Components of Firepower

A discussion of the academic and tactical model created by LTC Alphin for the analysis and employment of weapons in the field.  LTC Alphin breaks down the word “firepower” into three separate components.  These components are Combat Range (consisting of Battlesight Range and Adjust Sight Range), Volume of Fire, and Terminal Effect.  These are defined and a standard chart form is explained wherein the components can be quantified and the numerical values entered on the chart.  This then leads to the tactical model which helps the combat leader evaluate the effect of his weapons.  This tape is an essential precursor to the entire series, which should be viewed in sequence.

Terminal Effect

A discussion of the terminal effect of a kinetic energy projectile.  Even then (1984) things were terribly PC and LTC Alphin was restricted from using any of his field research.  He could not use his actual terminal ballistics expertise concerning a live mammalian target.  He could not use the Thompson-LaGarde Test of 1921-22, nor any later work because that later work was  classified.   Further, LTC Alphin was restricted from using any of the issues raised about the effectiveness of the 5.56x45mm NATO round used in the Army’s M-16 rifle.  Consequently, this tape revolves around testing on water filled cans.  Despite the restrictions, LTC Alphin was able to enter key general points about kinetic energy projectiles; namely, that as velocity and cross-sectional area increase, the terminal ballistics effect on the target is increased.

Crossbow and Longbow

A comparison of the English Long Bow to the European Crossbow, using the academic model.  The comparison was then used to illuminate some issues in medieval combat such as at the Battle of Crecy.  At Crecy, Edward III  did a brilliant job of organizing and positioning his troops.  The viewer is left with the first examples (in these tapes) of a field commander evaluating his weapons and creating an organization and tactical doctrine for the use of the weapons.  The correct organization, doctrine and weapons; then results in victory in battle.


A discussion of the matchlock, using the academic model, and placing it in relation to the tactical doctrine and organization of the Swedish Brigade in the Thirty Years War.  This discussion is very important in that it leads the viewer to understand how these were the first steps in creating the weapons, organization and doctrine which would become Linear Warfare.  It was Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish King, who created the technical and tactical changes which were incorporated into the Swedish Brigade.  And it was Gustavus,  who, more than any other, wrought this development.

Flintlock Smoothbore Musket

A discussion, and range firing, of the musket, using a 1762 Brown Bess and the academic model.  This continued to a detailed discussion of Linear Warfare and the tactics used in the American Revolution.  The viewer is left with a solid understanding of the doctrine (including training) and the organization, which was necessary to take advantage of the characteristics and capability of the flintlock smoothbore musket and shield the soldiers from the disadvantages.

Kentucky Rifle and the American Revolution

A discussion and shooting demonstration with an exemplar Kentucky Rifle and comparing it to the flintlock smoothbore musket.  This was brought into the context of Linear Warfare and used as an example of a leader organizing his mix of weapons to fit with organization and tactical doctrine.  This procedure, used by BG Dan Morgan, produced victory at the Battle of Cowpens in the American Revolution.  This example is very important for the viewer.  It is actually quite similar to what Edward III did at the Battle of Crecy.

Though it is left to the professor actually teaching the students, this and the previous tape are used to emphasize the importance of Friedrich von Steuben for training, and the Prussian connection to Washington.  Von Steuben helped get the Continental Army to the point where they could effectively use the flintlock smoothbore.  George Washington used King Fredrick the Great’s strategy of exhaustion in the North in the

American Revolution.  Victories in the South, like Cowpens, drove the British back to Yorktown.  This allowed Washington, covered by the French Fleet, to switch over to the strategy of annihilation.  He marched his army south and then defeated and captured a large portion of the British Army at Yorktown, thus winning the war.  This is gunfight dynamics expertise on a grand scale.

.58 Caliber Rifled Musket

A discussion and range firing of the rifled musket, using the academic model, and bringing that into the context of the American Civil War.  This discussion includes the conundrum of a weapon, which had to be loaded and employed as in Linear Warfare, but whose combat range completely upset the Linear Warfare doctrine.  LTC Alphin continues with the attempts to solve this, done by leaders on both sides.  LTC Alphin concludes with Grant’s decision to switch to the strategy of attrition, which turned the War into a bloodbath of stupefying proportions.

12-Pound Napoleon

A discussion of field artillery in the American Civil War and how this contributed to the astonishing level of casualties of that War.  Using his weapons expertise, LTC Alphin took an actual, original, Confederate 12 Pounder Napoleon from the West Point Museum, refurbished it to operational condition, and fired it under controlled conditions on the range.  This included the selection of projectiles based upon the combat range, and the terminal effect that the leader wanted.  There is final mention of the technical developments of mankind which will lead to field artillery as it is understood in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Breechloader & Muzzleloader: The Wagon Box Fight

A discussion of the attempts to increase volume of fire by use of the newly invented black powder, single shot, breechloading rifles.  These rifles were made possible by the improved manufacturing methods for ammunition.  Such effort was keynoted by the invention of the deep draw process, patented by Hiram Berdan in 1871; a process still used today.  This tape and the range firing focused on the US “Trap Door”

Springfield of 1866 and its effect on battle in the American West.  The Wagon Box Fight of 1867, near what is now Story and Banner, Wyoming, is used as the tactical example.

Breechloader  1866-1890

A discussion of the global introduction of single shot black powder breechloading rifles and the subsequent effect on organization and tactical doctrine.  Mankind’s increasing technical manufacturing capability was reflected in another industrial revolution of tighter manufacturing tolerances.  This  resulted in greatly increased combat range.   This set the stage for the developments which would follow smokeless powder.

This tape includes discussions of the Shangani Patrol, and other incidents, wherein this transitional breed of firearms directly led to many technical developments to follow.

Custer’s Last Stand

This tape features a shooting comparison of the 1873 “Trap Door” Springfield to the 1873 Winchester lever action rifle.  The range shooting clearly illustrates the higher cyclic rate of the lever action but also the severe disadvantage of the Winchester lever action due to its very slow to reload tubular magazine.  LTC Alphin then segues to a discussion of George Armstrong Custer.  Many weapons illiterates think that if the Army had equipped Custer with the new rifles, then Custer would have won.  LTC Alphin debunks this, showing that Custer did not understand his own weapons versus the enemy.  Further, Custer violated tactical doctrine and organizational issues as he rode to battle.  The result of Custer’s tactical and technical idiocy was that he led his men to their doom at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Impact of Smokeless Powder

A discussion of the vast changes, using the academic model, and range firing demonstrations, of the introduction of smokeless propellant powder in the 1880’s.  As an exterior ballistics expert, LTC Alphin shows the huge increase in both battlesight range and adjust sight range wrought by smokeless powder.  This comes from the more than doubling of muzzle velocity, but also from the jacketed bullets and their better aerodynamic form factor.  As a firearms design and a firearms manufacture expert, LTC Alphin references the improvements in machine tools and steel alloys that led to greatly increased strength and precision in smokeless powder firearms.  This is summed up in the vast changes in infantry small arms between 1888 and 1906.  The battle illustration is Spion Kop in 1900 in the Boer War.  The Boers slaughtered the Brits by firing down the length of the British trenches, from distances far beyond which the Brits thought anybody could effectively fire.  The viewer is left with the question of how well will the soldier, and his generals, adapt as weapons change.

Bolt Action Magazine Rifle

A detailed discussion of the final result of smokeless propellant, as embodied in the M-1917 US Rifle.  This continues with the effect on World War One, and the failures of leaders to adapt to change. This includes the methods of zeroing a rifle and the changes which this meant to warfare.

And nothing has changed.  Because a .308 inch diameter bullet, with a ballistic coefficient of .461, a weight of 150 grains (avoirdupois) at a launch velocity of 2700 feet per second, is exactly what the US military is trying to put in the hands of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Water-Cooled Machine Gun

A discussion of the invention of machine guns, culminating in the water-cooled machine gun of the World War One era.  Emphasis is placed on the academic model and concludes with practical demonstration using the M-1917 Browning Water Cooled Machine Gun.

This one weapon system, perhaps beyond all others, led to the stalemate, and the incredible blood bath, which was World War I.   The tape continues with discussion of the technical, tactical, and strategic attempted solutions to the deadlock.

Trench Assault

A discussion of the deadlock of World War One and the technical and tactical solutions to it.  This led to the American Trench Shotgun and then the German invention of the Sub-Machine Gun and the German incorporation of that weapon into the tactical organization and doctrine of what is called Hutier Tactics or German Assault Tactics of 1918.

It was this (German Assault Tactics of 1918) which was snuffed out by the entry of the USA into World War I (at incredible cost in blood and casualties). Though, some 20 years later, these tactical concepts would result in German Blitzkrieg of World War II.

Mobile Machine Gun: MG-34 and BAR

A discussion of two trends in weapons design and development, which placed automatic fires into the infantry squad and platoon.  The range firing demonstration had a German MG-34 and a US Browning Automatic rifle (4 Sailors case).   The differences between the two weapons is obvious.  But LTC Alphin, as an expert in utilization of firearms,  carried the discussion into the different organization and different tactical doctrine which the two armies used at the squad and platoon level.  This included organization charts for the German and the US infantry squad.  This emphasized the changes in organization and tactical doctrine which an intelligent leader uses in order to get the maximum benefit from the weapons available to him.

The Greatest Battle Implement

A discussion of the M-1 Garand Rifle and the technical effect, around the world, of inventors borrowing from John Browning’s ideas.  Between Garand (a Canadian,working for the USA) and Browning (a firearms designer of world wide significance), this rifle literally changed the universe.  This was the first practical harnessing of the gases in the barrel to make the mechanism function.  This concept is the norm for the world today.

This discussion included the academic model and the advantage the M-1 Garand rifle gave to the US in World War II.  Though not covered in sufficient detail, the ballistic range drum, incorporated by Garand into the design, is a critical piece in giving the M-1 rifle its battle changing effect.  This is all summed up in Gen. George S. Patton’s description of the M1 as “The Greatest Battle Implement Ever Devised”.

Assault Rifle

A discussion of the German invention, using the trade-offs shown in the academic model, of the Sturmgewehr; a weapon they hoped would help turn the tide in World War II.  The trade-offs are sacrifice in combat range and terminal effect, in exchange for a lower recoil impulse and, hopefully, an increase in usable volume of fire.  This development led directly to the Soviet AK-47 (in 7.62x39mm Russian Short) and the US M-16 (in .223 or 5.56x45mm NATO).  These are compared and contrasted, on the shooting range, to the M-14 main battle rifle (in 7.62x51mm NATO).  This tape then re-emphasizes the necessity for leaders to evaluate their weapons and adapt their organization and tactical doctrine to accommodate both technical changes and the enemy threat.  The viewer is left with the admonition to properly evaluate his weapons, doctrine, and organization; so as to give his troops the victorious winning edge.

A second major point, which is heavily illustrated, without being stated in the clear, is the belief of LTC Alphin, and many, many others, that the trade off to the assault rifle was/is not appropriate for a nation such as the USA.   A shorter range rifle inevitably leads to a war of attrition at the tactical level.  For a nation that places a high value on the individual life, this is stupid.  We are now learning that lesson in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have suffered thousands of needless dead and wounded (KIA and WIA).  The Army and Marines tried to solve the shorter combat range problem by creating the designated marksman program.  That was not satisfactory.  There is now a movement to find a new rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO, so as to increase combat range to 1,000 meters and beyond.  LTC Alphin, as an exterior ballistics expert, told the Army that, in his after-action reports, nearly 40 years ago.

The History of Small Arms Technology

A 45 minutes compact selection of major parts of the above.  This starts with the flintlock smoothbore musket and progresses to the assault rifle.  The evaluation of weapons, using the academic model, and combining that with the correct organization and tactical doctrine is emphasized.

Weapons, Tactics and Strategy of the American Revolution

A combined discussion and demonstration of the weapons, coupled with the organization and tactical doctrine. This tape also discusses the strategy selected by George Washington; the strategy of exhaustion until he could switch to the strategy of annihilation.  This directly caused the stunning defeat and capture of the British army at Yorktown in 1781.  Though the Peace Treaty of Paris would not be signed until 1783, the incredible impact of Yorktown effectively ended all fighting in the American Revolution.

Introduction to Tank Technology

A discussion of mobility, gun control and fire control of tanks using the US M-4A3E8, the British Centurion, the German Panther 1B, and the Soviet T-34/85.  The mobility portions compare and contrast dead flat track as used by the Soviets, to live return track as used in the Free World.  LTC Alphin also discusses Vertical Volute Spring Suspension and Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension compared to torsion bar suspension.

He further discusses turret ring diameters and turret baskets.  This carries on to what these dimensions mean; for turret design, positioning of gun trunions, height of the tank,  elevation/depression of the gun, and so many more characteristics of a tank.

Overview of 20th Century Small Arms Technology

A series of very brief demonstrations of various weapons, showing the basic characteristics.  These characteristics are explained, contrasted and compared.  The academic model is not used, but the principles of fire and movement, and fire and maneuver, are covered.  Also discussed is the importance of direct fires and creating an organization which will facilitate victory.  The intended audience is the senior NCO, and the junior officer, who does not have the time for a full fledged study of Military Technology and Military History.

Weapons Tapes Accessibility

The majority of the foregoing were done for the Ordnance Engineering Department and the History Department of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY; and can be found at their web site ( or by Googling Major Alphin West Point Weapons Tapes.

A couple of the tapes were done for the United States Army Armor School, Ft. Knox, KY; which is now defunct.  This is  thanks to the idiot civilian bureaucrats (read: floor flushing Nazi war criminals), and the fools in Congress (read: feckless screws, deserving of the guillotine), responsible for the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

Steps are being taken to get all of the tapes consolidated in one area on You Tube.  Details will follow.