Monday, July 11, 2011

FALS AND SLINGS AND THINGS


There is always considerable fodder for sarcasm and satire and insane blithering (read our disclaimer) when it comes to the sleazy politicians of both parties in Washington D.C. which infest our lives. Not to mention the swarms of unelected bureaucrats and appointees who make arbitrary decisions which carry the weight of law, mainly just to expand their own power as they squabble over their petty little fiefdoms. And the media. Good Lord, the media.

Since I could blog 24/7 and never even come close to properly ridiculing them all, I decided to take a short break and do something halfway serious.

I had installed an Entreprise Arms free float barrel tube on my favorite FAL awhile back. My favorite is Queenie, who was an MOA shooter already. It has since become my hunting and target shooting FAL. My tactical STG-style FAL knock around bush gun is a good rifle, too, but not nearly as accurate. Her name is Gertie, in honor of that WWII GI source of ditties in Tunisia; Dirty Gertie from Bizerte (hid a mousetrap up her skirtie, Made her boyfriend’s finger hurtie.).

But I digress. You should be used to that from me by now.

Anyway, I took the girls out to the section of public land that is my shooting range. It was all clear and open for business. The last time I tried to go, the grazing permittee was so gauche as to have cows all over my shooting range.

Temp was around 80, with the wind blowing from seemingly every point of the compass at anywhere from a calm 3-5 miles per hour to gusts of Force 10. Eventually, it knocked down 2 out of 3 target stands and ripped loose the tent stakes from my little sun shade tarp I had set up over my firing point. Fortunately, I had also brought along my home-made 9-inch 5-pound steel gong and its stand. With two clicks of windage (1cm at 100m) on Queenie’s Hensoldt and holding center mass, I was banging the hell out of that gong at 300. “Holding off” for windage with the sharp tip of the inverted pointer on the Trilux scope was not so easy, but I managed to ring it with five out of ten rounds. Of course, a 9-inch plate is the equivalent of a headshot, so I’m sure things would have work as intended with a man-sized target and a hold on the edge.

Then the wind tore the steel gong loose and sent it bounding through the sagebrush like a tumbleweed, and I decided it was time to pack ‘er up. The guys down in Cheyenne, WY are probably calling me a big pussy right now. Down there, their shooting ranges each have a section of log chain bolted to a sturdy wooden corner post. This is their equivalent of a range wind flag. They don’t go home until the wind has the log chain standing straight out from the post.

Remember that digression thing?

At any rate, Queenie now wears an Entreprise Arms free-float forearm. It doesn’t come with instructions, but unless you’re a graduate of the Chicago Publik Skool system you should be able to figure out how to install it.


It appears to actually enhance accuracy by itself. Shooting Queenie off the sandbag, I got one 3-shot group measuring less than 2-inches at 300 yards (during one of those rare but lovely breaks in the wind) with German surplus ball. Shooting with a tight sling, there was no appreciable change in the point of impact.

I wound up shooting with a USGI Model 1907-style leather shooting sling. I had originally put two sling swivel studs beneath the free float forearm to use the marvelous Cooperite Ching Sling, which can be rock steady and faster than any other sling to loop up with, even on your way down into your prone or sitting shooting position.

Unfortunately, I was using my nylon Wilderness Ching sling. It is a very nice, rugged and solid piece of work, with all the seams triple-stitched and featuring its own “no-squeakie” Hushstalker sling swivels permanently attached. It just ain’t my cup of tea. I have trouble with the material slipping down my sleeve rather than staying tight up high on the bicep. The sling swivels are long screws with a little tab on one end to tighten them with. I found out a long time ago to put on a dab of Loc-Tite and horse them down pretty good with the Leatherman; they used to work loose in the field. That, and I wear wool sweaters a lot while hunting, and my orange vest has mesh material on it, so more than once I saw a deer or speed goat and went to unsling my rifle only to find myself semi-permanently attached to it via a tab caught in the wool or mesh.

Your mileage may vary. Maybe it works perfectly well for other folks. My advice on trying out the Ching Sling, however, would be to get a good leather one from Andrew Langlois. I prefer leather slings anyway, and these are top-of-the-line and can’t be beat. Alas, mine is on another rifle and fitted with hammerhead swivels for flush mount Millett sling mounts, so I didn’t get a chance to try it on Queenie. Guess I’ll have to order another one, eh.

Queenie did just find with or without a tight sling. Gertie, not so much. Gertie has the original issue sling swivel mounted directly to the barrel on a collar, like the M16. When using a very tight shooting sling, such an arrangement can be enough to pull your rounds low. Indeed it did. Testing two groups at 300 yards, one off the sandbag and one with a really tight USGI web sling, I found the sling groups to be about 4-6 inches lower than the rested groups.

As to sling shooting Gertie, I guess in the grand scheme of things, being 1 to 1-1/2 MOA low at 300 isn’t all that big a difference. It’s still close enough for government work, i.e. minute-of-jihadist, and 300 meters is roughly the realistic effective range of the poodle shooters. It ain’t good enough for me, though, and certainly not for the hunting field. Plus, the way MOA works, beyond 300 yards this seemingly small error grows exponentially…8 to 12 inches at 400 yards, 16 to 24 at 500 and 32 to 48 (four bloody feet!) at 600, the maximum range at which I shoot seriously with the FALs. No, not anywhere near good enough for me.

The thinner the barrel, the greater the problem. For instance, according to Major John Plaster, the Army’s own tests showed that using a tight shooting sling on the M16A1 can pull shots as much as 4 inches low at 100 yards. Now we’re talking about being up to 16 inches low at 300 yards and twelve feet off at 600.

I remember when my unit got the shiny new M16A2 rifle. All those experts in the know and, IRRC, even the manuals called it a “heavy barrel”. I was happy as a gopher in soft dirt. I figured “heavy barrel” meant something like a Colt HBAR, and I could torque down on that sling like an M1 Garand. First time at bat on the range, I cranked that sling down tighter than a pecker in a knothole and had at ‘er. I went 20 for 20 on the foxhole supported and then 5 out of 20 with the tight sling in the prone unsupported. My language was colorful enough to change the direction on the nearby windsock. Next go-round, I did not use the sling at all, just a hasty to keep it out of the way, and things were fine that time.

Further research on my part revealed that only the last four inches of barrel at the muzzle end, forward of the sling attachment point, was a “heavy barrel”. The rest of the barrel had the same thin dimensions as the M16A1 so that the M203 grenade launcher could still be attached to the new weapon. Yet one more reinforcing lesson why one can’t take what Uncle Sugar tells you at face value.

I should also point out that this was back in the day of shooting about 50 live-fire rounds per year (9+ to zero and 40 to qualify, foxhole supported and prone firing positions, out to 300 meters maximum), hardly a regimen to create many Alvin Yorks or Sam Woodfills.

Then we got a new battalion commander who, God bless his heart, believed in rifle marksmanship. He moved heaven and hell to get us to the range to qualify twice a year. I thought it was great. The rest of the chain-of-command regarded it as a great inconvenience at best. I brought in all my own material, butcher board displays and photocopies of the USMC Marksmanship card, offering (begging might be a better word) to do Basic Rifle Marksmanship refresher classes for anyone and everyone before the first qualification with the new M16A2. I got the rolled eyes, pursed lip, heavy sigh response that such was neither necessary nor important.

After learning one could not use a sling to shoot a “heavy barrel” A2 as one would shoot, say, a heavy barrel anything else, I re-qualified and did shoot expert with the M16A2. It was about 1500 in the afternoon. The tower had me stand up and wave as the first person that day to shoot expert. The first go-round at qualification, only 8 people in the entire company qualified, and things didn’t improve much with the next couple of re-quals.

But refresher marksmanship training was still neither necessary nor important. Bastards. Whoops. There’s that mindless digression thing again.

So keep your sling tight and your stick on the ice. And if you haven’t already, get your goat-smelling ass to your nearest APPLESEED shoot to see what this sling thing is really all about.


1 comment:

Charles said...

1. Nice 20 round magazine in the poster.

2. The use of “swarms of unelected bureaucrats and appointees” is called governance. Not government, governance and the rule by “policy” that is foisted off as having the same weight of law.

3. Give us an update if you ever get a chance to try your leather Ching sling on Queenie.

4. Uncle Sugar, along with Lord 'Bama are my heroes.