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Q&A with Ash Hess

I am a competitive shooter and Gov Sales Specialist at Knight’s Armament Company. I am also a Retired US Army Senior NCO. My last assignments included serving as the Senior Writer for Small Arms in the Weapons and Gunnery Branch and the US Army Infantry School Marksmanship Program developer at the Maneuver Center of Excellence Fort Benning, Georgia. 
Army Schools include US Army Master Marksmanship Trainer Course, Rifle Marksmanship Instructor Course, Urban Combat Leaders Course, Air Assault, Rappelmaster, Senior Leaders Course, Army Basic Instructor course, High Angle Marksmanship Course, and Unit Armorer course…Four combat tours totaling fifty-two months overseas.

When developing the new program, did you find there was any one thing that stood out to as biggest
problem in army marksmanship training?

The biggest problem is/was what we refer to as institutional inbreeding. Way back in the late 60s the Army
taught two fundamentals Aiming and Steady hold. There were 8 factors to steady hold which included trigger
and breathing. So Soldiers at the time had been trained that way. In ’74 the Army introduced the 4
fundamentals which said the same thing but were easier to memorize. The people that had been trained the
old way still knew that and it worked. Over the next 40 years, that knowledge dropped away and all people
knew were the 4 fundamentals with no depth. NCO’s were running around saying “apply the fundamentals”
and “fix your breathing” Few had depth of knowledge to explain more than the bumper sticker slogan they
leader for the E5 board. These NCOs trained more NCOs and the problem just got worse. If a Soldier had a
shooting problem that was harder to fix than just saying don’t jerk the trigger 90% of leaders had no idea what
to do.
When TC 2-.22.9 published in 2016, it had zero uses of the word fundamental. This was two fold purpose, one,
it shows who has an has not read the manual to remain tactically and technically proficient. The second was to
force people to go deeper into marksmanship knowledge.
The last part of the marksmanship problem was individual accountability. If you think about it, a Soldier with
10 years in the Army has been taught how to use iron sights 21 times assuming a PMI class prior to each range
trip. Yet, if they fail to group it’s because they need more training. If they fail a PT test its because they were
fat and lazy but fail a qual and its training.
Assuming those classes were 2-4 hours, they have had 80+ additional hours of training on the use of a simple
system they had to know to pass basic training. When do we get to fire someone for not knowing something?

We have found that the vast majority of shooters that use the AR15/M4 way underestimate its ability
to deliver accurate hits at range. Military and Civilian shooters both seem to think 200 yards is a limit
for some reason , and we have done a lot to address this myth. How common did you find this to be ?

Propaganda and lack of real training.
On the propaganda side, people use energy numbers as an effective range. They also leverage various reports
of hit rates at Army ranges.
The only accuracy standard the army hold is 6.5 MOA(4CM) at 25 yards. This size of group means that without
stress or environmental effects, all the rounds will land on fully exposed target at 300. Add stress or wind and
you are losing rounds.
Army doesn’t “make” you shoot well enough to get hits at distance under stress.
Its common enough that people swear by the 200 yard zero despite different ammo and other factors.

To add to the question above, how much of that idea that the M4 is a short range gun was passed on 
over and over inside the Army?

That isn’t something I heard a lot. I got my first M4 in 1998 and most everyone understood it could go beyond 200. Once we got into theater people realized quickly that the thing holding back range was irons and red dots.

Did you find or observe a lack of confidence in the service rifle/carbine by the users because they just
had no idea what it was capable of?

I would say they had no idea what they were capable of. At the Light Fighters School at 10 th Mountain, my
crew and I took thousands of Soldiers from big groups and low hits to small groups and getting hits out to 600.
The most comman thing we heard was that all Soldiers should get the training because they just hadn’t seen
the higher standards and learned how to achieve it.
Propaganda lands in here too. People have been talking about the problems the M16 had in Vietnam since
then. Most of those problems were short lived and fixed with the M16A1 which was fielded in 1967. But yet,
you see guys talking on facebook today about problems a rifle had before they were born.

Can you tell us what you think the biggest shortcomings was with the older marksmanship training and
what you would like to see developed further?

The biggest problem was the qual and how we ran the qual. The tower slowed everyone down, the table was
slow and didn’t match any shooting we are doing in 18 years of combat. It didn’t force a reload and was so
lock step that Soldiers in combat actually waited for a command to reload. It was ran so risk adverse that if
one watched from the outside it looked like the Army didn’t trust Soldiers with rifles. But as soon as we get in
country, they were running around with loaded weapons and expected to do operations.
The other problem fell on leaders. If a soldier failed to qual they would just send him again. And again. And
again.
We observed a Unit attempting to get Soldiers to qual expert for EIB. Several Soldiers got 10-15 attempts to
get their expert. That is not an expert in my opinion. If they qual had a one time per year, one attempt only
requirement, Soldiers would take it seriously.
Lastly, leaders that allowed their Soldiers to qualify on the ALT C course of fire at 25 yards failed them. They
failed their Soldiers, the Army and the United States of America.
The greatest change to Army marksmanship in recent history was the removal of this course of fire and a
legitimate qualification.

Any thoughts on the SDMR and role of the DM? Would you expand it or ideally have every rifleman
capable of filling a DM role for example etc.

Ah, the SDM.
First, yes, there should always be someone capable of being called on for a low percentage shot. The SDM
came into modern use when 90% of the rifles were irons and red dots. Yea, a guy with a scope in that can
make a difference. The problem was and still is idiots want to make the role something more than it is. They
send e-4s and 5s to the handful of SDM training slots that are available. By the time that guy gets decent at
the role he either is promoted or out, leaving the squad without that trained guy. Also, ATP 3-21.8 defines
SDM as an additional role for the Rifleman, meaning the private.
If we train that guy, then he will be a good shooter as the SDM and for the rest of his time in the Army.
Eventually, you whole enlisted force has SDM training.
It’s a dude with a tool and skills to shoot well. That’s all. Nothing more.

Can you give us  your no BS  opinion on the performance of the M855A1 round?

M855A1 is great. Rumors of it destroying guns were just that, rumors. It is though, a different round that wears
different. Millions of rounds have been fired in anger since 2011 when I first got it. It is very effective.
Again, propaganda and misinformation are out there on M855A1. The program said it was a ballistic match to 855.
What they forgot to add was the follow on. Matched to what? Well, I will tell you that an M4A1 firing M855A1 is a
near ballistic match to an M16A2/4 firing 855. So it was match to that flight profile.
The lethal effects of 855A1 are Savage and it works as designed.
The Army is not pursuing Next gen systems because of a failure of 5.56 on soft targets. It is pursuing next gen
because of the proliferation of body armor among neer peer enemies.

For the average rifleman in the Army, how many would you say take their marksmanship to heart and
would willingly devote more time to honing that skill beyond being ordered to work on it?

I would say enough. The problem with talking marksmanship in the Army is people talk about it in a vacuum. Few
battles are won by a man and a rifle. Yes, its important but its value drops with proper tactics and combined arms
operations. Good shooting will make the time in between the start of the fight and the arrival of high explosives
much more tolerable though.
We do owe it to our Soldiers to provide enough training and practice to know, I mean KNOW, that if they set sights
on a combatant that they will get a hit and or effect. This isn’t a call for more rounds per say. Shooting doesn’t
mean getting better. More rounds under training evolutions and tough standards are whats needed.
Little known fact is that the Army only shoots 48% of their allocated rounds every year. By the STRAC every soldier
gets 288 rounds a year, not 58. An Infantry Soldier is allocated nearly a thousand rounds for individual and
collective training. Every Infantryman. If All soldier fired their allocation of ammunition and spent the 12 simulation
hours in the EST we would see improvement.

Have you been able to see any results or improvements yet from the new program?

A study conducted by the Army Research Institute showed that Soldiers under the old system retain about 40% of
marksmanship knowledge 6 weeks after basic training. Early tests under the new system brought that up to 60%
by switching to the Shot process for teaching, Army training flows more inline with current sport psychology
methods. It will prove to build Soldiers with a better understanding and better shooters overall

Last question, If you had your way, what would your idea issue standard service rifle look like/be?

Without going into next gen, the answer is pretty basic. M4 with full length rail and 1-8/10 variable optic.
Fixed power and red dots are last century tech. As far back as 1993, magnification has been being asked
for. That magnification is fine but we still need to be able to do rooms and tight spaces. With a variable, I
can go to 1x for up close and immediately zoom for far away targets. They army has had a program called
Squad Common Optic since 2011 looking at these sort of optics. Yet 8 years later nothing has been fielded.
Also, a small suppressor. The amount of money the Army pays me for massive hearing loss could by a
couple of suppressors every month. Multiply this by the thousands of people just like me and it just makes
sense. That’s just talking disability and not actual positive effects in theater.
They have inline thermals that allow for great targeting that can’t be used because some honcho in some
office wont remove the front iron sight tower.
In short, the rifle is very close but old heads that never deployed are stopping progress.

What is the point of female cut bdu

5.11’s CDCR WOMEN’S “DUTY” CARGO PANT

I was looking of a new pack on 511s site and inevitably started wondering over to other tabs. I’ve only ever bought mens/unisex bdu because I assumed anything specifically made for a girl would be some bullshit.
And of course, it is.

Badass tactical practical shit

I dont know how they are selling these, girls already don’t get the cop out of having a understandable bulge in the front of their pants and it wouldn’t do you any favors if you were carrying any other way besides open. Beyond that, I cant imagine how you’d be able to make any kind of dynamic movement in something like that.
Now I’m not saying everything of this nature has to be “action jeans”, but if you’re going to make a product that’s suppose to be for duty or that requires anything beyond sitting and looking pretty then at least have it make sense.

Gun Shop Etiquette for Shoppers

Written by Mack Culverhouse

Yes, the customer is always right. And yes, as your resident counter jockey, I’m here drawing my exorbitant salary, to try and take money from you. But that being said; there a few rules, that you, Mister Gun Buyer, should be aware of. These are for your safety, my safety, the safety of my other patrons, and to improve everyone else’s shopping experience as well.
BLUF: Don’t be a dick.
First off, if you are bringing in a gun for me to appraise, take in on trade, put a scope on, or stick into a couple of holster, make sure the damn thing is unloaded before you get in the store. Please and thank you. It wouldn’t do to have successfully gotten a DD-214 only to be offed by Cletus when he jerks the trigger on his Canik as he complains about lack of holsters.
As a corollary to the above, bring your goddamn guns in holstered or in a case. I get jumpy seeing somebody walk in with a gun that ain’t cased or holster. I’d hate to get shot by some guy attempting to relieve me of the store’s Hi Point and Taurus collection.
Also, if I have more customers than staff members, please don’t think I’m being rude or mean if I appear disinterested as you regale with tales of your Cold War service, guns you’ve sold that you miss, and deer that you have miss. Cletus, I love to talk guns. I really do. But if I got people stacked up; well, I really need to take their money.
Oh, yeah; another big one, Cletus, please pull your pants up and shower before you come to town to see me.
Okay, so let’s say I sold you a gun a while back, and you want some parts. Cool. Great. Glad to have your business. But buddy, I really can’t spend an hour talking about muzzle breaks with you only for you to leave and buy it off of Amazon because it’s nine dollars cheaper. That makes me angry. Irrationally so.
Okay, big one here; if I’m showing somebody a weapon that they’ve asked to see; please do not interject. Like at all. I might ask for you to chime in if you’re a good friend and I know you like the Glock 19; but if I’m showing Granny a EZ 380 and you yell out about how she needs a
Judge, I’m going to mentally wish all sorts of nasty things upon you.
It is 2019, we have moved on from a shotgun with bird-shot, a J-Frame with pink grips, or some sort of .22 LR pistol.
Also, if a customer is looking at something nice, like say a Nightforce scope, please don’t say how your Nikon Buckmaster is just as good. It makes you look stupid. It makes me feel bad. And well, yeah.
I’ve rambled quite enough. I hope I didn’t ruffle any feathers. Nobody likes that guy.

When Your Hunting Gun Doubles as Your Home Defense Gun

Written by – Luis Valdes

Home defense has always been one of the primary reasons to buy a firearm. Accordingly, the debate over what kind of gun is best – rifle, pistol or shotgun – is right up there with “controversies” like 9mm vs. .45 and Glock vs. 1911, in terms of intensity and number of hot takes generated.
Everyone tries to make the case that “X” gun is the clearly the best option for home defense, and nothing else comes close. The fact is, there are a number of great options. Modern Sporting Rifles such as the AK-47/74 and AR-15, along with striker-fired handguns such as Glocks, are among the most commonly selected.

While they all have arguments in their favor, I use an AR-15 or 5.56 AK . My reasons include its light weight, low recoil, affordable price, good capacity, wide cartridge selection, and customizability.

My wife uses her AR-15 for both sport and home defense. It’s a Spike’s Tactical 2008 Arfcom Special Edition Lower with a custom built BCM lightweight 16-inch upper that she assembled herself. It’s her go-to gun. She’s a pro with it and has the targets to prove it.
But the AR-15 isn’t the only gun she’s handy with. Living in North Florida, we have plenty of hunting opportunities. Florida law has certain restrictions on hunting guns when hunting on public lands, so she uses a CZ 527M in 7.62×39 as her go-to hunting rifle.

The CZ is a superb bolt action rifle. With DNA from the famed Masuer 98 series, it’s slick, handy, accurate, low-recoiling, has an amazing trigger, and the 7.62x39mm is an effective deer slayer.

Rifles like our .30-30 Marlin 336 are also commonly used hunting guns all across the US. They’re rugged, reliable, handy, with a reasonable capacity, making them great as a brush gun or
riding in a saddle scabbard.
Col. Jeff Cooper is reputed to have called the pistol caliber lever gun the “Long Island assault rifle,” since it would even pass muster in New York City and is more than up to the task of putting down two-legged predators.
There are still a number of locations in the US and across the globe where it is difficult, expensive or inconvenient for the law-abiding citizen to own one firearm, let alone multiple guns for specific uses. Some people’s options are limited.
In New York, especially when you move North, you’ll seldom see a NY-legal AR-15 or pistol. People are more likely to own a bolt action hunting rifle, since they’re far easier to get. However, even though it is NY, there’s still some belief in personal protection, as well as legal backing for it.
While New York has a duty to retreat in public, the castle doctrine applies within the home. PL § 35.15(2)(a)(i) states:
“Retreat required if actor knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others, he or she may avoid the necessity of using deadly force by retreating, except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor.”
Particularly in 2015, when there was an active manhunt for two escaped prisoners, New Yorkers took that law to heart and armed themselves accordingly.

Ken Snyder kept a loaded rifle handy in his laundry room and another one in his bedroom as the police mounted the manhunt in the Cadyville area. In neighboring Dannemora, residents like Clarke Currier got their hunting rifles ready for home defense, and Jennifer Hilchrey was at the ready, carrying her rifle between her home and her mother’s next door.

The Land Down Under also has strict gun control laws. Semi-Automatic long guns are heavily restricted, and the most readily available long gun is the bolt action hunting rifle. However, like New York, Australia still has castle doctrine-like home defense laws. In the state of South Australia for example:
“If a home owner honestly believes the threat to be imminent and made an objectively reasonable and proportionate response to the circumstances as the accused subjectively perceived them. They are deemed to use “whatever force they deem necessary” when confronted with a home invader.”
Back during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, a number of Korean store owners armed themselves with whatever they could get their hands on. Standard common hunting guns were pressed into service. Traditional over/under shotguns and a Remington 700 bolt action rifle claimed some photographic fame during that tumultuous time.

A common bolt action hunting rifle, while not perfect, is far better than harsh words and a pointy stick. Most are chambered in capable cartridges that equal or surpass WWI and WWII-era service cartridges.

Capacity will more than likely be an issue, as will recoil and possibly sights. Many hunting rifles are designed for variable magnified optics and have no provision for iron sights. This can make it difficult to use the rifle for home defense. Additionally, since chamberings are typically more powerful, over-penetration is a factor.
When using a scoped bolt action rifle as a home defense gun, keep your scope on the lowest magnified setting. If you’re using it in the average home interior, shooting with both eyes open will give you a better field of view and ability to engage your target and still hit the mark.
To guard against over-penetration, select a quality expanding hunting load. Cheap FMJ will not do you any good. If you’re using a cartridge meant for hog/deer/sheep, it should do will against an attacker. The chest cavity of both a person and a common whitetail deer aren’t that much different in depth. For shooting a deer, the most common location is a broadside hit. When it comes to engaging an attacker, the most common is frontal. Both are similar in depth when it comes to penetration.
Shotguns offer a little more benefit. An O/U, SxS, or common pump will do the job with 00 Buck and Slug. The only difference is length of barrel and capacity. The most common gun, the one that settled the American West in the age of lever actions and revolvers, was the shotgun. The trusty single and double-barreled shotgun was the most common choice for a family in a covered wagon or sod home on the prairie. A modern hunting shotgun is no worse.
A typical hunting rifle has a much smaller capacity then a semi-auto, but four or five rounds is better than zero rounds. Also in certain jurisdictions, it’s beneficial to present yourself as the most non-threatening gun owner in the world. Being able to articulate that you had no other choice but to defend yourself with lethal force is a far better sale to an investigator or jury when a common hunting rifle is used.
In more freedom-loving areas, this isn’t as much of a problem, but not all of us live in those areas, and sometimes we have to play the cards we’re dealt. So if all you can get is a bolt action or lever action hunting rifle or hunting shotgun, you still have a viable means of self defense and you’re still ahead of the game. It might not be the most optimal choice, but it’s better than being unarmed and defenseless.