Soldier of the Year: Part 2

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We arrived at the range and dug into some MREs. The atmosphere was loose and happy. The weather, perfect.

The M-16 frustrates me. I’ve always been such a good shot, with both the rifle and the pistol. Most of my rifle shooting was done with hunting rifles though, which have iron post sites. The M-16 with its peep sight mystifies me. It’s enraging; a Soldier needs to kill stuff with a rifle. I remember a friend of mine, a former Army Ranger, saying he didn’t like the peep sight because there was too much “play” in the exact location of the front sight in relation to the rear sight. I’m trained to focus on the front sight. There’s a saying amongst elite pistol trainers: “front sight, front sight, front sight.” If you can fully see the front sight when shooting a pistol, you’ll probably hit the target. 

DSCN0371DSCN0372But the front sight on a peep sight swims about. Where to place the front sight is always in question. With normal post sights, thee is no question.


M-16 front sight as seen through rear sight: way too much play.
M-16 front sight as seen through rear sight: way too much play.


Post sights: Very little room for alignment error
Post sights: Very little room for alignment error


So, we began the qualifying and as usual I did fine as we zeroed the weapons, shooting very tight groups. Another trouble I have with the M-16 qual course is my contact lenses. The first twenty rounds of the course takes 2 minutes. Keeping my eye open with only a few blinks for that long causes the contact lens to dry and shrink, which distorts my focus on the target. It gets blurry. On the zeroing portion, you only shoot three rounds at a time and my eyes get a chance to get wet again. 

My results prove that I need to shoot with my glasses next time. I shot my worst round ever–a damn 22. I was not happy. Embarrassed actually. The combination of factors, contacts, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the M-16’s peep sights led to a very poor performance. No excuses. I must get better, and I will. 

 I didn’t waste much time dwelling on my results. Several others shot poorly too and I knew that no one would touch me on the pistol. The second I pick up a Beretta handgun, I feel confidence. I have over a decade of training and shooting with the Beretta. Holding it brought a flood of memories from my days as a cop, going down to the old indoor range in the musty basement of the now-demolished Bangor Police station on Court St. There, myself and Officer Chad Foley would sharpen our skills by shooting playing cards taped to cardboard backing. Tight, tight groups at 15 yards. Simulated head shots. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast, and we drew so many times from out Level III holsters that it was as if the pistol jumped from its housing into our hands. A bad guy’s preemption had to be overcome with skill and confidence; you had to make your shots count. 

This pistol course was long range (25 meters) but the target was large and I didn’t have to draw from a holster like I did for the police course. Plus, I was firing the M9, a 9mm, as opposed to the .40 cal 96G Model I used on the force. So, much less recoil and a quicker muzzle on target recovery. 

I shot a perfect score: 40 out of 40. In my mind, it didn’t make up for my horrendous performance with the rifle. For one thing, the rifle is my primary weapon, and for another, I should shoot well with the pistol. But it was enough to put me back in the lead. I made note of my deficiencies, but then cast them out of my mind, focused on the next–and perhaps toughest–portion of this competition: Land Navigation. I had little experience, except normal map reading skills from hiking, plus a lot of reading. . But only about 2 hours experience with the Army’s M-2 lensatic compass, and my main opponent had not only 3 more years in the army than I, but had competed in this event in 2008…


3 thoughts on “Soldier of the Year: Part 2

    Amos Volante said:
    June 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    There is definitely a training issue here. You are a remarkably good shot and the pistol is of a higher skill level for a shooter. Additionally, the Beretta is a particularly hard pistol to shoot whereas among rifles the M-16 is super easy.

    I qualified Expert for all 3 years of my Army service with that rifle yet never once did well with the pistol. A good army rifleman with two days at the range will make you an instant Rifle Expert.

    How lucky you are that all your weaknesses are the most solvable ones. Getting a soldier to rock at PT, writing, or pistol shooting is hard as hell.

    If your NCOIC was not an illiterate street thug this would be a fun week of catch up for you. Don’t worry;

    For every useless NCO in the army there are ten good ones.

    magus71 responded:
    June 12, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    I was not blessed with an NCO who cares at this point. Every aspect of this event, I trained and studied by myself, or with Donna’s help. Not that I really mind, but I would like to be alloted the time to adequately prepare. I was do a three day pass for winning Soldier of the Month in May, but never got it.

    No one has really worked with me on the M-16. It’s tough to get trigger time without an NCO giving it a go, whereas at the police department, I could shoot anytime.

    kernunos said:
    June 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Good work still. Amazing with the pistol. Remind me not to challenge you to a duel with pistols.

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