LEARNING LAND NAVIGATION

This week’s post from weaponsman.com is a quick lesson in land nav. Like every week we share some of the best posts from our friend Kevin O’Brien, who passed away too young coming up on two years.

compass-003

The best case is to have a map and a compass. If you have a general idea of the terrain you can navigate without either, of course. But if you have to choose one or the other, unless the map is complete crap, choose the map.

Why not choose a GPS? A GPS depends on things that you cannot control, including satellites (vulnerable to interception and destruction in wartime, and failure in peacetime) and the electromagnetic spectrum (vulnerable to jamming, meaconing, EMP and other QRM — manmade interference — and sunspots, areas of bad radio propagation (like iron-rich geological formations), and other QRN — natural interference.

Jamming GPS signals is child’s play, because (1) the frequencies used are fixed and published, and (2) a satellite is sending a very low-power signal from very far away.

A GPS also depends on something that has a knack for letting a guy down: batteries. GPS navigators and other smart devices are an update of the old pilot’s joke about a flashlight: something you put in your bag to hold dead batteries. (There are circumstances in which this joke is the very living soul of not funny).

What’s a Topographical Map?

A map is a graphic description of a physical place in (usually) plan view, meaning from an imaginary viewpoint overhead. There are innumerable kinds of maps. Planimetric maps are drawn to scale (of which more in a moment), show borders and boundaries, (usually) cultural features like roads, and coast- or water-lines. If you own a house or land, you have probably seen your lot on a planimetric map. A Mapquest street map page is a planimetric map (it’s also a thematic map, which is a kind of map that has a theme, naturally. Thematic maps can be planimetric, but don’t have to be).

A topographical map is a type of planimetric map that also shows the height of the terrain. How do you show the Z axis of the real world on a two-dimensional map? The convention for depicting height on modern topographic maps is to use isometric lines. That scary foreign word just means “same distance,” iso metric, see? So each height-depicting line on the map represents the same vertical distance as the others. This has some useful applications in the real world, which is where we want to use our maps, right?

It is the isometric lines or contour lines (so called because each line follows the contour of the land at a given height relative to mean sea level) that set a topo map (as we call them to save keystrokes) apart from other kinds of maps.

Unless you have occasion to work with very old maps, military topographic maps will be calculated in SI units, with isometric lines a fixed distance apart in meters and marked elevations (of benchmarks, hilltops and other significant Z Axis features) in meters as well, and distances and a scale in kilometers. In the US, topo maps made for civilian use will have these items marked in Imperial units — feet and miles.

Globally, topographical maps are very similar. Anyone who has used a British Ordnance Survey Map, USGS Map, or NATO military map can pretty much make the translation to the others no problem. Even a Russian or Chinese map is very useful (the Russians have always made superior maps). Even if you can’t read the language you can still see the terrain. The various grid systems used are not always interoperable, though. (We’ll get to that).

What’s On A Topographical Map?

There are essentially three things: the geological features, which include the basic shape of the terrain, things like hills, rivers, coastlines, and slopes; the cultural features, which are the things that grow on the terrain or that people build on it, like forests, villages, roads and railroads; and navigational and informational features, including various things that let you use the map.

Geological Features

HILL terrain feature

A map can give you a good handle on terrain features, if you read the contour lines. This bit of instruction uses the topography of human hands to walk you through the most common terrain features. There’s a lot more the lines can tell you, and you pick it up instinctively sooner or later. For example, on any given map, since contour lines come only at one interval, the closer together the lines on the map, the steeper the terrain. You will notice that watercourses are always in the low point, and that contour lines form a V across the watercourse, with the narrow end of the V pointing uphill and upstream. Bodies of water and watercourses are geological features, and they are always depicted in blue.

This web page recycles government training materials meant to train soldiers to understand the association between the contour lines on their maps, and  the terrain on the ground. It shows the basic terrain features; the hill above is one of them. (The page may have an annoying popup. Just dismiss it).

Cultural Features

Cultural features include vegetation, usually shown as green, and anything humans built on the land, including roads, bridges, trails, railroads, power lines, structures, cities, etc. As a rule of thumb, geological features are more stable and useful for navigation that cultural ones. Barring Air Force intervention, a hilltop’s height isn’t going to change. The shape of roads and borders of towns change all the time.

Navigational and Informational Features

There are many of these, including the Legend, which describes the sorts of features you might see on the map; the declination diagram, which we’ll deal with in the next installment; the indicator of north (part of the d.d.) which is rather important; and information about the datum used (this is the mathematical description of the shape of the Earth that undergirds the navigational features) and the grid system. This is where we run into differences by nation and even by purpose of the map and its recency. Datums are occasionally updated and this means grids aren’t interoperable (some US maps still used the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD27)  during our service, and other maps used WGS83 or another datum — a hazardous combination when you’re slinging lead and steel around). The Russians and their allies, for example, use a different grid system (Gauss-Krasovskiy) than NATO and their allies (MGRS, which is a superset of the Universal Transverse Mercator system). This gets interesting when you have lots of nationalities interoperating in one battlespace, but for most of you, the way to deal with this is:

  1. Check that everybody’s map has the same Datum and grid system.
  2. If not, get help! Your friendly SF intel sergeant can probably do MGRS to GK grid conversions, and your weapons guy can deal with artillery tuned with different numbers of mils in a circle.
how grids work

Maps have grids that are set up for a military-type grid reference system, which should let you plot a point quite accurately, or alternately for latitude and longitude, depending on their intended use. Lat/Longs are hard to use in an on-foot situation, because in most of the world parallels and meridians don’t intersect quite squarely. The good news is, that even a map only gridded with lat/longs usually has ticks you can use to set up a UTM grid.

Grids are always read right and up. In map terminology, that’s easting and northing. How and why the grids are set up is part of every military map reading class, but do you know what? You don’t need to know it, any more than you need to know how a torque converter works to drive a car. Yes, it’s great to have knowledge in depth, but right now, you need knowledge you can use. 

Some Homework if you want it:

Reading Topographic Maps, by the OK Geological Survey.

Reading-Topographic-Maps-Oklahoma-Geological-Survey.pdf


Small News Items on Army Small Arms

Today we have another re-post from our departed friend. Kevin O’Brien, AKA “Hognose” owner and writer of weaponsman.com.

There’s a bunch of little news bits going around the Army about maintenance issues and problems. We’ll cover them from most to least serious:

Item: Somebody Blew It

Beretta_M9_FAIL

File photo of failed M9 slide. Not the mishap firearm.

In late 2015, a very high (but unknown) round count M9 pistol had a catastrophic failure of the slide. With the Army scrimping on O&M money, especially on the ripe-for-replacement Beretta handgun, failures are not unusual and usually turn out to be fatigue failures from parts that have been carelessly used long past their service life. So was this one. The pistol was older than the soldier shooting it, and, as it turned out, someone, somewhere had pencil-whipped the maintenance records.

Slides fail every week, somewhere in an Army with hundreds of thousands of pistols that were almost all bought 30 years ago. But what happened next wasn’t supposed to happen. When the pistol slide failed at the slide’s weakest point, the locking-block cuts, the rear half of the slide kept on motoring, striking the GI in the cheek and upper jaw area and causing non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation determined that a mandatory maintenance work order, MWO 9-1005-317–30-10-1, issued twenty-seven years ago in March, 1989, had never been complied with. They couldn’t track where the pistol was at the time it was not repaired; Army units and activities with M9s had until June, 1993 to comply.

Somebody reported that his M9s were in compliance, when they weren’t. This is what you get when a zero-defects, up-or-out culture undermines integrity while at the same time penny-pinching undermines maintenance. The soldier who drew that defective M9, and every soldier that’s been drawing and shooting it since 1989, is damned lucky to be alive. (Fortunately, when a slide fails on most pistols (or a bolt on a Mauser C96, etc.), gravity usually  ensures that the part hits below the eye, on cheek, jaw, chest or shoulder).

Meanwhile, the Army sent an urgent Safety-of-Use message mandating an Army-wide inspection of all M9s for completion of the MWO. Since the resources for completing the MWO no longer exist, the remedial action is to immediately deadline and turn in the offending M9 and draw a replacement.

How many units pencil-whipped their response to that ALARACT message?

Item: Safety? Sometimes it’s Evolution in Action

FOOM!

Word is, some genius removed himself from the breeding population of Homo sapiens in 2014 by “improvising” M203 ammo (may have been 320) by cutting the links off of (higher-pressure) Mk19 belted ammo. The links were actually designed so they couldn’t snap off by hand, to prevent that.

Can we get a “FOOM!” from the assembled multitudes?

And oh, yeah, trying to belt up 203 ammo and fire it in an Mk 19 leads to FOOM also, of a different variety — out of battery ignition. Another opportunity for poka-yoke missed.

Item: Ambi Selectors Reaching Troops.. slowly

The Army has finally woken up to two facts:

  1. About 10% of the troops are left-handed, and
  2. There are lots of good ambi selectors available.

So the Army chose one and put it into the pipeline. So far so good, right? Not entirely. The selectors are only being replaced when the weapons are overhauled. And they don’t fit in the M12 racks many units still have. Work around is to cut a notch in the rack with a torch, or with a file and plenty of time, or to bend the part of the rack that hits the right-side selector out of shape so that the selector clears the rack.

Also, the slow migration of the ambi selectors means not all M4/M16 weapons in any given unit have them. Why don’t they just push the parts down to the unit armorers? Three reasons:

  1. The big one: they’re afraid of armorers stealing parts if they take rifles apart
  2. It doesn’t fit the concept of echeloned maintenance, even though that’s being streamlined;
  3. They don’t trust the armorers let alone the Joes, not to botch the installation.

On top of that, of course, it’s not penny wise and pound foolish in the great Army tradition.

Item: New Stuff Coming in, Old Stuff Going Out

A number of new arms are reaching the troops, and old arms are going away.  We’ll have more about that in the future, especially the M2A1 and the coming “rationalization” of an explosion of shotguns and sniper rifles. We just broke it out of this post to keep the length manageable.

ITEM: MG Maintenance Problems = Operator Headspace & Timing

m249-PIP

The biggest single problem the Army has with the current pair of machine guns (M240 and M249) is burned out barrels. That’s caused by not changing barrels, either in combat, or especially on the range. Often, units go out without the spare barrel so it’s not like they gave themselves any option.  (The M2 version of this is going out with only one set of gages for the M2s. The gages are not required for the M2A1). The Army is falling back into the peacetime mindset of “leave it in the arms room and we can’t lose it.” True enough, we’ll just destroy the one we take out instead.

The fact is, and it’s a fact widely unknown to GIs, MGs have rate-of-sustained-fire limitations that are lower than they think. (Remember the MGs that failed at Wanat? They were being operated well outside their designed, tested envelope).

The M249 should never be fired more than 200 rounds rapid fire from a cold barrel. Then, change to a cold barrel, repeat. The Army being the Army, there are geniuses who think that they can burn a couple belts in a few seconds, change barrels, burn a couple belts in a couple more seconds, then put the original honkin’ hot barrel back in and burn — you get the idea. If you have a situation where you’re going to fire a lot of rounds from a single position, like a predeployment MG familiarization for support troops or a defensive position, you might want to lay in some extra barrels (and yes, Army supply makes that all but impossible, so you have to cannibalize your other MGs).

The M240 is a little more tolerant but should still be changed every 2 to 10 minutes of firing, and even more frequently if the firing tends towards real sustained fire. (The deets are in the FM, which is mostly only available on .pdf these days).

One last thought, your defensive MG positions need to have alternate, displace positions, and you need to displace after sustained fire from one position — unless you want to share your hole with an exploding RPG, ATGM or mortar round. “Where’s your secondary position?” or “-fallback position?” should not produce the Polish Salute.

As ordnance experts have observed ever since World War II, a barrel can be burnt out due to overheat and still mic and even air-gauge good. You only know it’s hosed when it can’t shoot straight.

Well-maintained MGs are more accurate than people seem to give them credit for. Some SOF elements have selective fire M240s and really, really like them. (The standard M240 has no semi setting). They’re capable of surprising accuracy from the tripod.

ITEM: For Want of a Cord, a Career was Lost

GIs frequently lose or throw away the idiot cord on the PVS-14 night vision monocular. If these sights were being properly inspected, which they usually aren’t until a team comes in just before deployment, they’d be tagged NMC (non mission capable) for missing  that stupid cord. You don’t want to be in the bursting radius of a unit CO who’s just been told 85% of his night vision is NMC… especially when that news is delivered in earshot of his rater and senior rater. It’s a bull$#!+ requirement but it’s in the book, and if the Army ever has to choose between following the book or winning the war, the book comes up trumps every time.

You’re not going to stop GIs from losing cords, but replacement cords are in the supply catalog

Today  we have another article from our friend who passed away  early last year. Kevin “Hognose” O’Brien owner of weaponsman.com

Where Small Arms R&D is going next

By Kevin O’Brien

http://weaponsman.com/?p=11496

It's probably not going to be a disintegrator ray gun. Dang.

It’s probably not going to be a disintegrator ray gun. Dang.

Because the XM248 segment of the story is taking longer than we had hoped, we’re going to go for a practical first down again (an American football analogy, for our overseas readers: we’re going to do something easy, but possible, instead of something extremely difficult). As we’ve been immersed in the surprisingly lively RDT&E world of the 1970s, where weapons systems with roots as far back as WWII and Korea were being uprooted by new technology, we began to wonder, what’s going on today? 

And in the world of small arms, the answer is, surprisingly little. The Army is somewhat satisfied with the weapons that they field now. This is partly because the current suite of weapons is pretty good. It’s also because the Army has other priorities that are higher. Army leaders have said that their problem areas for science and technology are as shown in the slide (source .pdf).

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.30.27 PM

You’ll notice that most of these have no bearing on small arms development. They’re all very serious problems, but with one exception, tinkering with guns isn’t going to solve any of, say, the top ten.

The exception, the place where small arms is going next, is weight reduction. This is nothing new: for 4,000 years infantrymen have bitched about their burden, and for 4,000 years commanders have admitted that the grunts have a point but have done little to alleviate the problem.

There’s a dynamic at work here: when advances reduce the burden, new gear gets stacked on the rifleman (as it did on the fusilier, musketeer, arqebusier, pikeman, or hoplite in days of yore). If the command doesn’t replace the 20 pounds’ respite that science and procurement brought you, the GI himself will, usually with ammunition.

What sort of technology will reduce weapons weight?

The last time it was successfully done, it was done by applying aerospace technology to weapons design. We refer, of course, to the crusade of the original ArmaLite from its Hollywood offices and later Costa Mesa plant, during the long pregnancy of the Space Age in the 1950s. Stoner, Sullivan et. al. drafted a variety of industrial materials and processes for guns that had been little used in the industry before, and never used explicitly for weight reduction as an initial design objective.

It was radical then, but it’s old hat now. The space age technology of 1960 — forged 7075 aluminum alloy and fiberglass, later molded Fiberite® plastic — is now not too exciting. Even the exotic material of 1960, the titanium structure of the secret A-12 spyplane, is now much more widely used. A few things that are likely to see more use in the years ahead:

  • Aluminum-lithium alloys. Used in F-15 wing skins and Airbus 380 skins. May be too light for gun structures without new processes.
  • Aluminum-scandium alloys. These are already showing up in lightweight pistols.
  • Titanium alloys. These have come downmarket — and small arms systems have gotten so expensive — to be within reach. However, Scandium alloys approach Ti alloy strength, and are more easily machined and welded.
  • Carbon-fiber and carbon-carbon structures. These could reduce the weight of stocks by 50%. ATK, which is no stranger to small arms, has achieved 20-40% reductions by redesigning metallic aerospace structures in carbon composites.

There are even more exotic materials on the horizon. Nanomaterials in particular offer benefits that will probably require complete systems redesign to be fully exploited. Indeed, they’ll probably require new basic research in the nanoscale dynamics of the mechanism inside the gun and the projectile inside the barrel.

Materials have the potential to reduce the weight of ammunition as much as weapons. The low-hanging fruit here is polymer cases. They’re hard to do because brass does a lot more than just hold the case together; so far, plastics have failed miserably at providing the gas seal that brass case obturation does. But a polymer case would get 90% of the weight-savings benefit of true caseless ammunition. Caseless, of course, would get 100% of the potential, which is why the idea won’t die, but as everyone who’s tried to make caseless guns (notably H&K) knows, that extra 10% of potential costs you several multiples of 100% of your original effort.

Another way to reduce ammunition weight is simply to ensure that more rounds fired are hits. Future ways to improve this tend to focus on electro-optical systems, but more mechanical accuracy in the service firearm is possible — and desirable.

Finally, new manufacturing technologies make possible manufacturing with a precision previously unimaginable. Additive manufacturing processes enable the design of parts previously unimagined, including parts with blind hollows inside. (It sounds like this would weaken the part, but most loads are carried on or along surfaces).

The bottom line: we’ll see a weapon again as light as the 6.6 lb. (3 KG) M16A1. But it will have much greater capabilities.


A Mess of Accidents

Today  is the weekly repost honoring our friend Kevin O-Brien who passed away early last year. Kevin, AKA “Hognose” to his many readers and admirers , was the owner of Weaponsman.com.   Not a tech article this time but something a little more humors for anyone who had a bad night last night. 

 

 

By Kevin O’Brien

Hollywood, FL, 20 April 14 “Cleaning the gun”

So there he was, cleaning his .38, which he dropped. BANG. The press gives him the benefit of a cop-style passive voice: “[T]he firearm dropped to the floor and discharged, hitting the man in the backside.” Yep, shot himself in the gluteus, which makes you wonder what his cleaning protocol is. If your gun-cleaning approach has potential to shoot yourself in the rear end, you need a new approach.

And another one that just “dropped” and “discharged.” Geez, what those guns get up to if you don’t keep an eye on ’em.

Ormond-by-the-Sea, FL, 22 April 14 “You keep using that word, accident…”

An Ormond-by-the-Sea woman who told neighbors that she shot her husband accidentally, told her mother the shooting occurred when she walked in on her spouse, saw him holding the weapon to his head and tried to wrest it from him.

“He told her he was going to kill himself,” Barbara Barrells said Tuesday afternoon outside her daughter’s house on Seabreeze Drive. “He had done that before. He was an alcoholic.”

If you’re going to do weird stuff with guns, you might as well be named Barrells.

Alcohol plus Gunpowder, plus a Really Stupid Safety Demonstration

The Detroit Free Press has covered this well:

As he stood an arm’s length away from his girlfriend in the bedroom of their new home, James Jewell pressed a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office says the 39-year-old committed suicide.

His family disagrees, saying he died in a horrifying mishap when the weapon discharged unexpectedly, during a safety lesson gone wrong. They want his death reclassified as an accident.

Police also have said the shooting was accidental.

“I was there. I know that’s not what he wanted to do,” said Jennifer Jackson, 36, Jewell’s girlfriend of nearly four years.

What Jewell was trying to do, she said, was convince her to keep a gun for her own protection. He meant to show her that guns are safe.

Go Read The Whole Thing™, complete with photos of the grieving girlfriend and, from happier days, the deceased would-be safety instructor — they look like the mugs next door in any working-class neighborhood in America. The beef is that the coroner says it’s suicide, and everyone else says it’s a stupid accident. A distinction with a very small difference, in terms of the ultimate products of it.

Needless to say, a Safety Demonstration that involves a gun pointed at your temple is never a good idea.

Unintended Consequences always loom large when you’re handling guns. You need to keep your wits about you. It is one thing to live in a free country where you can demonstrate gun safety any way you like (or tap a keg on the firing line at an MG shoot, something Small Arms of the World, the website, recalls seeing in the eighties), but far from absolving you of your need to apply common sense, it puts a greater burden upon you. Q.E.D.

Anderson, SC, 14 May 14. When Testing a Bulletproof Vest:

Two things you ought to do: (1) determine conclusively that it is meant to stop bullets, not light fragmentation. You really don’t want to get that one wrong. And (2) determine that the person shooting you has the marksmanship skills to hit you in the vest as opposed to, say, in the neck or through the fringes of the thing. Blake Wardell, 26, was a Darwin Award level no-go at this station. His designated shooter, Taylor Kelly, 18, plugged him in the heart. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest’s mama.

UPDATE: It turns out that Kelly is not only stupid, she’s real stupid. Cops are now saying she didn’t even shoot the guy, a third “friend” did. She stepped up to take the rap for him. Awwww. Ain’t that special? Of course, now he’s charged with involuntary manslaughter, and she’s charged with accessory to involuntary manslaughter.

The family that fails together jails together, we guess. These three are all no-goes at the friend selection station.

Memphis, TN, 20 May 14 “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or did the film excite you?”

We suppose a two-shot .38 derringer is better than no gun at all. And loading just one chamber is better than loading no chambers. Unless you’re going to drop the gun and ND in a Victim Disarmament Zone, and right in front of an off-duty cop. D’oh!

Police said [63-year-old George] Gholson took a .38-caliber, two-shot Derringer into a movie theater in east Memphis. The gun, which was loaded with one bullet, fell out of his pants pocket and fired the round.

Police said none of the 18 people in the theater were hit. An off-duty police officer who was in the theater at the time took Gholson into custody.

San Angelo, TX 23 May 14

There was a little too much of the store’s namesake at Action Pawn in this West Texas city, when a regular customer retrieved a .45 he’d pawned… and promptly shot himself with it while loading up.

That’ll leave a mark.

“He was handling the gun and apparently didn’t know that it was loaded. He was handling the gun and it discharged. It was an accidental discharge,” Keeling said.

The bullet went through his hand and he was taken to Shannon Medical Center. Sgt. Keeling said the man was in the process of loading the gun before he left the store and accidentally fired it into his hand.

The gun was a .45 caliber handgun. Sgt. Keeling said there was no criminal intent.

The man is 53 years old and a regular customer of Action Pawn. The store will remained closed for the forseeable future to allow staff time to clean up the blood.

That is one of the weaknesses of the 1911 system, in that the safety has to be off to load the firearm. Still, what about the rule that starts, “Never point the firearm…”?

Chicongo, 18 Feb 2009 (hearing 23 May 14) “I feel terrible for my mistake”

How “accidental” this one is depends on your point of view, because the decedent killed herself. But one of the things that cops are not usually eager to talk about to muggles is the way a few cops see “damsel in distress” calls as a chance to… score. Sergeant Steven Lesner met a woman named Catherine Weiland (and got her number) at a domestic disturbance call, and that night met her for booze, TV, and whatever else came up.

“Whatever else came up” was Weiland shooting herself with Lesner’s service pistol while he was in the bathroom.

“I urinated. I washed my hands and heard a pop, a bang,” Lesner testified.

He said he came out of the bathroom and saw his gun — which he said had been in an ankle holster when he set it down — on Weiland’s lap.

“I realized she wasn’t moving,” Lesner testified. “She looked DOA . . . I saw blood dripping out of her ear. I called 911 immediately.”

Weiland was not specifically reported to be suicidal, but testimony suggested that she suffered from bipolar disorder.

Five years after the incident, Lesner’s still on the job, and the case is unresolved. The case appears not to have even been investigated until the media got hold of it years later. His attorney insistes that Lesner is “not responsible for her death.” He might have a point if he moved the period three words to the left.

Edgewater, FL 27 May 14:  Cop has Negligent Discharge with AR-15

If he was in Ranger Battalion, he’d be dragging his duffel bag across post to a line unit already. But being a cop means never having to say you’re sorry, and an Edgewater patrolman was saved by a converging department after he negligently broke a round “while investigating a possible hostage situation.”

If there had been a hostage, that probably would have been the end of the hostage, but Officer Butterfingers (he hasn’t been named… he’s a secret policeman) has a great flimsy excuse: his keychain did it.

Police said an internal investigation found the officer was carrying the rifle while investigating a possible hostage situation on Kumquat Drive when it got caught on a key ring attached to the officer’s duty belt and discharged.

Note the passive constructions: “it got caught” and “discharged.”

The patrol rifle was pointed toward the ground when a round fired and didn’t cause any injuries.

And “a round fired.” Ah, those willful rounds!

Police said officers will no longer be permitted to wear key rings on the exterior of their uniform to prevent another accidental shooting.

At least the guy wasn’t muzzling anybody when he popped off.

CQB: Attitude Beats TTPs

Today we have another post from our friends Kevin aka “hognose” to his many readers and admirers. Kevin passed away too soon in spring of 2017 and we repost some of his work every week to preserve it. 

By Kevin O’Brien

 

There’s nobody quite as good at CQB/CQC/good-ole-doorkickin’ as the unit known as Delta. Not anybody, not worldwide. The SF teams that are best at CQB are the ones that train to be an interim stopgap, available to theater combatant commanders if Delta’s too far out or too overcommitted for a given tasking.

Delta’s skills came from its origin as a Hostage Rescue / Personnel Recovery unit, and it now has nearly four decades of institutional memory (some of which cycles back around as contract advisors so that old TTPs don’t get lost) to bring skills back up when real-world missions sometimes take off a little bit of the CQB edge.

In a wide-ranging post at the paywalled site SOFREP, fortunately reposted at the unwalled site The Arms Guide, former Delta operator George E. Hand IV discusses how the most important building block of CQB is, absolutely, the guts to actually do it.

Close Quarters Combat (CQC) is to the effect about 75% (maybe higher) testicles, and then 25% technique. I don’t like to over complicate things, especially CQB…. It is the very nature of the degree of difficulty inherent in ‘the act’ of CQB that bids its techniques to remain very simple, lest the mind become incapable of holding the process at all.

… if you can find a person that will take an AR and run into a small room of completely unknown contents, expected deadly threat, then you already have ~75% of what you need to create a successful CQB operator. All that remains, is to teach and train your operator the very few principles, and the very simple techniques, for room combat.

….

You are ~75% ‘there’ once you have that individual who will storm blindly into a deadly room. Now, it can’t be a person who just says they will do it. It has to be a person that in fact WILL do it, and WILL do it over and over.

See, no matter how high-speed low-drag you are, the enemy gets the proverbial vote, too.

There is a constant that exists, though you may disagree ferociously, it remains nonetheless: “no amount of high-speed training and bravado will ever trump the thug behind the door, pointing his AR at the door, and with finger on trigger.” ….

That’s right, the Chuck Yeager of CQB has a bullet waiting for him; all he has to do is wait long enough, however long that is. I have known a team of Delta men who lost their junior and senior team mates to the same goat-poker in the same small room in Iraq.

Both were head wounds from the same rag-head firing blindly over the top of a covered position. For the senior brother, that room was supposed to be the last room, of the last attack, of the last day, of the last overseas deployment he was ever supposed to make. The wait was over.

via Nobody goes into a room like Delta Force: A CQB attitude primer | The Arms Guide.

That “senior brother” is MSG Bob Horrigan, whose picture (courtesy Hand) graces this post. The new guy was MSG Mike McNulty, whose image is also at the link.

Hand’s entire post is worth reading, studying, and even contemplating. Do you go in, when going in could well get you shot by some “rag-head goat-poker”? (For police, substitute “brain-dead gangbanger” or “booze-drenched wife beater”). Real life for guys in these jobs is a daily reenactment of Kipling’s Arithmetic on the Frontier.

No proposition Euclid wrote
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow.
Strike hard who cares – shoot straight who can
The odds are on the cheaper man.

(Background on the poem. Of all the things I read before going to Afghanistan, Kipling was the best preparation. The Yusufzais he mentions are today still a Pathan (Pushtun) tribal group, frequently in opposition; the Afridis are still dominant in the Khyber Pass area, and some of them still affect green turbans. Only the weapons have improved).

If you have the attitude, and are willing to go into the Valley of the Shadow because you’re not going to be in there with them, instead those poor throgs are going to be in there with you, what are the simple tactics he has in mind?

(Caveat. Your Humble Blogger has never served in Delta. He had a short CQB/HR course called SOT many years ago, the short course which ultimately evolved, in two paths, into SFAUC and SFARTAETC).

Preparation

You need to have the basics first:

  1. Physical fitness. If you’re not ready to sprint up five flights of stairs you’re definitely not ready to train on this. Bear in mind that actual combat is much more physically exhausting and draining than any quantity of combat training. That may because fear dumps stress hormones that either induce or simulate fatigue. Perhaps there’s some other reason; it’s enough to know that the phenomenon is real.
  2. Marksmanship. This comprises hits on target but also shoot/no-shoot decision-making, malf clearing and primary-secondary transition. In our limited experience, almost no civilian shooters apart from practical-shooting competitors are ready to train on this stuff.
  3. Teamwork. It’s best to train a team that’s already tight. If not, no prob, the training process will tighten you.
  4. Decision Making under Stress. This is vital, because the one thing that you can plan on is your plan going to that which is brown and stinketh.

Process

The military stresses doing complex events (“eating the elephant”) by breaking them down into components (“bite-sized chunks.”) The process we use is lots of rehearsals in which risk and speed are gradually increased. One level is absolutely mastered before reaching for the risk or speed dial. (There are guys who go to SFAUC and are still carrying a blue-barrel Simunitions weapon in the live-fire phase. They’re still learning, but they’re not picking it up at the speed of the other guys. They’ll have to catch up and live fire to graduate).

Numerous rehearsals and practices are done in buildings of previously unknown configurations. A culmination exercise is full-speed, live-fire, breaching doors into an unknown situation. It can be done with dummies playing the hostiles and some hostages, and live people playing some no-shoot targets. (George has a story about this at the link. Not unusual to have a Unit commander or luminary like the late Dick Meadows in the hostage chair on a live-fire; at least once before Desert One, they put a very nervous Secretary of the Army in the chair).

The term the Army uses for this phased training process is widely adaptable to learning or teaching anything:

  1. Crawl
  2. Walk
  3. Run

Most civilian students, trainers and schools go from zero-to-sixty way too fast. To learn effectively, don’t crawl until the training schedule says walk, crawl until you’re ready.

Training should be 10% platform instruction and 90% hands-on. This is a craft, and you’re apprenticing, you’re not studying for an exam.

Tactics on Target

The most important thing you get from all these drills is an instinctive understanding of where the other guys are and where you are at all times, and where you’re personally responsible for the enemy.

Divide the sectors by the clock (degrees are too precise) and have one man responsible for a sector. Don’t shoot outside your sector unless the guy covering that sector is down. Staying on your sector is vital for safety! You should not only own the sector between your left and right limits, but also the vertical aspect of that sector, from beneath you, at your feet, through the horizontal plane to overhead.

Shoot/No-Shoot is vital and the only right way to do it is look at the hands and general gestalt of the individual to assess a threat. Weapon in hand? Nail ’em. Empty hands? Wait and keep assessing. (In this day of suicide vests, any attempt to close with you should probably be treated as a suicide bomb attempt).

If you have the personnel, the shooters do not deal with neutrals or friendlies on the X. There’s a following team that handles them, for several reasons including the shooters being keyed up to a fare-thee-well at the moment of entry.

You can’t learn CQB from a book, or a lecture, or some assclown on YouTube who never suited up and took a door. You have to physically practice, and practice, and practice. Ideally, under the beady eye of someone with a lot of doors in his past, and a skill at setting targets that borders on malicious mischief. (MSG Paul Poole, rest in peace, you old goat).

But first, absolutely first, you need guys with the guts to try. George is absolutely right about that. There is much other good stuff in his post, including a funny history of the term “operator” in the Army. (If you didn’t attend the Operators’ Training Course, it’s not you. Sorry ’bout that). You know what we’re going to say now, right? Damn straight. Read The Whole Thing™.