Can I get a plasma rifle in the 40 Megawatt range?

From karkatoa, over at The Mothership, comes word that the Army is once again taking a look at replacing the M-4/M-16 family. Previous efforts have been pretty disastrous. This time, it looks like the Army is going to take a hard look at what is out on the market today, and for once, they are open to looking at rounds besides the current 5.56mm.

The Army’s abrupt change in direction — after long stating it would stick with the M4 until there was a “leap” in technology that would far surpass current carbine performance — comes after nearly two years of pressure on the service to re-examine the M4 and entertain a nearer-term replacement.

Some in Congress have called for the Army to hold a “shoot-off” with several other carbine designs alongside the Colt-built M4 to demonstrate the state of the art in today’s military arms market. Sen. Tom Coburn (R – Okla.) briefly held up the nomination of Army Secretary Pete Geren in mid-2007 to force the service into side-by-side comparisons of M4 competitors in extreme dust conditions.

I’ve said before that I liked the M-16 and the M-4, but I also understand a lot of the frustration with both weapons and the round. What do you want to see the services go to?

15 thoughts on “Can I get a plasma rifle in the 40 Megawatt range?”

  1. Like I’ve said before, 5.56 NATO is a crappy glorified .22 based on a flawed wounding theory (yawing/fragmenting bullet). The assault rifle round should be something in between 5.56 and 7.62 NATO…6.8 SPC would be great. I would like to get 7.62 NATO back as the SAW round, but I’m not sure if the logistics hurdles could be overcome.

    As for what platform to use, direct impingement is NOT the way to go. Period, full stop. I don’t particularly care which you pick, as I’ve heard good things about both the SCAR and the HK 416 (the 416 has the added advantage of reusing the AR lower receivers).

    However, while we’re buying new guns, we need to rethink this idea of using a weapon with a carbine length barrel as the standard assault rifle for the Army. A lot of the trouble with 5.56 NATO can be traced back to the lower muzzle velocities that are a result of shooting from a weapon with a really short barrel.

  2. I’d like to see something in the same M-4 format, but with a gas piston operating system and a better (larger) caliber.

    The M-4 could be a great rifle, if it’s shortcomings are fixed. No need to re-invent the wheel, but the wheel needs to be improved.

  3. I like the Bushmaster ACR / Magpul Masada, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Army adopt 6.5 Grendel over 6.8 SPC. While it’s true that most combat action takes place at 300m or less, the Army has a built-in bias for service rifles that can reach out to 500m+, and I don’t see them switching to a cartridge that doesn’t work well at longer ranges.

    Between this and the new wiz-bang 25mm grenade launcher, the XM-25, a whole new look for the infantry is coming down the pipe.

  4. Yeah, that’s a good point re: 6.5 Grendel vs. 6.8 SPC. Just look at the battle that had to be waged in the ’50s and ’60s to get the Army to adopt 5.56 NATO over continuing the .30-06/7.62 NATO size round for their main rifle. This built in bias makes the decision to adopt the M4 in increasing numbers all the more surprising.

  5. No sweat, Kevin, your comment with the link spent some time in the penalty box. You posted the second comment before I could fish out the first.

  6. We often forget, as designed the 5.56 round was devastatingly effective at close range. It conformed to the FMJ requirement for the ‘rules of war’ but would indeed spin, tumble, and generally mess a body up. The guy’s designing it bought on to S.L.A. Marshall’s idea of infantry combat (remember “A Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation”?). Problem was, at range it was woefully inaccurate. After those guys passed the round to the Army Ord Department, the focus was to stabilize the round for better performance at range. The compromise didn’t work. Even worse was the NATO version used for the M16A2.

    The reality is in combat the soldier doesn’t have time for esoteric discussions of range, stopping power, and rounds per minute. He needs a general purpose round that can do most jobs generally well. What should have been used, IMO, was the .270 caliber round (if memory serves) that was tried next to the 5.56 back in the 1950s and 60s. A good solid mid range between the 7.62 and 5.56.

  7. Caswain,

    You’re probably thinking of .280 British, which was a round that was pushed as NATO’s standard assault rifle round in the ’50s. The Army adopted 7.62 NATO which forced the standardization issue…only to admit the folly of its ways and go back and adopt 5.56 NATO. The real irony is that 6.8 SPC is ballistically very similar to .280 British.

  8. Mike, I’m just curious how ballistically similar both rounds are to the .276 the Garand was originally designed for that MacArthur killed. Can you put me some knowledge?

  9. Ahh, I had forgotten about .276 Pedersen. To the best of my knowledge .276 Pedersen and .280 British are more or less the same cartridge, both in dimensions and ballistic performance (obviously not THE same cartridge, but very very close). 6.8 SPC is dimensionally slightly different but ballistically very similar. 6.5 Grendel is the outlier since it was developed for better long range performance, as opposed to the other three which were intended to provide a good close to medium range round with solid incapacitating capability.

    Unfortunately I don’t have any solid numbers, but the three would all impart about the same energy within a couple hundred Joules, all other things being equal.

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