Are rifles redundant?
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  1. #1

    Are rifles redundant?

    Hello, chaps. I'm not a marine; I don't pretend to be and I never was. I'm just a British ex-gunner who doesn't know s**t about infantry warfare. But I'd like to learn. If my brief encounters with U.S. marines taught me anything, it's that you're passionate about it, so it seems to me you'd be the best people to consult.

    My question for you is this: What are the advantages of assault rifles over light machine guns (henceforth LMGs)? If a LMG were to be designed to fire in both automatic and semi-automatic modes, what function would a rifle serve that could not be fulfilled by such a weapon? Why use rifles at all? Is it an issue of weight, cost, accuracy, reliability?

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  2. #2
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    Hi Tom...my infantry experience is many years in the past (I'm as old as dirt) so I'll be curious to hear what some of the younger guys say. I think you hit the nail on the head with weight and cost...an M27, intended for automatic riflemen, costs 3 to 4x what an M4 does, and weighs a few pounds more. That 3x cost and additional weight is significant. I guess the other thing is that Marines take their marksmanship ability pretty seriously, and still want to emphasize that the individual rifleman needs to focus on well placed rounds down range..not everyone needs to be spraying and praying on full automatic. Interesting thread...will be curious to hear what more recent 03 guys think.


  3. #3
    I'm not a grunt, but I've got some experience in the employment of fire an maneuver.

    I think you're confusing an "automatic rifle" with a "light machine gun". AR's like the M27 are expensive, but can do things regular rifles can do, and in a pinch can be used to establish a base of fire or a final protective fire when in a defensive position.

    LMG's like the M249 are a different animal entirely. Belt fed, with a weight around 20lbs and a cyclic rate of fire in the 600-800 rpm range, they bring a level of firepower to the squad or fireteam level that nothing else can. Unlike automatic rifles the barrels on LMG's can typically be changed in order to keep a sustained rate of fire up over a period of time. While not technically "crew served" they are able to really bring suppressing fire to bear on an enemy position, allowing a maneuver element to move more effectively. They also do world's of good in establishing fire superiority during an ambush or counter-ambush.

    They do NOT make good rifles however, are far more expensive than an M-16 or M-4, are much heavier, require more maintenance, and generally speaking the effective use of such is reserved for more experienced and seasoned members of a squad. Any boot can make hits with an M16A4, but effectively employing a belt fed takes a skill set not taught in boot camp, but learned over months or years of time in the fleet.

    I'm not certain if the M27 was ever supposed to replace the M249 entirely, or if it was more designed to provide an additional force multiplier at a squad and fireteam level. I've been out since 2006, so the M27 is after my time, and I'm not aware of how exactly it's being employed currently. If the SAW is truly being replaced entirely by automatic rifles, I feel that's a mistake. There's really nothing like a belt fed for suppressing the enemy or for gaining fire superiority in a fight.


  4. #4
    Seems to me you can make the same argument for pistols. If you're already carrying a rifle (in the case of Special Operators for example). Isn't the pistol kind of redundant then?


  5. #5
    Pistols are great for when you've gotta walk across the FOB to the chow hall but don't wanna bring your rifle with you Top. Lol


  6. #6
    In a fire fight nothing says happiness like having a belt fed weapon producing cover fire. In a last ditch stand pistols are great to have on hand, instead of using your hands.


  7. #7
    As an old 0331 walking gunner, Russ is right. The M-60 in all probability, was the most devastating weapon in jungle warfare in our time.


  8. #8
    IMO, a rifle or a pistol will ever be redundant, and a belt fed weapon was a God send.

    ORDO AD CHAO

  9. #9
    Billy I wish you could've got your hands on a 240. As awesome a weapon as the pig is, the 240 just improves on that concept in every regard. You'd have loved it.


  10. #10
    There was some great information in there before we started to drift off-topic but it nonetheless doesnít really relate to my query. Perhaps Iíve phrased it incorrectly? My question is not so much about the current or historical doctrine for the application of machine guns but rather the simple nature of the tool and how it would differ from a rifle if it could be fired semi-automatic.

    For example, if the much-beloved M249 were to be reengineered to feature a semi-automatic mode of fire, what would prevent it from replacing 5.56mm assault rifles entirely? Cost has been touched upon as the predominant factor but is there any other reason a new recruit could not be trained to use such a weapon as a rifle until such time as they could be vetted for specialist training as machine gunners?


  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Norman View Post
    There was some great information in there before we started to drift off-topic but it nonetheless doesn’t really relate to my query. Perhaps I’ve phrased it incorrectly? My question is not so much about the current or historical doctrine for the application of machine guns but rather the simple nature of the tool and how it would differ from a rifle if it could be fired semi-automatic.

    For example, if the much-beloved M249 were to be reengineered to feature a semi-automatic mode of fire, what would prevent it from replacing 5.56mm assault rifles entirely? Cost has been touched upon as the predominant factor but is there any other reason a new recruit could not be trained to use such a weapon as a rifle until such time as they could be vetted for specialist training as machine gunners?
    the m249 which i believe is the upgraded and new and improved version of my M60 as like Billy I to was an 0331, the round is a 7.62 which is heavier then the 5.56 the gun itself has a longer barrel so it can reach out and touch someone at 1000m or further, (it may have been 2500m) as memory escapes me as to the actual EFFR, being belt fed semi auto would be worthless and in any reengineering to make it usable as you described would take a way it's purpose and effectiveness..

    The Proud, The Few, The Constitutional Marine

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by irpat54 View Post
    ...being belt fed semi auto would be worthless and in any reengineering to make it usable as you described would take a way it's purpose and effectiveness..
    I can appreciate a LMG’s principle function in modern warfare is not the same as a rifle’s but that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t really know how to phrase this any differently but I’ll try. There is no reason a Light Machine Gun cannot be engineered to feature selective fire in the same fashion as an assault rifle, thereby giving the operator the option of automatic or semi-automatic fire modes. Such a modification would add no significant weight or bulk. Given that existing LMGs are of a size and weight suitable for individual handling, in what way would such a hypothetical weapon differ from assault rifles of the same calibre? It seems to me that a selective fire LMG could in every way perform the exact same function as an assault rifle but with the advantage of a greater magazine capacity and the option to convert roles back to its conventional format as a suppression and area denial weapon with the flick of a switch. What do assault rifles do that a selective fire LMG could not? What am I missing?


  13. #13
    Irpat, the M249 is 5.56mm. The M240 is 7.62.

    Tom, I get what you're saying, but you're not taking the "maneuver" element into account. Once a base of fire is established by a belt fed or two, then a maneuver element is punched out to assault enemy positions. Those guys are moving, and having each of them armed with a 20lb gun rather than a 7lb rifle is going to restrict their ability to close with the enemy effectively. Now, if you armed them with automatic rifles, sure that's fine, but actual light machine guns? I'm guessing you've never carried a 249 or 240 for any significant length of time. They're worth their weight, but they are damn heavy.


  14. #14
    Correct Silverado, Its the weight and maneuverability...

    I'd hate to try and clear/sweep closed confinement with a LMG...

    I also was an 0331, Effective range was 1100-1200 m, 1500 plus for a skilled gunner for plunging fire... Rounds could be walked even further.. Tracers were burned out @ 750m...



  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by silveradomick View Post
    Irpat, the M249 is 5.56mm. The M240 is 7.62.

    Tom, I get what you're saying, but you're not taking the "maneuver" element into account. Once a base of fire is established by a belt fed or two, then a maneuver element is punched out to assault enemy positions. Those guys are moving, and having each of them armed with a 20lb gun rather than a 7lb rifle is going to restrict their ability to close with the enemy effectively. Now, if you armed them with automatic rifles, sure that's fine, but actual light machine guns? I'm guessing you've never carried a 249 or 240 for any significant length of time. They're worth their weight, but they are damn heavy.
    ahh thanks,, then the M249 is a saws then? if so then that is what I think the OP is talking about.. thanks...

    The Proud, The Few, The Constitutional Marine

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