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MILINET: RECAP "The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision"

October 17 2002 at 8:48 AM
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Dick G  (Login Dick Gaines)
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17 October 2002

MILINET: RECAP "The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision"

The below is a recapitulation of the subject forum. The article under discussion is presented first followed by responses grouped in the order received and/or posted by MILINET. My thanks to all participants.

Semper Participating,

Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)

========================ARTICLE UNDER DISCUSSION=========

2 October 2002

MILINET: The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision

By: Maj. Anthony F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)
On seeing that the Marine Corps has decided to replace the M-16A2 with the M-16A4, I wondered what those at the â??pointy end of the spearâ?? thought about this decision. So, I sought out a Butter Cutter at a local virtual mess hall. For those unfamiliar with Butter Cutters, they stand at the end of chow lines and assure that the pats of butter floating in ice water stay separated from each other. Because of this position, everyone in a unit knows them and, correspondingly, they know everyone. That recognition is manifest at scuttlebutt gatherings when all attention is drawn to the one who declares: â??The Butter Cutter says: . . .â??

â?? . . . The Spear Chuckers did it again!â??

â??Spear Chuckers?â?? I said quizzically.

â??If I'm the â??pointy-end-of-the-spear,â?? who is at the other end of the spear? Those that chuck us into war and other s--- . . . Washington, The Pentagon . . . Spear Chuckers!â?? he said with a note of irritation at my lack of understanding.

â??Hmmm, OK!â?? I answered the Butter Cutter. â??What do you mean by, â??They did it againâ???â??

â??They fixed the thing that didn't need fixing. Guys in Afghanistan are saying that the little 5.56mm bullet doesn't knock down the enemy! Soldiers who fought in Somalia in â??93 said it took five or six hits with that round just to get a bad guy's attention! And what did the Spear Chuckers do? They changed the rifle and not the wimpy bullet! Who are they listening to?â??

â??I'm sure this decision was made after a careful review of all the facts. You must understand that these issues are very complex and . . ..â??

â??Complex?â?? the Butter Cutter cut me off. â??I need a bullet that makes the guy who is trying to kill me, stop trying to kill me when I hit him ONCE! Why can't the Spear Chuckers push aside that complex crap and focus on this simple truth?â??

â??As I tried to tell you. Those that make such decisions have heard the field reports and they have also heard other reports. All these are used to form the Big Picture that drives these decisions.â??

â??Big Picture? You got it there!â?? he responded. â??The Big Picture is the Osprey, Joint Strike Fighter, and other billion-dollar projects. That Big Picture donâ??t include little one-dollar bullets that havenâ??t worked since they were adopted . . ..â??

â??Hold it!â?? This time I knew I had the Butter Cutter. â??It isnâ??t just a one-dollar bullet. The rifle must be changed. You canâ??t change the bullet without buying new rifles and that costs a lot of . . ..â??

â??Man, you donâ??t get anything!â?? he leapt in â??They ARE buying new rifles and their Big Picture kept them from arguing for a change in its cheapo bullet!â?? he corrected.

â??Well, I really donâ??t believe that the price of the bullet had anything to do with it. On the other hand, its very nominal cost, as compared to those items you mentioned, would probably prompt them to argue for a change.â??

â??Oh, yeah?â?? the Butter Cutter glared at me with piercing eyes. â??Well let me help you a little more on your Big Picture. What would those congressmen say if they were told that the Service Rifle bullet needed changing? Iâ??ll tell you what. â??Oh, really General Spear Chucker! Well how come that bullet has worked for almost 40 years and only now, on YOUR watch, it doesnâ??t? Do you mean to say that your predecessors 1) were kept in the dark about this round, or 2) were incompetent, or 3) lied to us?â?? The Big Picture, you see, is framed by â??the good ole boy network.â?? Those guys ainâ??t about to â??disrespectâ?? their buddy Spear Chuckers for the sake of the pointy-end-of-the-spear.â??

â??Well, this conversation is going nowhereâ?? I said. â??These are honorable people who are very concerned over the impact of their decisions and I think itâ??s short-sighted of you not to realize that.â??

â??What I realize is that bad decisions like this one impact the pointy-end-of-the-spear and not the Spear Chuckers, and until that impact is reversed, they are going to continue to chuck the same way!â??

I thanked the Butter Cutter and left thinking that I should have realized he would only see this decision in its simplest terms or how it affected him personally. Then again, that IS what I came here to learn.

Semper KISS,

Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)


3 October

MILINET: Resps "The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision--Maj. A.F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)"


Well written. The problem may be....getting Butter Cutter's attention while he's otherwise engaged. Since he solved his other problem....getting the SPECOPS bodyguards for Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai to cut their hair and clean up their clothing.....he could fully focus on the bullet mess. Perhaps if you got him when he was in the middle of another state crisis. . . . .perhaps the length of lady Marine skirts. .Â


-----------------------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE---------------

Major Milavic:

I continue to enjoy the forwarded articles. From the "Butter Cutter" story,
I think it becomes apparent what is really going on with this and other
issues that effect the tactical effectiveness of all branches of the
military. In the tradition of the military, there has to a well defined
chain of command and somebody who will step up to the plate and take or
assume responsibility for the outcome of the decision making process. In the
peace time military there is no real sense of urgency to do anything but
maintain status-qo get your chit punched and move up or on. The individual
who is willing to step into the gap and take a stand for what he believes is
right is missing from the process, particularly in the mid-level grades. In
these times, the person doing this would then become responsible and could
be blamed for something and we know that today's management style is to
avoid this condition primarily by forming a team or focus group and defusing
the heat. In the case of the selection of the A4, I am sure that Colt and FN
are leaning on their representatives who, in turn lean on the military
hierarchy and deals are cut. The needs of the "Butter Cutter" don't even
enter into the equation. Unfortunately, the only thing that will change the
situation with this weapon is , a bunch of folks get killed because of its
shortcomings. While recent events have I am sure got some folks killed,
until the body count reaches a point that can no longer be explained away or
FN or Colt or Armalite push for a change, which is highly unlikely in view
of current conditions, I believe the A4 will remain in its current position.

By the way this is just me talking, but I believe that if I was an officer
in the Marine or any Corps and I truly believed that this weapon was going
to get my people killed, they couldn't shut me up. They might run me out but
they couldn't shut me up and I could sleep at night knowing I did what was

Lorace W. (Tinker) Sykes

The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions ----- when your ready and when
your not.

-----------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE-------------

Great story!  Did the "fat lady sing" yet on this issue? Is there any hope of getting through to those guys?


----------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE--------------

More Mist for Your Grill:

    I recently learned from a reliable source (a former Air Force Chief of Staff) that in the late 50s/early 60s, tactical fighter pilots who had nuclear delivery missions were issued Moshe Dayan eye patches to wear while practicing nuclear missions. The reason was that they were expected to fly through a nuclear war already in progress and were likely to be blinded by something going mushroom somewhere close. So if they flew one-eyed they had a spare eyeball.

    I also learned that, back when the Israelis were flying A-4 Skyhawks and going up against the early SAM-7s, they found a way to weld or bolt a section of stovepipe to the exhaust pipe. A SAM-7 would detonate and blow off the tailpipe, giving the pilot another chance. Rather like applique armor on tanks. Or, traditionally speaking, perhaps more like a circumcision.


-----------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE----------------

Great dialogue, Tony! Just the right amount of truth and sarcasms to drive home the point - our guys (and we were mostly those guys ourselves once upon a time) need something that they have confidence in and noone sees the ineffectiveness of "global-decisionmaking" better than the, as you so aptly put it, point of the spear. Hopefully, some of the spear chuckers will see your comments........  Semper hoping against hope, Â

Chuck Chlarson

----------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE------------------

Excellent piece of satirical writing. The late Mike Royko, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the Chicago Tribune couldn't have done it better. I'm sure he's smiling.

Terrific piece!
Arthur Patino, Jr. C0181

---------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE----------------

Anthony:Â More very interesting stuff from arms/bullet teacher.

Terry, this is interesting. I suspect the Butter Cutter is right. The
leadership doesn't want to admit it has been wrong for a long time. This
also goes back to my point about not consulting with gun people before
making gun decisions. When Winchester Arms let the Budget and Accounting
people dictate design and manufacture of the Model 70 in 1964, it was a
catastrophe that very nearly took the company down. About five years ago,
after years of slumping sales and a greatly diminished reputation,
Winchester's top management finally admitted it had been wrong all along.
They actually re-named their top-of-the-line Model 70 "the pre-64" because
it reincorporated all the design features the bean counters thought were too
expensive to be included - Mauser-type extractor for positive feeding,
free-floating barrel for consistent shot strings regardless of barrel
temperature, box-type magazine, and high-quality steel in the manufacture of
barrels. It makes a difference.

The military has switched from a 55 grain bullet in the Vietnam era to a 62
grain bullet now. It takes a very tight twist to stabilize the 62 grain
bullet while in flight. The twist rate is already one turn in every ten
inches of barrel. That's the twist rate of your hot civilian magnums.
Making the bullet any heavier (longer, because it's always going to be .223
exiting the 16's barrel), or, put another way, making the sectional density
any greater, creates substantial engineering problems. At 3,000 feet per
second, the approximate muzzle velocity of hot M-16 ammo, the bullet is
spinning at 216,000 rpms at the muzzel. It's a good thing they use FMJ,
because those kinds of rpms would probably shed the cupro-nickel jacket of a
lightly clad jacketed bullet. My point in all this is that heavier
bullets/tighter twist rates out of the M-16 is simply not an option from a
physics standpoint.

If we are not going to return to a battle rifle, such as the M-14 (longer,
heavier platform and ammo, harder to handle in tight spots, but magnificent
on distant targets), then we need to design a new assault/perimeter rifle
around a cartridge that can do what we want it to do. The point is that you
design the cartridge first, not the rifle. Maybe Gene Stoner did that, but
only if the brass told him, "we want a rifle that wounds people - so we can
tie up large numbers caring for those who are hit."Â That sounds crazy to
me, but sometimes I wonder. Conversely, Mr. Kalishnikov designed a 123
grain bullet that was meant to travel at more middling velocities and
actually kill people. The story goes that at the battle of Cholm in 1942,
the Germans introduced new small unit tactics and a new cartridge to
complement the altered fire and manuever. It was the 8mm Kurz, a round of
intermediate, not full, rifle power. Since most combat occured at less than
400 yards, an intermediate cartridge was ideal for those ranges. Also, full
automatic fire was controllable. After getting pretty chewed up at Cholm,
the Soviets followed, and in 1943 introduced a similar development, the
7.62x39 -- the round that ultimately found the SKS and AK-47 as its firing

Forget the rifles for a second and concentrate on what the cartridges are
capable of doing. The 62 grain 223 travelling at 2900 feet per second
delivers about 1150 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. That's about the
minimum for man-size targets. Bear in mind that figure of 1150 is at the
muzzel, not 200 yards out, so it doesn't get better. Now take a 123 grain
7.62x39 bullet travelling at a more pedestrian 2350 feet per second. It
delivers a little more KE (1507 foot pounds) than the M-16's 1150 foot
pounds and almost double the momentum. While velocity is used twice in the
equation for calculating KE, it is used only once in calculating momentum.
...And remember, momentum is the factor that makes all four of the bear's
paws go up in the air. Therefore, if you're concerned about knocking things
down (momentum), then bullet weight is a huge factor. To make a very long
story short, the United States needs to chamber a heavier bullet of larger
caliber (diameter). The increased caliber/diameter will assure that when
the weight increases, we will not be stuck with a bullet of very high
sectional density that needs to be spun out of the barrel at upwards of
300,000 rpms.

I know this is probably un-American, but I like what the 7.62x39 does. Why
don't we design a short-barrelled perimeter rifle that is gas-operated like
the M-16, rather than a blowback like the early Aks. That way we could take
advantage of our more precise manufacturing techniques and have a hell of a
rifle/cartridge combination. Not to go too far, but I'd like to see every
squad have one guy with a scoped bolt-action rifle chambered for one of the
highly accurate and conventional 30 caliber rounds ... as in 30-06 or .308.
I don't care what your service match people say, a man shooting a good
scoped bolt action rifle with a .308 round will do better for you than a gun
shooting a scoped semi-automatic chambered for the same round. Private
Snuffy also won't have any doubt about making the first round count if he
knows he'll be engaged by automatic rifle fire if he misses, however
inaccurate it may be at a distance. It also wouldn't hurt to have a couple
of guys in every squad with battle rifles like the M-14. Finally, I'd like
to melt down our current squad automatic weapon and replace all of them with
an updated version of the German M-40 light machine gun - firing .308 ammo.
If you get a chance to talk with any of the old guys who stormed Normandy,
they'll tell you it was just awful to face. You could do all of this and
only have to have your logistics train carry .308 and a 7.62x39-type
mmo. -All the best, Tom

======================2nd GROUP OF RESPONSES============

4 October

MILINET: 2nd Resps "The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision--Maj. A.F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)"


Your article was well written but I think the real question is
whether it is believed that a single lethal round is more
effective in combat than several less than lethal rounds. My
tendency is to go with the combatants using the weapon. Still,
my guess is that in most minds, the "less than lethal but many"
case has the edge. Isnt there some way that we could simulate
this on the computer and show the difference in the two rounds?
Or at least generate some calculations using Monte Carlo
Methods and Performance Factors to show the effects?

John Shirley

-----------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE-----------

John Shirley,

Let me reilluminate several points:

1) Black Hawk Down: â??His rifle may have been heavier and comparatively awkward and delivered a mean recoil, but it damn sure knocked a man down with one bullet, and in combat, one shot was all you got. You shoot a guy, you want to see him go down; you don't want to be guessing for the next five hours whether you hit him, or whether he's still waiting for you in the weeds.â??

2) If the target would stand still long enough to put several 3-round busts into it, your suggestion might work; but, enemy soldiers do not do that. More often than not enemy soldiers are obscured by cover or concealment and are moving, requiring the soldier to fire at a blob or, as it is taught. center mass. That fleeting opportunity permits, as described in Black Hawk Down , the time and opportunity to get in one round; and, since it might not hit the head, heart or spine (vital areas)--we are shooting at "center masss"--that one round needs the knockdown power to incapacitate. Only a big bullet will do that. We learned that lesson in the Philippines in the early 1900s against the Moros and brought out the .45ACP to replace the .38 caliber; why do we keep rejecting lessons learned?

3) By requiring/expecting multiple hits to incapacitate an enemy soldier only requires more bullets for the individual warrior and exacerbates the logistics system. It is ironic that the whole idea of the little bullet for military use started with the goal to DECREASE logistical burden. It was assumed the warrior could carry more bullets, kill more enemy soldiers, and need less resupply. Unfortunately, NO ONE thought about the reduction in one-round lethality caused by the reduction in bullet size. As a result, resupply has become even MORE frequent.

Semper Remembering Lessons Learned,

Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)

-------------------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE-----

Thought you might find this interesting, not only for the satirical writing which reminds me of Royko, but the content as well.Â

Mattie Matel One was worthless, and M-4 is useless. But, Predators are sexier. ****, it never changes.


=======================3rd GROUP OF RESPONSES==========

7 October

MILINET: 3rd Resps "The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision--Maj. A.F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)"



Some comment on the "small less lethal" projectile.

To answer John Shirley's question, Yes, there is a very necessary and proven need for "several less than lethal rounds." It is called "buck shot" from a shotgun! With one trigger pull they all leave the barrel about the same time and arrive on the intended target about the same time. Whump! You go down...Our Gun Guru, Wiley Clapp, recommended number 4 buck shot. There is also 00 Buck Shot (larger size) and single projectile slugs.You would be surprised at the pattern and range of the projectiles. The shotgun is my weapon of choice for offense/defense in built up areas.

Now in addressing the rifle issue, it is not a shotgun and should not be designed to be a poor substitute for a shotgun. However, one pull of the trigger must do the same thing as a shot gun. Whump you go down! Try a larger projectile, say .30 Caliber.

On logistics; I personally supervised in the field, the receiving, storing and issuing of ammunition for two Marine Divisions a Marine Air Wing and a ROK Brigade in Vietnam. At our level, handling the small arms rifle ammunition cube and weight was a snap, compared to artillery, mortar and aviation munition requirements.

If one would want to do some simple research, ask an experienced street cop if he/she wants to use a "less than lethal round, many trigger pulls requirement weapon", when in harms way. If you have access to Marines ask the same question. I think your answers will be overwhelmingly, One trigger pull, ONE ROUND KNOCK DOWN...Whump!....before I am got!

To bad our.45 Thompson is gone...

Semper we ain't done yet!
John Bishop

---------------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE----------

Well said Anthony. Shirley reflects an unrealistic view where he feels he's always going to control any situation.


============================4th GROUP OF RESPONSES========

8 October

MILINET: 4th Resps "The Butter Cutter and the M-16A4 Decision --Maj. A.F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)"


 The Thompson isn't gone, it is alive and well and being produced by the Auto-Ordnance Co. in Blauvelt, NY in several configurations http://www.auto-ordnance.com/

Mike Short, Former 0311, USMC
============================END OF RECAP=======

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