Apr 29, 2008

New Gun Safety Rule, DEA style

"I'm the only one in this room professional enough ..."

Thanks to our gun "experts" in law enforcement we have a new firearm safety rule. Civilians can't be trusted with firearms so we depend on them to show us the way.

But seriously...

Thanks to Erik at LonelyMachines.org
for the brilliant illustration.

Dean Speir's Gun Zone commented well on this as did Lonely Machines

Sadly, even a Linguist who describes himself as a non-expert has better insights than a government-trained "professional."

I've been on active duty since 2003 as a full time small arms instructor and have worked with tens of thousands of deploying Soldiers, along with a large number of Marines, Airmen and Seamen. A number of these folks have law enforcement experience. Excluding those with a competition shooting (or similar) background I can count the number of true shooting experts among them on my fingers. Not many of them were as notorious as everybody's favorite DEA Agent but few of them were true shottists either.

Shooters involved in organized marksmanship events, such as competition, are the true experts in the marksmanship world. Tiger Woods would never have been recognized for his golf skill if he didn't bother to attend golf tournaments. There are probably zero golfers who have a similar level of skill but aren't also participating in tournaments. Marksmanship is no different!

Apr 27, 2008

The Death of Machine Gunnery

I've been involved in two investigations at mobilization platforms where this happened. It may not be widespread but it happens enough to be disconcerting. The Soldier on the gun didn't understand (or didn't check) Headspace and nobody running the range did either.

And this is a failure of Mechanical training! The "put gas in the tank and press the pedal" level of "driving" a machine gun.

Do you think this "gunner" understands Characteristics and Classifications of Fire, ADDRAC, PICMDEEP, mils, or other principles of gunnery?

Most Soldiers (and sometimes Marines) issued machine guns are NOT gunners. "I carried one of those for five years" does NOT qualify one as a gunner. We could have strapped a log around your neck for five years and had the same training.

Read The Rise, Fall, & Rebirth Of The 'Emma Gees' for more info.

Apr 26, 2008

Shooting AR15/M16 rifles touching the magazine

Myth – “Touching the magazine on the ground will induce a stoppage.”

Fact – Touching the magazine of a many firearms, especially AR-15/M16/M4 –series rifles, has no adverse effect on functioning and has been PROVEN to be reliable and stable for decades.

FM 3-22.9, Page 7-3, Figure 7-5
“Once the basic firing skills have been mastered during initial training, the soldier should be encouraged to modify positions, to take advantage of available cover, to use anything that helps to steady the rifle, or to make any change that allows him to hit more combat targets.”

Certain detachable box magazine-fed, self-loading firearms may be susceptible to stoppages if the magazine is touched. The AR-15 series, including M16/M4s, is NOT one of them.

Since the introduction of Commonwealth-style International Combat shooting to the US Army in the early 1990’s, military teams have been adapting the good skills learned in National Match-style shooting to more freestyle events shot with rack-grade gear. Being a combat match, no alibis are granted. Any stoppage has to be cleared on the clock, therefore, equipment and technique must be reliable.

If touching the magazine caused stoppages nobody (at least not any winners) would use it because any risk of malfunctions would cancel the stability benefit. For about two decades the winning technique has been to use the magazine as a base of support when possible. From a tactical perspective, Mag Prone puts the shooter in “Helmet Defilade”, the lowest possible shooting position where the shooter’s helmet and muzzle are the most prominent things an enemy target can see.

Apr 21, 2008

M16 AR-15 Tips

Here some tips about M16 and AR-15 rifles. These have been proven by the USAR Shooting Team and written about by SFC Hubert Townsend.

Most issue, rack grade M16/M4s are two or three minute of angle (MOA) guns. That means that at 100 yards they shoot a group covering a circle of two or three inches diameter, four to six inches at 200 yards, etc. That is normal but can't always be assumed. I was once issued a rifle that turned out to be only five MOA and didn’t discover it until shooting a five inch group at 100 yards on a paper target. No wonder I had trouble at the 300 yard line with it!

Confirm your weapon’s ability with a good, solid, prone supported shooting session. If it is excessively large get a known good shooter to confirm that the large group wasn’t your own marksmanship failure.

The US Army Reserve team discovered through testing that 10% of rifle magazines may cause a rifle to shoot to a different point of impact! I know this is a fact because we put my rifle into our machine rest and shot 10 round groups with different mags.

The first magazine shot the usual two inch group. We inserted mag #2 and there were now 20 holes inside the same two inch circle 100 yards away. Then we inserted mag #3. Good Golly Miss Molly - the entire group shifted two inches to the right! Wow, that explained why my shots at the 300 yard line were off to the side. It wasn’t me being stupid or missing the wind or a loose position. It was my magazine the whole time. So now, when I get a new mag, you can bet that I shoot it at 100 yards and ensure the rounds are hitting the same spot as the others. Also, you know why all my mags are labeled.

Lastly, for iron sight shooters, there is a very simple way to increase precise aiming. Standard Army rifles are set so that the rear elevation knob can't go below the 300 meter (8/3) setting. That knob can be adjusted with an Allen wrench to allow the rear sight to move below 300 meters/yards three or four minutes. This means that shooting at a 200 yard target, just click down two minutes, hold center, and that is where the group will go. If moving in to 100 yds, then click down one more and you will be dead on. No more worrying about holding high or low at different distances, just click the rear elevation knob. Much more precise. This is the Marine standard setting their M16s.

Apr 20, 2008

Big Game Rifle - North American Hunting Club

Book Review: “The Game Rifle
by Bob Hagel

The Game Rifle, published by the North American Hunting Club, is author Bob Hagel's 1992 attempt to describe the selection and use of rifled arms in the big game hunting fields, with a few notes on varminting.

The book begins strong, with an introduction detailing the doctrine of every seasoned hunter-shooter and guide: Make the first shot count (hunt as if carrying a single shot), always use a rest when available, practice real field shooting positions, thoroughly understand and acknowledge your actual shooting abilities under various conditions, and be willing to pass up shots and game to avoid wounding and/or missing animals.

After this strong eight page introduction discussing the real cause of both good and bad field marksmanship (the hunter and his personal shooting skill, not equipment), Hagel retrogrades and copies every other writer pretending to discuss field marksmanship by wasting most of the entire book blathering on about what things you should buy and use, offering almost no solution to the problems he puts forth in his introduction.

The chapters blend together, with "Favorite Guns Past and Present", "Western Rifles and Cartridges", "Selecting the Right Elk Cartridge", "All-Around Cartridges and Rifles", "The Magnums", "Big Game Bullets", and, well, you get the idea.

The only real discussion on marksmanship at all is attempted in one chapter "Shooting Big-Game Rifles." At 22 pages (less than 10 percent of the book), including three full-page photographs (two of animals, and one guy with binoculars) Hagel makes a strong point for the need of better marksmanship training for hunters:

"It's a safe bet that 50 percent of the big-game rifles that go into hunting country each fall are not correctly sighted in. It is also a safe bet that half of the 50 percent that are at least roughly sighted in, are not sighted to give the hunter the full advantage of the cartridge used in the rifle. ... Few hunters who would go into big-game country without sighting in their rifles are good shots - despite their opinions to the contrary. If we fail to educate and encourage them to sight in their rifles, we can be sure that they are more likely to would game than to kill cleanly. Anyway, hunters who go into the field unprepared give the rest of us a bad name"

Of course, this book isn't going to offer any solutions for this problem. While the chapter offers good advice some of his conclusions are suspect. For example, Hagel recommends sighting in no less than three inches high at 100, allowing a point blank zero all the way out to at least 350 yards.

"If you hold on the center of a buck's ribs anywhere from the muzzle out to 350 yards, which is as far as most prudent men will attempt, the bullet will land in a vital area."

Hagel implies that a 200 yard zero is unsavvy and that this high zero is better because "Few of us... are very good at estimating range in unfamiliar terrain."

Right, sure. Two pages prior the author points out that approximately 75% of hunters don't even know how to properly zero their rifles, but now, with this "innovative" point blank zero, we can zap 'em out to 350 yards plus. Amazing!

On the page facing, Hagel has a picture of a target shot with his rifle at 100, 200, 300 and 350 yards. His groups at each distance are tight (likely bench-rested and not fired from a field position), with the dispersion falling perfectly vertically.

Even with this antiseptically-clean target fired with a rifle chambered in a fast magnum, we have up to 10 inches of error (5 inches high and low) built into a given shot. Add five inches of error to a hunter, with typically poor marksmanship skills (because nobody, including Hagel, bothered to actually teach him how), firing from a wobbling field position (we don't take our bench rest to the field!), who is holding a bit high on that critter at 196 yards because, due to his poor range estimation skills, he is sure it is "at least 300 yards away", and we likely get the same result as if he just stayed with the other 75% who hadn't bothered to zero in the first damn place.

The rest of this one shooting chapter discusses the ballistics needed to make long range shots, and slope angle. Not how to dope conditions or slope, but only that it might be an issue that you will have to figure out for yourself.

That concludes the only chapter of the book attempting to discus marksmanship. Nothing about field shooting, save two pictures, the last one captioned "After sighting a rifle in from a bench, check the point of impact when the rifle is fired from positions you will most likely use, such as this improvised field rest."

This is the total knowledge on field shooting you will gain by reading this book. Chapter 14 "The Best Shots" suggests a lung-heart shot is better for most hunters than a head-neck shot, but nothing is discussed nor are there any illustrations about shot placement, target angle, etc.

So why am I such a harsh critic of authors like this? In the foreword, Steven Burke, NAHC's president, describes Hagel as a "tell it like it is" writer, first published in 1936 (!), who worked as a professional guide for 12 years. Burke goes on to describe the text as a "jeweled masterpiece", saying,

"All of our efforts at NAHC are directed to provide the best, most accurate and most complete hunting information..." and "... we found that few up-to-date, thorough resources existed to guide the serious hunter through the selection and field use [emphasis added] of what is generically known as the 'game rifle.' ... Based on Bob Hagel's dedication and career in guns and hunting, I'm confident you'll enjoy this volume and come to cherish it as a first-class rifleman's resource."

Ask some amateur puke like me to pick the "ideal" game rifle and I'll tell you this:

"Go to S-mart or a local gun store, buy whatever basic bolt action or single shot rifle they have, along with a small, low-powered scope (2-4 power.) Don't pick either the cheapest or most expensive. Go with .308 Winchester if you want to shoot big game, .223 Remington for varmints, only because you can get a case of 1000 rounds of surplus ammo cheaper than you can reload it. Find a local range/club sponsoring HunterShooter events (or something similar) and go as often as you can, putting in sufficient dry and live practice in between events to steadily increase your scores. By the time you're finishing up your second case, you'll have sufficient experience to make your own choices, and sufficient skill to benefit from that choice."

You ask a professional like Hagel for advice on picking the "ideal" game rifle and he spews forth 249 pages, including the index.

Let's say our intrepid hunter works his way through this tome and manages to pick the "perfect" game rifle. What positive effect could it have? By author Hagel's own estimation, 75% of hunters can't (or just don't) even set their equipment up properly by establishing, or even fully understanding, a good zero. We haven't even begun to discuss actually employing the equipment in the field. Sort of like arguing which carburetor we should put in our race car when we haven't yet learned how to drive.

This sort of book functions only as a strumpet for the gun industry. It provides little benefit to the reader beyond the titillation of armchair hunters looking to buy a new toy who don't want to be distracted by actually learning to use it.

Apr 15, 2008

Jack Weaver failed to invent the Weaver Stance (almost)

American Handgunner interviewed Jack Weaver about the beginnings of practical shooting and how he developed the stance that bears his name. There are several important revelations to be gleaned here.

"I missed the first one [Leather Slap ] because I didn't even know it was taking place."
The inventor of the stance that would define practical shooting up through the early Eighties almost didn't show up because he wasn't aware such an event existed. How telling! This problem continues to hamper gun owners. We need a better system for promoting shooting events.

Competition shooting has been the driving force behind marksmanship and the evolution of practical pistol shooting is yet more evidence. Weaver says that his only motivation for developing his stance was to win the Leatherslap contests he started participating in during the late 1950's.

Point shooters continue to claim that their technique works better. Yet, as Weaver realized, it was the failure of these methods to produce consistent results that motivated him to figure out something better.

But none of this would have come to pass if the events weren't held.

Read more about the Modern Technique

Or download a report.