I’ve been to the range a couple times since the last post, and have been focusing quite a bit on offhand shooting. I’ve managed to dramatically improve my standing groups on average, but it is still not terribly consistent. Some groups quite good (for me), closing in on 4 MOA, others are more than double that. My last practice session was cut a bit short due to the opportunity to introduce new folks to the proper and safe operation of an AR-15. I consider introducing new shooters to the sport, and showing them how harmless “scary” equipment can be, an absolute priority.
It is by slowly changing these minds, one at a time if need be, that will ultimately keep the 2A tradition alive.
On that note, I’ve been thinking a bit more my definition of an Everyday Marksman. I spoke at length in that post about the overarching principles of security and the inherent freedom that it brings, regardless of the circumstances. I spoke of the ability to go out and harvest your own meat via hunting, and how personally liberating (and empowering) it may be to know that you have that capability. What I did not discuss, however, was some of the practical aspects and requirements of those capabilities.
This is a blog primarily about practical marksmanship, and while I can write at length about the values and benefits of being a good shot, there is often quite a bit more to being a well-rounded marksman than that. Earlier this year I wrote about the importance of fitness from a personal and martial standpoint. I also wrote a bit on my plan on improving my own fitness level. The reality is that real practical marksmanship quite often happens outside the confines of a nice square range where the only distance you really need to “hump” is between your car and the bench (a whopping 20 feet at my range). I began considering how poor fitness will negatively affect the ability of the marksman to navigate over long distances, especially when carrying a rifle and backpack, and still be effective.
The stereotypical tree stand hunter is a good example of this. We have all seen the dude (or girl) wearing camo riding his ATV out to his pre-positioned tree stand, which he will sit in until something worth shooting comes along. He (or she) then climbs down from the tree, drags the kill over to their ATV and rides it back home. Sure, there is some physical effort involved in all of that, but it’s a far cry from humping a pack into the backwoods, stalking for a couple hours, getting the kill, and then packing that kill back out on foot. There are two very different levels of physical exertion being demonstrated here.
This also led me to think about what kind of equipment would be carried, and what level of fitness would be needed to be effective with it, and not just in a hunting context. There is a lot of interesting reading out there on the subject of equipment weight, and how it impacts the mobility of individuals. The military has been struggling with this concept since time immemorial, and it has repeatedly been in the news during Iraq/Afghanistan. The average shooting-oriented message board will have you thinking that the way the military currently does it with plate carriers, war belts, and heavy packs (all totaling over 120 lbs) is the best and only way. I don’t believe this to be true.
It is true that the military expects its people to carry over 100 lbs of equipment and hump it out for days on end. It is also true that this requires a high level of physical fitness to achieve this goal. But we don’t often hear about the regularity of knee and shoulder surgery (hint: it is pretty damn common). Additionally, such equipment loads are heavily dependent on riding around in vehicles. The current doctrine, in most cases, is to ride in a vehicle until a couple kilometers away from the objective, take care of the mission, and then ride back home. That’s a far cry from how things used to be done, and how I envision a practical marksman engaged in hunting or defense of home and country.
Previous military studies, dating back from the Roman legions to Korea, have been pretty consistent in stating that the maximum load a soldier should be expected to carry and still be effective is between 35-45 lbs. That’s a pretty drastic difference from what is actually being carried by current US troops. This discrepancy is quite visible when looking at the differences in mobility between US troops and Afghanis running around in the mountains. So the question becomes: what would I be carrying if I was limited to 45 lbs of equipment?
I intend to explore that question a bit more. Stay tuned. As part of my ongoing efforts to rethink my crate, I also want to consider what I view as a modern practical marksman’s equipment load should be.