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WW2 Small Arms Lessons Learned and Ignored

Discussion in 'Weapons & Technology in WWII' started by DarkLord, Mar 31, 2021.

  1. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    Following the war, both sides took a good look at small arms effectiveness, and specifically what the Germans came up with. The two big standout weapons the Germans made were the FG-42 and the MP-44. The US looked at the two and thought the FG-42 was awesome, and the MP-44 was a bad idea. The Russians had it figured out by 1943 and were already working on their answer to the MP-44.

    The Russians really got it all right where small arms are concerned, and it has taken DECADES for the west to figure it all out. The Russians had an assault rifle by 1947. We got one in 1965, but we didn’t make it as short and handy as the AK until 1995

    The Russians realized the importance of a designated marksman in every unit. I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, but we kinda figured out they were right around 2002.

    So why did the Russians “get it” and we didn’t? I think it comes down to how their generals assessed weapon effectiveness in WW2. The Russians assessment was that the individual rifleman needs access to full auto fire; frequently. The US assessment was that full auto is only truly effective from squad auto’s or machine guns.

    And that’s where the US got it wrong…We really thought the machine gun was the queen of the infantry battlefield (and it kinda is often times), and that the infantry provides more precise fire, or should be moving. For logistical reasons the 7.62 NATO was chosen not because it was the best rifle cartridge. But because it met the minimum performance requirements of a GPMG…and was acceptable in an infantry rifle. Therefore the US was smarter than the Russians because they came up with a single cartridge that can do the job of GPMG and infantry rifle. Logistics simplified!

    That’s great, until guys with M14’s meet up with enemies carrying AK’s (or any other assault rifle). What they quickly learn is…we’re out-gunned!


    It was a painful lesson.
     
  2. eroc

    eroc New Member

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    The Soviets had much more combat experience than the US did for starters and didn't have a global war to fight like the US did, which changed priorities. The US focused on logistics more than combat performance, so considered having a universal cartridge more important than a couple/few specialized ones since they had to ship all their ammo from the US to Europe or Asia. The lesson US planners took from WW2 is that it was a lot better to have a single standardized cartridge since infantry combat was of lesser importance than artillery anyway from a casualty producing perspective. Since the Soviets planned on fighting future wars in their own backyard logistics wasn't nearly as big of an issue and they painfully learned how important infantry small arms were to their doctrine since the Germans made they pay an extraordinary price for fielding less ideal infantry weapons.

    Of course the Soviets/Russians didn't really assess weapons effectiveness in any sort of novel way, they just copied the Germans. They saw that what the Germans were doing was working, so just took their weapons and made them fit Soviet practices. So they developed the PK MG series, which was basically a Russianized MG42 in concept, as it was their GPMG, just based on an operating system they considered better. Same with the AK47, which conceptually was just a Russianized STG44. Mechanically of course it had more in common with the Garand and a few other US weapons, but the basis and cartridge was effectively rip offs.

    The US of course looked at what the Germans did too and decided what worked the best was the MG42 and wanted their own, which is how they turned the FG42/MG42 into the M60. Basically no different in concept than the PK. The US though just didn't really have much fighting experience against the STG, so didn't think it was worthwhile to copy, while the M14 was just a development of the existing Garand improvements they had already been working on:
    https://www.gunsamerica.com/digest/milsurp-full-auto-garand-secret-world-war-ii-era-t20-rifle/

    They just were trying to squish the M1 and BAR into one gun. The FG42 had no influence on the design.

    You're sort of right, though you're incorrect that they considered the MG the most important...they considered artillery the most important and the infantry simply an escort for the artillery spotter. MGs were the most casualty producing/suppressing infantry weapon and the rifle was simply a supplement.

    Of course the Germans got it right with the STG concept and squad/platoon/company reforms around it, which the US only figured out after introducing the M16 and doing combat testing, which ultimately showed the German late war organization changes were the most effective infantry option, but then promptly ignored that to do whatever the brass wanted anyway. Only recently has the change in the Marine small arms upgrade gotten close to bringing an element of US ground forces back into line with what WW2 demonstrated was the right small arms profile/infantry organization around it, but even there they're a bit too slavish to the fire team concept, which was shown to be inferior to other organizations; that is one thing the US army actually got right after WW2 by adopting the 9 man squad without smaller team structures, but then abandoned after Vietnam for reason of APC capacity and the SAW program.

    Meanwhile the Russians have enhanced their squad structures to get the best structure for a professional army for small wars. I think that would fall apart if you ever had a longer war against a peer level opponent that forced conscription, as you'd have to have a reversion to 'lowest common denominator' tactics and structures.
     
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  3. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

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    Yes, it was all about artillery (mortars upwards), and more so now. Even the 7.62 x 39 today is deemed too heavy and not cost-effective (we're talking replacement cost here, not cost of existing stock of weapons and ammo which are still dirt-cheap.)

    Get this: small arms accounted for less than 5% of war casualties from 1991 to 1991 (Desert 1).
     
  4. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    If illustrates how ‘careful’ the US was in putting soldiers in danger IMO...the war was very much televised and watched by the world...they didn’t want a large body count to counter the ‘superiority’ theme they established...better to use aircraft and tanks...
     
  5. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    Dude,

    OUTSTANDING POST!!!

    I agree the US thought artillery was more important…I didn’t mention artillery because we’re talking small arms.
     
  6. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    This part is worth some real discussion.

    I think you're short selling the Russians, but only a little bit. The Russians were drawing the same conclusions the Germans were on the battlefield, and that makes sense given they were fighting each other...they were both observing the same thing, just from different point of views. So it shouldn't be surprising they drew many of the same conclusions.

    What would become the Russian assault rifle program began nearly the same time as the Germans; the German's just got there first. That's because the Germans had much more resources to throw at the problem. The Russians really sandbagged their small arms development the first half of the 20th century because they knew 99% of anything they came up with; they wouldn't be able to afford, or have sufficient resources to put in place. Their economy was a mess, and their manufacturing technology was about 10 years behind Western Europe and the US. They had very little stamping equipment, so they used that equipment only in the places where it was going to make the most difference (vehicle manufacturing), so it was never going to filter down to small arms (and really didn't until 1959). Now add in their desperate tactical circumstances and their decision to not seek an assault rifle until after the war makes sense. What they needed was mechanization on the battlefield, and massive artillery...a rifle wasn't going to change their tactical or strategic situation. It was only going to affect the war at the squad or platoon level, and that's not the best place to put your resources, when you're facing 150 divisions across a 3,000 mile front.
     
  7. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    I'd give the Soviets a little more credit. Lest we forget the very first Russian semi-auto rifle with intermediate rifle cartridge was the Federov that used the 6.5 mm Japanese.
     
  8. eroc

    eroc New Member

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    Show me evidence they had developed and assault rifle and intermediate cartridge prior to encountering the StG prototypes in 1942 or '43 (sources differ on when they captured the first one). They certainly adopted the SMG based on experiences against the Finns, but the Germans were already field testing a prototype STG (MKb 42) before the Soviets fielded mass SMG companies.

    What assault rifle program would that be? They only started it after capturing an MKb42:
    Soviet Gun Archives: Sturmgewehr Usage
    Автомат Калашникова — Википедия
    They get only the credit they deserve.
    The Federov was not an assault rifle, it was an automatic rifle intended for use exactly like the BAR and Chauchat. The 6.5 Arisaka cartridge is not an intermediate cartridge either, it is a full powered battle rifle cartridge, just the weakest one ever fielded by any major military; it only approached assault rifle energies because they used a much shorter barrel for the Avtomat than the Japanese Arisaka rifle did, which was longer due to the powder burn rate of the cartridge to ensure maximum velocity relative to the powder load.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    in the immediate postwar years, NATO nations were interested in the lighter, assault rifle cartridges. The FAL was originally designed for 7.92x33, and the British developed a .280 cartridge and weapons. It was the US which insisted on what became the 7.62 NATO, and then a few years later we turned to the 5.56.
     
  10. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    My bad, I'm off by a couple of years.

    The
    I have always referred to the FAL as the greatest mistake. It was a wonderful rifle, but it should have never been chambered for 7.62 NATO. But as eroc has pointed out, following WW2 I think the cartridge was inevitable.
     
  11. eroc

    eroc New Member

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    Probably right.
    Though a 6.5x51 NATO would have been baller:
    6.5x51 FN XPL for Swedish MG / MUNICION.ORG
     
  12. Prospero Quevedo

    Prospero Quevedo Active Member

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    Now we started with a 55 gr bullet and then to a 63 gr but the military was not satisfied with performance and there was talk about studies on a 69 gr. Did we change or still trying out new bullets. What would happen if I used the new rounds in my old original twist would I burn the barrel and what about the bullet flight
     
  13. Prospero Quevedo

    Prospero Quevedo Active Member

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    I had a buddy who told me when they first got the M16 they hated it. They called it the Mattel toy gun. The stock broke easily and it did your gun was usually useless. He heard a Thompson was turned in and smashed his stock and got the Thompson. I read that the Thompson was in high demand in all theatres, but it cost was extreme because of all the precision milling 200 a copy, is that right seems high. So some guy design the grease gun based on stamp and press manufacturing and said the price per gun was 35 what a huge difference.
     
  14. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    The original M16 had a 1-14" twist and used 55gr bullets. By the time they got to adoption, that twist rate was tightened up to 1-12" which is what you'll find on all M16A1's.
    The M16A2 was spec'd for the Belgian SS109 round which became the US M855; which uses a 62gr bullet. The rifle was fitted with a 1-7" barrel to accommodate the very long M856 tracer cartridge.

    The 1-12" is good for 55gr and perhaps on up to around 60 grains. But when you try to shoot the later 62gr M855, the 1-12" twist is just insufficient to stabilize that bullet.
    If you have a twist rate of 1-9 or tighter, you'll be able to use most 5.56 or .223 ammunition.

    When I built my M16E1 clone, I chose a 1-7" A1 profile barrel so I could shoot whatever I want...But I mostly shoot M193 55gr.
     
  15. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    The biggest problem with the M16 when it was introduced was the fact that it was still an experimental weapon...there were still a couple of issues to work out; yet they issued it anyhow. One of the issue that hadn't been nailed down was the specification of the cartridge. There were two different powders being used, and they hadn't nailed down the metallurgical specification of the case. These two unresolved issues with the ammunition, and a couple of lesser issues with the rifle created some serious issues for the overall weapon system that caused a high failure rate.

    By 1966 the issues were resolved, and the M16 has been the longest serving infantry rifle in US history.
     
  16. Prospero Quevedo

    Prospero Quevedo Active Member

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    Thanks for the information you must really be into small arms do you have a large collection? Have a great day
     
  17. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    I'm a gunsmith who usually works on military arms. I have a small collection of military arms, and a small collection of civilian sporting arms. I'm VERY interested in infantry rifles and why they're made the way they are.

    Here's my "Cold War" collection. My absolute favorite to shoot is the top one, the M1 Carbine. Been in love with that rifle since I was a little kid.


    [​IMG]
     
  18. Prospero Quevedo

    Prospero Quevedo Active Member

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    I'm in
    Armalite or at least Stoner and his partner worked out of two Quonset huts in the Costa Mesa industry district. My buddy and I went to check it out and was closed no work hrs posted. We went by maybe a couple of years later and the signs were changed. Should I upgrade to the stoner gas system?
     
  19. Prospero Quevedo

    Prospero Quevedo Active Member

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    Is that a ar180 in your collection and if so have you had any odd problems with it??
     
  20. DarkLord

    DarkLord Member

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    By the time the US military was using the M16, Gene Stoner had moved on to other things; he actually was called back to testify about the issues. Jim Sullivan did the lion's share of the work on the AR15, and when it moved to Colt, then Colt's engineers took over. It was actually a Colt engineer, not anyone from Armalite, that redesigned the buffer...a rather brilliant and simple solution to the issues they were having.
     

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