April 1991 – Michael’s Observations

I’d like to “piggy-back” a few items already discussed in my shoot report. There were some things that stood out.

  1. African carry consistently was slightly faster than any other method, in all three of the stages. In the Shooters Choice string, of the techniques available to use, African carry was used in seven out of 15 runs by those who had a choice of any technique they wanted. (Not 18 runs because I didn’t count Bill’s; he used a “trick” sling, not to be classified with any one of the predefined carries.) Also, African carry allowed you to come up with some sling tension already on your arm, if you had your sling adjusted properly, as Sat Guru and R.J. did.
  2. To no one’s surprise, cross-back carry was the slowest into action in all the stages.
  3. To my surprise, cross-chest carry was nipping at the heels of African carry, and was equal to or under the times for, American right- and left-side. In the five-yard stage, times of under two seconds were recorded, with the rest (except for a “brain-drain” missed safety) between two and 2.5 seconds!

Conventional slings or carry straps were used, except for Bill’s Team Sling (a brand name) and Sat Guru’s “HOB Sling.” That last set of initials stands for the Harries-Olmstead-Beretta type of quick sling, which allows tension in off-hand, kneeling, and even when rolled into African carry. It also allows the total length of the sling to be quickly and easily extended for cross-back and cross-chest carry, plus making a fair “monkey sling” as well. I had hoped that perhaps some more people with “trick” slings would show up so I could see them in operation, but no matter: I’ll do some variations of this from-sling-into-action again, real soon.

A very good point made (besides that most people shoot too fast) was that going from any position of carrying the weapon to shooting it, was made doubly difficult if the sling or carry strap hung-up on your gear. This brings up a critical point that I’ve been sounding off about for a long time now: do some of your practice with your field gear on! Make sure you can reach the gear you may need from any position you may find yourself in, and that includes getting your rifle into action from any method of carry you would normally use, or even plan to use — ever.

The “twirl” off the strong-side shoulder was right next to African carry in popularity in the Shooters Choice. I’m really not a great fan of it for these reasons: (1) it makes you stay standing — it is not a good dismount to go into prone or even kneeling from, unless you are proficient in the Queen Ann Salute drill; (2) it has a high potential for catching or hanging up on your harness or canteens; (3) if you are in the field with friends, it is somewhat borderline for safety; and (4) if you are standing in the wrong place, with a bush or rock or low wall near your strong-side foot, you are going to bash the weapon into the obstruction during that maneuver. Also, a bush or branch right behind you will bash the weapon as well.

In looking at the times, the twirls were not any faster than most people’s African or cross-chest carry. African carry gives you good control of the weapon and some sling support, if you work it right. Cross-chest gives you an easy carry position, and keeps the muzzle of your weapon far from the dirt when you are scrambling up slopes and banks, where you might slip and fall forward. African carry is best used on fairly level ground.

Shooting Aids

The ground at the range looks fairly level in some spots, but like most of Mother Nature’s terrain it has some subtle waves in it, very much like frosting spread with a knife on a cake. As a result, some difficulty was encountered trying to use the classic “30-round monopod,” as I call resting the magazine of a .223 “mouse gun” on the ground for support. Most shooters used elbow prone, which adjusts very well to uneven ground but gives limited support.

Victor used the classic method of a hunter: he looped up with his military-style leather sling on his arm before he began walking forward while waiting for the signal to engage the targets. This walk forward was done in order to vary the terrain for everyone, on every string. The shooter was stopped at slightly different terrain each time. Sat Guru used a Colt bipod that he pulled from his harness, which solved the problem of uneven ground and gave the rifle more support when he had to add elevation clicks for the 550-yard target. I don’t think a hasty-sling of any kind, that wraps around the arm, gives much of any support in prone. At least with plain old elbow-prone you can get your elbow under the weapon without the sling interfering with the position. Repeat after me 100 times: “I must practice my field positions!” (Keep going. You’ve got only 99 more to do.)

Death From Afar

Coming up as the next event is our traditional Long Range Shoot, with no target under 500 yards! This is “pushing the envelope” with a rifle. This is reaching out to touch someone, on a dirt bank, far far away. I have talked about this event in the past, but I haven’t lately; perhaps some new people have come along since we had our last one.

Basically the most overwhelming reason that I shoot a 30 caliber weapon (besides the brain-washing I received in Boot Camp) is that it gives me the option to engage hostile people and equipment at distances in excess of half a mile! We shot no further than 500 yards when I was in the Marines. But when I started combat shooting it included Jeff Cooper’s Mountain Man program; once a year we shot over an “unknown” range (which means they didn’t tell you). After once or twice, you had the ranges figured out. The killer was a 20-inch, round steel plate at 850 yards! (By the way, the gong up behind the butts is 23 inches in diameter, for those of you who need to know.)

This was quite a ways farther than I had ever shot in the Marines. Cooper also had a 200, and 400-450 yard stage, and a movement stage with targets from 40 yards to 450 yards. But, bless my soul, the stage that separated the real Riflemen from the people who just owned rifles was the first stage — 850 yards! If you had asked me if such things were possible, as the hot-dog pistol shooter I was, I would have said it was impossible. Forget it! Nonetheless, as a dyed-in-the-wool competitor I just showed up and shot whatever Jeff put on for us, rifle or pistol.

My first time on this course was my very first use of a telescope-sighted rifle. Of course I borrowed Uncle Charlie’s Model 70, in .30-06, and proceeded to let Don Rizer help me put a 700-yard ZERO on it. I actually hit the plate at 850, once or twice out of 10-shots, but I missed a lot of the other shots because I didn’t know the trajectory well enough to hold properly for the other ranges. However, this was a once-a-year event up at Big Bear (down the infamous BH-25 road) and, as we know, the entire Mountain Man program ceased to exist when Cooper moved to Arizona. I went to three of those shoots, and I never did very well in any of them. Rizer won the last one that was held, by hitting seven or eight out of his 10 shots at 850 yards, if I remember correctly. Jeff’s daughter, Perry, stomped me into the dirt the one time she was there, shooting a Remington 660, in .308. I was really just starting to begin to understand what I was trying to accomplish with a rifle at long range.

Horne and the KPPC started a rifle and carbine program in 1976-1977, and I shot Joyce’s “mouse gun” for the most part. The use of the rifle was starting to pop-up now and then, including when Rizer and I put on a colossal rifle event at the old Grandad’s range. Stage One was 1500 yards on a platoon-size target (a cloth banner) and Stage Two was 1000 yards at a manhole cover up on the hill. There were four or five other stages, ending with running down a trail shooting at 25- to 75-yard targets. I don’t think anyone hit the platoon banner, but we came close. And I shot all around the 1000-yard target, missing by only a foot or so each time. In several hundred rounds fired by people with .223s, no one there ever even saw one dirt strike in the 20-foot clearing around the manhole cover.

This is the real point: if you have a 30 caliber weapon, you have the option to try to engage, if you think it will help your cause or situation. With a “mouse gun” (any .223) your options are just much more limited. Good shots can do wonders with inadequate tools but, all-in-all, at 300 yards or meters you’re beginning to stretch the ability of the .223 cartridge itself. I certainly would not like to count on it for consistent hits at 400 yards and beyond. Would you? Are you the exception to this “.223 rule-of-range” of mine? I’ve tried them all (the mouse guns) and I don’t really think that, even with the highly vaunted SS-109{sic} ammo, it will make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, so to speak. If you can prove me wrong I’ll be tickled to death to see you do it — come on out and try!

I believe we must push the envelope in our rifle shooting. After all, we are an elite group: we are true leaders in the field of practical rifle shooting. I have heard, time and time again, that shooting at long range is too difficult to be of any real value. HOGWASH! Holy Hogwash! There are too many people who see the glass half-empty, as far as long range shooting is concerned. I see the glass as half-full. I readily admit that I would not take a shot at a game animal, in tranquil times, at more than 300 yards (and if I did it would be only if I was sure of the range and had a very solid position). However, after WWIII starts, I may attempt to shoot deer (or people) at any range I can see them, if I think it is my best chance.

The Long Range Shoot

At any rate, if you have a “heavy” rifle (suitable for long range) you should know how it works in the field, even though you may use a general purpose rifle most of the time. And if you have and use a general purpose rifle, you should know how well it can reach out for you, and what its strengths and limitations are in regard to distance.

Steel targets at 500, 730, and 1050 yards, in the first stage, are a good test of getting hits on point targets at progressively longer and longer ranges. There will be a 1000-yard paper target to allow you to see just how many shots you can put into a 6’x 6′ (36 sq.ft.) target on demand, plus you will know the order of your hits and misses because we record them for you as they fly by. But the most fun is the 500-yard (one-out-of-one, sudden death) man-vs.-man stage. Everyone starts standing and, on the signal to fire, takes any position he chooses; the first one to hit at 500 yards wins. It’s a tough test, but one that will teach you a few things about long range shooting.

We should always strive to be able to hit faster than the enemy can, and be able to shoot him way before he can shoot us. This event will help us all in that department.

Skill Is Better Than Luck!