British 5.56mm?


#1

In “Biting the Bullet,” a report by Drummond and Williams, there is the following statement:

I’m curious as to how construction of the 5.56mm L2A2 projectile differs from that of M855 Ball? Can anybody post a sectioned photo?


#2

The L2A2 bullet jacket is thicker so will not fragment. Other European nations have done something similar, I believe.

For those interested, the long report ‘Biting the Bullet’, which is concerned with the poor performance of 5.56mm in Afghanistan, is here: quarry.nildram.co.uk/btb.pdf

There is also a shorter summary article here: quarry.nildram.co.uk/btbjdw.pdf


#3

Doesn’t the UK issue an SS109 type bullet today instead of the L2A2?


#4

The L2A2 is an “SS109 type bullet”, in the sense of weight, shape and structure (hardened steel front core with lead behind). Jacket thickness does vary.

Current production is the L17A2, but the change in number reflects variations in propellant and/or primer, not the bullet.


#5

Thanks, for some reason I thought a lead cored FMJ with no penetrator used to be issued. I’m not sure where I heard that.


#6

In the article „Biting the bullet“ is written;

“The British Army adopted the current NATO standard 5.56 mm ammunition in 1986 when it fielded the SA80 small arms weapon system, consisting of the L85 rifle and L86 light support weapon.”

Well, for who (year) were these rounds made for.

Dutch


#7

[quote=“dutch”]In the article „Biting the bullet“ is written;

“The British Army adopted the current NATO standard 5.56 mm ammunition in 1986 when it fielded the SA80 small arms weapon system, consisting of the L85 rifle and L86 light support weapon.”

Well, for who (year) were these rounds made for.

Dutch[/quote]

Possibly produced for the sa80 trials rifles that were available in those years and the AR15/M16 rifles already held by the British Army since the mid 1960’s and I nearly forgot the HK 53.


#8

That paper is very interesting, but there’s another interesting report on this subject dating from 1986, long before the Afghanistan deployments.

Its title is 7.62 mm Versus 5.56 mm - Does NATO Really Need Two Standard Rifle Calibers?, by Major Vern T. Miyagi.

It is available here: globalsecurity.org/military/ … 86/MVT.htm


#9

Yes, I’m familiar with this report, but I don’t agree that reverting to 7.62x51 is the answer.

The heavier recoil of the 7.62x51 (compared with a 6.5-7mm intermediate round) is a disadvantage for more reasons than just controllability in auto rifle fire (although this clearly is a factor, judging by the extent to which it is used). It also makes training recruits to shoot accurately more difficult (standards improved dramatically when the 5.56mm was introduced) and requires heavier guns and MG mountings. Of equal impoortance, the heavier ammo is a major factor for belt-fed MGs carried by foot patrols.

A couple of comments on the replacement of the 6.5mm rounds in the late 1930s. The Italian 6.5mm Carcano fired a heavy, round-nosed bullet at low velocity which was very stable and drilled straight through the target without yawing, causing only minor injuries unless it hit something vital. The Italians decided to adopt a pointed bullet but, to save money, also decided to cut new rifling grooves in the hundreds of thousands of 6.5mm guns they had with worn-out barrels, rather than make new barrels. This meant that the calibre had to increase - to 7.35mm.

The Japanese Type 38 was a much better loading and was quite effective. At least one US Army medical report from WW2 stated that the bullet often yawed on impact, causing serious wounds and leading to an unexpected level of deaths. The reason for the Japanese Army’s adoption of 7.7mm rounds was to increase the long range hitting power of machine guns (by long range they were thinking of 2,000+ yards). This is demonstrated by the fact that the 7.7mm rounds were for years used only in MGs. Only much later did rifles start being made in 7.7mm, probably to standardise ammunition supply.


#10

[quote=“dutch”]In the article „Biting the bullet“ is written;

“The British Army adopted the current NATO standard 5.56 mm ammunition in 1986 when it fielded the SA80 small arms weapon system, consisting of the L85 rifle and L86 light support weapon.”

Well, for who (year) were these rounds made for.

Dutch[/quote]

Those are not early British rounds, THESE are the early ones!

RG 68 and RG 69

British production proper started in 1980 with the “Round 5.56mm Ball , M.193”, but switched to an SS109 type, the “Ball L2A1” in 1984. To avoid allegations that the bullet broke up too easily, the L2A2 round was introduced in 1987. This had a thicker jacket as TonyW explained and so had to be made slightly longer to maintain the same weight.

Regards
TonyE


#11

In Afghanistan at least they should replace the 5.56mm L86 with the 7.62mm L4 Bren.

I think they should go back to the 7.62mmx51 and spend more time on training to bring everyones accuracy up to scratch, the 5.56mm is crap, IMO, except for close ranges, lets try the .280/30 again.


#12

As to why the Japanese Introduced the 7,7 for Rifles ( as opposed to MGs) it had NOTHING to do with “Standardisation” …since the MG cartridge was SEMI-Rimmed, whilst the Rifle and LMG cartridge was RIMLESS.

It grew out of the requirement for a Better cartridge ( and shorter Rifle) for use in China…Chinese Winter Clothing tended to stop or slow down the 6,5 Projectile, whilst the heavier mass of a 7,7 ( and its resultant residual Energy) gave better “Wounding/Killing Power”.

They did attempt to make the trials rifles in 7,7 Semi-Rimmed, but had too many issues with Feed and Power ( the Semi rimmed cartridge was Higher Power and Heavier Projectile).

Why the Japanese had a plethora of Calibres, all at once, is part of the inscrutability of the Japanese Mind…and the Hidebound separation of the two major services (Army and Navy).

regards, Merry Xmas etc,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics


#13

[quote=“Armourer”]In Afghanistan at least they should replace the 5.56mm L86 with the 7.62mm L4 Bren.

I think they should go back to the 7.62mmx51 and spend more time on training to bring everyones accuracy up to scratch, the 5.56mm is crap, IMO, except for close ranges, lets try the .280/30 again.[/quote]

I’m given to understand that a lot of H&K 7.62s are being deployed with British troops in Afganistan now for exactly the reason you state.

The question of FMJ bullets yawing on impact has always been there. As I understand its because at the moment of impact the front of the bullet receives the slowing forces but the back doesn’t so a point in time is reached when the back of the bullet is trying to travel faster than the front and yaw results.

Also, since the angle of impact relative to the target is random the retarding force is not often going to be truly axial in that first milisecond. Bullets fired into butts where the earthbank is 45 degrees are often recovered with the nose pushed over to one side. I know that sand or earth is a lot harder than flesh but at those sort of velocitiies it doesn’t make as much difference as you might think. The nose is still going to be pushed over if the bullet hits obliquely.


#14

Used by the SFSG in the main I believe.


#15

[quote=“DocAV”]As to why the Japanese Introduced the 7,7 for Rifles ( as opposed to MGs) it had NOTHING to do with “Standardisation”

It grew out of the requirement for a Better cartridge ( and shorter Rifle) for use in China…Chinese Winter Clothing tended to stop or slow down the 6,5 Projectile
[/quote]
It may have resulted from combat experience in China, but I have to question the reason given. The idea that a 6.5mm steel-jacketed bullet launched at 2400 fps would be noticeably slowed – let alone stopped – by Chinese winter clothing is even more implausible than claims that .30 Carbine bullets failed to penetrate the quilted cotton uniforms worn by Chinese soldiers in the Korean War.


#16

[quote=“TonyWilliams”]Yes, I’m familiar with this report, but I don’t agree that reverting to 7.62x51 is the answer.

The heavier recoil of the 7.62x51 (compared with a 6.5-7mm intermediate round) is a disadvantage for more reasons than just controllability in auto rifle fire (although this clearly is a factor, judging by the extent to which it is used). It also makes training recruits to shoot accurately more difficult (standards improved dramatically when the 5.56mm was introduced) and requires heavier guns and MG mountings. Of equal impoortance, the heavier ammo is a major factor for belt-fed MGs carried by foot patrols.[/quote]
Reverting to 7.62x51 may not be the best answer, but it would seem to be the easiest.

1. Military arsenals are already set up for production of 7.62x51 ammo, whereas to adopt a new intermediate cartridge would neccessitate a complete change to the manufacturing process.

2. It’s simpler for a country to adopt a new 7.62x51 rifle than to get a new cartridge made NATO standard.

3. Controllability, felt recoil, and carry load could be improved by resurrecting the XM256E1 low-recoil load. viewtopic.php?p=53223#p53223


#17

[quote=“stanc”]Reverting to 7.62x51 may not be the best answer, but it would seem to be the easiest.

1. Military arsenals are already set up for production of 7.62x51 ammo, whereas to adopt a new intermediate cartridge would neccessitate a complete change to the manufacturing process.

2. It’s simpler for a country to adopt a new 7.62x51 rifle than to get a new cartridge made NATO standard.[/quote]
Certainly - and that’s what’s happening now. It would take years for NATO to adopt a new cartridge. My argument is that we should look to changing the calibre for the next generation of weapons, probably entering service in 2020+, which may use something other than brass cases (although that’s far from certain).

That would have a bad effect on long-range performance, though, which isn’t what’s wanted.


#18

[quote=“TonyWilliams”][quote=“stanc”]Reverting to 7.62x51 may not be the best answer, but it would seem to be the easiest.

1. Military arsenals are already set up for production of 7.62x51 ammo, whereas to adopt a new intermediate cartridge would neccessitate a complete change to the manufacturing process.

2. It’s simpler for a country to adopt a new 7.62x51 rifle than to get a new cartridge made NATO standard.[/quote]
Certainly - and that’s what’s happening now.[/quote]
Yes, I see that the British Army is taking a step in that direction:

[quote]UK selects 7.62 mm Sharpshooter weapon for Afghan ops

Andrew White
Jane’s Land Reporter
London

UK forces are to receive a semi-automatic 7.62 mm x 51 mm ‘sharpshooter’ weapon to combat Taliban forces engaging beyond the maximum effective range of the 5.56 mm L85A2 assault rifle.

In a USD2.5 million deal the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has contracted Law Enforcement International (LEI) to supply 440 LM7 semi-automatic rifles.

The urgent operational requirement follows calls from troops on the ground for a weapon that can be comfortably patrolled with, can be rapidly initiated and provide an increased range for contacts out to 800 m.

To be redesignated the L129A1, the gas-operated weapon carries a 20-round magazine, is 945 mm long and weighs 5 kg. It will be manufactured by Lewis Machine & Tool Company in the United States, with deliveries expected to begin in early 2010.


(Photo above is of a civilian version.)

Features of the weapon include a single-piece upper receiver and free-floating, quick-change barrels available in 305 mm, 406 mm and 508 mm. It has four Picatinny rails with a 540 mm top rail for night vision, thermal and image intensifying optics. Stock options include fixed or retractable versions.

Industry sources told Jane’s that LEI beat competition including Heckler & Koch’s HK417 (already supplied to specialist units within the MoD), FN Herstal’s SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) and an offering from Sabre Defence Industries.

To date UK soldiers must complete a marksmanship course to become qualified as ‘sharpshooters’ and are regarded as being a grade below that of a sniper. Following the introduction of Accuracy International’s (AI’s) .338-cal L115A3 sniper rifle, sharpshooters have been armed with AI’s outgoing 7.62 mm L96 rifle. However, the latter’s bolt action does not make it a suitable option for a patrolling soldier.

With the majority of contacts occurring at either very close range or at ranges out to between 500 m and 900 m, the “only organic asset” available to responding UK forces in a small-arms capacity is the 7.62 mm General-Purpose Machine Gun, with MoD sources saying that “5.56 mm weapons lack the reach to engage the enemy at those ranges”.

“The 5.56 mm is sufficiently lethal at the right range, but troops need 7.62 mm for longer ranges. We should be looking at higher performance rounds with higher lethality at longer range. Research is going to filter into user requirements for the soldier system lethality programme,” one MoD source told Jane’s.[/quote]


#19

This is the bit that I find interesting - it suggests that the British Army is not happy with the current 5.56+7.62 combination.

[quote=“stanc”]
“The 5.56 mm is sufficiently lethal at the right range, but troops need 7.62 mm for longer ranges. We should be looking at higher performance rounds with higher lethality at longer range. Research is going to filter into user requirements for the soldier system lethality programme,” one MoD source told Jane’s.[/quote]


#20

Very interesting comment from the MoD. What with trying to find a lighter replacement for the GPMG and now adopting the LEI 7.62mm AR clone, it is strange how all the work done fifty years ago is coming round again to find a round with 1000 yard lethality yet capable of being fired from a lighter weapon.

…now where have I heard that before Tony?

Regards
TonyE