SHOOTING WITH BOTH EYES OPEN
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE visited Aimpoint in Malmo, Sweden
Wars, by their very nature, create challenges to the military, who face new threats and changes to tactics on a daily basis. Spending millions of dollars predicting new threats often pays off in saving lives and bringing new conflicts to a speedier conclusion. But, there is always the unexpected development to face.
The wars in Afghanistan have turned many well honed tactics on their head and in many cases, this has resulted in a total rewrite of the tactics deployed. One of the changes which reared its head first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan has been Close Quarter Combat tactics. As a schoolboy in the CCF, the Editor was taught to shoot on the butts with a .303 Lee Enfield with open iron sights. Ironically this trend has continued well into the 21st Century in spite of new sighting technologies available on the market. In short, with large armies in particular, it was easier to tech shooting at longer range over open sights, ignoring the complexity that arises with the use of new sights providing either 24/7 thermal imaging such as the Qioptiq VIPIR-2 Series or the DRS and BAE Systems Thermal Weapon Sights . However, the arrival of a new range of ‘Red Dot’ sights from such manufacturers as Aimpoint, Elcan, Tigicon and EoTech has allowed militaries to purchase large numbers of such sights to improve the level of shooting and allow 24/7 use, particularly during night time operations.
The Lee-Enfield (or what would become the Lee-Enfield) rifle actually began its tenure as Britain’s primary service rifle in 1888 when the British War Office adopted the Magazine Rifle MkI. This rifle originally designed by James Paris Lee a firearms designer who worked chiefly in the USA and Canada, incorporated a “cock-on-closing” bolt with rear locking lugs and a detachable 10 round magazine. RSAF Enfield married this action with a Metford rifled barrel chambered for the .303 British black powder cartridge and thus was the birth of the longest serving military rifle in history. Originally replacing the Martini-Henry in 1888, this rifle in various forms remained in the hands of front line troops until 1957 before being replaced by the FN FAL.
The L85 rifle variant of the SA80 family has been the standard issue service rifle of the British Armed Forces since 1987, replacing the L1A1 SLR variant of the FN FAL. The improved L85A2 remains in service today. The remainder of the family comprises the L86 Light Support Weapon, the short-barreled L22 carbine and the L98 Cadet rifle.
The change from .303 thru 7.62 to 5.56 was also brought about by forecast changes in fighting techniques and the growth of urban warfare. The 7.62 was deemed too powerful for urban warfare causing the possibility of fratricide and was thus superseded by the less powerful 5.56 round. The 5.56, with its smaller stopping power, wounds rather than killed the enemy, causing a build up of medics and other troops on the battlefield withdrawing the wounded.
However, with its smaller range and lack of punch, the 5.56 has met its match in Afghanistan as the Taleban do not collect their dead but carry on the fight. This resulted in the purchase of a number of L129A1 sharpshooter rifles from Lewis Machine & Tool this year for the British Army.
The Sharpshooter rifle will fire a 7.62mm round and will enhance accuracy of engagement during longer-range firefights with the Taliban and this weapon will be used by some of the best shots in the Infantry.
In 1974, a small group of Swedish entrepreneurs started exploring ways to improve shooting accuracy. Their goal was simple but ambitious, to create a sighting technology that would allow shooters to acquire their target quickly and to hit moving targets in all weather and light conditions consistently and accurately. Little did they know that their invention, the Aimpoint sight, would create a revolution in si