Target Practice

Left: AR-15-wielding historian

I took some time out of my schedule this weekend to join some colleagues on an outing to test some military weapons with historical significance. In the image on your left, I am lining up to shoot an AR-15, which is the semi-automatic version of the M-16 rifle.

We fired quite a variety of weapons today, ranging from a Mauser Gewehr 98 to an early twentieth century variant of the M1 Garand. We also fired quite a few different military handguns, and after today's demonstrations I have a much greater knowledge and awareness of military technology.

And no fun, whatsoever, was enjoyed by the participants in blasting away at targets for three hours.


Left: firing range target

I am far from a regular at the range, and I have fired rifles or muskets only a few times in my life. I was surprised that with some training (two of the participants are ex-military personnel) I could hit with some accuracy targets 100 yards away.

This has less to do with any skill on my part, and a bit more to do with the coaching. A larger part of the equation, though, is that military weapons are designed to be as user-friendly and easy-to-learn as possible. The AR-15, in particular, was relatively simple to operate, and on my first ten-round practice I hit in the black on the target five out of ten times.

I was much less successful with the Garrand and the Mauser, both of which I landed in the black three of ten times. The Mauser is also a physically punishing weapon, with a strong kick and an especially loud report. If I were an infantry soldier, I would prefer the AR-15 to the other weapons.