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Old 09-20-04, 12:18 AM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2004
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Default Rant on SMGs Tangentally Related to Video Games

I was just playing Raven Shield and I realised how silly Tom Clancy is, so I decided to write this rather long rant about why SMGs actually suck:
Submachine guns - a select-fire, shoulder fired weapon in a pistol calibre - were pretty much a fad. They've gotten a lot of press and been put in a lot of video games, and many police departments and FBI offices picked them up. The facts are, however, that SMGs aren't all they're cracked up to be. Many police deparments are now going back to the carbine rifles, such as AR15s and HK's various compact .223 weapons. I'll try to shortly outline the reasons SMGs are a poor alternative to long guns and in almost any imaginable situation.

Rifle Advantages:
1. Range: This is obvious. The range on a rifle, due to better bullet shape, higher bullet weight, longer barrel and a greater powder charge is obviously going to have better range.
2. Accuracy: Same as above.
3. Penetration: 5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm and 7.62x51mm (the most common 'assault rifle' rounds) can easily pierce heavy body armour.
4. Reliability: The lower cyclic rate and sturdier design of rifles makes them more reliable than SMGs.
5. Versatility: A rifle, for the reasons listed above, is very effective against opponents who are far away or wearing body armour. Rifles do not become 'less effective' at close range. At close range, that is within 30', the SMGs inferior charecteristics do become less pronounced. Hitting someone with a select fire weapon at that range is not entirely difficult, and 9mm bullets will generally provide adequate ballistic performance. The issue with inferior armour penetration, however, still remains.

Supposed advantages of the SMG:
1. Compactness: Compactness in a select fire weapon is often, first of all, a bad idea. It makes the foregrip shorter or non-existent, the weapon weighs less (increasing recoil) and it can be awkward to weild from a shouldered position. The 'maneuverability' issue would only exist in extremely limited situations: Hallways, small rooms. I will adress the extreme CQB issue below, but in most urban situations (a city street, a yard, an office building) a compact rifle such as an M4 Commando or G36C is going to be a better option.
2. Lower Recoil Impulse: This is a myth. SMGs have a rate of fire averaging 800+ rounds per minute. Certain examples (UMP) are as low as six to seven hundred rpm, but that is due to the increased recoil impulse. Automatic rifles, on the other hand, are better suited to shoulder firing, have more weight and generally superior stocks. Combined with a lower rate of fire, and the fact that they are fully effective on semiautomatic (whereas pistol rounds are unreliable stoppers without a 'burst') means that rifle recoil is going to be comparable or better to SMGs.

Supposed Problems with Rifles
1. Weight: The weight of a rifle is mainly an issue of long term carry. As long as the weapon isn't extremely heavy (like an M249 or such) the weight will probably have little negative impact on the operator in the extrent of a tactical mission. On extended deployment missions the general superiority of the rifle makes up for its increased weight (thus the absense of SMGs from as standard issue for any army in the world).
2. Cost: Rifles are not expensive, especially not compared to SMGs. Since rifles have a wide civilian market there are more producers for rifle parts, lowering costs. On the other hand MP5s and their ilk are LE and MIL only, meaning HK has to rely on such agencies for all it's sales and cannot 'spread costs'. This makes SMGs on average more expensive than rifles, especially considering repairs to common automatic rifles (AR15s) can often be made with cheap, readily avaliable parts on the civilian market and that a huge number of customizations of accessories will be already available.
3. Overpenetration: This is easily solved by using specialty rounds. While it is true 9mm rounds will rarely penetrate the human body, specialty expansion, glaser, frangible etc. rounds exist in .223 giving decent better AP and range than the SMG without causing excessive blowthrough on targets.

The Answer to ECQB: Although a rifle would be superior in anything down to and including a medium sized living room, there are some places where a rifle can be physically too bulky to be practical to use, largely due to barrel length. Shortening the barrel further would produce excessive recoil and muzzle flash. The SMG, however, is not the answer. It's problems have already been enumerated and, in addition, it's range of motion is only slightly higher than that of the M4 Commando or G36C (an MP5 would be next to worthless in a driver's cab of a truck, or a small bathroom, if you did not already have your gun pointed at the target). Fortunatly an answer already exists: The PDW. The H&K MP7 is probably the best example, but the FN P90 is another example. These extremely small weapons offer decent range, contrallability, armour penetration, and stopping power. By using a small, custom alloyed bullet driven by a medium powder charge these weapons achieve results comparable to the .223 at close range while lacking the recoil of the heavier round. Even smaller and lighter than the SMGs, these weapons still remain contrallable on automatic fire.

Conclusion: In the vast majority of situations a rifle will dominate as the best weapon and in the rare ones where rifles are unacceptable, such as VIP detail and entry, the PDW fills in.
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