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Subject: Calling all small arms experts: Had the M-16 such a really low ROF? rss

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Markus Pausch
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For a game-project I'm doing a little research on small arms used in the Vietnam War. In the book Vietnam Order of Battle ,I found a table wich list the actual rate of fire (without overheating) for nearly all U.S. weapons used in the conflict.

To my surprise the rate of fire for the M-16A1 is 12-15 rounds per minute, for the M1 it's 8-10, for the M14 it's 20 or so. (Table is accessible at Amazon.com)

I think it is a bit strange that a full auto weapon could not put significantly more lead in the air than a semi automatic rifle. Maybe in the actual battle fewer shots were fired than on a target practice range? But then again the .30 carbine is listed with a ROF of 30 shots/min.

What are your comments on this? Are these numbers correct?





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Gregory Amstutz
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Actually, the M-16 has 4 Rates of fire, depending on usage. the 12-15 rpm is called a Sustained Rate, the idea being that you could keep that up for extremely long periods w/o overheating. Semi-auto fire is 45-60 rpm, while Full Automatic is 150-200 rpm. The theoretical Cyclic rate, which assumes no overheating, unlimited ammo, and no magazine changes, is actually 700-800 rpm.
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Steven Mitchell
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Just goes to show how little I know about firearms, that I am shocked that fire more frequent than one shot every 4 seconds might overheat a gun over time.
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Born To Lose, Live To Win
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patton1138 wrote:
Just goes to show how little I know about firearms, that I am shocked that fire more frequent than one shot every 4 seconds might overheat a gun over time.


Yeah, one of my ex-marine buddies used to tell me how they would fire their SAW's (Squad Automatic Weapon) until the barrel glowed.
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William Barnett-Lewis
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The M16 is only an average weapon. However it's been in place for so long that everyone seems to believe that it's some kind of great weapon on a par with the M1903/K98 or M1 rifles. It's not terrible either but it is fussy about being kept clean and has a barrel that is too light and, in the current M4 configuration, far too short for decent exterior ballistics in the 5.56 NATO cartridge. It is light & compact which for many troops is sufficient ... whistle

Dogzard gives a good explanation of the various rates of fire. For game purposes, consider the M16 to fire about twice as fast (given recoil and capacity) as the older US M1 but to have only about 2/3 of the effect and only 1/2 the range. The latter isn't as big a deal as some would make it out to be if you take the time to read about actual combat ranges. For longer ranges, there are other specialized weapons to use.
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Markus Pausch
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Thanks for your comments, that was really helpful!
Especially the explanation of the various rates of fire from Dogzard.
 
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Seth Owen
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One advantage of the M-16 is that it's smaller caliber round is much lighter than the bullet used in the M-14, M-1 or the Soviet AK-47 so the soldiers could carry much more ammunition into the fight.
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Steven Mitchell
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wlewisiii wrote:
The M16 is only an average weapon. However it's been in place for so long that everyone seems to believe that it's some kind of great weapon on a par with the M1903/K98 or M1 rifles. It's not terrible either but it is fussy about being kept clean and has a barrel that is too light and, in the current M4 configuration, far too short for decent exterior ballistics in the 5.56 NATO cartridge. It is light & compact which for many troops is sufficient...


Well, if my experience with Firepower is anything to go on, I can understand why ballistics might not be a primary concern. One of the things I come away from that game with, is the importance of suppression over hits. It was enormously hard to hit register a wound, much less a kill with an automatic weapon in that game. But if you fired an automatic weapon, you would suppress the target, regardless of whether you hit or not.
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Kirby Meade
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For an excellent history of how the U.S. military mangled Eugene Stoner's AR-15 weapon system, read Misfire by William Hallahan. He describes the M-14/M-16 selection trials in great detail. The key to any rifle system is the marriage of weapon to ammunition. The U.S. changed all of this in mid trial, effectively killing accuracy and rate of fire for the M-16.
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William Barnett-Lewis
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Another good look is in


American Rifle: A Biography by Alexander Rose. It looks at the history of the ordinance department and it's many decades with more bad than good. That Garand succeeded was more luck than anything...

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Rob Rob
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Just my $.02 worth. One round every four seconds in sustained fire doesn't seem that much but remember that's an entire 30 magazine every two minutes. Standard (US) load is 210 rounds (7 magazines). I carried 300 (10 mags). Either way, at that ROF you are still completely out of ammo in 14-20 minutes.

It takes four seconds for the weapon to dissapate the heat from one round so any faster and you start building up heat faster than it can dissapate. Anyone who has ever fired an M-16 (or any other automatic weapon) can tell you, those suckers get glowing hot very quickly. blush
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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Helmet Lampshade wrote:
For a game-project I'm doing a little research on small arms used in the Vietnam War. In the book Vietnam Order of Battle ,I found a table wich list the actual rate of fire (without overheating) for nearly all U.S. weapons used in the conflict.

To my surprise the rate of fire for the M-16A1 is 12-15 rounds per minute, for the M1 it's 8-10, for the M14 it's 20 or so. (Table is accessible at Amazon.com)

I think it is a bit strange that a full auto weapon could not put significantly more lead in the air than a semi automatic rifle. Maybe in the actual battle fewer shots were fired than on a target practice range? But then again the .30 carbine is listed with a ROF of 30 shots/min.

What are your comments on this? Are these numbers correct?


As has already been explained, the figure has little to do with the 'theorectical' rate of fire of the rifle in question. In fact, the figure is somewhat arbitrary, since it is supposedly based on "The rate at which a weapon can fire indefinitely without seriously overheating." (the note given in the table) but 'seriously overheating' is not well defined. If one were to fire an M16 'indefinitely' at the rate of 1 shot every 4 seconds the barrel would definely 'heat up'. It is not explained what 'seriously overheating' means in practical terms (e.g. accuracy affected? unable to function?). Usually only the squad MG would get to that point, through the use of 'continuous' belt fed ammo and ample supplies. Otherwise, the mag capacity and limited ammo supplies would provide practical limits on its use. I am certain that, on more than one occasion, the mag of an M16 was expended on full auto, which would be 30 rounds in 2-3 seconds, which already far exceeds the 12-15 rpm shown in the table.
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George Husted
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Another consideration is the year of manufacture. In 1965 there was a significant problem with jamming due to ammunition produced by Olin Mathieson (Dupont couldn't keep up with demand) leaving a residue and the lack of chrome in the chamber that would have reduced the effects of fouling.

By 1967, the chamber was chrome lined and a buffer system was added to slow the rate of fire. Later, the chrome was extended to the entire bore.

So, early war M16s would jam very easily, which reduced the rate of fire significantly. Late war M16s were improved and the average rate of fire increased to acceptible levels. There was still a problem with penetration being limited and with accuracy being reduced in dense foliage due to "deflection" of the lightweight rounds.

The M16A2, M16A3, and M16A4 were my service rifles, so the jamming issues I experienced were mostly due to fatigued magazines spreading at their mouths and allowing double or triple feeds. The fouling issues were mostly non-existent in these rifles.

I also was an M60 gunner for about 3 years, and I greatly respected the .308 or 7.62 x 51mm vs. the .223 or 5.56mm. The M60 could penetrate significantly better than the M16. For example, firing 100 rounds into reinforced concrete with an M60 will punch a 7 inch diameter hole 8 inches deep at 25 meters. It wasn't until the advent of the SS109 ammunition that the 5.56mm could begin to approach such penetration.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.
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Ethan McKinney
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wlewisiii wrote:
It's not terrible either but it is fussy about being kept clean

The most recent versions are vastly better.
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David Dixon
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wlewisiii wrote:
The M16 is only an average weapon. However it's been in place for so long that everyone seems to believe that it's some kind of great weapon on a par with the M1903/K98 or M1 rifles. It's not terrible either but it is fussy about being kept clean and has a barrel that is too light and, in the current M4 configuration, far too short for decent exterior ballistics in the 5.56 NATO cartridge. It is light & compact which for many troops is sufficient ... whistle

Dogzard gives a good explanation of the various rates of fire. For game purposes, consider the M16 to fire about twice as fast (given recoil and capacity) as the older US M1 but to have only about 2/3 of the effect and only 1/2 the range. The latter isn't as big a deal as some would make it out to be if you take the time to read about actual combat ranges. For longer ranges, there are other specialized weapons to use.


You're a bit unfair to the M4, I think. Yes, it is short and compact--because we're doing a lot of fighting at close ranges, and the weapon is easier to manuever in close combat (in and around vehicles, inside buildings, etc.) than a longer rifle. To be sure, any carbine has its limitations, but until we go to a bullpup design that gives us barrel length and manueverability, I'll take the tradeoff of a slightly shorter max effective range for manueverability any day.

Now, if you ask me, our real problem is the 5.56 is, while very accurate, underpowered, but that's a whole different issue.

Diis
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Robert Wilson
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here is what they should have now

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_G11

and yes, I knew about it before Cod:BO


I knew 2 vietnam vets when I lived in San Diego, 1 preferred the AK47, and another ( a medic) used a shotgun , they both hated the M16.

1st guy: hit a VC with it and it broke off the stock and he got bayonetted and was saved by a buddy , after that he used any weapon with a wooden stock

2nd guy: preferred pump action SGs as he said the M16 would jam, and he found he used up all his ammo too fast ( sounds like he overheated it ) Easy to say fire a round every 4 seconds, but if you are 19 years old and getting shot at, I guess you could get a bit over excited
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Dan Gillette
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To be fair the early M-16 most vietnam vets used were crap. Often they didn't even issue a cleaning kit because it was supposed to be "self cleaning."

The later models were much better and the current day models, while nothing special, are perfectly serviceable.

Me? I'd love to get my hands on a Steyr AUG, that is a sexy looking rifle.
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I've always heard that the problem with the M-16 in Vietnam was the poor quality of the ammunition which resulted in a lot of jamming.

On the comment about overheating. In the American Civil War the standard infantry weapons (Springfield and Enfield) would have the same problems. You would think that a weapon that could only be fired at best 6 rounds in a minute wouldn't have problems with the barrel heating up but they did. So when you think about a weapon capable of a much higher rate of fire one can only imagine the problems you could have with it heating up in a prolonged engagement.
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jumbit
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Time Magazine, June 1967

The M-16 itself came under heavy fire at home after last month's battle for Hills 881 and 861 below the DMZ. "We left with 72 men in our platoon and came back with 19," wrote a Marine Corps rifleman to his family after the battle. "Believe it or not, you know what killed most of us? Our own rifle. Practically every one of our dead was found with his [M16] torn down next to him where he had been trying to fix it." TV newsmen, in particular, took up the cry that U.S. troops were being betrayed by their own weapons.

Though the M-16's predecessor rifle, the 11¼-lb. M-14, has a longer range and fires a heavier bullet, it cannot match the M-16's maximum sustained rate of fire (up to 200 rounds a minute v. 60 for the M-14).

Esquire, October 2010

At a press conference in Da Nang just after the battles for Hills 861 and 881, one commander, Lieutenant General Lewis W. Walt of the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force, delivered a classic performance of an officer who has lost touch with his men. First he declared that the Marines in his command were "100 percent sold" on the M16. Most of those who had relied on the weapon in battle, he added, "have nothing but praise for it." This can only be read as a lie. General Walt pressed on. He put blame for malfunctions squarely upon individual Marines and their NCOs and officers, saying they had either not adequately maintained their rifles or had tried to force too many rounds into their magazines.
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Jeb
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mrbeankc wrote:
I've always heard that the problem with the M-16 in Vietnam was the poor quality of the ammunition which resulted in a lot of jamming.


There where lots of problems with the M-16. The round was slightly small for the size barrel to allow the bullet to be slightly unstable.

The round would tumble when it hit flesh or even leaves. If it hit flesh it would leave a a terrible wound. If it hit bone it would riccoche leaving an even more terrible wound.

I never used an M-16 in Vietnam or even in combat ... The weapon I used in the 80's jammed mostly because the clip would feed the round in poorly ... when the spring got screwed up. That said, it would not surprise me that the M-16 was finicky ... There where a lot of moving parts and I can only imagine that having a round rattling around inside the barrel on the way down range can't do anything to improve the maintainability of the weapon.
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They all fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. So what?

The important thing is how fast the soldier can re-aquire the target for aimed fire. That is about the same for all rifles. Skill is the only criteria the skirmish game needs to account for.
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It depends on the range, whether it is being used for suppression (ie. covering fire), or if it is being fired on the "final protective line" to prevent an overrun. At 25M, a quick point and shoot should have a higher ROF than a 300M aimed shot. It takes a lot longer to shoot at range with accuracy, but the ROF doesn't need to be that high at such long ranges. If memory serves, most firefights occur at about 100M or less, so it is possible to have very rapid target acquisition and ROF will make a very big difference in kill ratios. I have always considered a 100M shot a very easy one...almost a snap shot. A 3 round burst at such ranges is effective. BTW, target re-aquisition is definitely not the same for all rifles, nor for all rates of fire. The M16 on full auto, despite the buffer spring, tends to climb to the right. The same rifle fired semi-auto can put 3 rounds down range and on target without losing the target or needing to re-aquire (for man sized targets at 100M or less). An AK-47 also has a gas return line to reduce perceived recoil, but I'll tell you straight out that I have to re-aquire the target just about every shot. BTW, the barrel gets REALLY hot after a few dozen rounds (boils water) while my M16 had the protective forarm grip sleeving the barrel and ventilating, so it had less impact on my shooting performance.

When barrels get hot, there is more than an inconvenience to the shooter, though. The barrels begin to warp and introduce ballistic biases, which significantly reduce accuracy at longer ranges.

So it isn't all just skill and aiming. There are definite issues that revolve around range, ROF, heat dissipation, muzzle climb, etc. These are based in physics, not the art of shooting.
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dude163 wrote:
here is what they should have now

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_G11

and yes, I knew about it before Cod:BO


I knew 2 vietnam vets when I lived in San Diego, 1 preferred the AK47, and another ( a medic) used a shotgun , they both hated the M16.

1st guy: hit a VC with it and it broke off the stock and he got bayonetted and was saved by a buddy , after that he used any weapon with a wooden stock

2nd guy: preferred pump action SGs as he said the M16 would jam, and he found he used up all his ammo too fast ( sounds like he overheated it ) Easy to say fire a round every 4 seconds, but if you are 19 years old and getting shot at, I guess you could get a bit over excited


Every Vietnam bet has a story. I had an Army instructor at Ft. Jackson who had been point man when his platoon was ambushed. He took 5-hits from a burst of AK-47 at point-blank range -- two in the legs, two in the arms, and one through the abdomen. All 5 shots passed clean through him. He not only survived, but was still on active duty when I met him in '73.

There was a problem with ammo expenditure in Vietnam. There was too much tendancy to fire the weapon on full automatic to fill the air with bullets, vice aimed semi-automatic fire. On full automatic, the 20-round magazine was emptied in about 3-seconds or less. The waste of 5.56mm ammo offset the use of 7.62mm(.30cal) ammo of the M14 and earlier Army service rifles.

I served in the US Army infantry from 1973-1976, and from basic training through AIT and serving in two different companies in West Germany, I had 4 different M16A1 rifles. All of them operated very well, though not being in combat, I can't vouch for overheating under intense fire. By then, I think the Army had worked out a lot of the jamming problems.

The M60 was a fine machine gun, nicknamed "The Pig" by those who had to carry it. The assistant gunner carried a spare barrel and a pair of asbestos mittens to swap out the overheated barrel with a fresh one.
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Lucius Cornelius
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I have read that when the terrorists try to overrun an outpost in Afghanistan, they actually take the overheating and jamming of the U.S. weapons into their tactical calculation, in other words, they can count on it. robot
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Bill Eldard
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sullafelix wrote:
I have read that when the terrorists try to overrun an outpost in Afghanistan, they actually take the overheating and jamming of the U.S. weapons into their tactical calculation, in other words, they can count on it. robot


So, have they overrun any US outposts in Afghanstan with this calculus?
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