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Army Report: GIs Outgunned in Afghanistan
Politics Daily ^ | 04/2/10 | David Wood

Posted on 04/03/2010 1:03:04 PM PDT by neverdem

American troops are often outgunned by Afghan insurgents because they lack the precision weapons, deadly rounds, and training needed to kill the enemy in the long-distance firefights common in Afghanistan's rugged terrain, according to an internal Army study.

Unlike in Iraq, where most shooting took place at relatively short range in urban neighborhoods, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are more often attacked from high ground with light machine guns and mortars from well beyond 300 meters (327 yards, or just over three football field lengths). The average range for a small-arms firefight in Afghanistan is about 500 meters, according to the study.

Unless U.S. troops under attack call in artillery or air strikes and risk civilian casualties, the only way they can fight back is with long-distance precision shooting -- a capability currently in short supply among infantry units, according to a study done at the Army's School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., by Maj. Thomas P. Ehrhart.

According to Ehrhart's paper, Army infantrymen do not regularly train and practice shooting at distances of more than 300 meters. The round fired from their M4 carbines and M16 rifles, the 5.56mm bullet, don't carry enough velocity at long distances to kill.

While the Army has moved recently to equip each infantry company of about 200 soldiers with nine designated marksmen to overcome this problem, they don't often carry weapons with sufficient killing power at distance, and there aren't enough of them, Ehrhart reports.

Army spokesmen had no immediate comment on Ehrhart's paper, which was released by SAMS last month and given wider circulation by and the Kit Up! blog on

Most infantrymen in Afghanistan carry the M4 carbine, a version of the standard M16 rifle, but with a shorter barrel. It was designed to allow soldiers to operate from cramped armored vehicles and in the city neighborhoods of Iraq. But the shorter barrel robs the weapon of the ability to shoot accurately at long distances, because the bullet doesn't acquire as much stabilizing spin when it is fired as it does in a longer barrel.

Soldiers commonly are taught in training to use "suppressive fire,'' in effect returning enemy attacks with sprays of gunfire, which are often ineffective in Afghanistan.

One reason is the ineffectiveness of the most commonly used round, designated the M855. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, was once accidentally shot in the chest with an M855 round from a light machine gun; rather than being killed, he walked out of the hospital several days later.

Ehrhart recalls seeing a soldier shot with a M855 round from a distance of 75 meters in training. Twenty minutes later he was "walking around smoking a cigarette.''

Such incidents may be flukes, but they do illustrate that the rounds can lack killing power. Most infantrymen are equipped to fire the M855 round from their M4 carbine, M16 rifle, or the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), a light machine gun. When a firefight erupts in Afghanistan, they are unable to fire back accurately at more than 200 or 300 meters, leaving it to soldiers with heavier weapons -- the M240 machine gun, 60-mm mortars or snipers equipped with M14 rifles.

"These [heavier] weapons represent 19 percent of the company's firepower,'' Ehrhart wrote, meaning that "81 percent of the company has little effect on the fight.

"This is unacceptable.''

One quick fix, he suggested, is to equip the designated marksmen within each company with a powerful weapon that can kill at long distances, the M110 sniper weapon, which is effective out to 800 meters.

These rifles are expensive -- about $8,000 apiece. But you could outfit every infantry squad in the Army with two M110 rifles for the price of one U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor supersonic stealthy fighter, Ehrhart noted.

Ironically, American doughboys in World War I were better trained and equipped for Afghanistan-style firefights than today's GIs.

"The U.S. infantry weapon has devolved from the World War I rifle capable of conducting lethal fire out to 1,200 yards, to the current weapon that can hit a target out to 300 meters but probably will not kill it,'' Ehrhart wrote.

The School of Advanced Military Studies, where Ehrhart was a student last year, trains the Army's brightest young officers for senior leadership. His unclassified paper, written last year, does not reflect official Army positions. But the paper has rocketed around in military circles and has been read avidly in some units preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

But even before his report began circulating widely, some Army units were acting on the hard-learned lessons from Afghanistan, where the Army has been fighting for almost nine years.

Several weeks ago I watched an infantry battalion of the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team working on live fire maneuvers in central Wyoming.

One key focus, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, was to hone soldiers' skills in high-angle and long-distance shooting -- precisely the skills not widely required in regular Army training, according to Ehrhart.

Where normal Army marksmanship training is often conducted on level ground against pop-up targets, Maddi and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Chris Ramsey, had their men shooting up towering ridgelines and down steep inclines, and at distances out to 600 meters.

The battalion's troops, wearing their full battle kit, also were firing live rounds while running, and while running with heavy packs, up and down the steep Wyoming ridges.

"We're here to replicate the environment of Afghanistan," said Ramsey, who brought his battalion to Wyoming from its home base at Fort Polk, La. "We don't get this kind of terrain at home."

Ramsey told me he had not read Ehrhart's paper before his battalion deployed to Wyoming for a month's training in early February. Polishing those skills was "intuitive," he said. But he said the paper now has been read across the battalion.

At a meeting with reporters this week, Army Secretary John McHugh was asked whether he was familiar with the Ehrhart report. McHugh said he was not, but after hearing a brief description, he said he would track down the paper and read it.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; banglist; bhodod; ehrhart; ehrhartreport; guns; oef; oefsurge
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To: windcliff

hussein happy

141 posted on 04/03/2010 5:11:51 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: 2111USMC
Mosin Nagant M91/30s. 7.62 x 54R. Hundreds of thousands of re-armored models available for about $80 each. Reach out a country mile accurately with stock iron sights.

I have eight MNs. Six 91/30s and two M44s. I love them all! I wasn't looking to get that many, but I just kept finding really nice examples on sale and couldn't pass them up.


142 posted on 04/03/2010 5:41:49 PM PDT by SIDENET ("If that's your best, your best won't do." -Dee Snider)
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To: decimon; barb-tex; All
"Some M14 rifles are presently in civilian hands with the blessing of the authorities, but the originals were equipped for full-auto fire and require the tax stamp, etc." - Wiley Clapp.

Close-up view on the controls of the military M14 rifle, including fire mode selector switch (on receiver above the trigger)
Source URL:

Source URL:
See that metal lever missing below and behind the rear sight. The lower M14 would only fire semi, IIRC. My memory is 40 years old.

143 posted on 04/03/2010 5:43:04 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: GreyFriar

There’s actually still production of them, but re-branded as the M21 and the M25 with some modernizations.

144 posted on 04/03/2010 5:44:56 PM PDT by ksm1
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To: Sylvester McMonkey McBean

Match hollow points don’t expand. The mk 262 and M118 are match hp.

The Hague Convention prohibits expanding bullets.

145 posted on 04/03/2010 5:46:46 PM PDT by Favor Center (Targets Up! Hold hard and favor center!)
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To: karnage

Put a few thousnd rounds through one.

146 posted on 04/03/2010 5:48:48 PM PDT by Favor Center (Targets Up! Hold hard and favor center!)
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To: jonascord

Tubb shoots his T2k now, not service rifle.

Regardless, match 5.56 loses nothing to 762 NATO at range windage wise. The AR platform dominates service competition and that’s not because the M16 is the issue rifle. The M14 is harder to keep running accuracy wise and harder to shoot well. The AMU proved that in the 90s.

147 posted on 04/03/2010 5:55:23 PM PDT by Favor Center (Targets Up! Hold hard and favor center!)
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To: neverdem

I called the selector switch a ‘key’ because it was removable. Unless they changed it, I’m pretty sure that all M-14s were select fire.

I saw why it wasn’t used as full-auto when they handed one to a desk-jockey-looking sergeant to fire. When he pulled the trigger the barrel rose to near vertical and he looked to fall backwards before he released the trigger.

The M-14 manuals showed a variety of models that were likely never used. With a wire stock, with a pistol grip (meant for full-auto and, if the old brain is reliable, designated as M-2) and so on.

148 posted on 04/03/2010 5:56:08 PM PDT by decimon
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To: Virginia Ridgerunner
That's exactly what Carlos Hathcock (RIP) did in Vietnam.

So they went down to the PX and bought
Remington model 700's and Redfield Widefield scopes

149 posted on 04/03/2010 5:57:47 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 119:174 I long for Your salvation, YHvH, Your law is my delight.)
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To: davetex

150 posted on 04/03/2010 6:03:48 PM PDT by smokingfrog (Free Men will always be armed with the Truth.)
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To: Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Rounds considered humane for killing game are not humane for killing people, and rounds humane for killing people are not humane for killing game. How can both be true, given a single definition for humane?

If I remember correctly, military ball ammo is designed to wound, not to kill, with the thought that it takes more soldiers out of action to look after the wounded. Expanding and lead ammunition was banned because of the horrific wounds it inflicted - for those that lived.

151 posted on 04/03/2010 6:18:12 PM PDT by jim-x (You cannot protect people from themselves.)
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To: neverdem
John Browning solved this problem almost 100 years ago...

152 posted on 04/03/2010 6:21:52 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Joe 6-pack

The trench sweeper. I have learned a lot on this thread.

153 posted on 04/03/2010 6:26:36 PM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: decimon
Unless they changed it, I’m pretty sure that all M-14s were select fire.

They could be. That's why the ATF got antsy about them. The Army liked the M1 Garand action, and they could simplify logistics when they eliminanated the BAR from the automatic riflemen, hence the M14 with the new NATO round.

I think that the armorer in many units removed that external selector switch. I did infantry advanced individual training in early 1970. IIRC, they gave us a few days of familiarization at the range with the M14, only semi. My first unit in Vietnam was a security platoon that still had them, without that external selector switch.

154 posted on 04/03/2010 6:30:06 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: wally_bert
John Browning designed a number of incredible weapons...not the least of which was the BAR.

IMHO, it's the closest thing to the right medicine for the problem presented in this article. With a few modern upgrades, metallurgy and materials it could be even better.

155 posted on 04/03/2010 6:30:44 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Joe 6-pack

156 posted on 04/03/2010 6:38:34 PM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: smokingfrog

Very nice picture. What an incredible weapon, and does that soldier have a T patch? 36ths makes it even better!!

Our home boys!!

157 posted on 04/03/2010 7:02:25 PM PDT by davetex (All my weapons got melted by a meteor!! No Sh*t)
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To: Mr Rogers

>FWIW, I suspect the ranges also depend on what part of Afghanistan you are in, but 500+ meters is a LONNGGG way for an Afghan to try shooting.<

That’s a dumb thing to say, especially since you are “Retired military.”

158 posted on 04/03/2010 7:09:50 PM PDT by B4Ranch (Should people be questioning their government? Yes and "Where's the birth certificate?")
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To: Favor Center
The point is that a target load is NOT a combat load. All a target load has to do is punch through a piece of cheesecloth and heavy paper. And, that is at a known distance, with telltail flags to dope the wind. A 5.56 match round isn't close to a mankiller, or even very flat shooting, at those distances. All it has to be is consistant.

Back when, you would cook up a target load by gradually reducing the powder load, and bullet weights and tracking the group sizes until they started to grow, again.

Example: My father-in-law used to shoot NRA target .45s out in California. He used to collect all the LC match brass that the service shooters would leave behind. He cooked up a load that was 3.5 grains of Bullseye and (I think), a 230gr. semi-wadcutter. The load barely has enough steam to work the action on his 1911, and the case would frequently trickle off your gun hand and fall at your feet.

He had a stray dog come around his property, that was covered with mange and ticks, and he used his pistol, with his target loads, on the trusting dog at about 5 feet. The bullet bounced off the dog's skull, and he hit the dog twice more as it ran. (Imagine hitting a running dog with a hand gun, twice, at 25 yards. He was that good.) He was very shaken, that he had blundered so badly. The dog went under the farm truck and was cowering and whimpering when I went out there with a pump gun and ended it. Later I had to remind him that he was shooting one of his target loads.

159 posted on 04/03/2010 7:36:55 PM PDT by jonascord (We've got the Constitution to protect us. Why should we worry?)
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To: Favor Center
I had heard AP ammo was. Now I know that only PISTOL AP ammo is, and that .30-06 M2 is explicitly exempted.

I suppose it's because of the millions of rounds that the CMP gave away or sold after WW2.

160 posted on 04/03/2010 7:43:23 PM PDT by jonascord (We've got the Constitution to protect us. Why should we worry?)
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