Mar 15, 2010

Shooting Competition defends the Red, White, and YOU!

How shooting competition defends the Red, White, and YOU!

One of the principles behind the Firearm User Network is that organized shooting events bring out the best in our shooters and their equipment. By hosting formal events, we learn what techniques are consistently best, what equipment works, and who really knows what they are talking about.

The only way you can develop skill is by actually doing something. With marksmanship, that means getting your butt out to the range and burning powder on a regular basis in an organized fashion. There is no other way.

By happy coincidence, marksmanship principles learned will apply to all shooting situations. For example, as a hunter, the best way to mastering field shooting is by competing in simulated field courses as used at HunterShooter events. But, failing that, you can learn more about your skills by shooting in a variety of events.

In 1999 I was a new member of the US Army Reserve Small Arms Training Team (SATT). This unit specialized in small arms instruction and supported the All Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program. The majority of the shooting they sponsored is of the conventional, Camp Perry type.

If you had asked me a few years prior to joining this unit, I would have said that the Conventional type of shooting does nothing to promote marksmanship in the military. Up until that point, my only formal shooting experience was of the practical variety (USPSA, IDPA, etc.) On my very first mission with the unit I was shown how wrong I was.

SATT sent a team to train several units deploying overseas to Kosovo and Bosnia on their automatic rifles (M249) and crew served weapons (M2, Mk19). For a number of soldiers, this was their first time ever firing these weapons. In fact, one unit was literally unpacking their weapons from the shipping crates.

During the SATT instructor rehearsal, I learned that a few of the instructors hadn't touched some of these weapons in a year. I was shocked and concerned. How will these instructors competently teach other soldiers?

As it turns out, I shouldn't have been worried. Not only did we successfully train and qualify everyone, we qualified an additional platoon-sized element and ended up finishing two days ahead of schedule!

There are several reasons why, but one of them is the simple fact that the SATT instructors were honest-to-God high-level shooters. They are not only good at their job, they like it. During down time, we inevitably were talking about shooting and matches.

On the range, the soldiers received accurate, decisive help and were shooting well from the get-go. On the Mk19 range, I watched SATT instructors give immediate corrections to students. In most cases, the instructors could determine deflection and elevation in mils out to 1500 meters and have the student on target with one adjustment. After doping wind, these instructors had students getting hits on their first burst out to 800 meters. This can be tough enough using 7X Steiner binos with a mil reticle. These guys were doing it with unaided vision.

I asked one of them how they could make such accurate estimates without optical help. "One mil is about a four minute adjustment", he said. The "President's Hundred" tab on his shoulder told me he could probably make the calculations in his sleep.

During my military career, I've seen other military "instructors" at a loss trying to help a student successfully zero rifles at 25 meters. This was a refreshing change of pace.

I've heard many times that conventional shooting is "irrelevant" and has no direct benefit to the soldier or hunter. While the specific courses of fire may have a gamesman's element, the fact is, if you can regularly shoot a high score on any challenging course it means you have an innate understanding of the shooting process.

The lesson I learned here: Good marksmen are good marksmen. While the disciplines differ, a good shooter has put the time into learning what constitutes good shooting. You can harp about the importance of sight picture and trigger control all day and memorize ballistic tables, but if never bother to practice in some fashion and demonstrate a high level of skill regularly, you don't really know anything.

It is interesting to note that SATT later became the SARG and allowed a huge influx of unqualified personnel. The ranks were allowed to swell up with soldiers with no competitive shooting or other useful marksmanship background, such as drill sergeants. At the same time many of the competition shooters were squeezed out. Needless to say, these novice level marksmen killed off the effectiveness of the unit and it no longer exists. Don't make the same mistake!

Mar 1, 2010

On the Subject of Military Marksmanship

Darryl Davis – On the Subject of Marksmanship

Rifle marksmanship is a civilian attribute which is alien to the military environment. It must be introduced into the military by force and can be kept in the military only by ongoing active measures, else it will be eradicated and replaced by equipment familiarity.

- 14th Iron Law of Marksmanship

The military does not teach rifle marksmanship. It teaches equipment familiarity. Despite what the officer corps thinks, learning to shoot a rifle is not like learning to drive a car. Instead, it is like learning to play the violin. You can have coherent-appearing results after equipment familiarity training, but to get the real results, you keep plodding on. The equipment familiarity learning curve comes up very quick, but then the rifle marksmanship continuation of the curve rises very slowly, by shooting one careful shot at a time, carefully inspecting the result, and the cause.

How are we doing with rifle marksmanship? By Vietnam, wasn’t everything beyond 200 meters abandoned to crew-served weapons?

During Vietnam, troops pulled back from the line for R&R were tested to reveal that they could, on average, pump out 300 rounds a minute at a target 50 meters away at a rifle range, and they would average one hit per minute. During the American Revolution, the enemy advised their officers that even at over 200 yards the American riflemen will hit with their first shot, so officers should conduct themselves accordingly. Also that these riflemen could reach as far as 300 yards.

As flintlock riflemen can pump out a maximum of only four shots per minute, it is obvious that Vietnam troopers have 75 times the firepower of the flintlock riflemen of the Revolution. This is in terms of muzzle statistics. In terms of target statistics, the flintlock shooter has four times the firepower of the M16 user because he has the skill to make every shot hit and the M16 user cannot hit more than once per minute.