A base of fire is a military term for a supporting force that provides overwatch and covering fire to other advancing units while they are executing fire and movement tactics. A base of fire can be a platoon during company fire and movement, by individual armoured fighting vehicles (esp. tanks) or infantry sections, in platoon fire and movement, or even by fireteams or individual soldiers, in the final stages of an assault. -- Wikipedia.
Suppress the Enemy.
a. The platoon leader determines if the squad in contact can gain suppressive fire against the enemy based on the volume and accuracy of the enemy's return fire.
(1) If the answer is YES, he directs the squad (with one or both machine guns) to continue suppressing the enemy:
(a) The squad in contact destroys or suppresses enemy weapons that are firing most effectively against it; normally crew-served weapons.
(b) The squad in contact places screening smoke (M203) to prevent the enemy from seeing the maneuver element.
(2) If the answer is NO, the platoon leader deploys another squad and the second machine gun team to suppress the enemy position. (The platoon leader may direct the platoon sergeant to position this squad and one or both machine gun teams in a better support-by-fire position.) -- FM 7-8 INFANTRY RIFLE PLATOON AND SQUAD, Chapter 4, Battle Drills.
Tricked-out SKS with bipod. This would make an excellent base-of-fire weapon when used with a large capacity magazine.
I have mentioned before in these pages that I was given a Yugoslavian SKS parts gun and that I am re-working it into a semi-auto base of fire weapon by modifying it to use AK mags, adding a bipod (which attaches to the bayonet lug -- bye bye pig sticker), etc. Why on earth would I do this? The project is a proof of concept experiment.
Based upon anecdotal evidence, it seems to me that the SKS remains the most common semi-auto rifle in militiamen's (and women's) hands today. And the 7.62x39 likewise remains the most common caliber found, in both AK's and SKS's. There are millions of SKS's out there, with the Yugoslavian M59/66s representing the latest (and perhaps last) big influx of the many Simonov variants.
The Yugo is a half-pound heavier than the standard SKS and almost four inches longer. The extra weight and length is not a bad thing for slinging grenades. Nor, I might add, is that a bad thing for a bipod-supported base-of-fire weapon. The bipod and extra-capacity magazine add even more weight. When your are counting on the bipod to provide a steady rest for accuracy and the 40-round stick or 75-round drum for volume, the extra weight helps defeat recoil and provides stability. This is a "goodness thing."
I like the SKS better than the AK variants for semi-auto aimed fire because I find them to be much more inherently accurate. (I make the observation here only, without wishing to get into the eternal argument about WHY this is so.)
So, if I am looking to create a semi-auto base of fire weapon in a commonly-occurring caliber, I could do a lot worse than the Yugo M59/66 for a platform to build one.
Why a semi-auto base of fire weapon? Because --
a. (and ask any old BAR man this) semi-auto can be manipulated from a bipod more accurately than full auto yet almost as rapidly;
b. unless you're fighting the Chinese People's Liberation Army in an alley, full-auto fire -- especially in the hands of a less-than-experienced shooter -- is most often wasted;
c. we lack the logistical tail to support full-auto weapons and must be sparing with ammunition expenditure;
d. Class III weaponry is (wrongfully) denied to the average person these days. Not much we can do about that at the moment but work around it.
Our fire teams need a base-of-fire capability. If we could expect to field entire squads of men and women, Appleseed trained, who could operate as designated marksmen and hit everything they aimed at with individual shots every time, then we would have far less need for volume-of-fire weapons. Since in the event the need will overwhelm the supply of trained marksmen, we can substitute the latter.
There is also the need for training buddy teams, fire teams and squads in the tactics and battle drills of base-of-fire. It may be that one day in the not so distant, we will find M240Bs and M249 SAWs lying about on the road, abandoned by their former Federal police owners or by gang members. (But then, I repeat myself.) If so, we need to have gunners used to the concepts and practices of base-of-fire. Better to get used to them on a substitute platform like a semi-auto, bipod mounted rifle now, so the transition is eased later, don't you think?
Now, one of the necessities of base-of-fire weapons is larger magazine capacity. In order to put out volume, even semi-auto volume, and sustain it you must have more ammo to call upon with slowing the process by changing out magazines. Therefore, to prove the concept with a Yugo M59/66 means modifying it to accept AK mags. This is hardly an undiscovered country. The Chinese SKS-M and SKS-D variants were manufactured to accept AK mags.
Norinco SKS-M "Paratrooper."
Indeed, some of these rifles came into the country before the Clinton import ban with full-auto trigger groups. (These can be readily identified by the button on the underside of the trigger group which allows the operator to push it back and forth for semi-auto or full-auto fire.) Almost all of these were caught by either the importers at the time, or the various gun shops who sold them. (There was a rumor going around that the ATF was slipping these in to shipments just to test the compliance of gun store owners. Probably not true, but it is exactly the kind of sneaky shit that agency pulls from time to time.) Almost all were caught, but not all. I heard as recently as three years ago of a fellow who bought an SKS off an individual at a gun show in Kansas and didn't realize until he got the rifle home that it had the magic button providing low and high gears. I never did hear what he decided to do with his radioactive trigger group.
A Yugo M72 semi-auto RPK-style rifle with 40 round magazine. A base-of-fire weapon, even a semi-auto one, needs a larger magazine capacity than a rifleman's piece.
AK AES 10B heavy barrel with bipod and drum magazine. Note the carry handle, an excellent feature on a base-of-fire weapon.
During the 90s, before the ATF came out with their ruling banning the use of shoestrings, we used to practice base-of-fire in ambushes, etc., with semi-auto RPK-style rifles and Chinese 75 round drum mags (using blanks, of course). The rifle would run until you caught the bolt handle. Then you would cycle it by hand and start again. It made a dandy LMG substitute in FTXs. Alas, those days are gone.
The drums were very handy, and are just the thing for base-of-fire weapons. They are not as greedy of length as the long 40 rounders, allowing the gunner to get lower to ground -- a critical need when the rounds are flying both ways.
This is a Korean-made copy of the Chinese 75-round drum, opened and empty to show the mechanism.
Here is a loaded but open Romanian drum, showing how the rounds fit in.
Here is the back of a Chinese 75-round drum showing the wind-up key. The mag should be loaded, but not wound, until just before moving out for serious work.
My reworked Yugo will use drums and have a carry handle handle as well as a bipod.
Once you decide to use drums in a base-of-fire weapon, you need to decide how best to carry the bulky and heavy things. The Chinese issued this sort of drum carrier.
It is made of thin cloth and has a shoulder strap, but doesn't protect the mag from banging around much. It has the typical (but slow) Chinese wood toggle fastener.
This, however, is a much better way to carry drums on a combat harness.
This is the standard pouch for the USMC First Aid Kit. This pouch is MOLLE compatible and will attach to all DOD vest systems. It has an interior divider to separate your medic gear and features a color-matched low-IRR Fastex buckle closure. Its approximate dimensions are 7"H x 6"W x 1 3/4"D (expands to 5"D at opening).
You can find these boogers at various outlets on the web and often in surplus stores. My favorite local store, AA Surplus in Leeds, has them for example. (There I go pimping Darryl again.)
Be sure and get the original US issue pouch and not a knock-off from China. The tag stitched into the back of a USGI pouch reads something like this one I got from Darryl:
POUCH, FIRST AID KIT, USMC
One final word. If you decide to go the route of a 7.62x39 semi-auto BOF weapon, you must become practiced with it firing from behind cover while prone with the bipod at targets out to 400 meters. Try for three round "bursts" on target. Take a look at the propaganda image of the RPD at the beginning of this piece. I put it there for a reason. (Ignore the moke with Chairman Mao's little red book.)
I will post photos of the rifle when I am finished.