Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Bullet to the Heart

Another guest post, from the Jedburgh Team over at Ranger Against War:
People will die of fright in anticipation
of what is coming upon the world
--Luke 21:26

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day
--I Can See Clearly now the Rain is Gone,
Johnny Nash
Til they were outed, Trijicon, Inc. : Brilliant Aiming Solutions™ featured little Bible quips on their advanced combat optical gun sights, things associated with death and destruction. Friend FDChief recently made note of this on MilPub (Blessed Are the Snipers), and we will extend it since Rifle Marksmanship is one of Ranger's life tools.

All of us Old Goats were taught basic Rifle Marksmanship with iron-sighted, .30 calibre service weapons. This training included Known Distance Shooting prone, sitting and kneeling and offhand. All positions were fired both slow and rapid fire. All these aspects and the course of fire (200, 300 and 600 yards) were modeled after the National Rifle Association National Match Course.

The only difference from the NRA was that military matches issued GI ammunition while civilian matches shot their own personal match ammo using a service rifle. Ranger's first National Match competition was through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship at Camp Perry, Ohio.

The last time pulling range duty for ROTC Summer Camp (Ft. Bragg), the course of fire was simply foxhole, standing and supported shooting at pop-up silhouettes. That was the sum total. Since soldiers usually do not carry around foxholes or field sandbags in their rucks, this course did not provide realistic combat training.

But for scopes. In the past, only the 1903/A4, M1C and M1D and the XM21 service rifles were issued with scopes for sniper use. Interestingly, the effective range is not extended by using a scope, since the limiting factor is the shooter's ability and the accuracy of the rifle. The figure is usually 460 meters normal rifle range for the average shooter and rifle.

If one cannot shoot sans scope, adding one does not change one's inability to hit the target. If you flinch without a scope, you will probably flinch worse after you are bitten by a scope.

The ACOG/Trijicon brags it's Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight is "the most technically advanced combat gun sight available" (, pg. 39). The US Marine Corps has contracted 800,000 ACOG's at $660 Million USD ($825 per unit in 800,000 lots) for the USMC. Not such a good deal when the catalog lists them at $792-$836 for lots of one, depending on the mounting system.

Probably the Bible quote costs the USMC extra.

The following questions arise:

* How many people are in the USMC? Why are they ordering so many scopes?

* Why is a $792-$836 scope being added to a $1,500 rifle? Why not just train the soldiers to use the factory iron sights?

* Why put an ACOG on an auto-fire weapon?

* Does the use of this scope really effectively extend the 5.56 mm round's range to 800 meters?

* If the enemy is beyond 460 m., why not just work them with mortar and artillery fire?

* If we are currently using Rules of Engagement, then we can't fire until fired upon, and clearly, anybody doing so will not engage unless within 460 m. So, what is the advantage to our soldier's using the ACOG?

* If the enemy is 400-600 m. away, why not apply 7.62 Machine Gun fire on them? Anything further is why God created Redlegs and mortarmen, God bless their souls.

* The AK47, DPM MG and RPD MG are all iron-sighted, 460 m.-effective weapons. We are fighting rag-tag, rag bags for heaven's sake.

So, we now have an issue rifle, with ACOG scope, which costs $2,575 (including after-market add-ons), but what is it?

It is a rifle that often malfunctions in combat. This is a functional as well as a training problem. Fire discipline must be inculcated in the troops; shooting to make noise alone overheats a weapon. Excessive full auto/burst regulated fire also prematurely overheats the weapon.

If we are putting ACOG's on every rifle, then we should eliminate the auto/burst function on the service rifle for all except one auto rifleman per team. Aimed fire should be stressed.

There are several competitive and perfectly serviceable sights and scopes on the market. All are sold by Brownells and can be viewed online. These included the Burris fast-fire ($219.95) and the Trijicon Red Dot ($310.83). There are three pages of comparable M16-family scopes, many of which are more economical and just as serviceable as the ACOG.

Just my opinion based on a lifetime of shooting rifles.


  1. "But for scopes. In the past, only the 1903/A4, M1C and M1D and the XM21 service rifles were issued with scopes for sniper use. Interestingly, the effective range is not extended by using a scope, since the limiting factor is the shooter's ability and the accuracy of the rifle. The figure is usually 460 meters normal rifle range for the average shooter and rifle."

    I wouldn't have been able to hit my targets at 460m with myG3 (sight max. 400m) at all, but I did so with another G3 that had an old 4x scope on it.
    The front sight cannot be thin enough to really allow accurate fires out to 460m on small targets. It covers a small target, that's an inescapable optical fact.

    The optical sight doesn't have the same problem.
    Optical sights are generally superior at all but the shortest distances.

    4x optical sights also add better target ID and IFF. It helps to minimize collateral damage and fratricide shots.

    It's also not a good idea to say "aimed" or "auto". You need both - just not at the same time. Single fire makes no sense inside buildings. Full auto makes no sense beyond 30-100m without a rest (depends on cartridge, target size and weapon).

    An inability to use auto fire raises the opponent's morale because you're perceived to have less firepower.

  2. Sven,
    A military rifle usually shoots 2 to 3 inches or MOA at 100 yards/mtrs.At 460 meters this means the avg rifleman can put the shot in a chest size target.Effective raqnge is not a match term but a combat concept.
    For the purposes of this art we are only discussing the individual weapon.
    Less firepower is not necessarily a problem- it's accurate fire on the target that is the key. Volumn is not anything if it's not targetted.Iron sights will achieve this nicely.
    Auto fire is only preferable in the assault but this can be achieved by cross levelling and applying the Co level assets to the primary effort. That's what CPTs and LTs do to earn their living.
    You miss my point that with ROE the US forces cannot engage unless they are fired upon, and this fire won't happen unless it's purely harrassment or for early warning/outer security purposes. The shooters are not going to initiate unless they can make a kill which means that you must be in range- the AK round is roughly within the same limitations as the 556.
    Why is the USMC buying more scopes than there are people in their entire force structure.?
    At ranges in excess of 400 m , why not just use arty?
    If optics are so important then why are the rifles not contracted out with scopes.?
    As for IFF tell this to Pat Tillman.
    It's not the scope, it's the nut behind the butt.
    As for your experience, you prove my point. Your rifle limited your ability to hit the target, it wasn't the sights or your shooting ability. Obviously you can shoot with the scope because you can shoot w/o one.If you flinch/hunch/push/pull then these faulty techniques will be amplified with a scope.
    If you have a 4 minute flinch w/o a scope , you'll have a 4 minute flinch with a scope.Training is more important than scopes.
    I enjoy your writing.

  3. Sven,
    While driving in to town I thought about our previous ltrs. I relly hate it when i'm forced to think.
    The G3 is a true assault rifle although it is not an intermediate cartridge. It's a continuation of the STG43/44 and mp 44.None of these were designed for ACCURATE riflery, but rather for volumn and for operating under adverse conditions. The stock designs would be adequate for propelling a rubber boat as much good they do for correct firing. The stocks are designed for assault fire and the sights reflect this fact.
    The M1/M14 Us series are standard infy rifles that are used in a classic manner. In sniper school/Benning we were reqd to hit 100 % at 600 meters /yards with IRON sights which was the standard for scoped shooting. A sniper doesn't even need a scope out to 600. This is with a tricked out rifle. Bolt or semi.
    Now back to the g3. I qualified with this , the Walther and the MG 1 in 1969 with the Bundeswehr and my take on the g3 was that the rifle transferred recoil to the cheek/face and a spot /stock weld was nearly impossible to achieve.The rifle was not synergistic in my hands.
    Now for your cmt(again) about the iron sighted arms room clunker g3. The most common shooting error for soldiers is that of watching or focusing on the target rather than only on the front sight.In a proper sight picture and alignment the only thing in focus is the clearly defined front sight. I'd guess, yes guess that this was your error and not the rifles. Again we're back to my point which is that training is more important the dodads.
    Well, that's my best shot and i'm watching my front sight. By the way when i'm scared my eye always goes to the target and this is really difficult to overcome, but that's why we were soldiers.
    If it were easy civilians could do it.

  4. Jim,
    If memory serves me, a specific service is IDed to purchase for all of DOD's requirements. Thus, The Corps placed an order for everyone, and the accountants and log types will sort it out amongst the various active & reserve components. Every other question raised, however, is spot on. But then, my view of marksmanship and small arms employment was forged while serving as an M1 toting Marine.

  5. Jim,

    I think the Marines primarily use the M16A4, which is semi and burst fire. I think the Army is exclusively using M4A1's which are semi and auto, no burst. For the Army, that made some sense in Afghanistan where urban operations were the norm, but in Afghanistan firefights are often at long ranges and I've heard some complaints that the M4 isn't suited there as a standard infantry weapon.

  6. jim-

    Great post.

    I think you're right, why go to scopes over iron sights on service rifles? In my own case, my eyesight is really bad and I can't even see the front sight post clearly . . . so my gun expert cousin suggested I put a scope on my old 98K a long time ago.

    Is it just that rifle scopes on a service weapon look so cool, like, hey, "I'm a sniper!", and its about making the average grunt look and feel better, or is it more the boondoggle angle?

    Good comments on the H&Ks as well. I used to own a Model 93 .223 and while it was very robust, and got a lot of attention, beyond 200 meters I had trouble with that rolling barrel rear sight, would usually just use the "V" and a bit of Kentucky windage.

  7. Oops, my first "Afghanistan" should be "Iraq."

  8. Aviator,
    Thanks for the procurement update. I still live in the dark ages.
    All Soldiers and Marines should be taught marksmanship just as we were in the old days. Some things just don't change. Imagine Korea and the odds were 10 and 20 to 1 and our riflemen stacked them up with iron sighted service rifles.
    Now we're in AFGH and our rifles overheat fighting shitbags. Something is seriously wrong.

  9. Andy,
    I was personal friends with Max Atchesson, the patent holder and inventor of the burst regulator , and then as now ,I say it's worthless for rifle work.
    I will never agree that a auto weapon is needed for MOUT. Teamwork and grenades are more important.Whats wrong with good old pump shotguns? With buckshot.
    It's all a mind game, and i was there too. You feel safer blasting the terrain, but it's an illusion.

  10. Seydlitz,
    The only things that i love and follow closely are guns,guitars and ...but i won't bore anyone with any of those items.
    The point is that if a soldier has poor eyesight as do we old farts then they shouldn't be in a line unit, maybe even not in the military.
    I've always been intrigued hoe some gun nuts think a 12 power scope will help you shoot further, i always tell them, just squeeze harder on the trigger.I'm partial to the old 1 pwr Weavers as they force me to concentrate and follow through on my shot.

  11. All: Having used the first-generation optical sight I can say that it IS relatively easy to use; you just put the dot on the target and shoot. It's more intuitive than iron sights, which as Jim points out, really do need some practice to remember to focus on the front sight.

    The problem really is that the thing makes you think you're more accurate than you are. If you don't have good mechanics, if you don't really have a good sight picture (the thing is vulnerable to parallax like all scoped sights) your round doesn't go where the dot tells you its going. And the usual problems are involved; trigger jerk, piss-poor stock weld, pulling with the lead know the deal.

    But here's the thing; I don't get the sense that our people are being out-shot. The Talibs don't seem to have inherited the famed Afghan marksmanship. They seem to be about as good as the Iraqi muj, the Tamil Tigers, Shining Path and the rest of the AK-47-toting irregulars around the world.

    So while this seems like a waste of tax money, I suspect it's just that. It's not going to lose us firefights.

    What's going to lose us firefights is stuff like this: What good is all the slicky-boy sights in the world when we shoot the good guys rather than the bad guys.

    Or WAS it the good guys? Were these ANA really infiltrators? Or some of them?

    The real bottom line, it seems to me, is that there are none so blind as those who stagger around Central Asia with expensive optical sights not knowing who to shoot or why, or who is shooting at us, and why.

  12. Aviator,
    I'm a doggie pure and simple but in the Small Arms Firing School at Camp Perry in 65 we were hosted by the USMC. They provided all the instructors and pit details and chow halls.
    My fav memory was a Sgt telling me that my hair was too long and i said-i'm a fucking civilian.
    In addition this was the 1st year for the NM 14 which was issued to students, when we were done we could turn in the weapon or buy it for 116.$ and i didn't have the money.
    Just a old memory, but i know what you mean about being a M1 toter, we were trained the same way in the Army that i remember.
    God rest it's soul.

  13. I should mention that the first generation of optical sights were fairly fussy and liable to be knocked out of zero when the rifleman would knock his rifle against something, or even if he was careless in racking the thing. I'm assuming that this problem has been solved in the Trijicon sight, but in does seem intuitive that the thing is going to be more fussy that iron sights.

  14. Chief,
    The xm 21 ART scope-Auto ranging telescope was self centering and supposedly went to zero if properly attached to the rifle. It was close enuf for govt work.
    The scope was issued with a carrying case. Both are rare today- the scope had a special cam for oriental targets. Oops i meant people. The avg Amie is 36 inch top of head to crotch and the avg oriental was 30 inch and this was the cam that was used in rvn. Just threw that in for historical interest since all this is lost or meaningless knowledge. This cam was based on a Daisy bb gun concept from the 1930's, or so it was said by Max Atchesson who was a friend of the inventor CPT Jim Underwood.
    Personally I don't understand why we don't still teach quick kill.When i see soldiers carrying their wpns with the front/left hand grasping the mag well it becomes obvious to me that they do not understand and were not trained in instinctive shooting techniques.
    For targets out to 100 yds i never even pick up my sights.

  15. "A sniper doesn't even need a scope out to 600."

    Jim, get yourself a rifle at aim at something at 500-600m distance. The front sight needle will cover much more than a standing man.

    Let's say the needle is only 1 mm in width (not enough for a robust rifle). According to geometry (rule of three) this needle would cover 600 mm (= 60 cm = 0.6 m ~ 2 feet) width at 600m distance if the front sight is 1m ahead of your eye.
    A fatter needle or a shorter sight radius would even fatten the block that covers the target and makes aimed chest shots impossible no matter how accurate the rifle itself is.

    In fact, both a wider front sight needle (about 1.5 mm) and a shorter sight radius (only about 2/3 of a m) are likely.

    Iron sights lose their practical utility for aimed shots beyond about 350m.

  16. Sven,
    You are using your front sight incorrectly. I won't repeat what i've already written but it's a fact that we shoot National Match with iron sights at 600 yds and matches are won with X's as the tie breakers. The x ring is a 6 inch circle inside the 10 ring.
    We fired Infantry Trophy with the M1 at 600 meters firing rapid fire.
    The Wimbleton is a 1000 yd match fired with iron or scoped sights. We used it as training and fired our M14's with iron sights and often had winners. Normally 30/338's were the cartridge usually encountered.
    This is not bullshit but is born out in the record books.
    You would be well advised not to let any of my friends to shoot at you with iron sights at 600 meters b/c you'd be one dead person. This is not brag but fact.
    I've commanded 3 Army Marksmanship units to include Third Army MTU which was a major Army cmd unit. I've been at post and Division level. Have you ever heard of Lones Wigger, Tommy Poole/or hundreds of others capable of excellent riflery? My facts are hard and fast.
    If you can't conceptualize these facts then there's not much more that i can say.
    If you live by the rifle then it's incumbent that you be a rifleman.

  17. To all,
    Lets take a trip down memory lane.
    Let's go back to the 1870's Creedmore matches /1000yard Single shot black powder matches.
    These were fired and still are largely with iron sights.
    I say again 1000 yards with lead bullet/cartridge/BLACK POWDER.
    Remember Billy Dixon made a 1 shot kill in excess of 1700 yards at the fight of Adobe Wells. This was a man and not a buffalo that he capped.
    Snipers killed with 1 shot kills in excess of 600 yards consistently in the Civil War. One Union Gen. named Reynolds was shot out of his saddle after being warned of enemy marksmanship.
    He said they couldn't hit an elephant at this range.They done kilt him ded.
    Think about Berdans Sharpshooters on the Yankee side. Even the Germans recognise this history hence their use of the word sharpshooter. This was a long time ago and we've come a long way since then.
    By the way i still play with period big bore single shots. They are a real kick in the ass to shoot and play with. Up in Ohio I shoot a match called the Quigley and at last shooting hit 7 of 10 steel plates with my period piece reballed Remington Hepburn.
    Well, top of the morning to you'll.
    That was a long

  18. jim-

    "The only things that i love and follow closely are guns,guitars and ..."

    We agree on two of those; can't play the guitar. I used to have a really great gun collection: had started it with 12 when my mother bought me my first varmint rifle. Favorite military rifle has to be the M-1 Garand - such an awesome piece of weapon technology, and favorite pistol a 9mm Parabellum Lugar since it points so nice. Most of the collection is gone now - sold off over the years - and being in Europe (no guns here) what's left is divvied up among family and friends who know how to appreciate the items entrusted.

  19. My favorite rifle is still the M-14. I owned one for a few years (with a match barrel), but had to sell it. The wife isn't too keen on guns, so I'm limited now to a .357 and a .22 rifle.

  20. seylitz,

    You do not know J's 3rd, so you may well not agree with him :)

  21. Seydlitz,
    My father has the National Championship M1 NM that was won by Elmer Mundon in 1969 at the Nationals.
    I got it from Mundon in 72 and gave it to my father.
    I haven't seen it in years but it's really a nice piece. Nice m1s are really hard to find these days.
    My collection is somewhat raided but i still have a few nice things. I like Colt SAAs and Winchesters and big bore single shots.

  22. Andy,
    If i were limited to one rifle it'd be a m14 with welded selector switch to make it legal.
    These were made in my hometown of Cleveland Ohio in TRW factory.

  23. Lisa-

    Thanks for this.

    So then I guess it just comes down to whether "fascinating women" is number 3 or 4.

    Nice. And I bet my 4th might to close to j's 3rd . . . ?