Fighting a superior force: Overmatch


Fuck overmatch.

I hate buzzwords.  Especially when they are tied to flawed ideas.  For example, overmatch.

Imagine you are a member of the French Resistance in World War Two.  You have just received a Liberator pistol to aid you in your efforts.  Your response would be, “Je te chie dans le cou, you ugly American swine.  You expect me to fight without OVERMATCH?  You should have given me a weapon that can fire faster than a MG34, has longer range than a K98k, and is lighter and handier and more controllable than a MP40.  It needs to have greater anti-armor capabilities than a Panzerfaust.  It had better be more of a psychological horror than the Flammenwerfer.  And lastly, it had better cooler looking than a Luger with a snail drum and buttstock.  If only you had provided me a real gun, like a .30 cal M14, we could beat the Nazis.

When I was in the Corps we didn’t have the buzzword Overmatch yet.  We did believe in the concept of “peeling the onion”.  We wanted to be able to harm the enemy at longer ranges than they could harm us.  At each layer, we would have greater range. Our M240 would be more accurate at longer ranges than their PKMs.  Our M16A2 would strike them down at 500 yards while their AKM would only effectively hit us at 300m.  Finally, should any get close enough, our M203 launchers out ranged their GP30 grenade launchers.

Little did we know that those Russians had switched to 5.45 and a 400m zero long before we were born.  So, while we were running around with M16A2 and 300 yard zeros, they had overmatch on us.

I don’t like to use profanity, but sometimes I feel it the only appropriate word with the correct grammatical purpose.

So if the Russian’s had overmatch in infantry rifles on us, would that mean they could beat us in equal numbers.  My response to be would be. . .

I don’t think so. Fuck Overmatch.

If we follow the concept of overmatch to its logical conclusion, we would deduce that all our infantry need to be carrying select fire Barrett .50 cal rifles and all our planes and armor need to be launching cruise missiles with tac-nukes. Overmatch has become a buzzword used to question US Military Superiority and used as justification to try and fund what ever is the cool new toy of the day.

I am not going to wax and wane on tactics and equipment when I can ramble on with different parable.

I like to think that all my firearms are weapons ready for war.  In reality, I’m not about to grab my 10/22 for a fight.

In the military, with training, we often trained as if we were fighting an equivalently equipped force.  Many reasons for this:

  • If you can beat a force equal to yourself, you can beat an inferior force.  Hopefully.
  • You can split your force and do training against each other.  Each group can try their best to win without having to artificially limit one side.  Allows all the individuals to get the best training in the limited time and budget.
  • You don’t have to try and simulate or obtain the equipment of any particular enemy group.  If you use M4 carbines, do you really want to buy AK that use simunition rounds and hand them to people who have no training on them?  Then the group using the AK are not getting good training themselves.  Etc.
  • Your group is familiar with what you use and the tactics you use.  Trying to get a group of your guys to properly role play the enemies tactics is hard. Especially if they are novices themselves.
  • And more…
  • The most important reason is that blue on blue training is easy and makes for the least amount of work for military leadership.

Thus, to make things easy for me, I’m grab a few pics of random our forces for the following examples instead of trying to find pictures of various other countries’ forces.

Back to that 10/22.  Given the choice of fighting a superior force with a 10/22 or doing something else, most would advocate doing something else.  Some would say you ignore the enemies combat forces and only strike at their support equipment and supply lines. This article isn’t for those cowards. If a hostile force is in your neighborhood going into homes and dragging off your friends and families, are you going to wait till you could hit the supply lines some other day? Success comes from taking one of your strong points poking it into an enemy’s weak point. But you don’t always get to pick your best strength or the enemies weakness, so we must be as flexible as possible in tactics and employment.

Look at these troops in Afghanistan. Body armor, good weapons, communications equipment. Against an individual with a 10/22 they would not just be overmatch. There would need some new term like overkillmatch. But it is hot over there in Afganland, almost as hot as Florida. These guys are not wearing their neck guards. Note, the article name is “fighting a superior force”, I didn’t saying anything about totally defeating them. If you were fighting a force like this a neck would be an excellent target for a .22 shot. Low recoil and low report may allow you to engage multiple individuals or fire multiple shots at one individual before you egress that firing point. You are not going to totally destroy an enemy patrol (unless you are horribly lucky), but you can hurt them.

070403-A-3887D-003 U.S. Army soldiers move down a street as they start a clearing mission in Dora, Iraq, on May 3, 2007. Soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division are patrolling the streets in Dora. DoD photo by Spc. Elisha Dawkins, U.S. Army. (Released)

If you were the unfortunate aggressor armed only with a .22, an urban environment would very much be to your advantage. Plenty of windows, mouse holes, walls, doors, or assorted opening to take a couple of shots and move before an organized response by your enemy. Even when firing a single shot from a full power rifle, it can take a few moments for the firing location to be identified. Firing a quieter weapon can make it even harder to identity when where shot came from. Helps you survive. Shoot and scoot!

Looking at the four soldiers above, only one is wearing a groin protector. Imagine if with your .22 you shot one of your enemies twice in the groin and then moved to another location in order to prepare to repeat the process. There is a good chance your .22 shots would have just struck thigh muscle and cause very little harm to the individual. There is a smaller chance you struck a major blood vessel or caused damage to the pelvis reducing mobility. There is very good you traumatized and demoralized an enemy possibly eliminating their will to fight. Think for a moment how a unit might react if 2 or 3 of their soldiers were shot in the groin. Might be a good time to get out of the area before try to use their armored vehicles to level buildings. If your enemy believes you will shoot them in their sex organs, it will have a noticeable effect on their will to fight. On the other hand, you might not want to get caught by them if you have been using this technique. Use the urban environment to engage from close range and disappear before they can respond.

U.S. Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe and members of Romania’s 21st Mountain Division assess an area of land for the site survey for a location for the soon-to-be-founded Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mescall, Afghanistan, March 25, 2009, near FOB Lagman, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Christopher S. Barnhart/Released)

These guys are wearing their neck protectors. But they either are not wearing them right, or have really long necks. Probably just have them too loose. This group is probably in the middle to rear of a larger formation. The guy on the far left is an officer. From the creepy pedophile looking mustache on the middle guy, I’d bet he is a staff NCO. Top sergeants seem to be drawn to that look for some reason unknown to me. Far right is might not be that important. But look, we have a guy wearing a funny outfit with a different gun, he must be a “collaborator”.

Major thanks to all the interpreters who helped us, especially the good ones.

I don’t want to be thought of as the guy that is just saying, “shoot them in the dick”, but lets continue with this silly example. Shooting the Officer or Staff NCO in the neck or groin is going to reduce their ability to lead and command. If you targeted an attached unit or collaborator, that may reduce the volunteers for those jobs.

Hopefully, you would have more than a .22 LR.

When you fight a superior force, you have to accept that you are not going to be able to decisively destroy them in every engagement. So you have to figure out how to use the assets you have to reduce the enemy.

Fuck overmatch, you don’t need it.

Or shoot them in the dick, whatever.


  1. The root problem with this crap like “overmatch” is that the idiots behind it all are making up and then mouthing buzzwords, rather than doing anything realistic about the issue, like examining the whole spectrum of small arms/tactics/operations that go into it all.

    I’m not convinced we either know enough or have thought carefully enough about the issues to say that we really need anything at all like this nebulous “overmatch” buzzword they’re all talking about. They say that the current weapons fleet is inadequate, and why we’re not able to address the enemy properly in dismounted combat in Afghanistan–But, they can’t articulate specifically why the current fleet is having problems, just that “…it is…”.

    To my mind, the current fleet is perfectly adequate, and where we’re having problems stems specifically from ROE, and a failure to fully support the existing weapons. I venture to predict that the same reasons will remain unaddressed with the new “overmatch” fleet, and we’re gonna keep right on having the same problems.

    The MG teams are something I’ve railed about elsewhere. You have guns out there whose manuals say “800m max effective off a bipod”, we’re taking fire from past that range, and the powers-that-be then don’t bother to take the steps that would actually address that problem, like procuring a decent tripod that would enable supported fires out to 1800m like the same manual lists. Nor do they adequately train the gun teams–We’re still doing most of our MG quals on ranges that do a really nice job of replicating late WWI or Korean War combat from prepared defensive positions, and virtually nobody is doing dynamic qualifications up in the mountains against impromptu targetry like we see in Afghan combat.

    So, instead of actually addressing those problems, we’re gonna go for “overmatch”. Which, I guarantee you, ain’t gonna work.

    This whole problem stems from the fact that the brass is disconnected from reality, and has been since forever. These are the same idiots who procured the M14/7.62mm NATO combination, thinking that Camp Perry perfectly represented the needs of modern combat. Vietnam shortly provided a corrective to that, but then, rather than admit they’d been wrong, they went after another hallucinatory solution, the SCHV idea. We’d have been a lot better off if they’d simply said “Huh. Well, that was wrong… What the hell were the Brits going on about, a few years ago…? Maybe we ought to eat some crow, and try that out… Keep the .30-06 for medium MG and sniper use, maybe…?”.

    Unfortunately, reality, rational thought, and an ability to admit mistakes or errors are not part of the curriculum where we train these autistic idiots that wind up running things. “Overmatch” is just the latest iteration, and it’s gonna end in tears, as well…

    • ah don’t sweat it. the new 6.8 service round is going to be standard by 2022 and it will solve all the world’s problems. Just like M855A1 did.

      • It’s the mindset that bothers me, mostly. The powers-that-be keep on going for that magic bullet, the blue-sky solution that’s going to be the end-all and be-all for solving all our problems. They keep shooting for the moon, never getting out of the atmosphere, and that leaves us stuck with the same old crap that we had all along.

        Meanwhile, were they doing actual incremental evolutionary improvements to what we have on hand…? That’d probably work out a lot better. If we ever actually tried it.

        The mentalities that produced the SPIW, the OICW, the ACR, and the current range of MG options? These are the blind idiots that kept going after that shiny ball of “ultimate wunderwaffen”, and ignored the fact that the M60 fleet was aging out, never started a replacement program, and we got defaulted into the overweight M240 because of their essential incompetence.

        I would be willing to bet that you could solve nine-tenths of the issues we’re having with small arms by the simple expedient of conducting better and more realistic training, and getting a decent goddamn tripod under those M240s, one that was actually usable in dynamic conditions out in the field doing light infantry operations. The M122/192 ain’t it–Those things are museum pieces that have no place on the modern battlefield outside a prepared defensive position.

        Blows my mind that they even bothered to design/build the M192 in the first damn place–It’s like the dolts who came up with that never saw anything other than the M122, and have no idea how a real tripod system should work, for dynamic operations.

        You want to see how effective MG teams should be working in a dynamic tactical environment, with tripods? Watch this:

  2. Funny. The Russians were worried about being overmatched by us, so did they change all their service rifles to a larger caliber? No they just added a 30 call DMRs into the mix. Not going to need them for most stuff but when you do hey you got one handy.
    Plus we aren’t fighting only infantry vs infantry. It’s combined arms. So if it’s out of range of a rifle well it’s in range of a motor etc.
    I think it was Scales that popularized the overmatch phrase.

    • I don’t think the Russians or Soviets ever thought about things in those terms. Instead, they thought about things in terms of how their weapons integrated in with their tactics and operational intent.

      It’s interesting to note that the AK was originally meant as a successor for the submachinegun, and the SKS was supposed to be the successor for the Moisin carbine. As things evolved, the Soviets recognized this fact, and went to an all-AK, all the time solution. Based on their evolutionary approach to arming their squads, they later added in full-power belt-fed universal machineguns, an automatic rifle version of the AK, and that DMR.

      When you look at the issue, the thing that I’m reminded of more than anything is the concept we use in civil engineering, designing pathways between buildings and other facilities. There’s something called the “desire path”, where you observe where people are actually walking, and then pave that for sidewalks, instead of trying to work out everything in advance abstractly. When you look at it all, the reality is that what has happened in small arms reflects that–The designers and theorists propose, and the actual soldiers using them wind up doing something else entirely. The Germans started out WWII with the idea that the GPMG was the primary weapon; reality intruded, and they discovered that they needed more individual firepower for the riflemen, so they ultimately came up with the StG44. When they equipped entire squads in the Volksgrenadier units with that, and consolidated the MG teams at platoon/company level, they found that they actually still needed those things down in the squads. Which was why the actual German squad organization at the end of the war, in units that had the weapons available, actually looked a lot like a post-WWII Soviet or American Vietnam-era squad.

      The “desire path” seems to keep dragging us onto a dual-caliber track down in the squads, with the soldiers actually opting to keep the heavier MG with them at all times, and to hell with the intermediate caliber all the time approach. Include the DMR, and it’s amazing how our current squad setup for small arms seems to echo what the Soviets were doing back during the 1960s… Right down to the inclusion of the Carl Gustav in lieu of the RPG.

      You almost start to think that the Soviets had their small arms shit together better than we did, but that’d be heresy, wouldn’t it?

      • Very true, The adherence to the “one caliber to rule them all” is certainly tedious. Different tools for different jobs. Having 2 or 3 different calibers in the front line in the past didn’t seem to bother anyone then why should it be so bad now?
        If anything why not just work up some new loads like was done with mk262.
        And what good is the magic overmatch bullet if it’s just going to be slung from a bipod or cheap tripod.

        PS – I finally got to use a MG3 in lafette mount. Your enthusiasm for them is definitely warranted. Smooth a butter.

        • Some years back I saw a comment, that went something like this, “If our soldiers were still using the M1Garand, we wouldn’t need sniper rifles.”
          I would have loved to laugh in humor but instead it made me mad from the outright comical stupidity of it.
          The Garand, while a good rifle for it’s time, is no sniper rifle.
          The military is always full of people with stupid ideas, but fortunately the bureaucracy and inefficiency of the military kill off most of these ideas.

          • Oh geeze haha. Those are the ones where you want to correct them but then realize they’re to far down the Fudd hole to be saved. Haha

  3. It would seem to be, being an outside observer, that the military has been invaded by the Harvard MBA mindset.

    The military needs to excise these people from the ranks, because they will destroy the military, just as surely as they’ve destroyed large, multi-billion dollar companies in the private sector.

    • I am of the opinion that when the time comes to pass judgment on our era, one of the things they’re going to point to as a major causative factor in our downfall is going to be the whole concept of the MBA, and its surrounding arrogance that the degree confers the ability to manage anything on anyone holding it.

      No matter what, if you don’t know the industry or the job inside and out, you cannot manage it. Without the fingertip knowledge that comes from having worked your way up the internal ranks, you can’t tell when someone is BS’ing you, and you have to rely on people to tell you the truth. And, unfortunately, the last thing that ever gets mentioned to these autistic freaks is that a key and critical skill for any manager is a finely-tuned BS detector.

      Which is why our military is in such dire straits, along with most of the rest of society. Nobody with a lick of common sense would do half the things you see these sorts of autists doing on a daily basis, let alone keep doubling down on them.

      I swear to God, our biggest problem in America today isn’t anything that the average person would point at and say “That’s it…”. The actual problem? This whole mindset that the MBA is reflective of. There are a lot of valuable things to be learned in those programs, but the root problem is that they don’t teach either humility or common sense. The graduates think they can manage anything, and to a degree, they can. Trouble is, they can’t manage them well or sustainably for long-term profit and survival. Short-term? Sure; even medium term. Past that, they tend to fly everything into the terrain, and we’re at about the point now where a bunch of stuff is getting ready to hit the ground… Hard.

  4. So by being smart and engaging only when the odds are in your favor, you’re a coward? That’s epically asinine and has been since Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.”

    Further, if “a hostile force is in your neighborhood going into homes and dragging off your friends and families,” then you’ve already FAILED at both intelligence operations and to engage the enemy BEFORE they reached your home. Even if not engaging, patrols and information gathering allow you to withdraw non-combatant loved ones from danger before your enemy is at your doorstep. Regardless, the closer your combat operations are to your loved ones, the more likely it is that your loved ones will die. Full stop. And remember, modern militaries typically don’t have a need to scavenge supplies, so turning your home or neighborhood into the Alamo will only result in explosives or fire destroying it–your enemies won’t risk their lives to clear the structure unless they believe the intelligence/interrogation benefit outweighs the risk of entry.

    And bottom line on this matter: you can’t protect your loved ones if you’re dead due to fundamental failures of strategies or tactics, aka as suicide missions and kamikaze attacks.

    Combloc SOP was to aim at the belt buckle to maximize their MPBR (at 300 meters aim at belt buckle, at 350m at chest, at 400m just above head, etc) when rear sight at P/battle sight setting… Began by necessity due to 7.62×39’s trajectory but continued w/ 5.45×39 as well. IIRC, 5.45 allowed 300 to move 440, 400 to 500, and 500 to 550 or 600…

    • *And small arms overmatch does matter if you biggest weaponry is small arms, as is common for civilians/potential guerrillas/irregular forces without access to state (nation or otherwise) armories.

      • The sad thing is that every time I have seen reference to overmatch with regard to the US Army it has been in reference to fighting insurgents in Afghanistan. The implication was that we are not currently better equipped than our enemies.

        • The problem is that we’re trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, oblivious to the nature of either the hole or the peg, and then acting all surprised when it doesn’t work.

          The current small arms “system”, if it may be dignified by such a term, given the haphazard way we’ve arrived at it, is predicated upon fighting a mechanized war in built-up terrain in conjunction with heavy firepower and a very permissive ROE set.

          Taking that system into an austere theater without the attendant fire support it’s supposed to be working with, add a very restrictive ROE, and well… It’s not working out very well. The current system does just fine, within the parameters that it is supposed to work within. The trouble is that the idjits we have running things are not capable of grasping that there is an actual system to it all, and that they’ve broken it by not taking the full panoply of war into Afghanistan. The ROE they’re making us follow is also a huge problem–When you can’t use your indirect fire support like light mortars, and have to have freakin’ PID on every target, well… No sh*t, Sherlock: The troops are going to be operating at a disadvantage.

          Biggest problem we have is that these guys really don’t know small arms, nor have they been trained to think of them as a system. I keep going back to the tripod issue, but the fact is, that’s a key indicator of the nature of the problem: You can’t range an enemy off a bipod that’s outside the max effective range for the weapon; you must have a tripod, and the tripod must be capable of being rapidly put into effective action in wildly variable terrain. Whatever that solution might be, it ain’t the M122/192 crap we’re fielding. The Lafette might be a good solution, albeit heavy as hell, but even the FN and UK/Canadian tripods for their version of the M240 would be an improvement on what we’re saddling the troops with.

          Root problem? We don’t know what the hell we’re doing. This “overmatch” BS is just more proof that the people running this game have no damn clue what is really going on out there where the rubber hits the road. “Overmatch” What the hell does that really mean? What the hell does “Lethality” mean? These are all just so many buzzwords that even the people who come up with them can’t really define clearly, and that’s a demonstration of just how poor their thinking about these issues are.

          • In the Corps we often talked about how leadership usually did not know how to employ Machine Guns and Snipers effectively. It was stated as a fact, but then no one would explain how they should be employed.

          • Howard, while I can’t speak to what those guys were thinking, I can tell you what my opinion on the matter is.

            I don’t think we use MG teams effectively at all, over in the Army. Marines I can’t speak to, although I have read their manuals and talked to a few of their trained gunners.

            The root of the problem is that the Army’s leadership does not think of the MG team as a weapon system–It’s a supporting tool, and that’s about it. Same-same with the sniper teams.

            If you use an MG team effectively, you have to integrate that team into your tactical thinking as an MG team.

            Consider the tactical problem of an enemy dug into a hillside position, one that you have to take. Typical US-forces bog standard approach is to take that position under fire with as many supporting weapons as you can, maneuver up to it, and take it by assault. This has been the drill since before WWII, and our MG teams are used as supporting arms, shooting the maneuver element onto the objective as purely supporting arms providing fire.

            An alternative approach, one centered on the MG team, and in full accordance with how the Germans approached these situations for most of the early WWII campaigns, would be to fix the enemy’s attention with some small amount of fire, work the riflemen around to find a path around the enemy position to where they could put the MG teams in position, and then once that was done, take the enemy position under MG fires until they were forced to withdraw, preferably along avenues already overwatched by other MG teams, and prepped to deliver fire on.

            The idea is that the MG team is your primary source of firepower, and instead of focusing on your riflemen and supporting their movement with the gun, the gun is the focus, and your riflemen support it.

            This is a more economical solution, because crew-served generally do more damage and generate more firepower, if only because the crews have less likelihood to flake out under return fire, and since they’ve got that bloody great gun shooting back, they like to do that. Crew-served are harder to suppress for the enemy because of the mutual support the individuals in the crew give each other, and because the amount of fire that they can return is devastating.

            However, such an approach requires that you actually know what the hell you are doing with your guns, and that you are able to effectively use them. If you watch that video I posted above, you’ll see what’s left of German MG doctrine and philosophy, with the MG3, that “overly-complicated” Lafette tripod, and their sight systems. Note that the gunners are able to respond to corrections and that the sight keeps their heads below the line of sight, while the guns can be situated above cover. It’s a much more sophisticated approach. Also note the more complex sort of training they’re doing–Ever see US gun teams integrate like that, using tripods like that, or doing that sort of training, at all? No? Wonder why we’re shit at MG technique…?

            Also, note that the Germans are doing dynamic training with those gun teams, integrated in with the rifle teams. We should be doing our MG qualifications just like that, and be doing them in mixed terrain like mountains and other likely operational areas. The fact that the vast majority of our MG ranges look like late Korean War static defenses is one key reason that nobody knows how the hell to use the guns. Along with our deficient tripods and other support tools–How many gun teams are carrying binos with reticles with which to adjust fire with? How many even know how to do that? How many range finders are out there with the gun teams?

            If you want to know why we can’t answer PKM fire from 1100 meters, this is why: The M240 is only good out to 800m, off a bipod. You want more range, it needs to be supported by a good, rapidly-adaptable tripod system, and you need to have gun crews trained to do that kind of work. You also need leaders that know how all of this goes together… And, we just don’t.

            Based on what I know about German MG doctrine/technique, I’m pretty sure that any German WWII-era Gebirgsjager unit would be able to wreak havoc on any Taliban element stupid enough to take them under fire, and they’d do it within about 60 seconds of taking fire and identifying the source of that fire. That was the standard they worked to, with their guns. Because, my friend, that’s all those guys had: Their MG systems and their mortars. No support fires, no real artillery support from outside the unit, none of that. They were mostly on their own, and they managed to deal quite handily with any of the Red Army elements that they ran into in the Caucasus. There are some very interesting films I’ve seen showing how they did it, and what the training was like. Said training was nothing like the epic half-assery we do, I might add…

    • Hey RSR. I wrote up a long response and was going to post it as a post. Then I got sick and distracted.
      Listen, my article isn’t some codeword about civil war 2, it is just throwing out ideas about fighting when you are against an enemy with a advantage over you.
      I think it is cowardly to suggest that someone not fight the good fight because there might be an easier fight in the future.
      If you find out there are rioters coming near your home, you can’t say, “Oh, lets attack their supply lines.”
      If you are at the bar and you run into a dozen bikers who decide they want to rearrange your face, the response isn’t “I’m going to E&E until I can sabotage their fuel source”
      I never advocating fighting from your home. It would more likely turn out like Waco Texas or Ruby Ridge. But there have been plenty of times in the past where individuals have taken that risk and won (at a cost). For example the Rooftop Koreans of the LA riots.
      It is much like if a kid asked you about how to handle a bully at school. The suggesting you are saying is like telling that kid to avoid the bully at school and then sneak into his house and smash his head in with a ball peen hammer.
      At first it sounds like good advice, but it fails to account that the bully has a family. That a house might have a security system (be it ring, or a dog, etc). What is often implied to be a soft target isn’t.
      In Iraq, the insurgents liked to attack our patrols. Why, because it was one of the easier targets. A patrol would be 8-20 Marines. Want to attack our fuel, our food, our water? It is in a base with a company+ of Marines, soldiers, airmen, and reservists. If they managed to destroy a fuel truck, didn’t effect us. We were still going to patrol.
      You could wait forever for a better chance. It may never come.
      As for intelligence failure, you just described all of human history. Every fight, battle, or war has a losing side. The winners still pay a cost. Anyone could always point to the loser, or the costs the winner spent, and say “Should have had better intellegence.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here