3/30/12

Until the late 1800's, military rifles fired large, heavy, relatively slow, soft lead bullets which deformed on impact and reliably incapacitated opponents. In the late 1890's to early 1900ís, new military rifles were developed which fired smaller diameter, lighter weight, non-deforming FMJ bullets at much higher velocities. The new FMJ bullets initially had round noses, but within 10 years, pointed (spitzer) noses were standard Although the velocities of these new FMJ military bullets were 60 to 100% greater than the older lead bullets, the tissue damage produced by the new higher velocity FMJ bullets was so minimal, that uncomplicated soft tissue wounds frequently healed with treatment limited to aseptic dressings. In addition, compared to the reliable incapacitation produced by the old lower velocity lead bullets, the new higher velocity FMJ bullets proved ineffective at reliably incapacitating opponents in combat, as British troop discovered to their dismay in the Chitral Campaign of 1895.

In an attempt to create a metal jacketed bullet which matched the incapacitation potential of the older .577-450 lead bullets used in their Martini-Henry rifles, the British Dum-Dum arsenal near Calcutta modified the Mk II FMJ into a more effective JSP configuration by removing 1 mm of jacket at the bullet nose; British colonial troops reported that this bullet proved effective during the Tirah campaign in 1897-98. Back in Britain, the Woolwich Arsenal had concurrently worked on an expanding .303 JHP projectile; a series of bullets based on this design, the Mk III, IV, and V, which exhibited moderate deformation and improved incapacitation compared with the round nose MkII FMJ they replaced were adopted beginning in 1897 and proved effective in combat at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. Anti-British sentiment lead other nations to protest that the .303 expanding bullets were inhumane and culminated in the 1899 Hague Declaration IV in which the signing nations agreed, ď...to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core or is pierced with incisions.Ē Note that the U.S. is not a party to the 1899 Hague treaty, but has complied with it in international armed conflict. JAG rulings have stated that the treaty is not applicable to certain SOF or military law enforcement missions. The British replacement for the prohibited expanding .303 bullets was the Mark VII FMJ adopted in 1910 -- ironically, the early yaw of the spitzer style Mark VII FMJ bullet produces a more severe wound than the supposedly inhumane bullets! For more information, read Daniel E. Watters superb discussion of these events, as well as this well written article by Mike Waldron: http://pfoa.co.uk/248/dum-dum-bullets.



The Hague Convention IV of 1907 prohibits the employment of, ďarms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.Ē Bullets that yaw and fragment in tissue were specifically not prohibited. This position was not disputed by the 1978 UNCCW Conference and was reconfirmed during itsí review in 1994 - 1996.

Of course, it is patently ludicrous to conclude that incapacitating dangerous opponents in combat while using the same deforming bullets legally relied on daily by LE agencies is somehow inhumane and unlawful, while wounding or killing the same enemy using much more powerful destructive ordnance such as grenades, mines, mortars, artillery, rockets, bombs, CBUís, FAEís, and thermobarics is approved and condoned. This is neither logical nor just and in fact does nothing to limit the severity of battlefield casualties.

In the late 1800ís during the Boer Wars and the Spanish-American War, British and American military personnel were quite impressed with the performance of the 7x57 mm cartridge fired by Mauser Model 1895 rifle used by opposing forces. From approximately 1908-1914, the British Army began worked on an intermediate power rifle cartridge to replace their .303 cartridge; initially a .256 caliber was assessed, but by 1910 a more accurate and effective .276 caliber cartridge fired from the P13 Enfield magazine fed rifle was selected. Trials of the rifle and cartridge took place in England, Ireland, South Africa and Egypt around 1913-1914 with favorable results; unfortunately the outbreak of WWI halted further intermediate caliber development and the UK fought WWI and WWII with the standard .303 cartridge. Likewise, in the late 1920ís, the U.S. Army selected the .276 Pederson caliber produced by Frankford Arsenal as the best caliber for a new semi-automatic rifle. The .276 fired a 125 gr bullet at approximately 2700 f/s. Ordnance trials determined that John Garandís new .276 caliber T3E2 rifle was an ideal combat weapon, however, development of the .276 rifle was halted in 1932 because of the large remaining stocks of old .30-06 caliber M1906 150 gr FMJ ammunition left over from WWI; thus the U.S. military threw away an opportunity to adopt the superior performing .276 caliber and the M1 Garand rifle was adopted in the old .30-06 caliber.

Late WWII saw the advent of the new intermediate power ďAssault RifleĒ cartridges, designed to bridge the gap between full power battle rifles and pistol caliber sub- machine guns. The German MP43 / StG44 was the first modern assault rifle to be introduced. It was very popular with combat troops and saw extensive battlefield use, especially on the Eastern Front. Wounds were similar to those produced by the older full power battle rifles.



Following WWII the United States Army again made a colossal weapon system selection error when it rejected the British .270 caliber 130 gr and .280 caliber 140 gr ammunition fired at approximately 2400 f/s and instead insisted on the full power 7.62 x 51 mm cartridge that offered nearly identical ballistic characteristics as the old .30-06 it replaced. Given the 7.62 mmís extremely short life as the standard service rifle caliber, in hindsight, we can hypothesize that both the .270 (6.8 mm) and .280 (7 mm) would probably have been ideal combat rifle calibers and might still be in use today if either had been chosen. Thus, immediately following WWII, both the Soviet and NATO armies standardized on modified, shortened versions of their traditional .30 cal / 7.62 mm rifle cartridges for use in the standard rifles (AK-47, M-14, FAL, G3) of that era.

Beginning in the late 1950ís, a new generation of military rifles was developed, such as the M-16 and AK-74, that fired smaller diameter, lighter weight bullets, at velocities greater than 3000 f/s. The higher projectile velocities renewed many misconceptions regarding high velocity wounds. Despite initially appearing significant, a closer analysis reveals that the velocity increase of the new lightweight bullets was only 10% greater compared with the preceding generation of military rifles. These new, lightweight higher velocity bullets did not produce wounds of dramatically greater severity than those caused by other military rifle bullets. Unfortunately, following adoption of the 5.56 mm M16 in the 1960ís, there have been persistent complaints from troops regarding terminal performance problems with 5.56 mm ammunition, generally manifested as failures to rapidly incapacitate opponents during combat engagements. In addition, most 5.56 mm bullets are generally less effective when intermediate barriers, such as walls, glass, and vehicles shield opponents--this is a significant consideration in both urban combat and dense foliage. The decreased incapacitation potential of 5.56 mm compared with larger rifle calibers is intrinsic to the small caliber varmint hunting roots of the 5.56 mm cartridge; in many states it is illegal to hunt deer size game with 5.56 mm, so why expect it to offer ideal terminal performance against aggressive, violent 100-200 lbs human opponents?

In 1972, the U.S. Army issued a Mission Needs Statement and detailed specifications for a new SAW/LMG. At that time, in reviewing calibers for the new system, 5.56 x 45 mm was felt to lack effective range and terminal performance while 7.62 x 51 mm was felt to be too heavy; weapon developers and joint users felt no current weapons systems and calibers could meet the requirements, thus a new compromise caliber was necessary--this became the 6 x 45 mm SAW. The 6 mm SAW used a 105 gr low drag bullet fired at around 2450 fps. In 1976, the Army ordered that SAW design efforts be redirected, this included stopping development of the 6 mm SAW cartridge (in part for fear of irritating our NATO allies again) and focusing efforts on 5.56 mm LMG designs (XM248/XM235, XM249/FN Minimi, XM262/HK21A-1).

Continued ammunition development and wound ballistic research has confirmed the efficacy of the earlier attempts to develop ideal combat rifle ammunition and has validated that the optimal combat rifle caliber is likely to be around .270 to .280 caliber.