What have folks experienced, when it comes to shooting 11.5" or shorter guns past 400 meters? I was able to connect in two shots, on a man-sized target at 500 meters yesterday, with an 11.5" LE-surplus Colt 933 upper with a Griffin M4SDK on the end of it. I have been an advocate of short guns for a while now, and this only serves to reinforce my feelings. I was using an Elcan Specter on 4x, and the 500m hold worked out almost perfectly. If your barrel is reasonably accurate, your ammo is reasonably good-quality, and you know where to hold, you'll hit that sucker. Why on earth would you want a longer barrel?
Before I open Pandora's box, I'll make some qualifying statements...
I understand the terminal ballistics are compromised. I am not talking about making an ethical kill-shot on a game animal. The bottom line is I sure wouldn't want to be where that target was. I am considering this topic, as in most of my posts, within a military context.
I'd say 600m is definitely the maximum range I'd even consider taking a shot with a gun of those specifications. I understand a 16, 18, or 20-inch gun would be capable much beyond that, while delivering more performance on the target. Is that capability and performance really worth toting the longer gun around? I say no. Never mind adding another five inches of silencer to one of those longer guns. In a lot of scenarios, I think taking a shot at anything further than 600 meters is almost reckless, outside the DMR role. I do not mean reckless in terms of safety and/or missing your target; remember, we're in the military context. I mean you'd likely be better off maneuvering to close that distance, or ignoring the target opportunity entirely, in favor of continuing your mission. Where I live, there are plenty of open pastures and farmland, but long shots are not as plentiful as one would think, because of terrain and vegetation. When people think short guns, they tend to think CQB or urban applications. I say they have everywhere applications.
What are other members opinions and experiences? Keep in mind my parameters. I know plenty of people likely have an ultra-lightweight, handy 18-inch gun that they can shoot the lights out with. Assuming you already have a scope on that gun, imagine adding a laser, light, and silencer. Do that, and then re-consider how eager you'd be to tote it around, and potentially maneuver in an urban environment.
Also, I understand all this is, as they say, METT-TC dependent. Especially the terrain aspect. Those who live in a more desert or open environment would likely prefer a longer gun, to deal with the longer range scenarios that would present themselves in those conditions. Those are not my conditions.
Anyway, I am really just curious what other members have experienced, when it comes to engaging targets at "extended" ranges with their shorter carbines. 500 meters is the longest shot I have easy access to, so I'd really love to know what folks have experienced past that. Please keep barrel lengths in the conversation at or below 11.5 inches.
My military experience was not in the combat arms, and I don’t know what yours was, but both of those statements seem … counterintuitive to me.
Much of the entire history of military weaponry has been devoted to being able to engage and destroy enemies at farther and farther distances. With the development of remotely piloted aircraft, those distances now (sometimes) extend to literally thousands of miles. Ever since conventional artillery was invented, the goal has been to extend its accurate range. The military adage “If the enemy is in range, so are you,” is actually not always true, and efforts are constantly made to make it less true.
But what if I deliberately reduce the effective range of my weaponry? At some point it may become that I may be in range when the enemy isn’t. “In range” of course means more than one thing. Part of it is the effectiveness of the weapon, and yes, at present with the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, velocity affects ballistic effectiveness. Short barrels reduce wounding effects even at short ranges, much less at hundreds of yards. Is it enough to really matter, especially if the target is so far away that he doesn’t pose much of a threat and just making a hole in him will do? Possibly not, but when I hear a former Delta member complain about certain ammunition’s effectiveness at combat distances, then I believe it’s something to consider. If fact, one of the primary goals of shooting an enemy in military combat is to ensure that he never bothers us again, or at least not for a long time.
And as I’ve stated in discussions of things like the types of ammunition we should rely upon for personal self-defense with handguns, my opportunities to inflict damage may be very fleeting, and therefore I will want it to be as effective as possible. If it’s not, I may not get another chance before my opponent does something bad to me.
Another issue with shorter barrels and lower velocities at longer ranges that is seldom discussed is accuracy. No, not that short barrels are necessarily less precise per se, but the effect of lower velocity on practical accuracy due to the bullet’s more curved trajectory. I clearly recall my first training with the M16 rifle after having been issued and trained with the M14 for several years. The former’s flatter trajectory suddenly made engaging targets at the longest training distances much easier. I have never fired a military type qualification course with a short barreled AR, but flatter trajectories make the accurate engagement of distant targets at unknown ranges easier and more certain.
And lest we forget, the most common reason given for the US military to adopt more powerful cartridges than the 5.56mm round is because even when fired from longer barrels, it’s not all that good for long range engagements.
To return to the statements I quoted above, trying to close the distance to an enemy may be required, but it’s generally something to be avoided if we can engage him from farther away. In a closing engagement, the one who must maneuver and close is the one at the greater disadvantage. And as I tell my law enforcement students, in a gunfight, distance is the friend of the one who’s a better shot, and hopefully that’s them.
But what strikes me as particularly strange is the notion that it’s a good idea to just ignore an enemy in the vicinity and continue on to leave him behind to do what he feels like without our interference. I have studied military combat concepts and doctrine in some depth, and I have never once seen, “Oh, they’re too far away for us to engage effectively, so just ignore them,” promoted as a wise battle tactic.*
Are there advantages to short barreled rifles in some situations? Of course, and most of us here will never be engaging armed enemies at long distances in military combat so their disadvantages are less important to most of us. I personally would still prefer to have a carbine length barrel on my long gun, but I’m not going to scoff at someone whose opinion differs. But to answer the question “Why a longer barrel?” there can be reasons.
* Added: There are obviously many situations in which a military force will avoid engaging the enemy and will simply evade or retreat. That has been more common than not, for example, in special operations missions such as by the SOG in Vietnam and more recently in activities in the Middle East. The decision to fight it out with the enemy will seldom depend upon the type of small arms are available, but if the fight can’t be avoided, no one will be wishing he had a less effective weapon.
“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
— Bertrand Russell
What ammo were you using?
I suppose I should have been more clear. Your above quoted statement embodies scenarios I was considering; unconventional warfare, or WROL contexts.
I appreciate the flatter trajectories provided by longer barrels, but accurate BDC reticles or good DOPE can offset the ill effects of more curved trajectories, to a point.
My best guess is the Delta complaint you are referring to is in the Mogadishu conflict. At least that's the one I am familiar with. I could be wrong, but I think that meaningful bullet design developments since then could have mitigated their problem then, had they had them. Since the 5.56's prolific adoption, that's been a touchy topic. Everyone likely want's more performance out of the bullets, but no one wants the increased weight and decreased capacity that comes with it, so 5.56 soldiers-on.
Thank you for the thought-provoking reply, Sigfreund.
Also, the silencer is non-negotiable for me. So, that factors into it a bit. If you're talking about a 16" barrel, I am talking about a 12" with a silencer attached. The sacrifice in velocity is well worth the benefits of the can, in my opinion.
|Little ray |
Well true, but it is still harder to hit with a more curved tajectory. And, the longer the bullet is in the air, the more time the wind has to act on it, so even if you could perfectly account for bullet drop, accounting for the wind is a harder problem in the first place.
The fish is mute, expressionless. The fish doesn't think because the fish knows everything.
Reviving this with an update of sorts. My other frequently-used short AR is a 10" gun with a Gemtech Trek silencer and Aimpoint H2 with 3x magnifier setup. Over the past week, I have made it a mission to get DOPE for that weapon, out to 500m. That extra 1.5" and Elcan Specter on the gun mentioned in my OP make it A LOT easier. The 10" gun has four feet of drop to contend with at 400m, and over eight feet at 500m. It is obviously much harder to figure those holds without a BDC but, so long as your target is something you're relatively familiar with (a man, perhaps), you ought to be able to figure it out quick-enough to be relatively effective.
I shot my 16" suppressed "DMR" .308 on the same outing. Wind effect on the two was actually quite comparable. Both were pushed about 12" over the 500m. I was surprised that the 5.56 wasn't pushed around more.
I am still curious as to others' experiences. I understand this is all a bit silly, but I think it's neat to at least have the previous experience to refer to, in that worst-case scenario that you need to use such a gun at such a distance. To know you can put some rounds where you want them at those distances with such a gun is pretty cool.
Not in a military context. Ballistics, wind, wind reading.... all applies regardless of target.
Have a 11.5, handload Sierra 77TMK's at 2480fps. Mostly shoot 500yds and in. Occasionally further, but consistency drops off.
I shoot in medium to difficult winds. Wind can be very gusty here. My buddies and I talk about wind, wind windows all the time. When the wind window for a distance gets around 2mph for a MOA target that's very very difficult. For example hold 8mph on the center, wind is 9mph, that's a miss. A 3mph wind window is challenging. 77TMK at 2480 the 2mph wind window at my elevation is around 600yds, 3mph about 450yds. According BlackHills a 77TMK will reliably expand down to 1900fps, about 400yds here. Mach 1.2 is at about 850yds with a wind window of 1.3mph, would be a very lucky shot!
Once a bullet drops much below Mach 1.2 most are going to be very inconsistent. I've shot various calibers right on the edge of Mach 1.2 and below. Below bullets can do weird things. First time I experienced that was several years ago with a straight 284/175SMK at 2850. Easily pick up impacts through the scope to 1600yds. At a mile was below Mach 1.2 myself and a very experience spotters with very high quality glass could not see the bullet impacting, bullet was doing some weird stuff. Stopped shooting after five shots. Some bullets do better then others through that transition to subsonic, these are match bullets. My buddies and occasionally shoot our rifles below that Mach 1.2 with the clear understanding luck has to be on our side. Mach 1.2 for the 11.5/77TMk's is at about 850yds with a wind window of 1.3mph, would be a very lucky shot!
Guessing the velocity of the 10" with 55 X-tac at around 2500fps? Going below Mach 1.2 at around 280'ish yards. Beyond that the bullet could be tumbling. Suggest going to a 77SMK or 77TMK. Not only will these fly further will also have a more consistent BC bullet to bullet, big deal the further out we go.
Good book on all this stuff. https://bergerbullets.com/bryan-litz-books/
From the above book.
I didn't see evidence of tumbling to the point of keyholes; clean holes in the paper.
The silencer should give a velocity boost, which may make the numbers closer to the 11.5" unsuppressed. That's just a guess though.
I'll read your post closer when I have more time. Thank you for the feedback!
I rarely shoot 55 FMJ ammo at anything other than close paper targets. Regardless of manufacturer or loading procedures, I find bullet's accuracy lacking. I've found that 55 grain bullets generally often fly nose-first as they move through transonic velocities, but likely with some pretty wonky wobbles. Accuracy goes south badly.
The heavier 75-77 grain bullets fly much better than the 55s. SMK 77 is a great choice, with ballistics well above any 55 grain. Slightly better ballistics occur with Hornady's 75 HPBT. Slightly better yet is the TMK 77 that offgrid noted.
I use the ballpark figure that suppressors generally add muzzle velocity that is comparable to an additional inch of barrel length. But there are many variables, and a chronograph confirms the results. My suppressed 14.5" and 16" barrels produce MV of around 2,600 fps with Hornady Black 75 HPBT. I'm fortunate that my 14.5" is a fast barrel. My 18" through 24" barrels produce higher MVs.
Bingo. I won't dive into offgrid's discussion, as he does it better than I. Instead I'll relay experience from multiple 2-rifle matches, where participants shoot stages with both a precision bolt action and a carbine.
I've had the fortune of being on the same squad as the match winner for multiple years. IIRC he uses a 12" barrel AR15, 77 SMK bullets, loaded hot. Meaning older brass -- he figures the hot loads will push the brass beyond reloading capabilities, and he abandons the brass at the match. I have used 16" and 18" barrel ARs, with factory Hornady 75 Black ammo. All of our uppers are capable of stacking bullet holes on top of each other at 100 yards.
My match-winning buddy pretty much kicks my butt with his ability to hit targets inside 250 yards. Better skills, especially shooting from positions with compromised stability, and under time pressure. The match's 10" round steel targets at 300-400 yards are painted black, and thus target hit locations can't be determined by the shooter. The match director messes with us by placing them near lots of vegetation, or on ridges. Meaning we have no feedback on misses. On these 300-400 yard targets, my 16-18" rifles are clearly superior in hit ratios. Over the course of the 2-day matches, I'm generally around 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 shots per hit, depending on wind. With his 12" barrel, he's in the 2.5+ shots per hit ballpark, with deteriorating performance when the wind is highly variable.
On occasion we get 12" white-painted diamond-shaped steel at 450-ish yards, with dirt behind the target. So we can spot our own impacts, hit or miss. In winds, it's game on. I tend to be "Hold my beer, I got this." Buddy with 12" upper is more like "Crap, I'm sending rounds, and hoping for the best."
IMO SBRs have their place, and are great for many situations. For longer distances, longer barrels just work better.
I measured the grouping on the target from that day that prompted my update post. 11" of horizontal dispersion and 16" of vertical. I can't complain, considering it was with a 3x magnifier behind an Aimpoint Micro, resting on nothing but a backpack in the prone position, with a Colt mil-spec trigger.
I appreciate the ammo recommendations, but it would almost defeat the purpose of the exercise. I set out with the intent to discover what my gun and the ammo I have most of, and shoot most often, can do at ranges exceeding what most would consider typical for such a setup.
Correction: The above-mentioned group was not achieved the day that prompted my update post, but the following day. It was a five-shot group on a cold bore.
Give this stretch out thing a try, as silly as it might be
Shotmarker at 445yds. Squares are 1", dark frame 4' square. If didn't have the piece of copy paper stapled to the backer, would be very difficult or impossible to hold a reference point on that berm with the naked eye. Very easy wind 3-5mph L-R.
11.5" handload 77tmk's, Trijicon MRO, bipod, rear bag, prone. Apparently I can't count to five!
My buddies 16" 8X magnification shooting the very crappy PMC 55's at 2650. He can count to five! Note the SD at the target, the ES was near 80.
Last berm 445yds.
I've shot team matches with fritz, he on a AR me on a bolt rifle, dude can shoot a AR! Been sqauded with 3-gunners shooting handload 55's from 18"-20" barrels. They don't hit much past 250yds, mag dumps to get on steel much further. Targets in front of grass, such little impact signature, difficult to see their misses.... These guys are good AR shooters, 55's are just a poor choice much past 100yds. Seen the same thing with another team match I shoot with another friend, AR and bolt rifle, switch platforms for second day.
Thank you for the awesome content! You did some fine shooting. I am hoping you can help me understand some things about your competitions...
What kind of targets are you and others shooting, at the competitions? Are they quite small? What are the other circumstances of the engagements? Are winds typically quite aggressive? To say a man getting high(er) velocities out of long(er) barrels, presumably with an optic, is having trouble connecting past 250yds, is to say that man is a poor shot, in my opinion, regardless of bullet type or weight. I have no desire to white-knight for M193 bullets, but I am certainly curious as to how they seem to perform so unsatisfactorily for you and your shooting mates.
Edit: I did just re-read fritz's post, where he indicates 10" plates at the matches he attends. In his post, the 10" plate at 300-400 yards would be a pretty tough target to hit first try, especially with holds coming into play big-time past 300, with short barrels.
There is no argument against longer barrels and heavier bullets making for better outcomes at extended ranges. The intent of my OP, and my recent shooting, was to explore the possibilities of what is apparently, in most people's opinion, a poor combination of short barrel and light bullets, at possibly inappropriate distances.
I don't compete, outside of impromptu events with friends, so it is very interesting to hear about everyone's experiences.This message has been edited. Last edited by: KSGM,
I have resolved to do my best to replicate the conditions experienced at offgrid and fritz matches; insofar as I will shoot at a 10" target from various ranges inside 500m, from improvised and/or hasty positions, having induced some physical/respiratory stress from movement to the position. I shall report my findings.
Also, do you know the approximate range to the targets, at the matches?
I haven't got around to attempting to recreate match circumstances, but I did walk out to 500m again. Five shots; 7.5" horizontal dispersion; 6.5" vertical. Cold bore, same gun, same ammo, very light inconsistent breeze, resting on a backpack in the prone. I do have a very good reference point above the target, for my hold, so that helps quite a bit.
This is very interesting to me. I’m trying to decide on a carbine setup for The Tactical Games events. Last spring, in Price, Utah I used a DD 16” gun with an Aimpoint Pro but ammo price and timing left me with only 55gr m193.
Limited number of rounds allowed so no correction possible and no spotter. I did just okay out to 200 but beyond it was luck.
I was originally intending to go to an 11” gun, because it’s on your person all the time, and run 77gr hand loads but I’m rethinking that. Targets are generally decent sized.
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