Vietnam Sniper Study

Today’s article is a repost  from   our  deceased friend Hognose, owner  of Weaponsman.com.  Kevin, AKA Hognose passed away last year and as an ongoing tribute to his memory and excellent work we repost the  his works to help preserve it. 

Vietnam Sniper Study

In 1967, the Army got the idea to study whether, how, and how effectively different units were using snipers in Vietnam. They restricted this study to Army units, and conventional units at that; if SF and SOG were sniping, they didn’t want to know (and, indeed, there’s little news either in the historical record or in conversations with surviving veterans that special operations units made much use of precision rifle fire, or of the other capabilities of snipers).

Meanwhile, of course, the Marines were conducting parallel development in what would become the nation’s premier sniper capability, until the Army got their finger out in the 1980s and developed one with similar strength. The Marines’ developments are mentioned only in passing in the study.

Specific Weapons

The study observed several different sniper weapons in use:

  • ordinary M16A1 rifles with commercial Realist-made scopes. This is the same 3×20 scope made by Realist for commercial sale under the Colt name, and was marked Made in USA. (Image is a clone, from ARFCOM).

realist11

  • Winchester Model 70s in .30-06 with a mix of Weaver and Bushnell scopes, purchased by one infantry brigade;
  • two versions of the M14 rifle. One was what we’d call today a DMR rifle, fitted with carefully chosen parts and perhaps given a trigger job, and an M84 scope. The other was the larva of the M21 project: a fully-configured National Match M14 fitted with a Leatherwood ART Automatic-Ranging Telescope, which was at this early date an adaptation of a Redfield 3-9 power scope. (Image is a semi clone with a surplus ART, found on the net).

M21 ARTR

The scopes had a problem that would be unfamiliar to today’s ACOG and Elcan-sighted troopies.

The most significant equipment problem during the evaluation in Vietnam was moisture seepage into telescopes. At the end of the evaluation period, 84 snipers completed questionnaires related to their equipment. Forty-four of the snipers reported that their telescopes developed internal moisture or fog during the evaluation period. In approximately 90 percent of the cases, the internal moisture could be removed by placing the telescope in direct sunlight for a few hours.

The leaky scopes ranged from 41% of the ARTs to 62% of the Realists. The Realist was not popular at all, and part of the reason was its very peculiar reticle. How peculiar? Have a look.

Colt realist 3x20 scope reticle(A later version of this scope, sold by Armalite with the AR-180, added feather-thin crosshairs to the inverted post. The British Trilux aka SUIT used a similar inverted post, but it never caught on here).

The theory was that the post would not obscure the target, the way it would if it were bottom-up. That’s one of the ones you file away in the, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” drawer. Theory be damned, the troops hated it.

The use of the rifles varied unit by unit.  Two units contemptuously dismissed the scoped M16s, and wouldn’t even try them (remember, this was the era of M193 ammo, rifles ruined by “industrial action,” and somewhat loose acceptance standards; the AR of 20145 is not the AR of 1965). The proto-M21s came late and not every unit got them. It’s interesting that none of the weapons really stood out, although the NATO and .30-06 guns were the ones used for the longest shots.

None of the weapons was optimum, but in the study authors’ opinion, the DMR version of the M14 was perfectly adequate and available in channels. The snipers’ own opinions were surveyed, and the most popular weapon was the M14 National Match with ART scope, despite its small sample size: 100% of the surveyed soldiers who used it had confidence in it. On the other hand, the cast scope rings were prone to breakage.

The biggest maintenance problem turned out to be the COTS Winchester 70 rifles, and the problem manifested as an absence of spare parts for the nonstandard firearm, and lack of any training for armorers.

Looking at all the targets the experimental units engaged, they concluded that a weapon with a 600 meter effective range could service 95% of the sniper targets encountered in Vietnam, and that a 1000 meter effective range would be needed to bag up to 98%. (Only one unit in the study engaged targets more distant than 1000 m at all).

Snipers were generally selected locally, trained by their units (if at all), and employed as an organic element of rifle platoons. A few units seem to have attached snipers to long-range patrol teams, or used the snipers as an attached asset, like a machine-gun or mortar team from the battalion’s Weapons Company.

An appendix from the USAMTU had a thorough run-down on available scopes, and concluded with these recommendations (emphasis ours):

Recommendations:
a. That the M-14, accurized to National Match specifications, be used as the basic sniping rifle.

b. That National Match ammunition be used in caliber 7.62 NATO.

c. That a reticle similar to Type “E” be used on telescopic sights of fixed power.

d. That the Redfield six power “Leatherwood” system telescope be used by snipers above basic unit level.

e. That the Redfield four power (not mentioned previously) be utilized by the sniper at squad level.

f. That serious consideration be given to the development of a long range sniping rifleusing the .50 caliber machine gun cartridge and target-type telescope.

(NOTE: It is our opinion that the Redfield telescope sights are the finest of American made telescopes.)

Note that the Army adopted the NM M14 with ART (as the M-21 sniper system) exactly as recommended here, but that it did not act on the .50 caliber sniper system idea. That would take Ronnie Barrett to do, quite a few years later.

Rifle_M21_2

The Effects of Terrain

Terrain drives weapons employment, and snipers need, above all, two elements of terrain to operate effectively: observation and fields of fire. Their observation has to overlook enemy key terrain and/or avenues of approach. Without that, a sniper is just another rifleman, and snipers were found to be not worth the effort in the heavily vegetated southern area of Vietnam.

In the more open rice fields and mountains, there was more scope for sniper employment. But sniper employment was not something officers had been trained in or practiced.

The Effects of Leadership

In a careful review of the study, we found that the effects of leadership, of that good old Command Emphasis, were greater than any effects of equipment or even of terrain. The unit that had been getting good results with the Winchesters kept getting good results. One suspects that they’d have continued getting good results even if you took their rifles away entirely and issued each man a pilum or sarissa.

Units that made a desultory effort got crap for results. Some units’ snipers spent a lot of time in the field, but never engaged the enemy. Others engaged the enemy, but didn’t hit them, raising the question, “Who made these blind guys snipers?” Sure, we understand a little buck fever, but one unit’s snipers took 20 shots at relatively close range and hit exactly nothing. Guys, that’s not sniping, that’s fireworks. 

The entire study is a quick read and it will let you know just how dark the night for American sniping was in the mid-1960s: there were no schools, no syllabi, no type-standardized sniper weapons, and underlying the whole forest of “nos” was: no doctrine to speak of.

Vietnam Sniper Study PB2004101628.pdf

Vietnam Sniper Study

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

Inland MFG M1A1 Paratrooper Carbine

Today we have another product from the company with the historic name in firearms history.   I have reviewed 2 of their growing M1 family of rifles in the past two years  and so far they gave all been great.

The prize for me was getting a sample of the paratrooper carbine. Man, who doesn’t want to play with such an iconic gun from WWII? I never saw a real one in the 80s or 90s.   But we all sure saw them in Saving Pvt Ryan and Band of Brothers.  In fact we all saw them so much the price for one went  up to roughly the amount spent on the Manhattan project.     Getting a real one was pretty tough even though the stocks could be bought and put on a standard model.

Then we started to see  remakes come out on the market over the last few years.  And in my opinion the rest of them are crap.  I have played around with the ones made by the other makers and rthey are dreadful.  I passed up  a auto ord. example  it was so crummy.

But the Inland model is another matter.  After the M1 and the experience with it, I was pretty sure the paratrooper would be in the same league.  And., it was.

The gun has the same rear sight as the  other Inland models.  The adjustable type that some dislike because its not the simple rear fixed peep but I love it.   I appreciate some adjustment on any rifle I expect to want to shoot past 50 yards.  And contrary to  the videos of some worthies, they do stay put.   I fired 500 rounds through this gun and it stayed put.  On top of that I tossed it in the back of a truck bed and drove around on the top of a mountain off trail for 6 hours.  That is pretty rough on stuff but it was still tight as a mouses  ear.

The controls on the gun are the same as the other models with the push button safety and the button mag release that sometimes I hit by mistake.  A common mistake it seems.

Now the stock. It is  a metal wire stock with a leather “cheek piece” for some kind of comfort.

It doesn’t offer up much though. But it is not mean to be a McMililan fully adjustable target stock. It’s meant to be a light folding stock for  guys dropping behind lines with  twice their weight in gear to fight for a hand full of days.    It works just fine for that.

I was a little surprised  how the felt recoil of the 30 carbine was increased with the weight of the full wood stock gone.   Now it wasn’t painful or anything close to that, but you do notice it when shooting the  two models  nearly back to back like I have been doing this past year.

To fold the stock..  well, you just fold it.  It does not lock in place and require the pressing of a button . It hinges open , clicks and  is held open via spring. When you want to fold it, just fold it.   It lays down the left side of the gun and still allows the gun to be fired.  The butt plate can rotate to the side I assume to let the gun lie more flat in its case? I really have no idea why it was made to let the butt plate rotate to the side. it doesn’t lock or lock to anything and it doesn’t function as the mechanism that you use to unlock the stock to fold or unfold it.  I guess some one decided to make it that way for a reason that seemed good at the time. Maybe Dan will comment below and offer up and explanation.

The”pistol grip” is a little short for my hand and blocky.  But I would want it that way for a gun I would be jumping out of a plane with.  It needs to be thick, chunky and tough.  It is.   It also  has at the bottom the  rear sling mounting point which is a tough metal part that is part of the folding stock assembly.

Now, how did it shoot? Great.  Even with the stock not locking and place  and allowing some wiggle.

I couldn’t find as large selection of .30carbine ammo to test as I would have liked.    I even resorted to some ammo from the 70s to have enough to offer a variety.  There are some very high dollar high quality specialty  duty loads for the .30carbine out there you can find.  The bottom group in fact was shot using the federal police duty load.

I fired all groups from a bench and bags at 50 yards using the iron sights.  I feel this is a reasonable test of its accuracy  to shoot groups  because the size of the peep is not great for my eyes.  Not to mention using 3/4 inch sized dots as aiming points get hard to see through iron sights at much distance and eye strain starts fast.

I did shoot the  carbine at 100 yards for  group using iron sights.   It took an hour to put this group on target but it was worth the extra effort.   The armscor brand ball ammo shooting great.  It was my favorite ammo to use in the M1s over the last years.   You can see that is well within head shot sized

Like the other M1s, I fired out to 200 and 300 yards on steel man’s chest sized targets and hit without issue.   That is perfectly doable with the M1 if you are  a competent shot .

Not much to say about weather testing this one since it just this week got cold enough for me to treat it like I did the last two and my time with it is up. I did leave it out all night last night in snow and 7 degree temps.   I walked outside , chambered a round and fired it.  What a shock!  It penetrate a cinderblock!  How could that be when  “experts” on older weapons say that it just can’t happen! ?     Must have been a one off fluke.

The next day I made this little test . I soaked the gun in a frozen creek for a few hours in 8 degree temp.

 

 

 

The gun is reliable accurate and looks great.  It is the solution if you want a nice example  that you can shoot without the guilt of a real one being further worn.  I think if I  was a real but about WWII airborne units and their gear it would be a must have for me.  If you buy your own, you can pretend to be in 101st or 82nd or 17th airborne shooting up the krauts. Or if you really did those things, it would maybe be nice to have your old friend in your hands again if you carried and liked the  weapon.  Some say they hated it. But the M1 carbine was much loved by Audie Murphy.

I certainly enjoyed taking some mood and glamour shots with WW2 items.

 

 

The Inland MFG Custom Carry M1911

I been waiting on this gun for a while.   After testing the Inland USGI clone M1911A1 I had  been impressed.  I had seen this model in media release material and after the performance of the stock Inland I was  really curious to see how an Inland done up as a fully modern pistol would do.

I have had this gun for nearly 6 months as I write this. I kept it and waited so long to write about it because I wanted to really be hard on it.   It is more expensive than the 1911s I usually write about.  If you have been reading this website a long time you will know that I even don’t normally go for 1911s that  start going over the 1500 dollar mark.    My philosophy with the 1911 is  less than about 800 or more than about 1600 and as a rule,  a lot of 1911s will give you one set of problems or another.   Too cheap speaks for itself.  Too high and you get into finely tuned special purpose guns that can’t take WW1 trench conditions  no matter what the maker may claim.  With a few exceptions of course.  Heirloom precision, Derr precisions,  guns that are mil spec but have something else about them that drives the price up like coatings,  engraving or rarity.   Now you may not agree with me at all and I am sure many will  but I have been using the 1911 for 30 years now and in my personal experience, 1911s that cost over 1600 dollars and are made by medium sized companies that make “custom production” 1911s , usually will give problems.   Bigger established firms can make ones that work fine and the small  artists like Jason Burton does but the in between places I pass on.    That is one man’s opinion  from experience only.

Now the Inland gun is one of those made in the middle ground  I just mentioned.  And, being  in the “custom production ” class  that sets off my 2nd warning flag.   After spending a fortune on ammo, I can say to you it’s good to go.  It  is as good as the M1911A1 USGI clone with match accuracy.

So lets get to it.

The gun is what it says and  with all the features that implies.  As seen above the frontstrap is checkered with aggressive well done checkering.  That bad camera angle makes it look uneven for some reason but its not.

main spring housing  has matching checkering and is flat and not arched.  The grip safety is the upswept beaver tail with the memory bump to insure you depress it.

You can see the single side extended safety.   I really like the part as it is close to the safety that is my personal favorite.   Just to see what would happen, I removed it and tried 5 different colt and USGI  safety locks and all dropped in place.   That is a good sign in my opinion.  I like my 1911s to  meet or approach the milspec requirement to have interchangeable parts.

The magazine well has a very slight bevel.  That is one thing I did wonder about. I am not a big fan of extended beveled wells but a to of people are.  If you buy this gun you will have to add your own.

You can see  the other features of the gun.   Competition style skeleton hammer, Match trigger that really does break like a glass road and is  lighter than my own guns. Front and rear slide serrations which I love and prefer on guns like this.  A full carry dehorning and no slip grips.  The one bad thing was it came with a full length guide rod which isn’t too bad but it was the two piece part.   I asked why it had the full length guide rod and was told the first guns didn’t and so many people complain wanting it that Inland added it to appease the complainers. That baffles me because I was under the impression it had finally fallen out of the fad but apparently there are still a lot of people that like it for its looks or because they think a custom  or competition pistol is “supposed” to have it..     I replaced the guide rod with a personally owned  GI  part after my first session shooting it.   I fired 15 wilson 10 round mags through it non stop  with no oil to see how it did and at the end noticed the two piece rod  had unscrewed itself.   Don’t use two piece full guide rods people. Barrel is the same match barrel used in the USGI model and is fitted to match spec without being over  tight.   Lastly you can see the standard ejection port work common to all modern carry guns.

Rear sight  is black novak style with a wide notch.

Front is matching flat black wider  blade.  These sights work great for me   and are fast to use.  Both can be drifted out with a punch if you want something else.   I would leave them be myself.

Now on to  how it shot.     I fired all but the last group from  sandbagged position from a bench.  Temp outside was 11 degrees.

As usual the speer ball ammo  is pretty lackluster no matter what its used in.  But I include it because it is common around here  and a lot of people buy it for plinking.

Above is the Winchester personal defense load that is basically the black talon bullet not coated black and sold every where.  It always does well  for me  and this gun was no different .

Here above we have the other NOT -black talon,  but the “ranger T”  which is a black talon +P load  in the winchester ranger police duty load. And of course for those who don’t know it is once again the black talon bullet just not black.

Best group fired with my handloaded Hornady 185 grain jacketed semi wad cutter match bullet.

Above is the most expensive group fired.   This is my carry load of  corbon 185 grain +P   solid copper hollow points.   Very accurate and effective.  I can’t recommend this load or the Barnes  version of it enough. You can also buy the same load marketed under the Colt Brand ammo I  and a various other specialty brands.

Below  is a group fired with my personal  favorite ball round, the winchester 230 FMJ which always seems a bit more accurate than other bulk buy  ball ammo for general use.

 

Lastly  we have the 100 yard long  range shot  by request.  As I mentioned before, the long range shooting  was requested by reader who was also a fellow visitor to Weaponsman’s blog who wanted to see some one  give  users an idea of what carry guns could do if  ever  the need  became a requirement  in a self defense situation or other emergency.   It instantly became a new standard policy for me to test such things.  It is something you should think about and try to test the limits of your own carry guns  and ability because it is something that very well could save your life or stop some kook like we have seen recently.

Group was fired at 100 yards. I did not use a full sand bag bench rest but I did use a support like one would use in real life.    Center of circle was  aiming point.    I used my most accurate load as a bit of a cheat and not a pure self defense or duty load.  Ideally people carrying  would  select the most accurate duty load they can regardless of intended distance they expect to shoot.   I think I can’t ask much more out of the Inland Custom carry.

 

The Inland is a 1911 I would own and use.  And you know how picky I am about my 1911s and who makes them.   Word from Inland is, some even bigger and better things are coming in their 1911s. I look forward to what is coming, I would like to tell you now but these things are not always something they are ready to share publicly without asking permission first.   But I am excited from what I hear.

The custom carry is a solid carry gun that is also competition ready.  The rep who sent it to me had been using this same model for matches for several months before I requested a sample.  You can use it for about anything you would want, I really don’t know what more to say about it. It worked. No excitement. It was as reliable as a claw hammer.    Buy with confidence .  not only can it do all those things well it can also protect  you from those damn dirty apes.

 

If you want more out of my pistol reviews please speak up.  I know reading pistol reviews can get dull  and they are the same over time.  It sometimes feels writing them is  as semi boring as reading them.  I am always looking for ideas of how to spice it up.    If you want more  video or mud tests or  further ranges shot comment below.  Tell me what you would like to see.    Nothing  pointless but anything you want to see that would help you decide if a gun is right for you or what would test its limits  please speak up.