4 Nov 20 “Obsolescence is the key to innovation” Homaro Cantu Walking Fire: During WWI, “walking fire” was the main role of the “automatic rifle.” Walking fire was designed to provide fire superiority for “the last 200m” when closing an infantry assault on a defended objective. Automatic rifles were designed and intended to be carried and used by one person. SMGs (firing pistol ammunition) were assigned this same role, particularly by Russians during WWII. Russian war planners liked SMGs, as both gun and ammunition were cheap and easy to manufacture. American BAR, French CSRG (“Chauchat”), like the British STEN SMG (a last-minute, thrown-together SMG which was only marginally useful) and to a lesser degree, the American Lewis Gun, firing full-power, rifle cartridges, were examples of SMGs and “automatic rifles” designed to produce effective ‘walking fire” Magazine capacity was limited, and these weapons did not have quick-change barrels, so sustained fire was not possible, as it was with ponderous, water-cooled, crew-served HMGs. WWI version of the BAR had no bi-pod, and as such was nearly useless, particularly in full-auto, unless supported on a sandbag. The WWII version added a bi-pod, and was thus much more useable and effective. However the WWII version (A2) also has smaller and less useable sights and semi-auto fire has been eliminated. The A2 features “slow” full-auto, or “fast” full-auto only. The A2’s “fast” full-auto setting rendered the same rate of fire as the WWI version when fired in full-auto. On the “slow” setting, the BAR A2 fired at half that rate. Both versions of the BAR fired from an open bolt and were very reliable, a reputation earned by nearly every gun Browning designed! The open-bolt, pan-magazine-fed, gas-operated (and gas-adjustable) Lewis Gun earned the nickname “The Belgian Rattlesnake,” conferred upon it by Germans, because of the unique sound made by its cooling system which drew air across the barrel from the rear. Belgians were among the first to employ the Lewis Guns during WWI. Water-cooled HMGs were obsolete at the end of WWI. All were finally phased-out at the end of WWII. Automatic rifles were phased-out of most armies by the 1950s LMGs were magazine fed, highly mobile, and intended to be fired from a by-pod. British Bren is a good example. Mostly also phased-out, along with SMGs and the whole concept of “walking fire,” again by the 1950s. All were superceded by the GPMG (General Purpose Machinegun), such as the German MG34 (later, theMG42), American M60 and FN/MAG (M240). Light, readily-portable, belt-fed, firing full-power rifle cartridges, but with quick-change barrels, GPMGs replaced most others by the 1960s. They were used with both tripods and bi-pods. The German Lafette Tripod (called a “soft mount”) was innovative and used a spring mechanism to absorb recoil, making fire off of the tripod extremely smooth and accurate. Germans copied the idea from a Danish design. Most GPMGs have some kind of recoil-buffer to subdue recoil and prevent metal-to-metal impact, thus reducing wear on bolt carriers and receivers. SAW (squad automatic weapon) or LSW (light, support weapon) are “light” GPMGs. Most can accept ammunition from both magazine and belt. SAWs fire “medium” rifle cartridges (5.56×45), rather than full-power rifle cartridges (7.62×51). Crew-served but easily operated by one person, and with quick-change barrels, they are designed for sustained fire combined with high mobility, but at the expense of range and penetration. Modern high-mobility, asymmetric warfare continues to drive innovation. Yesterday’s “advanced weapon platform” is today’s museum exhibit, as we see! “When you don’t have a place at the table, you’re on the menu!” Litigators’ axiom /John