Friday, September 20, 2013

At the Rifle Range

High speed – Low safety

I had a conversation with a high-speed-low-drag-real-deal shooter about our range.  Do you know the guy I’m talking about?  The same type of guy General Patton was talking to when he said “I don’t want you to die for your country.  I want you to make the other guy die for his country.”

He doesn’t think certain range rules should apply to him.  Most of the objectionable rules are administrative:
  • Chamber flag in rifle when done with activity/drill.
  • Rifle must be under your positive control when bolt is closed.
  • Muzzle down range during reloads.  The range insists that the muzzle never points above the berm regardless of the rifle’s status or activity.  Most of the berms at this range are at least 20ft high.

I will not defend these rules.  They are the range rules where we shoot. 

I will say that preoccupation with safety is the hallmark of the professional.  Massad Ayoob told me that years ago and I’ve observed that in all the trainers I’ve worked with and the shooters I admire.

Carrying a gun 24/7 doesn't make you immune from gun safety
Rip Waywire knows that carrying a gun 24/7 doesn't make you  high-speed or safe.

Giving one person exceptions to the rules creates administrative problems:
  • Minor confusion (Why isn’t that person following the rules?)
  • Creates the circumstances for accidents (I should load because that person is loaded.)
  • Causes trouble (Why can’t I do what that person is doing?)
  • Discourages participation (I’m not going back if that person is there.)

Frankly, it’s the fable of one rotten apple spoiling the barrel.  It would be better if that one shooter found another range more favorable to his outlook.

When it’s your range, you can make the rules.  Remember the golden rule:  The guy with the money makes the rules.

Rifle Night
We finished up our last rifle night this week.  Once a month club members were invited to get together to practice basic rifle drills.  We’re having a sniper match next month in Oct, so people are getting excited.  The match will consist of teams of two people, the sniper and the scout/spotter.

My plans were (I’m the ringleader by default.  It was my fault they got me cornered and I couldn’t say no.) to spend the shooting season rehearsing some of the basic drills needed.  Reloading, knowing your zero and point of impact, clean, smooth trigger break, recoil management, moving with the gun, shooting from barricade.  Of course having safe fun is always one of our goals.

Our last night was focused on team activities and I told them the old James Bond story.  Fleming’s Bond gets his double-0 status by killing a Japanese business man. It was a team activity.  One shooter shot the window out of an office high rise and Bond shot the businessman.

The thing to notice was the first shooter didn’t just shoot the window and Bond watched the glass fall and then picked up his rifle.  The businessman would have been moving, taking cover.  What I suspect Ian had in mind was the first shooter fires and Bond is already on target.  As soon as Bond hears the bang he finishes his trigger pull.  In my mind’s eye I see Bond’s bullet a nanosecond behind the first.  Well, it is fiction after all!

With that idea of team work in mind, we spotted for each other, shot steel at different distances and if the first shooter missed the steel, the second shooter engaged it.  The two shooters traded back and forth until the steel was hit.  We had a lot of fun and some of the teams learned to work together better.  Hopefully this will translate into a better rifle match for them.

shooting by star light or were we?
It was darker than this.  And what were we shooting at?

When it got dark we put two old 30-minute flares out, one at 120 yards and the other at 200.  They were a little feeble at first but as it grew darker the flickering lighting cast strange shadows and called forth unusual vanishing targets.

The steel targets hang from a single cable and are free to twist.  A hit or near miss gets them turning.  The red illumination was reflected from the painted steel and it looked like pale, almost ghost-like targets were appearing and disappearing. 

Flares set at two distances light up the targets ever so faintly.
I should have had a tripod, but other than starlight the illumination came from two 30-minute flares at 200 and 120 yards.

Of course, they never went anywhere so the more patient would sit, locate a target and put their dot or crosshairs on it and wait.  When the steel slowed down they would reach out and smack it with a .223 Remington. 

As cool as that was, a hit with steel jacketed Wolf ammo would create a mini shower of orange sparks in the darkness followed by a clang.  Even at the speed of sound, it takes an instant for the impact noise to reach the shooting gallery.

It was the most shooting fun I’ve had in a long time.

As I noted before, we’re a muzzle-conscious range.  One of our members built a rifle rack so we could stop storing rifles and shotguns on picnic tables where we were loading and organizing gear.  Most racks have the muzzle pointing up with the butt on the base.  Some unknown shooter decided to put his unloaded rifle muzzle down in the rack.  When he picked it up and slung it, the muzzle was always pointing in the right direction, never crossing anyone. 

Well, who would have thunk it??  I was sure the rifles would slide out and end up in a heap.  But it worked.  Soon everyone was doing this. 

Nuzzle down rifle rack
Upside down AR's racked just fine.  Even the FN eventually got with the program.

I think we just stumbled onto a new range rule.

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