Friday, January 20, 2012

Blast from the past

I was goofing off with the kids downstairs last night and decided to take a break and check out all of my books on the bookshelf that don't have the time to read. I came across my rifle data books from my range qualifications in the Marines and thought it would be a fun (warning: profane) post. It really brought me back. You can see from my notes that my handwriting ability was proportional to the amount of coffee I had drank, and before you ask, yes, I talk to myself just like I do in my notes. Full disclosure and all.

There's some Microsoft Paint redaction going on there. Why do you neeeeeeed to know my social security number, anyways? I don't know if it's still like this, but in Marine Corps doctrine it's written somewhere that you must emblazon everything you touch with your SSN. I have a stack of certifications, awards, and promotions that have my SSN in Ariel Bold font front and center. Every one of them. I can't put up a love-me wall with all that stuff because of it, and you have to wonder what the legal-beagles at the JAG were thinking when they came up with this policy. Enough of my bitching - here's the Rifleman's Creed for y'all that want to know the whole thing:

Sorry about the blurry cellphone pics. Click on it to make it bigger and more beautiful.

Next up we have the four safety rules, which are slightly different than the NRA's version, but not too shabby. I've also included some tactically morbid doodling on my part - call it "Blue Falcon" carry (look that one up if you need to). Giving my utmost attention to an instructor with less time-in-grade than me is not my forte.

When you go to the range in the Marines it's a two week affair; the first week is basic instruction and "snapping in", which is dry firing thousands of times, and then a week of firing that includes zeroing your weapon. Unless you have stars on your collar, as far as I know, you have to go through the whole two week process every time. The data book is meant for you to keep track of your shooting throughout the week of firing, so that when your qualification day comes, you know how your rifle is performing.

The distances you shoot are at 200, 300, and 500 yards in the standing, sitting, kneeling, and prone positions. On the 500 yard line you only fire from the prone. To get an expert score, you must shoot for 40 points or better.

Those are all from the 200 yard line, and are not all inclusive. There are Marines in the pits pulling the targets and marking shots, and it can get screwed up down there; thus the reason why I'm belittling their work scoring my target. The entire target is a six foot square framed monstrosity with a canvas or plastic backing, and is chock full of shot holes. The paper target that's glued onto the backing is usually shot to shit, and when you're marking targets you place a spotting disk in the last shot to come through, and cover the old shot holes with colored stickers called pasters. Problem is, the Marine Corps is extremely poor, so you have to rip the pasters into little bits just big enough to cover **most** of the shot hole. After a week of shooting, it makes it impossible to cover the mess that is your target, and sometimes you can't tell where the shooter's bullet went through. Scoring errors are very common. Here's what the pits look like (pardon the clarity. Cellphone picture of a 35mm picture)

The 200 and 300 yard targets are in the lower target carriage, with the 500 yard target in the upper carriage. Everyone looks to be especially attentive (snicker!) The bottom picture shows a white shot spotter in the black, and a red scoring disk in the lower left corner.

Moving on to the 300 yard line:

When a round passes through the target you can hear the supersonic crack, but keeping in mind that there are about 150 Marines shooting all at once, it can get confusing knowing whether a shot came through your target or not. Also, it is not uncommon for a shooter to shoot the wrong target, either because they weren't paying attention, can't shoot, or, in the case of high-wind ranges like Edson Range, have a 35 mph wind blow a shot from the shooter next to you into your target. At it's worst, two shots can hit the target at the same time; go ahead and figure that one out for a score! You sometimes get to talk to the guys who either marked or shot your target, and when there's a problem (careers can sometimes be on the line) it can get interesting.

500 yard line:

On this particular day I was already at an expert score before I got to the 500, so there was no risk involved with shooting for headshots for fun; with little or no wind I could sometimes hit eight or more. It's actually possible to leave the 200 yard line with 40 points, but I'm convinced that it'll only happen when the planets are aligned. There's squib rounds, gusty winds, broken parts, and incompetence in the target pits to contend with for that to happen, or to even get a perfect score (it has happend though). I don't think there's any repeatability there though. I didn't win the title of Battalion High Shooter once because of a squib round, and I've had parts breakages as well. I've also had my shots not get marked at all, like the Marines running the target fell asleep or something. A couple of times, when the Marine next to me couldn't get his rounds on the target, I would tell him to aim at mine while I would put a few rounds in his target, though not on qualification day. That day was up to him. Here's what happens in the pits when Marines get bored:

That's a Baker target for 500 yard shooting. Notice his three stars. . . .

And here's yours truly:


I was a skinny bastard back then. That had to have been 10 years ago at least. These days my range trips are much more leasurely and pleasant, with my only concern being to watch my language:

Now isn't that the sweetest thing?

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