View Full Version : Killed by a British bullet

1st Oct 2008, 14:44
BBC NEWS | England | Hereford/Worcs | Soldier 'shot by British bullet' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/7646503.stm)

Every death is sad in these conflicts, but i'm curious..... how does/did British Army ordnance get stolen/smuggled and sold out of the UK and into the wrong hands ? Surely there are rigorous checks to control what has been used and where ?

Or are the criminals that good at sleight of hand ?



1st Oct 2008, 14:56
There was a case early in the occupation when an MP post was overrun, and I assume that arms and ammunition were taken then (the MPs would also be more likely to carry old ammunition), however the probable real source is that we do/did export arms and ammunition the friendly nations, which when the bullet was made, included Iraq.

1st Oct 2008, 14:59
Do Special Forces not wear anti-ballistic protection?

5.56mm is pretty small (equivalent to about .22)?
I thought 7.62mm was standard Army issue?

1st Oct 2008, 15:19
I believe the British Army uses the L85AI in 5.56mm calibre.

1st Oct 2008, 15:55
(actually L85A1)

5.56mm became the NATO (and also Warsaw Pact) standard in the 80s; the SA80 (the project name and also the familiar name of the L85 series) entered service in 1985.

Although 5.56mm is .22" there is no similarity betweeen the modern military version an older .22 civilian rifles.

7.62mm is no longer used for general service (but it used in some sniper rifles /MGs)

Scooby Don't
1st Oct 2008, 17:15
.22 as you may know it from target shooting is a rimfire cartridge, as in the primer compound which created a spark and sets off the powder is contained within the rim of the cartridge. The cartridge case is straight-walled and fairly short, and the powder capacity is minimal. In any case, .22 cartridges use unjacketed lead bullets which are unsuitable for velocities above about 1400 fps - above that they melt! In addition, the bullets themselves are light; about half the weight of the current-issue 5.56mm bullet.

5.56mm NATO is also known as 5.56 x 45mm, the latter dimension being the length of the case. As well as firing a heavier bullet than the .22 rimfire cartridge (I'm talking .22LR for the afficionados), the muzzle velocity is in the order of 3000 fps. The kinetic energy of the bullet is a function of the bullet's mass multiplied by the square of the velocity, so 5.56mm NATO hits a great deal harder than a rimfire.

The 7.62mm NATO cartridge, also known as 7.62 x 51mm, produces about double the kinetic energy of the 5.56 and keeps more of its energy to a longer range as well. As it tends to be more reliable at its intended purpose (target falls when hit), the USMC have apparently issued all the old M14 rifles they have, for use in Iraq.

All of which is nothing to do with the simple fact that being hit by a "type of bullet" used by the UK armed forces does not mean for one moment that it MUST have been produced in the UK. Not only do most NATO countries manufacture their own 5.56mm ammuntion, but there are plenty of private companies producing it and plenty of ammunition being made in Eastern Europe and Asia for whatever calibre will sell. Moreover, bullets are just the things that leave the barrel through the pointy end. A 5.56mm bullet will also fit in....
.222 Remington
.223 Remington
.220 Swift
.22 Hornet
.223 WSSM
.222 Remington Magnum
and many, many more calibres. Yes, the strong likelihood is that it came out of a 5.56mm NATO calibre rifle. The most common of those is the M16 and its variants (the current-issue US rifle is called the M4), but theyr are plenty of others around, many of which can be had from your friendly gunmaker in Pakistan. They aren't too picky about paying the licensing fee for copying someone else's design!

N.B. This is the edit. The article says that the bullet was an "RG" type, as in Radway Green. That could only be proved with the sort of metalurgical analysis which I find unlikely in the extreme. Standardisation on the 5.56mm cartridge also involved standardisation of the bullet design (twice - the Belgians brought out a better bullet than the original American item) so it could still have been made in any ammuntion-making NATO country or in any country which can copy a bullet design. The bullet itself could then have been sold to a third party long before it was loaded into a cartridge. I used to use Finnish powder and cases, and American bullets and primers to make .243 ammunition in Scotland.

1st Oct 2008, 18:11
Excellent Info Scoody Dont, always sad to hear of these types of events.

Seems a bit strange no one heard the shot...:sad:

1st Oct 2008, 18:48
As I recall from when we were evaluating whether to use the SLR 7.62mm or the SA 80 5.56mm the British 5.56mm rounds were of a different construction to our trans Atlantic cousins.
The home grown version had much better penetration than the M80 7.62mm NATO round at all ranges. This combined with the longer barrel of the SA80 over the SLR the SA80 was extremely accurate at all ranges.
The 5.56mm rounds being smaller and lighter you could carry many more than the 7.62mm and now that the MOD have sorted out the jamming probs I believe the SA80 is now a very effective rifle, especially when combined with the SUSAT sight.
I do however stand ready to be corrected by those who use these "tools" in anger.


1st Oct 2008, 19:29
I've seen photos of some US soldiers in Iraq using Kalashnikovs. Apparently the Soviet 7.62 x 39mm cartridge is superior to the 5.56 mm Nato and the AK-47 is a much better weapon than the M16. Your thoughts?

Scooby Don't
1st Oct 2008, 20:36
Back in the 50s, when NATO first came up with the plan to standardise calibres, the UK came up with a rifle called the EM2, which fired a so-called intermediate cartridge - .280 calibre and with a fairly short case. So, not as powerful as the old .303 and the American .30-06 (.30 calibre, adopted in 1906), but more powerful than the .30 calibre round used in the American M1 Carbine (not to be confused with the M1 Garand which is a .30-06 - confused yet?). Since the WW2 experience had shown that hardly any infantry combat took place at more than 300 yeards, it seemed sensible to do away with 1,000 yard ammunition, and the lighter ammunition meant more could be carried while it would also recoil less and thus be more controllable. All well and good until the Americans decided on the 7.62 x 51mm round, also in use in the civilian world as the .308 Winchester, which they chambered in the M14. The EM2 wasn't suitable for conversion to 7.62mm, so the UK had to find a rifle in a hurry and ended up licensing the Fabrique National FAL, designated the L1A1 SLR (self-loading rifle) in UK service, and modified to omit the option of fully automatic fire which, it was felt, was wasteful of ammunition and would encourage innaccurate fire.

The Russians, meanwhile, adopted an intermediate cartridge of their own, the 7.62 x 39mm. And thanks to a chap called Sergei Kalashnikov, they put it in a cheap, robust weapon that a poorly-trained conscript (or a Somali 8-year old) can use to some effect after 5 minutes of "look through there, pull that and squeeze this."

Fast forward to the 60s and there was a "training mission" underway in what used to be French Indochina. The USAF had adopted a new rifle called the M16 in a tiny calibre. Thanks to unsuitable powder in the original cartridges, which tended to fowl the gas system (in issue M16s and M4s, the gas syphoned from the barrel acts directly on the bolt carrier - there are now modifications available which use an intermediate piston instead, which is said to be more reliable), along with not enough cleaning and the occasional use of a thin barrel to open crates and the like, the M16 got a reputation for jamming. It's actually a very good rifle and some versions can be very accurate, and of course the ammunition is cleaner now. Anyhoo, 5.56mm ended up being adopted by all the US armed forces and then by NATO as a whole, though not before the UK tried to introduce another, even smaller, calibre! The SA80 was originally designed for a 4.85mm cartridge but from the start was designed to be adaptable to 5.56mm. Even the Russians got into the small-calibre game, issuing the AK74 in 5.45mm (looks like an AK47 but the magazines are red).

So......why do US and other troops in Iraq take to using captured AK47s? Simple answer - they work, first time, all of the time. The bullet is twice as heavy as the 5.56mm bullet and makes a larger hole, so the target tends to get down and not get up again. That's much the same reasoning behind the Marines using M14s, with the added bonus that if you have an AK47 and you've already shot a few enemy, you have a fresh ammunition supply.

The SA80's rebirth as an effectice weapon was actually overseen by Heckler & Koch, at the time owned by Royal Ordnance. Thanks to Belgian bullets (called the SS109 by the Belgians and the M193 by the US), the ammuntion is reasonably effective too, though still without the ability to make big holes in cover.

The SA80 was described by one writer as being an AR15 (the original Armalite company's name for the M16) stuffed up the ar*e of an EM2 - a not completely accurate picture though certainly amusing. The "bullpup" design of the EM2 and the SA80 has one major flaw - you can't swap it to the left shoulder for firing around the left side of cover and still hold it normally. If you do, the SA80's charging handle will remove your front teeth, and the ejected cases will hit you in the face.

1st Oct 2008, 20:51
Thanks for your very thorough and interesting reply.

The closest I ever got to a Kalashnikov was a Chinese version - perhaps a Type 56? I can't remember. Anyway, it had a very crudely made stock but I guess that doesn't matter very much as long as the rest of it worked. Unfortunately, I never got to fire it.

mr fish
1st Oct 2008, 21:08
i read not so long ago that the h&k mods amounted to over $500 for every L85 at a time when a new m16-m4 cost $400, is this about right?
if so 'god bless the mod':mad:

old,not bold
1st Oct 2008, 23:23
Many years ago, as an intelligence officer in Aden and later the Oman, I and my colleagues in our various up-country villages paid our informants in .303 rifle ammumition. A really good tip was worth 250, while a run-of-the-mill piece of unsubstantiated gossip was only 50.

Information leading to apprehending a live freedom fighter could cost 2,500, but at that value level money was more popular as it weighed less.

I would be surprised if the practice continues, but it could be one answer to the question how does/did British Army ordnance get ............ into the wrong hands

Most of the .303 rounds we handed over were later fired back at us, of course. But it was very old ammunition (7.62 had been in use for years by then) and not especially accurate, self-evidently, so that didn't matter much.

Pinky the pilot
2nd Oct 2008, 12:54
Most of the .303 rounds we handed over were later fired back at us, of course. But it was very old ammunition (7.62 had been in use for years by then) and not especially accurate, self-evidently, so that didn't matter much.

old, not bold; Many years ago here in Oz when the full bore rifle clubs still used the .303 the shooters would grizzle like mad if the supply of ammunition for the days shooting was the Radway Green manufactured stuff!:yuk: The complaint was it was inaccurate and prone to mis/hangfires.
This happened occasionally here in South Australia in the mid to late 60's, shortly before the conversion to the 7.62 Nato cartridge, when the South Australian Rifle Association ran out of supplies of the Aussie stuff (manufactured at Footscray in Victoria) and so they would substitute the RG headstamped ammo.

I heard that eventually the various rifle clubs refused to accept the ammo so they wound up using Canadian manufactured ammo which apparently was'nt much better!

Track Coastal
2nd Oct 2008, 15:03
Pinky, the original Steyr rounds (when we in Oz went 5.56 in the late 80s, early 90s) used to jam, but then they got better...maybe thats the reason - crap manufacturer.

The SLR, L1A1 and bipod brother and heavy barrelled, the L2A1, only stopped for 'gas stoppages' and that was usually because the gas plugs, piston and receiver looked like the area behind Mickey Mouse's ear after a week on the piss without a bath.

Scooby, your knowledge of munitions is rather thorough and comprehensive (Note to self: file Scooby as the gunnie come revolution).

Old, not bold, were you involved with any of the SAS activities in Aden or Oman? I'm particular interested in a Fijian chap name Laba (apparently he should have got a VC but didn't).

Scooby, If I come to JXB in 2010 with my headset, we must chat.

Scooby Don't
2nd Oct 2008, 15:16
TC - I'm betting you mean the Mirbat gun incident? If old, not old was anywhere nearby at the time, he's probably rather bolder than he lets on. :ok:

Edit - TC, check your PMs.

Track Coastal
2nd Oct 2008, 15:53
Thats the one! I read the book years ago and I thought it comparative to Australia's Long Tan - the bravery, the selflessness etc.

Battle of Mirbat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mirbat)

The said member (apparently THIS photo was a benchmark for the Rambo crossed belt thing except apparently Laba fired two GPMGs simultaneously). I was on the sauce with a Fijian Major in an O'mess in Oz (just after another Coup) in 2000 that said his family is well looked after by the British Govt (??).


old,not bold
2nd Oct 2008, 22:39

were you involved with any of the SAS activities in Aden or Oman?

No, absolutely not, we were aware only. Very intense, they were.

Anyway, one couldn't have been, one was an intelligence officer.

Yes, I know, contradiction in terms, heard it before...