June 1991 – Michael’s Observations

This is my report on the team event held at Chimney Peak on Sunday, the 26th of May. R.J. and I called the team we were on “Dexter’s Dragoons”; later on we were “The Lost Patrol,” but that’s another story. First of all, Harry Dexter was our team leader. Since it was no-camo, no-military-web-gear, and BOLT RIFLES ONLY, “Boss” Dexter had to arm his own team: both R.J. and I are out of the bolt-action rifle business at the present time. But, fortunately for Harry, we at least provided our own ammo and field gear. A week or so beforehand, the team had had a dinner meeting to discuss some things. We all agreed that the infamous “K.I.S.S.” principle (Keep-It-Simple-Stupid) would probably work best for us, as we were not going to have any real training time together. Another point in favor of the K.I.S.S. principle, overly detailed planning, was that none of us would know the scenario until just before we started the event. Understanding it was another story.

Team organization, in motley “armed groups,” is generally dictated by the types of weapons carried. Harry and R.J. had “scout rifles” with low-power, long-eye-relief scopes; I had an SSG (PS-II model) with a Leupold 10-power scope with an outside adjuster. We were all chambered for .308 NATO. Obviously, I was designated to take mainly the long and small-target shots. To our benefit, R.J. has some “weak side” ability (he bats right handed, but throws and catches left handed) so he dry-fired some quick, close-range shots from the left shoulder during the week preceding the event, to be able to give the team some coverage to the right side of the trail or formation.

“Best Laid Plans” Department

None of our tentative planning came into play, as there was no ambush on the way to the objective, and by the time we had done our impersonation of a detachment of mountain goats we had managed to approach it, a camp, from above. Since we were already just a little overtime a full reconnaissance was not possible. (The event CROs, Horne and Wyatt, were by that time already hearing voices and seeing things — we had them worried, right where we wanted them.) The team leader, Harry, decided to take R.J. and move straight down until they could spring an “assault,” after giving me some time to work around to the top side of the camp. There I was suppose to fire into the camp, then remain in a covering position while the assault team moved into it.

As it turned out (due to the lack of time for a more complete recon of the camp), as I circled wide on the way to the “big rock” (did I know which one?) to take up my firing position, I spotted “movement” of a sniper target (my opposite number, I assume). After checking the surrounding area carefully with binoculars, I decided that he was the furthest away from the camp on my end. Therefore I could move toward the rock, but I could not lose line-of-sight on the sniper target. He would be my first victim.

Is That All There Is?

When the balloon went up (the balloon was pink — that was my target) I took my big, long-range, 35-yard shot with a 10-power scope and sprinted toward my position on the rock. I had attached the Colt clothespin bipod, even though I took my first shot from kneeling, as I felt it would be useful in firing from the rock position. I was wrong: the rock (or I) was too round, and I couldn’t depress the muzzle of the rifle to get on the one and only target I could see. I yanked the bipod off and quickly grabbed my H-Loop sling (in the monopod mode) and fired my second shot of the engagement, from the rock, at maybe 25 yards. As I worked the bolt I saw Harry’s pistol-shot dirt strikes through the heavy brush; he fired at a target I couldn’t see and, as I looked at that area through my scope to pin-point that target, I thought to myself, “Oh, crap! It’s already down.”

I had only been able to fire two shots, and the battle for the camp was over. So I came down from the rock and took up my next position, covering up-gully from the camp. Harry covered down-gully, and R.J. went to grab the “White Magic” proof-of-success… after checking for booby traps of course. He did his job, and we moved off in a column with Harry leading, then R.J. with the “White Magic,” and me bringing up the rear.

Lessons I Learned

  1. Never leave water behind! Because of the no-military-gear circumstances, I carried two one-liter bottles in a small pack. The real problem was that I didn’t really understand all of the instructions, and my own team members must have misunderstood them just as badly as I did. Specifically we were told that we were going to have “$260.00,” and were to go to “Barter-Town” to buy gear for our mission. We (wrongly) assumed that we would be lucky to buy one rifle and two pistols, plus some ammo, with this amount. No packs, no knives, nor any other stuff. Harry kept his one-quart canteen on his belt (very smart) and we all left our packs behind. However, our team leader shared his water with R.J. and me, and took none for himself — a good leader indeed.
  2. Don’t let yourself get really out-of-shape! At the end of the day, and the following morning (as I write this), I was very surprised to not feel a lot of aches and pains. (Well, I am a touch sore from the knees down, but isn’t everyone?) I also took my Thrifty Drug Store pseudo-Advil (Ibuprofen) beforehand as an anti-inflammatory aid, and I assume it worked. But my problem (at 212 lbs, up from my best Cooper Assault times at 180 lbs) is that I just was running out of breath and, after some exertion, found it hard to lift my legs very high over obstacles. Harry’s leading us toward an attack on Lake Tahoe was very good for me. I have always been chubby, but I used to be a bit faster and stronger than I looked. It makes me very mad at myself. If I can maintain the feeling it might be the only thing to motivate me not to die a blob!
  3. You need to practice downhill shots! I personally find that shooting over level ground, and even up-hill, to be easy. I had a chance to try several different positions on the downhill slope I was on, while my team members were getting into position. It is hard to elevate the rifle’s muzzle from prone to shoot cross-canyon, if the target is even a little way up the other side of a gully, unless you can manage to find just the right kind of depression in the ground to shoot from. Nice work if it’s there, but you can’t count on it for real. A Harris bipod with extendable legs might help to some extent, or the fork of a tree, but again only if a suitable tree (or even a rock) is available.(Probably this is the best reason to practice the open-leg sitting position, or some variation of it. An Olympic-shooting-match kneeling position comes to mind: it was a “cheater” sitting position used a long time ago by Marine rifle teams to make kneeling steadier, and probably long ago outlawed by the rules committee. A “high kneeling” position is also useful, although less steady, but that’s what I used for my first 35-yard shot. For that distance you don’t really need anything any more stable, and I did need to get out of the position quickly and get to the rock to carry on the fight. Nonetheless, when all is said and done, it would be a very sound investment of time to develop some ability to shoot cross-canyon.)
  4. Movement is still the best target indicator in the field! After we had figured out that we had bypassed the camp, Harry ranged far out from the ridgeline to scout, without R.J. and me having to keep up with him. After all, we all had our own binoculars. If he hadn’t spotted Horne moving around in the camp (as he was supposed to) we might have attacked the derelict T.V. set laying out there. And as I approached the camp, I didn’t notice the white shirt on the sniper-balloon — I picked up some movement through the brush! And when I first saw it, it looked like a real person — until I looked at it with my own optics. As I moved into position for the assault, I kept my rifle close to my body and my hands and arms placed to break up the rifle’s outline, and I moved very slowly and steadily (about 10 seconds per four-feet) trying to stay in the shadows and not attract any attention.
  5. Experimentation is good for the soul! I don’t know just how satisfied or dissatisfied other people are with their weapons and field gear, but most devices just don’t suit me and I am constantly trying to either change them or overcome a field-type problem I see. I try to test gear whenever I can, but nothing can really replace the do-it-now pressure of having to shoot someone else’s idea of “The War” that day. You get put into a position of solving a shooting and role-playing problem, and it seems that your gear either helps you along or makes it harder to operate.

I am happy to say that my H-Clip and H-Loop are doing very well for me, since I’ve been trying them in “other people’s wars” lately. I feel that a rifle weighing over 10 lbs may need something (H-Clip) to take its weight off of the shooters arms, while in the field. The SSG I carried had to weigh 13 or 14 lbs, plus. The way the H-Clip is used, you can control the rifle with one hand or arm, and without very much effort. The rifle can also “hang free” (the SSG has a long semi-heavy barrel, and points muzzle-down at about 45 degrees) and where the female part of the H-Clip is put determines how the rifle will carry no-hands. The system could also be used on a light rifle to permit doing hands-free tasks: searching terrain with optics, drinking water, using a radio, etc.

As our team was searching high and low (but mostly higher and higher) for the promised land, my team leader told me to move to the edge of the ridgeline and keep my binoculars out to constantly check for our objective. Yes Boss, three bags full. By keeping my right arm over the stock, I could balance the rifle almost level and use both hands on my binoculars. If I had to shoot from that carry, I would have grabbed the rifle at the pistol-grip, swung the muzzle forward and up, dropped my binoculars to the left side of the rifle (they’re tied to me), released the H-Clip with my left hand, and the rifle would’ve gone into a snap-shot position. I have not yet had the opportunity to have a rifle at crotch-level carry, with the H-Clip, and to pendulum it up to the shoulder for a quick shot, but I’m sure it will work because I’ve done it in tests with R.J.’s 18lb monster (the “BAR”) with what seems like a depleted Uranium stock. Therefore, lesser-weight rifles should be easier to swing.

Bottom Line: Was It Worth It?

I can hardly wait to borrow someone else’s .308 rifle, because I have almost 100 rounds loaded for one left over, with 168-grain match bullets, bench rest primers, and trickled-out, on-the-money powder charges. I spent many hours in preparation, and a half-day at the range. In getting ready to jump off for the event, I slept in the same room with R.J. and therefore dreamed I was being chased by demons riding chain saws… or at least it sounded like that — well, maybe I just thought I was asleep. I rode up and back in a compartment built for midgets, and right after we got there, and I’d got some feeling back in my legs, we hiked further than most people do at Disneyland. And, like a plain fool, I left my water behind. Then I got to fire only two rounds.

What do I think about it? It Was Great! I really enjoyed myself, and this event met my personal criteria for a successful outing:

  1. I was able to experience a challenging and realistic task,
  2. I learned (or even relearned) some valuable lessons, and
  3. it was very good to see some of my shooting buddies who I don’t get to see very often.

All in all, another good day in which John C. Garand smiled down upon me; and I’m thankful that I got to shoot in such great company. Let’s do it again real soon!