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Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges

 
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Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/5/2011 5:03:33 AM   
GoodGuy

 

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I'd like to pick up a question raised by Perturabo in another thread, where he suspects that rifles from "the 19th century" (I guess he means rifles designed and built from say 1870 - around 1888/90) have longer effective ranges than modern rifles (carbines from 1898-present).

quote:

ORIGINAL: Perturabo

The thing is that it includes practically all the full-powered infantry rifles since Mosin-Nagant. They can fire up to 800+ metres but only with a scope. Effective range without a scope is only 500 metres, while rifles from 10-30 years earlier have an effective range of over 1km without a scope. The only reasonable reason I can think of is that the definition of effective range changed over time.


Not necessarily .... What actually did change, at least in Germany, were the leading German military ordnance officers' ideas of what the typical range of engagement would be in the future. Prior to WWI, they concluded that typical engagements using rifles (then with the Mauser 98 carbine) would occur at distances of 400 meters and above. Parameters like the soldiers' differing skill levels, stress levels, and training/experience levels, quality of the sights .... all important when using a Mauser in medium to long range engagements, were not incorporated here, afaik.

The longer a bullet (say a German 7.9mm x 57mm) travels, the higher the downward trajectory. Bullets fired with a Mauser 98 carbine, for example, will have "dropped" 1 meter after 400 meters. Above that distance, the soldier has to adjust the rifle's sights, to make up for the drop.
Since the Mauser 98's "drop" (after 400 meters) amounted to 1 meter only - delivering a really flat trajectory compared to other rifles of the time, and since the rifle had more than enough "reserves" regarding muzzle velocity (the effective range of the Mauser 98K from 1935 is/was 700 meters without scope, 1000 meters with scope), the ordnance officers in charge changed the rifle's default sight (from a 200 meters minimum) to 400 meters, which I'd consider to be a shift to the "medium range".

This turned out to create a definite disadvantage in WWI, as this, in addition to the Mauser 98 and 98a having a sight that was anything than "eye-friendly" already, forced the soldier to use bad or even impossible holding positions, in order to aim halfway accurately. Also, it turned out that the engagement range was overassessed by the Rifle Test Commission, actual engagements usually occured between 50-300 meters.
The Prussian rifle test commision did not opt for changing the sight to add detailed range finders for ranges below 400 meters, though. As far as I know, after the war (1920s or 1930s), ordnance officers then evaluated that the typical max range of engagement would be ~300 meters (some sources say 300 yards = 274 meters). My guess is that the sights were then corrected before the Mauser 98K was introduced in 1935.

Still, the Mauser (98, 98a, 98k) did even cope with very high pressures (up to 10,000 bar, created by the burning powder of each cartridge), so that it could be used with even more powerful cartridges made for big game hunting (eg. Africa).

There was concern that high levels of ammo consumption could put a serious strain on the armament industry, which (in the 1930s) was not able to deliver sufficient small arms ammunition for a longer (attritional) war, initially. I do know that there was a discussion in the German military to reduce the effective range of the Mauser rifle (eg. by reducing the cartridge's length - to save raw materials and reduce ammo waste), and I've read one or another interesting post about that in the Battlefront forums, but I didn't come across sufficient proof that these ideas were actually carried out, though. If there's someone out there who knows more, pls let me know.

Anyway, that said, I'd say that 20th century rifles do not necessarily have a smaller effective range. I would say that, since the more modern rifles (post 1888) have smaller bullets that weigh less than their predecessors with widths of 10mm or even 11mm, there are some that provide somewhat lower muzzle velocities, which may indeed result in a smaller effective range. With my example, the Mauser 98k's 700 meters without scope, I don't see too much of a difference range-wise, as it's really hard to aim at something at a distance of say 500 to 700 meters without a scope, anyway.

I am sure that the pre-1890s rifles provided lower muzzle velocities (French Chassepot: 410 meters/second), while they were still using somewhat bigger bullets, basically creating an effect/result used by today's long range (sniper) rifles, like the Barret M82, with its 12.7 mm bullet: Besides the bullet having a high(er) ballistic coefficient, which makes it less prone to cross winds, its dimensions alone actually provide for very high kinetic energies that delivers devastating effects on the targets and a relatively flat trajectory. So, the M82's rather low muzzle velocity (~860 m/s) - if compared to modern assault rifles, or even lower calibre high power sniper rifles, packed with the shape and pure weight of the bullet, provides for that accuracy and huge effective range : ~1800 meters.
Downside: The rifleman has to lead a lot and guess a fast target's movements beforehand, as the bullet travels with lower speed. That might have been one of the main reasons for pre-WWI military in Europe to switch to rifles like the Mauser 98, Mosin-Nagant etc., most likelly. Another reason may have been easier and way safer handling of ammunition/cartridges.

What do you think?

< Message edited by GoodGuy -- 12/5/2011 6:55:02 AM >


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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/5/2011 6:21:26 AM   
Mobius


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By Mauser carbine do you mean a Mauser K98 rifle? That's a rifle with a muzzle velocity of 2493 ft/s. A US M-1 rifle would have a muzzle velocity of 2800 ft/s while an M-1 carbine would have a muzzle velocity of 1970 ft/sec.

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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/5/2011 6:44:23 AM   
GoodGuy

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Mobius

By Mauser carbine do you mean a Mauser K98 rifle?


Yep. The Mauser 98 had a muzzle vel. of 2881 ft/s and the 98k a vel. of 2493 ft/s, correct.
So, my comparison aimed at the differences between "older" rifles Perturabo must have had in mind (like the French Chassepot breechloading rifles, which used paper cartridges, and even their predecessors the muzzle loaders) and modern rifles (post 1888).


< Message edited by GoodGuy -- 12/5/2011 6:46:51 AM >


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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/5/2011 7:50:32 PM   
Jeffrey H.


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I don't think the reasons had anything to do with science. Witness the increased useage of pistol catridges in autoloading weapons. Obviously there was some shift in thought and policy about the engagements.

Muzzle velocity simply correlates inversely to bullett drop as the projectile travels. If you want to deliver a certain amount of energy at a certain distance you will need a certain amount of muzzle energy.

Obviously, you'll need a certain amount of energy to do sufficient damage to a human target. "Sufficient" is something of a subjective term.



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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/6/2011 1:43:38 AM   
Mobius


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Jeffrey H.
Muzzle velocity simply correlates inversely to bullet drop as the projectile travels. If you want to deliver a certain amount of energy at a certain distance you will need a certain amount of muzzle energy.
It's not the energy it's the ballistic path which leads to accuracy. The target window gets smaller the slower the projectile travels.

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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/6/2011 2:46:57 AM   
Jeffrey H.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Mobius

It's not the energy it's the ballistic path which leads to accuracy.



Which is the same thing essentially.

I think the development of the hardware was more driven by doctrine than physics. In other words, the doctrine had the money that paid for the technology enhancements.



< Message edited by Jeffrey H. -- 12/6/2011 2:47:26 AM >


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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/6/2011 7:14:29 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Mobius

By Mauser carbine do you mean a Mauser K98 rifle? That's a rifle with a muzzle velocity of 2493 ft/s. A US M-1 rifle would have a muzzle velocity of 2800 ft/s while an M-1 carbine would have a muzzle velocity of 1970 ft/sec.


I recall the carbine didn't have much "stopping" power: is that because of the lower velocity, or was it simply a smaller round?

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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 12/6/2011 7:27:35 PM   
Jeffrey H.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Joe D.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Mobius

By Mauser carbine do you mean a Mauser K98 rifle? That's a rifle with a muzzle velocity of 2493 ft/s. A US M-1 rifle would have a muzzle velocity of 2800 ft/s while an M-1 carbine would have a muzzle velocity of 1970 ft/sec.


I recall the carbine didn't have much "stopping" power: is that because of the lower velocity, or was it simply a smaller round?


That's what I was trying to point out about "sufficient" damage. I used to own a M1 carbine and I currently own 2 M1 Garands. I think in the particular case of a comparison betwen those two rifles, "both" would be the correct answer. The Garand has a much heavier bullett and delivers it at a much higher velocity than the carbine.

There are lots of factors that go into how much damage a round does when it hits something, which is another factor to consider. For an offhand, open sight, snap shot within 100 yards, I'd rather have the carbine.



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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 1/9/2012 4:42:57 PM   
Mobius


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quote:

ORIGINAL: GoodGuy
The Mauser 98 had a muzzle vel. of 2881 ft/s and the 98k a vel. of 2493 ft/s, correct.
So, my comparison aimed at the differences between "older" rifles Perturabo must have had in mind (like the French Chassepot breechloading rifles, which used paper cartridges, and even their predecessors the muzzle loaders) and modern rifles (post 1888).
What I get running these through my ballistics calculator is the Mauser 98 will rise only 1.21ft to hit the same level at 400m while the 98K will have to rise 1.67 ft.(at around 200m) to hit at 400m. (0.37m vs. 0.5m)


< Message edited by Mobius -- 1/9/2012 4:44:31 PM >

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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 1/10/2012 8:35:45 PM   
pellen

 

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I'm reading Ardennes 1914 by Terence Zuber and surprised many times by the engagement ranges described, often 700-900 meters or so. At first I thought it was a translation error, that it was supposed to be yards or even feet. But I think the explanation is given by that rifles were fired by platoon, aimed at creating a "beaten zone" (not individual soldiers aiming at specific enemy soldiers) and that targets were in general large groups of men in close formation moving in open terrain. There is an illustration from some old training manual in the book showing how a platoon ordered to fire at 700 meters range is supposed to have sights set at different ranges to cover an area from range 640 to 760 meters (it doesn't say how wide the area is).

So I guess by using some kind of area fire rather than aimed fire at individual targets a platoon of riflemen can engage targets at far greater distances than they could otherwise (and that the size of the targets also helped)?

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RE: Hist. Rifles vs Modern Rifles: Effective ranges - 1/11/2012 3:22:01 AM   
sabre1


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A good book on the subject "A Rifleman Went to War, by Herbert W. McBride."

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