The smaller, steel-penetrating M855 rounds continue to be a weak spot in the American arsenal. They are not lethal enough to bring down an enemy decisively, and that puts troops at risk, according to Associated Press interviews.
Designed decades ago to puncture a Soviet soldier’s helmet hundreds of yards away, the M855 rounds are being used for very different targets in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of today’s fighting takes place in close quarters; narrow streets, stairways and rooftops are today’s battlefield. Legions of armor-clad Russians marching through the Fulda Gap in Germany have given way to insurgents and terrorists who hit and run.
Fired at short range, the M855 round is prone to pass through a body like a needle through fabric. That does not mean being shot is a pain-free experience. But unless the bullet strikes a vital organ or the spine, the adrenaline-fueled enemy may have the strength to keep on fighting and even live to fight another day.
This, of course, is nothing new. And though there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that the 5.56 is far from perfect, it’s also hard to argue with the results our troops have had with it. Even with the majority of our troops now using M4 carbines with shorter barrels than M16 rifles.
All that said, I still wonder if a .45 caliber submachine gun might not be in order for many of our troops in the current battle zones. Not for infantry, maybe, but wouldn’t most non-infantry be better off with something like TDI’s KRISS submachine gun? I don’t think anyone is arguing against the effectiveness of the .45 ACP against unarmored targets.
Seems that it would make sense in a mostly urban environment as a personal defense weapon. I’d think it would be much more effective than either a 9mm pistol or an M4 carbine. I posted on the PDW issue a year ago.
To my knowledge, nothing ever came of the reported interest the US Army had for ‘a compact, medium-powered firearm for issue to vehicle crews.’
UPDATE: More at Danger Room.