Shots In The Dark, or, How I Became A Sharpshooter

One of the idiot memes arising in the wake of the Aurora movie theater shooting comes from the wanne-be Rambos who think that if other theatergoers had been carrying concealed weapons, they could have taken out the body-armored fellow who was spraying the audience with semi-automatic gunfire.

When I was in the Army I qualified for a Sharpshooter badge during our weapons training in Basic.  Before the Army, I'd fired a gun, a .22 plinker, only a few times.  But I did... okay... with the M-16 during our first training sessions.  Not great, but enough to pass and to look like I'd earn a Marksman badge by the end of Basic.  (Marksman was the lowest level of proficiency, followed by Sharpshooter and Expert.)

And then came the Night Firing training....

Among the other guys in my training company, one was really good with a gun.  I mean Good.  As in Really Good.  As in, Holy Shit, I Can't Believe You Hit That Little Tiny Target So Far, Far Away.  He was clearly in the running for an Expert badge.

At the Night Firing range, the targets are small boards that flip up at intervals.  The only illumination coms from a tiny bulb with an even tinier wattage that flashes (barely) for a fraction of a second.  All this in the dark, and a long way from where you're laying in a cold damp hole with your M-16, trying to see those faint, almost imaginary flashes of light onto the targets.

Several ammo clips later, I and the other trainees have finished the Night Firing exercise and gather around to get our scores.

I get a high score.  I get a surprisingly high score.  I get an astonishingly high score, far above the type of scores I'd gotten during daytime firing exercises.  I get a score so high that suddenly I've moved up into Sharpshooter-level numbers.

That Holy Shit guy?  He skunked it.  Didn't hit a single target.

Well, let's revise that statement, because it doesn't take much time or brains to figure out what happened.  In the dark, with everyone firing around him, with multiple targets and multiple dim flashes, he'd gotten his orientation just slightly off and had been shooting at the wrong target.  The target of the guy next to him.  At my target.

Both of us ask the Drill Instructors if this can be corrected.  I didn't want credit for targets I didn't hit myself, and the Holy Shit guy didn't want to see his expertise-level-of-record suddenly dropped. To which the Drill Instructors say, "Tough shit."

So I ended up with a Sharpshooter badge that was more than I deserved, and the Holy Shit guy also ended up with a Sharpshooter badge, less than he deserved.

But in the dark, even under strongly controlled, relatively ideal, conditions, with advance notice of what to expect, it's difficult to hit your target, even when you're a crack shot.  (Almost all of the trainees had single-digit scores, mostly low single-digits, for the Night Firing exercise.)

Under less controlled conditions?  When there's a crazy guy in full body-armor firing, and firing, and firing into you and the other theatergoers?  With nearly everyone screaming and trying to get out of those rows of seats?  (Think about how much trouble it can be to get in and out of a row of seats just on a normal night.  Think about that for a moment.)  With smoke and tear gas rising around you?

You have a concealed weapon.  Let's assume you get it out of your pants without being hit by gunfire.  Let's assume you get the safety off without getting hit by gunfire.  (Because you're not dumb enough to carry a gun with the safety off, right?)  Let's assume you even manage to chamber a round without getting hit by a bullet.  (Because you're not dumb enough to carry a gun with a chambered round, right?)

You lift the gun up, take careful aim, and... oh, fuck that, you're getting shot at!  Get that gun pointed in the general direction of the shooter, and pull the trigger, and pull the trigger, and pull the trigger... and God help any other moviegoers between you and him.

But you hit him!  You hit him!  You hit him in the body armor, and he staggers back for a second, and then he turns towards you and now he's shooting at you, he's shooting at you.

But you still have bullets of your own!  So you pull the trigger again, and again, and again...

...and anyone still alive between you and the shooter is now caught in a crossfire.  Their life expectancy, already not too fucking great in this situation, takes an exponential nosedive.  Thanks, asshole.

The particular idiot who inspired this rant is Arizona's very own Russell Pearce, author of the SB1070 "Show Us Your Papers!" law.  (Who's not a racist, mind you.  He just likes to cozy up to and hang around with self-declared white supremacists and Nazis.)  In several Facebook posts (since deleted) he not only blamed the Aurora victims for not defending themselves, , but had the audacity to compare them to the passengers of Flight 93 on 9/11, who died trying to re-take their plane from the hijackers.

The Aurora shootings lasted 90 seconds, 90 seconds of utter chaos.  On Flight 93, the passengers had time to learn the other hijacked planes had been used as suicide missiles.  Their only chance of survival was to try and re-take the plane.  Not a difficult decision in those circumstances.  That Mr. Pearce would even try to compare the two incidents is deplorable and disgusting.

Russell Pearce wins the Walking Bag of Filth award for today, hands down.


Will Shetterly said...

Also, if I remember correctly, the hijackers had boxcutters. Going up against knives is a whole lot different than going against a semi-automatic. So the fellow in question just made a damn strong argument for gun control, I think.

Unknown said...

Came here from 770. Thank you for sharing your experience! As someone with zero interest in guns and less hand/eye coordination, I know the only reason I should ever pick up a gun is to keep it away from the cats. I try to rely on what statistics and studies we have to form my opinions, but it's good to supplement that with practical experience! -LunarG