Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is the Firing Line Safe?

When I first joined I had to qualify on the M-16, just like every other military person. But since I have a aircrew job I was also able to qualify on the M-9, or 9mm.

Now the M-9 is not the most powerful gun in the world, but in the hands of a practiced shooter it can be quite effective. The first time I went to qualify I didn't realize that I was going to be surrounded by a lot of people that had never held a handgun. Ever.

The first thing we did on that cool fall day in Maryland was sit through some classroom instruction. Easy stuff like gun safety and things like that. Then we got to take the weapon apart and put it back together because after our fun day on the range we were required to clean the weapon before turning it back in. Now with step by step instructions you'd think this would be a simple process. Unfortunately for some it was not. But after a couple of hours everyone in the class could take apart and put the weapon back together.

Then we head out to the live fire range.

The spaces were about 5 feet apart. With the targets downrange and the embankments and everything like a typical gun range. But it was fall in Maryland and it was cold. We were outside in the wind with no heaters. As you know when your hands get cold your ambidexterity goes down. Now add this to the fact that you have a bunch of people that are nervous and jittery because it's their first time shooting a hand gun, put them on a line with 20 other people and let the fun ensue.

The first round of firing was set to begin. We had to go from a kneeling position, draw our weapon and fire 3 shots at our designated target. Remember we're about 5 feet apart at this time. When a shell casing is ejected from a M-9 it travels approximately 5 and half feet. It also has an uncanny knack of finding the neck of your shirt. The girl next to me was quite enthusiastic about firing her weapon. I think she pointed her weapon downrange and just started pulling the trigger as fast as she could. Her first shell casing hit me in the ear and bounced harmlessly to the ground, the second and third casing hit me just below the ear and wormed their way into my flight suit.

A flight suit is a coverall one piece type of clothing. So as my brain registered the fact that I had been hit in the ear by something, then the neck I started to get a burning sensation running down my back. Then it nestled itself right about my left butt cheek, and stayed there. At first I took little notice of the fact that there was hot metal in my pants at this point, fired off my shots, cleared my weapon and set it down. Then the pain really started.

Holy crap my butts on fire!

I started doing this crazy little jig to try to get the source of my discomfort dislodged. And thankfully it worked. But again the flight suit is a one piece garment. So the hot casing then went from my butt, down to the top of my boot, and rested against my leg.

The jig starts again.

At this point I'm drawing some strange looks from those around me. The kid to my right in his excitement decide he needed to check out what all the hubbub was about. But he forgot he had a loaded or possibly loaded M-9 in his hands. So he turns toward me and there I am with my butt and leg burning from the hot casings and someone is pointing a gun at me.

At this point lots of things are going through my mind. First and foremost being if he shoots me and I get carried away in an I have clean underwear on. Mom taught me that.

But they get him spun back downrange and the weapon safely put down. I finally get the shell casing out of my flight suit and we proceed to set up to fire again. This time five shots.

Now having just had my shell casings travel five and half feet epiphany I decide to scoot over a little bit in my area, so I don't have to experience the joy of hot shell casing in my pants again. I guess the guy next to me noticed what I did, and he didn't want any part of the hot casing dance so he moved over a little in his.

We get the order to fire, I pop up from my kneeling position. Get ready to fire, and then I realize that the neck of my flight suit is now directly lined up with the path of the M-9 shell casing being ejected. This time instead of hitting me anywhere in the head or shoulder it goes straight in and down my back. Followed closely by enthusiastic girls second casing. I jump, fire my shot somewhere downrange, and I guess my motions scared the guy next to me. With our chilled hands and his steely demeanor, in his attempt to get away from me, and get his shots off he drops his weapon. It spins a couple times and ends up pointing back at instructor who thought he would be safe standing behind us.

They call off the live firing at this point. And break us down in to smaller groups so we can get our qualifying done without having to worry about hot casings and potential gun shot wounds.

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