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Small Arms and Combat Marksmanship

Infanteer

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Wonderbread said:
"Shoot less, aim more" seems to be the latest catchphrase.

I think that advice reflects  the realization that the insurgent strategy has been to instigate the coalition into heavy-handed responses that alienate us from the populace, then use their relative speed and mobility to zip away while taking few casualties themselves.

...and the fact that the best-trained armies in the world generally have poor marksmanship and fire control.  Just watch the youtube videos of Canadian, Brit and American soldiers in TICs to see what I mean.

I think some section level training should be conducted with 1 mag.
 

Kat Stevens

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Infanteer said:
...and the fact that the best-trained armies in the world generally have poor marksmanship and fire control.  Just watch the youtube videos of Canadian, Brit and American soldiers in TICs to see what I mean.

I think some section level training should be conducted with 1 mag.

We've all been taught that "win the firefight"  means to pour enough fire down on the enemy to keep him small in his hole.  Not every round finds meat, so what's the answer?  Volume of fire to suppress, or aimed pick off shots?  Not trying to be flippant, genuinely curious about alternatives to current (well, past in my case) wisdom.
 

HItorMiss

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Well that depends IMO

Regular Infantry unit trained to the common denominator, with the avg shooting budget they receive volume over accuracy for sure is my thought. It does work in fact has worked for a while now you use volume to pin them maneuver to kill. That being said many of us now understand that once you win the fire fight and start to maneuver your volume slackens and then they start shooting back and thus you revert back to win the fire fight...

Every meter in a sustained TIC takes a significant amount of time and ammo. I don't think any Infantry Bn in the CF, US Army of Brit Army will ever have the proper budget in rounds to achieve any better though and again it does work. Most effective probably not but then again nothing is ever perfect.
 

Fusaki

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Kat Stevens said:
We've all been taught that "win the firefight"  means to pour enough fire down on the enemy to keep him small in his hole.  Not every round finds meat, so what's the answer?  Volume of fire to suppress, or aimed pick off shots?  Not trying to be flippant, genuinely curious about alternatives to current (well, past in my case) wisdom.

At the risk of sounding like a LF/basicload fanboy, I can relate a discussion on that forum that tackled this issue.

Basically, the point was made that the concept of "volume of fire" was overrated.  Often, a high volume of fire doesn't actually pin anyone down, but only results in the badguy slipping out the backdoor to move to another position.

Suppression is better achieved by actually killing bad guys.  The logic is, when a badguy sees his buddy's head get blown off, it has a dramatic effect on his own willingness to expose himself.  If, at some point, he thinks that due to a lack of volume of fire it's safe to poke his own head up, we'll be there waiting -covering our arcs - ready to reinforce the message.

I think this concept can be compared to the effect of sniper fire.  Snipers don't pin down enemies by volume of fire - they do it by making examples of people.  Rifle sections can use this method to cut weight, increase mobility, minimize collateral damage, and - theoretically - actually kill more bad guys, instead of simply pouring lead downrange until the insurgent slips away unscathed.
 

HItorMiss

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How many rounds a year do you fire WB?

And really how accurate are you and your section mates? I am not bashing you persay I simply making a point NO conventional unit is going to achieve that level of ability not in m opinion. And I'm not just slamming the CF here I mean ANY conventional unit it simply is not achieveable. I will the CF as a prime example though the Avg Reg F unit gets just enough ammo to do a  PWT and if they are going overseas they get enough for the live fire events wherein again it teaches volume vice pint point accuracy. It is all well and good to say well we could etc etc but the reality is no you can't there isn't enough time ammo or money to do it.

My 2 silvers of opinion anyway
 

Infanteer

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You guys are all on the money, in my opinion anyways.

Poor reaction in combat - which is shooting too many rounds in an ineffective manner - is the result of two factors.  The first is a poor understanding of suppression, mistaking volume of fire to be the critical piece (when it's not).  The second is a reinforcement of this poor conception through training conditioning with some of our drills and approaches.

There are a series of articles, which I've posted before, in one of the Royal United Services Institute's periodicals by a former Infantry Officer.  They are great and, to my knowledge, there isn't much more out there that looks at the problems they seek to address.  I strongly encourage everyone to read them (they are all quite short).

The Real Role of Small Arms in Battle

Shock Effect in Dismounted Combat

Manoeuvre and Weapons Effect on the Battlefield

Highlights of the articles are as follows:

1.  Combat rarely results in one side being "wiped out" - defeat is thus, in almost all cases, a psychological condition when one side ceases to fight.

2.  Suppression is the ability of weapons to prevent the enemy from shooting or moving while the weapons effects are in effectNeutralization is the ability of weapons to prevent the enemy from shooting or moving for some time after a suppressive effect.  So, shooting a few rounds that keeps an enemy's head down is "suppressive fire".  Having the enemy cry because his buddy's head is a fine pink mist is a "neutralization effect" from suppressive fire.

3.  Shock is a state where the enemy is rendered incapable of fighting due to being numb, lifeless, inactive or irrational behaviour.  So, in the above case of a neutralized enemy, he is clearly in a state of shock.  So is a guy who is "shell-shocked" from being near the impact of an HE weapon.  the important thing to note is that shock is transitory in nature - it can and does usually wear off.  If nobody does anything to the guy crying over his dead buddy, he may collect his wits and pop his head back up to shoot at you.  He may also run away or simply give up - he is then defeated (as defined in paragraph 1).

4.  From the first article, individual accuracy goes out the window when a soldier moves from a static range to a field firing environment - adding "move" to shoot really reduces the ability of a rifle to kill the enemy.  This increases exponentially when the enemy starts firing back.  This means that individual weapons do little to suppress and neutralize, thus giving minimal shock and minimal contribution to enemy defeat.  If this is true, and the tests seem to suggest it to be so, then these two factors combine to really pop a lot of myths surrounding the battle rifle and its true role on the battlefield - it is likely useful for personal defence and close-in fighting.  If this is true, consider the consequences for rifle procurement; note that Storr's analysis points to the uselessness of the C-9 Minimi (which the USMC replaced with the IAR) - it is a machine gun that is employed as a rifle; so it ignores the strengths of a crew-served weapon and its nature as a machine gun makes it a poor individual weapon.

5.  The second article makes some interesting assertions about the value of HE.  HE is better than bullets at producing shock effects.

6.  The third article fits maneuver into all of this - principally to exploit the value of shock.  Of note, the author found that the USMC reported that experienced units would rarely expend more than 4 magazines in 8 hour TICs.  Maybe the Tacvest guys had it right?  ;D

7.  From this, a few observations come to mind:

a.  Most small arms fire is inaccurate and ineffective.  The real suppressors and killers are crew served weapons and HE (read - C6, Mortar, 40mm grenades, 25mm HEI-T)

b.  Simply sitting and plicking away rounds at the bad guy is likely to achieve nothing; moving is required to exploit any effects of fire.

c.  The PWT-3 "Run-Down" is a stupid test - it encourages soldiers to run and shoot when they clearly are not in a position to suppress, let alone kill, the enemy.  "Shooting and moving" is best reserved for the 0-100m fight where the rifle becomes useful.  Anything past that is "any necessary, well-aimed fire to support a crew-served weapon."

d.  Section Battle Drill 3 is crucial, and there should probably be more communicating and less shooting during it.  In most field training I've observed, soldiers will pour down fire despite this drill not being complete.  This tendency needs to be eliminated.

e.  Training aids like the pop-up targets need a variable to simulate being "suppressed", "neutralized" and "shocked".  This will help condition soldiers to realistic enemy reactions to fire.  Unfortunately, simulating the effects of enemy suppression, neutralization and shock on our own soldiers is very hard, if not impossible, to do.

f.  Finally, we should consider organization of small arms within units.  If support weapons are battle winners, we should have more - perhaps at the section level.  If the C9 Minimi's machine gun characteristics detract from its employment as a rifle, perhaps we should eliminate it.  If the battle rifle is useful from 0-100m and limited from 100-300m, perhaps we should consider something along the lines of an effective short range carbine.  If any of this looks shockingly familiar to our old form of organization - perhaps there is a reason for it as it came from fighting Germans.

Anyways, this has little to do with the AWG, so I'll see to a split-off soon.
 

Fishbone Jones

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So, are we to assume that the GRIT that is was ingrained during training, is to be ignored? Or is it overridden by orders before the mission? Or perhaps, under fire, the fire discipline falls away and everyone just plays wack-a-mole? I don't know, I'm asking.

Perhaps, PERHAPS, more trigger time on the range, improving marksmanship, will provide a better confidence for pers to take single, aimed shots?

Suppression has it's place, but IMHO, the decision to lay down that kind of fire is best left to, at minimum, the Section Cmdr. Or possibly a wpn det NCO who finds himself out of comms with his higher (C6, C9 etc)

The individual rifleman should be discouraged from dumping mag after mag, over a wall, at an unseen enemy.
 

McG

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Infanteer said:
3.  Shock is a state where the enemy is rendered incapable of fighting due to being numb, lifeless, inactive or irrational behaviour.  So, in the above case of a neutralized enemy, he is clearly in a state of shock. 
A shocked enemy will be neutralized, but I can imagine that a neutralized enemy may not be in shock.

By your definitions "Destroyed" as we define it doctrinally would be a state of shock that requires external support ("reconstitution") for recovery.

Infanteer said:
If the battle rifle is useful from 0-100m and limited from 100-300m, perhaps we should consider something along the lines of an effective short range carbine.
Alternately, maybe the focus should be on marksmanship if fewer but more precise shots at the 200 - 400m  range are able to effectively suppress, "shock" , neutralize or destroy an enemy.  If we assume that the average conventional force cannot achieve the marksmanship required to even suppress an enemy (some here have already gone beyond the assumption to state this as an unvarying fact), then we should develop our training and drills to encourage persistence in aimed precision shooting in the face of high-volume low-accuracy return fire .... the challenge becomes maintaining that persistence even if one or two "lucky bullets" hit members of the section.

BulletMagnet said:
... NO conventional unit is going to achieve that level of ability not in m opinion. And I'm not just slamming the CF here I mean ANY conventional unit it simply is not achieveable.
We could use a word other than "conventional" if that becomes a limiting factor in the actual capability.  :eek:rly:
If the CF decides that better marksmanship is the critical path to a more survivable and more lethal Army, then the label of "conventional" should not be an impediment.  The cost of bullets is not great in comparison to other consumables that we burn through, and if the will exists to train better shooters then we will train better shooters.

Infanteer said:
The real suppressors and killers are crew served weapons and HE (read - C6, Mortar, 40mm grenades, 25mm HEI-T)
If this really is the case and developments in TTPs have rendered KE projectiles less effective than in 1914, then maybe we should be giving more consideration to weapons such as 40 mm grenade rifles and 25 mm air-bursting munition rifles.

... as far as the C6 goes as an effective killer & suppresser, I suppose it matters if the weapon were in the light role as opposed to mounted in the SF kit?
 

a_majoor

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I recall an Infantry Journal piece about the Rwandan rebel forces which made that point very well. The Rwandan section was composed of 3 teams, two teams of "riflemen" and a support team with an RPK and an RPG. In general terms, the support team used their firepower to pin the enemy while the rifle teams flanked the position and used aimed fire to kill the enemy. If the enemy was well dug in, the RPG could be employed to persuade them to leave.

An alternative might be along the lines of this (from 2005):
The 42nd Infantry Division has deployed to Iraq with what leaders term a powerful, yet subtle, combat-multiplier - the sniper-trained Soldiers of the division's 173rd Long Range Surveillance Detachment, and their newly-issued M-14 rifles. 
Of course the training bill for such units would be very high, which may explain the mania for uber weapons and systems which substitute weapons effects for marksmanship (SPIW, ACR, CAWS, "duplex" rounds, OCIW and the XM-25). Oddly, I can't see spending tens of thousands of dollars per weapon as having any great economic advantage over high intensity training....

Weapons that deliver HE to the target provide both physical and mental "shock" to the target, something the Germans realized back in WWI, substituting pioneer troops with grenades, mortars and flamethrowers for riflemen and bayonets to attack the enemy. The French realized firepower was important, and attempted to deliver it down to the platoon and even squad level with automatic rifles. Unfortunately, the chosen instrument turned out to be the Chauchat, which was somewhat less than reliable...
 

ArmyRick

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Looking at the three articles Infanteer posted links to, here are my thoughts.

1. GRIT still very much has a place in our training and on operations. It will take a section commander and the members of the section to better understand their role in locating the enemy and to begin winning the fire fight. I agree, that its the platoon support weapons that will deliver the best suppression and possibly destruction.
2. I wonder what the shock effect of the C6 in the SF role would be? I do knew that MGs are great suppression weapons. The beaten zone becomes much tighter with tripod than just yee haw fring from the hip or with a bipod on the ground. A 20 round burst at 300-500m distance on a SF kit, putting the burst right into an enemy window , I think would be very unnerving. Thoughts?
3. Instead on trying to drag around light field guns, why not use the 84mm to its full potential? Their are several types of HE rounds availible for it and the weapon is very acurate. A good crew could easily get at least one round off every 5 seconds (in 30 seconds, 6 x 84mm HEDP pounding your position would probably qualify as shock effect)
4. Shock action and shock effect, WE REALLY need the 60mm mortars to remain in service.
5. I was surprised to find out the very poor suppression results of the LMG (I already knew the LMG has serious acuracy issues but I did not know it was that bad).
6. When possible, have tanks around. I can not imagine shock action quite like 120mm canister or HE round blasting an enemy into the next 3 life times. In adverse terrain (Heavily wooded or mountainous), I see 84mm Carl G, 60mm Mortar, C6 (with SF?) and 66mm M72s being the shock action and suppression weapons.
 

HItorMiss

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MCG said:
We could use a word other than "conventional" if that becomes a limiting factor in the actual capability.  :eek:rly:
If the CF decides that better marksmanship is the critical path to a more survivable and more lethal Army, then the label of "conventional" should not be an impediment.  The cost of bullets is not great in comparison to other consumables that we burn through, and if the will exists to train better shooters then we will train better shooters.


I use the Term conventional to illustrate BIG Army. And no I do not believe BIG ARMY has the time resources nor dedication to train better shooters. We all know Armies train to the lowest common denominator and this is the limiting factor. no Bn or Regt has the time or ammo budget to train to a high enough standard it just wont happen BUT what can happen is what Infanteer points out it can train to properly employ the suppression methods he illustrates above.

I am not saying it's hopeless just that a proper approach to the suppression method is a much more viable and feasible solution.
 

Infanteer

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Armyrick:

1.  Absolutely, and I had my NCOs work on it with the guys frequently.  One analyst I was speaking to indicated that by far the most prevalent and successful method of target indication was tracer.

2.  Probably better - a newer, lightweight tripod for the #2 to carry could be useful in some scenarios.

3/4/5/6.  Yes, yes, agreed and yes.  We have a pretty good system of weapons in place - we could probably benefit with experimentation with various combinations at certain echelons (ie: 1xC6 per section and get rid of C9?).  Has anyone heard how the USMC M-32 is working out?  Seems like a useful "HE emitter".
 

a_majoor

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I've had a few occasions to run the gun det and employ the C-6 either by itself or in conjunction with a section's C-9's (the classical grouping of 2X C9 in a trench close to the C-6) on exercise, and it does work as advertised with MILES. For Rick, the effectiveness of tight bursts at long ranges was brought home to me one ex when I used a C-6 on the SF kit to break an attack on the other side of the position (we were set up in a bowl shaped KZ). The counter attack had a nice easy time of ejecting what was left of the attackers and the Umpires had to do a great deal of "God Gunning" to reset everyone.

Frankly, most people really do not know how to use a machine gun effectively (and to tell you the truth, I don't practice enough to claim to be an expert), and inertia or lazyness get in the way as well. I always advocate bringing the SF kit along wherever you go and mounting the gun whenever you use it, but am met with an uncomprehending stare or "we don't need to do that" most of the time. Yet considering this doubles the effective range of the weapon, provides a nice tight group (conserving ammunition) and allows you to rapidly transition to defense once you have reached your limit of exploitation there should be no reason to ever leave the SF kit behind.

I am curious as to the effectiveness of using the grenadiers en mass to volley M-203 rounds on a target, since this might be quicker and easier than waiting for the Carl-G to come into action. For that matter, I have seen less and less of the Carl-G over the years, even though it is still in service. I totally agree it is a fantastic system, and HEDP provides most of what you need against infantry, buildings, bunkers and light vehicles up to M-113/LAV class. The platoon only needs two natures of ammunition (HEDP and HEAT/RAP) to deal with the vast majority of targets.

 

Kiwi99

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The reason that so much ammo is being fired is NOT because our soldiers are bad shots (they get on a range once or twice a year).  The simple fact of the matter is that locating the enemy is not as easy as it is on the fields of Wainwright or any other training area.  IMO, locating the enemy is the single hardest thing in a contact with the enemy.  And that is why we shoot so much, we just can;t see the crafty little buggers.  We know the general area the fire is coming from, and it is into that area that we fire.  Even veh with thermal etc have a hard time in the middle of the day with the heat and the heat shimmer.  I would say that 7 out of every 10 enemy killed by small arms fire was not killed by a deliberate aimed shot.  More than likely it was from a round fired in his general direction that found its way home.

The other point made by another poster was the fact that the firefight has to be won over and over again.  I agree 110%.  The enemy is smart, and he knows that if our fire is slacking it is because we are probably maneuvering against him.  So he jumps up and has another go.  Seeing his buddies head blown off won't faze him much.  Remember, he has Allah protecting him and if he dies it is Allahs will. 

Tracer is the best indicator.  Once the dust etc is in the air, and people are shooting back, it can be hard to motivate a sane person to stick their head up to be guided onto the target.  And if you are the one doing the indicating, can you even see the target yourself, or are you simply shooting into the same general area as everyone else.

Suppression?  155mm suppresses.  JDAMs suppress.  But the enemy is constantly moving around the batttlespace, looking for ways to flan or get in behind you.  So, suppression with small arms, MG etc is not really suppressing.  Against a trench of Krasnovians it works well.  A bunch of dudes in un-matching shoes with numerous walls, ditches, buildings, grapefields and trees to run around it...not so much.

I do agree, marksmanship is vital.  Do we practice enough? NO. 
 

ArmyRick

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Thucydides,

Disagree. A volley of all 6 of a platoons 40mm fired at same time and somehow hitting the same target (unlikely scenario) will still not compare to 84mm HEDP round. There are several other rounds availible such as ASM (anti-structure munition), HE, ADM (Area defence munition) and MT (multi-target). All have slightly different effects.

I know you referred to use of C6 with MILES but for the effects we are talking about here, MILES gear will not demonstrate the physical effects of a tight 20 round beaten zone hammering at the enemy (psycholoigical effects to the enemy).

Kiwi, some good points. The motivation of the enemy can strongly play into it. If some dude is willing to blow himself up for a cause, he would probably more than willing get shot. However, as you said, where would that sense of no fear and religion go if said insurgent was 3 feet away from his buddy when his head explodes into a large bloody mist (maybe reality would set in? Maybe he isn't the least bit fazed?).

The somalians were known for chewing some sort of drug (Can't remember what it was again, I wasn't there, its what I read) and apparently this stuff made them pretty loopy and willing to fight and die. Another factor to consider about enemy motivation.

Locating the enemy. A damn tough thing to do. Especially if you throw in dirt, trees, dust and facing the sun. I agree with you on this Kiwi, its one thing to locate the enemy in Canada when its some dude firing a burst from a dug out in the snow bank or on a lone grassy knoll 300m away in Wainwright or Gagetown. Quite another when the enemy has had time to pick the ground he will engage you from and has thought out his withdrawal route.

There is a story in the latest copy of the legion about a platoon from 3RCR coming under contact that is deescribed much in the way Kiwi has spoken. I reccomend everybody read it.
 

REDinstaller

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The drug is Khat, many spellings. Illegal here in Canada, but some busts have been made.
 

Fusaki

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Kiwi99 said:
The reason that so much ammo is being fired is NOT because our soldiers are bad shots (they get on a range once or twice a year).  The simple fact of the matter is that locating the enemy is not as easy as it is on the fields of Wainwright or any other training area.  IMO, locating the enemy is the single hardest thing in a contact with the enemy.  And that is why we shoot so much, we just can;t see the crafty little buggers.  We know the general area the fire is coming from, and it is into that area that we fire.  Even veh with thermal etc have a hard time in the middle of the day with the heat and the heat shimmer.  I would say that 7 out of every 10 enemy killed by small arms fire was not killed by a deliberate aimed shot.  More than likely it was from a round fired in his general direction that found its way home.

We need to be careful here that we don't blur the line between spec fire and simply shooting in the direction of the enemy.  While I agree that a significant amount of shock, suppression, and neutralization we produce is the result of careful speculative fire against possible or likely enemy positions, I think that very little can be accounted for by rounds that have been "fired in their general direction and found their way home."

I don't want to speak for Infanteer, but I think he's suggesting that the soldiers in the youtube videos he mentions are doing less spec fire and more just shooting in the general direction of the enemy.  I hate to be critical of the actions of guys under fire (under the stress of combat, I have, at times, performed poorly myself), but I tend to agree.  Under stress, and especially at the beginning of the tour, guys tend to shoot without any real round accountability and often have very little effect on the enemy.  In time, they acclimatize to the stress of the two-way range, can think more clearly, and engage in more and more spec fire in what they believe to be likely enemy positions.

Training can overcome this, and I think it synthesizes the points Bulletmagnet and myself have made above.  I suggested that we should aim more and shoot less, he suggested that a certain volume of fire is required for suppression.  I believe that well aimed spec fire can strike a balance between the two.  It saves ammo by putting volume of fire in the specific places where it'll have the most effect.

The motivation of the enemy can strongly play into it. If some dude is willing to blow himself up for a cause, he would probably more than willing get shot. However, as you said, where would that sense of no fear and religion go if said insurgent was 3 feet away from his buddy when his head explodes into a large bloody mist (maybe reality would set in? Maybe he isn't the least bit fazed?).

I think that reality would, in fact, set in.  I don't think the mindset of guys who become suicide bombers represents the mindset of 90% of the other guys we exchange small arms fire with.  In Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerrilla he describes how most of the "insurgents" are not religious fanatics, but in fact are regular Afghans who get drawn into nearby firefights out for the sake of tribal honour and Pashtun cultural norms.  These guys will fight, but I don't think they want to die like hardcore religious extremists do.
 

a_majoor

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Since I have never had occasion to fire at people with a GPMG with 4B1T, I will have to go with my observations using MILES. The effect can only be compounded when it it real rounds coming downrange.

As for the blast of 40mm, I was thinking of this as a thought experiment, since I have seen the 84 less and less over the years, and of course we only carry 2 natures of 84mm anyway. Whatever other natures are available only matters to me if I happen to run into a Swedish platoon...

It is possible to gather all the grenadiers quickly, so I would be curious as to what the actual effect would be.
 

ArmyRick

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We are now using more than HEAT and HEDP in our system and the 84 has been used in A-stan.
 

Fusaki

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ArmyRick said:
We are now using more than HEAT and HEDP in our system and the 84 has been used in A-stan.

But to what extent?

When I was over, the 84 was really only used on the defensive.  Dismounted soldiers can only carry so much ammo for the thing, not to mention the weight of the weapon itself.  Moreover, there really wasn't much the 84 could do that 25mm could not.

I admit, though, my experience is dated.  Maybe things are different today: new kinds of ammo, less LAV support, etc...

Without LAV support, it's obvious you'll need something with the capability to dig out those who are dug in.  Maybe, in the current theatre, thermobaric M72 warheads will fill that gap at a fraction of the weight.
 
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