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February 22, 2007

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H. Short

Thanks for the 'Heckler & Koch 416 enhanced carbine' link; I wasn't even aware of it. In Vietnam I basically despised the M16 design while I loved the round, and it is nice to know that its glaring flaws have finally been addressed.

However, times change and even if the M16 and its variants were made perfect it is doubtful that they are really suitable to today's conflicting needs of urban and mountain warfare.

One obvious point which was not touched on in the above report is directly tied into Larry's initial motivation to find a suitable short barreled weapon, and that is killing or stopping capabilities. In Vietnam what made the 5.56 king was its stopping power. I treated a patient one time who had taken an AK burst in his upper right chest; I don't remember now exactly how many rounds made up the arc, at least five and maybe seven. The point is he lived and the NVA who shot him died.

Back then a single M16 hit that wasn't strictly a grazing flesh wound would stop a man. The round's ability to liberate energy was amazing as a hit into muscle would turn it into jelly; a hit on bone in a limb could almost rip the limb off; and hits into the abdomen or chest just pulverized everything.

Now I read reports of multiple solid hits into the chest leaving the enemy still able to function. I am not sure what is going on. Part of it is this quest for short barrels. That plays havoc with the rounds' capabilities. I've seen ballistic data that indicates the loss of power is not that great but something is seriously wrong with the M4. For instance the Michael Yon eyewitness report of four rounds fired into the chest of a enemy combatant from less than five yards and while the man went down he also went for a pistol. Unreal.

But in any case, whether it is the short barrels or change in flight characteristics so the rounds don't do their old Vietnam tumbling routine on impact with the subsequent massive liberation of energy, the M16 5.56 weapon is clearly not doing well. In urban combat the bullet is too light against buildings and vehicles; especially armored vehicles but then it can't even stop a dinky Daihatsu full of terrorists. And in the mountains or desert it doesn't have the range to reach out and touch someone effectively.

The HK416 certainly seems to have 'fixed' most of the M16 platform problems and the 50 million or more flushed down the toilet on that joke called the XM8 would have been much better spent on supplying the troops with the HK416.

However, in the long run a completely different platform is needed. At a minimum this should at the least incorporate a heavier round - the 7.62 is probably fine; the improvements illustrated in Larry's article: a non-direct gas system and the other secondary mods; and the one improvement that was worth a damn in the XM8 project, the special treating of the chamber to resist fouling. In the pursuit of 'shorter' barrels, it would be a good idea to follow the Israeli Tavor design, and move the receiver back instead of hacking the barrel off.

Sticking with the conventional designs,I would like to see a completely redesigned magazine. Thirty round banana clips are fine until you're scrunched down as low as you can go behind pebbles for cover and then to fire you have to raise your head a foot to get a sight because of that damn magazine. Can't someone come up with a low profile mag? I don't care if its on the forearm or butt stock, but think about it. Just about every kid who grew up with a rifle had a twenty two with a tubular magazine; even the old Sharps had a tubular magazine in the butt; not to mention most shotguns. They are a proven design. Are those types suitable for modern warfare? Of course not.

However, think about a forearm design with ten rounds in a rotary type clip that fastens on a rail or whatever along with three or four more clips following. When one is emptied it 'ejects', the next one slides into place, and you clip a fresh one at the far end. Forty or more rounds in ten round mini-mags that fit your bracing hand. All sorts of variations on that theme if you think about it, for instance the mags could simply be holders with no built in feeding mechanism. The rotary feeding mechanism could be part of the support rail or rod or whatever you'd call it. In this scenario when replacing mini-mags you'd start at the far end and work down as the rounds would be fed downward through the mags to the receiver.

However, I think chemical propellant arms really need to get away from gunpowder encased in cartridges and go to liquid propellant. I have no idea why we haven't done so already.

Sorry for the long ramble. Thanks for all your efforts in making this a great informative site.

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