Definitions-Military Calibers

JOHN THURSTON is back and eager to discuss Western Martial Arts, especially relating to its history.


Definitions-Military Calibers

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Thu Oct 25, 2007 10:15 pm


Some time ago I did post a relatively simple reference as to what I considered the basic delineations among military individual weapons.

For what it is worth I broke up shoulder fired individual weapons into the following classes:

Submachine Gun: shoulder fired and using pistol range cartridges.

Examples: MP40 (9mm Parabellum) Sten (same) M1929 (.45 ACP) PPSH (7.62x25mm tokarev)

The 7.62X25mm cartridge pushes a .30 Caliber 90gr bullet at 1300plus fps.

The M-1 Carbine pushes a 110 grain Bullet at about 1900fps.

Erroneously Korean War era authors have put forth the myth that The Russian PPSH (pa pa sha) round could be used in captured M-2 Carbines.

Obviously the M-1 Carbine cartridge is considerably more powerful than the 7.62X25 Round. So, put this entry under 'myth busters". Also, the 7X25mm Tokarev is a 'bottle necked" case which, as Hugh said, is used in the Tokarev Pistol and whose base must needs be largerger than .30 Caliber.

I have owned 'pistols' (so -called) chambered for .30cal M-1 and can only state that the cartridge does not 'fit' well into pistol uses as we normally understand them.

However one can chamber pretty much anything on the "Contender" frame or Remington "Fireball" action, but are speciallized developments like this really 'pistols'?

Carbine levels: Mid Caliber weapons using specialized rounds, not including , for the purposes of the definition, weapons Like the K98K whicch used full Battle Rifle Level Cartridges.

Actually, the only weapon to see great development in the range is the .30 M-1 Carbine.

This cartridge was specialially deveoped for use in a light rifle more powerful than a pistol cartridge.

In point of fact the M-1 Carbine and derivative M-2's are not submachine guns nor assualt rifles. (technicaly and used as both despite a tendency to malfunction in cold weather. One Marine at Chosin was frustrated enough (anecdotally) to pitch his Carbine, bayonet and all at an attacker. Successfully.

It sounds odd, but WWII Carbines did NOT have bayonet lugs, The barrel sleeve and lug were added to KW reconditioned guns, which covers a LOT of weapons.

The M-1 Carbine Cartridge, as noted, places a 110 grain gr. bullet at about 1900fps.

Does the M-1 Carbine Cartridge deserve to be pushed into the "assualt rifle" class?

I don't think so, but one would not be out and out 'wrong' to place it there. this remains my opinion. The slight framed ARVNS allegedly 'loved' the weapon in the early sixties and found M-1s difficult to manage.

Assualt Rifle: Actually difficult to peg.

The Assualt Rifle line was germinated by the German introduction of the STG44 in 8mm Kurz (short)(7.92X33mm). It places an 8mm bullet of 125grs to about 2000fps.

The 'Kurz" Cartridge is bottle necked. the M-1 Carbine cartridge is straight walled. Both are a pain in the ass to reload and not worth the trouble at the moment.

The Historically Classic Assault Rifle Cartridge:

7.62x39mm Soviet M43.

This cartridge, if I recall correctly, places a 125gr .30 caliber bullet at about 2300 fps. It outwardly resembles the STG44.

It's "straight' line of recoil and placement of the 'gas tube' above the barrel. i am famiar with the weapon and retain one in 5.45x39mm. The latter offers almost complete interchangeabilty of parts (AK-47 and AKM vis a vis Ak-74) with somewhat lower recoil and superior ballistic performance because of the high ballistic coefficient of the 5.45 mm bullet.

This "Replacement Cartridge" appeared, again if I recall correclty, in 1980 in Afghanistan.

It places a 54gr fmj at 2900 fps. So it is not a secret why it is a superior ballistic performer. It is based on the 7.62x29mm case. A win-win idea.

Both cartidges are 'nasty' wounders. The 7.62x39mm is often placed on the level of a .30-30 but somewhat marginal (re: the 7.62) on deer sized animals due to its inability to handle bullets heavier than 124gr.

The 5.45 mm is NOT at all suitable for deer class hunting, but, again, as in the case of the second type of assualt rifle cartridge ie: 5.56x45mm, does not seem to have kept it from being considered adequate or humane for shooting other folks' soldiers.

The other achetypical cartridge is the 5.56x45mm Nato cartridge. This comes in multitunous varieties.

The basic Stoner adopted round is placed ballistically between the 'triple deuce" .222Rem and .222 Rem Magnum.

One wonders why a different cartridge than the .222Rem. Mag. was developed at all.

I am sure someone will say why.

The cartridge was developed for use in the Eugene Stoner designed AR-15, which, acording to memory, was intended to replace the M-1 Carbine and not as a new "full battle rifle".

Other famous users of the cartridge: Ar-18 Armalite, British Bullpup Enfield, Mini 14, French FAMAS, Valmet, Galil and FNC.

I have owned all of these and retain only the "Alpha Deuce" M-16 A2 Clone because it, quite simply, produces less muzzle blast because of the design of the rifle.

The design allows the bolt assembly to recoil into the 'stock" saving weight, length and aiding in non detectabilty. As a weapon it is much more accurate than any of its competitors, suiting the 'rifleman' mindset of the US military.

(shoulda kept the Enfield FAMAS Galil and Valmet of Course :( )

Battle Rifle Cartridges: Full bore. The Caliber .30 of 1906 notwithstanding, my favorite in this class remains the 7.62x51mm Nato (aka .308 winchester). this cartridge produced performance equal tot he venerable .30-06 in a short case.

Others (without end) include the 7.62x54(53)mm R Russian. This caliber probably qualifies as the longest extant serving military cartridge serving continuosly with Russian forces in various roles from 1891 to date.

A brief continuance: 7.5mm French (MAS), 7.5mm Swiss etc, etc.. Generally these place a 150 to 200 grain bullet at around 2500fps and above.

Famed killers of WWI battlefields=8mm Lebel (8x50mmR Lebel), .303 British, 7.92X57mm.

The favorite mark of the Lebel seems to have been the "Balle M" which featued a complete bronze boat tailed and pointed bullet.(, which could not be made in American Factories if I recall. The ball M was revered by the "Poilu" for its range and penetrating capability.

I will say, although it certainly proved its mettle in the field, the 8mm Lebel and rifles made for it (m1905 et seq.) are uniformly ugly and surfaced as military surplus "between wars". The "Balle D" and "Balle M" and/or predecessors and variants first saw large service in 1886

Most Famous battle rifles in 7,62 x 51mm=M-14, FN FAL, FN SLR AR-10 and many,many US sniper types.

The FN SLR/FAL served with, and still serves with, so many countries such as Britain, Brazil, Argentinia, Austria, Belgium, Israel.

FN49 in 7x57mm, (SA) and 7.92x57 for service in Egypt

I just won't go further into preferences on this thread. (I don't care for the HK or Cetme, but that's just me)

If any questions arise, and I hope they will, I will do my best. Hopefully the ballistic detail will aid in the understanding of what is going on in this area.
"All Enlightenment Gratefully Accepted"
Posts: 2448
Joined: Sat Nov 28, 1998 6:01 am

Return to Western Martial Arts & History

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests