The Siren Song Of Caseless Ammunition

BY Herschel Smith
3 weeks, 6 days ago

TFB:

Previously, we discussed trying to lighten the soldier’s load by making the cartridge case out of different materials, including aluminum and compositing the case out of polymer and metal. Yet, wouldn’t the lightest possible case configuration be… Having no case at all? That’s the thinking behind one of the most ambitious ammunition configurations there is, the case-less round.

Of course, it’s true that before the metallic cartridge casewas invented, essentially all ammunition was caseless, but today the term “caseless” refers to ammunition that is self-contained, but with a body made of combustible propellant that directly contributes to sending the projectile out of the gun’s barrel. This concept is as elegant as it is simple; after all, making every part of the round work at killing the enemy can only be a good idea, right? Well, it’s not so simple as that, because economically producing caseless ammunition suitable for automatic weapons has proven to be an incredibly technically complex challenge. For starters, there’s a fundamental contradiction to the concept: Gunpropellants need to expose a certain amount of surface area to igniting flame in order to work properly and have the correct burn rate, but a caseless round needs its propellant to be consolidated into a single solid chunk which is durable enough for storage, shipping, and field use. This requires some kind of “disintegrator” charge – which may be provided by the primer – that breaks up the consolidated propellant during ignition, increasing its surface area. Also, caseless ammunition lacks any protective barrier between the propellant and the chamber, which may be very hot after a string of fire. This lack of a protective envelope reduces the threshold at which ammunition cooks off inside the weapon, a serious concern for a military small arm. Finally, caseless ammunition also cannot gain the benefit of disposable breech sealing that comes built-in to the modern metallic cartridge, so sealing must be accomplished some other way. All of these problems are difficult at low production levels, and impossible at the volumes required for a modern military round.

In fact, these challenges are so great that it’s unlikely that the concept will become feasible within the next few decades. However, if the considerable technical challenges are somehow surmounted, caseless ammunition offers the maximum reduction in ammunitionweight possible with conventional projectiles, while also facilitating extremely high rates of fire, due to the elimination of the extraction and ejection phases of the cycle.

From an engineering standpoint, it’s an awful idea.  Just terrible.  Even if something can be done – and I doubt this can ever be achieved – there is an engineer’s adage (I made it up and have used it extensively mentoring my young engineers) that comes to mind.

Margin is your friend.  Court her and be jealous for her.  Don’t cut corners, give yourself room to degrade, corrode, erode, design below your limits, and give yourself a margin of safety.  The larger the better.  Sure, too large won’t work because it is the enemy of functionality, creates physical interferences, causes components to be too heavy, and creates unnecessary expense.

But the other side is that lack of safety margin kills people.  It costs money, time, broken structures, systems and components, and it ruins companies.  My suggestion to the companies trying to do this is simple: this is a sweet, sweet siren song sung by an enchanting lass, but the cost of making all of that money and being famous may be your reputation, your company or even your life.

Ignore that song.  Get back to work designing better firearms and ammunition.  Forget caseless.


Comments

  1. On November 20, 2017 at 5:05 am, Old Bill said:

    BRAVO! I couldn’t agree more.

  2. On November 20, 2017 at 8:52 am, Frank Clarke said:

    “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. –Elbert Hubbard

    “If you can imagine it, you can create it.” ― William Arthur Ward

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –A.C.Clarke

    (Sorry, I had to do it.)
    http://tinyurl.com/TipgPt2

  3. On November 20, 2017 at 9:43 am, Pat Hines said:

    It’s my opinion that hand held electro-magnetic firearms are much more likely to be developed before careless ammo firearms make the cut.

    An aside: Margin is what enables the air traffic control system to function.

  4. On November 20, 2017 at 2:35 pm, unknownsailor said:

    ATK took a wack at it with the 4.92mm ammo for the H&K G11, and that particular rifle came close to being fielded, but I do not know the inside story of the ammunition. I do remember that it wasn’t really a propellant, at the end, but more an insensitive explosive that was set off by the primer chain.

  5. On November 20, 2017 at 2:40 pm, Jack said:

    And to think we recently had the discussion on the longevity of ammunition, a good portion of which comes from the fact that primer and powder are sufficiently protected from the elements by the case. What is the shelf life without that protection?

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment


You are currently reading "The Siren Song Of Caseless Ammunition", entry #18084 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition and was published November 19th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (31)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (10)
Ammunition (35)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (108)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (57)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (26)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (57)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (17)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (7)
Body Armor (17)
Books (3)
Border War (8)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (28)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
CENTCOM (7)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (8)
CIA (25)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (133)
Department of Homeland Security (17)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (7)
Donald Trump (1)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (15)
Featured (177)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (737)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (42)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
GITMO (2)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (590)
Guns (1,233)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
HAMAS (7)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (7)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (11)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (13)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (60)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (378)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (53)
Islamists (80)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (3)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (246)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
MEDEVAC (2)
Media (37)
Memorial Day (3)
Mexican Cartels (24)
Mexico (30)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (22)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (20)
NATO (15)
Navy (21)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (55)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (218)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (39)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (286)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (343)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (132)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (207)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (26)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (19)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (3)
Survival (16)
SWAT Raids (53)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (2)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (92)
Thanksgiving (7)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (14)
TSA Ineptitude (11)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (46)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (213)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (58)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (19)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2017 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.