is still an issue today. Ask the guys who have been in the sandboxes how often they’re allowed to go into burst mode on an M16. There’s a bias against individuals going into burst mode… even today.

    The story of why our military was obsessed with heavier bullets (which underpins the obsession with not going below .30 cal) prior to 1960 goes clear back to the .45-70-500, and is a tale too involved to tell here. Suffice to say, people need to learn a lot more about how the US military chose the cartridges it did to see that going to the .30-06 M2 Ball round was a pretty big evolution for the Armory system… go back and look at the first “small bore” round of the US military, the .30-40. They used a 220 grain bullet.

    It took getting our asses kicked in Cuba by the Spanish with the 7×57 Mauser for the Army to grudgingly admit that there was something to these “smaller bore” rifles and light bullets. At first, there was the .30-03, again with a 220gr pill. Then the .30-06 came along, with the M2 Ball round at 150 grains, and the old school boys would simply go no further. OK, they went to 147gr bullets in the 7.62. Big whoop.

    Where we needed to be was about 6.5mm, 120 to 140gr pills launched at about 2400 to 2800 fps, and the old-school boys were never going to go there.

    • I didn’t know the Belgians, the French, the British, the Austrians, etc. etc. were illiterates who have only recently advanced beyond banging rocks together to make fire.

      • The Belgians, French and Austrians could pick any rifle they want. Their choice of rifle won’t matter… because it won’t be used much, if at all.

        As for the Brits… they used the L1A1 variant in the Falklands, but the place the FAL/L1A1 saw the most action was in one squalid little third world country after another from the 60’s through the 90’s, and the involvement of the Aussies in Vietnam. In much of African in the 70’s and 80’s, we can divide the situation into “AK’s vs. FAL’s.”

        All that aside, from a gunsmith’s perspective, the moment you open a FAL, you see the design is meant for people who don’t know and don’t care about tight tolerances and fine workmanship. It borrows the concept of big chunky parts, stamped sheet metal and field stripping without any tool from the Russians’ idea of weapons. Very reliable… but you sacrifice accuracy in the process.

        The M14, by contrast, is rather nicely finished for a battle rifle, has tighter tolerances, better accuracy and exquisite heat treatment of the receiver and bolt to increase wear resistance.

        Just because it was designed for People Who Beat Rocks Together, doesn’t mean it can’t be used by educated people. The 1911, after all, was designed for hard use by people who didn’t have any tools to disassemble it.

        The M14 and M16 require maintenance – real maintenance. They give superior accuracy over the competition. That comes about because of tighter tolerances, and tighter tolerances means “clean it often.”

    • For a brief period of time the Marines had a 6mm rifle, the Ross? I believe. About the time of the Spanish American war and the Boxer rebellion. It was a straight pull bolt gun and apparently there was some problems with barrel wear. The biggest problem was no doubt the fact that it complicated supply by having to procur 1 round for the army and 1 for the navy.

      On a side note, I’ve always liked the 7mm mauser tho I haven’t used 1 in years.

      • Thanks for reminding me – I forgot. It wasn’t the Ross – that was a Canadian item with a whole ‘nother story with it but the “Lee” in 6m/m, not even 6.5 and was – like you said – used by the Navy and Marines during the turn of the century until replaced by the M1903.
        Nice to discuss the finer points of gunology – like the good ol’ days, but preserving and securing our rights is #1 for now.

  18. “The United States was interested in the FAL, too, and entered it into a test where it promptly whipped the ass of the second-place contender.”

    Was the second place contender the M14? Citation please.

  19. I’m no weapons expert, but have some experience in a few kinds of up-close engagement. The extent to which discussions of rifle design and preference are walled off from situational use-case puzzles me. A heavy or long rifle is great until you have to run (to cover, for your life, to be a non-stationary target) or dive into the weeds/elephant grass, or behind the nearest rocks, or move in the forest in darkness, or do other things while intermittently laying fire (medics, radiomen, breaching, etc.). I recently tried a bullpup design, for example, so popular among lovers of compactness, and found that a run-go prone for three mags-run case was horrible. Machine guns are the war weapon. The troop’s rifle really is half a PDW, half an emergency suppressive fire tool until the machine gun starts working. It is use-case realities, too, which keep bringing ‘obsolete’ shotguns back to the point man (in the green parts of Helmand, for example): They are reasonably light and short guns that can lay down decent patterned (evenly filled) coverage extremely quickly (difficult to do with select fire rifles, actually) , then duck and let the auto rifle guys behind you take over. Use-case is huge. Sitting still isn’t much of a light rifleman’s reality, is it? If stuck in place, let the heavier machine guns do the lifting. Very German. Very Taliban. Increasingly very American. I obviously don’t believe in “does it all” combat rifles.

    • There is no such animal. Unless, If, and a big IF, you can pick the time, the place, to your advantage and your rifle’s strong points. But, that is the idea of tactics, isn’t it?

  20. Second place was the T44 Springfield, which became the M14.

    Citation is Ezell, “Small Arms Of The World”, Section 1. No page number, I’m at work. If you need it, contact Robert and he’ll put us in touch.

  21. >> The Soviets had whole-heartedly subscribed to the theory of the assault rifle with the AK-47. For some reason, they were also churning out the SKS, an odd weapon that seemingly was meant to combine the disadvantages of assault rifles and full-power battle rifles in one ugly package.

    That’s because the Soviets did not wholeheartedly subscribed to the theory of the assault rifle from the get go. Their initial take on StG 44 was that it was an improved kind of a submachine gun. Now Soviets have already used submachine guns to great effect in WW2 (in more numbers than any other side, in fact), so they could jump on that bandwagon pretty easily. On the other hand, they have also realized that the newly developed intermediate round was also quite suitable for a general-purpose infantry rifle. So AK was developed to replace PPSh and PPS, and SKS was developed to replace Mosin and SVT. Of those two, SKS was meant to be the primary infantry weapon for common troops (hence non-detachable mags, lower capacity, and no full auto fire – all of these deemed “too complicated” for basic training, and prone to ammunition wastage etc – essentially the same arguments that American brass has used to stifle weapon progress on its side), and AK for those with extra training. To the credit of Soviet decision makers, though, once both weapons were adopted for service, it didn’t take them long to realize that AK was perfectly suitable for all troops, and that made SKS redundant.

  22. The realists based their assessments on SLA Marshall’s flawed analysis of how the US conscript performed in battle. He was wrong. For one thing even in 1941half the military age population had experience with rifles. That half, with help of the regular soldiers, taught the other half how to shoot. Reasonably good marksmanship can be easily taught to anybody of average hand eye coordination.

    If the M-14 was not suitable for Vietnam please explain why the M-1 was so effective in the jungles of the Pacific from its first use by the Philippine Scouts on Bataan throught Okinawa? (See William Sloan’s “Undefeated: America’s Heroic Fight for Bataan and Corregidor” for a description of the effectiveness of M-1 in its first battle.) What the M-14 couldn’t do was fire effectively in full auto mode but effectiveness of automatic fire is widely exaggerated. The combination Marshall’s influence and the mistaken notion that all you needed to do was throw lead downrange led to the self fulfilling prophesy that draftees could not be taught to shoot straight.

    Remember we don’t rely on automatic fire any more and one again marksmanship is the order of the day. Unfortunately the Army no longer has an effective infantry rifle. The Marines at least have kept the full size M-16 Here is an easy maxim to remember: If you don’t want to teach soldiers how to shoot be like the Soviets and use a intermediate cartridge in a fully automatic weapon as your primary infantry rifle. If you bother to teach your soldiers how to shoot straight you want to give them a full power cartridge in battle rifle.

    By the way, FN would have been tossed just as quickly as the M-14 in course of the Vietnam war. It was just as heavy and was no more effectivee as an automatic weapon than the M-14.

    • By the way, FN would have been tossed just as quickly as the M-14 in course of the Vietnam war. It was just as heavy and was no more effectivee as an automatic weapon than the M-14.

      Oh I dunno; the Aussies managed quite well with it – with the addition of the “bitch” of course.
      I’ve shot selective fire FAL variants & whilst OK for a big guy like me who knows what to expect, they certainly aren’t going to be accurate or particularly controllable in the hands of a poorly trained, 140lb conscript.

  23. I think the FAL is a great rifle, though, even though not as pretty as the M14. I put a few thousand rounds through them as a teenager (thanks, 1980s Britain and its armed forces cadets programs), and would love to have one again. Alas, my move to a firearms-friendly state (WA, from CA) coincided with the near total unavailability of any decent semi-auto weapon at an affordable price, let alone ammo availability …

    That said, I’d love an M14 or M1a, too.

  24. Two things about thte SKS. First, when the STHF lots o folkare going to show up with one and anywhere between 20 and 1000 rounds of ammo. Second, no matter how good or lousy one may think the rifle is, it will always serve to get something better.

  25. FN FAL (FAL)- Putting pro’s and con’s aside, how can you NOT appreciate such a fine Battle Rifle. Yes, I’m just down right- highly impressed by it!

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