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Heresy: An Introduction to Combat Riflecraft

April 29, 2013

(The following article is the first in a series that will discuss the Combat Rifle POI as I teach it.) –J.M.)


“Shattering illusions, and crushing misconceptions…It’s just what I do.” –Me, to my mother-in-law recently.


The purpose of the combat rifle is to allow the combat rifleman to engage and kill, directly or indirectly, armed enemy combatants with precision aimed rifle fire. The rifleman’s ability with his weapon is one of the most fundamental measures of his effectiveness and survivability in combat. If the expects to function effectively in combat, he must be both willing to, and capable of, projecting lethal force on the enemy. The ability to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire in a confident, competent manner is the best insurance the irregular warfighter has for survival and success.


Unlike the sportsman, the combat rifleman does not have the luxury of using his marksmanship as a test of his ability. He is not, like the competition target shooter, trying see IF he can hit a target under the prescribed conditions. Unlike the field hunter, a miss does not simply mean an empty freezer. The combat rifleman must KNOW he can make his shot, because failure means death.


Combat riflecraft is not a sport. It’s not a game. The fighting rifle is not, contrary to the whining pleas of the morally bankrupt, a “sporting arm.” It is, like an axe, a tool, specifically designed and engineered for one purpose. The axe is designed to chop wood; the fighting rifle to kill people. The fact that the axe is sometimes used for sporting applications such as lumberjack competitions or axe-throwing does not change it’s fundamental purpose–nor the fighting rifle.


Realistic, effective combat rifle training is more than just marksmanship training. It teaches the rifleman how to use the tool for it;s intended purpose, in the most efficient manner possible. A well-developed and executed training program will teach you how to zero your rifle, at what range, and why, based on the operational environment, mission, and weapon. It will teach the shooter how to engage single and multiple hostile targets, at realistic ranges, under realistic conditions, from the most appropriate firing positions, while stationary or moving. A good training program will explain the differences between speed reloads and tactical reloads, as well as how, why, and when to perform each type. It will teach the most efficient methods to clear a malfunction, and get the gun back into the fight, as well when to ignore the malfunction and transition to an alternate method of killing the bad guys.


Finally, a well-developed and executed combat riflecraft class will serve some more holistic purposes. It will help to teach the neophyte how to most efficiently set up and run the support gear they do have, as well as determine what they should replace, and with what. It should introduce the shooter to the concept of shooting at people who are shooting at them, even if they can’t see the enemy directly, and how to use the rifle in coordination with an armed partner, utilizing the concept of fire-and-maneuver.


A combat rifle course should emphasize precision marksmanship, not as an end in itself, but as a necessary requisite to making solid, fight ending shots on minimally exposed targets under real-world conditions. A professionally trained combat rifleman is able to engage single or multiple hostiles, at any practical range, quickly and effectively, through the practical application of the fundamentals of marksmanship and good gunhandling.


The Fundamentals of Marksmanship


Traditional military marksmanship training is based on competition target shooting. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that; after all, people who can shoot and win at Camp Perry can shoot very well. Unfortunately, things are really just not that cut and dried. With the obvious exception of the intermediate goal being to direct the tiny, fast-moving projectiles where we want it to go on a target some distance away, there are actually very few real correlations between competition target marksmanship and the application of the fundamentals of marksmanship in combat situations. While the fundamentals of marksmanship do remain the same–they are the fundamentals after all–the execution can be drastically different.


a) a solid firing platform: the necessity of a solid shooting platform should be self-evident. After all, if the gun is moving around, it can be awfully hard to shoot accurately. The combat rifleman’s firing position must demonstrate three inherent qualities in order to be consistent and effective: it must be stable, solid, and durable.


It must be stable enough to reduce any movement of the weapon that would negatively affect accuracy. Unlike the competition target shooter, who is required by the rules to shoot from prescribed positions of varying levels of instability, in order to test his marksmanship, the well-trained combat rifleman makes a conscious effort to “cheat” by acquiring the most stable position the situation allows him to achieve. This means that, except under very specific conditions involving speed-shooting demands at close-quarters, he will always strive to support his firing position with the use of a weapon rest, even if that rest is just the magazine of his weapon (contrary to popular mythology, this will not induce malfunctions. If it does, you need to replace the magazine).


The firing position must be solid, so it is not affected by “outside” factors, such as the recoil cycle of the weapon. It is both mechanically and physiologically impossible to “defeat” recoil in a centerfire weapon. Instead, we attempt to mitigate the effects of recoil as much as possible, and ensure that the weapon completes the recoil cycle in the exact same position it started the firing cycle in. This will allow the shooter to “run” the gun as fast as mechanically possible. A solid shooting position will facilitate this.


Finally, the combat rifleman’s position must be durable. Whether it takes five shots to defeat the enemy, or five minutes of shots, despite the physiological stresses of a gunfight, the rifleman must be able to maintain or repeat the position for as long as necessary. In aiming, the weapon must become an extension of the body. The shooter must learn to adjust his body position so that the rifle naturally points at the target. In order to maximize the durability of the firing position, the shooter must minimize the amount of muscular tension required to hold the weapon in position. To avoid this muscular tension, he must shift his entire firing position in order to move his natural point-of-aim (NPOA) to coincide with the desired point-of-impact. Once he’s learned his NPOA for a given firing position, repetitive, perfect practice of that position will allow him to mount the gun the exact same way every time, making the position exponentially more durable (as a bonus, he’ll be faster getting his rifle into the fight as well).


b) sight alignment and sight picture: On the modern battlefield, the use of iron sights should serve, at most, as a back-up system in the extremely unlikely event the primary optic fails. American riflemen, dating back to at least the Civil War, have held optics in disregard, ranging from a healthy distrust to a visceral scornful disgust. Among the most notable reasons for this were: optics were seen as slower to acquire a sight picture with in the dynamic environment of the battlefield (only partially true at best), not as robust as iron sights (absolutely true until relatively recent times), not very useful except for snipers and other designated sharpshooters (demonstrably untrue), and the misunderstanding of the cliche that “optics don’t help you shoot better” (categorically false….sort of…).


–With the arguable exception of tube-type telescopic optics that can often provide a very narrow field-of-view, it is a fact of human physiology that optics are faster to acquire a sight picture with than iron sights. Iron sights require the eye to pick up objects in two (aperture sights) or three (“open” sights) different focal planes. The human eye however, is physically incapable of focusing on more than one focal plane at a time. A quality optic places the reticle and the target in the same apparent focal plane visually. Since the eye only has to focus on one focal plane, the optic is faster to acquire the final sight picture.


This sometimes falls apart however, when shooters try and run traditional, tube-type optics such as low-powered magnified telescopic sights. Due to inconsistent eye relief, shooters find themselves craning their necks and bobbing their heads to find the correct eye relief and sight picture. That’s not the fault of the optic however, but of piss-poor sloppy gun-handling. Good gun-handling means you mount the gun THE EXACT SAME WAY EVERY SINGLE TIME. A consistent cheek-to-stock weld, and the application of the NPOA means there is no need to “hunt” the sight picture. The gun comes up, into your line-of-sight, and the reticle is there. It just doesn’t get any faster than that.


–Historically, iron sights were inarguably more robust than optics. After all, they were made of iron and had few, if any, moving parts. Optics on the other hand, were narrow tubes of thin aluminum, with fragile glass lenses and very fragile, finely geared moving parts. Further, optics were manufactured for relatively benign hunting use (I’ve hunted in the Rockies and in Alaska, I know it can be tough…it’s still not fucking combat), with any combative applications a distant secondary consideration, at best.


Today, quality optics, specifically engineered to meet the demands of combat use, have made this largely a non-issue. Modern combat optics have taken rifle rounds and continued to run. While it is certainly possible to cause a catastrophic failure of an optic from Aimpoint, EoTech, or Trijicon, the force required would probably be great enough that it would result in a catastrophic failure of iron sights as well.


One method I routinely use in classes to demonstrate the robustness of modern optics is generally good for an “OH SHIT!” reaction from witnesses. I grab one of my rifles that mounts an EoTech (generally perceived as the least robust of the big three), and drop it, onto the ground, optic first, from head high. I then run the gun through the class. I’ve dropped it onto asphalt, gravel, pavement, grass, and into the mud, with no ill effect. While I don’t recommend this course of action to anyone, least of all with an optic you plan on using to potentially save your life, it does demonstrate that modern combat optics are at least robust as irons (I should probably admit however, that I have a Burris MTAC 1.5-6X variable scope on one of my other M4s, and I don’t have the stones to try it with that one. I damned sure wouldn’t try it with a Nightforce or Schmidt and Bender scope either, unless one of those companies wants to send me a scope to test…..? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? I’m sure they would withstand it, but I really can’t afford to be wrong either, and it certainly falls under unusual abuse).


–Operating in an unconventional warfare environment, whether an insurgency, counter-insurgency, or simply a grid-down, “oh shit!” Mad Max type environment, no one can afford the negative political impact of negligently killing an unarmed non-combatant bystander. Magnified optics serve the extremely useful purpose of allowing for more positive identification of targets in the moment before you break your shot. Is that dark shape you see flittering across your garden really a mutant-zombie-outlaw-biker-liberal-vampire, or is it the neighbor kid sneaking in to try and convince your daughter to slip off to the hayloft with him? Either one might warrant shooting (“Guns don’t kill people, daddy’s with pretty daughters do!”), but at least you’ll have the ability to make a conscious, informed decision to shoot.


Further, in my personal experience, very seldom have the bad guys been courteous enough to stand up on the range, in broad daylight, in perfect silhouette, like E-Types on the range. Generally, they’ve been hunkered down, trying to conceal themselves behind big things that stop bullets, like rocks and boulders. My uncorrected vision is 20/20, and despite that, I’ll be damned if, at even 100M, I can see a dude’s foot hanging out. With a little bit of magnification however, I can see the shoe sticking out, and smoke a round into it. Even my pip-squeak, anemic, poodle-shooter of a varmint round however, punching through a dude’s Nike is going to seriously degrade his ability to continue to aggressively prosecute the fight.


–The truth is, optics CAN help you shoot better, by providing a more refined sight picture and sight alignment. The M16A2 front sight post subtends approximately five minutes-of-angle (5MOA=5 inches at 100 yards, for the ballistically challenged). The center dot in the reticle of my EoTech subtends 1MOA. While I still have to execute the other fundamentals of marksmanship correctly, I can aim and shoot more precisely (i.e. “better”), with the optic than with the irons, for this reason alone.


Even magnified optics, which “just magnify your errors” can still help you shoot better. The MTAC, set at 6X allows me to discern facial features at 500M, as opposed to simply seeing a vaguely human shape at that range with the naked eye (of course, the chances of actually seeing a bad guy at 500M, even if he IS moving, are some where between slim and no-fucking-way, but hey, it’s a teaching point, right?) This amount of detail again, allows me to aim with more precision–aim small, miss small.


The original meaning behind the “optics don’t make you shoot better” of course, was that you still needed to execute all the other fundamentals correctly, and optics can’t fix that…unless they help you realize you are fucking up your other fundamentals…..






The point of the above tangent on optics versus irons was not to suggest shit-canning iron sights….well, not exactly…It was to make the point that, while gear will never replace training and consequent skill, you should make the effort, whatever effort required, to invest in quality optics and master their use. They will expedite the training process, making you a good combat marksman, faster, if all other elements of the training are equal. I’m sure the Appleseed “experts” and the “big bore battle rifles are best” he-men (and yes, even some well-respected mentors of my own), will censure me forever, for what I am about to say, but nevertheless:


It is categorically, NOT necessary to learn to shoot with iron sights first, in order to become an effective combat rifleman (“Oh my GAWD! Did he jist say that!? Somebody git a rope!”). Yes, learning to execute the fundamentals of marksmanship correctly, with iron sights, will teach you to shoot accurately. Here’s the rub though: Learning to execute the fundamentals of marksmanship correctly, with optics, will teach you to shoot accurately, also…and faster.


“But John! ‘Ten minutes after the lights go out, iron sights will rule the world!'” Yeah, I heard that one too. Mr. Smith, with no undue disrespect intended (seriously!), needs to check his calender. It’s not 1968. Hell, it’s not even 1988! An Aimpoint CompM3 has a battery life, in constant on mode, of 50,000 HOURS. The CompM4 will go 50,000 HOURS! The tritium in a ACOG has a half-life of 12 YEARS….So, yeah, ten minutes, my ass.


Mr. Smith may very well run iron sights better than I run an optic, I don’t know. Hell, I run irons better than most “experienced” guys I’ve seen can run optics, and he’s been shooting longer than I’ve been alive. I still run optics faster and more accurately than I can run irons, and so can Clint (since I’m on a disrespectful tangent anyway and picking on him, can someone please let him know that mod-iso has been proven demonstrably faster and more accurate for pistol work than the Weaver for AT LEAST the twenty years I’ve been shooting professionally. In fact, someone let the yahoos at Front Sight in on the “secret” as well….I’m tired of having to re-train shitty shooters that are products of their classes to shoot better).


Yes, I run back-up iron sights (BUIS) on my rifles, but honestly? I started out shooting with irons and more than anything else, it’s just habit (and well, a fighting rifle without BUIS mounted just looks wrong to me–Hell, maybe I’m just an in the closet hide-bound traditionalist too!). The reality is, in the fifteen years I’ve been running optics, I can tell you exactly how many times I’ve had to resort to my BUIS because of a failure of a quality optic. It was exactly zero (and as previously mentioned, no one can accuse me of “pampering” my gear…). I’ve certainly had cheap optics fail, and I’ve made the conscious decision to run irons alone (once for six months for shits and giggles, and once, for a year, because I was too poor to afford good optics).


If you simply cannot afford good optics, I’d certainly agree that running iron sights is better than trying to run some POS (if I have to spell that acronym out for you, you should quit reading my blog, because you’re probably too young to read half the words I write anyway) budget optics; otherwise, sell a fucking kidney, if you must, but pony up a couple hundred bucks, search the equipment exchanges on the different cool-guy gun forums, and pick-up a good condition, slightly used quality optic like an Aimpoint, EoTech, or even a low-power variable scope.




Sight alignment is the most critical factor in the actual aiming process. A small error in sight alignment increases proportionately with range and will result in misses. With iron sights, sight alignment is simply the relationship between the rear sight and the front sight post, as seen by the shooter. For aperture-type sights, such as those found on American military rifles throughout the last century, the shooter looks THROUGH the rear aperture (never AT the rear aperture), and centers the top of the front sight post both horizontally and vertically. The “trick” is, don’t overthink it. Your brain wants to center it, so let it.


With tube-type optics, sight alignment is the relationship between the reticle and full-field of view as seen by the shooter. The shooter mounts the weapon so that a full field-of-view fills the tube, with no shadowed crescents around the edges to cause misplaced shots.


With holographic sights like the EoTech, and parallax-free optics like the Aimpoints, it’s even simpler: sight alignment literally doesn’t matter. If you can see the reticle and it’s superimposed on the target, the optic is zeroed, and the target you’re aiming at is in range, you’re good to go.


The “secret” to sight alignment, regardless of the sighting system used, has already been stated in this article: MOUNT THE GUN THE EXACT SAME WAY, EVERY SINGLE TIME.


For you Neanderthals, with iron sights, sight picture is the correlation between the sight alignment and the target, as seen by the rifleman. The rifleman aligns his sights, then places the top edge of the front sight post so it appears to bisect the center of the aiming point (alternatively, you can use the 6 0’clock, “pumpkin on a post” hold, but I don’t…).


With optics, simply place the appropriate portion of the reticle over the aiming point on the target.


The point-of-aim on a particular target will be dependent on mission, range, and situation. I’m fond of citing the platitude, “Hips and heads kids, hips and heads. All the bad guys are wearing body armor these days!” (In fact, I’m pretty sure I made that up two years ago. If anyone heard it previous to 2011, let me know where, and from whom, and I’ll gladly cite them as the source, if the speaker can verify it as original to them…). The truth is, in a world of relatively inexpensive, rifle-level ballistic plate armor, it’s not a bad ideal to shoot for (no pun intended, seriously). The pelvic girdle is rich in major blood vessels and nerve centers, and of course, the pelvis itself, is a major structural element of the skeletal system. Having it shattered by a high-velocity rifle round (even a poodle-shooting varmint round), makes walking a little uncomfortable. Unfortunately, while this MAY result in a non-ambulatory combatant (I once walked 150M with a broken hip, carrying somewhere around 100 pounds of kit, albeit not very fast…), it may not reliably take him completely out of the fight. After all, he can still hold and shoot a weapon, if somewhat distractedly. Of course, putting two or three or ten rounds into a dude’s hips (or just one if you’re a real man and shoot the magical rhino stopping .308…) makes that rapidly moving head move a lot less rapidly, subsequently making it easier to shoot…..and solid head shots generally do take a dude categorically out of the fight.


The reality however, as I previously noted, is that no one is going to simply stand there, like an E-type silhouette for you to shoot at your little heart’s content. People caught in traffic on ballistic highways tend to look for the off-ramp in a hurry, or at least look for an overpass to hide behind. You’re not necessarily going to get the target you’d like to have, so shoot for what you can see. This is why precision shooting ability is important. If you can consistently shoot 2 MOA at 200M, in less than three seconds, you might get a chance of smoking the dude through the leg or shoulder, or arm, at worst, slowing him down, at best, causing a psychological stop, or at least causing him to expose a more vital target. Just shoot what you can see. If you can’t see anything, but you know the guy is there, shoot there anyway, and keep him more interested in not getting shot than he is in shooting you, and let your Ranger buddy maneuver around and smoke him.


(We’ll discuss the four types of stops that occur from ballistic intervention in a forthcoming article.)


c) breathing and breath control: Breath control is an absolutely crucial element of good marksmanship. If the rifleman is breathing normally, while trying to fire, the rise and fall of his chest will cause the muzzle of the weapon to move vertically. Unlike the relatively sedentary pace of a target range, in combat, the rifleman will be sprinting as fast as humanly possible, in short bursts, while wearing heavy gear, and he will have huge amounts of adrenaline coursing through his system. He will be gasping for air so hard that his muzzle will not just “rise and fall.” It will seem to leap violently upward before crashing back to earth, as his body struggles to force oxygen to his muscles.


Traditional marksmanship teaches to wait for the natural respiratory pause at the end of the exhalation before breaking the shot. Unfortunately, the enemy is only exposing himself for a second or two, and he is probably not operating on the same schedule as the shooter’s diaphragm. Survival and success may make it necessary to take a shot, or a series of shots, at an inconvenient moment. Instead of waiting for the natural respiratory pause, he may simply have to create a respiratory pause–an “induced respiratory pause” if you will–long enough to take a shot or shots, even if the target is presented in mid-breath cycle.


d) trigger squeeze and trigger control: Perhaps the one fundamental of traditional marksmanship that retains most of its similarities in combat marksmanship is the trigger squeeze. The spasmodic reflex of a convulsive grip with the muscles of the hand, when “jerking” the trigger will result in a miss in combat, just as they will on the target range. The trigger must move straight to the rear, smoothly along its axis of travel, and break cleanly, without the sight picture being altered by the action…and it must do so quickly.


The key to accomplishing this is two-fold. First is to keep the firing hand as relaxed as possible. This reduces the muscle tension in the firing hand, reducing the impact of the nervous system sympathetic muscle reaction, and allows the trigger finger to function as rapidly as possible, without impacting the rest of the grip on the weapon. The second aspect is to mentally focus on making the trigger move straight back, along its mechanical axis of travel. Unless the weapon is severely damaged or worn out of course, the trigger cannot move in any other direction, but trying to force it to move laterally, even inadvertently, will cause the muzzle of the weapon to be moved in the opposite direction. That means you miss.


An additional aspect of combat trigger control is the issue of trigger reset. The importance of trigger reset seems to wax and wane in popularity among tactical shooting instructors. In my experience, at the initial learning stage, its critical to learning how to run your gun as rapidly and accurately as possible. Simply put, caress the trigger to the rear and the as the shot breaks, hold the trigger rearward, until you feel the gun coming out of the recoil cycle. When you do let it out, only let it go until you feel the “click” of the reset. As your reticle settles back into a sight picture, you’ve already “taken up the slack,” so you’ve not only sped up the process of firing your next shot, but you’ve also reduced your margin for error from “jerking” the trigger through the entire trigger stroke on the next shot.


Two major arguments arise opposing the use of trigger re-set. One is that it takes conscious effort to learn and practice and this leads to guys waiting too long to reset, so they can “feel” the reset. This is initially true, and if the shooter never trains past this point, it will cause a pretty severe limitation on how rapidly he can run his gun without jerking the trigger. I can say though, that after almost 20 years of combat riflecraft training, practice, and execution, I don’t remember when I stopped thinking about it. In fact, if I want to NOT utilize proper reset, such as to demonstrate the differences when teaching, I have to focus on the conscious decision to NOT reset. Focus on getting back off the trigger before the gun settles back into a sight picture. Don’t wait to feel the click, because on some guns you won’t feel the distinct “click” of the reset engaging, like you will on a Stoner platform rifle or a Glock pistol. If you can hear your reset click, you’re too late.


The second argument I’ve heard is that it’s a “gamer” trick that sets up a negligent discharge because of the “hair trigger” it sets up. The argument seems to be that, if my last shot put the bad guy down, and I automatically reset my trigger, then could accidentally shoot the non-combatant that was beyond the bad guy, or as I’m transitioning to the next bad guy, I could involuntarily discharge the round before I positively identify my target.


In response to that one, other than shaking my head ruefully, I’ll simply say that I preach-and practice-two things that have, thus far, prevented this from happening: One is that every shot I fire is a conscious, deliberate decision, with a positively identified target (even if that target is the base of a tree or rock that I suspect a bad guy is hiding behind), and two, if my sights are not on a target that I’ve made that decision to engage, such as when transitioning between targets, my finger comes all the way off the trigger and moves to a positive trigger finger reference point on the gun.


(To be continued…..)




John Mosby

SFOB-Rifleman’s Ridge

From → Uncategorized

  1. Good stuff,really enjoy your blog except for your EIGHTY DOUCHE remarks. Just kidding.


    • Well, could be worse….you could’ve served with the Hundred and Worst……

      • Some of us served in both…. had a Colonel tell me once that if you survived your first tour with 18th Abn Corps it would be like Hotel California, you can never leave…..

      • Dan Morgan permalink

        Easy now……..

    • Reply or more a question, I am building 4 identical AR’s since I have been mostly a .308 neanderthal and have been convinced to reform my ways…They are flat top, 4 rail foreend m-4 profile 16 in bbls..1in 8polygonal twist…What optic would you use? Theater Pacific Northwest minimal urban terrain, so some engagement distances of 300yds or a hair over but most would be less…I intend to attend Mosby courses so proper attention to optics will be paid..thanks Yankee Terrier

  2. Yankee Terrier permalink

    Very good comments, will make my son read this as well.

  3. Good info as always… easily digested with a nice after taste…

  4. Millwright permalink

    Thanks for sharing your expertise John
    and the world didn’t stop spinning by crushing misconceptions either

  5. Disciple of Night permalink

    Great stuff, looking forward to part two. I’m curious, do you offer any long-range classes?

  6. 55six permalink

    What is your preference JM for all around use, an Aimpoint or a 1-4X ?
    I am fast with an Aimpoint but I sometimes wish I had the magnification. Magnifiers for red dots seem hokey but I admit to never trying one. Some of the new first focal plane 1-4X scopes function like a red dot on 1X with a nice circle and dot. Thoughts? -55six

    • I run EoTechs and my variable. I’ve timed it as being within .10 seconds of the EoTech being faster, but I do really like the magnification. I pretty much figure my EoTech has specific purposes, while I look at my variable as a GP optic.

  7. robroysimmons permalink

    Well said on the “sporting rifle” nonsense, not like we are playing golf or something. One small thing AM wrote about the M-68 Aimpoint not being parallax free when concerned with the 25m zero that the Army uses to what it quals at.

    • Chuck permalink

      The latest version of the M68 is the Comp M4. Aimpoint claims it is parallax free. All versions of the M68 are supposed to be parallax free beyond 50m. When zeroing the M68 on the 25m range it is critical to center the dot and maintain a good cheek to stock weld. Also, the sight was designed to be operated with both eyes open, but some people have difficulty with this. Regardless of whether the operator uses it with one eye open or both eyes open, he must ensure that he zeroes it using the method with which he will fire it. In other words, if you shoot with one eye closed, you must zero it that way. Same goes for both eyes open shooters. Finally, the offset between the point of aim and point of impact for a 300m zero on a 25m zero target is critical. First, use the M16A2 target, not the M4 target. Next, while the point of aim should be center mass on the black silhouette, the point of impact should be 1.4cm down from center mass. Hence the use of the M16A2 target which has the correct size squares to easily eyeball 1.4cm.

  8. jonny rotton permalink

    i may be guilt of a few of those things. i am old school rifleman. i am willing to listen and try new things. i will bring a simple ar to the next class with a 3x scope.

  9. robroysimmons permalink

    I’ve never fired a Stoner platform without a 2 stage trigger so does it help with your reset method or not matter versus something like a G trigger?

  10. mauserhunter permalink

    Excellent article as always,but I have a burning question which I have been dying to ask,so any input from readers or the author would be greatly appreciated.(If anyone has delved into this issue previously and I missed it,I apologize in advance) Anyway,here goes.The author of this article is ex-military.Now when the proverbial S hits the fan,despite all the talk about blue helmets and Russian forces etc,,the government is going to use LEOs, the US military and private contractors to enforce the crackdown.My question is this-If the author of this article is involved in a future insurgency on American soil,and has one of the enemy in his crosshairs,and just as he is about to engage,he recognizes his target as someone he served alongside of in a foreign campaign(Afghanistan,Iraq),is he going to engage?Will he engage against his former brethren?In other words,will this thing devolve into a North vs. South civil war era type of thing where brother kills brother?The implications are frightening.Any thoughts greatly appreciated. thank you

    • John Dough 18 permalink

      I don’t look forward to ever being in that situation, but a simple question would be if the S really hits the fan, (solar flare or national catastrophy, not just local like Katrina or Sandy which as bad as it was with looting and violence, it still was only regional) and we are in a situation where everyone, including LEO, soldiers or contractors, etc should all be home protecting their own stuff, then why would these LEO’s, soldiers, etc being coming down my drive way with weapons? If they are coming with the intent to disarm and confiscate, then that would surely be a bad day to have to act on your principles and values with regards to the second amendment. I have no answer, I think we would actually need to be in that situation and then it comes down to how bad things are nationally and whether or not disarming me or you is going to make things better or worse for my family and my neighbors.

    • darfor permalink

      I’m not the author, but I do have a reply to your post. Specifically, “…involved in a future insurgency on American soil,and has one of the enemy in his crosshairs,and just as he is about to engage,he recognizes his target as someone he served alongside of in a foreign [c]ampaign (Afghanistan,Iraq),is he going to engage?Will he engage against his former brethren?”

      If the SHTF and an armed conflict between Americans erupted I would be fighting for my life, the lives of my family and freedom from tyranny. It doesn’t matter what the previous relationship I may have had with someone now trying to kill me for the self anointed governing — and corrupt — elites, I would pull the trigger without hesitation. It’s called survival.

      Let me ask you a question. If you had a dog that was your loyal companion, your best friend for many years, become inflicted with rabies and attacked you, would you give him a pass and hope for the best, or would you put him down before he killed or harmed you and/or your family?

  11. Deleted for ignorant racist commentary.

  12. You can learn all of the above basic marksmanship techniques at any Project Appleseed rifle clinic held somewhere near you. We teach you to shoot the Rifleman’s Quarter Mile. Rack grade military rifle, military ball ammo to hit a man-sized target at 500 yards. Steady Hold Factors (SHF), NPOA and the 6 steps to firing the shot.

    Check us out

  13. I can’t see the fucken iron sights anymore.

    • LFMayor permalink

      This is very good point sir, and I’ve put (at the least) cheap Ho chi Mihn brand 4x on top of most of my rifles for that very reason.

      Even without corrective lenses on, or broken, or lost, the 4x will allow you to “see”, focused and clear, through it.

    • blackthorn54 permalink

      +1 on that! getting old is a PITA!!

  14. Hillard Foster Jr permalink

    Call me an over the hill Neanderthal, but I always run Iron, with my optics, and I still shoot .308. Optics can break, even good optics. I want the ability if my optics break to stay in the fight.
    I sight in my Iron, then mount the optics and sight them in.
    I have good optics, ACOG, and Eotech, and MIllette. They are tough, but I am not kicking them, or dropping them for no reason. I spent too much money on them, and I can be cheap.
    I find the Eotech to be quicker than Irons, even with a ton of practice with the irons.
    I think I am quicker with the irons than the ACOG, but it is real close. The ACOG helps to see clearer in low light.
    That said, what type of sights you have is not as important as know them, and knowing how to use them quickly, and accurately.
    I taught Marskmanship in the Corps, and believe I have seen every bad habit possible, but people still surprise me sometimes.
    Mosby is dead on, learn the basics, and learn to do them right, then build on the speed. Walk before you run. Everyone is looking for a magic pill to make them a good shooter, the new round, the new grip, the new optics, the mew position. That is all garbage, 100% USDA garbage.
    If your basics are good, you will not have to be looking for a magic pill to fix things.
    Here is a good review of the basic, even if it does use Iron Sights.

    • robroysimmons permalink

      Watch that video and you could start the trigger finger placement debate all over again. I’m pad, but since I was jerking my Weatherby’s 4lb icicle yesterday, maybe that is part of the problem?

      BRASS Breathe, relax, aim, stop, squeeze that is the way I was taught in the Suck.

  15. Thanks for the great training advice. It’s fascinating to get a read of the common elements and differences between the old army target shooting doctrine of Appleseed that I see every month, and the more modern (and functional/practical/survivable) of those who actually have spent time on a two-way range.

    I would make one minor statement. While I cannot claim to speak for every state affiliate, the official doctrine of Appleseed is “run what ya brung,” in regards to rifle, sling, and sights. Now, we do recommend aperture sights if a shooter wants to shoot irons for a number of obvious reasons, and we still teach both POA/POI and “pumpkin on a post” for those shooting irons. That noted, optics are welcome, and several of us in the instructor cadre run glass (more variable-power scopes than red dots based upon my memory).

    I’m looking forward to the next post in the series.

  16. MG, good info. As an Appleseeder, I can tell you that not all instructors are hidebound in requiring iron sights first. I’ve found that purists, regardless of discipline tend to be all about ego, not actual results. The only heresy I see here is poking said purists, which is a good thing! 🙂
    The only other thing I’d mention is the use of the magazine as a rest. It is all about cheating, giving yourself the edge, if the magazine is it, then do so. However, in larger calibers, it causes a bounce that is difficult to retain in the original position so my preference is the use of the sling and bone to stabilize the rifle so it returns to the established NPOA in sustained fire.
    Much like in football, it is important to learn the time tested fundamentals, then as a rifleman, it is then the duty of that rifleman to continue to advance in the craft. How much a person invests in that craft to improve, including the understanding that there aren’t optimal conditions when someone is out to kill you, makes the difference in surviving or just being a tacticool wannabee left holding the bad end of the stick.

  17. Duane Hogue permalink

    One thing we all need to keep in mind are the priciples that Mission drives the equipment and Mission drives that tactics.
    Irons, red-dots, scopes? Depends on what the mission is. Red dots are good for close range not so much at 500 yards. Scopes are the king at distance, but don’t do well close in.

    Appleseed Traditional Combat Riflery, intermediate warfighting riflery, CQB, Sniper-style shootng. Depends on what the mission is. Self defense against zombie hordes: CQB or intermediate warfighting riflery. Small guerilla units against larger, better equipped forces: Sniper craft or Traditional Combat Riflery.

    We need to study them all.

  18. Great article!

    On a nitpicky note I think there is some value in starting a new shooter with an unmagnified optic or irons. There is a large temptation to “chase” holes in the paper when the shooter can see the POI through the magnified optic. It is really hard to work on NPOA, look at the shot pattern to diagnose problems, or check on fundamentals execution if the point of aim is constantly being changed.

    I absolutely agree that quality modern optics are robust and give a significant advantage and should generally be used if finances allow, especially once the fundamentals are learned properly.

  19. Another Appleseeder weighing in. I like scopes and have no special fetish for iron sights, but a lot of the scopes for 10-22’s are so long that they end up being too close to the shooter’s eye, and then you get reverse turkey neck trying to get rid of the shadow around the edges. So if you are going to mount a scope on a 10-22, mount it as far forward as possible. I have to move mine, and I’m not sure I have any more room on the mount to do it.

    Factory sights for the 10-22 just suck. Get something – a scope or a Tech Sight.
    The “Tech Sights” they recommend really do work – they halved my MOA at 200 yards on my SKS.

    Re the SKS: If you are going to scope an SKS you need a shorty scope, because that’s all that will fit. The scope mounts for SKS’s pretty much suck, they’re cast aluminum, they replace the receiver cover, and there’s probably too much vibration there for them to stay put, between their suckitude and the action of the rifle. I think there is one exception out there that’s machined better, and I forgot what brand it is. Don’t get the scope/mount kits offered online as a package – they are garbage. It could be argued that the effective range of the SKS doesn’t warrant a scope anyway. All that being said, I know a guy who has a shorty scope on his, and he thinks it’s ok. Maybe he has the good brand of mount, whatever it is.

    On something better quality like an AR or a Mini-14 I would definitely put a scope. There is a difference between making it harder on yourself for training purposes to make yourself more versatile, and trying to survive.

    On another note, I figured out a few months ago that I’m cross eye dominant. With rifles I just close the “good” left eye, with pistol I have to figure something out. Maybe just turn my head a bit to line the left eye up with the sights, and switch from weaver to isoceles? I don’t like the idea of not seeing the whole left side of me and maybe getting snuck up on though. Any thoughts?

  20. Would you consider posting on the specific retraining you find necessary for Front Sight students?


    • Redleg permalink

      I’d like to see that too. Everyone in my family and the vast majority of my friends and in my preparedness group have lifetime memberships at FS. I’ve been trying to convince those who go to FS about 4 times per year to pitch in with me and bring JM out to train us but most seem to think they are adequately prepared by just taking the FS classes.

      I would love some bullet points to present them with to prove to them otherwise and show them how they would benefit from JM’s training.


  21. Blake permalink

    Mr. Mosby,

    I’m curious about your opinions on Aimpoints vs. ACOG. I run an aimpoint m2 with a 4moa dot. My eyes are getting worse the older I get. Inside 50 yards, I LOVE the aimpoint. I can make hits out to 200 yards, but it’s tough. With standard ammo at 100 yards, I can’t really expect to make better groups than 4 inches, and that would be every round going into what the dot covers. My groups at 100 yards end up more like 6-8 inches. At 200 yards, I’m hitting the target, but not very well.

    Now, I know a lot of this comes down to practice. Being stuck in shitty NY limits my range use, the shortest distances we have available for rifle shooting is 50 yards. I’ve been thinking about switching to an ACOG. I’ve tried the 1-4x scopes, I found them to be big and clunky. But, I know you talk a lot about making sure that you can use your rifle out to the distances it’s supposed to be used at, 400-600 yards. I’m feeling like the magnification would help serve me better in seeing the target, plus the fact I’m looking at a more precise aiming point instead of a 4moa dot would help shrink the groups. Would it be a good idea to switch to the magnification, or just keep the dot sight knowing that I’ll be good in close, and only mediocre at range?

    • Hillard Foster Jr permalink

      I have run ACOG, Aim Points, and Eotechs. For short range the Eotech is the best, and it’s small dot means it is better at longer ranges than an Aim Point. 1 mil Vs larger than 2 mil dots.
      The ACOG gives some enlargement, but is a little slower than an Eotech. I think it is better than a scope, and about even with Irons. I am good with Irons, so that maybe me. I do like my ACOG, over the Eotech for longer range shots.
      Most of my rifles I set for BSZ (Battle Sight Zero) of 300 yards, my rifle that runs the ACOG is set for 500 yards BSZ. I adjust for distance, using Kentucky Windage, 5.9 inches low at 100, exc exc…
      When rounds are going both directions, you may not have time to adjust the scope, or sight for range, or windage. That is something that will be done more in a sniper situation.
      Once your rifle is sighted in, you need to learn to adjust your shots on the fly, using Kentucky Windage. That should make you quicker, and if your practice it, you should be quicker and just as accurate.

  22. ref: recoil and close quarters pistol…. we were trained to use the recoil in a technique called vertical tracking or, more crudely, “stitching.” start naturally low as soon as you clear leather and let the recoil “rise to the occasion.” regards to all in the sandbox. fuzz

  23. Sorry, I read it top to bottom, can’t find the heresy.

    Training with iron sights is absolutely essential…for shooting with iron sights.

    But the fundamentals work for irons and optics, and both require them, at least until someone makes homing bullets. Someone who’s crappy with either will always come in worse than someone who’s good with either.

    But after shooting consistently well with iron sights, given the choice, I’d much rather have a nice optical sight with magnification for farther hits on smaller targets, and for general target ID. Who wouldn’t?

  24. I’ve been a firearms instructor for over 20 years and I learned a lot from this article. Thanks for the great work, and keep it up.

  25. Mt Top Patriot permalink

    What you’ll are talking about makes me think of something that is an essential aspect of the whole “assault weapon” narrative coming from the traitors and treasonous of our Liberty.

    Well, it really is an assault weapon, just not as they want to you to believe the lies about the AR, but I’m saying, they are deeply scared, down in their bones scared, in their dreams scared, of this great handy accurate, deadly, easy to build, lightweight, robust adaptable rifle.

    The ruling class is very afraid of this “assault weapon” for the very reason it is going to be used at some point in vast numbers to assault them. They are afraid of it used on them, because of what they are doing to us.

    Think for a second, of all the battle arms out in the hands of the people, and there are some dandy’s, what is the one that the elites use as a prop in their system of lies?

    The elites are scared shitless of the flatop M4 style AR with mil spec optics. The advent of the Aimpoints and Eotechs, cqb scopes etc, transformed this weapon into a superb fighting rifle, second to none.

    Like Mr. Mosby said, you put that dot on your target and bingo, at least it works for me that way, nothing like a red dot, a quality 1 minute of angle reticule scope. Never shot a man, but it wears Deer out like nothing I ever used. Try your AR on deer if you ain’t already. I reckon in all my years, nothing comes close to how easy and accurate my AR is with a red dot, bam! 1st shot dead nuts right where the dot was when you let a round go. Bam! you know instantly where that round is going to hit, you get a perfect picture in your minds eye of exactly where the dot was when your rifle went off. Any angle, running, behind a tree, bush, it don’t matter, if you can see it, you can hit it. Uncanny.

    The ruling class knows what it is up against, the sly crafty motherfuckers like that dirty witch in California, and the fucking nasty little midget in NY, along with the quisling from WV, they know the AR in the hands of a pissed off citizenry with a bone in their teeth desiring comeuppance for the treason and tyranny perpetrated upon them are unbeatable.

    Ya, scared shitless they’s are.
    They should be.
    Can you imagine the worry they got for these same American’s trained by the Ghost?
    Thousands of Phil Carson’s running around with hundreds of Boon Vickersons?

    I reckon that is the stuff of every tyrants nightmares.

    • robroysimmons permalink

      When you define you dominate, and that is the reason they chose to use the phrase “assault-rifle”, they chose it, they use it and we on the other hand react to it, and IMO often times poorly. We basically with that term on their terms have allowed them within our OODA loop. We also help this out since much of the adverts for ARs are fanboi in nature, like we are gonna be SpecOps if we buy this rifle nonsense. (Daniels Defense fanboi commercial as an example).

      I own two ARs, I call them my personal self-defense rifles, both are fine tools, my LMT being a very well equipped instrument for familial self defense with its Aimpoint Patrol optic and Surefire 200 lumens light mounted in a Viking Tactics light mount. Point being I define it and I don’t feel the need for the likes of the NSSF or Guns & Ammo TV to try and appease the gods of PC by calling it a “Modern Sporting Rifle.” Speaking of G&A, good god Boddington was an officer but Mr. Lamb should know better than to use PC gobleygook language.

  26. Being a man of limited means, a year ago I opted for a Primary Arms M4 red dot sight for the AR. Do you know anything, good or bad, about their products? It has worked well for me, but has not had abuse in the field to prove itself. I’m thinking of giving the sight to my daughter for her rifle and replacing it with a Burris or EOTech. Any imput you or others might have is highly appreciated. Thanks.

  27. John Smith permalink

    It is a shame that you have to put up with characters like this. All I see when I read what you have to say -on almost anything- is someone that really cares about the country we have lost, and more importantly, the still patriotic, responsible Citizens who are still living here and trying to cope with what is going on. I respect you and your efforts. Please know that there are many more folk out here that can understand this, than there are ‘characters’ like your cited example, who are All mouth and contribute Nothing.

    Know also that characters like that are easy to see through…it’s just that their venom wears on us that waste our time reading it. Reminds me of some distant relatives of mine!

  28. Mutant Swarm permalink

    Should I keep my FN-FAL clone, if only just for a legacy rifle? It’s as accurate as I can shoot it, I’ve got an optical sight for it, and I have a pile of ammo for it (I got caught on the wrong side of the ammo resupply curve after an extended training session, and don’t have as much 5.56 as I’d prefer).

    The only drawback to it is that is a right handy substitute for a boat anchor. With the optic sight and a full magazine, the damn thing weighs 13 pounds M4-gery at 7.5 pounds.

    I expect I’ll get two generic types of answers: 1) Sack up and do more PT, or 2) Why do you think they got rid of those things in the first place, they’re too heavy?

    All serious opinions will be considered.

    • Don’t be afraid to run what you brung…..Just sack up and do more PT….

      By the way…..why do you think they got rid of those boat anchors in the first place?


      PS: I love the FAL. Seriously.

      • Every time I read your reply, I bust out laughing…and get off my ass and do my PT.

        Thank you for providing a dose of motivation every once in awhile.

  29. The second argument I’ve heard is that it’s a “gamer” trick that sets up a negligent discharge because of the “hair trigger” it sets up.

    I think it’s a lot more likely to set up a “short-stroke” or “trigger freeze” than a “hair trigger”.

    That said, I’ve not had much success breaking the habit of riding the reset myself… 😮

  30. Alfred E. Neuman permalink

    Reblogged this on The Dixie Traveler.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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