Friday, March 9, 2018

Quickies: Correcting The Record On The Right

     It does no one any good to falsify history. This is as important in discussing guns as on any other subject of interest.

     This RedState article, written by “streiff,” contains the following:

     On Wednesday, Ted Cruz was on Morning Joe to debate gun control and what Cruz did to Scarborough is a felony in at least twenty-three states and two territories. Before we go any further, let’s recall that Joe Scarborough, back when he was trying to get elected to Congress, touted his 100% NRA rating. It is only in his new life as MSNBC’s “house” conservative that he’s become just another anti-gun Nazi.
     SCARBOROUGH: It actually, the studies, even the Pentagon studies show that weapons like the AR-15 actually are designed to be more lethal, and there were actually — and I’ve talked about the article a good bit. There’s an article in the Atlantic in 1981, where actually, they did an after-action report, and there was criticism that a gun much like the AR-15 wasn’t used in Vietnam because it was lighter, it was more lethal, and it was more of a killing machine than the guns that our soldiers were using in Vietnam. So, it is designed to kill more effectively, more efficiently.

     Upon which “streiff” jumps in:

     Anyone vaguely familiar with the history of the M-16 know this is absolute bullsh**.

     Unfortunately for “streiff,” Scarborough is correct:

     Rep. ICHORD: One Army boy told me he had shot a Vietcong near the eye with an M-14, and the bullet did not make too large a hole on exit, but he shot a Vietcong under similar circumstances in the same place with an M-16 [the militarized version of the AR-15] and his whole head was reduced to pulp. This would not appear to make sense. You have greater velocity but the bullet is lighter.

     Gene STONER [designer of the AR-15]: That is the advantage that a small or light bullet has over a heavy one when it comes to wound ballistics....What it amounts to is that bullets are stabilized to fly through the air, and not through water or a body, which is approximately the same density as water. And they are stable as long as they are in the air. When they hit something, they immediately go unstable....If you are talking about a .30 caliber bullet [the M-14’s bullet caliber], that might remain stable through a human body....While a little bullet, being that it has a low mass, it senses an instability situation and reacts much faster. This is what makes a little bullet pay off so much in wound ballistics.

     [Hearings, Special Subcommittee on the M-16 Rifle Program, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, 90th Congress, 1st session. Quoted in James Fallows’s book National Defense.]

     Indeed, the whole point of the AR-15 / M-16 program was to produce a rifle whose ammunition weighs less and spins less rapidly than that of the M-14, specifically to improve three things:

  • The lethality of the wounds it causes;
  • The controllability of the rifle on full automatic;
  • The amount of ammunition the rifleman could carry.

     “Streiff” has not done his homework. His error must be noted here and elsewhere. No matter one’s position on the right to keep and bear arms, it does no good to spread inaccuracies about a gun, its properties, or the intentions behind its design.


Chuck said...

While I understand the history of the 5.56MM round and its terminal ballistics, I must disagree with the idea that it is more lethal because of it. You are quoting the testimony of the designer who had a financial stake in it being adopted. Rep. Icord's statement is pure anecdote, not evidence. There are verified stories of men being shot in the head with a .45 ACP and surviving but I wouldn't bet that way.

A better sense of the lethality of the round is found in the fact that it is considered under-powered and in many states illegal to use for hunting deer because it is likely to wound instead of cleanly kill. In my state of Georgia where the deer run from 100-200 pounds and a 25 caliber or higher bullet is required by law to ensure clean harvesting. If a cartridge an't be counted on to cleanly kill man-sized animals, it can't be considered "super-duper" lethal on men.

Francis W. Porretto said...

CHUCK: I was quoting the designer's intentions for the gun, and for the round as fired from the AR-15 as he designed it. It doesn't matter what the state of Georgia has to say about it; Gene Stoner had specific intentions, which were met in the AR-15 as he designed it:
-- Lightweight, high velocity bullet;
-- Reduced twist rate in the barrel from 1 per 12 per inches to 1 per 14 inches,
-- Nitrocellulose propellant (a.k.a. guncotton) in the shell.

The Army, whose Ordnance Corps disliked the AR-15 because it came from an outside designer, then "militarized" the gun into the M-16:
-- Added a manual bolt closure, which Stoner said was unnecessary;
-- Increased the twist rate back to 1 per 12 inches;
-- Loaded its shells with ball powder instead of nitrocellulose.

There's a lot of history on the AR-15 / M-16 controversy, and the many soldiers whose M-16s failed on them during combat. It pays to be conversant with it.

Linda Fox said...

Now, that makes some sense from a physics standpoint. I'd been wondering why the bullets caused so much damage, and the explanations didn't make sense.

jscd3 said...

Just as an aside - as noted above, the original AR-15/M-16 design involved a 55gr flat bottom bullet loaded to move at 3200 fps out of a 20 inch barrel with a 1 twist in 14 inch rifle pattern

The current M-4/M16 and most common civilian AR-15 designs have 1 twist in 7 inch rifle patterns, and the most common AR-15 designs purchased are carbine models which have a barrel and fixed flash guard total length of 16.5 inches, meaning the barrel itself is shorter

The above results in both a much more stable round and significantly lower muzzle velocity, and a consequent significant reduction in round terminal affects

Moreover, almost all 223/5.56 ammo is boat-tailed, resulting in additional stability and lower propensity to tumble

What all of this means is that current AR-15 (and M-16/M-4) designs are generally less lethal (sometimes significantly so) than the original design, at least without specially designed ammo

Of course, all of this is moot, since a civilian can purchase soft point or hollow point ammo that is far more lethal than military loads. Ammo which, of course, can be fired out of ANY rifle chambered for 223/5.56 (e.g. Ruger Mini 14)

Moreover, most VERY common hunting rifle and shotgun models and associated loads (30-30, 357 magnum, 12 gauge, etc.) are significantly more lethal (particularly at closer ranges) than 223/5.56, rendering the entire discussion of the uniquely murderous AR-15 just a bit ridiculous

daniel_day said...

My understanding is that heavier bullets, 77 grains, or others in the 70-grain range, are preferred now. Not only do they retain more velocity at long range than the lighter bullets, they are less stable, i.e. more likely to tumble, with the resulting higher lethality, when they strike a target.