Effectiveness Of Automatic Fire

Automatic fire is inherently less accurate than semiautomatic fire. The first automatic shot fired may be on target, but recoil and high-cyclic rate of fire often combine to place subsequent rounds far from the desired point of impact. Even controlled (three-round burst) automatic fire may place only one round on the target. Because of these inaccuracies, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of automatic fire, and even more difficult to establish absolute guidelines for its use.

Closely spaced multiple targets, appearing at the same time at 50 meters or closer, may be engaged effectively with automatic/burst fire. More widely spaced targets appearing at greater distances should be engaged with semiautomatic fire.

The M16A1 and M16A2 rifles should normally be employed in the semiautomatic mode. Depending on the tactical situation, the following conditions would be factors against the use of automatic fire:

• Ammunition is in short supply or resupply may be difficult.

• Single targets are being engaged.

• Widely spaced multiple targets are being engaged.

• The distance to the target is beyond 50 meters.

• The effect of bullets on the target cannot be observed.

• Artificial support is not available.

• Targets may be effectively engaged using semiautomatic fire.

In some combat situations, the use of automatic fire can improve survivability and enhance mission accomplishment. Clearing buildings, final assaults, FPF, and ambushes may require the limited use of automatic fire. Depending on the tactical situation, the following conditions may favor the use of automatic fire:

• Enough available ammunition. Problems are not anticipated with resupply.

• Closely spaced multiple targets appear at 50 meters or less.

• Maximum fire is immediately required at an area target.

• Tracers or some other means can be used to observe the effect of bullets on the target.

• Leaders can maintain adequate control over rifles firing on automatic.

• Good artificial support is available.

• The initial sound of gunfire disperses closely spaced targets.

Trainers must ensure soldiers understand the capabilities and limitations of automatic fire. They must know when it should and should not be used.

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