You are here
Home > Perspective > History > Rock papers scissors blunderbuss

Rock papers scissors blunderbuss

US Army says our GIs may need bigger guns. No, better history lessons. It appears as if America’s gun makers are lobbying for another US standard issue. The stories are creeping into the newswires that US soldiers need bigger guns. Our 5.56mm isn’t enough stopping power anymore, which explains the relentless insurgencies, they’re not stopping. Well, making historical comparisons isn’t going to serve your argument.
Afghan rifle

Soldiers, experts and a US Army Study are looking back at past adversarial mismarriages of ordnance to spell out why today’s GIs need to arm up. To our M4 assault rifle, the Taliban answers with the AK-47. Every schoolboy knows that, but it’s a differential in caliber that means our opponents can fire from almost twice the distance. While we’re berating the obvious, I’d like to point out their 7.62mm bullets also enjoy a home team advantage which ballistics geeks know affects range and velocity.

Apparently the Soviets had the same disadvantage against the Afghans, the soviets had the AK-47, and they faced rebels with Lee-Enfield or Mauser rifles. The WWII era guns suited the battle better.

Before that, the British were ill-equiped with Brown Bess muskets, against Jezzail flintlocks that ultimately drove every last Englishman out.

Is old better than new, it doesn’t help the case for the weapons makers. I’m reminded of when the crossbow fell to the Welsh longbow. New technology stoned by old, where the simplicity of brute force was the innovation. The Swiss pike figures somewhere in there, long pointed sticks, rough metal tips outclassing honed steel.

Short range versus long range incompatibility is not accidental. Weapons fashioned for the close-in fighting required of enforcing occupation came up short against the partisan sniper on the offensive.

US complaints of drawing the short stick are just keeping with tradition. Astute gun experts point to the M-4’s shortened muzzle as a major reason its fire lacks velocity. The shortened weapon is easier to carry through doors. An early foreshortened firearm used primarily for urban fighting was the blunderbuss. Made even more portable was the dragon, carried by the hated Dragoons, early specialists in oppressing unfree populations.

There are three common threads here, all of them related. The first is the coincidence that our pertinent examples are Afghanistan, and the Afghans never lost, regardless their weapon.

Not unrelated is that the practical, indigenous weapon has always prevailed.

And that’s directly linked to the Law of Insurgency, a principle which shamefully America doesn’t teach in its military academies. Put simply, insurgents always win.

Oh there were good old days of conquest when gunpowder ran roughshod over the stone-aged. Those days went with the conquistadors and the US cavalry.

Some may want to think our crusader edge is back, that an overwhelming US technological supremacy has restored the oppressor’s favorable imbalance, but it’s not true, boots on the ground. Wasn’t that was the lesson of Vietnam? Another lesson despicably cut from the patriot curriculum.

In Vietnam by the way, US GIs carried the larger M-14s, so both sides fired a similarly large 7.62mm round. Did it help?

It may be good military tact to upgrade our Afghan forces to the longer guns. But occupation-wise that puts us back at square one, trying to take the country, not administer it.

The industrial age, and with it the equalizing effect of universal access to weaponry, has meant the end of conquest and twilight for colonial occupations. Populations rise now against post-colonial inequity, but the victor is preordained as the tide.

The lesson for arms dealers who want to sell us more stopping power to kill our foes? Historians know what gunsmiths may deny, there’s no stopping them.

One thought on “Rock papers scissors blunderbuss

  1. Actually, the M16 is a 5.56. Kind of a higher powered .22.

    The reason for it being chosen over the almost-look-alike AR15 was that Colt had more experience bribing the Pentagon, even before there was a Pentagon and the “defense” department was called the more honest name War Department. But the Army wanted to be able to force a round into a fouled chamber. Not a good idea. And the AR15 was designed to kill “dirty”. The long range accuracy was traded off for a “tumble” effect, wadcutter. The bullet is designed to make horrendous belly wounds.

    A belly wound isn’t much shucks for a modern Medical Corps.
    Which the U.S. had and the VietMinh didn’t.

    But without sterile operating theatres and especially without antibiotics, a gutshot soldier either commits suicide, gets shot by his comrades or dies slowly. Armalite, the company which lost the bidding battle to Colt’s M16, stressed that point… a little too gleefully. The object was to wound grievously, in such a manner that the wounded soldier oops I’m supposed to say “terrorist” right? would either be an unsupportable burden to his comrades, left behind to possible capture and interrogation. Or kill their friend.

    Sick, eh? Treads very closely on the Geneva Convention, only the VietMinh were technically renegade citizens of South VietNam. Thus it wasn’t technically a war. Wouldn’t know it to hear McCain bitching about him getting far better treatment than any captured and tortured and subsequently executed Cong would get. Captured while committing an act of terrorism against the civilian population of a country which was never technically at war with America.

    Lovely how those “technicalities’ only work one way.

    The Army wanted 500 yards worth of accuracy. The AR15 wasn’t designed for that. Not that you’d ever get a 500 yard field of fire in either thick brush in the boonies, or in the back streets of Saigon.

    But Army is Tradition Bound.

Leave a Reply

Top