October 1992 – Michael’s Observations

I just came back from an unplanned trip to Gunsite (which at least made R.J., my landlord, very happy). There, I managed to pickup several pieces of literature on the general subject of stopping power and projectile performance, all by Dr. Martin L. Fackler, MD, a Colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, who is or was the Director of the Wound Ballistics Laboratory at the Letterman Army Institute of Research, in San Francisco. Although I think he has now retired, his ballistic knowledge is tops in the field.

I couldn’t begin to repeat all of the good stuff I’ve read, written by “Uncle Martin” on this very important and complicated subject. I’d be happy to let Dr. Fackler write his own column for us, if Steven can convince him to do so. Anyway, he published a bibliography in a 1988 article, printed in Volume 259, Number 18, of the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled “Wound Ballistics, A Review of Common Misconceptions.” That bibliography has 56 books and articles listed! You can look at, or copy, my list at anytime you wish — just call me first, before you come over.

I also have the new reprint of Gunshot Injuries (the 1916, second edition), by Colonel Louis A. LaGarde, MD (of the famous Thompson-La Garde Tests), for which Dr. Fackler wrote a nine-page introduction dated 1991. The introduction contains valuable information by itself. All serious students of fighting with their fellow man would do well to study the subject of the wounding effect of bullets, to better understand what they are trying to accomplish with their weapons and ammo. I also have a booklet reprint of the chapter, “Bullet Power and Shock Effect,” from Hatcher’s Textbook of Pistols and Revolvers, which I can lend you — or you can sit at my house and read my original first edition, which I don’t like to loan. You owe it to yourself to do some homework of your own on this subject, instead of just reading puff-piece magazine articles and advertisements.

In my case, even if my original reasons for loading a 125-grain, soft-point bullet at 2,900 fps (in place of the full-metal-jacket type for my ball-ammo equivalent) had its primary roots in a desire to shoot a cheaper bullet, I have made it my permanent, standard, battle-sight ball load because of my continuing personal studies of wound ballistics. I would consider loading TCCI’s 150 grain, soft-point, flat-base bullet, if it were significantly cheaper in cost.

I have often said that the Southern California Tactical Combat program can conduct a great many tests of a man’s ability to operate in the field and the various functions of his weapons (accuracy, reliability, handling, etc.), but we just cannot test the effectiveness of the bullets that we shoot because cardboard targets will show a hole from almost any missile — including rocks that are blown through it by close misses. Also, since our “armored” targets will go down when struck by mere pistol bullets, the rifle-bullet impacts that knock them down prove little or nothing. And, in the case of pistols, a light target load will punch just as neat a hole in the paper as will a hunting load with higher velocity, a heavier bullet, and much more recoil force delivered to the shooter.

It seems to me that our understanding of what we are trying to accomplish with our weapons is the key to the selection of both the weapons and their ammo! A pencil can poke a hole in a cardboard target, and a rock can hit a steel plate. But something going faster and having more kinetic energy, launched from a weapon abd directed by us, is what we need to get the job done in the field.

How did you choose your ammo? Write me! Tell me about it! Confess! Talk!

October Rifle Surprise, etc.

As I always say, I’m very happy to shoot some other person’s version of a fight: it forces me to adapt my skills to their scenario — not necessarily what I want to do or already do fairly well. Wayne and Luis put on a good event, in the “piggy-back” tradition of building on current trends and events that have gone before. It is sometimes hard to visualize a city scenario in an outdoor setting, but that is the shooter’s problem; and we should all work toward improving our training, by using our imaginations and by throwing ourselves mentally into the event’s problems at hand.

I had my recurring problem with sliding on the dirt bank but, as misery loves company, I saw that several others did as well. What do I have to do, put a spike on my belt buckle? Dig a firing step with an entrenching tool? Oh no! — I might have to go out and practice shooting off of dirt banks. Now, why didn’t I think of that before?

Also, in analyzing my shooting (Luis told me where I struck the VZs, since I was first up), I was hitting high on their right shoulders. Was it the 1.5″ offset of my ‘scope? Then I remembered that my two test-group centers with the new “Palma” bullet were three inches right. Perhaps at the Long Range Event… I remember now: I put some right windage on, due to the strong winds, for shooting at 1,000 yards. I never took it off, dagnab it and rats! If you are going to make windage adjustments, you had better check your zero at your very next opportunity.

The Gear-Grab Start

(…or, how long does it take you to get into action?) We have had a number of stages, over the years, in which you had to grab you gear and weapon(s) and get on with the war. It is always educational to watch different people’s solutions to the problem. Bill Johnson just bent down and scooped up his gear, in about two or three seconds, and took off. Then we had some less-than-successful attempts. The time was a generous 10 seconds and, for anyone like myself who has a good sense of time-division, it was plenty of time. I threw my pistol holster on, slipped my 782 gear over my shoulders (but not hooked or fastened), and had my rifle in hand and partly loaded, all within the allotted time.

Seeing how things went, might you expect to have to do this more in the near future? You bet! Which brings me back to a pet peeve of mine: poorly designed field gear. If the new and improved “super-trick,” load-bearing gear you own (or just bought) doesn’t have any really solid and very important advantages over normal G.I.-type field gear (belt, suspenders, and pouches), you might just as well have spent the money on wine, women, and lottery tickets! I’d trade the wine for chocolate bars, but you get my drift, don’t you?

By holy thunder, I’m going to spring a field gear test on everyone, really soon now. You know it’s coming, but you don’t know just what to expect, do you? Mmmooo ha ha ha… and “unpleasant dreams,” as Elvira says. Hell, it is approaching Halloween, isn’t it? So I’m making devilish notes about the upcoming test, even as I write this. Heh, heh, heh (picture me with an evil, maniacal look, my hands rubbing together). [Is this different from how Mike usually looks? Naaaah. — ye Ed.] This gear test will be talked about for some time to come — I’ll see to that.

Remember, your mind is your sharpest weapon — and Skill Is Better Than Luck!