Infantry: Big Bullet Blues


February2, 2007: Troops from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are still complaining about the "inadequate stopping power" of the 5.56mm round used in the M-16 family of assault rifles. Last year, the army did a study of current 5.56mm M855 round, in response to complaints. Troops reported many reports where enemy fighters were hit with one or more M855 rounds and kept coming. The study confirmed that this happened, and discovered why. If the M855 bullet hits slender people at the right angle, and does not hit a bone, it goes right through. That will do some soft tissue damage, but nothing immediately incapacitating. The study examined other military and commercial 5.56mm rounds and found that none of them did the job any better. The study concluded that, if troops aimed higher, and fired two shots, they would have a better chance of dropping people right away. The report recommended more weapons training for the troops, so they will be better able to put two 5.56mm bullets where they will do enough damage to stop oncoming enemy troops. Marines got the same advice from their commanders. But infantrymen in the army and marines both continue to insist that the problem is not with their marksmanship, but with the 5.56mm bullet. Marines say they have used captured AK-47 rifles in combat, and found that the lower velocity, and larger, 7.62mm bullets fired by these weapons were more effective in taking down enemy troops.

The army study did not address complaints about long range shots (over 100 meters), or the need for ammo that is better a blasting through doors and walls. The army had been considering a switch of a larger (6.8mm) round, and the Special Forces has been testing such a round in the field. But a switch is apparently off the table at the moment. The army report was not well received by the troops, and there is still much grumbling in the ranks over the issue.




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