I’ve been thinking lately about how many Nine Balls (“Nine Ball” or “Niner”: not quite a window licker or fuzz eater, but an enthusiastic military liking civilian person that is uninformed) I have run into lately who don’t understand that fully automatic small caliber weapons arent’ that cool or effective in a gun fight — only in movies like the Predator.

It seems like every time I’m on the range some niner is excitedly telling me about their full auto experience — “full auto” this and “full auto” that… Enough already niner!

Let’s set the record straight:

While I’m an advocate of heavy machine gun fire, unit rifleman (non-machine gunners) know that switching the selector to full automatic in a firefight is a losing proposition – a sure way to run out of ammo quickly — and it will increase the odds that you will end up bringing your knife to a gun fight.

Accurate single shot fire on the enemy is the way to go.

It does the following:

  1. It keeps up overall unit sustained rate of fire upon the enemy.
  2. Conserves overall SOF unit and individual ammo
  3. Enables more effective fire (i.g. killing or keeping the enemy on the defensive)
  4. It is Ultimately the best way (assuming no air support) to get out of or win a firefight–I prefer calling in close air support myself.

Another important point is to pay attention to unit lulls in fire and to pick up your fire during these lulls.  The climax to Clint Eastwood’s movie “The Unforgiven” is a great example of accurate single shot fire.  So keep your selector to switch to semi and pass the word…

Kit Up! contributor Brandon Webb is a former SEAL sniper, author of the Red Circle.

{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim January 7, 2011 at 7:58 am

You have to admit though…there is some serious grin factor packed into full-auto!

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TaskForceOrange September 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I think this is kind of a load of crap for the most part….It sounds like the usual lecture gunnies give kids at AIT about full auto…

Truth is, anyone who's ever been in a really hairy spot that is going south fast (TIC any closer than 50m at least) that full auto has been not only used before, but many times, and by our best trigger pullers no less (operators who know how to make accurate single-mode fire EXTREMELY combat effective).
I can think of at least five or six incidents where PMCs, NAVSPECWAR guys I know, and even the select few SMU guys I've been privileged enough to work alongside a few times have used full auto plenty of times. Even when they knew it would nearly melt their cans, they used it. Even when they were almost black on mags, they used it.

To say that its "stupid" or "hollywood" and unrealistic, in itself, is ignorant….so coming from a military writer/columnist (the guy that wrote this) I find it kinda ironic that its kinda incorrect and inaccurate in many cases….especially in recent engagements in OEF/OIF1/2. So many Marines used burst fire in Fallujah, it was ridiculous. I saw PMCs using full auto on their 416s (some only having maybe six mags in their IBAs and no resupply coming anytime soon) in heavy contacts because a guy wouldn't go down after you hit him center mass with four or five solid pops..

Sometimes the best trigger pullers I've ever had to honor to work alongside have resorted to full auto when you'd least expect them to, and not only that, but they did so very effectively and would smokecheck at least half of their intended targets (usually just muzzle flashes out in the dark, hence why they chose to do so).

So just for all the "I was an 11B for ten plus years" guys here who are gonna disagree, I'm just saying (humbly), that this "full auto is stupid" or "no one uses it w/ carbines" is incorrect….Even if you are on your last magazine, if you are in a mud hut in the middle of buttf**k province getting lit up from twenty meters away by a bad guy who IS using full auto at YOU, trust me….You'd be surprised how many guys have had no qualms about going to rock 'n'roll and taking their chances.

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Caleb Oosten January 7, 2011 at 8:16 am

I have no idea why the Army went to a full auto selection on the M4A1. The only thing that confuses me more is the explaination that was given in Stars and Stripes, "Full auto fire gives the Soldier a more consistant trigger pull." What!?

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Stormcharger January 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

Should be a real 'no-brainer' concidering that the decisions of what weapons are being used are made by people who do no use them. Making range time manditory for policy makers might go a long way to fixing that. Or even better, embed them in a combat unit before they get to make any decision. "What? You like these useless guns, and all this heavy kit too? Here, wear this armor, it might have been inspected but nobody's really sure.."

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Devin January 7, 2011 at 8:29 am

One suspects that your "niners" may be gushing not because they got to try OMG TEH BEST THING EVAR but simply because full-auto weapons aren't common in the civilian world and they were excited to try something different.

If you'd just had a chance to shoot a bit old Walker Colt, Unforgiven-style, would you gush about it? Sure, it's cool! That doesn't mean you think that 19th Century revolvers are more effective than modern semi-auto handguns, it just means it was different and cool.

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M.G Halvorsen January 7, 2011 at 9:07 am

Way back in the "Long-Ago Time" (1977-79), I remember my Platoon Sgt telling me,"Full-automatic is for idiots that can't hit what they're shooting at." Consequently, I did my best to qualify at least "marksman" (Qualified "expert" with everything I shot.) I still agree with my old PSGT…But Rock &Roll is kinda fun…

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strikehold January 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

Absolutely right!!

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Moondog January 7, 2011 at 9:54 am

Amen. The author tells it like it is. To many people watch to many Hollywood movies. The services, especially the army, need to spend more time on the rifle range, and there needs to be more emphisis on marksmanship.

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Daniel Glass January 7, 2011 at 10:41 am

The main reason three-round burst was put into modern general-issue weapons was because of the massive ammo waste that happened during firefights in Vietnam. Controlled, accurate auto fire requires more training than "Hold down the trigger until the burst cycle stops."

But at the same time, it is nice in urban combat to be able to engage suppressive fire bursts of 6-8 rounds at targets coming from a different direction than your machine gunner is engaging.

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texasread January 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

How true, and apparently ageless advice for the inexperienced rifleman. I will not stoop to telling war stories but it is the gospel that I learned this one as an inexperienced rifleman- the hard way, and was fortunate to survive to absorb the lesson. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away.
I would add, however, that the prevailing image of machine gun fire is constant fire. The truth is that the effective, well trained gunner will normally fire 3 to 5 round bursts as rapidly as he can return his sights to his target, for the same four reasons you listed, and perhaps to keep his weapon cool and his barrel from burning out.. That is, UNLESS he is firing his Final Protective Fires.

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Mike P January 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

"fully automatic small caliber weapons arent’ that cool or effective in a gun fight

Read more: http://kitup.military.com/2011/01/full-auto-not-t… ? I understand what you're trying to say with this post, but the SAW is also chambered in 5.56… Just sayin'

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brandon January 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Hi Mike-

I agree with you and I'm not talking SAW…that's a great weapon and designed for full auto…I'm referring to the guns like the M4

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terry January 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I think that folks who write about this need a little more insight. There is a time and place for full auto, it takes training to keep the grunt from gong full auto all the time. In war many times full auto comes into play and i think i don't have to explain it to the folks who wrote this article. Small caliber full auto works history proves this just check and see .

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TaskForceOrange September 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Exactly right…. Look at the young Vietnamese who used full auto AK fire (when they were already on very strict ammo limits) and would wipe out whole units.

I'm sorry, but this whole anti-full auto thing is just BS…Its just a bunch of ex-mil elitists/purists who think they know everything and hence feel the necessity to tell everyone how its only used in movies etc etc etc…Just not correct nor accurate.

Anyone been allowed to visit BUD/S? I have…Twice. I lived in Mira Mesa my whole life (San Diego) and worked for a private sec firm…I watched NAVSPECWAR guys using full auto in their MOUT training all day long. AND THEY TRAINED LIKE THEY FIGHT. So I ain't going along with this whole purist view of single shot only, no matter the circumstance.
Movies like Predator ARE a good example of a ridiculous use of full auto, and i'd agree with that. But even though Tears of the Sun was fake as hell, that movie was pretty accurately representing how Teams guys utilized their bound/peels while using full auto to keep the bad guys at bay…even though they were prob lightly armed for ammo.

In the Battle for Roberts Ridge (where a buddy of mine was at after the fighting had mostly ceased), he had heard Rangers talking about how they had used full auto several times an hour! So I'm sorry, but this whole argument is just crap.

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Brandon January 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Hi Terry-
I'm referring to weapons like the M4. Fully auto has its place with the right platform….I know what you mean about insight and feel the same way sometimes but I've got five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a SEAL and and another as a contractor. :)

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TaskForceGreen July 22, 2013 at 11:55 pm

BUT full auto, especially in NSW community, is actually PLENTILY used. Full auto is used constantly after 2nd phase training and assaulting and/or counter-ambush tactics call for sustained full auto fire from the entire team unless single shot is more prudent (if you are "black"on ammo etc).

He who makes the most noise sometimes wins. I am tired of hearing all these anti-full auto 0311s saying how they know so much. There are soooo many US SOF who constantly use their MP7 in full auto, their M4A1/M416 in full auto (in any counter-ambush or large contact up close), and even the guys in Vietnam knew how to it….So many grunts from those eras get a bad rap. There were plenty of SF, LRRP, and even plenty of reg units who made good use of full auto. Single fire is more precise for singles, but THATS IT. There are many reasons to have full auto on during an initial contact.

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Sev January 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Still, if you're in a bind like the Grunts were in Wanat, having the option is nice. It's obviously not the moost effective way to fight, but in a situation like Wanat, being able to keep the enemy surpressed with high volume fire is essential. Fire superiority.

Of course, for typical engagements, then yes, single shot is the better choice. I guess the question is when and how to employ the full auto capabilities of rifles. I'd like to see a story on that!

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Jameson January 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Didn't we get rid of full auto because of "spraying and praying"? And now were bringing it back? Why? I don't understand the point.

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KG2V January 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Well, rock and roll can be fun on the range, the once or twice (possibly in a lifetime) the average civilian (like me) who wants to GET to try it, but yeah, it's hits/minute that counts, not rounds per minute, and people don't understand about, you know, AIMING

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mayday January 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm

"It seems like every time I’m on the range some niner is excitedly telling me about their full auto experience — “full auto” this and “full auto” that… Enough already niner! "

how about you just let that "niner" enjoy the thrill….effective or not and STFU

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Sev January 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I agree. Its not like he's gonna be engaging targets anytime soon. I say let them have fun. Now if it were coming from a person in the Army (Sorry, I dont think Marines pray and spray lol) acted like a niner, id be concerned.

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steve January 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I agree, single shot is the way to go, but murphey's law. Sometimes you might just need that full auto (fire superiorty) or you are just trying to get the guy to put his head down, or your SAW has gone down for a moment and you need to fill the void. I'm just saying, options are always the best solution.

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Smitty January 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I disagree, having mixed it up in Jungle warfare, the mad minute is a golden minute…You need to fire back and lay down a withering return fire to make the enemy get his head down or at least to throw their aim off while you are taking cover…As the fight progress's and you get a rough grip on their position and numbers switching to S/A is more effective….We compensated by carrying at least two bandoleers per man.
That was 20 mags back then so 22 or 24 Mags was our average load…We were always
less than Platoon size often just 4 or 5 men and didn't have but one SAW & one M79 along usually. Not to mention the PRC-25 (our most effective weapon) So at least 3 of us were carrying with two things….We didn't stay out over night and dig in like the
Army and Jar heads, preferring to get back on the boats before night fall. 22 to 24 Mags.
frags, smokes and satchel charges added up to quite a load for 3 or 4 men so we carried no food, just water —->eating what we found in the bush and fallen enemy's rations or other wise doing without until we rendezvoused with the boats again. Being in my 20's at the time didn't mind living like that 13 months at a time.
Full Automatic capability was comforting in that type of situation. Choice is always better in adverse situations

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chaos0xomega January 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm

What about SMGs/PDWs? Granted, most times I'd rather have an assault rifle, but to say that the only place for full-auto is with the unit heavy machine-gunner seems a bit naive, IMO. Granted, most modern militaries have done away w/ submachinegunners, but still.

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mic January 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Wow, its hard to say there is absolutely no place for something (even with an M4). I wish there was a better place to talk about small unit tactics and immediate action drills without telling the world about it. There is a place and time for full auto especially when working in small teams.

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Colin Michael January 7, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Long range? No thanks. Close quarters, maybe urban? Yes please. As a soldier myself i would love the choice, options are good in a fight.

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terry January 8, 2011 at 3:36 am

Brandon, Thanks and i am glad we have men like you who carried the tourch along for the rest of us old guys who can't anymore. I just look back to the times when they said we didn't need machine guns on jets anymore then several wars later they couldn't put them on fast enough. As you already know we must not think about todays wars but the next one which no doubt is around the corner and we must be adaptive ahead of the curve. Instead of playing catch up which is the norm for our forces in history and this is true for Iraq and the Stan down range. You have a very valid point but like with anything i would rather have it and never use it then being trapped without it at all (training is a must). What fits in Iraq or the Stan may not apply to Korea or the other 100 hot spots around the globe. I know the here and now is the most important but when the fire bell rings we have no time and if it saves even one life it's worth it. Also even the dumbest privates first day with their unit can come up with an idea to save the whole units lives, i guess in my lame way i am trying to say an open mind for a different view. We must all examine this issue further and out of the box.

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Homer January 8, 2011 at 3:47 am

Effective fire is not smoke and noise, you learn this in your first fire fight. Most enemy contact in Vietnam was point blank to 30 yards. Close combat semiauto point and shoot is effective, front sight press if possible .

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Homer January 8, 2011 at 6:02 am

Smitty
You are full of crap. eating what we found in the bush and fallen enemy's rations or other wise doing without until we rendezvoused with the boats again. Describe these enemy rations you ate.

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FixedinDC January 8, 2011 at 6:59 am

three tours in the stan as 11B and kept my selector on semi 99% of the time . . . the other 1% was dicking off at a range.

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AreYouSure? January 8, 2011 at 9:08 am

Ummm. Okay. Let me jog your memory:
I'll bet you money that you meant that 98% of the time you kept your weapon on "safe".
I'll buy it if you meant "99%" of my time IN CONTACT…
…But somebody would (or should) have "gotten on" you if your weapon was off "safe" unless engaging the enemy.
I'm pretty sure that I know what you meant, but I'm 'just sayin'.
…Unless you're going to try and BS us and say that you are some kind of Ueber-secret CIA operative cell that does not believe in "safe", or who believes the artistic license taken in "Blackhawk Down" was real, and that someone would allow wiggling his trigger finger instead of "safe"ing his weapon.

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jerry USMC January 8, 2011 at 9:33 am

Just provide me with my 20 round, 30cal, BAR, and let me decide what to do.

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Kayaker January 8, 2011 at 9:55 am

Full Auto was meant to suppress a target. Personally I wouldn't take an M4 if I had the choice. I would use either the M-16A2 with a good zero out to 300meters or use the M-14. It only takes one round to kill someone, not hundreds.

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Smitty January 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

Homer
Sticky rice with a little dried fish packed in sock tubes often carried by the enemy. Since we were with Vietnamese units anyway we often stopped in villages and ate rice noodles and duck soup, pork whatever, always plenty of nucmam….Unlike conventional forces we didn't pack a lot of comforts—Not even poncho's….They made to much noise in the rain and going through heavy cover. Mainly just Ammo
and water. We were a lot like the enemy in many ways, living off the land—. You sound spoiled Homer. Bet you were a bunker rat squatting on a fire base somewhere rather than adapting to local customs then getting out and meeting the people like true counter insurgents!

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Smitty January 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

Homer, we were not conventional forces, as CoVans we traveled with RVN troops, eating mostly what they ate…As far as enemy rations go, they carried tube socks of sticky rice with a few bits of meat or fish in it when moving in a hurry. Plenty of grub in the jungle if you know what you are looking for. We also often stopped in any friendly Village coming in and ate rice noodles in duck or pork broth—-Whatever they had.
We didn't even carry poncho's (too noisy) weapons, Ammo, Water, frag and smoke grenades and that was about it. Of course the radio…Our preferred method was to hide and call air in on the larger enemy units.
Except for the air support I'd say we operated more like the enemy than U.S. Forces. We were not nice types….Your attitude? I'd say you spent most of your time hunkered down on a fire base eating C-rations
and only occasionally going outside the wire. To win one has to get out and meet the local people my man <grin>

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Smitty January 8, 2011 at 10:27 am

I still say leave the option for full auto….Its good for moral if nothing else—And in the mad minute its always handy because the majority of engagements in my war were meeting engagements, you know kind of stumbling into the enemy and ambush's. When I went in we used M-1 Grands as I said before and trained
on 300 yard rifle ranges, recruits were graded on accuracy. Accuracy and selecting your target are important
but when you can't see the enemy thats shooting at volume of fire is also good. Leave these modern warriors the option of full auto on their personal weapon…If you might die,-don't let it be because you are out gunned choice is always good. Bean counters and their Generals are the ones saddled with this decision and unfortunately they are most often in the rear with the gear <grin>

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Brandon January 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

Nice!!

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Brandon Webb January 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

Great point Terry and I couldn't agree with you more.

-Brandon

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Brandon Webb January 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

Too bad there wasn't a secure site for guys to exchange sensitive tactics…the military version of FB or something.

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Brandon Webb January 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

Not talking about the average civilian….appreciate the comment though

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Smitty January 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

That one guy "R U sure "was right, our rifles stayed on safe mostly…Don't need errant shots announcing your arrival to the enemy but good to go was a simple flip of the selector. I only remember a few long range shots and we might not take the shot to stay conceled, it was up to the team leader….most of ours were defensive close in shots. My war was mostly bordom then flashs of intense fear—-sucked

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Smitty January 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

KAYAKER
Yeah but the M-14 was heavy, the ammo was heavy etc etc etc and the barrel had the habit of bending or warping if you got it hot hot and layed it across something. Having said that, we kept one (1) around for old times sake and because our butter bar had dreams of making a 500 shot from the boats…Never did though…The T/L a 0-3 made him wear a .45 and stay on the boats with that M-14, the kid had a college degree but didn't have any commen sense. He was actually against ambush tactics called it dry gultching and dishonrable. Watched to many cowboy movies as a kid I figure

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FixedinDC January 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Yeah sorry about that, IN CONTACT 99% of the time but yeah pretty much always on safe.

Hey man, don't you know Blackhawk Down was all real? EVERYONE knows the only safety a badass operator knows is his well exercised trigger finger. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evr_tP9cJWY&fe

Hahaha jokes.

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Nick January 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I agree it can be frustrating, and even comical at times when confronted with a situation like the one described. I 'd also like to point out to those who perhaps did not read the piece carefully, or just didn't understand it, that at no time did Brandon mention that he said anything derogatory to or about said niner. It was a general statement, not a personal insult. Thus, comments like the aforementioned "STFU" are uncalled for. It should also be noted that such a reaction is less useful and more derogatory than the perceived statement.

Even after all these years I still find myself besieged by such things. They bother me for whatever reason, even though they probably shouldn't. I guess it's just the old "if you're going to do something, you might as well do it right" streak in me. This is especially acute while engaged in hunting. After countless references to my Rem. 700 as a "gun" you'd think I'd be used to it. Still, I always manage to come back with "what gun?" Or, the ever popular, "Gun? I didn't bring a gun, just this rifle." It's amazing how much an effect those few weeks in 1978 still have on me.

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Brandon Webb January 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Well said Nick and I appreciate your understanding of what was posted.-Brandon

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mic January 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Reply to Nick:
Seriously, you can lose the liberal arts speak. Your message above sounds like a liberal arts major after his first freshman class reviewing the greater works of Shakespeare. STFU.

The resume dropping in this post is hilarious (and the previous posts by the author). Why must you tell everyone, every time that you were a SEAL and how many tours you have? NOGAF. Speak what you know about, what you have witnessed, what has worked (and not worked) for you, and when someone disagrees don’t try to pull their punk card by dropping your resume or throwing a dig about their “niner” status. Whatever happened to the silent warrior?
Obviously you are allowed to post articles on this website because someone believes you have credibility and have established some level of rapport. I have agreed and disagreed with your previous posts but enough is enough with the resume. Have the personal pride to know that you have been through a finishing school and that you don’t need to prove your status (or write about it) to everyone else.

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Brandon Webb January 8, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Hey Mic-

The resume is up because not everyone knows my background. It's kinda like getting medical advice and not knowing if the person has a degree in medicine. Glad that you are engaged in the posts though, it's good to get peoples opinions. Thanks for posting.

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James Maxwell January 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

When they first issued the M-16 to us in Viet Nam it was nice to be able to return fire to the Cong in Full Auto. But at what expense. True we carried more ammo but it was quickly expended. The caliber was effective if and
when you hit someone but beyond that you wasted a lot of ammo. From the guys I've talke to the new ones have a safe, semi and 3 round burst mode. They tell me it is a lot more effetive and conserves ammo. The BAR
on full was an awsome weapon along with other of heaver caliber. I have seen times when full auto was a
neessity and Thank God we had it.

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MarineNCO January 8, 2011 at 8:00 pm

From my personal experience, semi is the way to go. Training and discipline goes out the window when you start firing full auto or even burst for that matter. Civilian *********** carry a very high price here in Afghanistan, and IF there are any moron NCO's who are letting their Marines/Soldiers "spaying and praying", then they need to be corrected because it only takes 1 inaccurate shot to turn a whole village against you. There is a reason why we spend so much time training to get a correct sight picture and firing off 2 or 3 ACCURATE rounds. Its not because of "bean counting" general officers. Its beause full auto wastes ammo, makes weapons heat up and foul up more, and is a greater risk of shooting something that you did not mean to shoot. I am way too young to have been in Vietnam or any other previous wars, but semi is the way to go for our current situation.

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Br Johnson January 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm

good answer semper fi having controle of a sticky situation relies on this

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Lcplwilson January 10, 2011 at 6:14 am

I agree with you. I carried the BAR and was always told to trigger off 2-3 rounds burst if you could get a light trigger finger. I'll bet the guys in WWII and Korea would have liked full auto for those banzai charges and the Chinese at the Frozen Chosin.

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Chuck Watson January 10, 2011 at 6:57 am

But if you are put into the situation where you and maybe a couple other guys are confronted with lets say 10 or more enemy, semi-auto is going to get you killed. full auto will let you get away. Our warriors need the option of full or semi. Common sense will provail. I f you burn it up, you better be damn good in hand to hand. And last, what the hell does a 1000 meter shooter know about close in combat, and i bet his spotter has full auto.

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snake eater January 8, 2011 at 9:08 pm

CCN Viet Nam M-14 Using Duplex Round worked very good as the first mag on full auto from then on semi only reg 7.62 NATOrounds . Barrel cut back to gas unit. Nice and short but a world of hurt for NVA. 5th SF 68-69

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Daniel Glass January 8, 2011 at 9:28 pm

The main reason three-round burst was put into modern general-issue weapons was because of the massive ammo waste that happened during firefights in Vietnam. Controlled, accurate auto fire requires more training than "Hold down the trigger until the burst cycle stops."

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Morgan January 9, 2011 at 12:41 am

Choice does not guarantee wisdom. A facetious analogy: If I leave you to decide whether you'll grab a healthy chicken sandwich or inhale a bowl of cocaine.

But, yeah, fine. Add full auto. I would then like to see a greater awareness from team leaders to note soldiers who let rip. If that is the guy routinely running short on ammo, then he needs some guidance. I wouldn't want the guy guarding my back running out of lead.

Besides, since when do soldiers have a choice?

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terry January 9, 2011 at 4:14 am

There is a bigger picture and what had worked in Iraq and the Stan/Nam on a personal level down range might not work for the next round of battles/wars to come.

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terry January 9, 2011 at 5:00 am

The experts thought we don't need snipers then oops!!! hurry we need snipers, then we don't need machine guns on jets for dog fighting or close air support then oops!!! we need machine guns on jets. Coin planes are outdated we don't need them oops!!! we need coin planes. Now it is we don't need Ranger school anymore?? also we don't need full auto??? wow!! it never ends does it? as more lives are lost to this same lame thinking.Experts are like something else we all have one.

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Nance, E January 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Well semi is what is mostly used. Even with burst fire it is rarely used. I don't think this would change with dropping burst and getting auto. If it does then training needs to change to make them understand why semi is the better choice. Having full-auto isn't needed for most situations but in a situation where it is needed then it is better to have the option than not have it. Semi is best for 99% of the time I would say and full auto can be useful for about 1% but if you need it in that 1% you should have the option instead of burst or semi being forced when auto would be better.

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theCelt January 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

You don't want to have to use full-auto, except on the 4th of July.

Full-auto has it's place, particularily with heavy and light machine guns, but if you want to kill the bad guy you had best take careful aim. It can and should be used for gaining fire superiority, but not for extended periods of time.

Assault rifles and handguns of course are best in semi.

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Shardik January 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Aimed semi-auto is more accurate, nearly as sustained and conserves ammo. In Wanat all of those would have been a plus. An M4 on full auto, even a 3-5 round burst is too inaccurate. Sure it has a higher sustained ROF but what does that matter if 3/4 of them are above their heads?

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Shardik January 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I carried 10×30 round mags in Afghanistan. That was the max I could feasibly carry and still be combat effective. On full auto you can blow though 300 round sin under a minute. Then what?

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James January 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm

not anymore they are not. all the new SAW weapons being issued are chambered in 7.62 like the M240B

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James January 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm

M4A1 are still full auto. but those are issued to most special ops units. the standard M4A4 is semi and three round burst. just like the old M16A2

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Lautlos January 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Like anything in the infantry it's less about what equipment/capability you have or don't have, its more an issue of training. If you give an infrantry squad the "happy switch" and then don't budget the time and resources to train for this new capability then it will result in failed gas systems and burned out barrels.

If I have the time and bullets to train my guys then I'm okay with giving my guys M4A1s. Though anyone, who has spent anytime in the box, knows that semi will cover 97% of the situations…. eh…. maybe 95%.

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Stefan S. January 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Clear a room on semi? No thanks. For the rest of the time semi.

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terry January 10, 2011 at 4:05 am

Stefan S. , finally somebody who can see the truth and knows!, these folks can only see their small part in the current situation. They can't think about clearing rooms ect… because they are stuck with one style of thinking. They have to think that there is more then this style of warfare in the box down range. like many have posted, rather have it be trained for it and never have to use it. This thinking of 99% of the time never having to use it is being to complacent and not thinking ahead to see the next battle/war they may need full auto 99% of the time. Let's not continue to make the same mistakes of the past and lose lives to learn the lesson.

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Mike January 10, 2011 at 4:54 am

I'm going to second what Nick said, and I think a lot of people looked a little too deep into this article. I'm going to agree with a lot of things in this article. Now I'm not saying there's no need for fully auto, it has it's place, but that's with the light machine guns, it is too big of a waste of ammo to have your m16/m4s with it. I would much rather make a few accurate shots, then blow through an entire magazine. In real life you aren't going to fin 500 5.56 rounds sitting in the corner in some random place like on call of duty

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Joe LittleBear January 10, 2011 at 5:38 am

After WW-2, German Commanders were asked, which of our shoulder.fired weapons were they most afraid of… the answer was the Winchester Model 97 Shotgun… So, if you want to send a lot of projectiles at close range…how about the new drum magazine 12 ga shotgun ??? Don't have to aim precisely…just point it in the general direction and let the buckshot fly… How about rounds loaded with flechettes ?

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Logic Mine January 10, 2011 at 6:13 am

I'm a vet but not a combat vet. I maybe stepping over my bounds here but I believed that the infantry weapon (M-16) should always be used on SEMI for the sake of CONSERVING your AMMO. After all, I'm sure there would be times that SUPPORT would not be available.

Every soldier knows that they are to be put in harms way. What every soldier DOESN'T know is HOW LONG THEY WILL BE THERE and under WHAT SUPPORT they will have access to and lastly, HOW MANY BAD GUYS ARE WILLING DIE FOR THIER COUNTRY. So for the UNKNOWNS' in one's busy day,….when you absolutely, positvely must kill your way out of a dirty S***T hole , It would be wise to Conserve your AMMO. That goes for the M-60 too!

Because, once you run out, ….the Battle's over now isn't it? I don't know many victorious KNIFE fights in a gun battle.

thanks. for listening.

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Sawyer January 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

I definitely have to go with the simplest reason to not go with full auto. I'm an armorer and replacing barrels on M-16 series rifles is a major pain in the ass when someone decides that "hey lets go waste 500 rounds out on the range and just use one M4A1 on full auto and see how long we can fire it." When you bring me your weapon and the barrel is drooping and all the bluing has sublimed off of it and the barrel is now white, this makes me really not like the idea of giving the standard infantryman fully automatic capabilities. Now guys who do security force missions involving guarding nuclear weapons and other high value targets or personal defense weapons like the MP-7 or the FN P90 sure that makes sense to have full auto due to the smaller caliber of the rounds and considerably less stopping power conferred by the smaller size. Firing large numbers of rounds in a short period of time also has a higher probability of breaking the bolt on a weapon, at which point unless you have a secondary weapon or just happen to have an armorer along who is hauling a bag of spare parts with him, which is beyond rare you are stuck with a completely nonfunctional weapon until you get back to base and have it repaired, which just makes you a liability for the rest of your squad mates to have to deal with because you thought it would be fun to go and "rock and roll" in the middle of a firefight.

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buzz January 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

The SAW is designed to be used in the full auto mode and rifles are not. M-4's and every other rifle/submachinegun etc climbs uncontrolably to the right and you can't hit a thing!

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buzz January 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

Terry full auto is worthless for anything more than fooling soldiers into a false sense of security

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buzz January 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

Thank you. Thats what it is. You spray bullets into the air over the enemys head and burn out your barrels.

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buzz January 10, 2011 at 11:39 am

Years ago I used to give full auto demos to BT soldiers judt to show them how full of it rambo was. I used all tracer fire so they could se just were the rounds were going.

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Brandon Webb January 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Well said brother-brandon

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Brandon Webb January 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Chuck, thanks for the comments, FYI-I've had plenty of close combat amigo.

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galloglas January 11, 2011 at 7:11 am

The "Unforgiven" is your example?
Unforgiven was a MOVIE.
That's Some example.

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Ian James January 11, 2011 at 10:28 am

Please do some research before you post….the M4 is accurate out to 500 meters for point targets and the M16A2 is accurate to 550 meters on point targets both fire 5.56mm. The M14 while firing 7.62mm is only accurate out to 460 meters.

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Ian James January 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

Not only no but hell no. Why do you need to clear a room on full auto….you wouldn't hit anything. That is why people train with hammer pairs, controlled pairs, and failure to stop drills ON SEMI. That is also why you have three or four other people clearing the room with you.

There is no viable reason why full-auto belongs on a rifle….an LMG or HMG yes but a rifle no. Not even for room clearing.

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buzz January 11, 2011 at 11:42 am

Guys dont forget full auto fire wil overheat the barell quickly and speedup the wearing out of the lands which means you wont be able to hit a damned thing in a short amount of time.

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Michael Torres January 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm

When I was in basic over the summer of 2010 at FT LW MO our DS told us that in a fire fight semi auto is the way to go. There was no need for bursts or full auto due to the fact because of the controlled pairs with semi and none of us want to be caught up in UCMJ for rittling the corpse of a taliban with 5.56. I know i dont have room to talk but in my opinion controlled pairs is the way to go.

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terry January 12, 2011 at 4:29 am

Thank God the Army is going with full auto and not just semi.

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Smitty January 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

S/A is OK for a on going fight but full auto is better for first contact and the mad minute, at least in my war I found it so, we often couldn't see the enemy anyway, just the direction he was firing from….Of course he was up the same creek when we held the hammer. Mountain fighting and Long range shots—S/A sounds
the way to go because you avoid muzzle dance. Close in Urban combat or heavy bush I'd stick with having a S/A F/A option though. Everyone would ave to be trained to our level though….For instance ~Homer~ didn't know their was chow
in the bush.

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Tony January 13, 2011 at 4:36 am

The M4A2 is semi and 3 round burst

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150minf2dad January 13, 2011 at 6:48 am

According to the book ON KILLING by LTC D. Grossman, in Vietnam from Jan 7 – Jul 24 1969, U.S. Army snipers averaged 1.39 rounds per kill. The average number of rounds per enemy killed in Vietnam was 50,000! There was a lot of suppressive fire used in Vietnam. Many soldiers were less interested in killing the enemy than discouraging the enemy from killing them. rock and roll , chase away the bad guys , make it home alive.

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150minf2dad January 13, 2011 at 8:56 am

according to LTC. Grossman in his book tittled ON KILLING, the avg. of rounds used per kill in Vietnam by U.S. Army snipers was 1.39 rounds per kill I'm sue it was similar for any American sniper. The average number of rounds per kill in Vietnam otherwise was 50,000 rounds per enemy killed. There was a lot of suppressive fire in Vietnam. Another way of looking at it though is that a lot of soldiers were not so interested in killing the enemy as they were in keeping the enemy from killing them. suppress, scare, chase away, make them stop shooting at you so you can get home alive.

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Devon January 14, 2011 at 11:22 am

I agree with many above that combatants in the riflemen role should be employing accurate, squeezed, s/a fire for reasons of unit effectiveness and conserving ammunition. This is much more effective unit tactic than attempting to "hose" a general area militia-man style. Although, I also believe that there are a couple of situations that call for riflemen to step into the role of automatic riflemen, and I believe that the spec-op community encounters these situations more frequently than regular units.
For example, getting out of a kill zone or breaking contact with a superior force may be easier by quickly establishing fire superiority and/or using suppressive fire to cover your retreat. Obviously a support weapon is ideal for this role but sometimes you've got to use what's available.
Another situation is CQB, and the sole purpose being increased ability to incapacitate. If there is an immediate threat that is danger close, I want a violent and aggressive response that will put him down NOW through multiple hits. Again, there are other weapons that would be more ideal for this role but would you rather make do with a sub-machine/shotgun at 150-200 yards or a carbine in CQB?
This capability is what makes a true assault rifle (capability for full auto) so versatile. A combatant that is disciplined in it's use will know how and when to transition between roles. This level of fire discipline and familiarity requires more training which is probably why it has been reserved for those serving in special operations.

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Simon January 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

A GREAT synopsis. If i am on a quick in quick out with a heli on Stand by in a known hostile with NO known blue then I want full auto when I pop the corner. Normally we have a SAW with us for suppressive fire but shit happens right? jams, etc. if I'm in the kill zone then it's just a spray, keep the heads down and find cover. THEN select targets. Show me aguy who has controlled fire under combat situations I'll be amazed.

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Simon January 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Here's a thought. During the Falklands We used the same personal weapon as the Argies, The FN FAL. We had semi, they had full auto. Guess what we did when we captured Argie H/W? prolonged fire fights? rnR and then throttle down once you can direct fire. It all comes down to competent NCOs and squad leaders.

Royal Marines Commando.

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guest January 17, 2011 at 7:27 am

i was 11B in ramade iraq i carried both the SAW and 240B even with the full auto your are taught to use 3 to 6 round burstfor SAW and 6 to 9 round burst with 240B. this si to retain accuracy you would never use true full auto capability. the only instance this would be necessary is if there was 100 hadjis pouring through a hole in the wall which never happened these wars are not WW2 there is no masss beach invasions where you can just sit and mow them down as they pour off of a troop transport. full auto was gotten rid of because of wasted ammunition and as anyone who has been on patrol knows there is only a limited amount of ammo with you out there so you are taught to conserve i say leave it alone even with 5 to 6 guys on semi there is still enough rounds goin down range to make them think real hard about moving anywhere

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Terrence MacArthur January 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm

OK, let's look at the M16s first real test, Vietnam. Anyone who'd been in country more than a few days knew full auto was usually a bad idea. You not only burned through a lot of ammo, you also spent too much time changing mags. Remember, the usual issue mag was a 20, not a 30, rounder, which meant, if you wanted reliable function, only 18 rounds per. Which was a quick hiccup for a 16 on rock & roll. Besides if you're the only one using full auto it attracts the kind of enemy attention to you that you really don't want. If you did need more than semi, both the Army and everyone who knew what they were talking about said try to limit it to 3 round bursts. But there were situations, like people already through the wire and within like15 or 20 meters of your position, or meeting folks in the woods when 10 or so of them were suddenly 15 meters in front of you, where real full auto could save your life. We're talking here about situations where how much ammo you're going to have a few minutes from now doesn't matter, because you're not real likely to still be standing then unless you do something drastic. When the full auto was changed to a 3 round burst, my job and rank meant I wasn't very likely to ever be in a position where I needed real full auto anymore, but I thought, and still think, that it was a lousy decision. It looked to me like it was based, like most are, on "cost effectiveness" rather than combat effectiveness. After all, it's a lot easier (read cheaper) to limit everyone to 3 round bursts, than it is to effectively train them to do just that in most cases, even if it did eliminate the capability for real auto fire when a situation came along that required it. And don't even try to imagine how much the bean counters think it would cost to train people to instantly recognize and differentiate such a situation. The elimination of actual full auto was, on a tactical level, a bad mistake. And now someone even seems to be talking about limiting everything to semi? What's really needed is a weapon with 3 firing selections; semi, 3 round bursts (which would eliminate the need for training in the skill, and, yes, it is a developed skill to fire 3 round bursts when the weapon will keep firing as long as the trigger's back), and full auto. Then you'd only have to train people on making the decision. But I suppose the cost of developing that weapon probably means nobody with any authority will ever even consider it.

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Terrence MacArthur January 19, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Yeah, but damn, the 14 was hard to hold on target for even one mag of full auto. Even with the special sling and the bipod.

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Shon Nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:34 am

As a firearms trainer, Soldier and Police Officer I would have to agree on the popularity on the AK reliability is just as popular to the op forces however its very heavy to carry the caliber is so to say is still a 30 cal round ammo would be costly and heavy. Also that cal falls a tremedous ammount once leaving the barrel. I like the idea of the 6.5 round and own a few piston AR's.

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shon nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:36 am

Full auto is a supression method and still should be used for that however burst does the same thing when used properly. Agreed that full auto is for idiots that cannot hit a target on semi. . VN was proven that full auto is a waste of money spray 30 rounds at a target the recoil is to much and you dont hit your target. $$$$ is a major factor.

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shon nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:37 am

30 cal should remain in the sniper platforms 7.62 is a 30 cal and is used in the 240B and other weapons. In my opionion the ACR and the SCAR are both great because you can switch out parts to have various weapons in 1. But to have the LBV, IBA and everything else just to carry extra ammo, barrels ect would be a pain.

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shon nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:37 am

If the military wants to go with a different platform weapon spend the extra money get the piston. So many people have trained on the M16 and the M4 that are left handed and handle the weapon with advantages even being built for right handed soldiers. If they revamped and they can make them amadextris (spelling error) they can stick to these same weapons.

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shon nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:38 am

I do not like the fact that the 5.56 goes through the IBA's like butter, nothing like clearing a room shooting a target only for the round to go through him into the wall and into your friend outside where you cannot see. 6.5 is a great round the 336 lapua is just another great round SF are messing with. No matter what weapon you have if you train with it daily and know everything about it your as deadly as your enemy.

Tim February 8, 2011 at 4:37 am

The burst mechanism messes with the trigger pull compared to a full auto mechanism. Its not firing full auto that makes a better trigger pull, but the mechanism itself. Burst is stupid on a gun, as short controlled bursts can be fired from a full auto weapon, and on that rare, rare, occasion where full auto might be useful you have that option.

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Dag February 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Also the 3rd burst trigger kinda sucks because in semi it cycles through different trigger pull weights, which makes adifference when you are trying to hit a moving target at 400-600m with a red dot, or ACOG. safe/semi/auto triggers have a much better feel to me, and makes sense in CQB, remember that full auto mp5 used to be the weapon of choice in raids and what not. But in my opinion the M4 needs a suppressor or muzzle break like to make full auto more controllable. Like anything you have to practice to make yourself more effective.

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Alex May 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm

There is always more air than there is meat. Stick to semi.

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jim June 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I am so glad this article is still going and the latest news about how the 3 round burst was a complete failure and that they are going back with full auto.Making the so called expert Brandon Webb look like a moron. There is no such thing as an expert anybody can be wrong and this article shows how wrong Brandon Webb is. He should just stick with his TV shots and pushing the books there is nothing wrong with making money. When you speak differently or oppose Brandons veiws he is quick to call you a niner or not up to his level. Well guess what ? you were wrong BW along with allot of other things that you claim your so good at. Nuff said i am sure you will do your normal thing i've seen you do to people that say something that is in a different view of your own personal small world thoughts.

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Ranj August 4, 2011 at 6:31 am

Well stated in the original post. Reflects what we get taught here 'Down under' in the service – well aimed single shots at semi automatic are far more effective (ie kill/ wound the enemy) and conserve ammo as opposed to 'spray and pray'. Besides which, after emptying a 30 rd mag in haste, all you're doing is depriving everyone else in your section of ammo once you've gotten out of the contact. It's a team effort, not an individual pursuit.

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Will November 7, 2011 at 9:50 am

Agree with Tim. The mechanics involved in getting burst capability severely compromise the trigger pull on the m4/m16. The trigger pull on the full-auto trigger group is superior to the burst group and allows a higher degree of accuracy.

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Merriweather onesJ January 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I have been there. I am a trained target shooter from the US Army. I found full automatic fire to be very unreailbe in combat. I tried and felt very uncomfortable using it. Iput my rifle back on semiouto and left it there for my whole VietNam tour for I knew that I was very accurate with it set there. I always hit what I shot at. I have observer many soilders hitting the ground a feet in front of their position while a majority were firing over the treetops. I spent much time while in combat teaching riflemen correct marksman whlie in contact with the enemy.
Full auto only waste ammo in most cases. It was said in Nam that it took 10,000 rounds to kill one enemy. That cost a pretty penny.

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zach March 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm

i used to always want to buy a semi automatic ar 15 then have my sisters husband ( who is an engineer) and have him modify it to fully automatic. i found this website and i am convinced i want to stick with semi automatic as ammo is expensive and what you guys said.

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Dennis April 24, 2012 at 12:16 am

You guys don't know **** from shinola

Full auto to break contact (in ANY caliber, small or reg) is fine. In SOF, its used on a pretty constant basis. I am just curious on how often it actually gets used in combat lately seeing as how 77gr heavies are doing fine on SAMRs in OEF/OIF etc

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Kentucky May 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Niner looks up to you and is trying to find a level to relate to you on, allbeit misguided. I'd take it as a compliment.

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John `D. July 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Burst sucks! Well aimed single shots is the way to go for most situations but if you freeze up w/ burst you fire 3 rounds only. I'd rather have a soldier rip off a full mag at the last desperate moment then fire 3 and that's it!! The main problem is we don't train troops well enough to trigger a short burst on auto. Training is the issue not gimmicks!! Spent the money on training and ammo, not gimmicks!!

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Chip August 21, 2013 at 2:00 am

Let me remind you that you are a citizen first, a soldier second. Wasting teenagers in the giant sand box so the corporations can get their profits is a far cry from defending America and the free world from the tyranny of the Axis powers, and sure as hell doesn't make you better than the rest of us. So do us all a favor and drop the derogatory lingo towards the people you are supposedly fighting for. Firefighters put their lives on the line every day and have picked up their share of dead mutilated corpses, but you don't see them walking around with a chip on their shoulder…

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jeff January 15, 2014 at 8:18 am

Okay, from whence came the term "nine ball"?

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shon nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:38 am

The theory of (shoot one taking three out of combat) is out dated. It is time for the Military to step up and build a weapon for the soldiers, not something the paper pushers at the pentagon or captiol hill want (as most have probably never shot one on their life nor seen combat). A true weapon would start at the bottom and work its way up from basic to the theater. Develope a weapon capable of shooting a target at 5m and reach out to 1500m if needed.

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shon nelson January 23, 2011 at 2:38 am

Develope a weapon as deadly as the AK, but lighter in that aspect. And as far as NATO great concept but really if America is going to lead the way quit hampering us from doing our jobs. Dont shoot civilians yeah it does happen and those laws help. But really to not be able to shoot a 50cal at a human directly is stupid if the son of a ***** is carrying an RPG and is known for hositility put him down. I garentee if anyone thinks about invading America do you really think Farmer Brown is going to trade out his 30-30 to go with a 5.56? Doubtful. As far as the (one shot one kill) or knock down power any rifle will do this, it can be a 22cal if used correct by the shooter. Knock down power has nothing to do with anything if the shooter cannot place the shot in a kill zone. You can look me up on facebook shon bacon nelson if you have other comments.

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