Rifle Qualification
   (Ver 1)


These are some recollections based on my 16 years in the military and are not guaranteed to be totally accurate. The subject came up during an e-mail discussion.

It seems that Marines have used their slings as shooting aids for a long time. Once again, this is hardly ever practical in combat. The Springfield '03 and the Garand had leather slings, and I'm not sure exactly how they were set up for this. The M-14 and M-16 had nylon slings.

As I remember it, when I fired the M-14, the sling was not used in the offhand position. When used for firing, the slings is removed from the rear sling swivel but left attached to the front one. The loop on the loose end of the sling is tightened around the upper bicep of the non-shooting arm and the keeper is used to adjust the sling so that it is tight enough that the butt of the rifle has to be pushed forward to get it into the shoulder pocket. From the loop around the bicep, the sling passes over the outer side of the wrist and is wrapped around the wrist before it goes to the front sling swivel.

Taking the rifle out of the shoulder between shots is optional except in the offhand position. When I fired from the 500 meter line I never took the rifle out of my shoulder until I was finished firing. (I usually used 8 or more of the 10 minutes allowed for those 10 rounds.) One convenient thing about having a tight sling is that the rifle would stay in your shoulder even while you were marking your shots in your range data book.

The range data book had a page for each type of engagement for each day at the range. On each of these pages there was a large picture of the target along with the same number of small pictures of it as would be used for that engagement. There were also blocks for entering wind and weather conditions, and the elevation and deflection used on the sights for each round.

After filling in wind, weather and initial elevation and deflection you fired your first shot. While waiting for the target to come back up, you marked your aiming point on the big target picture along with the number of the round. When the target came back up, you marked the impact point on the appropriate small target picture. If you decided to make a change in elevation or deflection of the sights, you made another entry. Then you fired another round.

This process really helped me a lot when I finally started using it in the offhand which was always my weakest event. For years I would just stand up and blast away, sometimes getting as few as 5 points out of 25. One year I decided that I had plenty of time to sit down, mark my book, and think about what I was doing between shots. My scores went up dramatically. I think that there were even a few times when I got 24/25, but I don't think I ever stayed in the black for all five shots.

The Army targets were knockdown so there was no indication where you hit them. At the rifle range in the Marines, in addition to the spotter in the hole, we also had a metal disk, maybe 18 inches in diameter, on a pole that was used to indicate how many points the shot had earned. I don't even remember what the colors were on the two sides of the disk. For five points the disk was held up in front of the center of the target with, I think, the white side facing the shooter. For lower scores the disk was held in other places. For a clean miss, when we knew a round had been fired but there was no visible hole in the target, we waved the disk once from one side of the target to the other with the red(?) side facing the shooter. This was known as a 'Maggie's drawers' and was very undesirable. Some people did actually manage to shoot the disk, but they were immediately kicked off the range for it. I saw that happen a few times, but it never happened to me. Must have been very unpleasant to be holding the pole when a round hit that steel disk.

The rings around the bulls eye or silhouette conformed to the outline of the main aiming point and were nearly 1/4 inch thick. We had to be very careful to check for holes in the rings, which were very difficult to find, if we didn't find a hole anywhere else. The only crime worse than slow service at the range was to miss a hole. We could usually tell, after the second round, whether a shooter was any good or not. Finding the holes with a good shooter firing was usually very easy. With a spaz shooting, it was a lot more challenging. I remember I missed a hole once and then saw it a few shots later. I called over the 'verifier' and pointed it out, and the shooter got the points. The people on the firing line had the option of having their targets verified if they didn't agree with the way the people in the butts scored it. This usually only happened for a clean miss. I never had a verifier disagree with me.

Our rifle and pistol ranges were both rather wide. Pistol ranges had 30 - 50 firing points on the line. Army rifle ranges had about 30 and Marine rifle ranges had as many as 60. The worst rifle range I ever fired at was on Okinawa where the firing lines were asphalted to keep the rains from washing them away. I fired there in the summer and it was miserably hot. About the only good feature was that the asphalt was so hot that we could make impressions in it with our elbows and knees that would allow us to drop from the standing position into the prone when the targets came up, and not have to worry about making more than minor adjustments before we were locked in.

BTW, we never had more than one round in the rifle except for the two rapid fire engagements where we had two magazines with 5 rounds in each per engagement. All other shots were loaded individually from a loading block.

Isn't it funny how most weapons are 'handed'? There are many left handed (or sinister, as I tell Chery, who is left handed) people in the world. The M-16A3 was the only military issue weapon I have ever used that made any concession for left handed people. There is a hump cast into the receiver behind the ejection port that keeps hot brass from being ejected down the front of a left-handed persons shirt instead of over the right shoulder. Typically, results are mixed. The first time I went to the range with a unit equipped with M-16A3s I had several unexpected and unpleasant experiences. At the 200 yard line it was disconcerting to have the expended brass from the shooter to my left bounce off my head periodically. (Soft covers at the range.) At the 500 yard line, after I was locked in to my position, it was positively aggravating to have the hot brass from the person to my left hit either my collar, or miss the collar and go down inside the back of my shirt. This was strictly a matter of geometry, and didn't happen every time, but that little bump on the recover of the M-16A3 caused the shell casing to travel nearly perpendicular to the rifle, and we were on line and never more than 10 feet apart. Just something we had to live with.

My thanks yet again to Rory.


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