Spray and Pray

With the media getting all bent out of shape trying to whip up PSH over criminals armed with machine guns, I think it’s worthwhile to examine the tactical utility of a machine gun for a criminal or a nut job.   If I had to go up against an armed attacker, here’s a list of weapons I would most not like him to have:

  1. Shotgun
  2. Any center-fire rifle
  3. Pistol
  4. Machine gun

Why yes, machine gun is dead last.  Let me explain.  A hit from a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 00 buck shot is roughly equivalent to getting hit with a 9 shots from a submachine gun.   The shotgun, at the kinds of ranges you’d typically encounter in an active shooter situation, is the most deadly thing anyone can go up against.

I should also note that any center fire rifle, in the hands of someone carefully aiming his fire, is quite deadly.   It doesn’t matter whether it’s semi-auto, bolt action, or lever action.  If the other guy has a rifle, and I have a pistol, I’m going to run if I can.

Pistol on pistol, I feel pretty good that I can land shots at a distance greater than your average criminal or nut job, but chance are I’m going to be relying on his lack of marksmanship ability.

A machine gun, however, is just going to randomly spray bullets for a few seconds until the magazine runs dry.  It’s not like in the movies where you can shoot forever and never reload.  You have only a few seconds of ammunition, unless you’re using a belt fed machine gun.  Once the criminal or nutjob shoots his wad, I have a prime opportunity to nail him as he’s reloading.   Ever try to load an AK-47 or an submachine gun under stress?  He’s bound to fumble, unless he’s very practiced.   Machine guns are not very useful outside of military formations, where you have more than one person able to keep up a volume of suppressing fire.  The only reasons a criminal would be attracted to one is as a status symbol.  If he thinks it’s tactically useful, he’s a fool. Under most situations, they just aren’t all that useful compared to alternatives.

The media is hoping to not only capitalize on people’s confusion between semi-automatic and automatic, but also people’s impressions of what automatic weapons are capable of, that they get from the movies.   The truth of the situation is, automatic weapons are not that particularly deadly in untrained hands, because it’s hard to hit anything on automatic fire with any accuracy.   Trained people know to fire short bursts, to conserve ammo, and for accurate shot placement.  But once you start doing that, the advantages of the machine gun vs. the shotgun start to disappear at the ranges civilians typically deal with.

In short, despite what the media tells you, all firearms are dangerous in the wrong hands.  As CBS’s hysteria illustrates continues, it’s important that we are loud and vocal about debunking it.

8 Responses to “Spray and Pray”

  1. Alcibiades McZombie says:

    What if your opponent is inexperienced with a rifle? You could probably outshoot him at the close ranges he’ll likely fire.

  2. Tom says:

    I’m not a vet, but I’ve been told that the main combat use of machine guns is to suppress movement. For actually engaging and killing enemy troops, aimed single shots are needed. Machine guns are mostly lethal against massed troops in open ground, which rarely happens today.

  3. Sebastian says:

    There’s a fair amount of luck involved any time bullets start flying to not get hit. A human can typically take a few hits from a pistol and not go down. Rifles, on the other hand, will typically put you down. Not many people can take a hit from a rifle and keep fighting.

    I might out shoot him. But if he hits me, that’s probably it for me, even if he goes with me. It just doesn’t take much to hit someone with a rifle at distances within 50 yards.

  4. Sebastian says:

    That’s my understanding too, Tom. I’m also not a vet, but from what I’ve read, it suggests automatic fire is used to keep people down, and not shooting at you.

  5. Dustin says:

    I agree 100%. Once again the media spread misinformation in a recent episode of an evening sitcom. Some guy was spraying showers of bullets from a machine gun from his upstairs window at police officers hiding behind cars in the street. He just kept shooting & shooting without ever reloading. He must have had a 20,000 round magazine at his rate of fire & duration without ever reloading. Even if such a magazine were to be invented he’d have to have the gun mounted on a heavy duty tripod as that would weigh too much to carry. :)

  6. Sebastian says:

    Not to mention that you have to change the barrels on machine guns after a while, or they overheat and fail. Even on assault rifles, you have to keep your volume of fire down, or you risk overheating the gun.

  7. straightarrow says:

    A machine gun would be my last choice of weapon for anything except suppressive fire. And suppressive fire is only good if you have other people on your side who will manuever while you keep heads down on the other side.

    Submachine guns are useful for the highly trained but then their only advantage is in close quarters combat where there is a large concentration of enemy. One on one the rifleman will kill the submachine gunner more often than the other way around.

  8. Tom says:

    My uncle Johnny, 45th Division WWII (Sicily, Italy, France, Germany) told me that his Sarge said, “Pin them with the BAR, kill them with Grenades and Garands.”