Earlier this year I posted some excerpts from an Army study (once classified Secret) from the early sixties, “Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon,” which was instrumental in the military’s decision to adopt the smaller caliber M-16 rifle. Other militaries did essentially the same study and came to the same conclusions, adopting reduced power assault rifles (e.g. AK-47, StG-44).
All these studies came to essentially the same conclusion—that most infantry engagements took place at very short ranges, most at 100 yards and under and almost none beyond 300 yards, even though the guns were capable of accurate fire at much longer ranges. This was due to a combination of factors, including training level, sight distances, probability of hit, and of course the battlefield “pucker factor.”
What is of interest to the Civil War student is the terrain analysis, some of which was done at Gettysburg. My take is that the engagement ranges at Gettysburg would not have been much different even if both sides had been armed with M-1 Garands. Of course the hit probability would have been higher (altho you have to wonder how much difference that would have made at 100 yards) and of course the Garand was semi-auto and would spit out bullets as fast as you could pull the trigger.
Unfortunately the copy I initially downloaded from NTIS was in poor shape with large sections illegible, so I began looking for a better copy, which turned out to be a lengthy task. The Marines had a copy at their library at Quantico but had a policy of not loaning “weapons-related” material. Eventually I had to file an FOIA request and located a copy with the USAMHI at Carlisle, PA. All this took quite a bit of my time and the copying of the document was expensive, which then had to be scanned into a PDF and run thru OCR.
I say all this because I have posted the study on my web site and invite you to take a look at it, as I think it will interest anyone who works with Civil War tactics. The download is free, but I’ve included a “tip jar” and ask that if you find the study of value to you, please consider leaving a buck or two, as my expenses in posting it were considerable. Not looking to make money here, just to recover some of what I’ve put into it.
“Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon”
Hitchman, Norman A.; Forbush, Scott E. ; Blakemore George J., Jr.
Abstract: The capabilities of the infantry rifle were explored. Data were obtained on the frequency and distance by which riflemen missed targets, and the distribution of hits at different ranges; the ranges of engagement in battle; and the physiological wound effects of shots with differing ballistic characteristics. A study of the data led to the following conclusions: (1) Hit effectiveness with the M-1 rifle is satisfactory only up to 100 yds. and declines rapidly to low order at 300 yds., the general limit for battlefield rifle engagements; (2) a pattern-dispersion principle in the hand weapon would tend to compensate for human aiming errors and increase hits at ranges up to 300 yds.; and (3) missiles with smaller caliber than standard could be used without loss in wounding effects and with logistical advantage; and (4) hit lethality could be greatly increased by using toxic missiles.