28Jan07

Range Fire!

Last week, I conducted a training course at a municipal, police, indoor range in the Midwest. This range is an up-to-date one, with good ventilation and a modern, rubber bullet trap. In addition, it is well maintained and swept up after each use.

As a group of students were shooting from the fifteen-meter line, we all suddenly noticed flames erupting from a downrange joint in the concrete floor. The flames followed the crack from left to right, like a burning fuse, leaping into the air twelve inches at times! Several resourceful officers grabbed fire extinguishers, but it was ultimately unnecessary. The flames died out within less than a minute. With the excitement over, our training resumed.

When pistols, rifles, and shotguns discharge, not all powdered propellant contained within the cartridge actually burns. In fact, a significant portion does not. Instead, scorched but unburnt, it is jettisoned from the muzzle along with the bullet. On outdoor ranges, the phenomenon is mostly a non-issue, but on indoor ranges, unburnt powder accumulates on the deck and, mixed in with other debris, it is usually identified at "dirt" and swept up. On this particular range, such "dirt" is not allowed to accumulate and is promptly carried away, but even thorough sweeping does not get unburnt powder out of joints and cracks in the concrete floor. I'm not sure what ignited it, but in this case there was enough accumulated, unburnt powder to burn its way along the joint for three meters or so.

On heavily-used, commercial ranges, large piles of such "dirt" are sometimes allowed to accumulate in edges and corners, as well as concrete joints. That practice engenders an extremely dangerous circumstance and has caused more than one such range to burn to the ground!

In order to prevent these fires, indoor ranges need to be swept regularly, but, in addition, they need to be periodically vacuumed, particularly edges, corners, cracks, and joints. That is the only way unburnt powder can be completely removed from places it likes to accumulate.

"Range fires" sound incredulous, until you've seen one for yourself!

/John



28Jan07

Military Rifle Effectiveness

In an article in the current issue of Infantry Magazine, authors were assigned the task of articulating the current party-line with regard to continued lack of confidence in the military's M855 "62gr green-tip" 223 round, still being issued.

We are assured that extensive re-testing had been done in response to chronic complaints from the field. However, most such complaints are quickly dismissed as resulting from "inexperience" and "hazy recollections."

We are then told that all resultant testing only addressed close-range, exposed human targets (fifty meters maximum) that are unprotected by cover,

ignoring the 223's (1) lack of acceptable terminal effect beyond 150m and (2) chronic lack of ability to penetrate commonly-used objects (like car doors) that the enemy uses for cover- the twin issues that are at the heart of complaints about this caliber and have for the past forty years. Government "studies" are all alike!

Authors went on to admonish us all that we need to be accurate shooters. No problem with that, but they then advocated "controlled-pairs" for engaging enemy soldiers. Funny, no one ever suggested the necessity of any such multiple-shot technique when we were using M14s, did they? Routinely firing "controlled-pairs" reduces a 28-round magazine to a 14-round one and effectively halves one's ammunition supply.

In conclusion, we are assured that inveterate complaints about the 223 round's dismal failure as a main, battle caliber are merely "myth and superstition." The Stoner rifle in 223 caliber is the "best... available" we are told. Then, almost as an aside, it is sheepishly admitted that ineffectiveness and long range and second-rate penetration really are problems with this combination and that "something even better" may come along soon.

Well, it can hardly come too soon! The replacement forty years ago of heavy-caliber, main-battle-rifles, like the M14 and FAL, with light rifles in varmint calibers was, among other things, an attempt by "just-tech" types to degrade the importance and potency of the individual soldier and Marine, when it has been the heroism and gritty determination of the individual soldier and

Marine that has consistently turned the tide of battle since this nation began! It is a forty-year old, procurement mistake, and all the trumped-up "studies" in the world will fail to convince soldiers and Marines in the field who are obliged to believe their own eyes!

The 223 round may be adequate for domestic, personal defense and domestic policing. A convincing argument could even me made for its military suitability in rear-area defense. But, as a main-battle-caliber, its glaring inadequacy is obvious to all but a few, party-lines and party-liners notwithstanding!

/John



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