FUNshoot News - Mark Westrom: Rapid Semiautomatic Fire



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FUNshoot News - Mark Westrom: Rapid Semiautomatic Fire
By FUNshoot News • Issue #44 • View online
A newsletter for the modern pafisto - Military, Precision, Practical Marksmanship and Gunsmithing to support it.
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Hope you had a Happy Halloween
#humor #LightenUpFrancis
#humor #LightenUpFrancis
Notes on Suppressive Fire
Unless directed with sufficient accuracy, suppressive fires’ effect is not improved by volume. The effectiveness of suppressive fire can only be judged by observing the target, not the shooter.
Suppressive Fire Demonstrated
Suppressive Fire Demonstrated
What Right Looks Like, High Power Edition
What Right Looks Like, High Power Edition
Rapid Semiautomatic Fire
“I could never get a kick from full-auto.”
– J. C. Tate, CDR USN (Ret.)
Lt. Col. Mark A. Westrom was one of my previous commanders as well as the former owner of ArmaLite and Eagle Arms. Before retiring from the Army, he published a very informative paper:
Rapid Semiautomatic Fire and the Assault Rifle: Firing Rate versus Accuracy
- United States Army Reserve Small Arms Training Team
In his paper, LTC Westrom detailed a series of tests conducted with competitive shooters and military personnel shooting scored and timed courses at various rates of fire. With him in attendance, we ran a similar test based on his findings at the All Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning one year.
The basis of testing was to have shooters fire on scored targets at varying rates. Given there was no fixed round count, every shot fired added to the score, but only if it hit a scoring zone.
The results were unsurprising to anyone in the know: Rapid semiautomatic fire at the maximum pace a shooter can get something resembling aligned sights on target ends up with the highest score. This is much faster than Rapid Fire in High Power and is fast enough to result in occasional misses, but is still controlled. Obviously, the pace varies based on shooter skill and target size/distance. Taking the speed above the shooter’s limit sees the score decline and increasing the rate of fire further reduces the score even more.
In all of Lt. Col. Westrom’s tests, every shooter maxed their score with semiautomatic fire; nobody ever improved their result with full auto. Note, this evaluated individual hand-held small arms, not crew-served, tripod-mounted machine guns.
Lt. Col. Westrom concluded his paper with this:
Today, the U.S. Military is generally conducting small arms training with much the same emphasis on single-round accuracy that it did eighty years ago. Preliminary data suggests that a substantial increase in lethality can be obtained by increasing the firing rate of the line. The principles now taught are generally sound, and little additional training is needed to squeeze an important increase in effectiveness from our Soldiers. Rapid semiautomatic fire is a simple extension of existing training, and its benefits are easily achieved by emphasis during training.
To make the best of Rapid Semiautomatic Fire we must:
  • Test the benefits of rapid semiautomatic fire.
  • Experiment. Additional firing data needs to be gathered to learn the effect of training, position, tactical situation, and weapon design. Fortunately, the experiments aren’t lengthy or difficult to conduct. The apparent flattening of the firing rate curve suggests that a rule-of-thumb rate of fire such as “50 shots per minute in the final assault” is adequate guidance. Lengthy testing to pin down exact numbers under a variety of scenarios might be interesting, but will probably not prove useful.
  • Train Soldiers to use rapid semiautomatic fire, and to shoot until the target is down.
Current qualification courses provide the shooter one round with which to engage each target. This isn’t tactically realistic. The current courses punish a shooter using rapid semiautomatic fire for even nearby targets.
In combat, the Soldier is presented with a significant logistics issue: how to consume his basic load of ammunition with greatest efficiency. When presented with a distant target, he may need to fire several rounds to get a hit. If he does so, however, he may run low on ammunition. When presented with a threatening, nearby target later, he may be out of ammunition. He certainly must not decline to fire a second shot at that nearby opponent if the first shot is a miss.
This is just what the current qualification courses train the Soldier to do. Current training teaches the wrong lessons. Each target is addressed by one cartridge. The correction to this is simple: Issue sufficient ammunition to allow for misses. Reward the shooter based on targets ultimately hit. Reward him/her further with a few bonus points based on ammunition remaining. The highest scores obviously continue to go to the best shots, who both hit many targets and return with ammunition, but all are trained to engage.
  • Aim every shot.
FM 23-67 [since replaced by TC 3-22.240 and TC 3-22.249 – Ed.] providing doctrine for the [then-current] M60 Machinegun shows a machine gunner boldly firing the weapon from the hip.
A firing technique, generally not recommended.
A firing technique, generally not recommended.
An M60 is too heavy to fire readily from the shoulder, so aiming every shot with this manner may be difficult. Nonetheless, advancing with a weapon firing from the hip must be regarded as an act of desperation or idiocy. The very fact that such an unsound technique is posted to the cover of a major document is a poor indicator of fire discipline.
The correction for this omission rests properly with the NCO Corps. Every NCO must assure as a matter of faith that every shot must be aimed in both training and combat. Even machineguns must be sighted. There can be no exceptions for blanks.
  • Avoid burst or automatic fire.
As previously noted, there is ample evidence proving that handheld automatic fire is almost useless beyond 25 yards although it may be useful for room-to-room fighting or trench clearing. Three-shot burst is largely useless for both close combat and longer range fighting; it is truly the worst of both worlds. Both automatic fire with the M16A1 and burst fire with the M16A2 should be strenuously discouraged by the same NCOs who reinforce the act of aiming every shot. This is especially important during training with blanks, because Soldiers enjoy automatic fire as a matter of play.
In summary, aiming assures maximum efficiency with each shot. Rapid semiautomatic fire assures maximum efficiency with each moment of contact. Combined, they offer a substantial increase in combat effectiveness with little change in resources or doctrine.
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