February 01, 2005

How Would You Arm A Squad

Over at Kim du Toit's forum a couple of questions came up that form the basis for a friendly discussion (i.e. no blood drawn - from vital organs at least) over the basis of arming a squad of soldiers. The first is here & the second is here.

Now there's one thing you should understand if you don't already - any questions asked amongst gun nuts about the best way to arm a squad or platoon is really a thinly veiled invitation to open the argument of battle rifles v. assault rifles as the idea general issue weapon.

To touch briefly on the underlying question - a battle rifle is a semi-automatic or select fire (capable of fully automatic fire) long gun firing a high powered cartridge. The FN-FAL is a battle rifle. An assault rifle is a select fire (not a semi-automatic) long gun that's slightly shorter & lighter than a battle rifle & fires an intermediate powered cartridge. The M16 is an assault rifle. (Note: the site linked above has various battle rifles grouped in with the assault rifles. This is an error on their part but an understandable one as the only criteria lacking in some examples is the chambering).

The arguments usually run thus: an assault rifle is better because the ammo for it weighs less; is more controllable in full auto fire & allows the firearm to be smaller & lighter than a full sized rifle thus making the soldier's burden lighter. A battle rifle is better because it allows for greater range of effective fire & is generally a more stable platform for aimed shots at medium to long ranges. The counter arguments are that the cartridges usually chambered in assault rifles are inadequate for putting an enemy down quickly (the counter to that is that A: it's better to wound the enemy thus tie up multiple troops in his care & B: multiple hits do the job & are easier than with a high powered weapon) & they lack range (which is countered by statistics from one source or another that alleges distances in combat seldom exceed 300 yards & thus the assault weapons are more than adequate 95% of the time).

I fall into the pro-battle rifle group. Assault weapons do have their place (such as in very close combat) but as a general issue weapon I'd prefer an honest to J.M. Browning battle rifle.

Without further explanation here are my choices for arming the fictional squad*:

Five different weapons will be issued:

M1 Garand
BM-59 (in several variants)
Tangfolio T95 (known to the U.S, as the EAA Witness

The CO & Exec carrying Sterlings or BM-59 PARA's or Garands (their choice) & EAA Witnesses
The Team Leaders carrying either a BM-59 or a Garand - their choice - & EAA Witnesses
Two machine gunners w/ FN MAG's in & EAA Witnesses
Two assistants to each MG each carrying BM-59 PARA's
Two designated marksmen carrying tuned Garands
Two soldiers carrying Garands
Two soldiers carrying BM-59 Mark IV's (as a Squad Automatic Weapon)

The BM-59's & Garand will be chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge (not the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge). The Sterlings & the EAA Witnesses will be chambered for the 10mm cartridge. Basically I’d have 2 six man fire teams based around the MAG's (not counting the CO & Exec of course).

However before y'all start degrading the idea of the '06 as a combat round lemme explain something else - varied ammo.

Ya tune the Garands & BM-59's so there's a selector on the gas cylinder lock screw valve to adjust the gas flow. Two settings; one for the 165 grain bullets clocking 2650 fps or so (Muzzle Velocity from the Garand) another for the 125 grain bullets clocking 2800 fps or so (again MV from the Garand). Ideally in close quarters you'd use the 125's & when the range opens up you flick the selector & use the 165 grainers.

Logistical problems? Not really. We're not talking two non-interchangeable rounds for the rifles. As long as ammo gets to them then they'd be able to use it - worst case is it's less than ideal for conditions. Two cartridges to deal with & two power levels of one cartridge to choose from.

& if possible I'll throw in another variable - each squad will have some alternate choices of armaments. Let's say each squad has in reserve enough 10mm Sterlings to go around plus two scoped Garands & a half dozen Remington 870's modified to handle the Aguilla mini-shell (Come to think of it a mini-shell firing underbarrel shotgun might be neat underneath a BM-59 PARA). It's not always possible to re-equip due to conditions (for an assload of reasons) but say you're coming out of the desert into a city it'd be nice to switch things up a bit - though not totally necessary. For less mobile or mechanized use I'd include some Browning 1919's. Not really necessary to replace the MAG, but hell; a 1919 is a 1919. If you can have both then by all means have both.

That's how I'd ideally do it. But let's say one stipulation was using a currently manufactured military round (the '06 is only available as commercial or military surplus). Then I'd switch things up just a bit:

Replace one of the MAG's with two BM-59 Mark IV's in 7.62x51. Ditto for all the Garands except the Designated Marksmen - replace them with BM-59's in 7.62x51 & have the Designated Marksmen's Garands chambered for 7.62x51. But same as above - use two loadings - one with a 125 grainer for close in work & one with a 165 grainer for the more distant problems.

That makes:

The CO & Exec w/ either a BM-59 PARA or a Garand or a Sterling
The team leaders with either a BM-59 or a Garand
3 BM-59 Mark IV's
2 BM-59 Para's
2 Garands
2 BM-59's

Same sidearms & sidearm & submachinegun chambering as above. That makes one fire team centered on the MAG & the other centered on the two BM-59 Mark IV's. Two cartridges to deal with & two power levels of one cartridge to choose from.

It seems to me that it'd be much easier to have one cartridge w/ two different power levels than two different cartridges for different purposes as most people here have suggested. Modifying the gas cylinder lock screw valve to switch between the two wouldn't be a big deal & using either power level in every long gun beats the hell out of having your mates run out of ammo or vice versa.

The Garand design (which would include the BM-59 as it's just a modified Garand) & the '06 or 7.62x51 are still adequate for the needs of a military. Any complaints about being over powered can be answered by using reduced loads while still having the flexibility of going to the full power stuff. What it comes down to is with a battle rifle you can (if you plan ahead a bit) use a lighter load to fill an assault rifle role. You can't upgrade an assault rifle by throwing more powder behind a heavier bullet.

Chris Byrne asked why I chose the BM-59 & since I chose the BM-59 why I had a "plain" Garand in the mix.

The BM-59 is based on the Garand. IMHO the Garand is still a (if not the most) reliable & accurate platform from which to build a battle rifle. I opted for this particular variant because A: it has a detachable magazine to keep those box minded folks happy B: it's a little shorter & lighter than a standard Garand & C: it's select fire. Besides, life's too short to shoot an ugly gun.

As to why I "bother" with the Garand at all (such blasphemy!) it has a longer barrel (hence longer sight radius) & is a semi. I'd prefer to have a squad concentrate on aimed shots & having a few guys with semi-auto only rifles is a good way to stress this. The BM-59's in the mix should give all the full auto options a squad would need, while the Garands would give a slightly more accurate (mainly due to the sight radius) platform for aimed fire.

As always after you post something you inevitably realize there were things you left out. The FN-BAR Type D & the Colt Monitor come to mind. They're both variants of the 1918 BAR & the Type D is considered by some to be the BAR's finest incarnation. The Bren L4 is another good machine gun that I didn't consider.

As for the cartridge used in the pistols & submachineguns I really think that the full power 10mm is probably the best choice for a military sidearm that we have. Certainly better than the 9x19mm & I'd wager good Confederate dollars that it'd at least edge out the venerable .45 ACP. Yes it'd be a handful for some soldiers, but when you pull out a handgun the wounding theory bullshit ceases to be persuasive & you just want to put the enemy down. I belive the 10mm will do that better than any other autoloading cartridge that I know of.

So those are my choices. I didn't delve into the second question, which was the same one I attempted to answer above except your squad's armaments are provided with your funds. I thought about answering but realized it'd come down to a ballistic justification of which rocks I found lying around.

Head on over to Mr. du Toit's place & jump in; or if you like you're more than welcome to leave your thoughts here.

* It should be noted that the ideal squad is thought to consist of 12 soldiers, including the commanding officer (sergeant in this case), his executive & two team leaders. I opted for a 14 man squad.

Posted by Publicola at February 1, 2005 05:53 AM

All right, I'll play.

For the standard weapon, I'd use AR-10s. Flat top, 16-18" chrome lined barrels, collapsible stock (Magpul), possibly use the Bushmaster type lower that uses unmodified FN-FAL mags. Maybe add either a gas trap like on the Arms Tech Compak-16 (No moving parts, runs cleaner than standard system), or a gas piston system if it can be made to not affect accuracy. Ideally I'd want the upper to be made like the LMT MRP, with the railed fore end made as one with the upper, but I would settle for ARMS SIR fore ends. Relatively compact weapon that can be reconfigured to perform several missions with nothing more than a barrel change, which is pretty easy. Long range sniping? Slap on a 26" barrel. The Magpul stock is rigid like a fixed stock, and AR-10s are routinely as accurate as bolt actions. Room clearing? Slap on a 7-10" barrel (and a small suppressor so that the muzzle blast doesn't blow your eyeballs out of your head) and push the stock all the way in. In the standard configuration (16-18") rounds will remain lethal as far our as a person can hit under actual field conditions.

For the squad MG, I'd use the lightened version of the M240. Seems to have a good reputation for reliability.

For the sidearms, I'd settle for double stack, polymer framed 1911s with dustcover light rails and external extractors. Ideally, I'd develop a striker fired pistol shaped basically like a 1911 that had an HK style ambidextrous mag release that uses unmodified STI mags. I'd also do away with the mainspring housing, shortening the grip a little closer to 9mm length pistols. No grip safety and no manual safety because I DON'T LIKE THEM. Built in beavertail and lanyard attachment point. Such a pistol can handle everything from 9mm to full power 10mm.

Posted by: Garrum at February 1, 2005 06:10 PM

Concerning your list I'd say you've excellent taste, excepting the Tangfolio(I haven't had any experience with the general design). And the H&K MP-5 variants shouldn't be discounted (10mm is available), unless economy is a factor.
Tactics, however, must trump taste and nostalgia as a matter of policy. The Garand, in any major tacticle role, ain't gonna make it. In all reverence, the rifle was designed and deployed because the U.S. hadn't learned the tactical lessons of the Great War, which, was itself generalled by men who tried to fight it with modern weapons coupled with Civil War and Napoleonic Tactics.
Some german commanders learned from WWI, that with modern weapons and apposing forces of comparable strength, highly fluid warfare was the only way to produce victories with minimum human attrition. The concept of static defenses being assaulted by troop formations advancing en mass over open terrain died in the first year of WWI and begat the quagmire that was trench warfare. The M1903, the Enfeild, and the Gewehr98 were so deadly, they forced the very adaptations that made them obsolete.
In WWII the Germans gave France and Britain an indepth symposium on the future of war, out flanking, isolating and rendering the Maginot Line useless). The French got a refresher on this topic at Dein Bein Phu.
-Modern weapons: rifles; MGs; artillery; armour; air cover, all mean the enemy'd have to be a pack-a-damn-fools to give an opposing force a 600m line-of-sight on their advancing soldiers, that's why snipers have to get camo'd up and hide for hours or go hunting to score a kill. The Wehrmacht figured most of this out, and I'd argue that if the Mkb44 had arrived in time to be the Mkb41, they probably would've taken Stalingrad and postponed their defeat by a year or so.
-The Garand was only effective in the fluid field of WWII battle because it was mainly opposing Kar98s, Carancos and Arisakas. This gave the G.I.s a massive advantage in terms of firepower; they could keep the enemy's head down as they advanced to kill them. The M14 compounds this advantage with no appreciable reduction of range,and I wouldn't feel short totin' it, so long as I'd get to pick the ammo. Ditto for the BM59.
-I've never seen an example of a man hit with multiple rounds of 5.56(M193) in the torso(not grazes or shallow track woulds), who wasn't seriously f'd. And why would a non deforming non fragmenting .311 caliber FMJ projectile with enough energy to completely penetrate a target transfer less energy to the target than a smaller (.308)FMJ projectile of similar construction. Driving a 16d nail through a 2x6 with a 3lbs hammer transfers more energy to the 2x6 than a 12d nail even if driven by a 16lbs sledge.
-Finally I'd outfit the squad with whatever the majority of infantry field commanders could agree to, while maintaining only one rifle and one handgun/SMG caliber at the squad level.My personal choice would be the G3 in either 6.5Grendel or .250Savage.
-But hey since we're dreaming could I have a Garand chambered for 5.56x45mm. **Jasen exits swiftly, as he hears Publicola fumbling for a clip for his Garand and mumbling," insolent,good fer nothin'heretic"**

Posted by: Jasen at February 1, 2005 07:07 PM


Interesting. I can see how a weapons platform that's capable of filling multiple roles is appealing. & the M240 (FN MAG) is a fine piece of machinery. Basically it's the 1918 BAR action turned upside down & made to handle belts. But I can't say I've ever been crazy about striker fired pistols though.

He Who Must Place His Hand In A Garand Action & Repeatedly Let The Bolt Correct His Foul Tongue & Evil Heart Through The Mechanism Of Pain & Remembereance (or as he was formerly known - Jasen),

"A 5.56x45 Garand huh?" says Publicola as he calmly inserts the clip, let's the action slam home, counts patiently to ten as he adds 7 clicks to the sight, then just before he sends the heathen He Who Must Place His Hand...etc, flying with yet another 168 grainer hitting another bullseye (but a very different, very personal kind of bullseye) he recalls some trusted advice: WWSJD? (What Would Stonewall Jackson Do?) So he sits down, yells to He Who Must Place His Hand... etc, that everything's okay & there's no harm done as he affixes the implement of instruction to the Garand & waits patiently to "teach him the bayonet". :D

I figured your take would be along those lines (well except for the blasphemin' at the end). & I can't say it's not logicially thought out. I can say I disagree a bit & time permitting I'll try to explain the how's & why's more in depth. But right now to wipe a rather hideous mental image out of my mind I think I'm going to finish reading my latest literary acquisition - "Precision Shooting w/ the M1 Garand" by Roy Baumgardner.

Posted by: Publicola at February 2, 2005 01:38 AM

Yowza...you've got a pretty big squad there...standard US Army rifle squad is 9 men-a squad leader and 2 four man fire teams.

How hypothetical am I allowed to be? I'd love to run some ballistics tests, first of all: the old 7.62x45 Czech round vs the old 7x43 Brit vs the new 6.8mm SPC. Build my rifle and SAW around the winner.

I'd be very tempted to go modular for my base assault rifle. For the most part, the modern battlefield demands a compact weapon, for handling inside buildings and vehicles. The weapon I have in mind is, admittedly, untested-the new Robarm XCR. Short barrel for SL, TLs, and grenadiers. Long heavy barrel for the TEAM designated marksman-that means two per squad. And build a modified version of the SAW for the auto-riflemen-I like that belt fed firepower for supression.

Pistols for the SL and TLs-HK USPs in .45 ACP. 10mm is my fav when I can use JHPs, but for hardball, give me 200gr .45ACP.

Grenadiers would have M203s on their rifles.

To review:

Sqd Ldr: XCR w/16" barrel (call it 6.8mm), USP in .45 ACP
Tm Ldr (x2): 16" XCR, USP
Grenadier: 16" XCR w/M203
SAW Gunner: M249A2 in 6.8mm

I'd add 3 MG teams with M240Bs (MAG-58s) in 7.62 NATO at the platoon level.

Posted by: Heartless Libertarian at February 2, 2005 01:30 PM

I'm glad somebody mentioned grenadiers...there's more to infantry combat than just marksmanship! I know...heresy.

Squad Leader: HK MP-10 SMG (10mm); Glock 20
Squad support: M-240; Glock 20

Fire Teams
Designated marksman: M-14; Glock 20
Grenadier: M-16/M-203; Glock 20
Rifleman (X2) M-16A2 or M-4; Glock 20; Grenades

Yes, this heretic thinks the mousegun has a place in the squad. If you're just putting down a base of fire, there's no sense wasting the bigger cartridges.

I also think the Glock 20 (or 21 in .45) would make an excellent sidearm if Glock would build the magazines without the round-counter holes in them.

Posted by: cowboy blob at February 2, 2005 02:51 PM


-I've suffered such punishment, inflicted by my own had, with Garands belonging to others. Perhaps it's the subconscious exacting some manner of atonement on the physical being for not owning such a classic. I know the bolt will mangle my digits, but I can't resist letting it attempt to chamber my thumb.


Posted by: Jasen at February 2, 2005 04:25 PM

Flechettes, bead rifles, tri-barrels, maybe even energy weapons if you can achieve the recharge logistics...

Posted by: triticale at February 2, 2005 10:37 PM
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