The General Purpose Combat Rifle - Part 2
The general purpose combat rifle revisited. The original article has had the most comments of any other article in this blog. While many comments have been in agreement, other have vehemently disagreed, some telling me that I was totally wrong because I did not choose their pick as the most general purpose, etc., etc. Some of the link backs were hilarious to read. At one forum devoted to the AR-15 (probably populated by 13 year olds in their trap door p.j.s on their mom’s computer) my character was assassinated because I did not think a good M4 was the choice of universal rifle. Others were from self-anointed “old guys” claiming that they could not possibly carry a ten pound rifle. It is almost as if the rifle was a religion and by bringing up a concept they disagreed with I was calling the prophet a phony. I don’t necessarily mind any of this because few 13 year olds will ever attend one of my classes or buy a DVD, nor can my character be assassinated (so many have already tried), but I want a clarity of subject on the matter because it is an important matter.
The best explanation of “General Purpose” I have to say is Jeff Cooper’s. While I think his choice of a bolt action rifle for combat use in our times is as anachronistic as choosing a horse over a Jeep, his description of the concept is still valid.
"A general-purpose rifle is a conveniently portable, individually operated firearm, capable of striking a single decisive blow, on a live target of up to 200 kilos in weight, at any distance at which the operator can shoot with the precision necessary to place a shot in a vital area of the target."
Let’s analyze this further.
General Purpose means “everything possible”, not everything probable. It is possible to need a rifle to fight in a house CQB style. It is possible to need to drop a bull with a rifle. It is possible to need to snipe someone 400 yards away. It is possible to need to shoot through a motor vehicle. All these things have been done by our staff at one time or another either in CONUS or overseas. That one of these things is not likely for a given person does not invalidate the requirement to be ABLE to do them with the rifle in question.
One commenter was adamant that his AR-15 was general purpose. Sorry, no assault rifle cartridge is sufficiently capable to do all of the things a rifle may be used for. Whether or not US Forces use it is totally irrelevant.
Conveniently portable – well that is up to interpretation. If a man is physically incapable of carrying a 10 pound rifle afield then clearly he must opt for something smaller and lighter. No question about it. But that does not mean that his choice is equal to another rifle because it is his choice. Life is not fair and physicality cannot be ignored. The 65 year old guy with a bad back that does Krav maga three times a week is not the physical match for Chuck Liddell in the UFC cage, and the barely walking octogenarian with the uber light M4 is not carrying a general purpose rifle. Life sucks sometimes.
Individually operated needs no further elaboration, but the next point is important. Capable of striking a decisive blow on a live target up to 200 kilos. I know a man in Africa that has taken down elephants with a 308 FAL. To date I am not aware of anyone having done this with an M4 or AK. Hitting the target is not sufficient. It is great fun to ding steel at long distances. At a recent class we had one gifted shooter dinging steel at 800 yards with a 7.62x39 RPK. Very nice but that will be having no more effects on target than dinging it with a 5.56. There is a reason why the SR25 has become so popular in the wars. One very big reason is that it is not in 5.56.
The final point is also important enough to examine in depth. “At any distance at which the operator can shoot with the precision necessary”. Now that covers not only the potential accuracy necessary, but also the ability to withstand wind and other atmospheric conditions, as wells the penetration of light cover and brush. If we are looking at calibers to do all of this, scientifically and not emotionally, we can immediately eliminate all commonly used assault rifle intermediate calibers (including 5.45x39, 5.56x45, and 7.62x39), leaving the obvious 7.62x51. You don’t have to like the choice, but it is what it is.
The general purpose combat rifle is reasonably sized, field portable, rifle, capable of fulfilling the mission of the battle rifle, assault rifle, designated marksman rifle, perhaps the submachinegun, and the sniper rifle. It must be capable of striking a single decisive blow, as well as repeated blows on a live adversary or adversaries, at any distance and under any conditions, at which the operator can shoot with the precision and terminal ballistics necessary to eliminate the target.
Whether that description fits an urban apartment dweller with no interests in sniping, or a man who lives on the Great Plains with no interest in CQB is not the point of the exercise. Identifying the rifle that can do all of these things, and working up a skill set for it is the point of the exercise. And that is typified by the short, semi auto, military style rifle with a detachable box magazine in a 308 or similar chambering. Existing rifles that fit that role are the FAL, the G3 and its clones, the AR-10 and its clones, the M1A and its clones, the Saiga 308 and the PSL.
Discuss this at http://www.warriortalk.com