back to article Penetration tech: BAE Systems' new ammo for Our Boys and Girls

BAE Systems is, for the first time in many years, offering new types of small arms ammunition to the armed forces. It all boils down to achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer. Famous as the home of British military ammunition production since its 20th century days as a state-owned Royal Ordnance Factory, Radway …

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Coffee/keyboard

"...achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer."

I see what you did there.

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Amazing the amount of research and design...

....that goes into something that in 99% of armed battles just means "throw as much noise, chaos and lead down range at the other guys in the hope they give up or run away first!"

Studies after the Korean War found that past 50m you were just as likely to get hit by a stray bullet or shrapnel than you were an actual aimed bullet. It's not about accuracy in most cases, its about ripping up whatever you hit, aimed or otherwise, as much as possible.

Not that I'm saying I wouldn't want better bullets in my weapon to spray downrange.

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Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

The British Army has long had a preference for soldiers hitting what they shoot at. Some of it has taken on an element of myth, but even something such as the "Mad Minute" was judged by counting hits on the target rather than shots fired, and the soldier could get extra pay.

And part of why there is all the fuss about getting the ballistics the same is that it lets the soldiers keep hitting the target. You can get more penetration by increasing the velocity, but that changes the path of the bullet. And that means new sights, and makes the stocks of old ammunition less useful.

Most of the effect of the new round has to come from the difference between steel and lead when it hits armour.

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Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

"The British Army has long had a preference for soldiers hitting what they shoot at. Some of it has taken on an element of myth, but even something such as the "Mad Minute" was judged by counting hits on the target rather than shots fired, and the soldier could get extra pay."

When was that? 1914? When it was desired to use a round big enough for the average squaddie to unrealistically hit something 1300yds away?

In the heat of battle with noise, mayhem and adrenalin going at 400%, accuracy tends to go out the window.

Spray and pray.

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Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

For all of those down voters, and remembering that resupply of ammunition in difficult circumstances is often easier, have a look at the number of rounds fired/caualties by both the British and the US in Afghanistan. That is a lot of lead being thrown around.

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Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

Exactly. Aimed headshots are the realm of computer and console gamers.

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Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

bollocks. In my section, if there was a spray and prayer then he was doing extra ranges and drill all weekend (and guard duty) until he learnt to follow orders. Spray and pray is a waste of a section member and putting others at risk, you aim and you shoot unless told to put a volume of fire down. doctrine might have changed a lot since I got out in 92 but im sure modern soldiers are told to aim.

As for adrenaline under fire, TBH the problem is more AFTER the engagement when you realise what you have done and what could have happened. That is when you need to get your troops out of "the shakes" and onto doing something.

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Ball?

(Serious question for those who know this sort of thing.)

I'm mildly amused that what is basically a pointy cylinder is still referred to as a "ball". When was the last time spherical ammunition was the norm in the developed world? Late 18th century? Early 19th?

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Holmes

Re: Ball?

Certainly not the norm, but still in use. We have a dedicated season for flintlock and a season for all muzzleloaders with respect to hunting. Some such ammo is, in fact, spherical.

They even have it at the local Walmart

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Re: Ball?

I'm mildly amused that what is basically a pointy cylinder is still referred to as a "ball".

This is due to several hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress.

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And the point is?

While I applaud British design and ingenuity, what's the point, when you are putting it in the piece of crap that is the SA80 (L85A1 or L85A2)? For a start, the SA80 only has an effective range of 300m. I used to train regularly at 300m (with open sights) on the SLR (L1A1) and that is rated at 800m!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And the point is?

It's alright - I can carry twice as much ammunition, the rounds fragment more rather than just punching a hole straight through, and whilst Irons only give you an effective individual range of 300m, section fire is a lot further and more importantly - nobody uses irons on them anymore. You can definitely put down a target further than 300m with a Susat. Unless the Susat is broken. Which they always are because they're older than me...

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Re: And the point is?

The longest sight setting on an SLR was/is 600m

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Re: And the point is?

I have a couple of friends serving, both hate the SA80 with a passion! OK, it is possible to drop a target at 300m+ with the SA80, but you are at the range limits of the weapon. My point about the irons though, was to emphasise the reduced range compared to it's predecessor (the excellent SLR).

Yes, the 5.56 round is smaller and lighter, but with vastly lower penetration capabilities - especially when over 300m. If I was given the choice, I'd prefer to carry less ammo and use a more accurate longer range weapon. As for fragmentation, the steel rounds in the article will have no fragmentation whatsoever against a "soft" target, so the 5.56 round (up to 300m) would behave more like a standard 7.62 round and punch straight through. Agreed though, at less than 100m, fragmentation would be preferable.

I thought the Susat was being replaced with the Elcan LDS?

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Re: And the point is?

Susats (Trilux) sights were good, I think they date back to the sixties, the tri in trilux refers to the radioactive lumi nous tritium that was in them. Keep them out of trouser pockets if you want to be a dad.

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Re: And the point is?

@ Chris G

"the tri in trilux refers to the radioactive lumi nous tritium that was in them. Keep them out of trouser pockets if you want to be a dad."

Tritium is used in some watches. The output doesnt penetrate skin. Very clear in the dark and doesnt rely on draining a battery (and giving off a bright light) or UV.

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Re: And the point is?

Yes, the 5.56 round is smaller and lighter, but with vastly lower penetration capabilities - especially when over 300m.

In fact I believe that most engagements are at a rather shorter distance anyway. At 300 yards a human sized target (OK: a Figure 11) is remarkably small and aiming an effective shot requires that the target is exposed (I nearly wrote "exposes itself" but thought better of it) and immobile for long enough for a decent aim to be established and the shot released. In turn that may leave the firer at least partially exposed to return fire.

At any sort of "long range" a well concealed sniper complete with a decent telescopic sight is a much better bet for effectiveness. Suppressing fire can be effective at any range but can be an awful waste of ammunition.

0.338 Lapua anyone?

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Re: And the point is?

The penetration of the 556 round is dependant on the target, but according to the test video we were shown when it was introduced, was _better_ than 762 against anything solid, due to the steel tip.

And against flesh, it really doesn't matter; besides for a squad weapon you are mainly shooting as a deterrant - no man has ever stood up when rounds are passing overhead, measured one, and then said "its ok, they're only 556!" - so what matters is being able to keep bullets in the air for as long as possible, not something the SLR was up to, even if you had enough ammo.

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Re: The First Dave Re: And the point is?

"The penetration of the 556 round is dependant on the target...." Not just that, but also the weapon it is fired from. The old NATO 5.56mm SS109 bullet was designed for longer-barreled rifles, which was great until the US forces started standardizing on the M4 carbine. The new RG round's development may be because the UK does want an "environmentally-friendly" round, but doesn't want the US's new M885A1 round, which is optimized for the M4's shorter barrel.

The M885A1 has a steel penetrator nose and an all-copper base, the steel nose helping with penetration of hardened targets. It also has "added lethality" in that, when it hits a soft target and the bullet decelerates, the soft copper base's momentum pushes it against the steel nose and the round mushrooms, enlarging the wound channel. I suspect the new RG steel round will perform better in the majority of NATO rifles which, like the SA80, have longer barrels than the M4 carbine, and will be cheaper than the copper M885A1, but the M885A1 will be more lethal.

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Re: The First Dave And the point is?

I joined in 84 (QLR infantry) , the SLR and GPMG was used in initial basic training but we were all on conversion courses for L85 and the absolute joke of an LSW. I was given the section LSW until I made lance jack and it was a fucking terrible weapon. I believe most of the shitness has been ironed out now (by replacing it with another weapon), the worst being the magazines, you simply couldn't load 30 rounds as the springs weren't good enough to be reliable. 25 at most and with an LSW that is just rubbish- no belt feeds here. The barrels were heavy and the whole weapon was front heavy, the rear handle dug into your ribs constantly, the bipod would fly open at a random times and of course you had plenty more cleaning to do over the regular L85. Gas parts were always on fully open as they gummed up pretty rapidly and I know of two people who put the gas parts in their L85 upside down (thus killing the rifle).

The only decent thing about the L85 was accuracy in single shot and the SUSAT. You could engage at 600m accurately, 300m was a cinch. Sneak the bipod down on the range and it was centre line at 300m all the way - even with your respirator on :) I certainly had no issues on the range qualifying with the LSW, they only problems I ever had was using it as a support weapon - even when you got used to loading 25 rounds and having your magazines lined up, you still couldn't keep a decent volume of fire down.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And the point is?

> "The longest sight setting on an SLR was/is 600m"

Depending on the model of FN SLR... the C1A1 had a 600m disc sight, the C2A1 had a 1000m disc sight.

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Joke

"Not, however, that [civilians will] be getting their hands on these rounds."

I dunno, go down to your local base and start shouting that you have a bomb and you might get to see some close up...

(Don't do this, it's a terrible idea, see icon >>>>>>)

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Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

That of course doesn't stop the Army giving it away. Myself and some friends were down at Bisley just after the Army's Skill at Arms competition and just before the civilian 'Imperial Meeting' with the intention of getting our eyes in for the latter. An Army Sergeant drove a Landie over to our firing points and dumped down an ammo box with a few hundred rounds of RG green spot in it. "My officer says this isn't worth taking back to camp with us - nasty and heavy and all that - and wondered if you gentlemen would be kind enough to dispose of it for us?"

Needless to say we did. With 7.62 running at around 70p a round at the time it made for a very cheap day's shooting and more to be spent in the pub later. God bless the British Army.

P.S. This was the same day that the red flags went up because some idiot ignored about a gazzilion signs and walked their dog out of the woods and along the backstop of Century range - directly just above the targets and lots of hot flying lead.

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Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

Never encountered stray dog walkers on Century, but the most memorable afternoon was shooting Long Rang Pistol there* when bullets started zinging overhead; turned out someone to our right and a few hundred yards further back had a badly adjusted optic on an AR15, and was bouncing rounds off the track in our direction. We did ask for permission to return fire (those in the 'Free' class firing .308 could probably have reached out and touched quite effectively), but the R.O. wasn't amused...

* or possibly Siberia; it was nearly 30 years ago, I shudder to realise ; (

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Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

That of course doesn't stop the Army giving it away.

I can assure you and other readers that that wasn't a completely isolated incident, although discretion demands that I do not reveal the location, the donor unit, the recipient club, and the calibre involved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

Some years ago a friend of mine in the police was on a firearms training course on a purpose built and well fenced mock housing estate the force in question used for that purpose. They blasted the heck out of the place and were just packing up when two youths who had broken in for a mess about broke cover and scarpered; they'd been in there all the time and were very lucky to not be full of holes.

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Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

The paperwork for returning ammo is quite nasty. our RQMS went mad if we brought ammo (and god forbid pyro) back. Even worse if you are returning from a large exercise. Normally it isn't 7.62 or 5.56 but 9mm that you have boat loads to get rid off - officers don't fire their pistols so you always have a few thousand 9mm rounds given to you to get rid of. Even with 8 guys on decent ranges it takes a good day to get rid of that much ammo - you do end up pretty proficient at snap shooting though!

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" It all boils down to achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer."

hurr , hurr , Fnarr Fnarr

thats what she said ... etc ...

make your own joke up

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Facepalm

"so it can be functioned through the GPMG"

*sigh* would it have killed him to say "it can be fired through a GPMG" ?

If anyone gets a chance to have a play with a GPMG I urge you to do so :D

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Re: "so it can be functioned through the GPMG"

i once read the phrase "he took the ammo to the face" , when the "phrase some murdering bastard killed him in cold blood without warning by shooting him in the face three times" would have been much more appropriate.

"took the ammo to the face" . makes it sound like he had a choice.

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Paris Hilton

"...achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer."

I am shocked, shocked to find that no one has used the Paris icon on here yet

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"non-toxic bullet" - you just gotta love that.

BTW, the time I was in the army coincided with the time petrol with lead-based additives was phased out. There was a campaign to promote the all-new lead-free petrol. They had stickers with slogans around the lines of "lead-free is the way to go, I'm all for it" etc without specifically mentioning that this was all about petrol. Some joker plastered dozends of those stickers all around the shooting range.

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Lead-free shot

The British Army can have lead-free bullets but apparently it's a step too far for the huntin' & shootin' brigade. They want to carry on their tradition of poisoning the country side.

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Re: Lead-free shot

Over here in the States, shotgun shells are have steel shot. Non-lead hunting rounds for rifles still contain lead.

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Re: Lead-free shot

As far as I know the British Army only uses shotguns in jungle warfare, usually for the guys on point. That would mean using something like SSG a few quite large (9mm) lead balls to penetrate brush at close quarters.

British hunters can buy Eley bismuth shot but bismuth being about 15% less dense than lead means shorter range and effectiveness, however bismuth shot is always used for hunting wetland birds. The only other real alternative to lead for density would be tungsten, not only very expensive but would destroy a shotgun barrel quickly, although it is used in military anti-materiel rounds like the British AS 50 .

I think the Dutch have banned lead shot completely.

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Re: Lead-free shot

As far as I know the British Army only uses shotguns in jungle warfare

Yes, we bought a crate or two of Benelli M4s for use in the Green Zone in Afghanistan too.

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Re: Lead-free shot

Over here in the States, shotgun shells are have steel shot.

Which I've heard is leading to a revival of the 10-gauge, since it throws the same weight of steel shot as a 12-gauge firing lead shot.

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Re: Lead-free shot

> "The only other real alternative to lead for density would be tungsten, not only very expensive but would destroy a shotgun barrel quickly,"

Which is why the normal advice if using steel shot, is to go up two sizes. Then to recover pattern density you add half an inch to the shells, which is why there are now a lot of shotguns with 3.5 inch magnum chambers. Cheaper than bismuth, almost as effective.

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Anonymous Coward

"[...] the HP bullet can penetrate an 8mm steel sheet out to about 400m, whereas its predecessor could only manage it at half that distance."

In the 1960s a friend was a member of a UK Army reserve. Every year they had a rifle competition between the various groups. The target was a scoring one - but at the start it was blocked by a large vertical sheet of steel. The first person in each group had to hit the sheet at the very top to tip it over.

One year no one could knock their sheet over. It transpired that it had not been tested with their new 7.62 rifles - which had replaced their previous .303 ones. The bullets were just going through the steel.

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JLV
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Good article, but one thing I would have liked more details about is how the round ended up being _heavier_ as a result of cutting out lead.

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I presume because they also made the round longer. After all, it is supposed to achieve greater penetration to please the customer...

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New barrels please

So accuracy will go out of the window pretty quickly when the barrels worn outand the chokes are blown to bits too.

Watch this space itll happen

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cost as well

Steel and allow rounds are considerably more expensive so BAE are on a winner here.

ITs not all about weight of the bullet its about energy retention down rage will give better penetration. reduce friction etc and less energy is wasted through air flow. the round is probably faster with faster burnng propellant thus increasing muzzle energy.

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Alert

Do we have some actual reviews?

The USA? I believe that they like to test these things on their fellow citizens.

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Been there, done the factory tour

Went round some 20 years ago on a factory tour. I was amazed how the entire place was just like a home loading set up, up scaled. Metal detectors on the doorways, of course.

The only bit of BAE that makes stuff from the raw materials right the way through to the end product. Bet they'll not be smelting the steel on site though now, which they used to do with the brass.

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Still amazing that we do this, really

Amazing that our progress as a warring species still comes down to throwing something at the other guy with more kinetic energy than we did last time around. And trying to find ways to absorb their energy without becoming an immobile lump (see armour, plate - and hockey goalies).

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