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Tanker's Final Exam, Part 3, Machine Guns and HE


After the first two engagements, coax machine gun then HEAT at a 1600-meter target, the next two engagements were machine guns against troop targets.

We are supposed to keep moving while firing machine guns.  As we moved away after firing the cannon, I said "Driver Steady" over the headset.  Merc and I had practiced for hours holding our sights steady on an area target while Burhans smoothly steered the tank down the trail.  He held 10 mph while the loader and I scanned the horizon.  The .50 cal. target came  first.  Troop silhouettes off to the left at 1200 meters, almost 3/4ths of a mile.

When Pierce called the target, I swung the turret close to the area, then dropped down to refine the aim through the .50 cal. sight.  Burhans slowed to 5 mph.  I had been cautioned over and over by our platoon sergeant not to "Cowboy" the commander's machine gun.  I only had 50 rounds to bring effective fire on those targets.  That meant the 2nd tracer better be on target, if not the first.  Firing the .50 by eyeball is fun, but not accurate.  I aimed through the site, kept my burst short and put effective fire on the troop targets.

Next were troops at just 500 meters.  As soon as we saw then, Pierce dropped down in the turret in case the coax jammed.  I swung the target in the area and yelled "Gunner, Coax Troops."

Merc took the control and put nearly all of the hundred rounds into those troop panels.  Burhans held us at a steady 5 mph while Merc fired, then eased up to 10 mph again when I called "Cease Fire."

When we rounded the next bend, Merc was ready for the shortest shot, but one that would catch other crews out.  We fired at a panel at 900 meters with High Explosive.  This was the round we fired with the telescope, not the main sight connected to the stereoscopic range finder.

Merc had no problem.  Months of practice and the relatively short firing distance meant he was ready to hit the small panel with the slower high explosive round.  HE has a muzzle velocity of just 2,450 feet per second, less than half the speed of SABOT armor-piercing rounds.  A 900-meter shot with SABOT was point and shoot.  With HE the ballistic path took the round many yards above the target before it dropped through.

When Pierce spotted the target (He was very good at picking out targets.) I swung the turret and yelled, "Gunner HE Anti Tank."

Pierce already had HE loaded and the next round cradled in his arms.

Merc refined his aim.  We waited two extra seconds for this telescope shot but it seemed a lot longer.

"On the Way," Merc yelled and the tank rocked back.  Pierce yelled "Up" announcing the gun was reloaded just a second after the tracer showed that the HE round passed through the panel.  I announced "Hit."  The grader concurred.  Merc yelled "On the Way" and the second round passed through the panel.

I said "Driver Move Out" and tapped Merc on the shoulder with my foot.  Pierce reached over the gun and whacked Merc on the helmet.  We could lose points for unnecessary chatter on the headsets, so Pierce had to jump down and hit Merc on the head, in the most affectionate way.  Pierce was grinning.  He knew we were tearing this range up.  But the next engagement would be tough.  Moving tank.

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