Story by Amy Rosewater forTeamUSA.org
As soon as SFC Josh Olson fired his first shot at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, he made history: he became the first active-duty U.S. soldier to compete in the Paralympic Games.
Olson lost his right leg after being attacked while on patrol in Iraq in 2003 but has been able to remain on active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia and is a part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). He trains alongside of many Olympic soldiers there and now has several other Wounded Warriors along with him as well. The Army announced late last year the expansion of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit to include 24 Wounded Warriors as members of its Paralympic and instructor sections. According to SFC Armando Ayala, there are now nine Wounded Warrior shooters (including SFC Olson) as part of the program and two coaches. SFC Ayala, who has been at Fort Benning for eighteen years and served in Afghanistan, has been training the Wounded Warriors.
“Without a doubt [Josh has] inspired folks,” Ayala said. “He might have lost a limb but he’s achieved a world-class level of competition and that says a lot to the Army soldier. It’s amazing how these guys can overcome those obstacles. I’m really excited about this team.”
The Army spread word of the program through advertisements and social media and was able to recruit several soldiers to the program. All nine of the shooters currently in the program happen to be leg amputees, although soldiers can participate in the program with other injuries. Currently, all of the soldiers in the program are men although some women have come to Fort Benning to try it.
The CMP has just released a new DVD: Basic Rifle Marksmanship. The DVD features a series of lessons taught by leading instructors from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). Aimed at prone, high power, and service rifle shooters, this new DVD covers the fundamentals of target shooting (with a strong emphasis on position shooting with sling and irons). This $6.95 DVD (#784DVDBRM) is offered through the CMP eStore. Content is divided into eight lessons:
This week (March 8-17) the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) hosts the Army Strong Collegiate Shooting Championships at Fort Benning, Georgia. More than 300 elite junior and collegiate shooters are expected to compete. This event involves six distinct championships: the NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships; the NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championship; the Scholastic Steel Challenge (SSC) Collegiate Championship; the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) Challenge; the Scholastic Pistol Program (SPP) Collegiate Championship; and the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) East Coast Clay Target Championship.
Colleges and Universities competing at this year’s championships include Clemson, Ohio State, Univ. of Michigan, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, Penn State, and the Virginia Military Institute. Junior shooters from Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, Massachusetts, and other states will compete in the SCTP Challenge. The Scholastic Steel Challenge (SSC) provides the opportunity for junior and collegiate shooters to participate in the exciting and challenging family sport of “speed steel.” The competitive format is based on the Steel Challenge, the nation’s most successful handgun competition. West Point will be among the favorites at this year’s SSC match.
The USAMU’s facility at Fort Benning “is the ideal location to hold a shooting competition of this magnitude,” said Lt. Col. Don King Jr., USAMU commander. “These collegiate and junior championships are on par with the World Cups, Olympic Trials and National Championships we have hosted throughout the years here at the ‘Home of Champions’”. For a complete schedule of events, go to www.usamu.com.
To succeed in long-range shooting matches, given the high level of competition these days, you’ll need solid wind-reading abilities. We’ve found an article by SFC Emil Praslick III, USAMU Service Rifle coach, that can help you make better wind calls in competition.
SFC Praslick is considered one of the best wind gurus in the United States, if not the world. He has authored an excellent two-part article on wind reading that is available on the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) website. Both articles contain helpful illustrations, and are “must-read” resources for any long-range shooter–not just Service Rifle and Highpower competitors.
Part One covers basic principles, tactics, and strategies, with a focus on the 200-yard stages. Emil writes: “There are as many dimensions to ‘wind reading’ as there are stages to High Power competition. Your tactical mindset, or philosophy, must be different for the 200 and 300 yard rapid-fire stages than it would be for the 600 yard slow-fire. In the slow-fire stages you have the ability to adjust windage from shot to shot, utilizing the location of the previous shot as an indicator. Additionally, a change to the existing conditions can be identified and adjusted for prior to shooting the next shot.”
In Part Two, Praslick provides more detailed explanations of the key principles of wind zeros, wind reading, and the “Clock System” for determining wind values: “The Value of the wind is as important as its speed when deciding the proper windage to place on the rifle. A 10 MPH wind from ’12 o-clock’ has No Value, hence it will not effect the flight of the bullet. A 10 MPH wind from ’3 o’clock’, however, would be classified as Full Value. Failure to correct for a Full Value wind will surely result in a less than desirable result.”
Praslick also explains how to identify and evaluate mirage:
Determine the accuracy of the mirage. Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air that have different temperatures than the ground. These layers are blown by the wind and can be monitored to detect wind direction and speed.
Focus your scope midway between yourself and the target, this will make mirage appear more prominent. I must emphasize the importance of experience when using mirage as a wind-reading tool. The best way to become proficient in the use of mirage is to correlate its appearance to a known condition. Using this as a baseline, changes in mirage can be equated to changes in the value of the wind. Above all, you must practice this skill!
Click HERE for more excellent instructional articles by Emil Praslick and other USAMU Coaches and shooters.
SSG Daniel Horner and SPC Tyler Payne of the USAMU outlasted 35 other teams to win the tough 72-hour International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, GA. The 2012 field included entries from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, plus U.S. Army Special Forces, the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army National Guard. There were also LEO duos from Las Vegas, Chicago and Florida.
The competition is hosted by the U.S. Army Sniper School. Top shooters from across the globe travel to Fort Benning, GA to compete in the annual competition, a grueling test of marksmanship and sniper skills. The two-man teams competed in 14 events including a sniper stalk, urban shooting, and orienteering exercises, firing under stressful conditions. The 72-hour event runs virtually non-stop, with only two four-hour rest breaks in the three days of competition.
“It feels awesome to win,” SSG Horner said. “I’ve wanted to compete in this event my whole life. We didn’t have a slot to compete in the last few years so when we got in this year we trained hard the past few weeks to get prepared.” Horner’s partner, SPC Payne, added: “There were some real challenges out there. Many of the events had tight time constraints. Finding the targets was tough, especially at night.”
“Time management was a big factor in the outcome,” Horner said. “We are really good at getting a lot accomplished really quickly. There was no way you could physically get everything done in the time allotted so it was who completed the most in the time they had. In an event like this if you only know the fundamentals then you will get run over. The fundamentals are the foundation of any good marksman, but here you had to know how to read wind, calculate mover speed, shoot alternate positions, and be able to physically complete the events, such as the 4.5 mile run with all of your gear.”
Despite having seven shooting teams within the ranks of the USAMU, the unit doesn’t have a sniper team nor teach sniper skills at any of the marksmanship training courses. Horner is a 5-time and current USPSA Multi-Gun national champion and Payne was a finalist at last year’s 3-Gun Nation championship. As members of the action shooting team, the Soldiers must have the ability to shoot rapidly and accurately with a handgun, rifle and/or shotgun, skills they were able to adapt and use for the sniper competition.
SSG Horner and SPC Payne hope to defend their title next year. Payne explained: “We have wanted to shoot this for a long time so to win it in our first year feels amazing. I really hope we get to come back next year and defend our title.”
SGT Sherri Jo Gallagher, 2010 National High Power Champion, is trading her USAMU shooting coat for a Parachute. She is now a new member of the Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team. Today, Sherri posted the news on her Facebook Page: “It’s official. After 2 months and 200 jumps, eight of us were promoted from ‘try-out’ to proud members of the Golden Knights. I will always be thankful for everything the Army Marksmanship Unit has done for me and for my amazing teammates that I served with for the past 5 years. I look forward to what is to come and am humbled by the opportunity to work with another awesome team in the Golden Knights. Wooohoooo!”
Will Sherri’s aerial assignment with the Golden Knights limit Sherri’s participation in competitive shooting matches, such as the National High Power Championship at Camp Perry? We’re waiting for an answer to that question from Sherri herself. We do know that Sherri is far too talented to leave the shooting sports behind, but, in the months ahead she may be spending more time under a golden canopy than on the firing line. We congratulate Sherri on her selection as a Golden Knight. We wish her safe flights and success in her new endeavor.
Four-time USA Olympian SFC Jason Parker won the ISSF World Cup Final, finishing ahead of Han Jinseop of South Korea and Olympic finalist Ole Krsitian Bryhn of Norway. Parker, a soldier serving with the USAMU, claimed the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Final trophy in the Men’s Three-Position Rifle event Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand.
Ranked ninth in the world, Parker earned his invitation to Bangkok after winning the Milan World Cup earlier this season. The 38-year-old Parker, no stranger to the World Cup Finals after six previous visits, made it to the final round with a head-start of four points after shooting an 1,171. Scoring 95.5 points during the final stage, Parker won gold with an overall score of 1266.5 points. Parker added. “”I have been competing in World Cup Finals since 1998, and dreaming of a gold medal since then. It’s finally around my neck, and it feels great!”
Three points behind him, Korea’s Han Jinseop pocketed the silver medal with an overall score of 1263.5 points. Making it to the final with 1166, Han overtook Norway’s Ole Kristian Bryhn to finish on the second step of the podium with a final score of 97.5 points. Bryhn landed in third, securing the Bronze medal with a total score of 1263.0 (1167+96.0) points.
Parker’s Olympic and USAMU teammate SFC Eric Uptagrafft took fourth in the World Cup Final Wednesday in the Men’s Prone Rifle event. (He finished .6 points away from second place). In other ISSF World Cup events in Bangkok, USAMU shotgunners did well. Josh Richmond earned the gold medal in Men’s Double Trap while Vincent Hancock shot his way to a silver medal in Men’s Skeet.
Elite Field for ISSF World Cup
Starting with the London World Cup in April and then passing through Milan and Munich, the 2012 ISSF World Cup Series finished in Bangkok. Only the sport’s top performers were invited to compete in the World Cup Finals. Ninety (90) shooters from 34 countries, including Olympic medalists and past World Cup title holders, competed at the Thailand ISSF World Cup Match this year. (Shown at right is SFC Parker competing at the Milan World Cup.)
On its YouTube Channel, the USAMU offers “Pro Tips” videos providing expert instruction on rifle marksmanship. One helpful video covers up/down angle shooting. In the video, SFC Emil Praslick III, one of America’s best long-range shooting coaches, explains how to determine up/down angle, and how to compensate for the angle using scope clicks. Praslick explains how gravity always works as a constant relative to the flat-ground distance to the target (which is distinct from the actual straight-line distance to target.)
The flat-ground distance is the actual distance over which the bullet will be affected by gravity. Use this as the basis for your elevation corrections. As Praslick explains, “this [flat-ground] distance will get less and less as the angle to the target increases [either up or down].” Once you know the straight-line distance to the target AND the exact angle of your shot, simple math lets you calculate the flat-ground distance to the target. Basically, to determine your flat-ground distance to target, you multiply the cosine of the shot angle by the measured straight-line distance to the target.
Application to Long-Range Hunting
Since the effects of angles increase with distance, Praslick explains that: “Unless the angle is extremely severe, [a hunter] really won’t notice these effects at ranges of 200 yards or less.” However, for long shots, hunters definitely need to compensate when taking angled shots. Praslick recommends that hunters print out a small chart with the cosines of common angles (20°, 25°, 30° etc.). In addition, hunters need an accurate ballistic table for their rifle and particular ammo. This should show the elevation corrections (in MOA or clicks), for 200 yards to the maximum range at which you may take a shot.
SFC Emil Praslick III is an instructor/coach with the USAMU. He also has served as a coach and “wind guru” with numerous U.S. Teams in international competition, including the U.S. Palma Team, which recently participated in the World Long-Range Fullbore Rifle Championship in Australia. Praslick has also coached the U.S. F-Open Class Team.
Commonly, hunters won’t have the ability to fire one or two fouling shots before heading out on a hunt. Therefore it’s important that a hunter understands how his rifle shoots with a “cold bore shot”. Both the point of impact (and possibly velocity), may be different with a cold bore than with a barrel that has been warmed and fouled with a series of shots. In this video from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), you’ll learn how to determine your cold bore point of impact (POI) for a rifle that just been cleaned, as well as the cold bore POI with a barrel that has already been “fouled in”.
SGT Joe Hein of the USAMU shows how to plot cold bore POI with both a clean bore and a fouled bore. Note that the “cold bore” shot from a fouled barrel was closer to the follow-up shots than the cold bore shot from a clean barrel. This is typical of many factory barrels. SGT Hein provides a simple way to understand your rifle’s cold bore performance. Hein’s advice can keep you from missing that long range shot at that big buck on opening day. A little time spent on the range before that critical first shot will help ensure you have meat in the freezer this season.
The ability to read the wind is what separates good shooters from great shooters. If you want to learn wind-doping from one of the best, watch this video with 2010 National High Power Champion (and U.S. Army 2010 Soldier of the Year) Sherri Gallagher. Part of the USAMU’s Pro Tips Video Series, this video covers the basics of wind reading including: Determining wind direction and speed, Bracketing Wind, Reading Mirage, and Adjusting to cross-winds using both sight/scope adjustments and hold-off methods. Correctly determining wind angle is vital, Sheri explains, because a wind at a 90-degree angle has much more of an effect on bullet lateral movement than a headwind or tailwind. Wind speed, of course, is just as important as wind angle. To calculate wind speed, Sheri recommends “Wind Bracketing”: [This] is where you take the estimate of the highest possible condition and the lowest possible condition and [then] take the average of the two.”
It is also important to understand mirage. Sheri explains that “Mirage is the reflection of light through layers of air, based off the temperature of the ground. These layers … are blown by the wind, and can be monitored through a spotting scope to detect direction and speed. You can see what appears to be waves running across the range — this is mirage.” To best evaluate mirage, you need to set your spotting scope correctly. First get the target in sharp focus, then (on most scopes), Sheri advises that you turn your adjustment knob “a quarter-turn counter-clockwise. That will make the mirage your primary focus.”
Congratulations to the winning Rifle National Trophy Junior Team, Sagen Maddalena and Forrest Greenwood. Competing as Team California Grizzlies Berger, Sagen (left, below) and Forrest (right) set a new National Record of 968-21X in the two-person match held last week. Sagen also led all competitors, racking up the top individual score of 488-15X. The winning team receives the Freedom’s Fire Trophy. Team Coach was Robert Taylor II and Team Captain was Mike Barranco. Notably, two other California Grizzlies shooters, Lane Ichcord and Wayne Morgan, finished Third Overall with a 964-24X. This proves there are still some great young shooters coming from California, despite the many restrictive laws in the Golden State. CLICK HERE for complete Match results.
USAMU Shooters Set New Doubles Team National Record
Not to be outdone by the young Californians, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s SSG Tyrel Cooper and CPL Matthew Rawlings set a new National Match Record of 593-21X last Wednesday in the Hearst Doubles Team Match. Congratulations Ty and Matt!!
The NRA High Power National Championships begin in just a few days. One of the favorites this year is SGT Sherri Jo Gallagher, who won the High Power Title in 2010. Sherri is only the second women in history to win the National High Power Championship. The first was her mother, Nancy Tompkins. Sherri looks forward to the challenge of competing against the likes of defending champ Carl Bernosky, and past title holders Norman Houle, and David Tubb. Count on Sherri to turn in a strong performance at Camp Perry this year.
Along with competitive rifle shooting, Sherri has other important duties as a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). Sherri, the 2010 U.S. Army Soldier of the Year, helps train other service men and women in shooting skills. In the video below, Sherri explains her duties with the USAMU. She is proud of the role the USAMU plays in training U.S. Army soldiers.
‘Army Strong’ is a way to show that the Army is going to make you a better person. It’s going to turn you into a much better version of yourself — that you didn’t even know could exist. ‘Dream Strong’ to me would be setting high goals for yourself, and doing what it takes to achieve them. There are things I’ve done in the Army that I’ve never dreamed I could do. I’ve always wanted to be a good leader — to teach others the [marksmanship] skills that I have used my whole life. It’s incredibly gratifying. — SGT Sherri Jo Gallagher