Sep 24, 2008

Why We Do NOT Need New Military Rifles

The levels of foolishness reached a new high when I found this gem, written in complete seriousness by a self-important commentator:

Now I really have no room to talk about combat or shooting in general because I am not fighting for my country nor have attended any [organized shooting events] (yet), but it should not be necessary to shoot someone more than once to put them out of the fight.

In my personal opinion I think that the military needs a new rifle.

There has been a push in many circles, military and civilian, to replace the 5.56x45mm cartridge used by the United States and throughout NATO and/or replace the AR15/M16 platform. The intelligence of such an opinion can be summed up by this commentator. At least this guy is honest enough to admit that such a notion is backed by people who do not know any better.

Let's discuss why replacing the M16-series and the 5.56x45mm cartridge makes little sense. We'll begin by looking at the rifle.

The "magic" gas piston. The M16/AR15 utilizes direct gas impingement, meaning that gas pressure is forced down a tube directly into the bolt carrier with no intervening piston. The beauty of this system is that it is simple and light weight. The claimed disadvantage, and a primary claim for replacement, is that fouling is deposited directly into the bolt carrier, thus the common complaint that the M16 "craps where it eats."

This mythical "problem" exists in the minds of undertrained marksmen, usually soldiers who have been inadvertantly taught to destroy firearms under a misguided premise of cleaning them.

All firearms burn propellant. Fouling ("carbon") is destined to build up no matter the design. All gas operated systems utilize gas pressure to operate the mechanism and this fouling will accumulate somewhere. Keep this in mind the next time you maintain a M240 or M249 and inspect the gas regulator and piston.

In my experience this makes the M16/AR15 easier to maintain because the area of build up, directly behind the gas rings on the bolt inside the carrier, can be kept lubricated and the fouling easily wiped off. Many piston designs advise the operator to avoid lubricating that primary area of fouling. Carbon is baked on and must be scraped to remove. Keep the rear of the bolt behind the gas rings in your M16 moistened with CLP or other proper lubricant like you're supposed to and this fouling is easily wiped away.

The misinformed will opine that this isn't possible in a desert environment, yet, as many vets have found out, CLP works just fine in the sand. The key is regular maintenance, something you'll need to do no matter the lubricant choice.

Instead of replacing perfectly-good rifles, a better fix would be to upgrade existing M16A4s with free float tubes. This is a parts-swap utilizing current rifles. Start by outfitting those rifles issued to qualified Squad Designated Marksmen (SDM). The inherent accuracy of rack-grade M16s is sufficient for all but the best Soldier-Marksmen. The problem of holding a zero due to the fact that the hand guard contacts the barrel would be eliminated (funny that those crying for a new rifle never mention this fact, but only a true marksmen would notice such an issue.)

The true ridiculousness of those requesting new rifles is the fact that most of the suggested replacements are chambered in the same cartridge! Replacing the current-issue 5.56mm rifle with another 5.56mm rifle does nothing!

What about the cartridge? Maybe we should go to a 6.Xmm something or other. Failures to stop in the field are a common complaint here.

The sad, unspoken truth is that most members of the military are lousy marksmen. Placement is more important than anything equipment related and a trip to any military range will demonstrate this isn't being sufficiently addressed. DOD personnel, regardless of their branch, rarely have the markmanship chops for cartridge choice to ever matter.

Add in the fact that the logistics of changing chamberings are nightmarish and any sensible person has to wonder what the point is. A more realistic improvement would be to make heavy 5.56mm projectiles standard issue. All our current 5.56 chambered weapons sport 1:7 twists and will stablize them. This gives performance that approaches typical 6.8mm loadings and current ammunition is still useable.

Consider that the Mk262 cartridge launches a 77 grain bullet with a high ballistic coefficient at around 2800 feet per second. The 6.8x43mm SPC starts a 115 grain bullet out at around 2500 fps from the same length of barrel. One can demonstrate that the 6.8 is better and it has merit, however, once the logistical costs and issues and weighed in, it makes no sense to do so just to gain 35 grains of bullet (and lose around 250 fps.)

The only real reasons to change rifles and ammunition are:

  • Create a new contract for a different supplier.
  • Satisfy gun magazines by providing filler content

None of these things improve issue equipment that is already more that satisfactory. Learn how to shoot what you have instead of asking for new toys!

Sep 13, 2008

Gun Magazines and Promotion

I still thumb through the slicks because they are one of the first conduits of info for the new gun owner. Let's face it, most newbies don't start their shooting "career" by attending a $1000, 4 day class at a top-notch shooting school. If they're anything like every gun owner I've ever met, these folks are just testing the waters to see what's out there. A few dollars invested at a newsstand on a magazine that catches their eye is a cheap and safe way to start.

Most gun owners have at least two things in common:
  1. They all have purchased guns (of course!)
  2. They all have read through various gun/hunting magazines at least on occasion.
If we can consistently get a better class of info in these common sources of info, at the points of purchase and at the newsstands, we can get a better class of marksman.

We need a better way to pass along good, proven information. Too many self-important Unconsciously Incompetent hucksters float around the gun scene. That's why I'm big on organized shooting and befuddled as to why so many gun owners seem opposed to it. Of course, it is difficult to maintain a delusion of competence if you allow someone to observe and score your attempt.

If you want to pass on the idea that shooting and hunting is good, you need to give people an opportunity to see for themselves. Not just gun owners, ALL people.

"Take a kid hunting." Good idea. What if it were spring or summer? If someone approached me interested in deer hunting, I'd have to tell them to wait until late November. But I can take them to a HunterShooter event this weekend, or just go to the range and shoot some Scenarios today.

And what about non-gun owners? Some people just aren't interested in shooting, just like I'm not interested in golf.

How can we demonstrate that shooting is worthy activity pursued by skilled practitioners, and eliminate the "Bubba" image? Ask Bill France, who took a bunch of redneck moonshiners with fast cars and organized races for them. We call it NASCAR today.

Sep 10, 2008

How and When to Adjust Your Rifle Zero

Myth – “Even though the group isn’t centered I don’t want to adjust the sights because I already have a zero.”

Fact – A zero is only as good as the placement of each correctly called shot.

FM 3-22.9, Page 5-21
“KD Zeroing. The 300-meter target can be used at 300 meters to confirm weapon
zero or to refine the zero obtained on the 25-meter range. The zero on this target is more valid than the zero obtained on the 25-meter range . . . Soldiers should fire two 5 round shot groups to confirm zero or three-round shot groups to refine their zero.”

The term “zero” implies no deviation from the point of aim to the point of impact. Because line of sight is straight and the trajectory is not zero is used in reference to a number of different things:

* Mechanical – physically centering the sights
* No Wind – windage setting for a given lot of ammo, disregarding environment
* True – specific sight setting for a specific shot in a specific environment
* Battle (BZO) – no wind setting that allows the shooter to ignore the distance to a target of a certain size just beyond the distance zeroed for.

Differences in environment (temperature, air resistance, altitude), ammunition lots and other factors can yield a zero change. Provided you fired and called a good group, never be afraid to make adjustments. This assumes you can accurately call each shot . . .

Sep 3, 2008

Promoting Shooting

HunterShooter has been in a state of metamorphosis since its inception. Originally, I was looking to create a tiny (about 2000-3000 folks), somewhat elite group of shottists focused on field marksmanship.

Membership would be open to anyone, but the only hunters likely to be interested are those with similar interests. Member and club information was managed in a simple desktop database application and through a 10-20 page quarterly newsletter. The complete information to actually participate and setup events was published in a 108 page Instruction Manual.

I soon learned a few things the hard way.

In order to sign up 2000 folks as active, card-carrying members I’d have to figure out a way to get the word out several times to at least a quarter million potentially interested people.

Consider the NRA, with a $100 million annual budget, 130 years of experience and four million members. They haven’t figured out a way to create a shooting event that attracts more than 50,000 participants, a scant 1.25% of the members who pay to receive NRA literature.

The gun industry as a whole has little intention of doing anything to motivate the majority of end users (gun owners) to become skilled, or just competent, with their firearms. Of the 130+ publishers and shooting/hunting companies and organizations I’ve contacted with the notion of organized shooting events for big game hunters, I can count on one hand the number who even bothered responding (and I wasn’t even begging for money!)

Admittedly, this operation is small potatoes right now, but there isn’t any interest to do this anywhere else. The problem isn’t that they won’t promote HunterShooter; the problem is they won’t promote anything that will motivate the rank-and-file venison fetcher to get more range time in.

In an attempt to rectify this situation, I penned a couple articles and submitted to American Hunter and American Rifleman magazines. The articles were to inform the NRA membership about NRA programs that can help hunters, namely Sporting Rifle and the Marksmanship Qualification Program. I made no mention of HunterShooter or any non-NRA program.

However, despite the fact I'm a Life Member, the editor rejected the queries because
"Unfortunately, that subject just doesn't fit in well with the mix of articles we are planning for the next year's issues of the magazine, so we can't encourage you to try it for us.”
It isn’t my lousy skills as a writer that were rejected, because the editors never looked at the manuscript. They rejected the notion of promoting their own programs to the big game hunters among their membership because “…that subject just doesn't fit in well…”


I’ve been running things in a “monkey see, monkey do" fashion, modeling this program after all other shooting programs and that was a huge mistake. History has proven that even the best shooting programs are dismal failures. A bold statement? Consider that organized marksmanship outdates baseball and football and compare which entity is a failure or success.

Some time ago I went to attend a High Power match. I had never been to this particular range before, so when I arrived in a nearby town I stopped at a gas station for directions. Not a single person living and working ten miles from that range had even heard of it, including a thirty-something who told me, “Look, buddy, I’ve lived in this town all my life and I don’t know where you’re talking about.” This wasn’t the first or last time I’ve experienced this.

Anti-Gun attitudes are a symptom of the gun industry's inability to promote events. Gun owners remain largely unaware of shooting opportunities.

Sep 1, 2008

Shoot, Your're On TV!

Can shooting get televised coverage? How much spectator interest can shooting possibly generate?

Consider the Biathlon in the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was televised. In fact, MSNBC was so anti-gun they had an actual champion shooter (Josh Thompson) do their coverage, featured Magdalena Forsberg in an
"Athlete's Voice" segment and had a PDF brochure of Biathlon training centers, among other articles, all positive.

Both men's and women's biathlon races earned airtime. One biathlete competitor informed me that he felt, "...the coverage was good and the races were fantastic."

The Today Show featured a segment with anchorman Matt Lauer receiving instruction on Biathlon. The piece had him learning to both ski and shoot. At the end he stated, on national television, that the sport
deserves more media attention in the US.

Then there was Yahoo!'s coverage on the "emerging" sport of biathlon.
Best quotes:
"There might be no other Winter Olympic sport as thoroughly pragmatic as biathlon."

"Biathlon is the most watched winter sport in Europe on television..." [Having visited Europe months prior to the 2002 Olympics I learned that finding a Biathlon on 'EuroSport' was as easy as finding football or
basketball on ESPN]

Why are shooting sports, like Biathlon, ignored by the American mainstream media?

"... you come home to America to compete, and people aren't quite sure what the two sports are, or often they think it's three different sports,'' said Rachel Steer, the top-ranked U.S. woman, from Anchorage, Alaska

According to this Olympian, the real problem in promoting shooting as a mainstream activity is the lack of public demand and knowledge of the events. So if a televised gun game can be popular in anti-gun Europe,
why aren't American gun organizations and owners demanding it over here?

I could find no anti-gun bias in MSNBC or Yahoo's Biathlon coverage. During this same time period there was no apparent Biathlon coverage at from the NRA. In fact the "Top Sports Stories of the Day" reported on their website during this time featured such venues as Figure Skating and NCCA basketball.

Why should the NRA care? Biathlon is a shooting sport that earned some positive coverage nationwide in the "anti-gun" media. Why didn't they capitalize on it? You would think the NRA should appear at least as supportive of Biathlon as NBC is...

I am NOT saying NBC is now the gun owner's best friend and that we should stop supporting the NRA. But it demonstrates that shooters can get positive coverage in a hostile medium.

I wanted to be sure these media outlets knew at least somebody appreciated their efforts, so I sent them this:

Subject: Olympic Biathlon

Great Job!

Your coverage of the Biathlon at the 2002 Winter Olympics was quite good.

As a marksman, I find that coverage of shooting events is lacking. On behalf of the 80 million law-abiding gun owners in the United States, thank you!

Fast X,
John M. Buol Jr.
Director, Hunter's Shooting Association

A small, token gesture I know. But I wonder how many gun owners bothered to send any feedback to these outlets about this positive shooting event? Probably too busy complaining about how they're so biased and never support us.

Lesson (hopefully) Learned: The media WILL show shooting in a positive light, IF the story is big enough and presented properly and enough people show that they really care about it. What the gun industry needs
to work on is creating more shooting events of "Olympic proportions" backed by enough enthusiastic participants and fans.