Tuesday, June 03, 2008

US army uses bullets ill-suited for new ways of war

As Sgt. Joe Higgins patrolled the streets of Saba al-Bor, a tough town north of Baghdad, he was armed with bullets that had a lot more firepower than those of his 4th Infantry Division buddies. As an Army sniper, Higgins was one of the select few toting an M14. The long-barreled rifle, an imposing weapon built for wars long past, spits out bullets larger and more deadly than the rounds that fit into the M4 carbines and M16 rifles that most soldiers carry. "Having a heavy cartridge in an urban environment like that was definitely a good choice," says Higgins, who did two tours in Iraq and left the service last year. "It just has more stopping power."

Strange as it sounds, nearly seven years into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, bullets are a controversial subject for the U.S. The smaller, steel-penetrating M855 rounds continue to be a weak spot in the American arsenal. They are not lethal enough to bring down an enemy decisively, and that puts troops at risk, according to Associated Press interviews.

Designed decades ago to puncture a Soviet soldier's helmet hundreds of yards away, the M855 rounds are being used for very different targets in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of today's fighting takes place in close quarters; narrow streets, stairways and rooftops are today's battlefield. Legions of armor-clad Russians marching through the Fulda Gap in Germany have given way to insurgents and terrorists who hit and run. Fired at short range, the M855 round is prone to pass through a body like a needle through fabric. That does not mean being shot is a pain-free experience. But unless the bullet strikes a vital organ or the spine, the adrenaline-fueled enemy may have the strength to keep on fighting and even live to fight another day.

In 2006, the Army asked a private research organization to survey 2,600 soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly one-fifth of those who used the M4 and M16 rifles wanted larger caliber bullets. Yet the Army is not changing. The answer is better aim, not bigger bullets, officials say. [Big deal! Don't they think that the troops already aim as well as they can??] "If you hit a guy in the right spot, it doesn't matter what you shoot him with," said Maj. Thomas Henthorn, chief of the small arms division at Fort Benning, Ga., home to the Army's infantry school.

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North Carolina: Man shoots bear in backyard: "David Jenkins woke Wednesday morning to the barking of his dog, Sammy. He soon discovered the cause of the commotion — a black bear in the backyard of his Henderson County home. Jenkins said he grabbed his shotgun for protection. He told his wife to stay in the house as he went to try to scare the bear and rescue his dog. “The bear was standing up on his hind legs and I knew it was going to kill my dog. ... I had to do something,” Jenkins said. After an attempt to scare off the bear failed, Jenkins said he knew he had to protect his dog and himself. So Jenkins fired his shotgun in the direction of the bear. The shot hit the bear. “The bear started to wander off and I didn’t want to leave a wounded bear wandering around the neighborhood,” he said. “So I followed the bear and shot him again.” Jenkins said he immediately alerted the local game warden about what happened. He said a biologist came to his house first and extracted a tooth from the bear to determine its age. Jenkins said the black bear was about 2 years old. It weighed about 250 pounds, he said. “When the game warden arrived he said that I was fully justified in the shooting because I had attempted to scare the bear away before firing my first shot,” he said. “It was a very unfortunate situation.”

Idaho man shoots, kills agressive pit bull: "Police say a Boise man shot a pit bull with a shotgun after the man says the animal was being threatening towards him. It happened on the 2700 block of Westland Place in Boise near Ustick and Cole. Officers say Dave Davies called police just before 8:00 p.m., saying his neighbor’s pit bull was being aggressive toward him. Two minutes later – Davies called back and said he shot the dog. Davies said he was outside working on his motorcycle when the dog jumped a fence and came toward him in an “aggressive” manner. When Davies was inside calling police, he grabbed his shotgun. Police say he went back outside and shot the animal. Boise Police Lt. Ron Winegar said the man may have a warranted defense. "We would never advocate it happening within the city limits in this kind of a neighborhood can be very dangerous,” Winegar said. “At the same time, depending on the circumstances, we always have the right to defend ourselves." Davies says he has reported the pit bull in the past – and said he was told he has the right to defend himself on his property if an animal is being aggressive."

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