WHAT IS A RIFLE FOR??
A rifle is for killing. A statement as forcefull as it is clear.
Now I am not a classical hunter per se. I hunt as a tactical exercise, and not for sport...although it is certainly fun to hunt. And although I may eat what I kill, it would be much easier to drive into town and buy a steak. The purpose for me is to test my abilities and skills with my fighting rifles.
So, in that sense...what is a rifle for??
1). Reaching out and hitting things
2). Busting through stuff to hit things
How far do you need to reach and what do you need to punch through? When we look at the WW1 era, they didn't need to punch through anything unusual, but the dynamics of conflict required reach. Read McBride for the dynamics of trench warfare.
As the century progressed and WW2 and Korea rolled around, the dynamics seemed to change a little bit. I've read several accounts where the shots taken were 125-150 yards. Reasons - in urban battlefields, it is difficult to see anyone farther than that.
The Germans saw this and developed their Sturmgewher, the Russians the AK series, and the Americans their M1 Carbine...(which was not as applicable as an intermediate rifle as initially thought). The entire Assault Rifle-Intermediate cartridge concept revolved around shorter distances as seen in the urban problem coupled with the need for more firepower. Somewhere around this era, the FAL became popular, the AR-15 (the M4's granddaddy), and the G3 burst onto the world's battlefields. The AK was already there since 1949 IIRC.
For short ranges as seen inside urban areas, or heavily wooded, overgrown areas, super-long range shooting capability was not an issue...what was an issue was the ability to hit with authority within this distance envelope and be able to punch through things such as automobile bodies, brush, vegetation, and light walls. The Russians, like the Germans before them, had realized this.
That the 308 battle rifle can do it better, theoretically, than the 7.62x39 or the 5.56 is really not that important as long as the job gets done. Results and not theory are important.
Now if the fight is clearly, and not just possibly, going to be at longer ranges...beyond 200 yards, then the advantages of the Battle Rifle/.308 cartridge become obvious and welcome.
There are those who think a certain .223/5.56 load is better than the 7.62x51/.308. In my opinion, that is seriously wishful thinking. The 5.56 is an intermediate cartridge. It is suitable for certain things. Reaching outside the urban fight environment is not one of them.
I am also well aware of shooting at a range at 400 and 500 yard paper targets. It is not the same in environments away from the range. I'll bet most of us would not even be able to see a human being hidden at 400 yards.
Can you make an Assault Rifle into a sniper rifle? Sure. You can also put an optic on an R PK and call it the Designated Marksmanâ€™s Rifle like the Tabuk does. It is still what it is...and assault rifle firing an intermediate cartridge and will never be a replacement for a full powered battle rifle.
Look at it this way..if the 5.56 (or 7.62x39 to be added in fairness) was suitable for sniping, the world's snipers would be using it and their M40s, Remingtons, and other special 308 based rifles would be collecting dust in the armory.
So the mission will dictate choices as well. For me...for shots taken inside 200 yards...with the need to possibly punch through cover, brush, vegetation,...be unaffected by wind at these distances, and still hit with authority after doing so, my choice is the Kalashnikov and the 7.62x39mm. That is not to say the 5.56 won't do much of this...but I don't think it will do all of it, nor as well.
Now to really stir the pot. How will a battle rifle compare to the AK? In the urban close range problem, I think it will be easier to operate with the AK.
I am not sure the added power of the 308 will change anything up close like this. Moving through congested/confined areas the vote goes to the AK as well.
I am also well aware of the ability to prepare a shorty battle rifle such as the M1A Bush Rifle/ M1A Socom, and FAL Paras. However, one does not produce a shootable battle rifle that is also light. Carry one of these around with you all day and the difference will be seen quick enough.
Moreover is the issue of cost. I know...I know...how much is your life worth. We've heard and answered that before.
If money is no object then equip a platoon of bodyguards. If we are looking at what you can afford, the man on a budget can buy a suitable rifle for the cost of a FAL PARA lower receiver! The M1A Socom, or the FAL Para will do just as well in the urban environment as the AK (in spite of the weight given a strong rifleman), but is the extra power necessary??
Is the extra cost of that extra power necessary? Only you and your checkbook can answer that.
Once we leave the confines of the urban problem, or examine it from the realm of sniping, we leave the intermediate cartridge behind. It simply will not reach far enough.
With a battle rifle and a 308 (or 7.62x54R for that matter), you can make up for the limits of the Assault Rifle cartridge. So first decide what your mission will likely be...then choose your weapons with an open mind unbound by prejudices or by pseudo- patriotic traditions.
Next time, we will discuss the philosophical reasons for having a rifle.