“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.