Friday, May 11, 2007


Yesterday, I participated in the schutzenschnur marksmanship training, along with about 20 other soldiers, sailors, and airmen. To be extremely frank, I have often chosen not to go shooting when I could have at the SF camp. I mostly went because I'm on really good terms with the Germans, and I wanted to participate.

We started by being given some basic range rules, and introduced to the range noncomissioned officer and officer in charge. Coming from US rules and ranges, we were greatly cheered to find that we were to ground our weapon and body armor. (We appreciated this increasingly, as the day grew hotter!)

The weapons we fired to qualify were the MG3 machine gun and the HK USP, which the Germans refer to as the P8.

The MG3 manual of arms was close to that of our American M240. Something a bit different, was the release on the barrel, which is so quick to unlatch, that it's done as part of the procedure to clear the weapon after firing! Since it's obviously impossible to fire a round accidentally when the barrel's not even connected to the receiver, it's very safe.

The MG3 is extremely accurate, but has a horrible trigger. Actually, most German weapons seem to have bad ergonomics, when compared to weapons from other Western countries. When I fired my five familiarization rounds (on a non-disintegrating belt with every other round removed, to force each shot to be fired singly), I noticed the extremely heavy trigger. When I received my first 15 rounds, I discovered how difficult firing short bursts is with a weapon with an extremely high cyclic rate, and heavy trigger pull! Firing the MG3 from the bipod is done by leaning all your body weight into the stock, which, marvelous German engineering that it is, conforms perfectly to your collarbone.

I shot in the highest category (gold) with my first, untimed string, but got a little nervous when we shot with time constraints. I was down to about two rounds, and Lieutenant Kopek told me I had 10 seconds (half my time) remaining. I realized then, I should just forget about the time and work on my trigger control. I had no problem shooting gold (4 rounds in the inner circles, and 12 rounds within the larger circles) on my second timed try.

The USP is blocky, but the only real obstacles to shooting well with it are the double/single action and the safety lever. The initial trigger pull is long and heavy, but the following trigger pull is short and light. I had no problems keeping all my shots inside the circle on the man silhouette, but was surprised to learn that shots anywhere "in the black" counted! Sergeant Liddy somehow managed to shoot the dirt for his first shot from the USP.

Safety levers should sweep down for off. The P8 moves the other direction, which is awkward, and weaker.

After all the qualifying was finished, some of us fired the HK 36. The rifle appears quite accurate, has a useful aiming module with simultaneous red dot and crosshair options, and has even less recoil and muzzle rise than the M16 family. Almost everyone who shot it either said, "I have to get one of these!" or "Why don't we use this instead of the M4?"

Our time at the range lasted longer than I'd expected- almost an entire day- but it was interesting and of course, I got to hang out with the Germans, and watch them do silly things like fire machine guns off the shoulders of teammates.

("That's crazy!" I said.
"You're next!" said the master sergeant.
"$%&^ no, I'm not!")

All in all, a good day.


Matt G said...

Great report, John. Thank you.

J.R.Shirley said...

No problem.

Ow, my aching collarbone. 50 rounds of 7.62x51mm could do that to you...

HollyB said...

Sounds like a day well spent. And fun, too. Glad you had fun, John.

HollyB said...

Humm - this is Johnny, posting on Holly's account, since I don't have a blog of my own. Discrimination! ;)

Most interesting, sir. I've fired original MG42s in the old 7.92x57mm caliber a couple of times (<200 rounds)and it was very interesting. Dunno how much fun it'd be if I needed to serve as a human bench rest for one, though.

Tell me - - With the backwards-working safety on the H&K ,pistole, what is the standard manual of arms for those carrying it? Is it carried with chamber empty, as our military so often packs sidearms?

Holding good thoughts for your safe return. Eyes open, profile low, amigo.


Tam said...

I believe the reason that the P8 is up-fire/down-safe is that it retains the same safety orientation as the P-38/P1, which was the German service pistol for sixty-odd years.

J.R.Shirley said...


I haven't checked what their typical carry status is, but the first qualification we fired with the P8, we started from round chambered, safety on, hammer down.