Monday, February 18, 2008

People get very small at 300 meters

Unlike my first experience with the standard military issue pistol (the M-9 Beretta), my first encounter with the M-16 rifle left me feeling good about my gun handling skills. But my visual prowess was questionable that day, as at the 500 meter target I was consistently striking “center mass”… of another rifleman’s target. My concentration was such that I put 5-6 slugs directly in the middle for Lane 25 before I heard the tower announcing “Lane 27, you are shooting at the wrong target.” The young lance corporal firing on 25 thanked me after the exercise, happy that I had improved his score significantly.

That was 2002 in Okinawa, Japan on the US Marine Corps M-16 range at Camp Hansen. The range there had 50 or so firing lanes, and the targets were not numbered but had alternating perimeters of red and white. From the closer distances it was easy enough to count over to your target and then hold your sight steady throughout the firing drill. But at 500 meters, even a slight horizontal movement of the rifle could leave you sighted on a target several lanes away.

The Army range at Fort Jackson, on which I will attempt to “qualify” with my M-16 later this week, is not quite as anxiety provoking. The furthest target is 300 meters, not 500 as on the Marine Corps course; and shooters are spaced more commodiously along the firing line. The 300 meter target is still quite a distance away. I’ve included a photo taken from the gun position. You might be able to see a 300 meter target (which is the size of an average male) with a white spot (how the hell else would you see it?) on Lane 9. A 175 meter target is visible on Lane 12. Having trouble seeing any of those targets? Now you know how I felt most of the day.

The M -16 is a remarkable weapon as with relatively little instruction and practice, a new shooter can gain proficiency with the rifle. You also can easily break the rifle down to its basic elements and then reassemble it in less two minutes.

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