The Spectacle Blog

War-Caused Innovations

By on 5.26.10 | 1:10PM

News reports often cover the sadness, brutality, and ugliness of war. It is right and desirable that this side of war be presented in an honest straightforward way. But there's more to the picture.

This post won't list all of the recent changes brought by military necessity and science, but it will list a few that may have escaped notice.

Without a doubt the greatest spin-off from the recent wars on Islamists terrorists in Southwest Asia, is the bandage approved by the FDA in 2002. Prior to the U.S. Army's search for a more effective way to stop hemorrhaging, it used the century old method, direct pressure and gauze. Since 2002, a bandage using shrimp shells and vinegar has been used to "clot a bullet wound in under a minute." Chitosan, a polysaccharide in shrimp shells, has anti-bacterial properties as well, making it ideal for its designed purpose. Obviously, lives are saved on the battlefield with this bandage, and equally obvious this bandage has applications beyond the battlefield.

In the more common area of concern for militaries, guns and ammo, the right bullet and rifle combination for snipers has continued to be an area of testing and fielding since the war in Afghanistan began. In an evolution bound to please many a virgin-seeking Talibani, the round of choice setting records is the .338 Lapua Magnum. How good is it? No round is better than the rifle and the rifleman shooting it. On May 2, the Times of London reported on what is now believed to be the longest kill-shots ever with a sniper rifle -- at a distance of 1.5 miles. The sniper used the .338 Lapua Magnum, and he duplicated the shot immediately after the first to kill a second Taliban machine gunner. Corporal Craig Harrison of the UK's Household Cavalry, using an Accuracy International L115A3, clearly is an exceptional shot. But equally clear is that the militaries defending the West are doing their best to research, test, and field the best equipment to enhance capabilities. The days of a hidebound military are long gone. The .338 Lapau Magnum is replacing the .308 Winchester (a.k.a. the 7.62mm) and the much larger .50 caliber bullet because of its practical advantages having more range than the .308 and being much lighter than the .50 caliber.

Fox News reports that the U.S. Army is taking a second look to the M4 Rifle, the rifle that replaced the M16. The impetus for this review is as old as the M16. That is its bullet versus the one fired in the famous AK-47. Concerns about the terminal ballistics of the lighter 5.56 mm bullet versus the heavier 7.62x39mm bullet no doubt means this debate will go on for a long time, possibly with the Army adopting a new caliber for its main rifle. I'd think the .260 Remington would be a good choice. The round won't shoot as flat as a 5.56mm bullet. Servicemen won't be able to carry as many rounds, but the round is not difficult to shoot because its recoil isn't abusive; it retains energy in flight and has excellent terminal ballistics. The Army's Test Command will likely look at many different options if there truly is consideration ongoing to replace the 5.56mm bullet.

As long as we have boots on the ground, mundane weapons like small arms will matter. 

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