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Fort Bragg Soldiers try out new rifle

Sep 3, 2009

By Pvt. Lalita Guenther, 27th PAD

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The main goal for scout shooters and snipers is to eliminate enemy targets at long distances. This requires shooters to have an excellent understanding of rifle marksmanship and a weapon that can accommodate them properly.

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, received a shipment of brand new weapons, just in time for the battalion's upcoming deployment.

Recently, there was an update made to one of the commonly used sniper rifles and now these Soldiers will be putting this new weapon to the test. In doing so, the Soldiers will simultaneously be receiving their initial weapons training with the rifle.

The rifle is the M-14 enhanced battlefield rifle, and there have been several small changes including a new optic, rail system and butt stock.

There are several pros and cons about this rifle, and the training is very important because of the task requirement, said Staff Sgt. Edward Mills, the battalion master gunner for the 1st Bn., 508th PIR.

More than 30 Soldiers will be issued and trained with this rifle, said Mills. All of them are either snipers or squad-designated marksmen whose jobs are to shoot at enemies at long range. A squad-designated marksman is simply the Soldier in a squad who has the highest marksmanship score.

The first and most obvious update to the M-14 was one regarding the durability of the rifle itself, said Spc. Allen Mayo, a scout shooter also with 1st Bn., 508th Bn. PIR. The rail system and butt stock are now synthetic instead of the wooden butt stocks of previous models.

Another update, which has been added, is the Leopold Mark 4 Optical Zoom. This lens allows Soldiers to see an enemy target within 800 to 1,000 meters. It will magnify a target three and a half times what the human eye can see, which is a huge advantage to these Soldiers, whose jobs are to neutralize far-off targets.

The only major disadvantage is the maintenance of this rifle, said Mills. The only authorized maintenance that can be performed on this weapon by the operator is the trigger assembly. All other maintenance must go through a small arms repairer. Having a new weapon means someone has to test it, so checking out the new toy was the first stage of their training on the improved M-14. This unfortunately means the majority of the Soldiers' hands on training will be conducted while on deployment, said Mills.

The training will be brand new to some and just a refresher course for others, said Mills.

The main purpose of the training session is to familiarize new shooters with the M-14, said Mayo. Many have not fired a weapon that fires so precisely. Soldiers need to get used to taking their time with aiming and working on their breath control and trigger squeeze technique. It is also an opportunity to brief the Soldiers on what they need to study.

This training is meant to determine the effectiveness of the rifle and whether or not the Soldiers feel comfortable with the use of it, and if it is truly a better rifle than the old model.

"One hundred percent effectiveness is if the Soldier likes it," said Mills. "If a Soldier doesn't like it, he won't use it."

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