Thursday, October 7, 2010

Skirmishing With Light Arms 4: Into the Modern

We are going to start with the following discussion [Long Range Combat] from The Scrapboard
There are times when a Soldier may have the opportunity to fire at ranges greater than 500m. However, there is a difference between sniping at an unsuspecting foe or suppressive fire at an area and combat shooting. In Combat shooting the enemy is aware he is a target and acting accordingly.
To understand intermediate rounds, let's put them in their historical context:-

 The idea of intermediate rounds (optimized for 500m or less) is usually portrayed as a German wartime concept. In actuality the contract for development of the 7.92x33mm round was placed in 1934 and it was apparent during the First World War that shots at more than 400yds were very rare. The usual explanation you'll see for a 500m range being selected is that in most of the world visibility and terrain prevents shooting at greater ranges. Since MGs and snipers routinely shoot at greater ranges this accepted and often repeated explanation is obviously wrong!

 By 1942 the German army was very familiar with alpine and desert fighting and it is very “un-Germanic” that these experiences would not have been figured into development of the intermediate rounds.

My theory is this.
It is Tactical Accuracy not visibility that is the limiting factor.

 A 7.92mm or lesser bullet takes around a second to reach 600m. In that time an AWARE target can sprint 5-9m :- you don't know which direction he will take and he'll often be darting between cover. Your chance of hitting him with a single aimed shot is virtually random.

 I think most shooting was less than 500m because most German riflemen knew there was little point shooting beyond this unless the foe didn't know you were there or you could fill an area of about 10m with bullets.

A couple of friends confirm this with more recent experiences:-

“DOD did the same kinds of studies for all kinds of terrain, same result/conclusions; usual infantry engagement was 300 yards or less (didn't matter what you were armed with, typical infantry could not get hits at greater than 300m unless shooting volleys in mass or using machine guns.

 I was a former USMC National Match M-14 shooter and I can testify that even then the average infantryman was not going to get hits beyond 300m.) If you are under 1000m you call company or battalion mortars or MGs or Mark 19 (full auto grenade launcher), artillery and air strikes are for better targets that are further off. The point is correct on not firing individual weapons at longer than 300m, you won't kill them and they can call fire down on you!”

An ex-ranger
 “If you sight a target element that far away it is much more tactically feasible to call in artillery fire or an air strike thus saving your infantry the suicidal need for a half mile movement to contact. If you don't have fire support it is better to get closer before engagement to limit your targets tactical options. 500 to 700 meters gives them room to do just about anything, especially if you have let them know you were there by shooting at them from that distance. They may HAVE fire support!!”
He includes this chart from Jane's Infantry Weapons 1976 that reinforces the above discussion: 80% of shooting takes place at 220m, and 90% at about 310m.

This gets us some ways, except that our discussion is not on large battlefield tactical maneuvers, but irregular (Small war) tactics.  But it does point out that if you are a somewhat normal shooter, when firing at a distance, YOU GET ONE SHOT.  Then everyone ducks for cover, and if you are at range much beyond 200m, you are very unlikely to hit anything.  Thus automatic, versus semi-automatic, versus bolt action is not terribly important on these long range shots.

So let us continue with some other thoughtful people’s observations:

David Spaulding in What Really Happens In A Gunfight? spoke to ~200 people and interviewed them on their experience in a gunfight: including military, lawmen, and legally armed civilians. Paraphrasing some of his findings:
Often individuals were “surprise” by the situation, and were slow to react.

People who went into the situation (generally lawmen or military men on a specific type of operation) were generally least likely to be surprised.
Often people did not use the sights on their weapons.  Two groups generally did sight their weapons before firing.   Those who were not surprised and those with long arms, and those with revolvers.  Revolvers often have a larger, easier to see sight than automatic pistols, rifles by training are fired from the shoulder and it is natural to look down the sight when firing.

In a study he cites, in data base of lawmen who won their fight:  the hit ratio was 62%, not the more frequently cited 18% of other studies.

To turn to a study that was made into a book:  Gavin De Becker’s Just 2 Seconds.  In his study of attempted and successful assassination attempts he notes the following: 

for most types of attacks, 25-feet of space between attacker and target just about assure the protectee’s survival.
It should be noted, that while most assassinations in the U.S. occur with handguns (Southerners like their rifles a little more) , in foreign countries the use of long arms is more common.  So the 25' rule is not completely about the type of weapon used, it is also about the ability of the target to run or hide, and the ability of bystandards and guards to interfere.

We are going to further expand and discuss some of theese items a bit later.

No comments: