Tom Kratman, columnist

This should strike fear into Tranzi hearts everywhere. Tom Kratman has a new column, which he inaugurates with an argument for better service rifles:

In the last 40 years there have been a number of attempts at replacing the M16 family. All, prior to 2008, have failed or been rejected. All were too ambitious. For example, the rifle project for the 1980s, the Advanced Combat Rifle, demanded a 100% improvement over the M16. A 100% improvement? That means that we will never have a rifle that’s 99% better. I’ve read that it only cost $300 million by the time it was canceled. What a bargain.

A little aside here, when something calls for nothing less than a 100% improvement in a weapon, be very skeptical. Does that mean 25% more accurate, 25% lighter, 25% cheaper, and with 25% better aesthetics for public relations?

Would 100% better PR be enough? Or is 100% more accurate necessary? What if it were 100% more accurate, but twice as heavy? And if it cost a hundred times more? All in all, wasn’t it really just an attempt to set a goal nobody could measure? I suspect so.

In any case, in killing the ACR, the Infantry School reported that rifles had reached their peak and only exploding bullets could improve matters. Never mind, of course, that this begged the question of whether the M16 family was that peak. Also, Fort Benning wasn’t serious about the exploding bullets, actually; they’re illegal. As for rifles having reached their peak, no, they haven’t and the only way someone could claim they had was by discounting any improvement that was less than a doubling. More on that a bit later.

Someone, however, apparently took that exploding bullet idea to heart. The next attempt was the OICW, the Objective Infantry Combat Weapon, a combined rifle and (semi) smart, fairly flat shooting, 20mm grenade launcher. This effort, while not reaching the previous attempt’s stated goal of 100% improvement in the rifle, still managed to chop the length of the rifle barrel down to something that even an M4 could sneer at, while allowing for the launching an utterly and preposterously inadequate 20mm grenade, albeit with great accuracy.

On the other hand, OICW did at least manage a more that 200% increase… in the weight… before being killed… after spending… well… nobody seems willing to admit what was spent. One suspects that the sunk and lost cost of OICW was just staggering, beyond belief.

And you know what’s really scary there? This is scary: The French PAPOP-2 seems to actually do most of what OICW was supposed to, without either castrating the rifle or making it a joke in poor taste, and while tossing a 35mm grenade that is actually pretty lethal, while keeping the weight within something more or less tolerable. That’s right, the French. Savor the taste of that one for a while.

It’s just as well DoD hasn’t hired John C. Wright as a consultant. Forget exploding bullets, they’d be blowing billions on AI bullets smart enough to argue with the shooter over the windage.