Dec 31, 2008

Moron Cleaning Guns (Just Maintain Them, Please!)

Most military-issued firearms are worn out or damaged by excessive and/or improper cleaning. We should stop using the word "clean" and start using "maintain." A properly maintained firearm is NOT white glove clean.

Maintenance means keeping the mechanism functioning and preventing corrosion. Powder fouling ("carbon") does no harm and needs to be removed only so that it doesn't impede function. A use RBC (Rifle Bore Cleaner) or Hoppe's #9, brush the part, leave set for a few minutes and wipe off. This may not remove it all but will get enough carbon to remain functional. That is your goal.

It is counter productive to strip off all the carbon, especially if you are reduced to harsh solvents or unauthorized metallic scrapers. Light lubrication should remain to prevent wear and corrosion. Many lubricants have a mild detergent that will bring tiny amounts of fouling out of the metal's pores. Thus, a wipe of the finger will show residue. This is GOOD! It means there is lubricant protecting the metal.

Proper maintenance should take ten minutes, usually less.

Review the Technical Manual (or read for the first time) and confirm what I've written. If you don't have a TM handy Armalite published a report for AR-15 type rifles but it applies for nearly any military or civilian firearm.

So why are Soldiers and Marines suffering through extended cleaning sessions, stupidly scraping away parts and destroying perfectly good weapons in the process?

Personnel assigned in an armorer slot rarely are actual, trained armorers. Instead, the unit armorer is an NCO of sufficient rank to be entrusted with arms room keys and assigned an extra duty. In the Army, the person may be a 92Y (Unit Supply Specialist) so handling firearms is just another inventory task. And to top it off, even formally trained military armorers are more likely to be parts changers, not gunsmiths or marksmen.

The crime usually goes down like this. PVT Joe Snuffy is tasked to clean weapons. We'll pretend Joe actually bothered to read the TM (Technical Manual) and found that he only needs to brush and/or wipe away any obvious corruption, put a thin wipe of CLP over the metal surfaces and lightly lubricate the moving parts. In ten minutes he's performing a function check and ready for turn in.

SSG Clueless, the supply clerk with vault keys pretending to be the unit armorer, "inspects" the maintained weapon. Not really understanding what to look for he wipes his finger along an internal part and picks up a bit of CLP Joe put there to prevent rust and corrosion. "See here, this weapon is dirty. Clean it again."

This frustrates Joe and rightly so. This private actually glanced at the relevant TM within the past five years instantly making him more qualified than the "armorer." However, Clueless is four pay grades above Joe and in charge of the arms room, so Joe loses.

Joe swabs away on his already maintained weapon. He gets pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and starts into every little nook and cranny to clean everything. Thirty minutes later Clueless rejects it again.

Joe is annoyed and desperate and just wants the ordeal over. Determined to not come back a third time he is ready to strip the damn thing dry. Harsh degreasers, metal picks, solvent tank baths. Who cares if its not in the TM. Clueless won't take it unless it is really "clean."

An hour later Clueless does his white glove treatment. The bone dry, unpreserved, unlubricated parts have had any remaining protective finish scratched away. There is nothing there now but bare metal. Clueless seems content so Joe is happy.

And that is how the Army cleans guns, Joe learns. Years later, Joe reclasses as 92Y, is entrusted with the arms room and ready to pass on the "lessons" SSG Clueless taught him.

Dec 24, 2008

Shooting as a Mainstream Sport

That's my ultimate goal! Hunting and shooting is every bit as challenging as mainstream ball sports. If raw numbers of participants and equipment owners are any indication, hunting and shooting is the mainstream. Unfortunately, this isn't how it plays out in the media.

The sports that do make the mainstream media appeal strongly to the spectator. Ball sports are filmed solely for the benefit of the watcher, not the doer. Consequently, they garner the recognition of millions of fans, not to mention billions of advertiser dollars. Hunters and shooters often quip that their activities appeal only to the participant and not to the spectators. A national champion shooter's only fans are other shooters trying to emulate their skill.

The solution? Find a way to make shooting and hunting appeal to the spectator while providing a proper and interesting challenge to the hunter-shooter.

Take all the elements of shooting skills crucial to a hunter-shooter (field marksmanship) and create a sport that tests those skills in a realistic fashion. Make the system easy and inexpensive enough so a couple of poor kids shooting in an old quarry (with adult supervision, of course) could set up events, but advanced enough to simulate virtually any shooting situation a hunter-shooter might face afield.

The system must emphasize realism. To accomplish this:

  1. Targets should look realistic (like a deer, for example) and/or be of realistic proportions. No tiny bulls-eye's here. The targets must also take proper shot placement (target angle) into account. Some events should feature a target that reacts when hit, but only if hit in the proper place, while other events should have a completely static target, forcing the hunter-shooter to call shots good or bad.
  2. Real world hunting arms, the kind already in the cabinets and cases of millions of real world hunters, are fully competitive. "Match grade" is neither needed nor desired.
  3. Beyond the target, the scoring system must take stress ("buck fever") into account.

Once the basic format is established, create several types of events that appeal to the spectator while providing good sport to the hunter-shooter.

Hunting simulations featuring ever-changing scenarios that allow participants to shoot "freestyle." Hunter-shooters won't know the exact challenge until they're faced with it. How they solve it is up to them. May the better shot win. For small events or individual practice a basic, inexpensive target can be used. Events for "public consumption" feature targets that provide immediate feedback and reset themselves automatically while still providing a proper hunting situation to the participant.

Shooter vs. shooter events, with hunter-shooters engaging reactive targets. This is drag racing with hunting guns. Two arrays of targets in mirror image span the field. Hunter-shooters are paired off and the first to clear his/her array wins the bout. Best two out of three (or three out of five) advances. Depending on the entry list, participants can be paired off and shoot "round robin" or double elimination. A handicapping system allows hunter-shooters of all skill levels to compete as equals. And with two good hunter-shooters going full throttle on reactive targets, the spectator appeal should be obvious.

Finally, create a system that promotes these events nationwide. "USA Today" might not cover us nationally, but the "Smallville Gazette" will locally. Create a fully automated system that alerts the local papers near each club with press releases every time an event is scheduled. If every local paper, radio and/or TV station in the country starts covering shooting sports in their area regularly we have created nation-wide coverage.

That's HunterShooter in a nutshell.

Dec 10, 2008

Cleaning Guns

Myth – “Firearms must be thoroughly cleaned every time they’re fired and must never be stored dirty.”

Fact – Basic maintenance is simple and quick requiring little more than a wipe down and light lubrication.

This myth was a truism at one time. Many decades ago the priming mixture was corrosive and would line the bore with sediment that left unchecked would cause excessive rust and deterioration of the metal. Storing a weapon dirty after firing could destroy it. Some units maintained a 1:3 regimen, cleaning a rifle three times after each trip to the range.

However, since the introduction of non-corrosive primers after World War II this is no longer the case. Powder fouling (“carbon”) doesn’t harm a firearm and won’t cause problems unless left to build up to the point that it physically blocks or stops the mechanism. This rarely happens. For example, some gunsmiths recommend removing the bolt from the carrier of an AR15-series only if there is a problem, not for routine maintenance. Disassembly presented in the TM (Technical Manual) *-10 is the lowest level a basic operator can go if need be. That doesn't mean you must disassemble that far every time.

Visit and read “Technical Note 29, Rifle Cleaning.” ArmaLite, Inc., the company that initially released the AR15/M16 rifle, recommends a “detail cleaning” (complete field strip) once every 1000 rounds and a “combat cleaning” wipe down every 250 rounds. This will change based on environmental conditions, and the fact that Soldiers may carry a weapon daily but shoot it very little. At any rate, the inventors of the M16 insist that it is important to clean properly, not totally, and that most weapons are damaged by over cleaning them.

Most military weapons are damaged by improper and/or excessive cleaning. Most soldiers never shoot enough to wear a firearm out. Just clean it so it works.

Dec 3, 2008

Unskilled and Unaware

"People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it."

The lower the actual skill in a particular area the more likely an incompetent person will overestimate his personal ability and be incapable of accurately assessing another's skill. This study almost perfectly models the problems found in marksmanship.

The solution is to bring more gun owners out to organized events. If you haven't tested your skill in open competition against others you simply do not know where on the skill continuum your abilities lie. Sadly, as this scholarly study points out, without this critical feedback you probably can't accurately judge for yourself.

Dec 1, 2008

In Memoriam - Brent Lantagne

I met Brent while on active duty at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. We shared so many things in common it was as if I had met a new brother I didn't realize I had. In fact, any number of people referred to us as "twins", a comment that pleased me greatly.

Brent was always a "go-to" guy for all aspects of our job. His vast knowledge culminated from nearly two decades experience with the National Guard and Army Reserve on a variety of shooting teams and marksmanship training units. He was instrumental in helping me find my way onto the USAR Shooting Team and was a very patient mentor.

His interests were impressively diverse. Brent was a talented musician and played guitar in a number of bands. After I had stopped playing music in High School, Brent is the reason I took up it up again. He was an immense resource on a variety of topics. My most cherished memories at Shelby are of our long conversations over pots of chicory coffee on the back deck by the creek outside the cabin we shared. He commented that I was one of the few people he could stand to room with. It was an offhand remark made in jest (Brent got along well with everyone) but I took personal pride in it.

Even after business and life separated us physically we remained in constant contact. I logged more cell phone minutes with Brent than any other person. He was always fun to talk with, and more than a great guy; he was truly a stellar human being.

After being named NCOIC of the USAR Service Pistol team and helping me bring my scores up to make that team, I looked forward to future decades of continuing camaraderie. I was thrilled when I learned Brent was attending a training session at my then current duty station. And I was destroyed when I received the phone call that informed me Brent had been killed in a automobile collision and would never complete the trip.

I don't feel Brent is gone. All the qualities that made him great, the helped me and helped the people who knew him be better are still there. So, this is not "goodbye." Rather, it's a "See you soon."

Thank you Brent!