The USMC Goes to the M4 for Infantry Marines

Somewhere, a cynical Devil Dog is saying that this is just to take a pound off so that maybe a female Marine can pass IOC one of these days. But the Marines are finally joining the Army in preferring the M4 to theM16 for infantry units.


According to Military Times and a range of Marines that they interviewed, the momentum has been building for this change for some time. Supposedly, the decision paper is on Commandant Joseph Dunford’s desk for his approval, which is expected. Military Times:

With the endorsement of several major commands already supporting the switch — including Marine Corps Combat Development Command; Combat Development and Integration; Plans, Policies and Operations; Marine Corps Systems Command; and Installations and Logistics — final word is possible in weeks or months.

“The proposal to replace the M16A4 with the M4 within infantry battalions is currently under consideration at Headquarters Marine Corps,” according to a jointly written response from the commands provided by Maj. Anton Semelroth, a Marine spokesman in Quantico, Virginia.

The change would be welcomed by infantrymen who say the M16A4 was too long and unwieldy for close-quarters battle in Iraq or vehicle-borne operations in Afghanistan. They tout the M4 for its weight savings, improved mobility and collapsible butt stock, allowing the rifle to be tailored for smaller Marines or those wearing body armor.

“I would have to say my gut reaction is it’s the right choice and will do a lot of good for the guys in the infantry,” said Sgt. Nathan West, an explosive ordnance technician with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, who carried an M4 on dismounted patrols and vehicle-borne operations during two deployments to Afghanistan as an anti-tank missileman.

We’ll have a couple more pull quotes, but (especially if you are a Marine) go Read The Whole Thing™.

Many other Marines have observed that the drawbacks of the longer M16A4 aren’t compensated for by the limited benefits of the longer barrel. For example, when using modern optics, the 5.5″ longer sight radius, a great accuracy advantage of the A4’s extra barrel length, is irrelevant.

No fight illustrated the need for a smaller primary weapon during ferocious close-quarters combat better than Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004, when Marines fought to wrest control of Fallujah from Iraqi insurgents, sometimes going hand-to-hand.

Rounding corners and getting on target in small rooms was difficult, leading to use of a tactic called “short-stocking,” when a Marine places his rifle stock over his shoulder – instead of securely against the chest and cants his weapon45-degrees so he can still use his optics. It helps in maneuvering, but compromises recoil management and follow-up shots.

“We were taught to short stock around tight corners when we got to our platoon for deployment — it was something unofficial,” said Ryan Innis, a former scout sniper with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, who left the service as a sergeant in 2013 after serving on the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s anti-piracy raid force near East Africa.

Innis trained for shipboard operations — the closest of close-quarters combat — and said he was fortunate to be issued the M4 because the weapon’s shorter length proved better for tight spaces.

When the weapon’s not quite right, the man adapts. It’s very unlikely that the doomed insurgents who stood against the Marines’ assault on Fallujah in 2004 noticed that the Marines were employing their firearms sub-optimally

It’s instructive to remember the history of CT and hostage rescue units here. Originally (1970s-80s) these elements cleared buildings and linear targets (like an airplane, train car or bus) strictly with handguns. The 1980s found these units experimenting with compact submachine guns (like the MP5) that could combine superior accuracy at close pistol ranges with handiness nearly as good as the pistol. And after Grenada, the pistol-caliber weapon’s lack of range and versatility put it into eclipse, relative to the compact rifle-caliber carbine.

The question that remained was, could the carbine, evolved from the very limited XM177 / CAR-15 series “submachine gun,” really replace the full-length assault rifle? It was optics that moved the answer of that question from “no” to “yes.”

The Marines like the accuracy of their M4s.

[Sgt. West:] “Anything that takes weight off and keeps guys from getting tired so they are more aware of things around them is good. It is just a little less weight and just as effective of a weapon.”

That is what the Marine Corps found when it began testing the ballistics of its infantry rifles and carbines using their improved M318 Mod 0 Special Operations Science and Technology round.

“The Marine Corps conducted an evaluation of its individual weapons (M4, M27 and M16A4), with specific focus on comparing accuracy, shift of impact and trajectory with improved ammunition, and determined the M4’s overall performance compares favorably with that of the M27 IAR, the most accurate weapon in the squad,” according to the written responses provided by [Marine spox Maj. Anton] Semelroth.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle is, you will remember, an HK 416 variant with a free-floated barrel and a tuned trigger. The Marines will also get rid of the select M16A4s being used as designated marksman weapons under the term Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle, by assigning the designated marksman role, optionally, to the auto rifle gunner already carrying an M27 for the squad auto rifle role.

Going to the M4 for infantrymen takes a pound of weight and 10″ of overall length off of every Marine grunt. The M4s will come from Marine stocks without any need for new purchases (all Marines may be riflemen, but only 17,000 are Riflemen by MOS and job assignment), and the M16A4s will be available to be assigned to other Marine troops.

The Times also got comments from Larry Vickers, who should need no introduction. Vickers is strongly supportive of this new intitiative.

Two things we can predict about Marine riflemen: someday soon, the saltier ones will be reminiscing about the “good ol’ M16A4” to their New Guys. And none of them is going to miss “short-stocking.”

82 thoughts on “The USMC Goes to the M4 for Infantry Marines

  1. Neil S.

    Out of the four (two M16A4 and two M4) personal weapons I was issued in my time wearing a tree suit, I shot the best groups with the M4 I was issued as a squad leader. Being a big guy I never minded the length of the M16A4, but I was definitely the exception. Everyone else fought over those things.

    I just hope the Corps has the sense to buy the M4A1 and actually train guys on how to control their fire, as opposed to treating the Auto setting like Satan’s spawn and pretending it doesn’t exist.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I think that they are standing by the RCO except for CQB, where they’ll use a single point sight, maybe the M68 (not sure what USMC issues in this regard). Their basic optic is the RCO, they are even teaching it in basic rifle marksmanship in boot. So all those iron-sight Marines out there went to the last hard course!

      1. Boat Guy

        Bein one of those “iron-sight Marines ” I hope and pray they’re still teaching iron sights – because batteries.

        1. Boat Guy

          Sorry. ACOG= no batteries. Need to engage eyes/brain before typing. Still post-and-peep ought to be part of the curriculum.

          1. bulldog76

            im still of the opinion also of teaching iron sights because shit has and will happen

        2. DSM

          Concur, BRM should cover both irons and optics, but, I haven’t seen any Marine A4 with irons at all, just the RCOs. Are they issued and not mounted, just not being issued or have I seen anecdotal evidence of aberrations in weapons issuance? All of our M4’s and the Army’s A4’s that I saw all came from Colt with the (less than ideal in my humble opinion) Matech sights like in the picture above.

      2. Stacy0311

        I learned to shoot iron sights on the M16A1. None of that fancy rear sight elevation crap!!!

    1. Jonathan Ferguson

      I think you’re in a minority there. It was definitely a ‘short rifle’ by M14 & FAL standards, but was never regarded as a carbine at the time, or since for that matter. Of course, the term is relative and actually not that useful since we stopped differentiating between the two on the basis of calibre as well as length. And bullpups also undermine the usefulness of the term.

      1. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

        Commercial/sporting wise twenty inches is pretty much the deviding line between carbine and rifle. I am not familiar with caliber ever being relevant.

  2. S

    Horses for courses. The assymetrical soldier might need long range accuracy to gain more time to disappear. He isn’t able to hand off to support elements. I wonder if the marines anticipate ever having to again land on a hostile beach and have the line grunts carry the load without the customary overwhelming support. Now that you’ve managed to sell me on the AR, I’ve thought a bit about different combinations of upper/lower….but selling me on emigration is going to be a lot harder. Here’s an interesting article about barrel length & accuracy:

    The LGU air rifle has only 11 inches to work its magic, by avoiding disturbances from the piston; whereas the Sharps I drool over in little hope of ever owning it has 34 inches, which with the tang sight would have a 36 inch sight radius; making some of the mathematics easier, and allowing enough time for the large bp charge necessary for the huge long bullet. Both of those are optimised for long range accuracy, in their fields.

    1. Chem

      “assymetrical soldier might need long range accuracy to gain more time to disappear. He isn’t able to hand off to support elements.”

      Or in those circumstance they might want to have the lighter weapon to run faster or carry more ammo and water.

    2. Neil S.

      There is no practical difference in long range accuracy between the ACOG-mounted M16A4 and the ACOG-mounted M4; at least, not in the hands of LCPL Shmuckatelli. I don’t see how hitting the beach with an M4 is a disadvantage.

      Also, has anyone ever established a beach head without overwhelming support? At least since repeating arms were invented?

      1. Brad

        If you want to get into the weeds of obsolete practices of beach assault, I’d finger the LVT.

        In my opinion using any water bourn landing craft to land infantry in an amphibious invasion has been obsolete since the introduction of turbine engined helicopters. What the USMC needs more than any replacement for the AAVP7A1 is a better means of moving tanks ashore. And I mean real tanks, not some glorified armored car or light tank.

      2. S

        Good point….my comment was poorly thought out during trips between workshop and site, spitballing via phone. Still no excuse, please forgive me.

        My thoughts were trending more to what happens when things really go pear-shaped, and the likelihood that your infantry might have to do without their traditional support and logistics; keeping in mind the cutbacks, waste and corruption, your likely opponent’s catchup, traitors in your own camp, and the destruction of your culture from within. Another thing was the tendency for armies to fight their next war like the last one. You can’t expect to be faced with disorganised borderline stone-age fanatics perpetually; you might come against the main strength of an enemy your equal, or stronger. Perhaps even on your home turf, which could get rather hectic. Also on my mind was the lesser terminal effect of shorter barrels; I remember reading about that recently, something along the lines of the target effects of .223 being marginal anyway at the ranges now enabled by the nice optics.

        What’s wrong with putting the M4 stock on the M16A4? WM also pointed out that any savings in weight get taken up immediately with more stuff; making a few less rounds more effective seems like good sense. Is there a calibre change in the near future?

        1. Miles

          “What’s wrong with putting the M4 stock on the M16A4?”

          Big Army finally authorized that mod about 3 years ago, even NSNing a kit of parts (including a carbine size, but rifle weight “H6” buffer) to do the job.


          the barrel length velocity /terminal effects is near irrelevant. the A4 offers no real advantage, even at longer ranges. the M4 WILL shoot to 1,000 yards in the right hands

  3. Brad

    I know one thing that makes this decision easier for the USMC is the simple diversion of existing stocks of M4 over to infantry, with the previous holders of M4 having to use M16 taken from infantry. Which is a weird inversion of the traditional practice of support units with carbines and infantry with rifles!

    But long term a better solution, certainly one that would solve most of the perceived faults of the M16a4, is the simple substitution of the collapsible carbine stock for the standard M16a4 fixed stock.

    I’d also change the rifling twist to one in nine inches to cut in half the group sizes too. With modern night vision it seems silly to have the tracer-round tail wag the ball-round dog.

    1. Ken

      My 1-7 twist Colt 6920 is very accurate with 53 grain Sierra Matchkings. Ten shot group at 100 yards just under 1 1/2″. Shooting prone and using the magazine as a monopod, 4 power scope.

      Better ammo might cut the group size in half, don’t think changing the twist rate will do much.

      1. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

        Spec for 855 is like four MOA, another reason 262 is popular, I don’t see Black Hills letting anything out the door thats that sloppy. Add to that the M-4 probably specs 4 MOA…

        Training and pride would moot this shit.

      2. Brad

        I have read that M16/M4 with 9 inch twist rifling shoot groups half the size of 7 inch twist when firing either M855 ball or M855a1 ball ammunition.

      3. Brad

        Aside from 100 yards, how does it group at 300 yards? At 600 yards? It could be your bullet selection has a sweet spot at 100 yards with your rifle.

  4. DSM

    They mention Mk318 but now I think a good move would be to push to standardize the Mk262 round, or, develop a heavier slug to make up for 262’s shortfalls.

    1. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

      Recognizing that the great majority of hits are actually made at shorter ranges a bullet that’s lighter and less stable-in the spirit of the switch to 5.56 in the first place-would be awesome! Oh, wait, M-193…

    2. Miles

      M262 may stay around for awhile longer, but since M855A1 was standardized, it will probably be relegated to use in competition matches where 5.56mm is required.

      Having witnessed some of the ballistic gel tests the FBI ballistic lab personnel did, that round’s terminal ballistics are just nasty.

  5. Bryan Willman

    So what keeps army or marines from going to a bullpup? I have a Tavor I rather like, but I’m just a guy who shoots at the range and things a little bit about self defense in house or workshop – all really different from actual military ops.

    1. Kirk

      Common sense?

      Bullpups are an answer to a question nobody has asked, especially from an ergonomic standpoint. I know of only one example that has the controls set up in a manner I’d even remotely find tolerable, and I still don’t like the idea of where the magazine goes.

      All you really have to do to start questioning a bullpup layout is put on modern body armor that’s fully kitted out with pouches and so forth. As soon as you do that, you realize that you’ve essentially turned yourself into a tactical t-rex, and you’d better be damn good at biting, ‘cos your arms ain’t reaching shit, especially that magwell behind your fucking armpit. I’m not proportioned at all out of the norm, and I can’t do a decent manual of arms with body armor and any of the exemplar bullpups I’ve handled. No matter what, the damn things have to leave the shoulder, to reload, and I’m afraid I’m not really that tolerant of the compromises that have to be made in order for them to work, especially with body armor.

      Bullpup? Bullshit. The extra barrel length they afford ain’t worth the loss in handling necessitated by the controls and ammo loading. Overcome those two, and I’ll talk to you, but so long as we’re using cartridge-based weapons, that ain’t happening.

      1. RT


        I have a loose teaser of my bullpup project in here which took your savagings of the bullpup design and implementation as a large part of the checklist of things that must be overcome. First though a quick comment on the a4 m4 & short stocking parts of the post.

        I have and mainly prefer AR’s as my go to guns. My preferred configuration currently is an a2 upper. (if I mount a reflex or low magnification optic I use carry handle affixed mounts that still let me use irons. I have a pk-as on a pretty retro style reflex optic mount like back in the day. But I mostly use irons) I also prefer and actively use 20 inch barrels often of heavier profile. I paired the uppers with 6 position ti-7 stocks for a long while, due to my only operating operationally in a place we call gravel pit-istan. Luckily I’m not tall. So I can still get great sight picture at one click with no chicken wings. Recently though I caught duostocks on close out. I like the duostock! It works well for me in the only way I care about.

        Namely I can wear anything I want including training sapi’s under a parka or a Hawaiian shirt and a tank top and shoot quickly, reliably, well, and consistently in any shooting position I practice. The bonus of reduced bulk … That is just icing.

        The first few complaints you listed are bad design and not intrinsic to the bullpup experience heh. Specifically the pup I’m slowly getting pieces n parts perfected for would moot most of the major and quite glaring issues you’ve rightfully brought up.

        I’d like to make an observation first that may not be as obvious as I think it is. This observation was simply that a truly usable and SATISFACTORY bullpup would almost for sure not convert easily into a conventional configuration weapon. Which when you really look at the current field of bullpup military style rifles, would disqualify all of them. Note that it took me until a few months ago to realize that my being right handed for … Life, left eye dominant, and a lefty shooter because of the eye thing was why I could reload the Aug or Auglike guns I’ve owned with extraordinary little swearing grunting shimmying or tactical beergut shifts… I still prefer conventional configuration MSR’s though and don’t own a bullpup currently. I think that the above disclosure at least gives me a good starting point from which to attempt a bullpup that is first and foremost a great combat arm.

        Owing much to kirk’s comments here and elsewhere the first thing I tackled was getting the magazine well further from the butt of the gun. (tricky thing though is trigger arm ergonomics once that mag starts creeping but your LOP doesn’t)

        Actually the current STANAG magazine in standard capacity 30 round configuration is full of fun “challenges” for the aspiring bullpup artist. The ares Olin AIWS had a solution that the Holek also used on the URZ platform, but I don’t have either of these. I do however have an eclectic mix of standard AR 15 pattern magazines from buying two of any new mag that I was curious about and a double digit selection of multiple pmag generations and USGI aluminum (as in at least 10 of 2 separate pmag generations and more usgi than pmags total). As does everyone else, making it the most optimal suboptimal solution ever.

        Once the magazine well didn’t make me want to sniff my hands and stage whisper SUPERSTAR… I went about dealing with the monopodding or MFF prone syndrome. (monkey forking a football) Which dovetails nicely with the ball of fun that is ambi use and the great ejection debate. I’ve got a solution that I prefer and that will work. Is it ideal…. If It passes the German apocryphal nco meets g11 tree beating test at some point I’m declaring a win.

        Heck I’ve even got a 6 position adjustable butt plate that the aftermarket AR parts gods will make me pay richly for the slaughter that said item was born of someday… Moving the fcg and pistol grip to several positions is another option I’ve seen advocated, and occasionally wake screaming from nightmares about designing.

        At the end of the day this won’t be OEM product pretty, and honestly it won’t be something production ready. What I’m going for is something that is good enough for my personal use, and reliable enough for me to pay for some weekend to week long courses in combat carbine use so I can run it until I’ve gathered enough experience in simulated combat employment to work out how the next design needs to be changed.

        Sidebar: The design that is evolving owes a MAJOR debt to Hognose and partially for design reference section, but mostly for the saws that shoulda been series! Who knows we might just see the Rodman team’s ingenuity pay off one day.
        Sidebar 2: Hognose the pocket reference, not rheinmetall the other one is something I have in PDF if you want it please let me know. (sorry about the brain fart but damn if I can spit a name out at the current juncture). In the same spirit of share before ITAR makes us felons for sharing, I really really could use the relevant pages from the m231 fpw drawing set for…. Honestly I need everything from the striker to end cap with specific emphasis on the bumper, 3 springs, spring guide, and striker! Hell even just the nice little page telling me the specs of the 3 springs and a striker print would be enough, but every piece I get and don’t have to play pretend like reverse engineering using screen calipers doesn’t make me crazy… The better. Oh and if Satan clause wants to toss me anything xm248 (that manual I can’t put in the budget for 4 months would rock) or xm234 or xm235 I’d really appreciate it.

    2. DSM

      And try to shoot weak hand with a bullpup so your face is right against the ejection port.

      I got to shoot the Brit SA80’s a lot while I was over there over 15yrs ago now. At the time they were OK. Helmet and PLCE and Nigel was going to war; body armor and plates weren’t common issue. The best thing about them was they had the SUSAT on each one (support troops had irons not unlike an M16) and that was a big game changer at the time. We were too slow to bring ACOGs into general issue.

    1. Brad

      Too bad. I was hoping to see some comparative testing with different twist rates.

      1. Ken

        Conventional wisdom says that the best twist rate is the minimum which will stabilize the bullet. The faster the bullet is spinning the more problem any imperfection in the bullet can cause.

        A 1-7 twist is not optimum for 55 grain and under bullets but it does work very well.

        In my experience having the “wrong” twist rate is an easy scapegoat for poor accuracy in a rifle that is really caused by trickier to diagnose issues.

        On the other side of the thing. I’ve done a fair amount of experimentation with bullets and slow twist rates that some experts would claim to be unstable. Yet stable it was.

        Keep in mind that these discussions usually center around bullet weight and twist rate. Though there is, obviously, a relation, it is the length of the bullet that is key, not the weight. By the same token, the twist rate combined with muzzle velocity is what determines the rpm the bullet is spinning when it leaves the barrel.

  6. Tom Kratman

    This sort of thing almost always devolves into the wrong set of questions. It’s not that X rifle is better or Z rifle worse that matters so much; it’s how X or Z fit into the overall system and scenario, to do what. Is the AK better than the 16 or M4? No. Are the 16 or M4 what you want to issue to Eastern Slobovian peasants whose idea of sophistication is camel buggery and whose idea of high tech is lace-em-up boots as opposed to sandals? Maybe not. If your doctrine involves a lot of on line assaults firing from the hip for a 75 meter jog? AK works as well as anything.

    It’s been going on forever, one or another version of this argument. Example: Was the sarissa superior to the gladius? Well…maybe…if the ground was flat, if it were a mass formation slugfest rather than an individual or small unit fight…and if there were no open flanks of the sarissa-armed phalanx that a gladius-armed maniple (or 20) of triarii could get to.

    I’m not convinced (not remotely) that in an actual firefight at any distance accuracy of the rifle matters for beans, except for troop confidence. (No, sniping is different.) Why not? Because we delude ourselves – and the Marines delude themselves more – that we can train people to shoot well in a firefight at distance when we cannot replicate the conditions of a firefight. (I.e., no incoming bullets, no people screaming as they’re hit – generally by fluke – no mind-numbing fear and shaking hands or pounding chest). Sure, there are some nerveless individuals that can shoot even then, but they are almost vanishingly rare. You don’t build a doctrine or organization around flukes.

    There was an experiment run by the austrians in the 19th century which tended to show that with untrained marksmen, they were more likely to get hits with _un_zeroed_ rifles. Well, few or none of our grunts, Army or Marine, are actually trained to shoot under the proper conditions, hence they’re all untrained, hence WTF diff if the rifle is accurate or not?

    But then there’s friction. To some extent we want to engage at greater distance to slow the enemy down? Why? Well, partly because he doesn’t want us to and that partly because, “Adjust fire, over.” And that may mean a longer rifle firing a heavier bullet with a small cross section. Or it may mean leaving it to the MGs, LMGs, and DMRs.

    As for MOUT, if MOUT is driving the switch to M4; left to me I’d have a couple of foot lockers in the company arms room full of 20 new production Sterlings (India still makes them, I think; best SMG ever; screw MP5) and a couple of hundred magazines, and issue them as needed. They’re a very instinctive and utterly controllable firearm, for which a familiarization and some mechanical drilling are sufficient for competence.

    1. Timothy

      I’m not a veteran, but I don’t understand why not training under combat conditions (aka at penalty of death) is synonymous for untrained. There seems to be plenty of carry over between normal shooting and combat shooting. Sort of like being decent at the clean and jerk by primarily training the deadlift, the squat, and the overhead press. Not trying to be facetious, just curious. Also I dunno if I’d want a 0-150m gun like a Sterling for MOUT. In cities like mine, you can have a clear view out for a kilometer or more if you get on a tall building.

      1. Tom Kratman

        It’s not at penalty of death; it’s _at risk_ of death or at least significant injury and pain. Because no standard has any real meaning in the absence of appropriate conditions, while the conditions we train under simply cannot be appropriate. We do the best that we can, or some of us do or did, but we’re deluding ourselves if we think that’s good enough. The things we could do, impose real but controlled danger on a regular basis to get troops used to dealing with danger and forcing themselves to calm when faced with it (which can become an ingrained habit, if not an instantly effective one), the safety-fascisti generally disallow. You have to be willing to bet your bars (or leaves, or eagles) and bend or even break the rules to overcome that, and not many are.

        Note that I am not saying we should put them at that risk, I am saying that since we cannot, we are deluding ourselves about how effective our training is.

        Then too, If there’s very much carryover, why tens of thousand to millions of rounds (depending on whose book or study you read) per hit or kill? Because almost every kill or hit is a fluke. No, it’s not much like weightlifting. The analogy just doesn’t work too closely, in a positive way. It may be true that without the training we can give none of them would ever hit anything, but, contrarily, see the Austrian test given above.

        And, finally, note that I wrote, “as needed. That means 20 in a foot locker in the company arms room to be passed out as needed, much like trench guns (12 Gg pumps) have been. That’s not a replacement; it’s a special purpose auxiliary arm. Thus, I was not saying get rid of rifles, I was saying supplement them for Extremely Close CQB.

        1. seans

          What is extreme close CQB? Unless you are CAG, using SMGs is just a bad idea do to the limitations of SMGs. There are reasons SBRs exist. SMGs aren’t bad for CQB, but the moment you leave the building they suck again.

          1. Tom Kratman

            Room to room and trench bay to trench bay. The steam hammer in the Red October Tractor Factory in Stalingrad, which was perhaps the strangest instance of “key terrain” in history. Hue. The western front, 1914 to 1918, in a trench raid. Assault Battalion Rohr and progeny.

            For those, I would rather a Sterling than pretty much anything. The moment you leave the building? Presuming your not immediately going into the next building, you let the riflemen, machine gunners, and DMs take over, while you reload mags. THEN you go into the next building. You may note the lack of the words, “Oh, we need to get rid of all rifles of every type and adopt SMGs.” There is a reason that doesn’t appear.

            The 5.56 has more energy than .45 or 9 mil, of course, but I believe they can still dump energy better for CQB. The better argument against 9 mil and .45 for CQB is, I think, body armor. But a) that’s fairly rare among the other side and b) with 5.56, the bullet is, so I gather, usually still yawing like hell for the first several meters out of the barrel, and so is, again so I understand, not especially likely to penetrate half decent armor either.

            Now to what limitations of SMGs in the rolling arms room do you refer? I could be educated out of my prejudices and preferences.

          2. seans

            So lets take your Sterling SMG you would use for CQB, vs the MK18MOD1 I would(and did) use for CQB. If we can just pick a random gun from the arms room.
            MK18MOD1 stock collapsed comes in shorter than your Sterling with the the stock unfolded. Weight is roughly the same. MK18 fires a far more powerful and versatile cartridge. As for energy dump, I have seen what SMGs do compared to Rifles. Its a no brainer. Its bad enough when using MK262, MK318, and M855A1 vs a 9mm or 45, but if I start using MK255 it absolutely crushes the SMG in terms of terminal ballistics. And with my MK18, I still got a rifle which can easily reach out a couple hundred yards effectively. Its way more accurate than your Sterling. There only real major military use the last decade that they had a advantage in was for suppressed work, and with the .300BLK that pretty much disappeared.

            I never mentioned you said that we should replace the rifle with a smg, but you brought up MOUT and using SMGs. MOUT is the reason that SMGs pretty much died. Again SMGs are great for CQB, get beat by a SBR, but they hold up. But the problem is they pretty much suck on the street. The simple truth is, currently anything SMGs can do, SBRs can do way better these days.

          3. Tom Kratman

            That’s funny; a Sterling with the stock folded measures right around 21 inches, or a bit less. How much shorter than that is the Mk 18 Mod 1, assuming it is? What’s the energy from the barrel of that Mk18 compared to the 9mil from a Sterling? What’s the ability of the bullet to transfer energy to the target? How much is the 5.56 from the AR still yawing at 15 feet? What’s your cite or reasoning for saying that MOUT did in the SMG because it’s new to me?

            No, you didn’t, but I’ve gotten used to people reading all kinds of things I didn’t write. Moreover, your seeming writing off of the other weapons in the company “when you leave the building” seemed to suggest you _were_ reading something in there that I didn’t write.

            And, last I checked, 300 blackout – which you have mentioned before, elsewhere – is not general issue for line grunts? Do you suggest we should dump 5.56 in favor of .300 Blackout or do you suggest we should have a rolling arms room for line companies with a footlocker full of 20 Mk18s? I am amenable to reason on that, especially since it fits my general preference, but would need to see more data.

          4. Hognose Post author

            SF has a rolling arms room like that (I posted a list of what’s in a company or BN arms room a couple years ago, and it’s grown since) and frankly it’s a lot of work for our supply/armorers. We have M4s, SCARs, spare uppers, and about four different sniper rifles. That’s not counting the training stocks of foreign and obsolete weapons which are usually held in a battalion arms room or by the group support battalion.

            It is a royal pain in the ass for 2+ officers or SFC+ NCOS to account for all that stuff by serial number at regular intervals.

            What killed the SMG in US SOF service was SEALs being outranged and held up in Urgent Fury, Grenada. The SEALs had a rough time, losing guys to a bad drop into a high sea state, and then being held up by one jackass with a rifle who could almost shoot, but at about 200 yards out they couldn’t get him with their only weapons, MP5s. They never did that again. The MP5 was at the peak of its popularity and SF, SEALs and SMUs all began using short carbines, mostly based on the XM177 series but with a 14.5″ barrel and regular flash hider. This was after we pulled the surviving 177s out of storage and began using them. This led to the “M16 Carbine” and original XM4/M4 which had an A2 upper, I think Colt’s model # was 727. Sf units got those on a one-for-one basis for M16A1 or A2s, depending on whether you’d swapped out your A1s for A2s yet.

          5. Tom Kratman


            I vaguely recall “using” those in a novel. The Sterling’s pretty stout, but I think I’d want to test fire a few million rounds in them before adopting the Russki 9mil.

          6. Tom Kratman

            Hmmm….checked the manual. That’s 19 icnhes with the butt folded and 27 with it extended. I don’t know if you’ve ever fired the Sterling, Seans, but the recoil is so nearly non-existent, even on full auto, that for CQB you don’t need the stock.

          7. seans

            If you are using the Sterling with the stock folded yeah, its going to be smaller than the MK18. But the last group of people I knew who advocated not using a stock that were actually good, were the SAS, and they just extended the gun against the sling, negating the size advantage anyway. And even they switched over to the SBR. And even if you somehow want to shoot your Sterling with the stock folded at eye level, you can do the same thing with the MK18 by short stocking it.
            The Sterling is putting out between 400 to 600ft/lb with modern ammo. I will give you 800ft/lb with some hot SMG ammo. Now the MK18 is around 900ft/lbs with some crappy M855. Throw in either M855A1, MK318, or MK262, or even better yet the 70 grain that is made specifically for the SBRs, is going to be a lot better than anything the Sterling can put out. As for energy dumping to the target, unless you are using M855, rifle is going to win that one all day. Even +P+ hollowpoints from a SMG aren’t going to change that. Not sure why you are bringing up Yaw, unless you plan to shoot only M855.
            As for MOUT, Grenada, Somalia, Iraq, Libya have shown the limitations of a SMG. Flex targets, contingency plans, things going dramatically wrong. I didn’t write off the guys outside. But it sounds almost like you are writing off the guys inside ability to contribute to the street fight saying the rest of the guys can cover for them. Give them a rifle and they are just as capable as your containment/blocking force, minus the MGs.
            As for the .300BLK, do I think we should transition to it. Not for the majority of the force. Unless your unit is skilled enough to be killing people in their sleep in CQB, or really has a need for popping sentries after a foot infil, it doesn’t offer a real reason to switch. I was simply stating that the last major use of the SMG that it dominated, has disappeared.

          8. Tom Kratman

            At 15 feet, I think the stock would be pretty superfluous. Unless you’ve fired them you just can’t imagine how non-existent the recoil is for the Sterling, nor how easy they are to aim. And, if all else fails, lasers.

            Sorry, but nothing really shows limitations on an engagement at fifteen feet other than engagements at something like 15 feet. Your limitation argument doesn’t work for something that’s on an issue as needed basis. Really not. And I am deeply skeptical of a 5.56 even if it’s tumbled at some point to 90 degrees from trajectory, dumping as much energy as the 9mm or, maybe better, .45, though that wouold require testing. The cross section – 63-64 sq mm for the 9, vs 23 or 24 for the 5.56 – just isn’t there. Moreover, the bullet passes too quickly to dump that much. There’s a simple physics experiment you can do to show the difference. Hang a weight from a thread. Tie a thread to the bottom of the weight. (yes, you’ll need a special weight). Pull quickly on the bottom thread and it breaks. Pull slowly on the bottom thread and the top one breaks. It’s am imperfect analogy, but bodies and bullets do act something like that.

          9. Tom Kratman

            Yeah, Hog, I’m not convinced that a SEAL set of misfortunes and fuck ups in Grenada really counter the argument. (Ever notice how often that happens to SEALs? Superb human material that somehow seems to do a lot of unfortunate shit. I am thinking here expressly of being shot up at Paitilla by what amounts to half trained kids.) Outshot by a cuban militiaman at 200 meters doesn’t really counter following up a couple of grenades donated to a room in an adobe house with Sterlings. (Again, I loathe the MP5. They’re suitable only for use on planets with neither an atmosphere nor dust.)

          10. Tom Kratman

            Hog, I think you were light before SF. The rolling arms room is a normal fact of life for mech units. Even in panama, for an H series light, which was sort of medium , we had a lot of that, with this and that odd, only rarely used system (gas projectors, more or less the same design as flame throwers, trench guns/riot guns, 90s and dragons, both, all that). It’s not that hard for the light unit, and because of manpower density, possibly easier than for SF. For that matter, we all had racks and racks of weird shit the canal zone police gave us – Thompsons, for example – that we still had to care and account for.

          11. seans

            Again with the 5.56. With the good stuff, MK262, M855A1, Mk318, 70grain, and especially MK255, the rounds deliver their energy not by tumbling, but fragmentation at close range. Delivers a lot more energy that more.

            Even if my arguments don’t persuade you. Do you really believe you know more about CQB than both Damneck and CAG. You really are egotistical if you believe your tactics are better than theirs in CQB/MOUT.

            You want to bring up Panama Airfield in terms of SEAL screw ups. Yeah, one SEAL officer relieved for objecting to the mission, stating that it was a Ranger mission straight up. The second officer voicing his objections but following thru due to be told, if the SEALs don’t take this op, pretty much writing themselves off in SOCOM. Denial of the original plan to destroy the plane with a .50cal. Its was pretty obvious to everybody on that one how bad a idea it was.

          12. Tom Kratman

            Yeah, fragmentation has been a get-around-the-law-of-war feature for over a hundred years. Don’t count on keeping it in the world where the tranzis are ascendant. Yeah, matter of fact I DO know a bit more about law of war than the average, and a fair amount, too, about the international community of the ever so caring and sensitive and their increasing clout.

            You can pull names out to kingdom come, but the instances you’ve cited to don’t really disprove the thesis. Indeed, they’re enough off that I wonder if you quite grasp the thesis. They’re still more off if you compare what CAG does with Stalingrad, or the type of people in CAG with the normal run of grunt. We’ve discussed related factors before, and you seem to have a particular focus that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with a normal rifle company. I’m not sure why. But, for example, you say things like: “As for MOUT, Grenada, Somalia, Iraq, Libya have shown the limitations of a SMG.” How much does that have to do with clearing buildings in a major city against a decent enemy? Anything at all.

            Ego? Possibly. But I’m 58 years old. I have spent the last 56 years mostly studying war in all aspect and at all levels, and practicing it as able. So you may perhaps forgive me if I am not overly impressed by name dropping, or the unassailable validity of small unit actions on the part of elites, usually versus rabble, as they relate to Joe D. Grunt facing 1st SS.

            It’s not just that with the SEALs. As mentioned, they’re fantastic human material. But they screw up a lot of things, of which Paitilla Airfield is only one. I understand they’ve gotten better, but for decades they had a well deserved reputation as superb trainers of superb individuals…and pretty marginal at training anything collective. This was, so I have heard from various sources, in good part driven by excessively permissive _conditions_ – see above for how standards are meaningless without reference to valid conditions. (And I’m going to refrain from discussion of the propriety of taking a vote on whether to commit a war crime or not, which I understand has been done.)

    1. RT


      Bump it to a juiced 30 carbine subgun specifically set up with a greatest hits of lessons learned from sterling, gsh-18, Robinson model 12, aek-919, and a couple of other fun ingredients…. More fun than the first units who got to learn about the vampyr system in ww2. (quick history lesson excluding Tom, Hognose, Kirk, and anyone else who stayed awake for this one. Vampyr was an early thermal low light vision system in shortish range weapon scope form and the mp43 it was attached to. It used an IR spotlight to aid the first of fielded man portable low light weapons optics to have enough illumination to give the user a nice sight picture. If you’re remembering an m2 carbine with a 70’s 4×4 rollbar and light cluster on top…. Yeah that’s why that happened.)

      And when I say juiced 30 carbine… There’s a good reason I went right to that, namely things like 7mm penna 7.92 VBR-B and last in my list but first chronologically 5.7 Johnson spitfire. I would not actually advocate any of these as the round, but they do show the just amazing potential an official unofficial cartridge and platform design could have.

      Also penna and VBR-B are in there for another reason. There were different lengths of both including a rifle loading of penna that I’ve not seen definitive hardware for. But the potential exists for the right people to fund the right groups and accidentally on purpose wind up with a subcompact green on blue or your elder outranks my butter bar special. A compact and full size modular whoseyerdaddy of joint kinetic jointness even the PJ’s couldn’t hate of a service pistol. A Beretta 93 & g18 slayer for the special teams that really will do everything except get the cab fare out of your cammies before it rolls her out of your rack just before the wrong person walks down your hallway. And finally the mp5 mp7 p90 mauler… You know the one that even gets reporters to ask why anyone was ever afraid of 22 magnums with delusions of grandeur.

      Best of all though you’d get the happy circumstance of being able to have a subsonic suppressed, supersonic GP, Supersonic GPAP, and supersonic these guys are using buicks as trauma plates load…. For all of them… Cheap and they wouldn’t weigh lots even if you built them half wrong… (the ammo or the platforms) they’d be recoil pussycats you just wanna snuggle into at night. And YES there’s a way the socom types could…*redacted*


      1. Tom Kratman

        Maybe, but, again, RT, the particular gun doesn’t really matter that much. I like Sterlings, for various reasons, and loathe MP5s. Other people like this or that or none of the above. That’s how we – and by “we” I mean pretty much the entire world – get sidetracked on the merely technical and forget about the system and the wider world in which the system has to operate. What is the better trade off, a more general purpose rifle or carbine that loses some abilities to gain others, or a rifle or carbine more dedicated to longer ranger fire, and a foot locker of two of special purpose weapons that are easy to assimilate the troops to and at least as good for CQB? That’s not an easy question, and if one could try to answer it in a quantitative way, the math might be too much for a Newton.

        1. RT


          I agree with the points you made… I have a stupidly long barrel semi sterling in my safe, mostly because I have heard so much praise from people who knew so much more than I’ll ever know in this area before they were 21 that I felt compelled to own one. (my safe is about 2/3 insane hodgepodge of stuff I delude myself into calling the reference collection…. The other third, well it’s the predictable result of telling an OCD kid two is one, one is none weekly for their entire formative years hah)

          I was just happily haring off to the land of what if someone screwed up and actually let us build something good….

          As I progress in my abilities to safely experiment after doing what I can to verify the math, and ask the oracle inside inventor 2012 if it agrees with my conclusions, I’m having more fun and liking what is available for purchase less and less. Am i probably just specializing to fit the niche my own flawed knowledge, bad assumptions, and personal preferences has created?

          Probably …

          Is it fun, fulfilling, rewarding, and a near guarantee that I’ll retain my thirst for knowledge and be a voluntary and cheerful lifelong learner?

          Damn Skippy

          Honestly though if you are so inclined a critique on any one piece of my freaking magnum opus of a blog comment, or several pieces, would be greatly appreciated. I find I learn the most when I believe I’m saying something pretty intelligent, and someone way smarter takes the time to thoroughly disabuse me of such silly notions… Be blunt, be brutal, but please explain yourself enough that I can swear thump 17 books on the table and start learning where I f’ed up…. That’s all I ask.


          P.s. Your stuff in the baen free library was a major positive influence at several key points in my life. Thanks for that, it was sorely needed.

          1. Hognose Post author

            What you’re doing is interesting. One reason I got 3D printers was just to play with stuff and learn the technology… which I haven’t made time to play with.

  7. Aesop

    Having played extensively with both types or civilian versions of same, this is a welcome move.

    IIRC, the Navy JAG had a war crimes investigation going in/after Fallujah, because with their EOTechs and ACOGs, ordinary Marines were getting so many headshot one-round kills at range during firefights with their weapons, there was an unfounded suspicion they were executing prisoners.

    It’s not like those grunts are going to be a pound lighter. They’ll simply trade a pound of rifle barrel for another radio battery, ammo can for the M240, extra mortar rounds, etc., in a tradition unchanged since “Marius’ Mules”.

    But at least they’ll be less likely to get tangled with someone in the extra few inches of rifle barrel in close quarters, or wrapped around it trying to unass an MRAP, AAV, LAV, or helo.

    But judging by some recent USMC PIO photos, apparently iron sight marksmanship in MCRD has gone down the shitter.

    That’s the mistake.

    1. Tom Kratman

      “It’s not like those grunts are going to be a pound lighter. They’ll simply trade a pound of rifle barrel for another radio battery, ammo can for the M240, extra mortar rounds, etc., in a tradition unchanged since “Marius’ Mules”.”

      Yeah…that’s because the officer corps is composed largely – if not quite entirely – of moral cowards, sometimes also idiots, who cannot bring themselves to take a risk lest the pols or the press find out, or some mommy’s little darling write home about what they’re lacking.

    2. Hognose Post author

      I was reading some Macarthur last night, and he was talking about the importance of lightening the burden on the infantryman to increase his mobility. In his last report as Chief of Staff, in 1935. Plus ça changé, plus c’est la même chose.

      1. Tom Kratman

        Yeah. There’s a good passage in one of Marshall’s books about some commander in WW II, the Pacific, I think, showing up in his boss’ office with everything the staff had demanded the troops carry, It was absurd. His boss took one look, told him to get rid of most of it, which he did.

        1. RT

          Unfortunately though the Russians appear to be really upping their game with ratnik in that whole reduced individual ensemble weight game.

          The numbers quoted in the issue of… Something Hognose linked in the recent past were pretty jarring. Though like lots of stuff with the “east” time will really tell how wide its issued, how good it is, and so on. Even if it is not good and only sees sporadic issue though, the underlying philosophy ratnik and kurganets 25 seems to be indicating is something to watch closely.

          I’m a big fan of certain Russian optics developments, and the obvious way many optics of theirs are obviously being tailored specifically to the tactical niche and employment strategy they favor. A great example being the pk-07v which is seen quite often on things like vss and the rest of the 9×39 weapons but also is made in versions tailored to pkm/pkp and possibly rpk-74.

          What makes this optic so neat to me though is knowing that it’s designed around things learned in the Chechen fights and the various Grozny battles. Valeri Shilin was talking about machine gun “sniping” back when had 6 English articles. ( has the article still and prototype 1130 just because…) And the pk-07v is an optic designed around the lessons his articles talked about.

          Wide fov for it’s other specs a 7x magnification which on a pkm in a well disciplined unit shouldn’t have to snap shoot a pop up leaked at 15 meters and is therefore a really nice magnification Level for a belt fed. But just in general they took the nastiest most embarrassing recent Russian infantry experiences and developed new tactics that are still being refined now. They then pretty obviously took the information and requisite requirement set to industry…. And industry gave them something that is what they need….

          Truly amazing

    1. Hognose Post author

      Nothing from you in there, did I spring it already? Worth doing, though because there was a comment by John Distai and two by Ian @ forgotten weapons held up in there.

  8. Docduracoat

    I was amazed and pleased to see references to the gladius, sarissa and even Marius’ Mules!
    I had no idea my fellow weapons man readers were such intellectuals and studied ancient history.
    With any luck we will soon be discussing the battle of cynoscephalae and the Roman Maniple barely defeating the Macedonian Phalanx!

    The rifling twist controversy has generally been settled that 1 in 9 inch rifling is more accurate.
    As has been stated by others, the military uses the less accurate 1 in 7 twist to stabilize the tracer round.
    Commercial vendors have come out with 1 in 8 twist as a compromise between the two.

    Loose Rounds, if you try that 800 yard test again with different twist rates, you will likely find that to be the case.

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