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March 04, 2011



Completely off-topic, but this seems like the sort of place where somebody might know.

Does anyone know what kind of long-barrelled gun the Tupamaros carried, or Che's group in Bolivia? And what range a gun like that would have, in contrast to the kind of handgun that you can conceal about your person? TIA.


Depends where they were supplied from. If they were getting stuff from Cuba, then it would be presumably AK-47s which have an effective range of 3-400 metres. If they were arming themselves by raiding locally, then it would be more likely to be Heckler and Koch G3, FN-FAL, or M16s. It's doubtful that a guerilla group would be armed with only one type of long barrelled weapon, since they usually have to scrape around getting stuff from all over.


Hellaciously inaccurate, AK-47s, or so I was reading in the LRB. What's the range on an M16, something similar? And how do these figurs compare with your average stashable pistol, P-38 or similar?

Richard J

Hellaciously inaccurate, AK-47s, or so I was reading in the LRB

As accurate as it needs to be, really.

Richard J

I don't speak any Spanish, but this seems to be a forum post linking to pics of seized arms. Looks like a real dog's breakfast. Surplus German Mausers, M-16s, Sten guns, home-made bazookas, the lot. Basically, lots of WW2 surplus in the main, by the looks of it.



The M16's more accurate than the AK-47 (yes yes AKM); effective range is supposed to be up to 800m or so. A pistol's not generally considered accurate beyond 10 metres or so - a function of a short barrel and no stock to brace against.

With guerilla bands I'd have thought there'd be a number of older rifles around, such as M1s or Springfields, which would have engagement ranges more like the M16s; whether anyone would ever use them at that distance in irregular warfare is debatable.


Just seen a photo of Che in Bolivia with an M1 carbine (not the Garand), as used by US officers in WW2.


If they were arming themselves by raiding locally

Which they almost certainly were; it's quite central to Guevara's military doctrine that a guerilla force should arm itself by stealing.


Thanks all. So we're looking at an effective range from 'face to face' up to 'end of the street' for pistols, & a much higher maximum, somewhere between 300 and 800 metres (theoretically) for the long-barrelled gear. (In Spanish the terms are 'armas cortas' and 'armas largas', two very neat phrases which translate roughly as 'short arms' and 'long arms'; I can never remember what to call them in English now.)

What's the definition of 'pistol', btw?

Richard J

One of the little touches that made Timothy Mo's Redundancy of Courage so authentic feeling was the assiduous care with which he tracked the weapons carried by the characters - the G-36s they'd taken from the armouries when the Indonesi-enemy invaded were lost, ran out of ammo, etc. and replaced by simpler guns as the book went on.


Richard - the LRB article also made that point. As in, M16: accurate, precision-engineered, but jams all the time; AK: a bit on the spray-and-pray side, but doesn't jam. Inaccuracy vs tendency to stop working altogether - which flaw would you rather have in your automatic weapon, readers?


it's quite central to Guevara's military doctrine that a guerilla force should arm itself by stealing

I'm not big on the weaponry, but I do know a bit about the ideological side of things, and I'm almost certain they didn't use precisely those terms.

Richard J

Phil> Also, in most places worth fighting over, a few hundred yards is about as far as you can see - the recently late Paddy Griffiths' core insight that no matter what the theoretical accuracy of a weapon was, soldiers under stress tend to point the gun in the general direction of the opponent and hope, is a good one.


A pistol is a gun meant to be fired in one hand. A machine pistol may have a stock you can fold into the elbow, but same principle/

"which flaw would you rather have in your automatic weapon, readers?"

AK every time, especially in irregular warfare where maintenance is difficult and you have to bury arms caches, etc. You also have the option of firing in three shot bursts, so you have automatic fire capability with less of the spray and pray effect.


Are there any women reading?


The M16's more accurate than the AK-47 (yes yes AKM); effective range is supposed to be up to 800m or so.

The average soldier isn't a sniper, and doesn't have the necessary attributes of being a sniper. You can't plan a small-arms strategy around that kind of range.

Richard J

ejh> I think everybody participating in this discussion has somehow, incredibly, managed to enter into a long-lasting relationship with the opposite sex. Sometimes, I do honestly wonder how.

(True story: Early on, Mrs J looked beneath my bed for adult reading materials. She came across "Soviet/Russian Armour and Artillery Design Practices: 1945 to Present" instead. )


"Are there any women reading?"

I tried to get the missus to comment but she's too busy reading her old Sven Hassel novels.


I thought about pointing out that y'all were my kind of nerds, but it seemed rather redundant...

Phil: I think the technical terms in English are 'long arms' and 'handguns,' although I'm sure someone here can confirm or deny.


Phil: yes, they aren't the terms at all - I don't have my copy of "Guerilla Warfare" on my desk any more but there are a couple of chapters explaining why guerillas ought to arm themselves by taking weapons from the enemy, rather than relying on anyone else to supply them.

I am actually currently pitching a proposal for a life annuity company (in the wake of the recent ECJ ruling) that will give you a free gift of a set of military history books with your policy, but which makes you fill in a looooooong questionnaire about choosing your free gift, as an unskippable part of the online sign-up process.


"A couple of chapters" was a hell of an exaggeration, but here's the relevant page and quote:

"There is an important problem to explain, that of ammunition; this will almost always be taken from the enemy. It is therefore necessary to strike blows where there will be the absolute assurance of restoring the ammunition expended, unless there are large reserves in secure places. In other words, an annihilating attack against a group of men is not to be undertaken at the risk of expending all ammunition without being able to replace it. Always in guerilla tactics it is necessary to keep in mind the grave problem of procuring the war materiel necessary for continuing the fight. For this reason guerrilla arms ought to be the same as those used by the enemy, except for weapons such as revolvers and shotguns, for which the ammunition can be obtained in the zone itself or in the cities".


"AK every time, especially in irregular warfare where maintenance is difficult and you have to bury arms caches, etc. You also have the option of firing in three shot bursts, so you have automatic fire capability with less of the spray and pray effect."

Agree on the maintenance factor, but disagree on the trigger modes: the modern M16 rifle allows single-shot or three-burst fire but NOT automatic, while the AK47 only features single-shot or full automatic, but no three-burst mode. (Perhaps the AK74, AKM etc, do.) I assume the M16 setup must be less useful to the individual soldier, but it makes sense from an army perspective: a few more deaths vs. millions of bullets saved.

Source: computer games. (Not D&D.)


Ah - I thought you were talking about the guerrilla band's relationship with the locals, not the enemy. As you were.


"Short arm" used to be british army slang for the penis.


OK. Now I need the technical term for the area which one sentry can theoretically fire at or into, given the physical limitations of the weapon and the position of the sentry post. I'm picturing it mentally as a fraction of a circle, with the radius given by the range of the weapon and the arc by the position of the sentry post relative to the area being guarded - so 180 degrees if it's a flat wall, 270 if you're on a corner. Actual visualisations of this would also be handy.

chris williams

The answer is in here:

Karl Hack and Kevin Blackburn, Did Singapore Have to Fall? (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004, paperback 2005).

Cos it goes into great detail about where the big guns could actually point, as well as why this didn't matter very much.

Richard J

Arc of Fire?

Hugh Bicheno's Razor's Edge, beneath the polemic and oddness, has a very useful primer on tactics buried within it.


Chris - the arc of fire thing is just a semi-jokey illustration of how an armed minority with popular support* will tend to reinvent the state's monopoly of force, and not in a good way. Real-world illustration from West Belfast follows. No primary research, & I don't know where I'll get it published, but I'm having fun with it.

*Without popular support they're just a bunch of bandits, and the state will have no reason not to roll them up. Not that rolling them up in the presence of popular support is impossible - cf. Motorman, which I must get in somewhere. Something else I need to look at - although probably not for this paper, which I basically need to get done today - is Chiapas: what's actually going on there, geopolitically - is it a full-on revolutionary Liberated Area or a Passport to Pimlico statelet, or is the whole independence thing just window-dressing, like that guy in Hay-on-Wye? (I can be less focused if you like.)

Richard J

This, of course, has a very pertinent contemporary issue attached to it.


Cyrenaica? Nobody seems to want to settle for that, unfortunately.

Chris Williams

Did anyone systematically check out the parallel institutions in Kosovo, 1992-99?

Chris Williams

Phil, I have confirmation from Dr H that it is indeed 'arc of fire'.


Shout-out to the B&T Hardware and Materiel Division ("You Say Jane, We Say Fighting Ships!") - the abstract for the talk I eventually gave is here, complete with an audio link to the whole thing (~20 minutes) plus! visual aids. If you've ever wondered what a rifle-toting sentry's arc of fire actually looks like, wonder no more. (In practical terms we'd be talking two or ideally three sentries (120 degrees is enough for anyone), but you get the rough idea.)

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