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This long but a very good read...and trust me ...its all very true.

Up until the Vietnam War, Americans had been known as a nation of marksmen.
From the French and Indian wars through the Korean conflict, those who
opposed us on the battlefield suffered the consequences of our rifleman

Then about the time of the Vietnam War, our troops suddenly seemed unable to
shoot any better than anyone else, and often, not as well. The reasons for
the decline in our shooting capabilities, as reflected by the reported
performance of our ground troops in Afghanistan, are multi-faceted, but
definable and correctable.

From the 1600s continuing through the present, the population of the United
States has been on a steady migration from rural to urban living. The
mentality of rural or wilderness dwellers always focused on the necessity of
good marksmanship. Whether for subsistence or defense, good shooters could
keep their family fed or defend them from marauders if necessary.

Great rifles were built for these early marksmen, first by early German
settlers, who set up shops around the Pennsylvania iron ore deposits. Later,
these Pennsylvania rifles gained fame for their accuracy and killing power
in the Kentucky Territory and across the Great Plains.

Gun makers such as Ballard, Sharps, Remington and Winchester carried on the
traditions of the early German gunsmiths and built superbly accurate,
powerful single-shot hunting rifles. These makers also built long-range
competition rifles that were accurate beyond 1,000 yards. Meanwhile,
Springfield Arsenal was building single-shot rifles for the U.S. military,
chambered for the powerful 45-70 Government cartridge, which remained the
primary service round from 1873-1889, when it was replaced by the smokeless
30 U.S. Army (30-40 Krag).

As the balance of the population began to shift from rural to urban settings
in the early 1900s, so did the emphasis on great marksmanship. City folk
continued to hunt under controlled seasons and bag limits, but mostly for
sport. City dwellers also continued European-style competitions (Schutzen
Matches) to keep their marksmanship skills sharp and display their shooting
prowess against the rest of the world in open competition

Meanwhile, the country folk were still subsistence hunting and controlling
predators, sometimes within the law, sometimes not. Great competitive
marksmen also came from rural communities (particularly the Rocky Mountain
States and California), as well as the eastern population centers. Americans
were recognized as the best shooters in the world and shot for cash prizes
up to $25,000 (a lot of loot in those days), as well as for numerous
merchandise prizes.

However, all was not well for American shooters: Movements to take guns away
from the general population and ban hunting (a blood sport) were already
starting to make themselves heard. These anti-gun/anti-hunting groups,
considered fringe lunatics by early Americans, have now gained considerable
influence over our government and its policy, as we shall see.

The early U.S. military system recognized the importance of marksmanship
among the ranks and often rewarded the best marksmen with additional money
and advancement to positions of leadership.

Up through the 1940s, the Army conducted regular shooting sessions at the
company level, the Navy at the fleet level and the Marines at the regimental
and landing party level to determine the best shots in their ranks. The
military as a whole encouraged shooting competition, and even the smallest
units based in isolated locations practiced with their 1903 Springfield
30-06s on ranges that were required on all military installations. Every
fort, base, installation and unit sent its best marksmen to represent their
commands at regional, service (All-Army, All-Marine Corps etc.), and
Inter-Service Matches, culminating in the National Championships at Camp
Perry, Ohio. Competition between the branches of the U.S. military
(particularly the Army and Marine Corps) for the honor of National Champion
was ferocious and all of the services strongly supported the program.

By the 1950s, U.S. military leadership was already becoming enamored of high
technology approaches to fighting wars. Military weapons designers had
developed the great magazine-fed M-14 battle rifle from the innovative en
bloc clip-fed M-1 Garand. While the training required to load and shoot the
M-14 well was significantly less than that required for the M-1,
marksmanship principles and the training required to attain excellence
remained constant. The Army, Marines and to a lesser degree the Navy,
supported marksmanship training and KD ranges up through the 1970s despite
the high cost, but they were searching for a technological solution.

The only problem with marksmanship training was it was very expensive.
Military leaders recognized that it took their finest NCOs to instill
marksmanship principles in new recruits and to continue training throughout
their careers to maintain peak effectiveness with their M-1s and later

Additionally, Known Distance (KD) ranges took up a lot of valuable real
estate and required expensive maintenance of the butts, targets and firing
points. U.S. military leaders thought they found a technological solution to
the high cost of marksmanship training (encouraged by bureaucratic bean
counters) in the form of the M-16 rifle.

The M-16 offered the military services (with the exception of the Marines),
at least a theoretical rationale to abandon their costly marksmanship
programs. Based on computer-modeled battlefield scenarios, the military
brass were convinced there would never be another war fought by grunts at
ranges beyond 300 meters.

The M-16 offered reduced recoil (a consideration for our kinder, gentler
co-ed recruits), an increased volume of automatic fire and an increased
number of rounds in a standard loadout. All of this added up to theoretical
increased Probability of Hits (PH) on adversaries on the premise that if you
shoot more bullets faster, you are bound to more often hit something - a
seriously flawed theory. An additional economic benefit of the M-16/5.56
cartridge was it had a shorter range-over-flight requirement than the old
30-06 cartridge for which the KD ranges had originally been built.

So one direct consequence of the M-16's arrival was that marksmanship
training and competition programs began losing vital financial support from
the military leadership.

All over the country, bases began to review the cost of maintaining ranges.
Local commanders found that they could open up this valuable real estate for
important functions like golf courses, new landing strips or a host of other
uses such as blank fire tactics training villages.

Another force working against military marksmanship was the rise of
environmental regulations (particularly the frequently-mandated
Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] required for any major base
construction project).

Even in that last bastion of marksmanship, the Marine Corps, the heat was on
base commanders to shut down ranges wherever possible. One of the ranges on
MCB Camp Pendleton (the only 1,000-yard KD range in Southern California) was
closed by the base biologist (an anti-gun hippie) because he felt the loud
rifle reports would disturb the breeding habits of the California Black
Vireos nesting in the nearby willows of Pulgas Creek. Of course, nobody was
allowed to point out that the Vireos had been nesting there for 50 years
with rifles banging away the whole time, to no ill effect on the birds.

Lest one should think this was a rare example of protective enthusiasm, this
same environmentalist nitwit held up the construction of a Navy SEAL
.50-caliber sniper range on MCB Pendleton for three years while conducting
an EIS on the negative impact the range would have on the habitat of the
Whitefooted Kangaroo Rat. The irony of that particular whole study was the
rats actually preferred the backside of impact area berms for their
burrowing areas, so more rat habitat was created by the range's existence.

The stories are the same all over the country for all of the armed services.
Civilian residential encroachment on base borders, politically-correct
anti-gun politicians (the Imperial Beach Navy SEAL Range was shut down
because illegals crossing the Tijuana River could potentially wander into
the impact area), and environmentalists placing the welfare of various
birds, rodents and amphibians before training requirements for troops, must
be brought to a halt.

Once the Army abandoned the concept of a grunt with a battle rifle capable
of hitting targets out to several hundred yards, marksmanship training was
on a slippery slope.

Today, the brass seem determined to try and develop "shoot-and-forget"
weapons, and their motivation appears driven more to avoid the high costs of
marksmanship training and range maintenance than to improve soldier
effectiveness in combat. Recently, there have even been evaluations of
videogame substitutes for KD range training, with which the recruit aims a
mock M-16 at a video screen displaying different-sized enemy soldier icons
to represent differing ranges. A good video game player can tear this
training device up, but when a real rifle is put in his hands, the results
on KD range targets are often abysmal.

But as the Afghanistan "lessons learned" clearly show, if the U.S. military
still wants to fight protracted rifle battles at long range, it needs to put
the emphasis back on marksmanship, re-establish live-fire KD ranges and
provide the troops effective and sustained marksmanship training with
weapons capable of reaching out and touching someone.

· Premium Member
3,278 Posts
Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing.;)
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