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Two Man Tactics – Part 2 – Rates of Fires & Talking Guns

I know I said I was going to do sectors of fire next, but this was quicker and easier to talk about first.

In the past I was taught than when your buddy is reloading or if their weapon malfunction, you need to pick up your rate of fire to compensate for their lack of shooting. I believed this and taught it to others.

Now I don’t think so.

A good example of when this would be necessary would be if you had two mortar teams and they were going to fire 4 rounds each for a total of 8 rounds on target. If one gun were to go down during the string of fire, the other would fire more rounds to get the proper number of rounds on target.

But if you are talking about a 2 man team, I don’t think this applies.

Back when I carried a M16A2, I found that my buddy and my self would each start with 30 rounds in a mag, and end up having to reload around the same time. If the other guy had to reload first, if I tried to pick up my rate of fire I would nearly immediately have to reload. Leaving us both reloading.

On that note, it might make sense for small teams to plan for some individuals to reload early to prevent everyone from reloading at the same time.

I think this advise comes from military highers ups looking at individuals as a commodity. If each individual rifleman is suppose to be outputting 15 rounds a minute, if one soldier goes down you have a deficiency in your firepower. So you tell one of your guys to increase their output to 30 rounds a minute to maintain the total unit firepower.

Let us back up a moment. Why do we shoot? We shoot when the alternative would be worse than not shooting. This isn’t just about combatives, we shoot to test equipment, hone our skills, or to have fun. Not plinking is a worse outcome that plinking.

So, if we are in a fight, touching off rounds for no reason gives us no benefit. If I shoot uselessly, the enemy might initially be deterred by the noise, but once they realize I am not effectively engaging them, they will be emboldened to effectively press the attack.

If I am in a fight, I need to strive to be as efficient and effective as possible. Wasting any resources, ammo, energy, etc, mean that you might not have that for the next fight.

Instead of adjusting your shooting rate off what your partner is doing, you should be adjusting your tactics off what your partner is doing. If they are unable to shoot, you may need to cover their sector of fire. But you should be shooting what ever amount and rate of fire is necessary do get the job done.

If you are shooting to destroy the enemy, shouldn’t you already be shooting as fast as you can do it effectively? If you are shooting to suppress the enemy, shouldn’t you be shooting just enough to keep the enemies from returning effective fire to you? Why in either of those cases would you shoot faster because your buddy is reloading or clearing a jam?

I think this concept makes sense when you are talking machine guns. If there are two teams of belt fed weapons firing 3-5 round bursts and one gun needs to reload, it would make sense for the other gun to fire longer bursts during that reload. But if you and someone else are fighting with handguns or rifles, our rate of fire should be dependent on what is necessary to engage the enemy, not some set number.

If shooting fast will let you win faster, do it. Doesn’t matter what your buddy is doing. If shooting faster won’t make you win faster, don’t.

Now, on a similar topic, let us talk about “talking guns”. My intent it to explain the concept of “talking guns” and then explain why a two man team is not likely to be using that tactic. Then I will contradict my self and wrap up with an example of when it might be useful.

With machine guns and machine gun gunnery there is a very common and well known tactic known as “talking guns”. Talking guns is where two or more machine guns alternative firing bursts. There are many reasons for using this strategy. First it can keep constant rounds going downrange towards the enemy, while each of your machine guns are just firing normal bursts. A second, but not lesser reason, is to make it harder for the enemies to pin point the location of your machine guns if your machine guns are alternating bursts.

Now I read people claim that well practiced Machine Gunners will have their alternating gun fire sound like a single long burst from a single gun. I never heard that from when I was in and I somewhat think that this is a bullshit idea from people who are not machine gunners. It would be easy to mess up and have both guns fire at the same time

If you are a two person team of automatic riflemen or machine gunners, this would be a great tactic for for the two of you. Out side of that, not so much.

I’ve sometimes heard or read people suggest using talking guns for any two man team.
Why?
I think people suggest this because the concept of talking guns is cool and just seems like it would be good for a group of two.

Let us imagine that Shawn and I each are carrying our pistols and facing down a hoard a baddies.
What justification would there be for us to hold fire in order to alternative taking shots?
None.
Each of us would want to shoot as efficiently as we could.

Especially once you get distance involved. You and your buddy should not be side by side as that would make it easier for the enemy to engage the both of you(or an explosion taking out both of you). Dispersion aids survival. But that distance means that you and your partner see different things. Each one of you may see different enemies or have very different experiences.

If I can see two enemies, and my team mate can not see any, should I hold off firing at the second baddie until my team mate fires?

Let me use another example. Different people have different skill levels. One shooter might be slower at lining up and making good shots. Another much faster and more effective. If the better shooter waits for the slower shooter to shoot, they are drastically reducing their own effectiveness. In most scenarios, there is little to gain by alternating shots.

But to wrap up, it isn’t bad to know or practice these things. Imagine a situation where you have a two man marksman/sniper team working individually in separate locations. If the two shooters engaged their enemies from different locations, alternating shots, it would make it much harder for the enemy to locate each shooter and/or respond appropriately.

With this silly drawing, you can see how a situation where two marksman in two different locations can cause quite the problem for the enemy. If they take cover from one shooter, they are exposed to the other. If they actively move to engage and destroy one marksman, the other can still engage them.

In the initial engagement, our 2 man team might want to alternate shots to help prevent the enemy forces from identifying where the shots are coming from, delaying their ability to effectively respond to the incoming fire. If one of is spotted, using the tactic of talking guns would be pointless.

Most of the time, in a small team, each individual would be best off shooting to their full potential. Rarely would you want to limit that rate of fire, or push someone to shoot faster than they can engage their targets effectively.

2 Man Tactics – Part 1 – Formations and Lanes of Fire

Two man formations.

Two man formations is as simple as it gets. You can either be in a column, a line, or a staggered column. I suppose you could call it an echelon instead of a staggered column.

Which is the best formation? Well that’s a trick question. Use the formation that is most appropriate for the situation. A column would normally be used for fast movement. If you were moving through dense vegetation trying to move side by side would be a lot harder, slower, and louder than moving in single column. Very bad terrain might have lead person completely dedicated to trailblazing with the second person providing all security. Another extreme example would be a location with mines or booby traps. The second person would step in the same places and move the same way that the first person did but far enough back that they wouldn’t be caught in an explosion.

A line formation would be used to direct as much firepower forwards as possible. The line formation is simple and scales up for as many people as you have. A large formation functions much like at shooting range where you can have any number people side by side shooting forwards in their lanes functioning as safely as reasonably possible. Majority of training in the US with multiple people shooting is practiced on static ranges in a line formation. Unfortunately, often in the real world we are not working in a line formation.

On your average static range each person has a firing lane. This lane often is directly in front of them to their single target. Firing lanes don’t intersect and don’t overlap. In theory, if each individual is firing in their Lane, you could walk up and down yours and be just fine. In reality, we don’t do that. I hope you understand why.

A staggered column (or echelon) is generally preferred if you are out in the open or don’t know where the enemy might engage you from. The pair of you can easily shoot forwards, backwards, left or right with out getting in each others way. Only if you run into someone at the same angle as you are staggered do you get in each others way. Being a small group of two people, should that happen, either person moving left or right (facing to the direction of the enemy) would allow both people to engage.

Arguably there shouldn’t be a practical difference between echelon left and echelon right. Realistically, most people are right-handed and can engage targets to their left slightly fast than targets their right. Depending on the individuals a formation to the left or right may have certain advantages or disadvantages. As you practice movement and engaging you will likely find that you group will prefer one or the other. You need practice both versions of it and being in either position.

A simple military technique for moving when in enemy contact is fired “fire and movement”. One person shoots while the other advances(or retreats). In this situation you would be in one of these staggered column formations in alternating your positions as you advance forward. This very common tactic is a very important tactic.  Unfortunately, this isn’t trained on your standard static range. Most ranges will not let you shoot while someone is ahead of you. Fortunately, you can train it with dry runs, airsoft, or any number of other ways to practice the movement without live fire.

The gunfight in the movie “Heat” is often used as an example of this fire and movement.

On a tangent – “5 mil rule”: while I was in the military I was first taught the rule of thumb for shooting when friendlies are in front of you what is the width of your fist. You would place your fist against the forearm of your firearm and if there were friendlies within that angular distance you would not fire. Later that was changed to the width of your fingers splayed out from tip of thumb to pinky finger. A larger angle would always be preferred for safety reasons but each of us is a professional and should know what our limits and capabilities are should we be in a bad situation.

When moving is part of a team you attempt to stay in your Lane. Imagine a scenario with two gunfighters in a staggered column. Upon engaging the enemy both are firing forwards at the enemy. If the front person suddenly decided to make dynamic movement left or right without notifying their partner there is a chance they might run right into their partners lane of fire. Last thing a two man team needs is a blue on blue incident.

It is not that the front person (in this example) can not move to the right, but that the pair need to communicate prior to that movement so that nothing tragic happens.

A lane of fire is not to be mistaken for a sector fire. Sectors of fire or much broader and should be overlapping and intersecting. If you have a group of people providing security they need to be observing avenues of approach and areas much larger than a single lane of fire.  We will talk about those next time.

Two Person Tactics – What do you want to talk about?

Shawn asked me to write about two person tactics. I started writing about it, then stopped working on that one particular subject and started another. Now I have about a half dozen unfinished posts where I’ve run into writers block and I’m not quite sure what I want to say.

The smallest minority (or fighting unit) is the individual. Sadly, a single person can’t as well cover a 360 degree circle, and will eventually need rest. A two person team doubles the firepower, and combat capabilities. Think about it. Mathematically, each additional person adds a smaller percentage of additional firepower. Still, I’d take more than less, given the choice.

Writing about two person teams is awkward since the situation could be so very different. A two man sniper team is going to look and work differently than a two man machine gun team, or a two man breaching and assault team. Two Cops working together might have a different dynamic than a husband and wife. Think about it. One guy might want to take point to protect his spouse. Another might want to send the spouse off first as this guy could always just get married again. Think, if you and your kid are moving toward a potential ambush, do you go first, or do you send the kid? You can make more kids, right?

All joking aside. Different groups with different tasks will have different operating procedures.

Back when I taught room cleaning, when I entered a room, I preferred to button hook. I often worked with a Marine who preferred to criss cross. I knew if I was behind him, he would cross and I button hook, or if he was behind me, that I would button hook and he would cross. That is, unless we were doing it as a demonstration in front of people, if he went first he would always button hook to me on my toes. It certainly helps to have trained enough with an individual as to know how they will act and react in a situation.

Anyways. I’m working on posts about lanes of fire and sectors of fire, movement, room clearing, but I am drawing a blank on quite how I should approach some of these subjects.

What do you want to hear about with regard to two man team tactics?

Should conceal-ability be a feature of the modern individual fighting rifle?

This is something I’ve been mulling over for some time now.

I think about the tactics I used when I played the role of insurgent against Marines. I think about that tactics insurgents used in Iraq against. I real about other peoples imagined concepts of combat operations state side. I don’t think this is something that your average soldier or Marine might need, but those of us living outside a uniformed service might find value in being able to move a long arm discretely.

But before that, I do like being able to be discrete. If I am going to go to the range, I don’t want to advertise to my neighbors where I am going or what I am doing. Part of the reason I have stuff like a violin case to move guns.

Of course, if a neighbor saw me packing a violin case, a couple of ammo cans, and a stack of targets in my trunk they might guess what I am doing. A discrete case is not a whole solution on its’ own.

A great many of the “discrete” gun cases out there still look like rifle cases. Sure, it might be in “Grayman Gray” but it looks like a rifle case. I’ve seen people use tool cases or golf bags and those I think would fool people into thinking it is not a rifle in there. Now, that might even be a more appealing target to a thief, it at least doesn’t scream gun.

Some years back I read of a person who uses a 5 gallon bucket for their range back. Ammo would be in cases or boxes, the pistol cased, and any accessories, eye and ear protection, etc, in that bucket. At the range, spent cases to be saved for reloading could just be dumped in the bucket. Now I think that is a pretty discrete range bag. But doesn’t work for long arms.

We often think of conventional warfare where the combatant might never allow their longarm to be outside of arms reach. Unconventional warfare is another story. An insurgent might stash a weapon somewhere, retrieve it for a mission, and stash it again again. Imagine if one of the Hong Kong protesters had a rifle. Slinging it on their back and walking home wouldn’t really be a viable option.

Fortunately guns are getting smaller. I found it funny when we got the para-saw barrels for our M249 machine guns in Iraq. It make the those belt fed guns shorter than our M16A4s. Hell, look at the SIG Rattler. With the stock or brace folded on the Rattler, the entire gun is about 16 inches long. You have a gun that packs up to the size of the barrel on most other longarms. But you do have to make major sacrifices to reach that size.

The Rattler is about an inch too long to fit flush in that 5 gallon bucket referenced earlier. But it isn’t really a combat rifle, it is more of an alternative to the classic submachine gun.

But I am straying from the topic.

Back in 2006, when I was in Iraq, it was not uncommon for an insurgent to take a stashed rifle (like a Mosin Nagant) take a few pop shots at us, stash the rifle away and blend back into the crowd. This worked pretty well for them. Partly due to the fact that we were not the sort to just burn down the building they fired from.

If I were usng such a tactic, I’d rather have a gun I could fit into a ‘discrete’ way to transport it. Something like a back pack. Still easy to stash away, or to ditch if you had to to escape, but something you could far more easily move to where it would be needed.

There was a time I traveled between my duty station and home via bus. I wouldn’t recommend that for anyone. I’d bring my only AR15 at the time by separating the upper and lower. The barrel would stick out of my backpack, so I would pull a sweatshirt or poncho liner over it to look like messy packing. Far from ideal, but it worked.

As nice as a FN FAL, M1A, M1Garand, M16A4 is for fighting, I’m starting to think that the ability to transport a rifle around concealed might be valuable in the future.


Tangentially, there is value in being somewhat discrete in the military. Part of the idea of guns like the SDMR was to have a precision weapon system in a rifle squad with out the enemy being able to easily identify who had them.

Riflemen or Marksmen? Would the enemy be able to tell from a distance?