Today was my go at the EIC course of fire. It was day two of the overall match, and I was in the second relay. I attempted to do this same event two years ago, when I first started this blog, and ended up showing up on the wrong day and missing my time slot. Not today.
I arrived at the Combat Arms Training & Maintenance (CATM) facility a solid twenty minutes early. The halls smelled of coffee and CLP, and the dark spots on the carpet could have been either. After being herded into the training room, I selected an M-16A2 off the back table and picked a seat. The rifle was well-worn, with shiny silver spots on the slip ring, brass deflector, bolt release, and other areas. The FN-marked receiver was covered in little scratches and nicks. I can’t say what this rifle’s history was, but I’m sure it’s gotten around.
I immediately noted that the chamber was absolutely filthy, and the bolt was dry. I would never run my own rifles this way, but this wasn’t my rifle. This combination of buildup and dry bolt would cause me concern during the course of fire. As far as the training session went, it was just a quick safety brief, function check of the rifle, and a description of the match rules. We then headed out to the range.
I was given five 30 round magazines (haven’t played with those in a while! Thanks, California…), 60 rounds of M855 green tip on stripper clips, and a stripper clip speed loader.
The first 10 rounds were loaded into three magazines, 4-3-3, to be used for zeroing. I shot the first 4 from a supported prone into a tight little cluster that was a bit low and right. I made the adjustments and fired the next 3 into a very tight cluster just a bit high. The last three made another tight group right across the middle. Shooting off of a barricade would later prove problematic; I should have zeroed from the unsupported prone. While checking targets, I happened to notice I was producing much tighter groups than my fellow competitors.
The match itself consisted of four stages, all at 25 yards:
- 1 minute to shoot 10 rounds offhand
- 1 minute to shoot 10 rounds kneeling
- 1 minute to shoot 10 rounds sitting
- 1 minute to shoot 20 rounds unsupported prone
There was about 30 seconds before each stage to load and get into position. All of my practice really paid off here, since I could drop into a comfortable low kneel, crossed ankle sit, and prone relatively quickly and adjust to a good NPOA. No shooting aids were allowed for the match- no slings, gloves, jackets, bags, mats, or anything else.
The event was very rapidly paced; we did not pull and check targets between stages. Only hits in the 7, 8, 9, and 10 ring would be scored. Anything lower was counted as a miss. Nearly all of my shots ended up in the 10, 9, and 8 rings. There were and handful of 7’s from the offhand and kneeling, though.
My final score was 427/500. As far as I can tell, the only shooter who outscored me during my relay was the Security Forces commander, who scored 430. Scuttlebutt is that someone scored a 451 the previous day (the high score), and that there was another 440’s score as well. It appears nobody else in my relay broke 370.
The top 10% of all competitors over the two days are considered the “winners,” and receive an Excellence in Competition rifle badge to be worn on the uniform. Scores will be released later in the week, so we’ll see where I stacked up.
Now, some things to note for the future. By zeroing my rifle from supported prone, I think I did myself a disservice. For nearly the entire match, my shots tended to cluster high and left, which is direction I adjusted my sights during the zeroing phase. Had I not made those adjustments, and zeroed from unsupported prone, the sights may have worked better for me during the match.
Secondly, my rifle was on the verge of malfunctioning for two of the three stages. At one point, as I hit the bolt release during loading a d the bolt carrier nearly hung up before slowly sliding into battery (I had to use the forward assist). I suspect lubrication and a new action spring would help. An Army officer in my relay was not so lucky, and malfunctions cost him valuable time and points.
Overall, I felt pretty good. I had a good practice session recently, and I went in with a good positive mindset. I really hit my groove with sitting where I fell into a perfect rifleman’s cadence. Prone was good, but felt rushed by the need to fire twenty shots in a minute (not to mention the distraction presented by the other rifles tightly packed under a small space). I did surprisingly well with kneeling, and I attribute it to the physical therapy I had on my ankle- I felt no pain and could better focus.
Offhand will still require some work.