"The only thing that Berretta has is the sales people."
October 16, 2002 5:29 PM   Subscribe

"The only thing that Berretta has is the sales people." The Standard issue M-9 has left Afghanistan vets feeling shafted. Some Marines have opted to carry .45s. But it's not just the pistol that's under-powered. The M-16 and its 5.56mm round lack stopping power too. It doesn't have the greatest track record from its first adoption during the Vietnam War. Despite the glowing report of Project Agile. How many times do we have to witness penny-pinching Pentagon Wars putting our armed forces at greater risk?
posted by john (38 comments total)
posted by anathema at 5:33 PM on October 16, 2002

The whole point of the 5.56 round wasn't to kill people, but to wound them and get them out of combat. If a soldier carries 10 pounds of .223 ammo he carries much more ammuntion than there is in 10 pounds of 7.62 NATO. Another problem with the M-14 is that most soldiers couldn't accurately shoot the rifle in full auto mode.
The Soviets adopted the AK-74, so there must be something about using lower powered ammunition.
Berretta was just junk. My favorite story about Berretta is that in order to fill the contract to make 9mms for the U.S. they had to use Taurus slides because the slides they made were too weak. Taurus is a Brazilian company that makes Berretta knock offs.
posted by stevefromsparks at 6:02 PM on October 16, 2002

There is reasoning behind the 5.56.

The 5.56 is NATO's standard rifle caliber cartridge. This means standardized ammunition production, and that all NATO forces can share ammunition with our issue.

While I am no weapon's expert, I have fired and qualify every year on the M16A2, and I have shot that thing with a hell of alot of grime, sand, and dirt in it... and it fires...

And what the other Steve said too...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:04 PM on October 16, 2002

hell no john, me, i like ta carry a pair of desert eagles with about 50 clips. Oh and a couple of TOW missiles in my buttonflys. And I also like my bandoleer of HELLFIRE missles. Like my advertisement says.

I USE HELLFIRE MISSLES: Because i don't want to worry about what i kill.

Also an MP-5 with a laser scope, I/R pupils and the boba-fett backpack parachute. I am considering a couple of Bradleys from my size 11 bowling shoes. (see if rummy tries to skew a frame on me will he)

by golly, I want armor, laser, titanium leg spreading 120mm rounds to penetrate my enemy and impress my friends.

i carry a .32 in my nostril for those who get to close.

body armor?, hell i use chucks of granite with kevlar dental floss. I also posit that every american fighting man carry serrated blades and X out every round (F$@& you gunny, i have an agenda)
is metafilter becoming here.
posted by clavdivs at 6:05 PM on October 16, 2002

sorry to rant. i always get a little miffed when i lose at shuttlecock.
posted by clavdivs at 6:06 PM on October 16, 2002

What was that about clavdivs? I thought these were interesting -- not complaints I've heard before, and a topic I don't know much about.

Although I honestly can't help but laugh at the adjective "penny-pinching" being applied to the pentagon (50% of the total US budget, I believe).
posted by malphigian at 6:15 PM on October 16, 2002

“We went into Vietnam with a bad weapon, the M-16 rifle, which was responsible for killing thousands of our soldiers,” he wrote. “What the M-16 was to Vietnam, the Beretta is to Afghanistan. And a soldier with no confidence in his weapon isn’t the most motivated fighter.”

Except it's nothing like that, because no soldiers have died as a result of M-9 misfire that I've read of. This and the rifle complaint seem more like bitching to your mom that you need a new bicycle for Christmas, because the one from last year isn't fast enough anymore.

It would make sense to overhaul the entire weapons stockpile if we were fighting aliens with radioactive laser uzis, but we're fighting Afghanistan and Iraq, for God's sake. How can you have anymore pudding if you don't eat your meat?
posted by Hildago at 6:21 PM on October 16, 2002

a grudging apology Malphigan. carry-on.
posted by clavdivs at 6:24 PM on October 16, 2002

I admit my affection for alliteration got the better of me. Perhaps more emphasis on the lack of reliability over firepower would have helped.

I'm just surprised they ever went with it in the first place. It seems to me that small arms are going to be more important this time around and the M-9's problems will be more apparent.
posted by john at 6:51 PM on October 16, 2002

I love this line from the Hackworth article:

You rarely read of suspects surviving Police shootings any more, it used to be a forgone conclusion with the old .38's.

...and this one from Stars and Stripes:

Ken Cooper, a New York state-certified law-enforcement pistol instructor, testified in the infamous Amadou Diallo shooting by New York City police in 1999. Cooper said police fired 19 9 mm full-metal-jacket bullets — the same ones used by the U.S. military — into Diallo. Of those, Cooper said, just three had any effect on his body; only one of those was fatal. "Controlled expansion rounds would have had a much more pronounced effect and therefore effective result," he said.

Say, if we used more powerful guns, we wouldn't have had to shoot him 19 times! Go figure! If we used bigger batons, maybe with NAILS IN THEM, we wouldn't have had to hit Rodney King so many times!

I know, I know, cops have a dangerous job, blah blah blah... it just freaks me out when people matter-of-factly talk about more efficient and effective ways of ending someone's life.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:02 PM on October 16, 2002

I'd like to make a plea to keep this discussion civil and about the technological aspects of these weapons, as I find it immensely intriguing. I would suggest reseaching a gun control FPP if you require venting.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:13 PM on October 16, 2002

afghanistan vets feeling shafted? well, nine of them anyway, according to the 3rd paragraph of the second link. and in the 4th graph they switch to percentages. articles that quote percentages of extremely small populations always set off my bullshit alarms. by my arithmetic, 63% of 9 is 5.67, so 5.67 soldiers out of 9 felt confident and trusted the reliability of the sidearm. the other .33 of the sixth guy musta got blown off by an enemy .45...?
posted by quonsar at 7:48 PM on October 16, 2002

What quonsar said, except I stopped reading the article when I got to the bit about nine vets.

If 9 people with a "if the caliber is in metric I don't like it"-attitude wants to use blunderbusses instead, let them.
posted by spazzm at 8:09 PM on October 16, 2002

The British Army, meanwhile, has been saddled with the £470m SA80 rifle fiasco. (That's roughly US$750M.) A project begun in the Thatcher years to save the British Enfield factory, it took years to iron out the composite manufacturing methods, and despite many redesigns it's proven balky and unreliable in combat conditions. Much more serious objections, on the whole.
posted by dhartung at 8:20 PM on October 16, 2002

Penny-pinching? The Department of Defense recently admitted it can't account for 2.3 TRILLION dollars. It's called fraud. That's why the CIA uses Soviet helicopters. We sell other countries the good weapons and the American tax-payer gets stuck with the orphaned, gold-plated projects of the largest defense contractors. Remember the Osprey?
posted by letterneversent at 8:27 PM on October 16, 2002

Maybe affliction rather than affection. Sorry. While watching Law & Order tonight I heard one character say "nattering nabobs of negativism" so I don't feel as bad now.
posted by john at 8:53 PM on October 16, 2002

In the late 80's, the M9 was refitted to with a beefed up slide stop, because to original slide stop would fail, allowing the slide to fly back at the operator head.

I have been in the U.S. Army for 6 years, two of those as an armorer. The M-16 and M-4 are light, accurate weapons, but I feel that both are too susceptible to jams due to gritty dirt. I have seen this many times at ranges where the weapons are treated much better then they would be in any combat situation. I wish the 5.56mm round had more power, but that is the trade off with increased number of rounds that the soldier can carry. I would have to go with the more ammo is better school...The 9mm, on the other hand, is simply too light of a round. The purpose of a pistol round (unlike the 5.56mm) is not to injure, but to kill. This is because of the shorter engagement distance. I would like to see the NATO switch to Glock .40 S&W or .45, but I don't think that is gonna happen.

If 9 people with a "if the caliber is in metric I don't like it"-attitude wants to use blunderbusses instead, let them.
One-5.56mm is metric.
Two-I agree that 9 solder's opinions aren't enough to form a pool of data. However, there are many more in the armed services who agree with them. Unfortunately, it's dang hard to buy more of your round of choice on the battlefield.
posted by mcchesnj at 9:31 PM on October 16, 2002

letterneversent: The entire budget of the federal government for a year is about 2 trillion dollars. I don't think their accounting mistakes account for that much.
posted by cameldrv at 10:21 PM on October 16, 2002

cameldrv, behold. “‘According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,’ Rumsfeld admitted.”

The Pentagon is most definitly not a penny pinching operation. It just has no interest in keeping a high number of soldiers in the field with a the best possible equipment. The Pentagon is all about developing new weaponry while skirting the skeleton crew line and trying to keep the pay just barely competitive with the private sector.

Remember, the military is the best and easiest way the government can get taxpayers to subsidize industry. The military has never been a jobs program, so "force protection" (jargon for troop safety) has always taken a back seat to weapons development. That is, moving money out of the citizen's hands and into the bank accounts of corporate contractors is, dollar for dollar, why the military exists.
posted by raaka at 10:46 PM on October 16, 2002

john: Totally irrelevant tidbit, but Spiro Agnew first used the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" in a speech in San Diego in 1970. I believe the words were written by Pat Buchanan. He also once used the phrase "pusillanimous pussyfooting." Say what you will about the man's politics, Pat Buchanan is a superlative speechwriter lacking little in locution.

But you probably knew that.
posted by rusty at 11:05 PM on October 16, 2002

letter, raaka: mediareport and I sparred honorably over Pentagon accounting. I don't dispute that the audit problems are real and serious, but it's clear when you read the primary materials that it isn't trillions of cash that they can't account for, but trillions of dollars' worth of assets -- and in many cases, apparently the vast majority, it simply means that they only have one end of an asset transfer accounting entry -- which isn't in and of itself indicative that the asset referred to has even moved (toilet paper, computer, airplane, or even a building), let alone been lost.
posted by dhartung at 12:10 AM on October 17, 2002

Hey Ryland - I'm an anti-gun Kiwi. But when cops decide they have to shoot, they must shoot to kill. There's no such thing as shooting to wound in real life. If you have a dangerous person, the last thing you need is for them to be injured and pissed off. Police everywhere use the ammunition with the greatest stopping power compatible with accuracy, if they possibly can, and with good reason.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:28 AM on October 17, 2002

Police everywhere use the ammunition with the greatest stopping power compatible with accuracy...

sure, that's why they always use hollowpoints and never use rubber bullets for riot control?
posted by juv3nal at 1:13 AM on October 17, 2002

...joe's_spleen Although I can't cite it, there was a case here in the mid '80's where a police sniper deliberately wounded a kidnapper, thru. a car's rear windshield (in Dargaville), possibly using a .222. Certainly now they don't mess around; using Glock's and P++.

Dhartung - thanks for the SA80 link, I almost bought one for hunting (a short rifle's good in the dense bush here (NZ)), but decided against due to the weight and lack of easy ambidexterity . SA80 cutaway image here .
posted by Psyclo at 2:57 AM on October 17, 2002

oops; here's the ambidexter link.
posted by Psyclo at 3:08 AM on October 17, 2002

If you have a dangerous person, the last thing you need is for them to be injured and pissed off.

It doesn't matter how pissed off an injured person is, if he or she can't walk because they've been shot in the leg. Even so I agree with you that police forces are looking for stopping power - thusly the Danish police force moved from 7.62 (Walther PP) to 9mm (H&K USP) a few years ago, but the problem wasn't that they 7.62mm didn't kill. It did that fine - the problem was that they often HAD to kill, because shots aimed to immobilize had no effect.

Stopping power does not equal killing power. Penetration and precision are much larger factors when you estimate the kill probability of a weapon.
posted by cx at 4:20 AM on October 17, 2002

The Corps has had a deep and abiding love affair for the M1911A1 ever since they found out how great it was at stopping rampaging Moro tribesmen during the Philippine Insurrection. It's a great weapon. Loaded with the proper ammunition, it's a manstopper even though the .45ACP cartridge is heavier and slower than the 9x18mm Parabellum.

Hollowpoints are OK, but I like Glasers better because they stop inside the target and 100% of the kinetic energy is transferred thereto -- maximizes stopping power. Not very useful against an armored target, though.
posted by alumshubby at 4:20 AM on October 17, 2002

Thanks for that SA80 link too Dhartung - I trained very briefly with a sample rifle in the reserves here a few years ago, and was amazed at how unreliable it seemed to be: it jammed, like clockwork, every 85-90 rounds - the firing pin simply seemed to bend out of shape with even moderate use. I really appreciated my Steyr after that, and wondered at the time how on earth the Brits could have chosen it as standard - that Guardian article explains why.
posted by Doozer at 5:09 AM on October 17, 2002

shot in the leg

We can discount your opinions on account of ignorance. Do you have any idea the difficulty involved in shooting someone in the leg?
posted by mischief at 5:17 AM on October 17, 2002

We can discount your opinions on account of ignorance.

Well... Whoop dee doo! The ignorance of whom?

Do you have any idea the difficulty involved in shooting someone in the leg?

Quite considerable, I wager. Especially if the target is so devious as to move about - but then - if the target is moving it becomes difficult to hit any part of it with a hand gun. That is hardly the crux of my argument, though. What is the crux is that the Danish police moved from 7.62 to 9 because of the greater stopping power of that projectile, not because of it's greater lethality - quite the opposite in fact: Less rounds in the target, less chance of a fatality.
posted by cx at 7:03 AM on October 17, 2002

One should note that the military is required (by the various treaties stemming from the Geneva Convention) to use fully jacketed rounds in most infantry weapons. Police departments vary in this regard. Very few use hollowpoints, which are much more lethal in body shots than FMJ or solid rounds.

Glasers and other frangible rounds are a good idea in home defense, not because of tier lethality (that's a strike against them in court) but because of tier limited penetration -- which shows that you're trying to avoid shooting through a wall and hitting a bystanders (which is a point for them in court.)

Also, the M1911A was specifically adopted as a standard sidearm, despite the size of the weapon and the limited clip size (6 rounds) because it was effective in the Philippines.
posted by eriko at 7:07 AM on October 17, 2002

In fact, aren't glaser referred to as "safety" rounds because of their limited penetration. I would assume one of the fears of law enforcement is having rounds go thru targets and hit bystanders.
posted by rtimmel at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2002

Sorry gang, but the 1911 didn't see action in the Philippines until the insurrection was almost over, in 1912.
The .45 that saw success was the old .45 Colt cowboy pistol.
posted by stevefromsparks at 9:48 AM on October 17, 2002

Totally irrelevant tidbit, but Spiro Agnew first used the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" in a speech in San Diego in 1970. I believe the words were written by Pat Buchanan.

William Safire, actually.
posted by kindall at 11:59 AM on October 17, 2002

"nattering nabobs of negativism"

but Fred Thompson did a great redeux last night on L&O.
posted by clavdivs at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2002

Sorry gang, but the 1911 didn't see action in the Philippines until the insurrection was almost over, in 1912.
Well, damn, another USMC legend discredited...
posted by alumshubby at 12:57 PM on October 17, 2002


I can't say the phrase 2 times fast without mangling "negativism." It's hard to make it sound natural the first time. A fine job indeed.
posted by john at 3:18 PM on October 17, 2002

afghanistan vets feeling shafted? well, nine of them anyway, according to the 3rd paragraph of the second link.

Read that paragraph again. It doesn't say that nine felt shafted, it says that "nine soldiers completed surveys for the M-9 pistol." It doesn't say that all nine were negative reviews and it is possible that some of those surveyed liked the weapon. The stats they give suggest that one out of every three soldiers were uncomfortable with the M-9's performance which is hardly the blanket condemnation the article seems to suggest. To me it suggests that the M-9 pistol and ammunition need "tweaked" just a bit. My carry pistol is a FEG PA-63 in 9X18 Russian caliber. This is a lower powered 9mm round which is between the 9mm Para and 9mm Kurz (aka .380) calibers in power. Loaded with Cor-Bon self-defense ammo it is more than adequate at stopping a target since this ammo in 9x18 causes more trauma than a military .45ACP (in ballistic gelatin testing.)

One of my best friends is a recent combat vet and he has nothing but praise for both the M-9 and the Stoner system rifle he used in the military. Then again his personal weapons now are an old Chinese military SKS rifle and Bulgarian Makarov 9x18 pistol for their simplicity and reliability (on my recommendation.) The M-9 and Stoner may be great weapons systems for those who use them on a daily basis but they can be maintainance nightmares for the casual shooter and are MUCH more expensive to purchase, shoot and maintain.
posted by RevGreg at 2:49 PM on October 18, 2002

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