Oct 22, 2011

Target Practice

Left: AR-15-wielding historian

I took some time out of my schedule this weekend to join some colleagues on an outing to test some military weapons with historical significance. In the image on your left, I am lining up to shoot an AR-15, which is the semi-automatic version of the M-16 rifle.

We fired quite a variety of weapons today, ranging from a Mauser Gewehr 98 to an early twentieth century variant of the M1 Garand. We also fired quite a few different military handguns, and after today's demonstrations I have a much greater knowledge and awareness of military technology.

And no fun, whatsoever, was enjoyed by the participants in blasting away at targets for three hours.


Left: firing range target

I am far from a regular at the range, and I have fired rifles or muskets only a few times in my life. I was surprised that with some training (two of the participants are ex-military personnel) I could hit with some accuracy targets 100 yards away.

This has less to do with any skill on my part, and a bit more to do with the coaching. A larger part of the equation, though, is that military weapons are designed to be as user-friendly and easy-to-learn as possible. The AR-15, in particular, was relatively simple to operate, and on my first ten-round practice I hit in the black on the target five out of ten times.

I was much less successful with the Garrand and the Mauser, both of which I landed in the black three of ten times. The Mauser is also a physically punishing weapon, with a strong kick and an especially loud report. If I were an infantry soldier, I would prefer the AR-15 to the other weapons.


Mad Jack said...

Hey! Good job, HistoryMike.

I like the M1 Garand pretty well, but carrying the thing all day would tend to wear you out a little.

I'm glad to see that you're out and about.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the Marines need a few good men...in Australia!

bsommer3 said...

I am simultaneously impressed and concerned by my professor making himself proficient in the use of high-powered rifles. I am impressed because my professor, seekign to improve his knowledge of his discipline, is immersing himself in a practical exercise of historical relevency. I am concerned because the man know is trained to use a variety of high powered weapons...rats of the world beware; Dr. Brooks is packing some heat.

tom said...

Recoil sensitivity is highly variable, but the AR is a pretty good compromise for general issue and you can carry more ammo.

I once won a bet I'd shoot 30 rounds on target with the butt stock of an M-16 (National Guard qual weekend at the range) resting on my gonads. Depending on ammo used and model, free recoil for an AR/M can be as low as 5lbs without any form of muzzle brake.

That said, depending on how far I was shooting and what I was shooting at 5.56/.223 is a decent general utility round up to deer size game but less than ideal for many other things. That's why I own many firearms, not one. If I had to pick just one, an AR/M would suffice but probably not be my first choice.

Glad you had a fun range day from some random smithy person in the Texas backwoods that sometimes ventures to hunt bigger things elsewhere.

--Interesting side note, when hunting or in some target activities, and I'd assume the same applies in combat with many, recoil is a non-issue and doesn't much cross your mind a bit. I was on a clays team in college and would often shoot 10-12 boxes of heavy load magnum 12 gauge (the more lead the more bird hit potential, all other things being equal) and it never bothered me and I used a Beretta that swung nice but was very light, so it magnified the recoil compared to a lot of 12 gauges you might shoot on this planet. Then I'd go home and shower and I had a monster bruise, but when I was busting the clays I didn't even notice it. I had a friend that liked to stalk elk when I lived in the rockies and he built a .460 Weatherby Magnum that weighed about maybe 6lbs scoped and loaded with a synthetic stock and fluted barrel. Recoil was brutal, but as he said when he built it, "I'm likely only going to fire one shot, but I'm gonna be hiking in the mountains all day or longer and I have to carry the damn thing." Everything's a compromise. Same reason I use a recurve bow hunting instead of a compound. More work, harder to hold, but light as can be and it's a takedown, so it's only a lightweight 28" tube case with a sling when hiking through the woods. I'll take full draw weight over a heavy compound bow because I don't sit in a stand.

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