One of the big debates making the rounds on the floor of lastweek's massive SHOT Show in Las Vegaswas over the standard issue M558 round for the M-4. Reports from Iraq and Afghanistan say the round isn'tpowerful enough for close-range firefights against opponents armed primarilywith 7.62mm AK-47s.
I spoke to one of the legends of modern gun design, AlanZitta, now designing tactical rifles for Para USA, about his experience withthe 5.56 dating back to Vietnam.His take: the 5.56 is a good round, but the troops need a different bullet,something along the lines of the power-tip bullets made by Hornady or Nosler."Why are we giving our boys a tungsten penetrator that can penetrate a helmetat 800 meters? There's nobody in the Army who can shoot an iron site gun andhit a helmet... and the enemy in Afghanistanis not wearing helmets or armor."
"In Nam,when we had 5.56 ball, we used to take cutting dikes and clip the tip of thebullet, when it hit it really exploded. People would say you're losingaccuracy. Not at a hundred yards. Most engagements are 150 yards and in," hesaid.
Reports from the field with the tungsten round he's seen sayit takes seven to nine rounds to take an enemy down. The tungsten penetrator ismoving too fast, Zitta said, it acts like a "high speed drill bit" and boresthrough a body instead of tumbling. Vietnam era M-16s had a slowertwist in the barrel.
"A slower turning bullet, when it hits, starts careening...it's the same reason we used to cut the tip of the bullet. It was a one shotstop. It's like the old analogy that when you shot a guy in the foot he died.That's because it dumped all the energy into the body," he said.
"The weapon has proven itself for 40 something years.They're just issuing the wrong bullet for the wrong application. The enemy doesnot wear body armor or helmets. Give them a ballistic tipped bullet."
He also commented on M-4 feed issues: "I don't understandwhy the government doesn't spend half a cent on each round and have it nickelplated, nickel's a lubricant and that would solve a lot of the feeding andextraction problems... even the FBI's tactical round is nickel plated."