From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Needham)
Subject: Gunsite General Rifle Trip Report
Date: 31 Oct 1994 22:36:07 -0500
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This last September (1994) I spent a week at Gunsite (Grey Gunsite) taking
their 270 - general rifle course. I would like to share the experience with
General rifle is the third of the "well rounded" series of classes that I have
taken at Gunsite. Somewhere along the line I made a conscious decision to get
some serious training in small arms and decided to pursue breadth rather than
specializing in a particular discipline. Over the last few years I have taken
the general pistol (250) class from Orange Gunsite and the tactical shotgun
class (260) right after the major fallout between Jeff Cooper and Rich Jee. I
also picked up the advanced tactical problems class in pistol, but that was
primarily to pick up some more time in the simulators - especially at night.
There were nine students in our rifle class and two instructors. Our lead
instructor's real job is a sniper instructor for the DOE in New Mexico. The
assistant is a recently retired California law enforcement type who
specialized in training and working with tactical entry teams. Of the nine
students we had two MDs, two SWAT team sniper specialists from Southern
California, two attorneys, a salesman, a housewife and one computer type -
yours truly. It broke out to two women and seven men.
We had an interesting mix of rifles in the class. There were 6 "Scout"
rifles; 5 were chambered in .308 Winchester and one was chambered in .35
Whelen. Half of the Scouts (all .308s) were built on the Sako action the
other half were built on the full range of Winchester model 70 actions: post
'64 & the new classic in .308 and a very nice pre '64 on the Whelen. There
were two conventional model 70s in the new classic action, one chambered in
.308 and the other in .243. I had the only self loading rifle in the class, a
Springfield M1A with the short brush model barrel chambered in 7.62x51 NATO.
Seven of the rifles were equipped with the Ching sling. One of the .308
Scouts had a CW sling and I was using a standard military sling. I would
observe that the three point Ching sling was a very good compromise between
stability, speed and carry efficiency. The CW sling was _very_ fast but it
had some distributing carry method problems (like having the barrel of a
loaded rifle tucked under your chin) during the more active parts of the
course. My military sling was clearly the most stable of all the rigs in use
but also the slowest by far.
All of the Scout rifles had the Burris 2.5x forward mounted scope on them.
The .243 had a 3-6x Leupold and the .308 classic had a 3-9x Leupold. I had a
Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) in 4x with the bullet drop
compensator and range finder reticule. We had no scope problems during the
class but every rifle, except for the .35 Whelen and my Springfield broke
during the class. This turns out not to be unusual. Most people in the class
shot between 500 and 800 rounds, which is more that most "sporting" rifles see
in their lifetime. All failures, except for a totally destroyed Sako action,
where rapidly fixed by the gun smithy on site at Gunsite. The student with
the destroyed action was provided with a loner rifle for the remainder of the
The Sako actions seemed to be the most fragile by far. The class emphases
rapid and vigorous action of they bolt while the rifle is still mounted to
your shoulder. The Sako actions had several instances of striped receiver
screws, broken bolt stops and broken extractors. Within the Scout concept a
lot of people like the Sako action because it is four or so ounces lighter
than the model 70 action. Based on my observation I would suggest that the
extra few ounces, if they result in a stronger action, might be worthwhile.
You might note that I make a distinction between .308 and 7.62x51 NATO. This
difference was dramatically demonstrated with some Lake City match ammunition.
My rifle chambered for 7.62x51 would fire this with no problems at all. When
we tried it with the .308 scouts it would hang up in the chamber after firing.
That extra .003 of an inch really does make a difference. One other note on
ammunition. Everybody was having problems with the Winchester 147 grain ball
(white box) load; especially at longer ranges. I don't know what the
manufacturing tolerances on this ammunition are but it seems that everybody in
the class was having problems with fliers with this load. Nobody had any
problems at all with the 168 grain Federal match load. I also had good
experiences with the Lake City match. I did notice that I was getting some
substantial deformation of the hollow points of the match ammunition which I
believe was caused by recoil battering. I want to take a very close look at
the Nosler ballistic tip bullet based on this experience.
The overall goal of the class was to rapidly achieve a first round hit on a
target at an unknown distance (between 25 and 400 meters) from field
positions. Gunsite points out that far too much rifle practice is done from
the bench, rather than under field conditions. There will be a rather
substantially change in the point of impact at 200 meters from a sandbagged
rifle on the bench to a sling supported rifle in a stable prone position.
Gunsite also strongly prefers slings to bipods because slings have a much
greater useability and flexibility under field conditions.
After an equipment check we started by zeroing the rifles at 25 meters. For
general rifle, Gunsite recommends a 200 meter zero. For "standard" .308 or
7.62 NATO loads a 25 meter zero should be equal to a 200 meter zero. Believe
me, if you don't have access to a good spotting scope this is the fast way of
setting a base zero; much less walking back and forth. This gives a very
effective zone of engagement out to 250 meters as you will be 5 cm high at 100
meters and 10 cm low at 250 meters both of which are well within a normal 30
cm kill zone. At 300 meters you can hold just a little over and at 400 meters
you hold a lot over - just aim a little over the top of the head on a torso
target because you will have a 60 cm drop. Kindda makes you wonder about all
of those "miracle shots" that your hunting buddies have made at 400 or 500
The next couple of days were spent working on the rapid assumption of
position, review of cleaning procedures, exterior ballistics and range
estimation. We spent a lot of time on range estimation and effective zeros
for the most likely range of engagement. We reviewed several record keeping
options and had an interesting discussion on what information was the most
worthwhile to record. Gunsite strongly recommends that you keep a separate
log for each of your rifles. Everybody went to the class with the philosophy
that a clean rifle is a happy rifle. Our instructor was clearly more on the
benchrest side of cleanliness then that practiced by most sporting or DCM
shooters. His rule of thumb is that you should spend more time cleaning it,
especially the bore, than shooting it.
The idea behind rapid assumption is that you should be able to quickly get
slung up and into your chosen position, then take your shot and get your hit
as quickly as possible. The theory is that whatever you want to shoot at
probably won't stick around forever while you get set up for your shot. We
also worked on "snap shots". A snap shot is a "upper A zone" hit (that's a
head shot to those of you who are not politically correct) from 25 meters,
starting from the ready position, in 1.5 seconds or less. We also worked on
normal A zone hits from 50 meters with the same time limit and start position.
We started working the rifle simulators towards the end of the week. We ran
the scrambler several times. I have done this before with both pistol and
shotgun. It is a deceptively simple concept. There is one silhouette target
at a range varying from about 110 to 90 meters. The target must be hit before
moving to the next position. Start standing, engage the target until hit.
Move to a low barricade, engage. Move to a window, engage. Move to a
kneeling or sitting position, engage. Move to a prone position, engage. Drop
into a bunker, engage. Climb a tree and engage from a position in the tree.
There are about 10 meters between the positions and they run roughly parallel
to the target. Running this course with a rifle I was able to break the one
minute barrier for my personal best time.
We also worked a outdoor tactical simulator called "the Velle". This is an
assault course much like the Donga that you do with a pistol or shotgun. The
difference is that while you have to search for targets out to 50 meters or so
in the Donga, you have possible engagements out to more than 500 meters in the
Velle. You have an unknown number of targets to engage as you move through
the course. All targets are camouflaged steel silhouettes and are in
positions that would be logically assumed by an opponent. That means that
they are hidden in the trees, behind hard cover in the gullies and anywhere
else where they might be hard to find and hit. You can hear a hit on the
target and if you get a A zone hit a spring loaded flag goes up.
I was moving slow around obstacles while I was in partial cover and moving
fast over the open spots. I almost ran over the top of a target, got a little
excited and popped it three times. They were all A hits though. I was about
two thirds of the way through the course and decided to do a tactical magazine
change. I just knew that I would get endless shit if I ran that big 20 round
magazine dry. Turned out to be a good thing. The last target turned out to
be 397 meters out, uphill and partially behind a tree. It took 4 shots to get
that one. I would have run dry without that magazine change.
We came back Thursday night to work with low light problems. This is where my
scope really came into it's own. To a certain extent I had been fighting the
scope for the first several days. To mount really is not optimal for the M1A.
Either that or there is not enough eye relief on the scope. You have to get
right up on it and it is difficult to maintain a good and consistent cheek
weld when you do that. I added a lace-on nylon and foam pad and that helped a
bit. I spent a lot of time working on the best way to mount the rifle with
this setup. I got mad at my equipment. But, once it started getting dark,
all was forgiven. I could see my reticule; it was a nice warm red glow lit by
the tritium capsule. The scope was bright enough for me to see the target, a
black popper at 100 meters in this case, through the scope when I couldn't
make it out well by eyesight alone. Everybody else had stopped shooting
because they couldn't see either the target or their reticule. I was locked
in prone - BANG, clang, HIT! All 20 rounds in the magazine. Change
magazines, lock into position, get on the scope, it's darker now. OK, where
is the target, ah - just there - BANG, clang, HIT! Repeat as required. Even
that evil flash hider was working well. I had a lot of fun that night.
The school drills were a bit of everything that we had learned all week. We
used the option IPSC target in a camouflage pattern. Five snap shots for
score from 25 & 50 Meters. Then out to the 300 meter range. Start standing,
20 seconds to drop to prone and get two hits. Move to 250 meters and repeat.
Move to 200 meters; sitting with the same time limit. Move to 150 meters;
kneeling with the same time limit. Move to 100 yards; offhand with the same
time limit. Overtime shots count as a miss. There are a total of 100 points
possible. The low score was in the 60s, the high was in the 90s and most were
in the 80s.
Then there was the shoot-off. Person to person. Each shooter must get a hit,
shooting freehand, on a popper at 100 meters. After hitting the popper you
must engage a 20 cm plate at 200 meters from any position except prone. First
person to hit the second plate wins. Best two out of three. Winner moves up
to the next round. It will get you going.
All in all, I learned a lot. I shot 585 rounds of Winchester ball, 120 rounds
of Federal 167 grain HP match and 60 rounds of Lake City 165 grain HP match.
I have reacquainted myself with what I can do with my rifle and what I can't.
It was a good opportunity to get some new gear sorted out. I meet some great
people and had a wonderful time.
What's next for me? Gunsite is offering Shotgun ATP and a more advanced ATP 2
in 1995, both are interesting to me. I might also go out there for the
National Tactical Invitational that is planed for mid 95. Thunder Ranch is
offering a team tactics course that Kathy and I might take. Thunder Ranch
will accept our Gunsite credentials. I also want to take at least the first
Lethal Force Institute (LFI) class for a greater understanding of the legal
aspects. So much to learn and so little time :-)
Don't dream it, be it!
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