Saturday, August 11, 2012

On the SAW Range

Firing on the M249 Range (My best side!!!)

Part of this weekend's training--the best part--was a stop at the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) range.  I was there to take pictures, but when we arrived, the last group of firers were finished and the next ones had not arrived.

So I got to fire 200 rounds at the large panel targets that serve as both zero and qualification targets.  The training plan called for firing at one of the ranges with pop-up targets, but a last-minute change meant the firing would all be done on what is usually the zero range.

At Fort Sill in 2009, the day I spent on the full-scale SAW range was one of the best days I spent in pre-deployment training.  At Sill we had pop-up targets out to 400 meters.  Today we just had the 10-meter panel.  But the thrill of putting accurate automatic fire on target is the same.

SAW with 200-round ammo box

On the paper panel are lines of silhouettes just few centimeters are set in lines.  To qualify the gunner fires a three-round burst at each target in the lines, going across or down depending on the target.  One firm pull on the trigger puts three rounds down range.  The iron sights on the weapon make it easy to engage a series of targets.  I moved across from target 7 to 8 and down from 5 to 6 on two sections of the panel and hit every silhouette in the line.  It was a lot of fun.

As soon as I got in a comfortable firing position, I remembered how important it is to have elbow pads when firing this weapon in the prone position.  My right elbow ached from minute two until I was done firing.

Later in the day we went to the last range on the west end of Fort Indiantown Gap to watch M2 .50 caliber machine gun qualification firing.  The pop-up targets on that range go out to 1500 meters, just short of a mile.  I know from firing an M85 .50 cal on an M60A1 tank that these heavy machine guns can put accurate fire on a target at a mile distance.

I did not get a chance to shoot the M2, but I was watching the crews get ready for firing and thinking this weapon is exactly right for an old guy.  I can see the man-sized silhouette at a mile distance.  And if the weapon has a problem, all of the parts of an M2 are so big, I could work on the weapon without reading glasses if I needed to.  With the SAW and the M16/M4 the parts are so small I needed reading glasses to do anything more than clear a simple jammed cartridge.

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