Burst fire, why?

Author: Eric Sof


The core of the platoons firepower comes from its machine guns, the big, loud, and nasty M240. It has a cyclic rate that is effective in chewing up cover, a bullet with excellent penetration, long-range, decent accuracy, and can resist recoil exceptionally well. That is what makes it a good machinegun.

Next on the direct fire food chain is the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon/ Automatic Rifle. This weapon is just an excellent all-around weapon system. Good accuracy, good range, good recoil handling, superior controllability for tight areas, built-in bipod, and a rate of fire that is sufficient for light support by fire or actions on the objective. This is an Automatic Rifle/ Squad Automatic Weapon.

Now here’s where I think we take a step away from reality. The M16A2 is a good weapon, although I doubt the necessity of having burst fire on an individual weapon. Most people do not shoot well, even on a range firing on semi. To suddenly think that in a firefight, accuracy will improve is stupid. How many people have any experience firing on bursts? Why shoot someone three times when one will do just fine? Do people even know the effects of recoil on the second and third shots? Here is what I have seen happen with the “burst” option too many times.

M16A2 US soldier on shooting range
U.S. soldier shooting from M16A2 assault rifle (Photo: XY)

Contact is made, and suddenly every M16A2 is flipped over to burst, and God forbid there are any A1’s out there. About a minute later, all fire has ceased as every magazine and belt happens to get changed simultaneously. Very sloppy. When the firefight is over, the platoon has about a magazine apiece. On average, well over 6000 rounds (not to mention indirect, explosives and pyro) are expended (by a platoon) to take out an objective held by less than ten people. This is considered training.

I find that to be completely unacceptable. I am not against suppressive fire, but automatic weapons are for. My argument is that burst and automatic fire capability on an individual weapon is wasteful. I understand that it is the TL/SL/PL’s responsibility to regulate fires, but I know most of the TL’s/SL I know are just as guilty.

This is what I have adopted. It’s pretty much a “no burst fire” principle. I have never had it implemented at the platoon level, but here is what I see as being an excellent way to break riflemen and machine gunners of the burst (or the ultra-long burst, as the case may be) itch. Send them on an STX lane with 1/2 basic load. That’s it. Teach them to husband resources: single shots and short bursts at targets. Fire only if you have a target. Do not have them shoot to make noise; that is a waste of resources. The enemy will know that you do not have effective fires very fast. They are not stupid.

After they can do an STX lane with 1/2 basic ammo load, go for two lanes with only a full ammo load and no resupply. Efficiency will be increased, and so will accuracy. Wean yourself off the more noise option, and strive for the more lethality option. This is not to say that I am against burst; I’m sure there is a reason for it, I have yet to find it.

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