Saturday, August 28, 2010

Of ACOGs and Iron Sights...

Marine sights in through his ACOG on the 200 yard line, in the Sitting position.
The "Offhand" (now known only as"Standing") position
In a proverbial lull in the artistic fighting, last week I attended Annual Rifle Training at the rifle range here at Quantico-- and praise God, I shot "Expert"!

Many things at the Range are just like they've been for years-- the smell of gun smoke, carbon and CLP; the popcorn-staccato sounds of rifle fire as rounds go down range (as well as those rounds cracking overhead while you're down in the butts); and of course the repeated phrases "Shooters on the firing line... You may commence firing when your DAAAAAAAAAWG Target appears....CEEEEASE FIRE, CEASE FIRE..."

But a new thing has shown up all across the Corps, which at first perturbed me-- the use of RCOs, the telescopic sights also called ACOGs, while qualifying on the rifle range.

The "Old School" Sergeant in me thought it was a terrible idea to throw away the old "iron sights". It seemed a huge slap in the face to all the crack marksmen that have gone before us, who trained long and hard to become proficient at placing a round into center mass from hundreds of meters away...

And I also felt that it would perhaps destroy the ability to teach fundamentals to new Marines, by somehow making it too easy to shoot with, or making the shooter lazy. 

However, once I'd fired with the sight, I felt that it was an excellent addition to the tool kit of the Marine  marksman, as it helped the Marine who practiced and applied the fundamentals, and even brought faults and bad habits into stark relief against the magnified target in his sights, so that he could address those problems...

A Shooting Coach discusses fundamentals with his shooter during practice firing
When I was firing with the ACOG, I could see the reticle (the ACOG's version of the front sight post) move all around the black in the center of the target, and could even see my own pulse, throbbing from the tight loop sling on my arm down through my hand guards into to weapon. Also, if I looked too much at the target, which the sight sort of tempts a shooter to do, the round would dance all about the target, around the black, mocking my lack of skill.

Yet I found that if I kept the proven disciplines-- maintained my Natural Point of Aim, rested in the position, concentrated on the reticle instead of the target, and exercised breathing control and trigger squeeze, I could benefit from the magnification of the sight. 

Many shooters expressed the same "Old-Salt" doubts about the new way of doing things as I did, but many shooters liked the idea of using the sight that one would use in a combat environment.

By the end of the course of fire, and after Qual Day, I had to admit that the more things change, the more they stay the same... and the Marine Corps will go on making excellent marksmen by adhering to the fundamentals of marksmanship, no matter what the weapon system.
Practice Firing continues on the rifle range, as Coaches and Primary Marksmanship Instructors share their knowledge with the shooters
And years in the future, today's Marines will be the Curmudgeons having the same discussions about their new M25A4 laser weapons...! ("Yeah, in the Old Corps, we actually had to see the target with an optical site to shoot at it...none of this laser range finder stuff..." )


Gabriel Campanario said...

Hi Kristopher, just landed on your blog from an article at the NYT. I'm a news artist at The Seattle Times and founder of Urban Sketchers, a non-profit to promote on-location drawing ( I'm really excited about finding your blog and will be coming back for more of your great art and visual reporting. Respectfully, Gabriel Campanario.

Gabriel Campanario said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristopher Battles said...

Thank you, sir! & I will endeavor to make your visits to the blog enjoyable.

Semper Fi,
Sgt Battles

Unknown said...

nice post!

Alex said...

Nice rifle sir! I wonder what coating gun you use for it to maintain its beauty. My Dad use protection coating on his gun to avoid certain damages and rusts. I could see him clean his treasures often. Sometimes he would teach me shooting in the woods with all those poor little cans.