The following piece is based on a post I made to the Fidoguns Internet email list. This is my conception of what the idela infantry rifle would be. I am under no illusions that this has a shot of being adopted, though.
First, the rifle must meet the following requirements:
1. Ruggedness. Weapons are subject to severe abuse and neglect in the combat, and even when just being carried around in the bush. Also, an infantry rifle must be able to be used in hand-to-hand combat without falling apart, should the need arise. Further, the action shouldn't blow up on you if you inadvertantly fire with an obstructed bore.
2. Reliability. For obvious reasons, it must go "bang" each time you pull the trigger, assuming it's loaded.
3. Accuracy. The rifle should be both mechanically accurate, i.e., capable of keeping it's shots withing 2.5 MOA, in order to have a long effective range. It should also be fitted with sights that enable a trained shooter to take advantage of that mechanical accuracy under field conditions.
4. Power. The rifle should offer good "stopping power" (an admittedly amorphous concept) and good tactical penetration, since people like to hide behind things when you shoot at them.
5. Controllability. Even though the rifle must be powerful, it should be controllable in rapid aimed fire. This ties in with accuracy.
6. Maintainability. The rifle should be easy to maintain and repair under field conditions.
7. Portability. Grunts have to carry too much as it is. So the rifle should be as light as possible, while still meeting the ruggedness requirement.
8. Ease of manufacture/cost. The rifle should be easy to manufacture and reasonably priced, so that it can be procured in quantity.
With the above in mind, here's how I would design a rifle to meet these requirements:
I'd meet the ruggedness, reliability, maintainability, and ease of manufacture/cost requirements by basing my rifle on the Kalishnikov series of avtomats. However, the non-stressed parts of the receiver would be made from something similar to Glock's "Polymer 2", which keeps down the weight and is easy to make. Possibly, the lower receiver and forearm would be mold out of one piece, sort of like in the Remington Nylon 66. The upper receiver would be stamped from heavy-gauge steel. Furthering the ruggedness aspect would be the use of a modern finish along the lines of Glock's Tenifer on all metal parts, inside and out, including the bore. (This would rust-proof the bore.)
The basic AK mechanism would be modified to be semiauto only (see below), to include a last-round bolt hold-open, and to eliminate trigger slap. Possibly, we'd replace the long AK piston with a variant of the Williams short-stroke piston, as seen on the M-1 Carbine (thanks to Michael Shirley for this idea), or a gas system along the lines of the Ruger Mini-14.
The Kalishnikov design is also capable of very good accuracy, when set up properly. See, e.g., the Galil and Valmet designs. I'd enhance this by making the primary sight a low-power (~1.5x) scope with a high-visibilty reticle. I'd want to explore mounting this in a forward, "scout" position to see how this compares with a more conventional mounting. The rifle would also have backup iron sights. Should the mission dictate it, the standard optics should be easily removed without tools and replaced with a higher-powered scope or a night-vision scope.
Michael Shirley pointed out the threat of harassment lasers, which are used to blind the enemy. If a rifleman got a dose of this through a scope, the damage would be even worse. So, a viable alternative to the scope would be a non-magnifying dot sight. I am in favor of some kind of optics, though, to improve hit probability, especially in poor light.
The rifle would have a set of well-protected iron sights as a backup. The sight picture should be the same as on the M-1 Garand.
I'd satisfy the power requirement by chambering it for the 7mm-08 Remington (7x51mm), firing a 140 grain steel-cored boattail bullet. This would provide excellent accuracy and long effective range. It should also penetrate tactical cover well. (Enemy soldiers tend to hide behind things when you shoot at them.) The use of a 7mm diameter bullet allows a greater amoung of tracer or incindiery compound than smaller bullets. The 7mm 140 grain boattail also offers excellent long range ballistics, comparable to a 7.62mm 180 grain bullet, but in a noticeably lighter and easier to shoot package.
Note that I am choosing a full-power round, rather than an intermediate round like the 7.62x39mm or the low-power 5.56x45mm currently used by the US. They simply don't offer enough penetration. I've seen 5.56mm ball fired from 40 yards stopped cold by a 4" think white birch sapling. That's not acceptable in a military environment. Our troops may need to go up against enemies behind cover like cinder block walls or the coconut log bunkers the Japanese favored in World War II. Our boys need to be able to shoot at these enemies effectively.
The 7x51mm round would be fired from a medium-weight 20" barrel tipped with a flash hider that's sort of a scaled up version of that found on the M16-A2. The flash hider would be shorter than the the one on the M14.
Controllability would be met by the use of the mild recoil of the 7x51mm round, and by making the rifle capable of semiautomatic fire only. Even without full-auto capability, a user would still be able to lay down a lot of fire. It would feature a straight-line stock, which would fold along the left side of the receiver, and which would be strong enough to whack an enemy with, should the need arise. The folding stock would aid portability in the modern mechanized environment. Basically, I'd copy the stock from the Galil. All controls (e.g., mag release and safety) would be ambidextrous and silent in operation.
I'd use a 20 round magazine, probably one made out of a modern material, similar to the Israeli Orlite M16 mags. This would eliminate having to worry about corrosion, save weight, and be strong. I'd consider making the back of the mag at least partially transparent, so the operator could see how many rounds it contains. I would not do this if it compromised the strength of the mags, however. We'd also have a simpler model without the window on the back, as a backup, easy-production piece for times of crisis.
Finally, it should be capable of firing rifle grenades and be able to accept an under-barrel grenade launcher, e.g., the M203.
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